Hope in Tragedy – Shiloh’s Story

Even in tragedy, one family feels God’s peace

“I grew up in church, practically born on a pew,” Chad Smeaton said. Someone was always playing Family Life Radio on the in the radio, in the car. And we always had it on with our children.”

Summer says her story is the same. She also grew up in church. “My mom always had Family Life Radio on. I have listened to Dr. Randy Carlson and Intentional Living for twenty plus years now.”

Chad and Summer made the decision to move their family of seven from Michigan to Tucson at the end of October 2021. Chad said, “It was a big decision for our family, but we felt like the Lord was leading us, and He opened up some great opportunities for us.”

Summer’s parents relocated to Tucson from North Carolina first. Chad and Summer agreed the move would allow the kids – Cadence 17, Shiloh 15, Zion 13, Haven 12 and Brad, six months – to be near their maternal grandparents and her side of the family more.

“Moving our family, mid-school year – it was stressful … the kids already had their friends – established connections. It was a lot of change in a short amount of time,” Summer recalls.

They decided to homeschool the kids and tried to get them connected in their new community by joining their local church. “It’s definitely been a bit of a transition,” Chad continued, “especially for the kids, who have had to make new friends, but we’re trying to focus on being intentional and responsive in our interactions and relationships.”

Chad and Summer agree the parenting discussions on Intentional Living have been so extremely valuable. One of their biggest takeaways – is choosing to respond rather than react, and they find the worship important too.

Candid Truths

At times they wondered if they’d made the right decision as they hit walls and fought an uphill battle. The Smeatons continued to stress about their children making friends. Chad and Summer knew for teenagers, that’s not an easy thing.

But in the midst of the struggle, Summer said, “because of God’s grace and the goodness of His love, confirmation after confirmation would pop up and reaffirm our decision.”

Depression is a part of Summer’s story. She admits she’s been very open and candid with her children about her journey. She said, “I feel depressed, and sometimes have suicidal thoughts. So, I know it’s important to plug them into to the right counselors and get them the right help.”

Summer said, “Shiloh was hesitant and kind of fearful about meeting new people, but also excited because he knew his father and I weren’t going to make a rash move and just disconnect everyone from their friends and their schools.”

“Before the move,” Summer continued, “Shiloh went through a physical transformation. He used to be kind of a husky kid. Unfortunately, he was bullied for it. It opened a door for insecurities and just lack of self-confidence.”

Summer acknowledged, “It’s stressful. You’re fifteen years old, and ask, ‘Am I going to be accepted? Am I going to have friends? And Am I going to be bullied here?’” She knows the enemy used those negative thoughts to distract Shiloh from the truth and the enemy used that to whittle away at the confidence that he had gained after losing weight.

Chad took the initiative to check in with Shiloh. He asked “How are you? Where are you at?” Together the Smeatons parented proactively and checking in and asking, “What’s your mental space?” To which they say Shiloh would typically always say he was okay.

Summer Smeaton says Wednesday, January 12, 2022, initially played out like any other ordinary day. Shiloh wasn’t feeling well so she let him sleep in a bit before getting up to work on some homeschool assignments.

“He seemed fine; he seemed okay,” Summer recalls. He got something to eat, logged on to his computer and realized he was missing some English assignments. Summer said, “I was getting onto him about what he needed to turn in … reminded him he had soccer practice.” The plan was to get ready and take Shiloh to soccer practice.

Breathtaking Heartbreak

Shiloh took his soccer bag and went into the bathroom, and Summer said, “I’m thinking he’s getting ready for soccer practice.” But, he wasn’t getting ready for soccer practice.

Summer stepped outside for a minute. And when she came back in, her daughter Cadence was coming down the hall, crying so hard she couldn’t catch her breath. Summer said, “She couldn’t communicate anything.”

And finally Cadence said, “I think Shiloh hurt himself.”

Summer ran to the bathroom door, and called his name, but there was no answer. She busted the door open and found Shiloh in the bathtub. She saw a note on the ground with the gun.

“All that I could think of was to speak life over him and pray because growing up in church in having faith – that’s what I knew.”

Even as Summer made the 911 call, she says a sense of peace came over her. She believes it was the Spirit of God intervening and bringing some sense of calm to her so she could communicate to the emergency response team. Her children were all doing school. It was traumatic for everyone as she was on the phone with 911, calling Chad to let him know, continuing to pray over Shiloh and putting pressure on his wound.

In that moment, Summer continued to believe death would not take him.

At the hospital, Summer was told right away not to expect life and to prepare for that.

“But knowing the God we serve and knowing that miracles are still for the living, I believe it was my heart as mom fighting and warring for my son.” Summer did not accept the doctor’s report but continued to speak life and believe for a miracle until the very end.

“I know the miracles are not just in the Bible, but I heard them all throughout my life. And so, why not believe that for us? Why not believe that for my son?”

Summer still knows God as the God of Miracles, even though it didn’t happen for Shiloh. “He is faithful, and I don’t understand,” Summer said. “I’m not going to pretend that I have healed. But sharing Shiloh’s story is a part of our healing. I’m not whole,” Summer said. “I still feel very broken and shattered. I have days that are harder than others. I have days I don’t feel like I’m going to make it, but God is giving me strength.”

God is giving the Smeaton family strength. They see glimpses of God’s mercy and His faithfulness even in this. It is their hope that God can put purpose to their pain through what they share.

They hold fast to Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV).

Summer says it feels very much like a wilderness season. “I don’t feel [God] right now. I know He’s there. I know God is faithful. I know He’s not left us. He’s not forsaken us. I know that because I walked it before. And every time in retrospect … I didn’t experience His presence, but now I see Him in these little areas.”

“We lost our son; our lives will never be the same. We are forever changed, but even in tragedy, we feel God’s peace. Even in this, we feel His love.”

The Smeatons have experienced support and love from a body of believers in the community. People that they don’t even know offer support and encouragement. And they want to offer God’s comfort and peace to others through their own tragedy.

If you or if you know someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are resources available for you and your friend. Often, Christian pastors and counselors are excellent sources to call. Attempting to tackle suicidal thoughts on your own as the victim or helper can be challenging, if not unproductive. There are qualified people who can help you. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by calling or texting the numbers 988 at any time, day or night 24/7, to visit with someone who understands.

Encouragement for Fellow Moms

Help Mom Friends

by Sarah Nichols

As a little girl, I loved to play with dolls and pretend I was a mom. I would change their diapers, take them to the pool with me swimming, feed them and put them down for naps. I couldn’t wait to become a mom one day. It was truly all I wanted to be when I grew up.

Thirty-something years later, my dreams have come true … well … kind of. Motherhood and marriage aren’t nearly what I romanticized them to be. In many ways, it is much more rewarding than I could have expected, but other times, if I’m being honest, it’s far from it. When spending time at the pool, I realize I would much rather be in the sun with a good book than in the water swimming and spending time in the pool with the kids.

We grow up dreaming about what our lives will look like, yet sometimes it can feel as if the walls are closing in on us. The enchantment we envisioned begins to feel more like enchainment.

I’ve experienced this struggle firsthand, though it has looked different depending on the season of motherhood and life I am in.

These days not only do we carry the weight of raising respectful kids who hopefully follow the Lord, but as we scroll through our phones, we are also constantly reminded of all the areas we lack.

We let ourselves believe the lie that most other moms have it more together.

Their kids are constantly colored-coordinated, matching, their freezers stocked, their pantries organized and their houses beautifully balanced in a decorated, minimalistic way. Oh, and the laundry … they have oversized laundry rooms and systems to keep up with this never-ending chore. However, no matter how hard I try, my kids are frantically looking for clean socks every morning as I try to get them out the door for school.

It’s easy to take these failures personally as if we have failed. The reality is we all struggle sometimes, even if it doesn’t show on our Instagram feeds and reels.

When I first became a mom, I didn’t experience the flustered new mom cliche, so many women face. My firstborn came ten weeks early, after a week alone on bedrest while my husband was away in the Air Force. Instead waking n the middle of the night by a newborn cry, I had to set an alarm clock just to wake up and pump, hoping my milk would come in, as I called the NICU night shift nurses for updates on my baby.

Many moms struggle in the beginning years. For me, the first five years of motherhood felt like a blur. Instead, I struggled as our kids began to get older and our calendar overflowed with sports and school commitments.

We all struggle differently, and these days with more connections and community happening online than in our actual lives, it’s easier to hide.

Satan would love nothing more than to make us feel like we are failing as moms, and we need to look to encourage fellow mom friends who need this reminder too.

What to look for in a mom who may be struggling:

1. She withdraws.

She begins to distance herself from those she used to spend time with. As moms, our days don’t always go as planned. Maybe the kids woke up throughout the night, or someone peed their bed, creating more laundry than was already there.

There are many reasons a mom friend may have to cancel plans or a playdate. However, if this becomes frequent, or she is no longer showing up at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), Bible study or your usual get-togethers, she may be hurting.

When we find ourselves hurting, sometimes our knee-jerk reaction is to push those who are closest away. We need someone to pull us in. You can be that person for a mom who is struggling.

2. She is experiencing significant changes in her life.

Almost any time a mom walks through a significant change, she is a candidate for some kind of struggle – whether that be moving her family, a career change, a new baby or some other kind of loss.

My husband spent 11 years in the Air Force, and we moved often. I would have considered myself a pro. However, one of our moves wrecked me. I felt so overwhelmed, more so than in any other move. I was experiencing so much change at once because our daughter started kindergarten a week after we moved. After a decade of being a stay-at-home mom, I no longer knew what my days would look like.

Change can be challenging, even if it’s good. If you have a friend walking through a significant change right now, chances are she’s struggling, whether she shows it or not.

3. She is physically showing it.

Maybe you can see it in her eyes. Perhaps it’s in her facial expressions and her body language. We can only hide our hardships and struggles for so long. If someone feels like they have been treading water for too long, they can begin to feel like they are drowning.

I’ll never forget when a dear friend came over to visit a couple of months after the move I mentioned above. When she asked me how things were going, I threw up a jumbled tumbleweed of words describing every emotion I felt, while trying to fight back the tears. She could see the struggle surfacing in my eyes.

When you know your friend well and take the time to stop and ask her how she is doing, you may see it in her response physically.

So how do you help?

If you have a mom friend you believe is struggling, here are some things you can do:

  • Drop by her house, and check in on her.
  • Offer to babysit and give her a break.
  • Bring a meal.
  • Ask her how she is doing.
  • Listen well.
  • Pray, for her heart and her hurt.

Help Mom Friends

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 ESV).

Motherhood is beautiful and challenging. It is a gift and a tool that God uses to grow and bless us.

May we stop striving for perfection in this title we have been given and instead, let the reminders of areas we fall short in lead us to lean on Him more, inviting our mom friends to do the same.

Sarah Nichols is a writer who loves encouraging women by sharing hope-filled stories that point others to Jesus. She lives in Tucson, AZ, with her husband and four kids. You can find more from Sarah at http://sarahnicholswrites.com.

God’s Design of Motherhood

Ashley Daugherty

God wants to help you grieve and celebrate at the same time

We have a whole day to celebrate and recognize the powerful influence of mothers. I’m especially filled with joy that we can celebrate all of you who call yourselves “Mom.”

 

Happy Mother’s Day.

God’s design of motherhood is so worthy to be celebrated. Sometimes as moms it’s easy to push away the applause and the celebration because we can easily think of areas that we missed it, times when we could do better, where we could talk nicer to our kids and just get it right. But in the midst of all your highs and lows, your heavenly Father wants to celebrate you, as well as the influence and established role of His design of motherhood. It’s powerful.

My mom went on to be with Jesus November 1, 2021. And Mother’s Day weekend is one that I was not looking forward to because I knew what those waves of grief would carry to the shore.

On Mother’s Day 2021, my mother stood on the platform with me in celebration of Mother’s Day. I was pregnant with my fifth child, Gianna, and it was just four months before my mom unexpectedly went into the hospital. Little did we know then that it would be the last Mother’s Day with our mom here on earth. We can still celebrate and honor my mom, even as she’s in heaven. But those of you who have lost people, you know it’s definitely not the same.

Because of all the COVID restrictions while she was in the hospital, we weren’t able to visit her right away. Finally, when we were able to go in and see her, she immediately had to go on a ventilator, and she was unresponsive due to the paralytics. The longer she was nonresponsive in the hospital, the more days went by that I wasn’t able to experience her being fully alive and engaged in my life. Her absence made me realize more and more how powerful her daily presence truly was in my life and my kids’ lives.

One night after coming home from the hospital, I went upstairs to sit in my son’s room in his rocking chair. I started to cry, thinking about the reality of my life at that moment.

A Heavenly Influence on Earth
I sat there just thinking about the influence my mom had on me, how I missed her daily presence and the empty spaces that now existed. Instead of generalizing the empty space of what I was missing, I began to write down specific ways that my mom, Terri McAuliff filled up my life, naming the empty space that I was feeling.

I also was so overwhelmed, thinking about the powerful role of a mother and God’s desire for that role to be represented here on earth.

It’s a calling for all of His daughters, whether it’s with our own children or spiritual children.

It’s His purpose for us to show up in our world and represent His character through His tenderness, His ability to provide a safe space for His nurturing Spirit, His attentiveness, His delight in the details, His spoken truth and love and His compassion and protectiveness. All these things show up when we say “Yes” to be a godly mother to those around us. It’s not limited to whether we have our own kids or not.

On previous Mother’s Day weekends, when my mom was here, and I had the opportunity to celebrate and encourage all the moms, I have been so sensitive, and at times, so overwhelmed with the pain and the grief that this day can bring for people. There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive to the emotions in the room, but not at the expense of downplaying the celebration and honor due (Romans 13:7). It’s more so just a posture of my heart of genuinely not wanting to stir up any more grief or pain this day may represent as I thought about people who:

  • Did not grow up with a mother.
  • Didn’t have a godly mother.
  • Long to be a mom of your own kids.
  • Have experienced a miscarriage, like I have.
  • Or carry the personal shame of where we’ve missed it as moms.

When grief and pain are present, it can make us want to hold back from celebrating what we have, because of what others don’t have or because of what we don’t have. When we hold back our celebration because of our pain and our grief, we also hold back honor when honor is due.

So, in the painful moment of thinking about the space that my mom occupied and her influence, I decided in that rocking chair while my mom was in the hospital, that no matter what happened to my mom, I would never allow grief to overshadow or downplay the celebration and honor of motherhood! Even though I miss my mom greatly, that doesn’t mean I need to tone down the celebration and the honor of being a mom to my own five kids.

You and I serve a big enough God that we can fully celebrate without diminishing or denying our pain or grief. God can help us do both! Just because this day reminds me and perhaps you too, loss, it doesn’t make it any less of a day to celebrate. I think it is a part of God’s process of making beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

My five kids (all under the age of 8 at the time of this story) are so funny. They make me laugh – when I’m not annoyed by what they’re doing. It’s hilarious. I was watching my 10-month-old, Gianna crack up at my four-year-old, Beniah. He came into the room with his boxing gloves. I guess he just came out of the shower because he was naked. And he was doing his thing with his little punching bag that he got for his birthday. Gianna was laughing – her little 10-month-old self thought it was so funny.

I have so many moments I miss sharing with my mom. One of the things I miss the most is the shared joy from the experiences with my kids. I have moments with my kids that I actually enjoy more knowing my mom would enjoy them as well. Of course, I can share these moments with my dad, my husband, Paul and my great friends and spiritual moms. But nothing compares to sharing it with your own mom. My mom would think it was so funny.

An Invitation from Heaven

I asked myself, What is the emotion I want to share with my mom right now? It’s not just the memory but the bond that connects you with people, just being able to share the exact same emotion at the same time. I realized that emotion was joy – I just would love to share this joy with my mom.

Then, I felt this invitation from heaven. God does not force His way in, but He absolutely is knocking at the door of our hearts. And I felt this impression from heaven that said, “Can I try?”

It wasn’t an audible voice. Jesus didn’t show up in the room, but it was like when I’m cooking in the kitchen and my kids want to be a part of it. And they say, “Can I try that too?”

That’s what the message from heaven felt like to me. Like, “Can I try the joy that you want to share with your mom in this moment? Can I try, as your heavenly Father?”

It means so much to me because it wasn’t abrupt. It wasn’t like He was saying “Shouldn’t I be enough?” No, it was a sweet invitation. When God comes into the emptiness of our hearts, He brings His full self in. He is so graceful, sweet and tender. When I bring my full self into a room, my passion can be misinterpreted as anger or frustration.

I began to say, “Yes, God, I want that. What would that look like?”

He is so capable of sharing that emotion with me. Why? Because He is joy; He created joy. Not only did He create joy, but He also created the very beings that I was enjoying. The reality is He was actually able to share the joy of the moment even more with me than my mom ever did or ever will.

Sharing Emotions with God

And God loves to share the other emotions that you would call negative with us too. How can we call an emotion negative when it was emotion that God created? Because He is just as much in sadness as He is joy. He is just as much in grief as He is in celebration. He is just as much in anger as He is gratitude. Why? Because He created our emotions. Sometimes we don’t know how to handle those negative emotions. So, we run away from them, or we deny them.

I serve a big enough God, who meets me in my emotion.

This is a permission slip from your heavenly Father that says, “I am big enough so that whatever emotions come with your daily life, let me meet you in all of it because I can! I can in the aftermath of grief and disappointment and loss and betrayal and rejection.”
It can feel like a crater that’s so deep you can’t even see the bottom. If you open the door to the knocking of your heart from your heavenly Father, He will absolutely fill the gaps and overflow your cups.

It doesn’t make me miss my mom any less. It doesn’t make me more glad that she’s in heaven. I would love for her to be here right now. But God proves to me – over and over again – that until heaven, we do not have to keep living with empty glasses. The Holy Spirit is on this earth to bring comfort, to bring joy, to bring peace, to bring life and to help you move from anger to joy. There’s a part of celebration that really does bring beauty from ashes.

 

Ashley DaughertyAshley Daugherty

As a dynamic speaker, Ashley Daugherty has a passion for people to know Jesus and have a life-changing encounter with Him. Ashley and her husband, Paul, lead a thriving community of believers at Victory Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a mission to connect people to God and each other, equip them to fulfill their God-given purpose, and empower the church to reach out locally and globally with God’s love. In addition to her ministry work, Ashley is a devoted wife and mother of five. victory.com

Kill the Comparison Virus with Michael Cochren

When Family Life Radio talked with Michael Cochren from Cochren & Co., he emphasized the importance of perspective in your life.

“There’s a massive difference between sitting in a posture of entitlement versus a posture of gratitude,” he said. “If you walk around feeling like God owes you something, then everything that you see is not quite what it could be or what it should be. So, you look at every piece of your life, and you think you probably should have a bigger house, a nicer car, a better job. You may wish your spouse was a little different or your kids were a little smarter, or a little more athletic.”

But if you sit in a place of gratitude, a place of thanksgiving for things like drinkable and clean water coming out of your faucet and a place to live, when there are many who do not have these things, you begin to see everything differently.

You begin to view what you have as unearned blessings poured out because God is a merciful and gracious God.

As James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17 ESV).

Sometimes we become focused on the one gift we don’t have, instead of seeing that God has given us everything we need in life. This becomes amplified when we compare ourselves with others.

“I have got to kill the comparison virus in my life, or it will kill my joy,” Michael stated.

“I’ve got to put that to death because it’s so easy to look at people around you and think, ‘They’re so gifted. Look at all the things they have going on.’ Then you begin to miss everything that God is doing in your life.”

God wants you to focus on the calling He’s given you and not someone else’s calling. You are uniquely and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV).

Michael Cochren

The more you take time to intentionally thank God for what He has blessed you with, the less you will compare yourself with others and what they have or are doing. The more you focus your mind on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise, the more content and peaceful you become with God’s blessings and with what He gives you to do (Philippians 4:8 ESV).

Your dependance on God and His faithfulness gives you the assurance that He has equipped you for all He’s called you to do. Not only to do, but to be, no matter what that is.

Through Christ, God’s great power is at work in you. It’s what you were made for.

You, in Him, doing what He has called you to, brings God glory and is more fulfilling than anything else you could dream of. You don’t want to miss it by being too distracted, looking around and comparing yourself with others.

As you pray and spend time in God’s Word and as you listen for His Holy Spirit to direct you, He gives you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). He puts desires into your heart that are pleasing and good for you, and that point others to Christ.

Michael Cochren

As Paul encouraged the Ephesians, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV).

Want more? Check out our on demand resources


Family Life Radio is listener supported. Those who listen give to make the music and content possible to shine God’s love, peace and encouragement into hearts, revealing truths that direct people in the way they should go.

If you feel led to give a gift today to help others draw strength, gain wisdom and experience peace through Family Life Radio click here.

On “Thank God for Sunday Morning” with Michael from Cochren & Co.

Thank God for Sunday Morning really is my story for better or for worse,” explained Michael Cochren of Cochren & Co when he chatted with Family Life Radio about writing the song.
Michael described his life as, “Being in the darkness in the night and then God brought me into the morning of His love.”

He grew up in the church, but his faith did not become his own until halfway through college. Before that, Michael described his life as, “A lot of mess and dysfunction and running to the things of this world to fill the void and the insecurities I had in my life.”

His parents got divorced when he was in elementary school and that really shook him up. His world was never the same.

In middle school, Michael began running to different substances and alcohol to try to heal. In high school, he called himself a Christian, but nothing about his life looked like Christ. He smiled every day and made lots of jokes to cover up his pain. He was living in a pit when God began to show him the hypocrisy of going from the things of his Saturday nights to try and fake it on Sunday mornings. He was desperate for a real Sunday morning.

God broke through the darkness of Michael’s life and brought him into the light of His love.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17 ESV).

Cochren-and-Co

Since then, Michael enjoys the liberty that forgiveness and his life in Christ brings. As his song says,

Sunlight through the stained-glass window
Feels like freedom on my face.
Really is a new beginning
It really is amazing grace.

Michael keeps His focus on God’s grace by staying in His Word in a divided world where, as he described, “People cannot agree on the basics.”

Staying in the Word reminds him there is nothing new under the sun and things will not be like this forever. Scripture gives him hope.

One day there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying and no more pain (Revelation 21:4).

Reading and listening to the Bible helps Michael to see things through God’s lens. He doesn’t always stay in the Word all the time. When he doesn’t get to his reading, he sometimes listens while on his long commute. Sometimes he just gets “little feedings,” as he called them, but it is all God’s Word, and Michael is confident God uses it to work in his life.

Michael has concluded that there are imperfect human examples in the Bible, and the only true hero is Jesus. He is the only perfect solution.

“God is not asking for perfection. He is asking for faithfulness,” Michael explained, “And when we mess up, His mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23).

Want more? Check out our on demand resources


Family Life Radio is listener supported. Those who listen give to make the music and content possible to shine God’s love, peace and encouragement into hearts, revealing truths that direct people in the way they should go.

If you feel led to give a gift today to help others draw strength, gain wisdom and experience peace through Family Life Radio click here.

Weight Gain, Wounded and Wanted

Sarah Nichols

Keeping Your Soul Healthy

My eight-year-old daughter came into the kitchen excited to tell me she had lost three pounds the other morning.

I cringe even writing that.

I’ve purposely made it a point to not weigh myself in front of her and to not talk about weight gain or loss in front of her.

I have fought hard to display a healthy body image of myself, knowing she is watching. But the truth is these efforts don’t matter because we live in a world where girls and women are constantly reminded of what is considered beautiful, what kind of bodies are desired and wanted.

We live in a world where a well-meaning doctor, at last week’s well-child check, tries to discreetly tell you your daughter’s BMI is slightly elevated, mentions COVID has played a part and she understands but encourages you to serve more veggies.

Except … she wasn’t as discreet as she thought and your daughter bursts into tears the moment you step out of the office doors, clinging to you as her tears and face press into your own “soft” belly.

Unfortunately, I know this world myself.

  • It started in my teen years. I was aware of peers who were naturally thinner than me.
  • As a young adult, excited about my upcoming wedding and wanting to feel beautiful in my gown, I started to count calories. I felt proud as the scale dropped along with the calories I consumed.
  • As a pregnant woman, I watched my body grow and change, loving every minute of it. Looking back, I wonder if it was because the world approved my body change, pregnant women gained weight.
  • As a nursing mom, I carried several extra pounds, while other nursing moms seemed to bounce back to their pre-pregnancy weight.
  • As a military spouse solo parenting during a 6-month deployment, I would push two toddlers in a double jogger after dropping our oldest off at school. I couldn’t control the loneliness I felt walking our halls night after night, tucking in three kids by myself, but I could control the push to be thinner. Overextending myself on the trail and under extending grace to myself, eating less than the recommended daily calorie intake, all for the sake of a great “homecoming.”

When I became an accidental runner (a story for another time) I watched my body shrink the more miles I logged. So, I embraced my all or nothing mentality, running more and eating less. I met new goals, ran a half marathon and still compared myself to thinner versions of myself.

Would it ever be enough?

Do you sometimes struggle with your parenting decisions? Check out “Stop Worrying about Parental Errors” with Rebecca St. James.

A few years ago after a major career change for my husband and a life change for our family, I began to feel as if I was drowning. I decided to do some good work. Except it wasn’t on a trail, with Weight Watchers, or in my fitness app, instead it was in a counselor’s office.

And 40 pounds later I feel more emotionally healthy than I’ve ever been.

Ironically, this acceptance of myself has been off-putting to others. Even those close to me, their words cutting deep. I’ve shed tears. I’ve even tried to shed some weight, but all the efforts I made previously just aren’t cutting it and the same all or nothing motivation isn’t there.

I spent a better portion of my childhood feeling like I didn’t measure up. I had shattered self-esteem.

The first decade of marriage and motherhood felt like a blur, and I kept walking into each new season the best I knew how to. I stepped –

  • Into a vow with someone as broken as me, hopeful for the promise of redemption.
  • Into motherhood with a child who came 71 days early.
  • Into military service, though I wasn’t the one wearing the uniform.
  • Into each new season, striving to be a better mom, a better wife.

… until I stopped trying to be better. I wanted to just be.

I did deep work, spending hours on a worn couch, working through the junk I had been holding. I may not have been training for a marathon, but it was hard work. Yet, I’m still reminded of a fallen world that places more value on outward appearance than what is inside the heart.

A verse I spent a lot of time meditating on a few years ago was Deuteronomy 6:5. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (ESV).

If we aren’t emotionally healthy, how can we love with all our souls? Of course, we should steward the bodies God has given us well. But how many of us are trying to move our bodies, and somewhat watch what we eat, and still carry extra weight?

How many of us:

  • Have overworked our bodies and under consumed calories?
  • Have genetic tendencies we are fighting?
  • Take medicine that causes us to gain weight?
  • Are reminded daily of our flawed bodies?

My daughter eats the same thing I feed her older brothers and is practically more active than they are, and still, she has to carry this memory and the way it made her feel for years to come.

  • How many of our daughters will carry negative memories concerning their bodies into adulthood?
  • Are we putting forth the same effort we make on our physical health into our mental and emotional health?
  • Do those around us understand the impact of their words?

Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but what may be truer is that they could be walking through their own emotional junk, whether they realize it or not.

So when my daughter came into the kitchen smiling and pulled me down to whisper her words of achievement in my ear, my heart dropped along with my head, wondering what to say.

I wanted to affirm her excitement but not in a way that made her think she needed to lose weight. I wanted to tell her all scales are different, and it didn’t matter. I wanted to tell her it’s what is on the inside that counts. I wanted to tell her God made her just the way she is.

Instead, I pulled her close, hugged her and whispered, “I love you” in her ear.

The way I wish those who have hurt me with their words would have done when the topic of “weight gain” came up. The way I know my Father in Heaven does. And I said a prayer, thanking God for meeting me in the midst of working through my emotional baggage, for having a deeper relationship with Him because of it and for being where I am today, extra weight and all.

So, if you don’t have anyone to say this to you, let it be me. God cares deeply about your heart and your emotional health. It can be daunting to dive into something that feels so layered. I promise you the work is worth it.

Steward your body as well as you can, but more importantly steward your heart well.  And when others’ hurtful words leave you feeling bitter and resentful, be diligent to pray about it, understanding you don’t want to carry that resentment, remembering you want to keep your heart healthy.

You are good, and you are wanted by Him, flaws and all.

 

Sarah Nichols is a writer who loves encouraging women by sharing hope-filled stories that point others to Jesus. She lives in Tucson, AZ, with her husband and four kids. You can find more from Sarah at http://sarahnicholswrites.com.

Hope in Tragedy – Shiloh’s Story

Even in tragedy, one family feels God’s peace

Hope in Tragedy

“I grew up in church, practically born on a pew,” Chad Smeaton said. Someone was always playing Family Life Radio on the in the radio, in the car. And we always had it on with our children.”

Summer says her story is the same. She also grew up in church. “My mom always had Family Life Radio on. I have listened to Dr. Randy Carlson and Intentional Living for twenty plus years now.”

Chad and Summer made the decision to move their family of seven from Michigan to Tucson at the end of October 2021. Chad said, “It was a big decision for our family, but we felt like the Lord was leading us, and He opened up some great opportunities for us.”

Summer’s parents relocated to Tucson from North Carolina first. Chad and Summer agreed the move would allow the kids – Cadence 17, Shiloh 15, Zion 13, Haven 12 and Brad, six months – to be near their maternal grandparents and her side of the family more.

“Moving our family, mid-school year – it was stressful … the kids already had their friends – established connections. It was a lot of change in a short amount of time,” Summer recalls.

They decided to homeschool the kids and tried to get them connected in their new community by joining their local church. “It’s definitely been a bit of a transition,” Chad continued, “especially for the kids, who have had to make new friends, but we’re trying to focus on being intentional and responsive in our interactions and relationships.”

Chad and Summer agree the parenting discussions on Intentional Living have been so extremely valuable. One of their biggest takeaways – is choosing to respond rather than react, and they find the worship important too.

Candid Truths

At times they wondered if they’d made the right decision as they hit walls and fought an uphill battle. The Smeatons continued to stress about their children making friends. Chad and Summer knew for teenagers, that’s not an easy thing.

But in the midst of the struggle, Summer said, “because of God’s grace and the goodness of His love, confirmation after confirmation would pop up and reaffirm our decision.”

Depression is a part of Summer’s story. She admits she’s been very open and candid with her children about her journey. She said, “I feel depressed, and sometimes have suicidal thoughts. So, I know it’s important to plug them into to the right counselors and get them the right help.”

Summer said, “Shiloh was hesitant and kind of fearful about meeting new people, but also excited because he knew his father and I weren’t going to make a rash move and just disconnect everyone from their friends and their schools.”

“Before the move,” Summer continued, “Shiloh went through a physical transformation. He used to be kind of a husky kid. Unfortunately, he was bullied for it. It opened a door for insecurities and just lack of self-confidence.”

Summer acknowledged, “It’s stressful. You’re fifteen years old, and ask, ‘Am I going to be accepted? Am I going to have friends? And Am I going to be bullied here?’” She knows the enemy used those negative thoughts to distract Shiloh from the truth and the enemy used that to whittle away at the confidence that he had gained after losing weight.

Chad took the initiative to check in with Shiloh. He asked “How are you? Where are you at?” Together the Smeatons parented proactively and checking in and asking, “What’s your mental space?” To which they say Shiloh would typically always say he was okay.

Summer Smeaton says Wednesday, January 12, 2022, initially played out like any other ordinary day. Shiloh wasn’t feeling well so she let him sleep in a bit before getting up to work on some homeschool assignments.

“He seemed fine; he seemed okay,” Summer recalls. He got something to eat, logged on to his computer and realized he was missing some English assignments. Summer said, “I was getting onto him about what he needed to turn in … reminded him he had soccer practice.” The plan was to get ready and take Shiloh to soccer practice.

Breathtaking Heartbreak

Shiloh took his soccer bag and went into the bathroom, and Summer said, “I’m thinking he’s getting ready for soccer practice.” But, he wasn’t getting ready for soccer practice.

Summer stepped outside for a minute. And when she came back in, her daughter Cadence was coming down the hall, crying so hard she couldn’t catch her breath. Summer said, “She couldn’t communicate anything.”

And finally Cadence said, “I think Shiloh hurt himself.”

Summer ran to the bathroom door, and called his name, but there was no answer. She busted the door open and found Shiloh in the bathtub. She saw a note on the ground with the gun.

“All that I could think of was to speak life over him and pray because growing up in church in having faith – that’s what I knew.”

Even as Summer made the 911 call, she says a sense of peace came over her. She believes it was the Spirit of God intervening and bringing some sense of calm to her so she could communicate to the emergency response team. Her children were all doing school. It was traumatic for everyone as she was on the phone with 911, calling Chad to let him know, continuing to pray over Shiloh and putting pressure on his wound.

In that moment, Summer continued to believe death would not take him.

At the hospital, Summer was told right away not to expect life and to prepare for that.

“But knowing the God we serve and knowing that miracles are still for the living, I believe it was my heart as mom fighting and warring for my son.” Summer did not accept the doctor’s report but continued to speak life and believe for a miracle until the very end.

“I know the miracles are not just in the Bible, but I heard them all throughout my life. And so, why not believe that for us? Why not believe that for my son?”

Summer still knows God as the God of Miracles, even though it didn’t happen for Shiloh. “He is faithful, and I don’t understand,” Summer said. “I’m not going to pretend that I have healed. But sharing Shiloh’s story is a part of our healing. I’m not whole,” Summer said. “I still feel very broken and shattered. I have days that are harder than others. I have days I don’t feel like I’m going to make it, but God is giving me strength.”

God is giving the Smeaton family strength. They see glimpses of God’s mercy and His faithfulness even in this. It is their hope that God can put purpose to their pain through what they share.

They hold fast to Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV).

Summer says it feels very much like a wilderness season. “I don’t feel [God] right now. I know He’s there. I know God is faithful. I know He’s not left us. He’s not forsaken us. I know that because I walked it before. And every time in retrospect … I didn’t experience His presence, but now I see Him in these little areas.”

“We lost our son; our lives will never be the same. We are forever changed, but even in tragedy, we feel God’s peace. Even in this, we feel His love.”

The Smeatons have experienced support and love from a body of believers in the community. People that they don’t even know offer support and encouragement. And they want to offer God’s comfort and peace to others through their own tragedy.

If you or if you know someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are resources available for you and your friend. Often, Christian pastors and counselors are excellent sources to call. Attempting to tackle suicidal thoughts on your own as the victim or helper can be challenging, if not unproductive. There are qualified people who can help you. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by calling or texting the numbers 988 at any time, day or night 24/7, to visit with someone who understands.

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