Friday, February 28, 2014

A Constant Struggle

It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?

Today's word: choose


Each day, we are given a new beginning. A new mercy, a hope that rises over the horizon with a constant rhythm. We have the ability to choose. To immediately turn to the demands of our day- the emails, the text messages, and the endless list of chores, or to take a moment, and let our souls feel gratitude. Send up a prayer. Bask ourselves in our Father's truth. Equip ourselves for the circumstances of our day.

Hundreds of choices inundate us and we progress through our day. Will I let my emotions dictate how I respond to a snarky remark? Will I let my hormones prevent me from showing my husband how much I appreciate him? Let my patience crumble at the twentieth repeat of the same question from my five-year-old? Each point an opportunity. To show grace or indulge my own nature.

He loves us enough to give us these choices. He gave Himself so that we might have the ultimate choice to follow the Light or stay in the dark. Embracing life or death. 

It is so simple, and yet a constant struggle. Lord, my skin tingles with the knowledge of your thoughts toward me. My desire is to abide in you. May I forever be your humble servant. May I choose Jesus. Each day. Every day.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Doing "A New Thing" When You're Proud and Scared

I want to share a little secret with you, my readers. My friends who I receive so much encouragement from day in and day out. I've stated before that one of the main reasons I waited so long to start a blog was fear. And this is painfully true. But it was also pride. You see, I had this notion in my head that blogging was a cliche thing for an aspiring writer to do. That it cheapened it somehow. Because let's face it. Anyone can start a blog. In much the same way photography has become a saturated market, you don't have to have a degree in Journalism or be a college professor or have any list of credentials behind your name to have a website on the big, endless world of social media. It seemed the predictable, stereotypical next step after becoming a stay-at-home mom. And those of you who know me know I loathe stereotypes.

Another deterrent was that I knew if I started a blog, it would not be a typical mom or family blog. Although I love reading friends' posts sharing their kids latest antics and funny stories, I knew that if I wrote something for the internet it would be deeply personal, vulnerable and real. Because I think women have a deep seeded desire, both in mothering and day to day life, to know they are not alone. I wanted it to be a ministry of sorts. And as I stated before, that terrified me.

After resisting what I sensed was God's urging for several months, he spoke to me through a friend who I'd shared some of my writing with. Her advice? Start a blog.

You know what I've discovered? God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. I am no better than anyone else, but He chose to love me. His plans are bigger than my own. Far exceeding anything I could hope or imagine. And when I bare myself, when I lay out my heart and words for everyone to see, whether it be with scrutiny or judgement or gentleness and kindness, He gives me grace. He opens my eyes to places I never knew existed.

Although this blog is still a baby, in the eight short months since I put my tiny stamp on the internet I've become aware of an entire community I never knew existed. They have loved me without ever having met me or seen me and put aside all sense of entitlement for the sake of support and motivation. Because that's what encouragement does. It abandons all sense of worthiness or self pride for the sake of another living, breathing, God-created soul.

Through this site, my writing has gone places I may never go. I am amazed. It has skipped over continents, time zones and seasons and given an uplifting start to someone else's day. And that, dear readers, is my desire. To shine a little light into someone else's world, whatever they may be going through at that particular time in their life.

In the blogging world, I know I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to learn and so little time at this point in my life to absorb it. But I know that if I entrust it to God's hands, my writing will continue to take me places I've never dreamed possible.

Writing is meant to be shared. Your story is meant to be shared. Never underestimate the power of it.

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19

Friday, February 21, 2014

Small Glimpses of His Glory

It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?

Today's word: small


It is a lie that so many mothers feel victim to believing. That our efforts are small. Our work, our day to day life, the difference we make in the bigger picture of this world we call home. Our wiping of baby bottoms, drying up tears, cleaning messes and preparing lunches. Does anyone notice? Is what we're doing making an impact?

Somewhere, in the moments between getting my son on the bus and chasing my two-year-old away from another dog bowl mess, I find a piece of quiet. And it is in those cleansing moments that I sense the Spirit speaking to me in that still voice. So gentle, so patient. Never rushed. Never weary. 

It all matters. I am shaping tiny souls for Him, through Him. With his grace.

It matters because of the Love I hold deep within me, that I pray everyday radiates through the clay that God is shaping day by day, hour by hour. Sometimes in ways I don't understand just yet. Other times with revelation I didn't know possible. 

But each step toward Him, toward my ultimate destination is one of glory. His glory. Not my own. He keeps me from knowing the full extent to which I reflect Him at times to keep me humble. 

May His essence radiate from me more fully each day. May the small light that is my life  shine more and more.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Toward the Light

Darkness. It is a setting which existed even before the formation of the earth. Before there was light to oppose it, to shine into it. Before the two entities were separate, there was only dark. 

It only takes the tiniest bit of light to penetrate the dark. A candle, a flashlight. A kind word or an unexpected smile. But sometimes, we simply cannot see it. Our vision is obscured by negative thoughts, the seemingly futile circumstances surrounding us, and self condemnation. Our glass isn't just half empty. It is bone dry.

For over a year after having my first child by means of an emergency c-section and losing my grandmother the following day, I lived in the dark. Although I'd battled a cycle of depression for most of my life, the events surrounding the birth of my son sent me into a pit so deep I thought I would never clamber out of it. I had a loving husband who treated me with the utmost respect and a beautiful child who was healthy and the most flawless thing I'd ever done, but none of it could permeate the desolation that followed me everywhere. We lived in a gorgeous area of Northern Utah surrounded by majestic mountains and vistas through every window of our home, but I felt as though I was living in a black hole.

Mental illness is not a subject which many people like to discuss. Some people shirk around it, try to make jokes and belittle the matter, and others simply ignore it. But it is real. It affects people in various ways and the symptoms are vast, but a chemical imbalance in the brain is not a condition you can simply snap out of or escape by just trying harder. No amount of busyness could improve my mood, and when caring for a newborn, there is plenty to do. 

At my six week check-up, I told my doctor about my emotional state and was prescribed an anti-depressant. Although I have heard of many success stories from people who take one regularly, it did not work for me. My state of depression progressed to nearly suicidal. I couldn't sleep, I barely wanted to eat, and was dismally attempting to care for an infant in my zombie-like state. 

A year after my six-week check-up I had a regular OBGYN visit and my doctor noticed I was still suffering from PPD. He prescribed another pill, which gave similar results, and at that point I decided to see a therapist. For me, making the decision to talk to someone I didn't know about my emotional and mental state was more scary that taking a medication which altered my brain. I was terrified. There was pain which I had buried so deep for so long that I was convinced that if it was brought to the surface I would crumple right there on the sofa in the patient room. But admitting you need help is not a sign of weakness. It shows strength. A faith in something you may not be able to see just yet.

I would be lying if I said it was easy. There were some fervent tears shed on that couch, but I can honestly say that seeking professional help was one of the first steps I took toward seeing the light again. I was able to cope with issues I kept hidden for most of my adult life and receive objective advice and perspective from someone who was not involved. Other steps forward were finding a supportive group of moms and reaching out to the community around me, becoming involved in our church and serving others. Each of these actions opened my eyes to the big, bright world around me. But the biggest step was surrendering all of my burdens to a God who is greater than my fears, anxiety, or self-loathing. He is a God of peace, love, and mercy.

For several years, I never shared this experience with anyone except for my closest friends and family. Now, I share with anyone who asks. I want people who feel as though the light will forever elude them to know there is hope. Even when you don't see the light, it is still there.

I believe in a God who often uses medication and science to heal, but this method clearly didn't work for me. Sometimes the most difficult step toward healing is admitting you need help. Saying no, I'm not fine, and being okay with that. The worst reaction you can have to depression or mental illness is to ignore it. Restoration begins with admission that there is a problem.

Acknowledging the dark is the first step toward seeing the light.

"'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” John  8:12

Friday, February 14, 2014

It Lies Beneath

It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?

Today's word: garden


It is that time of year when I have to remind myself that the garden is still there. Beneath the many inches of snow and cold, there is the root of the rose. A daffodil here, a bleeding heart there. Though I can't see them, though they remain dormant for a season, they will return. The warm air and the longer days are so near I can almost see the fireflies flitting through the air.

So it is in life. A time and a season for everything. Sometimes I feel as though God is so close I could almost reach out and touch him, and other days he seems silent. But he is always there, always within my reach. I need only call on his Name. He will never leave.

Oh God, help me to remember when life is dark, you are the ever present light. There is no darkness in you. Even when I can't see the light, sometimes, after penetrating deeper, I see it lies beneath.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

To My Valentine

To the man I married:

You are kind and compassionate. You put others needs above your own, and have an innate sense of knowing when someone needs help but is afraid or too proud to ask.

You are a hard working man of integrity.  When no one else is dependable, you are the person who rises up and completes the task without expecting anything in return.

You make me laugh when no one else can.  When I take life too seriously and feel like I've lost the ability to smile or be silly, you remind me why laughter is so important.

You put your family before work. I know that when I'm too sick to get out of bed or something unexpected happens, you will be there.

You're an amazing father. You're not afraid to be completely goofy and childlike with our kids, and they smother you the minute you walk in the door.

You believe in me even when I don't believe in myself. You encourage me to pursue my God given dreams and use the talents and gifts He gave me. When I am negative and critical of myself, you remind me that with God I can move mountains.

You put God at the center of our marriage. You know that without the Creator of all things, including marriage, as our focus, we will always fall short. But with Him all things are possible.

My love, you are all these things and so much more. I thank God for bringing us together and look forward to all He has in store for us in the years to come. On Valentine's Day and every day, I love you for the incredible man you are.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Just Write

It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?

Today's word: write


I write because it brings me peace. An irreplaceable peace. When my thoughts are pounding against the crevasses of my brain too fast for me to keep up, writing slows me down. It makes sense of the senseless. It makes me sit down, even if only for five minutes in the craziness of motherhood. And breathe.

My heart beats faster with each syllable, and the joy is complete when I read the others' stories. Their thoughts. Their heart. I discover I am not alone.

Sometimes the words come fast and steady, like a waterfall after the spring thaw. Other days it's like pushing through a dense fog. Searching for the right string of syllables, not knowing it's right there within my reach. Sometimes the silence is overwhelming.

I keep moving forward. I write my way through the unknown until my vision is cleared.

And I realize are messengers of our story. Because it is not ours, but God's. To open up a window and let the light that is your life shine for all to see...that's pure love.

We were not made to live in the dark.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When to Let Them Struggle

My five-year-old and I snuggled on the couch a few nights ago as I sat listening to him read his bedtime story. I was so gratified. So filled with pride. But more than that, he was proud of himself. We've been reading one page a night for several weeks now and have almost reached the end. He sounds out each syllable and puts it together as I smile cheer him on and think to myself how big my boy has gotten. I close my eyes and think how far Chris and I have come on this journey called parenthood, with all it's ups, downs, twists and turns.

Looking back on that evening I realize it's a beautiful illustration of a lesson I'm learning. Day by day, moment by moment. I have to let my kids be free to fail. To struggle. To learn things for themselves. To see me fail and no it's okay. For weeks, when we presented Jaden with a new book he wasn't familiar with he'd say, "I can't read that. It's to hard." We'd push and encourage him to try, until we eventually caved and either picked another book or read the more difficult one to him ourselves.

But what do these actions teach our son? When something is difficult to walk away? To never try anything you're afraid might be too hard? No, this is not the kind of message I want to send to our kids. So finally one night, we sat and we made it through one page. And then another and another. One step at a time. 

To see the look of sheer joy and fulfillment on my son's face afterwards was more reward than I could ever need.

I know not every battle will be as simple as making my child read a book. There will be times when I need to step in and fight for him, and situations he's not equipped to handle yet. But there will also be times when I have to let him grapple. To fall to brush himself off, and to get back up again. Sometimes only to fall again. Because these trials are part of growing up. Of learning to stand on your own.

Watching my sons struggle is one of the hardest parts of being a mother, because  my maternal instinct begs me to swoop in, do the hard stuff for them, and make everything better. But if I'm constantly doing all the difficult things for my children, they will likely grow up thinking they can't do anything for themselves.

I want to raise boys who are confident in their God-given abilities, not boys who are afraid to try.

God, give me the wisdom to know when I need to put on my lioness suit, sweep in and save the day, and when I need to back off. Help me to raise children who are not afraid of failure, because failure is part of growth. May they become strong men of faith, sharing your love without fear of timidity. Amen.

"'See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in Heaven." Matthew 18:10

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Forever a Superhero

It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?

Today's word: Hero


He will forever be remembered as a superhero. A six-year-old boy whose life was cut far too short, but today his classmates smile as they tell stories of laughter, speed, and integrity. The fastest kid on the playground, the one who never broke a promise, the boy who always raised his hand.

They wear shirts in every color with emblems of characters who light up the cinema with their daredevil tactics and their tenacity for rescue. To defeat the bad guy. To save the day.

But as that final balloon is released into the the clear winter sky we are reminded that this boy was no work of fiction. He was real. And the collective sense of loss too palpable.

He will forever be remembered as a superhero, but to his Father, he's a son who has come home.