Thursday, December 22, 2016

Finding My Joy

I'm circling back to that word I mentioned in my last post... Joy. This kid... he's my joy. And in this season of intense emotional turbulence, I find complete peace in Liam's laugh, in his goofy little antics, his sense of humor... and those dimples! My last post was as vulnerable as I've ever been on my blog. I wrestled with sharing so publicly, a decision so personal. Ultimately, I chose to walk in obedience to the Lord and share outside of my comfort zone.

Y'all, the enemy wanted me (and still wants me) to hide. To keep private the pain. Keeping hidden pain that intense - it intensifies - it soon introduces me to shame and embarrassment and sometimes even guilt.... any which of these could lead to isolation. That's the enemy's playground. It's hard to be thankful for the times I'm in. Thanking the Lord for where he has me in these hurts... I struggle with doing that. But after my post last weekend, I understood a little better. 
My last post went live around 10pm last Friday night. From about 5 minutes after I hit the "publish" button and for several days following, I had an outpouring of not only love and support, but of similar stories. I received Facebook messages, phone calls and texts of people sharing with me their hurts and heartbreaks - thanking me for my vulnerability that gave them that little extra something to then share with me.

Y'all - the enemy wants us to hide from each other and isolate when we hurt. Jesus wants us to hold each other up. Every message I read, every text I opened up, every call I took, I thanked the Lord for my circumstances because it was bringing together the hurting, it was building relationships, it was reminding me that this isn't only a time a mourning, but a time of growth and rebuilding. Being vulnerable is scary. It also has incredible reward sometimes. While I'm hurting for those of you who identify with me... who are walking a similar path, or who have walked this path before me... I'm joyful in the fact that we don't have to journey one step of it feeling alone. I don't have to isolate and try to sort through my mess in the dark on my own. I can bring it all into the light by seeking the Lord and taking a risk with vulnerability. That gives me freedom. That brings me joy.
Joy also comes in the acknowledgment. So many people reached out to say "I'm praying for you," "How can I help?" "I'm standing with you in this." That's the church... that's the design of the Lord. Know Him and know each other... help support each other. Let iron sharpen iron. So thank you, for being the hands and feet of the Lord and for reminding me that love never fails... I have felt loved this past week. I have felt seen. I have felt heard. If you could have asked me last week to predict how I'd feel today, it would not have been "loved, seen and heard." But God knows what I need and He provided. 
And this kid. He brings me joy. Merry Christmas, guys. Thanks for doing the hard things alongside this little family.

Living Loved,

Friday, December 16, 2016

Eye of the Storm

Its been a long time since I sat down to write a blog post. Over a month... and its not because nothing has been happening. Quite the opposite really. Everything has been happening.... and I've struggled with whether or not to write about all the happenings. I've sought God in making sure my heart is where God has it. And I've come to realize, God isn't growing only me in this season. He isn't teaching only me through my heartache... Maybe someone else will be changed through my trials, too... and I won't let my un-comfortability with writing about the hurts turn into disobedience to the Lord. The enemy wants me to hide. I don't care what he wants.

You may notice the complete over haul on my blog. Total change. My entire life is turning upside down, and this seems as good a place as any to start the remodel. And as I welcome in 2017... or sprint/crawl into it depending on the day... I am trying to stand tall and embrace change. I'm walking in faith through these changes. Trusting that God is already in the changes... paving a way for me. The toughest year of my life is drawing to a close and so is a huge chapter in it.

During the Christmas season, we hear a lot about Joy. In the songs we sing, in the Sunday morning messages, in the cards we receive in the mail... and for me, it's even written on my door in reds and greens, sprinkled in glitter. I'll be honest; it's been a challenge for me to find joy in the last 335 days. I've been in the eye of the storm for almost a year now - and the two years before that were not full of sunshine and rainbows either. It's been storming heavily for a long time now, and as I try to get through December and hear all this talk of Joy, I have a choice to make. I can lay down and take the beating from the rain, hail, and harsh winds or I can choose to force the clouds apart and find the rainbow... find God's promise to me. Then choose it. And it is hard to do.   

"When my hopes and dreams are far from me, and I'm runnin' out of faith 
I see the future I picture slowly fade away 
And when the tears of pain and heartache are falling down my face, 
I find my peace in Jesus' name  

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control  
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul. 
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn. 
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm."  
 - Ryan Stevenson (Eye of the Storm)   

As I walk into 2017, I will do so as a single mom. I walk into it believing God has a future for me. Knowing I'm a girl with options. Believing I'm enough. I'm enough for the Lord. Enough for Liam. Enough for me. Enough for our New Little Family. So, 2017, I'm ready.   

Living Loved,

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pulling the Weeds

Tomorrow is Halloween. October has just flown by... Honestly, this year, Liam and I didn't even carve a pumpkin. We painted some, and we spent a day at the pumpkin patch, but Halloween definitely came on quicker than I was ready for. The day that Liam and I went to the patch, it was a rainy morning. I honestly thought that they may turn us away once we got there - and its a good 25 minute drive from our house. God had different plans. 
Upon arrival, the lady at the entrance informed me that due to so many schools having field trips there, they were not closing due to inclement weather. It was lightly sprinkling, but it was bearable. We had hats and sweatshirts. So, first thing, Liam wanted to ride the barrel train. He didn't remember it from last year, but that was his same response even then. He knows what he likes!
At his point, the rain started to pick up just a bit and I was worried we would be too wet and cold to stand it after long so I decided our next activity. We immediately went to the hay-ride and we were the only ones on it! The hay-ride dropped us off at the pumpkin patch, where pumpkins are still growing in wide rows. I snapped some photos of Liam investigating the pumpkins and the mud they were sitting in because of the sprinkling rain. As I watched Liam pull at the giant leaves, and ask me for scissors to cut the stumps of the pumpkins shorter, I found myself thankful that at this patch, pumpkins are there to be picked right off the ground, still connected, still rooted, and still growing.
In this season of life, I have to remind myself that God is growing me. He's preparing me for something big. I do not believe that God orchestrates bad things to happen to his children, but I do know that He uses all things for the good of those who love him. I love the Lord. I get unbelievably frustrated with him, but I love him. I'm learning to trust him even in my chaos, because he isn't a God of chaos, he's the God of order. He has vision. He has plans. He knows. I don't have to.
No more had we finished our pumpkin patch photo ops, the rain had started to pick up and the wind was brutal. I had my photographic proof of our trip, but I was sad that the whole day of fun activities may get passed over. Liam and I quickly got to the red barn so we could step inside for warmth and shelter from the rain. We ordered some hot chocolate and sat down. Once we sat down with our warm cups, a huge downpour started. It was loud on the tin roof of the barn and all the families huddled inside looked a bit discouraged. Our pumpkin patch trip was muddier, colder, and potentially over... But who was going to run to their car in this down pour? So we sat.
Liam sipped his hot chocolate and played with the buckets of squash and tiny ghost pumpkins and I let my mind wander to just how God was growing me. I was reminded of a series the youth pastor of my old church in Arkansas taught. He was teaching on the fruits of the spirit (Galations 5:22-23). I remember him saying how God put those fruits of the spirit in each of us - we already have all we need, but its our life circumstances and experiences that give us a chance to grow them. We all have all the patience we need, but some situations may lead us to think we don't have any (trust me, I have a pre-schooler)... in reality, we just need to grow the patience the Lord already gave us. Growth... 
I often feel like I'm freezing cold, covered in mud, and left out in the middle of nowhere like those pumpkins in the photos. I don't feel like it every day, but its definitely something that's come up a lot over the past 10 months. I didn't choose this heartache. I don't want these challenges. And I know in my heart of hearts that God doesn't want this heartbreak for me either... after all, he catches my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He hears me even in my muddy and cold silence and he's reminding me that I'm not alone. He's growing me right along side the rest of his children.
As you can see, the rain passed after about 10 minutes, the sun came out and warmed everything up. It was a gorgeous day that we packed full of the rest of the pumpkin patch activities. And I walked out of that barn with new perspective.
Its my job to make sure I'm rooted in love (Ephesians 3:17). Its my job to stay connected to godly people so we can sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17). And as I sit connected and rooted, God will grow me (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). You see... God is the ultimate Gardener. He doesn't have green thumbs, he IS green thumbs. At times, I can be rooted and connected, and yet still see it as muddy and cold. But the Lord is working on me even when I'm not. He doesn't need me. He WANTS me. He doesn't leave me. I'm not alone. I'm growing. And I'm going to trust the Gardner to pull the weeds.