Written by Kelly Vlach
I finished the final page of InCourage on Feb 2nd. On Feb 3rd, I opened up to page 1 and began again. To write about what I have taken away from this book would be to rewrite the entire book. So I will focus on my biggest takeaway.
My husband and I tried to conceive our first child for 4 heartbreaking years before our miracle baby boy was born. And then another 4 years passed before our twins would be born. My big dream for so many years was to build a family. When it finally happened for us, the heavenly joy was palpable and I threw myself into mom’ing.
What InCourage has helped me realize is that somewhere along the way, I skipped a few steps. I had some healing to do, but had left that part of me untouched while focussing on raising my kids.
As moms, we need to heal our wounds before we can effectively prepare our kids for the battle of this life. Terra Mattson, author of InCourage, uses the example of oxygen masks on an airplane. There is a very practical reason they tell you to put your own mask on first. So at the beginning of the new year, about halfway through reading the book, I committed to morning quiet times; something I have NEVER been good at doing. My kids usually wake up at 7 am, so I set my alarm for 6 am. I haven’t set an alarm to wake up since before my first child was born. The first two mornings I was awakened by a dream 1 minute before my alarm went off – the dream was of God himself clicking the light on in my study room. Waiting for me. As if to say, “Well, it’s about time. I’ve been waiting for you.”
My morning quiet time has become like a spiritual spa day for me. Yes, there are many mornings that my kids wake up early and “interrupt” me. But now they know that instead of finding me in bed and waking me up, they’ll find me already up, in my cozy overstuffed chair, reading my Bible. Some mornings, my daughter grabs her sketch book, snuggles in next to me and asks me, “Mom, can I spend time with you and God?” Terra says that, “one of our main jobs as parents is to help our daughters discern the voice of God and create space for them to hear His voice repeatedly so that, like a baby in the womb, they can recognize it quickly” (InCourage).
I am quickly learning that we can’t just direct our kids, we are to lead them. We can’t just teach our kids, we need to learn first. We can’t just say, we need to do.
That brings me to Chapter 10: She Dreams…Big. “And not just any dream, but one birthed from the sacred spaces of intimacy with the God who loves and knows us like no other,” (182). I must admit that part of me rolled my eyes when I read that. I have been very vocal the past 8 years about not being a “goal setter” and about not being a “big dreamer.” I tried that once, and I got hurt because God had other plans. My walls were high and I was no longer going to hope for something that God may or may not have in His plans. I thought this was a good M.O. for my life. Plus, God had already given me my big dream – times 3! Three beautiful kids — how dare I dream for more than that? That would be irresponsible and selfish. But then I was hit with the truth that, “trauma and abuse have destroyed our ability to dream…fears keep us stuck….Trust and obedience seem too scary for someone who was deeply harmed, violated, or betrayed by someone they trusted” (183). That’s how I felt toward God, though I hardly realized it.
My trauma was infertility and I was still harboring mistrust toward God – my creator – and the creator of my children. I camped out on that page and that truth for several days. Terra goes on to say, “Our God is not abusive, and will never violate our will. He designed us for so much and will allow us to take as long as we need to heal. He is compassionate and patient. There is grace for where we are today, and He will help us take one step at a time toward dreaming” (183). So I started praying, a lot. I read Job. I read 1 Corinthians. I still have some walls to break down between me and God, but I’m working on it and we are rebuilding our relationship to be stronger and more intimate than ever.
Then, I started praying for a new dream. Terra asks, “If you could not fail, what would you do?” I didn’t have an answer except one that involved an island paradise and an umbrella drink. I asked my closest friends and family what their answers would be. My dad would play shortstop for the Yankees. My mom would join Samaritans Purse. My sister-in-law would teach. My sister would foster. A friend of mine said she was struggling with her answer, too. What was my answer? For so long my answer was “have kids.” Maybe that was it. I already answered the question and already accomplished my big dream.
In my morning quiet time, I read I Corinthians 9:22-23, “To the weak, I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might win some.” If you are familiar with the Core Value Index that Terra and Jeff Mattson use in their business, you’ll know what I mean when I say that my graph is a square. My core value is that of an Innovator, but not by much. I am nearly equal in all categories. I realized that I am uniquely wired for this verse. Maybe God did have a new dream for me. Maybe we don’t all just get one big dream. And then one quiet morning it came to me. I want all children to feel safe and important. If I could not fail, I would fix the foster care system so that all children would have a perfect system to turn to when their homes are not safe. That’s big, right? In fact, it’s really big. T
Terra says, “It’s not about us or producing anything. It’s about a relationship in which God loves us so much that he wants to partner with us to reach the world one person at a time.”
Nine years ago, before my first son was born, I started the process to become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer for kids in the foster care system. I completed the training and was sworn in before a judge. But then, life got crazy. My dream of having children was becoming a reality and CASA was put to the side – I never even took a case. But in my morning quiet times, I started praying about CASA again. Would that make sense as a first step? I have a tendency to false start in decision making, plowing forward when I think I have a good idea but ultimately having to halt for something unexpected that I hadn’t thought through. I didn’t want to do that this time. I was really trying to move slowly and prayerfully, especially since I had just begun reading Acts during my morning quiet time. I was struck by the apostles’ patience before Pentecost. I wanted to follow their example and wait for the spirit to move, but I couldn’t help myself. A few days later, I contacted the local CASA director and the very next day, I was at a desk with my volunteer workbook in front of me starting training. I’m not saying that I am going to revamp the foster care system and SAVE ALL THE BABIES! But I am going to make a difference for one child at a time. I will become weak to reach the weak (not only the children in harm’s way, but their families as well). From there, it is in God’s hands. When I explained to my children what I was doing, my 4-year-old son said, “Oh, so you’re like a superhero!” In some small way, maybe it does kind of feel like that.
My first time reading through InCourage was a healing process; it helped me grow. My second time through this book I will be reading it with new eyes, ready to lead the generation of kids in my house that God has entrusted to me.
“Imagine a generation of girls who know they are loved and love others well. Imagine a generation of girls who speak life and encouragement and hope into those around them. Imagine a generation of girls who not only stand up for their own value and worth but also for the value and worth of others. Imagine a generation of girls who lean into the mighty power of our God and live into their destiny – the one crafted for them for such a time as this!” (206). In the words of Terra, “Let’s empower our [sons and] daughters to dream and then be blown away by how they partner with God to participate in a greater cause” (185).
Kelly Vlach is a stay at home, work from home mom to an eight year-old boy and four year-old twins. She was born and raised in Lake Oswego – the daughter of a pastor – and moved to Bend when she married her mountain man husband, Travis. They have been married for 16 years and have worked together running their business, Vlach Bookkeeping, for the past 8 years. She enjoys taking advantage of all the Bend lifestyle has to offer including camping, fishing, golfing, running along the Deschutes river, playing cornhole in our yard with good friends and family and sharing laughs around the fire pit.