Bloom & Grow

Bloom & Grow

One of my girls thrives on verbal affirmation while the other seeks out lots of snuggles.

It is my absolute favorite to see a smile climb up the cheeks of my older child. She is much less likely to outwardly reveal when something touches her inwardly, so when I see the evidence, I soak it up and store it in my heart. This usually happens at bedtime, when I whisper words of life over her and she thinks it is too dark for me to see her delight.

A few nights ago, I read the girls a library book about the process of planting flowers, watching them grow, and seeing them spread their seeds for new flowers to have a chance to bloom. I turned off the lights and whispered to my word-loving daughter, “You are a beautiful flower. As you blossom and bloom, you spread your seeds so that other flowers have the chance to do the same.”

My favorite smile spread slowly across her face and I knew she would drift to sleep that night feeling loved and having purpose.

I turned to my snuggler to say the same thing, but her response was to giggle, “Mommy! I’m not a flower!” Perhaps she isn’t old enough for metaphors just yet. I made sure to squeeze her tight so that she too would feel affirmed and loved.

I’ve since been thinking quite a bit about flowers and their seeds.

Notice the seed. Before a flower can bloom, its seed must succumb to the process of transformation. When a seed is planted, it goes into the soil never to look the same again. 

It’s not an easy process. The germination (sprouting) of the seed requires the nutrients of the soil, the moisture of water, and just the right amount of sunlight. Each seed has its own needs for life to form.

The hard shell of the seed melts away as the greenery of the plant reaches through the dirt and stretches to find light. In the right environment, the plant will begin to flower and feed the life around it.

New flowers will have the opportunity to bloom and grow as fresh seeds are scattered to the ground.

Did you know that your life resembles that of this flower?

For us to bloom into our greatest beauty, we must die to ourselves. We must succumb to the process of transformation so that our hard shells can melt away. It isn’t easy, is it? Sometimes we feel pressure, maybe a bit of loneliness. It may feel like we are drowning, that we are too hot, or too cold. But when we allow ourselves to submit to the process, we realize that our Gardner knows just what it is that will bring blossoming flowers in our lives.

There will be seasons when we feel the ache of our growth, and also seasons of rest as we wait for the sunshine to warm us again. But the result of these seasons of growth and rest, is the season of beauty. At our peak, we are beautiful flowers offering nourishment to those who come near. Our scent is alluring and our seeds spread with the promise of new life to come.

Whatever season you are currently in, do not forget this truth, my friend:

“You are a beautiful flower. As you blossom and bloom, you spread your seeds so that other flowers have the chance to do the same.”

Stay close to your Gardener. He will give you what you need, when you need it. Remember that the difficult moments will not last forever. New growth is coming.

“…When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed.” 1 Corinthians 15:36-38

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The Opposite of Toxic

Freeman_093

How many of you have seen articles like the following?

  • “10 Signs You are Toxic Parent and Your Children Will End Up in Counseling Because of It”
  • “5 Phrases You Should Absolutely Never Say to Your Child Unless You Want to Singlehandedly Ruin Their Life”
  • “You are the Worst at Parenting and Here is an Article that Lays Out Exactly Why You are Failing”

I’ve clicked on them. I’ve said/done some of the things in them. The natural conclusion is that I am ruining my kids and they would be better off elsewhere.

Except NOT.

I am far from perfect at this parenting thing. But aren’t we all? I have yelled at my children and immediately regretted it. I’ve bribed, I’ve stomped around like I was the child, I’ve cried… I’ve had some bad moments y’all.

I have even gone to counseling because I was struggling so much with feeling angry most of the time.

I am convinced that no matter who we are, if we look hard enough, we will find an article that lists one of our behaviors as toxic. And then what happens? We leave that place feeling defeated and hopeless. Every time we repeat that behavior, we beat ourselves up for it, wallow in our awfulness, work really hard at never doing it again…JUST TO DO IT AGAIN.

What a way to live.

Can we agree not to do this to ourselves anymore?

Instead of running to the internet, let’s run to Jesus. His words are far, FAR different from the ones we see in those negatively titled articles. Jesus absolutely will not make a list of our failures and shove them in our face. Instead, He speaks life and truth to us while showing us a better way.

When I look to Jesus, I’m able to use my worst moments to lead me to be a healthy parent. I find strength to stand in prayer and hand my anxieties over to Him. I take the responsibility off of my own shoulders and place it on His. The more I do this, the less often I find myself yelling out of frustration. I am grounded in who God has created me to be!

I still have moments. Just this week, I got frustrated and yelled at my girls. I hate it. But instead of going into a dark, deep, negative spiral about what a failure I am, I use it as a teaching moment.

My girls know 100% of the time that my anger is NOT THEIR FAULT. Because I tell them this! I repeat to them why I love them and list off the reasons of why I am so grateful for them. I remind them that certain behaviors are not appropriate for them to do, but that is never an excuse for mommy to yell at them. I can say to my children, “I’m feeling frustrated, so I’m going to have a moment to myself and pray to Jesus.”

And THEN, when they have an outburst of anger or respond inappropriately, I can lead them in healthy alternatives of how to handle their emotions. I can tell them that I understand how they feel, but that we are still responsible for how we react. Because I am leaning on Jesus to show me a better way to live, I get to lead my girls in a better way to live. 

Talk about empowering!

If you fear that you are living in a negative cycle, get help. Pray to Jesus. Talk to a friend. Sign up with a counselor. But know that there is HOPE.

Jesus is in the work of transforming lives. You don’t have to stay in the darkness because He is the Light! Live in the freedom that is found in following Him.

And friend, I’m with you. I’ll be here to encourage you and pray with you. You are not alone!

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Unheard Prayers

Unheard Prayers

Do you ever feel like your prayers are pointless? Like they are just words or thoughts that get uttered into the wind to be whisked away and never be found again?

I spent many a sleepless night begging, pleading for God to make my baby fall asleep so I could finally sleep myself. “PLEASE God! Help me! She won’t sleep and I can’t sleep tomorrow. I’m exhausted. I feel like I’m losing it. PLEASE!”

I cried a lot of tears. The knowing that I wouldn’t be able to make up for lost sleep, that I would need to be present for my toddler the next day… made every cry from my baby that much more piercing. 

It felt like God didn’t hear me, or worse, that He didn’t care.

I don’t know why God chose not to gratify my every request for sleep, but looking back it is easy to see the battle that was taking place with the enemy.

The lies. Oh, those lies: “God isn’t coming through for you.” “You might as well not pray at all.” “You aren’t worth his time.” “No one sees you.”

Do you know who the enemy likes to attack? Those he deems a threat. He waits for a weak spot to appear, for a time when our pursuit of God is dwindling to make his first move. It’s a subtle move to keep us none the wiser.

Our best counter-attack is to call the lies out for what they are. To proclaim TRUTH in their stead. 

Perhaps you are in a time of pouring your heart out to God and it feels like He is silent. The enemy is whispering lies, trying to convince you that your case is hopeless and the prayers are not worth your time.

Do NOT give in. I don’t know your circumstances, I don’t know God’s reasons for saying yes, or no, or for remaining silent. But if the enemy is working this hard to dissuade you from pursuing the Almighty, then my guess is that the Almighty has some mighty plans in store for you!

Here are some things I know about prayer…

-Prayer is powerful and effective
-Prayer changes things
-God hears our prayers and He answers them
-God loves it when we pray
-The Bible tells us to pray…so, by all means, we pray

We pray our hearts out and we lay our petitions at the feet of our Lord. We surrender our lives, our circumstances, our everything to Him. He feels our pain and sees our need and He takes care of us. Just like a parent, His wisdom is better than our own. We can trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense.

It can be hard sometimes. It can be really, truly beautiful other times. So, even though we may not always understand how this prayer thing works, we are to keep going after it and after it and after it like our lives depend upon it.

“But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.” Psalm 66:19-20

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?