Becky Shultz is a homeschooling mom who has been parenting for 24 years now. She is passionate about encouraging mommas in every age and stage along the journey of parenting. From My Heart to Yours is where she shares the joys, pains, and laughs of motherhood and the grace and faithfulness of our God.

Do you ever feel like your family is a part of this rat race of life, like there’s never enough time in the day to do all you need to do, let alone do the things you want to do? Do you ever wake up desiring a slower pace, wanting to spend time in God’s Word, and find that the minute your feet hit the floor, the frenzy begins? His Word eludes you, family time seems fractured and feels hurried? Do you ever fail to show compassion and point your children to Jesus, because, honestly, the more important things of life have you feeling filled to the brim, and not in the good-kind-of-fullness way, but in the I-can’t-do-or-handle-one-more-thing kind of way? Do you ever have plans (or, at least, desires) for regular family worship, but the end of the day comes, and the weight of life and the tiredness (and crankiness) of the day sets in?

Raise your hand.

If we were all sitting in a room together right now, we could take a look around. See all those hands raised? This is the story of our lives. Too busy. Too frenzied. Too fractured. Too hurried. Too full. Too weighed down. Too tired.

My hand is raised high right there with you! In fact, I stand waving both hands frantically at all of these things, desperate in certain seasons for something to give. Something to be different.

And, here we are. Something gave. Something is different.

Thanks to an unforeseen entry of an unknown virus, we’re finding work trips, ministry trips, and missions trips canceled, schools closing, sports practices and games coming to an abrupt halt, plans changing, activities suspended for at least the next two weeks. While work and ministry and missions and school and sports and plans and activities are not bad things, we have a tendency to fill all of our time with these things, to fill our lives to the brink, and we can’t handle anything more.

Now, suddenly, these things are taken away. We’re being forced to slow down, to stay in. That’s so foreign to so many of us, that, honestly, we freak out a bit.

An important mention: For some of you, this virus represents more than cancellations and inconvenience. Some of you are in at-risk categories, and your age or underlying health conditions give you great cause for concern. Some of you suffer from mental illness, and the isolation is daunting and unhealthy. Some of you work jobs without access to paid leave, and your financial circumstances are deeply uncertain right now. Know this: your pain, your grief, and your anxiety matter, to me and to your Heavenly Father. My prayer is that the rest of us will see you, rally around you, and support you in this time.

But to those of us who aren’t in these circumstances, those of us who are merely inconvenienced and stuck at home, I offer this encouragement:

What if we’ve just been given a gift? The gift of time, of slowness, of margin, of togetherness. What if, instead of being hurried, we get to slow down and be more intentional together?

Let’s see and treat this time as a gift. Let’s do some things we don’t always get around to doing together. Let’s worship Jesus with our families, in our homes together. Let’s take slow walks, soaking in the beauty of our Lord’s creation together. Let’s open our Bibles and have time in His Word, and let’s encourage our children (of any age) to do the same – that space to do this has already been forced upon us, so let’s do it! Let’s play more games, and watch more movies together. Let’s bake for our neighbors together (after scrubbing our hands, of course!). Let’s write notes and draw in cards to send to out of town family and friends together. Let’s identify those around us who are deeply impacted by Coronavirus and care for them together. Let’s do things together.

And, know this (there are always caveats)…

This time of together will look different in every home. This time of together will bring out the good in us AND the ugly (I am the most patient person in the world until. Until my plans are messed with, until my kids have bad attitudes, until my husband forgets to help in the kitchen).

This time of together will not be easy, and it will never be perfect. But it will be absolutely worth it!

What if 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we all look back on the Coronavirus, and instead of remembering the empty toilet paper shelves (honestly, I’ll always remember and make jokes about this), we remember the time we had together?

This time is a gift. Let’s use it well.

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Have you always been given what you ask for? Have you always been given what you ask for right away? Have you always been given what you ask for in the way you actually want it?

We’re not always given what we ask for, simply because it’s not part of His purpose. We’re not always given what we ask for right away, simply because it’s not the right time. We’re not always given what we ask for in the way we actually want it, simply because His way is so much better than our way.

Even if His way is seemingly horrific…

It was Aug, 2014. I was alone on a soccer field at Pepperdine University, out for a jog, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was one of the most difficult trips I’d ever taken. I was there with Daughter #2, dropping her off at college. My time at orientation was almost over. It was nearly time for me to say goodbye to Hannah. My heart was absolutely breaking. So, I went to that field to run and pray. I wanted the Lord to protect my precious daughter. I wanted Him to surround her with godly friends. I wanted Him to give her everything she needed to do well in Chemistry, so that she could become the doctor He was calling her to be. I wanted Him to keep her pure, and keep her away from anything that was not from Him. So I prayed for these things.

And, then Hannah’s favorite song began playing through my earbuds.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

So, I prayed those words over one of the people I love most in this world.

Not long after pouring my heart out over Hannah, it was time to say goodbye. I wept as I reminded her face-to-face one last time to stay near to Jesus. He is a faithful God who can be trusted. I told her for the 20 millionth time how I much I love her. Then, reminded her how much He loves her. “This will be great. You will do well. You are safe in His arms.”

Saying goodbye and leaving her at Pepperdine University was one of the most difficult things this mama has ever done.

Then I joined the throngs of parents who were walking out of the gymnasium, weeping and waving goodbye. I got to the doors that were held open for all of us, turned one last time, waved and blew Hannah a kiss.

Father, she is yours. She’s always been yours. I am trusting you to walk with her closely.

What I was asking for when I was praying Hannah’s favorite song over her was kind of an easy path. I wanted the Lord to take her deeper with very little pain, constant wise-decisions, and an illumined path as far as the eye could see.

What I was asking for when I was telling the Lord to give Hannah what she needed to call upon His name, and to keep her eyes above the waves. What I was asking for when I was reminding the Lord that His grace abounds in deep, deep waters. What I was asking for when I begged the Lord’s sovereign hand to guide her, and for Him to remind Hannah He’d never fail her. What I was asking for when I cried out to the Holy Spirit to lead Hannah where her trust was without borders, to go wherever He would call her. What I was asking for when I called on Jesus to take her deeper than her feet could ever wander, and to make her faith strong in His presence. I don’t know exactly what I was asking for, but I can tell you what I wasn’t asking for…

I wasn’t asking that my daughter be raped. I wasn’t asking that she be bullied and threatened. I wasn’t asking that she feel lonely. I wasn’t asking that she feel so ashamed that she keeps silent. I wasn’t asking that she feel abandoned by God (the One I’ve promised her whole life is in control, is good and faithful and can be trusted). I wasn’t asking that she get sick with a rare, horrible disease that would require withdrawing from school, getting 5-hour infusions every couple of weeks for who knows how long (we’re at 3 years, 6 months). I wasn’t asking that on the one-year anniversary of rape, Hannah suffer a PTSD response, her first of many seizures, nearly dying on Thanksgiving Day. I wasn’t asking that she suffer from this seizure disorder for the next year, be in and out of doctors’ offices, take a trip to Mayo Clinic, endure countless tests on her blood, her brain, her thyroid, her heart, before finally being diagnosed with Conversion Disorder (this PTSD response). I wasn’t asking that she sit with a District Attorney, sharing her story. I wasn’t asking that she be living full-time with us again, trying to cope, trying to live, trying to trust, while all of her friends continued pursuing their dreams. I wasn’t asking that she “lose” years of her life, of her education, then watch as everyone she knew completed sophomore, then junior, then senior year of college.

I. Was. Not. Asking for any of these things.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

But, this. This is where the Lord took our sweet Hannah. This was the path He laid out for her before the beginning of time. A path that was directly in answer to a mama’s prayers.

Our Lord called Hannah out upon the waters where her feet failed. He was there for her to find in the depths of the oceans. Hannah’s faith faltered, but He who authored it, has continued to perfect it – her faith stood, because HE was in those depths with Hannah. She called upon His name (and we called for her, standing in the gap when her strength was failing), and He faithfully kept her eyes above the waves. Those waters rose, but the Lord gave rest in the midst of the struggle, reminding Hannah time and time again that she is His.

His grace was abundant in those deep waters. His sovereign hand did guide her, even as failures and fears crept in. The Lord has proved faithful, once again – He has not failed my daughter yet. We stand sure that He never will fail her!

When I was praying that song over Hannah, I didn’t know what was coming. I wanted something very different than what the Lord gave. Yet, the Lord stood ready, saying YES to this mama. He said AMEN to taking our Hannah out to the depths. Sitting on this side of things, I see how He was answering – working and moving, never slumbering, never tiring of carrying our daughter through the depths.

The hard work of healing has not been easy. But, it’s in the hard that we have found Him deepening Hannah’s trust. The Holy Spirit has certainly led her to where her trust is without borders, and that is what I asked for. Her faith has been made stronger, stronger than I ever imagined it would be. And, even on the days when Hannah wanted nothing to do with the Lord, He never quit. He never gave up. He continued to pursue. He continued to show up. It was this presence, Jesus’ presence that brought her to the place she is today.

The Lord healed (and continues to heal) Hannah – she’s been seizure free since Nov, 2016. She took a step toward independence last summer, moving out of our family home and into an apartment with big sis, Laura, and Laura’s husband, Stephen. She’s been working to pay for her own car, phone, food. She’s courageously started back to school, Colorado Christian University (CCU) online, fighting back to full-time this semester. She’s getting married in just over a month.

I remember standing at her bedroom door more times than I can count between 2015-2018. I’d place my palm on that door and just pray. It was not how I pictured her college years. But, today, I call Hannah, and she prays for me. Today, I am being encouraged and lifted up by a 23-yr-old who has a deep love for Jesus, and an amazing depth to her.

This precious daughter of mine is now lifting me up.

A depth that came because the Lord took her to places I would never have taken her.

It’s taken many years of mama-hood for the Lord to get me to this place. Still, it’s hard. They’re my babies.

But, no matter what comes. No matter what our babies face. His way is so much better, even if His way is seemingly horrific. When we pray over our babies, whether they’re still in the womb waiting to make an entrance, or they’re in the middle of teenage angst, or they’re 30, doing well, or they’re 30 and have walked away from the Lord. When we pray, we’re entrusting them to the ONLY ONE who can be trusted completely with the bodies, minds, hearts, and souls of our babies.

I left my daughter at Pepperdine, having said these words to the Lord –

Father, she is yours. She’s always been yours. I am trusting you to walk with her closely.

He was faithful. He was good. He was true to His Word. He may have answered this mama’s prayers in hard ways, but now I see how astoundingly beautiful those hard ways were.

We’ve always prayed over Hannah. We will continue to pray over her, for her, with her. Even if His answers don’t come in a way we actually want.

I had no idea that as I prayed Oceans over my daughter, my Lord was saying, Yes and Amen! to everything I prayed.

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I know. I know. Some of you might disagree with me (I almost disagree with myself). But, these were the words Jesus spoke to my heart the other day.

I was headed to church early to serve as a greeter at the South Doors. I love to welcome faces I recognize, new-to-me faces, young faces, old faces. I’m a people person. I’m also a morning person. I was looking forward to getting up and walking out the door before any of my people were even awake.

I’m also a planner. The night before I prepped some food for me to take to church to eat after greeting duties were over. That food prep included two strips of heavenly bacon.

Bacon. Bacon. Where’s the bacon? I smell bacon! Bacon, bacon, bacon…

I think we all have a little inner Beggin Strips dog in us. If you don’t, I’m sorry.

So, there I was. First one up (per usual). Being the first one up has its advantages. Peace and quiet top that list for me. Most nights I lay my head on my pillow and think, We should move out to the plains, set up some tents, and charge an entrance fee. 

We’re an absolute circus. *eye roll*

Being the first one up also has its disadvantages. I open all shades, curtains, (and windows, as needed). I reset the thermostat. I start laundry. I straighten up from the night before, which often includes cleaning a messed-up kitchen.

I start the coffee.

I had grumbled to my husband about this on Saturday. Graciously, he listened. And on Sunday morning, he got up with me (he’s not a morning person, so I know this was no easy feat). He announced he was making coffee for me. It made me smile. He was trying.

I got ready for church. I was running a few minutes behind (also per usual). I whisked downstairs, grabbed my made-for-me-by-my-husband coffee, then opened the fridge to grab my already prepped, to-go breakfast. My banana and my banana bread were there.

I was frantically searching. “Where’s my bacon?”

I whipped my head around in time to see the guilty look on my husband’s face. “Umm…I thought that was mbacon.”

I eye-rolled and sighed big time. “Are you kidding me????? You are totally THAT employee. The one who eats everyone else’s food.”

I don’t think I was mad. Just absolutely irritated!!!!!! I didn’t even raise my voice (much), but I remember the frustration I felt in my heart as I turned away from him, and pointedly said, “I’m going to have to start putting my name on my food!”

And, with that…I walked out the door, on my way to kindly, lovingly greet my church-going family.

Since it was a quiet car-ride (hallelujah!), I had some time to process and pray. My praying started off as grumbling — Lord, it would have been easier for me if I had just gotten up alone, and taken care of myself this morning. 

*Note: for time’s sake, I’ve left out a few details (B pouring himself coffee in the last clean to-go cup as I came down to do the same, me being in a hurry and him being in my way, stuff like that). The stolen bacon was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

My grumbling continued — I could have come downstairs, gotten my coffee, used that to-go cup, gotten out the door on time, AND…

I WOULD HAVE HAD BACON!

Now that I think about it, it’s embarrassing how stuck on that bacon I was.

In that moment the Lord did His usual — gently, firmly reminded me of His Word.

What are you constantly reminding your kids to do?

Love Jesus. Love others.

Why do you remind them to do these two things?

Because that’s what you call us to do.

But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 22:34-40 NASB

I realized in that moment that I had missed an opportunity to love others. I was so caught up in my time, my needs, my bacon, that I’d neglected to love my husband.

*sigh*

Relationships are more important than bacon. 

It’s hard to admit that THIS is less valuable than relationships. 😉

The Lord simply responded, Yes.

It took a few minutes (it’s bacon, people), but I *finally* called my husband to apologize.

May we be a people who recognize the importance of living in relationship. May we be a people who do two things well…

Love Jesus. Love others.

 

 

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As I spend some time in the book of Jeremiah this morning, I’m reminded of the work the Lord does in my life and in the lives of my children.

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…” ~Jeremiah 18:1-6

If we are His people, then we are also like clay in His hands. He is constantly molding, shaping, re-forming His own. He does this for (to) me. He does this for (to) my children.

As Mom of six, there are things I want to protect my children from, pains I want to take away, trouble I want them to avoid, betrayal I want them never to feel, sickness I want to heal, sins I want them never to struggle with.

want my children to be clay in my hands.

But, there is only ONE Potter, and I am clay in His hands, so I cannot possibly be potter, let alone the Potter. Clay is molded. Clay does not do the molding.

What do I do with this realization when it comes to parenting?

I let go of the “best” I want for my kids. I trust in the work the Potter is doing. I surrender my will and my ways, believing that the things, the pains, the trouble, the betrayal, the sickness, the sins are all a part of the shaping the Lord is accomplishing.

And I pray. Pray that my children will be mold-able; pray that they will be soft to the things of the Lord; pray that they will seek and pursue and listen to His Word; pray that He will be faithful to draw their hearts to Him; pray that He will strengthen them to say NO to the things of the flesh, and say YES to the things of the spirit; pray that He will continue to chase after each one of my kids.

I am marred. My children are marred. But just as He is re-forming me, He is re-forming them.

Friends, our Lord does beautiful work. He is shaping our children as seems best to Him. May we trust the shaping He’s doing. After all, there’s truly nothing better than His best.

 

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My husband and I recently returned from Costa Rica where we spent 9 days with 20 students and several other leaders building homes, and participating in ministry through soccer. It was an amazing trip. One that most of us will not soon forget.

The Lord used us to come alongside Casa Vida, a local church, and Mercy Home Ministries. He used us to build two homes, including one for a family who lost everything (except their Bible — that’s a whole other story!) when their home burned to the ground. He used us in outfitting local teams with matching jerseys they would not otherwise have been able to afford. He used us in providing socks, cleats, soccer balls, and goalie gloves for the kids (and some adults) of Tamarindo and surrounding areas.

The Bible that survived the fire

I am astounded that the God of the Universe and everything in it would use us to join in the work He is doing. Jesus doesn’t need us, but He graciously invites us to be His hands and feet to a broken, fallen, desperate world.

We spent mornings in the Word, and evenings debriefing about the day and what we were feeling. As I listened to some of the ways the Lord was moving in these high school hearts (and the hearts of their leaders), I was encouraged. I was also PROUD. And, therein lies a danger. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the “good” that we’re doing. It’s so easy for us to pat ourselves on the back feeling puffed up with pride about traveling to a poorer-than-the-USA part of the world and showering them with our gifts. It’s also easy for us as parents to watch our kids go on short term missions trips and feel that same pride about how they’re serving.

There’s also another danger in short term missions. The danger of leaving home, serving for a week or two, and feeling like I’ve done my duty for the year. I’ve served. Now I can go back to my life and the way things were, putting service on the back-burner.

BUT…

Serving does NOT just happen in Costa Rica.

Jesus does NOT just use us in Costa Rica.

Serving begins at home.

Jesus uses us in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our schools. He uses us to be His hands and feet with those closest to us, then working outward.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. ~Galatians 5:13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. ~Romans 12:9-11

Fellow parenting companions, we must learn to lay down our agendas in order to serve those nearest and dearest to us. We must rely on His help in order to do this. We must also teach the next generation to do the same. The natural inclination of our hearts is to self-serve, so let’s be intentional today. Look for one way (or more) to serve in your home, then in your neighborhood, church, or kids’ school. As you do this, encourage your children to look for one way (or more) to serve in your home, then in your neighborhood, church, or school.

May it be said of us that we live lives of service.

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The other day, I became privy to a really funny, really horrifying plan being hatched under our roof…

One Shultz boy encouraging another Shultz boy to respond to our pastor’s “HE IS RISEN!” from our pew on Easter Sunday with “APRIL FOOLS’!”

Lord, have mercy.

I utter ^^ those words a lot.

The last time Easter fell on April 1st was 1956. The next time Easter falls on April 1st is 2029. Easter just happens to fall on April 1st this year. The year all four of my sons fall into one of two categories: preteen or teen.

This is the Lord keeping me humble right here, folks.

After you chuckle (or gasp) at what my boys planned to do to commemorate the fact that Easter and April Fools’ Day are one in the same, go talk to your sons. Make sure none of them are planning something similar.

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By Becky Shultz
Curriculum Developer, FamiliesAlive
Homeschooling mom of 6

Here I am. Again. Sitting in a similar place I was sitting in one year ago. Only this time, I already know the Lord’s reply. He has given the same patient reply every single time I go down this road. Every time I think these thoughts, He gently whispers the same thing. He has not wavered. He has not backed down. He has faithfully spoken hard words. And these hard words have been words of healing to my heart.

The first time I heard these hard words:

One year ago, it was morning. I was spending time with Jesus. I sat in the very spot I am sitting this morning on our Colorado deck. We had just spent a whirlwind of a summer: Ministry work, travel to General Assembly in Michigan, the death of our elderly neighbor-friend, camping, bridal shower for our daughter, climbing a 14-er, soccer tournament in Steamboat Springs, East Coast family filling up our house for two weeks, our daughter’s beautiful wedding. It was a wonderful, memorable time. A time filled with joy and laughter.

But just underneath the surface were thoughts of our other daughter. Our sick daughter. Gratefully, the Lord gave her more than two months’ reprieve from her seizures, so this time was a calm-er time for all of us. Hannah had a few infusions over the course of the summer, so she was able to enjoy many things, including dancing at her sister’s wedding. These infusions are so life-giving. We praise the Lord for them!

Every 2-3 weeks, these meds arrive at our house, ready to be infused into Hannah’s body.

And as happens often, that whirlwind of a summer came to an end. The wedding, which was the culminating event, had come and gone. Our overflowing-with-family house was now back to its regular fullness. Those family dinners on the deck with 25 people quickly became a distant memory. We were back to 9 under the same roof, which seemed like a quiet house in comparison.

I suddenly had time and space to think. That morning, my thoughts led me to Hannah, her illness, her journey (our journey), her dreams of being a surgeon and serving in poverty-stricken lands.

She’s dreamed of this for a long time.

Facebook had spent the past few days showing me all the students heading back to school. Timehop sent me back a year (to August, 2015…which was less than a month before Hannah’s illness struck), reminding me that she had already been back at school as a team lead for Jumpstart, working with preschoolers from low income families. And as a mama walking this road, no surprise, the tears began to flow.

Hannah at work with Jumpstart – meaningful, important work!

Lord, Hannah SHOULD have been back in California now, ready to start her junior year!

Those thoughts entered my mind and left my mouth. I sat there, desperate for some reassurance from the Father. Some word that Hannah would soon be back in classes, and headed into the medical field. But the words that came were no reassurance of that. They were hard words from a loving, good, faithful Father…

There are NO should haves with me.

I’ve learned over the years that when the Lord speaks to my heart, I really shouldn’t argue. I’m a slow learner.

But, Lord, what if she had never gotten sick in the first place? She’d be…

There are NO what ifs with me.

But, Lord, if you would only heal her completely…

There are NO ifs with me.

But, Lord, think of all the GOOD she could be doing for you.

Think of all the good she IS doing for me.

But, Lord, she LOVES those little Jumpstart kids! She could be meeting a need again for those little ones who only speak Spanish.

That was for a season.

At this point, I was getting worked up. Frustrated that He was not telling me what I wanted to hear. Tears falling down my face. I was on the deck, so no way would I yell out loud. But I was yelling in my head…

LORD! YOU HAD BIG PLANS FOR HER!!!!!

I HAVE big plans for her.

In that moment, the Lord filled me with a sense of peace. He gave me an understanding that what I had planned, what she had planned might be very different than what He had planned.

Hannah’s plan was to move in to Pepperdine University for the next 4 years, studying to become a surgeon.

We thought this goodbye was the beginning of 4 years away.

He pried open my hands in a kind of surrender that has been a healing salve to my grieving mama heart. His words were loving, yet firm. He knows what He’s doing. I’ve learned that part of those big plans is the work He’s doing in her heart (in all of our hearts). Drawing her near as only He can. Giving her assurance He is here, in the midst of her illness. I must sit back and trust Him with Hannah’s life. I need rest in His purposes, which can never be thwarted.

One year later:

As I sit here this morning, the same old thoughts begin to run through my head…

Lord, Hannah SHOULD have been back in California now, ready to start her senior…

I stop short.

There are NO should haves with you!

Friends, I don’t know what you’re experiencing right now. All I know is that with our sovereign, and able, and working, and faithful, and good, and righteous, and merciful, and loving God, there are NO should haves. There are NO what ifs. There are NO ifs. There is only what is. Surrender the should haves and the what ifs and the ifs. Ask Him to take those from you. They don’t actually exist, yet they consume our thoughts far too often. May He continue to pry open our hands and remove the should haves, the what ifs, and the ifs. By His grace, may we be a people who trust Him with the what is.

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by Becky Shultz

Got kids? Then you’ve got wonderful blessings – gifts from on high!

You’ve also got disagreements, issues, messes, worriment, and trouble.

And the older those kids get, the bigger the problems get, the more difficult those difficulties are to handle.

Let me tell you about this little trap we fall into when our children are small. I’ll just call it the If-I-teach-them-the-right-things-they’ll-do-the-right-things TRAP. It becomes easier and easier (especially if we have a compliant child) to believe that, as long as we parent well, MY child will do what’s right.

We see other people’s children and the mistakes they’re making, and think MY child would never do that!

I fell into that trap.

Our eldest daughter, Laura, was your typical firstborn – compliant, rule-following, eager-to-please. She loved when we praised her good behavior, so that’s exactly what we did. We set up boundaries, knowing she’d not cross them (at least not out loud). We’d read a parenting book or two, fell into a nice routine, and I started to feel like a pro!

Enter Hannah.

Oh. Merciful. Providence!

She was lucky she was cute and sweet, and a great sleeper.

Of course, we absolutely adore daughter #2, but talk about a wake-up call.

Shortly before Hannah turned one, we started to see glimpses of her “rules are made for breaking” mentality. By two, she was well on her way to crossing every boundary we had set up. Hannah had no desire to please us.

The difference between our eldest daughter and secondborn.

The difference between our eldest daughter and secondborn.

l&h

They might look alike, but they couldn’t be more different!

Thank God for our small group and one of the best parenting books we’ve ever read – Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

There was a great light bulb moment as we read and discussed this book. The focus of our parenting needs to be about the hearts of our children, not about behavior.

I’ll be honest, it’s still difficult. When I’m told things like, “Your kids are so well behaved”, I have to stop myself from welling up with pride, and remind myself that good behavior is not the desired end result. When my kids aren’t behaving well, I have to do the same. Otherwise, I’d be greatly embarrassed!

What is the desired end result?

That our children love Jesus and love others. Period.

And Jesus-lovers and others-lovers are not, I repeat, NOT perfect! I love Jesus. I love others. I screw up on a regular basis.

So, parents, we need to hear this…

We live in a fallen, broken world. We are fallen, broken people. Our children are fallen, broken children. No matter how well we teach them what is right, they will mess up. They will make unwise decisions. They will cross lines. They will make bonehead mistakes.

And, you? You will feel like throwing in the towel. You will feel like quitting. You will feel like tossing up your hands in surrender and saying, “I quit! I don’t want to do this parenting thing anymore!”

So, what do we do when parenting is hard? We pray. We pray some more. We pray even more. We pray for the hearts of our children. We pray that the Lord would give us wisdom as we parent. And, we don’t quit. We get back out there and keep doing this thing.

There is this beautiful, hard word that seems to be a theme throughout Scripture. It’s the idea of perseverance. When the going gets tough, by God’s grace, we keep doing this parenting thing.

If you’re struggling through some tough issues with your children (younger children, medium-sized, older), hear this:

There is nothing new under the sun!

If your child has made some big-consequence mistakes…

There is nothing new under the sun!

If your child is trying new, crazy, dangerous things just to be cool…

There is nothing new under the sun!

If your child is turning his back on everything he’s been taught and walking down a path that will only lead to trouble…

There is nothing new under the sun!

You may feel alone, because frankly, we don’t have to share every mistake our children make. These are their stories, too. It’s good and right to sometimes quietly persevere. But, persevere we must. Even when we don’t know what to say or what to do.

We pray. And we persevere.

If you’re not there yet, be prepared. KNOW that some tough parenting is coming. If you notice someone else having to do the tough stuff, don’t sit in judgment. We are sharing in one of the most beautiful, rewarding, heart-filling, ugly, messy, gut-wrenching missions of all time.

We must be filled with compassion and grace as we share in this parenting journey.

And,

We must never give up.

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by Becky Shultz

It all began 23+ years ago when we found out we were expecting a baby girl.

Laura Elizabeth Shultz slowly made her entrance into this world, but quickly stole our hearts!

I remember being stopped while out for a walk or moving through a grocery store. Enjoy this time! It FLIES by, they said.

I would always nod my head in agreement, while thinking, Yeah. Yeah. Whatever.

It wasn’t long after…

I became that woman stopping mamas in the street, Enjoy this time! It FLIES by, I said.

Raising Laura has been wonderful. It’s been exhausting. It’s been delightful. It’s been exasperating. It’s been enchanting. It’s been bothersome. It’s been pleasing. It’s been disagreeable. It’s been beautiful. It’s been ugly. If you’re a parent, you understand.

The highs, the lows; the simplicities, the difficulties; the good days, the bad days…it was all worth it! There is nothing quite as rewarding as being a parent.

I could tell you story after story, share with you memory after memory, but as those flood my mind today, I’ll remember, yet keep my hands from writing them here.

If you’re a parent, take a moment to remember – think back to days gone by. Do you have funny stories to tell? Hard stories? Memories of your children that make you smile? Sit around the dinner table tonight and share those stories, those memories with your kids. Tell them your favorite things about them. Even if you’ve shared these things 100 times, make it 101.

Because those people who stopped me while out for a walk or moving through a grocery store were right.

In the blink of an eye, our sweet baby Laura went from gumming cheerios in a high chair to marrying her best friend.

So I sit here this morning, looking back, remembering, reflecting. And, I realize what a gift the past 23+ years have been. In particular, what a gift the past year has been.

When Laura graduated from college and moved back home, I had no idea how special this time would be. Her loudness and laughter were back, but gone were the days of childish chitchat (mostly), and here were the days of deeper conversations. More of a woman-to-woman relationship. She’s still my daughter (I’ll always be MOM), but now she’s become my friend. And, while the transition is not always sweet and easy, it is a beautiful one.

The day that Laura got engaged ushered in a completely new and different season. I can’t give credit to the older, wiser woman who encouraged me to “enjoy the process”, because I don’t even remember who said it. But, those words stuck with me every step of the way.

There were some ugly moments (we live in a fallen world, so there always will be), but let me tell you I absolutely enjoyed the process and what a gift it was!

The process looked something like this…

Laura, who has the gift of planning, set the plan in motion. She invited me regularly to the couch beside her to look at her Pinterest boards, give my opinion on colors and guest list, and to listen to her music selections. We traveled together to the bridal shop, Laura trying on gowns while I oohed and aahed. I sat in a chair off the platform that housed special bride-to-be dressing rooms, trying to take it all in, soaking up the moment. Enjoying the process.

In June, the Lord gave us a special ministry trip to Michigan. We flew out together (with Grandma & Grandpa), went on walks, worked side-by-side, figured out some more wedding stuff, and spent lots of time talking. I went to bed every night that week, said goodnight to Laura who was sharing the room with me, rolled over, let out a contented sigh and fell asleep smiling, so grateful for this time with my daughter. Enjoying the process.

Enjoying ministry work together in Michigan

Enjoying ministry work together in Michigan

We went on some hikes, leading up to hiking a 14er (my first) less than two weeks before wedding day. We put all wedding plans on hold and just enjoyed being together out in God’s creation, taking in spectacular views. Laura encouraged me every step of the way, telling me how strong I was. I just kept thinking, Lord, this is an absolute gift! (Actually, first I was thinking I was going to die 😉 , but in between gasps I was thinking what a gift this time was). Enjoying the process.

One of our hikes

One of our hikes

14er!

14er!

We spent a Saturday moving Laura’s belongings out of our house and into her new apartment – the one she would soon begin sharing with her husband. It was an exciting day! I watched as Laura showed us the place she and Stephen found, smiled as she told us of the plans she had for the space, and giggled as she excitedly unpacked wedding gifts that were a perfect addition to their place. I watched brothers work and laugh. And, there it was again. Another contented sigh. Enjoying the process.

Moving day!

Moving day!

On and on it went. A walk through the venue, the bridal shower, cleaning house to get ready for the East Coast Shultzes, working on invitations with family, airport runs as family and friends began to arrive. I kept hearing that voice tell me to “enjoy the process”, so I spent time intentionally stopping to notice all that was happening, treasuring moments, sighing contentedly. Enjoying the process.

Bridal shower

Bridal shower

And just like that, the day was upon us. My head swirled as I took in all those around us who were helping. A sister-in-law picking up monster bags of tortilla chips, a cousin ironing all Shultz boys’ clothes, friends baking and delivering, friends cutting multiple watermelons, friends taking pictures, friends and family setting up and tearing down, a sweet friend helping fix hair and makeup, a friend coming in as the DJ, friends serving food, a dear friend coordinating it all, keeping the wheels turning and the plates spinning.

Shultz boys in their freshly ironed clothes :)

Shultz boys in their freshly ironed clothes 🙂

We absolutely could not have pulled this wedding off the way we did without our friends and family. Their love and sacrifice were stunning. I stood to the side and just watched, reveling in God’s goodness to us. I smiled. And sighed contentedly. Enjoying the process.

To top it all off, Grandpa (my dad) got to perform the wedding ceremony. Be still my heart!

Grandpa. I will always treasure this!

Grandpa. I will always treasure this!

In that moment, I realized I had been feeling like Mary must have felt shortly after Jesus was born. We’re told that she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 NIV). That’s what I had been doing. Treasuring and pondering in my heart. Recognizing gifts from the Lord at every turn. Enjoying the process.

My encouragement to you today, parents, is this:

Enjoy the moments, recognize the gifts, take pleasure in the process. You might not enjoy every moment or take pleasure in every part of the process, but be intentional to enjoy what you can.

And, sit back, take notice, breathe deeply of God’s love for you, treasure up the moments and ponder those good things all around you.

I have a tendency to hurry through things. To get stuff done. But, this season with my daughter has taught me to enjoy the process. May we learn to slow down, notice the gifts and be present. May it be said of me…

Becky treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

 

 

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by Becky Shultz

I sat down to write a blog yesterday. Here’s how it went:

Lord, please give me the words you want me to share.

*cricket* *cricket* *cricket*

So writing a blog turned into 30 minutes of praying and thinking and crying. I thought about this past year and all the Lord had in store – the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the tidy, the messy, the encouraging, the intimidating, the normal, the shocking. I’ve said this a time or two: I was not ready for this year. I was not ready for what our family would face.

Somehow, when I wrote those words, when I read those words, I realized they ARE NOT TRUE.

The Lord had been preparing me my entire life for the year we would face. He’d been preparing my husband. He’d been preparing our children. He’d been preparing Hannah.

family-1517179_1920Every illness. Every doctor’s visit. Every hospital stay. Every sermon. Every birth. Every death. Every wedding. Every funeral. Every encouraging card during times of grief. Every Scripture passage read. Every worship song sung. Every verse memorized. Every family chat about who God is. Every conversation about our Lord’s faithfulness. Every prayer answered (I believe that all prayers are answered – with a yes, no, maybe, or wait). Every chapel. Every quiet time. Every hike in His mountains. Every walk along His beaches. Every hail storm. Every spectacular sunset. Every one of these things. Every one of these moments, the Lord has been revealing more and more about Himself. He has been spending 43 years (actually, since the beginning of time) pursuing me, loving me, leading me, delighting in me. He has done the same for my husband, my children, my sick daughter.

So, we were ready for this past year. We were ready for what our family would face.

He made us ready.

Hannah’s sickness was not all that the Lord had in store for us this year. And, while it has overshadowed many most things, I was determined that this blog would be about something other than Hannah’s sickness.

I was just starting to write about the most joyous day. A day in July – less than three weeks ago. The day our oldest “baby” got married. I was remembering, smiling, thinking about all the great pictures I could attach to this post, when my phone rang. It was Hannah. She was calling me from her bathroom. I knew something wasn’t right. Her voice was barely audible, “I need you to come up here.” I bounded up the stairs, and found her sitting (barely) on her bathroom floor, leaning over the toilet. She had a rough time the day before, just felt awful. We knew she wasn’t well, but everything she feels, every virus she catches, every headache she has all seems to be tainted by her disease. It’s difficult to know what’s related and what’s not. *sigh*

When I got to her, she asked me just to help her lie down right where she was, on her bathroom floor. She stayed there while I called Brian (my husband, her daddy). I was finally able to help her get back into bed, made a phone call to her neurologist and one to her primary care doc.

My blog-writing morning turned into getting Hannah to the doctor. Again.

Long story short, she has a concussion – something ER docs missed after Hannah and her friends were rear-ended last weekend. One week after the accident, she was feeling better, playing volleyball at a family picnic, and got hit in the back of the head with a ball. That was just three days ago. Her doc says back-to-back concussions. No wonder Hannah’s been feeling sick, dizzy, weak, and not wanting to do anything.

Hannah’s doctor ordered a CT Scan for Friday, just in case she’s not feeling better. She also discovered that Hannah’s neck is messed up from the accident. That means we head back to her naturopath/chiropractor. More appointments.

I have to remind myself…we were ready for this, too.

As we drove home, I told Hannah, “I don’t really know what to say anymore. I’m just sorry that you have a concussion and you feel so bad.”

Her response kind of kicked my hiney…

“I’m just glad it’s me with the concussion. It would be awful for the boys; they’re getting ready to start school and soccer. I’m not doing anything anyway. Just resting and healing. I may as well have a concussion.”

She chuckled.

I know it has to be difficult for her, but I also know that she meant what she said.

And, in that moment, the Lord showed me that He had prepared Hannah for all that would happen this year.The Cooper Wedding-519

I’ll write another day (next time, Lord willing) about Laura’s wedding. For now, our God is good, y’all.

I don’t know what you and your family have faced this past year. I don’t know what you or we will face in the coming year. But, I do know that you…that we…are ready for whatever comes.

 

 

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