Faith, Postpartum

This is the Day the Lord has Made…

Last night was my night to spend at home. I thought I was going to get home and get a great night sleep, wake up early, and just be productive and carefree… well, boy, was I wrong!

When I get home – later than expected – I am a little overwhelmed by the state the house is in. It’s not a huge mess, but it wasn’t as in order as I would have hoped it would be. Our playroom wreaked of pee (still does, because I can’t find the culprit), Hazel’s toys were all over the living room, and the kitchen was filled with dirty dishes and a full dishwasher. I decide that since I am mostly healed up that I wanted to spend some time picking up my house; who would have thought I would miss picking up toys and doing dishes? Not me! When the living room and kitchen were in a better place, I went down the hallway to put some things away in Hazel’s room and noticed a wet spot on her Nugget Couch. I was instantly furious. This thing had already been peed on once and I was already exhausted and didn’t want to have to clean anything else, but I pulled the cover off and set it in the laundry room to wash in the morning.

I get all comfy and cuddle up in bed. My nice, warm, cozy bed. And I lay there. And lay there. I laid there for hours before I finally passed out. I jokingly laughed to myself that maybe I was getting too used to sleeping in the hospital recliner and didn’t know how to sleep somewhere normal anymore. Before I went to sleep, I had set my alarm for 8am planning on a full day of productivity.

My alarm went off this morning and I shut it off and rolled back over. By the time I woke up, it was 10:30am. I’m not big on sleeping in, because I feel gross and like I wasted my whole morning. Well that was exactly how I felt this morning. I finally got myself out of bed, let the dog out, and wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I fed the dog, started the washing machine, and decided I was going to watch some TV until the washer was done and I could take a shower. When I walked into the living room, I noticed Winnie, my dog, licking something on Hazel’s little llama chair. I shooed her away and noticed a bloody pee spot on the chair. I literally lost it. If I had to smell pee or clean up anything else I just didn’t know what I was going to do. I started crying and called my mom to figure out how to clean it and to vent. She suggested hydrogen peroxide and luckily that worked to get the blood out, but not the pee smell. I wiped the whole seat down with peroxide and then sprayed the chair with fabric febreeze and then put it in Hazel’s bedroom and closed the door.

I guess I should clarify that all this pee is not from my child, but it’s from one of our cats. A few months ago he started peeing everywhere and then we started seeing blood in our sinks and bathtubs. Every time we try to take him to the vet something happens – first it was that he didn’t get enough of the calming medication; the next time I had to go the ER; the most recent time our son ended up in the hospital. We know we need to take him, but we’re not sure how we will pay for it. It’s just an added layer of stress. I love him dearly, but I’m over cleaning up pee and smelling pee.

I’m crying hysterically by the time I’m done cleaning up the chair and I finally sit down and calm down while I watch the TV episode. By the time the show is over, the washing machine has finished, so I lay out the couch cover and get in the shower. The shower feels nice, but I’m not going to lie, postpartum is the hardest thing I have ever gone through and I thought I had better prepared myself this time around. But it turns out I haven’t. I absolutely dread getting out of the shower and trying to pick something out to wear and today was no different, actually it was worse. Because I spend practically all my time at the hospital, I haven’t done laundry in weeks, so the small amount of clothes that fit me and I feel comfortable in are dirty. It took me a little over half an hour to find something to put on. There was ugly crying. There was imagining myself ripping all my clothes off hangers and throwing them in the floor. It wasn’t pretty, but postpartum in general is hard. Postpartum with a baby in the hospital is hard. Postpartum with added layers of stress is hard. It’s just so hard!

As I’m laying there on my bed, tears streaming down my face, trying to have a pity party, the thought that kept popping into my head was, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Over and over. It just kept interrupting every negative thought I had. It was honestly pissing me off. I got off the bed and yelled that I get it as I turned off the light and walked down the hallway. Are you allowed to do that? Yell at God? I’ve been closer to Him than ever lately, so it warmed my heart that I could hear the help He was sending, but I was also frustrated and wanted to wallow. I think it’s allowed. I think He understands.

I wish that was the end of the frustrating part of my day, but it’s not. I get the car all packed up and am headed to grab lunch (the first thing I’ve eaten all day) when I realize I forgot my sweatshirt. So I have to turn around and go back to the house. I know, not a big deal, but it felt like a big deal. One of those, c’mon seriously!, moments. I get the sweatshirt and make it to Taco Bueno and literally everyone and their grandma is in the drive-thru, so I’m forced to go inside, because I have no patience left and I’m starving. I’ll admit that going inside was the best thing that could have happened. I could sit and eat without trying to balance it in my lap and just take a small breather. That’s exactly what I did.

And you know what, my day got better from there.

I made it to the bookstore across DFW to pick up a book I had ordered and then headed straight to the hospital – my happy place these days, how ironic is that? No traffic, no accidents, no stupid drivers. I surprisingly didn’t yell at a single person on the road. And then once I made it to Jameson’s room, I was instantly relieved. I got the latest update on what they are watching and waiting for. I got to kiss his little head. I got to hug my husband. I got to sit in my favorite recliner. I wrote thank you cards to the nurses. I listened to some country music. I sat on hold with the toll tag people to straighten some things out. Now I’m writing to get my feelings out of my head…

So even if I wasn’t grateful for God’s wisdom earlier, I am now.

Faith

Overwhelming Peace

The past few days have been full of strides forward with a few steps back, but through all of it I smile and laugh and sing. I am able to have such a positive attitude, because I am so full of hope!

I have been looking for the right words to express how I’ve felt since Jameson’s unexpected birth, but then stuff just keeps hitting me and I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and write it out.

Normally I am a “freaker” as in I freak out and jump to worse case scenarios and get all emotional. Everything that has happened since the morning of Jameson’s birth would typically be a freaker’s worst nightmare, but surprisingly I have been ridiculously calm. It’s been strange for me, because I think about the situation and feel like I should be upset or enraged or sad, but I’m just not… don’t get me wrong, I have moments where I breakdown, but during the thick of it, I just take it all in, give it to God, and move forward.

It’s so much more than just holding it together for my family. It’s more than putting on a brave face. It’s more than not letting the medical professionals see me weak. It’s more than faking it till you make it.

I can honestly say that I am not faking any of my smiles or laughs or positivity. I can smile because I know that God is in control. I can laugh because I know that prayer is powerful. I can be positive because I know that the peace of God surpasses all understanding.

God has heard our prayers and he has been answering them. It has been so helpful to me to write out our specific requests, but to also acknowledge the praises as well. He has provided us so much support in family, friends, and even strangers. From having our grass mowed to providing food through eating with us or giving gift cards to pet sitting to encouraging words to helping us run errands. We are so grateful to the extended community who has come forward and let us know they are praying with us! Seeing God work can really boost your mood! 🙂

As a freaker, my behavior in this situation has been life-changing. I am proud of myself for choosing to trust God. I am proud of myself for choosing to send out prayer requests instead of wallowing in thoughts of “why” and “what ifs”. I am so happy that God has turned me into a person who hopes instead of freaks.

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Here are some verses that have been giving me comfort during this time:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” – Jeremiah 17:7

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” – Psalm 16:7-8

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Psalms 56:3

Faith

My Faith Story

testimony (n): the story of how a person became a Christian

Within Christian communities, you hear the word testimony a lot. In my experience, testimonies are typically very inspirational and often tell of a dramatic moment that changed a person’s life forever. For a long time, I didn’t like testimonies, because I felt like I didn’t have a good one. I still don’t necessarily like the term testimony, because of what I relate it to, but I would like to share my faith story – where I started to where I am now and the mess in between.

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Like so many, I was born into a Christian household. My parents were happily married and we went to church every Sunday. We attended a Church of Christ until I was nine. This type of church is quite traditional with attire, worship, and preaching, so when we switched to a nondenominational church, I was blown away by this totally different style. Even as a kid, I could recognize the differences – we got to wear jeans to church, there was a band playing the music during worship, and kids had their own little church service geared just for them. It was obvious everyone in the family liked it there, so we stayed and started attending regularly.

After a few months at this church, I was baptized. To this day, I regret it. I am told it was my decision, that I came to my parents and told them that I wanted to be baptized and could clearly express what that meant. Whether that is true or not, I am not sure. I don’t remember the day. I don’t remember the actual baptizing. I don’t remember any of it. What I do remember is being too young to actually understand how huge of a decision I was making and how it would alter my life. Throughout my life, I have constantly wondered if my baptism was legitimate.

As I grew up, I continued to be very involved in this church. When I joined the youth group, this need I had to be perfect had already set in. I believed I needed to do right all the time and never mess up. I didn’t cuss, party, drink, smoke – if a situation could be considered bad, I wasn’t involved. This behavior and mentality was created more out of fear of making a mistake than an understanding of grace. I believe living with this fear did me a huge disservice later on down my road.

For a couple of years, I felt that I was exactly who I was supposed to be and where I was supposed to be. I had two best friends and a handful of frienquaintances. I was involved, I felt accepted, I believed I was happy. Eventually, I realized that I did not fit in, these friendships fell apart, and I began to feel lonely. During this time, we got a new youth pastor that thought everything was a joke and the way he treated me was just the icing on the cake. All of this hit me really hard and I began to alienate myself. It started when I made the choice to stop going to youth group. It was during all of this that I realized who genuinely cared about me and that I had been just going through the motions to make those around me happy.

During my junior year of high school, I decided to start attending a youth small group again. I chose one opposite of my ex-friends in order to get a fresh start. It was a good group of people, but I refused to get close to anyone or open up. I went, I learned, I participated, and I began this impossible task of becoming the perfect Christian. Having grown up in church, I knew all the Christian lingo necessary to succeed at this quest; phrases like “God spoke to me” and “I felt God leading me to do this” littered my speech. I became an incredible actress. I could see how proud my parents and small group leader were of me, so how could I tell them that I felt nothing and that I didn’t really hear God? So I bottled it up and went on pretending.

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My faith during college was a rollercoaster with a lot of difficult twists and turns. When I started college, I was determined to find a good Christian crowd to hang out with and learn from. I found a Bible study that I liked for awhile, but after a couple of semesters, it fizzled out. I eventually joined the BSM. It was inspiring and encouraging at first, but little by little I realized I had different viewpoints and did not appreciate their pushy attitudes. While distancing myself from them, I was treated extremely poorly.

During the spring of my sophomore year, I had a complete breakdown. It started with an exhausting day and ended with me sitting alone in my car in a vacant parking lot. I was sobbing and yelling at God. I understood that they say He is silent and that this silence is supposed to help you lean on Him, but sometimes I needed answers and His silence just pushed me away. I was tired of crying out and hearing nothing, feeling nothing. After this meltdown, I felt different; kind of free. I decided that if I wasn’t important to God then He wasn’t going to be important to me. I made the decision to take a step back from my faith; to stop going to church, reading my Bible, and praying. I just wanted to live life, make mistakes, and figure out what I believed.

It was during this time that I took the idea of making mistakes to heart and threw my expectations of perfection out the window. I started drinking, went to a few parties, and dropped a cuss word here and there. At first this lifestyle seemed so great. I felt so light and airy, but eventually the light and airy turned to empty. I didn’t have anything to believe in and I had no accountability system, but I was too proud to admit this to anyone. Little by little my negative thoughts and depressive feelings grew until I was one big ball of anger and hate. I didn’t know what to do and completely broke down.

With nowhere else to turn, I shared how I was feeling on social media which encouraged a friend of mine to invite me to her church small group. I decided to give it a shot. It was awkward, but I knew I needed to be there. I was in a really bad place, but I felt like these people accepted me. It was at my fourth or fifth time attending that I met my husband, Jeremiah. For awhile this church seemed like a great place. I attended for a little over a year regularly and was very involved. I liked the people, but I was pretending in my walk with God. I was still just going through the motions. I graduated with a fiance, but a stale faith.

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Jeremiah and I were married three months after I graduated and life just went on. We started attending a small local church that we liked, but I was still not praying or reading my Bible regularly. At this point, I was happily married and satisfied just going to church on Sundays. Everytime I tried to dig into my faith and make it something real, my need to be perfect set in and I got overwhelmed and ended up just giving up. In order to avoid that, I just settled into my usual routine of going through the motions.

In March of 2018, I found out I was pregnant. I was over-the-moon excited about starting a family! When I told Jeremiah, his reaction solidified that this was a good thing. We were so happy and full of joy as we learned all we could about pregnancy. During our first ultrasound at ten weeks, the technician was really quiet for awhile and then said she was having trouble seeing the baby. We were asked to come in the next week for a follow up ultrasound.

After the technician said she couldn’t find our baby I had lost it and I never fully recovered. I spent the entirety of the next week holed up in our closet sobbing, silent, or sleeping. I cried out to God asking Him to let our baby be okay. I made deals with Him telling Him I would be better, more involved, if He would save our baby. I prayed relentlessly begging Him to let the ultrasound findings just be a mistake.

When we arrived for our follow up ultrasound, we were given the news that our baby had passed away. I was heartbroken. I was depressed. I was angry. I can’t even explain how traumatizing experiencing a miscarriage is. There is so much more to it than just hearing the news that your baby was no longer thriving in your womb. I was a wreck and I felt betrayed by God.

I avoided God and all things faith-related. I stayed away from church, I stopped praying, I kept my Bible closed. I couldn’t comprehend how He could let such a tragedy happen to me. But in August, I found out I was pregnant again. What should have been the most amazing news was absolutely terrifying. I was so scared that it was going to happen again. When we found out that this baby was thriving and doing really well, I was so relieved. The fear was still there, but I was able to find some joy.

For six months, I kept God at arms-length. But staying away from my faith didn’t help me feel better and I knew I needed to make a change for this new baby. I needed to find a way to heal, so that I could be the best mother I could be for her. In November, I went back to church for the first time and it felt so strange. I didn’t sing. I couldn’t take communion. But I wasn’t in a hurry to leave. We kept coming back week after week and each week I could feel my heart softening.

By January, I was excited to attend service, I was reading my Bible every day, I was praying often, and I was attending a small group. But this time, I didn’t feel the need to be perfect. I was more than content being honest, broken, and vulnerable before God in order to find healing. And God changed my life!

It’s now April; our baby is due any day now, the small group I started attending has become a place full of honesty and friendship, I look forward to Sunday mornings, I talk to God for hours like He is a best friend and not a distant relative. Because I opened my mind and heart to God for healing, He has shown up for me in so many ways I could never have dreamed of! Although my miscarriage is still a hard thing for me to think about, I am no longer full of hate or anger and it no longer holds me back from the joys of my current pregnancy. After my husband and I started tithing, I received a promotion and a raise which provided us the funds to pay for our new baby and to buy a house.

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That is my story. I’m not proud of the pattern I have of pushing God away when things get hard or when things don’t go my way. I don’t think you need to suffer through a tragedy to have a testimony and I don’t believe there is such a thing as a good testimony. I wish it didn’t take losing a baby to bring me back to God’s open arms, but this is my story.

Faith

Discovering More Than A Blind Spot

My church just finished up a series called Blind Spots. The series was about discovering/recognizing the areas that need work in our own life that we see so easily in other people’s lives. The key verse for the series came out of Matthew and explained that before we point out and try to fix flaws in other people, that we should first focus on ourselves.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. -Matthew 7:3-5

After listening to the first sermon, I was really excited about tackling the challenge of figuring out my blind spots, but quickly became discouraged from the steps provided to discover your areas that need work. The three steps were as follows:

  1. Admit you have blind spots.
  2. Invite the Holy Spirit to start exposing your blind spots.
  3. Ask healthy, godly people what your blind spots are.

Those don’t sound so hard… step 1: done, step 2: done; it was step 3 that I got caught up on. It wasn’t until I was sitting at small group listening to these people share about who they asked and what they learned that I realized I didn’t have anyone. I sat there in the back feeling so pathetic and lonely. Yes, I have my husband, but his opinion is a bit different than the opinion of someone that is not so connected to me.

Please don’t read that as: I have no friends. That is not what I am saying at all. I am getting hung up on the “godly people” part. I would not describe majority of my friends as godly people. I have been burned, broken, and hurt by a lot of friendships in the past. Dealing with those failed friendships has really changed who I am as a person and who I am as a friend. I have started keeping people at arm’s length and being slow to share my feelings and opinions. With that being said, I feel like the godly friends I do have don’t know the me I have become, so their opinion on my blind spot would not be accurate.

So that night at small group I shut down. I couldn’t get past all the thoughts of failed friendships and feelings of loneliness. I wanted to leave and retreat back to a place where I didn’t have to think about how my new personality traits might be holding me back when they are supposed to be keeping me safe. I was silent on the ride back home, because I was embarrassed at feeling like I had no one to ask and for how these feelings were affecting me.

I opened up a few days later to Jeremiah. He is seriously my rock. I know that after I have some time to simmer, I can go to him with anything and he will listen and understand. This time was no different. He more than understood and admitted to having very similar feelings. Sometimes I joke that I am the female version of him, because we often share the same or very similar thoughts, feelings, and emotions about a situation.

We ultimately decided that just because we don’t have an abundance of godly people to ask that we shouldn’t just not participate, so we would use what we did have: each other. Obviously it wasn’t ideal to just ask your spouse, but until we cultivate good, close relationships with godly people, this was better than nothing. We also agreed that it was good that we recognized this lack of relationship in our lives, so we can begin working on it, and we believe that is why we are at this church and in this small group.

Instead of just telling the other what we thought their blind spot was, we kind of discussed it openly. We are both very intuitive and thoughtful people, so we had a pretty good idea as to what our blind spots were. For me, the blind spot I am going to be working on is being judgemental. Being judgemental is something I have struggled with ever since I was a kid and to most people who know me well, know this is something I struggle with. I often make a judgey comment and then follow it up with “but I’m not judging.” I feel like I have come a long way with my battle of being judgemental, but that it has been reignited lately because of some insecurities I have been feeling. I have found myself passing judgements on people because of my insecurities before they even have a chance. I also judge myself very harshly which I found has really put a strain on my self-confidence and growth.

Now that I have chosen an area to work on, the steps provided for change are:

  1. Confess and repent.
  2. Choose to grow.
  3. Look to Jesus.

It’s not going to be an easy road or even a natural road, but I think this road to change will be well worth the challenge!

Faith

Choosing Obedience Over Comfort

Christians love to claim that they are growing in their faith and exclaim that God is working in their lives. Having grown up in church surrounded by modern Christian culture, I used to fall in the trap of saying all the things I thought I was supposed to say, but not really acknowledging or sharing the details of how my faith was growing or what God was doing in my life. And because of that I had a faith that was stale and all for show. I was a Christian, because I had always been a Christian.

This year has been all about humbling myself and seeing my walk with God for what it is, so that I can genuinely grow in my faith and experience life change. Becoming a prayerful and trusting woman (and family) has not been the easiest of transitions, but in this short time God has really shown up in the coolest of ways! One of the ways I am keeping myself accountable is by sharing openly about how God is working in and through me.

A couple weeks ago, I shared how God completely healed my broken heart in a month and I am excited to say that He didn’t stop there. For awhile now, Jeremiah and I have felt very convicted to start giving, but we just didn’t know what that was supposed to look like. So we began to pray.

At first it felt really awkward to be praying about giving. The answer seemed obvious – just start giving. But we really wanted guidance on how much to give, where to give said amount, and to make sure we were giving for the right reasons. So our prayers morphed from letting God know we want to start giving into specific requests for direction on how much, where, and why. I’m still pretty new to keeping my eyes, ears, and mind open to how God might send His answer to my prayer, so I got so excited when I started to make connections between what we were asking for and what was happening in my life.

After a week or so of praying specifically, I was reading my daily chapter from the Bible, God let me know that He heard my requests for direction. That day, I was reading 2 Corinthians 8 which just so happens to be about “The Collection for the Lord’s People” – coincidence… I think not.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own… And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. -2 Corinthians 8:3,5

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. -2 Corinthians 8:12

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. -2 Corinthians 8:14

These verses told me that God was glad to hear that we had felt the need to give on our own and then He told us that because of our willingness, what we give will be accepted and be plenty. How encouraging!! After reading that, I was so giddy and immediately called Jeremiah to tell him how the verses had connected to what we had been asking for and that we had to keep praying. I then immediately sent up a prayer of thanks and then continued to ask for more direction.

The next day, I read 2 Corinthians 9 – which has a big focus on generosity. As I read, I got more and more excited.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. -2 Corinthians 9:7-8

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. -2 Corinthians 9:11

God had reiterated the importance of giving because you want to and are excited to. He also told us that giving opens up a space in our lives for him to bless abundantly and make sure we have all we need. So much encouragement in reading that! God also answered our question of what our ‘why’ should be for giving – our generosity will show thanksgiving to God. I again immediately called Jeremiah to tell him what God had shared with me.

We had been regularly attending our church for a few months and were slowly becoming more and more involved there. This year, they announced Missional Move: Hope for the City. Basically, they want to create harbors (church campuses) and hope carriers (followers of Jesus). Harbors are where followers of Jesus can unload and refill, so they can carry the hope of Jesus out to all areas of life. I have experienced many times churches asking their congregations for money to reach some kind of goal and most of the time it seems selfish and not God-centered. I really liked this idea and loved how much prayer and thought had gone into it. They are wanting to open four new campuses in the metroplex, so that lost people cannot escape the hope of Jesus in our area.

I had felt a slight tugging that this was the ‘where’ we were supposed to give, but I wanted to be sure it wasn’t just me getting caught up in the idea and the emotion. For the next couple weeks, I asked God to make it obvious if we were supposed to give to our church’s missional move.

During those weeks, I had started crunching the numbers in our bank account to figure out how much we could realistically give. After doing that, I became very discouraged. With our baby on the way, we had so many extra expenses that have to be paid in the next couple months and I just wasn’t sure we could swing it. I felt so ashamed that I had gone from being so excited to give to so scared to take the leap. I admitted to God how I was feeling and that maybe we should wait until after the baby is born to start, so that everything could be paid and we wouldn’t be stressed out in such a vulnerable time. But now my shame was stressing me out. I began to pray that God would take these negative, fearful thoughts away.

A few days before our church’s “commitment weekend” for the missional move, Jeremiah and I decided that obeying our conviction to give and having trust that God would provide was more important than having enough to pay all our bills and expenses, so that we could feel safe and comfortable. We prayed and told God of our decision. Literally the NEXT day, I received a call from my boss informing me that I had been promoted. With my promotion came a raise and a bonus that would cover one of our baby expenses in full.

I can’t even describe how amazing this whole situation was. I was ready to give into my fear and ignore this call to give, but instead made the hard choice to choose obedience and trust and God blessed that by doing exactly what he said he would in 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”