Uncategorized

Whose I Am

I remember years ago going to early morning prayer at the church I was attending at the time, and absolutely loving the time first thing in the morning with other believers who were desperate to deepen their relationships with God.  It was the most “spiritually mature” thing I had ever done, and I was so proud of myself for participating in something outside my comfort zone.  At that point, I had been a mom for about 7 years and knew I needed something other than myself to keep me encouraged, and really learn how to seek the Holy Spirit because I had little kids who were looking up to me.  Unfortunately, circumstances changed and the group stopped meeting, but it’s stuck with me all these years and I find myself talking about it to people when I think about the time I was closest to God.

Fast forward to today and let me tell you, when you ask God to take you deeper into His word, it will likely look different than anything you could ever picture.  At least that’s been my experience thus far.  And, to be honest, it’s what led me to write this post.  I’ve been thinking about something I’ve been dealing with in my life and realizing that God is using it to train me, to teach me how to fully rely on Him, not my own strength or will.  I actually can’t believe I didn’t realize it until now.  When we ask God to take us deeper in our walk, to grow us spiritually, He knows the best way to make that happen.  If you know me, you know I like to figure things out, to really know what it is I’m “supposed” to do. And not an arrogant, “I need to know where God is taking me”, because it’s not about the destination in my mind.  I just like to know what’s expected of me and what steps I need to take…if you know anything about God, that’s typically not how He rolls.  The more I focused on the “steps”, the more frustrated I became.  Complaining and being tired of the not knowing what He wanted from me, the more sad and confused I felt.  I was beginning to run out of strength and desire to do anything, I was feeling defeated.

Several weeks ago I was so desperate for God to just give me a sign, something that would help me understand what He was doing. I put on some worship music and literally laid flat on my face, crying and laying it all at His feet.  If you’ve ever done this you know how liberating it can be.  I can honestly say from that moment, looking back over the few days that followed, I see how He slowly took the burden from my heart.    I think the biggest problem we face as a society is the elusive desire to control our lives because it makes us feel powerful.  For me, it’s not been so much about controlling my life, it’s about wanting a clear path, steps laid out so I can make sure I’m doing the “right” thing.  As a recovering self-proclaimed, “people pleaser”, it’s hard for me to not feel like I’m failing in my daily walk. That I’m somehow not pleasing God because I don’t know what He wants from me.  But therein lies my problem, all He wants is my heart seeking His, loving people the way He does-which can be a difficult task if you’re trying to do it on your own.  I suppose I over complicate it because it just seems so simple, which is what I’ve heard over the course of my life as to why some people can’t comprehend Christianity.  I guess our nature is to assume that it has to be task-oriented, or harder than just accepting that our works will never impress God, or change His mind about the sacrifice He offered for our salvation.  He simply loves us and wants us to love Him and His people.  I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with that, for many reasons I’m sure, but something that has stuck with me over the years is that we naturally relate to our Heavenly Father the way we do our earthly father.  If you’ve ever read my previous posts, you’ll know that I don’t have a relationship with my earthly father.  I can only speculate it’s what causes me to struggle to accept that God truly, fully, unconditionally, loves me.  My mind knows it the way I know that when you’re hungry you eat, that it’s logical, but I feel like my heart has a hard time accepting it.  I want to, I just don’t know how.  I often forget that it’s something I struggle with until someone mentions something and it reminds me. I was talking with a friend a while back who said she feels I don’t value myself, that I don’t see my worth and struggle with rejection.  I don’t think she realized the effect it would have on me, she was just stating her observation. And I wouldn’t have guessed the involuntary emotion it stirred in me, especially walking through my happy place, Target!  I’ve thought about the reality of her statement and the truth it’s brought to the forefront of my mind.  Here I thought I had dealt with that pain, that I had realized my value wasn’t based on anyone’s view of me.  That I had found my worth in whose I was, but when those words came out of her mouth it was like being slapped with a truth I wasn’t aware I needed to hear.

I’ve been a firm believer my entire life that things happen for a reason (and what that actually means when you’re a Christ follower), and I have no doubts that since I pray over every aspect of my life, especially my friendships, that God uses the people in my life to speak to me, and I to them.  I know He needed me to hear that because you can’t heal from what you don’t know is causing you pain.  I think I was more surprised than anything to realize that my heart still was holding onto something I was convinced had been resolved.  But that’s my most favorite thing about God, He knows our hearts better than we do and reveals things to us in His timing. This same friend asked if I used a prayer journal, which I do, because I heard someone several years talk about how she would pray about things and then forget about it, often making her feel that God wasn’t listening. So she started keeping a journal of everything she prayed for as a way to really see the things He does so she could grow a thankful heart.  That really hit me because I was feeling the same way, and decided I wanted to be able to thank God for everything He’s done.  Plus, it’s a really awesome thing to look at specific things you’ve asked for and see in what way He did it-which is typically not when or how I would expect.

It’s interesting because if you ever watch little kids, you see how quickly they forget something you just told them not to do, or how easily they let things go when someone offends them. As adults we think we have it all together, and certainly don’t need to be reminded not to touch a hot stove, or walk in front of a moving car.  I’m surprised at how quickly I forget the things God shows me.  Maybe it’s because like scripture says, we’re like sheep and prone to wander. Maybe my problem is that I become so focused on the circumstances and don’t see the whole picture.  I become preoccupied with the little details, the particular steps that need to be taken to accomplish a goal or task.  And even though I’ve grown in my patience and ability to not stress out quickly, there are circumstances I find myself asking God, “what do you want me to do next”.  I can’t recall the many times I’ve felt Him simply say, “nothing”.  To which I think to myself, “how can He not want me to do anything”??  Then I remind myself I’m not in control, and know that He’s never failed me yet.  I know I can trust Him to make my life what He wants it to be and there isn’t anything He needs me to do.  If I can focus on whose I am, it sets everything else in the right order because then my identity isn’t tied to anyone or anything outside of the One who chose me, the One who thought the world needed my gifts and talents, the One who calls me to live in in His perfect love and grace.  It frees me from trying to figure out what He’s doing, what I should be doing, and liberates me from guilt and shame when I fall short.  Following God isn’t always easy, or fun, but in my experience it’s been worth it.  I’ve made a mess of my life thinking I knew what He wanted, but thankfully He has a knack for setting things right again and restoring what was lost.  When I lose my way, when I feel frustrated that I’m missing the point, He reminds me the point is I’m His and sometimes, that’s all I need to know.

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faith, inspiration, life, motherhood, Uncategorized

Reckless Love

I never would have guessed it would take me almost 2 years to write another blog.  There were many times I thought about sitting down to write, but I always psyched myself out thinking I would sit down and have nothing new to say.  And, looking back through my posts, there was usually something specific I wanted to talk about. Or some event happened and I felt compelled to share my experience.  Since I oftentimes reference a song that’s spoken to me, I thought this should be no different.  And, it’s perfect for the theme of this post, so I’d say it’s meant to be.

Currently, the song that’s huge in the Christian world, is Reckeless Love by Cory Asbury. A quick backstory on that-I first heard it at church, and knowing our worship leader is a musician (and writes songs I believe-and, most excitedly, just toured with Third Day!), I assumed it was his song.  It wasn’t until I heard it on the radio I realized I was wrong!  Anyhow, the song talks about how the love of God is truly reckless.  He doesn’t care where you are or what obstacles there are, He will pursue you.  This song has really hit home for me, and reminded me in the times I’ve run from Him, He’s always been right there pursuing my heart.  In this post’s story, when I’ve been worried and tried to control the situations in my life, He shows me everything is in His hands.

There are several things that have happened that I could have written about, but some are a little too personal to share.  I’ve been through one of the hardest trials in my life, and it’s only by the grace of God I can even allow it to be what it is without breaking down into hysterical sobs at the thought of it.  And on that note, this past school year has been challenging emotionally for many reasons.  My middle baby girl ended up going to a different school due to transfer issues, and I was only able to see her on the weekends.  It was difficult enough only having her every other week, but going down to 2 days a week was like a punch in the gut.  It definitely taught me the value of time, and I tried my best to make sure I soaked up every minute with her.  We never really know what God is doing behind the scenes, or truly understand the reasons behind it. I won’t pretend I even understand at this point why it happened the way it did, but I am grateful for the lesson it taught me.

I would say since my last post there have been many teaching moments I’ve experienced.  One of many would be really learning to trust God.  I know I’ve talked about it before, but I don’t think I ever truly trusted Him the way I thought I was.  When I found out that the transfer for my youngest 3 wasn’t approved my heart sank.  I wanted them to stay at the school they’d been at, more so my daughter since she had been there since preschool, and had just made the cheer team to boot!  My youngest boy needed to repeat Kinder and I felt comfortable with the teacher he would have had this past year.  I was so set on these things that I didn’t know how to process the disappointment.  I cried, a lot, and asked God why didn’t He just leave things the way they were?  It was familiar, comfortable, it made sense.  Then I realized not only was she going to a different school, but it was too far to transport her every day.  My heart was shattered, I really hated the thought of not seeing her for 9 months, except weekends and holidays.  I knew I had to let it go.  There was literally nothing I could do and I was tired of trying to come up with ways to get what I wanted.  I started praying and asking God to help me trust Him and His plan, for help with the pain in my heart.  I know He allowed it for a purpose and even if I couldn’t see it, I had to trust it, trust Him.  Between that and some other heartache, He has really worked in my heart and shown me how to fully trust Him.  I can honestly say I’ve never been a worrier, despite growing up with someone who only knew how to worry.  I guess it wasn’t until I got older and went through some really difficult trials that I started worrying about things here and there.  And being faced with the possibility of losing valuable time with one of my kids was definitely a cause to worry.

As time goes on and circumstances change, I’ve realized that now when I pray and say, “Lord, I wholeheartedly trust you”, I actually believe it!  There’s not a shadow of a doubt in my mind, and it’s truly a great place to be!  I can recall times where I wanted to trust Him and let go of what I wanted, but I was so scared.  I knew He was going to do the very thing I didn’t want and I suppose I thought if I just held on long enough, He might change his mind.  (The thought of that actually makes me laugh a little.)

It’s interesting to me to see the ways He’s changed me as a person, and how I’ve actually been given the things I’ve prayed for.  Not material things, but growing inside, spiritually.  The things I used to care about I don’t so much anymore.   Like trying to control things because it made me feel put together and organized, I just don’t have that nagging feeling inside and it’s such a relief!  I don’t say these things to brag or boast, because, quite frankly, they aren’t things I can even take credit for.   I’m sharing for anyone who struggles with letting go of expectations and control.

My baby boy turned 7 a couple days ago and he’s truly been the one God has used in my life to start teaching me to let go.  He’s done everything differently than my other kids in terms of milestones.  He’s done things in his own time and I’ve struggled with the anxiety of him not crawling when I thought he should, walking, talking.  We chose to homeschool for preschool and that was a failure, and he needed to repeat kindergarten.  I know to the average person, or parent, this sounds absurd.  But my whole life I operated on this basis of what I felt things “should be”, as opposed to accepting them for what they were.  It honestly wasn’t until his teacher told me he wasn’t where he needed to be and needed to repeat that it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I immediately felt like a failure for not just putting him in a typical Preschool.  Once I got past that, I felt bad for him that it was something he had to do.  Many people reminded me that it was ok, and Kinder was probably the best place to allow him to repeat.  He is petite so other kids wouldn’t really notice.  And it’s less detrimental when they’re young because he won’t even care once he’s older.  Again, it was just that expectation of what I felt it should be.  (When you’re in the middle of these situations it’s hard to see anything but the circumstances.)  So, he did Kinder again at a new school, and guess what? He loved it, and his teacher was even more amazing than the year prior! I couldn’t have picked a better teacher for him!  I was actually really sad and emotional as the year came to an end because I didn’t want him to leave her class.  Funny how God does that, isn’t it?  Also, my daughter’s new school is perfectly suited for her, and she loved her teacher! I felt it was best for her to stay there, so she tried out for, and made, the cheer team!

It’s so funny to me to watch God work the things out I freak myself out over. Clearly He knows what He’s doing, and loves my kids more than I ever could, why do I even worry?  Because I’m a parent I suppose.  My greatest lesson learned over the past 9 months has been to wholly trust in the One who created me, not because I’m “supposed” to, but because He’s shown me He is worthy of unconditional trust.

I know there are going to be many more things beyond my control and I know I’ll be tempted to worry.  My middle son was diagnosed with scoliosis a couple years ago and I panicked.  But, it wasn’t bad enough to warrant treatment, and it got better at the next couple checkups. Then, this past physical it had gotten worse again so we got an X-ray.  It’s still not bad enough to warrant treatment (thank God), but I totally could have freaked out and cried, worrying the worst was going to happen.  Also, my oldest son just got his permit and I could really worry about him on the road, (more so since I lost my mom & brother in vehicle accidents) but I’m trying to remind myself teenagers these days get a lot more training than in generations past, so I feel more confident in his ability.  I just have to remind myself there will always be circumstances beyond my control and worrying is like a rocking chair.  It gives you something to do, but it never gets you anywhere.

 

Reckless Love

faih, grief, healing, loss, Uncategorized

Thy Will Be Done

It was brought to my attention that I hadn’t blogged in quite some time, so I decided to sit down and collect my thoughts for a post.  There have been many things going on in my life, and certain realizations/revelations I’d considered sharing, but I just never made it a priority to write it down.  There are several things that have happened that have caused me to stop and ponder what God may be trying to show me.

I’ll start off with a milestone that took place a week ago, but in my favorite “storytelling” way:

Back to school time is always a little bittersweet for me.  I’m sure most moms feel that way, but for me, there’s more than the obvious “they’re growing so fast” theme that crosses my mind every August.  I started Kindergarten less than 3 months after I lost my mom, and her birthday always falls right around back to school time.  Plus, every couple of years or so one of my kids enters a milestone that always makes a little more sappy than usual.

Most every August I also think about how my grandma had just lost her only daughter and was taking on the responsibility of raising two more kids.  She hadn’t enrolled kids in school in about 20 years and was frantic in making sure everything was done so my sister and I could start the first day with everyone else.  I vividly remember that I wore a purple dress and a lighter purple bow made of yarn in my hair on my first day of Kindergarten.  I was equally excited and nervous, as are most kids, and I just kept thinking about what it might be like and if I’d make any friends. I won’t go into a lot of detail because, quite frankly, the only things I really remember about Kindergarten is painting a lot, story time, graham crackers & milk, and getting sent to time out for talking too much-that trait runs in the family, I didn’t have choice.

I sent my youngest son to Kindergarten last Monday, and it dawned on me that he’s the first of my 6 kids to create such an over-abundance of feelings that caused a huge lump in my throat.  I know I’ve always been excited for my kids to start school, but I’ve never felt so emotional about it.  Perhaps it’s because he didn’t go to traditional Pre-K so this was my first “sending off” milestone with him.  Perhaps it’s because he’s my youngest son, my last boy to leave me and go off to the days where I’m no longer the only one he turns to for help.  Perhaps it’s because he’s a little more introverted and sensitive and my heart is afraid for him, despite how much I know he’ll be fine.

I just think there are memories and events that have happened to me that have been locked in my mind, and when a similar event happens, these emotions come out of me that I’m not sure how to process.  Combine that with the emotion that already comes with childhood milestones every parent goes through and bam, you get one emotional cocktail.  So, I guess all I can do is what I’ve been doing since I became a mother for the first time-pray that I’ve done the best I can and know that God loves them more than I ever could, and that He’s got them in the palm of His hands.

Going back to what really began this descent into a rollercoaster of emotions, I’m going to backtrack a little, 4 weeks to be exact.  I was out shopping with my mother in law when I found out that my ex-husband’s brother in law had passed away in a tragic water accident. Oddly enough, the night before I’d gotten a breaking news alert from ABC that someone had drowned where my ex-husband and kids live, and it gave me a weird feeling.  I even said to my husband, “I hope that wasn’t my ex”.

I’m an empath by nature, so my heart immediately broke for this man’s parents, his sister, and my kids, as well as for my ex since they were really close.  I know death is a natural part of life, but this was the first time it hit so close to home for my kids and I just felt helpless to protect them from the pain I have become so familiar with.  God has an amazing way of working things out though, because coincidentally the day it happened, my 8-year old daughter was staying with me while she attended a Theater Skills Workshop.  I was asked not to tell her, that he would the day she went back to her dad’s for the week…that was probably the hardest 3 days of my life as a mom.  I just kept imagining how hard she was going to take it and I cried a lot that week, for her, for the family, my kids, it was a lot to process.

What amazes me about life, our spirituality, is the ability to feel someone else’s pain so immensely you’d think it happened to you.  Music, as most people in my life know, is therapeutic for me and I especially love when songs relate to something in my life.  If you listen to Country, or Christian music, you’ve heard of Lady A, or Hillary Scott, the lead female vocalist.  She certainly has a God-given talent for sure.  Her latest song, “Thy Will” got my attention not too long ago for the lyrical content and message to people about how it’s ok to question God as long as you remember that, ultimately, His will overpowers anyone else’s—and that He’s ok with us coming to Him with questions.  The day after I heard about the accident I was taking my daughter to her class and on my way back the song came on.  I got a little teary eyed because I just felt God reminding me that He always has a plan despite our pain.  But the part that just tore my heart open was where you can clearly hear the pain in her voice, the raw emotion when she sings, “I know you see me, I know you hear me, Lord; your plans are for me, goodness You have in store”.  My heart used it as an opportunity to pray and I sang instead, “I know you see them, I know you hear them, Lord; Your plans are for them, goodness You have in store”, and I sobbed pretty much the rest of the way home.  Four weeks later and the song still brings me to tears, but also gives me hope knowing He’s close to the broken-hearted.

I truly believe tragedy connects us to people, even those we may not have a close relationship with.  It unites people in a way I believe God uses for us to understand true compassion, humility, grace, love, etc.  I’d never even met personally this man my kids loved so dearly.  But knowing the pain it caused them, his parents, his sister, and even my ex-husband, just broke my heart into tiny pieces.  I know what it’s like to lose a brother and I saw firsthand what losing a child did to my grandparents, and little Isabel’s parents last year. It’s a pain that cuts deep and I feel is unlike any other.  It still boggles my mind that I could be so emotionally distraught over something that didn’t happen to someone in my immediate family. I am, however, so thankful for the gift of empathy because it helps me understand how God feels when we’re hurt.  It makes Him more relatable to me and less like a magical being in the sky that is just here to answer prayers and satisfy our needs.  It makes Him a father, a parent, a protector.  And I truly believe He’s used this tragedy to open my eyes to a deeper part of Himself, and to deepen my relationship with Him.  Every time I hear that song I pray for the family, my kids, his girlfriend, whom I think most people overlook in situations like this.

I’d asked if I could be present when my little girl was told about the accident, and the gratitude in my heart I feel for being able to comfort her is beyond words.  I knew she was going to be so heartbroken, she loved him so much and was, as I was told, glued to his hip.  Seeing the pain in her face as her daddy told her what happened is a feeling I would never wish upon anyone.  As parents, it’s our job to protect our kids, and it’s a horrible, helpless feeling when you can’t.  Knowing there are things my kids will face in their lives is enough to keep me awake every night.  And this was my first experience in dealing with something like this, I’m still learning what my role is in it.  Having split custody is hard enough without life throwing in things kids should never have to experience.  My mommy heart wants to be there to hold them every day and tell them everything will work out fine, but I can’t.  However, they do have a great support system with their dad and step-mom’s family, which I couldn’t be more grateful for, and it helps me to know they’re getting the love they need right now.  My oldest is now a junior, and my oldest son is a freshman.  With school starting I made sure to say an extra prayer that God will help them get through this year despite the emotional stress they’re going through.

I have to conclude by saying that, in my experience, death never gets easier to deal with.  I’ve lost many people in my life, mostly close family members, and it hurts deep every single time. I do, however, gain a new perspective-death has a funny way of reminding us what’s truly important. I’ve learned that reaching people in the middle of their pain is often difficult because everyone grieves differently.  I’m an emotional person and my passion has always been helping people, but sometimes I feel like praying is all the help I can offer.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just hard when all I want to do is wrap my arms around someone and let them cry on my shoulder.  Maybe that’s the point though, to meet people where they are and let them know you’re thinking of them, and praying.  Sometimes we don’t get to be the fixers, the one who mends the broken heart, the one who says the ‘right thing” at the “right time”.  God has shown me that sometimes I can’t control every little thing, and that my only job is to trust Him, thy will be done.

Thy Will, Hillary Scott

Uncategorized

Heroes

When hearing the word “hero”, the average person thinks of Batman, Superman, or any other superhero out there.  Just the other day I was asked if I had a hero, someone I looked up to or admired for any particular reason.  As cliché as it sounds, my first thought was Jesus because of all he sacrificed for us.  Sure, I can think of several people I admire a little more than others for little things that really stand out, but there wasn’t anyone that automatically jumped out at me.  Perhaps it’s because I can be a little too cynical and over analyze anyone’s place in my life, or somehow justify their “greatness”.  Or, maybe I’ve just never placed that high of title on anyone because we’re all fallible and I felt that maybe I’d be let down if I expected too much of them.

Well, as I reminisce this day last year and the heartbreak that occurred, I think I’ve discovered someone I consider to be a real life hero.  She’s the amazing mother of little Isabel who was called home last May 3rd after a year-long battle with DIPG.  I know she would disagree with me in this honorary title, but from my eyes, and those around her, she truly is.  She not only fought daily for her daughter and did every possible thing she could to take care of her, she did it with great faith.  Her husband Jonas, and other daughter, Molly, are also great champions in my eyes.  They are, to me, the epitome of unsinkable faith (as I’ve mentioned in a previous post), and that same tenacity to save their own daughters life has carried on even after her passing.  They support other families who are going through the same thing and are their warriors of faith.  She and her family have done some great things for the DIPG community and it has become her passion to find a cure.  To say she’s relentless is an understatement. It truly is a most beautiful thing when God takes your pain and uses it for something amazing.  To see her heart for other people is probably the most encouraging thing to witness.

Tonight, as I recall so vividly the day I found out about Isabel’s diagnosis, I sobbed like I did the day little Isabel went home.  I don’t fully understand the reason God has given me a special place in my heart for this particular family, but empathy is a great tool to grow spiritually, and so, I’m thankful.  Thankful that I can have a small understanding of what they’re feeling and be able to offer genuine prayer and condolences.  It’s not every day you meet such incredible people who endure great hardship with their faith intact.  And it’s not every day you get to be a part of a journey that’s filled with fear, doubt and questions, or get to be a part of a community that truly loves and prays for one another.

Sometimes words elude me when it comes to people who are grieving, I guess I’m afraid to say the wrong thing or fear that I won’t be able to say anything at all.  And at the beginning of this journey, I didn’t know what I should do or how I could help, I felt like I was inadequate to offer anything beneficial.  Looking back, I do wish I had trusted my instincts more and just put myself out there.  Perhaps God used this as a lesson for a future experience, or maybe that’s why He’s allowed me to grieve right along with them.  Clearly there’s no comparison to actually experiencing such a painful trial, but I think God uses situations to teach us lessons about life we wouldn’t otherwise learn.  All I know is I consider myself lucky to know such selfless people, the world needs more of them!

I’m sure I mentioned in my post last year about Isabel, but the song I heard the day I found out about her diagnosis was, “You Won’t Let Go” by Michael W. Smith.  As I listened to the song on repeat tonight, the words spoke to me differently than that day.  The first line in the song says:

No shadow comes without the light making a way…

It shook me to my core and all I could think about was being in my car that day and how somehow I just knew Isabel would meet Jesus sooner than we all hoped.  I wanted to be optimistic and pushed any conflicting thoughts or doubts away from my mind, but something deep within me knew, and so I wept uncontrollably while the song played.  I guess God was preparing me for the journey ahead and revealed to me a small part of His plan, yet again, I’m not sure why me.

Thinking about Jennifer & Jonas, and how this life altering event has changed so many plans they had in their hearts for their daughter, I can’t help but feel heartbroken for them.  And I know they don’t want that, but the mom in me can’t help it.  As they celebrate Isabel’s “Angelversary” today, Jennifer has asked for everyone to share a photo of yourself or your kids making a heart with your hands.  Such a simple, small gesture to show your love and support for what Isabel went through, as well as all the other kids fighting their own battle with DIPG.  Childhood cancer is probably the worst thing that could happen to a family.  It needs more attention and funding, it needs a cure!

To find out more about Isabel’s hero of a mom, dad, and sister, check out their Facebook page in honor of Isabel and see how you can help fund research for a cure.  Don’t forget to share your photos with the following hashtag #isabelangelversary.

Isabel Anderson

https://my.supportlpch.org/fundraise?fcid=443224

To read the blog I posted a year ago, click the link:  Unfailing Love

Uncategorized

Beauty from Ashes

2016-03-15-09.52.44.png.pngAs my birthday rapidly approaches, I become increasingly aware that I’m yet another year older than my mom was when she passed away. It’s so  surreal, and also strange to me, because I don’t feel the age I am, and I haven’t fully concluded if that’s a good or bad thing. This birthday will officially put me in my “mid thirties”, and that term always reminds me of being a teenager and thinking that meant you were getting old. I suppose age is truly a condition of the heart,  in which case I’ll be forever young since by the time I’d feel my age, I’ll likely have more grandkids than I know what to do with!  And before I go much further, I have to apologize if this post seems all over the place. When I write at night, or the early part of the morning, my brain is usually scattered with all the things I want to say and it doesn’t always come out as put together as I’d like. Hopefully it adds character to my posts and makes me a little more relatable.

I have to be honest and admit that I almost feel like the older I get, the more immature I feel to some degree. Maybe it’s because I spent the last of my teen years and my entire twenties being a wife and stay-at-home mom. And though I felt ready, I think rushing into such great responsibility caused me to suppress the growing up I so desperately needed because my focus was taken completely off myself and onto my family. I never “discovered” who I was or focused on my own needs, I guess I thought I didn’t have any or that they weren’t as important. I was the epitome of a selfless person because I knew that’s what my family needed, but no one ever told me that one day it would come back to bite me in the butt, big time.

The more I discover about myself, the more afraid I am to dig deeper. Certain situations reveal a selfishness I never knew existed, and to be quite frank, it scares me to death. I don’t like thinking that underneath all those selfless acts was just a selfish person trying to get to people to like her. Isn’t that the epitome of manipulation? Though, if I’m being honest, it stems from more of a self-protective stance and not outright self-centeredness or to be self-serving. I know as a Christian I’m supposed to be selfless and put others first, but sometimes, I just don’t want to. I think part of me wants to be taken care of the way I always took care of everyone else. And I know that’s not inherently a bad thing, but when you neglect your responsibilities while waiting for it to happen, it can spiral out of control. I catch myself off guard at times because I’ll think or feel something and I’m surprised at my automatic response. I’ll ask myself, “why do I feel this way; why was that my immediate reaction”? I can sometimes trace it back to the root cause, but other times I’m left to wonder. Is it all of the trauma/drama I’ve encountered in my life? Is it the way I’ve been treated and my walls are up? Is it just my hormones settling down after spending so much of my life being pregnant? How do I fix it? (I’m sure I’ve mentioned I’m a fixer, self-helper kind of person)   Maybe I’ve always been a selfish person and I was too afraid people wouldn’t like me so I became a people pleaser. I know I didn’t like people to be upset with me, and I never understood why some people just didn’t like me, I’ve always been nice…I thought?  But I read a quote a while back that pretty much summed up what I needed to hear. It said, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place”.  It brought clarity to my thoughts and helped me realize that I was always afraid to disappoint people, and I constantly worried I would do or say something that would make people not like me. Being at the age I am now, when my whole life is supposed to all be “coming together”, I feel like I’m just beginning. The only reason this upsets me is because, as a perfectionist, and someone who likes things to be the way they’re “supposed to be” as opposed to how they actually are, I feel like I’ve failed at something monumental. I know everyone’s life looks different, but I’ve spent so much time trying to be “normal” and so far, I’m still not…maybe God’s trying to tell me something?

Toward the end of last year I began feeling like I was on the precipice of a huge change in my life. It was a feeling tinged with sadness,  but I wasn’t sure why, I didn’t want to imagine anything bad happening.  The mom’s group I was going to was coming to an end for the semester and I was feeling like I may not come back-which was crazy since I’d only missed one day of the almost two years I attended. Some other things happened and I could see my relationship with God taking a backseat in my daily routine, and though it frustrated me, I almost felt helpless to change it. The new year came and went as I wrote about in my last blog, and I just felt like part of me was changing, but not in a good way. I still prayed, but I wasn’t making God a priority or spending the time I needed to keep myself away from the depression I can often feel creep in when I isolate myself from the world. I know I need my solitude, but I could see the walls going up again and honestly, I just didn’t care. Things were happening that made me frustrated with God because I’d spent so much time praying about those exact things that were falling apart. Why would He allow something to fall apart that I knew in my heart He’d ordained? If you’ve ever been mad at God, you totally relate to my inquisitiveness. It just didn’t make sense so I withdrew from Him. As childish as it is, I felt like if He wasn’t going to fix the problems, I wasn’t going to come to Him with them anymore-that would show Him! (haha) Do you ever sit and laugh at yourself for being like the children you’re raising? It is so funny to me that, as an adult, I can be just as immature and self-centered as my kids who don’t know any better.

I think the hardest thing about convictions is that once it’s brought to your attention, you have no choice but to fix the issue. As much as a self-helper I am, I like to be the one to choose to change, not have my flaws pointed out to me, that’s a huge hit to the ego. And I know God isn’t sitting there saying, “I told you so”, it’s more like, “are you ready now”? And my response isn’t much better than what I get from my kids when they realize I was right. I wonder if God ever chuckles at us and our desire to control things beyond our capabilities. There’s a fine line between self-sufficience and relying completely on God. I know that’s ultimately my problem, I haven’t found that delicate balance. (As much as I’ve talked about knowing this, you’d think I’d have it figured out by now, right?) Because just when I think I’ve surrendered control, I want to take it back thinking it’s what I’m supposed to do. God isn’t going to run my life for me, there are things He wants me to do, but I feel like I’m always failing at my part and I hate that. I know I’m harder on myself than anyone else, that’s a hard habit to break and certainly doesn’t benefit anything.

There’s a new song out by Francesca Battastelli called “If We’re Honest” that completely broke my heart the first time I heard it. She says:

Truth is harder than a lie The dark seems safer than the light and everyone has a heart that loves to hide.  I’m a mess and so are you, we’ve built walls nobody can get through Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine, ‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides, and mercy’s waiting on the other side, if we’re honest.

 All I could think about was how that’s totally me! I don’t want people to see my flaws, because sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who struggles with them (even though I know that’s totally not true). I feel like if I’m not “perfect”, then people won’t depend on me or ask for help with their issues. When I say it out loud, I know it’s crazy, but it’s hard not to put on a smile and pretend to have it all together when it’s my instinct. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who know my every flaw, but those are people who either live with me or whom I trust to help me with love and complete honesty.  I’ve realized that my instinctive reaction is to put up walls so I don’t get hurt. And then if people disappoint me, it’s easier to get over because I never really let them in anyway. I know that’s no way to live, and it’s certainly something I’m recognizing and attempting to work on. It’s most definitely not easy, and I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near where I want to be. But they say the first step to fixing a problem is to acknowledge there is one, so that’s a step in the right direction. I was just telling my husband that I’m tired of my automatic responses, especially when it’s directed at him. I know it’s a reflection of my heart, I’ve just felt so weighted down and in a rut and hadn’t had the strength or desire to work on it.

Ultimately we’re all imperfect and flawed, we all have pain and hidden parts of our heart we don’t want anyone to see because it’s vulnerability and it’s uncomfortable, I know for me it is anyway. I wrote a blog last July about how I’d acknowledged fear for the first time in my life. It was consuming me and I didn’t even know it! I’ve talked about how I’ve always had this outward confidence, and that I didn’t care what people thought of me. (Maybe it’s because I never knew what people thought of me?) Maybe this realization was because every bad thing that ever happened in my life was beginning to surface as problems I needed to face and it scared me. Maybe all the things I’d gone through created this tough outer shell as protection from facing pain as it hit me. There’s no maybe, that’s exactly what was happening. Every tear, every heartbreak, every time someone ”proved me right”, built this wall I thought was protecting my heart, but in reality, it was keeping everyone out. It was just the beginning of the journey God was preparing me for. Realizing I was actually scared to death was what I needed to break down that wall and move deeper into my pain. So many times I’ve wanted to just wallow in my self-pity, pretend that there wasn’t anything actually wrong with me, but God is relentless in case you didn’t know. I kept coming across things that said, “don’t quit, your destiny is on the other side of fear”, or, “God gives his hardest battles to His strongest soldiers”, you know, inspirational things no one wants to hear when they want to be a defeatist.

A couple of weeks ago God put something on my heart that I didn’t realize I was holding on to, not as tightly as I was anyway. He’s since given me the closure I needed to put it behind me and let go completely, it’s always through music too, it never fails. The song is, “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again”, and the verse that got me says:

Beginning, just let that word wash over you,  it’s alright now, love’s healing hands will pull you through. So take one step, look back up, see the rise and feel the sun because your story’s far from over and your journey’s just begun

I, of course, cried as I always do, but my mind began racing with thoughts and questions.  “Beginning? Beginning of what? I thought I was past that? Past being afraid of trusting God with my future? What? What is going on, God’??  Have you ever been so afraid of something but you didn’t know why? Or knew it was an irrational fear but it somehow had a grip on you anyway? That’s where I was in that moment. It’s where I still kind of am because even though I know He has a far better plan for me than anything I could ever do on my own, or even hope for myself, there’s still this little girl inside who’s so afraid of being hurt and thinking of all that could go wrong. Yes friends, somehow afraid that the Creator of the world, and me, is going to hurt me. Ugh, just admitting that breaks my heart. But it also allows me the freedom to be vulnerable and admit that it’s a struggle, whew!

I guess I am at the beginning of a new journey, one that’s paved with freedom and true contentment, the ability to trust the process and know that the best days of my life are a combination of things I’ve been through and things I’ve yet to experience (like being the mother of the bride 3 times!) It’s time to let go of all the expectations I’ve put on myself over the course of my life, to stop waiting on the end result and enjoy the process of life. To realize God’s time frame isn’t my own. And even though I felt like I was over all this junk, He knew I wasn’t and is teaching me to embrace the messy parts of life, as uncomfortable as it is. To know that though growth is difficult and incredibly painful, it produces something beautiful. To know that every single trial I’ve been through is being used to refine my character always makes me think of Isaiah 61:3…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”. Knowing that God is the only one who can take someone so broken, something so tragic, even when it’s self-inflicted, and turn it into something amazing is truly humbling, this beauty from the ashes of past pain.  To be able to let go of a burden that was never mine to carry is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, my soul feels lighter.

It’s exciting to think about what He has planned for me as I take this step into the unknown, learning to let go of all the things that were holding me down, one obstacle at a time. And I hope to continue to use my life’s experiences as tools to help others where they are, especially my own children.

encouragement, faih, inspiration

Resolutions and Realizations

This past New Year’s Eve was certainly not what I was wanting or had looked forward to in the days prior. Life was dealing me some difficult situations and since November really, I’ve felt a slow transition going on inside me. I can’t say I was depressed, I just felt unfazed by anything. So while I initially had looked forward to celebrating the New Year with friends, I ended up not even caring when our plans got canceled. Last year I was excited and actually made some practical resolutions-which, if you know me, you know how out of character that is. I’d had a renewed sense of excitement about a fresh year and all the ways I wanted to be different. This year didn’t meet me with the same eagerness, it felt like just another day. Now, almost 2 weeks into it and I feel peaceful, more content, within my soul. Maybe I’m remembering why I never have made resolutions. That any day is a good day to start something new, it shouldn’t be reserved for one day. So, on this 13th day of the month, I’ve decided now is as good a time as any to pursue my passions and discover all this life has to offer!

Reflecting back on 2015, and really for the past almost two years now, I’ve asked God to reveal to me what His plan for my life is. I over think and over analyze everything, so sometimes I feel like I’m not getting a specific answer. I have also learned that He doesn’t want to dictate every minute detail of our life, that being obedient and serving Him is most important. He reveals Himself in the little things and shows us the path a little at a time. I never went to college to get a degree because I chose to become a wife and mom instead. Now, all these years later, I’m at the point where my kids are getting older and I feel like I’ve pushed my passions and dreams aside to be the best mom I could. I love creating things, hence the 6 kids, and have tried many different outlets to see what piqued my interest the most. Music will always be at the top of my list of things that soothe my soul, but let’s face it, I’ll never be a songwriter. I’ve recently discovered coloring books for adults and how much I get to put my creativity to good use. Blogging has been therapeutic more than anything, but it’s allowed me to use my creativity to tell my story. Along with all these things is my fascination with makeup. Growing up I used to watch my sister spend an hour in front of the mirror creating a masterpiece. She would literally spend 45 minutes getting her eyeshadow blended perfectly, and all this was before the days of nice makeup brushes-now that’s perseverance! I loved watching her apply her makeup but never really understood why. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve enjoyed creating new looks myself, and trying different colors to accentuate my features. And now, with the amazing world of technology, I’ve gone from watching 15 second tutorials on Instagram to full version videos on YouTube. Watching these women (and men) create, to me, art on someone’s face, is like gazing upon a beautiful painting! Having a creative mind can be challenging at times, more so when you don’t have a specific focus. And I’ve put myself out there to see what captured my attention the most or held it the longest, and at this point makeup wins, hands down. But for me it goes beyond just liking the way it looks or trying to hide flaws, I love the artistry behind it. To take a blank canvas and blend colors & techniques is art at its finest. I’m sure fashion designers all over the world would agree that they’re creating art when they find the perfect pattern for a blouse, or create a new design for a skirt. It’s a whole new world to me, or perhaps one I’m seeing in a different light. After I’ve done my makeup or created a look on someone else, it’s an incredibly gratifying feeling, one I haven’t experienced outside of seeing my babies for the first time. You’re just like,”wow, I created that”! I imagine that’s how God feels about each of us. And when we put our talents to good use, amazing things can happen. I believe He gives us desires and passions to help us navigate our calling in life and it’s our job to pursue the dreams He places in our hearts. The biggest realization I’ve had in all this is that the desires in our hearts are ones that will bring honor and glory to Himself. And that if what we’re doing somehow fulfills that, He will bless us in ways we can’t imagine! I spent the better part of last year wishing and hoping that things would turn out in a specific way because it’s what made the most sense or seemed the most appealing. I still laugh at myself when I get so caught up in my own selfish wants and subconsciously think my ways are best. I know in my heart He has better intentions for me than I even have for myself most of the time.

My heart is telling me to pursue this passion, and right on schedule, my fear kicks in. I think to myself, “there’s already so many beauty bloggers on YouTube, I don’t have anything new to offer, I can’t afford to experiment with a bunch of new products, what if people don’t like me”, etc. Fear always rises up in us just before any major shift in our life to prevent us from taking that leap. I hate it, and I hate how familiar and convincing that voice is. But I just keep trying to remind myself that it takes a leap of faith to overcome fear, and growth doesn’t come from comfort zones. I know that no matter what, God will honor my obedience to overcoming fear. If it’s meant to be, it will happen. I would love to become a makeup artist and be able to put my passion to use. Helping people has always been a passion of mine, and I think this would be a small way I could fulfill that. Not everyone gets to live their dream, but I believe with the right amount of hard work and determination, all dreams are attainable. I’ve been told I’m relentless and when I set my mind to something, I don’t stop until I get it. So I’m praying this adventure is no exception. As they say, your dreams are on the other side of fear!

I also have to add that I probably wouldn’t even be considering this if it weren’t for my husband.  I can’t imagine how frustrating in must be to be married to a creative person who isn’t sure what they want to do in life, or who has tried many different things only to lose interest.  I can see God’s hand at work in both of us, and I know I need encouragement and support as much as the next person.  I think I’ve always been afraid to explore anything in depth with the fear I would be taking away from my role as a wife or mom.  So to have him not only supporting me, but encouraging me, is the greatest gift I could have ever asked for!  And to have that from the person whose supposed to be my biggest fan is probably the best feeling in the world.   So, to my husband, thank you for believing in me and encouraging me to pursue something that satisfies me in a way no office job ever could!

 

One of my first real experiences with creating more than just an everyday look is coming up next month. I get to attempt a creation that will accentuate the beautiful dress my oldest daughter has chosen for her first winter formal. That excitement and experience is for another post, I’m just flattered she’s chosen me to be a part of that day in a way that involves more than just taking twelve dozen photos! (And yes, there will be plenty of those to come!)

So, here’s to resolutions, realizations, and pursuing your dreams-no matter what day it is! And I apologize for the huge gap in time since my last post. I hadn’t felt inspired to write so it took a backseat. I hope this encourages you to be bold and take a leap of faith in whatever you may be contemplating today!

 

Isaiah 43:19

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;  now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness  and rivers in the desert.

 

 

 

 

faih, inspiration, life, motherhood

Sweet 16

Oh to be 16 again.  For every girl that birthday is different, and not everyone celebrates it as a huge milestone.  For me, however, it was a day I looked forward to the most since my grandma always made it sound like this amazing turning point.  Turning 16 was almost as exciting as turning 18, it was sort of like a “coming of age” celebration.   It’s the age driving became an option, if we were mature enough, my sister and I could date, and it was my “golden” birthday.  (It’s been brought to my attention that not everyone is aware of what that means, but it’s simply the birthday where your age corresponds with the date of your birthday.  So for me, my 16th birthday was even more special since I turned 16 on the16th).  I was so excited to be turning 16 because of all these milestones I would finally arrive at, and honestly, though I didn’t start driving until I was 20, it was everything I hoped for.  I could finally date! And I finally felt “old enough” to be the age I was.  (Most of my life everyone assumed I was older due to my maturity).  That birthday proved to be the best one I’d had up until that point, I still recall how excited I was and hope I can create that same memory for my own daughters.

I ended up not dating much, I realized I was a pretty sensitive person and couldn’t stand the thought of getting attached to someone who could potentially break my heart.  Nonetheless, going on dates was a fun time for me because it gave me a little freedom and time to enjoy things like going to dinner, the movies, miniature golfing, etc.  My youth, however, was short lived because about 3 months after my brother was killed, my (now) ex and I talked about getting pregnant so we could get married-which I know sounds bizarre but it was the only way I could convince my grandparents getting married was a good idea.  I was asked last night if I regretted that decision since it caused a lot of (obvious) turmoil.  My (short) answer is simply this: absolutely not.

It still feels surreal that I’m celebrating my oldest daughter’s 16th birthday, though I’ve been thinking of this day since she was born.  I don’t feel old enough to have a 16-year-old, maybe because I shouldn’t be.  But remembering the day she was born is so significant in my mind because it was the day I became a mother for the first time.  And, regardless of my age, I know I wasn’t alone in my fear since no one knows what they’re doing with their first baby.  I remember when the doctor laid her on my stomach and cleaned her off, I wasn’t sure what to think.  It was a strange feeling to see this little person I’d dreamed about for 9 months.  She was so little (though she was 8 pounds, 9 ounces) and all I could think was, “wow, she’s finally here”.  I was momentarily sad that she looked nothing like me, but I didn’t focus on it because I was in awe that I had just given birth to a little girl.  Before I found out the gender, I’d prayed for a boy so I could name him after my recently deceased brother, but God had other plans.  One of my aunts specifically asked me not to name her Davida, which still makes me laugh to this day.  The night she was born I was sitting in the hospital bed, wanting to go to sleep but not wanting to leave her in that rickety old plastic bassinet.  I asked one of the nurses if she could sleep with me in my bed, and she replied, “of course honey, she can sleep wherever you like”.  I was beyond excited to have her in bed with me, and it created the tradition for the rest of my babies.

I don’t think any amount of books you read ever prepares you for the realities of having a child.  And I certainly recall feeling horribly unqualified to parent an infant, regardless of my love for babies growing up.  She wasn’t able to nurse long due to what the doctor called her being “tongue tied”, and I felt sad that she would be missing the amazing nutrients from breastmilk.  But I did what I had to do and bottle fed, and actually enjoyed being able to let other people hold her while she ate.  Being born so close to Thanksgiving, she was so tiny at her first one.  Everyone passed her around and adored her, I was so proud of my accomplishment.  During my pregnancy I vowed to myself to be the best mother I could be since I knew what it was like to not have one at all.  Unfortunately, life got in the way and unforeseen circumstances would prevent everything I’d dreamed of, but God has a way of providing healing and I still look at her as one of my greatest accomplishments.

One of my favorite memories of her is right after my first son was born, I was feeding him and my hormones kicked in.  At the time, we’d decided not to have any more kids and I was incredibly sad that he would be my last baby.  Alyssa could hear me crying from the other room and asked what was wrong, but I told her nothing because she was only two and a half at the time, and I didn’t think she’d understand the term, “baby blues”.  She came out and looked at me, saw that I was crying and asked again what was wrong.  So I told her I was just sad that I wasn’t going to be having any more babies.  She promptly climbed into the chair with me, laid her head on my shoulder, and said, “it’s okay mommy, I still love you”.  I, of course, began to sob even more and hugged her tightly.

I know they say your first child is the one you learn the most from, the one you make the most mistakes with, and typically the one you feel you screwed up the most.  Most moms I’m sure feel like they completely screwed their first kid up, but I think because I was so young and felt the pressure from so many people around me, I thought I was the worst mom in the world.  To watch your firstborn grow into a person with feelings, ideas, flaws, successes and failures, is by far the scariest adventure.  I’ve seen how God used my troubled past to help her grow and become the young woman He created her to be, and have been reminded that in order to be what I never had, I needed to offer compassion and grace in the midst of her trials and mistakes.  Being a mother has changed me far more than I ever imagined when I got pregnant, ways that I am still amazed at to this day.  We, in a sense, grew up together, and I really don’t think that’s exclusive to teen or young moms. Each of my children have taught me something I didn’t know before and expanded the depth of the love in my heart, for them as well as others in my life.  Knowing you have people around you, watching and learning from you, forces you to take responsibility for your actions and be intentional about your life. I’m constantly aware of my tone of voice, attitude, critical remarks about myself and occasionally other people.  I know I’m not perfect and my goal is to teach her, and all my children, that perfection is an illusion and it’s our imperfections, especially as mothers, that make us special.

She’ll never know what it’s like to not have a mother during her childhood or teenage years. Someone who comforted her when she was scared, who changed her sheets after throwing up, who picked out fashionable outfits for the first day of school and picture day, or to take a thousand photos of every milestone.  The person who helps you get ready for proms, dates, and most significantly, your wedding day. (I will admit, this was the most exciting realization in my mind once the doctor announced I was having a girl)  And though she’s blithely unaware of all the sacrifices a mother makes, as are most kids, one day she’ll become a mother and understand how much love you never knew your heart could contain when that sweet little baby comes out and looks at you with innocent eyes and a love that could only come from the One who created us.  I truly feel children are God’s way of revealing to us how deeply He loves us.  It’s indescribable, immeasurable, unexplainable.

I never knew becoming a mom would change me as much as it has, and that alone is reason enough to not feel regret for choosing to have a baby so young.  Even with everything she and I have been through, and only really developing a bond in the past 2 years, I am so thankful God chose me to be her mom and that she’s the one who made me a mom for the first time.

So, to my sweet 16 year old daughter, here’s a little piece of my heart:

I promise to be by your side for every major milestone you go through, as well as the little ones.  I will always push you to be your best because that’s my job, and I know you have it in you.  I’m sorry for all the mistakes I’ve made along the way and pray you’ll forgive me, knowing I was learning right along with you.  You made me a mommy, and you make me want to be the best mom because I know what it’s like to not have one.  You make me proud to be your mom whether or not I say it (or show it).  You have a beautiful heart and I am so in awe of how God is growing you into the woman He had in mind when He knitted you together in my womb.  I’m so glad you weren’t a boy because I wouldn’t have the deeply rooted desires in my heart to give you what I never had.  You’re a strong, dominant, free-spirited child of God and I know you’re going to make an amazing wife and mommy someday.  Thank you for loving me, even when I didn’t deserve it, and for helping me realize that life isn’t perfect but the journey we’ve had together is worth every single heartache and failure we’ve gone through.  As I go through this precious milestone with you, I hope you realize how much you’re loved.  I hope you begin to see yourself the way I do, the way God does, because I never want you to doubt how amazing you are.  I love you more than words can express, more than I ever thought I could, and I pray your birthday truly is a “sweet 16”!