So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

If you have any familiarity with pop culture over the last five years, you’ve run across the acronym YOLO– You Only Live Once. The first time I heard it, I had no idea what it meant or even what exactly I was hearing. Yo-yo? Is that a new, hip thing? Rolo? The delicious chocolatey caramel candy? Seriously, I am out of the loop when it comes to current slang (don’t get me started about my irritation with people who write words with numbers in them), but I’m fascinated by the etymology of new words and phrases. YOLO seems to have started as a way to justify risky behavior by people a generation younger than me and now I (and the rest of my minivan moms) might use it somewhat ironically (“In the drive-thru getting a Big Mac at 3 pm because #YOLO.”) Like carpe diem before it, it reminds us that life is short and the things we put off doing we may never get around to experiencing at all.

Now that’s a life philosophy I can get behind.

It may seem a little odd for a churchgoing mom of 6 in her mid thirties to be all onboard the YOLO bandwagon, but here I am. I just think the application is slightly different in my life. I happen to believe Jesus was all about YOLO.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:27-28

The Gospel According to YOLO
Photos by Rebecca Tredway Photography

The basic message isn’t really that deep, just factual. We get one shot with this life. We can use it however we choose. For some people that idea may make them feel like they need to squeeze all the enjoyment they can out of life. They should blow their money on what makes them happy in the moment. If this relationship isn’t fun anymore, it’s time to opt out. If the responsibility of this job seems too heavy, walk away. If your extended family drives you crazy, cut them out. Have all the fun you want regardless of the cost.

But that’s not my YOLO philosophy. I believe once you die, you are held accountable for what you did with this one life. When I see Jesus, what do I want to tell him I used this precious gift of life to accomplish?

In my home growing up was a little plaque with these words from a poem by C. T. Studd:

Only one life ’twill soon be past

Only what’s done for Christ will last

Apparently my parents were working to instill a YOLO philosophy in me from the time I was very young. It’s not a guilt motivation that makes my YOLO life look different. It’s a desire to do something that matters. I have one life to use for good and to make change in the world. Any pain that causes me is temporary, but eternity is long. If I use this one life well, my faith is in a God who sees and values my sacrifice.

For me, this has meant taking on the work of loving kids who need a family. Parenting your own teenagers is hard work. Parenting someone else’s teenagers is slightly insane. But I loved it. These boys needed to have someone who cared about them, worried about them, laughed with them, cooked for them, and loved them. But sometimes that felt scary to them and they pushed me away. It was a painful experience to pour myself out for these young men and risk being rejected. Sometimes this work was rewarding in and of itself– the 6 year-old who insisted I carry him everywhere, the 13 year-old who handed me a post-it note that said, “I wish you were my mom”, the meals they raved over, and the sweet times of reading together on the couch. But many times it was anything but rewarding. It was exhausting trying to stay one step ahead of behavior problems, learning issues, family dramas, and my own marital struggles and self-doubt that would surface during these tense times. In these difficult moments, it was reminding myself that I have one life to use that would get me through. While this experience was tough, it was also using the gifts God gave me to make a difference and I’m proud of that sacrifice.

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”

-Erma Bombeck

The Gospel According to YOLO
Photos by Rebecca Tredway Photography

Of course, even when you are trying to be extra good and holy and moral about your YOLO choices, there are ways to cause yourself problems. I don’t believe God is asking me to live a life devoid of joy or a life of total exhaustion. There are opportunities to help I have said no to because I knew I needed to prioritize what I could do well with my gifts without running myself into the ground. My kids don’t benefit from a stressed-out mom who finds her value in be needed by everyone. My marriage will suffer if I’m always focused on other people’s needs or hurts. 

I see a perfect example in the life of Jesus– he did so much work to teach and love and heal the people around him who needed his help, but he also took time alone to pray and time with just his inner circle. We’ve got to find that balance, too. We do our best work for others when we’ve had the time alone we need, the time to pray and recharge, the time to spend enjoying people who truly know us and will speak truth to us. Deciding to live a YOLO life is a commitment not just to making hard choices to use your life in the service of Jesus, but it is also a commitment to making time for rest and pursuing a relationship with Jesus.

I don’t know what God is calling you to do with your one life. Maybe it’s advocating for kids who need help. Maybe it’s working hard at your job as though working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Maybe it’s caring for your parent who is losing the ability to even remember who you are. Maybe it’s ministering to women in your church who are going through their own hard seasons. Whatever it is, don’t lose heart when things are difficult. No matter your philosophy, the reality is that life is short. 

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:21

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids. Four were adopted (one internationally, three through foster care) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at

Fall into the Arms of Jesus, Little One

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Child walking

I have three younger brothers, so I know how crazy and wild boys can be. Lots of falls, cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken bones, and even a couple of head stitches. My husband has two younger brothers. He’d always tell how they used to jump from the banister down two floors onto the glass coffee table. Why anyone would do that, I have no idea. Pure madness and chaos.  Right now, I have a little baby boy who’s only seven months, but I know he will probably be just as wild as his uncles and dad. But that doesn’t mean I’m...

Keep Reading

10 Tips to Banish Teenage FOMO

In: Faith, Motherhood, Teen
Teen with red hair smiling

Do you ever feel like the whole world is having a party—and you weren’t invited Maybe you worry about being included in the right groups or invited to the right sleepovers. Maybe you envy the relationships you see at school or youth group or feel jealous of the perfect social media posts showing others making memories together. If you’re a teen in 2022, you’re probably well acquainted with the fear of missing out. Knowing or wondering what you’re missing or who is getting together without you can leave you feeling lonely. It can leave you lonely and a little blue....

Keep Reading

I’m So Thankful For This Little Family

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Toddler boy and infant girl, color photo

I remember my teenage self dreaming, hoping, and praying for a life like I have now. Praying for a man to love me, to be loyal to me, to want a family with me, to provide for me, to show me what stability felt like and what it felt like to not ever have to worry . . . and here he is right in front of me. I remember my teenage self dreaming, hoping, praying for a house I could make a home and raise my family in. Here it is right in front of me. But most of...

Keep Reading

How I Like My Coffee

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and daughter drink coffee

I like my coffee with hazelnut creamer and a dash of almond milk. I like my coffee cold and neglected on the countertop because I’m busy soothing my new baby boy, the one who has made me a mother. In my long robe and slippers, I pace the kitchen floor and hold my swaddled son close to my heart. When his fussing grows quiet, I can hear the ticking of the big clock in the den. The dawn slowly reveals itself, brightening the kitchen in increments. It’s hard to imagine keeping my eyes open until he’s ready to nap again....

Keep Reading

Compassion Holds My Heart

In: Faith, Living, Motherhood
Child hugging mother

I lean my head in through the window of his van. The first thing I notice is the funny smell. Like cigarettes. And maybe body odor. The second? His tired, wrinkle-lined eyes. They’re dull, lethargic even. My daughter scrunches up her nose. I give her that look and try to hide my own misgivings. But Compassion climbs in the car with me.  And as the taxi driver guides the car toward our destination, I ask him about his story. Turns out he’s been driving all night. Till 5:30 this morning. Taking people home who were too drunk to drive themselves....

Keep Reading

I Was the Girl Who Ran Away From God

In: Faith
Woman standing in grass, black-and-white photo

I was the girl. I was the girl who’d do anything to get high as a teenager. I was the girl who craved love and just wanted to be wanted. I was the girl who wasn’t afraid of anything. I was the girl who stopped believing there was a God. I was the girl who said I would never go back to church. I was the girl who was certain none of it was real anyway because I was wasting my time going places like that. I was the girl who let the heartache and disappointment of this old world...

Keep Reading

I Prayed for You Before I Knew You

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding baby, color photo

Baby, I have prayed for you—even before I knew who you would be.  I prayed I would be a mom one day when I was too little to know what I was praying for and again when I really thought my body would not be able to carry a baby. I prayed for you.  I prayed every day as you grew in my belly that you would be healthy, happy, and strong.  I prayed at every doctor’s appointment and scan that I would hear your heartbeat loud and strong.  I prayed for your arrival—for you to be safe and for...

Keep Reading

Dear Mom, I Miss You

In: Faith, Grief
Grown woman and her mother, color photo

Dear Mom, Yesterday I went over to your house. I was hoping you would open the door, but Daddy greeted me with his sweet smile. Yes, he still has a mustache. The one you hate, but I did manage to trim it up for him. I cut his hair too.   We talked about you over coffee and waited for you to join us, but you never did. He’s doing his best to do this life without you in it, but his eyes are clouded with memories and mixed with pain. He misses you, Momma. RELATED: I Didn’t Just Lose...

Keep Reading

Spaghetti Sauce Faith

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Mother and little girl holding a bowl of spaghetti, color photo

It was Sunday afternoon, and I was loading my grocery cart higher than I ever had in my life. My husband and I, along with our two kids under two years old, had been living with his parents for three months. We moved from our Florida home to look for a house in Georgia, and they graciously took us in. This was the day I loaded up on groceries—filling an empty refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. My shopping list was all the things. I needed to buy the smallest of table ingredients like salt and garlic powder to the big things...

Keep Reading

Dear Introverted Mom, Take that Break

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman outside with book and food

I am alone, in a hotel room, 20 minutes from home, lying back in the crisp bed, feet propped up on billowing white pillows. A good book is in my hand. The large window beside me overlooks the Mississippi River as the sun slowly sets and people unwind for a southern Louisiana evening in downtown Baton Rouge. I’ll probably order room service for dinner. I spent the afternoon at the coffee shop across the street, sipping on a deliciously caffeinated beverage carefully made to my liking. I ate a delicate snack filled with fruits, fancy lettuce, and expensive cheese while...

Keep Reading

5 Secrets to the

BEST Summer Ever!


Creating simple summer memories

with your kids that will  last a lifetime