The Mommy-War Within

Dear Mommy-self,

Do you remember April 17th, 2014 of this year? You were handed a 6lb 10oz miracle. She was screaming for the first minute or so that she entered the world, but as soon as they placed her on your chest, she wrapped her tiny finger around yours and stopped crying. As her squinty eyes strained to focus on your face, you could hear your own monitored heart beat speeding up with joy. This baby girl knew you—and every inch of her tiny innocence recognized that of all the people in her new unfamiliar world—God had entrusted her to you.

You were instantly and officially a mommy.

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And yet, as the peaceful moments and weeks of maternity leave came to an end, you started to realize that you were thrust into new role socially too. Becoming a mom in this context hasn’t been nearly as graceful as the first day you held Norah in your arms. While most of your fellow moms in real life are supportive and laid-back, on the playground of the world wide web, there are a lot of mommy bullies. Whether they debate breast milk or formula, working outside or inside the home, organic or ordinary, immunizations or no-immunizations, sleep training or co-sleeping…everyone has a strong opinion and feels quite at ease blasting the decisions of mothers who choose a different route.

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It can all feel so hurtful. But, why?

If you are honest, dear mommy-self, you know it is because the battle is as much internal as it is on the internet. There is a mommy war within your own heart.

Am I doing enough? Am I spending enough time with my child? Am I hovering over my child? Should I incorporate more crafts? Am I delaying my child’s development? Should I be doing it this way? Should I do it that way? Is this right?

And the biggest question of all: Am I a good mother?

Other moms are wrestling with these battles too. I wish we could all find common ground to encourage one another, instead of tearing away the last few shreds of mommy-confidence we are able to scrounge up in this tough world on any given day.

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But, that needs starts with YOU, mommy-self.

God made you to be a unique individual! Knowing that, you can be at peace with all the giftings, personal priorities, and family goals God has placed in your heart. Don’t try to be a mommy that you are not. You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone else. You don’t have to take on the priorities of anyone else in an attempt to “keep up.”

There is no one in this world that can do a better job of raising your baby girl than you can. No. One. You don’t need to defend that or argue about that or over analyze that. It’s the truth, and it will continue to be the truth.

It’s time to win this internal battle. Your child needs and wants YOU. Your lap when they need a hug, your hand to wipe away the tear on their cheek, your wisdom, your prayers and discernment, your decisions, your words when they are scared, your smile to greet them everyday.

She needs you to know what she already knew so naturally, from her first moments on earth–

You are a hand-picked, God-ordained mother. You are chosen. You are loved. You are not in this battle alone.

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And, You are gracefully and eternally….a great mommy.

Do. Nothing.

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Today, I want to encourage you to do a few shocking things:

-Stop pursuing your dreams

-Stop fighting the battles you’ve courageously been fighting

-Stop being excellent, and strong, and poised

-Stop juggling it all as super-mom, super-dad, or super-student

-Stop doing good things

-STOP!

…….at least for a moment.

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The Bible is bedazzled with some amazing promises that we can lay hold of as life-giving treasures. We can really know God, we can be endlessly refreshed, we can be victorious! But, let me tell you what to do in order to claim these promises…….NOTHING.

You need to stop striving. You need to stop trying to figure it out. You need to stop running around. You need to stop buying things, and organizing things, and obsessing about things.  You need to stop trying to meet people, please people, and trying to impress people. You need to stop worrying about the past, and the future, and your current situation. This is not the time to run to another church meeting, fellowship, potluck, or mixer. It will not help to complain to your best friend, your mom, or your spouse (yet again.)

You need to be STILL.

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Psalm 37:7-9
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 40:1
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. (NIV)

Isaiah 40:31
But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (NKJV)

Why is “doing nothing” so hard? Perhaps we like to be our own (little g) gods and being still means that we have to TRULY submit and recognize that HE is sovereign, and wise, and all powerful….and we are SO limited. But when we fall into the arms of our loving Heavenly Father, and put our head against His chest…when we stop striving and working, we can see His limitless hand in all that we need worked out and His limitless love pouring into all we need within.

This weekend, find some time to DO NOTHING.

Blessings, Audra

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My Overlook Trail

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Moving in January 2007

I was 23 years old when I moved into these walls. I felt both extremely blessed and extremely terrified to be a homeowner at such a young age. After landing a dream job in Nashville, my parents gave me some wise counsel, a financial blessing, and discouraged me from giving my (soon-to-be) hard earned money to a tenant year after year. This little house was like many things in life, both a wonderful investment and a great risk.

It was a tiny foreclosure when I moved in and all 1,080 square feet of it needed TLC. I could relate to that spiritually and emotionally. I was in a new town, with a new job, with no friends. Life had recently closed some doors that I expected to stay open and like my little house, my heart needed some mending too.

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My mom helping me move in

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My dad and brother adding the first flowerbed

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A happy 23 year old homeowner

And, boy oh boy, did the mending come. In the first year alone, new flowerbeds and incredible friends were added. Curtains appeared along with a new confidence in my job skills and co-workers who became like family. I gave the house a few upgrades and it gave lessons on how the Lord would always provide (even when the hot water heater goes out.) I gave it a fresh coat of paint and it gave me a sanctuary where I learned to pray and spend time with God like never before. The old was ripped out and beautiful newness appeared for us both, me and this tiny, little house. Year after year, we improved and started coming into our own.

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Eventually, there were roommates. Eli, Heidy, Gracie, Hobo, Christina, Kim, Cynthia, Max the Cat (along with that stray litter of kittens that were born under the house). They all lived here during different seasons, the little sanctuary was shared, and lifelong memories were made. I’ll never forget all the pizza nights Eli and I indulged in, Heidy’s piano music coming from the guest bedroom, or all the times Christina and I stayed up late talking about the Bible.

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Hobo enjoying the front porch

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Many a great roommate chat was shared on the front porch

One August night , a man sat next to me on that house’s living room floor and told me he wanted to start dating me, because I was just the kind of woman he wanted to marry. For two years, he faithfully showed up on that door’s steps to take me on dates. One April, I walked into that same living room and showed my new ring to my roommates.

In Oct. of 2011, we came back from the honeymoon and “our” tiny little house was waiting for “us.” The thermostat started working for a new master, the kitchen witnessed my wobbly transition into a cook, the hallway hosted some fights, the bedroom witnessed the making up :)

newlywed house

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The garage welcomed a bunch of new tools and it’s a good thing too because, the entire house welcomed my husband with a (very, very) long honey-do list. In two years, he did for her what he did for my heart. He made it the very best it could be.

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Together we added all new floors, paint, kitchen cabinets, countertops, lighting fixtures, tile, back splash, and lastly, he transformed our office–into a nursery. In April 2014, I brought my daughter home to our tiny, little house–which became her first home. 

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The day we brought Norah home from the hospital

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Nearly a decade has flashed by since I was handed the key–and I’ve shared every year since with this tiny, little house. It’s hard to believe we are packing up to move now. She’s harbored me for almost all of my 20s and graciously grew with me into my 30s. And, just as she taught our family to trust God’s provision, she has fittingly provided us the down payment for our next stage in life. (And also fitting that my old roomie Christina Rownd would be the agent to sale it!)

I’ve watched this house go through some beautiful transformation and she’s witnessed me do the same. Dear tiny, little house–you will always hold a *big* place in my heart.

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PARTNERS–NOT RIVALS.

 

A column from Ann Coulter came across my news feed today, blasting a young doctor’s decision to do medical missions. CLICK THIS LINK TO READ.

 

I agree whole-hardheartedly with Ann that Christians have work to do in America. God has convicted me lately that the lost, those in slavery, the nations, those in need of spiritual growth–are my neighbors and friends. However, most of her article grieved me deeply. I think her mindset is toxic to the church (and thus my burning need to address it here on my blog).  So, with all due respect to Ann, here are some of my thoughts:

 

1) LOCAL MISSIONS AND GLOBAL MISSIONS ARE PARTNERS, NOT RIVALS.

At the start of this year, my husband was hired on as a missions minister at Long Hollow Baptist Church. His official title is “Outreach and Relief Minister”. His main focus has been local missions and community relief. Most of our weeknights and weekends revolve around how our church can reach the lost and make better “disciples” in our community.

 

We have congregation members who passionately go out to the local hotels every Wednesday night to minister to the prostitutes. Some of these same members are going to Thailand this year to work with girls caught in human trafficking. We have teachers who serve faithfully every Sunday in the daycare, and they also go to our Haiti orphanage once a year. I have close friends who are doctors who shine the light of Jesus in their hospitals here in the U.S. but they also choose to do medical missions, just as Dr. Kent Brantly chose to do. We have family and friends who served this city for years, that are now overseas. I have co-workers who spent decades overseas, who now serve in ministry here.

 

Jesus told us before he ascended to Heaven, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, AND to the ends of the earth.” Locally, nationally, AND globally.  My husband has people talk to him on a regular basis with concerns: “We should pour all of money into local missions.” or “We should be sending more money to Haiti, their living standards aren’t even close to our own,” ect.

 

But, you see, local missions and global missions are not in a boxing match, they hold hands. One is not better than the other. They are a married couple–and they inspire one another.

 

 

2) DON’T THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER:

 

Honestly, missions “tourism” is a rising problem. Admittedly, some simply want to have a beautiful picture made with a cute orphan. Some just want to travel to exotic locals. We could do a better job teaching healthy missiology and sustainability within these countries. Does that mean that we should discourage these efforts and forgo any work outside America? NO! Let’s say, worst case scenario, someone leaves for a trip with wrong motives. Perhaps we should respond like the Apostle Paul, instead criticize like Ann:

 

“The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,…” Philippians 1:17-18

 

There are many with wrong motives, however, many have answered the true call to international missions (short and long term) and seen just how hard it can be. Ann, have you ever “slinked” into a third world country to serve? Let’s say one does feel “heroic” when initially going–that tends to quickly fade. Beyond the smells, the diseases, and the dangers–the trip is also expensive, the spiritual warfare can be crushing, there is a foreignness and a loneliness that can be paralyzing and devastating. The Christians she speaks of that are simply afraid of “cultural” persecution in the States are not likely to find the mission field a welcome respite.

 

But, in many cases, people return from trips with a greater love for their country, a gratefulness for our prosperity, a greater compassion for those around them in any location, and a more selfless life–something we could all use more of in America. Most of all, they usually have a greater love for CHRIST, which spills into their everyday lives.

 

Some of the most dedicated international missionaries I know, are doing vast amounts of work for Christ in the U.S. also because *they do not love their own life* more than the gospel. (Revelation 12:11) Something they have had to, no doubt, “work out” on the mission field.

 

My husband traveled to West Africa this spring. One of the groups that is making a huge impact in my city is a group of missionaries that have also done work in Sierra Leone, an area where the Ebola virus is spreading. The work of these missionaries there (some who were murdered due to intense Muslim persecution) has sparked a church planting movement that is now so “on-fire” and so huge…that is blazing it’s way BACK the U.S. One the pastors from Sierra Leone spent a full weekend teaching US how to reach our community and pray for our country. He also thanked the Lord in prayer for American missionaries who were willing to share the gospel with his ancestors. You may not think these “disease-ridden cesspools” (as Ann calls them) have any impact on this country….but it all comes full circle. America may be our country and I love her so, but the body of Christ is a “family” that should take priority.

 

International mission trips do not distract from America, they enrich it.

 

2) OBEDIENCE (NOT REASONING) IS THE KEY:

 

In Ann’s mind– staying home + staying alive + witnessing to an influential American = more fruit from Dr. Kent for the Kingdom of God.

 

“If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.”

 

Okay, good scenario but it seems rather arrogant to me that Ann believes her plans for Dr. Kent would be best. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12

 

Perhaps Dr. Kent was trying to be a hero….OR perhaps he was a man who spent quite a lot of time on his knees, who heard from God, and used his medical gift and training to help the least of these. Perhaps he didn’t feel like leaving his family but he felt compelled to go (believe me, something we wrestle with very intimately in our immediate family.) Perhaps, his decision to “go” was based on obedience, and not to escape the current cultural struggles of being a Christian in America. We do not have the authority to make him a scapegoat for mission “tourism”. We do not know his heart or what God was speaking to him in the secret place.

 

Imagine if we assigned “Christian narcissism” to the apostle Paul because he refused to stay in his own country (which was much in need of the gospel, and much more socially hostile to Christ) and kept braving rather unfortunate shipwrecks, imprisonment, and persecution. He did BOTH! How irresponsible of Paul! (sarcasm) Check out Acts 20:20-21, one of my favorite verses from Paul.

 

“How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by[c] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 2″

 

Who is to say that one young child that Dr. Kent treated in Liberia would not be the next Billy Graham of his country? Or, that he would reach one like my friend Manny Ohomne who is the founder of Samaritans Feet. Manny is from Nigeria and a missionary gave him a pair of shoes and share the gospel with him. One small act. He became a collegiate-level basketball player in the U.S. Today, Manny runs a national AND international ministry and has made a huge impact for Christ in just about every professional sport–a light to highly influential athletes. See his story by clicking on this link.

 

Who is to say that the media attention on the virus and Dr. Kent has not sparked thousands to seek out the gospel he was willing to die for? God doesn’t always think in terms of influence, numbers, or money…the way we do.

 

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

 

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” Luke 15:4 

 

God asks us to be willing to lay down our (eternally-secured) lives for our brothers–even if it is just ONE brother.

 

UPDATE: DR. Kent Brantly has now been released from Emory. I love this quote from I LOVED seeing this quote from a CNN article from Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of Emory’s Infectious Disease Unit:

“We are tremendously pleased with Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol’s recovery,” Ribner said at the news conference. “What we learned in caring for them will help advance the world’s understanding of how to treat Ebola infections and help, hopefully, to improve survival” in other parts of the world.

 

His decision to “GO” has now had a profound impact on Liberia, America, and countless nations….countless lives. Again, God’s ways are not like our way….and PRAISE HIM FOR THAT!

 

3) BEING A JONAH GOES BOTH WAYS:

 

In the book of Jonah in the Bible, Jonah ran from God’s call to the people of Nineveh, because he hated that particular people group. God was telling him to “go” but he wanted to stay in his comfort zone. Jonah took a ship going the opposite direction, but God sent a storm to stop his escape and a huge fish to swallow Jonah up. After 3 days, Jonah decided to be obedient and do what God was telling him to do.

 

Ann is right in that we need to witness to America. We need to pray for our country. We need to serve. We need to look for the endless opportunities to reach the lost for Christ HERE. We don’t need to be afraid of the “cultural” price we will pay. If God is calling you to stay here and you choose to “escape” to another country, you are being a Jonah. Hands down.

 

However, if God is telling you to GO, and you use Ann’s reasoning and a love for “America” above God’s call to missions— you are also being a Jonah.  Either way, God’s concern is not location–he is concerned about OBEDIENCE AND SOULS.

 

The price is not too costly and the risk is not “idiotic.”

 

 

True Rest

True rest is not found in 8 consecutive hours of sleep (though it’s nice), or a peaceful start to the day, or a flawless transition from “mommy” world to office world…. it’s not having your ducks in a row or your to-do list under control. True rest is a person…and His name is Jesus. We can totally surrender everything that strives for self-sufficiency and exchange it for the all-sufficient power of God, capable of bringing the dead to life and giving fullness of joy.

Matthew 11:28-29
28″Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29″Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.…”

 

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My younger brother Eli took this beach picture when he came to visit me in Greece. (8 years ago this month!)

I’m back!

Hello there!

First of all–I owe you a little apology. The blog has been neglected, no doubt! But, as the title clearly states….I’m back! Secondly, (and the reason my apology is small and not big) I MADE A HUMAN! Yep, that’s right. A living, breathing, smiling (and sometimes crying) human. My sweet Norah Grace entered the world on April 17th at 8:28am and came home from the hospital on Easter Sunday. And, she is adorable, by the way!!!

See for yourself–

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Thanks for being so patient as I adjust to this new season of life. Be looking for new blog posts VERY soon! The subject of prayer has been on my heart lately—so get those knees ready–God willing, there are several posts on prayer to come!

Love, Audra

 

Where to start if you want to “End It”!

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If you scroll Facebook or any other form of social media today, you’ll see a lot of people sporting a red X on their hands today…and it couldn’t thrill me more! Today is the “End It” Movement’s “Shine a Light on Slavery” Day for the 27 million trapped in human trafficking. I highly recommend that you visit the website for more statistics and ways to be involved.

 

In addition to sharing this movement and this ministry, I’d love to share with you some ways that God is moving in my own life and in Nashville.

 

Over the last 6 months to a year, God has really put a burden for this issue into my family. My husband and I have felt this supernatural, unexplainable call to help in this area, but we truly didn’t have any idea how to start. I feel that many people are in the same boat. How do you even begin to tackle such a huge and extremely sensitive issue?

 

For us, God started introducing us to PEOPLE that were part of the statistic. One was Tajuan McCarty. Around the same time that we were praying for specific ways to help out, I was “randomly” assigned to produce her story.

 

http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/amazing/ASH24_Tajuan_McCarty.aspx

 

I think what I learned most from Tajuan, was that this is more than a number or statistic. These are someone’s sons and daughters. These are VICTIMS, not a lower cache of society that makes the poor choice to work in the sex industry. In fact, I’ve produced somewhere around 40 stories that involve former strippers or prostitutes and almost EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of them were sexually abused at a young age and eventually manipulated or forced into the sex industry.

 

The second big thing that happened for my husband and me was to see what was happening in human trafficking LOCALLY. Through a Nashville-based ministry called Rescue 1 Global, we discovered what human trafficking REALLY looks like and that girls, boys, women were being trafficked RIGHT IN OUR BACKYARD (I mean, literally, there are some hot spots..plural…within a 5 mile radius from our home and we live in a quiet suburban area.) We have fallen in love with this ministry because of their passionate, yet practical approach to ending trafficking here and overseas.

 

So, all this to say…we’ve come a long way in recent months. We have realized that we can’t do everything, but we can do something. If you have a burden to be a modern day abolitionist, here are some places to start that are very realistic and practical:

 

1) EDUCATE YOURSELF ON TRAFFICKING FIRST:

It doesn’t look the way you think it does! You can be much more effective if you can know whats going on in your area, identify what a victim looks like (you should be aware that a trafficked girl or boy could look as normal as you and me), how the world of trafficking operates, how to help someone trapped in trafficking. If you are in Nashville, Rescue 1 Global has some amazing training seminars. If you are not from this area, do some research and try to find one close to you. There are tons of great organizations doing this kind of training. If you can’t find one, reach out to me and I’ll do some leg work for you to get one in your area.

 

***If you are a teacher or law enforcement officer……I can not emphasize enough how effective you could be as front-line abolitionists! Training like this could give you the tools you need to RADICALLY change this industry.

 

2) SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS:

Did you know that there is currently NOT ONE safe house in Tennessee for rescued victims? Rescue 1 is very close, I believe. (please check out their Grace Oasis if you’d like to contribute to this awesome opportunity!) But, how about your state, your region? Is there a safe house? We want to “End It” but do we have a place to house and protect these victims? Do some research to see and support those organizations making efforts to start one. If there is a safe house near you, please ask about their current needs. Some need major funding and some need things as simple as toiletries and other small donations to supply the house.

 

In addition to being aware of local trafficking, educate yourself on international trafficking. Sex tourism has become a huge trend and many countries are fueling their tourism economy with trafficking. This has to stop! Ask God for a holy discontent and for ways to support international organizations.

 

3) BE A PART OF LONG-TERM HEALING AND RESTORATION:

There is a huge need to rescue victims from the physical bondage of slavery, but the GREATEST need is the long-term healing. There is much restoration to be done after a victim is rescued. A great place to start would be sponsoring a victim that has been rescued. There is a financial burden to house and restore…and every little bit can help!

 

Are you a counselor, could you help with equestrian therapy, a beautician that could help cut hair for women in a safe house? Could you offer tutoring for those attempting to get their degrees? These victims have been severely abused mentally, physically, and emotionally. Chances are you have SOME talent or skill that could help restore a victim to a life of freedom and joy. Give of your time and love!

 

These are just a few places to start! Please reach out to me if you have more questions!!!

 

GO GET EM MODERN DAY ABOLITIONISTS!!! LET’S END IT!

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