Out of the Fog

img_4812

I share the following with you because we all go through stuff, and sometimes we need to see that other people go through stuff too. I believe God has called me to encourage others in the art of finding Him as our source in the midst of all the stuff; no matter what that may be at any given time in our lives.

One element of my stuff is the fog I’ve been in the past couple of years.

I blamed it on sleep for the most part. Goodness, if you look back on any of my earliest posts, you are bound to see a theme of longing for some seriously good sleep. But sleep came back, and my struggles didn’t disappear.

This fact made my emotions go haywire. In my mind, sleep was going to fix it. If only I got those precious moments of rest, my exhaustion with my children would get better. I’d stop getting so angry at so many little things. I wouldn’t be so frustrated with my husband for not reading my mind. I’d get my joy back.

Joy. I missed that. Sleeping more didn’t bring it back. In the past, I had been almost obnoxiously joyful, and now I felt I was just obnoxious in the lack thereof. I wasn’t exactly very fun to be around. You might not have seen it on a Sunday morning or in a small gathering of friends, but one-on-one, I complained. A lot. About anything. Because everything felt so… off.

My heart was reeling in desperation to find clarity and life once again. Something was wrong with me and I couldn’t figure out what it was. So in my search for answers, in my search for joy, I decided to begin seeing a counselor at Restoration Place.

Yes, you read that right, I’m a pastor’s wife and I go to counseling.

In my very first appointment, I filled out paperwork, took a few surveys, and tried to explain to my counselor why I was there. She gave me some homework and asked me to write out what I was hoping to find; my “miracle” so to speak. While I listed several things, at the forefront was the concept of joy. I wrote, “I long to wake up one morning, and find that my joy has come back. Where did it go? How did it get lost? It must still be there somewhere. I want to find it, grab it, and never let go of it.”

At the beginning of this journey of counseling, I cried an awful lot. I’d talk about a mistake I’d made with my children or how my marriage wasn’t perfect and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I felt like I was clouded in darkness and couldn’t see the light no matter how hard I tried.

I believe I needed to cry those tears. One thing I’ve learned through this time, is how important it is for me to process my thoughts through the art of writing and simply talking. I have often leaned on my husband for those sorts of conversations, but men are not geared like women and sometimes I need to process in a typical female sort of way. In counseling, I’m able to sort through my heart, and now my husband can reap the benefits.

I’ve also learned that I was experiencing a taste of postpartum depression. This knowledge has explained so much of where I have been, and has also given me hope for the future. I know what I’m dealing with, so I can attack it accordingly. I also know that this season will not last forever. The fog is lifting.

Life isn’t all magically better. Unfortunately, in the midst of my cloud I formed some poor emotional habits and I need to work through those sorts of things. But, it is getting better. It is easier for me to see that all is not lost. That I’m not a terrible wife and mother, and that good things are yet to come. If I feel myself sinking, I feel more powerful in my ability to find firm ground. Emotional healing is taking place.

I am forever thankful that God, in anticipation that our hearts and minds would need sorting through at times, provided a gift to certain individuals to become counselors. I am also thankful that through it all He has continued to probe and work on my heart. Never once did He abandon me or forget me. No, instead, He is continuously teaching me and growing me in this mess so that I can step into my ultimate purpose.

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:5

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3

Advertisements

Waking Up

img_5321

“You don’t know you’ve been asleep until you are awake.” These were words spoken to us by Pastor Allen of Daystar Church on January 1st. We were beginning a series called “Awaken” where our pastor was sounding a spiritual alarm to encourage us to wake up if we had been sleeping.

I had been asleep.

You probably wouldn’t have noticed. Perhaps the absence of blog posts the last few months would be a clue, but there is more to it than that, and I’d like to fill you in. Okay, well, maybe I don’t actually want to post these things over the internet for the world to read, but I’m going to do so for two main purposes.

My own personal growth and healing.

Do you know where the enemy is most successful? In the darkness. He loves to separate us from all that is good and lead us away from the Light because it is in the dark that we are most likely to believe his lies. Often, when we hide our struggles and try to brush them under a rug, we have a hard time of escaping them. I’ve made a lot of progress over this past year in several areas, so the last thing I want is for that progress to be lost or to be caught in a downward spiral again. By bringing my issues into the light, it gives me an opportunity to process what I’ve learned and it allows others to call me out if they sense anything going awry. It also gives me a chance to acknowledge my weaknesses to the Lord and allow Him to work in my life.

“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

Encouragement for others.

I can’t say this enough. I’m a pastor’s wife and I am not perfect. Not even close. I struggle just like everyone else, and I think there is something very human about that struggle. We are in the fight together and we need each other. It is my hope that in sharing these details, someone else who has been in the muck will find these words and be encouraged. The details might be different, but the theme is the same. We are in a battle, but friends, we are not alone. Let’s light each other on fire as we see all that God can do. All hope is not lost. Do not despair. He is here and He is working and He is GOOD.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

What can you expect from me?

It’s too much for one post, so I’m going to break it up a bit. I’m going to share with you about my emotional, physical, and spiritual struggles. Everything all ties in together, so it may sound a little redundant. I plan to be vulnerable with you, sharing things that I have only on occasion shared with others, and even then only if it so happened to come up in conversation. As I share these struggles, I will also share how God is working in them and through them. He is teaching me much about Himself and who I am in this process. It’s a messy work, but it is worth it.

I had been sleeping, but now? I’m waking up.

“I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails.” Psalm 111:2-3

Be Strong and Courageous

Strong and Courageous

Do you ever feel like God is beating you over the head with something? Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be quite a few situations in my life when hearing something one time just isn’t going to cut it. I have to hear it over and over and over again before it will finally stick.

Lately, it has been the phrase, “be strong and courageous.”

The phrase is inside of my daughters’ favorite memory verse: Deuteronomy 31:6. The girls have been saying a paraphrased version of this verse, complete with hand movements, for the past year now. Every time they get a new verse to memorize at church, they still want to practice this one. I hear it so much that I’m sure to never forget it.

Well, recently, I went to pull up my Bible app on my phone and saw the verse of the day. Turns out, Joshua 1:6-9 uses this phrase multiple times. I thought that was pretty cool, so I did a quick search and learned that the exact wording “be strong and courageous” shows up in the NIV 11 times and the NLT 14 times.

I deemed my findings nifty and went about my day.

I later I heard the verse of the day on my Christian radio station. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “That’s a neat coincidence. I wonder if the verse of the day on my Bible app and radio station are always the same?”

And then, that day, and also several days later, I saw friends posting about one of these “be strong and courageous” verses on social media. Some of them posted a simple graphic. Some of them wrote out the verse. Some of them gave a brief summary.

Even more so, I saw it referenced in a book I’m reading. And it came up in a devotional I use. And it also happened to be included in a One Year Bible reading.

It was like I couldn’t escape it. Obviously, God was telling me to be strong and courageous. Not being entirely sure what that meant, I knew it was time to dig a little deeper. When the phrase, “be strong and courageous,” is used, what is the context? What is the intended purpose? The result?

Here is a bit about what I have discovered and am still figuring out:

In the Old Testament, God frequently commanded His people to be “strong and courageous” because…

…God would personally go ahead of them. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
…they were going to be leaders and give direction. (Deuteronomy 31:7;23; Joshua 1:6)
…they needed to follow His commands. By doing so, they would be successful in everything they did. (Joshua 1:7; 1 Chronicles 22:13)
…God would be with them wherever they went. (Joshua 1:9)
…it could save their lives. (Joshua 1:18)
…God would vindicate them against their enemies. (Joshua 1:25)
…He wouldn’t fail them. (1 Chronicles 28:20)
…there would be a reward for their work. (2 Chronicles 15:7)
…the greater power (God) was on their side (2 Chronicles 32:7)
…God would protect those loyal to Him. (Psalm 31:23-24)
…God would do what He said He would do. (Ezekiel 22:14)

After looking through all of these references, I think I’ve figured something out. In each of these situations in the Bible, God had given commands to His people. He had told them what to do. How to live their lives. Where to go. And you know what? Sometimes it was really hard for them.

I think that’s exactly where God has me. He has given me His Word, the Bible. I know His commands. For the most part, I feel like I know how He wants me to live and where I am called to serve. But sometimes, it gets really hard. Being a stay-at-home mom and wife of a pastor can be challenging at times.

Here is the reminder: I can be strong and courageous in the tough moments, because I know His promises. He will take care of me. Ultimately, as I continue the constant surrender of my life over to His teachings, I can trust that it will all be worth it. There is a reward in the end. This life is only temporary and I am on the side that gets the final victory. God is going before me and He is going with me. I’m not in this alone.

The same goes for you too. Hold fast. Remain steady. He’s got this, and that means you do too.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9; NIV; emphasis mine)

It’s Okay to Feel Pretty

Feeling Pretty Text

I don’t always feel pretty.

There are those troublesome spots that have a tendency to bug me. You know, the squishy tummy that I still like to blame on the kiddos. I am often referred to as “skinny”, but I’m a few sizes up from the stick I once was. Things just don’t quite fit the way they once did. I actually contemplate how my clothes will make my tummy appear before getting dressed, whereas there was once a time in my life I could just throw on a t-shirt and jeans and get away with it.

I could change that with a modification in eating habits and a bit of exercise. I’m still contemplating whether the result will be worth the adjustment.

I’m a nail biter, and a lip chewer, and an eyelash puller. At any given time I either have a complete set of beautiful nails, or full, long eyelashes. Never both at the same time. At the moment, my nails look fantastic. This means I’ve stopped wearing mascara until I can grow some lashes back. I try really hard not to be self-conscious about this.

Within the past five years, I’ve developed these random red splotches on my skin. It’s not a disease, or a rash, or anything contagious. It comes and goes. It doesn’t itch, and when it’s covered up, I forget it’s there. But bathing suit season is coming up, and I’m just hoping no one at the pool thinks I have some sort of leprosy. I kid. I think.

But here is what I know:

  • God, in His infinite creativity, made me and you and the rest of humanity throughout history. Not one of us has been an exact replica of another. God creates beauty and He doesn’t make mistakes. “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true…” (2 Samuel 22:31)
  • He has called me to take care of my body. Not to make it look a certain way, but to honor Him with it. “[Our bodies] were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:13b; NLT)
  • My body will continue to age as I grow older. I won’t be named one of the world’s most beautiful people; my outward appearance does not match the standard of our culture. But the inner beauty that will shine outward as Christ continues to transform my heart… that will be breathtaking. (1 Peter 3:3-5)

So, what exactly does it look like to be beautiful? I’ve recently developed an interest in makeup and choosing clothes that make me feel pretty, but this doesn’t make me any more beautiful in God’s eyes.

I believe that our beauty comes out when we stop focusing on our imperfections and fix our eyes on Him instead. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ alone; not in the evaluations of those around us.

You know what God sees? When God looks at me, and when He looks at you, He sees His child. He sees how the words of others have damaged us and made us doubt His truths. He pleads with us to trust Him and find our value and worth in Him.

If we stop and listen, for even just a moment, we may hear things like…

  • We are loved (Romans 8:35-39)
  • We are royalty (Romans 8:15-17)
  • We have purpose (Proverbs 20:5)
  • We are beautiful (Psalm 45:11)
  • We are a delight (Zephaniah 3:17)

It’s not about whether it’s okay to be beautiful. We don’t actually have a choice in the matter… we already are. God calls me beautiful, so who am I to say otherwise?

On Seeking Advice a.k.a. Temper Tantrum Survival

1004087_10100765225548911_508797427_n
Photo by Alexa’s Photography

My not-quite-two-year-old wanted to walk. She had developed a habit of dashing out into parking lots, so I decided that lunch time at Chick-fil-A was not the time to allow her to practice being independent.

When I scooped her up in my arms, she immediately began to throw a full-out temper tantrum. She screamed, clawed at my face, told me to “go away”, yanked at my hair, and convulsed her body in such a way that I could barely hold onto her with my one free arm.

We somehow managed to make it to the car safely, but I was flustered. This wasn’t the first time she had responded to me that way. My daughter, who was usually very affectionate and loving, was making it a habit to behave in a way that could not be tolerated.

Our discipline often involves giving our children the opportunity to make choices, and then giving appropriate consequences when poor choices are made. My instinct was that this method would not work in this situation. In the midst of such a violent temper tantrum, I certainly could not expect my daughter to make, let alone verbalize, an appropriate choice. Neither did I want to invoke a physical consequence for a situation in which she was lashing out physically.

I knew I needed to seek advice.

If I needed financial advice, I would have asked someone who uses a strong financial knowledge to handle money well. If I needed legal advice, I would have gone to a well-known lawyer whom I could trust to point me in the right direction. If I needed medical advice, I would have booked an appointment at my doctor’s office.

Facebook wouldn’t be the place to answer my questions.

Facebook is a great way to connect with people, and can often be a great place for resources. But certain questions require an expert in the field to answer them. I strongly believe that when it comes to seeking advice on raising my children, I should always consult an expert in the field.

Think about it. Let’s say I posted my scenario on a mommy board. Undoubtedly, I would receive quite a few responses from all kinds of people giving me their take on the situation. Might some of the advice be good, even great? Absolutely. But how would I know where to start? What credibility do these individuals have when it comes to answering my question? Do these families hold similar beliefs to my own? Do their children behave in a manner that I want my own children to model? Do I even know them?

I don’t take the raising of my children lightly. I have been given a huge responsibility and I want to get it right. My Facebook community may have been able to help me feel less alone in the struggle, but it wouldn’t be my source for seeking advice.

For this situation, I decided to ask an expert in the field. Kathy White is the Children’s Pastor for nursery and preschool ages at Daystar Church. She has worked in ministry with little children most of her life. She has raised three respectful boys of her own. I knew that by asking Kathy, I would have her years of experience on my side. I could trust what she would say because I had seen the results of her labor of love in ministry and at home.

Her advice? It was simple. She told me to hold my daughter close and take her hands in mine. While looking into her eyes, I should quietly, yet firmly, say things like, “We do not hit. We use soft touches.” I should then take her hand and use it to gently stroke my face. “Soft touches.”

It wasn’t long before I had a chance to try out my new response. Her sister had something she wanted, so she yanked hair to get it. I calmly took her hands in my own and let her know we do not pull hair. She simply smiled and said, “Okay, Mommy.” And then gave her sister a kiss and an apology.

Situation diffused. It’s been weeks since I’ve witnessed a full-blown temper tantrum. We will always have moments when we need to discuss the appropriate response, but for now, I get to witness her becoming more and more mature as she learns to respond with kindness instead of frustration.

I am proud of my little girl. And I am thankful to know an expert like Kathy White.

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
    the one who gains understanding.
For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
    and her wages are better than gold.
Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
She offers you long life in her right hand,
    and riches and honor in her left.
She will guide you down delightful paths;
    all her ways are satisfying.
Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
    happy are those who hold her tightly.” (Proverbs 3:13-18; NLT)

*Kathy has a blog of her own at https://theworldaccordingtomrsfarquhar.wordpress.com. I highly recommend you check it out as she has many words of wisdom.