My first born and I struggled to figure out nursing. I was in an insane amount of pain each time we would go to feed and it felt as if the clock was taunting me every time I looked at it, reminding me that the fight to latch was coming again soon. In an effort to drown out the sting of the pain, I started praying over my baby girl.

“You are strong. You are friendly. You are adventurous. You are intelligent. You are beautiful. You are loved.” I’d say whatever affirming word came to mind, and I intentionally submitted it to the Lord. One sunny day sitting in her nursery, once again pushing through a painful breastfeeding session, the Lord shifted the conversation as I prayed over little Emma. He simply said, “That is how I see you.”

It was the first time in all my life as a believer that I heard from the Lord, without a doubt that it was Him and not my own thoughts. And it was such a sweet whisper of love. Tears streamed down my face, and for the first time in a long time I felt free. I felt the Lord’s redemptive love.

I found out I was pregnant with Emma when I was 25 years old, just a few months after her father and I had started dating. We were involved in our church and believers of Christ, but we had fallen short and were living in sin – and that behavior caught up to us. I spent my entire pregnancy battling the excitement of growing a child and the shame of being an unwed mother. Everyone had their opinions, and it was tough to go to church – I wanted to hide.

After months and months of living through a spiritual battle, a weight was lifted that day in Emma’s room. At that time in my life, so much of how I was defining myself was based off my sinful nature and not how the Lord saw me. If I would have been asked, I would have said, “Yes, I know I’m forgiven”, but I didn’t believe it. Those simple words from God were exactly what I needed to step into a life of freedom.

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (Isaiah 44:22)

When I think of the Lord’s redemption I can’t help but think of the story of the Prodigal Son. Essentially, a son didn’t want to wait around for his father’s inheritance, so his father willingly gave him his portion and off he went. He wasted the money quickly and when it was gone, he went to work for a pig farmer (because he was too embarrassed to go back home). Eventually he decided to head home and ask his dad if he could return and work as one of his servants. Upon arriving home, the son was greeted with open arms and a feast and party! His father was beyond excited to have him back home, ignoring his reckless decision to leave. ”And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:21-24)

just live freely

Sitting here now thinking back on those days trapped in my shame I can’t help but feel remorse for that Alison. She was dead – just going through the motions. My moment of redemption was a rescue. Jesus rescued me from my sin, from the guilt I was crippled by, and from a continued path of unfruitfulness. He brought me from a pit of nothing to a place where I could love my husband well, figure out how to raise little Christ followers and just live freely, so in love with Him.

Alison Stoner

Alison is the Founder & Editor in Chief of By Design Journal. She and her husband are raising their four children in south-central Michigan, where they love venturing to u-pick fruit farms and Lake Michigan beaches. Alison has been meeting Jesus in her front yard garden this summer, a little piece of heaven on earth that has been bringing her so much joy this season!

Photos by Carly Kristin Photography

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