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. 

 

 

I’ll Rest When I’m Dead.

It’s funny because I actually wrote this blog back in May about finding time to rest, and it’s now, at the end of the summer, that I’m feeling the need for it more than ever.

It’s just a season. I keep thinking to myself (or complaining to Daniel), it’s just a season. This season is hard with a toddler who isn’t in full-time school, who throws fits and doesn’t always listen, who makes tiny messes EVERYWHERE, but it’s just a season. Once we get through this, it will get WAY better. But that’s a lie. Then we move on to the season of carting your kids around to piano, soccer, swim, gymnastics. We move on to being the chauffeur and logistics liaison. Then after that, there’s the teenage drama (I don’t even want to think about that part yet), and so on and so forth. Even after that then there’s the time when you’re taking care of your own parents as they get older. So at the end of the day, yes there are seasons, but we probably won’t rest in those either. Life doesn’t slow down for us.  

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Vaca from my Vaca. We try and find rest on the weekends. BAHAHAHA. Then, we take vacations (with and without the nugget), but have you really ever felt rested after a vacation? I usually need a vaca from my vaca. OR on most Sundays you can find Daniel and I at church, somewhere after for Sunday brunch (if you don’t love brunch we might not be able to be friends) and then a nice afternoon of Netflix binging, and even still, after all that (which sounds like the perfect day to me actually), I still don’t feel rested. I don’t feel joyful or at peace about the next week’s demands weighing on my mind. Doesn’t everyone start the decline into depression on Sundays with Monday looming? Oh, just me? 

Summer with kids. Take this summer for example: It’s my first summer with a child that I had a very flexible work schedule. At first I didn’t know what to do with myself or felt lazy, but I soon embraced the summer schedule and fully took advantage by sleeping in when kennedy did, doing more with friends on “school nights” and just not worrying about a strict schedule. But now instead of leaving me feeling rested and relaxed, I feel even more anxious and tired. What I realized is that with a summer lax schedule I wasn’t making time for God in my normal routines. We were traveling a lot, and I was feeling a distance grow between me and the only One who can really replenish me. And as a disclaimer, I love summer, I love a glass of wine on a Tuesday with friends and neighbors, I LOVE traveling! But I realized I was missing out on tapping in to the presence of Jesus in the mean time.

So once I started feeling this way, exhausted and distant, I could do one of two things: start to feel guilty and distant (which is my usual go-to) or stop and just draw close – go confidently to the throne of grace. 

HOW DO I REST?! So, how do we find the real rest we need to make it? There’s really only ONE place we can find real peace…real rest…real joy. We were only meant to find rest in Jesus, tapping into the presence of the almighty God in our lives. For me it’s quality time with Him (that’s my love language so it makes sense). How is it that you feel close to Him? Is it sitting outside? Is it QT with coffee? Is it worship? Figure out how you feel Him the most and make time for that. CHOOSE to tap into His presence because that is the only time we will find the real rest and rejuvenation we need to meet all of the demands we have on our lives. We CANNOT do it without Him. So tap in, be present in that moment with Him so He can fill you up with all you need for the day. I swear to this that especially on days when I feel like I have way too much to do to stop and spend time with Him that when I actually do stop and read some Scripture, journal a bit, or talk to God, those are the days I am even more productive, more joyful about all of the demands, and feel more accomplished. 

To-Do Lists. And just so you don’t start adding one more to-do to your list, causing you even more anxiety, rest in this: His affection for me hasn’t been affected when I don’t, my performance can’t affect God’s love for me. It’s my awareness of His presence that is affected and therefore I miss out on that rest and peace we all get from tapping in to His presence. Nothing we do or DON’T do, will affect His love and faithfulness to me (THANK GOODNESS). Praise God for the summers with our kids, but also praise God that his mercies are new each morning, His grace is sufficient even when we are prone to wander, and He just wants us to run to Him and rest. 

James 15 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible which always reminds me to stop and ABIDE (walk closely) with Him because I pretty much suck without Him. It’s also tattooed on my body so I am always reminded (sorry mom – she hates tattoos).

Real rest isn’t a Netflix binge (although I love those). Real rest in only found in abiding in Jesus. 

So even when you feel distant because you haven’t been able to spend any time with Him in months (or years) because you’ve been in survival mode trying to keep your kids alive, draw near to Him, because He will draw near to you, it’s a promise.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  James 4:8 

We’ve Let Ourselves Go.

Most of us in our thirties, with young babies, toddler and kids, well, let’s be honest. We’ve let ourselves go.

What I mean is, we have let our SELVES go for a bit, for a season, because becoming a mommy means it’s not about ME anymore, my ambitions, my appearance, my successes, my time, no no no. Becoming a mom means it’s all about them, and it’s a very hard, but beautiful place to be. 

Time for ourselves, forget it. The only time we get to ourselves is in the nightly struggle to go to bed early and get the much-needed sleep, or stay up late to watch a non-disney move or show. Between logistics of wake-up, make our kids breakfast, get them carted around to all of the activities of the day, throw some work in there, try and get to the gym, but you’re probably rushed or lucky if you make it more than twice a week, then home for dinner-making and prep for the next day, that’s when the whole “there aren’t enough hours in the day” saying came from that I honestly never understood why people said when I was in my 20’s. 

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Pre-mommy bodies, ugh. I don’t even want to start on this one. From the extra skin we may have from our belly’s expanding to accommodate a human or the fact that we now have to roll up our boobs to put them in a bathing suit, it’s just not the same. No matter how much I work out, there are some things that just can’t go back unless some actual surgery is involved. 

It’s lonely at times. Being less about our own needs and all about our kids’ needs means little time for self-care, which means it can be lonely. We used to be surrounded by friends. We used to be in jobs where we constantly felt gratification. We got promotions when we did a good job, we were told things like, “thank you!” or “great work!” and now we have to take away treats to get the half-hearted “thank you” from our offspring. It can feel as if losing our selves means losing purpose (or significant purpose). Not to mention the lack of adult interaction that happens when you have littles as well. Even when you get time with adults, you are either trying to get as much done as possible while you’re away from your little or you have them with you which means no real conversation is happening. It can be thankless at times and lonely. Don’t even get me started on the constant guilt and struggle between being a mom and caring about doing your work well. I’ve decided that one won’t go away so I’m going to snuggle up to it the way I do Kennedy at night. 

Being a mom of littles means it feels like we are LOSING ourselves. We remember who we used to be. We remember our fierceness and our drive. We remember how smart we were or how dedicated to being our best selves we were. One of the problems with our new season is that we DO remember and it can feel painful or we can feel insignificant. But take heart, because like I said, it’s just a season. I see those 40-something women in the gym looking way better than I do and remember, it’s just a season when our kids our little. It’s just a season when Kennedy says, “ I coming, mommy!” or pointing at us saying, “Mommy…Daddy…Baby!” It’s just for a season that I get to snuggle up to her and I can’t even do a work out at home without her climbing all over me while I attempt it. It can be hard. It can be frustrating. But it is also so beautiful. And even though it feels like we are less accomplished than we used to be, given that it can be days before we get out of yoga pants, but in the end, we’ll never regret the time we let go of ourselves and gave our lives to our children. We’ll never regret the time we took away from career, friends, ambitions to be with our children because like my mom always tells me, time is fleeting, and it goes by way too fast. 

And momma, just because we are letting our SELVES go for just a season, doesn’t mean we won’t get ourselves back one day. One day we’ll be a wiser, more refined version of our former, fierce selves. One day we’ll get to do all of the things we used to do but will probably have more resources to do it! (Unless our kids are in private school) But for now, I’m going to remind myself why we lose ourselves for a good decade of our lives. When things get hard, when it feels like changing one more diaper will put you in the looney bin, or when you feel like if you have to ask your child to eat one more bit, one…more..time you are going to scream, then stop and remind yourself it’s just a season. 

We get the privilege of our littles NEEDING everything from us. We get to be their mommy for just a season before they turn into their own fierce adults. We may feel like we got demoted in life sometimes, even though we love our children so much it hurts! But remember, Mommy is the most important job you will ever have. And I’ll leave you with this quote from Andy Stanley, “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” 

You are fierce momma. And even though this is a season we let our SELVES go, it won’t be forever so put on those yoga pants, put that hair up in a messy bun and snuggle away. 

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.

 

God Meets Us in Desperate Places

img_0210The waiting. In a world of instant gratification, where I literally LOSE MY MIND when the internet is even just a little bit slow, God often makes us wait. We wait for answers, wait for a diagnosis, wait for a spouse, a child. And more times than not, these are good desires to have, understandable questions to want answers to or even bold prayers of healing, and yet God makes us wait.

Throughout the Bible there is verse after verse on waiting on the Lord. And I can relate so much to David in the Psalms because he is praising God one minute and crying out to Him in frustration the next. But all throughout the wait, He is preparing people for something bigger. Like a good dad, He knows what we need, He knows how rooted we need to be in Him, and so, sometimes He makes us wait so that we seek Him.

We don’t need God until we NEED Him. Isn’t it true in life that we often don’t need God until we NEED God? We give God our leftover time, leftover energy. We don’t seek Him with all that we’ve got until we are desperate to hear from Him? Pastor Joby Martin once said, “It’s often only at rock bottom that we actually look up.” And I’m ashamed to say that it’s true in my life. It’s been those moments when I was longing to find my companion for life that I was on my knees desperate to hear from Him. It was in those years that all we wanted was a healthy baby, that we stopped and cried out. It was in those moments where my husband was in the hospital that made me stop and cry out for the only one who could really heal him.

The Waiting is HARD. It was in those agonizing moments of waiting ,where my only hope was in God to provide, that I felt God in a way I never had before. But, it wasn’t always pretty waiting, and gracious peace while I waited. It was HARD, and desperation is the only way to describe how I felt. I remember those moments so well. It’s so easy for people NOT waiting to tell you: Be patient, it will happen in God’s timing. He will show up when you least expect it. Have you considered adoption? The list goes on and on of the stupid things good intentioned people say in those moments. And honestly the only good piece of advice I ever received in one of my moments of desperation was this, “Lean in. Be mad with God. Be honest with Him, but make sure you are being honest WITH Him and not at Him.” For some reason that really impacted me. From that moment on, I decided that instead of being angry and avoiding God, I would be angry WITH Him. I would lean in, wait patiently (or try to anyway), and meet God in that place. I started being dependent on God in a desperate way because my life was in shambles and He was the only light I could see. I desperately needed Him to REDEEM my situation.

Be Still and Lean In. In my experience, every time I’ve been desperate for God, desiring something that is completely out of my control, that God was preparing me for something great, something for my good and His glory. I heard a quote recently that left a mark on my soul, “When God has an impossible task to accomplish, he finds an impossible person and crushes them. So leave room for the crushing. In every great work of God, brokenness and failure are necessary.” (Chuck Swindoll) Wow. That’s a prayer I would NEVER pray for myself or anyone I love, but man, I’ve seen it to be true in my own life, and it also gives me a great sense of peace, power and purpose. God meets us in those desperate places. He deepens our faith and it is in those times that we realize that our circumstances don’t dictate our joy. It’s in those desperate places that we start to understand the depth of His love for us and the great purpose He has ahead of us.

He Will Redeem It. I remember a moment when I was coming home from a doctor’s appointment. I was crying on the interstate because it was a follow up after a miscarriage. At that point, I heard the song, “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North. They couldn’t have described how I felt more if I had written the lyrics myself.

I’m tired
I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn
I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
‘Cause I’m worn
I NEEDED God to redeem our situation. It had been a hard year with multiple miscarriages and my husband in the hospital for multiple surgeries, one of them life-saving. So in that moment, I felt crushed by the waiting and needed to know God would redeem it all. That we would wake up one day with full hearts of joy.

For us, going through all that we did before having Kennedy, taking us to a place of desperation for Him, gave us a stronger and healthier marriage, and rooted us so much deeper in Christ. And, because of it, we are better parents for Kennedy. If I had never experienced waiting on the Lord for a husband, I wouldn’t appreciate the man God chose for me like I do now. Waiting on the Lord for a child deepened my faith in His promises and made me realize what an incredible miracle a healthy baby truly is. If I had never been through all we did, I wouldn’t have found a passion for loving and encouraging other women going through similar things. I would never have discovered my passion for writing and speaking life into others. I would never have understood that NOTHING in this world satisfies my soul, and the only adventure great enough to satisfy me is in His great plan for my life.

Easy for me to say. I know it’s easy for me to tell you all of this because I am on the redemption side of trials (for now). But I say all of this to give you HOPE. Hope that God is bigger than our circumstances. God is bigger than our fear, doubt or questions. He loves us as His beloved children and wants to give us good things, in this life, not just in Heaven. As a good dad, he longs to give us the good desires of our hearts, we just have to trust in His timing, and trust Him in the waiting. Lean in, my loves. Lean in.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-6 

 

Love Languages

img_0234When you first get married or engaged everyone talks about the Love Languages book. It’s probably one of like 15 books people try and throw at you to prepare for this thing called marriage (in which I probably read .5 of them, meaning half of one book out of the 15). But after a few years under our belt, we realized this whole love language thing has merit. Who knew?

We discovered that Daniel and I have some majorly different love languages. I love words of affirmation (I’m still trying to explain to Daniel what that actually means). He loves lots of cuddles (I’m still trying to force my tired arm over to his head to play with his hair while he falls asleep). We often miss the mark in both of these areas. Daniel is pretty terrible at affirming words, and I’m just not the most cuddly person ever. So, both of those take work on our parts to help the other person feel loved. BUT, our salvation is that we discovered we have one love language in common – Quality Time!

If you think about it, quality time is really important to any good relationship. If you never spent time with someone, how would you get to know them? How would you ever learn their quirks, their interests? How would you get to know the person that they are without being there to listen to them? If Daniel told me every single day how awesome he thinks I am, what a great wife I am, and how much he loves me, yet never spent time with me, I wouldn’t feel loved at all. I would actually scoff at his remarks that while they are true, ha, he doesn’t actually know me well enough to observe such things.

The same could go for our kids. If you always told them you loved them or bought things for them, but never were around them, never talked to them, never listened to them, then would you really know them? Would they know you? Showing up is a big deal. 

It’s almost like we understand this concept to be true with our spouse, kids, family and friends (and we have to make an effort in these areas of showing up too!), but when it comes to God, we don’t think it applies. But, how we will know Him, be more like Him, feel close to Him if we never spent time with Him? I think the days of me half-heartedly sending up a hail mary prayer before starting the day aren’t cutting it anymore. He needs more of me, and I need more of Him. I honestly cannot be the wife, mother, daughter, worker and friend that I need to be without quality time with my Heavenly Father who while I’m not enough, He is.

We all know how very flawed we are and how much we want to be less like our selfish selves and more like Christ (just me?). We all want a closer relationship with Him because at the end of the day we know life is better when He is first. But how do we do that? I think as we get older it gets harder to make the time. We have work demands, home demands, wife demands and if we have kids, well, forget it. I think, for me, it’s about going back to the basics, the stuff we learned a long time ago, but need to re-learn and reapply to my busy life. Here’s what I’m making a commitment to do in 2017 as I create new habits that make me a better mom, a better worker, a better spouse, and heck, better all around.

1. Spend time in His word. If when you first got engaged, someone handed you your future spouse’s life story , journal and manual, wouldn’t you read it cover to cover? The Bible says that all scripture is God-breathed, alive and active. It’s literally God speaking to us. Have you ever read the same verse in different times of life and got something totally different out of it? I think that God reveals different Truths to us through our time in His Word. We get to know the character of God and of Jesus through reading Scripture, and He speaks to us through it too! The world is constantly trying to lie to us, and knowing the Truth and trustworthiness of God’s Word makes all the difference in the world.

2. Spend time in prayer. Be real with Him. He already knows you down to the number of hairs on your head (do extensions count I wonder?) so just be you. Talk with him like you would talk to your closest friend. Do you feel frustrated, tell him! Do you feel joyful, sing a song of joy to Him. We don’t have to fake it with God. We can be ourselves because He knew us at our worst, knows us at our worst, knows all of our flaws, our mistakes and failures, and He loves us anyway. So with that kind of freedom, just be yourself and spend time talking to Him.

3. Spend time with other people who know Him. God loves the church, and wanted that for us because we were meant for relationship. Ryan Britt, a pastor at our church, once said, “Our sinful nature will pursue isolation ever chance it gets.” I also heard an analogy one day that compared us to coals. If we all stick together, we stay lit and burn for hours. But the moment you take one coal off the stack and set it by itself, it stop burning and goes cold. So, spending time at Worship with other christians, spending time listening to sermons from super smart pastors who have degrees and stuff from their intensive Scripture studying, and spending time hanging out and doing life with other people who love Jesus are essential. It will fill you up and fill you with joy as you are closer to His family, and closer to Him.

And, let me put a disclaimer on this, it’s NEVER about doing more things to earn favor with God. Doing steps 1, 2, and 3 will not make me a more awesome Christian or put another jewel in my crown. It will simply draw me closer to the only One who can fulfill all of the desires in me, and the only One who makes His power perfect in all of my weaknesses (which are MANY). He is the only One who can make me ENOUGH to fulfill all of the many roles I now play in life. Making quality time for Him isn’t an option for me anymore, it’s crucial. 

Grace Pants

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Since we just entered a new year and are all making strides to better ourselves in some way, I thought it would be a great time to introduce the story of the infamous grace pants.

Story of the Grace Pants.

My husband showed me an incredible picture of what grace looks like in a relationship after we first got married. We got into a huge fight one night and I was downright mean. It may have been the wine talking, but I said some pretty nasty things, and was just the worst version of myself. The next morning instead of scolding me, holding it over my head or God-forbid loving me less, he didn’t say a word about it. I knew it was there, I knew I felt shameful for what I had said, but he never brought it up, and I knew it was because he was showing me grace in that moment. Daniel chose to love me by keeping no record of wrongs that day when he had every right to do otherwise. After we had our morning coffee, we walked down to our little town square. Daniel went in to look at some tennis shoes for himself and came back out with a pair of Nike shorts for me. He said he thought I would like them and that I would look cute in them. At that moment I said, “Are these my grace pants?” Daniel could have been furious with me or brought it up to his advantage in opportune times, but instead he did something kind for me. That’s a real picture of grace. So, from that point on in our marriage, we both say, “Are you putting on your grace pants?”

I loved this example of how to be in relationship with others, not just spouses because, not to be cheesy, but this is what Jesus would do. This is what Jesus DID.

Putting on grace pants got even more real for me when I was having a conversation with one of my dearest and oldest friends. We have been close friends since the 8th grade. I still have “Ely (heart) Carol, BFF” written on my old bathroom wall at my parent’s house in glow in the dark paint (which my mom is still mad about by the way). We have had MANY ups and downs in our friendship. We have hurt each other and let each other down, but we have also celebrated together and been there for some of life’s biggest achievements! One thing we realized is that relationships have to be all about grace. We are all broken and inevitably we will all let each other down. If we hadn’t worked through those hard times, forgiven one another, we wouldn’t have the long-lasting friendship we do now. Aren’t those the real friendships you really treasure anyway?

Fake Ain’t Great. God made us to be in relationship with one another. Not fake, “How are you doing?” “Oh, great! I’m blessed (insert southern accent).” He wants us to have actual, real, authentic and vulnerable relationships with other humans. But the problem is, we all want to put our best foot forward, only show the Dr. Jekyll side of ourselves in hopes that everyone will like us. But, have you ever had that friend that always tries to be perfect? It’s actually pretty annoying and you actually CRAVE that moment where she acts like a real human. Just tell me something?! You were late one day to get your kids from school, you hate cooking, you accidentally left your kid in the car for a second before realizing, ANYTHING to make her more relatable to the disaster you know you are deep down.

Just be real. What are we so afraid of? Well, I’m guilty of this. I’ve started caring less and less what people think of me as I get older (and become feistier too so my husband says), but it’s still there in the back of my mind: LIKE ME!!!!  I’ve noticed when trying to make new friends that it’s always easy at first, until there’s a chance they can start to see my flaws and imperfections. Will you still love me if you see how selfish I actually am? Will you still want to hang out with me if you see XYZ? Well, in light of this new year upon us, I say let’s all start getting real. Let’s be ourselves and venture out to have REAL relationships with people. We can anticipate that we will all be very flawed. We will all let one another down in some way. BUT, if we put our grace pants on and forgive one another we can get past those things and have a real, intimate and deep friendship that lasts a lifetime. I think this is the kind of relationship God wanted us to be in with one another just like the one we have with Him.

At the end of the day, it’s all about GRACE. Real grace is that we did nothing to deserve mercy and forgiveness, we didn’t even want it. But, Jesus paid the price for us anyway. God adopted us into His family and called us sons & daughters. “Grace is like a bridge that can absolutely hold the weight of our sin.” So if we can be forgiven of all of our past, present and future sins and still have an intimate relationship with the God of the Universe, then we can certainly forgive one another.

Relationships without depth don’t give us anything of real value. Pastor Adam Flynt said recently, “Grace means that God doesn’t make us good; He makes us alive.” I think it’s the same for us being in relationship with others. These fake, surface relationships aren’t cutting it. If anything, they drain us of life. So if we can be real, vulnerable with one another, unafraid of making a mistake, then, we can have real, life-giving relationships with other humans like God intended, full of grace for one another. And on the other hand, are we showing grace to our spouses, friends and family? Are we keeping a record of wrongs, or making those in our life afraid to make a mistake or come confidently to us to receive love? We can probably all take stock of some areas we need to work on when it comes to having grace for the people in our lives. So in 2017, let’s all vow to put on our “Grace Pants” and love hard and love real.

 

The Weight Gain

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As if being a mom or even TRYING to become a mom isn’t hard enough, then there’s the weight gain. Whether it be through trying to conceive, the process of fertility or just the fact that we just gave birth, there’s always weight gain or even if you’re lucky enough to not gain weight, our body just doesn’t look the same anymore. Not only do we have some extra pounds, especially around the middle, we also have droopy boobs that you can literally roll up like socks into your bra (sorry men who might read this). So, on top of the fact that our whole world is changing and/or we want so desperately to start a family, we start to question our identity because we just don’t look the same as we used to.

I remember after having Kennedy how much I was affected by my weight. I never wanted to go anywhere with Daniel in public because I thought people would see me with him and think, “Why would he marry her? She really out-punted her coverage there.” I remember not fitting into any of my clothes and feeling like people looked at me differently at the store or took me less seriously at work. One of my friends told me a story that she felt so fat and ugly after gaining weight from her pregnancy that she cried on the stairs before a pool party with friends. The weight gain and body change is SO hard, and it’s okay to feel that way. We have all been there (See photo above that I hated myself in and cried after seeing because I felt so unattractive).

The media doesn’t help either. We live in a culture that is constantly lying to us about our identity. If you aren’t beautiful, you aren’t lovable. And the only way to be lovable is to live up to this ridiculous standard. The media tells us that if we aren’t a size zero with a butt that looks like you have an invisible pole holding it up 5 minutes after giving birth, then you just aren’t working hard enough. I mean celebrities actually get insurance on specific body parts that are especially “valuable.” Ridiculous. I have a theory that this is how satan likes to attack women. God made us in such a way that we DO want to be loved and seen as valuable or lovely. So, the enemy takes that good desire in us and twists it in such a way that we feel we can never actually achieve that standard, so the result is that instead of feeling joy about being a new mom, we end up comparing ourselves to other women, and always falling short.

If the media’s standard of beauty is really what determines our value, then Hollywood marriages would be thriving. A majority of those beautiful hollywood models or actresses had a man look at them one day and say, eh, I’m done with you. So obviously this standard of beauty (which isn’t even real, hello airbrushing), can’t truly be what determines how valuable and loved we are as women.

So what do we do about this culture of lies and false identity? 

1. Lean into Jesus: If you find yourself buying into the lies of this world, then the only thing left to do is lean into Jesus. Haven’t we all met that one girl who was so confident in who she was that all of a sudden instead of critiquing her flaws, we started noticing all of the beautiful things about her? I think of those women in my life and realize that true beauty comes from a humble confidence in who God made you to be. I want that kind of confidence. Don’t feel like you have that? Me either, but there’s hope.

If you surrendered your life to Christ, then you have the power of the Holy Spirit within you. Which means you have a direct line to God, the creator of the universe, the creator of YOU. So God wants us to bring these things to Him and lay them at His feet: One, you can take that crappy feeling you have of yourself and pray God helps you find the time to get to the gym or be disciplined enough to put healthy food in your body. I remember praying a very similar prayer! Two, pray for a right perspective on how God sees you. What’s that thing you struggle with? “If only I could lose this weight. If only I could get that surgery. If only I had a smaller nose.” What is that one thing that causes you to compare yourself to other women constantly and causes you to feel less about yourself. What is that one trait you see in other women that causes you to be jealous instead of love them? God made us to be in REAL relationships, and when we can finally find our confidence in who God says we are, then we can be free to love one another despite all of our many differences. We can start to celebrate one another’s strengths and not compare. And the only person who can change this perspective in you is the One who made you. 

2. Memorize some Scripture: You need some “It Is Writtens” is your life. Our pastor often says that when we know our weak areas or struggles, we need some it is writtens memorized so that we can battle against it. What that means is that if we believe that Scripture is alive and active, then we need to memorize that Scripture that tells us the TRUTH about how valuable and how loved we actually are.The Bible says that “charm is deceitful and beauty is vein” (Proverbs 31:30), and that “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Proverbs 139:14). Write these out on sticky notes and stick them everywhere: your bathroom mirror, the fridge, your car dashboard (for when you see all of the super fit moms in the carpool line). Here are a few that come to mind that help me: Proverbs 31, Psalm 139, Romans 9:25, 1 Peter 3:4, Psalm 46:5, Proverbs 31:25.

3. Check your friend circle: Do your friends make you feel awesome or do they make you feel like crap? If being around the women you surround yourself with brings you down, makes you compare and become jealous, then you need some new friends. If your friends judge and gossip about other women constantly, why in the heck would you feel confident around them, much less like you can actually be real with them. (Disclaimer: Yes, you should most definitely have lots of non-christian friends because how else will they know about Jesus.) But, you absolutely need women who love Jesus in your life so that they are constantly pointing you back to the Truth about how beautiful God made you to be. After having Kennedy I needed those friends who allowed me to be truthful about how bad I felt about myself and let me vent. I needed those moments when I could cry and they would bring me chocolate and wine. But, I also needed those friends that encouraged me to get up and get to the gym so I could be healthier for my family! The fact of the matter is, we need friends we can be real with, and friends that will lovingly be there for us and point us in the right direction.

4. Fake it until you make it. Attaining a humble confidence in who God made you to be doesn’t come overnight. But, maybe we can all start faking it until it does. Being humble isn’t thinking less of yourself; it means thinking of yourself less. So for starters, we can stop being so self-absorbed all of the time. “I’m fat. I don’t look good in this outfit. I could never pull off a dress like that.” One thing I try and do when I notice something I like in other women is always say it out loud to them, even if I feel a twinge of jealously about that said trait. You have no idea what that does for you and for that other person who probably at that very moment is wishing she had your toned arms or long eyelashes. We all compare, so once we start actively loving and encouraging each other, then all of our confidence goes up, we love each other more, and that ugly green monster called jealousy gets a boot in the you know what.

A Note for the Men: As husbands, dads of daughters and even brothers, you have a big job to do. It’s your job to speak the truth into your wife, daughter or sister. It’s your job to shatter those lies that an unattainable beauty standard is the only thing that makes her valuable. It is your job to not allow her to speak negatively about herself. It is your job to speak truth to her about how beautiful she really is, how valuable she is to you and your family. So even though this is hard for you, start telling those women in your life how beautiful and valuable they are. I promise even small compliments go a LONG way.

Conclusion – At the end of the day, we all probably want to look nice and fit into our clothes again. I want my hubby to be proud to have me by his side, and after going through years of trying to conceive and having Kennedy, I ultimately wanted to feel like myself again after spending years giving my whole self to starting a family, including my body. And we will get there one day; we will get back to feeling like ourselves again. I mean, hey, they say your 40’s are some of your best times! But, the scars, extra layer of fat, and smaller boob size will have all been worth it because there is nothing in this world like becoming a mother.

In the mean time, let’s lean into Jesus, making sure that we aren’t putting the wrong kind of value on that weight gain and beauty-striving. Let’s all remind ourselves and also each other that our beauty is found in who God made us to be, that we each have so many beautiful traits. Let’s celebrate one another instead of compare ourselves to one another. It’s when we can finally attain that humble confidence we talked about, in who God made us to be, that we can truly love ourselves and love others. 

Side Note: These are two of my very favorite “it is writtens” because they make me feel valuable and beautiful. Because of how rooted I am in who God made me to be, I have confidence that I will not be moved. Because I have seen God provide for me time and time again, and give me peace despite my circumstances, I know how very loved I am and therefore have no fear of the future. I know that God is a good Dad who loves me, and that He formed every part of me from my round face to my short legs, and dang, that’s beautiful (and some days I have to remind myself of that even when I don’t feel it).

“God is within her, she will not be moved.” Psalm 46:5

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25