Day Five: A Praying Life

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When I first began seeking God in my life, I wasn’t really sure how to pray to him. I joined a team at church that prayed over anyone who needed it- and you guys, the things I heard. The hearts and lives I saw changed…it was unbelievable.

It felt awkward to talk to God in the beginning. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. But through practice, I developed a relationship with him. He became like a friend and father to me. I stay in constant communication with him throughout the day.

There is a difference between praying and establishing a relationship with God. That difference was made known to me about two years ago when I was pregnant with my son.

I was about four months pregnant with Joseph when my husband got a late night call that completely changed our world within a matter of minutes. His cousins, (ages 1, 7, and 11) needed a place to stay for a night or two. The police officer asked if we could go get them. We immediately said yes and went to pick them up from a retail store at 11 o’clock at night.

At the time, we had no idea they would end up staying with us for 2 months. Overnight, we gained the responsibility of caring for three children. We were thrown into the parenting world, having no clue how to go about it. These children were hurting. They craved attention and love, and I wasn’t sure how to give it. Sometimes they acted out and back-talked in order to get the attention they wanted, and I didn’t know how to deal. All of our lives were completely turned upside down without even a warning.

I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. No idea how to respond when they needed discipline, no idea how to establish boundaries and rules with kids who had never had them. I had no idea how to love them the way they needed. I prayed and prayed for God to give me patience and show me how to be there for them.

The one year old didn’t take to me right away. She was very reserved and shy. We didn’t have many toys for her, and the bassinet she was sleeping in was too small. To be around these children, and see how closed off they were and knowing their situation at home- it broke my heart. I wanted to be there for them, but I felt like I was coming up short every single day.

I was strong during the day, giving patience when I needed to, but often went to bed crying at night.

One particular night, after having a hard time with the middle child, I went into my room, collapsed on my bed and began sobbing.  “Lord, what do I do? How do I respond to her with love and not impatience and anger? I don’t know what to do!”

A vision came to my mind. I was in a deep ocean, wave after wave coming over me. I was drowning and calling out for help. It felt so real. I couldn’t catch my breath; I could almost taste the salt from the water. And just as another wave was about to wash over me, a strong hand grabbed my arm and pulled me out.

The Lord sat me in his lap. I curled up in the fetal position, my head on his chest, his beautiful wings wrapped around me. And in that moment, a peace unlike no other washed over me. My heart calmed, my mind was clear, I was with God.

Prayer, worship, and constant communication- all of these help establish a relationship with God. However, you cannot have just one of them without the other two.

When I think of prayer, the other word that comes to mind is: request.  Prayer is how we make our requests known to God.

Philippians 4:6 says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

God wants us to come to him with our troubles. He is not surprised by our requests or our circumstances- He’s God. He already knows the things we need before we even ask- it’s the communication and relationship with us that he wants. He wants us to trust him and to think of him. He wants us to regard him as our closest friend and Father.

I remember talking to my mom during a rough time in her life. We were on the phone and she was describing a hardship that she’d just gone through, and I asked her “Have you taken this to God? Do you talk with him about it?”

She responded: “I don’t really know how to pray to him.”

I know that prayer can seem unnatural at first. It feels weird, almost like we’re talking to ourselves. But with enough practice and repetition, it soon feels like you’re talking with a friend. And you are. You are talking to a God that loves you, that wants to be a part of your everyday life. Every moment, he is with you. You are his child and he looks on you with awe and compassion. He laughs with us, cries with us, holds us when are broken…He is our truest friend.

Through prayer, worship, and constant communication, we begin to see this side of God. We begin to see that he is not some far away deity watching over us as if we were ants under a dome. He is very near. Close enough that when he wants to speak to us, he can do so through a gentle whisper (1 Kings 9:12).

Let’s delve a little deeper into these three ways of communicating with the Lord:

Prayer

  • The Bible clearly says that we are to begin our prayer with thanksgiving (Phil 4:6). Before we make our needs known to him, we are to thank him for who he is, what he has done, how far he’s brought us, etc. This is not for his benefit, but for our own.

Coming to God first with thanksgiving allows us to re-position our hearts. It allows us to shed the anxiety or sadness over our current situation, and reminds us of who he is. It reminds us of the blessings he’s already bestowed upon us. Whether it is the fact that you are alive and breathing for another day, or maybe you’ve just gotten over a sickness-Every person on Earth has something to be thankful for.

  • Use prayer to declare who he is. Pile this on top of your thanksgiving. Declaring how great our God is, how his love for us is unending- it serves as a reminder of the One who is in control. We begin to remember past afflictions and how he brought us out of darkness before. As we declare his greatness, our hearts go from being troubled to joyful.

“You are a good God. I know you care about me…I know you are close and have my best interests in mind…”

“You love me so, I am so thankful you have my name written on your palm and that you will not forget me…” (Isaiah 49:16)

“You have rescued me before, I know you will again…”

  • Bring to him both the big and the small. Trust him with every Lately, I’ve been praying that my son will have enough confidence and courage to take his first steps. I know that Joseph is able to walk; he’s just a very cautious boy and likes to take his time with things. So, I’ve added this to my prayer. It’s small, and my heart isn’t troubled about it…I just know that God already knows what’s on my mind, and to keep that from him would feel like I don’t trust him with the little things in my heart. He cares about the big and the small. If it’s something weighing on our hearts, he wants to hear about it. He’s our Father, after all. If we had a child that was worried over a little thing, (something so small that it may seem insignificant to us) we would still want that child to come to us with it, right? We would want them to trust us with their thoughts and concerns, right? Bring it to him. Lay it into his hands and allow him to carry it for you.
  • Sitting and listening to what the Lord has to say to us is just as important as praying to him. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in asking him for things, we forget to listen to that gentle whisper of assurance.

Take some time at the end of your prayer to just sit and be with the Lord. Ask him: “What can I do for you today? What is something you want to speak into me today, Lord? How can I best serve you?”

Worship

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.” Psalm 98:4

“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Psalm 104:33

“Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” Psalm 147:1

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord…” Ephesians 5:19

Our worship takes us to heavenly places. It allows us to draw ourselves outward -out of our troubles, thoughts, worries, or hectic, busy days -and allows us to set our mind on the One above and how great he is. I can be in the worst mood, but singing a worship song puts things back into perspective. My focus goes from stress to remembering how great my God is. Praise puts our problems in context.

When we sing worship to the Lord, we join a heavenly chorus and our praise is all the more powerful.  The effect it has on our own hearts is all the more powerful.

“But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim…” Romans 10:8

 

Constant Communication

Constant communication is what brings us intimacy with God. He tells us to bring our petitions to him, but he longs for us to include him in every aspect of our day. We have to learn to see him and his beauty in our everyday lives.

Thank him before you even get out of bed in the morning. I tell him ‘Good morning, Lord! Thanks for waking me up for another day!’.

If you see something beautiful or wondrous, talk to him about it. For me, it’s birds. I love bird-watching, so anytime I get to see a new species or a huge hawk flying across my yard, I thank him for that small gift. It brings me pleasure to watch his creation move about in my own front yard, and I want to acknowledge that I see him in it. “Wow, Lord. That was so amazing!”

If something makes you laugh, share it with him. Imagine his happiness too. He delights in his children! He wants us to share the good and the bad.

If something troubles you, tell him about it. Actually, just as I’m writing this, my child is refusing to take his afternoon nap. We’ve been struggling with this for weeks. We are finally over the sleep regression, but it’s this afternoon nap that I cannot get back to normal. I’m trying a different approach this week, and a few minutes ago, I had to pause, go into his room and lay him down. It’s so frustrating. As I was walking back out, I exclaimed to God: “Why is this not working?! What am I supposed to do?”

The more you communicate with God, the more comfortable you feel in sharing all of your emotions with him- not just the happy ones, but the frustrating ones too. He is God. He can handle your craziness. Talking to him reminds me that I’m not alone. It reminds me that I have a constant companion. And you do too. He’s there whether you acknowledge him or not, but you’ll get so much more if you do.

Prompt: What is prayer you’ve been keeping from God because you feel it’s too small or insignificant? What are some ways you can use prayer and communication to acknowledge God’s presence in your life this week? I encourage you to begin your mornings with thanksgiving and chatting with God…even if it’s in your mind (For me, it’s usually while my son has his first cup of milk for the day. Other days, I chat with him while doing dishes at the sink.) He’s waiting for connection with you, no matter what season you are in.

See you next time, friends.

Day Four: House Rules

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Today we are going to talk about ‘House Rules’. I’m using this title as an umbrella for a bunch of smaller topics, all having to do with how we run and create an atmosphere for our home. A lot of this is just great wisdom that has been passed down to me that I feel obliged to share…because it could change the way you see your role in the home, or because it could change the way you decide to act on certain things in your home.

I’ve had a hard time organizing this material, so bear with me!

First, I want to say that I am not just referring to stay-at-home moms in this post. I am hoping this post influences all women in some way. If you are single, I pray that this information helps you when the time comes to marry or become a parent. If you are working, I pray this information helps you just as I hope it helps a stay-at-home mom.

Whether we work or not, or are married or not, we all have a place we call ‘home’. That can mean a lot of different things for different people. Maybe your home includes step-children. Maybe your home includes foster children and your own children. Maybe just you and your spouse make up your home right now. Or maybe you live by yourself and are dating (I remember those years!).

My point is: We all have a ‘home’ and this home has an atmosphere.

I’ve often wondered what others think when coming to my home. I mean, I know how I see it, but I wonder how others see it. What is the first thing they see or feel? Do they feel relaxed and able to be themselves while here? Are there smells that I’ve gotten used to that they can smell right away? (<–just being honest with that last one 😀 )

**Note:  I am not really talking about decorating or style when I say these things. I really do think those things are important, and, in my opinion, it is definitely the woman’s job to create a nice space in her home that makes the family feel relaxed, but I am really talking about the atmosphere.

One day, my mother-in-law came over to watch my son while I ran errands. She came in and sat down. We got to talking about the different house projects that my husband was taking on… (Well, actually…I was apologizing for the mess because of those projects) when she said: “Don’t worry about that. You have a baby, and you may have toys everywhere but your house is always clean. And I love your style.” And while that made me feel really good,  I think it’s an even bigger compliment when she comes in, sits down, and begins talking about her childhood with me.

The long, in-depth conversations we’ve had on my couch make me feel better about the atmosphere of my home than the lighting and photo gallery do.

I keep using this word ‘atmosphere’…Let me tell you what that word means to me–

Have you ever noticed, especially if you are married or even live with someone else, that if you –talking to the women here- are in a bad mood, everyone else is suddenly in a bad mood? If you are stressed, everyone else becomes stressed? It also swings the other way too- if you are joyful, the people you live with are more joyful and lighthearted?

Our pastor’s wife put it greatly when she said that women are the “thermostats” of their household. I like to imagine that we are the moon of our household, controlling the tide. Our attitudes and feelings create a ripple effect in our homes, reaching everyone that surrounds us.  Whether we realize it or not, we have a very strong pull on our family’s feelings, actions, and emotions. That is a lot of power. And we often misuse it.

I wasn’t aware of this until we talked about it in church and then it’s like my eyes were opened. I noticed that if I became pissy over the weekend, my husband did too. Even if he started out in a good mood, my bad one would eventually rub off on him creating a sour atmosphere in our home. I also noticed that if I were happy and joking, this would make my husband and child the same way. When I am upset, they become upset. When I am angry, slamming cabinets and huffing and puffing, they become distant and quiet.  When I am tired and am becoming more impatient with my fussy son, he becomes more and more impatient with me.

Ladies, we set the tone. We set the temperature in our homes, not only for our immediate family but for our guests as well.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever be sad or tired- you can be those things, but we have to stop and think of how much of it we’re emanating and where it’s coming from. Is something (unrelated to my family) bothering me and I’m taking it out on them? Did I wake up in a bad mood for no reason?

This is hard for me to do sometimes. When my house is a disaster and I’m feeling stressed, I really have to try hard not to let it ripple out to those around me. I usually curb this by playing upbeat music and acting silly with my son. Let me stop right here and say this is not acting or being fake, it is simply feeling my feelings and choosing to not let my mood seep into another human for the sake of my home. For example, if my day has been particularly tiring, our child is asleep, and my husband is talking about his day, I can choose to mutter a few responses, not make eye contact, and disconnect. Or- I can choose the harder route- I can be intentional through my tiredness: let it show, but still truly try to listen and offer input on a work dilemma. I can still make eye contact and keep an atmosphere where my husband feels free to talk about his workday in our home and not as if he were bothering me.

It’s very hard for me to do sometimes, because it means putting someone else’s need above my own. But I also have to think about the tone I’m setting in our house. Do I want this to be a space where my family feels supported and able to share anything (despite how I may feel on some days.)? Yes. Do I want a home where they can relax and be themselves? Yes. Do I want a home where there is arguing or discord between my husband and I? No. Do I want an atmosphere that breeds peacefulness and joy in the hearts of those that enter? Yes.  Do I want to my family to know they can approach me when something is on their heart, no matter how I am feeling? Yes.

This all comes down to me. If everyone in your family is in a bad mood, take a few seconds to think about how the day began. Hurried? Expectations not communicated and unmet? Chaotic? If so, did you embrace it or lash out?  It often begins with me.

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Now, I want to shift gears and talk a little bit about parenting. I have only been a mother for 13 months, so I haven’t had the chance to put some of these into practice yet. Nevertheless, it is sound wisdom that I hope will help you in whatever season you may be in with your littles.

When my husband and I were expecting our son, we sat down and talked about how we would deal with certain things when they arise (because the things will arise). I think we were feeling out each other’s parenting style a little bit, and we mostly agreed on how to raise our children. In hindsight, I think this was such a great thing to do. If you are getting married or thinking or having children- you have to have the parenting talk. You both need to decide what kind of parents you’re going to be early on. If you’re spouse believes in spanking and you don’t, but you never discuss it- that can be an issue when your child gets into trouble for the first time. If your spouse wants you to work, but you want to stay at home- that can lead to marital strife once the baby turns six weeks old and your husband is expecting you to go back to work.

You get the idea.

One of the things I think really needs to be talked about is what you will and will not tolerate from your kids in your home. My husband and I have three things that we will not tolerate from our kids. Having talked about these things way ahead of time helps us to know we will be on the same page when they occur (because they will occur). You don’t want to have to battle with your spouse on top of dealing with the issue from the child. You want to be on the same team and of one mind.

**I also think it needs to be said that if you aren’t happy with the way things are going in your house, no matter what age your children, YOU have the power to change it. Are your kids on their phones all the time? Has your home become a place of discontent and whining? Has it become a place of disconnect and no communication? You still have the power to change it, no matter how long it’s been going on. It is never too late to create the type of home that you want for you and your family.  Depending on how long the behaviors have been going on, it may take longer and be more work to change the family dynamics, but you can still do it. It starts with you. Set the example and communicate your new expectations to those around you. And pray. Do a lot of praying. Be in constant communication with Jesus to help you through this change. He is faithful and he will do it**

There are two other little nuggets of wisdom that I’d like to share:

  1. Be a YES mom. This means saying ‘yes’ to even the smallest of things so that when you have to say ‘no’, your  kid knows there’s a reason behind it. For example, if your child asks to do something that would usually be fine, except that you’re tired or don’t feel like dealing with it- say YES. Save the ‘no’s’ for the most important of things; things involving their own health and safety. Allow them to DO things so that when you tell them NOT to do something, they know you mean business and it’s for their good. Don’t let inconvenience become the voice to your children.

 

I’m trying to practice this with our son right now. I say ‘yes’ to things that make me uncomfortable or that mildly annoy me…like when he wants to play drums on top of the paint cans in the hallway (I told you, my house is always a project zone J ). Or maybe he wants to play on the porch at the sand and water table, even though I just gave him a bath. I would rather him not get dirty, but that’s for my own comfort- not his. I’m already seeing the benefits to saying ‘yes’. The other day, he learned how to open the cabinet under our sink that houses all of our household cleaners. I went over, firmly scooted him away, looked him in the eye and said ‘NO.’ He tried one more time, I repeated. And now, he just sits and looks at it and shakes his head ‘no’.

I encourage you to say ‘Yes’ to the little things- the things that take away our own comfort and convenience. The things that leave us tired and mentally exhausted, or in my case, longing for quiet (Really guys, I think I may have a future drummer on my hands!). Leave the ‘no’s for the serious stuff.

And my last nugget of wisdom:

Always graciously accept something a child is trying to give you- it may be all they have to give. A broken flower, a rock, a piece of their food, something they found outside, a drawing- all of these are little pieces of themselves they want to share with YOU.

It’s easy to forget that our kids have feelings too. Feelings of gratitude or love they express in different ways. Their stronger emotions are displayed more- we know when they are hungry, tired, angry, or sad. Though they aren’t always apparent, children have feelings of love and thankfulness. Even babies do!

I have begun a sort of “tradition” of making our Saturday breakfast using blueberries in some form. They are my sons absolute favorite food- I can’t even say the word around him or he goes bat-crap crazy wanting them. This past weekend, I baked maple-blueberry oatmeal for us. We were all sitting at the table eating, when my son takes one of his last pieces of oatmeal and tries to give it to my husband. My husband responded “That’s your food, you can eat it. But thank you.” Meanwhile, my son is putting all of his strength into extending that arm, trying to get that piece of food to my husband. He starts looking confused and a little dejected. I told Jason (my husband): “Take it. He’s offering his favorite food to you! He wants to give you some so you can enjoy it too.”

My husband took the little piece out of his hand and ate it, making a big deal about it the whole time. My sons face just lit up! He was smiling and happy again at once.

That was all he had to offer- a blueberry coated in oatmeal, but to him- it was a big deal and he wanted his daddy to experience it too.

This week, I hope you’ll accept the small things that find their way to you in tiny hands.

Prompt: Make this a week of observation. Take note of how your moods affect those around you. Observe the shift in the atmosphere of your home when you are cranky or upset. How do you see it ripple to your significant other? Your children?

What is the atmosphere you want to establish in your home? What are some tangible ways you can change so that you can establish it?

Would you consider yourself a ‘yes’ mom? Do you base your child’s activities on your comfort/convenience or their own?

What is the last thing your child gave to you? Did you graciously accept their gift or tell them to keep it? Do you notice a difference in their expressions when you accept the gift?

Have a great week. I’ll see you next time!

Day Three: Taking Notice of the Holy Moments

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My child is the king of noticing. Like all 13 month olds, he has perfected the art of wonder. Everything amazes him: switching a light on and off, a fan blowing, a bubble popping on his face. He is awestruck by something every single day.  When he is truly amazed, his eyes will get really wide and his mouth goes into a big ‘0’ , and he’ll point at it with such intention and strength that you think his arm is just going to shoot off of his body and go towards whatever he’s pointing at.

Can you remember the last time you let your eyes get wide with amazement? Or the last time something had you awestruck?

As we become adults, we begin to lose this sense of child-like wonder. It’s replaced with wanting to know and plan every moment of every day.

The wondrous becomes the ordinary, the fascinating becomes the usual.

Our hearts grow a bit more hardened with each season of life. The things that used to make us stop and breathe have suddenly become inconveniences or interruptions to going there or doing that. This article in Huffington Post best describes it this way:

“Our need to know the outcome has taken precedent in our lives so much so that we are missing the magic of life. We are not comfortable with surprises and things that happen that we don’t understand. We do not allow the magic of life to unfold. Children on the other hand understand the magic of life; they see and feel it everywhere. Their sense of wonder is an innate quality they are born with and navigate through their young life seeing the world with much amazement.”

I want to talk about getting our sense of wonder back, and the importance of noticing the holy moments in our lives.

What is a holy moment?

It is a moment in your day that makes you stop and breathe. It clears your soul and leaves you feeling refreshed and ready to carry on. It’s something that makes your heart swell with kindness or love.  It is holy because it leaves you feeling like the pure, innocent, awestruck child you once were. It can be spiritual, but it doesn’t have to be.

Just as my child has perfected the art of wonder, we have to, as adults, perfect the art of noticing. We have to look for these moments. This can be hard to do because we have minds that are constantly talking to us about the “important” things that need to get done. We have work to do, projects to complete, noses to wipe, kids to put to bed, houses to clean, and the list goes on and on and on…

If we don’t intentionally seek these moments out, we end up just going through the motions with our lives. The days blend together, and at the end of the week you can’t remember anything you’ve done that made you feel relaxed and refreshed.  The significant moments sent to revive you and touch your heart get lost in it all, and you have nothing to show for it. They went into the basket with all the other moments, completely lost and unremembered.

A recent holy moment I experienced was when my family and I were on vacation with my husband’s family. We had three kids and four adults in a condo at the beach for seven days. It was so much fun and exactly what I needed.

With that being said, I am a true introvert at heart. It’s hard for me, someone who doesn’t even get a phone call every day, to be around five people every day, for seven days. To have that much conversation and social interaction wears me down and I find myself needing to retreat somewhere quiet to recharge and gather my thoughts.

There was a day in particular when the other kids had the TV on in the condo and I was in the kitchen cleaning. My son was crawling around and enjoying everyone. He kept gravitating to the TV (we don’t watch TV at home), and I made myself busy in the kitchen to avoid the sounds of the TV and the noise of the kids.

At one point, I was picking up some trash on the floor and I heard my son crawling down the hall toward me. He peeked his head around the corner, smiling at having found me. I sat down on the floor and he crawled over to play with me, leaving the noise and others kids behind.

Having him find me in a place where I needed rest and solitude- that was a holy moment for me. For a brief few minutes, it was only me and him, just like at home, playing together on the kitchen floor. And he was happy with that, and so was I.

Coming home from an errand and still being able to smell the homemade apple pie I made that morning- that is a holy moment.

Being able to take a long, hot shower without interruption- that definitely is a holy moment for me.

Yesterday, I was trying to get my sons dinner together and the dog was constantly under my feet, tripping me up. So I said in a stern voice: “Marley, go, go, go!” while shooing her out of the kitchen. Well, Joseph thought this was hilarious. He was laughing so hard that tears were coming out of his eyes. And so I began laughing to…a moment that was frustrating (the dog under my feet) turned into a holy moment, just by noticing the joy and happiness in my son.

It can be the smell of a freshly mowed lawn. A cold glass of water after a workout. Five minutes of reading a book you enjoy. Appreciating a good slice of pizza. Noticing a cloud in the sky looks like a bunny. Being able to roll your car window down for the first time in the fall. Having a friend tag you in a funny meme on Instagram.

It can come in so many different forms. Maybe your holy moments don’t happen with a child or alone, maybe they occur at work in a conversation. Maybe they come in the form of a social gathering. Maybe you notice the freedom your dog has to run wild at the dog park, and that refreshes your soul. It can be so many things…but are you noticing?

Prompt: When was the last time you noticed a moment that refreshed your soul? When was the last time you breathed and felt some tension release? When was the last time you felt wonder or amazement at something?

I want to challenge you this week to take notice and look for the holy moments in your life. They happen, dear friend. Every day, we have a chance to renew ourselves and find that child-like wonder we lost so long ago. It is the small things that make up our lives. Let’s make sure we’re remembering the things that matter. Go forth, experience, feel, and take note.

 

 

Day Two: This Emotional Life

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I had planned on writing about noticing the holy moments in our lives, but then Wednesday happened, and well…here I am writing about emotions.

Allow me to give you a little back story before we jump into discussion:

Wednesday was worth noting because I don’t often have days when I’ve only been awake for two minutes and am already crying. I don’t often have days when I wake up feeling like I can’t do what I’ve been called to do. It rarely happens.

So, with that being said, here is what happened:

Wednesday morning, around 7 am, I wake up to my child wailing through the baby monitor. Joseph has two ways of waking up: happy and bouncy or wailing and wanting his mom to get to him very, very fast. It happened to be a ‘wailing’ morning. I hear the cries before I’ve even opened my eyes, so I know I only have a few minutes before things start going downhill. I open my eyes and the first thing I see across the bedroom is a half unpacked suitcase leftover from our beach trip, clothes spilling out of the sides. Beyond that, a wooden horse that I bought at a thrift store to fix up, a half-wrapped present from my sons first birthday (it’s a wagon that I have yet to put together), and a stack of pictures that have been leaning against our bedroom wall for…oh…I don’t know, the three years we’ve lived here.

“Just hang the stupid pictures, Stacey.” Joseph continues to cry. My eyes hurt so badly from lack of sleep. My husband and I are doing a marriage study and we stayed up until midnight discussing some heavy topics. I learned some things about myself that I’m not proud of…things I need to change, things I should’ve been doing all along, but haven’t. Simple things that I’m sure most other wives are already doing.

All of this is in my head when I wake up on Wednesday. It’s been three minutes since my son began crying. I shed a tear, curl up in the infant position, and start talking to God.

“God, I can’t. I can’t do this today. I don’t have what it takes. I’m falling short in every area of my life and I can’t face today. Please take it away from me.”

Having said my morning “prayer”, I manage to get out of bed, shuffle through the toys on the floor, and find my way to my son…who now is sobbing, snot everywhere, with his face as red as a tomato. I pick him up and rock him, my head throbbing and eyes burning. We sing our ‘Good Morning’ song and I take him to the kitchen to play while I make breakfast.

Oh, how I wish the emotion stopped there.

Joseph was in a *mood* this morning, probably because I let him cry for so long before going to get him. I’m rushing trying to get his breakfast together because I know that will help. I place him in his highchair and he starts screaming and banging his hands on the tray. My head hurts so badly and it’s taking everything I have not to throw something across the room.

Now, my son knows the sign language for ‘please’. He uses it often except when asking for his food. So I am trying to teach him to have patience and use it when he wants things other than toys, books, or mom’s help with something.

So, here I am, signing ‘please’ to him over and over. He is livid by now, shaking his head ‘no’, having a complete fit in his chair. I surrender, putting his food in front of him. And it’s like magic. He’s laughing and babbling to me, offering to share his food.

I put my head down on the table and weep. I cry and cry, every bone in my body aching from tiredness.

Unlike most of my crying episodes, this one never really passed. I cried on and off all day, even though my son was in a much better mood after his first nap. I still had to be present, to play and engage with him, to make dinner for our family, to practice those simple things I need to be doing as a wife. I still had to live. So, when I felt like crying- I cried.

(Let’s forget the fact that I am six months pregnant with our second child in this discussion!)

I woke up that day feeling like a failure before even setting foot on the floor. The weight of everything I hadn’t done lay on my shoulders and it was a weight I felt I couldn’t carry.

My first words to the Lord were: “I can’t. I’m falling short…I don’t have what it takes.”

Emotions are tricky things, aren’t they?

We think just because we feel a certain way, that that makes it truth. But it doesn’t.

I had so many negative feelings Wednesday morning, but the only true one was the feeling of tiredness. That was the only feeling I had that was a fact. Everything else was a lie. I can feel like I’m falling short, but I’m not. I can feel like Joseph should have a better mother, but I am a good mother. I can feel like I can’t, but the Lord makes it so I can. (His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)).

I think this principle not only goes for our downcast feelings, but also the stronger feelings. Like anger, for example. When we are angry, we feel right and justified. Anger brings with it so many tag-along emotions, like self-righteousness, self-justification, and pride. I can argue that I am right, but that doesn’t mean I am.

Friends, we aren’t meant to live our lives based on our emotions. If we are driven by them long enough, then faith eventually takes a backseat. We stop doing things that don’t make sense because the feelings aren’t there. But God calls us to action, no matter how we are feeling. He wants us to be obedient to him.

What drove me to get out of bed that morning? A greater sense of purpose. Faith that God will help me through it. I didn’t have to feel strong to be strong. I don’t have to feel like a good wife and mother, to be a good wife and mother. And you don’t either.

You don’t have to feel it to be it.

We are called to action. He calls us to move. Faith sitting still is not faith at all, but put it with an action, and it can blossom into something beautiful. It’s worth mentioning that I never got what I wanted that day: rest, peace, relaxation, a clean house. I didn’t even get to sit down that day until long after my son went to bed, the family was fed, and toys were put away. It’s two days later and my eyes are still hurting from lack of sleep. I still have moments when I want to cry.  But I’m still living and finding things to be thankful for. I know that God will provide me with rest in His time.

Through faith, I was able to be present with my son that day. Through faith, I was able to share a few smiles and laughs with him. Through faith, I was able to engage in conversation with my husband. Through faith, I was able to keep going when I didn’t feel like it. We have to keep going, no matter our feelings.

Our feelings are not true indicators of the status of our hearts, our actions are.

We also have to choose not to waste our emotional energy on certain things.(Hello, throwing a plate of eggs across the room does not solve or help anything.)

So what is worth our emotional energy?

  • Changing someone else’s mind? No.
  • Expressing gratitude for someone or something? Yes.
  • Controlling another person? No.
  • Encouraging someone? Yes.
  • Tearing others down? No.
  • Building them up? Yes.
  • Controlling your situation? No.
  • Finding joy in the everyday? Yes.

Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Don’t let them take the wheel, because once they do, you begin to base your decisions in struggles and difficult circumstances on your feelings instead of your faith.

We are going to have hard days. Days when we think we can’t. Days when we feel like we aren’t measuring up, but to allow those feelings to dictate your day and interactions means taking matters into your own hands, and not allowing the Lord to give you his strength and peace. Do not become hostage to your emotions.

Feeling angry? Think and breathe before responding to it. Feeling afraid? Take a deep breath and know that God goes with you into the scary places. Feeling hurt? Think of the reason why…really delve down into where the hurt stems from. Don’t hide from it- go to the very center of it and feel it.

With all of these emotions that make up our lives- the most important way you can respond to them (and it’s important to respond to the emotion itself and not the person causing the emotion) is by pausing, breathing, and letting the Father comfort you and love you.

Breathe and let Him in.

If you are fighting with your spouse, walk away and sit quietly somewhere. Seek the Lord, and he will come to you (Deut 4:29). Allow Him to show you what is important in that moment. Is it walking back to your husband with a heart of forgiveness and reconciliation? Is it surrendering to him, no matter what you’re feeling?

In all of your feelings, seek Him. Look for his face, remember His ways.

Decide now whether or not you will allow the Lord to create the atmosphere of your heart. Not your feelings, not your circumstances, not your past, but God.

Proverbs 4: 11-13

11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.

Prompt:  When was the last time you let your emotions get the best of you? How did it affect others? What could you have done differently? I want to challenge you to begin seeking Jesus in your troubles. When confronted with a tough situation or a strong feeling, simply pause and say Jesus’ name in your head. Notice his presence and allow it to dictate your reaction.

I love you, friends! I’ll see you soon! (I’m trying to post at least twice a week) 😀 Happy Friday to you all ❤

Day One: Separation of Past and Present

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This morning was like any other. My son was playing on the floor at my feet, banging on a musical toy and laughing when it played the tune he wanted. It’s 7:15 in the morning, I’m standing at the sink rinsing out his sippy cup, occasionally glancing out the window to see if the cows are out and about in my neighbors yard. My thoughts are here and there- “What should we do today? How much longer do I have before his first nap?  I wonder if Jason remembered that we have leftover blueberry muffins for breakfast.” (Judging from the empty cereal box on the counter- he didn’t.)

In the middle of all of these normal beginning-of-the-day thoughts, a memory pops into my head:

My sixteen year old self, lying in the middle of a living room floor, drunk out of my mind. My friends sitting around me, shaking their heads at how drunk I’ve gotten while downing their next Jell-O shot.

And just like *that*, the memory is gone…fading into my other thoughts about today.

This memory wild card game probably happens two to three times a day, sometimes more, depending on how I’m feeling. And every time one of them comes, I think “Where the heck did that come from?”

I’m not going to lie- they often make my heart drop a little, filling me with a sense of shame and embarrassment…I wonder if others around me can somehow see into my brain, and know what I’ve just remembered.

Can you relate?

We all have a past, some of us a more pleasant one than others. But we’ve all made mistakes. Sometimes they aren’t even individual mistakes, they’re shameful periods of our lives that we lived- the things we did, the way we acted, and how we treated others. It’s a period of time we wish we could just erase and not even be associated with.

I’d say from 16 to 22 years old was a completely shameful period for me.

But it happened. I lived it. I treated others the way I did, I acted in horrible ways and nothing can change that.

Yes, there is the generalized statement of “You can’t change your past” but I also must add- having these random thoughts is completely normal.

The enemy loves to distract us. It’s his best weapon. He has no new material on us, so he uses the old. Repeatedly, like a broken record. Because if he can’t get us to stop living happier, more peaceful lives, then he can at least distract us from it…reminding us we were once *that* way.

God knows our hearts, but the enemy does too. He knows what to put in our minds to make us stop and doubt ourselves. He knows our memories by heart, and the best times to use them against us. He knows that if he can’t make us let go of Jesus’ hand, then he can at least tag along on the other side of us…constantly whispering in our ear that we aren’t worthy enough, or that this new life is all a sham.

He knows these things. So, of course he’s going to use our worst selves against us.

I’ll say it again- the thoughts are normal. The feelings that come with them are normal.

It’s only when you allow them to change your present mood that it becomes a problem…because it is then that the enemy is succeeding.

You remembered a drunken night, it made you feel shameful, now you go about your day with less confidence, feeling unworthy…shut off from your spouse and child. That’s his goal.  He wants to chip away at us, one emotion at a time.

He loves to remind us of what we used to be. And so does the world.

I remember, a few years ago, chatting with a high school friend for the first time in about five years. He was there on that same drunken night that popped into my head this morning.  One of the first things he said to me was: “Remember that night? You were so wasted. You were lying on the floor in a skirt in a room full of guys…”

My pastor once said: “The world loves to label us by the things we’ve done wrong, the mistakes we’ve made, the disabilities we have.”

This is so very true. We even see this numerous times in the Bible:

“a blind man” – actual name, Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 46-52)

“Samaritan woman (by the well)” – John 4 (a promiscuous woman, who’d been married five times)

The “sinful woman”- (Luke 7:36-50)

“a prostitute named Rahab” – (Joshua 2)

Those are just a few examples. The world is the same today. You make a few mistakes, and all of sudden it’s become your new identity.

The thoughts will come and go, and the feelings with them. Know this. Expect this.

But don’t let them alter your mood or day.

When confronted with your wrong-doings, let them come and let them go. Like a wave…having no lasting effect. Don’t start a conversation with them; don’t let them seep into your present. Think the thought and be done with it.

I titled this post “Separation of Past and Present”, because I feel like it’s important to separate yourself from your old self. But we must not forget. As much shame and embarrassment as those six years conjure up, I never, ever, ever want to forget them. Look how far the Lord has brought us.

“Thus far has the Lord helped us” -1 Samuel  7:12

I pray you come to a place when you can start responding to the memories with this scripture.  Let the shame come, wash over you and move on out. Expect the next one to pop up. Don’t respond to it. Don’t dwell. Simply say:

“Thank you, enemy, for reminding me how great my God is. Now if you’ll excuse me, He’s given me important tasks to do today…”

Prompt: What are some of the labels the world or enemy has placed on you? If you were to ask the people that love you most, what label do you think they would give you for the person you are today? What labels would you give yourself?

When you have a moment: Sit in silence, imagine your worst moment…let it come, feel the feelings, let it wash over you, and then let the gratitude seep in for who you’ve become today, for the person God is shaping you into.

I love you. See you next time.

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If you are new here and have happened upon this blog- Welcome! Throughout the month of September, I will be posting on 20 different topics that the Lord has placed on my heart. The topics range from relationships to knowing our inner selves. From the importance of being transparent to recognizing the holy moments in our lives. These posts are meant to cultivate freedom and peace in your heart, mind, and relationships. That is my prayer for you, friend. Grab a cookie and a hot cup of tea and join me on my virtual couch. I’m so glad you’re here!