The Weary World Rejoices

“A thrill of hope. The weary world rejoices.”

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite songs. “O Holy Night.” It says perfectly what this season represents for so many of us: hope that our Savior was born so long ago to bring us forgiveness and salvation. Certainly reason for rejoicing! I also love the picture it gives me of bringing my weary soul to Jesus after all the busyness of my past year. But sometimes we have to fight for that, you know? Sometimes it actually takes an awful lot of effort to use this season as a chance to refocus my heart on Jesus.

December is busy! And, all the rest of life keeps charging ahead right along with all the holiday festivities! Maybe you’re dealing with sickness or family disputes. Perhaps money is super tight or you’re trying to help your child as they go through a difficult season. It doesn’t all stop just because we’re trying to celebrate Christmas. Do you know what I mean? Can you relate?

And so, when I heard this carol playing the other day, I realized that I could make it a prayer for this time of year. That I could use it as an opportunity to ask God to bring me out of my weariness and into rejoicing. Over and over again lately I’ve been reminded that my relationship with God is not dependent upon my circumstances. Sure, it’d be nice to not have anything weighing on me when I soak up the beauty of Christmas, but that’s really not the message of the Nativity is it? Mary and Joseph had all the world weighing on them as they searched for a place to stay; and they found a stable. Not exactly ideal Christmas ambiance (and yes, I know Jesus wasn’t really born on Christmas day, but I’m talking about it in the sense of the season in which we choose to remember his birth). Perhaps it wasn’t exactly peaceful or comfortable. Hmmm… whose Christmas does that sound like? Anyone with me? Cause it sounds an awful lot like mine.

2017-12-21_15.03.46

Maybe you’re like me, and everything else seems louder than Christmas right now. All the needs and burdens and heartaches are clanging around in your head and you wonder how you might quiet them just enough to hear the whisper of Christ’s presence. I’ve noticed for me that when life gets super chaotic it becomes even harder for me to find God’s voice in the midst of it all. I’ve found that the more I focus on all that’s going on around me and how overwhelmed I feel, the greater the fight is to make time to meet my Creator. Does that happen to you? Do you have to remind yourself, like I do, to take time to pray, to read your Bible, to listen for God’s voice? I know I do. And, how crazy that it seems even more so at Christmastime?!!!

This beautiful season that’s purposed to help us remember Christ’s sacrifice and love, often gets drowned out by our own chaos and stress. I know I get wrapped up in the need to make everything perfect this time of the year, and then when there’s other burdens as well, it can feel as though you’re barely surviving the season. Not to say it isn’t fun and great. I love seeing my kiddos opening their gifts and having time with our family and friends. Of course part of the beauty of this season is making the moments special and memorable. But, there’s always more going on behind the scenes. Every family has a story, and as I mentioned earlier, there may be lots of pain coinciding with the celebrations.

So, how do we find the peace? How do we find Christ in the midst of it all? How do we make it special even when life is throwing stress and difficulty our way? Maybe we find our way through by allowing imperfection and fragility. After all, the carol says that “The weary world rejoices.” When I think about what that means for me, I think of the fact that a weary world was able to rejoice, because Christ came down as a baby and set out to do what no man could do… to save our souls. He came to give us the strength we were lacking; to give us life when we couldn’t give it to ourselves. And so, I can enter into the realness of Christmas by remembering that I am allowed to be weary, because Christ came to bring the strength I need. Just like the Bible says in Psalm 46:1 (AMP version): “God is our refuge and strength, a very present and well-proved help in trouble.” That’s why the weary world rejoices! We rejoice because God says He knows we are tired and can’t do it on our own. That’s why He did it for us; why He continues to do it for us. He is our strength when we have none. He offers His comfort when we are overcome with burdens. He brings His peace when stress is loud. He extends His grace when we have mess up. He speaks His love when we need renewed. That’s Christmas: When we were too weak, He was strong enough to save the entire world.

So please, don’t add remembering Christ’s birth on your to-do list for the holidays. What if instead we carry it with us through every aspect of this season. Through the stress, through the beauty, through the busyness and through all the moments both good and bad. After all, the message of this season isn’t perfection. Rather it’s imperfection given another chance by a perfect God!

Whatever the Christmas season looks like for you this year I pray that you will be able to remember God’s goodness. That you’ll be able to remember He readily greets your weariness. In fact, if we give Him the chance, I think He just may turn that weariness into joy. Maybe not the typical joy we think of around this season, because life may be full of a lot that doesn’t make you feel very happy or peaceful. But, He’ll fill you with the true joy that comes from realizing we are saved and loved by our heavenly Father! We have a God, who came down to earth to make assurance that we could always have a relationship with him. That’s the rejoicing He brings. It lasts far longer than any season could and is far more powerful than the most weary of souls.

Merry Christmas, friends.

2017-12-21_15.05.01

Advertisements

Finding Loss

Opening up about what has hurt me most in life is a tough thing to do. For me, it’s not always so much about the topic I’m choosing to bring up, but more about allowing people to look in and see that I’m still hurting… that some pain just doesn’t go away.

2017-09-26_14.17.09

It’s been almost seven years since first feeling the pang of miscarriage. At the time, our oldest was just about a year and we were so excited to learn we were growing our family with a new little one. I had morning sickness and all the usual symptoms, but almost as soon as my pregnancy began it ended. Man, even still, it’s so hard to write those words. That sounds so cold and harsh. I’m trying to write sensitively on this really difficult topic, but my words seem to come crashing down like a hammer, jolting me with the intensity of that reality. But maybe it comes across that way, because that’s just how it feels.

For anyone who has ever lost a pregnancy or suffered from the “negative” response back from a pregnancy test, you know what I’m describing. It’s a constant ache that sits at the pit of your stomach and climbs up to your chest, causing you to feel like you can’t breathe. It’s a raw pain and it doesn’t go away. I know now, it’s because it’s grief, and grief lasts a lifetime.

When we suffer from loss, grief finds us and it doesn’t go away. The smallest things can remind you of what’s not here with you today. This morning, all it took for me to go back to that difficult moment in time was to see a sweet baby blanket wrapped around a baby doll. My daughter had left it there after playing and when my eyes came to it I was back at my couch that day grieving the loss of my little one; reminded how much it hurt and how much I wish that child was here today.

I assume, like me, a lot of you have had a long-lasting season of loss. I wrote a little more detailed about it in Trusting God with the “Why” and Letting Him be the “How”, but I will say that our season of loss lasted a long time, and each time was just as hard and hurt just as much. And so, I guess for me, the reason I’m willing to bring up this topic and talk about the realities of its hurt is because it’s a topic I know needs to be talked about. Truthfully, I don’t really like being this vulnerable. It’s taking everything in me to post this but I know that the more people who are honest about pain from miscarriage, and for some of you from infertility, the more others going through the same thing won’t feel so alone.

I also hope that being surround by the empathy of others will encourage you to reach out for the help you need. For us, it was counseling. For others, it may be medical intervention and resources. It could also be in the form of a support group or an intimate group of understanding friends. Seeking help is a good and healthy thing to do. It won’t solve all the pain and may not give us the outcome we’re hoping for but it does offer us a bit of comfort in the midst of heartache.

It’s not easy for any of us to share our pain. But I do know when we allow ourselves to exhale out our thoughts and feelings that so many times it draws in those that feel the same way; it becomes a safe place to share and to be understood. I hope that’s what this creates for you here, and I hope you know I think of you, mom, dad, families that have suffered loss. I promise you’re not alone, and I pray you feel that!

Love,

E

Psalm 121

You know how sometimes you can see something, hear something or read something for about the hundredth time, but all of a sudden it hits you in a new and fresh way? Well, today that happened to me as I read Psalm 121 to my daughter before we started our day.

This chapter isn’t new to me in any way. In fact, it’s the first chapter of the Bible that I can vividly remember memorizing. It was for a homeschool project and I had to recite it at our end of the year program. The funny thing is, it seemed so daunting to me at the time. I swear it was WAY longer. I’m not sure I fully appreciated the benefit of that memorization at the time, but boy, I sure do now, because I’ll constantly find myself quoting this chapter. In my car, during prayer time, as I lay in bed. Its words come to my memory constantly.

But, today as I read the words out loud to my daughter, it all hit me in a beautiful new way:

1505836441314

So, it may have been reading this passage in a different version (this is in New Living Translation), but when it talks about how God never sleeps is what really got to me today… in a good way!

You see, it’s so easy for me to think I need to exhert every ounce of my energy into figuring out the details of my life; into solving all my problems and taking care of all the aspects of my life that need attending to. The reality check is: even on my best days, God’s way ahead of me. Cause guys, He doesn’t even need sleep! While I’m snoozing away, His hands are on my needs, on my fears, on my struggles. He sees my home, my family and my heart. Even if I’ve done all the things that I greatly believe make me a better person: yoga, time in nature, getting enough rest, coffee, quality time with my family, cleaning/organizing/purging, reading the Bible, prayer and meditating on God and life; and even then, my efforts are a pittance compared to what God can do and accomplish. Yes, He can use me. Yes, He can work through me. Yes, He can change me, but ME… I’m not the answer. I’m not a product of self help, nor is my life.

Every day I wake up, I have a choice to decide where I’m going to glean help from. If I’m relying on myself, I’m gonna wear thin… or completely burn out. If I’m dependent on being reflective in nature, I may be calm for a while, but the stress of life will catch up. Because, my help doesn’t come from things. My help comes from the Lord: a tireless, vigilent protector, who watches over my coming and going forever!

Blessings to you guys!

E

At Peace With Parenting Styles

Opinions on how to parent are extremely strong, and rightly so. After all, most controversial conversations on the subject are rooted from parents desiring to do the very best for their child. That’s what we have to remember: if we’re in the midst of expressing parenting styles with an individual of differing opinion, we’ve got to remind ourselves that they are focused on the best for their child, while you or I are focused on the best for our child.

So, maybe one of you loves breastfeeding, while the other has found formula is their thing. Maybe your kid loves TV and theirs doesn’t even know it exists yet. Or, more controversial, maybe they vaccinate and you don’t, or they do you public school and you homeschool.

Getting personal, I’m a homeschooling, breastfeeding, creating my own vaccine schedule kind of Mama. So yea, basically I was referencing myself in the above paragraph. But, here’s the thing, if we were sitting face to face, and you did the opposite of all those things, I wouldn’t tell you you’re wrong. I wouldn’t tell you I know better than you and that you just need to research more. And perhaps, this is where I’m getting the most controversial, because I would listen and take in your opinions and thoughts on those subjects.

Now, that doesn’t mean I would change my mind or stray from the parenting convictions I have, but it does mean that I would give you the same courtesy I hope you would extend to me, which would mean being an active listener and a gracious responder.

1503407473848

The thing is, I have certain areas of parenting that I will not stray from. Then, there are some areas that may change or grow as my husband and I or our kids change. I’m sure you, or the people you know, are the same way. We all have our style of parenting and our niche for how it works best within our own, little family.

Now, we all know those people that will not be this way, and I think we just don’t acknowledge them and move on. I’ve had to learn the hard way to not lose a nights sleep over someone’s degrading opinions of my parenting style. Or sometimes, it’s not even degrading, it’s just a remark that makes you feel like you’re lesser than. Like when I was a new mom, someone told me that “her daughter only ever used cloth diapers with her babies,” and it’s embarrassing to admit, but I purchased cloth diapers shortly after. I’m not saying cloth diapers are bad. In fact, after that I had opportunities to chat with and learn from close friends about how great they could be, and they worked well for a season. But, when I had my next daughter almost six years later, it wasn’t a big deal for me to skip the cloth and just do regular. That’s because I had become more confident in myself and my parenting style, and knew that I just wasn’t into it that time around. No biggie.

Truly, no biggie. I think all of us parents need to hear that more. We need to be able to open up and share about the things that are or aren’t working for our families and have others respond with support and understanding. To tell us, “It’s no biggie” that we don’t do so and so, while they do.

Parenting has enough challenges, without feeling as if we’re having to fight off parent-style dissers left and right. Yep, I said that. Don’t know if it’s a word, but I think it makes my point.

You and I are different, at the same time, very much the same. We care about our family, we care about our kids and we want the very best for them. You research, I research and we come to different conclusions. That’s ok. If I see that you’re trying and you see that I am too, isn’t that what we should hope for?! That we’re all trying our very best in this beautiful, messy, awesome parenting journey.

Maybe we could all listen a little more, respond graciously and understand greatly.

Love you, parents. Keep doing your thing, because you do it so well.

-E

 

Settling Into Trust

Esther is a pretty cool book in the Bible and I seem to find myself opening up to it here and there. I enjoy reading through specific parts of it, recapping all that Esther went through and her bravery and faithfulness to God and her people. However, a few days ago, there was something that stuck out to me in the book of Esther that I had never noticed before.

Many of us know the story of Esther, in some form or other, and we often focus on her bravery to save her people by going before the king uninvited. After all, most of us are drawn to bravery and courage, so I’m not surprised. But, what I found is that there’s another part of this story that shows bravery. It’s more subtle and less climactic, but I am discovering that it’s truly just as important as the end of the story.

I guess I always sorta skimmed over the beginning of the book of Esther. It talks about how King Ahasuerus is reigning over twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1), that his queen would not come to his party when he commanded her to do so (Esther 1:12), how then the queen’s royal position was to be given away to another (Esther 1:19), and so all the young maidens of the land were brought to “the citadel, under the custody of Hegai, that Esther also was taken to the king’s palace, into the care of Hegai the custodian of the woman” (Esther 2:2). So, here is where I normally just read on and don’t pay much attention, but for some reason the upcoming verses stuck out:

“Now the young woman (Esther) pleased him (Hegai), and she obtained his favor, so he readily gave beauty preparations to her, besides her allowance. Then seven choice maidservants were provided for her from the king’s palace, and he moved her and her maidservants to the best place in the house of the women. Esther had not revealed her people or family, for Mordecai (her uncle and guardian) had charged her not to reveal it. And every day Mordecai paced in front of the court of the womens quarters, to learn of Esther’s welfare and what was happening to her. Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus… Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace… Now when the turn came for Esther… to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king’s eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her… The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight… so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen…”

Esther 2:9-17 (I jumped around in these verses and added some of my own description. Feel free to read the full version in your Bible.)

Ok, so let’s talk about what I found so interesting. I had never noticed before how obedient, respectful and trusting Esther was. We don’t know a lot about Esther’s relationship with Mordecai, aside from the fact that he is her uncle and guardian; but it’s incredibly apparent that Esther heeds his guidance without hesitation. He told Esther to not reveal her people to anyone and she trusted that request. Also, Hegai, the custodian of the women, took Esther under his wing and she willingly followed his expertise on how to go before the king.

Both of these individual moments are what bring forth the ending of the book of Esther. Had she not been brave enough to place herself under the guidance of other indivuals, she may have revealed who her people were and perhaps would have presented herself unpleasingly to the king. She knew the best thing to do was to submit to her guardian, Mordecai, and to trust the man, Hegai, whose sole job was to prepare her to go before the king. She didn’t try to do things her own way or be a rebel. She settled into trust.

1499889141544

Whew. Settled into trust. This is it! This is what got to me when I was reading about Esther… she was so willing to trust! And, I know that doesn’t mean it was easy for her. I know if you go on to read you’ll see that she fasts and prays to try to decide if she really should go before the king to save her people… I’m sure it was terrifying. But, you can see from the very beginning of the book that Esther knows how to trust someone else!

And that’s what really got me thinking. Esther put faith in the man that was her guardian. Esther put faith in the man whose expertise would help her win the favor of the king. And here’s where I put the pieces together: Esther trusted her guardian and the individual who had the knowledge of how she needed to present herself at that moment in time. So, if I turn this lens on my life; if I look at how this translates to something I can learn from, here’s what I got: God is my guardian. God is the expertise on how I should be presenting myself in life right now…

God is the guardian of my life and the expert on my life. If that’s true, then here’s the real kicker… shouldn’t I be putting more faith and trust in God about how to live my life than in my own ideas and desires? Esther knew how to submit to another’s decisions, and I want to be able to do the same with God! I want to be able to say to God: “Your heart for me as your daughter is real, and I want to trust the way you protect me. You are my guardian, so I submit to step into or out of situations that you see fit. You, God, are the expert on how to live life, so I want to trust your knowledge in even the smallest parts of my existence.”

I really want to be like Esther! I want to submit to my guardian, God! I want to put my faith in the expertise of the man upstairs! I know this might seem like simple stuff, but it’s funny how often it isn’t. If we were chatting face to face right now, I’m sure we could both share with each other of times in our lives when it was really hard to believe God was doing the best thing for us. I’m sure we could both bring up times that we didn’t like the things God was asking us to leave behind. But, that’s exactly what Esther did. from the beginning of her story we see her trusting Mordecai’s direction, and then not taking anymore with her than that which the expert, Hagai, recommended to please the king. And, because she trusted from the start, she was able to trust when the stakes were higher; when her guardian asked her to reveal her family background to save a nation! It was hard, and she didn’t do that without a lot of prayer and fasting, but she did heed the proper direction, because she had a heart ready and willing to submit and trust.

God’s not surprised by the things that come up in my life. I may be, but He isn’t. I’ve been caught off guard more than once by life events, both good and bad, as I’m sure Esther was becoming queen and later having the power and opportunity to save her people. But, the thing is, the more we practice submitting and trusting God, the less shocked we may become by life’s happenings; because the more we practice, the more we’ll learn that God knows exactly what He’s doing. God has a plan for each and every one of us, and there are steps of faith we’ll have to take to get there. Esther didn’t become queen overnight. Heck, she had to have twelve months of beauty treatments, and then it wasn’t even until after she became queen that the realization of the bigger picture of being able to save her people came to light.

In the very same way, there may be many chapters of our life that we don’t yet see how all the pieces fit together, and that is our biggest test of submission and trust. I want to practice, I want to get good at this. I want to get good at this trust thing. ‘Cause when it comes to God, I promise, he knows what He’s doing.

 

A Decade of Marriage

My husband and I got married young. I mean, really young. We’re talking nineteen and twenty-three. I know that’s not for everyone, and I do believe my husband and I to be somewhat old souls, but for us the whole marrying young thing totally worked out. Actually, better than just worked out. For us, it’s been the bomb! The bomb- you know… rad, legit, totally awesome. You feel me.

So, we’ve been married ten years, and a lot has transpired in that amount of time; a lot that I will most likely get into in further posts, but for the moment I’m going to try to stay focused on where I wanted to go with this post.

The subject of my marriage recently came up with a co-worker, because I had mentioned being married ten years. She looked at me and said: “I didn’t know you’ve been married that long!” As we chatted about myself and my husbands story, she replied:  “I just think that’s amazing, because a lot of people don’t really value marriage anymore, you know?” Maybe it was hearing it from someone outside of my normal circle, maybe it was the magnitude of ten years settling on my shoulders, but for whatever reason that statement stuck with me. It rung in my ears for the rest of the night, into the next several days.

I think the reason that remark gnawed at me was because I really didn’t want to admit that was true. I don’t like the idea of thinking that people may view marriage as old-fashioned or not that big of a deal, but really, I think what was sinking in even deeper was the realization of how much my marriage can be a huge testimony… to anyone. I didn’t think much of sharing about my anniversary with my co-worker, but it obviously struck a chord with her, and who knows who else may be taken by surprise, in a good way, to hear of someone happily acknowledging their marriage.

Because the thing is, my husband and I aren’t just married… we are happily married. We don’t view our marriage as drudgery. We don’t feel miserable or trapped. We truly love each other and love being married to each other, and I guess I feel people should know that! People should know that really happy, committed marriages don’t have to be rare.

Now, I do want to say quickly that this is not an anti-divorce post. This is not a post to try to make anyone feel like a failure in their relationships or to point the finger or tell you what you’re doing wrong. I have plenty of close people in my life, who have lived through divorce, but have found committed love again. I believe in God, so I know that He can redeem relationships and build new ones in His grace. So, please don’t read this and think I’m telling you your story has to look like myself and my husbands.

The main goal I wanted to accomplish in writing this was to encourage those of you reading, that real, genuine, joyful love does exist. My husband and I have gone through a lot together in our marriage, but we’ve never faced doubt in our feelings for one another. We have been faithful to each other and still feel giddy about one another… and that does exist.

2017-05-31_20.12.21

If you’ve found yourself thinking the same way as my co-worker, that people just don’t value marriage anymore, please be encouraged. Be encouraged that you don’t have to fall into that category. You can, through God (because yes, I don’t think anything of this magnitude can be lived out in our own strength), have a butt-rockin’ (oh yes, I did!) marriage! It does take work, and a lot of servanthood and commitment, but all that can coincide with a lot of fun, passion and joy!

Happy Anniversary, babe! Ten years down, eternity to go.

 

Because You’re A Mother

So, I’m not sure where you are with your feelings about Mother’s Day. To be honest, I’m not sure where my feelings are in regards to this sentimental holiday. I know how I feel when my daughter looks at me with her beautiful, big brown eyes and asks me: “Are you so excited to go to sleep tonight, because tomorrow you will wake up and it will be Mother’s Day?” Heart. Melt. And, the truth is, I am excited. I’m looking forward to it, because I will wake up and enjoy the day with my loving husband and two super rad girls. I’ll also have the joy of seeing my own Mama and spend time with her and my siblings. These are true treasures, and I refuse to take them for granted.

This is because I know how it feels to not have it this comfortable. Yes, comfortable. I am surrounded by comfort in the realm of motherhood this year, and I know well enough to treasure that. I know this, because not every year has been this easy. There were many years filled with the loss of a baby and an aching womb, adoptions that fell through; all making that holiday Sunday at times feel like a day I wanted to mourn instead of celebrate.

I don’t know if that’s you. I don’t know if you have suffered miscarriage, if you’ve been unable to conceive. I’m not there with you to see you holding the hand of your dying mother or grandmother. You may have lost a child recently or years ago, and the pain is unbearable. I am not there to see you. But, GOD IS. He has seen every moment of your dear and precious life. He has seen every second, day, year of our children’s lives, our babies lives, and of the children we have not even yet brought into existence. And yes, He sees our treasured ones that journeyed the shortest time with us and were perhaps never held in our arms, our hearts ache with the pain of losing our faithful mother and friend and our taxed bodies that yearn for the joy of life in our womb. There is nothing that goes beyond His watchful eye!

God sees the mother in all her parts. The giver, the nurturer, the fighter, the friend, the visionary, the teacher, the lover, the sacrificial being who longs to love and raise another. God sees you, sweet mama! Whether you’ve been a mom for years, are just beginning the journey, have been fostering children or are longing for the day of motherhood to arrive, God sees your mothering heart. He knows you have that in you, because He placed that gifting inside of you. And, if you’re like me and the process has felt at times like navigating through a minefield of hurt and loss, please believe me when I say that God can carry you through.

1494735236758

I am not saying the pain of loss as a mother ever goes away. In fact, I think that’s what can make Mother’s day so difficult to process at times, because the pain does not go away. It stays, and it stings and reminds us of horrible times. Its not something we just shake off. But, indeed, as Anne Shirley quotes, and as our precious Bible tells us, “The truth will set you free,” and can I tell you that’s true? Would you believe me when I tell you the more you place yourself in the grace of God’s truth, the more you’ll be able to face tomorrow; to bear the days that hurt.

God’s Word invites us into a realm of grace, healing and strength, which translate to key ingredients for survival as a mother, at least in my life. Psalm 23:4 tells us:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Do you think we could believe that truth? Do you think we could trust that God really is going to remain with us, even when we walk through death; that God really will somehow bring us comfort, even if that seems like the most unattainable thing in our lives right now. I think we can. I think we can cling to that truth. I think we can walk through the highest high and the lowest low, because we have God on our side, and I just happen to think He believes in us mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day, friend. Truly, Mother, truly.