Out of the Fog

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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

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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)

Our Unordinary Wedding

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Our Wedding Day! Check out the “rustic” metal in the background. We were ahead of our time.

Last year I wrote our love story in honor of our anniversary. I never realized how unorthodox our relationship was until I started getting feedback from that post. How does one follow up an unordinary courtship? With an unordinary wedding of course.

He proposed March 8th. We set the wedding date for June 17th. That’s three months later in case anyone is counting.

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Our first picture after getting engaged! It was two days later and we got to see both of our families at Eric’s driving experience.

I was in the throes of student teaching when we first became engaged, and this consumed my life so much to the point that I was seriously doubting whether I was cut out to be a teacher. I was thrilled to be getting married that summer, but the demands of finishing my education prevented me from spending too many hours surfing the web for wedding information. Praise the Lord Pinterest didn’t exist yet.

I was clueless when it came to weddings. Clueless. I had only attended a handful of them, and I was the first in my group of friends to be getting married. I really had no idea how it all worked. All I knew was that I needed a white dress, a pastor, and my intended. That pretty much felt like enough to me. Eric actually planned the majority of the ceremony details.

So, what were the details?

Bridesmaid. Yes, that’s singular for a reason. I wanted my sister to be my one and only bridesmaid because I knew my sister was the one and only person guaranteed to always be in my life. I didn’t want to pick and choose between friends, and I didn’t want to worry about finding a dress that everyone would be happy with. I let my sister pick whatever she wanted to wear because I wanted her to feel pretty too. Her selection then determined my colors. They would be blue and brown.

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My favorite picture of me and my siblings! Taken right before the service began.

Flowers. Okay, blue and brown. What flowers go with this? My soon-to-be Mother-in-Love mentioned blue hydrangeas, so I went with it. When I met with my florist, he told me all the woes of working with hydrangeas for weddings, and then insisted I have them because it was my wedding and that was what I wanted. I really didn’t care. He was right though, as my sister’s bouquet had to be replaced with grocery store hydrangeas minutes before the ceremony began.

The Dress. I wanted something simple and found a few styles I liked at David’s Bridal. At the end of trying on these dresses my mom says, “I could make something like that.” And so she did. My mom worked tirelessly to get the dress just right and leave me with a precious memory. The outcome was almost identical to what I had tried on in store!

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Our families prayed for us as we started off the ceremony.

Invitations. Formal invitations were sent to relatives and a few family friends. The rest of our guests were invited by email invitations and an open Facebook event. I am not kidding. We wanted everyone we knew to celebrate with us and to have the chance to hear about the goodness of God.

Food. How do you feed an unknown number of people? Easy. One of our friends bought cases of soft drinks as our wedding present. That was one of the most practical gifts anyone gave us. We decided to have a cookout for our guests and purchased boxes upon boxes of hamburgers and hotdogs from Costco. Sadly, an entire freezer worth of hamburgers was forgotten, so I’m not sure everyone had a chance to eat. We did get to return the extras though! Our cake was a gift to us from a friend of Eric’s parents, and a bounce house was set up for kiddos to enjoy.

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People were gathered everywhere! We may have had close to 500. Here they are gathering for food, with a bit of our fancy trailer and bounce house in the background.

Ceremony. To be held on a Sunday during a church service. Yes, it was our wedding day, but we wanted God to be the focus of it. Not us. We had praise and worship, and the new sermon series called “Once Upon a Time” was kicking off with Adam and Eve. Perfect set up for a wedding. We also decided to include a true love waits ceremony for those in the student ministry wanting to make a commitment to save sexual intimacy for marriage. This was especially precious to me as I was going to present Eric with my own purity ring during the vow exchange.

Location. There was going to be too many people for our church building, so we decided to hold everything outside on the lawn. Eric painted the big trailer outside white to help with the ambiance. It had previously been decorated with “LUAU” for a youth event. We rented folding chairs and a stage for the musicians. Our small group was kind enough to help set up that morning, and I later learned they had to clean silly string off most of those rented chairs.

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Our first act as husband and wife was to praise Jesus!
The Mishaps. I’m pretty sure every wedding has a few of these. In addition to my sister’s flowers dying and doing a quick fix, there were a few other experiences that didn’t quite go as planned. It was a high of 97 degrees that day, causing one of our guests to faint. We did a first look that I had hoped to be private, but because we were outside, a crowd of people ended up joining us. The cops were called because our music was too loud. Oh, and we probably should have set the date for something other than Father’s Day. (Sorry, Daddy!)

I really, truly, loved our wedding. I felt like we had the opportunity to bring glory to God and honor others. Neither one of us had much money saved, and our families certainly were not rich by any means. We chose to spend very little so we could start off our marriage focusing on our relationship without needing to pay off debt. Altogether, including all the things, no matter who was paying, the cost was under $5000. This was a tremendous blessing to the start of our  marriage.

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Only a few nights prior to our wedding, we decided to do a swing dance. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun! A small portion of our cake table is in the background.

Looking back, I probably would have done it the same way all over again. Looking forward, I love that we get to celebrate our anniversary in new ways. We are hoping to do a very small vow renewal for our 10th anniversary next year. My wedding day, while certainly a significant moment in my life, wasn’t the biggest moment for our marriage.

The biggest moment, in any marriage, is really the little moments day-to-day as we love and respect our spouse. It’s a life-long journey with a success rate not determined by a flawless wedding day. I am so thankful to have started off our marriage the way we did, and I hope to continue in the same mindset of honoring God and others for the rest of our lives.

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Bubbles!

Mom Fails

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I originally wanted to have “Big Sister” talk to “Little Sister” in my belly through a tin can. You can see how excited she was about the idea.

I’m only a few years in and I have had my fair share of “Mom Fails”. For example…

There was the time we were getting ready for family pictures. I was trying to get some things accomplished when I realized my toddler was playing on our stairs. I literally thought to myself, “I need to get her off of those stairs. I’ll just finish this real quick…” Next thing I know she has tumbled down half of our solid wood stairs and is screaming at the top of her lungs. Of course, on top of feeling awful for ignoring my intuition, she is forming a nice big lump on her forehead and her eyes are all bloodshot. I felt terrible that she got hurt, but was also desperately hoping our pictures wouldn’t be ruined.

Did you know that Pastor’s wives don’t say things like “crap”? I’m pretty sure that when I married my husband, this was somewhere in the legal contract. Well, this past week, as I was painting my girls’ nails, some polish got on my couch and I said, “crap”. Apparently, my youngest loved the sound of this word and she immediately started turning it into a song. “Crap! Craaaaap, Ccccrrrap, Craaap!” My apologies if she ends up sharing her new vocabulary with you.

Earlier this week, we ventured to Walmart for some groceries. It was my first time getting out since being snowed in all weekend. Our trip turned into quite the adventure. I had a cart full of groceries plus two little girls. It’s always a struggle to get all these things in my car, but this time I failed miserably. I decided to start by buckling in my youngest, but as I’m about to place her in her carseat I hear, “MOMMY!!!” I immediately turned and ran after my cart (carrying my oldest in it) which was already halfway in the driving lane. So many thoughts plagued my mind, but I managed to get everyone buckled while praising Jesus for keeping us safe.

I once posted on social media about my youngest bathing herself in toilet juice. As the story goes, I had just finished cleaning the toilet and hopped into the shower. When things got a little too quiet, I peaked out to find my daughter with the toilet brush in one hand, and the other hand scooping wet, nasty, gooey, chemical-filled toilet juice out of the brush holder and all over her hair. I was mortified. The logical reaction would have been to stick her in the shower with me, but instead, I felt the damage was done and finished my shower before giving her a bath of her own. The worst part about this? It happened twice. I’ve since hidden the toilet scrubber.

This mom job is hard. It seems like every day I struggle with the decisions I’m making and whether or not I’m failing at my task. I’m always sorting through things like:

  • Am I teaching them the right things?
  • Do I intervene in the fight, or let them work it out on their own?
  • Should I work harder in this area, or am I expecting too much?
  • When I get angry, do they know that I still love them?
  • How do I point them to Jesus?
  • Am I giving them enough choices, or too many?

Yesterday, after jokingly calling me a potty mouth for teaching our daughter to say “crap”, my husband reminded me that raising children doesn’t happen in a day. It is a lifelong process. Why is this encouraging?

Our mistakes today do not have to dictate tomorrow. When bedtime is nothing but a battle, it doesn’t mean my girls are going to wake up mad at me the next day. My failures today do not mean I have failed at this parenting thing altogether.

There is grace for these moments, and the opportunity to learn from them. We pick ourselves up and try again. I trust that my girls are watching me learn my lessons too. They may see my failures, but they also see how I respond to them.

I’m not going to do this perfectly. I won’t get it right all the time. Someone else will always have a different opinion. But no matter what happens, I’m grateful that I don’t have to do it alone.

This week, while reading Beth Moore’s “Believing God”, I was reminded of the power of God’s Word. As such, I’m clinging to this verse:

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13; NIV)

 

*Photo credit: Alexa’s Photography

30 Days of Thankfulness: My Hubby

I’m going to try not to get too sappy here, so let me start off with my purpose.

My purpose in these 30 Days of Thankfulness posts is to build people up. It’s to say, “Hey, I really like this about you and appreciate you.” Because, I know it’s nice to hear these things from time to time. And because, after I started this process, I happened to read Jude 1:20: “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith…”

So, you see, I’m not trying to say my life is perfect. I’m not trying to say my life is better than yours, or that my husband is better than yours, or that if you don’t have a husband there is no hope to find one as amazing as mine. The purpose of this post is to focus on the things I love about my husband so that I can encourage and honor him.

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All pictures in this post are by Alexa’s Photography. This one was taken two years into our marriage and hangs over the mantel in our living room.

That being said, without further ado…

I have the best husband in the world. Early in our marriage, Eric would tell me, “I am going to be a better husband than any other guy can be.” He has struck true to his word. Here are just a few of the areas that I love about my husband.

Helping Me Stay Sane

I find that Eric often sees my need without ever having to say a word. He knows that I can get stressed out about my “to-do list” when people come over to our home, so he helps me with it. Sometimes he takes the girls outside to play, other times he pulls out the vacuum and cleans the floors. He always helps to put things away and gets the kitchen counters free of random papers. It would take me two days to do the things he can do in 30 minutes. It’s nice to have the help.

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Getting ready to welcome our first baby!

He also recognizes that being a stay-at-home mom can be a tough job mentally. Just this past weekend, he told our girls it was time to get dressed so they could have a fun day with Daddy. He then told me that I had the entire day to do whatever I wanted. I spent the day accomplishing all the things that are hard to do with little ones holding onto your legs. I love my girls, but having a break from constantly being needed helps me to stay sane.

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This guy is such a good Daddy.

His Love for Jesus

Eric doesn’t do “church stuff” because that’s his job. He does it because that is his passion. He daily sets his alarm clock so that he can get up before anyone else in our house. He spends this time of quiet with the Lord. He studies the Bible and prays as he connects with God. He prefers the silence, so he gets up early in order to have quality time.

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He loves his family quite a bit too.

He talks about his relationship with God with myself and the girls. He is always striving to become more and more like Christ and is careful how he spends his free time. More often than not, in the evenings, he will be reading books on faith and leadership. He is a good man with a heart of gold.

Giver of Gifts

I’m really, terribly horrible at gift-giving. I can occasionally find just the right thing, but it’s not consistent. Eric, on the other hand, is amazing at gift-giving. He really enjoys it too. His favorite thing is teasing me about the gift before he ever gives it to me. More often than not, he will have one of my friends text me and say something like, “Wow, I love the gift Eric is giving you for your birthday! It’s so thoughtful!”

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2nd baby on the way!

Sometimes, he is so excited he literally cannot wait to give it to me. Last year, he was so pumped about the deal he scored for my Kitchenmaid stand mixer, that he gave it to me as soon as he bought it. (He even scored a wad of Kohl’s cash, which we proceeded to use to buy our girls’ Christmas gifts!) It makes me feel loved to know that he wants to spend money on me that I would never spend on myself.

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And then there were two.

His Leadership

I met Eric when he was leading worship. Over time, I was impressed with how he lead his team members. When we were dating, he lead the way in our relationship in an effort to protect our hearts. Currently, I get to watch him lead our girls as they figure out life and what it means to love each other. He is my spiritual leader and I look up to him more than anyone else.

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I love this little family.

One of my favorite ways to observe Eric is when he is counseling; on or off the clock. We’ve had couples over to our house for premarital counseling, as well as friends from time to time who just wanted to talk about something. Eric is phenomenal at leading these discussions. He always knows just the right thing to say. He is able to set the stage for a loving environment, and rarely tells people exactly what they need to do. He merely guides them as they figure it out. I wish I could explain this better, but he is so good at what he does!

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We are so incredibly blessed!

In Conclusion…

Eric, I love you with all my heart. I’m not always good at expressing this to you, but it’s true. I love watching you figure out how to let God rule your life. I respect you in every way. I can’t wait to see all the ways God will use you to bring glory to His Name, because I know He has some amazing things in store for you. Thank you for being the best husband in the world.