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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.

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.”

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.”

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.

I’m Just a Stay at Home Mom…

Please note, this post is not a stay at home mom vs. working mom debate! I like working moms. I envy them sometimes.  I have friends who work AND are excellent mothers! 

“I’m just a stay at home mom.” I’ve said that before and I’ve heard lots of moms say the same thing.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately…being “just” a stay at home mom and you know what?  There is NOTHING in this world I would rather do or be.  It took me nearly three years  and a lot of internal turmoil to come to that conclusion but I can honestly say it’s the truth. 

There are those moms out there who are natural mothers.  They are the ones who dreamed of being a mother when they were 5 and 25 and every year in between. They would not even think of  anything they would rather do than be stay at home mom. They like baking and everything Pinterest.  They LOVE, LOVE, LOVE everything about being a mother….at least that is what their Facebook statuses imply!  Is “statuses” a word? There is nothing wrong with that, in fact I wish I could be that way sometimes. Ok, I realize I am creating a stereotype here that doesn’t really exist.  Motherhood is not easy for any of us, but does come more naturally to some.

I am not a “natural” when it comes to motherhood.  In fact, I find motherhood terribly inconvenient.  It is exhausting. It was a big decision to even become a mother. I have never  been good with kids.  They really don’t do reasonable very well and I like reasonable people.  So, being a stay at home mom has always seemed like a sacrifice, not a privilege. It was (sometimes it still is) a very difficult transition.   I knew it was the right thing to do for our family but I was secretly envious of my friends who have a career and freedom. 

It’s very easy to take the day-to-day routine for granted and get caught up in all the craziness.   Every single day seems basically the same… Get up. Breakfast. activity. Lunch. Nap. Wake up. Activity. Dinner. Activity. Bed time.   EVERY SINGLE DAY!  It’s boring sometimes. It’s often lonely. It sometimes makes me feel like I may go crazy. Still there is NOTHING I would rather do or be.

As monotonous and frustrating as the day-to-day routine can be, I don’t ever want to take it for granted.  Mothering may not come naturally for me, but it is a privilege.  I have been challenging myself to step back from the routine and take time to really “see” my kids, my husband, and my family.  When I do that, I realize how truly blessed I am.  When I do that, I find moments in every single day that make me grateful for my messy life.  When I do that, I realize I married an excellent man who is an excellent father. 

 My greatest fear in life is not being able to see my children grow up.  That fear is a source of great anxiety, sometimes overwhelming anxiety.  It is something I have to continually trust God with.  It is a negative thing in my life and I don’t want to entertain it, but entertaining those negative thoughts has left me with one valuable lesson.  My family is the most important thing in my life and every crazy day is a gift. It’s a gift to be able to feed them, go to Target, run around the back yard, answer Josiah’s “why” questions a million times a day, and watch the same “Tonka Chuck” cartoon over and over again…all of it is a gift.

I’m just a stay at home mom and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Resting in the Mess

It recently occurred to me that I am all grown up.  Not sure when THAT happened!  Didn’t I just turn 21 like yesterday?  This grown-up thing kind of snuck up on me. I can try to deny it but the mirror, marriage, mortgage and babies are there to prove it.  Being the grown-up I am, I really should have “it all figured out by now.  I don’t even know what “it” is and I don’t think I ever will. 

You know what?  For the first time in my life, I’m kinda, sorta, not really but maybe a little bit ok with that.

I have spent most of my life pursuing this elusive idea of getting/having it all together.  Whatever that means.  Seriously what does it mean?   In my mind, it means all of these things and probably a few more; thin, well dressed, liked by everyone, organized, financially set, very in control, and of course very,very spiritual. Oh and don’t forget…maternal, creative, and domestic ! I really am none of those things and I am, quite honestly, tired of trying, trying, trying to be something/someone who I am not.  I’m not saying any of those things are bad or unworthy of being pursued.  They are not…except maybe being liked by everyone.  Pursuing that is a colossal waste of time. 

I am saying that sometimes it’s ok to just BE. Sometimes what we are striving for is not what God wants for us. Sometimes it’s ok to just “be still and know that He is God.”  Sometimes we just need to learn to rest IN the mess.  I will say it again “rest IN the mess!” That little word “in” is very important…

MAYBE there is much to be learned in the mess? MAYBE having it all together would not make me a “better” person but rather it would make me an arrogant person?  MAYBE facing my failings everyday is teaching me humility and compassion for others? MAYBE the pain, rejection and failure is a gift that will give me the ability to “hear” people in pain that others may not be able to? MAYBE this mess of a life is actually shaping me to be who I am supposed to be?  MAYBE God is, in part, the author of my mess…

NOT MAYBE.  DEFINITELY.

The last few years have been rough and it’s hard to reconcile “Jesus loves me” with some of the things that have happened. But every now and then I see the purpose in it.  I catch glimpses of how I have changed.  I see the person I would have been if I had achieved getting it all together…if things had come easy.  I don’t like her.   I like who I am…who I am becoming… I believe the mess has forced me to become more authentic in my faith and a more authentic person. 

My life is a mess….a beautiful mess and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

 

 

Peace

Peace is a funny thing.   It’s that thing inside you that says; everything is going to be ok, you are where you need to be, you are on the right path, even when everything does not seem like it’s going to be ok and you don’t know where you are going in life.   I have peace right now and I really should be FREAKING out!  I have so much peace that I am kind of freaking out about the fact that I am NOT freaking out!  I guess this is the “peace which transcends all understanding” that Paul was talking about in Philippians 4.  I haven’t felt this kind of peace in a very long time.

For two whole years, I was without peace.  Those two years, we had health insurance and a predictable income but I was miserable.  Now, we don’t have either of those things but I’ll take this uncertainty over that lack of peace any day. It doesn’t make sense and I question my own sanity for feeling this way but  I’m just not that worried.  In fact, Jaison is more worried than I am.  If you know us at all, you know that is a huge statement. Jaison is usually pretty relaxed but worrying is my hobby. I do it well. I struggle with anxiety. I worry about things that most people don’t even think about BUT I am not worried now.  Maybe I am crazy…

I think God speaks to us by giving us peace. I’ve always made decisions in my life based somewhat on whether on not I felt peace about it. I’m not sure why I settled for those two years without peace. I’m not sure why I didn’t listen to it, question it. I think I thought we were being faithful to what we had felt God called us to. I also was desiring to get established as a family. Thankfully, God moved us when it was time to move even if it was painful.

A month from now, we may not be able to pay our bills.  Our income just got cut in HALF!  We are struggling to figure out what to do.  Our plans are not working out. We thought we knew who we are and what we are called to but that’s not as clear as it used to be.  We NEED God to direct us, to open doors for us.  Don’t get me wrong,  this is a scary place to be and I want some answers but I’m not worried.

Somehow, I just know that it’s going to be ok, that we are on the right path and that God is directing us…”peace which trancends all understanding…”  If that makes me crazy, I think I like being crazy!