I can truly say that my grief has changed me in deep ways. I am not the same person as I was before. Through my grief, I have come to love Jesus in a way I had only longed for and imagined prior to Mom’s death.
I read this question this week from one of my favorite books, New Morning Mercies, by Paul Tripp -“When hardship comes your way, will you tell yourself it’s a tool of God’s grace and a sign of his love, or will you give in to doubting his goodness?” Continue reading Goodness and Grace in the Grief→
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. . .”Psalm 23:6a
It was 12:30 am, December 12, 2016, when God’s Spirit reminded me of these verses. As I was trying to calm my body and mind, I began to quietly quote Psalm 23. My earlier evening had been spent at the hospital beside Jason’s bed . . . watching him breathe and constantly reading bedside monitors. Never would I have imagined that my 38 year old husband would suffer a life-threatening cardiac arrest and miraculously survive! (You can read his story here.) Continue reading Surely Goodness and Mercy→
As I mentioned in a previous post , I’ve spent the last few months fighting for the JOY of the Lord! I have come to know that fighting for joy is not exclusive to fighting only spiritually. Fighting for His joy has meant that I must fight physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. As I give attention to my whole being, I am able to more effectively war in the fight for joy.
Let me share a few ways that I am fighting for joy in physical ways-
Exercising- Our bodies are designed to move! Research shows that endorphins (those little things that make you happy) are released when we exercise. Many days I do not want to exercise or necessarily have the time to exercise. . .but I know the value of exercise and what it does for my body and mind. In the past few months, I have been walking the neighborhood in the early mornings with a friend. Having an accountability partner and friend makes a huge difference for me! Recently, our family has joined the local YMCA and plans to utilize the many options for classes, equipment, and accountability found there. I’m loving the Yoga class! Getting started with exercise is by far the hardest part! Yet I can’t tell you how I’ve benefitted in multiple ways from my choice to exercise. Consistent exercise really does help in the fight for joy. . .exercise helps me avoid depression, anxiety, and other health issues.
Eating healthy- Making wise food choices directly affects my overall well-being. Limiting sweets, processed foods, and gluten continues to be a challenge for me in this fight for joy. However, I have learned that my body functions in a more healthy way when I say “NO” to these triggers. God designed our bodies to need healthy nourishment to function at our best capacity. It’s my goal to serve my family and others with energy, joy, and kindness. Eating healthy helps me accomplish my goals.
Sleeping– I’m a girl who needs a solid 8 hours of sleep to function at my best level! My husband, on the other hand, is a grump when he gets too much sleep. His body doesn’t seem to require the same amount of sleep that I do! Learning what your body needs is very important. Getting my 8 hours of sleep is a priority to me. I work hard to get into bed on time so I can get up on time. Often, this means putting aside some “work” that needs to be done, setting aside housechores that can wait, and putting down my phone or computer in the evening. It takes discipline to get to bed on time! Again, God designed our bodies to need rest. I will say that getting quality sleep during the past few years has been quite a challenge for me. Throughout the grief journey and many changes that I’ve walked through, my body has gone “on strike” many nights. Insomnia, stress, and anxiety have robbed many nights of good sleep! Yet, I have practiced many effective habits for getting a better night’s rest. Deep breathing, essential oils, massage, a hot bath, Bach’s Rescue Remedy, and Unisom are some of my best friends! Find what works for you and don’t hesitate to do what’s necessary to ensure a night of quality sleep! A well-rested body fights for joy much more effectively!
Crying- When I release the pent-up emotions from struggling in the fight for joy, a sweet peace always floods my body and soul. Tears are very healing. Tears also bring me humbly to my knees in dependence on Christ. So I thank God for tears. Don’t be afraid to cry. Jesus understands the language of tears. Tears are a sweet gift from the Father.
Playing with my children– Whether it’s chasing kids around the house, kicking a soccer ball outdoors, taking a neighborhood hike, pushing a swing, or simply tickling a child on the living room floor. . .all of these things release stress from my physical body. I’ll admit that it is hard for me to take a break from the daily motherhood chores and simply play with my children. But I always am glad that I made the choice to PLAY! My kids love for me to play with them, and they benefit from having play-time with mom. I also benefit in so many ways! I challenge you to engage in some type of physical activity with your children today. The stress will lighten and your heart will feel glad!
Taking vitamins and supplements- I’m thankful for the extra help I’ve found in natural supplements and vitamins. Magnesium, B vitamins, and a good multi-vitamin have greatly helped my body during stressful times.
Working around my house- During times of stress or grief, it’s very easy to be lazy. To sit on the couch, to binge watch on Netflix, to sleep the day away. I remember my mom often quoting from Elisabeth Elliot, “Do the next thing.” My next thing is to take care of the normal household chores. With a family of 7, there is always work to be done. I’ve found that embracing the responsibilities of work that God has given me and getting the work done brings a certain joy into my own heart. When my work is done, it’s easier to rest and enjoy my family. What is the work God has given you?
Singing- The Scriptures talk often about praising the Lord with our song. Most every day in my home there is music playing throughout the house. And very often, you will find me singing along with the worship tunes! Singing to the Lord lifts my spirits and puts my focus on Him. . .not on my lack of sleep, lack of energy, or lack of motivation to do the chores. Most recently, I’m enjoying the music of Chris Tomlin, Ellie Holcomb, Laura Story, Audrey Assad, JJ Heller, and Christy Nockels.
Getting outdoors- Our bodies need sunshine and fresh air! Many days when I am struggling and feeling a little blue, I take a walk around my house outdoors. Smelling the flowers, seeing blue skies, hearing a bird sing, watching a butterfly, and feeling the fresh breeze on my skin is invigorating! My spirits are always lifted from spending a few minutes outside! Even better is when I do a physical activity outside–watering my flowers, raking a few leaves, sweeping my front porch, or swinging a child! Taking a nature walk is one of my favorite things to do as well. God always reminds me that He is our Creator and loves beautiful things. I’m reminded to simply trust the Maker of all things.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure you could add your own things that help you fight for joy physically! Paying attention to your physical body is just so important in the fight for joy. We are whole beings. . .therefore, we must give attention to the different facets of our whole selves. I do not believe we can neglect our physical bodies and fight effectively for His joy!
Please comment below with the ways that you have found effective in fighting for joy physically! I’m always on the hunt for new and effective strategies! Remember, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are fighting together for His glory!
A few months ago, I was sitting in my counselor’s office and asking for wisdom in some personal matters. She’s a dear friend and always speaks truth into my life. She advised me to obey the whisper of the Spirit and pull away from the blogging world for a while. I’ve needed to involve my heart, mind, and body in other soul-filling endeavors.
Honestly, I’ve wanted to quit writing. I’ve been wrestling with “do I write?” or “do I just need to stop?” I’ve been talking with the Lord about it for many weeks. . .and He hasn’t given me the go-ahead to stop.Yet, I did feel Him leading me to take a break for a bit.
In recent days, I have sensed the urge to write again and share what God has been doing in my own heart through these last few months. God is graciously revealing more love to me, filling my heart with Himself, and using my story for His good and His glory. He has also been working out sin from within, reframing thought processes, and rooting out anger, pride, selfishness, and the list can continue. Continue reading Fighting for Joy→
One of my favorite music albums is Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Glorious Unfolding. Steven writes these songs from his own raw, vulnerable, and painful suffering. He has walked the dark roads of intense suffering and questioning. He has personally experienced deep grief. And he has found God to be faithful and the hope of Heaven to be very comforting.
As I was listening and singing along to his song Take Another Step this morning in my mommy-van, I was reminded of several steps that I’ve taken along my personal grief journey. God has been so faithful to me as well and Heaven grows sweeter each day.
But taking another step in the middle of deep pain and suffering is not easy. AT ALL. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt that I couldn’t keep pushing through the fog. I’ve wanted to quit and give up on so many days. I’ve cried more tears than I ever dreamed possible. I’ve felt numb but yet so sensitive to people, places, and memories. Many days it has seemed near to impossible to crawl out of bed, take a step into my kitchen, or get dressed to care for my family. Yet, I am making it. . .one step at a time. I am moving from my emptiness to His fullness. . .little by little. And I am loving God more with each day. . .as I daily take steps into His light. Continue reading Take Another Step→
I’m sure you’ve been there before. If not, you will be at some point. I’m talking about that day in your life when the bad news comes, life turns upside-down, your loved one dies, or you simply are blind-sided by someone’s decision.
How do you handle those rough winds in your sea? What do you do to avoid drowning? How do you keep breathing when it seems you can barely stay afloat? Where do you turn for help?
A few nights ago these simple thoughts came to mind as I was praying for wisdom in helping a friend who is struggling with her own “hard.” I hope these will be a blessing and encouragement to you today. Continue reading When Life Is Hard→
Recently, our family began watching some old home videos that we had converted from old videotapes into DVD’s. The first one that popped onto the screen was the birth of our firstborn son. He was born 13 years ago! Since then, we have added 4 more children into the family. But there will always be something very special about his birth!
As I began watching the nurses bathe him, wrap him into a soft blanket, and place him into my arms, my heart was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude, joy, and humility. I so vividly remember that mixture of emotions I felt as I nursed him for the first time. The weight of responsibility that I held in my heart to mother him in the ways of the Lord. The anxieties that I wouldn’t know what to do for him. The joys that came from embracing him in my arms.
My mind began to churn as I realized how little I knew 13 years ago and how much I’ve grown in these 13 years of motherhood. I’m so thankful for the growth in grace, the Gospel, and humility that God has faithfully worked within my heart. Looking back, I now share this wisdom to my “young mom” friends. This list is by no means exhaustive, but rather a few suggestions that surface to the top:
Be in the Word. Motherhood is a constant reminder of how much I need God. I need His wisdom and His truth to fill my heart and mind on a daily basis. The greatest gift I can give to my children is a mom who knows the Word of God and lives by it! As a mom of a newborn and young kids, it can be more challenging to find time for reading the Word of God. But it is possible and very important! Structure your day to allow for time in His Word. Let other things “slide” but don’t neglect reading your Bible. So much strength is given to us as we allow God’s Word to penetrate our hearts each day!
Pray constantly. Take every need of your heart to Jesus. He cares so intimately for us. Learn to talk with Him about every detail of your life. Run to Him when you need wisdom. Pray as you are nursing. (Keep your prayer journal with you and use that time to pray.) Go to God first before asking your FB mom friends for advice. Learn to lean heavily on the Lord and His wisdom. He never disappoints!
Spend time with God’s people. Do not neglect being involved in your local body of believers. I am so grateful for the support and strength I receive from the people of my church. I know that it takes A LOT of extra planning and effort to get out of the house and into church with little people. But God always uses His people to infuse my life with wisdom, love, friendship and laughter!
Find a mentor. This is HUGE! My mom was a mentor for me as I began the parenting journey. She encouraged my heart in the Lord in numerous ways as a young mom. I went to her for advice and wisdom in many areas of life. But I also have chosen a few other ladies who have walked the journey of parenting and are farther along in their experience to be a mentor to me. I am so thankful for the mentors that God has given to me. I value their wisdom, encouragement, and joy in the Lord. In January of this year, I began weekly mentoring three young moms in my church. They bring their little ones to my house and meet for accountability, intentional discipleship, fellowship and prayer. It has been such a blessing to pour into their lives some of the truths that God has been gracious to teach me and watch them grow in their wisdom as moms.
Join a mom’s Bible study. I had the opportunity to attend a Monday morning mom’s Bible study at our local church when my oldest three were young. I cherish those times spent in the Word, fellowship, and prayer with other moms like me and also moms with more experience and wisdom. I grew so much as a believer and mom during that period in my life as I engaged in studying the Word of God. I also needed that weekly time of encouragement with my friends.
Develop a flexible routine with your little ones. I’ll admit that I was a strict “Babywise” mom with my first two children. My personality thrives on organization, schedules and predictability. I feel that most people do life much better with a routine . . . babies and young children included. However, I think the key to routine is being flexible. Have a goal in mind or a schedule for the day but don’t be too attached to it that your day gets ruined if something goes awry! Babies are not robots. They will not always follow “textbook.” Some days they will want to eat sooner than every 3 hours. Bedtime may not always be at 7 p.m. So learn to “roll” with the days that end up being “off” the routine. And always value people more than your child’s schedule.
Be a reader. It has been a goal of mine since having children to always be reading a marriage book rotated with a parenting book. Of course, there have been seasons of life when I failed to do a good job with this. But overall, I have grown so much as a wife and a mom by reading good Christian literature. To this day, I still continue this practice and continue to learn from the wisdom of God’s people. I make time for what is important to me . . . and reading is one of those things that I schedule into my day.
Adore your husband. . .and make sure he knows it. Having a new baby or young children in your house definitely places higher demands on mommy for her time, energy, and patience. It is very easy to get swallowed up with caring for these little ones that you neglect to save any energy and time for your husband. However, when a young mom feels she must tend to every little need of the baby and places such a high priority on the needs of the child rather than the needs of her husband, she is asking for trouble in her marriage. I encourage young moms to go on regular dates with just your husband. . .get a sitter. Put your little ones to bed at a regular scheduled time each evening (long before 10 pm) so you have some alone time to spend with him. Save energy and make time for sex with him. Wear his favorite outfits and perfume. Make his favorite foods for dinner. Seek his wisdom and advice in child-rearing rather than telling him what you read on Facebook. Allow him to lead your family and make decisions for all of you. Do things with your husband that he enjoys. Express your thankfulness for him often. Be affectionate with him. Be very intentional to make sure he knows that he is still #1 with you!
Identify your season of life and be content in it. Life changes with a pregnancy. Normal physical activities may become challenging as your body grows to nourish a new life. Your body changes with the birth of an infant. Marital intimacy becomes challenging with the addition of a nursing newborn and a toddler under your roof. Having young children may limit your interactions with other families that you once used to socialize with on a frequent basis. Adopting a child into your family may mean you need to limit your service at church for a time in order to “attach” with your newest member of the family. It so easy to become discontent with the season of life we may find ourselves in. We may desire to sleep more, spend extended time with friends, serve in a ministry at church, or simply enjoy intimacy with our spouse without someone sticking little hands under the bedroom door. But I’ve realized that my life is an ebb and flow of different seasons. And God ordains each one and gives grace to walk in it with contentment. Don’t wish away your present season but seek to enjoy it and grow in it!
Be relational, not virtual. I am so grateful that I did not have the distractions of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram when I began parenting 13 years ago. Don’t get me wrong. I certainly enjoy social media and have gratitude for it. But I struggle presently to put aside my phone and engage face to face with my children! Social media is so enticing and can draw us into hours of mindless distraction. I have to constantly evaluate my time spent on social media and make adjustments. Also, I’ve found that so many young moms seek advice, counsel, and affirmation from online FB groups or a Twitter feed rather than learning and growing from the experience and friendship of a trusted mentor in their own church, family, or community. Our society is quickly becoming virtual rather than relational. I believe there is a real danger when we cease to engage in community with those closest to us and turn to social media and internet resources as a replacement for trusted mentors with experience and wisdom. Seek to do life with people closest to you . . . find a “real life” mentor and group of ladies to encourage your heart. Put down your phone or tablet and engage with the ones you love the most!
Allow others to love on you and your children. Accept help from the older lady in your church who offers to hold your infant so you can visit with a friend at the lady’s fellowship. Let the teenager tickle your baby’s feet and nose. Give Grandma or Aunt Susie a chance to rock your baby to sleep when they visit. Take the opportunity to have a date with your spouse when an older couple offers to watch your little ones. Let Great-grandma sing and read to your baby even if it delays a nap. Make others feel welcome to love on you or your children. It’s amazing how much we can experience the love of God through the love of others!
Rehearse the truths of the Gospel daily. As I reflect on the grace God gives to me daily, I am able to give grace to others in my life. As I meditate on the extravagant love of my Savior, I am called to deeply love the individuals in my own life. When I allow my thoughts to dwell on God’s forgiveness, I am able to extend forgiveness to my children. And the list goes on and on and on. Because of the Gospel, I am free to love and be loved, free to make mistakes and give grace, free to offer forgiveness and ask for forgiveness, and free to rest in Jesus Christ and all He has accomplished on my behalf. My life is full of joy, hope, grace, rest, forgiveness, and freedom through Jesus Christ! Friends, immerse yourself daily in the hope and beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Be in the Word, post Scripture verses throughout your home and car, listen to music rich with Gospel truths, and read blogs and books that point your heart to the amazing gifts of joy and freedom found in Jesus!
I’m sure I could add much more to this list but I’ll stop for now! I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a mother on mission for Jesus Christ. I’m still continually learning each day of this motherhood experience. May God continue to teach us all as we grow in His grace through this journey of motherhood.
In November of 2015, I had the privilege to speak at a ladies conference in NC. I have shared these sessions with a few friends in my church who encouraged me to post them on the blog. I pray that God will use these words to strengthen and encourage your own heart. God has certainly been faithful in my own life and continues to move my life from “empty to full.”