Four Years Ago Today

I love my “on this day” app for Facebook. This whole week has been flooded with memories from the past 8 years of getting ready for an awesome youth retreat that I’ve had a the privilege for by involved in for thirteen years.

So many of my posts are encouraging people to pray for retreat, excitement for the weekend to arrive and good reports of healing and miracles during the event.

Then there was one post from this day four years ago that really pulled on my heart.

I’m having my first major time when I realize I can’t just do whatever I want now since I’m a mom. It’s happened before, but never to the same extent as since Youth Retreat prep and now the retreat itself is going to begin. It’s a new season for us. Thankfully we’ll still be involved, it just definitely looks way different than in all the years past. Caleb’s so worth it though!

I threw the “Caleb’s so worth it” part in at the end to not sound like a bad mom, and I did believe it, but I remember how deep my pain really was.

This weekend was so monumental for my spiritual growth in high school and when I then got to be involved in putting it on it was like a dream come true to have the chance to give this experience to other kids.

And when it looked like I couldn’t do it anymore, my heart was broken. Motherhood was such a beautiful gift, except when it took away something I was deeply passionate about.

Well, that was four years ago, and today my emotions were definitely engaged because this year I have the deep priviledge and incredible honour of being the evening speakers for the retreat alongside my husband.

So in the midst of my nervousness for this weekend, and great sense of awe that we are actually speaking at this event that was so instrumental in my life…I am encourage today by the unfailing promises of the Lord.

I remember my pastor praying over me after I had Caleb and saying “the Lord put fire in your bones, he’s not done with you.”

It felt different in that season four years ago, and yes, it was so worth it. But he has been faithful to fulfill the desires deep in my heart that he has placed there.

I pray for you today, that where you feel your dreams are broken, or laying dormant, that you would be faithful to keep walking with Jesus. Do not give up. Don’t think about giving up. Not ever. BECAUSE at the time right time, these things will come to pass and you will reap a harvest for the Kingdom of God!

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
Galatians 6:9


Last year around youth retreat! No more newborn 😦 

One Year From Now

Last year at this time I was eight months pregnant, almost immobile and extremely frustrated.

I hate feeling crippled by anything, and without much use of my left leg, still with all day sickness and other baby related ailments, I felt trapped in my own body.

It was this beautiful autumn time of year. The leaves were changing colours and I couldn’t even drink a pumpkin spice latte without wanting to throw up (and if you know me, that’s crazy.)

I felt like I was missing out on my favourite season of the year and that my pregnant state was robbing me of all that beauty.

One evening that I would have loved to have been out for a walk I looked at my husband and said “September 2015 is going to be my fall. I will be mobile, I will go for walks, I play in the leaves with the kids and I will drink pumpkin spice everything. The kids should be sleeping decently, and I will be walking out many of my dreams!”

Hard to believe a year has passed since I made that audacious statement. I was feeling aggravated by something the other day and I suddenly remembered what I said.

“September 2015 is doing to be my fall.”

Just remembering those powerful words I released seemed to spark a renewal in me to press on through the hard days.

I was suddenly thankful for my non-pregnant body, although not in the shape I maybe had hoped for yet, is still extremely mobile, and definitely not held back.

Each cup of steaming coffee that hasn’t made me nauseous feels like a new gift.

My nights aren’t what I expected by this point, I’m awake way more than I think I should be, but in general I have the energy I was longing, no, desperate for at this time last year.

It’s funny what just one year can do.

Think about a situation that’s really pulling you down. 

What could it be like in one year? What positive steps could you make today to be in a better place in that area one year from now?

Sometimes one year brings growth, and other times one year brings pain.

September of 2013 was also a fall I would like to forget, stuck in a terrible season of a colicky baby, way harder than anything I have faced since getting married. The year before that I wouldn’t have imagined the hardships that were coming.

I don’t know what another year will bring, or what will be happening in September 2016, but I do know that I want to position myself right now to have the best year possible!

Speak words of life over your situation today, that when the seasons change again you won’t be held down by the things that are stopping you now. Declare health and strength over your body and over your family.

Be encouraged today that one year from now, everything could be different.12047368_10156022065185431_882942097_n

{Two years ago this girlie just screamed all the time. She LOVES going for walks now.}12047732_10156022066755431_459767635_n

{the kiddos and their cake pops, while I drank my first pumpkin spice latte of 2015}


{This guy is in school two mornings a week now.}


{My baby. So grateful that he’s safely on the outside of my body. So much love for this bear.}

When Courage Invades Your Parenting

This summer I realized I felt more than just a little nervous to take my three kids places alone.

Easily overwhelmed, I had become fearful when I was with them. I didn’t even feel like I could get them the two blocks to the park.

While some of this was legitimate after getting stuck in a situation with a tantruming two year old, a screaming six month old white a four year old took off angrily, blowing a stop sign on his bike, I didn’t like feeling immobilized by my kids.

I was already asking the Lord to make me brave and to give me courage in many areas of my life, and I was seeing that happen. But leaving the house with my kids was an area I did not feel brave in.

This started to frustrate my type-A first born son who one day looked at me and said “MOM, you just gotta do what you gotta do!” 

I felt if I became a “brave mom” than my kids would end up injured, or worse, and I would be more exhausted than I already was.

Then something changed at the Camp Meetings our church hosted. There was no moment when someone prayed for me to be a brave mom, only a strengthening in my spirit.

To some of you that might not make sense, but when you get in the presence of the Lord God he does things you could only imagine. He heals bodies, he encourages your heart, and he gives you strength to do what you thought you couldn’t.

The day after the camp meetings finished my husband and I were speaking at a bible school graduation. I spoke my part first, and then Andrew spoke his, and while he was releasing the Word of God, I felt clothed in supernatural courage.

 “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

As Andrew read these verses out I felt that deep reassurance that I could do more with my kids than I had been.

The next day I had decided to stay home all day and not go into work because we had been so busy for a few days I knew the kids needed me.

Nap time finished earlier than I expected and it was hot out. I needed a plan. I felt the Lord’s nudging me to take them to the pool.

“What! Lord are you sure? You know I don’t do that, how can I supervise a 10 month old, a two year old and a four year old myself?”

We went and it was great. I felt like I had just conquered a mountain.

A lot of fear broke down in my life as courage invaded my parenting.

While packing the kids back up in the van, my oldest looked at me and said “Mom, I’m proud of you for taking us to the pool without dad!”

May you encounter Jesus, the one who makes us brave and feel courage invading your parenting.

amayah cutsie

{the girl and her kitty, the animal that’s helps her be brave}

The Truth About Our Family Photos

One of my little dreams was fulfilled this past week. We had a photo shoot with our beautifully completed family. We decided to commemorate a pretty big season for us: our fifth anniversary right around the corner, the birth of Eli (yes, he’s already seven months!) and the other kids birthdays.

Our photographer was fantastic, a sweet woman who genuinely enjoyed capturing our family, which was a gift.

The morning of photos was pretty hairy. I felt so overwhelmed.

In my attempt to be brave and savour this sweet season with our kids, I was doing it before I had lost the amount of weight I wanted to, and the reality of this suddenly hit me as I was trying to figure out what to wear.

A few outfits later, I settled on one I would later regret, and we, with a few raised voices and angry looks, got in the van and on the road.

While the kids did pretty good, there were definitely some moments of me angrily telling them to smile and then faking a happy family moment.

I had to laugh at some of the photos when we got them back. Our photographer was so skilled, I almost forgot some of the memories that went with them.

Like this one where Amayah sassily (is that a word?) said to Eli “MY BALL!” and ran away with it.


Or this one, where Caleb decided he wasn’t going to cooperate.IMG_8150

And one of my favourites, Amayah starting to cry because she wanted to go see the “bath” (the lake).IMG_8155

Or trying to get a nice anniversary picture, looking at each other, paranoid that the kids were running toward the giant “bath”.
IMG_8199And even though Eli started to get grumpy here because he was hungry, that kiss still holds every bit of my love.IMG_8448

How we wish we were with three kids…IMG_8397

How we really are with three kids…

IMG_8318I hope you enjoyed this funnier side to our little photo shoot.

Even if it took a little work to get there, a bit of outfit regret, and a few extra pounds I would have liked to go without, I am so thankful to have captured these memories of my family, because they really are growing up extremely fast. 

A big thank you Sarahlynn Photography for all her hard work making our chaos look beautiful!

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
    the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
    are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
    with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
    you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.

Psalm 127:3-5 MSG

Let’s go for a quiet walk.

6:00 a.m. came too quickly after a rough night with the younger two kids. Like clockwork my firstborn entered our bedroom.

“Mommy, it’s morning time. The sun is up.”

As much as I was expecting his arrival into the room, I grieved for a couple seconds the loss of sleeping in on days off, as I’ve done many times the last four years.

The sun was indeed up, and it was gorgeous. I bravely seized an opportunity for connection with my son and invited him on a morning walk with just me.

He was really excited. We headed off with him on his bike, going beside me and sometimes speeding ahead as I walked.


“So how are you really doing mom?” He asked me.

The reality of his sweetness was almost too much for my heart to bare.

“I’m doing really well Caleb, just happy to get some time to be on a walk with you!”

Later that day I heard him whisper to Andrew “remember that time mom and I went on a quiet walk?”.

It was a quiet walk. It had been so peaceful, just that kid and I, with him telling me many different stories, wading through ditches and searching for tracks from dinosaurs who live so so so so so so so so long ago, as he put it.


Because he creates a huge majority of the noise in my house, I forget that sometimes he might just need a little space from his brother and sister too, and some one on one time with me.

I’m really looking forward to having regular “quiet walks” with my early riser who is already wanting to be a good husband, father, pastor, leader and difference maker one day.

Just like one on one time with the Lord fills me up and reminds me of why I am so thankful for His presence in my life, one on one time with my son made me fall in love with him all over again.

May you know the sweet blessing of deep connection that comes with bravely pursuing quality time with someone close to you.


What the Lord told me to tell all his daughters on Mother’s Day.

It seems like every woman finds mother’s day hard. Either we grieve loss or lack, or we question our worth and abilities.

Since I am no exception to this, I knew that in preparation for my Mother’s Day sermon I needed to hear straight from the heart of God on what he wanted to say to his beloved ladies.

I can’t get it off my heart that you, dear reader, may need to hear this too.

The Lord said, tell my daughters this verse.

Open up before God, keep nothing back;
    he’ll do whatever needs to be done:
He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day
    and stamp you with approval at high noon.

Psalm 37:5-6

I was really rocked. Once again God proved that he knows and understand every single one of our struggles as women.

He sees our hearts and he tells us not to be afraid of spilling our guts to him. We can’t shock him. Really, we can’t keep anything back from him since he sees the depths of our hearts – and still loves us.

He promises that if we let go of our need for control, he will do what needs to be done. It might not look like what we think should happen, but it will be what’s best.

And in that sweet, beautiful moment of surrender, he says that he will demonstate our great worth and place his stamp of approval on us, just because of his great love for us.

I definitely needed this as a woman who longs to be valued, and as a mom who fights for control.Psalm 37-5-6

May you find peace today in that beautiful spot of grace.

“That was fun, but now we’re done.”

*Eli’s birth photos are courtesy of my amazing Corina Riley, who was not only my doula, but captured these stunning pictures, moments I will treasure forever.*

We knew Eli was going to be our last baby from the start. There was no accident in the eighteen month age difference between the him and Amayah.

We wanted more than two kids. Andrew and I both enjoyed multiple siblings, and all the two kids families I babysat seemed to fight more.

After Amayah, the thought of another pregnancy, another birth and potentially another colicky newborn terrified me to no end.

So we made a brave (or stupid) decision to fast track our family and have the last one right away and move on.

My first months being pregnant with Eli were so depressing. I cried all the time, wondering why on earth I had done this to myself – all day sickness and a daughter that didn’t sleep?

It’s funny how a year can fly by just like that and the little boy that I questioned if I should have conceived, has been one of the brightest lights in my life since the beautiful day he came.

There are many reasons why we can’t go through with having another baby, some too personal for even a blogger to share.

But as my baby boy grows at lightening speed, the reality is hitting me.

No more newborns.

That sentence alone can draw tears from my eyes.

When I think about that part my heart aches – it’s such a short season.

I will miss that feeling of extreme pain to extreme joy, and the awe and wonder of a new life.IMG_7881_Edit

I will miss the proud look on my husband’s face as the new baby lays on my chest.IMG_7890_Edit

I will miss the soft cuddliness of a new baby that can hardly move and the thrill of showing a new baby off to older siblings.

All the parts that sadden me the most are over in a few short weeks.

After I had Caleb I thought there was no way that we would get the three kids we wanted. Pregnancy was so hard, and birth so difficult, I believed there was no way we could go through the process again.

But we did. Two more times. And that was the bravest thing I have ever done in my life.

Getting pregnant the first time we were excited and naive, but the following two babies took all the courage I could muster to commit to carrying another life.

I wouldn’t trade my three precious children for anything in the world.

I’m reminded of a Daniel Tiger rhyme: That was fun, but now we’re done. It’s time to say goodbye.

Well parts weren’t so fun, and now we’re done, so I’m letting myself say goodbye to that stage of my life that came so slow and left so fast.

I thank Jesus for the privilege of allowing me three incredible experiences to carry and then birth my babies with no drugs and great skin to skin bonding.

I thank Jesus for a husband who stood by me the whole way through, and continues to loves me even though he saw me at my worst, three times.

Caleb, Amayah and Eli – you each changed me for the better. I’m so proud to say you are our family.


Torticollis Trouble

When my first born was two months old I was down on the floor playing with him and I watched his eyes follow an object. I noticed that his head didn’t follow the one direction.

I took him to the doctor and learned about a condition I had never heard of before – torticollis. This is defined by an abnormal, asymmetrical head or neck position, which may be due to a variety of causes. The term torticollis is derived from the Latin words tortus for twisted and collum for neck. (wikipedia)

This took us on a one year journey at a rehabilitation centre, with many stressful days.

I had a lot of guilt. I had followed everything the hospital told me about tummy time, not leaving him on his back, etc. Caleb was one of the first babies treated for this disorder at our local rehab centre.

When it came time to make the decision on whether we needed to pursue helmet treatment, I found the decision excruciating. There was no guarantee that the treatment we were doing at the time would correct it, and if it did get worse, his facial features would start to pull out of line.

We prayed and felt that we were not to go ahead with treatment, which involved traveling eight hours every week for the first while.

In the end me did make the right decision, and the physiotherapy did correct his flat spot, strengthened his neck and corrected his tilt.

Then Amayah came along. I was overly cautious to make sure that we watch her neck and went far above and beyond what was necessary for a newborn in preventing flat head.

But she was diagnosed with torticollis too. Her’s wasn’t as bad, and with what we knew from our extensive treatment with Caleb, it corrected itself.

I couldn’t understand how my two kids had this condition. What were we doing wrong?

Now with Eli, we were almost obsessive with making him do tummy time, laying on his sides, and keeping him off his head when not napping.

Then all of a sudden his flat spot appeared and quickly became bad. The doctor told me he had “stage 4 torticollis”. I had never heard the term “stage 4” used to describe anything but life threatening illnesses, and I was sure we’d end up having to make the trip to an Alberta hospital quickly, before his eyes, nose and mouth were pulled out of line, and dangerous pressure was put on his brain.

I came home from the doctor and cried to Andrew. We were doing everything we possible could, and I was embarrassed. The first thing a medical professional always assumed was that we just left our kids on their back all day.

This week we had our assessment at the rehab centre that Caleb was treated at. Our therapist said we were the first repeat cases in siblings he’d seen.

Got to love being the exception in weird things like this.

Then they told me something that has finally freed me from my guilt. Repeat cases like this are generally caused by how the babies are carried in the mother’s womb.

It still was affected by my body, but we legitimately did do everything we could to protect our babies from torticollis.

Sometimes circumstances literally are completely out of our control. No matter how hard we tried with our kids, they were going to get a dangerous flat stop if not caught.

Even though out of my control, they have not been out of God’s control, or out of his watchful eye. After we caught Caleb’s case, they were astonished that a first time mom observed it, but I know that God made me aware of it.

We still don’t know if we’ll have to go for a helmet with Eli, but I know that so far my kids have each avoided the life long detrimental affects of torticollis as we have continued to pray that the Lord would bring all things hidden to light, and to make us aware of the things we could not know on our own.


Caleb “reading” Eli a story to help him stay calmly in his side lay positioner.


Baby weight blues

The third baby has been hard on my body. And I’ve been hard on myself.

In all honesty, I’ve been really struggling with feeling extremely frustrated with my weight, extra skin, and other things I don’t like about myself since giving birth one last time.

I’ve felt a little ripped off. I didn’t gain any extra weight with Eli, so I thought I’d be “back to normal” quickly.

So not true.

I have struggled with gaining weight after baby like I never have before. Maybe it was having a newborn at Christmas. Maybe it was not having a spring baby (I used to walk so much when the others were new babies).

Whatever it is, I’ve been discouraged to say the least.

One of my brave things for the year has been to accurately look at my fitness goals, and not beat myself up, but be realistic and take steps forward.

The mind battle I play is always that I’m not doing enough. I’m not exercising enough, eating well enough, drinking enough water.10967053_10155127990595431_1905459958_n

Andrew has taught many times to just ask yourself if you’re doing more than you used to. Who cares if you’re doing enough, but are you doing more than you have been? Are you making progress?

So last night, I was bravely speed walking in -30 weather, have a conversation with myself and the Lord.

I was mulling over the concept of “loving our bodies.”

I haven’t been feeling much love toward my body lately.

So the Lord flipped it for me. He asked “does your body love you?”

Well what does that mean? I asked.

Is your body feeling love from you in terms of choices your making? Even if you aren’t doing everything you want to, are you making progress?

I found this to be really encouraging. This challenged the mental side of me. My body wants to be cared for by the side of me that nourishes, strengthens and encourages myself.

I need to treat my body in such a way that it would be appreciative of my decisions.

I don’t know if this will make sense to anyone else, but I feel at peace in changing my focus. I can be zoned in on making sure that my body is feeling the love, rather than if I’m happy with how I’m looking.

If I care for my body in that tender way, hopefully the results I want will come, in time, and with a healthy mind!

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (AMP)

I Won’t Be Overwhelmed

This week was the most challenging so far with three kids. No one ever seemed happy. I gave one kid attention, and the others screamed, cried or acted out in ways that mostly involved poop and pee.

My head hurt quite regularly as the whining seemed to never stop. I’ve felt guilty that I don’t have the same time to spend “bonding” with my new baby like I did with my others.

I don’t need anyone to remind me that it’s all still new for the kids and they’re adjusting to the baby. I know. But honestly, I’m a little frustrated.

The combination of both my husband and I have to take trips out-of-town on two different days, all the other pieces of our schedule and the kids behaviour, left me pretty worn out by the time I made it to this afternoon.

I was so thankful that I managed to get two kids to sleep at the same time, and the other had a (too long) session in front of the TV while I took a nap.

I remember from having my second baby, that there are very few “sleep when baby sleeps” moments with other kids in the house.

This is where relying on God’s strength instead of my own strength has really been displayed.

While I was feeling overwhelmed one afternoon trying to get laundry done, the two younger kids to nap and feeling really emotional and discouraged about my parenting skills, another song popped into my head.

The Lord has been so good at meeting me exactly where I am at. I haven’t spent as much time in the Word or in prayer, and yet He continues to speak and encourage me in the middle of my chaos.

Jenn Johnson’s song “God I look to you” holds words that has been speaking peace to my soul for the last 48 hours. This song doubly encourages me because Jenn is a mom to three kids, a pastor and a worship leader, who obviously fights the same battles I do.

God I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed 
Give me vision to see things like You do 
God I look to You; You’re where my help comes from 
Give me wisdom; You know just what to do 

I have felt overwhelmed, but unnecessarily. This became my constant prayer and declaration.

Anyone and anything in the natural and the spiritual can hear this declaration. I won’t be overwhelmed because I’m looking to my God for direction.

I know that He will give me the wisdom I need for parenting, for rest, for life. He knows just what to do.

May the Lord meet you exactly where you are today, and show you just what you need to do to fight what is trying to overwhelm you and hold you back from living in the fullness of joy that our Jesus came to bring 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

God we look to You.

Birthing Eli

At five a.m. my contractions suddenly started. They didn’t come softly or give me much time to ease into them. I had left a few things to the last minute because I had long labours with my other two.

I sat at the kitchen table writing a list of instructions about the kids in between contractions, while the rest of the family slept.

Before I went into labour the Lord continued to speak to me the song “Steady Heart”, and I had planned to listen to that album while I was in labour.

Things started progressing quicker than expected, and we weren’t able to wait for my in-laws to arrive, we had to call a friend so we could leave.

I climbed in the van and fell on my hands and knees. Tears started pouring down my face. I didn’t think I would make it to the hospital. We had an hour and a half drive, and these contractions were coming so strong and so close together.

I managed to sit up which lessened the intensity slightly. Andrew got in the driver’s seat, and I said through my tears “I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this drive!”

My wonderful husband encouraged me that I COULD do it, and turned on my previously selected Steffany Gretzinger album (The Undoing).

God is so good in the midst of pain and fear. Each song that came in just spoke such peace to my soul, and her soothing voice helped me breathe down each contraction.

The line “sometimes it’s painful to be brave, to look fear in the face and know your name”, came on and I felt this inner strength to be brave and take on this labour and delivery with everything I had.

Such peace filled the van, I will always remember it.unnamed-2

We did make it to the hospital, met our doula (who I could not have imagined getting through that intensity without) and got settled into a room. Labour progressed very quickly (for me), and Eli was born with a total of eleven hours in labour.

Everything went smoothly, until a couple of hours after delivery.

They told me to try to go pee, so I went into the washroom and suddenly lost what was to me a terrifying amount of blood. Being sore, exhausted and emotional from just giving birth, I felt so panicked. Could I live through losing that much blood?

That’s when an amazing nurse came in, grabbed my shoulders and looked me in the eyes and said “Monica, I promise I am going to take the best care of you, and you are going to be absolutely ok.”

I kept losing a lot of blood and massive clots. A team of doctors and nurses came and worked quickly to get the situation under control. I am so incredibly thankful for their calming presence, when in reality Andrew and I were so scared.unnamed-1

Needless to say, that little incident slowed my recovery quite a bit, but God’s hand was totally in it all. I had been miraculously fit in for an iron infusion right before going into labour, which stopped me from needing a blood transfusion.

Having a baby is always a very spiritual event for me, as much as that might sound strange. This time was no exception. Seeing the Lord hold fast to his promises to me is alway incredible.

I had my husband pray this verse over me in labour, and I’ve claimed it in each stage, through another round of mastitis, joint pain and exhaustion.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
(Ephesians 3:16)