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Small Beginnings

Sometimes God whispers.   Perhaps He always whispers?

His voice is gentle and full of hope.

Lately, the phrase “don’t despise small beginnings” has been playing on repeat in my heart.

“Don’t despise small beginnings.”  Gentle and hopeful…

Starting in June of 2009, a series of events occurred in my life that totally derailed everything.

For three and a half years, I was living in survival mode, tending only to the most important things.  Things like budgets and exercise programs felt unattainable.   Things like  feeding and loving my kids and maintaining my marriage took priority.

Honestly, I could not handle any more than that.

I could barely handle that.

The rest of my emotional energy was spent just trying to keep from plummeting into the depths of depression

Thankfully, things are much better now!

I can breathe again…

However, there is a lot to catch up on.  I still haven’t lost the baby weight.  Our finances need to be better managed.  Our house needs to be more organized.  I want to be a better and more consistent writer.

I feel overwhelmed…  ALL. THE. FREAKING.TIME.

Then I hear “don’t despise small beginnings.” Gentle and hopeful…

So, I exercise 15 minutes a day and keep a food journal.  That is ALL I am going to do.

We wrote a budget (again)and we are keeping better track of our money. However,  we are NOT going all Dave Ramsey crazy.

I devote one afternoon a week to writing.  It’s practice and it’s therapy.

Small beginnings… Very small beginnings.

Do you feel overwhelmed?

It’s ok.  I do too.  I think God would speak the same thing to you.

“Don’t despise small beginnings.” Gentle and hopeful…

Do what you can.  If you are in a season where you are doing all that you can, be at peace.

The season will end.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… Romans 8:1

Defining Moments

In every person’s life there are events that change you forever.  You can look back and see a clear divide between before and after.   You were one person before and someone else after.

Defining moments

The birth of a child, especially the first child,  is that type of event for most parents.

Josiah’s birth was a defining moment for me but not only for the usual reasons.  His birth was the most traumatic event of my life.  When I look back, I feel like I don’t even know the person I was before.

I almost lost a child that day and my own life was at risk. It all happened so fast. The world became a scary place where any terrible thing could happen at any time.

It changed me.

I have often wondered why it has had such a dramatic impact on my life?  I think it comes down to this; before I believed that if I just made the right choices, behaved properly and believed the right things, I would be SAFE. 

Theologically incorrect and self -righteous.

After, God’s goodness came into question in a devastating way- the questions that had previously been whispering to me, were now SHOUTING.

Is God real?

Does He love me?

Will he protect me?

Is He sovereign?

I told myself things like-  Your son is alive! He is healthy! You are alive! You should just be grateful!

Oh the guilt...

You know what??

I AM SO VERY GRATEFUL TO GOD FOR ALL OF THAT AND MORE!

However, that gratitude does not silence the grief of dreams and innocence lost.  It does not silence the guilt I sometimes still feel when I wonder “did I do something to cause it??” It does not silence the questions and doubts that arise from going through something that seems so senseless.

Grief and gratitude are not mutually exclusive and neither are faith and doubt!

I have had to adjust my theology from God will protect me if I do/say/think all the right things to God works all things together for the good of those that love him…  My “safety” is totally out of my hands.  My good deeds don’t save me in a spiritual or a physical way.

One of the most painful things about this season of my life was the feeling that I was alone.  I felt like people only wanted to hear the praise but not the pain

If you know a mom (or anyone) who has gone through something like this, even if they are spouting joy and praise, there is probably underlying pain, grief, guilt and doubt. 

Ask them questions and don’t be afraid of the answers.

I say that knowing many people will be afraid of the answers.

I am not anymore.

Josiah’s birth was a defining moment in a messy and beautiful way.  As Glennon Melton from Momastery.com says, it was “brutiful.”  Both brutal and beautiful.

I may not remember the girl I was before Josiah was born but I am getting to know who I am now.  It’s messy and good.  I have more to offer a hurting world now…

I am a beautiful mess and He is truly bringing beauty from the ashes.

Confessions of a Less Than Perfect Mom

So, this whole “mom” thing is kind of hard for me.  I keep waiting for the “I was made for this” epiphany to take place.

Still waiting…

Sure, I have those wonderful moments.  You know the ones.  They are rare and last about 2 seconds. The house is clean, the bills are paid, dinner is in the crock-pot, and the kids are contently playing with each other.  Then, just when I am about to congratulate myself, Asha screams from the other room.  I run towards her.  Clearly, someone is murdering her…

As it turns out, the house is no longer clean… they dumped ALL the toys and squished ALL the goldfish deep into the carpet.  Asha will now scream for at least 30 minutes because Josiah took just ONE of her many necklaces.  Of course, he needs it to rescue Batman from the water…

Most of the time I feel like one of those Greyhound dogs at the race track.  They run hard after that rabbit but they never catch it.  My “rabbit” is contentment.

Such an elusive little rabbit.

Here is my big secret…. I wasn’t made for this. 

Were you?  

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I love my kids and would give my life for them. If I could go back in time and choose again, I would choose them a million times.

That said, being a mother means laying down almost everything that makes me feel like myself… the very things I do feel like I was made to do.

I know I am not the only mom that feels out of her element when it comes to motherhood.

Right?

Not many talk about it because of ugly “mom guilt.”

Here’s the thing, admitting that you don’t fit the mom mold doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids!

Admitting that being a mother does not fulfill your every desire does not make you a bad mom.

So, here I am admitting all those things.

My journey as a mother has not been all cupcakes and rainbows but one thing is for sure…

THEY ARE WORTH IT!

Perspective…

I heard recently that 40% of people will get cancer.  That statistic is not comforting for someone like me who tends to be anxious and fearful about such things.  For several days, I let that statistic take root and cause me to fear.  Then one day, I was reminded that I have a 60% chance of NOT getting cancer and even if I do become one of the 40%, many of those survive.

Suddenly, I was comforted.  Nothing changed.  I just changed my perspective on the exact same information.

Yesterday was a horrible day.  I keep thinking about what those families are going through and I am horrified. It’s unimaginable.  I don’t even want to put words to the images in my mind.

The temptation again is to fear.  In recent years, we have seen shootings in malls, schools, movie theaters, churches, mission organizations, workplaces etc…  My reaction is to want to avoid all these places.

Lately, when I go to the mall, I find myself paying extra attention and planning what action I would take if something were to happen.  I get nervous when Jaison goes to a late night movie with friends. I’m scared to send my son to preschool next week.

Fear and anxiety…

Yet, this morning, I am reminded that MILLIONS of children went to school yesterday and came home safe.  MILLIONS of people go to churches, malls, restaurants and various workplaces EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. and come home safe.

In one of the news reports, I read that Newtown, CT was once the “safest place to live in America” and known for its’ high quality schools. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it goes to show me that I cannot control my own safety simply by living or working in the right place.

I have to live my life, and trust God. I can not let the actions of evil people steal my life, joy and opportunity.  They have already stolen enough.

Picture Perfect

My life is not picture perfect.  I’m guessing yours isn’t either. However, social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest can give the impression that EVERYBODY else’s life is picture perfect, while mine or yours is kinda messy.

I wonder sometimes, how many people spend their lives pursuing a commercialized or social media driven perception of happiness? All the while, taking their potentially fulfilling real lives for granted.

I’ve used Facebook for a few years and I have watched everyday snapshots become more and more professional looking and commercialized.   It makes me wonder if we are subconsciously (or consciously) using social media to “market” a certain perception of ourselves rather than to share our reality?

If you could see a snapshot of my life at this very moment, you would see me sitting on the couch in a sweatshirt with no make-up.  The mess from lunch is still all over the kitchen.  There are toys everywhere.  Asha’s crazy curly hair is starting to dread because I haven’t washed it for a few days and she has snot on her face because I can’t keep her from wiping it straight up into her hair.  Yuck!  I probably won’t post our picture on Facebook today!

We post the highlights and occasionally the rants but not the “ugly” stuff.  Nobody puts “I forgot to pay my credit card last month and Citibank called me 75 times today and keeps calling even after I paid it” on their status.

Yep, that happened to me!  Why didn’t I post it? Because it’s kind of embarrassing ..what will people think of me?  They might think I’m so disorganized, I can’t even pay my bills on time. They would be a little bit right and I would rather hide that fact.

So, instead I/we post things like… “My husband is so awesome, he did such and such”  OR “My kid got 120% on everything and reads 200 books everyday…” it becomes easy to believe that everyone is perfect and happy when we only see their highlights and when they only see ours.  Then we compare our reality to other people’s highlights and we feel like a huge mess.

I do that all the time.

Perhaps I am the only one?  Probably not!

The truth is- Nobody’s life is perfect.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  We post our strengths on Facebook and feel bad when someone else’s strength reminds us of our weakness.

The last few years, Jaison and I have been kind of just holding on.  Desperately trying not to fall into the grips of rejection, grief, anxiety and depression.  It’s much better now and there is starting to be “room” for more in our lives.  However, for a long season we just did what was necessary to stay afloat.  We kept it simple.  No elaborate projects or traditions. Just the basics.

Soooooooo, no fancy pictures of our house, yard, baby nursery, Christmas traditions, vacations, etc…

I’ll admit, I often have felt bad when I have seen other people’s pictures of their projects and traditions.  I have felt like I was somehow cheating my kids because they don’t have chandeliers and murals in their rooms or mischievous elves stalking them.

Here’s the truth- IT DOESN’T MATTER! 

We made it through a horrible season of life while maintaining a simple but happy life for our children and a growing marriage. Our kids are happy, we have made some great memories and we have learned some awesome lessons.

There is no way to take a picture of that.

If there was, it probably wouldn’t be pretty. It would be all messy, blurry, totally unprofessional and I would love it.  I would love it even more than a professional picture that made me look really skinny!  I would love it because it’s my REAL life. Someone else might look at it and think “ugh, what a terrible picture”  but I will always know the beauty of it.

What would your real life picture look like?

Hope Surrendered

Life, doesn’t always go the way we hope.

Nobody likes to suffer.  Even Jesus prayed “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Something inside Him hoped for a less painful, less humiliating way.  Yet,  even knowing what was coming, He surrendered that hope.

His hope surrendered ultimately produced hope eternal.

To really know Jesus, I believe we have to know suffering…disappointment, rejection, humiliation, grief, and sorrow.

It has taken me a long time to accept this and these truths are still working themselves out in my life, but this passage means something so much deeper to me now; He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God,  stricken by him, and afflicted…  Isaiah 53:3-4 NIV

For me, “hope deferred” (Proverbs 13:12) has become hope surrendered.  My posture before the Lord has changed to a “not my will but yours be done” posture in a deeper way than I have ever known before.

That’s not to say that I don’t have bad days.  I do.  I have really bad days.  Throw in the towel and become an atheist days.  However, I always end up with my hope surrendered.

May it become hope eternal.

Poem taken from “Streams in the Desert”  November 30

There is a peace that cometh after sorrow,
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fulfilled;
A peace that looketh not upon tomorrow,
But calmly on a tempest that it stilled.
 
“A peace that lives not now in joy’s excesses,
Nor in the happy life of love secure;
But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,
Of conflicts won while learning to endure.
 
“A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded,
A life subdued, from will and passion free;
‘Tis not the peace that over Eden brooded,
But that which triumphed in Gethsemane.”

Who Likes Change Anyway?

Not me!  Yet my life is about to change in some drastic ways.

When we started a family, all I wanted was to settle down.  For me, settling down meant  having an steady income, health insurance and a home of our own.  Pretty basic stuff.   We had that for awhile and let me tell you, it was the most peace-less season of my adult life.  I was miserable!

Now, we are about to leave all that behind, and I am afraid. I have a deep sense of peace about our decision to move but I am worried about the details.  Where will we live?  How will we pay for healthcare?   And, most importantly, will I have money for coffee????  Someone please tell me I will have money for decent coffee!  Please!

Yeah, yeah, I know the Bible says “do not be afraid”  a zillion or so times.  As well as saying things like “do not worry.”  And here I am, afraid and worried and strangely peaceful at the same time.  Seriously, how can all these emotions coexist in the same person?

Our pastor recently said to me “faith isn’t the absence of fear.”  Phew!  That’s a relief!

Unfortunately, I am a control freak who has to relinquish control to God at least a million times a day!   I feel like I need to take it all upon myself to make things happen and that  NEVER leads anywhere good… I still haven’t quite figured out I am not God.

Instead of trusting God with the details, I am obsessing over them, doing the math, and overwhelming myself.  The only place to find comfort, is in the Lord.  I need to BELIEVE Him when He says, “I am with you”  and “all things work together for good.”

Even….  Uprooting my kids?  Leaving my family behind?  Having a very uncertain income?  Leaving my house in the hands of strangers?  Drinking grocery store coffee?

Yes, even those things!

I don’t know what’s going to happen.  I CAN”T know what’s going to happen.  But I do know that God is in control and He has never left me alone.  I CAN know my past and I know that all things have worked (and are working) together for my good.

So, today I am going to live for today.  I’m going to face the things that are in front of me.  I am going to trust that God will be faithful, just as He always has been faithful.

Everything is going to be ok…right??

 

 

 

Broken

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be “broken”  by the Lord. 

It’s no secret, the last few years have been messy.  Disappointment, death, financial difficulty, depression, rejection, and indifference are just a few of the “trials” we have endured and continue to endure.

I have been leveled, isolated, broken.  I have been reminded of  who I would be without the redemptive power of Jesus.  It’s not good at all. 

As much as I hate to admit it, I am thankful for the mess.  I can see glimpses of what it is producing in me and it is good.  I see surrender where there was battle.  Humility where there was pride.  Compassion where there was indifference.   Trust where there was fear.

Of course, there are still battles, pride lives on, indifference protects and doubt and fear creep in.  But, they control me less than they used to. 

I have been healed and I am being healed.  God is good and scripture often talks about how God tears down in order to build up.  I understand that now more than ever before. He allowed some of the ugly stuff to be destroyed so He could re-build my broken life and make something beautiful out of it.

I have persevered (clung by a thread to my faith when I felt completely abandoned) and perseverance produces character and character produces hope.  I have hope again.

So, what does it mean to be broken?  In this season of my life brokeness came from having every high opinion of myself destroyed and ultimately coming to a place of surrender.  

Whenever I feel the fight and anxiety coming back, I just put my palms up before the Lord and say “you know best.”

A Little Story and A Product Review

Fair warning-this post is about “girl stuff” but is not graphic or offensive!  

Just for the record (in case someone fails to read to the end) I am NOT pregnant!!!!

A week or so ago, I suspected there may be a Samuel baby #3 in the works.  So, I went to Target to pick up a test.  I was feeling a little thrifty that day, so I opted for the Up & Up brand (Target)  box of three, instead of going with my usual preference for First Response Early Result.

I took my tests home and did what was necessary.  Despite being quite experienced in using these tests, I actually read the directions and followed them to the letter, since this was my first time using this brand.  Sure enough, after a minute or so, there was a blue line!  I am sure all of my blood drained into my feet and I almost passed out.  After all, positive is positive… Right?  Right?

I used all three tests and all three were clearly positive!  Jaison and I were bracing ourselves for all that would come with another pregnancy and baby… Then I decided to buy a box of my preferred brand of test, just to confirm.  The first one was negative.  What??  So was the second one as well as the third one.  What the heck?? All of this was happening over the course of several days. 

I was quite confused because I know that the First Response tests are MORE sensitive than the Up & Up tests, so they should have been showing a positive result.  I decided to google Up & Up brand tests and found that there are TONS of people online complaining about false positives!

As it turns out, I am not pregnant!  I have always believed that false positives are VERY rare, but I had three of them in a couple of days!  I am not sharing this because I enjoy sharing the intimate details of my life on the internet.  I’m sharing because a false positive could be devastating to a couple struggling with infertility.  A false positive could also have a devastating effect on someone trying not to conceive.  Everyone who reads this should pass this info on to their friends.  I plan on contacting Target but they already know about the problem and are still selling the tests.

The good thing is this gave Jaison and I a glimpse into our own hearts.  We have been going back and forth about having a third baby for some time now.   When we thought I was pregnant, we were both excited about the “baby” but disappointed with the timing.  When we found out that I am not pregnant, we were disappointed that there is no baby but relieved about the timing.  So, I guess we can all expect that there will be a Samuel baby #3 in the works sometime soon (ish)!

Moral of the story? NEVER, EVER buy an Up & Up (Target) brand pregnancy test!

On The Shore of The Sea

Sometimes our destiny, calling or blessing lies across a deep, raging sea.  We stand on the shore,  knowing that we do not have the strength to cross.   The people around us tell us that there is no way to get to the other side.  It is impossible.  It is easier here on this side.  Safer.  They tell us, we tell ourselves, that we don’t have what it takes to succeed over there. They are right, but something compels us to get to the other side, to cross the raging sea.  Somehow we know that what we were made for lies waaaaay over there.  So, we stand here on shore of the sea…scared, overwhelmed,  doubting, questioning our own sanity.  

I’m there.  Jaison and I are there together.  Standing here, looking towards our destiny.   Torn, between living a safe  life that we have not been called to, and moving forward across enormous challenges to continue the journey to our destiny.   Even as I write this, I am questioning myself.  Destiny?  That is just some whimsical idea.  Calling?  Whatever!  Yet, I truly believe in those things.  Somehow I know that God has things for us that we will only take hold of if we cross the raging sea.

You know, the Israelites were there too.  They left Egypt where their needs were met in slavery, only to end up on the shore of a raging sea. Their destiny lying on the other side.  Slavery probably looked good as their hearts filled with doubt  What? You want me to cross THAT?  With my kids? We will drown.  At least we had homes and food and jobs in Egypt.  It was impossible. There was NO way they were getting across the sea.   Until, Moses obeyed God and simply lifted his arms.  Seriously, how easy was that?  The sea parted and they saw the biggest miracle of their lives. 

 Doubt became awe.

It is impossible for us.  There is no way we can cross the raging sea.  So, we stand here…but God is starting to tell us to move…to lift our arms…to just take the first step…be obedient…have faith.  It is terrifying, but we will see the impossible.

Doubt will become awe.

  • pictures coming soon

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