On Motherhood, Ministry, and the Spread of the Gospel

One year ago this month, my sister-in-law and I started a little side project called Risen Motherhood, a podcast about gospel-centered motherhood. We promised each other we'd just do five episodes and be done. It was a way to synthesize and share some of our thoughts about motherhood and eternity, and a fun chance to get to work together after blogging individually for so many years. We also had a feeling that if we were spending so much air time in our offline relationship talking about how the gospel impacts mundane things like potty training, meal planning and breastfeeding, then other moms probably were too – and maybe they'd like to listen in to a conversation about it.

And what we found was, our hunch was right. What started out as a small pet project has turned into full-blown ministry for she and I. So much so, that one year later, we have a website, social media platforms, forty plus episodes in the archives, and thousands of women tuning into hear the show every week.

And what we really found, was that we are not alone in our desire to push for more in our motherhood. We found a community of women who are eager grow in their understanding of the beauty and brilliance of work that was given to them by God to do. We found women that are tired of the world's empty messages on motherhood and instead long to fill up on the power and blessing of the work accomplished by Christ on the cross. We found fellow moms with a hunger to allow the gospel to impact their lives in a significant way, recognizing redemption matters, even in the mundane.

We are mothers who want more. Who will not settle. We know motherhood is a holy task ordained to us by God, and we have one shot at it, so we won't waste it. We know we won't get it all right, we fully recognize that we can't do it all and are not perfect, but we serve the one who is perfect and does get it all right. We live in the in-between, the crack in the middle, the beautiful, marvelous, near un-believable space of grace. We recognize that the very same hands that were stretched wide on the cross for us, hold us now, sending us out with an eternal purpose in our motherhood.

And this – this is one of the most exciting things I've ever been apart of. While I can quickly list off all the reasons I'm unqualified to be apart of this ministry, I feel God asking me to let go of my reservations and hesitations and be all in with Risen Motherhood. It's taken me nearly an entire year after Risen Motherhood's launch to even begin to seriously adjust where and how my time is spent online, but it's become clear to me over the past couple months that something needs to give. With a third baby on the way, a fourth and fifth arriving any time through adoption, and the desire to continue being a faithful, dedicated, full-time stay-at-home-mom, I need to make some hard decisions about where I spend my time. Beyond motherhood and being a wife, I prioritize healthy relationships with my extended family friends both near and far, and I desire to always leave space to serve in my local church through women's ministry, small groups and service needs as they arise.

The gospel is everything to me. And while over the past couple of years I've made a lot of changes in the way I write and what I write about in this particular space, Risen Motherhood lends itself to the spread of the gospel in ways I never knew I could be apart of. And as God began to reveal this to me, letting go of something I've invested so much of my heart in over the past six and half years (!) became a whole lot easier. I don't want to live divided, and while some people are, honestly, I'm just not good at managing multiple social media accounts or writing for multiple platforms – I started to find that much of the content I desired to share was duplicative between platforms and I began to struggle with what to put where, paralyzing me to not be able to share anything at all.

And for those reasons, it's time to let this space go.

It's not a "goodbye-forever," but it is a closing of a chapter. I know that technically I don't owe anyone anything, nor am I disillusioned into believing that anyone would every really wonder where I am if I stopped writing without any formal goodbye, but for my own heart, I need to take time to release this space, so I can fully invest in another.

That said, it's not a true goodbye! I'll still be very active online, and you can consistently find me through Risen Motherhood. While I'll be allowing my blog Facebook page to go dormant, I'll still post on my personal IG because I just can't help myself - it's still my favorite medium.

I'd love if we still kept in touch, so going forward, here's where you can find me:
  • Podcasting: At Risen Motherhood, we release a show every week at 5 a.m. on Wednesdays. Stream each show directly from the site, or find us on iTunes or your favorite streaming app (This is mine). 
  • Writing: If you like the type of content I used to push out here or on my personal Facebook or Instagram, head to Risen Motherhood's platforms (Instagram / Facebook / Twitter). I'll be microblogging as well as sharing little videos on Insta-Stories (an Instagram feature) with behind-the-scenes snippets of RM and gospel-centered encouragement for moms.
  • Daily Life and Updates: For peeks into our family's daily life, adoption and baby #3 updates, or just to find out what I'm up to, come find me on my personal Instagram, (@laurawifler). 
Finally, I just want to extend a huge thank you to all of you who have supported me and my writing. Many of you have been with me for years and others have only recently found me. All of you are what has made this space so hard to let go of. I have loved forming relationships with many of you online, and have learned so much from you sharing your thoughts, opinions and encouragement with me. And if you found yourself identifying with the type of mother I shared above, I do hope you'll come join the Risen Motherhood community. God is doing big things with this ministry and I know he's only just getting started.

To The Mommas of Little Children and Long Days

I'm in what we like to call a "season" right now. A season that's long and thin, one that every evening around 6 p.m. I start to feel like someone is just ever so slightly taking a hammer and tapping it over and over again on my head. It's a panicky feeling, where the walls close in and I start to feel like time has stopped and I begin to wonder if this is all there is in this life and I must – I must – find the nearest bathroom and lock myself inside with a pair of earplugs and a bag of truffles.

I am a stay-at-home mom with a husband that works long hours. I get my kids up every day on my own, and often, I put them to bed alone as well. I know it's not how it's supposed to be, but it's the "season" and while we're working to change it, I have had to learn to adapt. I have two children (Well, I like to think four since we are in the middle of an adoption process), ages three and 22 months, but the combined decibels those two can produce could compete with the tweens at a Justin Bieber concert.

I try not to write about it a lot here, mainly because I know I have a very good life. My husband loves me more than anything and truly desires to be home more, my children are beautiful – total maniacs – but beautiful, wonderful maniacs at that. I have a safe and warm home, a car that gets me where I need to go, and food to put on the table each night. My life is filled with laughter and dance parties, somewhat dangerous wrestling matches, and so. much. joy. There are other hard things in our life of course, most I just can't write about here, but overall, it's a charmed life.

But I am tired.

And as I get older and even – hopefully – a little bit wiser, I find that everyone has their hard things. No one's life is perfect, and for all of us mothers out there, no matter what your day looks like, how many kids you have, or what your struggles are, parenthood brings out the ugly in you – most of it you didn't even realize existed until you became a mother to your perfect, wonderful, lovely, crazy terrors.

So momma, if you're somewhat horrified at your reaction to your children's antics, if you feel like a failure when your head hits the pillow, if you're struggling with wishing some of this time away, especially the hours between 4 p.m. and bedtime, let me be the one to tell you:

You are not a horrible mother if you yelled at your children today, if you can't wait for bedtime, or if you forgot their hats, mittensn – even their coats – while on a walk in 45 degree weather.

You are not a horrible mother if you can't stand to play one more game of an imaginary grizzly bear family eating honey and frolicking in the grass at the zoo, or if you day-dreamed about going back to work or just plain wished you were somewhere else.

You are not a horrible mother if you fed your kids too many sweets, or non-organic, or formula, or 10,000 mini-meals instead of three square ones. You are not a horrible mother if you didn't pull together a beautiful seasonal display on your mantle or whip out Pinterest-worthy crafts to celebrate every tiny holiday – even the stupid ones.

You are normal. You are not superhuman. You are simply, human. You are a person with limits. You are a sinner in need of a Savior.

While technically, I suppose, we're all failures at motherhood, our parenting struggles are not meant to make us wallow in despair, they are meant to point us to the cross. So maybe it's time we all learned to be mothers that apologize for our lost temper. And burn the idol of "Pinterest-worthy." And put down the flag of perfection and instead raise the flag of grace.

I don't know when this season will end for me. I don't know what the future holds. And I don't know when it will end for you either. But what I do know is that I wish so badly that I could meet with you right now. I wish I could give you a hug and have a good cry with you. That I could laugh with you about that hilarious thing your kid said. That I could tell you I'm here for you. That you are not alone. That this is a hard season, but it is a worthy season. I wish we could pray together and praise God for all his good and wonderful gifts to us, repent together of all our failures, and ask him to give us the strength to keep going as we grow in holiness.

These are the days that are refining us, each day we figure out a little more of who we are, realizing, well, that we're not quite as good at life as we thought we were. But we're also learning to trust God more, to rely on his sufficiency (because ours is definitely lacking) and to rest in his sweet, vast love and mercy.

* Photo Verdigris Photography & Design

Where Is God In A Traumatic Birth?

It took me 14 months and a second pregnancy to admit I had a traumatic birth. Nearly a year and a half later I finally realized it had been hovering over my shoulder like a black cloud, a haze enveloping me ever since the birth of my first. I was lying on my back at my twelve week appointment, the paper crinkling underneath me and my midwife pressing on my abdomen when she asked me nonchalantly about what concerns I had for this pregnancy. Pregnancy? None. I had no concerns, no questions, not even a thought to share about pregnancy.

But quietly, timidly, I said, "But I'm a little nervous about birth." I didn't want them to think it was a big deal; for her or my husband to think that I was too scared. I had been thinking about labor and delivery since the moment I got pregnant the second time, but had never admitted that I was nervous for it, I think I just wanted to test out what it would feel like to say it out loud.

"Okay, what are you nervous for then?" my midwife asked.

Like releasing a dam, the tears flowed faster than I could stop them. I didn't even know where they were coming from, I didn't know they existed until that very moment. Suddenly I could barely breathe, as I admitted everything to my midwife, telling her about the flashbacks, the pain, the fear, the shame. I had hidden all of these things away deep in my heart, feeling that I wasn't allowed to admit them, I had a healthy baby boy at home after all, everything turned out fine! I didn't even have a scary story - there was dramatic moment, no near-death experience, not even a hint of emergency.

But that day, I told her everything. I told her how alone and helpless I felt. How scared I was. I told her about my anger at the anesthesiologist and the nurse anesthetist. How I've been harboring bitterness and blame against them for not listening to me, for telling me (in different words) that I was crazy and delusional. I told her how disappointed I was that she wasn't at my birth and there was no one to advocate for me, no one who explained to me what was really happening, and why my son was stuck.  I told her how ashamed I was about how I felt when I met my son and didn't feel anything close to joy, only anger and skepticism and relief that it was finally over. I admitted how I felt like less of a woman because I couldn't do it on my own, and less of a mother when meeting my son didn't make me forget any of the pain, like so many other mothers told me it would.

I admitted that I felt ashamed of all of those feelings because when I compare my birth to other women's stories, mine sounds easy. I didn't want to sound like a whiner or complainer, so I kept these thoughts hidden to myself, telling myself I was just being dramatic, that maybe I really was, as the nurse anesthetist said, crazy.

But I couldn't help but wonder, "Did it have to go that way? Did we make the right choices? Could there have been an easier way?"

By that point, the midwife held a tissue box in one hand and my hand in the other. She looked at me and told me what I had been longing to hear for so long: "Honey, you are not crazy."

Then, she handed me a tissue she said, "You had a traumatic birth."

I think our deepest fears are faced when we experience trauma. In the moments between my body beginning contractions and finally meeting my son I came the closest to my mortality as a person I had ever been. Traumatic births bring the fragility of our existence front and center. 

As women, there can be a natural desire to hide it. Especially when we know on the days after birth – as we retell our story to someone who just brought a casserole  – that no one will think our birth story is especially remarkable. We tend to glaze over the emotions, making jokes about our pain or not mentioning it at all. We know someone else has a harder story, so how can we say our story is hard? Someone else's story is more sad, more weird, more dangerous, more brave, how can we compare?

How can we say we have experienced trauma when we are not allowed to? 

But the emotions that come with a traumatic birth: shame, inadequacy, comparison, blame, guilt, anger – they are real and they exist, no matter the scale we put them on. Those are the things that live in the darkness, yet God calls us to bring all things into the light. Sin loves the dark, but it is at the darkest points of our stories that the light shines the brightest. 

The truth is, we live in a fallen world. Our culture tells us to worship the female body, that it was built to give birth, and it should be the most natural thing in the world. But the curse on Eve and childbearing is a reality all women live with. It is no longer natural, it's unnatural,  pocketed with imperfection, speckled with sin. All of today's natural childbirth books in the world can tell us that we women are "warriors, and with the right mental outlook, birth can be a wonderful, pain-free experience." And while I don't doubt that some of stories of a joy-filled, natural labor and delivery are true (because we serve a God that is lavish with his grace, even in a sinful world), for most of us, our birth misses the mark in some way. 

But there is hope. Coming to us through the very same process we are struggling through, the very process God cursed: Mary carried our Christ for nine months, laboring, groaning, and finally delivering our redeemer in a barn. This was no "Mother Baby Birthing Center," there was no whirlpool tub, no aromatherapy, and I doubt Joseph knew what counter pressure was. But it was through childbirth, among the hay, manure and animals, that God sent our redeemer, who would eventually bear the curse on the cross, taking away all our shame, sin, suffering and trauma, and replacing them with hope, peace and grace. 

God used the curse, to break the curse.

And it is here that we work through a traumatic birth. We first put our suffering in its rightful place: remembering that imperfect births are a reality of the fall, bringing with it imperfect providers, decisions, medications, and advocacy. But these are the things that God uses to draw us to himself. As Gloria Furman wrote, the outward groaning of us in childbirth points to all creation's inward groaning for the coming of the true King. As we long for redemption from the pains of childbirth, our hearts long for the true redemption that will come with the return of our Savior.

And it's through this lens we can process a traumatic birth:
  • Take time to mourn your experience. Healing happens when we bring things into the light. Acknowledge your feelings with your husband, a trusted friend, maybe even a professional. On the advice of my Midwife, I even ended up writing a letter to my hospital to help me process. 
  • Remind yourself that God is sovereign over all that happened at your birth. All things are created and done to glorify him. Even if it didn't go according to your plan, God is still good. Do you love him more than your perfect plan? 
  • Find the grace. God's grace is everywhere! Imperfect births are part of the fall, but there are so many areas that God still grants us grace that we don't deserve. Doctors, doulas, monitors, medications, air conditioners, comfortable beds, birthing tubs, the fact that our husbands can be by our sides during childbirth - the graces are endless when you start thinking through them. 
  • Forgive your providers for areas you've been wronged. Release the bitterness and anger at the base of the cross. Because you've been forgiven, you can forgive the wrongs done against you.
  • Remember your true identity. Our culture tells us we're "goddesses" but that's worshiping the created instead of the Creator. When we feel ashamed that we "couldn't do it" or we were not "woman enough" we have to remind ourselves that we can't do anything on our own. God is the giver of life and it is Christ's perfect sacrifice on the cross that bridges the chasm between our bodies and the ability to be a life-giver. 
  • See your birth experience as a way to point others to Christ. In your weakness, he is strong. Find ways to highlight his goodness in your birth story. Remember a difficult birth is not your final story, but only a shadow of your true life to come. Birth and its pain, imperfections and unknowns are things that point ultimately to our need for a Savior that will one day come and deliver us.
For me, the process of healing came slowly, for I had buried my trauma as deeply as I could. But once it was unearthed, I was surprised to find how God transformed it from something ugly, scary and horrible, to something filled with meaning, grace and love.

This week I'm sharing more about my story and process for healing on Risen Motherhood. Head over there or on iTunes to listen!

How To Know If You're Supposed To Adopt

It's been eight months since we signed the contract with our adoption agency. Today I took a huge manila envelope to UPS, had it weighed and special stickers put on it, paid $26 for overnight shipping and walked out empty-handed to the parking lot. I teared up as I stepped outside, took a deep breath and walked to my car like any other day. But this wasn't any other day, it was a big day, we sent our Dossier off to our agency, who will send it to the Ministry of Justice in Bulgaria, who will match us with our children.
My heart feels light, all the pre-adoption paperwork is finally (well, mostly) over! We're nearing the finish line of the legwork it takes to be eligible for our children! My heart feels heavy, this is actually happening. What does the future hold?

As we've shared the news about our adoption, the support has been unbelievable. We have so many wonderful friends and family that are praying for us, for our bios and for our future adopted children, who share in our joy of each milestone met and mourn over every setback. But there have been a few, a tentative few, who have come to us, nervously asking, "How did God make it clear that you were supposed to adopt? Didn't biological babies come "easy" for you? Why don't you just try for more? Are you afraid for your bios, for yourselves?" They tell us, "We're interested in adoption, we think that might be what God has for us, but we're scared of what it means. We just can't decide if we should try for more bios or adopt! How can we know?"

And if you were to come to my house, as some of these people have, I would get you a cup of coffee or tea, offer you a little milk and sugar and tell you, "Well, sometimes you can't know for sure if God wants you to adopt."

I would tell you that sometimes I still wonder if this is the "right thing" for our family. That sometimes, for some people, adoption is a leap - a leap from, "I don't know what God wants!" to just saying "Yes, with God's help, I will do this." Especially if you already have bios and are not in a season of suffering from infertility or miscarriage (which God may use to more clearly point families to adoption), or you're not someone that's always dreamed of adoption but instead someone who's warmed to it in recent months and years, that leap might feel really, really big. It can be hard to intentionally "stop" trying for more children biologically and instead trust that God will grow your family through adoption.

It's weird, I don't know about you, but I feel like these days, adoption has this "cool" factor. Families that don't look alike make for adorable Instagram feeds, watching the journey of families uniting on YouTube with moving music playing in the background go viral on Facebook, and there's this element of "Wow, how sacrificial! How noble! How big-hearted is the family that adopts!"

But it's a whole-lot different to admire and romanticize adoption from afar, than it is to live it and be the "big-heart" that brings home the orphan. So when you feel your heart pulled to adoption, but you're not sure if it just sounds cool or if it's something God is calling you to, it is good and right to think it over. To do the research, ask questions and talk with others. But sometimes, even when we're doing the right research, asking the right questions, obtaining a realistic understanding of what it will really be like to bring a hurting, lost and fearful orphan into your home and love them forever, even then, it can still be hard to know. Sometimes, even, the answer becomes less clear. The knowledge you gain makes you more aware of the risks and costs to your family, yet it also makes your heart more tender to the orphan and more aware of the great need for families like yours to step out in faith.

So in the mud that is the question, "Should we adopt?" Sometimes, there isn't an answer, until you finally answer. For us, and especially for me, it was "Okay, God. I can't get this off my mind. My heart breaks every time I hear about this topic. My husband is on board. I know there's a need for families and you have graciously provided for us to financially meet that need. To care for the orphan is a command from you. It is a good, good thing. You adopted me – you love adoption and I love you. I guess I'd better get on this train or it's taking off without me."

That's the simple version of course. A very streamlined version of the thought process that took five years to take root in my heart. And as we talk in my living room, I'd refill your coffee cup, maybe get you a blanket, and I'd tell you, "Adopting is an act of obedience for me."

Now let me unpack that a little bit for you. That doesn't mean I'm cold-hearted to adoption, no, in every way I melt like a puddle every time this topic comes up. I am tender, so so tender to adoption that it's terrifying really. I'm tearing up as I type this at Starbucks and I can see the barista glancing up at me, wondering when the waterworks will stop. And so when I say adoption is an act of obedience for me, I mean that on one hand, I don't want to do it. I'm scared of how hard it will be. I'm scared of bringing home two toddlers that speak a foreign language, that likely have special needs with multiple motor delays and even cognitive delays. I am scared of how my relationship with my bios will change when I don't have as much time for them. I'm scared of being dooped by the "honeymoon stage," then dying during "one year lock down." I'm scared of the unknown, of those two tiny people I don't know yet. I'm scared because I feel like I'm intentionally choosing the "harder path."

And why would anyone in their right mind choose the hard path?

Because of Christ. Because of future grace. Because I am not living for my comfort and reward today, or tomorrow, or even 20 years from now. I am living for a future weight of glory, one that will come in eternity. Adoption is an act of obedience for me because I am saying yes, even though everything in me says that, logically, it would just be "easier" to have a third bio child. (Although I fully understand that there are risks that come with every child, bio or not.) I am saying "yes," because I believe that even though it will be hard, adoption will change me for the better. Because even though it's scary, I trust that my bios will learn so much from being in an adoptive family. I am saying "yes" because I have been adopted by God and I can catch a glimpse of the gospel played out in an incredibly tangible way right in my own home. I am saying "yes" because I know adoption will bring suffering, but suffering brings me closer to Christ and I can trust in the promises that God's grace is and will be sufficient for me every day of my life - even on the hard days. I am saying "yes" because I don't have to fear all those things I said above, because I don't look for my hope in what is seen, I look to the unseen. I am saying "yes," because I love Jesus and I would give anything to know him more.

Adoption is a good thing. And growing a family purely biologically is a good thing. And sometimes, I think we can overanalyze two good things to death to the point that we're so bound up in them we just become paralyzed. When really, God offers so much freedom by finally trusting him with our future by just making a decision. That doesn't mean God's plan for you is to adopt, it just means you need to not let Satan wind you up so tight that you're ineffective for the kingdom – adoption or not.

And so, even in the midst of unanswered questions of not really being "sure," we can choose to take all the things we know, lay them out in front of us, and just say "yes." Or, you also have complete freedom to say "no," as well!  Adoption is wonderful, and God loves adoption. But he also loves biological children, and it is just as honorable to create a family completely biologically.

An adoptive family is no closer to God than a bio family.

So if you're one of the few like those in my living room, watching adoption from afar, wondering if it's for you, let me encourage you today. Trust God with your family's future. God's got it – however your children come to you. Choosing to adopt may feel like the harder path, but it is a good, good path. Even being just eight months in I have found more opportunities to trust God than I ever have in my life. And that is of great, eternal value. At times, I still find the fears bubbling up to the surface, like I did today when I dropped off the Dossier. I won't lie and tell you everything is perfect once you step out in faith, but take it one step at a time, knowing that each one is supported by grace and brings you closer to Christ, eternity, and the glory that awaits.

We Will Go To The Zoo

This post is sponsored by FLYJOY. All opinions are my own. 

We're just waiting for one more piece of paperwork to come in to complete our dossier for the adoption! Once that last piece comes back from Washington, I'll send a huge package of documents off to our agency, who will then send it on to the Bulgarian government for approval and cross-your-fingers, we'll be eligible for children!

(For those of you wondering what a dossier is - basically, it's a collection of documents that officially represents our family to the government saying to them, "Hey! We're totally normal, responsible people and we'd like to adopt two kids and make them U.S. citizens.")

Cannot. Wait. 
I  know they say waiting is the hardest part of the adoption, but at this point, I'm so ready to start waiting! Last week we completed a majority of our paperwork, getting final documentation and everything notarized and apostilled and honestly, I've felt so strung out over these past couple of months trying to keep track of everything and get it all as perfect as possible, that once we completed everything we could thus far, I nearly cried on the elevator leaving the Secretary of State's Index Department.

To celebrate, we went to the zoo the next day and we had a great day as a family just putzing around. It had rained that morning so there was hardly anyone there and it felt like we had the place to ourselves.

It's so hard to believe that soon these two will be joined by two more - and that when our Bulgarian babies come home, they'll probably be about the age Eli and Colette are today. 
Just sorta blows my mind when I think about it. 

Colette's obsessed with roaring like a lion and making fish sounds, and Eli's obsessed navigating the photos on the map and telling me which animals we need to see next – and which ones we missed and need to go back for.

They're both also obsessed with eating their way through the park, so of course I brought along FLYJOY bars as an easy, clean and healthy snack. Every ingredient in their bars is gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO and vegan, so I love that I can trust what they're made up of and trust that my kiddos will gobble them right up. 
All day, I just kept wondering, "What will my other two children be like? Which animals will be their favorite at the zoo? Will they like the bird show like Eli, or will they be totally bored like Colette? Will they want to ride in the stroller most of the time like Colette, or run ahead like Eli?"

It's fun to think of what our future children will be like, (Of course, I know they'll be totally unique in their own ways too.) but at the same time, it can be hard to think too deeply about them. There's something about knowing they're probably already born, out there without anyone to personally care for and love them. Without anyone to kiss their booboos, tuck them in at night and tell them they love them first thing when they wake in the morning. It tugs and rips at my heart to think about the reality they are facing right this very moment – while I'm enjoying a morning at the zoo. 
I think about all the privileges my bios have – and what a contrast that must be to an orphan's reality. It cuts into me, to a point that I honestly just can't think in depth about it. But even still, my future children always remain, lingering in the back of my mind. I think of them all the time. As I set the table, I envision the day I'll set two more. As I dress my 19 month old I wonder if one of our future children will wear the same shirt someday. As I buckle two carseats, I think of the day I will buckle four. 
I ache for my adopted children already. I only wish that somehow they could know that there is a family a half a world a way that already dreams of the day they will be united with them. And that family has a huge extended family that cannot wait to meet them. That they have a brother and a sister, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and SO many cousins that all can't wait for them to officially join the family. And on top of that, there is a huge, wonderful community that is constantly praying for them and loving them, even though they don't know them. 

I wish I could tell them, but I can't. At least not right now. But I take heart in knowing that someday, I can. Someday I can tell them over and over again how wanted they were. How though they didn't know it yet, God had an awesome plan for them. How even when they were in the orphanage in Bulgaria, God was working in a house in Chicago to unite them with their forever family. 

Someday I will tell them the awesome, amazing story of how our family came to be. 

And then, as a family, we will go to the zoo. 

How Intentional Mornings Are Changing My Life

It wasn't all that long ago that I was sleeping in as late as my kids. Now for some people who have kids that wake at 6 a.m., that's not saying a lot. But when your kids often sleep until 8 a.m., well, it's a little embarrassing. But after five months of living off maybe - maybe - two hours a night (aka, colic), then eight more months of regular night wakings, I think I was just making up for a long-lasting deficit. But as the night wakings *generally* faded, I've been working on getting up before my kids. It was slow going at first, I started with alarms at 7 a.m., then 6 a.m., and now 5 a.m.

I know a lot of times as moms, we like to joke that mornings are impossible for us. That there's no way we can wake up before our kids.  And in certain seasons, I think that is completely true. As the saying goes, "Sometimes the most holy thing we can do is sleep." But as my kids grew up and my true need for sleep grew less, I started feeling conviction that I should be more purposeful with my mornings.

Honestly, I've tried waking early before. Back then, I was just waking up and dinking around. No true purpose. Maybe I'd blog. Maybe I'd read a bit of a book. I'd try to have a quiet time sometime in there. Research a new iPad cover so when my kids throw it in the backseat on a trip it bounces instead of cracks. Paint my nails. Spend 30 minutes comparing tissue prices on Amazon Prime.

But before I knew it, the kids were up and I hadn't gotten anything done except grab a low price on 16 boxes of tissues that would arrive in two days.

So I knew if I was going to keep this up, if this were going to be a lasting habit, I needed to make my mornings more intentional. As I did that, as I forced myself out of bed one morning, then the next, and the next, I found I started to love that time to myself. I actually craved waking before the rest of the house (Even on weekends!) and found that time to be invaluable, not only in getting things done, but to set my heart on the right things.

Intentional mornings have completely changed how I mother. Now that I have time to do a little self-care, get organized and get a few things off the to-do list done before the kids wake, I'm finding that I'm much more patient throughout the day. I'm less distracted. I'm more intentional to set aside time to have focused play with the kids, which fills both our tanks. In short, I feel like I can fully "mom" throughout the day instead of feeling pulled in twenty different directions.

It's not perfect of course. Sometimes, I'm still impatient – because: selfishness. Sometimes, things come up in the middle of the day that I want to deal with right away and I find I'm distracted. And sometimes, I don't get that time in the morning and I can easily find myself making excuses for my attitude, when in reality I need to put on my big girl pants and remember that intentional mornings are a privilege, not a right.

Here are some tips I've found helpful to have an intentional morning (because just because you wake early, doesn't mean that the time will be well-spent)!

Have a set time
It's pretty easy for me to just keep hitting the snooze button on my phone. I once did it for two hours - TWO HOURS! In hindsight, I really wish I would have either just gotten up or turned it off an actually got good rest. It's not worth it if you're just going to hit your snooze a million times. Really try to stick to the time you've committed to. And don't be afraid to work up to a certain time – more power to you if you can go cold turkey to the time you want to wake, but don't feel bad if you need a bit of a weaning process.

Decide what you'll do
Remember my aimless mornings? Don't be like me. You might as well be sleeping. I have friends that wake up and work out, others that meal plan, some that write, and some that run their businesses. The key is planning how you'll spend your time, and making sure it's on something that's going to start your day off right. I tend to prioritize the things that I can't do well with the kids underfoot. I start off with my quiet time (I gave the full run down on how I make that happen here), then move to emails/messages/planning for the day, and two mornings a week I have meetings for the Risen Motherhood podcast at 6 a.m.

Go to bed/wind down early
This has been huge for me. For a long time we weren't going to bed until around 11 p.m. And I like staying up, but often my brain is just fried from the day so we were spending that time zoning out to TV, which really wasn't productive at all. Getting up a 5 a.m. means I'm in bed by 9:30, 10 at the latest. I also started reading paper books instead of looking at my phone, just to help my body wind down and fall asleep faster.

Make it easy & get rid of excuses
For me, it's all about the coffee. I'm in a low-grade haze when I wake up until I've had my first cup of coffee.Whatever it is you decide to do with your mornings, make everything easy to access. The first thing I do is have a quiet time, so I keep all my materials together on a desk in the living room. Everything's easy to nab and I can't make any excuses. I also now get ready before I go downstairs, being dressed for the day helps me feel more focused, and avoids the last minute scramble that was happening when I waited until the end and my kids were waking. If you don't have time to get ready in the morning, try showering at night to save some time. We can all think of a million excuses - but excuses are different than reasons. Excuses blame other things or people. Reasons take accountability for what's happening and help us figure out how to take control of a situation in the future. We can deal with reasons, get rid of the excuses!

Don't be discouraged
As moms, our lives are super unpredictable. A few weeks ago my son was sick and I was co-sleeping with him for a few nights in a row. You'd better believe I didn't wake up early those days. I just asked the doctor for a caffeine IV drip in my arm to go along with my son's IV. (Kidding!) Don't be discouraged if it doesn't happen for a day or two, or even a longer season. That's normal. That's life. Just start over when you can. All is not lost if you sleep through your alarm, just try again tomorrow. It's simple.

I've never thought of myself as a creature of habit, but as a young mom we all know our days rarely go to plan, so having one thing in the morning that's consistent has been so beneficial to me. Are you an early riser? I'd love to hear what you do with your mornings and if you've found any other tips!