Buried by my own hands

Progress not perfection copyI have this sinking feeling that I just cannot shake. I have been neglecting some house chores and writing and basically anything that requires responsibility. My youngest is now an active toddler and after I have been out of that stage for a while I feel like the only thing I can do is chase her around all day and make sure that she doesn’t get hurt. The other children, ages 6 and 4, are pretty self efficient and I am loving it…mostly because I can’t image how I would help more than one child at a time. I feel buried.

I am buried under piles of laundry, bills and dirty dishes. Life is just flying by and here I sit feeling like I am just riding along and not really forging my own way. But I am learning that this is okay. Many wonderful women and men have gone before me and made the way for me. It is okay for a season for me to lower my personal standards of perfection and to just go with the flow for the time being. I am okay with the dishes piled up for a few days or letting the laundry sit in the dryer for the weekend. The endless tasks will never be done. The need for everything around me to be perfect is what is keeping me buried.

I have a plan for the remainder of the summer. I am going to let go of perfection and just be okay with ‘good enough.’ I am human, not God. I am never going to be perfect and that is okay. I am not giving up either. I am still going to work diligently on being a fabulous wife, a fantastic mother and a favorable housewife. I can do this because God gives me the strength to push through each day, one day at a time until He calls me home. I am no longer going to allow me to bury myself under unrealistic expectations or push them onto others around me.

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Word Study: Affliction

word study copyMany readers of this blog are going through difficult times. You might be in the mist of an affair that the world knows nothing about. You might be headed to court to finalize your divorce. You might have just found out your spouse is involved in an affair. So many of you are dealing and facing very difficult and life changing issues. The word affliction has been stuck on my mind for sometime. I wanted to share with you my thoughts.

Let’s start with what Merriam Webster has to say:

  1. :  the state of being afflicted

  2. :  the cause of persistent pain or distress

  3. :  great suffering

I’ve also read else where that affliction is the state of pain, distress or grief. The first thing that came to my head after reading this was David and his collection of Psalms. David wears his heart on his sleeve. He is not shy to share with us his raw emotions. He sings with joy when he is glad and when he is consumed with pain he cries out in anguish. I admire him for that. We are allowed and I think even encouraged to share our emotional struggles with others. It helps us relate to each other. We can ‘feel’ each other’s pain. We know that the heart is deceitful, but we can still acknowledge the souls yearnings and release our emotions. I love that David gets it. He claims how he feels and then grounds himself and comforts himself with the hope of Christ.

How does your heart operate under affliction? I know, for me, that wallowing in my guilt and shame is a favorite pastime. I usually throw myself a pity party. I want to challenge us, you and me, to learn how to handle affliction as David did. Don’t be afraid to share the raw emotions of your soul, but confess your sins. Call out to God. Tell him your affliction, your pain, your grief BUT then, ground yourself in the goodness and love of Christ. Once we confess our transgression we can release them knowing that Christ paid for us with his blood. When we confess our sins Christ sees us as pure and blameless.

No Such Thing

253_17608055097_551_nI haven’t blogged for a while. I can blame my children for being under the weather. I can blame my husband for trying out a new job and changing work hours and him starting college classes on-line. I can blame myself that our routines are just not conducive for writing and that I needed to take a break from writing…All these things are true and have been hindering my writing time. We’ve had to readjust our routines and schedules and I’ve had to take the time to figure out my priorities. Is God finished with my story?

 

The last month I have received several e-mails with good people in this world reaching out to me for marriage advice. They are reaching out from the bone crushing weight of marriage issues, personal issues, health issues. The one thing they have in common is that they feel their marriages are falling apart. I’ve had some really great conversations with people about marriage and the important of working together. I’ve shared my testimony of how God redeemed my marriage for his glory. I share my brokenness with others and it is so difficult. I get scared when I over think things.

The real reason I haven’t been writing is two-fold. One, I got scared. I am scared that if I share more of our story and how God redeemed us they are going to be disappointed that our marriage is just normal. We hit our low and God restored us to ‘normal.’ We have disagreements just like every other married couple. We have highs and lows. We have days when we are madly in love with each other and sometimes we only like and tolerate each other. I don’t want to disappoint people. We fall into the mundane trap of just making it through the day and trudging through the next. Our marriage was crumbling and now it is like nothing ever happened. We don’t sit and talk about my affair. We don’t wish it away or pretend it didn’t exist, but it is not part of our everyday life. We are normal.

The second thing that has kept me from writing more is most people are looking for ways to have a perfect marriage. I don’t want someone to think that we do have a perfect marriage because there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. There are marriages that work harder than others. There are marriages that make sacrifices to make things work. There are husbands and wives who go the extra mile to benefit their spouse, but guess what they have bad days too. The only thing I know to be true about marriage is every marriage has pitfalls. You can have a great marriage, a marriage that is striving and thriving to have Christ in the center. But it comes down to how you deal with your sin. How do you deal with your spouses sin? How do you move past the failure and not allow it to hang you up.

Marriage carries with it a heavy burden. You cannot be lazy in marriage. That is what gets you into trouble. That is what makes a marriage start to crumble.  Each wife and husband needs to be working constantly at communication, and loving the other as Christ loves us. Do not allow your marriage to fall into complacently. Do not allow your marriage to get set on the back-burner…Keep a watchful eye. Be attentive. Be ready to take action at the slightest hint that something is sliding. Be proactive not reactive. It is difficult to be on the same team or even the same page without communication.

Please do not set me on a pedestal. I am real just like you. My marriage has ugliness, beauty and hope just like every other marriage out there. I am not pretending anything. I am not building walls and putting up fronts..I am here, just me sharing my story with you. I hope that God continues to use my story and I will try to be obedient to his calling. Thank you for sticking with me and letting me be real. I am an open book. If you have questions or comments please ask and share how you feel comfortable. You can leave a comment below or click on the “Contact Me’ tab at the top of the page and e-mail me. I am here, not as a professional, but as a sister in Christ who want to share what God has done in my life so that others can cling to Him and hope in Him. He can make all things new.

Chicago Update

Last weekend Scott and I attended a women’s conference in the Chicago area. We had an amazing time meeting new people and sharing our hearts. The conference went smoothly and I came home with many new friends in my heart. The first speaker shared about Bible Journaling. The information she relayed was wonderful. She has a group of women who meet weekly to bible journal together, sharing their hearts and faith journey on the way. Some of the women attended the conference and shared their experiences with Bible journaling. It really inspired me to jump back into my bible journaling. They work through the devotional book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. The speaker read an excerpt out of the devotional and I knew when I got home I needed to purchase this book. It spoke to my heart and offered encouragement. My book arrived yesterday and today’s reading was exactly what I needed to hear for today! God is good!

I was the second speaker. I stayed up and ran through my presentation with Scott the night before. We prayed that God would use my words and testimony to bring him glory. Sure enough as I began to speak, my words were not my own. I followed my notes sparingly. God had me share parts of my testimony that I had not planned on sharing. These are the parts of my story that others talked with me afterwords. I cried during the presentation more than I cried during practice and not because it was difficult to share, but because I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and grace all over again. The depth and weight of my sin, just washed away because my God is, well, God! His love and grace are so undeserving, yet He chose to rescue me.

I did have sound issues when it came to sharing about blogging, but we just moved past that part. I talked with a woman afterwords with a beautiful heart, she was inspired to start-up her blogs again. God moved and I am honored to know that God choose to use me as his vessel. I am glad I stepped out in obedience. I had the opportunity to make great connections, friendships and heard stories of those who are struggling or who have struggled. It was an amazing experience.

Scott and his Auntie were the third set of speakers. They did a fantastic job sharing about Dave Ramsey’s Money Makeover. I had forgotten about some of the tips and tricks and so it was a great refresher course for myself. Scott did great in sharing our testimony with the program too.

The last speaker of the day was a beautiful presentation on parenting. So many great ideas. I could tell that the speakers passion was parenting and wanting to help others. It was refreshing to hear her share her experiences.

Overall the conference was wonderful. Chick Fil A donated lunch for us. The weather was beautiful. My heart was refreshed and new friendships were made. On Sunday morning I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay longer. Scott and I had a wonderful evening with Auntie P and Cousin A. We connected, laughed and shared our hearts with each other. Such a perfect weekend.

This week I have been cuddling the kids who missed us so much. They all three have a cold and so they have required a little more attention. We have been planning my son’s 6th birthday party. I still haven’t completely unpacked from the trip. It takes me about a week to get back into reality. I haven’t been writing until today. Thank you for allowing me to share this experience with you. God is good!

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Big news for RTG

I have been sharing my marriage testimony, here at RTG (restored Through Grace), since 2012. Individuals who might be struggling in their marriage have been e-mailing me with really great questions. I have enjoyed sharing my personal experiences with these individuals. It takes a lot of courage to reach out to someone.

It has always been my prayer that by obeying God and being vulnerable that people would be able to relate and feel like they are not alone in their struggles. I share hard truths and encouraging words. It has been 3 1/2 years and people are still seeking advice and guidance. I still am writing, not nearly as often as I would like.

In order for me to help other more, I took a class over the summer. It was Introduction to Christian Counseling and I passed. I have no desire to go into the counseling field, but I just wanted to have a little information in my back-pocket that would be beneficial to my readers here at RTG (Restored Through Grace)

Here is the big news!! Scott and I were asked to speak at a conference in the Chicago area. I will be sharing our marriage testimony and my journey with blogging at RTG. Scott will be working alongside his Auntie P, sharing  our experience with the Dave Ramsey program.  We are both so blessed for this opportunity to share with others.  Please keep us in your prayers for safe travels, for hearts to be open and for the love and grace of Christ to shine! lightstock_62669_medium_user_2461293

Marriage Tip #5

 

It is my desire to be as real and vulnerable as I can on this platform. I am trying to share current issues as well as past lessons learned. It is never easy to share my heart. I struggle deeply with fear. What will others think of me? What if I say the wrong thing? I don’t want to offend any one. I want to lift marriages up. With the Lords help I want to infuse marriages with hope. I want to be honest.

If I am being honest I have a confession to make. One of my new year resolutions for my marriage was to start a couple’s devotional with Scott. I sometimes feel that I need to be a good example to and for my readers. I can’t tell you to spend time in the word with your spouse when I am not doing it also. I feel that would be very hypocritical of me. So, I wanted to start.

In all our 13 years of marriage, we have sat down to do devotions together less than a couple dozen times. We have great intentions of coming together before the Lord but we are terrible at making it a priority. I know I’ve written about this topic in the past, just recently. It was marriage tip #4.

See, If I am being real and honest, I want you to know that we are failing. Scott and I have not sat down together in the last several weeks with the intention of being in God’s word. The kids go to bed at night, we cuddle on the couch to watch our shows together. We sometimes fall asleep on the couch or crawl into bed without a thought about our devotionals. It is such a challenge to change our priorities. I suppose we could set an alarm on our phone, or write a reminder and place it by our nightstand.

I find it sad that spending time with my two most favorite people would be on the back burner to Survivor or Scorpion. As soon as the kids are in bed shouldn’t I jump on the couch with all the excitement in the world to open my Bible? To read and pray with my husband? It should be important. It should be a priority. It is sad that is it not.

We have three young children. We are tired. I don’t think any ‘excuse’ in the world should be good enough to get me out of taking part in devotions with my spouse. Nothing.

I am curious about you? What does your devotional life with your spouse look like? What has worked and not worked for you?

Pondering These Things

In the book of Luke, Mary had given birth to Jesus. They were in the manger, Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. The shepherds had just witnessed a choir of Angels singing and praising God, The shepherds had to run and see for themselves if it was true. Sure enough, they ran into Bethlehem and saw the baby King. They shared their story with Mary and Joseph and went off to tell others. I like Mary a lot. I love that she sat back and listened to the shepherds testimony and then she did something that made me like her even more. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

It is just so beautiful. She could have went around praising God and telling others about all that had just happened. But she had just given birth and was resting. She took in the information, miracles and testimonies and pondered them in her heart. She thought about them. She thought about how wonderful all these things were. In her delicate state, she was still doing what God would have wanted her to do. Just because she was internalizing things doesn’t mean she wasn’t obeying Christ. Just because she wasn’t shouting from the roof tops about the wonderful things God just did, doesn’t make her less of a person. She did what she could. It was not taken lightly.

We are to ponder the wonders of God. We are to think about the things in which God has done. Many times over the Bible mentions pondering things which God has done, things he has created..Psalm 111..

Great are the works of the Lord;
    they are pondered by all who delight in them.

We need to take the time to think about what God has done. For me personally, I didn’t learn this lesson until I was deep in depression. I felt that God had deserted me. I felt a lone in my struggles. I felt like the only way out was death. At the time I wasn’t aware that I was listening to the lies of the enemy. Satan had tricked me. I felt sorry for myself and felt alienated.

God will never leave you or forsake you. It is written in his word. We pull away and hide our face from him. God wants us to be real and honest and open with Him. He wants us to have a personal relationship with him. How can we do that when we don’t want to pray and have the uncomfortable conversations. God is mighty and He should be feared. But because of the blood of Jesus we can come boldly to his throne. We can share our hearts, tell him our hurts. He is a loving, gracious God.  It wasn’t until I reached out for help from the depression that I began to ponder and think of all Christ had done for me in the past. I was challenged to look back on my life and look for Christ..

There he was, protecting me in my childhood. There he was as I met a mentor to share my heart with. There again, when I met Scott. There again when my affair ruined my marriage, God healed. There when I had a tumor on my brain, God took it away. The time I hit a tree with my car, God saved my life. When I was told I would never have children..God healed my womb and I have three beautiful children…God’s hand can be seen in so many big and little places in my life. I think back during my time in depression and think about how blinded I was thinking that God left me, thinking that death was the only option out.

Currently, when I am struggling I take the time to thinking back and ponder all that Christ has done and also all he promises about the future. One of my first art journaling pieces reflect this lesson. It is called “Pondering These Things.” I created the background and drew some hearts..around the hearts are words describing what Christ has done for me.  For a time, this piece hung in my office so that I was daily reminded of Christ’s love for me. Creating this piece really inspired me to dig my way out from under the lies of Satan and towards the beautiful face of God. It didn’t happen over night, but eventually the affliction of depression no longer had a hold of my heart, Christ did.IMG_2030

God’s Grace in a Broken Spirit

I struggled with postpartum depression after my first child was born. I didn’t form a bond with him for what seemed a very long time. I have no idea why, but it felt like my body was revolting against me. I had issues with breast-feeding. I had issues with healing after the unplanned c-section. So many things didn’t go the way I planned. The biggest mistake that I made was not telling anyone about the depression. I suffered in silence.

Fast forward a year and a half later and I gave birth to my second child. The birth plans went along more smoothly and I felt connected, bonded right away to the little baby in my arms. However, as my second child was approaching her first birthday, depression grabbed me again.

I was watching the news one evening. The story that flashed across the screen was sobering and gut-wrenching. A young mother of 3 young children committed suicide. That is when a crazy thought popped into my head, “Hey, that’s not such a bad idea.” The thought scared me enough that I called Scott to come home immediately. The following weekend, we visited family. I was not in the house for more than 5 minutes when Scott’s youngest brother asked me how I was doing. I gave him a fake answer. You know, I’m fine. He called me out. “Have you ever heard of depression before. I am pretty sure you are struggling with it.”

Who did he think he was to judge me that way. I might have been angry at first, but I really admire and appreciate the courage it took for him to speak up. The following week I went and checked in with a doctor who sure enough confirmed that I was suffering from depression. I started on medication and signed up to meet with a therapist. It took a couple of years before I had a break though. God gave me the grace I needed to swim through the depression. He directed my steps and pushed me to try something new and different.

I started art journaling. I was never an artist. I enjoyed photography but that was the extent of my creativeness. I bought a couple of painting supplies as I was looking for a new hobby at the start of 2013. I fell in love with art journaling. What is art journaling you ask?

“Art journaling combines the written language and the visual language to give a greater breadth of expression and understanding. In essence art journaling is the combination of art making and journaling with the intention to create greater insight and understanding of the self and others. Art journaling is about expression, both written and visual, of emotions and thoughts; it is a space for questions that may not have answers, a place for thoughts that may otherwise not have a home, a safe container for emotions so that they do not have to be loose in the world. Although the journal can become an extension of the self, it can also be a place to play and experiment with art materials.” 
Click here to find out more: http://artjournaling.blogspot.com/p/why-art-journal.html

DSC_9071 copyI tried it, and I liked it. I loved the way I could make what I wanted. I loved the way I could use color and other materials so freely, without rules. Mostly, I loved the way my heart and mind seemed to connect and relax as I was creating. My finished pieces carried deep meanings. I learned that I was releasing emotions each time I made art. I released some fears, I released tension and stress and at the time I was releasing the depression that had such a firm grip on my life.

I have been art journaling now for 3 years and I am enjoying it more and more. It is such an amazing way for me to let go of my emotions while making something beautiful.

Over the next few weeks I want to share some of my art pieces with you and I will explain the meanings behind them. Art journaling is not for everyone. It has helped me deal with emotions and express the most vulnerable things in my heart. I want to share them with you because maybe they will help you too. Art is an amazing tool. Creating or observing art can be life altering. God has used art in my life in such a beautiful way. He has increased my creativeness and some people tell me I am pretty good at it. I am just enjoying the process.

 

If you are suffering from depression or have thoughts of suicide, please seek help. Call a friend. Make an appointment with your doctor. Your story is important. You are loved. You are not alone.

Word Study: Confidence

word study copyGod confidence is what we need to be striving for.  We need to be looking up to him in all situations and circumstances. We should place our trust in the perfect plan that God has for our lives. This includes the good stuff and the bad stuff. We need to have confidence in God that he can do anything. It’s true. He can.

God Confidence differs greatly from the world. The world views confidence as something we have in ourselves or someone else. We look into our own person to pull out courage, or strength or hope. We fall short all the time. The world is a scary and ugly place and without Christ in our lives it would be even more scary.

 

Merriam-Webster says that confidence is:

  1. a :  a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances

    b :  faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way

  2. :  the quality or state of being certain :

  3. a :  a relation of trust or intimacy

    b :  reliance on another’s discretion

    c :  support especially in a legislative body

  4. :  a communication made in confidence

If you find yourself being insecure and doubtful about situations maybe you are putting your trust in yourself or someone other than Christ. He is perfect. He is our strength and our hope. We need to rely on him daily. We need to trust that our lives are securely in his hands. We need to find our reliance on Him not in our family, friends or neighbors.

Because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, we can come boldly to the throne We can approach God with freedom and confidence. We are called blessed when we can place our hope and confidence in the Lord. Check out some of these awesome Bible verses on confidence:

Jeremiah 17:7

2 Corinthians 3:4

Ephesians 3:12

Philippians 3:3

Hebrews 4:16

 

God’s Grace in Broken Confidence

10351306_336178356538729_4613111785076091939_nI’ve struggled with a poor self-esteem my whole life. My inner voice often tells me that I am not pretty. It convinces me that I am going to fail and so why even try. I often fall into the comparison trap. My hair is more puffy than hers. My face is small and I still struggle with adult acne. I am short.

I have a son and two small daughters. My daughters see me trying on clothes and asking my husband if I look okay in it.  And then regardless of what he says, I go and change anyways..ten times over.

I have broken confidence.

I remember in high school I was one of those girls you wanted to punch in the face because I found joy in everything. I was always skipping and singing joyfully as I walked down the halls. I was very perky as some might say. I enjoyed school. I enjoyed my friends. I enjoyed the activities that I took part in. I had come a long way. My parents had just divorced during my sophomore year and yet I was joyful. I was finding joy in the Lord. There is no other explanation for my happiness and light hardheartedness.  I didn’t really care what others thought of me and I loved that about myself.

One day, a well-meaning friend told me I was flaky. I should have taken it as a compliment, but instead I took it to heart. I began to think other people felt the same way..that I was crazy, psychotic maybe. I allowed my friends comment to change the way I saw myself. I began to withdraw a bit and became more reserved. I had thought if I am more subdued and reserved people would maybe like me more.

I would come out of my shell for friends I knew very well, my church youth group and such, but others who didn’t know me would tell you I was shy. I didn’t want to scare anyone away with my foolishness. This is the way I have been for a long while. “Shy at first.” It is not who God created me to be. I put myself in that box when I allowed my friends comment to find a way to live in my heart.

I am learning now as an adult with children of my own that confidence, real confidence, is about the acceptance of the way I was created. I can’t change things that have been hardwired. I can’t change my height or the natural curl of my hair. Trust me I’ve tried. I need to accept that God created me to be just the way he made me to be. Some people might find me obnoxious or whimsical.  Some people might say that I am a nut or maybe I’ve gone off the deep end. But this is the way I was created.

I was created to bring joy to those around me. I was created to speak my mind in the proper situations and be the silly one. God did not create me to retreat into a shell. My confidence over time has improved because I try not to dwell on the things I can’t change. I focus on my character. I am silly. I am kind. I am joyful. God gives me the grace to be myself.

I have God confidence. I am still learning to embrace the way God has created me. But now I am working with him in the acceptance and not trying to change myself to be someone I am not. I hope and pray that my girls and my son notice that. I am trying to complement them on their character traits, not on what they wear or the way they do their hair. I want them to have the confidence to love the assets God has given them. I want them  to have the confidence to accept the things they cannot change and know they are fearfully and wonderfully made by a creator who loves them more deeply than any ocean.I want them to have God confidence.