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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

growing pains + humility (and an announcement!)

For the past few months, I have been learning so many new things about life and myself and the faith that I claim to live in and believe. I feel like the things that are finally clicking in my head are obvious, no-brainer things. For example, I must speak truth and positivity over the negativity in my mind. As I am learning these things, I am tempted to feel less-than. I feel like I should already know and live these things, comparing myself to the sister beside me who is working through seemingly deeper issues that I think I, myself, should be learning. But instead of comparing myself to anyone else, I should look at these growing pains as a lesson in humility for me. When I am tempted to think wrongly about myself or feel like I should know it all, all of the time, but that is truly pride. That's false humility. I'm learning that true humility is accepting what I did not know, listening to what God is trying to teach me and let myself grow and thrive.

There will always be temptations to run past simple truths that we think we already know when God wants us to lower our selves, surrender to Him, and relearn the truth that will set us free. That's what preaching the Gospel to yourself looks like. It's repentance, surrender, trust. And it may look like a short whispered prayer as your in the middle of a chaotic day. It may look like going to a friend or loved one to let them know that you are struggling and you need prayer. It may look like you shutting off your phone or email to get on your knees and as for forgiveness. Repentance is key to growing!

 Is there something that God is trying to teach you, that you think you already know? Is there something you need to repent of in order to thrive and live the abundant life that Jesus died to give you? Chances are, you actually may "know" it in your mind but those things haven't reached your heart and you're not LIVING them. You may know that you are to love your neighbor but do you actively love them? I desire to be a doer of the Word, not only a hearer. And it's only by the strength and power of the Holy Spirit and daily surrendering yourself to Him that we can truly live out what we believe.

Above all of these practical ways to combat fear, believe truth, and speak encouragement over my own mind, I am learning that I, being in Christ, DO NOT have to strive after anything. Healing, peace, joy, security, it's all already mine because I am in Christ. I am not a slave to fear or people pleasing, but I am free and redeemed. I am already forgiven of my sin when Jesus saved me and when I repent on the daily, it's not for my eternal salvation- it's for my daily growth to be more like Jesus (sanctification!) This is truth. 

I may feel weak (and apart from Christ, I am) but my feelings are not God. God is God. Sin does not define the one whose trust is in Jesus. He defines who I am and He says that I (and you!) are perfect, beloved, chosen, set apart, and holy because it's Christ who covers us and lives in us. THAT is what gives me freedom. I just want to encourage you today to let God teach you, reteach you, speak truth over you, and love you. Whatever it is you are walking through, He is truly right there holding you each step of the way and He delights in you!

I am so excited to share that in the late Spring of 2018, I will be launching a podcast show called Truth in the Trenches! It's a podcast full of Gospel-based encouragement for different seasons of life. I'm excited to share more in the weeks to come but I wanted to officially get the news out! 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Favorite Podcasts!

As a stay at home mama, I listen to LOTS of podcasts while I am doing the dishes or while the girls are napping. Sometimes I'll have it playing in the background while we play or while the girls are doing their own thing. All of these podcasts are Christ-focused and even though some of them have "mom" in the title, don't let that steer you away if you don't have kids. ALL of these podcasts I would recommend to EVERY woman because they are just packed full to the brim with wisdom, encouragement, and truth... three things I am super passionate about and three things I get excited over. Here we go:

 I listen to this and the next podcast so much that I feel like I know the hosts, haha. It's probably weird but it is what it is. Heather is so funny and so wise which is a cool combo. Her podcast is full of real and practical topics (like hundreds) and she interviews men and women who are experts in each topic. She had a series this past summer called summer of mentorship and it was the most beautiful, wise thing I've listened to. It included older and wiser women from all different walks of life talking about how God has been faithful in their life in whatever struggle or place they found themselves. SO good!

Okay, I honestly wish I could be besties with Laura + Emily. They are sister-in-laws who are also moms and wives with young kids who started the podcast as just a 5 episode project and now it's totally blown up! This is a definite must listen. These two are real, right in the trenches with every young mom with babies, so relatable, and SO encouraging. Every episode they air is totally focused around the GOSPEL! Less practical and more wisdom and encouragement which is honestly a breath of fresh air in this "five step to a perfect life" society that we live in. They even have an awesome website which has tons of bible study resources and other things. I look forward to a new episode every Wednesday. It's so fun!

I listen to Revive our Hearts when I have some time to listen in a little closer because she teaches in every podcast from the scriptures and it. is.  so. powerful. She's a great teacher who is older and wiser than I who is so passionate about Jesus, His Word, and His Church.

Okay, honestly, I laugh out loud every episode of Emily's. I think I loved her podcast just from reading the title of it. I already could relate. She is down right hilarious! She is a mom of two kids and a wife. She is so real and so relatable. She interviews other women from all paths of life. So much insight and wisdom but not in a boring way. I am normally hanging onto every word. I really wish you would just go listen right now to one of her episodes and you'll see why I love her podcast so much. I'm pretty sure we could be besties. 

Christy's podcast is so serene and lovely. She is also an artist but is just full of the love of Christ and it pours out of her words. Sometimes she interviews other women and sometimes she just shares her heart but both are always so life-giving!

I've only listened to this podcast a few times but it's still one of my favorites. These ladies are real, not afraid to speak truth, and are all wise! 

This is one of my newest listens. Annie has such a delightful personality and you can just tell she loves the Lord. Her podcast episode with Sadie Robertson is a must listen (or maybe it's because I'm the #1 Robertson Fam fan). And her podcast episode with Carlos Whittaker is AMAZING. Y'all, listen now. 

8. Dad Tired (for the guys!) 
I LOVE this podcast! Jerrad Lopes has an awesome testimony about how his wife would wake up at 2 or 3 am every night to pray for him and that was like the rocket into his passion to follow Jesus and help men also follow Jesus with their all. It's a must listen for the guys and it's also encouraging for the women to be reminded to love their dudes + pray for them daily! ALSO, this is totally worth mentioning. He has a devotional for men! I bought one for my husband and every day he reads it, he's floored with how convicting, sound, and encouraging it is! 

Sally Clarkson is a gem. Listen to her once and you'll be hooked. She and her husband have raised four children (now adults with their own families) who love the Lord and she is passionate about the Word, the home, and raising her kids to know Jesus. She's just priceless. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The struggle is real.

I sat in the big brown chair in our living room surrounded by my 1 1/2 month old whimpered on a blanket, my 1 year old running around making all kinds of funny noises, and my husband playing with the both of them. I sat still, staring. I wasn't even thinking about anything because I couldn't. I couldn't focus. I couldn't relax. Every thought was anxiety-ridden, stressful. My body tingled and my eyes were foggy. My heart was so full yet so numb. I just wanted out of my own body so I could enjoy, taste, see, FEEL something other than stress and darkness. Postpartum depression weighed heavy on my back. It started the evening my first daughter was born. She was sick so I was only able to see her for a minute before she was whisked away to the NICU. I was also sick with a high fever so I didn't get to see her for 3 days. Overwhelming hard pain. It's been over a year and I still can't linger on that fact. Anyways. I remember that night, sitting in my hospital bed, recovering from the most traumatic day and a half of my life thus far, hearing voices and seeing things that weren't there and SO scared that someone was going to come into the hospital and steal my baby or hurt us. I just knew something bad was about to happen, like death's angel loomed over me and I couldn't get him to leave. That's when the monster called depression leeched itself onto my self. A year and a half later, by God's grace alone, I can breathe a little. A month after Josie was born, we found out we were pregnant again. I was already struggling with PPD, so mix in more hormones and the anxiety of having 2 under 1 made it a little harder to breathe. I did experience joy, of course, during this time because I LOVE my daughter(s) more than anything but I will not pretend that it was a joy not accompanied with the monster. As months went by, the depression softened it's grip a bit. Or maybe I just became so used to it's company. I laughed at my daughter's silly faces, kissed her soft chubby cheeks. I went on a few dates with my husband, went on trips, and over time, the monster was easy to hide away in the back of my mind... but he left a mark on my mind. The sun wasn't as bright. The birds weren't chirping. It was like that monster stole away all of the joy around me, hiding it from me. I knew it was still there in reality, but I couldn't see the beauty around me. That monster had a hold. I so wanted to enjoy every little detail of my amazing life. I was so thankful for a healthy baby and a wonderful marriage and the fact that God gave us another baby in such a short period of time, I will never take for granted. But with depression and anxiety, no matter what reality is, no matter how good life really is, your mind cannot comprehend it. Something won't let you just be. My mind was constantly consumed with BAD and it became my inward norm.

I love and believe in Jesus so automatically, I thought that what I was experiencing was a spiritual thing. Either I didn't trust God "enough" or I was going through a "dry season". I thought that my faith was the issue so I got angry. I COULDN'T physically have any more faith than what I already had. I couldn't even comprehend how I could do that in my own strength. I couldn't possibly muster up any more HELP ME GOD pleas, any more I'M TRYING TO TRUST YOU prayers. I was tired. So I became angry at God and blamed Him. "You are in control so CHANGE ME. DO SOMETHING for me. If i don't have enough faith in you and if I am supposed to muster up that faith on my own, in my own strength, then forget it. I'm out. I'm hopeless. Forever this monster will have a hold of me. Sorry, I failed you God. I don't have enough faith." I was ignorant of the monster called depression, specifically postpartum depression. Which isn't a faith issue at all.

As the birth of my second daughter approached, I was scared. Scared of the unknown. Scared that I would experience another traumatic birth again and go deeper into the belly of depression. My anger towards God turned into pure desperation. The depression convinced my mind that I was going to die during childbirth. That monster has a way with words. I was terrified. I begged God to save me. I was detached from reality in my mind yet on the outside, who knows, maybe I seemed fine. I really couldn't tell you because I was so consumed with the thoughts in my head that I couldn't control.

The birth of my second daughter, thank God, was amazing. No complications. Perfectly healthy baby. Healthy mama. I was on cloud 9. All was right in the world... maybe, just maybe, that monster decided to leave and go find someone else.

In Christ, I am free. I am no slave to anxiety, fear, depression, sin. But when you are experiencing a physical or mental illness, it sure feels like you're a slave to it. And yet, I tried to hold tight to the truth of the Gospel that Jesus broke every chain that could or would ever try to bind me up. Still, it didn't take anything away. Yes, it can. I believe that Jesus can heal any disease but He also chooses to take the long road and carry us through trials. And despite what I was taught growing up, He sometimes chooses medicine to heal our brains. And medicine is not just for "crazy people" which is what I picked up from the church. That and a whole lot of silence on the topic of mental illness and depression. Thank God, He is teaching me otherwise.

I silently fought PPD and extreme anxiety as my second daughter grew and I had 2 under 1 for a month. Longest month of my life. Any time I got in the car with someone, my mind CONSTANTLY replayed scenarios of crashing over and over and over and over. I couldn't see clearly because of the horror movies my mind's eye was seeing.

I would try to tell my husband what I was feeling but since I couldn't articulate it well enough and since my mind was so foggy, I just figured it wasn't worth it. I knew he knew I had anxiety. My husband is extremely loving and supportive and only wants the best for me and as soon as I finally told him how bad the depression and anxiety was that I was experiencing, he supported me in reaching out and getting help. But for a while, it was my normal. I just accepted that this was just how it was, how I was.

The depression lessened but the anxiety was at an all-time high. I was home alone with a newborn and a 12 month old who was just learning to walk, toddling around and getting into EVERYTHING. I was recovering from a 2nd c-section, 2 within a year. Hormones were raging, my body was aching, my mind was spinning. Motherhood is such a strange thing. I was so thankful for my girls yet so exhausted. Hurting but happy. Depressed by joyful. So strange the thoughts and emotions always changing. It was overwhelming. Not to mention everything outside of my mind. The house, I couldn't keep clean. I couldn't keep myself properly hydrated or fed. Lila ate every 2 hours or LESS. My body was being used to care for another human and it forgot to care for its own self. My mind was being used by anxiety and depression and it was slowly killing me. I felt so outside of myself. I thought I was going crazy. I was SO scared that I would hurt myself or someone else. I couldn't take a bath in fear of drowning. I couldn't be around knives or even look at them in my kitchen for fear of stabbing myself. And when those thoughts started coming, I knew I had to reach out.

At the end of another overwhelming day, I finally mustered up enough energy to tell my husband how I had been feeling. He immediately told me to reach out to someone then after a few minutes, encouraged me that we talk to our pastor and his wife. I didn't know it but that was the start of stepping on the road to recovery. God was truly working. Even when I couldn't see it.

I believe God let me get to that point of desperation and darkness in my mind so that I would finally reach out. He brought me to the point to where I couldn't deal anymore on my own. Thank God He had given me enough grace and protection to seek help before I did something bad to myself. My heart hurts for those who believe the lie that they can't reach out to someone when they're hurting. If you're reading this, (especially if you're a Christ follower and you're struggling, stop believing the lie of man that depression isn't a real thing because it is). REACH OUT. SPEAK UP. Get help. It may hurt your pride, it may seem "not Christian" which is another lie all together. Jesus does NOT want His children suffering in silence. Motherhood is hard. Life is hard and we are not meant to do it alone.

After meeting with my pastor and his wife, they encouraged me to speak to a doctor that I trusted. God uses modern medicine to heal people of physical diseases AND mental issues as well. To say that isn't true is a pride and ignorance. On the other hand, you and I cannot place our faith in medicine to make us whole. It is simply a small tool among other tools to bring about healing.

My second daughter is 4 months old (and SO HAPPY!) and this past month that I have been taking medicine and reaching out to people, my mind is clear. For the first time in what seemed like forever, I hear the birds. Their chirping makes me giggle. I looked at the trees outside and thought BEAUTIFUL! I can belly laugh and finally feel like I don't need to be ashamed to be happy. I can clean my house and take care of 2 sweet babies without feeling like the world is crashing around me. I can close my eyes when I pray. I can focus on something for more than a minute. I have been able to sit and read the Word without thinking about a million other things. I can have a conversation with someone without feeling confused and incoherent. I can smell, taste, see bright colors, enjoy a cup of coffee. I jump up and down and act silly with my daughter. We laugh and run around. I don't feel like I'm running away from the monster anymore. Yes, I still have anxious thoughts. I may always have them. But what once felt like a huge heavy monster permanent on my being that I can't control, those thoughts and feelings now feel like an ant that I can pick up and move out of my mind when I need to. I can chop up vegetables without the fear of hurting myself. I drove 2 hours to visit family last week without my heart racing and palms sweating in fear of getting in a car crash and dying.

I am sharing this as a testament to God's grace in my life. God's goodness. I am sharing this for any mom suffering from PPD + anxiety. It's okay to get help. You are not "crazy". Being anxious and depressed is not normal and it's not a "phase". I'm sharing this to show people that I am weak and I believe in Jesus and I believe that He understands mental illness more than we do. He uses medicine as a means to heal people and sometimes He does it without. But sometimes He does. I'm sharing my testimony to show that I'm not perfect. I'm a mess but God is not. I am finally feeling the reality of being free. I hear the birds.