The Truth About My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

The Truth About My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

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My baby. She was finally here. She was healthy and in my arms…and she was perfect.

We bought a new home only 3 weeks before her arrival. It had way more space than our tiny, one bedroom condo. It was a place to finally call our own. A place where we could paint every wall hot pink if we wanted to because it was ours. There was room to grow. It was perfect.

Everything was perfect…except it wasn’t.

The immediate months following my transition into motherhood were hard. Really hard. I constantly wondered how every other new parent was able to handle it all, while I was slowly crumbling.

The sleep deprivation alone was enough to break any person into a hundred pieces. But there were also the changing hormones, the new dynamic between me and my husband, and the heavy responsibility of being another human being’s everything. And on top of it all, came the constant arguing, the deep anxiety and the paralyzing panic attacks. I felt so sad that I was almost numb. The scenarios I worried about were not only irrational, they were extreme.

It was all balled up together like a bowl of tangled, spaghetti noodles—everything intertwined and knotted. One thing seemed to affect another thing which led to another, and another and another. I couldn’t find the beginning or end. And I could no longer decipher an irrational meltdown from a logical concern. It was all the same. I was tired and empty and felt completely alone.

I resented my husband for not doing more. Not taking the baby more. Not cleaning more. Not helping me more. But when he offered to help, I didn’t even know which of the moving pieces to give him. I was juggling it all and if I handed off the baby, or gave him one task or chore or action, the whole thing would fall apart. It was just easier if I did it. I felt myself getting dangerously worn but I felt too guilty to stop. There was no solution—I either resented him for not helping or I felt gut-wrenchingly guilty for asking for help. I was the mom. I was the one who was supposed to be able to do it all. Right?

But the single working part that I had become starting breaking. One person can only go or do so much before they just…can’t anymore.

And that’s where I found myself. I couldn’t. I barely recognized the woman in the mirror. Even worse, I didn’t like her anymore.

I longed to be a momma my entire life, so needing help felt like I was failing at the one thing that I always aspired to be. Nobody told me it would be this hard. Nobody told me that parenthood would test the endurance of my marriage, challenge my emotional and spiritual condition, and make me question my own self-identity.

I had heard of “baby blues.” What a cute, non-threatening label. I had also heard of “postpartum depression.” That term sounded more medical and serious, but still, I didn’t truly know what it was. I had never even heard of “postpartum anxiety.”

My preconception of postpartum depression led me to believe that it was uncommon, and when a woman did experience it, it was within the first few weeks of having a baby. I was far passed the few weeks mark—my baby was 5 months old—so it had to be something else. Maybe motherhood just wasn’t as natural for me as I thought it would be. Maybe I needed to get away for a while. Maybe my husband and I were growing apart. Maybe I was just losing it.

I wanted to be a mom and I loved my baby and I was healthy and young. I had a new home, a great husband, and beautiful healthy baby. What was there to be depressed about?

Yet, I was suffocating. I hadn’t expressed my feelings to anyone. Not to the degree in which they were exploding inside of me. All my mommy-friends looked like they had their lives together. It seemed as if motherhood was a breeze for them. They were happy and organized…and showered. I was barely functioning.

And after 5 months of feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted, I realized it wasn’t getting better. In fact, everything was getting worse.

I wasn’t just tired. I wasn’t just feeling the newness of being a momma. I wasn’t just “in a funk”.

It went deeper. So much deeper.

Finally, I met my breaking point. “I need help. I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. I wasn’t crying for help with the dishes or housework or holding the baby. I needed help with my entire life. My marriage, my mind, my body.

I called my doctor. I called my pastor’s wife. I called my mom. I talked to my husband. I went to a professional counselor. And I began to open up with the moms around me. Just saying those 3 words were freeing in itself—“I need help.”

The moment I began to feel the warmth from the intentional support of others, my hope and clarity began to restore. I had existed in hopelessness and helplessness for so long that hope felt…strange. Strange but wonderful. Like a precious friend you haven’t seen in years—you know them well, yet don’t fully recognize them.

Because there were so many different kinds of issues and struggles going on inside of me—and because new pains had mixed with resurfaced ones—it took everyone on my “team” to help me. My husband, my pastor’s wife, my counselor, my doctor, my momma-friends. Each person helped me in different, vital ways. Each contributed a level of healing.

My doctor and I came up with a 3 week plan. Three weeks of counseling, being intentional with what I was eating, how I was exercising, spending time in the sunshine, allowing myself time to be alone. After the 3 weeks, I would have a follow-up appointment to reassess how I was doing and see if there was any improvement. If there wasn’t much improvement, we would then discuss incorporating medicine. It wasn’t night an overnight “cure” but within the first few days of starting my new routine, I noticed an improvement. I could already breathe easier. Because this was an ongoing process, I remained intentional with my self-care routine and stayed aware of how I was feeling.

My senses felt crisper. I was living again, not just surviving. And it happened because I spoke out.

Postpartum depression and anxiety can vary in appearance from momma to momma. Its heaviness can gradually grow like single grains of sand slowly piling up. Or it can come on very suddenly. There isn’t a definitive list of emotions or symptoms and there isn’t an exact timeframe as to when it can happen. And I think that’s why it can go undetected or ignored for so long.

If you’ve recently had a baby—even within the last year—and you feel overwhelmed, hopeless and completely empty to the point of feeling like you can’t function as a person, I encourage you to speak up for yourself. Talk to a professional. There is no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. I know that you want to be the absolute best momma to your baby. I know you may feel guilty asking for help or wanting to take time for yourself. But in order to fill up the ones around you, you have to be filled yourself. Caring for yourself—mind, body and spirit—should remain a top priority. I’m not sure why there is still such a stigma around postpartum depression but I can tell you with complete certainty, you are not alone, you are not failing and there is nothing to be ashamed about. I promise you, there is help nearby and things are going to get better.

When New Becomes the Normal

When New Becomes the Normal

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This particular feeling of transition is familiar to me. The waiting game. The anticipation. The dreaming and preparing and eagerness and anxiety. The constantly being on edge, while trying to distract myself and not think about how I’m constantly on edge. It’s e x h a u s t i n g .

Oh yes, I know this feeling well. It’s a mixture of heartache as well as over-the-moon excitement. A haze of surrealness that we are in the last days of being a household of 4—transitioning to a household of 5.

I felt this right before each of my daughters were born too—this strange place of savoring every moment of how life currently is while impatiently awaiting what will become our family’s new normal.

I can’t remember life before my youngest daughter. It is like she has always been here. And I surely can’t remember life before my oldest daughter. I am convinced life started the day she born and it is the life that I have always wanted to live.

However, these were not my sentiments right before they were each born. During the days leading up to their births it was more of an, “OH. MAN. How the heck am I going to do this? I barely have my act together right now. Like, barely. And I’m supposed to add another human life into the mix!? This is not going to be pretty.”

But sure enough, after a little bit of time (and tears and small victories and slowly conquering the learning curve) I moved from the scary newness to a more confident rhythm of life. Trust me, we still had those days. We still have those days. I don’t think the frequency decreased. I think maybe I just figured out how to handle them better. I’m not sure. Either way, I’ll take it.

And soon…it was normal. Life with a baby was normal. Then life with 2 kids was normal. And now, with faith that that truth will continue, I know life with 3 kids will become my new normal. And eventually, the details of life before our son will become foggy. Because he will be the perfect puzzle piece that our family was missing.

As I was drying my girls’ hair this morning, (there really is nothing like the smell of fresh babies right out of the bath) one was swaying back and forth singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the top of her lungs—the other one was playing a music game on my phone. And as I ran my fingers through their hair, I held my breath a little. My lungs captured that air so very tightly. And I didn’t want to exhale. Because I loved that moment. And I love our family dynamic right now. I love my full days with my 2 little best friends. And even though those full days can be hard and wearing full days, I love them just the same.

But eventually I had to let out that precious breath and when it did my heart exploded with these words…

You are losing nothing and gaining so much. The joy of life is going about to be multiplied. Life will look different, but it will be better.

I am settled into that place—that place of absorbing the right-now as well as the soon-will-be. And I am thankful for both, because both make me a mom.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

Confessions of a Quitter and Giving It 51%

Confessions of a Quitter and Giving It 51%

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An early morning a few months ago I found myself standing in front of my kitchen sink that was once again full of dirty dishes. I was talking to my sister on the phone just staring at the task in front of me.

(I’m not sure who breaks into my house every single night just to dirty every single one of my dishes—leaving me to clean them in the morning—but if I ever catch the dirtying culprit, I’m popping him right in the nose. And I have raging pregnancy hormones right now, so it would be epic.)

My one year old hadn’t slept for oh, her entire life. Which meant this momma hadn’t slept for her entire life. Every night for the past 15 months had been broken up into sleepless segments. And then the entire previous week, 3am had become our I’m-Up-For-The-Day.

I wasn’t just sleepy, I was e x h a u s t e d—physically, emotionally and mentally depleted. I think most mommas know the place I’m talking about. And boy oh boy, I was in that place.

And on this particular morning as I stood in front of that sink of dirty dishes, I became totally overwhelmed. That sink was just the beginning of what I needed to get done. I don’t remember exactly what our topic of conversation was, but it wasn’t a serious one. However my response to whatever she said just burst out of me—and with a shaky voice attempting to hold back tears, I said,

“I don’t finish anything. I just quit…everything…all the time. I start and then…I quit.”

My vision began to blur with tears. And then I began to go down the list of all my failures and all of the projects I had started but for one reason or another, had quit.

Nothing like an early morning, lighthearted conversation with your sister, right?

My physical and mental exhaustion had stripped away my excuses (along with my good attitude and normally happy demeanor). And that rawness had suddenly and violently stirred up this regret and frustration about things I had quit.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve battled procrastination and quitting—always wishing to trade in those habits for ones of persevering and finishing. I’ve written about my journey of recovery before. This struggle isn’t a new thing for me.

Big life events…small every day tasks…friendships…ministries…workout programs. You name it, I’ve quit each of them at least once.

I would feel alone in it all. I’d watch other women who seemed to have it all together. Every detail in their lives seemed to be in place. Every project completed. Always on time. Always floating, not walking. And I would wonder why I couldn’t seem to get my act together since others seemed to do it so effortlessly.

And honestly, I still feel that way sometimes. Why the heck can’t I just figure this life thing out? Not just with keeping up with dishes (which would be a beautiful miracle), but with…projects…dreams…life.

Shortly after my dish-hating/I’m-such-a-quitter meltdown in my kitchen, I heard about a book called 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit and got an early copy of it. I love the author and the title practically screamed my name so I was eager to dive in. The book follows the life of Ruth from the Bible and pulls out truth and examples of how her steady faithfulness changed countless generations.

This book has been such an unexpected game changer for me. You know those times where you don’t need advice, or a coach or a teacher or a drill sergeant…you just need a friend? Yeah, this book has become my friend. The kind of friend that says, “Yep. I’ve been there. I’m still there. I’ve not figured it all out, but I’m on my way. Let me share with you.”

There have only been a handful of times in my life where I can look back and honestly say I feel pleased with how I stuck to something. I’m talking about the kind of somethings that took a lot of time, a lot of energy and…gulp…a lot of persistence (for like, more than a week).

But what if my definition of success simply meant staying consistent?

This book is jam-packed full of goodness. But 3 of the things that I walked away with after reading 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit:

1.) I am not alone in my struggles

2.) There is hope to change my quitter-habits and replace them with finisher-habits

3.) If I can’t give 100% that day, give 51%

That last one was a big aha moment for me. And looking back at the times I actually did finish well with large tasks, that’s sort of what I did. Even if I couldn’t hit some amazing goal that day, I did just one thing that kept me moving towards my main goal. And sure enough, enough days of doing one little thing led me to finishing that big thing.

In her book, Nicki writes about the power of 51%:

If success can be redefined as “not quitting,” it’s this idea that if we can just stay 1 percent above 50, we are heading in the right direction.

So, while you determine in your spirit you can’t handle Jillian Michaels’ bossy commands today, you choose the 51 percent route and go for a quiet walk. No, you didn’t give everything you had, but you gave it 51 percent, and so that’s a step in the right direction.

I’m really excited about the tools I learned from 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit. Particularly learning how to identify why I quit and then figuring out how to reform habits that have become obstacles. (I highly recommend snagging a copy if you too struggle with finishing things. There are too many gems in it to talk about in a short post, but it really is worth the read.)

Some days, I just don’t have the energy or time I wish I could fully devote. But instead of an all or nothing mindset on those days, I’m excited now view consistency as success. Eventually all that movement forward, despite the speed, will lead me to that finish. And I’m already seeing the benefits of those newly formed habits! How awesome!

So to all my fellow recovering procrastinators and quitters, we can do it! One habit, one step, one word, one consistent forward movement at a time.

Click here to buy a copy of 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit, by Nicki Koziarz.

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To Love the Unlovable

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I recently watched a very complicated situation unfold. I wasn’t directly involved- more of a bystander. But a friend I love dearly was in the heart of it, so I got an up close view of the whole thing.

A close relative of my friend was injured and needed to be cared for during their recovery process. In the best of circumstances, her relative could still easily be defined as “unlikable.” So throw in a traumatic experience, unstable emotions and a resistant attitude, and you’ve got someone who makes it miserable to be around (to put it nicely).

Throughout the recovery process, nothing seemed to go smoothly. There were physical setbacks, unexpected financial blows, constant opposition and emotional outbursts.

And that was just the surface of the situation. There were layers upon layers of emotional scars that ran deep, adding to the messiness of it all. The person who had inflicted those scars now lay in a hospital bed, unable to do basic things for themselves.

My friend, who could have been justifiably angry from a lifetime of pain, chose to bear the scars with mercy, and love someone who didn’t deserve it. Once broken and fragile, my friend now embodied strength and restoration. She had found healing, peace and redemption over the years. That’s what happens when Jesus gets involved in our messes. Sitting in that hospital room, she poured out grace and love without restraint.

Now before I go on, let me just say, having boundaries is a very good thing. I don’t think the “right thing” or “loving thing” means to keep going back to an unhealthy or dangerous situation or relationship. Sometimes, staying away is the harder thing to do. Sometimes, it’s best to get out of a relationship completely because it’s physically or emotionally dangerous. Other times, love can only be offered through limited interaction like short conversations or through prayers for the person. But other times, love physically comes face to face with the unlovable.

That is the love I saw. Given freely and unconditionally. I watched as the emotionally wounded chose to love the wounder over and over.

She made the decision to love.

It wasn’t the feel good kind of love that’s filled with hugs and rainbows and bunnies.

It was the raw, messy, pain filled, undeserving kind of love.

It was Jesus kind of love.

And it shook me.

But if I can be totally honest, I don’t know if I would have loved as well as she did. If put in that situation, I hope I would love well. I desperately hope I would. However, there were numerous times I watched her be horribly mistreated and my heart thought, “She should just walk away. It’s not her responsibility. She’s the one who has been hurt. Her relative is just finally reaping what they sowed for years. They don’t deserve such a love. It isn’t fair.”

But during one of those thoughts, the Lord very clearly interrupted, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The example of love I saw that left me in awe was human to human. Can you believe that there is a love even fiercer, stronger and eternal? I too, have been given a completely undeserved love by a holy God. I make mistake after mistake, but He continues to love me.

Is that fair? Not at all.

Do I deserve it? Absolutely not.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

He is a perfect God loving a very, VERY imperfect person. Yet, He calls me His daughter, His beloved. He has not only cared for me when I was most unlikable, He died for me when I was most unlovable. He took the punishment of death that I deserved. Death. That is what I deserved.

How’s that for love.

Raw, messy, never-ending, undeserved love.

Freely given…

…despite mistakes.

…despite failures.

…despite resistance.

…despite messing up again…and again…and again.

…despite never ever being able to come close to deserving it.

It’s easy for me to accept something good that I don’t deserve, but the moment I see someone else given the same good thing, I quickly point out the injustice.

Oh, the love of Jesus!

Yeah, it’s not fair or just or deserved. And thank goodness. My life depends on it…and so does yours.

So Tired and So Happy – Encouragement for Every Mom

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“Motherhood is an experiment in how long your body can function without adequate sleep or nourishment and fueled only on adrenaline, caffeine, and baby smiles.” — Unknown

“Being a mom is the absolutely beeeeeest!” my friend squealed as she closed her eyes and covered her heart with her hands. She began describing all the wonderfulness of her new title of Momma. I had been married for less than a year, so babies were not yet in the forecast. I did however, have a puppy name Rowdee. I knew I would be able to relate to my friend, because babies…puppies…same thing. The only difference is with a puppy you are horribly inconvenienced because you can’t take a puppy into the grocery store with you.

“When she sleeps, she smiles and coos and it’s just the cutest thing ever!”

I totally get that. My puppy is adorable when he sleeps. Especially when he dreams of chasing a squirrel and his little legs start running. Ah, that’s the best.

“She’s not sleeping the best at night though. So I’ve been up with her a lot. But once I pick her up and see that sweet little face. It makes the tiredness worth it.”

I had to wake up at 4 in the morning last week to let Rowdee out to pee. His scratching at the back door totally interrupted my REM cycle. Man, I was exhausted the next day. I can totally relate.

“I’ll look at her and our eyes will connect. It’s just…indescribable!”

Rowdee looks at me when he wants a treat. Like, right in the eyes. So cute.

“She has these blowouts though. And the noises that come from that little girl! Wow! It’s kind of funny. We go through so much laundry every day.”

Yeah, Rowdee pooped in the floor the other day. Not funny though. I don’t get that one.

“I just stare at her and think, ‘Wow! I helped make that!’ I see so many of my features in her!”

Ok, that one’s all you.

When someone tried to explain motherhood to me before I was a mom, I smiled and nodded, thinking I understood. But really, I had absolutely no idea. I couldn’t possibly understand the depth of the word “momma” until I was actually there. I couldn’t comprehend such a fierce love until I held my child for the first time and my heart felt like it was going to melt right on to the floor.

As mommas, we don’t know what we’re capable of until we’ve been stretched and pressed and pulled in every direction imaginable. And still we emerge stronger, better, braver. Not just as mommas, but as women.

You’re doing it, friend. You are a good mom.

 

“Being a mom has made me so tired. And so happy.” –Tina Fey

You wake up in the middle of the night to rub hurting tummies and to kiss sick little foreheads. Tired aching feet, make their way into dark bedrooms, so you can play the role of knight in shining armor, scaring away bad dreams and shadow monsters. You stroke sweet heads and hum soft lullabies to calm scared hearts. You bounce, you rock, you walk and sway for miles upon miles, trying to get restless babies to rest. On a daily basis, you are faced with the dilemma, take a shower or sleep for 15 more minutes? The latter usually wins.

You do without, so they can have.

Momma, you are selfless.

“A mother is a person who, when seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” — Tenneva Jordan

With the precision of a skilled surgeon, you carefully pull out splinters from tiny, kicking feet. When fun adventures take a turn, you bandage and kiss scraped knees. You hold wiggly arms and smile at crying faces during doctor’s appointments. With complete confidence, you reassure hurting little hearts it will be ok, even when you desperately need to be told that yourself. All of their aches, pains, bruises and scrapes hurt you more than them and sometimes it’s hard to stay strong. But you do it. Sometimes you feel like there is no strength left. But the moment they need it, you somehow always find a little more. Because you are their strength, also known as their momma.

Momma, you are strong.

“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.” — Linda Wooten

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. It is not weak or easy or safe. You see the darkness in the world. You see the dangers. You see the pain. And if you could bubble wrap your babies for the rest of their lives, you would. But you know you can’t. Your task is far more difficult than simply keeping them safe. You have to teach them to be brave. That will include them experiencing pain and heartbreak. Simply the idea of them hurting in any way feels like a dagger in your heart. But you know a pain free life isn’t the ultimate goal. It can’t be. There’s no such thing. The goal, as a momma, is to raise little lives that will be bold, courageous and brave. Voices that will yell into the darkness, “I am not afraid!”; hands that will grow strong because they are constantly helping the weaker; feet that will lead others to freedom; hearts that will help carry others’ burdens to Jesus.

And at the end of the day, despite total exhaustion washing over you, when you hear that tiny, raspy voice say, “I wuv you, momma”…it’s all worth it. And you’re ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

Momma, you are brave.

Yep, you’re doing it. You are a good mom.

“Making the decision to have a child — it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” — Elizabeth Stone

Life Lessons & What Remains

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I’m going to tell you about a few things I’ve learned in my 29 years of life so far.

At the age 2, I learned gummy worms are delicious, but the ones in the backyard are not. And being the thorough 2 year old I was, it took me biting into 2 of the little squirmers to come to the conclusion that these were not the rainbow colored treats that grandma brought over when she visited. To this day, I prefer gummy bears.

When I was 4, I discovered that my baby sister was not a real life baby doll; she did not need Audrey Hepburn bangs, therefore I shouldn’t practice my hairstyling skills on her. I thought I did a fantastic job and deserved an award. Mom didn’t agree and thought I deserved a time-out.

When I turned 6, I discovered that boys throw dirt at you when they like you. Why this happens, I still don’t know. All I do know is that my favorite Winnie the Pooh shirt was terribly mud-stained from JP’s crush on me in kindergarten. Tragic, I know.

When I was 10, I began to realize my parents didn’t know everything. The immediate years following this realization were an interesting time for my mom and me. I became Miss Sassy Pants and started thinking I was right all the time. I was shocked that everyone else didn’t agree.

When I turned 16, I discovered that no matter how hard my parents tried to teach me to drive a manual car, I was not at all coordinated enough to do so successfully. If stick-shifts were that great, then please tell me why automatics were invented.

At age 18, I realized being considered a “legal adult” didn’t at all make me feel like one.

When I was 20, I experienced how wonderful being in love was & how painful it was when it wasn’t with the right person.

At 22, I discovered how incredible it was to fall in love with my best friend at summer camp; and at age 23, what a fairytale it was to marry him.

At 26, I knew the heartache of losing a baby. And for the first time, I experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding.

At the age of 27, I was consumed by the beautiful experience of giving birth to my daughter and having her move from my womb straight in to my arms. Oh, that moment. I also discovered that the hospital doesn’t hand you a baby manual nor do they give a list of do’s and don’ts when it’s time to go home. I remember buckling her in to her car seat and looking at the nurse like, “You’re coming home with us, right? You do realize I’m not a grown up, right? I’ve never done this before. I can’t even keep a houseplant alive.”

Yep, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. Some of the lessons made me cry. Some of them changed my life. But the truth that has gripped my heart the tightest, has been this:

My God remains constant.

As an inquisitive toddler making important discoveries in the backyard, my God was there. Now as I’m raising my own toddler and trying to teach her that the toilet is not a pool for her baby dolls, my God is here.

Through heartbreak and joy, sending babies to heaven and holding babies here on earth, in brokenness and in restoration, He has remained faithful. He has remained good.

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Psalms 36:5

When my emotions are unstable, when my circumstances feel unsure, when my life changes, He remains constant. He is my anchor. He is my strength. He is my God. He remains faithful in every moment.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations… Deuteronomy 7:9

Life or Death

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Words.

They can be one of the hardest things to tame; faster and more powerful than an angry, raging river. With one swift motion, that small muscle we call the tongue can cut a heart in half.

Isn’t it incredible how something you can’t see or hold can be shared so quickly? Whether or not we like it, words can transform us. They can empower us, motivate us, or they can tear us down and shatter our very core.

Like you, I have been on both the receiving & giving end of other’s words. I have received hurtful words. I have given hurtful words. I have received words that gave me life. And I hope I have spoken life giving words.

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Every careless word we speak, we will be held accountable for. Yikes.

We are responsible for every single word that we give. If you’re like me, it can be all too easy to justify the words I speak by rationalizing, “Well, they asked for my opinion, so I gave it to them” or “They wanted the truth, so I told them.”

Despite how hard I try to convince my husband, my opinions are not always actually right. Even if the words come easily to me, it doesn’t mean they should be released. And just because I speak with conviction it doesn’t guarantee that the source of those words is pure. My heart can be deceptive. If left to it’s own devices, my heart can be jealous, angry and selfish.

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

 

There are many times I have to make the conscious decision to bridle my tongue. The more I’ve practiced “thinking before speaking”, the more aware I’ve also become about where my thoughts and words are coming from. Are they coming from a source of jealousy? Is that why I feel the need to say something? Inviting God into that place of my heart and mind has been a game changer for me. He’s revealed how untamed emotions like jealousy, anger, bitterness or frustration can disguise themselves as something harmless. If I give in to their ugly persuasion, they will surely rise up inside of me and try to escape through my words where they can do insurmountable damage. It is easy to hold back? Not always. Is it important? Yes. It’s absolutely vital.

I’m not talking about behavior modification. I mean allowing God into the depths of our heart so that the source of our words will be pure and holy and loving. Words are simply the manifestation of what’s going on inside of us.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12

If our first reaction is to “blaaaaaaaaa”, then let’s go to the source – our hearts. Let’s ask the Lord to show us the parts of our heart that we’ve kept closed off to Him & that cause us to feel like those words should be said.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”        Proverbs 12:18

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)

 

Beauty in the Brokenness

This was not how I thought I would be spending Christmas Eve. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of how I thought Christmastime would unfold this year.

I was excited for our daughter to be a little older around the holidays. She even picked out her own Christmas Eve pajamas this year.

But the days leading up to Christmas were not wonderful.

Only two weeks prior, my husband & I were surprised, but overjoyed to find out I was pregnant.

Because this lovely surprise was just that – a surprise, I immediately felt a peace & confidence that this child was supposed to be ours. That specific little life was destined to be a part of our family.

A few days after we shared the exciting news with our families, it became obvious that something was wrong. Because it was the weekend, my OB referred me to the ER but also told me that there really wasn’t anything that could be done since I was only 6 weeks along.

So I waited. And I prayed. Over & over & over & over. There was a constant battle in my mind. I have never been in a situation where waiting without answers tore so violently at my heart & mind. Hours dragged along ever so slowly.

I refused to give up. However, allowing my heart to stay hopeful was also very painful. I don’t quite know how to explain it. My heart was flooded with 2 extreme emotions that I wasn’t sure what to do with.

The next night, I knew the life that was inside of me no longer was. I was so angry. As I walked downstairs to tell my husband & my mother, a rush of emotions like I have never known poured over me. I began punching the stairs. I was not angry with God. I was not angry with myself. I was angry because this attack felt very personal & intentional. I was angry with the enemy. I was angry that he thought he could use this to pull my heart away from my God. I was angry that I would not know this baby here on earth.

My husband & I spent most of Christmas Eve in the ER. It was beyond surreal. This was the same ER that I went to when we lost our first baby. As we were led to our room, the environment was all-too-familiar. It was the strangest of feelings.

As we passed the room I was in 2 years before, I thought, “Lord, this is where you changed our hearts & lives 2 years ago. This is the exact ground that we discovered what ‘the peace that surpasses all understanding’ really looks like. This is where Your truth altered my life & solidified in the core of my very being- You remain faithful & unchanging. Always.”

Shortly after the ultrasound, the doctor confirmed what we already knew.

I’ve seen God redeem the ugliest of situations, the most painful of heartaches & bind the most shattered of hearts. And that has been my prayer since the moment we knew we had lost our second baby – “Redeem this, God. You have done it before & I know you will do it again. Please, just redeem this.”

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. Psalm 89:1

Although this dark valley was familiar territory, it has felt very different too. But the things that have remained the same have been God’s tender love, sweet comfort & obvious signs of His faithfulness.

God’s presence has once again, been undeniably evident. Our parents & siblings have been so wonderful, helpful & encouraging. We are so blessed by them. My mom took care of our daughter at home while my husband & I spent hours at appointments & in ER rooms. What a gift it was to know she was having fun with grandma. Thank you, Momma. We also had a handful of precious friends that have walked alongside us & been there for us night & day. They spent their Christmastime loving on us & mourning with us. They are treasures & my soul is forever imprinted with their selflessness & unconditional love.

I have numerous stories of how God has remained so faithful to us throughout all this, but I want to share one in particular with you. I cry as I share it because it’s so close to my heart. But I want you to know how closely the Lord listens to us & how loving & active He is:

After we lost our first baby in October 2011, it was so important to me to find a Christmas ornament for our baby to hang on our tree. I wanted him/her to be a part of our Christmas. I needed a tangible way to incorporate that precious little one into our holidays; something I could look at & touch. So as soon as Christmas displays went up in the stores, I began searching. I went to every store I could think of that would have ornaments. But I just couldn’t find “the one”. And I didn’t want an ornament just to have an ornament. It had to be the right one.

I was desperately praying that the Lord would lead me to the right one. I told Him how much I needed it & that I knew it was important to Him too. But I couldn’t find one.

I got a package in the mail from a very, very dear woman. She & I have mutually adopted each other as family & she has played a huge role in my journey as a woman seeking after God.

As I opened the little box, I couldn’t believe it. There it was. The most beautiful, perfect, remembrance ornament. It was white & in the shape of a heart. I hadn’t shared my longing to find an ornament with anyone except my husband & my God. It was as if God himself was saying, “Here is your perfect ornament, my precious daughter. I know your heart needs it. Here it is.”

The following year, she sent me another lovely ornament for my daughter’s first Christmas. The 2 ornaments are always next to each other on our tree. They mean the world to me. They symbolize my babies. They remind me that God hears me & He loves me like a daddy. He knows my heartaches & knows my needs, even the ones I cry & whisper to Him at night.

As my husband & I were driving back from the ER this time, I immediately wanted to get an ornament to include this baby’s life into our Christmas too. As soon as we exited off the highway, the hustle & bustle of last minute shoppers was overwhelming. Traffic was at a standstill. Physically & emotionally depleted, I decided to just come home because I didn’t have it in me to be around people, much less fight crowds.

We got home & as I walked to our front door, there was a little box on our front doorstep from my “adopted aunt”.

Guess what it was?

An ornament. A perfect, beautiful ornament.

It had the same kind of look & ribbon as my first ornament. It was white & heart shaped. She hadn’t known what was going on. But my faithful & loving God knew. He knew days prior what I would need at that exact moment; what would comfort my heart.

“Here is your ornament, my precious daughter. I love you & I remain faithful.”

He will cover you with his feathers, & under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield & rampart. Psalm 91:4

No matter how dark the valley is, His light will find you. No matter deep the valley feels, His arms can reach you. He promises to stay faithful through it all. Come to Him & allow Him to be your faithful God.

Knowing that my 2 babies rest in the perfect arms of their Creator until I can embrace them myself, I declare my God as faithful.

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Anxiety & Fear

Anxiety.

That word just sounds ugly to me.

Have you battled anxiety before? I sure you have. God’s Word repeatedly tells us that there is a battle for our minds & thoughts. The root of many addictions, fears & problems start in our minds. If it’s true that our minds hold such power, then of course that is exactly where the enemy wants to attack & weaken us. He wants us distracted, anxious & focused on anything other than the sovereignty & peace of our Savior.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

This issue is very close to my heart. I have battled fearful, anxious thoughts since I was a child. I remember experiencing my first panic attack when I was about 11. There were a few things that I could do to lessen them, but it was temporary & another one would eventually happen.

After I got married, I would ask my husband to pray over me when I would begin to have a panic attack or feel anxiety trying to settle in. He would pray over me, but then he would always ask me to pray over myself…out loud.

As I would be lying there completely paralyzed with fear & anxiety, the last thing I wanted to do was pray out loud. I didn’t feel bold. I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t feel like my words could battle anything because those words were coming out of a very scared, overwhelmed girl.

But with every attack, I began to rebuke any fear & anxiety & declare my God as more powerful than any fearful thought trying to take hold of me. I would keep verses all over the house so that I could look at them & claim them out loud when I began to feel anxious. Even if I couldn’t think straight, all I had to do was look over at the verses, read them & claim them out loud. As I would verbally claim God’s Word, I noticed that the anxiety lessened & lessened. After a while it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had once been.

I know a lot of things can cause anxiety. Sometimes it has a lot to do with chemicals or hormones in our bodies. Sometimes it’s a spiritual attack directly on our minds. Sometimes, it’s a mixture of both.

With new seasons come new things that try to cause us to worry or be anxious. After feeling so much better for so long, anxiety came back & it came back with a vengeance. My breaking point came soon after my daughter was born. I have never loved another human the way I loved her & the responsibility in that was too much to think about at times. I wanted to roll her up in bubble wrap & keep her home forever. I never wanted her to feel the pain of this world. I never wanted her heart to be broken. I never wanted her to experience the disappointments, hurts & sadness that life would surely throw at her. All these thoughts coupled with raging, mommy hormones, was a combination that on my own, I couldn’t handle. They brought me to my knees. No, they knocked me to my knees.

I looked around & saw my mommy friends handling motherhood like champs. And here I was at 2am making my husband check all the locks on the doors…for the third time that night. Why couldn’t I handle it with grace? I hadn’t showered in 3 days much less been out of the house. I felt alone. I felt inadequate & overwhelmed.

Isolation is a dangerous thing. It makes us feel like we are the only ones experiencing something; that we’re the only ones that can’t handle the situation we’re in. What a lie. Almost every mommy I talked to felt the same way I did. I wasn’t treated like a failure. They loved on me & empathized with me. Sometimes the first step towards freedom is being brave enough to ask for some help & support. After I did just that, things began to change.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

I began giving God this new fear & anxiety that was trying to steal my mind & thoughts. It was a slow process over the course of a year & I still battle anxiety sometimes, but I know the power to defeat it is held in God’s Word!

If you feel anxious, no matter to what degree, always remember that you are not alone. And no matter what thoughts try to consume you, God’s Word is your shelter, shield & sword! His promises & truths are yours to claim! So claim them out loud.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

You are loved & treasured! Please let me know if I can support you in prayer during this process! Victory is yours!

I declare my God as faithful.