Celebrating Mother’s Day with a broken heart

To all the moms who read this, a sincere and joyous “Happy Mother’s Day!”

A few years ago, I wasn’t able to say those words with a joyful heart. My heart was sore and raw. There were definitely moments of bitterness. Some of the more painful memories of Mother’s Day include:

Having strangers wish me “Happy Mother’s Day,” because I was holding the hand of my niece while walking into an unfamiliar church.

Bawling while singing the words from “Majesty,” “Here I am empty-handed but alive in your hands.”

Running out of the church before sobs escaped me as a parade of babies entered for a Mother’s Day dedication.

So, I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve avoided Facebook on Mother’s Day, even making a big declaration one year according to my Facebook “on this day” memories. One year I even considered skipping church on that day.

But here’s the thing that hit me recently, if it was someone else’s birthday and not mine, I would be considered rude if I didn’t want them to celebrate. Unless I were two. Then I might be allowed to sulk, just a little. Or I might be given a present, too, to pacify me.

But, I’m not two. And this is not my day.

But it is my friends’ day. It’s my sister’s day, and my own mother’s day. How selfish am I to not celebrate them on their day.

Ecclesiastes says there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh, and a time to mourn and a time to dance.

There are those times to feel the pain of the curse for those who have children who turned their back to their mothers, for those who have had to say that final goodbye to their mothers, for those who have lost children or had miscarriages, for women who, like me, will never know what it is to give birth and hold her baby in her arms. There is infertility awareness week and infant loss and miscarriage awareness month and probably others. Those are the times to mourn. Those are the days to weep.

Today, is a day to rejoice.

But, it may not be so joyful for you, and that’s okay.

I know, I truly know, how easy it is to be hurt today. To only see the emptiness of your own arms. I’m so sorry for that.

I can say this because I know. Because I’ve been there. Because my own heart has wrestled with this.

If today is difficult for you, may I challenge you to look around for someone to rejoice with. You’ll have your own days of rejoicing in other ways or about other things. Set aside your hurt, just for today.

Find a single mom and give her a hug. Seek out a new mom and offer her a shoulder massage. Go to a mother and genuinely love her in this moment. Look for someone to rejoice with today.

I’m sorry to say, your pain will still be there, but today is not for you. Today is not about me. Today is the time to rejoice with our sisters who are rejoicing. Tomorrow, or another day, find these same sisters and ask them to mourn with you.

Today we rejoice.


What God can do in 10 years

We recently wrapped up a huge celebration of 10 years of God’s grace in Karis Church, and I realized that I spent so much time celebrating other people’s stories that I never shared my own.

It all began on a Monday morning, April 17, 2006, the day after Easter, as I read a news article about a new church in town that had its first public Gathering on Easter Sunday. At the time, my husband and I were pursuing membership at a church we loved, but the article intrigued me so much that I even poked around on this new church’s website. I remember being struck by the church’s values: truth, beauty, worship, community, mission, gospel, and mercy. I especially loved that beauty was included.

Fast forward two years to a Saturday night, January 2008. Tom and I found ourselves running Google searches – he on his laptop, me on the desktop computer – to decide on a church to attend the next day. We had, through much prayer and not lightly, separated from the church that had originally welcomed us to Columbia and were now ready to find a church to call home. God had been at work in our hearts, helping us question and sift through what we believed the Bible taught. We had grown, but we had been hurt, and we had walls up between the world and between each other.

At some point in our internet searching, Tom asked me to check out a website he found at the top of page two in his Google search. The church name was unfamiliar, but as soon as the page loaded I remember getting excited – I know this church! I read about their first Sunday!

It feels weird to say we never looked back, but it’s true. Instead of that Sunday being the start of yet another long search for a church family, we never went anywhere else. Kevin, the lead pastor, encourages other men to preach at times, both to give him a break and to raise up new leaders. January being one of those times, it took three Sundays before we could hear Kevin preach. I also remember, very uncomfortably, leaving church on each of those three Sundays under conviction about sins I had allowed to control me and recognizing how distant my relationship with God had become.

Karis in Tiger Hotel

Karis Church Sunday Gathering in Tiger Hotel. c. 2010

It’s a little fuzzy to think back on those early days and what it was about Karis that made it home, but here are a few things I remember:

  • being warmly welcomed by Brian and Christina Weaver
  • the senior pastor wanting to have lunch with us
  • Rob’s contagious enthusiasm for the mission of Karis
  • that we were two of the oldest people in the room on Sundays!
  • that a group of mostly 20-somethings were so excited about the gospel and about sharing it with the culture around them
Decade of Grace Block Party

Westside Block Party

Fast forward again, to a Friday afternoon, April 2016. I can barely recognize that hard-hearted, secretly wayward girl who walked into the Tiger Hotel in January 2008, though there are still some of the same insecurities and fears, still the bent toward the same sins. God has done so much through the community of Karis to soften my heart. He has used people in the church to call me out on stuff and ask the tough questions to help me see where I need to change and grow. Through the preaching and teaching, I have been stretched in my faith, widened my view of God and his holiness along with deepening my perception of my own sin. My relationship with Tom has been strengthened, as people in the church have lovingly shown me where I have been selfish and unloving toward my husband. By being given some leadership opportunities, I have been humbled again and again.

There is nothing perfect about this church over any other church. We try, by God’s grace, to live lives that give him glory. It’s not easy. Community is messy, as they say. As my friend, Anne, said about Karis: “Not many churches have people…who will love you where you’re at, but also encourage you to not stay there and to deepen your relationship with the Lord.” I’m excited to think about spending the next 10 years in this lovingly invasive community.

Decade of Grace

Celebrating a Decade of Grace at the anniversary party


Saying “I love you” without words (the Secret of the Snickers)

My dad was a lover not a fighter.

He was. He was a lover. A big softie. 😀

And he was a huge gift giver.

Pick a year (any year), look at one photo from Christmas in our house and you would understand. You would see a brightly decorated tree with a flood of gifts underneath it and spilling out on all sides. Every year we had to remove bottom rows of branches from our artificial tree because there would not be room for all the gifts if we put all the branches on the tree. Stockings on Christmas morning were often laid on the floor in front of the fireplace because they were overflowing with “stuffers.” It was not unusual to find a stocking overflow bag with someone’s name on it. Serious gift overload.

Yes, Dad loved to give. Dad would write poems, give flowers, wrap up gifts. 

But the Snickers bars were the most interesting thing of all.

candy bar

On any random day Dad would come home with a Snickers bar for Mom. No pomp and circumstance, just ‘Here’s a Snickers I bought you.’ Sometimes they were just left on the dining room table to be found. Mom was always pleased to get them. I remember thinking once or twice, ‘Wow, Mom really loves Snickers, doesn’t she?’ Months might go by, but eventually, there would be another Snickers.

As my sister and I got older there started to appear three Snickers bars instead of one: one bar for each of his girls. What teenager will turn up her nose at chocolate? We thought it was pretty cool but, y’know, whatever.

It wasn’t until a few years after Dad passed away that Mom let me in on the secret. A Snickers bar was their secret sign, a private way of saying ‘I love you’ that wouldn’t mean a thing to anyone else except the two of them. Every time he brought home a Snickers, he was telling Mom, in their special way, how much he loved her.

It reminds me how important it is to tell our loved ones that they are just that – loved. Not just on special days like Valentines Day, but on the random days. On a day when the roast burned because the baby was crying. On a day when a dad soothed his sick toddler at 3am. On a day when nothing special happened and nothing terrible occurred. On a day like today and yesterday.

Maybe you need a secret sign between you and the one your heart loves, like a Snickers. Maybe it’s a peanut butter cup or a special IPA. Maybe it’s a back rub or knee squeeze. Obviously, make it something your special someone likes or you might end up in the doghouse.

Don’t forget to tell them. A secret sign does no good, if the person doesn’t realize what you’re trying to say.

Whether it’s with a Snickers or a kiss (the chocolate kind, right?), look for creative ways to say, “I love you.”

What secret ways can you think of to say, “I love you?”


Today, I’m linking up with:

On a personal note

My poor neglected blog readers. I’m so sorry. Since I don’t have a more serious post ready to go, here’s a brief update on my life lately.

Last week, my husband and I were in Dallas. Here’s a peek at a few things we go to do:

Tom w/Chuck Swindoll

We met Chuck Swindoll. He was so kind and even autographed a book for Tom. I got a little emotional after I told him how my dad used to listen to him on the radio when I was a kid. I essentially grew up listening to Chuck Swindoll’s voice.


We went flying in a tiny Cessna 182! I had fun taking photos from the back seat. Here are a few of my favorites (I only took 170+):

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Tom got to fly the plane over Dallas airspace! It was a little crazy, but so fun. Here’s Tom with his cousin, the pilot, and his plane.


The real reason we were in Dallas was for the Mac Tools Tool Fair. Part of it included the Macademy Awards. I know, right? Tom got one award that we knew about, but it shocked him to find out that he was honored with the Founder’s Award for volunteer work in his community.


Here we are chatting with Brett Shaw, president of Mac Tools, and totally ignoring Chip Foose, reality TV host of Overhaulin’ (sorry, Chip!).

We had a great trip!

We returned home and settled into a normal routine until Wednesday. That’s when author Mary DeMuth shared a raw, honest, breathtaking post, How do you forgive a sexual abuser? By writing a letter, where she wrote an open letter to the two brothers who molested her as a child. This post rocked me – not just because of the audacity of someone to harm a child like that, but the healing and forgiveness that oozes from Mary’s words. She tells these two brothers:

I forgive you.

My mountain of sins toward a holy God dwarfs the molehills you enacted against me.

Man, that’s powerful stuff. And you just can’t say that in your own strength. That comes from someone who is leaning wholeheartedly on God. Amazing.

I also may have the opportunity to do some blogging for World Help. That offer just came tonight, so I’m curious to learn more. World Help is a faith-based humanitarian organization. They’re involved with child sponsorships, church planting, clean water projects, a baby rescue operation and so much more. Tom and I have known about World Help since its infancy when we lived in Virginia. It’s exciting to see how much it has grown.

Thanks for following along with this personal update. I’ll leave you with a nice shot of Tom and me all dressed up for the Macademy Awards (oh, and there was a red carpet, too!). And since no one took a full length shot of me, these were the awesome shoes I wore! 🙂

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Today, Rise up and Call her Blessed

The Proverbs 31 woman is sometimes controversial. Some are inspired by her, others are discouraged by her. I don’t think she is an actual woman. It’s more poetry than prose. However, this “woman” is often lauded as the standard or ideal for women. My mom has mentioned that over the years of her life she’s heard some poorly directed sermons, causing her to dislike this passage – it’s unattainable and only sets a wife and mother up to fail. I’ve been blessed to not have had that experience and have always loved this passage as motivation through the daily grind of life.

I see a woman who works hard, often without praise or thanks, but who manages an amazing amount of productivity.

I see my Mom. (more…)

Day 26: When Empty Arms Ache

pregnancy test - negative

(Photo credit: Konstantin Lazorkin)

Guess What!?! It’s a BOY!!


Those words are supposed to be joyful and celebratory. A new life is beginning! Probably 99% of the time they are met with cheers and “woots” from friends and family.

I would rather find a quiet corner and cry. Not always. But sometimes.

As the body of Christ I am supposed to rejoice with those rejoice. And no one wants a downer when they have good news. So, I smile and wish them well. I do wish them well. I’m not the woman who wanted the baby cut in two, so that no one would have him. I rejoice with them.


Today, would you mind if we paused for a moment to weep with those who weep? (more…)

The Father is listening

My father was a wonderful man. He died, at the age of 78, 20 years ago today on July 2, 1992. I wish you could have known him. Dad showed me Jesus. He modeled for me the love that God the Father has for me. He showed me what a godly man should be like.

On Father’s Day this year, my junior high best friend posted this in her Facebook status: (more…)

An expected, yet surprising proposal

Did you read yesterday’s post? It was the first half of a big Valentine’s Day date that Tom and I had 14 years ago. When you last left us, we were in the car headed to Manassas, VA, just outside of Washington, D.C. and I was fairly sure Tom would propose at some point in the evening.

What part of this sentence is not realistic:  Let’s drive up to D.C. on Valentine’s Day and just randomly pick a restaurant and expect to get a table without having to wait and with no reservations? Have you ever tried to go out for dinner, especially in a big city, on Valentine’s Day? Restaurants are packed that night, and even more so when Feb. 14 falls on a Saturday! It was at this point that I apparently took leave of my senses. Blinded by love, perhaps. I cannot explain it.

What I knew:  We arrived (more…)

When a stranger on the phone is a good thing

“Tom’s going to be late, but you have a package outside your door.”

These words, heard over the phone in a strange male voice, were odd words. Odd because A) it was 8am, not normal package delivery times; and B) Tom is never late.

It was Saturday, Valentine’s Day, 1998. Tom and I had a full day planned: breakfast at a local restaurant, cavern exploring in the Shenandoah Valley, and ending with a dress-up dinner near Washington D.C. I’m a sufficient enough control freak that I liked (more…)

Embracing the Gifts

Rainy days in Mrs. Robert’s 4th grade meant the chance to play Heads Up Seven Up. My eyes tightly shut and head down on my desk, I’d wait and listen. If footsteps came close, I might be picked; I had to be ready and I did NOT want to make a mistake. Sometimes, though, in the quiet room, the darkness behind my eyes would make me sleepy and I would drift off.

I’m learning that I need to watch just as intently for (more…)

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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