BOLD. FIERCE. CONFIDENT.

I don’t know about all of you, but I love a good strong woman character in movies or shows. Currently I’ve been really into the whole vikings thing with shield maidens. These women are the epitome of what I want to be. They are strong, they are equal to men, they are confident and fierce, yet they are still soft and feminine at the same time. 

The reality. Now, the reality is, I’m pretty weak. Like I can’t even massage my husband’s hurt neck for more than a few minutes because of my weak little arms. So, I definitely couldn’t hold up a shield and fight with the men. BUT, I’ve decided what I love in these women is their strength and confidence in who they are as women. These women aren’t sitting around worrying what other women think of them. They aren’t changing their identity to be who some guy wants them to be. They are strong, they are fierce and they are passionate. These women live with purpose. They love passionately and they fight with purpose. 

My biggest prayer for kennedy when I was pregnant was that she would be strong and fierce, that she would lead when others follow, that she would defend the weak and be so rooted in who God made her to be that she spends no time being insecure, judging or comparing. I think I prayed this so much for her because I wanted it so much for myself. I spent way too much time worrying about what others thought. I spent way too much time comparing my weaknesses to other people’s strengths. I spent way too much time changing my identity to woo the affections of a boy. It all came from a place of insecurity because I wasn’t seeking God and who He made me to be. 

The truth is that God created each of us with purpose, a unique, God-sized purpose. We can live out this life with that purpose if we would only abide in Him, ask Him to use us and live fiercely in view of eternity. Our Pastor says often that the enemy will whisper condemnation into our ears. We feel weak, we feel inadequate or “unfit for use.” We feel mundane and end up thinking, “this can’t be it. There has to be more.”

The power of the Holy Spirit. If we truly have surrendered our lives to Jesus, then we have the Holy Spirit within us. This means we have the power of the God of the freaking universe (is it okay to say freakin in relation to the King?)! We are more than conquerors and just like these shield maidens who are fierce and bold and confident, He made us all to be that too! No amount of success, girl time, promotions or wine can give us that same feeling. We can only be this fierce and bold IN HIM. 

We all have a voice and we all have a purpose. Being a woman in this culture can feel like a constant battle for respect. Being a mom can feel mundane and make us feel like we lost our identity in these tiny humans. We went from being kick-A, wild and free, to mundane and boring, with spit up or food on us. It can cripple any of us or at the very least leave us feeling exhausted. But, what I think God wants us to understand is that through Him, we are truly warrior princesses! We fight the battle against the enemy everyday for ourselves, for our children, and for our families. 

Put on the full armor of God, stand up and fight. Fight against the lies of the enemy. Fight against the whispers saying you aren’t enough. Fight against the world trying to distract you from real purpose or bring you down. Every single one of us have the ability to be fierce and bold and confident in who He made us to be. Now will we have different strengths? Yes and amen. Will I ever be good at crafting and making my family gourmet meals? No. Not ever. But together, as a body of women who love Jesus, we are a fierce army, able to set the world on fire for Him. We, together, can set women free to real purpose and real life all. over. the. world. 

Now here’s the thing about tapping into that fierceness that I have trouble with, we have to stay close to Him to receive it. Now I don’t mean we start down an exhausting performance road or making ourselves worthy. I mean we stay close. Just like we make time for our kids or closest friends, we make Him a priority. We live out of His flowing water instead of our own retention ponds. We tap into His strength and His power and be intentional, and then just wait and see how he sets our hearts on fire with purpose. 

Don’t know where to start? Start with making time for Him each day. What fills you? What’s your love language? Mine is Quality Time, so I make sure I spend time in His Word and talking to Him usually through journaling, or praying in the car. I get exhausted or anxious when I have an issue and I take it to every single person before I take it to Him in prayer. So stop and pray. Pray for purpose and that He would use you. Pray He would set your heart on fire with purpose even in the daily rhythms of life. Pray for boldness to be used, and just watch what He does in you. Don’t feel like He can use you? Me too. But that’s a lie. So pray now that His Truth will be louder than the enemy, louder than the lies and louder than this world. Stay close to Him. Make time for what makes you feel close to Him, and watch how He gives you a whole different lens to view this world and your life through. It’s truly life-saving and brings so much freedom. Next thing you know we’ll all be gathering together with war paint, grabbing our shields and ready for battle. Man, that picture pumps me up! 

I’ll leave you with a quote my pastor, Joby Martin, reminded me of when talking with him about my God-given purpose. It’s from the book, “Wild at Heart” that was written for men, but I think totally applies to women too. 

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs are men (and women) who have come alive.” 

New Year’s Resolutions. Eww.

Well, with a new year upon us, everyone has been thinking about how to make this year better than the last. We’re making our lists even if we say we don’t make new year’s resolutions. We’re going to work out more. We’re going to drink less wine. We’re going to be more attentive to our kids, and love our spouses better. We’re going to do our quiet times everyday, and be more present with our friends and family…blah blah blah. The aspirations go on and on. That’s why when I think of New Year’s Resolutions, I think…Eww (Insert Jimmy Fallon voice).

Here’s why I’m going to TRY and not make any lists this year: I don’t need any other reasons to feel like a failure or let myself down. There, I said it. As women, we have SO many demands upon us each and every day. Our culture makes us feel like we have to be perfect. We have to look perfect at work. We have to look perfect in our yoga pants and trendy workout “activewear.” We have to be up to date with the latest health trend, feed our kids organic and make our own baby food. We are supposed to have houses that look like Pottery Barn where no signs of living can be present. We have to have kids who are well-behaved, great at sports and make straight A’s. We have to be hard workers, but also not be too aggressive in the workplace or else we’re offensive. We have to be super active in our kid’s PTA, active in a non-profit or a good-cause organization, and also be able to make a wreath out of kitchen household supplies. You might as well throw in there secret ninja skills allowing us to defend our children from attack, paramedics, licensed therapists (basically), and sex goddesses. The demands on women these days are given to us by our culture, our own selves comparing and judging, our friends or even our family. And at the end of the day, after feeling all of these demands on us like that red dot that appears when someone has a gun pointing at you, we just want to throw our hands in the air and say, “I give up!”

Stop the striving. I’ve come to the conclusion, and believe me, I haven’t mastered the concept, but we have to stop with all of this. We are frustrated and angry because we can’t be ALL THINGS to all people, and rest in this momma, you aren’t enough. We aren’t enough, we can’t be enough, we can’t be the women who have and do all things. We can try, and most of us do, but we just end up feeling defeated, judged or like failures. So, my non-new year’s resolution is to stop the striving. I want to stop comparing my weaknesses to other women’s strengths. I want to stop feeling less-than because I don’t know how to make Kennedy’s dresses BY HAND or iron a shirt (sorry Daniel.) I want to rejoice in the way God created me to be, and then in return be able to celebrate the things I’m not in other women around me! If we can actually do this, I feel like we would experience SO much freedom to be ourselves, be who God created us to be, and love one another much, much better.

I’m not enough. My second non-new year’s resolution is this: I’m not enough, but in IMG_9820Him, I am. God created us to need Him. He makes His power perfect in our weakness, which is something that gives me a TON of comfort. It’s ONLY when I’m depending on Him, that I can actually do all the things I need to do, and feel free to be who He created me to be. It’s only when I’m making time for Him that I am a better mom, a better worker, a better wife and a better friend. When I’m abiding in Him I’m also not comparing myself to other women. I’m not worrying about how I fall short because I’m so confident in who He made me to be, and that gives me the freedom to love others with an unbridled kind of love. THAT’s where real peace and real joy come from. So this year, I’m going to stop striving after the things that WILL NOT bring me joy, and I’m going to rest in Him. I’m going to pray hard for God to reveal His unique purpose for me on this earth, and pray He gives me the ability to live it out. I’m not going to settle for the mundane, thinking “Is this it?” I’m going to run after Him, and a natural result of that will be not feeling like I’ve let people down, and not letting myself down for the 900th time. I want to get rid of the things that distract me from going deeper with God, and you know what that is for me? BUSYNESS. When I try and do all the things I think I should be doing, I’m left with nothing and my family hurts because of it. So, I’m cutting out the busyness and saying “no” more. I’m going to abide in Him, be who He created me to be, and start celebrating who God made other women in my life to be too.

So as I end this New Year’s Resolution rant, I hope that you guys will join me in this endeavor! Let’s all rest in who He created us to be in all of our strengths but also all of our glorious mess. Let’s stop trying to do it all and just be. Let’s love more and compare less. Less make time to be with our Prince of Peace, and be better because of it. Cheers, ladies! Here’s to an incredible 2018!

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 ~

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 8.20.02 PM

 

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

img_0948

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.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

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.