What does family mean to you?

photo-80I took this picture last night at my mom’s house. My brother’s family and mine gathered there for an impromptu Friday night dinner.  These are cousins, lounging on a hammock, waiting for the blessing to be over so they can dive into Grandma’s good cooking.  I quickly snapped the picture to capture a moment so beautiful to me.

These cousins love each other, regardless of the fact they were born in three different countries to a handful of other women. God’s plan was for them to be cousins, so here they are, in the backyard of an Ohio grandmother, waiting for her to lavish her love on them.

Gilda Radner tells a story of a pregnant dog who had been hit by a car and whose owners decided to save her life by amputating her back legs. As she learned how to get around after the surgery, she would use her remaining front legs and would drag her back end on the ground behind her. The day the puppies were to be born, she delivered a healthy litter, but for the first several days, they only used their front two legs and drug their back ends behind them. They were following their only example.

I am so glad God made us in his own image and with that came the ability to stretch, grow, learn and change. I am glad I am not following the only example of ‘family’ I had seen, but God could whisper to my husband and I, a new vision. I am grateful when we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, that even at my mother’s age, she can adjust her idea of family and be blessed by the many who call her grandma.

For some of us, family may mean the children we bear out of our bodies, for some it’s who we add through adoption or foster care, for others, it’s a combination and for still others, family is a term of endearment we offer to those who rest and grow beside our family for a season, whether there is any formal arrangement or not.

The important thing for me to remember is being a mom means loving, correcting, creating. It means trusting, discerning, risking.  It means celebrating whomever is around my dinner table that evening. Some of us have lost children around our table, either to college dorms, or to heaven or prodigal roads we hope circle back, but on this day, this mom, looks around at these faces and is thankful.

Blessings, Beth Guckenberger

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.

Barefoot is God’s Whole Point of Summer

tbm.barefoot.summer“Spencer Sanders Ehman!”, I hollered. “You get in here and get yourself some shoes on, young man. You can’t be out there barefoot!”

It was summery day, though a bit on the cool side, the mid-morning grass still wet from the rainfall the evening before.

My then 11-year-old son headed out as he usually did each day, to shoot baskets, hunt for frogs, and skip stones on the small pound near our back woods.  He tried to convince me that, even though these activities were on his agenda, he should be allowed to wander aimlessly for hours totally barefoot.

My momma mind thought otherwise.

As I hauled him in the house to put on tennis shoes and socks, he seemed dejected. I didn’t understand why. I didn’t care if he went out to play. His chores were done. His bed made and dirty dishes taken up to the sink. I just wanted to make sure his feet were properly protected from any dangers that might be lurking on our property.

He obliged and slipped on his shoes, however when he began to go back out the door, the spring was gone from his step.

“What’s wrong buddy?” I inquired.

“Oh mom……barefoot is God’s whole point of summer.”

My mommy mouth smiled.

Of course he and I differ on the appropriate foot apparel required for an adventurous boy on a summery day, but he was on to something. Why else would God make the lush green grass feel so cool and soft between your toes?

Sadly we only have a few more weeks of barefoot weather to go. So, these days, shoes are optional around here {or at least I compromise and let the kids don flip-flops if the terrain may hold a slight risk of danger. A great risk of danger? Combat boots for my kids!}

But for the lush green back yard lawn underneath the towering oak tree? The strip of turf next to the house, perfect for running a shoeless sprint against a sibling or friend? The patch of earth that stretches from the back door to the garden, over which the kids tromp as they haul an old metal watering can to the tomato vines they so expectantly planted?

Well……All-righty then. Barefoot it is.

In fact, I’m headed outside now to get a little paperwork done.

Sitting in a cozy chair.

Under the tree line at the back of our property.

Next to the fire pit.

Completely barefoot—the green grass reaching heavenward, tucked neatly between my manicured mama toes.

Our Creator did have a good point, ya know.

Barefoot is God’s whole point of summer.

How about you and your kiddos go kick off your shoes today?

Barefoot blessings!

Karen Ehman

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.

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