Pre-Order So God Made a Mother

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

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

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

The Quiet Work You’re Doing Matters, Mama

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and two girls playing on bed

Mid-morning light spills through the kitchen window as I stand at the sink washing dishes.  “Mom, Caleb just punched me!” 3-year-old Aiden calls from the living room. “He took the remote right out of my hands!” Caleb contends. “I saw the whole thing happen,” their big sister interjects. “It was totally Caleb’s fault.  He started the whole thing.” “Mind your own business!” Caleb barks as he charges toward his sister with his fist in the air. It takes every ounce of restraint I can muster, but I manage not to get sucked into the yelling match happening in front of...

Keep Reading

Wear the Pretty Underwear

In: Faith, Grief, Living, Loss
Woman in evening gown, color photo

This week was monumental.  After 15 years, I finally finished a bottle of Victoria’s Secret perfume. I just wish I would have emptied it sooner.  It was one of those special occasion luxuries because it was not cheap. For years, I had saved this decadent perfume for date nights and holidays. It was too fancy for everyday use. And then, I was widowed without warning. My husband was here one minute, then gone the next. Impossible. Unfair. Traumatic. RELATED: What If Tonight Was Your Last Chance To Have Sex With Your Husband? But we were going to die in our...

Keep Reading

To the Parents Raising My Child’s Future Spouse

In: Faith, Motherhood
Little boy lying on car seat with puppy, color photo

Oh, hey there friend, you don’t know me yet or maybe you do, but at least for now neither of us know that our children will one day commit their lives to each other and by doing so forever knit our families together. One day, we will all sit in the front aisles of a church filled with scores of people who have influenced our babies, but none like us. No one else in that church will know the intentionality, love, and grace of God that it took to reach that day, but we will. The work you are doing...

Keep Reading

Spanking Made Us Parents We Didn’t Want To Be

In: Faith, Motherhood
Silhouette of mother pointing finger at child

Fourteen years ago when my husband and I were preparing for our first child, we felt we already had several tools in our toolbox. Both of us worked with children and youth, and we felt prepared for parenting. We decided early on that we would never spank unless we were completely out of options.  As our bright, sweet, bubbly firstborn entered the terrible fours (yes, he was a bit delayed in his toddler rebellion), we were surrounded by a community of people who believed in “controlled spanking” with hugs and grace afterward.  RELATED: These 6 Words Transformed Discipline in Our...

Keep Reading

I Was Raised by an Easter-Only Mom and I Want More for My Kids

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and daughter read Bible

Motherhood is not for the faint-hearted, and women tend to look to their upbringing for guidance. We may not even realize we’re doing it! But being a godly mother is even more difficult when you weren’t raised by one. The questions are endless: How do I model forgiveness? How do I set the right priorities for my household? How do I explain baptism to my 6-year-old? Is it okay to have undiscipled friends around my children? Do we have to pray over every meal? Is the occasional swear word acceptable?  These questions may be less intimidating if you were fortunate enough...

Keep Reading

Even When it Feels Like I Can’t, I Keep Going

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom holding toddler

When I feel like I can’t do one more thing. When I am overwhelmed and touched out and lost in the logistics of it all. When my physical and mental energy are depleted. When the length of my to-do list needs more hours than I have. When I am so bone tired that I’m sure I just can’t go on. And there is still more to do. And the only choice is to keep going– I keep going. I dig a little deeper and find strength I didn’t know I had. RELATED: Check on Your “Strong” Friend, She’s Faking it...

Keep Reading

What Happens When She Wants Another Baby and He Does Not?

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Husband and wife, pregnancy photo, color photo

I am on my knees, folded over, with my head resting on the carpet. I am in my closet, which doesn’t see much of the vacuum, and it is the only place I can find to sob out of sight. I feel hollowed out and defeated as if I have run a marathon and was cut short at the finish line. I cry out in prayer, pleading with God to soften the heart of my husband. I desperately want another child, and he desperately does not. I take a deep breath and dry my eyes because my 4-year-old outside the...

Keep Reading

Is Your Marriage on Cruise Control?

In: Faith, Marriage
Couple holding hands in car, above view

Cruising down the road, the highway curled before us like a ribbon into the horizon. Cozy road trips are a staple for my husband and me, and we look forward to the time together. Having been married for 37 years the adventure continues! We have loved each other through the ups and downs, and we have learned a lot about relationships. We also made a point of carefully watching successful relationships and surrounding ourselves with those whose marriages flourished. Nowadays, we have many young couples ask us what it takes to keep a marriage vibrant. One of the key ingredients...

Keep Reading

Ordinary Mornings, Extraordinary Grace

In: Faith
Emily Ley holding Sure as the Sunrise book by water's edge

“From his fullness, we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Today, take note of what brings you gladness. That which gives you pause or causes you to take a deep breath. These are glimpses of God’s goodness in our lives, brought to life through moments and things, memories and sounds. Realizations and hope. In its biggest forms: a moment you wish you could freeze in time, and in its smallest: a sliver of grace, otherwise overlooked. I wake up to the smell of fresh laundry, sheets cool against my skin. One eye open, I peek down at the...

Keep Reading

She Just Needed to be Held

In: Faith, Motherhood
A little girl held by mom, color photo

“She just needed to be held,” I texted my husband after a two-hour battle to get my 3-year-old to bed. She’s been sick. Daddy’s been gone. And she needed to be seen. Held. Loved. And in that split second, I felt God say, “Just like you.” When things are chaotic. When we feel alone. When we feel weary. RELATED: God Sees You, Weary Mama When our spirit feels sick. When it all feels like too much to carry. We need Him. To breathe life into us. To remind us of our worth. To remind us of the hope He offers....

Keep Reading