Bless and Keep, Lord



The other day, as we drove home from Roanoke, our conversation turned to heavier things (as it always does on long drives).  John said something about the day he was saved by Grace, the day he reached out to Jesus and his life was changed forever.  And I don’t have a day like that. I grew up knowing the God of the Universe lived in my heart.  I made a decision for Him so far back, I don’t remember it.  I’ve had to reaffirm that decision over the years, but God just has always been a real Presence for me.  I can remember feeling Him all around me, even at a very young age.

So, that bottom lines to almost 42 years of being a Christian.

But all of a sudden, my faith has become so much more simple.  All of a sudden, I am learning all these new things.  And all of a sudden, I’m figuring out that I have always made it more complicated than it really is.

I read the Word as though i’ve never seen it before and truth leaps out at me.

I pray these simple, simple prayers.  Lord, be my helper.  Lord, bless them and keep them.

And that Numbers 6 prayer is what is on my mind.

I’m the mother of many, as you know.  Six souls that mean the world to me.  Six people who delight and irritate and bless and cause angst.  They are six of the most exquisitely made, creative, interesting and lovely people there are in the world.  I would want to know them even if they weren’t mine.

But having six pieces of your heart growing up and wandering around unattended in the world causes fear and that is what I’m thinking about this morning.

On Facebook, I see scared mommies sending their sweet babies to kindergarten for the first time.  To high school.  To college.  Kids gaining independence and growing older and as they grow…we have to trust the work we’ve done and God on High to bring fruit.  We have to let go more and more and let them try to fly.

And it scares us.  Because we are more invested in their futures than we ever were in our own.

And we know that sometimes they will fall down.  And they may fall hard.  And we don’t want that for them…never mind that we know in our hearts that falling down is sometimes where we’ve learned most.

God has given me a peace in this prayer I pray over my six, every time they come to mind.

Lord bless them
And keep them
Cause your face to shine on them
Lord, be gracious with the light of your countenance
Give them peace

Because that covers it all.

Lord, bless them.  Bring good to their lives Lord.  Bring fruit.  

And keep them.  Is there anything we want more for our babies than that they know the Lord?  That they know that true love and mercy?  God, let them know you hold them in your hand and will not let go.

Cause your face to shine on them.  Lord, let them experience your glory in their lives.  Let them know that they walk in the light.  Use your Holy Spirit to keep them in the light.

Be gracious with the light of Your countenance.  Lavish your love on them God.  Pour out who you are on their lives.  Bring so many opportunities to know your light and your love.  

Give them peace.  There is no peace without Jesus.  Jesus has redeemed. He is true peace.  He is the peace that passes all understanding and that is what i want for my six.

It’s happening.  They are growing up.  It is happening in every moment that goes by.  Every year, another birthday, another grade in school, more and more independence.  It’s happening.  It’s good.  But it’s scary and it’s hard.  Holding a newborn, up all night…it suddenly seems somehow easier than waving good bye as that very same baby drives away in a car.  We are in this place, no matter what, because signing up for that newborn means signing up for the kid off to college.  No getting out of it.

We don’t have to just wave good bye.  We can pray and release them and trust them to Him who loves even more fully and more deeply than we do.

Light of Your Face


Lord, Be My Helper


Some days, circumstances seem to well up and overflow and I get to feeling kind of stressed.  All of these things that I am thinking about, they just crash in like waves on the sand and I am bowled over.

Lately, I wrestle, not knowing where we’re going or what we’re doing or where we’re going to end up.  We have goals and they are good goals, God inspired goals.  But I don’t know how we’ll get there.  So many things weigh so heavy on my mind.
Our future
Our family
Our finances
Our ministry
Our vocations
And not just the things that are specific to us but the things that are specific to God’s heart too.
The orphan crisis
The marginalized
The needy
The lonely
Where do we fit with all of these things?

I know, I know, I know.  Worrying is a sin.  And I know, I know, I know…worrying is not of God.  But that doesn’t change the fact that it still happens.  Sometimes, worry wins my heart right over and I just have to surrender to His rest to lay it all down.

I’m grateful that God doesn’t mind helping me to obey.

I know He has a plan and I know He will give it out as He sees fit.  And I know that our lives are all about eternal significance.


Hebrews 11:39-40

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Hebrews 11 is all about the heroes of the faith.  The HEROES of the faith.  We read that chapter when we need inspiration.  But the ends says that none of them saw the promise…because it’s about eternal significance and because God sometimes doles out the plan in measures that we can handle.  It’s not always about our lives here on earth but our lives eternal.

He has burdened my heart so heavy for the narrow path.  He has set my heart ablaze for the cause of the orphan and the lonely.  He has created in me a desire for a healthy, peaceful, God centered home.  He has given me these longings, He has made me to be a world changer.

But how?  When?  What will it look like?  When?  When?  When?  Did I mention when?  And how?

I don’t know.

I do know that Hebrews 11:16 says that God was not ashamed to be called their God.

So I puzzle all this out this morning, I stop making plans and just focus on His heart and finding myself in His rest.  I trust Him to reveal who He is and what He wants for me.  I trust Him to give me the plans, one piece at a time.

It’s scary.

But it’s okay.

I pray, “Lord, be my helper.”


Lord, Be My Helper

Because it’s the only way I know to lay those worries and fears and anxieties down.

Lord, be my Helper.



These 400


This morning, I sit in the Chair of Healing and tears stream down my face like a river.  I am watching a short video on Bethany Christian Services website about a program they are having called These 400.

These 400

Basically, BCS is seeking families for 400 waiting children.  400.  Waiting. Children.

Let that sink in.  BCS wants to find families for 400 children who have no one to call their own.  No one to root for them, no one to tuck them in at night, no one to tell them they are made in God’s image and that they are a good gift.

400 Waiting Children.

Out of more than 132 million.

Friends, lovers of Jesus….we can’t let this continue.  We can’t leave 132 million fearfully and wonderfully made boys and girls alone.  We can’t.  This is not who we are.


This is what we are called to do.  Love God.  Love others.  We love others out of the overflow of God’s love in us.  These are HIS children.  The sheep He has asked us to feed.  The lonely He longs to set in a family.  The Ones He loves and died for.  I recently read “Kisses From Katie” by Katie Davis and she said something like this, “It’s not hard.  God told me to love others as myself.  I don’t want myself to be starving.”

I don’t want myself to be alone.  I don’t want myself to be without a family.


I scroll through the photos of the 400.  My heart is in shreds.  These babies are beautiful.  Ages 3 all the way up to 17.  They have the same Jeremiah 29:11 call on their lives that my own six beautiful babies have on their lives.  God has plans for a hope and future for them.


Are we part of the plans God has for these 400?  Not just, we the Cartestersons, but we, the body of Christ?  

I remember how the body of Christ came alongside us as I walked through so much to bring Nora into the world.  God’s people rallied and brought us through, stood with us and loved us even more than they loved themselves.

We can do that for These 400 too.

And I’m not saying that each and every person that reads my blog should be filling out an application to bring 2 or 3 orphans home.  But I am saying…

What can we do to help These 400 get home, to help reduce that number of more than 132 million..what can we do?  What can I do?  What can you do?  There are so many ways to help solve this orphan crisis and I will get more into that on Monday.

About two months ago, I prayed for God to set my heart ablaze for the things of His heart.  About a month ago, we fasted and prayed for breakthrough in our spiritual lives.

Today, I sobbed with a blazing heart in pieces over these ones that God loves.

Ask Him.  Pray this prayer everyday:

How can I help your people, God?  Here I am.  Send me.



Just start there.  And when you hear His voice, don’t be afraid.  Act.

Sources:  Unicef

God With Us


It’s early, early morning and that fat orange cat is meowing on and on.

I give up and rise, opening the door to let him out of our room, he looks back over his shoulder, clearly expecting me to come along.  Sad meows.  

I shut that door right on him and get back in bed but my mind is up for the day.  So many things to think about, so many needs to pray about.  A little girl in China, waiting for her family, a family in Newport News waiting for one last hurdle clear so they can go to her.  Sick little ones, big decisions, friends moving, friends facing scary situations, our Eli in Italy or who knows where, having an adventure.  So much to bring before the Lord.

I hear more and more meowing outside my door and rise again, coming downstairs to start the day.  May as well.  I unload the dishwasher and continue my string of prayers and hallelujahs.

I think about how He just IS.


Emmanuel, God with us.

I think about how Lazarus, my fat fluffy entitled pile of kitty meowed and meowed and meowed to get me to wake up.  How he had to persist, standing on my chest, meowing in my face.  Meowing at my door.   

He sits nearby, watching me…wondering if I’ll get the grand idea to feed him soon.  Every so often, he meows again.

But I woke right up and started talking to God who moves at the sound of my voice.  He was present with me, in me, all around me.  I don’t have to beg for his attention, cry for his attention.  I just have to speak.


God with us.

This truth shines so bright this morning and I am moved and humbled.  This very One who set the stars, who filled the oceans, who designed each and every one of us…this One is always with me.  He just IS.  He does not change.  

God with us.

God with me.

Lazarus looks at me with big orange eyes.  I pet him and he purrs. 

Tell The Truth


There’s something I need to say.

Sometimes Christians are the world’s biggest liars.  We say that we are “too blessed to be stressed” or that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” or that we are confident that “this too shall pass” or that “God will work everything out to our good.”  It’s like we think that if we say things are horrible or sad or too hard that this somehow diminishes who our Great God is.

So…we all have this internal struggle.  We all do.  Whether it’s with doubt or addiction or circumstances or broken hearts or hard times or injustice or whatever.  Sometimes we absolutely and most decidedly are NOT too blessed to be stressed.

Sometimes I’m really freaking stressed.

Sometimes I’m really hurting.

Sometimes I’m really sure that I Can Not Do This.  (Whatever it may be.)

I read an article on HuffPost this week called “The One Things Christians Should Stop Saying” and it stirred something in me.  When did we stop speaking the truth?

I want to tell the truth because I need you to pray for me, give me a hug, share YOUR story with me.  I need to make room for God to deal with my heart.  A heart that is all tangled up in lies is not a heart that is open for healing.

I think I know why we do this…
1. We want to be strong. This is a tough one for me because my life heroes are strong Christian women with unshakable faith and determination and wherewithal. And I want to be like that. But I’m learning (oh, so slowly) that being honest and being real is a sort of strength. Being brave enough to face what’s happening with honesty and authenticity, being willing to be uncomfortable but true…it’s the Sacred Scared. Sacred Scared  Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that strength, even false is more valuable than vulnerability.
2. We don’t want to make a mess. Facing our fears and our emotions and our hurts and our struggles is super messy. Feelings might fall out all over the place, tears might flow, we might do the ugly cry. We might make others uncomfortable. We will have to clean up the mess.
3. We don’t have time. We are so busy, running so fast and so hard that we don’t have time to stop and ugly cry and lay in the floor and process. We have to get this kid to ballet and this kid to soccer and hubby has a meeting and we have choir practice or PTA and we have to finish the project and we have to bake 87 muffins and we are busy, busy, busy. Too busy, busy, busy.
4. We are afraid that if we tell the truth, that it’s a bad ad for our Faith. We are afraid that if people know that being a Christian does not guarantee ease and deliverance and sunshine and rainbows, no one will want to sign up. We are afraid that if we tell the truth, that it’ll seem like we don’t have faith, that we don’t trust Him. We are afraid that if we tell the truth, He won’t seem good. Or maybe even that He won’t BE good.

But the thing is…He is always good.  He can never be better, He can never be worse.  He will never love us any less and He will never love us any more, because His love is perfect.  What we do…what we do can NOT change who HE is.



God can handle our weakness.  He can handle our brokenness.  He wants to tend to our wounds.  His Spirit is like oil poured out on our broken places.  We have to tell the truth and be vulnerable and be authentic.  This is how it gets better.  Because He is with us.  He is always with us.

And I know how much I love it when people tell me the truth.  “How are you?”  I’ll say to another mommy and if she says, “Just great!” that’s just fine and we hang out and have a pleasant time.  But if I say to another mommy, “How are you?”  and she says, “Yesterday, I cried the whole time I made the peanut butter sandwiches.”  that’s a whole other kind of visit.  I can commiserate with her.  I can give her a hug.  I can pray with her.  Give advice.  Just stand with her.  There’s solidarity in that kind of honesty.  Love flows easily when it has an open and honest riverbed to flow through.

Sometimes things are Just Fine.  And when they are, that’s when we need to reach out to friends that we suspect are NOT just fine.

We can do this.  We can tell the truth.  Don’t worry, it won’t make God any less God.  It won’t make us any less Us.

Say Something

Raw Truth-My Messy Beautiful


messy-beautiful-700bThis essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, Click here! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback,Click here!

This weekend, I went to a retreat with about 25 wonderful warrior women.  The weekend was bursting with love, laughter, stories and so many desserts.  The house we stayed in was massive and could not contain the joy that Jesus put in us all.  These were women who were not interested in competition or in one upmanship or in out spiritualizing one another.  These were women who were willing to be super honest and share their hearts and stories.  I saw strengths and weaknesses and the strengths encouraged and the weaknesses encouraged and it was just plain Messy Beautiful.

I came home wanting more of the Word and the Way and more love and more joy.  Today, with the chilly rain pouring and kids home for spring break and fibro jumping up and down in my legs, I curl up in the Chair of Healing and set to reading the Bible.

Nora snatches the Bible out of my hands and rips a page out.  The first page of Genesis 27.  I fuss at her, she laughs, unfazed and tries to snatch more pages out.  I hold it just out of her reach while she squeals in indignation.  Kind of hard to read this way.

A fight breaks out over a spot on the couch and it is a fight that must be navigated.  Two little girls whose tiny butts certainly do NOT take up the whole couch all of a sudden must BOTH sit in this one good spot.  (Sort of like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory.)  They are both banished from the spot altogether.

While I deal with that, Nora grabs  coffee and dumps it into my purse and all down the Chair of Healing.  (For those of you who are new to my blog, the Chair of Healing is my beloved recliner that my friends bought me to recover in after Nora’s Birth.)  Coffee covers my journal, the insides of my purse, pill bottles and appointment cards, lipstick and my iPhone.  Thanks Nora.

I clean all of that up, take a deep breath and with far less resolve, I get back to it.

“Blessed are the Poor in Spririt”, I read but  I realize I still need to drink coffee.  The Bible is set aside and I am off to make another cup.

My biggest girl’s car keys are missing and all activities stop while we all help her look.  Nora dumps out my second cup.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”  All I’ve read so far.

More coffee to clean up, distractions all over the place and I just feel like a big fat failure.

I feel like the days are so full of diapers and cleaning up messes and tantrums and fights and admonitions and tasks and appointments and driving to preschool that I just can’t see above the water.  It feels hopeless because I just can’t get anywhere.  Swimming in place.

And I am haunted anew by these feelings of inadequacy.  In this raw truth:

I feel like I don’t measure up.  I’m just not good enough.

And I feel like too that I have to keep this secret of not being good enough because what if….what if…what if:

Everyone finds out and I am left alone?

Raw truth.  I told you it was raw.

I remember when I was a pregnant teenager and I felt like I’d just gotten in the good graces of Jesus by the skin of my teeth.

I remember when I got divorced and I felt like an anomaly among the “good” Christian women.

I remember when I lost custody of my son and the sting of that failure almost took me down.

I remember walking the floor with my screaming fifth baby wondering why in the world I couldn’t figure her out.

I remember about a bajillion times that I’ve compared my precious six with other people’s. Wondering if I’ve ruined them for ever and ever and ever with my inadequate mothering.  Oh, comparison, that sneaky thief that makes us all feel like we are no good. Comparing my spiritual life, comparing my writing, comparing my singing, comparing my marriage or my friendships.

And I am swirling.  Swirling down, falling to pieces over my failures because I have yet to have a good “quiet time” today.  Because I can’t get my baby to stop dumping out my coffee, because my kids are fighting, because there are toys everywhere, because I don’t even know what to read in the Bible.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”  Those words sing out in my heart.  He quiets me with His singing.  “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”

I am stopped still.  I love those words, treasure them and ponder them in my heart and they are the only words I’ve read all morning. And maybe, just maybe…there is a purpose in it.

My Spirit is weak within me and in the midst of my mess, my Spirit is beautiful.  Because I am made in the image of God.  Because God has given me gifts to share.  Because I am loved and redeemed.  Because my six have their issues too but they are messy beautiful and so is my marriage and really my whole crazy life, the glorious chaos that we are is all so beautiful.

Nora smiles her silly smile at me and Lila and Claire are snuggled in the big chair, the couch abandoned…Julia’s keys are still lost but the house seems to hold a precious sort of joy just now.  A moment of peace and sweetness and light and I am suddenly so grateful.  Julia asks me if I’ll use my mom super powers to help her find those keys, “Please just help me look again?”

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for ours is the kingdom of heaven.  Ours is the kingdom of heaven.

I set the Bible aside and begin the search.

Oh, March

Oh, March

It’s been a wild month.

We moved.  Four years, 2000 square feet, eight people, one dog and two cats’ worth of stuff to box up and transport from point A to a smaller point B.  All my insecurities exposed to those helping with the move, helping with unpacking, helping with getting that old house back to how it was when we got it.  Insecurities about not being the best (or even the mediocre-ist) at housekeeping, organization, stewardship.  I hold this deep seated fear of not being good enough and losing out on relationships and good gifts and acceptance.  Lots of Jesus, lots of therapy, lots of books…but it still rises up.

I can often just laugh at my weaknesses and feel great about my strengths but…



Multiplied by:






And sorry, but moving is stressful.

But for all of the stress and freaking out…it went really well.  We had many helpful and cheerful hands that day.  Lots of old friends, new friends and family to help us.  There was laughter and hard work and pizza and it was a good day.

Now, we must just find time to unpack everything and figure out where it’s all going to go.  We love our new home and it feels good to start fresh in a new place.  To mark the end of a season and welcome the beginning of a new one.

Over the past two months, the kids have been sick over and over.  Lots of tummy bugs and snotty noses.  Lots of sleepless nights.  (Lots of sleepless nights.)  They’ve shared some of their sicknesses with the whole family.  Lots of laundry, lots of feverish kids in laps, tired eyes, short tempers, but good times too.  Little girls singing “Let It Go” at the tops of their lungs, dance parties, playing outside in good weather.

And, in the midst of the joy and the insecurities and the stressors…I am having so much unexplained and acute pain.

It started in my joints back when Lila was a newborn.  I followed up then with my doctor, got a diagnosis of perhaps rheumatoid arthritis and that is where it ended.  I couldn’t take the  meds while nursing, so I kind of just ignored it….thinking I’d deal with it once Lila was weaned.

Then I got divorced and had no health insurance so there was nothing medically I could afford to do.

The pain waxed and waned.  The more stressed I was, the more I hurt.  For a time, I followed a vegan diet and found real relief.

I got married again, I had health insurance again and I went back to the doctor.

This time, adding Vitamin D to my body all but erased my symptoms.

And all was well for quite a well.

But then I had Nora.  You can read all about that in November and December and January.  I have not been well since November 18, 2012.

But I have recovered from surgery.  I’ve been dealing with joint and muscle pain, extreme fatigue and sensitivity to cold for the past few months.  It’s been significant.  Some days, I hurt at a level 8 or 9 out of 10 all day.  Some days, I have great mornings and even afternoons but really rough evenings.  Some days, I wake up and feel like I haven’t slept at all.  I’m grateful that it’s not been worse but it has not been fun.

I finally have a diagnosis.  And no, it’s not a “catch-all diagnosis” and it’s not “what they say when they can’t figure out what’s wrong” or “all in my head” or “just depression”.  And yes, it is a “real condition”.  Chances are good that it won’t get any better, though I will have good days.  Chances are that I can alleviate symptoms with some life style changes that I predict I will not enjoy.  What we know for sure is this:  This is a real thing.

From the Mayo Clinic:  Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.

So, it makes sense that it presented after Lila’s difficult birth.  It makes sense that it worsened during the stress of my divorce.  It makes sense that it came on with a vengeance after Nora was born and after all the drama that came with it.

I’m processing it all.  John bought me a book on the subject.

fibro book

We are reading and learning about things that help.  Laughing that of course I got a disease that is characterized by nerves over reacting!  Conventional and unconventional ways to alleviate the symptoms.  We are thinking about boundaries and guidelines- go to bed in time to get at least 8 hours, do less during the week, schedule rest times, nap times, taking it easy in the chair of healing with my heating pad times.  I’ll be saying yes to less and resting up before and after.  I’ll be taking walks and doing yoga and considering how my diet of candy, pasta, coffee and Diet Dr. Pepper might possibly be improved.  I’ll be asking for prayer.

Through it all…through the discouragement and the weariness and the pain and the stress…I am feeling a sense of Emmanuel.  God with me.  A legit feeling of Emmanuel.  Not just the declaration that “I know God is with me.” and wondering when I’m going to feel it.  His real and true presence.  I have felt freedom to cry and freedom to say, “I just can’t do anything else today.”  I have felt freedom to say, “Really God?  A chronic pain condition on top of everything else?”  I have felt hopeful about this new season, in spite of it all.  I’m learning to let Him love me and to just be where I am…for the good or the ill.

This is where I am today.  Being still in Him.  Being present with Him.  Laying the pain in my knees and in my heart at the foot of the cross.

Beloved, be loved.  It’s what we were made for.