a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.
“It’s just a season” is a phrase that comes up weekly for my friends and I. It’s a phrase that carries a lot of weight, it has multiple impactful meanings. In one regard, it’s meant to give you a sigh of relief, “It’s just a season! You can do this, and this too shall pass.” Or, it can give you a nice pep talk, or inspiration to stop, dig in and choose joy in the season you’re in. I’d imagine that no matter where you are in life, a soaring career, small children at home, going through transition, an unwanted divorce or seeking your soul mate, it really applies to us all.
This too shall pass. This is another phrase that I use a lot. It’s usually when you’re in a frustrating or hard situation, because, it’s just true, it WILL pass. You may be suffering a loss, heart-broken, just exhausted or tired, and the truth is, this season will pass. One day you’ll look up and your kids are taking care of themselves. One day you’ll look up and be happy again. One day you’ll look up and find your partner or the spouse you’ve been praying for. One day you’ll look up and see your prodigal son or daughter come home. The fact is, that this season will be over before you even realize it. So in the moment, find RELIEF, find solace, find peace in the fact that this WILL make you stronger. This waiting will make you the wife, mother, boss babe, you’ve always wanted to be, it’s just a part of the process of becoming that woman you’ve always dreamt of becoming or admired. So even when it’s hard, just remember, this too shall pass. It just a season and before you know it, you’ll be in a new one. So learn all you can learn. Feel all you can feel. Stop and soak up those moments of longing, waiting or exhaustion because it won’t be here for long.
Choose JOY, because if you don’t, you’ll look up one day and realize you missed it all. You missed the season because you spent your time being anxious, dreaming about the next phases of life, being disappointed for where you are or keeping so busy that you miss it all together. A friend recently shared this on social media and it was so what I needed to hear, “God is not in a hurry. You are. It’s why you are tired. It’s why you are anxious, stressed and disappointed. Today, I pray you surrender your timeline in favor or His peace.” No matter what season you’re in, and we’re all in one, choose today to CHOOSE joy.
And listen, I don’t mean let’s all choose to ignore our stress, our anxious thoughts or choose more wine (which let’s face it, does bring lots of temporary happiness), but I mean choose JOY. Choosing joy in each and every season means choosing to embrace the season for what it is. For me, it’s choosing to work less so I can be more present for my child. That sounds super simple and like, oh yes, great choice Carol. But it’s HARD. I’m a 3 in the enneagram scale so I basically find meaning by working and accomplishment. So for me not to choose work and choose to be present for Kennedy while she’s young is for real a struggle. And listen, working moms, that’s not a knock on you, I see you and know you all and see you rocking it all. I truly believe God calls some of us back to work, some of us home, and some of us to do it all! So instead of waking up and being frustrated or tired or spending each day looking for the next, let’s today choose to embrace THIS season. For me, I’m going to ask God what HE wants from me in this season. I’m going to try and resist the urge to be busy or discontent and lean into the season God has me in, because I know if I don’t, I’ll look up and it will be over.
So ladies, today let’s stop and pray that God helps us to embrace the season we’re in, choose joy in this season, and decide to ABIDE in Him so He can show us all the amazing things He has for us in this season. I truly believe every season we’re in is God preparing us for the next. Get excited because God never wastes a hurt, He always keeps His promises, His timing is ALWAYS better than our own, His plans are better than our plans (I have to remind my control-freak self that daily), and He IS preparing us for great things ahead.
Yes, we only have ONE child.
We’ve been thinking a lot about family planning lately. We started trying for a second child a year or so ago, but then after a couple months of the stress of it all, I was like, why are we doing this to ourselves when we’re happy with our miracle baby?
The truth is, we put a lot of expectations on ourselves. We see our friends having second and third kids. We end up being the only couple with only one child when we’re at birthday parties. People ask us everywhere we go, “Is she your only child?” (Yes, Margie, she is our only child.) I don’t know if it’s society or our own selves, but why do we feel the need to be just like everyone else? I actually thought to myself this past weekend how happy we are with Kennedy. She’s always been the happiest and easiest child. She’s soared through every transition with flying colors and we’ve still never had a hard season with her. We’re a very mobile family and she’s a champ at adapting! After like the millionth person asked if she was our only one, I found myself wishing we lived in China, or on a space ship with limited oxygen, where it was totally normal and okay to only have one child. (See, I just did it to myself…”Only”)
All of this got me thinking about the pressure we put on ourselves to be or look like everyone else or to be seen as acceptable to other people. The phrase, “You do you, boo.” is running rampant, but who actually does that? I think it’s time to start making some changes to my 36 year old self.
Stop trying to fit in. In this culture of competing with the Joneses, it’s hard not to compare yourself to other people and families. But at some point, you have to realize we are all different, and praise God for that or how boring would life be? We’re all different, we all have different personalities, different things that fuel us, and different passions. So there is NO norm, and competing with the Joneses is exhausting. Be who God made you to be, focus on being YOU, and your own unique family. Then, we can start celebrating instead of comparing.
Stop worrying about what other people think. I tell myself all of the time, and pride myself on not caring, but at the end of the day, I care a lot. LIKE ME is something always at the back of my mind. And really, what other people think of you is none of your business, and we should all spend less time worrying about what other people think and more time focusing on how we’re going to love others and love our family well. Comparing just makes us self-absorbed and insecure. So stop the comparing, stop worrying about your perception and enjoy life. The worst part about comparing your weaknesses to other people’s strengths, is that it’s a dead end road. We’re comparing what we know of ourselves to someone else’s highlight reel. We all have issues. So focus on the good, focus on loving and serving instead of comparing and judging.
Learn to say “No” without stressing over it. There are seasons and in certain seasons of life we have to learn to say “No” and “Sorry, I just can’t right now.” Who needs that kind of added stress, and everyone understands because we’re all in the same boat. A lot of us women want to pile on the activities, but at some point, we need margin for the most important things or we’ll be loving our families out of an empty cup. So learn to say “yes” to the things that fuel you, and “no” to the things that drain you.
And hear me out, we still haven’t decided against trying again, even though the thought of it gives me anxiety because it’s literally never been an easy process for us. AND, we are seriously praying about adoption too. The point I needed to make to myself is that I can’t worry about these things because I feel like we are broken or flawed somehow for only being a family of three. I can’t feel like the abnormal one because our family doesn’t look like everyone else’s does. It’s time to stop worrying about what other people think, stop comparing and judging, and learn to say “NO” when we need to. Let’s truly live it out – “You do you, boo.”
Love is not a feeling. Love is a verb. That’s one of my favorite (or most convicting) quotes from several of my favorite mentors. It’s a very counter-culture statement because our culture says to go with your feelings, do what makes you feel happy, love as many people, as often as you can. Love is about making you FEEL good. Blah blah blah. But that’s not what Biblical love is at all.
Now, this concept is really convicting for me and really, really hard. I’m an ENFP, which means I make a lot of decisions based on my feelings. I love change, I love spontaneity, and I LOVE feeling happy. So when faced with this dilemma that, as Christians, our primary trait should be our love, the way we love others, it’s downright terrifying. One of the reasons for this is that love requires self-denial. Real love requires us to put aside our own selfishness and our own feelings for someone else. Love isn’t about how someone else makes you feel, it’s about putting love into action (usually at the expense of your comfort). So with all of that said, I’m missing the mark in major ways. I need a “Love for Dummies” book so I can live out this whole love concept.
One thing we talked about recently is that if love is a verb, and love does, then what does that mean for us practically speaking? Intentionality came to mind. For me, it is going to take intentionality in order to love others the way God calls us to.
Intentionality with God. When I make spending time with God a priority, finding what stirs your affections for Him and doing it regularly, I’m a better wife, mother, friend and worker. There’s NO way I can be good at all of those things if I’m not intentional about my time with my Heavenly Father, my only real source of joy and fulfillment. Oh, I’ll try and fill it with a million other things, but I’ll end up empty, and something very far from loving at the end of the day. More like selfish and irritated. Ugh. So, what makes you feel closer to God? For Daniel it’s worship. For others its being outside, surfing, running. For me it’s intentional time in His word and just talking to Him through journaling (or even praying out loud when my brain is fried and I’m overwhelmed). It’s important to be intentional about that thing that draws you close to Him, allows you to hear from Him, and helps you live out of His Spirit and not our selfish, self-serving selves. (Lotta selves in there).
Intentionality in the daily rhythms of life. Taking love into action with your family, friends, coworkers or neighbors in the everyday rhythms of life can be the hard. I mean, we are BUSY, we have to get from point A to point B, ain’t nobody got time for that kind of intentional love. We’ve all experienced the tug at our soul to do for someone else, but how often do we follow through? A friend has been down, so making the decision to go see her instead of hitting the gym. Or your coworker lost someone, so taking the time to drive WAY out of the way to take her dinner one night in spite of rush hour. Or for me, it’s picking up the phone to call someone. I HATE the phone and also feel a weird sort of social anxiety about it for some crazy reason. So it takes real intentionality for me to do it, and I need to get over myself and do it more. It’s those kinds of inconveniences to our normal schedule that are so hard to do, but when intentional, give us more joy than getting home an hour earlier to get that last bit of work done for the day. At home, it might be intentional time at home with your family. PUT THE PHONE DOWN and spend some quality time together over dinner. Daniel and I are realizing we are setting a very bad example for our child in how much we look at our phones at home. And this doesn’t need to be a sacrifice to your work, just intentional time spent with your loved ones, thirty minutes of face to face attention with the people you love most in the world.
Intentionality in your marriage. WHOOOO, this one is a doozy, and can be the hardest for sure. Daniel and I have now been married 7.5 years and are in a season where we are learning that you have to intentionally fight for things that are good. “Nothing good comes easily, sometimes you’ve got to fight” (Thanks 311). Marriage can make you see your own selfishness more than anything else can. But, Marriage also gives us the greatest opportunity to die to ourselves each day and intentionally love our spouse, ESPECIALLY when we don’t feel like it. For me, this is hard because it’s most often the people you love the most, and feel most loved by, that you neglect to show love to. Or we are our ugliest selves with our spouse, so it’s easy to let pride and resentment creep in when expectations aren’t met. But, I read recently that marriage is the best picture of the Gospel we’ll ever receive. It’s that we have to wake up everyday, fight the urge to be right, have expectations met or be resentful, and die to ourselves. Wake up and put on our grace pants and love that person (not with some feeling we can’t see or touch, but with actual action and intentionality). Pastor Joby often says, “You can be right or you can be married.” and MAN is that hard to put into practice. But if we’re called to love our spouse like Christ loves the church, then shouldn’t our grace be new every morning as well? Shouldn’t we be patient and kind, keep no record of wrongs (this one kills me) and put aside our wants and needs for that person? Believe me when I say that this is much easier to write than put into practice, but we’re in a season of learning what each other truly needs, and how we can intentionally love one another better. I think it starts with communication. For Daniel and I it was having VERY hard conversations about what we both need in order to feel more loved, and then it’s a process of dying to ourselves and doing more of those things. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so I know that intentional love in our marriages will reap long-term benefits far more than giving up. I don’t know about you, but I want to beat the statistics and have the kind of marriage God intended, full of love and grace for one another, and I think our kids will be better for it too!
Having kids gives you a whole new perspective on how God must view us as His children. I got a large dose of this one day when Kennedy was a little bit younger (she couldn’t really talk yet). I, like the amazing mom I am, decided to make Kennedy some delicious waffles. I put extra butter on them (bc I vicariously live through the food I allow my child to eat), and then doused them with syrup. I couldn’t wait to see her face as she tasted this ridiculously perfect breakfast. But, as most things in life, it didn’t turn out as planned.
I told Kennedy to sit down, set down the waffles in front of her, and looked at her with anticipation. She looked at it one time, and shook her head, “No.” Then, she proceeded to walk to the fridge, open the door, and pull out some tupperware with old steak in it. She became fixated with this tupperware and refused my delicious waffles. I said to her, “Kennedy, this is SO much better than what’s in that tupperware! I know you so well, and I know what’s best for you, and WAFFLES are what’s best for you. EAT. THE. WAFFLES.” But, not to my surprise, she refused again. It was in that moment that I realized, this must be how God looks at us as His children.
The grasping. We grasp on to things we think are better for us. We make plans and think we know the best plan for our lives, and think, if God would just work it out the way we plan, then everything would be great. We, like little children, grasp on to the tupperware full of old steak when there’s a steaming hot plate of buttery waffles waiting for us. We try and control or manipulate our situation in order to accomplish our own goals instead of surrendering it to our Heavenly Father who loves us and wants an abundant, beautiful, life for us. How many times in my life have I tried to grasp on to something I knew wasn’t good for me? I remember times when I tried to manipulate a job opportunity, a relationship, a move, and at the end of the day, they all failed because I never surrendered it all over to my good, good Father. He had a perfect plan for me, and I would have saved myself a lot of pain if I’d only trusted Him with my life.
Trust. Really, what it all comes down is, Trust. If we truly believe that He is a good Father, and His will is always better than anything we could ever plan, then why is it so hard to let go and let God? It’s like the story of the fake pearls that I love to tell. A father gave his daughter a strand of fake pearls. It was her most prized possession and she wore them everywhere. One day, he came to her and asked her if she loved him. She, of course, responded, “Yes, Daddy! You know I love you.” He said, “Do you love me and trust me enough to give me your pearls?” And she immediately replied, “Why would you ask that of me? You know how much I love them.” He told her okay, and kissed her goodnight. Later that night after she thought about how much she loved her daddy, she approached his room. She entered and handed him the pearls. She told her daddy that she loved him more than the pearls. He replied, “I’m so glad you said that, because I have something even better for you. He opened his drawer, pulled out a box and handed it to her. She opened it and saw a REAL strand of pearls. These pearls were more beautiful than she’d ever seen. The moral of the story is much like the old steak story. We grasp on to things we think are better, but God ALWAYS has a plan for His children, and His plans are ALWAYS better than our plans. He, like a good dad, is waiting for us to surrender those things, even if we have to do it everyday, and trust Him because He wants an abundant life for you here on earth too. He wants good things for you and me, and sometimes it’s just hard to see based on our circumstances. So, let’s stop settling for those fake pearls and old steak, and start trusting that God has some real bling for us if we’d only let go and led Him lead us.
The Waiting. Now, this concept sounds great and all, until the waiting starts. The waiting is ALWAYS the hardest and let’s face it, the waiting sucks. (Sorry mom, she hates that word). All throughout Scripture God asks us to wait, and I think it’s just so that we are dependent on Him to accomplish these things instead of in our own effort.
The waiting can cause us to freak out, try and control or manipulate again, or lose hope. But, God wants to remind us that He will redeem it, and even though His timing isn’t always our timing (it never is, is it?) and He has something so much better for us than we could ever ask or even imagine. So while the waiting is hard, keep reminding yourself of these things everyday, giving it back over to Him. I had to wait for a lot of good things in my life, for Daniel (after years of dating and everyone else getting engaged before me) and
for Daniel and I, waiting years for Kennedy was totally worth it in the end, we just couldn’t see it amidst our grasping, our waiting, and our loss. So, stay strong, friend, during the waiting. It’s only a matter of time before we’re waiting again for the next thing. God has an amazing plan, far better than we could ask or think, we just have to lean in during the waiting and remind ourselves that He’s a good Dad, He loves us, and He has an amazing set of real pearls and buttery waffles ahead.
Side note: Thanks John, for telling me I should turn this story into a blog 🙂 And to Nathalie, who was just there 😉 Love you guys.
I woke up this morning feeling refreshed (for the first time in a while). I opened up my new journal to a verse that stopped me in my tracks. I was feeling dry, I was feeling empty, I wasn’t feeling much of anything. I was having the “dry bones” syndrome like a previous blog I wrote, and it was my fault. There are times in my life where the distance between God and I grows so deep that I feel weird approaching Him again. It’s like an old friend that you were once so close to you would tell them anything, and then one day goes by, then two, and then well, it’s just awkward. I was feeling that, yet reminding myself that it’s not how God works. He never went anywhere, I did. He doesn’t change EVEN when we grow distant or make mistakes. His love is unconditional and isn’t based on how good we’re doing at this whole thing. So I reminded myself of those things and forged ahead, building back the intimacy I had lost little by little, one prayer here, one prayer there, a short quiet time and then started feeling like my old self, in relationship with my only real source of life.
As you know, I’ve always loved working. During my more distant times this summer (this morning), I asked my husband if I should start looking for a new, exciting job in the fall. And he replied, “What about your book?” Probably about two years ago, I felt God tell me in multiple ways that He wanted me to write a book about our baby journey. I thought it was crazy because writing a book to me was up there on the top 10 things I never, ever want to do list. But, He kept affirming it over and over. I began praying about it, over and over. Waiting on next steps, praying again. Losing my nerve, praying again. The problem with me and writing is that I can ONLY write when I feel close to God, when I feel like He’s writing through me, and well, just like every other human, I’m prone to wander, prone to leave this God I love.
I recently read this book called, “Draw the Circle”and it was literally life changing. The whole book is about the power of prayer, and how prayer is our connection to God. I also recently read that prayer is like the initiating factor for our full armor of God, prayer is like the engine that starts it all up and get’s us ready for the fight. We have nothing without prayer because what kind of relationship would you have with your spouse if you never talked to them? So with that said, there was a chapter towards the end that simply said, Stop Praying.
Delayed obedience. The point of it all is that at some point, prayer can become delayed obedience to something God has clearly called you to. How many times have we felt that tug on our heart to do something, and decided we just need to pray about it more. We’re like, yes, I felt it, but I mean, I should probably pray about it for like three more years before I actually take that leap of faith (just me?). We hear that faint whisper to speak to someone, to call them, to forgive, to act, and we start thinking of our to-do list and grocery items, so we push it aside. I do it ALL of the time. But, delayed obedience might as well be the same as disobedience. And what kills me is that I KNOW the pure joy in choosing to be obedient to Him. I know how amazing it actually feels to deny those rationalities we come up with and just DO what He asks. I’ve seen the outcome, I’ve seen how much better His plan is than my own, yet over and over again I choose not do it.
It’s never the easy choice. Is anything good in life ever that easy to obtain? In my life, no. The selfish choice is usually the easiest, and then also in return the most disappointing. We all have a very, very self-serving nature. Heck, we live in a time where self-help books are one of the largest aisles in a book store. Our world tells us to do what makes us happy, do what feels right. Our culture tells you to do you, boo (which I actually say all the time bc it’s funny). Our culture tells us to watch out for numero Uno. But Scripture says the opposite. Scripture says to deny yourself, put others first, serve others before yourself and go last. It’s NEVER easy, especially for me because I’m feisty, prideful, and selfish but it’s ALWAYS the most rewarding way to live, and brings so much more joy than being “right” or doing what we feel like doing all of the time.
Stop praying and just DO. Prayer is HUGE. I believe in prayer as a source of life. I believe it when on of our pastors said prayer is like oxygen to our souls. BUT, I also believe that there comes a point when we need to stop praying and start doing. Stop praying about it and fill out the application. Stop praying and quit that job He told you to quit long ago. Stop praying and speak to your neighbor or ask them to get a coffee with you. Stop praying and call that person that hurt you. Stop praying and ask her out. I’ve learned as I get older that obedience to what He’s calling you to is one of the greatest joys in life, and I’ve done a lot of super fun things 😉
Don’t second guess yourself. I do that too. Was that actually God or was it me? Is this the right thing, I mean I think it is, but ehhh, is it? Well, sometimes we over-complicate things. Does it honor God? Do it. Does it dishonor God, then it’s probably your feelings and not God telling you to do it (and might ruin your life – yikes). If it brings glory to God, step out of your comfort zone and just do it. I promise you won’t regret it.
“Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
“Scripture says, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it’s given Him from heaven.” If you could understand that one biblical truth it would change your life forever. The way we say it around here is this, “You can’t give me what God has not, and you can’t keep me from what God has.” If we would actually begin to believe that at a soul-level, that everything we have is from Him, there would be no jealousy, no co-dependence, no comparing, no complaining, no envy, and no coveting. It would free you up to rejoice when others are blessed. It would bring you freedom in so many ways. If we truly believed this, that would be called PEACE.” – Pastor Joby Martin (I know I quote him a lot, but the man has a freakin’ gift of saying things in a way I’ve never heard before.)
So if we believe the above to be true, if we believe what the Bible says, then why is it so hard to live with a grateful heart? I’ll tell you why: our culture and our selfish, wandering hearts (ouch!) We are blessed to live in the United States, where consumption is key, and everything our little hearts could desire is literally at the click of a button. Our culture is constantly telling us that what we have isn’t enough, and that we have to compete with the Jones’, the Smith’s, and the well, whoever else. Our culture or the smart marketing geniuses in retail, set it up so that right when we get an upgrade, a newer version comes out making us feel like what we now have is crap. We live in a culture where we compare ourselves and what we have to everyone else constantly, and most of the time we’re comparing it all to a highlight reel or an airbrushed version of someone else. All of these things are against us, and making it very hard to live with a grateful heart.
I think one of the enemy’s favorite schemes for us westerners is helping us be constantly discontent. If you’re like me, your heart is prone to wander away from the only real source of life. God must look at me like a little toddler, “Oh Carol, that again? She’ll never learn.” (His head shaking with a smirk on his face). THANK YOU, GOD, FOR GRACE, and that He never lets me wander too far over the cliff.
The truth is that if we’ve truly experienced the grace of God on our lives, if we truly have experienced the free gift of grace when we didn’t deserve it, and the gift that keeps giving every single morning, then we can choose to look at our lives, all that He has given us, and live with a posture of gratitude. This is something I’ll always struggle with, but I have a few things that always help me:
Remind yourself that that “thing” you want so badly will not satisfy like you think it will. Another “Joby-ism” I like to call it is, “the cul-de-sac of stupidity.” Basically what it means is that we, as humans, go round and round in this cul-de-sac, thinking that the next thing will fully and finally satisfy, only to realize once again, it doesn’t. We want a raise, if only we could get this much more, then when you do, you find yourself there again pretty quickly. If only you could get a house in that neighborhood, a few years go by and that house just isn’t cutting it. Now you want a new house in the other neighborhood. The list goes on and on. So for me, I have to remind myself, that “thing” I think I want so badly, just will NOT finally and fully satisfy like I think it will. So, I’m honest with God about it, and give that desire up to Him, even if I have to do it every day.
Make a gratitude list. I stole this idea from our pastor. He said to make a gratitude list, one thing for every year you’ve been alive. Keep it on your phone, and anytime you start to feel entitled instead of grateful, read your list. I’ve now made several lists, and anytime I’m feeling like I’m owed something I don’t have or caught up in comparing or wanting something someone else has, I stop and read over my list, thanking God. He didn’t have to give me all that I have now, so what makes me think I’m owed something I may feel is better? He knows what’s best for us, and I have to trust in that. And when I read my list, and think of all the blessings in my life, I can’t help but kick myself for feeling anything other than grateful.
Each morning when I start out my prayer, I try and start with thankfulness for all He’s given me. I feel like something supernatural happens when you start out prayer with thankfulness. It’s like it ushers you into the presence of God in a way starting out with requests or to-do’s just doesn’t do. And then, on those days you don’t even know what to pray, start out with thanking God and somehow you start to feel and hear Him. I think the power of starting our prayer with thanking Him is that it helps posture our hearts from feeling entitled or frustrated, to grateful and reverent.
Contentment is a secret that’s actually offered in Scripture. Paul says in Philippians that he’s learned the secret. Which means, he wants us to learn it too. And I think the secret is to preach the Gospel to yourself every day. Thank God everyday for your gratitude list. And, most importantly, abide in Jesus, or simply put, stay close to Him. Bring those desires to Him, and He’ll either bless you with what you’re wanting, or through prayer it will purify your desire for that thing. I’ve literally been praying of something and talked myself out of it during the prayer. I think when we stay close to Him, it helps us see life in view of eternity and not get caught up in the worldly stuff (as much). I’m going to CHOOSE each day to be grateful for everything He’s given me, from Daniel and Kennedy to our home and our jobs. I didn’t deserve any of the things I have today, so I’ll choose to live joyfully grateful for all of it. Or when my coveting starts to creep in as I’m watching HGTV, I’ll remind myself of what I actually deserved and how blessed I really am.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12
So, whenever I write about something it’s usually because it’s something I’m struggling with too! Help hold me accountable, and I’ll be praying for all of you as well! Let’s be the generation of strong women who live with grateful hearts.