On grace in the storm

Facebook has so kindly reminded me for the last week that my daughter’s birthday was coming. And because I am a super emotional person come birthdays, I’ve not really allowed myself to look at all the tiny baby photos or really soak in those memories. Sylvia is my last baby, and at times, the finality of each stage hurts my heart too much for me to celebrate. I’m working on it, but sometimes celebration is not as simple as a pretty pink party.

Which leads me to remember her birth. She was already an agonizing 8 days overdue. Her pregnancy was a challenge on it’s own, and her apparent unwillingness to join us earthside felt like a cruel joke. I didn’t understand why it was taking so long! But then, the contractions started. I’d already had enough labor by this point that you’d think I would have ignored that first one, but when it happened, I knew.

The next four hours were hard. Pregnancy had been hard. Another experience with hyperemesis was hard. But this? I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the hardness. And I was so worn out from how hard the months leading up had been, I really didn’t have it in me to go for hours. And then suddenly, the pain ceased.

In the moment, I remember thinking it was strange. I remember wondering if I had just suffered the previous hours and now labor was over and I’d have to do it all again at a later date. I also remember the peace. I remember knowing this was my grace. I was worn and tired and not really ready {despite the waiting} for labor. And I needed the time to recharge before the final struggle.

So for an hour, I celebrated that grace. I ate some snacks, listened to the birds outside my window and rested.

How often can we truly rest in the midst of struggles in our life? When the rest is provided, do we still look out with one eye, suspicious of what could possibly go wrong? Or can we celebrate the gift given in the middle of the hard and just rest?

That day, I could. In the years following, I haven’t been so great about it. However, in our past year, I’ve learned more and more what is it like to take those moments as the gifts they are and to be suspicious, confident, that the Lord is up to something good. That these moments are a blessing, not a trap. Perhaps things that are even harder will arise, but if I take the rest I was given, my soul will have the opportunity to be strengthened.

On that morning, four years ago, when the rest was over, I was ready to tough it out and finish giving birth. And that sweet little face that I was amazed by has continued to amaze in her tenderness, kindness and genuine love for the people around her. Over and over, I’ve been blown away by how the Lord has used her to teach me a lesson about His Love or show me the ick in my heart I’ve been making excuses for.

Right now, our family has come out of a season of hard and are entering a season of rest. This time, I can recognize it for the gift that it is and use it to it’s full potential. Instead of relaxing and thinking I’m safe to do what I please, I am continuing my discipline of trust and obedience. Not being wary, so much as wise. Another storm will come, but when it does, I know that we will see the other side, whatever that may look like, but He Is Faithful!

On needing a new prescription

A few days ago, we got up and raced around trying to make sure am medicines were taken, breakfasts were eaten, children were clothed appropriately and we were on time to the dentist. The only thing I suppose I should pat myself on the back for would be the 3 minutes to spare arrival at the dentist. So nope, forgot two medicines, the breakfast that was eaten wasn’t *that* filling and we left the house totally under dressed for the weather. Whoops.

Despite ¬†mornings like this being a regular occurrence in my home, you might notice that my Instagram feed isn’t filled with frustrated selfies or snap shots of my messy home. Not because I want to hide this aspect of my life, but because it just isn’t worth focusing my sights on.

I suppose I could #firstworldproblems as I whine about how it was too nice a day to stay in and clean bathrooms, but is that really the point? We all have our own standards for life, standards that can at times be excessive without the input from the lady on IG who just can’t get her act together to dust. It’s not that I don’t care, because I do. I like a clean house as much, if not more, as the next person, I really do. But what I don’t care for is the focus.

It doesn’t have to be a clean house, it could be your marriage or your child in the super-fantastic developmental stage of egocentricisim. Whatever it is that takes your joy, your focus from the blessings in life, that is something that shouldn’t be framed on IG, much less your mind.

This isn’t to say that you can’t acknowledge a bad day, a messy house, or the tough parenting day! They are there in abundance, believe me. But should you focus on them? Why would you want to? Why give more time and attention to something that drags you down and hurts your spirit? Are we not called on in Colossians 3:2 to fix our eyes on things above, not on earthly things {paraphrase mine}? And to follow that, Phillipians 4:8 -

“whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Do you see it? It’s not a call to ignore the yuck, it’s a prescription for new lenses. My morning was a disaster, my house is a mess, my hair… oh, my hair. When we bring these things to the forefront of our minds, we wait {whether we realize it or not} for someone to tear us down. We wait to see if the perfect mom from MOPS who cloth diapered all her babies and makes the best bread from scratch will notice. We wait to see if she will like our post and then we torture ourselves wondering if she liked it out of judgement or pity.

But when you swap out that negative, condemning, egocentric lens on your life for something that focuses on the blessings and the love and the glory of the Lord, dust pales in comparison. It takes time to adjust to a new lens prescription… you have headaches and all too often want to just toss them in the trash {at least I did while adjusting to my current one!}, and during that time, you’ll be forced to recognize that changing how you look at life, is work.

It is work. Change is hard. It takes a willingness to grow and to hurt a little on the way, which is why we so often set out with the intention, but quit before we are truly at the finish line. I speak from experience… please believe me! As hard as it is, I will say this: when you stop trying to change your focus solely through discipline, and you rely on scripture to rewrite your mindset, the change happens without even realizing it did. It’s worth it to focus a portion of your quiet time to write out your blessings. It’s worth it to make a list of all that you are grateful for. The more you saturate your brain with the good, the lovely, the pure, the less you’ll see the condemnation, even for those dirty dishes.

{When I went to Ann’s site to link up to her book 1,000 gifts, I happened across this lovely post. You should head over there next and read it!}

On not trying so much

The thing of growing up with a chronically ill parent is that is dramatically shifts your perspective on life. Expectations for myself, my energy, my accomplishments as a stay-at-home-mother, even my own health have been formed because of this life experience. In some ways, they’ve been good, but in others, I’ve required a fundamental shift in the paradigm of my thoughts.

Over the years, I’ve tried and tried to do this on my own. I’ve read books, been to counselors and begged the Lord to help me. To take away the pressures and anxiety I’d created to be the lenses I viewed my world through. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying.

A year ago, I got my own diagnosis, one which required me to take it down a notch. To stop pushing myself to the standards I’d created. To stop trying and accept that there are limits in life. And no matter of gumption will change this fact.

In the last few months, I’ve been exploring the concept of rest. Not in the prop-up-your-feet-and-exhale sense, but in the utter stillness of the Lord’s care. As I spent my time just being quiet, not striving to change things or beg the Lord to fix things, but choosing those moments of stress to remind myself that I am where I need to be. The lessons I am learning now are hard, but I wasn’t ready for them years ago. Sure. It would be nice, if I didn’t have to learn these things now, but would I have fully appreciated them years ago?

At this moment, I’m recovering from a nasty bug. For the most part, I feel better, but the sneaky kind of better that makes you think you’ve returned to the front of the pack only to slap you down with bone-crushing fatigue after that first load of laundry. We need clean underwear. The toilet needs scrubbed. The dishes need washed. But it doesn’t have to all be done at the same time.

Maybe not for you, but for me, realizing that there is value in rest, has brought so much freedom. I do not know what will happen next in my life, but frantically scrubbing toilets will not bring an iota of control. And that’s ok. I like clean toilets, but I’d rather scrub them because I like the end result instead of using it as a futile exercise in control.

 

Ironic, isn’t it? The harder I work, the less progress is made in my heart. There is such a sweetness in surrendering to the Lord’s Hand over your life. The realization of sovereignty has been the greatest gift I could have been given in this season of life. It’s beautiful and captivating and touching to think that He has already laid out my life… it is up to me to live it with joy. And peace. And contentment.

And clean toilets.

Being Still

I finished reading Beth Moore’s book Believing God¬†{aff link} this week. It took me a while, as I had a lot of digesting to do. Her writing style is very gentle and yet to the point. I like it… which makes me laugh because I honestly had no idea who she was until a few months ago. Toward the end of the book, there were a few things I wanted to remember, so I spent some time Tuesday afternoon copying them to my journal and thinking about our current season in life.

Beth was describing types of challenges in life and our responses. Not all require us to wage an internal war, but instead ask us to be quiet and wait on the Lord. I was struck… shaken… to my core.

Keep up your day in, day out fundamentals, be still in ME, and trust that I am in control – total control. I don’t want your involvement on this issue. I just want you to practice keep your hands off of it and letting me have it.”

I read this paragraph over and over before writing “This is where I am right now. With everything that has cropped up – just practicing being still and trusting.” Matt and I have talked about this several times in the last year, we have done all we can in our struggles, only to have that inner voice telling us to simply be quiet and wait. For me, a type-A action-oriented person, this is hard. Not hard. Virtually impossible.

As my day progressed, I felt more and more that I was to embrace this… that I read this for a purpose. At 4:31pm my phone rang with the news that our rental {which is for sale and therefore vacant} was broken into and the copper piping stolen. I hung up the phone and stood in my dining room laughing.

Isn’t it the Best? Despite all our efforts and precautions, someone still broke in. And yet, I chose stillness over fear. Perhaps for the first time in my life even. This year I have determined that instead of chasing perfection, I am going to embrace growth. Growth happens at it’s own rate… no matter my goals or plans, I have to just keep pushing forward and trust that the process of growth will still occur regardless of how it feels to me. In this moment, I can see the growth.

Stillness is hard for me. But this small victory of not allowing myself to panic and instead trust that everything will work out shows me that I’m learning. I’m making progress. I’m growing in the stillness, inspite of myself. Because of Him.

 

Redirection

In the last several months, I’ve felt that I needed to take a step back and evaluate where this blog is going. Although I’ve contemplated ending this blog entirely, I love the domain name and adore the graphics my husband created for me. In a few short months, I’ll have two children who are school aged and my days as a member of MOPS will draw to a close. With that, my venue for writing devotionals for moms will also draw to a close.

It has been my heart’s desire to write devotionals for women since before I knew what it even meant. I hear other women who have similar goals say they want to be just like Beth Moore or Lysa Turkhurst. I only learned who those women are this past year. I can see the draw to that level of a goal. It would be wonderful if my words, typed with a pug at my feet and children building legos {or fighting} could ever have that impact. But at the heart of my desire I don’t have that urge. The older I get, the more I appreciate the small. I long for the quiet and the intimate. Large groups, while never my “thing” were always something I did so I could fit in. I don’t want to fit in any longer. I want to do what I was created to do, even if that involves me taking a deep breath, drawing up all my bravery and stepping away from the norm.

I met with a dear friend for coffee this morning. She is one of my closest friends in the entire world and telling her about this dream came naturally. She wisely mentioned that when God has something for you, it’s like the nagging of a toothache… ever-present and demanding attention until you finally see a dentist and take care of it. She quickly added that the analogy of a toothache isn’t there to assume following God’s will for your life is always painful, but to tell you the truth, I feel uncomforatble. I feel like I’ve been trying to continue walking around in the size 8 1/2 heels I bought pre-kids even though my feet are now a full size larger.

My life has changed a lot in the past year. My heart has changed and grown. I have finally been able to set aside all the pain and struggles and the bitterness I felt at God’s {percieved} abandonment and realize that while everything I’ve ever known has changed – radically- God has been the one constant. Always waiting for me to, in effect, get over myself and be brave enough to be humble. Now, at the age of 33, I finally get to learn lessons my heart wasn’t ready for years ago. Lessons I wish I could have been ready for, but am grateful to be where I am.

My blog has always been about food and family. But you know what I learned in 2014? Physical food had become my comfort even without an obsession. It took several months, but following that realization, I discovered that when anxious, if I chose to spend time in the Word, instead of crying into a piece of chocolate cake, I could actually rest. I want to share this with others. Mothers, singles, Grandpas… I don’t care if you are in my demographic, I want people to understand that there is a way to feed your soul that doesn’t always involve butter or cheese. And as much as I love my dairy products, I love peace even more.

In the coming weeks, there will be some design changes with this blog, so please bear with me. I am excited to move beyond myself and share what I’m learning. I am thrilled to be brave enough to shift the emphasis from our bellies to our souls. Will you join me?