He Covers

He Covers

As I laid in bed with my daughter telling her stories before bedtime, we could hear the thunder getting louder. At first it was so faint, she was unaffected by the distant rumbles.

A few minutes later, the claps of thunder got closer and louder. She stopped for a moment and held still, realizing a storm was beginning to pass over us. “Can you get closer to me, momma?”

A couple more booms and she interrupted our story. “Momma…can you get your arms and hands and hold me?”

I moved as close as I could to her and wrapped my arms around her, holding her head close to my chest. I could feel her nervousness in the tension of her little body. I hated that she so scared, but I loved being right there with her—guarding over her, wrapped around her. We finished our story and I sang our nightly lullaby. Ever so slowly her breathing softened and her muscles relaxed.

Even after she fell asleep, I laid there for a few extra minutes absorbing the sweetness of my girl’s words—“can you get your arms and hands and hold me?” I loved that I was her security. I loved that I was the one that brought her comfort and peace. I loved it because sometimes…I just need that too.

Whether it’s been one of those days, or I’m in the thick of a really challenging life issue, there are times my heart begs God, “Can you please just get your arms and hands and hold me?” Some days I just need to feel that comfort and security wrapped around me and covering me completely.

God, can you please just get your arms and hands and hold me?

God’s Word says that he is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), our rock, fortress, deliverer and shield (Psalm 18:2). The entire book of Psalms is overflowing with people’s pleas for God’s rescuing, as well as declarations of God’s faithfulness.

After I lost our first baby six years ago, I laid in an ER bed trying to process the emotional and physical brokenness that I had just endured. The chaplain walked in to talk with us. He laid a mint green shawl down the length of my body, covering me. It was crocheted by a hospital ministry and given to mommas who had just lost a baby. Over the next few weeks, I held it, I wrapped it around my, and I covered myself with it. And every time I physically covered my body with it, my heart was being covered too.

As humans, we all have this need to be covered in different ways. We need shelter to cover our families. We need clothing to cover our bodies. We need bandages to cover our wounds. Maybe you’ve even heard the expression, “I’m covering you in prayer.” We are all in need of covering.

Even now, as I pray at night, I ask God to cover my life and everyone and everything in it. Cover it with his protection, his blessing, his anointing.

When it seems like darkness is swallowing the world, He covers.

When evil threatens the security of our hearts and minds, He covers.

When anxiety attempts to steal our peace, He covers.

It doesn’t mean that the pain dissolves—but He promises to cover you with comfort. It doesn’t mean that brokenness disappears—but He promises to cover with restoration.

Our God is a God who covers. He sees and knows and covers. His love covers you and it destroys fear. His light covers you and it drives out darkness.

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

A Love Note to the New Momma Who Just Gave Birth

A Love Note to the New Momma Who Just Gave Birth

baby-784607_1920

Dear New Momma,

You did it, momma. You created a little piece of perfection—carrying and growing and nurturing that life for 9 months.

You persevered through morning sickness, swollen body parts that you didn’t even know could swell and Hulk-like mood swings—becoming a sacred vessel of holy life.

Then the day your heart pitter-pattered in anticipation for finally arrived…birth day.

All of heaven paused. And in one glorious moment, the child that listened to your heartbeat from the inside, now laid on your chest to feel it’s beat from the outside. And your soul was completely captured by the most beautiful being you’ve ever seen. You memorized every inch of that baby—counting fingers and toes—eager to claim responsibility for various facial features. You thought you would physically melt into a puddle on the floor from all the emotions that took over your body…and it was then that you realized what unconditional love truly was.

Maybe you were able to come home right away. Or maybe you weren’t able to come home immediately. Maybe your hospital stay was longer than what your heart felt like it could endure—just wanting everything to be ok and normal. Having to wait stabbed at your heart. The sting wasn’t for yourself, but for this new little piece of yourself breathing in your arms. And your first supernatural act of momma strength—a new selflessness and fierceness—carried you both through. And you did it. You made it. And now you’re home…

Welcome to your new normal.

At first, you will worry about whether your baby is peeing and pooping regularly, eating well, swaddled correctly, a comfortable temperature…and you know…breathing. Even the smallest of details will worry you. You are, after all, responsible for keeping an entire other person alive now. That’s not exactly a job for the faint of heart.

Don’t feel silly about worrying. Or stressing out. Or melting down in moments of I-Have-No-Idea-What-I’m-Doing. Don’t panic when all the tips and advice you’ve been given don’t help you like you thought they would. Remember, all the information and guidelines you read in those articles and books are just that…guidelines. And maybe the perfect way that your mom or your Aunt Sue or your best friend did something, isn’t going to be perfect for you. And that is more than ok.

Every human being is different. Every baby is different. All of your previous ideas and convictions and set-in-stone plans will most likely be reevaluated, readjusted or completely thrown out the window at some point. Pacifier or no pacifier? Cloth diapers or disposable diapers? Breastfeeding or formula? Ibuprofen or no ibuprofen? Yes, be knowledgable, but listen to your momma intuition. Figure out what works for you both and then go with it.

The best advice I ever got as a new, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived momma was, “Your daughter isn’t going to go off to college with a pacifier. She will be potty trained, she will be eating on her own and she will be sleeping through the night. So just do whatever works for you both right now.” The realization that choosing cloth diapers or disposable diapers wasn’t an life-altering decision, really freed me. And from that day forward, I’ve really tried to carry that “do what works for you both” mindset.

Some days you’ll flow in the new rhythm of your new life and you’ll look around and think, “Oh my goodness, I’m doing this thing.” And then other days, that rhythm will feel more like abrupt, robotic movements as you just try to survive. Both are normal.

You’ll have a tiring day and a sleepless night that blends into another tiring day and night—becoming one, unending rotation around the sun. Because momma’s don’t get to clock out at 5pm and babies don’t always sleep at night. You will stare straight at that baby monitor at 3am and pray in the name of Jesus’ that that child will just go.to.sleep.

It will get better.

Nap when you can. Cry when you need to. Eat cookies when you want. Even when you can barely keep your eyes open, go sit outside in the sunshine or stroll the neighborhood. It does help. Give the baby to daddy and go sit in the closet with some chocolate and your Bible and just…be. Ask for help when you need it. You’ll still be exhausted, that’s just motherhood. But you won’t feel so alone and maybe, just maybe, you can sneak in a nap or a shower.

There will be times you and your husband will feel like you’re not only on different pages but in totally different books…and in different libraries. And there will be moments you will want to kick him, ironically enough, in his baby maker. Don’t do it. (For one, there may come a day in the far, far future that you want more babies. So it’s a good idea to keep everything in proper working order.) Keep talking to each other and remember he’s new at this whole parenthood thing too. Ask for grace. Give grace. Keep stealing moments alone with him even if it’s for 5 minutes.

Know that you can’t do it all on your own. You weren’t meant to. That doesn’t point to any kind of inadequacy. No, not at all. You are a wellspring of beauty and life that pours out in many directions. Wife. Mother. Friend. Woman. So take care of yourself. If you want to be a good momma to your baby, then be good to his/her momma. Love her well. Give her grace and find some time just for her.

You are on one of the most incredible rides of your life. There’s hard stuff, sure. But what life changing adventure is easy? You will learn things about yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise know. That is a gift even on the days it doesn’t feel like one. Motherhood refines you, sharpens you, grows you. You will be an all around better person because of your baby. His/her heart will forever grip yours. And vice versa. Your love for them will be fiercer than anything you’ve ever known.

In your desire to keep them safe from harm and heartache, learn to trust Jesus more. Let Him show you His heart and character in deep, profound ways. As you worry, know that He loves them even more than you do. (Can you even imagine that?) And He knew the exact mom that your baby needed…and it is you. You are equipped with everything you need to love that child well and point him/her to Him.

You did it, momma. And you’re doing it.

And remember you’re not alone—we’re in this momma journey together.

Love, The momma standing next to you

Something Bigger Is Happening

Something Bigger Is Happening

TV

I am not an avid news watcher. Hours of death, destruction and hatred—then at the end, throw in a story about a squirrel that can water ski to lighten things up. I’m sorry, but there aren’t enough water skiing rodents in the entire world to lighten the burdens of the evening news. I just can’t do it. But whether or not we actually sit down and watch a news broadcast, the many devices and social platforms we have definitely keep us plugged into worldwide happenings the instant they occur. There’s really no escaping it.

My family and I went to lunch the other day. And about 5 minutes after we sat down, our waitress asked, “Did you hear about the shooting? My sister just called me and said there’s an active shooter near the hospital.” Her next question was, “And what would you like to drink?” And in one of those weird moments where you say something you never thought you’d hear yourself say, I replied, “Oh my goodness, I haven’t heard anything about the shooting…and…umm…I’ll take a Coke…”

My husband got on his phone and sure enough, every local news station was covering the story but very few details were available. We just sat there, unsettled by the fact that there was a shooter loose in our city.

And this story isn’t isolated. My newsfeed and heart have been completely overwhelmed lately with horrendous stories of a pastor’s pregnant wife being murdered in their own home; crowds of innocent people being targeted with bombs; families being driven out of their towns, forced to leave behind everything they know. My mind can’t comprehend the pain, devastation and brokenness that other humans are experiencing at this very moment.

And sometimes, I have a really hard time with it all.

Lord, how does this happen to the innocent? To people who love you? To children? None of it makes sense.

I battle and I pray and still…I just don’t understand. I will never understand. And when all feels like chaos, I desperately cling to the truth that the only place my heart will remain secure is in Jesus. Even when I don’t understand why. Especially when I don’t understand why.

There is something bigger happening here. And I desperately long to perceive it on a deeper level.

In a heartbreaking situation where a man’s wife was brutally attacked then murdered in their own home, his reaction was one of forgiveness…and love. How can a man respond like that to something so hellish?

There’s something bigger happening here.

When bombs went off and the lives of thousands of people were forever changed in the matter of seconds, it would seem that was the end of the story. Yet numerous reports of kindness, selflessness and unity are surfacing from those unlikely moments of devastation.

There’s something bigger happening here.

People who are making their way across foreign lands—who have lost children, parents, and siblings because of the God they worship—refuse to forsake His name. They are struggling to just to stay alive, but will not reject the Savior they serve. He is all that they have. They’ve literally had everything and everyone they love taken away because of their unwavering faith. Yet, they hold steadfast in proclaiming His name.

There’s something bigger happening here.

With all of the fear that surrounds these evil attacks that have been carried out by evil itself, I know that peace—real peace—will come only from my Lord. And when the uncertainty of tomorrow is too heavy to hold, I will meditate on the One who is already there. When nothing can be trusted, I will place my trust in Him.

Because there’s something bigger happening here.

The continual existence of evil and the pain of the innocent still doesn’t make sense—but when the voices of the broken speak of things like hope and forgiveness and wholeness, it’s clear that something bigger is happening within the raw details and moments of their lives. And that bigger thing is the power of Jesus.

Blessed be the Lord!

    For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield;

    in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;

my heart exults,

    and with my song I give thanks to him.

The Lord is the strength of his people;

    he is the saving refuge of his anointed.

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!

    Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Psalm 28:6-9

Lookin’ like a Sloth

Lookin’ like a Sloth

sloth

I looked in the baby monitor and saw my 2 year old stirring from her mid-afternoon nap. And then, crying. My heart dropped because it was the “something hurts” cry.

I raced to her room, picked her up and immediately felt heat radiating off her body.

“I so hot, momma.” I didn’t need to grab the thermometer to know she had a fever.

I took her to the living room and kept a close eye on her. We cuddled and watched her favorite show. Within hours her little sister had a fever too.

I took a deep breath, bracing my heart and body for what I knew would be a restless night.

The length of the night felt multiplied times over. If one girl was asleep, the other one was up. My husband and I spent the dark hours tag-teaming bedrooms, swapping kids back and forth. It was an exhausting rotation.

After a couple days of feeling yucky, the girls seemed to be over it all. A deep sigh of relief.

I went a full 24 hours thinking our house was well. Then I woke up the very next morning feeling like I had been body slammed into a brick wall all night long.

My first thought was, “I can’t be sick. I can’t do this.”

I slothed around the house all morning – in action and appearance. No, slothed isn’t actual a word. But I bet you got the visual, didn’t you? A hairy, greasy, animal slowing making it’s way around the jungle floor. Beady little eyes, scrunched up face, lookin’ like it was hit by a car, drug down the road for a couple miles, but somehow managed to survive.

Yeah, that was me.

I gave myself a quick pep talk. If I can just take it easy for a couple days, it’ll be ok. I can do this…I can do this. And then round #2 hit our girls. All 3 of us were sick. Not “cough-cough” sick…we were sprawled out, snotty, crying messes. I called the doctor and was told that this bug was going around and hitting hard. Yeah, no kidding. There was nothing to do except wait it out.

This thing lasted 10 days for the girls. TEN…DAYS. Which of course included 10 restless, uncomfortable, yucky nights.

But even after the 10 days, I was still slothing it. On the 14th day, I went to the doctor and found out I had a sinus infections and a UTI.

The doctor was a cute little thing. She seemed too young to be a doctor and the whole thing felt a little too Doogie Howser (please tell me some of you remember that show). Anyways, she told me to get plenty of sleep…and to kick the kids out of the bathroom 3 times a day to be alone and run a hot shower for my sinuses. Sleep? Is that the thing some people do at night when they close their eyes for more than 2 hours at a time? I’ve heard about that. Private time in the bathroom? Like, alone? Like, with no kids? No, I always have an audience. If I manage to shut the door before my entourage follows me in, I immediately hear pitiful pterodactyl screeching and see little fingers wiggling underneath the door. In theory, the doctor’s game plan was what I needed. But the execution was impossible. I just smiled and nodded…knowing one day, when she has babies and hasn’t peed alone for years, she may remember the unrealistic orders that she gave to that weary, sick momma who looked like a pitiful sloth.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been brought to a place of such mental exhaustion. It easily outdid the sleepless newborn stages.

After the 2 weeks came to a close, my mind, heart, and body were depleted. Totally depleted.

I broke down and prayed, “Oh, Father. I can’t do it. I’m so exhausted. So sleep deprived. So worn out. So…empty. I just can’t do it. Please, Holy Spirit refresh me. Refresh my mind, body and soul.”

I was desperate. Desperate for supernatural refreshment. Desperate for living water to rush through my veins and pump into my heart. Desperate for holy air to fill my lungs and for clarity to purge my mind.

It was through that new perspective brought on by my desperation, that I realized something. Normally when I start to feel empty or dry, I “do” something myself to fix it. Rarely do I stop and ask for the Lord to renew me first. 

And in my depletion and desperation, there was a beautiful submission that took place within me. It was a breaking of my own mental and emotional strength. I had nothing in me to “do.” I could just lay there, close my eyes and ask for the Lord’s strength to renew me.

And you guys, He did.

I woke up the next morning feeling revived – like angels had sung to my soul all night long. My spirit had fresh air. My body didn’t ache. My thoughts were clear.

It truly was a supernatural renewal. I was so humbled and grateful that I cried in thanksgiving for days. Thank you, Father.

Far too many times I rely on my own ability to try and improve the way I feel. Sometimes I will “do” and other times I use distraction to divert my emotions and thoughts until I feel better. But when my emptiness extended beyond my own reach and ability to fix it, I was reminded of my constant desperation for God.

And when I think back on things that have happened in my life, it’s always in those times of brokenness, emptiness and depletion when I see the most transformation and power in my mind, body and life. It gives me a little deeper understanding about what Paul is talking about when he says,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

There are many good things I can do to keep my heart, mind and body healthy. But nothing compares to what Jesus offers. Nothing changes a life like His grace and power. When I acknowledge my need for Him and ask Him to refresh me, then make the conscious decision to release my own grip on control, He can work inside me freely and fully.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Maybe you’re in a place of emptiness and getting through just one more day feels impossible. Maybe you’re desperate for physical energy or emotional renewal. Wherever you are, no matter what you’re going through, no matter how empty you feel, God wants to work inside you, freely and fully. Let Him renew you. Let Him refresh you. Let Him revive you.

He’s faithful to do it.

So Tired and So Happy – Encouragement for Every Mom

image (2)

“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

A Love Note To Who I Used To Be

sundress-336590_1280

To the girl I used to be,

I know you lay in bed at night and cry. You are surrounded by people, but feel so lonely. Your heart feels empty, yet it still aches. It’s constantly seeking love, but only finds counterfeit versions and temporary highs that make you feel loved in that short-lived moment.

But you are loved.

You long to be cherished, but you think the only way that will happen is if you keep pretending, keep acting like the girl you wish you could be. You don’t show them the real you, because you are terrified that it’s not enough, that you are not enough.

But you are enough.

The idea that someone would embrace your quirks, your imperfections, the real you, almost feels like a silly dream. But still, you dream. You work tirelessly to be beautiful, because you desperately desire for someone to think that you are beautiful.

But you are beautiful.

You will give in to fear and run away. You will not finish your college degree with everyone and I’m afraid that’s something you’ll regret for years. But it’s ok. Because of that, you will learn to work harder for what you want. You will learn to appreciate time, money and perseverance much more. You will have moments of feeling like you’re not as academically smart as everyone else, but you will soon realize the truth.

You are smart.

While many others take the direct route in life, you’ve always taken the scenic route. It may not be like you imagined, but please look around and enjoy the scenery. Don’t get caught up on little details.

You whisper to God through your tears, “Why are You holding on to me so tightly?”

But He will always hold you tightly.

Sweet girl, life is going to get hard. There will be a time where your world falls apart. But I promise, it will be ok. You will feel like a wanderer, like you have no home. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. One day you will look back and see that it was those first painful steps that set the direction in your wild adventure. With every step, even the ones you hesitate taking or the ones that make you stumble, your legs will grow stronger, your heart will become braver and your spirit will feel freer.

He will always hold you tightly.

You will marry your best friend. Don’t panic about not knowing how to cook, he loves cooking and you will not starve to death. You will find out that marriage is hard, but so worth it. Fight for it everyday. Focus on Jesus and your marriage will be clearer too. (And keep doing your impressions and telling your jokes. He secretly finds them hilarious.)

You will have babies. You will lose babies. You have never known heartache like you will during this time. But remember, He remains faithful. You will be able to more fiercely love others who are hurting because you too bear wounds. You will experience the heart of Jesus in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have. And it will change you. You will taste bitterness, but you will also taste the sweetest of blessings. Your babies will teach you about yourself, about God, and unconditional love.

He will always hold you tightly.

No matter what, love Jesus. He is your compass. You will see His fingerprints all over your life. So stay close to Him. And if you ever need a reminder, just listen. The constant rhythm of His heartbeat echoes His steadfast love for you.

You are loved. You are beautiful. You are enough. And He will always hold you tightly.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”  John 10:27-29

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Learning To Be Beautiful

image

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)

 

The Ache of Christmas Eve

8296444516_507bc24596_z

Do you want to hear a story of God’s faithfulness? This particular story happened one year ago today.

It’s an ugly & messy & painful wound. But it has become one of the most beautiful scars a woman can carry.

After we lost our first baby on October 1, 2011, I wanted to find was desperate to find an ornament for our Christmas tree. Not any ornament, but one that would represent our baby. One that would remind us of God’s goodness & faithfulness. One that would tangibly tie our baby’s life into all future Christmases.

I told no one of my search. Only my husband & my God knew the importance of this simple little object that I longed to hang on our tree. I repeatedly asked God to lead me to my ornament. I went to countless stores trying to find the perfect one. But it was nowhere to be found. I would not buy an ornament, just to have one. I knew in my heart, when I saw it, I would just…know.

And then…

one afternoon, a small box arrived. It was from a close, “adopted” aunt. I opened the unexpected package & there it was. My ornament. My precious precious ornament. She did not know about my search. She did not know how many stores I had explored. She did not know how deeply my heart ached for it. And the moment I saw it, I knew…it was the one.

IMG_8487

My aunt mailed it, but my God sent it. And His words filled my heart.

“I see you. I hear you. I know this is important to you. And it’s important to me too. Here it is. I love you.”

Time went by. My beautiful daughter was born. And the Christmas season of 2013 had arrived. I was pregnant again. And Christmas Eve had arrived.

One year ago today, I was bleeding.

I walked into the same ER I was in when I lost my first baby. I walked by the very room where I felt His presence closer than the air I was breathing. That white-walled room that held my cries to Jesus, our prayers to our God & the realization we would not be bringing home our baby.

They admitted me to a room down the hall. Tests were done. Blood was drawn. Ultrasounds were taken. And it was confirmed.

I had lost my baby.

One year ago today, I walked through the darkness again.

I screamed. I yelled. I cried. I beat the floor with my fists in anger. I was not angry at God. I was angry at the enemy. This was personal.

But this time, my heart recalled memory after memory of God’s faithfulness through my first loss. The details were covered with His fingerprints. He was there. And he mourned with us. He showed us we were not alone.

So, I claimed His faithfulness once again. I clung tightly to Him once again. I entrusted my broken heart to Him once again. Because I knew it is only in His hands that my shattered heart can rest & be restored.

One year ago today, my husband & I left the ER & began driving home, where I would see our Christmas tree in the living room & my baby ornament hanging.

I told Jarred I wanted to stop by the mall to get an ornament for this baby. Tomorrow was Christmas & our baby ornaments could be together.

But as we were driving, I knew I was too physically & emotionally depleted to muscle my way through crowds of last-minute shoppers, so I told my husband to just head home.

We pulled up in the driveway. On our front step was a box. It was from my adopted aunt. I opened it & began to weep.

IMG_8485

The perfect ornament. It even looked similar to my first baby’s ornament.

My aunt mailed me this little box days before. Nobody knew I would spend Christmas Eve in the ER finding out that I lost my second baby.

No one knew…

Except for my GOD.

And so, today, one year later, I hold my 3 month old; I snuggle my 2 year old; & I stare at my 2 baby ornaments. I declare my God as faithful in every day, every pain, every joy.

He loves us beyond measure. He is so very present in this very moment. And I am overwhelmed by His faithfulness.

Merry CHRISTmas.

It’s Going To Be Okay

image (2)

Sometimes we just need to hear- “It’s going to be okay.”

We need to know that whatever is going on in our lives won’t last forever. We need to know that our circumstances are temporary & that the pain, the frustration, the exhaustion, the anxiety will not ruin us. We need to hear it out loud. “It’s going to be okay.”

For the second time in a week, I was calling my OB about a pregnancy “concern”. The first time I called, it was about accidently eating blue cheese. Yes, blue cheese & yes, eating it accidently. Now there are certain things I know I shouldn’t do while I’m pregnant. Water skiing, bungee jumping, deep sea diving. Basically all extreme sports are a no-no. But there’s something else that the internet tells you to stay away from. Blue cheese. (The internet has never steered me wrong, so I obviously listen to it on important matters such as pregnancy. Insert sarcastic tone here.) You will either get sick, or grow an 8-legged child, or jeopardize your baby’s development & ruin their chance at getting into an Ivy League school. Or something like that.

But the reason I was calling my doctor this time was about a different food. Raw chicken. I accidentally ate some on purpose.

It’s very complicated being pregnant. But to put it simply: my brain stops working.

I was making a crockpot dinner & placed the raw chicken in along with all the seasonings. I grabbed a spoonful of the sauce to make sure it tasted good. Two hours later, I realized I had swallowed a spoonful of raw chicken.

Now if it were just me, I’d wait it out & see if I started to feel sick. But c’mon. I’m growing a human being here. And I have to do everything I can to keep that little person safe & healthy. No water skiing. No deep sea diving. No blue cheese. And no raw chicken.

Even though my brain was telling me that “The Blue Cheese & Raw Chicken Incident of 2014” would be okay, I really needed to hear it from someone else.

Even though it sounds sort of silly now, the moment my doctor called me back & assured me that my baby would not grow any extra legs, I felt…relieved. It was going to be okay.

No matter what is going on today, whether you unknowing ingested blue cheese, or you’re facing one of the biggest obstacles of your life, I want you to hear something…

It’s going to be okay.

The family drama, your breaking heart, the pain you’re feeling. It’s going to be okay. Your busy schedule, that seemingly impossible project, that huge unknown thing that is ever-so-close to your heart. It won’t last forever & it will not ruin you.

It’s going to be okay. YOU are going to be okay.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, & do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

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.