Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Pursuit of Passion

Before I had it, I longed for passion.
I’d see it, you know. I’d see it on movies and read it about it in book after book.
I wanted it. I wanted to be it. I wanted to feel it.

Before I was old enough to grasp it, back when I knew everything and before I still had worlds to learn, I went seeking passion.
I found a fleeting look-alike. The smell of it clung to my hair on hot summer nights.
It set my heart to racing and made my words sweet like sugar water.
But it was a childish thing. Found in all the wrong places while exploring with
All the wrong people. And like sugar water, it became cloying and rotting.
It was a hot pink passion. Like bubble gum, sticky but not holding, a mess when misplaced.
Like construction paper hearts on elementary Valentines days, embellished with lace and paper doilies and written with pretty sentiments that would surely fade when left in the
Back window on a sunny day.
It was an easily torn passion. Easily wilted. Tossed away and tried again.
It turned into marriage one day. And I thought surely I’d found it,
Of course it would hold that real-life romance where dancing happens in the kitchen and nights are spent under the stars.
And I was disappointed to find that real life doesn’t usually read like romance novels.

There was a time I thought I could find
All the passion I could want in my sons.
Them with their sweet, soft skin, and their insatiable need for me.
Them with their doe eyes and grasping hands that held my finger so perfectly.
But it quickly turned from a baby blue passion into a
Black one.
A sucking black thing that ate me up when I realized
I was not enough on my own.
And fear gobbled up my heart in the night.
And told me I was failing them.
Then the passion was disabled, it came rushing and pulsing then choked me because I could not protect them as much as I loved them.
It was a dark and scary passion. A desperate-not-to-fail passion.

So I ran, went looking for deep and rushing elsewhere.
I found myself searching marriage again, seeking to understand where passion fit in the
Thing I didn’t comprehend.
And I found that marriage passion is much less moonlight dances and down comforters and much more concrete.
I thought it a white passion. Lacking luster and tearing down trust.
Sometimes it was blinding and sometimes it was dull and
All the time I didn’t understand why.
Why would we be called to something so hard?

I got close once, picking through just going to church.
Like a game of Marco Polo, I was warm but not hot.
I felt a tickle of conviction in the knowledge. Felt a little
Stirring in the lack of understanding.
I didn't seek. I was lazy.
I felt a hunger on Sundays.  The way you feel when you need to eat fruit and water
But your drink soda instead. And the hunger goes away.
But not really.
It was quite a grey passion. A little blurred.
A little between the lines.
It was like a smudge of ashes, like smoke without fire.
A little bit of a mix between black and white.
It was a very small passion. Too small to carry me through
Big leaps.
Big hurts and big needs.

So I sought to fill the gaps it left in a lifestyle.
In warm eggs in a nestbox,
Homemade bread, clothes on a line,
Babies on the hip and a mason jar of sweet tea.
How romantic it would be to have a life to be passionate for.
It was, and it is.
However it’s a very green passion. Shifting with the seasons.
It is like grass, growing rampant when the water is plentiful but turning brown in drought.
It’s a passion that dies a little in the wintertime.
It strains a little when there is no time for showers alone.
When the kids get sick and when a goat gets sick, or when a
Mother rabbit decides not to care for her babies because it’s too hot,
And so they grow cold.

I see people looking. 
All sorts of people, surely we were made to be passionate. 
Surely, we were made in the image of an incredibly passionate God. 
And he would not leave us searching.

I found it unexpectedly. On a random Tuesday.
I found Him in a shopping center, on a cross, in the Book, in my dreams.
I found Him when He was chasing me. And I heard Him shouting,

And I realized I had been running. Searching relentlessly, longing for the very thing
that was hot on my heels. Pursuing me uncompromisingly, longing to have me.
And one day, a random day, I simply turned direction.
And I ran towards Him.

I laid down my ideas of what passion looked like, of what knowledge looked like, of what romance and marriage and motherhood looked like.
And I ran.

And it hardly took long at all until I collided into the arms of
I fell in love and caught on fire.

Passion changes things.
It puts fire-tinted glasses over searching eyes.
It reveals the hidden obvious.

It shows that marriage’s white passion holds every color of light.
That true love is both a downy place to land and a concrete place to  

True passion filled in the black hole of fear in motherhood.
It brought back the baby blue. Reminded me
When their chubby hands outgrow my finger,
I need only hand them over to Him.
It assured me that if I am enough or if I’m not,
It doesn’t matter because He always is.

He tore down my walls of knowledge. Erased the smudges of grey
And with red blood, made things
Black and white again.
And then my eyes were opened
And the Word was alive. It was speaking to me.
And I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t wanting.

I became a girl dancing on the feet of my Father.
With freedom to twirl, arms spread wide in
deep and solid abandon.

Passion made me grateful.
For all these things I have to be passionate for.
It has ignited all the dry places.
Healed all the scarred places.
Made light all the dark places.
It covered the lies with truth.
The fear with peace.

I became bold.
In this passion that is security that is mine, I am bold.
A roar or a whisper, whatever He calls for, I can be.
I am armed and not afraid.
This is a red passion, and a orange one, with flashes of blue and white and sometimes
There is lightning.

It is an unconceivable passion.
Such a beautiful passion. It is the
Loveliest of romances.
It is honey. Life-giving. Unable to spoil.

It’s yours too, this passion.
Whether you know it or not.
Whether you are running fiercely or sitting comfortably in warmth.

There’s a fire on your heals.
Do you want it?

Hear these honey words,
Feel them drip down into that longing, deep place of
Needing to burn.
I pray now that if you are reading this, 
You will catch fire. 
I pray that some place in you that longs for passion perks up, 
Maybe it's tired of searching. 
Maybe it's tired of running. 
Maybe it's just tired. 

Let this honey drip down and let the fear shut it's mouth and 
Hear me. 

Passion is hot on your heels. 
Fire is hot on your heels. 

Turn around and pursue the arms of Jesus. 
He is passion, and when you collide into Him, 
You will be passion, too. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Least of These

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to preach at Soul Food Café, a mission outreach in Conway, AR. It was one of those times where despite my best efforts, I had been completely unable to come up with a message to give. 
Nada. Zilch. Nothing.  
So when they handed me the microphone, I simply said “My name is Jessica,” and started to pray, knowing it would be good because it would be all on God. 

It was. It was a good message. But when I think about that day, any words that came from my mouth pale in comparison to the juggernaut that sat before me. Poverty. That oppressive thing. Big, ugly, stinking, sucking poverty.  

You know, I can’t stop thinking about it. Every Tuesday, this place opens and feeds hundreds of people. They come in because they are in a shelter, or a rehab, or because they are simply having a hard time making the budget stretch until the next paycheck. They get a hot plate of food and a box of items donated from grocery stores with expiration dates that have since passed.   

Volunteers in red t-shirts serve beans or spaghetti or garlicky bread and they pack boxes or cut hair or pray. And every week, the people come. Because they have needs that are not met and they hear of a place full of people willing to meet them.   

Most go for the spaghetti. Not Jesus. But they find Him anyway.   

They told me to be prepared for a loud audience. They told me I might have to hush them up, because they came for the spaghetti and they’d be in line to get it. I didn’t have to hush them though, and they weren’t loud. They were too captivated by the words being spoken over them. I saw it. I saw the tears in their eyes as God used me to tell them, “You are a masterpiece. You are an heir to the Kingdom. You are a child of the King. You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.”  

I preached twice, prayed with half a dozen people, ate a plate of spaghetti and left in awe of what strong truth will do for lost and hurting people. Then I went home, got on Facebook and within just a few minutes, I had come across a news story with a long line of comments dogging welfare recipients and thugs and all sorts of the people that I had just preached to. Of course, the world is broken. Of course, these comments shouldn’t shock me and they wouldn’t if they had been made by the broken world. What bothered me was the fact that many of these comments came from professed Christians. 
I walked away from the computer without commenting but I’m still being haunted by the juxtaposition of that hour  

My friend Jennifer cuts hair in the back room of Soul Food. She sits addicts down in her chair and makes them feel like people again. She sits men and women 2 weeks out of the state pen down in her chair and makes them feel value again. They get haircuts they would not be able to afford otherwise. They are made presentable to obtain jobs and a chance at a new beginning. More importantly, they also get the gospel. They receive healing. They get delivered. Because they meet Jesusobviously. But they meet Him through Jennifer. They meet Him because someone took the initiative to show them what love looks like by giving them something they couldn’t afford without expecting anything in return. Do you know how many people are bewildered by that concept?  

We’re so comfortable, this nation. I wonder how many Christians click on celebrity news stories about sex changes and divorces, but walk by homeless men needing a dollar or a prayer. What are we turning our heads and reaching our hand to? Is it Jesus? 

I don’t mean to be condemning. I really don’t. Unfortunately the action of humans is condemning enough. My only hope is to bring some perspective so we can self-examine. So we can be better. 

We live in a country so consumed with want that need goes unmet right under our noses. Yeah, I’ve heard the arguments. They had choices to make. They screwed up. They made their bed. But telling them to lie in that bed is not a Christian concept.  

One of the women I prayed with at Soul Food was named Shirley. I took her in the back and we talked for a while. She’s been clean for a month but there’s no security in the shelter she’s living in so the money she’s trying to save keeps getting stolen. 

As we prayed, I opened my eyes and noticed an oozing scab on her knee dripping blood down onto on her low, white sock. She must have been wearing them for a couple of days based on the color of the blood stains. I noticed how small her feet were, so much smaller than my own feet, which I have always considered plain. I don’t pay for pedicures like so many of my friends, but when I looked down and saw my clean, plain feet in 100 dollar Birkenstocks next to hers in her bloody socks, my heart was grief-stricken. Why do I have so much? 

She was molested for the first time at age 9 when her mother used to make deals with the neighbor for her to go over to visit while his sons came to do yard work. She’s 59 now, and she didn’t want me to pray for her to get more money or to get a new car or to have a great new job or a husband or any of the things we privileged Christians might petition God for. No. Shirley asked for me to pray for her to be able to sleep at night.    

So I did.   

And then I went home and saw professed Christians making comments about welfare rats and white trash. I didn’t comment, but I am now.   

How dare you talk about Shirley like that? How dare you say such Christ-less things, you with your computer with internet and your clean socks and your childhood where you weren’t prostituted to the neighbor in exchange for someone to mow the lawn? Was it really her choices? And if it was, does it really matter?  

Didn’t Jesus say to feed His sheep? Didn’t He say to do it for the least?  Are you using your privilege to follow that command or are you staying comfortable?  The brokenness of the world is an opportunity for those who know Jesus to introduce Him to others. The brokenness of our world screams the need for revival and love and a savior. And it is up to us to be the conduit for that.   

There aren’t enough Christians willing to leave their comfort zone and love people. Even though they know that’s exactly what Jesus did for them. While we were still sinners, He left His throne and loved us. He bandaged up our scabby knees and pulled us from our poverty. And He loved us first so we could then love others in return.  

Open your eyes. Quiet your opinion. Reach out your hand.  

When you do it for the least of them, when you do it for Shirley, you do it for Him.      

To sow into what Soul Food is doing, see their website here. You can also connect with them on Facebook

A Weight of Revival

This article originally appeared on The Worship Center Blog
by Jessica Sowards
A couple of weeks ago, the Lord woke me up very early on a Sunday morning.  I hadn’t been dreaming and I had no overwhelming feeling of His presence or power resting on me. What it actually felt like was a very ordinary moment in a completely quiet house at 4 a.m.
I turned my lamp on, picked up my bible and flipped through it, stopping in Matthew at the Parable of the Talents. Immediately, I knew this was what He meant for me to read. I assumed He was giving me a word for collecting the offering at church, one of the duties of being on the pastoral team.
It wasn’t about money though. And it wasn’t the message I’ve heard preached multiple times before about people using their spiritual gifts for the kingdom.
A year ago, when God called me out of comfortable Christianity and trapped revival in my bones, everything changed. It was as if the world and the walk I knew was suddenly viewed through fire-tinted glasses. Every injustice and every darkness I saw on the news just cried out the need for revival. The lukewarm church has been comfortable in bathwater religion for too long and the water is growing colder by the minute. Soon they will all seek heat or freeze. We are a nation poised and desperate for the fire of God.
The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30) tells a story of a master who left his possessions to his servants while he went away for a time.  To the first, he left five talents. This servant was faithful to work with what he had been given and double it. The second servant was left with two talents, and he was also faithful to double his portion. The third servant was left one talent which he buried in the ground and did not double or even collect interest on. So when the master returned, he had nothing to give back except what he had been given. He was scolded and cast away.
I’ve always read this and dismissed the third, slothful servant as the other Christians. You know the kind, the Christmas and Easter church goers that identify with Christianity to the extent of their Facebook status but not beyond it.  I was wrong.
The word “servant” or “slave” in this parable actually comes from the Greek word doulos. It is referring to believers who willingly live under Christ’s authority as His devoted followers. It is the very same word used in Joel 2:29 and Acts 2:18, in reference to the servants who would have the Spirit poured out on them. It is a word used with great honor throughout the New Testament to refer to followers like Peter and Paul and Timothy. The parable is, in short, a story of the burning ones.
This realization alarmed me. I immediately began to scour the Strong’s Concordance to learn what the living word of God was conveying in this hour.  And then I heard it. It’s revival.
A talent isn’t actually an amount of money. It’s a measurement of weight equivalent to about 130 pounds. And while the ESV says the master distributed the talents based on each man’s personal ability, the original text more descriptively says the distribution was based on each man’s private strength.
Being a forerunner to revival is not for the faint of heart. It’s a heavy weight of something hugely important and immeasurably precious. The cry for repentance cannot come from a mouth that hasn’t already cried out to God its own repentance. It takes a passion grown in the secret place to be able to carry this weight. It takes a deeply rooted yearning for clean hands and a pure heart. It takes a private strength only truly known by the Master.  He distributes accordingly.
This parable is a promise. Each treasured weight of outpouring placed in the hands of a faithful servant will be multiplied. Those who are willing to sacrifice their agendas and give up their plans to host His presence will see a great increase. Those who recognize that He is not doling out useless currency will get an opportunity to serve Him. Seeing the value of who He is and what He intends to do, they will go at once to make the most of what He gives them.
These servants were not competing to be the best servant or the most noticed. They did not do anything for their own personal gain. There was no confusion about who owned the riches. Even the profit they earned was presented with only one hope: to enter into His joy. Man cannot own revival because man cannot create revival. It is truly a bestowment of a wealthy master willing to trust us with His presence. No part of it belongs to us, even if we are so fortunate to see it multiply while in our possession.
What we do with it is up to us. We can act on it immediately, making His work our identity, pleasing our Father and treasuring His love and awesome power. The result of this is to share in His joy, to see a world transformed and the body revived.
Or we can bury it in the ground and sit on it.
See, this parable is also a warning. A sad ratio of the servants of God will not recognize revival when it is handed to them. Perhaps they will be embittered that their brother received a heavier measure than them. Perhaps they will think themselves above the required humility or they won’t want the mess. Perhaps they will be distracted by the demands of the world and accidentally let their good intentions expire. Maybe they just have the wrong idea of what God looks like and are too hard-hearted to see Him for who He really is.
It could be that they just believe the lie of the enemy saying they aren’t worthy. They become disabled by the idea that what they do might not please their Master. They believe Him to be hard and unfair because they have settled for a small view of a very big and great God. So they pass by the small opportunities to spread revival, the ones that come in grocery stores and the back row of sanctuaries, the opportunities that aren’t glamorous. They give up and think they will just stay comfortable and saved, lest they step out and make a mistake.
Regardless of the reason, any buried measure of His presence is a wasted opportunity to grow this desperately needed move of God.
It’s not too late. If you buried your measure, dig it up now. Don’t delay. Treat it as a right and a treasure and forsake everything to make it grow. If you are already multiplying what He’s given you, carry on.
He’s coming back soon. And I don’t know about you, but I want more than anything to hear those words: Well done, my good and faithful servant. Well done.

Monday, July 6, 2015


Today, I launched a new Facebook page so I could more easily connect with the people who follow this blog as well as my Christian writing/speaking. I appreciate your prayers and encouragement more than I could ever say. You can follow me here. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Dads You'll Be

This post originally appeared in Do South Magazine.

My Dearest Sons,  
You are worlds away from knowing fatherhood, but I’m already praying about the
fathers you will be. I have already contemplated the day you look into the eyes of
your children. I’ve Imagined that moment, when you hold your baby for the first time
and you are suddenly awed at the intricacy of life.  
It is a life-changing moment, but it’s the years that follow that really matter. Each time I was told I was having a son, my mind raced far beyond nursery décor and little league. As I have watched each of you grow, I have imagined how you will be as men. Your strengths grow faster than your shoe size, and that’s saying something. I love to see who you are becoming. I love to daydream about you being fathers and husbands, kingdom warriors and world changers. 

Jackson, when you came into the world, you took a twenty-year-old kid and turned him into a father. He had no idea what he was doing, except for the fact that he was determined to give you better than he had. He called you “Little Champion” while he shushed you to sleep and when we faced divorce, he swore that we would always parent you and Asher together. A few days ago, I watched you lay your hands on your dad and pray for him. You are nine, Jackson, and you already love so fiercely. You care for people beyond what would ever be expected of you. I pray that when you become a father, you try as hard as your dad tries for you. I pray you freely give forgiveness as you do now. And I pray that you PLAY! You are so serious! Be a dad that plays with his babies. Laugh. Be light hearted. It’s good medicine. And continue craving wisdom. Wise men are made wise by simply seeking wisdom. Just ask God for it. I am so proud of you. Keep praying. Keep seeking Him. 

Asher, you are eight, and for years now, whenever asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” you have responded, “A dad.” You are tender, my love. I can just imagine you as a grown man, marveling at the tiny perfection of a baby. You have a special heart, Asher. You know, the moment I fell in love with Jeremiah was because I saw his love for you. He and I had been friends for a while and one summer afternoon, we took you and Jackson swimming at Grandma Jana’s house. You were having a three-year-old tantrum so he took you in the house for a snack. After you didn’t come back out, I went to check on you and I found him in a rocking chair with you asleep on his chest. He had tears running down his face and he said, “I always imagined that Christian would have been like him.” You see, Jeremiah became a dad and had to say goodbye to his son the very next day. And in you, in your sweet laugh and how easily you loved him, he found restoration. I pray that you remember when you are raising children that deep love heals deep wounds. God can do so much with a man who will love people without reserve. Show your sons how real men love. Show your daughters how they deserve to be cared for and adored. You melt my heart. Keep loving. 

Tobias, my little firecracker. I have been told a thousand times in the last three years that you are exactly like your daddy was. As you grow, I have enjoyed watching him find himself in you. My brilliant boy. You notice people. I don’t think a person could shed a tear within the same room as you without feeling your hand on their arm and hearing your sweet voice say, “Hey, it’s ok.” You are uniquely compassionate, Toby. One day you will have a little handful of a toddler. I hope he looks just like you. And I hope that your compassion holds. I hope you teach him that he is exactly who he is supposed to be. I pray that you look into his eyes every day and tell him that God has a plan for him. And when he pretends to be a dinosaur, I hope you pretend with him. Be compassionate, honey. Even when it hurts. Your children will be watching. They will know the patience you have had with them and with others around you and they will trust you when they mess up. Be a soft place for them to land. You inspire me to kindness. Keep comforting. 

Ezra, my funny boy. You remind me so much of my dad. You are funny and entirely intense in everything you do. You play hard, love hard, cry hard. You are the most helpful child I have ever known. All I have to do is mention needing help with something within earshot of you and there you are, two years old, making a real effort to complete whatever task you overheard my need for. It breaks my heart to see you upset when you are not strong enough, fast enough, or tall enough to help. I hope that as you grow stronger, faster, and taller, that you will learn that there are always tasks beyond our capabilities. Thankfully, we have a source of great strength. Jesus gave up His life for us and left us the Holy Spirit when He went home. He is always enough. Lean into Him when you fall short. I am so thankful for your heart. Keep helping. 

Benjamin, baby boy. You have only been with us a few short months. It’s been long enough for you to change our family for the better. But I do not know who you will be. I don’t know if you will be hungry for knowledge like Jackson or a lover like Asher. You may be like Toby, feeling for everyone you come across, or like Ezra, ready to help. Most likely, you will be a man all of your own. And most likely, you will spend the coming years striving to follow your brothers. You may even feel frustrated at the inability to keep up. Baby, I hope you remember that the best leaders are the ones that know what it’s like to follow. Keep your eyes on Jesus, Ben. He will point you down a way that is hard but completely worthwhile. There may be frustration on this path, but there is abounding grace. Carry it into your family. And remember, even when they are leading, true men of God are still following Him. I am cheering you on. Keep following.
My boys. 
I watch your dads and your grandfathers strive to be good men for you. You are fortunate to have these men. Look at their lives. Learn the lessons they teach and learn the lessons their mistakes teach. Forgive them when they fail you. They will fail you. It will break their hearts to do it, but they will do it just the same. Because at the end of the day, all of your earthly fathers are only men. Fallible, breakable sinners. But they are not your ultimate father. 
God is. 
I hope you take the things I speak to heart, but even more than that, I hope you understand how completely and perfectly loved you are by our Daddy God. Because when you find yourself in manhood and you find that you have fallen short, He will still love you. When you have stopped seeking and praying, stopped loving, stopped comforting, stopped helping and stopped following, He will still love you. 
He will still be there, waiting to be sought. He will still be there, showing you how to love. He will still be filling you up with His Spirit, the Comforter and Helper. And He will always be willing to stop and reach out a hand so you can get back on track and follow. 
My loves, my five sons, I can only imagine the fathers you will be.
I can only pray that we successfully build you up and point you in the right direction.
But I can be sure of one thing.
We all have a good, good Father. And we are so greatly loved by Him. 
Teaching you, that is my greatest calling. 
With all my love,

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Natural Mom and The O.R.

This post has taken me a few months to compose. I had to sort everything out, in the way you have to do when plans change, and gather the words to put it together. I would like to say a special thank-you to my dear friend Katie Opris who is, hands down, the best birth photographer I know. Her photos make this story easy to tell, because really, she told it better than words could.

This is Benjamin's birth story. But it's my story as well. 
This is the account of a natural mother meeting her son on an operating table. 
I pray those of you who have felt your birth plan ripped from your grasp find some comfort here. I hope those of you living in fear of the unknown find some peace. And I hope those of you standing with lofty judgements (and I was once one of you, so don't stop reading here) find some perspective. 

Thank you all. 

In Him, 


One of the most read posts I've ever written was about my natural birth with Ezra. 
See, I love birth. I believe in it. I even made a business out of it, taking my camera into the birth room and documenting the event for families. 

We live on a mountain, half an hour from the closest hospital. When I was first pregnant with Ben, knowing he was my last, I sought out any way I could possibly make a home birth work. Because I really believe in birth. I believe in the power of a woman's body and the perfection of God's plan. 
And I wanted to experience having a baby in my own bed. But I couldn't do it. 

Oh, I wanted to. But my peace told me no. I couldn't settle into it. 

He was born the day after a snow storm. 
When the storm was forecasted to hit, Jeremiah insisted we drive into town and stay with my dad to be near the hospital and to have access to a 4-wheel drive. I protested at first. I even said "So what if he has to be born at home. He's my 5th baby, I think we know what we are doing."
But Jeremiah would't hear it. So to Sherwood we went. 

The contractions had been coming and going for two weeks. We knew he hadn't engaged and dropped yet, and I was doing long inversions in attempts to position him correctly. I had reached that miserable place of pregnancy that tests the patience and the false labor was enough to even fool me a time or two.  

But on Thursday, March 5, I woke up just knowing things were different. 

Of course, I'd planned another natural birth. At this point it was a given. I didn't say "Well, I'll do it if I can." There were no contingencies. When talking with other like-minded moms, the term "Natural-birther" would get thrown around. 

I mean, after all, it's something to be proud of. 

Looking back, my level of confidence was even a little ironic. I didn't read my usual digest of Ina May and all the other natural birth sources. I didn't watch The Business of Being Born. I didn't feel like I needed to prepare, because truly, I didn't. 

One of my favorite things about knowing God is reaching the place that you can inspect your life and find His fingerprints. It's like the amazing by-product of faith, seeing Him in everything. 

God prepared me for my birth with Ben. There was nothing I could have read or watched or be told to get me ready for what happened. Because since I had my first son, I have been terrified at the prospect of a Cesarean. 

And please, do not underestimate what I mean when I say terrified. I mean truly horrified and frightened by the thought. I would even go as far to say that the idea of being pushed or coerced into a C-Section was equivalent, in my mind, to rape or some other awful thing that strips a woman's rights and makes her hurt and helpless. 

But then, God.  


When I was 10 weeks pregnant with Ben, one of my friends and birth photography clients ended up in the O.R. after 23 hours and a stalled labor. I remember crying while we scrubbed in. I remember the way my hands shook and the prayers reeling through my head that she would be ok, that I wouldn't break down. The same adrenaline rush that one might experience before stepping into a haunted house pulsed through me. I remember sitting in the hall with her husband, watching them wheel her back, watching tears roll down his face. 

I remember the smell of burnt skin that turned my pregnant stomach. I remember the absolute chill of the place and the fearfully pristine white tile walls. I remember thinking what a strange setting it was for a life to begin in comparison to the sweaty, sticky mess that is natural birth. And I remember feeling so much pity and sadness for her. Until the baby cried. 

It was a girl. And when she cried and her mother let out a relieved sob mingled with a laugh, and then her father followed her over to the warmer and watched them wipe her little pink body down, calling out high APGARs and a 9 lb birth weight. My finger was a blur over the shutter button, snapping and refocusing on every emotion in the room. 

And in that moment, I realized. The emotions were joy and this was really just a birth. 

Ben was born in that same O.R. 
When they rolled me through the door, I thought of Krista and I thanked God for how much He loved me.
Because I wasn't at all afraid of the cold or the white tile walls or the smell. 
He had prepared me for it. 

When we left my dad's house for the hospital, him driving Jeremiah and me over the icy roads in his cramped, little truck, we almost opted to go to Springhill hospital instead. My hospital, where my doctor practices, was an extra 20 miles and the roads were bad. As we neared the exit for Springhill though, my dad said he thought we could make it if it really mattered to me. It did. So we drove on. 

He was footling breech. We didn't figure it out until I was 6 cm. dilated. I'd laughed my way through contractions, rebuking the fear that would try to swell up at the memory of pain. But when I got checked that morning and they told me I was stalling, I knew something was wrong. 
My labors have never stalled. 
Then my doctor came in and checked me and immediately called for the ultrasound machine. He could feel Ben's foot. 

We tried the turning him by doing versions, but he was too big to move. 
I can't really describe the emotions of all of this. Surreal maybe? Divine? I don't know. 
All I know was the peace of God came over me in that labor room. 

Because I was a natural mom. Proud to face labor bravely. Proud to turn down pain medication birth after birth. Proud to be so strong. 
Then I heard the word breach. And I could not be proud. I had to be humble instead, and that takes a whole different kind of bravery.

I wish I could take credit for it, the peace I had. I can't. I'm thankful that I was in the hands of a doctor I trusted inexplicably. I'm thankful I had been given the opportunity to witness a beautiful birth by cesarean and that I'd had the chance to lay my fear to rest. Mostly I'm glad for perspective. I'm thankful that after watching my closest friend bury her kids and still praise God, I could face a C-Section without fear. 

Don't get me wrong, I've had to process it. The night following Ben's birth, when they turned the epidural off and I accidentally let my pain medication lapse, I felt the full extent of my physical pain and nearly hyperventilated. When the nurse wheeled me out to the car, I braced myself against the bumps in the concrete and remembered all the other births that I wanted to just walk to the car. I felt, back then, that the wheelchair was a nuisance policy. Then after Ben, I could barely stand up to take the 4 steps to the van. 

One of my sweet friends messaged me recently about her C-Section and said "I'd made all my plans for my birth but I never asked God what His plan was."

I keep thinking about that. Because I didn't really ask Him either. The only thing I did that saved that experience was remind myself over and over when plans changed that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is good. 

He really is. He loves me. He loves my son and my husband. 
I really, really, truly do NOT understand how God does things sometimes. I have no idea why. 
But I really, really, truly do trust Him. You can say you trust God, but when everything is going the opposite of what you'd hoped for, you find out the truth of the matter. You find out where your heart is. 

Benjamin Peter was born at 11:30 a.m. 9 lbs. 2 oz. He had a 15 inch head. 
He is laughing now and rolling over. 
The scar on my belly looks a little like a thin smile. 
Sometimes I stand in the mirror after a shower and run my finger across it. It's almost completely smooth, except for one small spot where the skin didn't heal just right. 

It reminds me that sometimes only the end goal matters. 
It reminds me that God works out the details and prepares our hearts. 
It reminds me of perspective. 
It reminds me that my plans are only just that. 
It reminds that my identity is not in being a natural mom.
There's only one place my identity is safe, and that's in following Jesus. 

And sometimes He leads me places I don't really want to go. 

But He carries me through it just fine. And for that I am thankful.