The Holiday Hustle is real, y’all.

This month has been a complete whirl-wind of traveling, shopping, list-making and stress. I’ve literally felt more mom-guilt, friend-guilt, and work-guilt this month than I have in the entire year combined. The expectations are high and the time to do it all is low. The Holiday Hustle is real, y’all, and it’s in full swing. As Christmas is drawing near (ONLY ONE WEEK LEFT), I thought to myself, I need a perspective shift. Where is my Christmas cheer?! Why am I freaking out about the (insert cuss word) Elf, the number of Christmas gifts I bought each person, and attending all 27 Christmas parties we’ve been invited to? I started feeling more like a grinch as the demands kept piling up.

So with only seven days until Christmas, now is the time to take the joy back. Here are a few reminders to help kick us out of grinch-mode and straight into true Christmas joy (But, if this doesn’t work, buy more wine):

“It’s like that book I read in the 9th grade that said, ‘Tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.'” – Cher (Clueless) Cher really had some incredible knowledge there. As I was making my to-do lists, my Christmas gift lists, scheduling sitters, etc. I realized that I hadn’t done anything to help teach my child about the meaning of the season. We hadn’t chosen an angel tree family, served anywhere or even talked much about how other kids don’t even have mommies and daddies that love them on Christmas. I realized I had missed a major part of Christmas, sharing the love of Jesus with others by helping someone else. I spent some time praying for God to reveal someone we could help this holiday season and listened. Every time I’ve ever done that, He always brings someone to mind and chooses to use us to bless someone else. You’re probably a way better person than me and have already done that, but if not, take some time to do it now! And once you’ve done it, nothing about Christmas compares to the feeling of blessing someone else!

Learn to say, “No.” I realize we are a little late in the game to start saying, “No.” But with Christmas only a week away, decide now to take full advantage of the world. This one is especially hard for me. Not really because I feel like I have to please everyone so much as in the moment, it sounds like a super fun idea. It’s only days before when I realize I have an event obligation literally every. single night. that I realize I’ve over-committed myself and now I just hate Christmas (Sort of). I had to stop and realize that my priority is to my little family, and if saying “no” to some of the parties or obligations makes for a more joyful Christmas, then that’s okay. EVERYONE is busy, so saying no probably won’t come as a shock to anyone else, and not only will they understand, they’ll probably wish they had said no a few times themselves. So go ahead and proudly pull out the old, “No.” card or feel free to RSVP “Not Attending” with a guilt-free conscience. If mommy is happy, everyone in the house is happy.

Be present over perfect. I’ve been stressing for weeks now because my entire family is coming in town for Christmas. So not only have I gone over and over a list of things to do to my house, I also have been going over and over a list of fun things to do so my whole family has the BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. But, what I’ve decided is that I’ve been stressing so much over these details that I forgot to be present with little family. I’ve been more concerned with cleaning than singing “jingle bells” with my little nugget. So from here on out, I’m going to start being present over making sure everything is perfect. Your family won’t remember if the baseboards were dusted, but they will remember the quality times and laughter.

Live in view of the Gospel – with a grateful heart. I don’t go shopping very often. I don’t live super close to a mall (thank goodness for Daniel), so oftentimes I don’t see things I want until I start Christmas shopping. Therein ensues the “stuff” coveting. And not to mention I start seeing everyone’s living rooms and begin to covet people’s houses, people’s holiday decor, and maybe even their dog. It’s a downward spiral of discontentment in a season where we should be rejoicing all that we have, not feeling like our life is lacking without all of this other stuff we don’t have. Scripture says, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it’s given Him from heaven.” If we actually believe this to be true, then we’ll stop ourselves from wanting all of this stuff that ultimately won’t make us any happier or more fulfilled, and we’ll stop and be grateful for all that we have. 

Remember, the holidays can be lonely. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that big holidays, like Christmas, can be a very hard time for anyone who has experienced loss. For anyone who has lost a loved one, or even longing for that missing piece like a spouse or a child, it can make the holidays extra hard. So in the midst of your holiday, take some time to invite someone who doesn’t have anyone. Take some time to reach out to or love on someone who is going through a hard time. Sometimes just acknowledging someone’s pain can make a huge difference. I bet if you are more aware of this fact, you’ll notice those in your life going through something like this, and you can be more intentional about loving them through it.

Don’t let the prince of peace be another item on your to-do list. Did you know that a super-natural peace, like a natural Xanax from above, is available to you and me despite our circumstances?! If we would just stop acting like reading the Bible or saying some prayers is an item on our to-do list and just start making it a priority to spend time with our Heavenly Father, then we can have that peace (EVEN AT CHRISTMAS). Ask Him for that peace this week so that you can truly have rest and joy amidst the chaos of the holiday season. Invite Him into your holiday hustle and He’ll change your whole perspective on it all.

Reminder: the presents “high” quickly fades, so focus on experiences. We spend months thinking about, making lists, and searching for the perfect Christmas gifts. Or more likely for me, spend a couple weeks FREAKING out and mass-shopping for Christmas. My family is also one of those that goes WAY over board on gifts. I’m like, “Honey, I only have 7 presents for my mom, what else should I get her?” To which my very sensible husband rolls his eyes. But every single year, we wake up Christmas morning with excitement and after some coffee and maybe some mimosas poured, we begin to open the many presents. And just like every year, right when it’s all done, with wrapping paper spread out all over the floor, there is a moment of let down. It’s not that Christmas wasn’t amazing or you don’t love all of your gifts, it’s just that we forget that the “stuff” is awesome but will never satisfy. So keep that in mind this last week before Christmas when you’re freaking out at Walmart on Christmas Eve trying to find the perfect 97th gift. Instead of putting so much of your time and energy into gifts, think about some fun experiences for your family to do. Think about some fun games or new traditions you can come up with. I promise your entire family will remember the laughter much more than the gifts. Can you remember any gifts you gave or received last year?!

 

Put the phone away. Just do it. Even for an hour. Stop with the to-do lists, demands, recipes, emails, and just put it away. Take some time to just enjoy your kids. Take some time to listen to worship music or even Christmas music while watching your family around you. Pop open some bubbly, grab your family or some friends and watch a Christmas movie. Life is too short to miss the joy of this season! Or if it’s a hard season, don’t numb yourself by being busy. Lean into the only One who can bring you peace amidst the loneliness. Lean in and tell God how you feel, and ask for the super-natural peace He promises to wash over you today.

Family can be complicated. With Christmas being just days away, it can bring up a lot of emotion and anxiety for some people. No one has a perfect family, which means we all have family drama from time to time. So, I know that for some, spending quality time with family can be something you may be dreading or hard to face. I also know there are deep wounds there and sometimes family is the hardest to love. But one thing I would encourage you to do today is to forgive and remember that you forgave. Meaning through HIS strength forgive past hurts, and then when you face the person and are filled with a lot of bad emotions, remind yourself that you forgave because you were forgiven when you didn’t deserve it too. Life is too short to hold grudges because you could turn around and they could be gone. So pray, pray, pray. Pray for God to help you walk into this Christmas with His Spirit, with forgiveness in your heart and filled with His love. Because remember this too, you may be the only picture of Jesus they ever see.

I pray that every single one of you has an amazing Christmas this year and experiences a lot of laughter with friends and family, remembering to celebrate Jesus, the light of the world, being born to save us all! Happy Birthday, Jesus!

And, Merry Christmas from the Gilhams ~

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365 Days of Grace

I woke up feeling defeated. I hadn’t been very obedient to spend time with Jesus in a while. We got “busy” and I felt distant. My husband put it so well as he sat down to do his quiet time for the first time in a while, “That awkward moment when you have to approach someone you feel a little distant from or feel you’ve let down.” 

He was right, the greater the distance and time, the busier I got, the more awkward I felt approaching my Heavenly Father. The ways I had failed as a daughter of His, the ways I failed as a mother, as a worker, as a spouse, all started rolling in. I had missed the mark in every way possible and I felt unworthy. 

The truth is, we are never worthy, and thank God for sending His Son to bear that weight for us! If we were actually worthy, any person on the planet except for Jesus, then He would have died for nothing. Grace as a free gift is completely and utterly incomprehensible to me as a human. My love waivers. My love is so conditional and my happiness circumstantial. I simply cannot fathom a God of the universe that sent His Son to pay my price now and for always. Pastor Joby often says, why is it that we understand the Gospel when we first get saved, but after that we forget what the Gospel means and move on to working for our salvation? Baffling. 

As I woke up feeling distant, reminded of all the ways I’m a failure, disobedient, snapped at my child, didn’t get the house clean, and wasn’t as much in prayer for my husband for a really big deal in his life as I should have been, I was reminded that we have 365 Days of Grace. 365 Days in a year and 365 new chances. THANK YOU,  LORD, FOR GRACE! Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave this God I love. Oh how I can relate so much to that line. Even when I know the Truth I wander off and forget it every single day. I forget that His love and faithfulness to us, as His children, is not dependent upon my faithfulness or my performance. Not ever. And wow, does that bring me so much peace. 

His kindness leads us to repentance. I think sometimes God sends us reminders of this by blessing us when we feel at our worst. Times when I feel I most do not deserve blessings from God is often when He does something amazing and I’m reminded that I don’t have to run and hide from Him, but because I’m a failure at pretty much everything without Him, it should cause me to run TO Him in my mess and not away. He doesn’t want to scold me, He doesn’t want to condemn me. All He wants is for me to Abide in Him because He knows as a good, good Dad, that’s where we find real life, real peace and non-circumstantial joy. His grace is sufficient and how dare we diminish the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. I have to preach this to myself everyday when I feel defeated, or when I mess up, which is often. 

He’s a good Dad and wants to give good gifts to his children. I don’t know how you guys feel about dads, but I love looking at Him as my good Father. I had a great dad and so seeing God as a perfect Father with a perfect love gives me a lot of comfort and reminds me to stop listening to the lies. And if you had a crappy dad, it should give you great peace too because God is the only Father you need and He loves you more than you can fathom. In times where I am disobedient, just as a good dad would do, He disciplines us, not because he’s mean, vengeful or wants us to suffer, but because we are His children and He knows what is much better for us. As a mom, I can relate to this so well. It’s mostly in those moments where Kennedy is screaming and throwing a fit because she wants an old tupperware of steak from a week ago instead of the buttery pancakes I’m making for her. I’m sure God looks at us like, “Seriously? Don’t you know how much I love you and how much I want an abundant life for you? Stop holding on to those things that lead to destruction and accept the abundant, purposeful life I have for you.” And in those times of discipline (which is often – apparently Daniel and I need a lot of sharpening) I look back in hindsight and can see how much He was protecting me from going off a cliff. What felt like annoying discipline and not freedom, was actually a Good Father leading me to something so much better. 

He never changes. We live in an ever-changing world. Our world is broken and so are the people. Heck, I change every single day. My feelings about things change, my mind changes, I might as well be nicknamed “Fickle-McGee” because of how much I change. But what an amazing blessing and peace of mind to know the God of the Universe never changes. He always stays the same no matter what we do. His character always remains in tact and fickle is something completely opposite of Him. And as a fickle women, the fact that God, who controls all things, always stays the same gives me great comfort. IMG_8570

His love isn’t conditional. His love doesn’t waver and He never looks at you with disappointment. I have heard the analogy that most of us feel like God constantly looks at us with a simmering aggravation and disappointment because we just can’t get this thing right. If I’m honest, even though I know this isn’t true, I probably feel like this more often than not. I get in a great routine of waking early and spending time with Him, I’m really nailing this being a Christian thing and then, BAM! Life happens and my husband is sick, my kid is sick and then I’m sick so I’m back to being a failure at all the things I want to do but just can’t make happen. I really mean to be more intentional, to love my neighbors better, to spend time ministering to others but then the rhythms of my life get jacked up and I’m all off-kilter. But, I can rest in this fact: God’s love for me isn’t conditional. It doesn’t waiver or change, and He doesn’t love me any more or any less based on my performance that day or that week. God’s faithfulness to me stays the same whether or not I “do” all the right things. His grace is sufficient and His love is unlike any other love we can fathom as humans. So in those moments I feel like a failure, the whispers of the enemy get in my head and make me feel distant and unworthy, I can remind myself that He loves me the same today, yesterday and for all time, and He is never disappointed in me because when He sees me He sees Jesus, and Jesus said, “It is finished.” 

Jesus paid the price now and forever, so that free gift I received carries on now for all of my past, present and future failures. ALL OF THEM. I can wake up each new day, run into His arms of grace and have a close, intimate relationship with Him. I can boast in the fact that I pretty much suck (sorry mom, she hates that word) without Him. So instead of letting distance grow between us, I can run, not timidly walk, but run to Him with full confidence of His unchanging grace and love for me. 

I’ll leave you with a lyric from a song my husband played over and over again this morning (it was only annoying on the 5th repeat) as he was reminded of his 365 Days of Grace (with a tear in his eye I might add – sorry baby, it’s just true, men can cry every once in a while): 

“Old things have passed away, your love has stayed the same, your constant grace remains the cornerstone.” Amen. 

So instead of being down on yourself for your failures or beating yourself up for not performing the way you think you should, settle in to His arms of grace that are new every. single. morning. 

Our greatest commodity – TIME.

I must admit, since my thing is being real with you ladies, this is a real struggle for me. I tend to be very selfish with my time. I don’t really realize it so much until I feel convicted to do something with my time that I didn’t plan on, that puts a wrinkle in my plans or routine, or something I don’t feel like doing.

The other day someone challenged us with some questions. One of them was, “Do you treat the time you have been trusted with like God is watching?” It was originally about money and I casually kept reading past that one…then he changed it to time, and I was like, “Oh crap.”

Small decisions. Sometimes when we think about ministry, we think about these huge things like leaving our jobs to work for a church or non-profit. Or we think about throwing in the towel of domestic life and living in Africa for a year. But, I heard recently an example of blessing others in the name of Jesus in the small decisions we make every day. To me, that was much more relatable. If God calls us to love others, then how are we actually doing that different than this world? It’s a question I think about often, because despite the fact that I’m saved because of what Jesus did on the cross, and through sanctification I’m a little more like Him and less like my ugly self, at the end of the day, sometimes I don’t feel very different than someone who doesn’t know Jesus. So how am I loving others, and my first thought is – MY TIME.

Just show up. Isn’t it true that when you are going through something hard or even with the people that you love, all you really want is for people to show up? You don’t want a gift (although those are nice…Daniel), you don’t want someone to read off some Scripture to you or give you a pep talk, what you really want or need rather is someone to just show up and care. IMG_8334

When Daniel and I walked through what we love to refer to as our “year from hell” the things I remember most aren’t some word or phrase, a plant sent to us or what not (although that was very sweet too – even though, newsflash, I have the blackest thumb ever), what I remember most are the people that just came alongside us, showed up at the hospital with coffee for me when I was staying with Daniel. I remember the people that brought us dinner and just came and sat with me while I cried. And even through the triumphs of life, not just the tragedy, I remember the people who came over to see and hold Kennedy. I remember the people who wanted to clean my house for me and sit down with us and actually MAKE US DINNER so we could rest. And when I look back on all of that, I remember most the people that took the time out of their busy lives and showed us they loved us with their time.

Be open to opportunities to bless people with your time. And even as I type this, it pains me because it’s such a hard thing for me. I’m a creature of habit and flourish in routine. I love my comfort zones and have always been a very independent person. But over the years, and even now, I realize more than ever that my greatest commodity is time, and I need to die to myself each day and be open to who God wants me to share some of it with. This may mean putting down my laptop for an hour to play Play-Doh (Oh how I hate Play-Doh) with my daughter, or putting down my phone for a bit to listen to Daniel talk about his day (even though I still don’t fully understand his job so it sort of sounds like Arabic to me). It may mean getting my selfish mind off of myself and MY routine, and asking God who I can bless that week, who NEEDS someone to show up and care. It really comes down to being intentional each day. Be intentional about being an instrument God could use to bless or comfort someone else even in the normal routines of your life. Intentionality is everything, and I promise if we would ask God to make us aware of those opportunities around us, not only would He use us, we would find more joy in being used by Him too!

So, as much as I love how God uses these blogs to encourage other people, this one more than ever is also for me. I need to continually ask myself, “How am I using the time God trusted me with this week to love other people?”

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

In case you weren’t aware, this month is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month. Given our experience in this area and how open we are about our story, I’ve heard from SO many women who have gone through losing a baby. I don’t know actual stats, but I know more women who have had a miscarriage or the loss of a baby than have not. And I know it’s a lonely place to be, and a very confusing loss too. And I think the biggest thing to take away from it is that each loss is significant, each loss was/IS meaningful. That baby mattered/matters, and we will never forget them or move on. I’m thanking God today for our little Rainbow baby. Kennedy, you are our little miracle, and even though you’re a toddler in your terrible two’s, MAN DO I FREAKING LOVE YOU. Today, and this month, (Well, always really) I salute you mommas. Being a mommy, especially losing a baby is the worst kind of pain, and although we’re stronger now, we’ll always remember. 

I decided in light of this month, I would share again with you my most recent blog on our last baby loss experience. I hope reading this helps you feel not so alone, and it leaves you feeling hopeful. 

There’s No Heartbeat – 3 Words You Never Want to Hear

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About a year ago, Daniel and I found out that our 5th baby had no heartbeat. I was 12 weeks pregnant when we found out, and it was pretty devastating. We weren’t prepared to be pregnant again that soon, and I just wasn’t ready for another baby. We had just gotten to a place of peace with it and were excited about the new addition to our little family only to be heart-broken again. Since then, we decided we would wait at least a year to talk about trying again. We made the decision for me to get on birth control and prevent pregnancy which we had never really done before. So here we are, a year later, our hearts are healed and we are a happy little family, yet we pose the question, should we try again?

People ask me all of the time, so, are you not wanting to get pregnant because you are scared of the outcome or because you just aren’t ready for another child right now?

If you hadn’t heard our story before, we lost four babies, all in very different ways. Our first baby we found out at 18 w that she had a severe neural tube defect. The second and third babies were very early miscarriages (one in Napa, which meant we were left with a 2K ER bill all for them to just confirm I miscarried- Thanks Napa), and then the last where at 12 weeks when we had finally gotten excited about it and had dreams of a double BOB, we heard the words, “I’m sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.”

Miscarriages. I can’t even begin to explain how hard these are to go through. It’s a feeling that people just simply can’t understand unless they have experienced it for themselves. It is often minimized as if it wasn’t a real loss or avoided in conversation because people just don’t know the words to say. But let me just say a few words about it to help people understand.

It is a real loss. We have lost babies at 4.5 weeks and also at 20 weeks, so I can say confidently that it all hurts the same. Not only are you losing this child that you never got to meet face to face, but you also are losing all of the dreams that come with having that child, raising the child, being a mommy. And while chances are you will go on to have healthy babies, many people minimize the pain by saying things like, “Thank goodness it happened so early.” or “It’s God’s way of saving you from the heartache of having a child with defects.” “Have you considered adopting?” The list goes on an on (and just know, I KNOW they are all good intentioned and very sweet people who say it, just hard to hear in the moment.) But hear it from me, it is a real loss. It’s okay to not be okay because one day you will wake up and you will be okay again.

It’s a very lonely place to be. Just like any kind of grieving, you feel alone in your grief. And because everyone grieves differently, you probably even feel isolated from your spouse because he is grieving differently than you. I even had people try and tell me HOW I should be grieving, which was super awesome. I remember after the first baby, I was so devastated that I wanted to first, leave the state of Florida so I could go where no one knew I was ever pregnant (only to end up in Chicago where I swear they were having a pregnant-lady convention), to then wanting to crawl in my bed and staying there forever. Daniel, on the other hand, who was just as heart-broken, wanted to get back to work. For him, working was how he would get through it, and he couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to do the same in the same timing. It’s also lonely because life just keeps going on the same for everyone around you. You have lost a child, the dream of expanding your family, and people still have to go to work and school, and pick up their kids and go out to dinner. It feels insulting how everyone just keeps on living as if it didn’t matter (knowing that is absurd because life DOES in fact go on).

You feel broken and ashamed. When you first decide to start a family, you never think it will be hard for you. You never think, oh, wait a minute, you mean there’s a hiccup in this equation? You see all of your friends getting pregnant with multiple healthy babies, or you just see everyone’s highlight reel on Facebook and Instagram and think everyone else’s journey to mommy-hood was super easy, while knowing how hard it is for you. You start to feel ashamed of yourself, like why can’t I do the one thing women were made to do which is conceive children? Am I being punished? Will my husband be okay if all he ever has is me? There are a million lonely and embarrassing thoughts that go through your mind. Miscarriages are hard, and you are not alone in it because I know more women who have had one than have not. I wish more people talked about it so that we could be there for one another when or if it happens, and share those stories of hope and show one another pictures of the healthy, beautiful babies we went on to have, but also understand that we’ll never forgot the babies we lost (longest run-on sentence ever). We’ll get to hold them all once we are in heaven, I’m confident of that.

So with all of that said, do we want to go through that pain again? No, not really. Are we fearful of the outcome? Yes, at times. I could choose to not ever get pregnant again out of self-preservation, which would be totally fair given all we have been through. BUT, Daniel and I WILL choose to try again because of several things: God is in control, God is good, we TRUST Him, and we choose to live with HOPE and not FEAR. 

When I was pregnant with Kennedy my mantra was Matthew 17:20 – I prayed it everyday because given my past experience with pregnancy, the outcome wasn’t good. But because I had even the tiniest bit of faith, I could believe that God can move mountains, He can raise people from the dead, and He could certainly knit together a perfect little baby in my body EVEN if my body wasn’t capable. And He did indeed.

So, as Daniel and I start this process over again, the TTC process, the tracking ovulation, the stress of sex becoming a chore instead of a blessing, the stress of waiting, all of it, we will choose to live with hope instead of fear because at the end of the day, no matter how God chooses to bless us with another child, we want a sibling for Kennedy. In other words, “The only thing I can control, is the posture of my heart while I wait. And I can tell you this with certainty. Even if it turns out to be a “no”, waiting is so much sweeter when you do it with hope.” (Amanda Bailey Leach – who also has her own blog and writes often on her journey through infertility – she’s amazing)

Daniel and I choose hope because we know God has a good and perfect plan for our family, He doesn’t waste a hurt, and no matter what happens, we will get through it and be better because of it.

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Daniel and I have been through the agony of losing babies, but also the just as hard to bare agony of waiting for a baby, the whole “trying to conceive” thing. If you’re in a place were you need more encouragement or to just not feel so alone in what you’re going through, check out these other blogs.

The Waiting (Infertility/TTC) – When a Gift Becomes a Chore 

Our whole story of Loss (My first blog) – God Must Think I’m a Bad…

More on the WAITING – God Meets Us in Desperate Places

Also, if you would like to drop me a word, ask for prayer or even have coffee, you can email me at carol@sixeightmarketing.com. Much love, Ladies. Much love.

I choose you.

Marriage was meant to be a blessing. To have a partner that you can share in this life with, walk alongside of. But, just like every other good gift from God, we’ve twisted and distorted it. Our culture says to “follow your heart” and “you deserve to be happy” so if you aren’t feeling that way in marriage, culture says to move on with your life. Marriage is hard, but marriage was meant to be worth the fight. I believe that marriage is under attack. More people get divorced than stay together and that doesn’t exclude Christ-followers. We need revival, we need marriage revival in our country, and I want to be on the forefront of that battle to take it back. In the words of 311 (I’m a 90’s kid), “nothing good comes easily, sometimes you’ve got to fight.” 

I know people always said that marriage was hard. I’ve heard it my whole life, but I honestly never really understood it because our marriage had always been relatively easy. Daniel and I went through some really hard stuff only a year or so into our marriage, so we had to learn to rely on each other very early on. We had to learn to love each other under the best and worst conditions. And our trials only drew us closer and made us appreciate one another more. But, what about in the good times, the times of life where there’s nothing making you cling to one another, where things are just “as is” and normal rhythms of life? I think that’s when it can get hard. IMG_7185

There are a few things I’ve learned in my own marriage and also some words of wisdom my mom shared with me growing up that I think we could all put into practice to fight for our marriages:

 

Don’t take them for granted. I think this is probably the easiest one for me to do. We get so comfortable with our spouse that we can take our person for granted. We forget the reasons we fell in love and chose them in the first place. Maybe they become complacent or just a fixture in your family. But hear me when I say this, (I ‘ll never forget my mom saying this to me) if they aren’t getting it at home, I guarantee there is someone at work willing to give it to them. Your husband never tells you that you’re beautiful, but next door neighbor Joe tells you that you look nice everyday. Or you never give your husband respect at home, but Sarah at the office treats him with admiration and laughs at all of his jokes. You may be wrapped up in your own world and forget that loving your spouse requires action, and in the mean time, someone else is making them feel loved or respected instead of you. SCARES THE HECK out of me to be honest. I never want Daniel to feel like the things he needs aren’t getting met by me, causing his mind to wander down a path as to someone else making him feel valued or like the man. I have to make this a priority, especially when it’s hard because we are in a season of life that’s all about our toddler, leaving Daniel with seconds or thirds of my time. This can’t be the case. Kennedy will be okay, and Daniel will feel more loved, so I need to make me making him feel loved a priority. And, maybe do a better job of showering and looking cute when he gets home from work from time to time – something my mom always did for my dad that my sassy high school self thought it was ridiculous, but I now realize my mom was a smart, smart lady – if we never try anymore, that probably doesn’t make them feel very loved either. 

The Grass isn’t greener. When we get married, our spouse is the one person who knows us inside out, every flaw, every quirk, every weak area, every blind spot. Our spouse is often the person who makes us see our own sin and selfishness. And, especially after many years of being married, if there is any distance between the two of you, it’s easy to ONLY see the flaws. Then, we can start down a road of comparison when we’re around other people. But I’m here to tell you, or remind you, the whole grass is greener thing is complete crap. Someone else may seem like they have all you are lacking, or give you all you are needing that you don’t get at home. Someone else seems mysterious and fun, but at the end of the day, they are just as flawed as anyone else. You just only see their highlight reel or how they make you feel in that momentary encounter. When your mind starts going there, remind yourself of the truth. Stop comparing your spouse to someone else’s highlight reel. Your spouse is your only standard of husband or wife, period. 

Guardrails. I’ve heard several pastors talk on this and they have been the most impactful sermons ever. Putting up guardrails for your marriage isn’t crazy or over-protective, it’s just smart. A friend recently asked me if she was being crazy because she didn’t want an attractive nanny to be in her house around her husband every day taking care of her kids. And I said, “GIRL! You must protect this house (insert Under Armor song)!” Pastor Joby often quotes Coach Bull Lee by saying “If you don’t want to fall down, don’t walk in slippery places.” Which means, we are all human, falling into something you never intended is something we are all capable of. Oftentimes, the pride comes before the fall and all of that. SO, be proactive about your marriage. Make commitments together to not be alone with someone of the opposite sex. Set your own parameters. You know where you’re weakest, so start there and make some personal rules around that. If you get flirty when you drink wine, never drink wine without your spouse. If you’re in fight with your spouse, never confide in a friend of the opposite sex. Find a friend who will speak truth to you and hold you accountable, which if often super hard because we don’t want someone to hold us accountable. But do it. Find someone that you can be completely honest with and someone that will care more about you and your marriage than your friendship. Pastor Joby, Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler often say that you never wake up one day and decide to ruin your marriage or the trajectory of your children’s lives, it’s a series of small decisions you make that get you there. So start now with making small decisions so that you don’t end up in that place one day that can ruin your entire marriage. WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE! 

Capture your thoughts. I think every bad decision first starts out in your mind. Isn’t is the case that once we let ourselves start to go there in our minds that eventually it starts coming out of our mouth? And then once it comes out of our mouth and we talk about it, then it becomes an action we stumble into? And then once we stumble into something we never intended, isn’t it then that it becomes a habit because it gets easier and easier to justify the more you do it? Well, I think more than ever, we have to put 2 Corinthians 10:5 into practice (take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.) John Piper does an amazing commentary on this (click here). Don’t let your mind go there, period. 

Pray. Pray. Pray. I’ve already mentioned it before, but we are in a season that’s all about the kids and work. Daniel and I both love our jobs, and we love Kennedy, so that takes up most of our thoughts on a weekly basis. Most everyone reading this probably is in the same season. What that means for me is that I pray a lot about my kid, about work, about a bunch of other things that do not include my marriage. I started realizing this one day and it started to scare me (AGAIN), because I had come to a place where I felt like our marriage was so good, so “not an area of need” that I hadn’t even been actively praying for my marriage. Prayer is POWERFUL. I’ve seen God do some AMAZING things through the power of prayer. Prayer is also purifying, so even if you don’t need any huge revelations about your marriage, just the act of praying for your spouse helps align your heart to see him/her the way God sees them, therefore making your marriage even better. 

Pray, Don’t Say. I’ll never forget some middle school moms telling me a story when I was doing youth ministry. One mom said you have to pray, don’t say. It came from another mom who had been desiring to adopt another child. She wanted it so badly and kept bringing it up to her husband so often that it turned into nagging for him. She decided one day to stop saying, and start praying. And then, one day out of the blue months later, he came to her and told her he wanted to look into adoption. WOW, just wow. So I do that often in my marriage. The same Holy Spirit that lives in me lives in Daniel, so if I pray for Him to transform Daniel’s heart or convictions or mind on something, I truly believe God will either transform me in the process or bring Daniel to the same place as me. I’ve seen it happen OFTEN. One day I had a major conviction about something, but nothing I SAID would change Daniel’s mind, I’m not His Holy Spirit. So I started to pray, and then I’m not kidding, a few days later he had coffee with a friend and came home and almost verbatim told me what I had been praying. PRAYER works. And even if your spouse isn’t surrendered to Jesus, prayer works. Prayer is powerful, and I’ve seen God transform and change even those I thought would NEVER surrender to Jesus. So keep on prayin’ momma. Make praying for your spouse and your marriage a TOP priority.

“If the tomb is empty, anything is possible.” (Another Joby Martin quote) If God can raise people from the dead and move mountains, He can bring back to life your dead marriage. I’ve seen God do the IMPOSSIBLE. We may think it’s un-savable, it’s over. We’ve tried everything, but it’s just not working. Your sex life is struggling, the distance is just too great, whatever it is, God can redeem that. He can bring those areas back to life for you. HECK, He WANTS to do that for you if you would just ask. God made marriage, God loves marriage and He wants to see your marriage flourish. He’s a good dad and wants every good thing for His children. 

Love is a verb not a feeling. Choose to love. We think of love as a feeling or emotion. But Biblically, love is a verb. Love does. Something about the feelings inside of us should make their way to the outside in how we treat others, especially our spouse. But, oftentimes loving those closest to us is the hardest, and the people we neglect or mistreat the most (sadly). So if this is true, then we have to actively CHOOSE to love with our words and actions and eventually our feelings (or theirs) will catch up. Choose to love when it’s not easy. Choose to love especially when it’s hard. Choose to love when you don’t think they deserve it because God loved us even though we were certainly undeserving. The Bible says they will know we are His disciples by the way we LOVE, and I think that starts in our home. Do your non-christian friends see something different in the way you love and treat your spouse that they wonder about you? If not, they should. And believe me, after over seven years together, this convicts me more than you know. Part of being a Jesus follower is dying to ourselves, everyday. I pray about my selfishness every…single…day, that not only can I love others better, but more than anything, the person I share a home with and children with. I pray I can die to myself and love him better. So at the end of the day, there are tactics we should put into place in order to protect our marriage, but we have to CHOOSE to do them. Love is a choice and because of the covenant we all made before God and others, no matter what they do, we choose to love. 

So, you all as my witnesses, Daniel Gilham….Through thick and thin (literally and metaphorically), through plenty and strict budgets, through laughing and crying, through fights and cuddles, through sickness, hospital visits, health and climbing mountains. I choose you. I choose you always and forever, and forgive me if I’ve ever made you feel otherwise. 

Recovering People-Pleaser.

I have to admit, I will rarely ever admit to this in person. I consider myself a very strong, independent woman, and I “don’t need anyone’s approval.” But when I’m really honest (UGH, this pains me) I’m a recovering people-pleaser. There, I said it.

It was definitely worse in my younger ages. I cared SO much what other people thought of me, constantly. I wanted to be liked…by everyone. And at the end of the day, it was EXHAUSTING.

It’s funny because I know it’s still a thing for me now because all of the women I truly admire are the kind of women that just really don’t care. I love when women will say anything, the blunt women who say what you were thinking. I’m like wow, I want to be more like her, and while I’m definitely like that in many settings, if I’m in a particular one where I want to really be liked, then the old me shows up and says, “LIKE ME!!!!” I struggle the most with it when it comes to work – and it’s not so much a desire to be liked, but a fear of failure. I am one of those people who go reeling if I mess up. I have to be awesome at my job, seen as fully competent or I WILL DIE, therefore falling back into the people-pleasing category. Ugh.

One of my biggest prayers when I was pregnant with Kennedy was that she would love and surrender to Jesus at an early age, and then be SO grounded in who she is in Him that she will never care what others think of her. I prayed she would be that anomaly little girl who leads when others follow, who defends the weak and stands strong in the face of…well, whatever middle school girls face. I want her to be bold and fierce, and most of all I think, because those are the things I want to be myself. I spent too many years worrying about what other people thought, and I don’t want to waste another minute of my life on it.

I’ve decided that, in my opinion, this is most commonly a girl problem. WHY do we care so much about pleasing others?! Why do we feel like we can’t say no, that we have to be seen as perfect moms, perfect friends, beautiful, kick-A workers…the women who can do it all. Why is it that when I encounter other women who I perceive to have better qualities than myself I immediately feel less than or compare myself….and end up lacking every time?

If God made each of us uniquely perfect, fearfully and wonderfully made, then why can’t we all just be ourselves and love each other for it? Why can’t we all just admit, I really love you, but that’s just not something I have time to do. Why is the word, “NO” such a foreign language to us recovering people-pleasers?! Why is the fear of rejection or fear of failure so crippling to people like us if we truly have no one to please but God? The need to please others through work or life, leaves us feeling exhausted and well…lonely.

A lonely place to be. The need to constantly PLEASE leaves us projecting false identities, sides of ourselves that are not true to ourselves. So, we end up striving to be this other person. And you know what we are left with? No close friends that really know the real us, so we feel lonely. If all of these people really knew the real me, they wouldn’t like it. Well, that’s crap. I bet when people do know the real you, they don’t notice the areas you are lacking. They notice that you are a REAL person with flaws just like they have, and therefore you become a much more relatable person. I am constantly wishing I had more friends that I would be completely authentic and free with, without comparing, pleasing or striving for acceptance with.

A weak place to be. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.” When we are just trying to please others, we aren’t acting out of the power we were given from the Holy Spirit. We are just afraid to say “No” and end up getting taken advantage of sometimes. Jesus was a leader, but his definition of leadership was being a servant. But don’t discount the fact that He did not care what anyone thought except His Father in Heaven, and neither should we. Serve because we are strong and confident in who we are IN HIM, not because we are afraid of what others will think of us. I have a friend who is one of the most talented and genuine people I know, but for years, and out of fear of what others will think of her, has hidden those gifts God has given her. God gave us our personalities, our experiences, gifts and talents to be USED by Him for His kingdom, not to make other people like us OR to be hidden out of fear. You have the power of the God of the universe, so what can man do to you?!

Fear of Failure or Rejection. Hey, newsflash, we are all flawed, and we are all mess up. We all make mistakes, and doesn’t that just make us that much more relatable? If we’re all jacked up and a mess then we should be free to love others more freely, to go deeper in relationships than just the surface or a Facebook friendship status. We were meant for community, and not the fake, polite kind, but REAL community, like family kind of community, where you’re real, you know each other’s flaws and mistakes and yet love each other anyway because you know your own short-comings all too well. You love each other through the good and bad and hold each other up when the other is weak. That’s real life, that’s real friendship, and that’s the real community that God intended for us.

Authenticity.  Live FREELY in His love and grace. This is one of my favorite phrases and also a phrase I couldn’t wrap my mind around so I prayed about it for a YEAR. What He revealed to me about it was this: I don’t have to hide. I don’t have to put on a mask or pretend I have it all together. I don’t even have to pretend to like you (I’m sure I do though so don’t worry). I can be who God made me to be in all of my glorious mess, because God loves me and that’s all that really matters. Authenticity is contagious and people gravitate to it. Being you is probably the best thing you can do for yourself if you actually want real, deep-abiding friendships in this life. Every single person on the planet is flawed, and while others are strong where we are weak, that should make us love and need each other more, not put on false super hero costumes to prove we are awesome.

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At the end of the day, I’m sure I’ll always struggle with this desire to be liked or please people. But, every day I’m going to pray for the Holy Spirit to instill a peace and joy in me so much that I feel so complete in Him I don’t feel the need to put on a performance for anyone else’s approval. I believe God wants to set us free from this “disease” and help us come ALIVE in Him. I believe the first step to recovering from this people-pleasing syndrome is diving in deeper in your relationship with Jesus. The deeper we go in Him, the less we need love and approval from others. And then, because God IS LOVE, we are free and unbridled to ACTUALLY love and serve others like He did out of a humbly confident heart. That’s what I want, and I pray that for you too!

I’ll leave you with this quote that my friend posted the other day that literally stopped me in my tracks. (Thank you, Kelly)

“We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.”  – Lysa TerKeurst

Amen, sister.

Dry Bones.

Dry Bones. That’s been on my mind lately. It’s how I’ve been feeling for the past few months. I feel like I’m on this merry-go-round of normality (a term Pastor Joby uses often). I think we often get on this ride of wake up, be a mom, go to work, come home, make dinner, clean, go to sleep and then repeat all over again. And we are left thinking, is this it? There has to be more. 

I feel like for the first time in my life, about a year ago, I felt like I discovered God’s unique calling on my life, and I’d never felt more alive in my entire life. Then, over time, so gradually I barely even noticed, I let the world drown it out. “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” and all of that. I got busy.

I got busy being a mom and taking care of our home. I went back to work and even took on more clients. I got busy with work, and work is an idol for me. It’s an empty place I tend to find my worth, and I dove right in. So, now that I have dry bones and I’m desperate to hear from Him again, I am left with needing something to change. Do I continue down this road of busyness and empty pursuits or do I live out this God-sized dream that requires complete dependence upon Him to accomplish? I’m in a place of uncertainty. What is the next step for my life, will we try for another baby even though it’s hard and brings up a lot of emotion, will I take some things off of my plate so that I can be more obedient to where God is calling me? It’s always in these times of waiting, or times we are desperate to hear from God that He meets us where we are. God meets us in desperate places. Isn’t that always the case? It’s only when we have no control over a situation, we are longing for something we don’t have – that next job, a spouse, a child, an answered prayer, that we are on our knees dependent on the One who controls the universe and yet knows our name. It’s often in those moments where despite our longing, we feel more alive than ever because we are actually in the presence of the Lord in full dependence, which is where we belong. A friend of mine from college and I used to say, “Isn’t it sad that we never NEED God, until we NEED God?” At the end of the day, every longing on our heart is actually a longing to be near to Him, our Heavenly Father. And this world, it’s busyness and demands can’t drown out that longing in us, so we’ll continue on the merry-go-round of normality trying to fill it with other things.

It’s easy to seek our worth in other areas and come up with dry bones. It’s easy to find our worth in being a good worker, an expert at something, a mother, a wife, whatever it is that’s your thing. We try and seek fulfillment in these titles we give ourselves and come up empty, dry. 

So here are two things I want you to know (and tell myself in the process):

One – God never went anywhere even if you feel dry or distant. His love for you and faithfulness do not depend on your performance, thank you God! He meets us right where we are, so don’t start making a list of how to strive towards being more Alive in Him, because that’s not the point, pouring more busyness on our dry bones. He wants to meet you there and give you rest and joy from the striving. He wants you to feel ALIVE in this life. 

Two – God has a unique, God-sized calling on your life, even though you may feel unseen or insignificant. 

I’ve gone from the mundane to the magnificent. I’ve gone from pursing the fruitless passions of this world, even attaining some of them and ended up even emptier, to feeling true purpose! And once you experienced even a taste of that God-sized calling, or true dependence, you can’t go back without recognizing the dry bones in comparison. IMG_6509

Don’t we all want to live with purpose? I heard once that a calling is where our burdens and talents collide. For me, I have a burden to see women come alive, to have a voice, to know they are valuable, fierce and loved. I have a desire for every woman to be set free in Him, and live out God’s unique calling on their lives. So, my talent (or experience) is in marketing or writing, but more than that God gave me a personality that hates small talk. Like, I hate it. I love to get down to it and be real, and I also love to encourage, inspire and build others up, so there in meets my calling! 

So for you, what burdens your heart? What makes you come alive? Is it raising your kids? Is it hosting people in your home? Is it taking care of others? And then what are you good at? What have people affirmed in you? And also just takes some time to ask God, what’s my purpose? Take some time out of your busyness and find out what God really has for you. I promise once you experience it you won’t be able to go back to the mundane. 

“If your dreams aren’t big enough that they require you to depend on God to make them happen then you aren’t dreaming big enough.”

This is one of my favorite quotes because any GREAT thing in your life should be so big a stretch that it causes you to depend on God alone to accomplish it. You aren’t just a stay-at-home mom doing laundry on a Tuesday. You aren’t just an accountant crunching numbers and going home to make dinner for your family. You aren’t just a woman created to wake up, work out, go to work, and go to sleep, all to get up a repeat it again. You were made for so much more, and I want you to find that purpose, that calling in this life, and ultimately be dependent on the only One who can truly fulfill us, who can come alive these dry bones. It will change everything. Help hold me accountable to not let the world drown it out too. We need each other.