Saturday, December 23, 2017

*My Journey to Joy*

I was never one to do New Years resolutions because I always felt like I was setting myself up for failure. The last thing I needed was one more thing to be discouraged about so I usually just let it go. Last year a pastor at our church named Terry Feix gave a New Years sermon that has stuck with me since and has given me a new perspective. It wasn't about resolutions but it was about making a plan for some heart change. I wish I could remember exactly what he said but I can't, I do remember how it made me feel, though. It made me feel like I could make changes without feeling guilt or stress or striving too hard. He made me realize that it's okay if I don't always get it right every single day and that it's not about being perfect. I felt free and like I could actually change, or rather...I could allow God to change ME without letting the feeling of discouragement set me back.

The verse in the sermon was "Lead a life worthy of the calling you received."- Ephesians 4:1. He told us to write out the verse as well as a few things we were going to work on and put it out as a reminder to us and those around us. On my piece of paper I wrote down I wanted to work on encouragement to others, kindness, forgiveness, focus, and not losing hope. I also prayed for a word for 2017 and God very clearly told me JOY.

The verse that immediately stood out to me about joy was Nehemiah 8:10 -"Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

Many of y'all know the year before with my tough pregnancy and post partum depression was definitely marked with dejection and sadness. It was wave after wave of life hitting hard and I let it knock me down. One person came up to me one day and told me that it looked like my light had gone out and that she prayed it would come back because it was a light that was needed. A light gone out is not something that brings others to Christ and that really got me praying for a change.

We always talk about this particular verse in Nehemiah but I thought it was interesting what it says a few verses later: "So the people went away to eat at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God's words and understood them." Nehemiah 8:12

THEY HAD HEARD GOD'S WORD AND UNDERSTOOD THEM. That's what gave them great joy. I can tell you that one of the main reasons that I let life get me down and I lost my joy is I started listening to my problems and my pain much more than I was listening to God. This time last year I was not joy filled, I was just moving through the motions, and I wasn't doing much other than surviving. Granted, for me being a new mom is no joke and I'm pretty sure I'd be a train wreck if I did it again, too. (Which I will not!! Two and through, people!) I truly felt God's grace in that, though. He really gave me more grace than I could possibly deserve. God is proud of us new mamas and the bible says he gently leads those who have young and that's what He did for me. I'm here for any of you mamas that ride the struggle bus that first year of having a child, ha! And so is God. I wasn't ready to hear some big spiritual truth in those months of a colicky baby and post partum depression that's for sure. But He sustained me and loved me through it all. And He used everything for my good just like He promised and looking back I wouldn't change a thing because He's used it in some of the biggest plans for my life.

I think that's where my joy is coming from. Truly trusting God for maybe the first time in my whole life. I always thought that I trusted God but I don't think I really did. I feel this sense of knowing for certain that He does work everything together for my good and that even if I don't feel Him working, time always proves to me that He is and always has been.

I feel like I have changed so much for the better and it's because I've experienced God in a whole new way and started learning and understanding more truth about who He really is. In this fallen world where we deserve nothing but troubles, He has created so much GOOD. So much beauty and love and things to experience that point us to Him and give us the tiniest glimpse of what our forever home in Heaven will look like. And He will never leave us or make us go through anything alone. All of that just overwhelms me. His care for the details of my life just overwhelms me. 

Another way I've found joy is I joined a ministry and that has given me an unexplainable peace I can't even begin to try to put in words. I had NO IDEA that something like MOMS. would literally fall into my lap just a few months into 2017. 

I've found joy in prayer. Really taking time to pray and really trusting God whatever His answer. I have prayed more this year than I ever have and it gives me this joy deep down and releases so much stress. I've realized more than ever that I'm not in control of much at all, but God is and He's out for my good and on my side. If there's one thing I can say, PRAYING is what has changed me the most. Our church even has a prayer room at the main campus upstairs and I've frequented it a few times this year. It's so peaceful and there's something about the big religious looking bible that just helps me get in the zone, haha. Seriously, it does...but I am laughing as I type that.

God gave me a friend this year who makes me laugh and brings out the loudest and most ridiculous side of me that has helped me show joy in an easy way. She taps into my funny side, my dancing in public side, my never caring what anyone thinks side. It's like a button is pushed when she walks in the room and I'm the happiest version of myself. And she just so happens to be the President of MOMS. my ministry so we are in this for the long haul and I'm so grateful for that. God also brought me a new friend who pushes me to be a better me and gets me to open up like nobody else. She has caused me to make some changes in myself that have been crucial to my life and what I can do for God. She happens to be the Vice President of the ministry so we were definitely not put together by mistake. We are in this life together for the long haul. I know God smiled when we all met, maybe there was even a chorus in Heaven?! I'd like to think that. 

I've realized what they mean by joy not being the same as happiness. It's really the unwavering faith in the goodness of God and the promise He has for us that will not let us down. It's the solid belief that even if everything around us is going wrong, God still is out for our good. But it also can feel a lot like happy, too. I read the other day that we shouldn't let the well of smiling and laughter run dry and I couldn't agree more. And the best reason to smile and laugh is hearing God's word and truly understanding it because if we really understand it, then our hope and joy can't help but overflow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

*Beginning Again*

Five years ago I found myself writing about the big changes in my life as I left the classroom as a first grade teacher and looked towards a new future with Brian in a new city. I was really sad to say goodbye to so many places and people I loved but I told myself that I needed to let some things go to make way for the new things that were supposed to happen to my life. I had no idea then, but the future would be more than I could ever of imagined and I have fallen in love with new people and new places and have built a life I wouldn't be able to have if I wasn't able to close one chapter and begin the next. Knowing the possibilities of new beginnings, I feel more excited about them than anything.

Social Media is full of  those adorable first day of school pictures and the feeling of  newness is everywhere. For my sister, she is sending her son off to kindergarten for the first time which has proved to be a really big step and an emotional time. We facetimed this morning and she noted that I am living her life five years ago, with a little baby just learning to walk in the background. She's moving onto the "school" phase of life and I'm still very much in the little stage. It's crazy to think she's moving onto the next step in parenting that I'll be in sooner than I realize.

We are starting a beginning of our own in our house this year, too. Beau is only going to school twice a week but we are starting our new life as a part of a school community. I don't know if it's just because I was a teacher or that my high school was a second home, but I really don't take it lightly. Being a part of the COMMUNITY of a school is what's always been super important to me. I grew up in schools that treated us all like family and the friends and teachers I had there are still a big part of my life to this day. My sister is sending both of her kids to our former school as third generation students which is very special. My parents met in high school there, all of us followed, and now the grandkids are going. That is LEGACY right there. Even though I'm not able to do the same, God has us exactly where we are supposed to be and I'm excited for what the future holds for us and I couldn't be more happy with the school we've chosen for Beau.

If there's anything I've learned it's that each phase has it's pros and cons and the realization that these kids are not always going to be little is both freeing and devastating all at once. It makes me want to focus on all the good that this phase offers and also give myself grace when it's hard because all phases have hardships. Don't let anyone tell you that you should be "ENJOYING EVERY SECOND" of really anything because we are living LIFE..REAL LIFE. No phase of life can we ever be enjoying every second because we will always have trials no matter where we are. But we'll also have so much GOOD, too. In every phase there is so much to cherish and we do need to be reminded to soak it up when it's the right time. Luke spreading poop and ketchup all over my kitchen was not that time, but both boys cuddling with me definitely was. We do need to really cherish the sweet moments that we have because they are fleeting and so special. I won't always have two little boys fighting over my lap and so today I will bask in the fact that my lap is still big enough to (SORT OF) hold them both. Today more than ever I'll appreciate my babies and the time I still have with them to myself. :)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Worth It"

I'm having one of those motherhood moments where the emotions just hit out of nowhere like a ton of bricks. I never know when moments like that will happen because they never do when they should, and it hits me in the most unexpected moments.

Like tonight. Brian took Beau to a splashpad after work so I was with Luke alone who was crawling in my lap, touching my face, and giggling with his now 6 teeth showing. I couldn't help but think and be overwhelmed at how much this past hard year has been WORTH IT. He's my absolute joy and his name means "light giving" which is exactly what he is. He's brought light to me in more ways than one. The obvious being joy and smiles and a happiness inside of him that feels like a ray of light in such a fallen world. He has also been the source of bringing me light spiritually and teaching me more about God than maybe I've ever learned in my whole life put together. Because of him, I've also felt like there's a light inside of me that has been lit for other moms who are struggling in whatever circumstances and for that reason I'll never be the same. He's been so good for me.

As a lot of you know, I suffered from major sickness in pregnancy and post partum depression afterwards topped with an extremely colicky baby which was one of the toughest things I had to face in my life. It turns out that I have an autoimmune condition called hashimotos thyroidtitus that caused the pregnancy sickness AND post partum depression which is why all of that hit me so hard. I'm so happy to say that after I got a diagnoses, I've been able to FINALLY recover and get on with my life. Not only get on with my life, but live an even fuller and better one with Christ because of all that I went through. On this side of things, it all makes a lot more sense. I know that God had His reasons for allowing all of that and I can see it now and really want to use it for His Glory.

At the beginning of the each year I pray for a word to focus on and 2016 was "Sacrifice". That for sure would be the title of that year for me and I learned so much about giving of myself and truly sacrificing. 2017 is now "Joy" and so far it has been such a healing year and one that has turned from such hardship into one of the best most joy filled years of my life. It has all been so worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat to have Luke be mine. I think that God has a major plan for Luke because satan sure did make such a fuss in my life when he was born. I pray over my boys and get chills thinking of God's plan for them.

I'm proud of myself and I'm proud of Brian. Brian is my perfect other half and I owe so much to him. He never complained once about helping and he never made me feel bad when I was struggling and felt like I couldn't handle things. He always brought the right take out home and would go to Walmart almost everyday. He was always my rock that was everything I needed at the right times. Brian is definitely the definition of the hands and feet of Jesus. My mom said after I met him: "Don't you feel so loved by God that He would send someone like Brian for you?" The answer to that is YES. Very much so! He is my gift that keeps on giving!!

I'm also proud of Beau and what a great brother he is and how he never even noticed when things got hard. He has loved on Luke from the moment he got home from the hospital and thought this getting a new baby thing was one big party. He is three years old yet so tender and loving and the only thing I have to stop him from is hugging Luke too much when he just wants to crawl. I'm proud of Luke for how well adjusted and happy he is despite having colic and stressed parents for the first half year of his life. You would never even know it now!! He's so happy and easy and such a gift to our family in every way. Words can't even describe the love I have for him, I couldn't even begin.

Although this year didn't look exactly how I planned, God truly does work everything together for the good of those who love Him. God's promises prove true over and over again in my life and I couldn't be more thankful.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

*Unexpected Moments*

Most of my favorite memories that I play back throughout my life come at the most unexpected moments on what seems to be a mundane day.

I was driving around with the boys today in my new to me mini van that has changed my life. That's a whole different story, but vans are the third parent that thinks things through for us so we don't have to. I noticed the gas light came on so I turned into the nearest On Cue which is also life changing. A drive through pick up window for all your coffee and junk food needs as well as a gallon of milk if you happen to need one.

When I got out to pump the gas, I looked inside the car window and there staring and smiling at me were the two cutest boys I've ever laid eyes on. This is not unusual because they seem to always have their attention on me, but in that moment it washed over me what a blessing it is to be a mom. And I just felt this warm feeling of thankfulness that these boys are mine. And that looking at me makes them light up like that.

Those happy faces are my hard earned reward and I couldn't help but feel proud as I looked at the four eyes that are constantly on me. Smiling little faces that make me feel like I'm doing a good job. We need to pat ourselves on the back more. We as new moms need to encourage ourselves and realize that we are making a difference and we are not failing.

It doesn't matter if at the end of the day you feel like you might lose it because you've given everything you possibly have and are asked to give more. That is true, sacrificial love. It doesn't matter if you are in a good, easy phase where enjoying your kids is easy. That fun love is one of the biggest blessings we receive in this life. In both times we are ALL doing a great job. Whether we are holding a screaming colicky newborn all day or playing with a joyful toddler who makes it easy to see things are going well, we are doing a GREAT job. And both sacrificial love and fun love are equally important. I've come to realize that together they make something really beautiful.