Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Fool the World with Just 3 Photos

We started "school" this week at the Stanley household, and I decided to document the occasion with three photos.

Honestly, I didn't think twice about posting them. I had worked hard to put together activities for our "A is for Apple" week, and I wanted to capture snapshots of my kids learning and enjoying God's creation.

But then a friend looked at me with weary eyes and a feeble smile and said, "I loved all your apple pictures. You are Super Mom!"

And my heart sank.

I was "that mom" this week.

You know, the "together" mom who makes the floundering mom feel like a failure.

Only in reality, I'm a far cry from together.

If only she could see behind the snapshots, I thought. Then she'd know the truth.

The Truth Behind the Lens

Photo 1

I had to hand draw all our worksheets because we have no cyan printer ink. Why not print in black and white, you ask? Because the stupid printer won't let you print at all if one color is low, that's why.

My three year old refuses to be taught how to hold his pencil and I lose my patience, resulting in three timeouts before we even begin our lesson and me having to ask for forgiveness.

Just as the older child simmers, my two-year old goes BAZURK over do-a-dot Paints. There are six colors to choose from and he always wants whatever color his big brother happens to be using. Obviously.

That night, I go to bed feeling like a terrible mom because I was too busy making an Instagram collage of our activities to be "fully present" with my kids.

Photo 2

We are picking pretend apples because after packing all three kids into the car to go to bible study, the car wouldn't start.

While we were picking pretend apples, oatmeal was burning on the stove inside. I forgot to turn the burner off.

My child isn't wearing any sunscreen. And yes, he still uses a pacifier at two years old. Mother of the Year Award.

I go to bed feeling like a terrible mom because I was too busy trying to get the perfect pretend Apple picking picture to be fully present with my kids...and I almost burned the house down.

Photo 3

I spent hours stressing over this bin. Seriously, what the heck is a sensory bin and why does my kid need one in order to have a full educational experience?

It's been five days since this picture was taken, and I still haven't swept up the excess oatmeal.

I go to bed feeling like a terrible mom because I was too busy trying to get the right angle for this photo to be fully present with my kids. Oh, and because I hate Pinterest and all those stupid moms for making me feel like I'm a terrible mom. And I hate myself for making other moms feel like they're terrible moms.


These photos are just snapshots, friends. Snapshots taken by a flawed mama just trying to capture a moment in time where she's not yelling at her kids or pulling her air out or cleaning the umpteenth mess.

She's not a super mom. In fact, she is in great need of a hero.

She needs someone who will save her from the trap of comparison, someone who will remind her of her inherent value, someone who will give her strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

She needs Jesus.

Because God isn't impressed with sensory bins. And he's not disappointed in her disaster of a house or lack of presence.

He made her just the way she is--a disorganized dreamer--and he deemed her wonderfully made.

What's more, because she has put her trust in Jesus as her savior, God no longer sees her sin when he looks at her. Instead, he sees his precious daughter, bought and paid for by His Son's death on the cross, and clothed in robes of righteousness.

She can do nothing to lose his love and nothing to earn it.

And if there's one snapshot she wants you to see, it's the one of Him holding her firm in His hands.

No filter needed.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

To My (Biggest) Bundle of Joy

Sweet Baby Michael,

As we welcome you into this world today, our hearts are filled with joy.

From the moment we laid eyes on that sweet round face of yours, we were in love.  And that red hair sure is a cherry on top!

Michael Jeffrey Stanley
Born July 13, 2016 at 11:46 a.m.
9 lbs. 15 oz. and 21 inches

We are savoring each moment with you here in the hospital.  I'm pretty sure you've been held more than your two big brothers combined...not out of necessity, but because we know just how fleeting these precious newborn moments are, and we want to soak them up with you.

Your life has already been such a gift to us, Michael.  God has used it to bring about much healing and growth within us over the past nine months.  We are now slower to fear and quicker to give thanks.  We trust less in our own skills and capabilities and depend more fully on God's grace.  We dwell less on our day-to-day trials and inconveniences and more on the eternal hope we have in Christ.

You are an incredible reminder of God's goodness and covenant love towards us, son.   And we hope that your name, Michael Jeffrey, will serve as a similar reminder to you of God's unchanging and unfailing character.

Your first name, Michael, means "Who is like God?"

The answer to that question is quite simple.

In Psalm 86, David writes, "There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.  All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.  For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God."

Michael, we pray that you will come to embrace this great truth...that you will look to God alone for your own hope and salvation and that you will one day stand in awe of Him and all His works.

Your middle name, Jeffrey, is a tribute to the man God used to lead your daddy to Christ, your Uncle Jeff.

Uncle Jeff is a good brother, a faithful servant, and a godly man, and we pray that these same words would be used to describe you as you grow older.

Michael Jeffrey, you are loved beyond measure. We are honored to be your parents and are so excited to see what God has in store for you.

On this day, the day of your birth, we pray that you might one day be born again to a living hope in Christ Jesus and that you would love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

All my Love,

Your Mama

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Letter to our Baby Born into Heaven

I have traditionally written a letter to each of my children on the day of their birth.  I wrote this letter the day I found out that our third child had been born into Heaven.  


To our dear baby born into Heaven,

Today, our hearts ache because we learned we will never hold you in our arms...
but we know that God is holding you in the palm of his hand.

Today, we are filled with sorrow because you only lived four short days in our hearts...
but we trust that God numbered your days according to his good will.

Today, we grieve the years we will not have with you on this earth...
but we rejoice in an eternity together with Jesus.

Today, we have no name to give you...
but we believe that the same God who knew you before you were in my womb already knows your name.

Today, we mourn over you, our lost child...
but we do not lose hope.

"For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you." - Psalm 71:5-6

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." - 1 Peter 1:3-5

We love you, little one.

Until we meet in glory,


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mary's Lamb

Mary had a little lamb
Whose fleece was white as snow,
And while she hoped that he'd stay small,
The lamb was sure to grow.

He'd grow to heal the lame and sick.
He'd make the blind man see.
He'd bring the dead to life again
And calm the stormy sea.

He'd grow to touch the leper's spots.
He'd feed the hungry soul.
He'd talk and eat with sinners.
The broken he'd make whole.

But then one day they'd call him "King"
Which was against the rule.
The leaders in a jealous rage
Planned a plot so cruel.

A kiss from one he knew and loved
Betrayed him in the night.
The little lamb whom Mary raised
Did not put up a fight.

The crowd yelled, "Crucify him!"
Though, before, they'd sung his praise.
"Kill him! Crucify!" they screamed
In a riotous-like craze.

They sheared him down to nothing,
Whipped him til he bled.
With a cross upon his back he walked,
A lamb to slaughter led.

Mary watched her little lamb
Mocked in public shame.
He hung there naked on a tree,
Bearing all their blame.

Mary's little lamb had come
To do the Father's will.
"Oh, Why have you forsaken me?"
He asked on Calvary's hill.

Then all at once the sky grew dark.
"It's finished" was his cry.
This little lamb that Mary had,
Was born that he would die,

And she might live!

For by his blood, he saved her soul;
His death had paid the price.
Yes, all her sins on him were laid,
The perfect sacrifice.

"Mary had a little lamb,"
The children sing with glee.
They ask, "Why did she love him so?"
"Because he first loved me."

With angel chorus, she now sings,
"Worthy the Lamb once slain!
Glory and honor to my King!
Forever, he will reign!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Allow me to introduce my (true) self...


Today, I'm thrilled to be making my guest blogger debut over at Incredible Infant (here's the link to my post if you want to hop on over). I still can't believe God is allowing me to share my story in such a unique way. It's truly humbling, and I'm excited to see how he uses it.

If you're visiting from Incredible Infant, welcome!

To celebrate new beginnings, I've decided to do my first giveaway here at Daughter Redeemed.  My friend Christi recently launched her Etsy shop, Doorpost Truth, where she is selling beautiful scripture-inspired digital prints.  I'll be giving away one of her prints to a dear reader this week.

One of my favorites!

If you'd like one of these lovely pieces of art for your home, leave a comment answering one of the questions at the end of this post before midnight on Sunday, March 22nd.  The winner will be announced on Monday, March 23rd.

Another lovely...

I love me a good giveaway. Don't you?

Identity Crisis  

Here's where I'd normally introduce myself, touting my background and sharing cute family photos and anecdotes, but to be honest, I've found myself in a bit of an identity crisis as of late.

I used to be pretty. Perfectly styled hair and makeup, high heels and pearls.  Don't laugh....I even won a few beauty pageants back in the day.

60 pounds of pregnancy weight and a gazillion stretch marks later, I can't stand to look at myself in the mirror, let alone in photos, and I've been stripped of my tiara.

I used to have influence. I had the ear of wealthy businessmen and politicians. People listened when I spoke.

Now, I speak baby talk, and I get giddy talking to the grocery store cashier because it's the only adult interaction I've had all day.

I used to be good at most everything I did. Everything I touched seemed to turn to gold.

Now, I feel like I'm constantly failing. Failing to breastfeed. Failing to calm my screaming toddler in the middle of a restaurant. Failing to load the dishwasher for three days straight.

The Truth

The truth is, I'm...

A singer who sometimes sings off-pitch.

An introvert with hermit tendencies.

A homemaker with a sink full of dirty dishes.

A wife and mama with a lot to learn.

A writer who doesn't always have the right words.

But not one of those things define me.

Nope, nada one.

You see, I'm (slowly) realizing that my identity isn't based on my influence, success, or personal grooming. It's not based on my talents, personality or quirks.

It is completely 100% based on who I am in Christ.

And who am I in Christ, you ask?

In Christ...

I am called.

I belong.

I am loved by God.

I have been justified by faith.

I have been redeemed by his blood.

I am at peace with God.

I have been saved from the wrath of God.

I am reconciled to God.

I am dead to sin.

I am alive to God.

I am under grace.

I am free.

I am a child of God.

I am an heir with Christ.

I am more than a conqueror.

I am without shame or condemnation.

I am a living sacrifice.

I am welcome.

I am being sanctified.

I am guiltless.

I am righteous.

I am being sustained to the end.

I am a member of the body of Christ.

I am victorious over death.

I am forgiven.

I am being transformed into Christ's image.

I am afflicted in every way, but not crushed.

I am perplexed, but not driven to despair.

I am persecuted, but not forsaken.

I am struck down, but not destroyed.

I am being prepared for an eternal weight of glory.

I am being renewed daily.

I am a new creation.

I am an ambassador for Christ.

I am rich.

I am strong when I am weak.

I am holy.

I am blameless.

I am blessed with every spiritual blessing.

I am united with Christ.

I have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

I have been seated with him in the heavenly places.

I have access to the Father.

I have been delivered from the domain of darkness into marvelous light.

I have been washed and sprinkled clean.

I am equipped to do his will.

I am a steward of God's grace.

I have been born again to a living hope.

My true identity?

I am a daughter redeemed and daily refined.

But enough about me... 

I'd love to hear about you!

If you're new here, would you take a moment to tell me about yourself?

And if you're an old friend...have you ever struggled with an identity crisis?  Which "In Christ" truth encourages you most today?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Little life now lived largely

Little toes never tickled,
Little hands never held,
Little cheeks never stroked,
Little voice that was quelled.

Little nose never wiped,
Little lips never kissed,
Little eyes never opened,
Little life sorely missed.

But now you live largely,
Little child of the King,
Of his grace and his mercy,
Your little voice sings.

Your little eyes filled
With his glorious light.
In you, little one,
Your Father delights.

Little feet pitter patter
On streets of pure gold.
Little life now secure
In the father's strong hold.

Copyright 2014 Chelsea K. Stanley

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Caring for friends in the valley

For the past six months, we have been walking through the valley.  It seems as though just as we start to catch our breath from one trial, another one knocks the wind out of us.  It's been a season of surgeries, sickness and survival for our family.  Thankfully, we have a great God who has surrounded us with selfless, caring people.

Before this season, I had a limited view of what caring for others looked like.  I honestly had never thought beyond meal ministry and notes of encouragement before, and while both are fantastic ways to care for others, I've learned that there are so many other ways to bless those who are walking through the valley.

So here's a list of ways in which others have blessed and encouraged us through this season.  It's not exhaustive, but hopefully it will spur you on to help a sister who is walking through her own valley.

1.  Bring her a cup of coffee (or a large sweet tea in my case).
2.  Take out the trash.
3.  Mow the lawn.
4.  Deliver a meal.  A homemade meal, take-out or leftovers all count!
5.  Take one of her kids to the park.  
6.  Give her the gospel.  Remind her how Jesus endured pain and suffering, even death on a cross, so that she might live.  
7.  Make her feel safe.  Encourage her not to worry about her lack of make-up, her messy house, or the fact that Mickey Mouse is currently serving as a surrogate parent.  Be trustworthy and don't tell others about her current state of affairs (especially under the guise of a "prayer request").   
8.  Be a sous chef.  When I was pregnant the second time around, I couldn't cook poultry for the life of me.  One of the best gifts I received from a sweet friend was two pounds of chicken, cooked and shredded for meals.  
9.  Send a handwritten note.  Who doesn't love getting mail?
10.  Go grocery shopping.
11.  Clean.  This was a humbling experience for me, but I am thankful for family and friends who forced me to sit and rest as they vacuumed, swept and washed dishes.
12. Extend much grace.  The valley is a foggy place where birthdays may be forgotten and family gatherings may be missed.  Don't take it personally.
13.  Accommodate.  For years, our group of friends has gathered for a "Christmas Eve Eve" adults-only dinner party.   This year, they encouraged us to bring our three-month old who has been struggling to eat and can't be left with a babysitter for too long.  He enjoyed the extra attention, and we enjoyed a night out with friends.
14. Give her the gospel again.  Remind her that nothing can separate her from the love of Christ.
15.  Pray then and there.  It's great to hear that someone is praying to you.  It's especially encouraging when someone takes your hand and prays right then and there for you.
16.  Go beyond dinner.  Bagels, muffins, cut fresh fruit and veggies were great to have around when recovering from our surgeries.
17.  Offer your pre-teen/teen daughter as a mama's helper.  How blessed I was to have young girls play with my toddler, vacuum my living room and rock my baby!  And their moms loved using it as an opportunity to teach their children how to selflessly serve others.
18.  Be "on-call."  If you have a flexible schedule, offer to be the backup when other help falls through.  When I had to rely on others to lift our toddler in and out of his crib for two weeks because my husband and I had lifting restrictions after surgeries, there was one stay-at-home mom who came to our rescue several times when we were in a pinch.
19.  Send an encouraging text or Facebook message.
20.  Share scripture.  There have been many days when I've survived in the verses sent to me by friends.
21.  Sit at the hospital with her as she waits for results or procedures.
22.  Offer to set up a meal or task sign-up.  One of my friends who is gifted in organization and administration did this for me, and it was a huge help.
23.  Sit with the kids so she can shower or take a nap.
24.  Complete a special task.  I've had friends and family offer to shine my stainless steel appliances, wrap Christmas presents, vacuum our car, and organize the nursery closets, among others.
25.  Keep giving her the gospel!  It's easy to forget about eternity when you're dealing with the daily yuck.  Remind her of the great hope we have in Christ Jesus!

Any other ideas?  Feel free to share in the comments below!