The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Tag Archives: Encouragement for Today

How to Pray When You’re Hanging By a Thread

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I’m glad you’re here. This is a place where faith is spilled and souls are filled. I hope you’ll pull up a chair and stay awhile.

I’m over at Proverbs 31 today telling about a time I found myself dangling above a swirling sea and talking about how prayer is a bit like rock climbing. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can find it here. But before you go, I’d love to tell you how I’m learning to pray even when I don’t know what to say…

I should never have done the math.

I’m a word gal, after all, not a numbers guru.

And, really, what good does it do a desperate mama to calculate the number of days she’s foregone a full night’s sleep?

Blame it on a mind numbed by years of inconsolable infants or on the sheer monotony of wiping faces and bottoms and floors, but on that gray winter’s day long ago, I tried to tally my exhaustion.

2,920 days. That’s how long it had been since I’d slept through the night.

Four kids and forever  buried in diapers and wails, midnight feedings and midday meltdowns, I hadn’t clocked a full night’s sleep since we’d brought home our first wrinkled bundle of wrinkles and wiggles.

Never mind that the experts claimed babies should be sleeping through the night by six months old; mine preferred to embrace the moonlight hours with eyes open wide.

Never mind that my friends told tales of quiet nights and contented cuddles; my wee ones came wrapped in colic and wired with wails.

Never mind that everyone knows that sunrise signifies a fresh start, my toddlers woke in the dark of night and begged to start their day beneath the starlight.

We’d read parenting books and consulted experts. We’d monitored eating habits and routines, schedules and stimulus. We’d established consistent nighttime norms and expectant bedtime prayers, yet nothing seemed to change the fact that our children resisted sleep like a cat runs from the swimming hole.

“They’ll sleep when they’re teenagers,” a well-meaning mom once told me with a wink.

But in the fog of exhaustion and exasperation, I’d stopped wondering if my offspring would ever sleep through the night, and I’d begun to wonder if I’d be alive to celebrate the momentous day.

“Can a woman die of sleep deprivation?” I asked my dear husband after I’d catalogued my fatigue with a senseless sum.

My husband was a doctor beyond the walls of our home, but once he walked through the door, he was just”daddy” beneath our roof. But for a rare moment, I needed my man to don his physician hat and assure me I wasn’t losing my mind. Or my life.

So, I cornered him in the coat room and voiced what any woman who had just calculated eight years of sleep deprivation might be compelled to ask.

He  scanned my face to see if I was joking.

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The Difference Between Watching and Seeing

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I hope you’ll linger here where faith is spilled and souls are filled. If you like what you find and you’d welcome a trickle of inspiration in your inbox now and then, feel free to subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you a splash of encouragement every once in a while. (You’ll find a subscription box on the top right sidebar on my home page.) Or, if you’d rather, we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.

Of course, my favorite way to connect is the old fashioned way—face to face so I can see your smile.  I’m scheduling speaking engagements for the 2017/2018 school year, and I’d be delighted to bring a message of encouragement to a ministry event near you! (Contact me at overflow@aliciabruxvoort.net if you’d like to explore the possibility of partnering in ministry in the year to come.)

Speaking of encouragement, I’m over at Proverbs 31  today telling a tale about a street corner, a woman with a cardboard sign, and the power of being seen. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can find it here. But before you go, I’d love to tell you what I’ve been learning about paying attention and partnering with Jesus. 

See me, Mommy! See me!” Her sing-song voice mingled with the sunbeams and floated through the hot summer air. Her stubby little legs stood bravely at the top of the brightly-colored play equipment and she squatted low as she prepared to soar down the bumpy purple slide.

I acknowledged my toddler with a wave from my station at the bottom of the slide. Then, I  gave her an exaggerated nod and pointed to my wide-open eyes, so she would know I was watching.

“I see you,” I said as I stretched out my arms in ready-position to catch my youngest one’s flying frame.

The child at the top of the slide wasn’t the first to demand my eyes. Having had four toddlers before this strong-spirited last-born, I’d had plenty of practice in the fine art of fixing my sights on little ones.

In fact, as soon as my kids began to talk, they all seemed to acquire a love for that small phrase that beckoned my gaze and begged for my praise:”Watch me!”

“Mommy, watch me!” my sons would holler as they raced like lightning across the yard or proudly pedaled their training-wheeled bikes down the driveway.

“Mommy, watch me!” my daughters would plead as they twirled in pirouettes around the room or somersaulted across the lawn.

“Mommy, watch me!” my daredevils would cry as they dangled from the monkey bars, shimmied up a tree limb or leaped from the couch with arms spread wide.

But our last and littlest girl didn’t echo her siblings’ lingo.

She didn’t just want me to watch; she wanted me to see.

See me, Mommy!” she would shout in a tone that carried both invitation and declaration all at the same time. “See me!”

In that sleep-deprived, please-help-me-to-survive season of motherhood when five kids clamored for my attention every moment of every day, I would have argued that my youngest one’s quirky plea was no different than that of the others’. And that her unusual choice of words was a mere matter of linguistics.

See me, Mommy! See me.

But looking back on it now, I think my daughter knew exactly what she was asking.

She wasn’t just asking to be noticed. She wanted to be acknowledged. She wasn’t just asking for my eyes; she wanted my heart.

This “see me” girl is the baby of five, planted in a house swelling with chaos and noise. And when this youngest one of mine could finally put voice to her wishes, she didn’t just want me to stare; she wanted me to be aware.

I may not have understood it then, but I know now that there is a distinct difference between watching and seeing.

We may be able to watch without engaging our hearts but we cannot truly see without engaging our souls.

If I merely look at you, I may notice what you are, but if I choose to truly see you, I must acknowledge who you are.

Jesus knew this. And I want to remember it, too.

To really see someone means I’m not just offering a glance; I’m extending a gift—

The gift of my time and my attention, the gift of my consideration and my care.

The poet Mary Oliver may have said it– “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work“–

But our Savior actually lived it.

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When We Feel Alone in Our Darkness…

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I hope you’ll linger here where faith is spilled and souls are filled. If you like what you find and you’d welcome a trickle of inspiration in your inbox now and then, feel free to subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you a splash of encouragement now and then. (You’ll find a subscription box on the top right sidebar on my home page.) Or, if you’d rather, we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.  Of course, my favorite way to connect is the old fashioned way—face to face so I can see your smile.  I’m scheduling speaking engagements for the 2017/2018 school year, and I’d be delighted to bring a message of encouragement to a ministry event near you! (Contact me at overflow@aliciabruxvoort.net if you’d like to explore the possibility of partnering in ministry in the year to come.)

Speaking of encouragement, I’m over at Proverbs 31  today talking honest and real about those hard times when we don’t understand what God is doing. If you haven’t read my devotion, feel free to check it out here and bring a tissue, ’cause we may just need to sit down for a good cry together. Also, I hope you’ll grab the free printable I’ve made for you called “Truth in Times of Tears.” (You’ll find it at the end of this post). It’s like a hug from me to you, a little something to buoy your heart when life gets hard.

But before you go, I’d love to tell you what I’ve been learning about finding faith in the dark times…

Her wails beckoned me to her bedside once again.

I’d lost count of the number of times I’d raced up those stairs in the moonlight. And this time, as I trudged to the second floor, I fought the urge to cry myself.

Nighttime was no longer a peaceful pause between dusk and dawn. It was a battlefield bloodied with tears and angst, anger and disappointment. Doubt screams loud when the noise of the day slumps still. And in that dark that settles slow after the sun sets, my youngest one grappled with great big questions.

Is God good?

Does He even care?

And if so, why won’t He answer my  prayers?

Night after night, I felt the ache of her heart in mine, and I wished for answers to quell her seven-year-old angst. But words fall short when discouragement looms long. And even my forty-four-years-of faith couldn’t make sense of the storyline God was scripting at that time.

Our family had put feet to our faith and nothing was turning out as we’d imagined.

We’d trusted and obeyed, listened and surrendered. We’d said yes to God’s dreams and no to our comfortable plans. But our leap of faith had landed us right in the middle of the wilderness rather than on a wild wide of wonder.

And so we’d waited and prayed, inhaled his promises and exhaled hope.

We’d cried out like the desperate father in Mark 9– “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”

And we’d all wrestled with our own fledgeling faith in different ways.

The moonlight spilled quiet through my daughter’s bed room windows, and I wiped her stringy hair away from her flushed face.

Her words were a rant and a whimper, seven-year-old sadness and skepticism all blurred into one.

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The “LIKE” that Matters Most

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I hope you’ll linger here where faith is spilled and souls are filled. If you like what you find, feel free to sign up on the sidebar to receive my blog in your inbox now and then. Or, if you’d rather, we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.  Better yet, I’d love to meet you face to face. I’m still scheduling speaking engagements for 2017/2018, and I’d be delighted to bring a message of encouragement to a ministry event near you. 

Speaking of encouragement, I’m over at Proverbs 31  today sharing about a life-changing truth once spoken to me through the peanut-butter-laced lips of a four-year-old:  Not only does Jesus love us; but (gasp!) He likes us, too. Keep reading and discover why He delights in little old you and me. And don’t forget to sign up for the give-away at the end of this post. It just might help you to delight in Him, too!

“Mommy, tell me what you were thinking the first time you saw me…” My eight-year-old turns her head to look at me with an expectant smile, already anticipating the answer she knows so well.

This “baby” of mine is no longer a baby; but she still loves to climb on my lap. So, on this evening not so long ago she’s stretched out across me,  her sun-kissed legs tangled in mine as we end our day together in the big leather chair by the window.

The book we’ve reading before bedtime rests on my knees, but tonight, my youngest daughter needs to hear those treasured lines of her own story. Again.

I close my eyes as if a mosaic of her birth is painted on the back of my drooping lids. And I recount the details of that bitter cold January day when this fifth child of mine moved from womb to world.

She already knows every detail of this familiar narrative, but I tell the tale again–The routine 38 week appointment that raised unexpected concerns, the doctor who decided we needed to get the baby out as soon as possible, the flurry that ensued and the fears that rushed in.

I recount how I hurried home to grab my suitcase and tucked her “big brother” in for a nap; how Grandma came to the door so I could slip out and gave me a hug that squeezed those tears from my throat to my eyes.

I remember aloud how I drove back to the hospital all alone and talked to God  every mile of the way.

And how right as those little feet tucked just beneath my stretched-out skin gave a mighty kick, God whispered assurance to my anxious soul.

“What did He say?” she asks, not because she’s curious, but because she loves to hear this part of the story we share.

“He reminded me that He’d already scripted every moment of your birth,” I whisper with a smile. “Every second of your whole life,” I marvel, my voice dropping to a holy hush.  “And He told me that however you came- healthy and whole or broken and sick- you were exactly the gift my heart needed.”

I bend my head a bit to kiss my daughter’s crown of tangled hair and she lifts her chin to look at me.”And then your heart stopped beating so fast, right Mommy?” this girl on my lap asks with pleasure.

“Yep,” I say as I recall once again the supernatural peace that rushed my trembling soul as I pulled my suitcase down that long sterile hallway to the OB ward.

I tell of how her daddy dressed in blue scrubs met me in that hospital room, his strong and gentle confidence buoying mine.

I recount how we prayed before the C-section began, how quiet tears of anticipation baptized my cheeks when we lifted our pleas to Heaven and asked God to guide the surgeon’s hands.

“And then FINALLY, you saw me!” my daughter exclaims.

I remember the moment shrouded in wonder and nod my head with a happy sigh. “Yes,” I tell my giddy girl, “That’s when I knew God’s words were true. You were the gift my heart had always needed.  You were my Magdalene Hope.”

Maggie wraps her slender fingers around mine and presses her chin against my chest. Then she voices the question that sits quiet on her heart. “And did you like me right away…Even though I couldn’t do anything like jump rope or tell you jokes or color you pictures?”

“I liked you the minute we met,” I answer. “And I loved you long before that…”

My girl exhales a satisfied sigh and the woods beyond the window alight with the golden glow of sunset. And as we sit there in silence I marvel that my daughter’s pressing question is simply this– “Did you like me even though…?” 

She’s not surprised by my love, this “baby” of mine. It’s my like that astounds her.

And then I realize that we’re more alike than different.

After all, I rarely doubt my Savior’s love.

He proved it once and for all when He took my place on Calvary’s cross—There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:3)

His love does not surprise me anymore. It’s His like that leaves me speechless.

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Why Motherhood is Like a Never-Ending Game of Limbo

Welcome! I’m glad you’re here.  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while. If you like what you find, I hope you’ll sign up on the sidebar to receive my blog in your inbox now and then. Or we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.  Better yet, I’d love to meet you face to face. I’m still scheduling speaking engagements for 2017/2018. Let me know if you’d like me to speak at a ministry event near you.

Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m talking about that time years ago when my son gave me dead daises for Mother’s Day. And I’m explaining why those brown blooms were the perfect centerpiece for my table on that special day.  If you haven’t read it, you’ll want to swing over here and check it out. But before you go, let me tell you why I’m shrinking. And why the moms that you know might be shrinking too.


“Mom, I think you’re shrinking,” my firstborn said a few years ago in the middle of our morning rush.

He stood beside me with that infectious grin, the tip of his blonde head occupying the space above mine, and he puffed out his sixteen-year-old chest and held his shoulders tall to prove the truth of his declaration.

I stretched myself up on tiptoe so I could look my son in the eye.

Then, I returned his goading with a playful punch and reminded him that “sometimes the best things come in small packages…”

But what I really wanted to tell that boy of mine is that it’s his fault. ‘Cause I’ve been shrinking ever since the day that tiny pink cross on a pregnancy stick declared his existence.

Before I’d willed him from my womb with pushes and prayers, before I’d held all slippery seven-pounds of him in my arms, before I’d known his name or the sound of his flurrying feet racing across the floor, I began to shrink.

Pregnancy may grow a stomach large, but it’s just the beginning of growing a mama small.

I remember reading and re-reading every page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting before I even heard my baby’s heartbeat.  I underlined diet plans and plotted out exercise regimens; practiced kegels and bid farewell to my firm abs, my bladder of steel, and life without heartburn.

I learned how big my stomach should be measuring each week and how much sleep I should be getting every night. I scanned lists of what to pack in my hospital bag and what to purchase for the nursery. But there was no mention on those highlighted pages of how the me that had always been me would begin to shrink. 

No one told me that pieces of the woman I’d been would quietly disappear, as if that bump growing just beneath my heart was elbowing her out, making space for another life that would forever change mine.

I didn’t know it then, but I was learning the timeless dance of motherhood.

And, in time, I’d discover that this dance isn’t an ephemeral boogie or an occasional bop. It’s more like a perpetual game of limbo, an arduous blend of bending low and stooping steady. A selfless sway that moves with the heartbeat of Heaven.

So, I grew and I shrunk all at the same time, my stomach stretching thin and taut while the woman I once was waned and changed.

I dreamed new dreams.

And learned to pray.

I worried and wished and wondered.

My waistline disappeared and so did my stride. And as I waddled into that ninth month of pregnancy, even the very air I breathed seemed to be shrinking as an unseen tangle of legs and life pressed hard against my ribcage.

My water burst for the first time right there on our ugly plaid couch in the little apartment we called home, and the contractions swept me away on waves of hot pain and cold sweat. I gasped for breath and prayed for strength and wondered how one small life could consume every ounce of me.

I didn’t understand as I panted and pushed that I was giving birth to far more than my first baby. I was  giving birth to his mother as well. 

And  when the doctor placed that warm bundle of wet wrinkles and soft cries in my arms, I assumed that I’d already survived the toughest part of motherhood. After all, I’d lived through labor. But after bearing five children and clocking five thousand sleepless nights, after wiping bottoms and blotting tears, kissing skinned knees and praying over bruised hearts; after surviving potty-training and driver’s training and all the commonplace moments in between; I realize I was wrong.

The past eighteen years of motherhood have taught me what countless generations of mothers have always known–a mother’s labor never ends.

Oh, we can leave the delivery ward and those babies can grow six-feet tall, but they won’t be the only ones growing.

We’ll keep growing large in love and small in pride; tall in truth and short on self-importance.

Because motherhood is a daily invitation to contract in smallness so Jesus can grow bigger within us.

It’s painful. And messy–this life of dying to self and being emptied of entitlement, this life of loving without limits and serving without recognition.

It’s a dance that demands grace and second-chances, patience and prayer.

Motherhood is not the only way God refines us, but it is one of the surest ways…if we are willing to learn this dwindling dance.

Just moments after my firstborn declared that I was shrinking, he cast me a sheepish grin and asked if I could please pack a lunch for him. ‘Cause he was running late, and he still needed to cram for that physics test and find his track shoes and brush his teeth before he left for school. 

I really just wanted to sit down for a moment and take a sip of that coffee I’d brewed at 5 A.M., but I remembered the words I’d read in my Bible at dawn, the ones that had reminded me that my Savior understands what it means to shrink.

“When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”  (Philippians 2:7).

So I reached for the bread and began to pack a lunch, and that’s when I realized it with fresh awe–Growing up into smallness is a giant challenge, but we’re not left to shrink alone. We have a Savior who understands every step of this diminishing dance, a Savior who has lived the ultimate limbo. 

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