Faith

Sick Kids, Sleepless Nights, and Spiraling Thoughts

It’s 6:30 AM, and I’ve been woken up by sick kids again. I know many people are regularly up at this time and earlier, but I was awake well after midnight with garage sale prep buzzing around my mind. Garage sale prep and…a bit of fear. To provide my working husband with a little better chance at sleep, our daughter has been sleeping in our bed, and my husband has been sleeping in her room/our guest room. She sleeps with her feet propped up on me. It would be a gross overstatement to say our last few nights have been restful. I’m going to need coffee and a nap today.

Yet despite the late bedtime and interrupted sleep, when my son woke up crying (and quickly went back to sleep), my brain decided to turn on, and to fill up with fear mixed with a little bit of mourning. With my thoughts racing, I was reminded to fix my eyes on Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7 came to mind, and rather than simply repeating the verse in my mind, I leaned into it.

In Philippians 4:6,7, Paul writes, “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.”‭‭

It’s easy to read words like, “Do not be anxious about anything”, and to hear echoes of a fish singing, “Don’t worry, be happy!” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mouth_Billy_Bass) But Paul is not a Big Mouth Bass, and Philippians was not written by a man vacationing on a tropical beach. Paul was a man well acquainted with circumstances we would say could have warranted anxiety.

Years earlier, Paul had written about his experiences to the church in Corinth. He wrote, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭11:23-27‬)

When Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything,” he writes with a resume of troubles past and present.

As he wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything,” Paul was sitting in prison in Rome, rather than on a tropical beach. His words to the Philippians are not just some idealistic instructions meant to calm his readers. His words carry the weight of experience.

After telling his readers what not to do, he tells them, and us, what to do instead and what will happen.

He writes, “… 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.”

Rather than having anxiety about any given situation, Paul says to pray and petition, and with thankful hearts, to present our requests to God. When we’re walking through scary, anxiety inducing things, it can be hard to be thankful. When I’m worrying, I tend to have my situation in focus, and thanksgiving is far from my mind. Having a heart of thanksgiving, while challenging, is so important.

With a heart of thanksgiving, our hearts and minds are brought to a place of remembering. We remember who God is: all-knowing, all-powerful, present everywhere, never changing, holy, righteous, gracious, kind, faithful, etc,. We remember what He has already done. With thanksgiving, our eyes are taken off of our situations or the things causing us to worry, and they shift towards our sovereign, able God.

With hearts of thanksgiving and eyes on God, we are told to present our requests to God. The result? “…the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Faith, Life, Momming

Redeemed

We all have unpleasant memories. We’ve all experienced painful situations and seasons. One of my most terrifying experiences happened two years ago, and the worst of it started around Mother’s Day weekend. This isn’t your typical Mother’s Day blog post, but this is a story that needs to be told.

I was the stereotypical girly-girl growing up. I loved dresses, playing dress up in my mom’s old formal gowns, having tea parties, painting my nails, and playing with dolls. I dreamed of getting married and having kids. My dream of being a mom came true a couple of weeks before my 28th birthday. Six months after my son was born, I discovered I was expecting a second baby.

My kids are two of the greatest joys in my life, and I am honored to be there mom. However, after my daughter was born, I began experiencing postpartum anxiety and terrifying intrusive thoughts about the potential dangers for my new baby and the harm I had the power to cause. These horrible, unwanted thoughts led me to have thoughts of harming myself, lest I harm my precious daughter. I suffered in silence for many weeks out of fear that my children would be taken away. I knew I had to get help when I found myself crying in our bathroom closet.

I reached out to my midwife, began medication, and got into therapy. For the first few moths of medication and therapy, I felt broken and afraid I would never feel whole or normal ever again. I leaned on and clung to God. I filled my mind with His truth, and gradually the intrusive thoughts faded.

Two years later, I can finally say I’m beginning to feel “normal” again. Certain situations still trigger memories of the thoughts I had during my nightmare, but they no longer control me, paralyze me with fear, cause me to question myself and my identity, or cover me in waves of anxiety. In time, my scars may fade, and the memories of my nightmare may become dim and dull. But for now, I redeem my nightmare. I do not let it shame me into silence. If one woman finds hope and the courage to reach out for help because of my story, it will all have been worth it.

Postpartum anxiety is eclipsed by postpartum depression. We hear about postpartum depression, we’re given signs to watch for, but until two years ago, this mama had no idea to watch for anxiety or OCD in the months following the births of my children. Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of anything besides postpartum depression. I highly encourage you to research it and to learn what to watch for in yourself and/or in the women around you.

This Mother’s Day weekend, if you are struggling in the postpartum phase, please reach out to your OB/GYN or midwife and a therapist. Do not let fear isolate you. You do not have to fight alone. There is hope, and you will be able to celebrate being a mother in time.

Faith, Momming

Twelve

Today was the day. Today contained a milestone I had hoped I wouldn’t have to see. At first, I was confident I wouldn’t see it, and then, as time passed, my confidence faded. Today marks twelve months of negatives.

Twelve months of not being pregnant. Twelve months of hope ending in disappointment. Twelve months of praying. Twelve months of waiting. Twelve months of dreaming.

Infertility is defined as twelve months of failing to conceive, and we are there. We’ve had a male factor infertility diagnosis for a couple of months now (considerably worse than it was in 2017), and I have an appointment scheduled with my OB/GYN next month. Hopefully we’ll get some answers.

When we first started trying for a third, I was confident it would happen quickly. When I got pregnant the first time, it was the week after we were prayed for and I surrendered to God. I got a positive pregnancy test when my son was only six months old, and the odds of conceiving had been extremely, extremely low. Because we’d gotten pregnant easily after being prayed for and we’d had a surprise pregnancy, I thought we were done with difficulty getting pregnant.

I was wrong.

While this time around has been a little easier because I do have two incredible little blessings, it has still been hard.

I’ve struggled.

I’ve struggled because so many of the people around me get pregnant right away. I envy their ease and the fact that they don’t have to walk through this valley.

I’ve struggled because it doesn’t match what I’d dreamed of. I’d wanted four kids, but I may only have two, and if God blesses us, three. The thought of a third being too much younger than the first two makes me sad because I was three years older than my brother who was less than two years older than our sister, and I felt alone. I don’t want that for my kids.

Mostly, I struggle because I know God is good and that He is able—I’ve seen it. Walking through this, it doesn’t feel like God is good or loving. I sometimes feel unseen, unloved, and unheard. I know that I’ve done all that I can do (at least until my doctor appointment), and that He is the only one who can do anything, but He hasn’t blessed us with another baby yet. If I’m honest, knowing He is the only one who can do anything, makes me reluctant to really pursue the relationship with Him that I want. My perspective needs to shift because this situation is not evidence of His lack of affection, nor is it proof that He has stopped being good.

What does this situation say?

He sees the big picture. He sees things I can’t see. He knows what is best for me and for my family. His heart is for me and my family, for our growth and for our good, because good and loving are literally descriptions of who He is. He knows exactly what my family and I need and when we need it, and because He and His character do not change, He can be trusted.

His timing is better than mine (as much as it pains me to say it). The wait doesn’t mean He has forgotten me, and it doesn’t mean He says “no”. We went to my parents’ house for Christmas this year, and because I knew there’s a bit of a letdown after Christmas, I decided we’d save our family gifts until we got back, so that we had something to look forward to. It was torture for me! I was tempted to give my husband and kids their gifts before we left. I was so anxious for them to have the gifts underneath the tree, even without their asking to open them! I had to say “no: when they asked because it wasn’t the right time yet. I was so excited for the day to come when I could finally let them open their gifts.

He is growing me, teaching me, shaping me, and deepening me through this time. Growth hurts. But you know what would be worse? Being stuck the way I am. As a mom, I want my kids to be capable. I want them to be able to solve problems and to do things for themselves. I don’t always rush to help them when they ask—instead, I will walk them through how they can accomplish whatever it is they’re needing help with. Can you imagine what life would be like if I rushed in to save the day every time they complained or faced something unpleasant? They would have never learned how to hold their heads up or how to roll over, how to crawl, sit, stand, walk, run, or jump. I’m so thankful God does not leave me as I am, but rather He continues to grow and shape me.

What are you learning from the season you’re in? What aspects of God’s character are you clinging in this season? What truths are you holding on to even when they don’t feel true in this moment?

Faith

Peace

I had a blog post nearly completed, and I accidentally deleted everything. So, let’s try this again!

A couple of months ago, my husband and I went on our first getaway since our kids were born. It was much needed. Our first stop was for a bike ride on an old railroad track turned into a trail. It was my first bike ride on an unpaved surface, and…it was also cold and windy. When my fingers and ears started getting cold within the first five minutes, I was ready to turn around, but we kept going. We road for about 13 miles total. The first couple of intersections we road through were highways, then there was a gravel road, and then there was a path with two worn out ruts. The farther we got away from the highways, the quieter it got. I’ll be the the first to admit, I’m not the most in shape person, and I had to stop a couple of times. One of the first times we stopped, we were stunned by the silence. It was almost palpable. Coming from living in a small/midsized city and in a house with two active and talkative toddlers, silence is rare. It was so peaceful.

This week’s Advent theme is: Peace.

What comes to mind when you think of the word “peace”?

Tie dye wearing hippies? Being out in the country? Your children’s nap time? Five minutes to yourself to enjoy a chocolate or a cup of coffee?

Peace is something we all dream of, and it’s something than can seem so…impossible.

Luke 2 tells us the story of Jesus’ birth and the angel’s announcement of His birth. Luke 2: 10-14 says, “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

I don’t know about where you live, but from my perspective, the world is not a peaceful place. I’m even more convinced of the lack of peace on earth since I got married and moved to my husband’s hometown. I’ve heard more gunshots in the past (almost) five years than I had my whole life. Some of them have sounded too close for comfort.

If you don’t hear gunshots in your town, you’ve probably concluded the earth is not peaceful after a year like 2020. So what on earth were the angels talking about then?

Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and His resurrection, we can have peace with God.

Way back in the beginning of time, a man and a woman, named Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. When they disobeyed, sin and death entered the world, and all humanity has felt the consequences. Romans 5:10 tells us before Jesus, we were enemies of God, and through Jesus’ death on the cross, we were reconciled with God. It says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

Following Jesus also brings us peace with others.

Jesus teaches us to love each other, live in humility, to forgive, and to be peacemakers. We’re not responsible for the responses others may have, but we are told to do our best to live at peace with others (Romans 12:18).

Trusting Jesus gives us peace in life.

In John 16:33, Jesus acknowledges that the earth is not peaceful. He says we will have trouble, but in Him we can have peace. He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

While the world is chaotic, we can have peace with God and others and in life because of Jesus.

Faith

Hope

My son looked out our living room window on Thanksgiving, after the sun had set. Our neighbors have started putting up Christmas lights, and when he saw them, he said, “I think it looks like Christmastime!”

The next day, he insisted we needed to wear Christmas hats while we decorated, and both of my kids wore Christmas hats as we went to one store on Black Friday. We all donned Christmas hats as we went to see a light display that evening. I think my toddler may be starting a new tradition, and I love it.

There is something so comforting, grounding, and nostalgic about traditions, especially for Christmas. My mom’s family has playing Bingo for prizes on Christmas Eve as a tradition that began generations ago and has continued on through the years. The prizes range from random snack foods to fun gadgets to bottled coffees to the always wished for gift cards. We all envy the one person who seems to win every game, despite the Bingo cards changing each round, and we feel sorry for the one person who inevitably loses more than anyone else.

When I was around 6 or 7, my mom started another Christmas Eve tradition: gingerbread house building. My houses were not very structurally sound for the first few years, and my siblings decided I was a garage builder. It’s only recently that I’ve escaped from their mockery and have proven my gingerbread house building abilities.

Another Christmas tradition my mom started was observing Advent. Starting the Sunday after Thanksgiving and continuing to Christmas Eve, my parents and all six of us kids would gather around the dining room table with a Christmas cookie or some other treat, maybe some hot chocolate, and sometimes a game or craft, and we’d take turns lighting the candle(s) and reading that week’s Bible passages. This is one tradition that I’ve already continued with my toddlers, and this year, I’d like to share it with you!

The first Sunday of Advent focuses on hope.

Right after the first man and woman sinned against God, He began to reveal His plan to redeem the people who had just broken His law. In Genesis 3:15, God spoke of one of Eve’s offspring who would strike the head of the Serpent. He said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”” For centuries all of creation lived in expectant hope for that day.

Two thousand years ago, the One who was promised to strike the head of the Serpent was born, and now we live in hope for His return and eternity spent with Him. One day He will wipe away every tear, He, the Prince of Peace will reign over us, and we will be with Him forever.

In a year of unknowns, change, anxiety, isolation, division, loss, and so much more, I am so thankful for the hope we have in Jesus. Unlike the ten months (and counting) I have hoped for a positive pregnancy test only to be disappointed, hoping in Jesus will not leave us disappoint. One day, we will not be plagued with sickness, infertility, cancer, or death. One day the Body of Christ will be with our Bridegroom, and we will be of one heart and mind. My heart yearns for that day.

Knowing that what we are now facing pales in comparison to the joy that day will bring makes my trials and sorrows seem more bearable. Knowing I have hope brings light to the dark days because they are temporary.

How does this hope change your present? How does this hope change you?