My baby is turning 4 in March. Aside from all of the “I can’t believe my baby is growing up so fast” thoughts, I’ve had one profound realization that has wrecked me. The day she was born was the day I lost myself.

Most mothers can relate on some level. When you have kids, especially more than one, it is too easy to become consumed with their needs and put yourself last. I remember being so overwhelmed my entire pregnancy by the thought of having 2 under 2. Shortly after she was born I felt so much guilt for spending my entire pregnancy worried.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant my husband and I found out our baby girl was breech and had a brain abnormality. The doctors told us to prepare for her to go to the NICU and possibly need a shunt. On March 31, 1:51 pm, she was born by cesarean section at 39 weeks. A perfect, beautiful baby girl. We spent 10 hours together before the nurse took her to check her vitals. I never got to spend the night with my baby girl until we brought her home 7 weeks later. The joy of her uncomplicated delivery was abruptly stripped away.

I’m not sure that you can fully understand where I’ve been unless you have seen the NICU team stumped by your child’s condition, unless you’ve been told your baby may not make it home and if she did she might not have a great quality of life. That she may not walk or talk, be normal. It cut a hole right in my heart and even though she’s doing great today I can’t unhear those words or forget those feelings. I can’t forget the soul crushing feeling of thinking I was going to lose this child that I had spent 9 months selfishly wondering how I was going to split my attention between her and her older sister. I couldn’t control the tears thinking what if those are the only memories I have of her.

Family, friends and complete strangers pleaded God for a miracle for my sweet girl. On the day of her scheduled lung biopsy, she began to improve! Our prayers were answered. She continued to improve and get stronger, Warrior Princess as a stranger turned friend so lovingly called her, was ready to come home at 7 weeks.

For the last 4 years she has gotten every doctor visit, type of therapy, toy and service I could get for her. I fought for her to get everything that would help her be as strong and capable as possible. She is an amazing, resilient miracle.

At some point during baby girl’s first year, my husband began experiencing anxiety. It crept in slowly until it took over our lives.

I remember going to the grocery store one night by myself, aka a sanctuary for every mom. He called me halfway through in a panic about something that I can’t even recall now. I had to pay for my groceries and rush home. These types of scenarios became our norm.

I began to build a wall around Kristal. The only way I knew how to stay strong for my family was to become solid and numb. If I cracked I might not be able to put myself back together. I didn’t share much of what was going on with anyone, because I didn’t want them to look at my wonderful husband differently. I wanted to protect him. And so I pulled away from anyone who wasn’t family. Kept them at arms distance.

Our greatest struggle came right after we witnessed a true miracle from God. Our faith should have been the strongest it had ever been. But the enemy found a small crack in the foundation. That tiny crack almost brought our house down. But GOD. Just when I felt I couldn’t go on like this anymore, when the thought of our lives being like this forever felt like a thousand tons on us, when the weight of caring for my family felt like prison chains… he was right on time. Something as simple as a new car helped my husband begin to take control back of his life and breathe new life into our family. Through God’s strength in him he continues to get stronger every day.

Now here we are, almost 4 years from the start of all this and I can finally see the light. My husband’s anxiety has greatly improved. The weight of our family doesn’t sit on my shoulders alone anymore. I feel like it is safe to slowly tear down the wall I built to protect my family and myself. It’s ok to spend some time focused on me and finding out who I am again. The hardest part is letting people back in to see the unchained me. It felt like I carried the weight of the world alone for 4 years, even though I know it’s not true. As I tear down and soften these war-torn places of myself I am trusting God to fill them with people that will be there to help hold me together when the next storm comes so that I don’t ever have to lose myself to save my family again.

 

I love spring. Sometimes winter can feel so dark and lifeless.  But, when spring arrives it feels like a brand new start. There are so many beautiful things to look at outside like flowers blooming, trees blossoming, birds flying around, beautiful blue skies, and you cannot forget the warm rays from the sun.

IMG_4306

When I look at this unedited photo I can’t help but think of how beautiful it is.  I think about how intricate the bloom is, how carefully the creator crafted it and how breath taking it is to look at. Beautiful flowers make me marvel at God’s creation. I feel like I understand him better when I value the beauty he has put around me.

Something quite the opposite happens when I look at other pictures. There are some pictures I look at and wonder what in the world God was thinking.  How could he create something so imperfect, so flawed? I can look at those pictures and think of so many things that could have been done differently to make it as beautiful as the picture of that flower.

When I am finished analyzing those pictures, I hit delete, so no one else will see that imperfect picture of me.

I doubt I am alone in this.

Why is it that we marvel over certain parts of God’s creation and pick out the imperfections of other parts, especially ourselves?  I appreciate, even value, the beauty of a flower but then I question God’s decision as a creator when I look at a photo of myself.  How distorted is that perception?  The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in our mother’s womb, and that he numbers every hair on our head. Why is it so hard for us to understand and apply this knowledge to ourselves?

How dare we spit in the face of our creator by telling him his creation is not good enough? My eyes are not the right color, my nose is too big, my teeth are too crooked, I’m too fat, I’m too tall, my lips are not right, my hips should be smaller, my hair should be straighter. We tell ourselves we do this because we have low self-esteem.

But, lately, I’m beginning to think its something else. I believe it is the manifestation of some issue you have with God. Maybe you don’t believe that God really cares about you. Or you don’t trust that God is at work in your life. Maybe you just can’t quite relinquish control of your life over to him.

When we are at peace with God and he has the rightful place in our lives, as Lord and savior, then we can begin to see all of his creation as beautiful, intricate masterpieces. Will that mean that we will automatically believe we are beautiful? Maybe not. But, when you can understand that God has created you, has a purpose for you, wants to be in fellowship with you, and delights in you, the shape of your body won’t matter so much anymore. The condition of your soul will be so much more important.

God, help us to ignore the cries of this world to pick apart our appearances. Help us to see ourselves as you have created us, beautiful, magnificent masterpieces created to serve you and to lead others to the truth. Amen.

My usual way of writing is out of my experiences.  When I feel something, I share it. When God teaches me something I pass it along. I enjoy writing this way because it feels honest and transparent.

Recently, I’ve been in an odd season.  God has been growing, stretching, challenging and changing me. Great, right? I should have so many things to share. But, God has been telling me to be still and quiet.  The things he has been teaching me are things I need to take to heart, things that need to seep into all the hidden places of my heart and mind.

It feels like I’m coming out of that quiet season and stepping into a season of boldness. Or maybe it is me accepting the bold parts of my spirt instead of ignoring it.  Either way, there is a moving in my spirit.

I have a little nugget I want to share with you that I heard this past week that has been floating around in my mind since. Do you know about God or do you know God?

We live in an instant world. Anything you want to know about God that has ever been said or written is literally at your finger tips. It is not hard to know about God.  Any verse or scriptural topic can be googled. You can read essays by those who believe in God and those who do not.

Would you marry someone after reading their biography without spending any other time with them throughout your marriage? No! That is a silly idea, right? So why are you doing that with God?

How do you know the things he wants to teach you, the calling he has for your life, the correction from the Holy Spirit, the peace that he wants to give you or the joy that he wants you to live in if you do not spend time with him?

You are trying to fool yourself and everyone around you. I know the game, I’ve played it.  I’ve been playing it.

So how do you know God? You spend time with him. You pray, not just for your food or with your children at bedtime. James 5:16 tells us about the power of prayer. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. God wants to share his power with us.  When Jesus lives in us, the same power that rose him from the grave is inside of us! How are we so calm and quiet when we claim that?? The other way to know God is by spending time in the Bible. Don’t just read it, study it. If you don’t understand it talk to someone who does. Ask God for clarity of his word. He is not going to withhold himself from you if you seek him.

I urge you not to be content with knowing about God. As you know God more, your thoughts align more with his. You can step into the fullness of your calling. You can stop playing the games and live the life God intended for you.

Sometimes I feel like a pizza that has been thrown on the ground upside down.

IMG_2337

I’m jumbled, messed up, and look like a disaster.

As we were coming in tonight {or maybe it’s last night now since it’s 12 am} Brent was carrying our pizza, his drink, and his things while talking on the phone. Before I knew what was happening our hot, cheesy pizza  had landed upside down in the grass, thankfully it stayed in the box!

When we got settled inside I opened the box and saw the picture I posted. That pizza looked exactly like I felt. My life is kind of crazy right now. Living in someone else’s house, rummaging through cardboard boxes every day, appointments several days a week, trying to adjust to our new normal, raising toddlers, Thirty-One business, writing, being a wife, trying to figure out what my priorities are, and dealing with some stressful situations has me wiped out just typing it.

I like to think I can hide my mess a little bit better than that pizza could. When you look at me from the outside it seems like I’m holding it together pretty nicely. I’m no superwoman, but I can put on my happy face and make it through the day. But on the inside, I still feel like that pizza. There are times I want to fall apart. I get overwhelmed. I just want to hide under the covers and not be a grown up for one day.

In some strange fantasy world in my mind I believe I need to be mess free to be valuable. I need to not only look perfect from the outside but also feel perfect on the inside, plus have all my other responsibilities under control. Why on earth do I hold myself to these unattainable standards? I would never expect someone else to live the life I try to compare mine to.  Why is perfection so enticing?

For me, perfection=happiness=a lie the devil has sold me.

What lies have you bought from the devil? What unreasonable standards are you holding yourself to?

When I first opened that pizza box I laughed because it totally represented my day.  But then, God taught me a lesson. When I tasted that pizza, you couldn’t tell it had been thrown on the ground upside down.  It was still delicious, it still served its purpose, it had not lost value.

Yes, I may be a jumbled mess 95% of the time.  I may deal with some stressful situations, and perfection will always be out of my reach.  But, I do not lose value because of it, God will still fulfill his purpose through me, I can still be a light in a dark world. I’ve heard it said many times, our mess is our message. God can use this time in my life when I feel like a scrambled pile of junk to show me just how valuable I am to him, but not only that, he will use it for his glory! Amen!!

Upside down pizza does not equal garbage, messed up life does not equal worthless.

Abba Father, thank you for this stressful day. Thank you for the reminder that my mess doesn’t take away my value and for making my mess my message. Let each person that reads these words be reminded that mess or not they will always have worth in you. 

Have you ever started a task, worked for hours, but when you looked around it still seemed like nothing had been done?

I know that feeling all to well.  While we have been packing to move I have worked for hours in one room.  I packed several boxes, threw away countless items, and placed others in a donation pile but I felt like the stuff left to pack was multiplying when I turned my back on it. I felt overwhelmed. Almost trapped by the work left to do.

I looked at all we had accomplished and felt proud of the boxes we had packed. But still, the weight of what was left to do felt suffocating at times.  Maybe you think I am being dramatic, but that is how it felt some days.

When we come to Christ it is like packing up a house.

We have to decide what needs to be thrown away completely which is usually the sin and garbage that we have let in our lives.  Then we have to pack up the memories that we want to keep tucked away in storage. The good things, memories of happy times, and maybe a few special items to remind us how far we have come.  Finally, we pack the things we will take with us to our new house.  We take the basics, the decorations, memories, and personal belongings.

During this process of coming to Christ and packing up the old you to move into the new you it is easy to get overwhelmed.  Just when you think you’ve gotten all the sin thrown out, you find just one more piece, or several, and it sets you back a few steps.  Deciding which pile the pieces of your life go into is hard.  You might think the work is doubling no matter how hard or fast you are working.

I could have given up on packing our house. I could have said let’s just stay here because I’m too overwhelmed to finish. It would have been silly though, because we had already come too far.  Maybe you feel that way too when you think about packing up your “house.”

Salvation happens in an instant, but being with Christ takes a lifetime.  We will always be cleaning out our house.  There will always be new little pieces of trash that we find within ourselves that we need to throw out.  Seasons of life will pass and we will have more parts of us that need to go into storage.  From time to time we need to take a look at ourselves and decide if we are holding onto the things we want to carry to the next place God is taking us.

Galatians 6:9 says, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

When you feel overwhelmed by the process of packing up to follow Christ, remember there is more to come when you do good.  Keep sorting through your life, keep dealing with the trash, keep only what you need and store away the rest as memories of how far you have come. Don’t give up when it feels like there is more trash than things to keep. God is more than able to take out your trash and fill those empty spaces with goodness.

Always be ready to do a little packing.

Abba Father, thank you for your grace and mercy as we sort through our lives. Thank you for not judging the amount of trash bags verses the amount of boxes. Thank you for picking us up out of our places of comfort and taking us to the new places you have called us to. I ask that you would work in the hearts of those who have never gone through the packing process with you. Give them the strength and courage to begin, the peace to not get overwhelmed and then joy when it is all over. Amen.