This morning I was on my way out the door to hit up a thrift store before meeting a friend for coffee, when it hit me that I had not done my morning devotional yet. Knowing I had plenty of time before I had to be anywhere, I didn't hesitate to sit down and open up my Jesus Calling devotional to see what the day had to say.
As is a common thread throughout this devotional, the peace of Jesus was the subject for the day. As I read the words on the page, I stopped and re-read this sentence several times in a row:
"Thank Me when things do not go your way, because spiritual blessings come wrapped in trials."
The beauty of those words just struck me. Blessings in disguise.
I immediately thought about my current ongoing trial, which is infertility. It's a subject I haven't touched on in a while on my blog, yet it is always in the back of my mind. And although it has never stolen my joy, it has, at times, made me feel sadness from the depths of my soul that I can only describe as the feeling of loss over something you've never had.
One of the verses that coincided with today's devotional was James 1:2. (I'm also including verse 3.)
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow."
I sat and took in the words. I thought about the fact that I have a trial in my life. I thought about how so many times in the past 4 1/2 years I've viewed infertility as a curse of sorts, a robbery of a blessing I felt I deserved. I've thought of it as a test of patience. But not often have I thought of infertility as a blessing. Not often have I thanked God for it.
But this morning I did. With a sincere heart, I thanked God that Leslie and I have not had a baby yet because we are growing spiritually through this, and our story is being written in a way that will allow us to minister to others.
Days like this are good days and are more frequent than few here lately. I truly see this road we're on as God-given, and the beauty of being in His will is undeniable. I still greatly desire to be a mommy, and I will still be sad every month that it doesn't happen. But I will always pick myself up and place myself back in His arms, having faith in His sovereign will.
For anyone reading this that might be struggling with infertility, I want to share a song that has great meaning to me. It's called Sovereign Over Us by Michael W. Smith. Sometimes I pull the lyrics video up on YouTube and just revel in the truth that God KNOWS and He is working for our good. What the enemy means for evil and defeat, God works it for our good. We just have to choose to trust and never lose heart.
My sister and her husband left for their very first mission trip together a few days ago and will be in Honduras for a week. They entrusted their little one to Leslie and me, and we couldn't have been more honored...or excited! Dry run at parenting...here we came!
Our first full day together was Saturday. Molly impressed us by sleeping all night in her pack & play without waking up until about 7:30 am. It was brutally cold, so we stayed home all day. Molly stayed in her pajamas until after her morning nap (which only lasted about 15 minutes), then I dressed her in her Razorback outfit that her mommy had packed for her in anticipation of the big AR/LSU rivalry game.
We spent the day playing in between meals, snacks and naps. In the afternoon, we got some thundersleet/small hail.
Molly had a cold, hence a very snotty nose, AKA crusted, boogery hair. We gave her a bath before putting her down for the night and watching the Razorback game. I also had a cold, so my body was exhausted by the end of the day! But it had all been so enjoyable, I couldn't wait to get up and do it all again with Molly.
The next day was Sunday, and even though we desperately wanted to put Molly in her Audrey-Hepburn-style black pea coat and go to church, we opted to stay home on account of both of us being sick. We declared this day pajama day! It started snowing in the afternoon but ended up only being a heavy dusting on everything. This day ran smoothly in that Molly napped for longer lengths and I got all my usual Sunday chores done and even cooked a pot of chili for dinner.
Leslie has been such a great teammate through all of this! I walked in from blow drying and straightening my hair Sunday evening, and he was changing a poopy diaper! So needless to say, I was sad to see him go back to work on Monday.
Today is Monday, and I'm going to try to recap the days as they happen from this point forward. It's another frigid day--highs in the low 20's! But Molly and I got bundled up and had our first outing anyway!
All we did was to go to the post office, but I was proud I was able to get us both bundled and the car warmed up for us. I did forget to defrost the rear windshield though...oops! Almost nailed it.
Whereas most babies might fuss to be oitside on such a cold, blustery day, Molly smiled when the frigid wind hit her face. She is seriously the most chill baby. She has pretty much only cried when we've had to suction out or wipe her runny nose.
Then my parents came over to visit for a little bit and brought me Sonic for lunch. Molly loved getting to see new faces...I wonder if she is getting tired of seeing mine... I mean, this is the look I got as I sang to her at lunch:
Maybe it was because today was my first full day alone with a baby in my care, but I was wiped out at the end of the day. Leslie brought me home a surprise Pepsi and, let me tell you, a small gift never meant so much to me.
Moving on along to Tuesday, which is the day I'm typing this. I took the day off work to save my mom from having to come over 3 days in a row to watch Molly. Not to mention, I wasn't quite ready to leave her. Listen to me; I sound like a real mom.
Getting out of the house is good for both Molly and me. So today we went over to my sister-in-law's house for lunch and to let the kids play. Molly lit up when she realized we were in a new house filled with new but familiar faces.
So today was just a really good day. I even conquered another first: taking a tiny one to the grocery store. We only had to get three things but it went seamlessly!
Wednesday and Thursday I went back to work, and my parents came over to watch Molly. Thursday afternoon, the temps were in the 50's so Molly and I went outside for some much-needed fresh air and sunshine!
Then we headed to Target for some good ol' fashioned "clearance end cap browsing" and met up with my sis-in-law and her little nuggets.
Then to top the day off, Leslie and I took Molly out on a dinner date for some yummy bbq!
It was rainy all day, but we got out to the grocery store to shop for Thanksgiving meal items to contribute to our church's drive to feed families in our area.
The highlight of the day was taking Molly over to Leslie's parents' house to watch the Razorback game.
It was such a joy watching them play with her and love her as if she could be their own grandchild. And we worked really hard on teaching her "Woo Pig Sooie!"
On Sunday, we woke up feeling sad that it was our last day to have Molly but also excited to see Charlie and Emily again. Molly was still asleep when it was time to get her ready for church, so after she had a solid 12 hours of sleep, we had to wake her up, feed her breakfast, get her dressed and fix her hair all in about a 25 minute time frame. I was sweating because as the minutes ticked down, I couldn't get her tights to fit on her legs and had to improvise with a pair of leggings (from the dirty laundry pile, shhh) and socks. We were about 15 minutes later than we wanted to be getting to church, but it wasn't a big deal because a breakfast was being served instead of having first service.
After church we had lunch at home and laid Molly down for a quick nap before heading to the airport to pick up Emily and Charlie.
It was pure magic seeing this sweet family reunited. Molly took it all in stride but I could see gladness and a sense of comfort on her face once it set in that her parents were home. I watched everyone hug and thought about how amazing their week must have been serving Jesus in Honduras. I also thought about the amazing week I had as Molly's pretend Mommy and had to hold back tears at the sheer greatness of it all.
The week we spent with Molly will be forever treasured in my heart. I learned so much about what it will be like to be a full-time parent some day, and I fell even deeper in love with a very special little girl.
Emily texted me a few days after getting home and said that she had mentioned Aunt Martha to Molly. She said this is how Molly responded:
So there are these girls that stole my heart. These girls are the little sisters I never had. I want the best for these girls. I want them to always feel loved. I want them to shine the love of Jesus to a dark world.
When they laugh, I laugh. When they talk, I listen with anticipation. Their burdens are mine.
For everything I dream of pouring into their lives, these girls pour abundantly back into mine tenfold.
>> Tanyard Creek Picnic & Hike, October 5, 2014
I am a 31-year-old wife, teacher, pug mommy, friend and Pinterest-loving crafter. I am an introvert that loves people. I can be as silly as a 12-year-old and love making others laugh. I am a good listener and love hearing other people’s stories.
Because we all have a story. And sometimes sharing it with others is the scariest thing we think we’ll ever face because vulnerability can sometimes lead to pain. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that before God formed us in the womb, he knew us. He knew what he was doing when he gave us our character traits and our flaws. It is only recently that I’ve come to understand that the imperfections within us are meant to serve a purpose. God tends to use those with a limp, if you haven’t noticed. That being said, here is my story.
Growing up, I was thought of as the shy and quiet girl. I clung to my mother’s leg on the first day of Kindergarten and hoped that if I cried hard enough my parents wouldn’t make me stay. In elementary school, I remember playing alone on the playground and drawing elaborate pictures in the dirt with a stick. My best friend was my stuffed, pajama-clad bear named Chuckles.
Once, in the fifth grade, I had to demonstrate a “how-to” project in front of the class. This is my first real memory of experiencing crippling fear in front of my peers. I went with something quick and easy: How to Draw a Snoopy Face Out of the Number 55. I went up to the board and drew that thing out in about five seconds flat. There was no pausing to give my classmates instructions. I drew as quickly as I could with trembling hands as my teacher urged me to slow down and explain each step. I don’t remember what kind of grade I got on that presentation, but I do remember from then out having an inescapable fear of being called up to the board in class.
Fast forward to high school, where every day was spent making sure I didn’t wear a gray t-shirt to reveal my incessantly sweating armpit stains. I refused to eat anything for lunch at school other than crackers because I feared eating a big lunch would cause my stomach to make gurgling digestive sounds in a quiet classroom. My worst fear was being called on by my teacher to read out loud.
Then came college, where there was more of the same. Every day was spent fighting one anxious battle after another. I remember my heart beating fast each and every time I walked to class. I wondered: Would I get called on to read out loud today? Would I get a tickle in my throat and have an uncontrollable coughing spell during lecture? I told myself that if things got to too stressful in class, I would just get up and leave, pretending I had an appointment. This is an escape route that wasn’t available to me in high school, and I utilized it one day in Calculus to avoid board work.
At the end of the day, I would go back to my dorm room and collapse on my bed, emotionally exhausted. A suite mate might knock on my door, but I wouldn’t answer, telling her later I had fallen asleep.
When Summer came, while other kids got jobs to further their resume and use towards experience in their field of major, I would stay holed up in my apartment, relying on savings to pay my part of the rent and bills. A day didn’t go by that I didn’t feel like a worthless freeloader. I couldn’t apply for jobs because my anxiety was through the roof. I remember multiple instances of my picking up the phone to call a potential employer then hanging up before they answered because my heart was beating so hard, I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk. One morning I was in bed thinking about how all my roommates were at work and I was wasting another day away, a prisoner to fear. My heart started beating erratically, and I experienced a full-blown panic attack that left my heart physically hurting. I was so worried, I actually called my parents and asked them to drive me to the hospital for heart tests. After all the testing, I learned my heart was fine. I was told to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine. I was also told that anxiety is most common in college-aged women trying to figure out what to do with their lives.
No matter what age I was, a common thread coursed through my life: the concept of embracing who I was and simply being myself was never considered. It took all I had to face each day trying to hide my unrealistic anxieties from those around me. But even though it was the only way of life I knew, I never stopped to consider what might be wrong with me until after I got married.
At 23 years old, I googled “social anxiety.” The symptoms laid out on my computer screen sounded like someone was writing a biography about me. I felt exposed. I felt scared that I had an actual diagnosis which I would forever be trapped in and defined by.
According to Wikepedia: ”Social anxiety is a discomfort or a fear when a person is in social interactions that involve a concern about being judged or evaluated by others. It is typically characterized by an intense fear of what others are thinking about them (specifically fear of embarrassment, criticism, or rejection), which results in the individual feeling insecure, not good enough for other people, and/or the assumption that peers will automatically reject them.”
Boom. There was my life summarized in two sentences. I cried to my husband that night and revealed to him my secret struggle that even he had known nothing about. I worried he would look at me differently, but he amazed me then and continues to amaze with his understanding and full acceptance of me.
I continued to live life crippled by social anxiety for a few more years. My breaking point came when my job required me to go into a few different stores and pick out products to highlight. This involved me carrying in a notebook and pen and asking an employee to help me with what I needed. I couldn’t do it. I broke down, absolutely overtaken by fear. My husband was my hero that day. He took my notebook and pen and went into each and every store and got the information that I had been assigned to get.
Not long after that, I had a talk with my family doctor. My heart beat and my voice shook as I told him about the relentless anxiety I struggled with every day. He listened and acknowledged my struggle. He affirmed that I had truly been living in a secret hell. It was that day that I took the first step of treatment. And my life has been changed for the better since.
Do I still struggle with anxiety? Yes. But the difference is that instead of not making the call, I’ll make it now, even if I don’t feel the most confident. I put myself in new situations now and don’t hide from the world. I have discovered my real personality when not held back by fear of being judged. I am funny. I love people. I’m goofy and not as shy as I’ve always considered myself to be. I love teaching children. I see the value in complimenting a stranger and look for opportunities to be a light for Christ. And going back to what I said in the beginning about God using those with a limp: I am a greeter at my church. I struggle sometimes with stumbling over my words or feeling awkward trying to talk to new people, but I’ve also seen God use me just as I am to make others feel welcome and important.
I recently read this quote and it has stuck with me: “Imperfections have a role to play in our lives and when we forget that, we become unapproachable.”
Therefore, embrace your imperfections. Don’t waste them. Figure out who God wants you to share your story with and tell it. You will be amazed at how many people will be able to relate and how many lives you’ll be able to touch when you take off the proverbial mask of perfection.
I am sharing my story to bring awareness to a disorder that affects millions of adults in America. If you are secretly struggling with social anxiety, know there are various forms of treatment and I urge you to consult with your doctor about which might be best for you.
There IS life beyond the labels.
“I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14
>> Published in Peekaboo NWA magazine, September 2014.
Summer is over, and I'm a week into the new school year. I was super happy that the teaching bug hit me weeks before it was actually time to go back, as opposed to my hanging on to every last moment of summertime freedom like I normally do. I went to a summer training session in July that really rejuvenated my love for teaching and reminded me how blessed I am to have this job that allows me to pour into the lives of children.
First order of business before the new school year started was to go in for a drastic hair cut. I had been growing my hair out for years and it was so long. I loved it, but it was so dead on the ends, even after regular trims. It was also super tangly and a nightmare to style after being washed. So, I got what I like to refer to as my "teacher haircut."
Next order of business was to get my classroom all set up. I added a tent to the reading area, scaled down all the small random toys, and added a plethora of new table activities to my white cabinet. I also found a white board/chalkboard easel and art drying rack on a local yard sale site to add to my room. The little red, white, and blue table was a freebie that I painted for my kitchen center. Oh, and I can't forget to mention my new valance curtain I made out of chevron fabric. Needless to say, I made lots of fun changes to my room this year that I deemed worthy of a photo shoot. :-)
This morning I walked by this chalkboard hanging in our hallway just as I have hundreds of times before. The message on it "Bless This Home" read differently to me this time than the generic sentiment I wrote it as. It hit me that in the midst of my longing for something I don't have, our home is already so abundantly blessed. Why am I asking for something that already exists? Why am I expecting more?
As you know, I desire to be a mommy. I believe you put that desire in my heart and that it is a good thing. However I admit that my focus on this one desire has blurred my vision on what it is you most want me to see. Forgive me for looking past all the beautiful blessings you placed daily in my line of vision that I've failed to acknowledge because I've been too busy peering past them towards the unattained. All this time I thought I was doing you right by telling others: "I'll still praise Him, even though I'M WAITING; I'll display patience WHILE I WAIT." While I believe this is an honorable stance to take when "in waiting," my eyes are now open to a new revelation:
Who says there's an end to THE WAIT?
My saying that "I'm waiting" implies my expectancy of a reward, doesn't it? And how long do I really want to spend "waiting" on one blessing when I already have 1,000 blessings around me? God, the things you've given me are way too good to let go to waste.
My husband is a gift from you, and he is more than good enough. My health, this house you've given me, my wonderful job, my sweet dog, loving family and friends -- all of it is more than good enough. If the blessings ended right here, today, you would only deserve nothing short of my eternal praises.
If you had never given me any of the things I just listed, and all you ever gave me was the promise of eternal life with you, you would still deserve nothing short of my unfaltering praise and gratitude.
Sometimes, the more gifts you give a person, the more they come to expect. I know I have become entitled because you have been so good to me.
God, I'm handing all my unattained desires to you, and I'm entrusting the outcome to you. Your will for my life, your knowledge, your plan -- it's all sovereign. Your understanding of the big picture is impeccable. You give and you take away (Job 1:21) and most of the time, we don't understand. That is ok, though, because God, YOU KNOW. Your will, even when it hurts, is perfection.
I'm saying this: My desire for YOUR WILL for my life is stronger than my desire for a baby. Your will for my life is better than any agenda of my own. There is NOTHING lacking in my life--no void waiting to be filled--because I have you. I say this with sincerity because, God, you truly are everything good, everything wonderful.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above..." (James 1:17)
Your name alone is a strong tower (Proverbs 18:10), and no matter what my circumstances, you are enough. Even when I forget. Even when I'm struggling. Even when I don't understand. You are enough.
You are the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). You always have been and always will be...enough.
Thank you, God, for being the glue that held us together when we didn't have it in us.
Thank you for the painful glimpses we had of our lives without each other, the hollowness we felt, and for the beautiful restoration that came from the storm.
Thank you that the bond between a husband and wife is sacred and meant to be unbreakable--a picture of your everlasting love for us--full of mercy and grace.
Thank you for the man you've placed alongside me with which to worship and to hold my hand as we walk closer towards you.
And thank you, God, for promising us a brighter tomorrow when today already holds more good than we could ever ask or imagine.