Shadow Monsters

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Do you remember waking up from a bad dream as a child?

In the first few seconds after waking up, my room always seemed darker. And suddenly I was aware of every single shadow being cast on my walls. They towered over me like some child-eating monster out of a storybook. If you were like me, your first reaction was to cover yourself with your impenetrable shield of protection…your bedspread. Absolutely nothing could infiltrate it. The only flaw in your bedspread-defense is that the air starts to run out. First it gets hot, then it gets heavy, and then runs out completely. So you had better figure out your next strategic move before you pass out and get eaten up by a shadow monster.

As I took shelter under my sheets, I strategized an escape plan. But just the idea of letting my toes dangle over the edge of my mattress sent shivers to my completely rational, undramatic core, much less actually making a break for it. Ask any child and they’ll tell you that the moment your feet hit the floor, you have exactly .264 seconds to start running to the door, because something will grab your foot from under the bed. It’s just a fact.

The fear would grow and grow until there was only one thing left to do. I would work up enough courage to pull the covers down, just low enough to expose my mouth, then shout into the horrible blackness…

“MOMMYYYYYYYYYYYY!”

I needed her. I needed the comfort and peace that presence brought. And we all know that a mommy’s presence vanquishes any fear from bad dreams or shadow monsters.

I truly wonder how my mom got through my terror stage of the “Half Man, Half Monkey” (Thank you Sci-Fi commercial, thank you.) It didn’t matter if I was awake or asleep. If it was dark, I was scared. She had her presence requested (that’s a nice way to say I screamed bloody murder for her) countless times. To make things worse, I also discovered the movie, “Harry and The Hendersons.” AWESOME. I went to the kitchen one night for some water and as I sat at the dining room table, the realization hit me. Bigfoot was under the table. I should have just stayed parched in my bed…under my bedspread. I thought to myself, “So this is the end. What a way to go. So long, world. It’s been a great seven years.” To this day, I’m thankful that I was brave enough to look under the table. I’m convinced I would have had a heart attack if I had just sat there an longer.

Well, now I’m the mom.

My sweet toddler is in a stage where everything is “scary”. She’ll run up to the door where there is some chipped paint and theatrically scream, “Ahhhh! A big bug!”. Or she’ll run up to her daddy and then yell, “Ahhhh! Daddy scared me!” So yes, everything is pretend scary right now.

But an airplane flew right over our house yesterday. I must admit, it was pretty loud and startled me too. She ran out of her room yelling, “Mommy! It scared me!”

I took her by the hand, starting walking towards her room and said, “It’s okay, sweet girl. It was just an airplane. Mommy will go with you.”

She tenderly looked up at me as she took my hand. Once her hand was locked in mine, she had an instant boldness; a courage that comes along with simply having her mommy with her. The thing that scared her before, wasn’t so scary anymore. I was with her.

I feel that’s how our God is with us. We can run up to Him and tell Him that we’re scared; scared of the situation we’re in, scared of the unknown, scared of the future, scared we aren’t enough.

And His heart…His wonderful daddy heart whispers to us,

“It’s alright, sweet child. I’ll go with you.”

When we hear His voice, when we feel His hand wrapped around ours, we can move forward with boldness and peace.

It may not always be easy to walk into unknown territory, and let’s be honest, it’s usually scary most of the time. But we do not have to walk in fear because we are not alone. His presence allows us freedom to breathe, freedom to keep putting one foot in front of the other, freedom to find courage where otherwise there would be none.

What a beautiful thing.

So today, lock hands with Him. Find your courage in His presence. Walk in His presence. Keep moving forward in His presence.

Shadow monsters are scary, but they all disappear in the presence of Light.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Learning To Be Beautiful

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So I’ve reached that time after having a baby where I’m really noticing that extra “fluff” that baby-growing has left on my body. It’s always an interesting time for me. I want to get on a consistent exercise routine again, but I’m still so tired from being up at night with baby. Extra energy is rare. I want to make sure I’m eating healthy, but I also love Oreos. So yes, it’s interesting.

Before I was a momma, before I was married, I had a very unhealthy self-image. To be honest, I think I treaded on the obsessive side of worrying about what my body looked like. Being beautiful meant being sexy. It meant highlighted hair, manicured nails, a sculpted body, tanned skin and a perfectly painted face. None of those things are wrong, but they were my highest priorities in life…and that is wrong. Confidence meant knowing how to flirt. It meant knowing how to make guys desire you. It meant getting what you want. Authenticity didn’t matter. At least not to the degree it should have. Kindness and courage also didn’t hold places of honor like they deserve. If I felt like I had gained an ounce of weight, I would simply skip a few meals until I felt like I was where I should be. Even if I hadn’t gained weight and just wanted to feel more desirable, I would stop eating. I’m sad that’s they way I thought, but it’s the truth.

After I had my first daughter over 2 years ago, everything changed. I didn’t want her to grow up feeling insecure or obsessing over what her body looked like. I didn’t want her to absorb the lies that society told her about being “perfect”. I didn’t want her to overhear me talking about how I hate loving carbs so much because they make me fat. But when my baby weight started to be burdensome, my first reaction was so restrict how much I was eating. I remember looking down at her sweet, innocent face while she was nursing and I thought, “I don’t want her to see that growing up. I will not take away her nutrients. I’ll eat healthy foods. She matters more than my weight. She is more important.” That realization was a game changer for me. That seed of truth took root and it’s been growing ever since. I stopped using the words “fat” and “ugly”. Even when I’ve felt like those things, I will not say it. My daughter will not hear them from her momma.

As I was looking in the mirror the other day, 4 months after having my youngest daughter, I saw a very different body than what I used to have. I had to do a double take because I didn’t recognize a few body parts. But I realized something. I can look at my little kangaroo pouch and a little more truthfully say, “That’s ok. I grew a human in there for almost 10 months. And that’s pretty amazing.” I can look at my thighs and my hips and acknowledge that the extra weight they carry was important baby-nourishing weight.

Do not let your beauty come from the outside. It should not be the way you comb your hair or the wearing of gold or the wearing of fine clothes. Your beauty should come from the inside. It should come from the heart. This is the kind that lasts. Your beauty should be a gentle and quiet spirit. In God’s sight this is of great worth and no amount of money can buy it.      1 Peter 3:3-4 (NLV)

Now I’ll be the first to admit that some days it is hard. It’s very hard. Motherhood changes everything, including our bodies. I get that. I really do. The extra rolls and fluff that won’t fit into all my pre-pregnancy clothes can feel more like burdens than badges of honor. I get it. Those days are numerous, believe me. But my desire is shifting to be healthy, not hot; to be strong, not sexy. Don’t get me wrong, I want to look physically beautiful and I love when my husband gives me a little smack on the toosh and a “mmmm” as he walks by. Being beautiful doesn’t mean neglecting outward appearance, but it doesn’t mean obsessing over it either. I’m slowly learning to stop equivocating beauty to a number on a scale. Confidence doesn’t mean calorie cutting, it means grabbing hold of what makes you you and boldly living it out. Now that is beautiful.

Since I’ve had my daughters, I feel more beautiful. And I feel stronger. They’ve allowed me to be who I am. They’ve helped me value what matters. They’ve helped me reconnect with the beauty I felt as a young girl. Real beauty. I value strength. I cherish confidence. I esteem courage, kindness and authenticity. Because it is those things that make a woman truly beautiful.

Her clothes are strength and honor. She is full of joy about the future. Proverbs 31:25 (NLV)

 

That Time I Sat In Pee

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So there’s been a lot going on in our home this week. I’m finishing a book proposal, my oldest daughter is potty training & my littlest is teething. I have seen 4am a few too many times this week, so my eyes are in a permanent state of bloodshot. I don’t know how you super duper early risers do it. I think there may be something wrong with you. Your eyes look happy & you smile way too much to be someone who gets up before the sun even sees fit to arrive. It’s just not normal. I’ll pray for you.

Anyways, needless to say there has not been one dull moment in our house this week. Case in point, I sat in pee. Not once, not twice, but three times.

As I was in the kitchen, my 2 year old ran up to me & said, “Uh oh, Mommy. Pee pee!”

Now for those of you with children, you know this means one of two things. Either your child is suddenly overwhelmed with a potty emergency & is requesting to go pee pee or…there is already a puddle of pee…somewhere.

As I turned the corner, I said a little prayer & clung to the hope that it would be the former.

However, it wasn’t.

I peeked over the recliner & there it was. A puddle. No, no, more like a lake. A lake of pee. Now there’s a visual for you.

I reassured my daughter it wasn’t a big deal & that I would grab a rag & clean it up. Well, sweet girl asked to help clean it (c’mon, how cute) so I grabbed a couple paper towels so she could help “clean” it until I could actually CLEAN it. Know what I’m saying?

We patted & dabbed.  Then she told me she had to pee. Again.

So with all the speed we had in us, we ran down the hallway to the bathroom to finish the job. As we were walking back to the living room, my littlest broke out in a scream-cry. I picked her up, but nothing would console her. So I sat down & began feeding her & she settled immediately. However what should have been a moment of relief quickly turned into the need for a floatie because once again, I found myself sitting in the LazyBoy river.  Or maybe it was the Pee-cific Ocean (See what I did there? I’m so punny.)

Yep, just from the time it took to take my toddler to the bathroom & pick up my baby, I forgot the recliner was soaked.

Again, those of you with kids know that when your teething baby is scream-crying, you will try EVERYTHING to console her. You will bounce. You will walk. You will bounce walk. You will roam the house 1,000 times until your arms feel like they will literally fall off. So when I sat down & nursing immediately calmed her, there was only one thing to do. Sit in the puddle & not move.

I texted my husband & I told him I was a prisoner to a pee covered recliner. And we laughed. Well, we both LOL-ed which is pretty much the same thing.

After the little was calm, it was nap time for the toddler. So I buckled the baby in the swing & started nap time routine. We got blankets all cozy, stuffed animals perfectly arranged & a book for her to read while she fell asleep. As I closed her door, I realized that my early mornings were really taking a toll. So I made some coffee & sat down. In pee. For the second time. This time, my sense of humor was nowhere to be found. “Really? Again?!” I thought to myself.

I went to the kitchen, opened my pantry to grab some cleaning supplies.

As I opened the door, some disgusting smell from the garbage can smacked me in my face. So I took out the bag, set the bag in the garage & put a new bag in.

There. That’s better. 

Before I could shut the door, the baby began crying again. I rushed over to console her quickly so she would wake her napping sister.

But nothing was working. Bouncing. Swaying. Walk rocking. Yes, that’s a thing. Nothing was calming her down.

Then I remembered that nursing her had worked earlier, so I thought I’d give that a try again. I sat down, began feeding her again & realized the horrible, horrible mistake I had made. For a third time. I closed my eyes & silently scolded myself. “Well, you must like sitting in pee. How did you do this for a third time?! The first two times weren’t enough?!”

Do you ever do this? Not sit in pee, but keep coming back to something that you know isn’t good; something that you know you need to let go of?

I catch myself doing it more often than I care to admit. I beat myself up about past mistakes. I get frustrated at myself for holding on to unhealthy relationships. I get deeply discouraged for not finishing certain things that I know should have been done years ago.

I’ll keep coming back to that “thing.” I’ll feel guilty or sad or frustrated or discouraged or angry about something. But instead of truly letting it go & moving forward, I just keep coming back to it.

I keep sitting in the pee. Over & over. And afterwards, I always ask, “Why do I keep doing this?”

I have to repeatedly remind myself sometimes that I am not who I use to be. I think differently. I live differently. I even love differently than I used to. My God has truly made me a new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Yes, I made some mistakes. Yes, I wish I had done some stuff differently. But all those things do not bind me. They do not control or own me & they definitely do not define who I am. I have been set free from condemnation.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- Galatians 3:13

I do not have to wallow in regret or become paralyzed by discouragement. Today is all I have. The decision I make in this moment is all I have. And praise God, that is enough. His grace is sufficient for me.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

So let’s remember who we are now. Let go of what needs to be released & embrace what needs to be held on to. Let’s make forward moving decisions in this moment.

Because trust me, it’s not fun sitting in pee.