When One Summer Changes Life As You Know It

When One Summer Changes Life As You Know It

Summertime carries the promise of sunshine and never ending days full of fun. Summer seems to provide a plethora of memory making opportunities that no other season can fulfill. And some summers provide us with life-changing events that provide us beauty for ashes.

The summer of 2004 is one that I will never forget. There are two distinctly memorable events that took place within one week that summer that changed my life forever: my husband deploying to Iraq and giving birth to our stillborn son.

I remember when my doorbell rang on that balmy summer night in New York. I remember thinking to myself, “Who could this be?” I opened the door and there stood my husband with a look of sheer terror on his face. It was so odd as he had always come through the kitchen door from the garage – and he certainly never rang the doorbell. I will never forget the look on his face as he handed me the warning order he had received from President George W. Bush to deploy to Iraq in just 3 short weeks. And while still standing outside at the front door, he handed me his last will and testament, and I began to cry.

Fast forward two weeks, it would be exactly one week until the day my husband was leaving for war in Iraq. My husband was out training in the field and I was about to experience my next prenatal check up as I was 5 1/2 months pregnant with our second child, a baby boy named Noah. I adore being pregnant. I love everything about it. One of my most favorite things about pregnancy is being able to hear the heartbeat at the prenatal visits. I mean who doesn’t love to hear that fast moving heartbeat that keeps growing stronger and stronger? If that isn’t a true depiction of God’s grace and love, I don’t know what is.

However, my prenatal visit would not allow me to hear Noah’s heartbeat. No, as a matter of fact that doctor visit would be the beginning of my 48 hour journey to give life to our stillborn son. Not only was I devastated about the fact that my baby Noah had passed away, my husband was not able to be there with me. And I was beginning to feel hopeless and all alone. It was one week before I was to kiss my husband good-bye for an entire year. And I was overwhelmed.

But then there is God. If we allow him to, He will be all that we need and more. He gives us hope in times of desperation. He gives us peace in times of devastation. He gives us the strength to carry on when we’ve come to the end of ourselves. Even when we can’t see that He is there His perfect love is at work in our heart and mind. I made up my mind that I would allow Him to carry me through this painful time of my life.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV

The most important thing I learned the summer of 2004 was this: God taught me the “art” of pressing in. Yes, it is an art. It isn’t something you just automatically know how to do. It is different than being pushy, willful, or pursuing something you desire. The art of pressing in is something only the Lord can teach you when circumstances become so crushing that you only have one of two choices: give up or press in. It is in these moments, life defining moments, that people are made or broken. And while we are all broken from sin, there is another dimension of brokenness that I hope to never experience – and that is the brokenness one feels when they decide to believe the lie that enemy is always whispering: there is no hope.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:13-14

I want to encourage you, dear sister, if you are going through a rough spot this summer, to not give up but press in. I believe with all my heart that if you allow God to come in and take control, He will show you things through your pain that you could never learn otherwise. While it is never fun to go through trying times, as we continue to walk with the Lord we understand that this is the only way He can truly give us beauty for ashes.

This month at Managing Your Blessings we are running a series called: Summers That Changed Us. If you need some more encouragement this summer, I know the amazing posts in this series will bless you.

With Love,Carlie @ Managing Your Blessings

The Underground Stories of Motherhood

We take the best of what we’ve seen of the others around us and roll it all into one amalgamated standard of motherhood.


She greeted me at the door, took my coat and introduced herself as if she was twenty (not twelve). This wee thing looked me in the eye and called me ma’am. She was fixing me water before I crossed their home’s threshold.

They stood shoulder-to-shoulder, seamlessly reciting words too big for their small frames in poetry form, all pomp and pizzazz in this little performance. These sisters didn’t squabble, they banded together — beauty on display. They shined, jewels on their mommy’s crown that day.

He was among a group of high school buddies, all making an object out of a young woman with their words and their eyes when he stood up and said: ‘You know what, guys, my eyes are for my future wife, alone. I won’t dishonor this woman, this way.’ What a son. What a story.


My daughter sinks down in her chair and I lose her behind her eyes and my words bounce off her heart like rain on pavement. I pace the floor underneath where she sleeps, pleading with God: awaken her heart. We pray together. I coach and counsel and talk her through that hard moment that she’s resisting, only to have her stumble all over again. She’s mad and trapped in her flesh and my strategies are floundering.


What’s a mama to do when love is hard and the fruit isn’t hanging, low?

It’s the story no one tells but all of us mamas have a chance to live.

The child who doesn’t budge, whose heart appears hard. The life that takes years, not months, to mold in a new direction. The one who introduces us to 3am again as we wake in the night to the twinge of pain, reminding us we have a broken one down the hall. The enigma in the family tree at any given time.

These aches of motherhood, these conundrums, they are our invitations.

She buckles and my reserves dry up for this one (who’s not bringing me any accolades right now) and it’s there, in the dark, that I find the Eyes that fuel me. They’re on me, not marking what I haven’t done but responding to my emptiness as an opportunity to fill.

I reach and grapple for normal — for successful — and He says, I’m here, too, in your thwarted mommy moments.

I crave what I can measure and see and He says I’m making a woman out of you in the dark. 

Door Handle

My daughter stumbled and I reached in and held her heart, bleeding … and He saw me.  She pressed hard against love — her former-orphanhood speaking louder than the years since we came for her — and when I went to her again … He was the witness. My 3am prayers for her were golden, to Him.

We make a standard for ourselves out of the outward “bests” but overlook that the underground stories — the ones that happen when no one is looking — move the heart of God.


I want her to grow up and over this season — I want to it be her story of the past — and yet He says, now: let me see your eyes, let me hear your voice. When you look at Me while you wait on her, I’m moved. 

He’s forming His own amalgamation of my motherhood — and this list includes the minutes no one else but He sees.


For Your Continued Pursuit: Psalm 81:10 | Song of Solomon 2:14 | Matthew 8:5-13 | Psalm 34:5

Blessings, Sara Hagerty

Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.

On Those Days When It All Goes Wrong

On Those Days When It All Goes Wrong


It’s the end of the day and I am beat. It’s been one of those textbook, almost farcical days as a mom where I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Since the moment my feet hit the floor, it has been one thing after another, and as I trudge down the stairs after bedtime Olympics, my shoulders feel heavy.

Was it waking up to two children fighting? Was it being greeted by a toddler in a messy diaper? Or was it when I went to sip a much-needed cup of coffee only to discover I was out of creamer? It could have been realizing at 11:00 that I had to schlep all six kids to the pediatrician’s office at 2:30—the pediatrician’s office that is an hour away– and there I stood in my pajamas with a rat’s nest of hair on my head, surveying the breakfast dishes strewn around the kitchen, and the jelly faces on most of my pajama-clad kids.

Perhaps the weight of the world is from the seatbelt that I had to wrestle for 5 minutes, the soccer ball that escaped the van onto the driveway as we were leaving and that I had to race to the end of the road, jump out, grab, and throw in the back. It could even have been looking at the gas gauge 10 minutes into the drive and realizing I had left my wallet at home. It was just one of those days.

It could have been any one of those things, yes. Or, it could be that I failed so miserably to hold it together during those stressful moments. I snapped and ranted and watched my children’s faces fall as they reacted to my sharp tone. The silence I demanded while I struggled to maintain any kind of composure came, but at quite a cost. It came at the expense of my children’s feelings.

As I sit down and take a deep breath, now surrounded by the silence that I craved all day, my spirit is heavy. I do the only thing I can: I lay it all out before my Heavenly Father. I beg Him to forgive me and I thank Him for His grace. I recount for Him in vivid detail all the ways that I fell short that day and all the ways I failed. I can almost hear Him whispering to me, “Come to me when you’re weary, my yoke is easy and my burden is light. I will refresh your heart” (Matthew 11:28, 30; Philemon 1:20).

My heart is still as I take it all in. I screw up. We all do. God tells us that is when His power is made perfect—in our weakness. He gently reminds me of this as well as all the things I did right that day; holding my daughter so she wasn’t afraid at the doctor, affirming my son when he tried something new and sought my approval, and the stolen moments with my three-year-old as we snuggled on the couch that morning.

And He’s whispering the same to you, Mama. The hours that seem to last for years, yet once they’re past you wish you could re-do? He’s there for you. Bare your soul to Him. He yearns to comfort you. Then, once you’ve poured out your heart to the Lord,  lift up your head, wipe away your tears, and tip-toe back upstairs to kiss your babies one more time and tell them you love them.

Tomorrow is another day. His mercies are new and He is already there waiting for you.

Mandy Pagano


Mandy Head ShotMandy and her husband Joe live in Pittsburgh, PA with their six children. When Mandy isn’t homeschooling, changing diapers, and juggling soccer schedules, she blogs at Suburban Stereotype and also with four other ladies as the founder of Deliberate Women. She teaches Sunday school and also acts as the Coordinator for her local MOPS group. Mandy had dreams of being an elementary teacher when she found out baby number six was on the way, and struggled with putting that dream on hold. Since being convicted that staying home with her children was her first ministry, God has been faithful to lead her to amazing opportunities to minister right from her kitchen, sitting behind her laptop and surrounded by her family.

Can I hear a “Me too?”

Who I am, I’m coming to realize is actually not much different than who a lot of moms are. And while that may seem ordinary to some, to me, it is one of the greatest truths I have come to cherish with all my heart. Knowing that someone else has been there simply means I’m not so alone in all of this after all.

But in order to know that, I had to share. I had to open up the vaults of my heart and expose the truths. I had to confess that my reality was starkly different than my dreams, and admit that I was constantly at odds with what I wanted and what instead I had been given.

It’s scary to be open and vulnerable with your thoughts, feelings and emotions. We’re fragile. We break easily. We think nobody will understand, and instead people will judge.

We want to look like we have it together. We want to be the person people look to for hope and inspiration. We desire to be all things all the time, and if we actually confessed to the truth, that entire image we created would be shattered.

I know all of this, because I used to be that girl.

I was once the girl that would never allow anyone to truly see who I knew myself to be on the inside. I labeled myself  “too much,”, and my greatest fear of being wrongly judged, kept me silent from ever revealing the truth.

Instead, every night I would scribble out my heart and soul onto the pages of my journal, my safe place, my only place I felt I could be real and authentic and simply me. It was how I expressed myself, how I could think, and how I could process life and find some kind of understanding and healing.

Those years were so lonely for me, never feeling known or understood. I had experienced such intense pain and trauma, and I had not one person I felt I could turn to for the support and acceptance that my heart and soul desperately needed.

Sometimes I think we have to walk difficult roads in life in order to finally allow God to show us just the way He truly meant it to be.

God never intended for us to do this alone. And so rather than pouring into the secure pages of my journals, instead I now pour into the public pages of my blog, and I share my truths…sometimes with humor, sometimes with tears, but every time with a prayer that my story will be met with someone saying in their heart, “Me too…”

In my dreams, I am that mom who is absolutely with it. I keep my house swept and picked up, my kids bathed daily, and every meal I cook is balanced and nutritious. In my dreams, I cook. And all the while, I’m ahead of freelance deadlines and laundry never needs to be rewashed due to being forgotten in the washer too many days.

But the truth is, I just sat there for the longest time wondering how to spell “nutritious.” Because even though I may attempt all those things, the truth is, I can barely spell all those things correctly in one sentence let alone achieve them perfectly all in one day.

Instead I’m a mom that thinks cooking means grilled cheese and when those special nights actually happen, don’t you know that I am taking pictures and texting friends bragging,  “LOOK! I COOKED!”


And even though my teenage dreams look nothing like my grown up reality, I am grateful. I am content. And I am filled with incredible joy as I look at where I am and what I’ve been given. I embrace the quirky. I learn from the hardships. And in the midst of it all, I cling like crazy to the Lord who I know is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.


Can I hear a “Me too?”


Summer Saldana

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

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