A Mother’s Path by Kayla Hodges

 

Kayla Hodges

Fighting mental and physical exhaustion brought her to this silent battle almost daily. There have been many days and nights when motivation feels like chasing a leaf falling from a dying tree. One moment it seems that she just might catch it, yet the very next second it slips through her fingertips, only to fall faster to the ground. Her journal holds the words she couldn’t seem to let herself verbalize, because they seemed much more docile on paper:

 

Voices filter in
night and day
I sing to drown them out
lies to which I fall prey

Lyrics take form
I stand, sit, kneel
a homily of my heart
a place too numb to feel

The steps I climb
they rise, I fall
I seek the prize
yet, my soul denies a call

Silent battles within
a beckoning sincere
deception beguiled
chains hold me in fear.

She remembers the words of her poem then hears a whisper in the wind as she grips the hand of her daughter on their afternoon walk. “Come to me,” a faint, yet firm voice beckons. This voice was different than the ones she felt plagued by. There was peace that echoed with every word. The sunshine offers a warmth that she didn’t even realize she had been yearning for. The mother has heard this familiar voice before, but in her exhaustion today she struggled to listen. Her little girl begged her to go outside and play, but this mother’s weary spirit left her hesitating to make the trek to the park. “If only I could sleep,” she thought, “then I’d feel alive enough to engage my little one.” She felt her stomach grumble and her soul did the same. “If only I could sit and enjoy a hot meal, then maybe I’d have the energy to grow my relationship with my child.”

Painfully, graciously seeing past the mother’s idols of comfort, the patient voice calls out: “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

Rest has largely become a foreign concept to this young woman in her new season of motherhood. She knows she is blessed beyond belief in countless ways, and the inability to cling to the hope she professes only brings more guilt. She discovers time and time again that no amount of sleep, nor any temporal comfort can satisfy her longing for deep rest.

On walks with her daughter, she always passes the same tree along their favored path. It has become a place of serenity, a reminder to breathe deeply, and a notion of rest in an unrelenting world. Almost a century’s worth of growth from roots to tips was embodied by this oak. The small, green leaves fanned out from each and every direction. Some branches seem so close to grazing the grass as the wind pushes and pulls them back and forth, up and down, almost tickling the grass like a mother playing with her infant.

When the wind blows, countless leaves trickle to the ground below. Together, as if choreographed, they twirl and flip their way to the ground. It’s mesmerizing. Yet, for each leaf that falls, that is one part of the tree that has detached—that has died.

The tree’s trunk has a gentle bend about halfway up, with patterns and formations unlike any tree she’s seen. At some point in it’s life, this tree was struck by lightning. The damage was harsh, but all that is left now is unique beauty.

Saplings have sprouted up beneath—nurtured by the light of the sun, yet protected by the cover of the overarching branches; each representing a part of the tree that has fallen, but that gives new life to the world around it.

It’s amazing how God has designed what looks like death to be ripe space for new growth. Flowers wilting in a garden, leaves of trees falling, decomposing, and nourishing the soil of the plants below. The wind may break away leaves—even whole branches—and lightning may leave scars that always remain visible. But in it all, there is growth. And there is beauty.

This young mom often feels the wind pulling parts of her away—parts of her that have to die. And more than once it feels as if lightning has struck. But rather than try to hide what is broken, she hopes to learn from the oak tree—to find the beauty in it, to find what it offers to those around her, and to find the opportunities to give hope to others who feel the pain of broken branches and lightning scars.

Rather than feeling the need to hide our brokenness, we can take off the masks we feel pressured to wear for others and celebrate the growth that can come from the breaking. We may all face different winds, and we will bear unique scars and bends from our lightning strikes, but in each situation, we are given the opportunity to give life and beauty to those around us. Today is a day to celebrate all mothers. Let us celebrate their unique stories too.

She walks through hardship alongside, encourages, uplifts, and spiritually nurtures the women she pours into. She always desired a family of her own, yet the Lord’s call for singleness on her life has proven a beautiful, heart-aching journey of sanctification as she plays a part in growing the family of God.

She places a hand on her belly and mourns the emptiness she feels. Her baby would be due soon and her heart feels torn from her very chest with the weight of grief. She trusts in the Lord to carry her through this suffering and she knows her little one will someday greet her at heaven’s gates.

She knows their situation might be temporary, but her heart yearns to bond with her foster child. She can’t help but dive head first falling in love with children in need who don’t stay. She prays to plant seeds of hope and asks for strength from the Father of the fatherless and Defender of the guilty to protect these little ones in ways she can only attempt to.

Her hands are wrinkled with worry and covered with callouses that show years of care and concern. She has worked diligently to provide for her family and asks the Lord why life’s challenges for a single parent do not seem to relent. She pauses to lean into the Heavenly Father’s arms knowing that He will prove a love and faithfulness to her children that no earthly father can.

There will be brokenness in this life. There will be trials. There will be loss. There will be parts of us—perhaps many parts—that need to be ripped away by the winds. We will all get struck. We can choose to hide our falling leaves and breaking limbs, or we can take the chance that maybe, just maybe, it’s what someone on a walk may need to see. We can choose to try to cover up our lightning scars, or we can embrace the new direction they take us in and the unique beauty we have to offer to others.

Not all trees look the same, nor are all falling leaf patterns identical. But they are beautiful. Not all journeys of motherhood are the same, nor are any of our stories identical. But they can be beautiful. We need only embrace them and share them as we embrace one another and the life-stories that shape us. For there is a greater story of redemption at hand. A story of the One who calls out to you, “Come to me.” Friend, it is in the Author of the greater story that we find the deep, soul-filling rest which can restore us— where we can find the confidence outside of ourselves to remove the masks we wear and be wholly accepted, scars and all. Listen for His voice as He calls to you. He claims us in our brokenness and turns it into beauty.

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Logo

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

Kayla Hodges lives in Cypress, Texas and loves being at home learning her role as a mother to her sweet daughter, Eden Grace. After graduating from Baylor University, she and her husband Matthew began partnering in ministry together with Bridge Point Community Church, an Acts29 church plant that they have helped launch with dear friends in Cypress. Healthy vulnerability and offering hope to the hopeless are among Kayla’s deepest values. Kayla finds solace in writing and is passionate about her family, the local church, stewarding God’s Creation of this earth, and mental health awareness.

Tears Of Hope by Kayla Hodges

Kayla Hodges

There was an ethos of joy that was manifested in his simple, slow stride. It was a joy that lasted despite the pangs of senescence—a joy that endured through hardship and carried him as he gently cared for her. Setting foot in that place was not easy for anyone. Family, friends, volunteers, doctors, nurses, counselors, pastors…the vast array of labels and roles that people carry had a way of fading away in the midst of the monotony. You were just there. At times, just another warm body moving from room to room. When there were not activities planned, overwhelming stillness filled the building. The quietness was not normally tranquil, rather unsettling.

But then, he walked in like sunshine. The atmosphere shifted as the greetings commenced. His eyes cheerily squinted as if he had stepped outside into the brightness of morning as opposed to coming into the artificial glare of the overheads in the facility. The way the lines from his smiles remained on his cheeks even after the grin faded revealed a dependability about his demeanor. We were drawn to him in this place where so many people were tragically forgotten. He embodied hope in a way that escaped the general stream of daily visitors.

We were preparing the dining hall for a concert when he walked by. I noticed how he struggled to pull up a chair to the front of his wife’s room where she reclined in her wheelchair unmistakably asleep. He sat and combed her silvery white hair and spoke to her about the day’s events at home. She slept. He pulled out the newspaper and began to emphatically read her the headlines and columns. She slept. He stopped, looked up and gazed at the sweet, soft features of her sullen face. My heart ached for this man yearning for connection with his fading bride.

She slept. He wept.

Time came for the concert to begin and the American folk band started with a fan favorite: the chicken dance—a lively feature for many of the residents to join in as much as their frail bodies would permit. Implicit memory triggered motions, and loved ones observed their relatives engaged with the beat. The man we admired wheeled his bride down the hall and stood in the back with her as she continued to dream.

Then, something happened that we had not seen before in the weeks of our visiting hours. Her eyes opened! She immediately wiggled and bounced, despite still being confined to her chair. At first I was concerned of convulsions, but I saw a look of relief in her husband’s eyes and a beaming smile takeover his face. It was as if the scattered pieces of who she once was were restored again in that moment as the familiar tunes played. She acted free despite the mental prison she endured, and it was evident that he felt that freedom too. The band continued on. “Oh my darlin’ Clementine / You were lost and gone forever! / Oh my darlin’ Clementine.” Once more, another song unintentionally held a glimpse of the outcry of so many hearts in the room. “Bring back, bring back oh bring back my Bonnie to me.” The man remarked fondly at her dancing and she gazed back silently in response not to say a word, yet her eyes cried, “I’m still here.” The silence of that moment held their lifetime of memories.

She smiled. He wept.

______

 

Two millennia prior: A man shared burdensome news with his friends, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.”

Jesus was traveling with his disciples when the news of Lazarus’ death reached him. With heavy hearts, they headed to Bethany, the town where Lazarus and his family lived. His feet were covered in dirt and his body was worn from the travels. Lazarus’ sisters met Jesus outside of the village. One fell as his feet lamenting, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” And then, we come to one of the most profound and unexpected verses in the Bible: “Jesus wept.”

She fell. He wept.

His burdened soul was not due to lack of faith, for he already knew he would command Lazarus to rise. Nevertheless, genuine tears ran down his face. He was deeply moved, and his soul felt heavy as he pondered their grief. The burdens he desired to carry for them were ones that he knew only he could bear.

His compassionate eyes rested on the stone covering the entrance to the cave where Lazarus had been laid and he instructed for it to be moved aside. His merciful, caring hands gestured above his head as he said, “Lazarus, come out!”

His voice shocked them as his words echoed through the chambers of their aching hearts. They were caught in a moment of unbelief and incredible hope. Not one could have believed what would follow. The dead man came out! His body still wrapped in tattered strips of linen—his face covered with a burial cloth. Could it be? Was this their beloved brother freed from death’s bitter grip? “Let him go,” Jesus said. Tears of relief and joy streamed down their faces.

He rose. They wept.

______

I saw Jesus’ unconditional love in the loyal husband who cared for his wife as she endured fading cognizance and an ailing body. When dancing with his suffering bride, the man felt the same tension between pain and hope that Lazarus’ family knew too well. Pain as he empathized with his wife’s mental and physical deterioration, and yet a glimmer of hope in her lively response to the music. Tearful hope, yet hope nonetheless.

In the story of Lazarus being made alive again, Jesus told the mourning crowd, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God!” Jesus embraced the tension between pain and hope. He showed them the hope only he could provide and ran to his loved ones in the midst of their anguish. He wept all the while knowing the great joy he was about to bring his grieving friends. Life is not void of pain, but we can find comfort in knowing that Jesus feels the weight of our pain alongside us. Dear friends, I promise that when you cling to his hope, you are never left alone in your suffering.

Though we know that someday our Lord will redeem the pains of this life, we recognize that for a time we must endure. We can trust in that divine love to heal us, shape us, and be present with us as we are being refined through the fire. In light of his glorious grace as we grow in self-awareness, we gain further awareness of our need for a Savior. We were not created to carry the weight of the world nor to find ultimate fulfillment in it, but with eyes on eternity we can find freedom in surrendering our burdens to the only One who promises a true, abundant hope!

Jesus is the epitome of empathy—the defender and liberator who, in being one with our Creator, fully knows us and thus, fully knows the depth of our pain. He weeps with us as we walk through hardship in life and delights in us as we draw near to him in our darkest days. For in those times of darkness, we not only have a Friend to cry with us, but a Savior to raise us.

We can weep. But, we can weep knowing there’s a resurrection coming.


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

 

 

Kayla Hodges lives in Cypress, Texas and loves being at home learning her role as a mother to her baby girl, Eden Grace. After graduating from Baylor University, she and her husband Matthew began partnering in ministry together with Bridge Point Community Church, an Acts29 church plant that they have helped launch with dear friends in Cypress. Healthy vulnerability and offering hope to the hopeless are among Kayla’s deepest values. Kayla finds solace in writing and is passionate about her family, the local church, stewarding God’s Creation of this earth, and mental health awareness.

It Is Well by Kayla Hodges

Kayla Hodges

You stop, finally sit down for a moment, and actually remember what it feels like to just breathe. It’s been a long day. Correction, it’s been a long season of what can only be described as seemingly endless nights that turn into mornings where the darkness doesn’t go away. You feel the weight of it and harbor the guilt even though you are fully aware that the emotions you feel are mostly birthed from lies. It’s as if you have chains attached to your limbs and moving your body is comparable to running a marathon, but you know that’s a lie, too. You tend to get stuck on the roller-coaster of your inner thoughts, even when surrounded by a sea of faces. And each time a new day dawns, you whisper to yourself, “Deep breath. It is well.”

Somehow, telling yourself to breathe actually helps you do so. You repeat your reminder over and over again, and it helps the heaviness in your soul dissipate little by little. You are inexplicably unhappy—burdened in a way that you cannot describe—yet simultaneously have a heart so full of joy. Joy? But, how can there be joy in the midst of pain—in the midst of being overwhelmed by your brokenness?

Say this with me, “Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Horatio Spafford, an American lawyer in the late 1800s lived through unimaginable loss—the kind of loss that led his fellow church members to believe that he was being divinely punished for something. Spafford and his wife lived in Chicago with their four daughters, surviving the great fire of 1871. After the fire had devastated the city, they planned a family getaway to Europe. Horatio sent his family to sail ahead while he was held back on business. Their vessel, the Ville du Havre, collided with a British ship and sunk into the ocean, leaving only a few survivors. His wife was among them. His daughters were not.

Years later, the Spaffords lost another child to disease. From the tragedies that this family endured, though, came lyrics that would go on to stir countless hearts. Despite having nearly every reason under the sun to run from and blame God, Spafford chose to press on in joy, declaring, “It is well with my soul!” Tragedy prompted the creation of a timeless, soul-moving hymn. It is a hymn that moves my heart to worship and brings me to tears each time I recite or sing the words.

This persistent battle for joy reminds me of John Milton’s poetic depiction of the original story of mankind’s tainted desire. In Paradise Lost, the blind poet narrates the fall of mankind and the expulsion from Paradise, the Garden of Eden. In the story, we see Satan enticing Eve:

Here, happy creature, fair angelic Eve,
Partake thou also; Happy though thou art,
Happier thou may’st be, worthier canst not be;
Taste this, and be henceforth among the gods
Thyself a goddess, not to Earth confined.

Satan deceives Eve and builds her self-esteem, filling her with the same lies that we fall prey to. I imagine Eve almost in a trance—as if she is watching him dangle the most precious jewel on a thread of gold. Satan essentially says, “Sure, you’re happy right now, but don’t you want to be even happier?” Let’s be realistic, who wouldn’t want to always be happier? The problem is: we often forget what real happiness is. We are creatures of the moment, seeking to satisfy the flesh rather than nourish the soul. We chase after momentary happiness that will leave us disappointed, broken, unsatisfied, and worn. We crave temporary satisfaction, and we’ll trade true joy—the kind of joy that persists even in the darkness—in order to get it.

I often wander into believing the same lies that Eve believed—lies that cause my perception of myself and my surroundings to become a distorted reality, regardless of how aware I am of the Truth and the countless blessings I have received. Yet, thanks be to God, for He continues to save me from myself! This is a daily, silent battle that we all endure, whether in the face of mental illness or simply the normal challenges of life. It is a self-imposed fight against the desires of the flesh. Satan makes Eve feel empowered, saying she is worthy and can be a limitless goddess with just a simple taste of the forbidden fruit. Eve is drawn to the point that she rebels against her Creator leading her and her husband to trade communion with their Creator in Paradise for a moment’s taste of what she thought she was missing.

We, too, succumb to the lies of the Deceiver, whether in our pursuit of happiness or in our quest for perfectionism. And we, too, trade in communion with our Creator in Paradise for empty promises that continue to leave us wanting.

But there is good news.

Our Creator does not abandon us in our rebellion. He has made a way for the heartbreaking separation from His dear ones to be reversed. Someday, the Creator, who cast out His children from Paradise, will bring Paradise right back to them.

Friends, we are those children, and our Father—our Rescuer—is coming for us. I pray that you receive His invitation with open arms as He beckons you—as he invites you not into temporary, empty happiness, but true, eternal, unshakeable joy. Because true joy can lead a grieving heart to proclaim, as Spafford’s hymn continues: “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well! It is well with my soul!’”

This life can be dark, but there is One who has conquered the darkness and leads us to the light. We just need to surrender to Him. And the irony of surrendering is that it’s actually the only path to liberation. In the surrendering of our desires, plans, hopes, dreams, and even our suffering, we find freedom—a freedom that is only found in the presence of our Creator.

And it is there in His presence—in Paradise—that we’ll be able to forever declare, with nothing to hinder our joy, “It is well.”


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

 

 

Kayla Hodges lives in Cypress, Texas and loves being at home learning her new role as a mother to her baby girl, Eden Grace. After graduating from Baylor University, she and her husband Matthew began partnering in ministry together with Bridge Point Community Church, an Acts29 church plant that they have helped launch with dear friends in Cypress. Kayla works part-time at Alternative Health Center of The Woodlands and is passionate about her family, stewarding God’s Creation of this earth, and mental health awareness.