For Wives and My Own Heart

I have no cute photo to go with this post. My husband is outside practicing his golf swing, my children are snug in their beds, and I just finished soaking in a long bubble bath.

I wasn’t going to write tonight, but I lay in the water and felt so strongly that I needed to get out and write about what I was conversing with God with. And I feel a little nervous about this post because it’s a little personal, but I can’t keep ignoring what I’m being told to do.

So here I am.

I hope my sharing this helps someone else out there.

For a month or so, my husband has seemed really…what’s the word…dejected, maybe? He has had such a … I’m really at a loss for words to describe it. The only thing that keeps popping in my mind is: “bad attitude” over and over. And I guess you could say that it is. It’s a bad attitude. And for the longest time, I didn’t understand it.

One night we were sitting at the kitchen table, and I said “I am worried about you. What is going on? Why do you have such a bad attitude lately?” And the first thing he said was: “I feel like I can’t win. I feel like I am constantly apologizing to everyone, all the time…like I’m failing at everything.”

It hurts to hear someone you love say that. And even though my heart sunk for him, I have to admit that my first reaction (in my mind) was: What the heck?! You just spent four hours playing golf on a sunny day, without a care in the world! No kids to look after, nowhere else to be, no one else to answer to, no certain time to be home! You have an incredible life!

But, instead of saying that, I just prayed for God to help me understand. For the next hour, I sat and listened to how my husband was feeling, I tried so hard to see it, to see the reasoning behind those feelings, but I couldn’t. I just could not understand. His feelings were not his reality, and I sat there trying to wrap my brain around it. By the end of the conversation, I still couldn’t understand. I just sat and listened. There were some things that he said that were really hard for me to take, some things that just plain hurt my feelings, but the conversation wasn’t about me. It was about him. And I needed to understand how and why he was feeling this way. Something needed to change.

The next morning, I sat at my kitchen table, Joseph in the seat next me clearing out his bowl of grits. My Bible was open and last night’s conversation was on my heart. I prayed for God to please show me how my husband was feeling so that I could understand and begin to help my husband.

I thumbed through, reading scripture I’d underlined years ago. I came across this verse in Mark 6: 4-5:

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus had traveled back to his home town to preach in the synagogue, but the people from his hometown only viewed him as the carpenter they once knew. He could not do any miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Now think about my husband.

Our home is supposed to be a safe place for him, a retreat from the outside world. He is the head of our household, the father of my children. And as his wife, what am I doing to honor him? How am I showing that I have faith in him so that miracles can happen in our home? And if he isn’t getting honor and encouragement from me, where will he get it? Who else is going to give it to him?

Something that I have gotten better about is complaining. I try not to complain about things anymore. And by “complaining”, I mean any negative talk. For example:

My husband picks a restaurant he thinks I’ll like. After we leave, he asks me how I liked my dinner. I say “It was okay BUT…the waiter took forever, my food wasn’t really hot, BUT it was okay.”

How my husband sees the above commentary: “You couldn’t even pick a restaurant I like.”

And so, the negative talk has gone down a lot…but what’s taken it’s place is silence. And the Lord says to me: “Being silent is the easy part. It’s taking the complaint or negativity, and turning it back into a praise or a compliment that’s harder.”

While I’m not complaining as much, my husband has taken this silence as a blanket of failure over his efforts all the same.

If a man is not winning in his own home, he will not win anywhere.

I cannot sit here and micromanage how my husband spends time with our children. I cannot ask him to please do something for me, then comment on the way he did it. I cannot ignore (or be silent about) any small act of kindness or thoughtfulness he gives to me. I cannot think a compliment in my head, and not say it aloud to my husband. I cannot ask him to build something for me, then turn around and critique every little flaw.

And no, I am not the only reason my husband has been feeling dejected lately, but I sure as heck can help.

As wives, we have the power in our words and actions to build our husbands up. It all starts with us. They leave us in the morning and come home to us in the evening. Let’s not forget what a gift that is.

Our men need to be praised. For every small thing. They need to hear us talking them up to our friends and relatives. They need us to brag on them in public and in private. They need to go out of the front door in the morning with the feeling that they can conquer the world.

And I’m not perfect. And it is a process. But little by little, I am trying.

May our hearts keep no small offense, but take it and let it roll right off our backs. May our hearts seek our husband’s happiness before our own. May we go forth into the next week with kind, affirming words for our husbands.

And for every complaint, may I offer up two praises to my husband. Sheesh, this wife stuff is hard.

Day Six: The Importance of Letting Others Help You

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There I sat in the emergency waiting room, eight weeks into my current pregnancy with Baby Sister. It was the first day of our mountain vacation. I’d driven an hour just to get to the local hospital after waking up in the early hours of the morning with blood on my pants and on the bed.

My mind raced. I sat there alone, afraid of what was happening, and scared that I was losing our second child. I’d told my husband to stay behind with our son and that I’d update as soon as I could. No point in bringing an energetic child into a waiting room for (what could be) hours.

And so I sat and waited, the only one in the room. A kind, grandmotherly-looking woman eventually came out, a wheelchair jutting out in front of her.

“Anastasia Belk?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“We’re going to get you back to the ultrasound room so we can see what’s going on with your little one.” She made a gesture for me to have a seat in the wheelchair.

“Oh, we don’t need that. I’m Ok to walk.”

“It’s procedure, honey. We always use a wheelchair with expecting women who come in.” She pushed the wheelchair over to me with a smile.

“No, really… I’m fine to walk.”

“I insist you have a seat. Let’s get you back there so we can check on your baby.” Still smiling, but with a look on her face that she’d shove me into the thing if it came to that.

I sat down in a huff, defeated. She opened the stirrups for my feet and away we went, through double doors, down brightly lit hallways.

I sat there, fuming, arguing in my mind: “Ugh! Why am I sitting in this stupid chair?! I am perfectly capable of walking! This is a waste of hospitality, and I’m not someone that needs this!”

Right then, God said to me: “You have a problem.”

And he was right. I do have a problem.

There I was, scared, alone, anxious, tired, my face so puffy and red from crying all morning over the potential loss of our baby…with blood coming out of me every minute that passed, and all this woman wanted to do was offer me the simple comfort of getting me off my feet.

I cannot accept other people’s help. I can’t.

I swear to you, I am the type of person that could have my son on my hip, three grocery bags in my other hand, three hanging from my neck, and bricks strapped to my back and I would still refuse help from someone. “No, it’s OK. I’ve got it.”

This is why I hate going to Publix. They insist on helping me out to my car. Then they insist on helping me load my groceries. Then they insist on helping me get my child into the car, and they stand and wait so they can take the cart back for me.  (Actually, I love Publix. But I can’t say that the prospect of going there doesn’t give me social anxiety: “Ugh, they’re going to offer to take my groceries out. Maybe I should go to Wal-Mart instead today.”)

The other weekend was particularly hard on my six-month pregnant self. My son was going through a sleep regression, which meant that I wasn’t getting any sleep either. I was exhausted all of the time, barely able to hold conversation with my husband without my eyes closing. We had just gotten home from church, and I went to put Joseph down for a nap- with fingers crossed that he’d actually take the nap. Within 30 minutes he was asleep. It was a miracle. It was one of the happiest moments of my life (no kidding!). I lay down on our couch, with the baby monitor in my hands, watching my sons every move to see if he was going to wake back up. My eyes burned with exhaustion and all I wanted to do was leave the monitor behind, close the curtains in our room, crawl into bed, and sleep a blissful sleep.

My husband came over: “You want me to take the monitor so you can go lay down?”

Of course this is what I wanted, but I couldn’t just say ‘Yes’. I clutched the baby monitor like it was gold and replied: “I’m not sure if he’s actually asleep yet. He might wake back up. I’ll go to sleep when he does.”

“Why are you watching that thing? Just leave it to me and go lay down.”

“What if he wakes up?”

My husband took the monitor out of my hands and went into his workshop with it. I retreated into the bedroom and took a deep-sleep two hour nap. So did my son.

But that’s the only way I allow others to help me- by force. And who benefits from this? I certainly don’t allow myself to benefit, especially if I’m resisting and arguing about it the whole time.

And I don’t believe others benefit from it either- how can they possibly? They’ve had to fight just to get me to say ‘yes’, or they have to result in forcefully helping me anyway. By the time I “allow” (if you want to call it that) them to help me, I’ve already taken the joy out of it for them and myself.

I make them struggle just to offer me something of themselves.

I remember one time, admiring two very cute tank tops and being unable to decide which one to buy…when I mentioned this out loud to my friend, he said “Let me get the other one for you.”

I resisted so much, that he finally interrupted me and said (or yelled): “Stacey! When someone gives you something, you take it and say ‘Thank You’. Just let me bless you, OK? Let me do this. You can pay it forward.” And with that, he grabbed the other tank.

I am nowhere close to being perfect when it comes to allowing other people to help me. But I know that it is something I really need to work on…and that’s why I’m writing about it.

And I wish I could say that my resisting help stems from being strong-willed, or proud, or independent…but I have no idea where it comes from…or when it started. I just know that it’s a character flaw of mine that I need to work out. And I never want to portray myself as if I come from a place of perfection or completion, because I don’t. I am a work in progress and so are you. I love how Ruth Graham put it on her tombstone: “End of construction, thank you for your patience.”

We are all a work in progress and our “construction” won’t be complete until we are finally called to be with our Lord.

So, back to our main topic: Saying ‘Yes’ to Help

It’s important that we do. Why?

Have you ever met someone that you really, genuinely, wanted to help or give a gift to? How do you feel when you can do something for someone else out of the goodness of your heart, no strings attached?

It feels great, right?!

One of the main themes throughout the Bible is giving.

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” –Hebrews 13:16

Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” –Matthew 5:42

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”- Matthew 10:8

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” –Proverbs 3:27

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”- James 1:17

When we deny someone the ability to help us, we rob them of the ability to receive the blessing that comes along with giving. Make it about THEM, not YOU.

The Lord can answer our prayers in many ways- through a person, through a small voice, through a kind word from a friend, through a husband that takes a baby monitor from your stubborn self just so you can sleep- His resources are unlimited.

Rejecting this simple help from strangers alienates us in our times of trouble. Repeatedly, God is saying to us:

“Let me carry this burden for you, even if it’s just for a moment.” “Allow me to give you rest here, while I can.” “Stop choosing to be in this alone, because you are not. You have the people I’ve sent to relieve you of your troubles.”

I think maybe sometimes we want to feel strong, like we’re in control and know what we’re doing. Like we can handle all that life throws at us…but living a proud life will get us nowhere in our relationships or in the Kingdom. We are told to humble ourselves and admit our weaknesses so that His strength can shine through us. (James 4:10 and 2 Corinth 12:9)

Allow others the joy of helping. Allow yourself the relief that comes from being humble and admitting that you actually need help…that sometimes, you don’t have it all together. Sometimes you need to sit in the wheelchair. Sometimes you need to let someone else carry your groceries. Sometimes you need to hand your baby off to someone willing to hold him.

And that’s OK. We are human and the most we can give each other is our time and efforts. Receive the gift and allow someone to be blessed by it.

Prompt: Think of a time you rejected help from someone when you really needed it. How did it make both of you feel? Spend this week accepting the small offerings that come your way. Allow others to bless you. Swallow your pride, practice humility, and say ‘Thank You’ when it is the hardest. Let others see that you don’t have it all together…and watch what happens.

See you next time, friends ❤

If you’re wondering about the bleeding at the beginning of the post- I was hemorrhaging. It took a full week for it to stop, but I’m so thankful it did. It was the scariest week of my life, but we still have our girl and all is well at this point.

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!

 

 

 

Motherhood.

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*Warning*- Super sappy post ahead!

I keep a journal by my bed so that I can chronicle the days I have with my little one. I keep a journal for me and I write one for him. I actually started his journal before I even knew that he was a boy! It is in those pages that I declare how much I love being his mother. And some days that is enough. Other days, my heart is so full of happiness and love that I want to climb onto the roof of my house and shout it to the world. And I guess the equivalent of doing that, is getting on the world wide interweb and sharing it with YOU guys 😀

I’ve actually kept a journal since I was 7 years old. My entries back then range from: “My sister is a total butthead!” to “I love my sister! She helped me count all of my pennies, and now I know that I have $7! I’m rich!” Haha!

Anywho, I found all of my old journals yesterday so I thought I’d include some funny entries. Moving on.

The first thing I said after giving birth to my son, before the cord was even cut, was “Let’s do that AGAIN! Like…right now!”. Okay, that’s not completely true. The first thing I exclaimed was: “Oh my God! He’s so light-skinned!” Which had all of the nurses and my husband ROFL…I quickly added: “Not that I expected anything different!” Which had them laughing more…But then after that, I told my husband I wanted to do it again.

And I still feel the same way. I thought the initial high from birthing him/ adding to our family would fade over the months, but here I am still feeling it almost three months later.

Life is funny. I spent most of my 20’s declaring to everyone that I never wanted to have kids. I never would’ve imagined going to school for all of those years and getting a degree in Biology, only to become a stay-at-home-mother. (And the thought that I’ll never use my degree was so incredibly wrong. I use it all the time when I tell little bear about nature and how the world works. And I’m sure I’ll use it more once he starts talking!) But I digress..

Looking back, I see that everything I have been through has been a test from the Lord. Everything from the way I cared for my animals to how I handled my seven year nannying job. I now know that the Lord used all of those things to prepare me for motherhood. Believe me, there were times when I felt crazy. Like when I used to drive past trash in the road, and I would feel so strongly convicted that I had to stop my car to pick it up. Or when it would take me almost an hour to run 3 miles because I would stop to get all of the worms off of the running path and into the grass. I still do these things, but my conviction was much stronger then. I know that the Lord was saying: “If I can trust you with this, then I can trust you with My child.” He was testing my responsibility and my willingness to obey.

Like I said, I still feel convicted in those areas (to this day, I still get trash out of lakes and animals out of the road) but my conviction is now very strong in my dwelling place and my calling to motherhood. It feels like I have passed His test and my reward for being obedient to Him for all of those years is the happiness I feel now that He’s placed me in my sweet spot. And I know that I’m in my sweet spot because my heart would feel completely wrong to try to do/be anywhere else other than home with my child, and taking care of my household for our family. He’s confirmed this time and time again in different ways.

And so, every morning, my heart sings. Even the “bad” times are not so bad. Even when my child is up all hours of the night with gas pains, I don’t mind. Even when my husband works 70 hours a week, and I’ve had to go it alone…I don’t mind. Because I’ve been called. And the smile I get when I go to pick my son up out of his crib in the morning makes up for all of the hard times. When he coos at me while we grocery shop or when he falls asleep in my arms as we read “Goodnight Moon” – it makes every single day worth it.

So, yes- I WANT MORE. Duggar-style! 😀 Haha, just kidding (a little). I’m 30 years old, so to reach Duggar status, we would’ve had to start quite a while ago! But I would like at least 3 or 4, Lord-willing.

I love being his mother. It feels like such an honor and a privilege to have him…to be trusted with something so precious. Here is a fun back story about his name (Joseph). When I found out that he was a he, my husband and I had three boy names that we liked equally and we were having a hard time deciding on one of them. My prayer for this boy, since he was in the womb (and to this day), has always been in the form of three main requests:

  • That he would love the Lord from a young age
  • That he will live his life to bring God glory
  • That he will add to the Lord’s kingdom here on Earth

So, one day, out of boredom, I looked up the meanings of the three names that we were trying to decide from. And I found this:

“From Ioseph, the Latin form of Greek Ιωσηφ (Ioseph), which was from the Hebrew name יוֹסֵף (Yosef) meaning “he will add”.

In that moment, the Lord said to me: “His name is Joseph.” So that is how we named our son!

Right now, my little one is asleep and he will soon wake up…so I need to spruce up the house a bit before the hubs gets home. I’m going to leave you with three of my favorite sermons from our church (link below with description of sermon beneath):

Naming Rights: Call it What You Want

“Just because the Bible says God works all things together for our good, does not mean everything feels good all the time. But even though there are circumstances in our lives we didn’t choose to go through, God has given us the rights to call any circumstance a blessing in His name.”

It’s In Your Hands

“Every prejudice is handed down from somewhere. Let’s consider what we are handing down – whether we realize it or not – that shapes our lives, our families, and our communities.” (response to 2015 Charleston shootings)

Don’t Stop on Six

“The Christian life is really great when things are going well. But what about that other times? What happens if we don’t see our desired outcome? In the sermon, Pastor Steven explains God’s purpose when we persevere through the process.”

I hope that these bless you in some way, and that they reach you right where you are in life right now. The Lord is good, every day, He is good.

Hugs, kisses, and blessings to you.

Stacey B.

In the Wilderness

wilderness2

 

I sat down to write this post with a specific topic in mind…Its been forming in my mind for about a month now, but as I started to type it just didn’t feel right. The truth is, I have a lot of things and lessons going on in my life right now that I need to get out. So, I gave this one to the Lord. It’s His post. Whatever is supposed to come out will. I’m just the vessel. So here goes…

Last October my friend and I went hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just a side-note: I feel so stinkin’ lucky to live only 1.5 hours away from such beauty ❤ It’s my home away from home. Anyway, we went to a 5 mile trail that I had only hiked once (with the husband a few months prior) and it was so beautiful and such a hidden treasure that I wanted to take my best friend there for a day trip. It’s the sort of trail that starts out kind of “meh”, running through a campground and along a road…but then you go through a tunnel of trees and you step out into this beautiful, open field. When my husband and I went, the flowers were blooming in the field and it was the prettiest, most natural thing I’d ever come across. Untouched by human hands. No trash to be found anywhere. It’s the type of sight that stops you in your tracks, your heart makes you stand there and take it in.

boone

The rest of the trail winds alongside a beautiful river. There are a lot of side trails that take you down to the water to climb the rocks and wade in the shallow ends. It’s so peaceful.

So my friend and I began hiking the trail, talking of God and the things going on in our lives. We come to the meadow (the flowers are no longer there but it is still just as beautiful) and take a side-trail up to the top of a hill to take in the view. On the way back down I noticed two trail heads…something that didn’t register with me last time. I stood thinking out loud about which one to take, eventually deciding on the one that my brain had me believe was the most familiar. My friend and I hiked another mile, and it wasn’t until we found ourselves walking along an actual highway that I realized I had chosen the wrong path. We were exhausted at this point and super hungry. I had taken us a mile out of the way, which added two extra miles to our hike!

On the way back, walking in silence, wanting to get back to the actual trail…the Lord said to me: “How often my children do this.”

Not a question, but a statement.

God wasn’t referring to His children getting lost in the woods…but His children leaving Him standing on the right path to take their own, “better” path. I imagine it as being hand-in-hand with the Lord while scaling a mountain. It is a rough hike, but you have the best guide. You are laughing and the hike doesn’t seem so hard because of who you are with. You know where you going because…again, you have the best Guide.

But then we see a different path branching off of the right one. It is deceiving and enticing. It may have beautiful flowers and the right path doesn’t. It may have tall cedars while the right path has only small shrubbery. You think that way is more beautiful…surely it’s a better path, so why not take it? You let go of the Lord’s hand and leave him standing at the trail marker….where He waits for you to come back to Him so you can keep going, so you keep climbing the mountain together.

While he waits, you go on your own way. You try to figure out the path for yourself, but you aren’t getting anywhere. And though you couldn’t see them before you chose this new path, there are thorns on the flowers, and the tall cedars make you feel claustrophobic. Eventually you realize you’d rather be with Him, hiking the not-so-beautiful mountain. You miss holding His hand and the warmth of His heart that is so contagious.

So you go back to Him. And He is right where you left Him, waiting with an embrace and a smile. You open your mouth to tell Him about your adventure, and how you are sorry for trying your own path…but He stops you. Because not only does the Lord wait for us when we stray from Him, but He goes before us into those situations. He makes sure that the thorns don’t cut too deep and that the cedars aren’t so tall that they become the only thing you can see when you look up. He makes sure that we don’t get so lost in our own wilderness that we forget about Him and the path we were on before.

I also believe that a person can come out of the wilderness but not realize it because of the scales on their eyes-  the cloudiness of their vision. If you have been wondering in the wilderness for a long time, your “eyes” (<–the soul) may be so used to the dark that even small blades of grass will look like huge trees blocking your way.

The Lord waits for us. He saves us. He goes before us into the hell we have created and protects us from destroying our eyes with darkness. He calls us out of the wilderness after letting us try our own way for some time. 

On the way back to the trail, I began to think of all the times I stepped out into my own wilderness and how the Lord was with me each and every time. Even before I believed in Him! Even when I was denouncing His Great Name to my mother over lunch!

He was there when I was 20 and trying to get pregnant with my drug-addicted boyfriend.

He was there when I didn’t have a place to live, and was hopping from hotel to hotel…eventually living out of my car for a couple of days.

He was there when my sister’s friends asked me to do drugs at one of her parties.

He was there when I was working double shifts as a waitress just to pay for a class at community college.

He was there when my dad stopped showing an interest in my and my siblings life.

He was there when I was tearing my moms house upside-down looking for change just so I could get a snack and a soda.

He was there when I was engrossed in atheism books and telling everyone “I don’t believe in God.”.

He. was. there. And He is present in anything that you may be going through now. You know what I find comfort in? The fact that nothing surprises God. Nothing. None of the situations or heartache that we have faced or will ever face is going to surprise Him. He’s already in it, fighting for us. It’s not like He says “Oh man, so-and-so lost their job. What am I going to do now? I didn’t prepare for this.” Um, no! And that’s not to say that God wants us to go through hard times or pain, but we live in a fallen world and it’s part of the package. But He fights for us. None of the battles we face are ours, they are His to fight. Let’s let Him do His job.

He is with you…waiting for you…calling you out of your wilderness…go back to Him. You are loved.

Stone Walls

blueridge

Hi!

Things at the homestead have been interesting, to say the least. Our smallest hen, Butters, has started acting like a rooster! It is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. She is trying to “mate” with two of our hens, and she does circles around them with her wing out…I’ve researched it and it seems to be a dominance thing. I’ve read that sometimes in a flock with no rooster, one of the hens will take on the role of the rooster to keep peace in the flock. You can imagine how shocked I was when I first witnessed this behavior! “Is our she a he?!!” But no, Butters is definitely a hen.

There is never a dull moment with these animals 🙂

Other than strange chicken behavior, I’ve been having fun trying to plan our vacation to Costa Rica in April. Jason and I have never been out of the country, and would not be able to go if it weren’t for a very generous gift from a sweet family member. The task of planning this trip is a bit overwhelming right now, mainly because I keep looking at maps like this, that leave me thinking “Uhhh….durrrrr hmmmmm”:

Costa Rica Illustrated Map by Maria Rabinky. Hand drawn illustrated map (source)

We have no idea where to stay (if any of you readers have been there, please help!), but we do have some ideas of what we’d like to do:

My ideas:

  1. Soak in a thermal hot spring
  2. Hike, hike, and hike some more
  3. Zipline through the forest
  4. Go on the swinging bridges in the forest
  5. Catch a glimpse of the wildlife (sloths, monkeys, colorful birds, oh my!)

Jason’s ideas:

  1. Eat a banana that was locally grown
  2. Spend some time on the beach

My husband is low maintenance for sure 😀 When I asked him the one thing that he really wanted to do while there, he immediately replied with the “eat a local banana” answer. This cracked me up! I never thought about that, but it would be awesome to eat a banana from the actual place where they’re grown and shipped from! So…in continuation of my list:

6. Eat a local banana

😀

Anyway, those things are not the reason I am writing today. Last week was hard. I described in my last post how God is teaching to die to self, and to love others sacrificially. Every day that I spend at home is a learning experience for me. Last week was a quiet one. My heart grew restless and I began questioning His calling on my life – “Lord, am I on a shelf because I am precious to you or because I put myself here out of fear?” “Have you been waiting for me to move this whole time?” “Have I misunderstood your words over my life? Are you waiting for me??” 

My heart was in such a confused state that every night before bed I would pray for an obvious sign from the Lord that I am exactly where He wants me.

And while walking in the park one day, I received it.

But first, a little background before we get into it.

——————————————————–

My last job was as a nanny to the same family for 7 years. This was the job I held all throughout my college years. I watched three smart, beautiful kids grow up over the span of seven years. There were two boys and one girl (the oldest). When I began babysitting them, they were 6 months, 3, and 5 years old. I had fun with the kids, but I also let the challenging times shape how I viewed that time of my life. While I was in this job, I did not appreciate it for what it was. I had no clue how God was using me or shaping me in this role. I thought that my job as a nanny was to get me to a place where God really wanted me. I often commented to my (now) husband: “I can’t wait to get a real job” Ha! Um, raising three kids is a real job, Stacey!

Newsflash: God really wants you exactly where you are, most of the time. He puts us specific seasons of our lives for a reason. It is not only a waste of our time to ‘wish’ ourselves out of a season, but I think it also insults God a little. 

Now that I am out of that season, I look back on it and wish I wouldn’t have let such small things stress me out. I wish I would’ve had more patience with the kids and made more memorable moments with them. I have regret about some of the ways I acted and some of the things I did/didn’t do with them. I have regret for not truly living in the moments of those years. At least that’s how see it….

So now we get to the present…where I’m fervently praying for God to show me that I am where I am supposed to be- in the home.

Last week, I took Marley to the park for a walk. It was a beautiful, sunny, fall day. It was also unseasonably warm. I began getting hot in my long sleeve exercise shirt, but the sun felt so great on my face. It is in that moment that God chose to flood me with a memory I had long forgotten from my nannying days.

 (source)

 

In this memory, John (the youngest) was about 2-3 at the time. We used to take their dog, Cookie, on a walk around the block. At the end of the block, right before going back home, there was a stone wall that the (bigger) kids used to love to hop up and balance across until jumping off at the end.

Well, this particular time, it was just John and I. We were about to pass the stone wall, and John wanted to go up there (just like his big brother and sister, of course!). I was afraid for him, I thought he might be too little…but he was so eager to that I decided to hoist him above me on the wall. I remembered putting him up there and his face was so proud! He felt so big and triumphant to be walking on the stone wall just like the big kids. His little hand was clasped in mine, I remember looking up and at him so proud and happy for him in that moment. His tiny fingers were tightly clamping down on mine, his focus was strong. He put one foot in front of the other, the sun was shining on our faces and once we got to the end of the wall, I did a big reach and swung him back down to the sidewalk to join me. He was so happy!

I had completely forgotten that moment. I quickly thanked God for it. And then He spoke:

“That is who you ARE. You are a soft landing for your friends and family. You are a care giver, a nurturer. You help those that can’t do it by themselves scale stone walls. And how you remember that season is not how the children remember it. Let me show you what they remember.”

Over the next few days, God put memory upon memory in my mind…those that I had long forgotten or that had been clouded by some of the more stressful times with the kids. He reminded me of the first day of Christmas break with the kids. How they ran from the bus, through the living room door and immediately began getting ready for Christmas. The middle child would turn on Christmas music, the girl and I would bake Christmas cookies in the kitchen, and John would build his train track around the Christmas tree. The smells and sounds in the house were wonderful, we all were in a good mood. He reminded me of that time we went to the zoo and got caught in a torrential downpour and had to spend most of the morning huddling together under a Dippin’ Dots umbrella…except I viewed that trip as an utter disaster, but the Lord brought it back in a different light..this time He showed me how, even though I thought it was miserable, the kids were laughing under that umbrella – they thought it a great adventure!

The way we see ourselves and our situations is not how God sees them. It’s not even how others see them. They way I was looking at John while he was balancing on the stone wall, my eyes full of pride and love, that is how God looks at me. And that is how He looks at you too. The way I tightly gripped John’s hand as he walked across the wall- the Lord grasps our hand the same way as we go through life. He boosts us up into scary situations but He never lets go of our hand. And he catches us when we have come to the end of the wall.

He delights in us the way we delight in our children. He eagerly waits for us to wake from our slumber in the morning. He misses us while we sleep. He takes pleasure in us when we turn to Him at the beginning of our day.

I know that there is a ministry in what I’m doing. I know that the next season he takes me into will be of equal importance as what He’s given me right now. I don’t know what the next season looks like, but I believe my God. Nothing is wasted. If you are anxious about your current circumstances, the Lord wants you to pray to Him. Forget all of your own plans for your life and truly seek His plan for you. Ask for revelation, ask for a clear and observable sign. God loves to show Himself to His children.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

“And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:11

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

It is easy to get obsessed with the future. It is easy to worry and be anxious about what is coming next. While it is sometimes important and necessary to think in a long-term sense, I think what the Lord really wants His believers to do is to seek out the calling He has placed in their lives for that day. Not next month or next year, but that day. Pray for wisdom for this very day. Pray that you can glorify your Lord through your words and actions this day. Pray that at the end of the day, that the Lord will be pleased with what you’ve done. Doing this has made each and every day so much easier. I can rest in the Lord and know that I am doing what I need to do today. 

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”- Matthew 6:34

May the Lord bless you with revelation, with peace to get through this day, and with a glimpse of His everlasting Love. You. are. so. loved.

See you next time,

Stacey B.