Monday, December 28, 2015

Undone


Oh man...today. Today is my favorite day of the year.

I walked around today with a smile on my face while inwardly I kind of felt like I was in a fog.

Every time I wrote the date, I kept thinking "I should be so excited today!", and I was, but it I still felt like I was trapped in this cloud of confusion. All day, I felt like I was "full" of something, but I didn't know what. Tears threatened to exit my eyes all day and I had no idea why.

Finally, some after dinner prompting brought forth those tears and I found the courage to navigate through the fog as I washed dishes and sang along with Adele on the radio. 

Suddenly, it hit me. I was just really happy. And it's still so strange and uncomfortable that I was afraid of it. So, instead of accepting it today, I pushed it and pushed it away until it hung around as that heavy fog within me, waiting for me to embrace it.

Now I find myself in my room; in my happy place with some crayons and an adult coloring book calendar a sweet friend gave me today as I listen to the wind whistling outside of my windows. I'm embracing the happy; embracing the joy of what this day means to me.

On this day in 2004, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and my life was radically changed forever. I went from being the kid who dreaded going to church at Easter and Christmas, to being a teenager who wanted to be there as often as I could. 

Through the years, even as I strayed and pushed Him away, He was always there waiting for me to come running back into His arms. 

Today, as I reflected on years back, I realized that's where I am now. My grip finally began to loosen the last few months. I had to swallow my pride and admit that I needed help. But when I truly, truly, reached that point, He was there. For eleven years, He has always been by my side. 

With every step I took towards Him, I felt a weight lifted. Not that everything is just peachy now, but He was helping me carry them every step and He still is. Like a child, I crawled in His lap and breathed a sigh of relief as His loving arms wrapped around His hurting daughter and my tears no longer felt meaningless, but instead felt understood. Each tear carried a piece of the loneliness I had felt for so long and I felt assured that I would never be alone.

He has strategically placed people in my life and orchestrated everything to work together for healing to finally begin. He's given me the courage and the strength to really dig deep and be honest with myself. He's given me beautiful glimpses of life outside of an eating disorder that are so joyful that they have left me desperate for more. Freedom.

There's a MercyMe song called "Undone" and the chorus says:

To the cross I run,
Holding high my chains undone.
Now I am finally free,
Free to be what I've become
Undone

And when I heard this song on Saturday for the first time in years as I was driving down the interstate, the floodgates of gratitude opened. I had no words, but my tears said everything. I thought, "That's me. That's me!". 

Some days my life just feels like a jumbled mess. Only now, it's a jumbled mess because it's all becoming undone. He is calling me out of my comfort zones to experience the true joy He gives. The chains are undone and beginning to unravel their intricate links. I feel glimpses of freedom from this eating disorder. I feel glimpses of not being afraid all the time. I hear Him whisper, "You are always safe with Me" and I believe it. Wholeheartedly.

He's beginning to show me purpose in my past and it's life changing. He's allowed me to experience true joy that comes with authentic connections with other people and I've embraced how important that is in my life. 

My world is coming undone. But it's not a tragic undoing. It's miraculous. It's unraveling so that a fresh start can be made and an abundant life can begin.

I'm undone. I'm broken. And it's beautiful.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

When Joy Finds You

Today, my heart is overwhelmed. My mind envisions the scene on How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original cartoon version) when the heart of the Grinch swells so big that the box it was contained in at the beginning can no longer hold all the joy that is within it when the Grinch discovers life and connections outside of his mountain top cave.

Two words have defined my life this week: But God.

I'm struggling with this today, but God intimately knows my struggles.
I'm not sure I can do this, but God tells me in Philippians 4:13 that with Him, I can.
I'm so tired of fighting this battle, but God promises that He will fight for me.
I am so afraid, but God assures that He grants strength and courage.
I don't like myself today, but God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.
I can't take anymore today, but God promises shelter like no other
I don't understand why I have to deal with this, but God promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him.

The list goes on and on. Last week during my quiet time one morning, I felt so broken. Treatment for my eating disorder has been, is, and will continue to be hard work. It's emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. But it's exactly where I'm supposed to be and I have no doubt that it has all been God orchestrated.

I think back to when I first came to treatment, and I don't know where that person is anymore. She was cowering in the corner covering her face, trapped there by fear, insecurities, doubt, shame, and guilt. The chains that were so intricately linked together weighed more than she did. She knew she needed help, but to her that felt like admitting failure. She knew she needed help, because she finally realized that she didn't know how to help herself and she was suffocating in the small, dark corner that had become her entire world.

She tried to save herself by staying busy and trying to do "good" things by giving her time and her love away constantly by serving others. And she gave and she gave and she gave, but she never truly received anything sent back her way because she felt undeserving and unworthy. One day, she had no more to give. She realized that she was empty.

Humbled, she realized that she once again found herself in a situation where she had to release her stubborn grip from the control that she thought that she had, and she had to hand over all that she had left to God. All that she had to give Him was herself and the mess she had made of herself, and that was enough. God could work with that. She knew that logically, but she didn't truly believe it yet. She thought that she was too broken.

God took her and uprooted her. She was obedient, but not accepting. She knew that she needed help from the people that God placed in her path, but she resisted. This eating disorder, the pain and trauma, the guilt and shame and fear and doubts and insecurities were all she knew anymore. Who would she be without them? What would occupy her mind without them? Could she really loosen her grip in order to discover the key to the chains?

She decided to try, but she was stubborn. In order to loosen the grip she would have to experience emotions that she didn't want to feel. She would have to experience emotions that she had shoved away for years. She would have to explore them in depth. She would have to cry and truly feel everything she had been afraid of feeling. She would have to start unpacking all of it bit by bit from the safe in which she locked them deep inside. She would be challenged and have to face things about herself that she didn't want to face. It would be hard, and she was afraid. 

Gradually the grip did start to loosen and I started to emerge from within her. I began to learn how to admit when I needed help and how to ask for it. I started learning that my eating disorder isn't about food, but rather, that food is an unhealthy way of coping that was forced on me by things in my past combined with my inability to process it all on my own and my stubbornness that held it inside of me for so long. I had to learn to start separating my emotions from the food. I'm still learning these skills. I'm a work in progress. I have to continue to get to know who I really am.

But on that day during that quiet time, God was speaking to me and for once, I was quiet enough to hear. And I could feel God telling me: "Lay it down. I see that you are tired. I see that you're going to continue breaking if you keep trying to do this alone. Let me fight for you". But I argued: "God I have tried that so many times with this eating disorder and all of this other stuff, but it hasn't worked. It would only work for a short amount of time and then I was back in that downward spiral". 

God: Have you truly ever laid it down?
Me: Yes! So many times I have tried!
God: How did you try?
Me: Well I've...I've taken it to the cross and laid it at your feet. But then, I picked it up and took it back with me over and over again. There isn't a try. It's either left at Your feet or it isn't. 

And in that moment I did break, but I broke in the way that I have needed to break for so long. Suddenly, that girl in the corner lifted her head. And she stood. The chains fell to the ground. She had realized that truly laying it down doesn't mean that she would be instantly healed. She accepted that there was still a long road of hard work ahead, and that is ok. As she turned to look and take in the world around her that she had hid from for so long, a little sparkle shone from her eye and a little confidence entered her step. And in that moment, I realized that the entire time, I've been staring into a mirror. 

That sparkle was in my own eye. The bit of confidence was within my own steps, and I no longer saw a frightened and trapped girl, but rather a young woman who realized that the world outside of her eating disorder and disordered thoughts was a big, beautiful world full of joyful moments with herself and other people waiting to happen. And it was scary. But it wasn't the same fear that kept her trapped in the corner. This scary...it was exciting; it was an adrenaline rush. She craved more. She craved more Jesus. She craved more genuine connections with other people. She craved adventure and the chances to take in the beauty of this world and the people in it.

"God, what do I do next? How do I get there?"

"Trust. Trust in me. Trust the recovery process. Trust yourself. Just trust."

And as I begin to trust, I am finding joy everywhere. There is joy in seeing another person take a huge step forward. There is joy in the smiles at the nursing home while you sing unrehearsed Christmas carols. There is joy when I look at all of God's creation through a camera lens. There is joy when I sit down with a paintbrush or a pencil. There is joy in smashing plates against a wall. There is joy in serving Christ. There is joy in practicing self care. There is joy in serving and loving others. To love and give, you must also be willing to give God His time first, and take time for yourself also.

There is joy in discovering what really sets your soul on fire and being passionate in your pursuit of that. There is joy in feeling at peace with where you are and where you've come from, and where you still have to travel. There is joy in God orchestrated moments that result in having church with a complete stranger in an aisle at Target. There is joy in obedience when He calls you to serve, but then also gently reminds you to balance it with the right amount of self care; refilling so that you can come back and serve and experience the true joy of giving.

We focus so much on what is wrong in this world. But today I can say with confidence that there is so much joy to be found. You just have to seek it. For me, that is seeking God first and the joy comes automatically. 

I can't claim recovery yet. It's still the flag at the top of Mount Everest that sometimes seems farther away than others. But I'm still climbing. I'm not giving up. I am accepting that the climb will be hard and that there will be times that I stumble or feel like quitting. But I am trusting. 

For the first time I am truly experiencing the life that God has had planned for me all along and joy. True, undeniable, joy.
 
He is so good.


Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
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Friday, October 9, 2015

Beautiful Transformations

I recently began a journey that I didn't want to be on, and many moments, still don't want to be on. But, as hard and exhausting as it is, it is needed and I know I am in the right place.

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase" - Martin Luther King, Jr.

This journey is a rollercoaster. Thankfully, I am a child of a God who is steady and constant. When I'm questioning, He is sending reminders that I am exactly where He wants me to be.

I spent a few moments this afternoon gathering fallen leaves and bark for an art project and I found myself taking a seat on the ground in one place and just really taking in all of the leaves and how unique each of them are. 

The different shapes were the first thing I noticed and in that moment decided that I wanted my art project to represent each of them rather than the leaves from a single type of tree. As I started gathering leaves that were whole and placing them in my bag, I began to notice the colors.

I adore fall. The changing leaves are beautiful and there is nothing I love more than to be in nature and surrounded by them. Though I admire them every year when fall rolls around, I think today was the first time in awhile that I really took time to notice the unique colors and patterns on each leaf. Colors varied from green to brown and a gorgeous yellow and tones of red. 

Many have them were more than one color as they were from different trees and at different stages of the process of their transformation. Each of them was unique with different amounts of color combinations and the patterns of the colors as the leaves changed. 

I laid a few of them side by side and noticed the different patterns amongst the veins of each one, amazed at the handiwork behind these amazing aspects of nature that we know exist, but don't often take the time to appreciate.

Taking a moment to really take them in and notice their details reminded me of how each of us are created as unique individuals. There are no two people exactly alike.

Like the leaves, we often know that each of us are unique, but we don't really take time to appreciate the unique qualities of those we encounter. We don't stop to appreciate their immense value and the unique impact that each individual life has; impacts that ripple beyond anything we could ever imagine. The ripples may not cause an effect that is noticed and appreciated, but each ripple is important and carries incredible worth.

Staring at those leaves that I would normally walk over without a second glance made me stop and appreciate life a little more. It was a reminder that even the hard times, like falling from the tree that held you up, still results in beauty. You transform, but you don't disappear. The changes my hurt and it's ok to be afraid of them. It may take you longer to embrace the changes, but often others will see the beauty that the changes produce within you and are inspired by your strength to courageously push through them. 

Sometimes it may seem like you are alone as people just pass you by. You're not. They don't always tell you, but sometimes they pause just to admire your unique beauty and strength.

Change is hard, but it can be beautiful too. Don't be afraid to embrace it.



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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

He Knows My Name

Picture with me, if you will, that it is September 2, 2012. You've just returned from a weekend away in an attempt to distract yourself from the fact that, just one week before, you buried your baby boy in a tiny white casket in the red Alabama dirt of a country cemetery. 

You arrive home in time to attend the night services at your church. You debate on it; you haven't shown your face anywhere in your small town since your baby died. The thought of seeing anyone face to face and seeing the reality of the sympathy on their faces has paralyzed you in fear. At the last minute, you decide to go.

You walk in and sink into the front pew so that you don't have to pass anyone on your way to sit down. You stare down at your lap and notice the empty womb beneath your black Under Armour shirt. You hide your face as you cringe. 

You are filled with conflicted feelings; it's nice to feel support from those who stop to speak, but at the same time you desperately want to sink into the pew and disappear. You are grateful when the service begins and you can just exist there alone on the front pew.

A few hymns are sung, and you contribute every once in awhile when you weren't completely distracted with flashbacks of the last week and a half. When the lights turn off to sing along with a few praise and worship DVD's you rejoice in the darkness where you can just be.

The first song starts to play and you immediately recognize the tune; it is one of your favorite songs and normally, you would be excited for it to be playing. The song is "He Knows My Name". You try to sing along, but the images behind the lyrics are of a tiny newborn baby resting peacefully in a pair of hands. The tears begin to well in your eyes and you know that the dam is about to crack.

In an effort to remain invisible, you place your face in your lap and within seconds find yourself overcome with powerful sobs that can only come forth from a grieving parent. In a moment, you feel a hand on your shoulder, and then an arm around you. Someone sets a box of tissues in your lap and your sobs become mixed with tears of gratitude. 

This was me, almost three years ago. To this day, that song always makes me think of Barrett. This past Sunday night, we sang that song again, and with Barrett's birthday coming up Sunday, I found myself overcome with emotions as I lay on my husband's shoulders and just listened to the lyrics.

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
He hears me when I call'

The first line gives me comfort as I reflect on Barrett's brief life. The Lord knew him before he was even formed in my womb. The same God that has walked with me for almost 11 years now is walking the streets of gold with my sweet boy. 

Last night as I was beginning the wall that we are using to display Barrett's things, I looked at the blown up canvas we have of one of the pictures from our pregnancy announcement photo shoot. It is his first ultrasound lying on my then new red Bible with Psalm 139; a few verses of which are now forever engraved on his grave marker. 

That red Bible is now tattered and the pages are falling out, but I will carry it always because it was the Bible I was using while he was here with me. As I looked at that photo, I reflected back on the song from the night before. I still find that song overwhelming, but for different reasons. That September day in 2012, I was overwhelmed by the images of the baby on the screen. Now it overwhelms me because of the hope contained in the lyrics. 

He knows my son's name. He loves him even more than I do. 

He knows how much his absence hurts me. He hears me when I am alone and the grief overwhelms me to the point that I don't even know what to pray. He knows every tear I have shed over his death. He sees the ones that continue to fall.

He knows your name. 

He knows my name.



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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Abba, Father

Today has been...a day. It wasn't an anniversary date with Barrett, but my heart was weighed down with his absence. My desire to hold him was overwhelming. It was one of those days where I just had this feeling of not knowing what to do with my arms in his absence.

He was on my mind all day. I replayed the day of his birth over and over again and it was so real that I could hear The Weather Channel discussing then Tropical Storm Isaac. I could feel that desperation that comes with being consumed by a feeling of helplessness knowing that your baby has died and there is nothing you can do about it.

When I finally made it through the day...through work and church and my husband asked me what was wrong, the only words I could muster were "I miss Barrett". That simple statement is so profound. Within it lies so many emotions and scars and would have beens.

Those three words summed up my entire day and the last 2 years, 11 months, and 20 days. Those three words sum up the heavy weight that knowing his birthday is only eleven days away carries. 

Sometimes I take the emotions of his death and try to explain them with detailed illustrations. But tonight, that's all I have. I miss him...I just miss him.

And every tear I cried as I sat in my car after work today held enormous amounts of love. The love for my son and the pain of navigating the path of parenting a child who isn't alive spilled out onto my steering wheel in big, ugly, crocodile tears. 

And in that moment, I was so thankful that, even when I don't know the words to pray, God knows what is on my heart. I am grateful that I can come to him and call Him "Father". I would be lost without that peace that surpasses all understanding that overcame me as I sat there in my car symbolically curled up in my Savior's lap with no words, but knowing that He knows them all anyway.

My sweet boy, your purpose is incredible. I am blessed to watch it unfold. Your life has been the source of countless smiles the last few weeks. I love you. So, so much. I dream of our reunion when I can run like never before and scoop you up in my arms and finally fill that aching void.

At self-defense class last night I was wearing a shirt that says "There is No Finish Line" and I love it because, in that aspect, there is no finish line. There is always room for improvement. But as I thought about it more in depth and spent that drive home as some quiet time with God, I could see my finish line. My finish line is my reunion with you and an eternity with our merciful Savior who graciously blessed me with the hope of seeing you again.

Gosh I love you. You are so loved and so wanted. You are so missed. Until that blessed day when I can hold you again, I will carry you in my heart. I will carry your name and do my best to make sure that you are never forgotten here on Earth. I will mother you as best I can figure out how to in your absence. Your life, though brief, is so cherished. God packed a lot of purpose in a tiny person. I am so, so proud to be your mom. 



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Monday, August 10, 2015

How Can It Be?

Tomorrow brings another milestone with Barrett's pregnancy. On August 11, 2012, we had our gender reveal party. We had a beautiful Pinterest worthy cake and a onesie with his name monogrammed it to announce his gender and name to our family and friends.

It was an amazing day filled with smiles and laughter. The photos from that day boast proud parents with glowing faces and my beautiful round belly that carried a precious treasure.

Last night at church I had one of those moments where God sent me exactly what I needed in that moment. We were singing "Forever" by Kari Jobe. It's a song that I hear almost daily on satellite radio, but there is something about seeing the lyrics on that big screen at church as you sing along that sometimes reveals lyrics that you had absentmindedly sang before. 

As we began to sing the lyrics,

"The ground began to shake
                                                             The stone was rolled away
                                                           His perfect love could not be overcome
                                                             Now death where is your sting?
                                                              Our resurrected King
                                                         Has rendered you defeated"


my heart swelled. I looked at the stained glass windows that were to my right and studied the images of the crucifixion and the resurrection as I processed those lyrics in my mind. My heart, in the midst of grief, was filled with overwhelming gratitude to my Savior. Because of his mercy and grace, I grieve with hope. My Savior defeated death, and because of that, though I wade through excruciating grief on earth, I do so knowing that it is only temporary and one day I will be reunited with my son.

The next song we sang was "How Can It Be?" by Lauren Dangle which was an overwhelming follow up to that song. The gratitude I was feeling became completely overwhelming. Because of His sacrifice, not only do I have the promise of eternal life, but I have the promise that this grief and pain is only temporary.

I glanced at the stained glass windows again and focused on the image of the crucifixion. I looked at those nail pierced hands and sat in awe of the truth that those hands had carefully formed my baby boy and instilled his great purpose within him. A peace came over me with the reminder that those same hands that so graciously formed his life, are holding him now.

As Brent and I were headed home this evening with the girls, Audrey began to excitedly scream "IT'S A RAINBOW!". I glanced up expecting to have to search for a barely visible rainbow, but instead, I saw a large, vibrant, beautiful rainbow stretching across the sky in a grand ark; the perfect reminder of that grand promise.





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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Don't Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle

In some ways, my life is still frozen in time, a piece of me forever idling in August 2012. That piece of me that Barrett took with him is cemented in time. That's not necessarily a bad thing. August holds many painful memories, but at the same time, it holds so much about my precious baby boy.

It seems that every day of this month serves up a multitude of memories. The Timehop app on my phone creates mixed emotions this month. I love when it reminds me of the days where I spent time just feeling him kick. When I see those posts, I catch my mind wandering back to that time. I envision ourselves in that first home we shared together and the freshly painted nursery at the end of the hall. I am back in his room in the rocking chair taking in all of the newly bought onesies hanging in his closet and Audrey's crib that we had set back up for him. I see my hands on my beautifully round belly, and I feel that peaceful anticipation that I basked in until his death.

I desperately long for just a few seconds back in that nursery with his precious little kicks reassuring me of the miraculous life I was carrying. Sometimes I think If I could just hold him one more time, but I know it would be like that songs says and leave me wishing for one more time. It could never be enough. 

Yesterday as I was talking with a fellow loss mom and trying to think of an illustration for this journey, one suddenly came to mind. We have been talking a lot recently about where Jesus uses a potter to explain how God molds and shapes our lives. So as I was searching for words, pottery came to mind.

I pictured myself before Barrett's death, not as a piece of pottery without blemish, but one that had its fair share of scratches and chips. Overall though, I was in one piece. When Barrett died, it was like someone took that piece of pottery and dropped it from a rooftop, shattering it into countless pieces. I looked at those pieces and instantly knew that I could never find them all, and even if I did, I would never be able to fit them all back together. 

For the first few months, the pieces remained where they had fallen in the crash. Then, little by little, day by day, I started to gather a few small pieces and glue them back. Maybe it wasn't exactly where they were before, but it was progress. Some days, the glue holding the gathered pieces together holds strong and other days it cracks a little. Some of the pieces will never be found; they followed my baby boy. But even if I could find every piece and glue them all back in the correct position, I still would never be the same as before; the cracks would always remain.

Sometimes, those cracks hurt. Emotionally they seem unbearable and some days they are accompanied by a physical ache that I can only describe as a broken heart and a mother's empty arms.  Despite that, the cracks do not indicate a lack of beauty. Rather, they are indicative of strength. Each one serves as evidence that you didn't give up. And every once in awhile, when you swear your eye catches a sparkle in a few of the cracks, know that it is not your imagination. Those sparkles are full of hope and an indescribable joy that is unique in its ability to coexist with unimaginable levels of pain. Those sparkles, are your baby's purpose shining through. 

One of the hardest paths to navigate in this journey is learning how to parent a child that isn't here. This is a path that is unique to everyone and there is no definitive answer. It's like walking a dark path at night by the light of your cell phone. You can't see very far in front of you, so you press forward cautiously and even still your eyes sometimes miss a rut in the path and you stumble a bit. Sometimes you may fall and that's ok too.

But when you have gathered yourself there on that path, and you are able to stand to your feet with your light once more, press forward again, leaving some of those sparkles wherever you go.





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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Truth is...

There is a song by Selah called "I Will Carry You" about the loss of their daughter, Audrey Caroline. When Barrett first died, I would listen to that song all the time. It was exactly what I needed.
 
I had not listened to it in awhile but just recently it came up when I had my iTunes on shuffle. There is a line in the song that says, "People say that I am brave, but I'm not. Truth is I'm barely hanging on". And the day I heard that song, that's exactly how I was feeling. When it played I thought, "Yes God! That's me!".
 
People will say, "I don't know how you do it. That must be so hard. You are so strong". The truth is, I'm not. I am weak. Many days, I am barely hanging on as I try to find a balance between being present with my children earthside while at the same time I long to be with my son along with everything else life throws our way.
 
But as I thought that and I could feel the well of tears slowly rising, I could feel God say, "But you are holding on. Maybe it's barely, but you are holding on, and that my child, is courageous".
 
I looked around the room and I thought about all of the women I've been blessed to cross paths with who share this heartache. I thought about the other people in my life who are fighting other unspeakable battles. We all have days where on the outside we appear brave, but the truth is we are barely hanging on. But you are hanging on; despite the pain, the heartache, and the raging storm, you are hanging on.
 
The truth is, that you are courageous.
 
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9
 
The truth is, you are loved and you are not alone.
 
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!
Psalm 121:1-2
 
I may have many days where I feel that sentiment, I'm barely hanging on. But He is hanging on to me. He is ever faithful. He gives me joy and a reason to smile and sing. This road is hard. Burying your baby is hard. Being apart from them in this life is hard. But I am thankful for this journey. I am thankful He chose me to be Barrett's mom.
 
"I will praise the One who's chosen me, to carry you".
 
 
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

GO

Recently I found myself in a place where I realized that I wasn't doing much to further the kingdom of God. I was doing everything "right". Praying, studying my Bible, singing praise and worship songs, and avoiding all the things we are taught to avoid, but what was I really doing

So I began to pray and ask God to place me where He wanted me. As this was going on, I had just made the decision to go back to school after much prayer. After praying about that, I felt that God was calling me to work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. That's great God. Wonderful. I can do that. But what about now? What do you want me to do now?

See, there I was again, throwing up my plans. Then, in God's perfect timing, everything fell into place for that to happen now. In fact, the way everything fell into place so perfectly, was in such a way that could only have been orchestrated by God. Actually, I am still amazed by it.

I am blessed to start that volunteer work this week. And all week, that voice has crept up, but every time God's truth has been right behind it.

Will I have time? I start school Monday.
My timing is perfect.
God, I am a mess right now. I don't know if I have the strength to help other people.
I will give you strength.
God, I don't think I can do this.
You can't. But I can.
God, are you sure?
Go.

That last word has been popping up in everything today. As I studied my Bible this morning, I saw   Go. In the David Platt book I am reading, I saw Go. At church tonight, I read Go.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 28:19

Then I heard the Lord asking, "Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?" I said, "Here I am. Send me."
Isaiah 6:8

And the truth is, I am a complete and absolute broken mess. Right now, I spend much of the day wondering which way is up. I still have my own past I am battling and recovering from along with current storms.

But the Truth is, that I serve a God who is bigger than all of that. I serve a God who can use anyone, from the smallest of people as I have seen through Barrett, to the most broken of people. To doubt that, is to doubt His power. 

I would so appreciate any prayers this week. Mostly for the women and children I will encounter. That they won't see me, but that they will see Jesus. 


  
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Patience, Forgiveness, & Trusting

To say God has been working on me this week would be the understatement of the year. I've once again been taught that my best laid plans are fallible.
 
So, first on the agenda is patience. I've come to a place where my hometown no longer feels like home. And there are days that I feel like I could pack up and leave tomorrow. But I know that God wants me here for a bit longer. I don't know if that's a year, or two years, or five or ten. As much as there are days that I wish it was sooner rather than later, the answer I always get when I pray about it is "Wait. I have work for you here". I recently got somewhat of an answer to that when God opened up an opportunity for me here working in the path that I feel He is ultimately calling me to as my ministry. I will admit that has made it much easier to say "Ok God. I see why You want me to wait". It has also made me realize that when I think my plan is best, it's often because I can't see just yet what great things He has in store.
 
This is where that "t" word - "trust" - goes right along with patience. I don't want to begrudgingly carry out His work where I am. So I have prayed for a heart that is open to wherever He has me, and I am SO completely excited about this opportunity He has provided. It feels completely right and I can't bear to think that I would have missed it had I jumped the gun and stuck with my plan. I firmly believe that everything in life is something that God can use to shape us for a higher purpose and I am seeing that fulfilled in mine. Where earlier in my life I was asking God "Why am I going through this? Why me?", I can now say "I see how You can use that storm now to help other people". Does it take away the hurt? Not completely. But it brings purpose to the pain.
 
From that pain, stems forgiveness. Can you partially forgive someone? Because I feel like that's where I have been at in my life for two years. A stagnant forgiveness. But forgiveness isn't Instant Grits and it isn't stagnant. There was a day when I honestly and sincerely forgave someone. But then other hurts crept up and that grudge came right back and I held onto it with a tightly gripped fist. God has taught me that sometimes forgiveness is a daily choice. Today I forgive you for this pain I am feeling today. It is a process. Forgiveness is a daily surrender. "God, I am laying this down. I am letting it go". WOW that is hard to say some days.
 
Then comes that "t" word again. I can readily admit that I have issues trusting most people. I have a tendency to close myself off for the most part because I feel like I have to for protection. You wouldn't think that because it seems like I share a pretty good bit, but it's true. I build up walls that few can tear down. This week I was reminded that, just like myself, all humans are fallible; even the ones I blindly trust. And that's ok. That's the lesson I am learning. That all people are fallible and I can't expect perfection from anyone. That "f" word is creeping back up again...forgiveness. Again, it's a process. It doesn't happen overnight. Does it mean that trust is gone forever? No. It means you have to work a little harder to reach the point where you choose to freely give it again.
 
This week, I am thankful to serve a gracious God who meets me where I am. I am thankful for a God that I can call out to at any time and place. I am thankful for a God that, when I don't even know which direction to turn, He is there guiding me and when I say "God I can't do this anymore, I NEED A BREAK", I hear that whisper "Let me do it".
 
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30
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Monday, February 2, 2015

Sunrise

Usually, I do most of my scripture reading at night. It's always been my routine and in the morning I listen to a bit of praise and worship songs with my headphones while the rest of the house sleeps. But I usually don't do much reading and studying in the morning because, well, I like to pack in those few extra minutes of sleep. Terrible reason but I'm being honest. I was selfish with my morning time instead of giving all of it to God too.

The last few days, circumstances have caused my schedule to change and finding the same amount of quiet time at night has proven difficult. So yesterday morning, I opted to rise earlier and give that time to God.

And OH WHAT I HAVE BEEN MISSING. The mornings are so peaceful. The girls were both sleeping (I'd like to paint a picture of two peacefully sleeping children, but let's be real--Audrey was snoring and Cate was sideways in the bed with her feet in Audrey's face--but sweet all the same). Even the dogs opted to remain sleeping. So I sat in the quiet of my home and stared outside at the peaceful quiet that surrounded me and I just listened. 

I took a few moments to just be quiet and still. And I couldn't remember the last time I really did that. Between kids, work, school, volunteer work, and errands, etc, I never take the time to just be completely still and quiet. And I rejoiced in the moment with God where, for just a moment, I could just be--free from anxieties, and troubles, expectations, and busy schedules. The world around me seemed to disappear.

Those moments before I opened my Bible or turned on any music are something that I now treasure...the part of my day I will now look forward to. I can't believe how long I've been missing that beautiful, peaceful time with God. Sometimes it's necessary to break that routine and schedule--you never know what you might be missing.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Exodus 14:14

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Perfection

I have seen perfection.
 
I have held it. I have kissed it and loved it.
 
I have counted perfection's fingers and toes and shed my tears over it.
 
I have given perfection a heartbreaking farewell and then...I buried it.
 
Physically, I buried perfection in the Earth. Symbolically, I buried the image of perfection to protect it.
 
This perfection needed to be protected from shallow opinions of harsh critics. Perfection needs to be protected from a world that may not be kind to him. Perfection is hidden under the wings of his mother.
 
But today, I received an incredible gift. A gift that will allow me to share my glimpse of perfection with you. A gift that will allow me to share my son with you.
 
 Barrett's pictures are sacred to me. The ones from the hospital didn't turn out well, and I only have two beautiful images that my mother thought to capture at the funeral home. They are a treasure to me. I keep them with me at all times. And, for the most part, I keep them to myself, only sharing them with people I truly trust who first ask to see them. Protecting these images are how I protect my son.
 
Keeping them sacred allow me to protect his beautiful image from people who may not be so kind. I have no intentions of ever publically sharing his photographs. They are my sacred treasure that I selfishly hoard for myself and those I am closest to.
 
Yesterday, a beautiful person that I met through a common love of babywearing reached out offering to do a portrait of Barrett. Tears. Immediate tears.
 
I haven't even shared with her yet that I had been thinking of having that done for awhile, but the problem is finding someone willing and who I trust with his image. I absolutely feel like her reaching out was a God thing for sure.
 
This amazing, kind, beautiful, amazingly talented person created an indescribable gift for me. This portrait of Barrett is one that I can share. One that I can hang on the wall beside his sisters. Another image to carry with me.
 
Since receiving the digital image this morning, I have caught myself just staring. Not only did she give me the gift of incredible artwork, but she gave me the gift of being able to share my son.
 
So, for the first time ever, I am sharing him with you. My angel. My little piece of heaven. My only baby boy. My son. My perfection.
 
 
JoyLynn is also the author of Carried Away, an incredible book displaying her talent of creating fun scenes with her son and woven wraps--a favorite book in our house!
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Confession

I need to make a confession. Or two. Or three.

I fail a lot. I let people down. 

I confess that I struggle daily. 

Most recently, I have struggled with God. They say that there are stages of grief. I agree with that. Though, grief is its own monster, and it doesn't always go in the order that they say it will and it's not guaranteed that you won't revisit some of the stages a hundred times like a song stuck on repeat. 

I've had a tight grip on something that I've refused to let go of. I've clenched it tight until my knuckles turned a permanent white. Bitterness.

I want to let it go, because I am exhausted by the amount of energy it requires to carry it with me. But I'm scared to let it go. The bitterness allows me to feel something. And since losing Barrett, I've experienced so many moments of "numbness" that the thought of letting go of any feeling at all is quite terrifying.

This bitterness has roots. These roots are deep in my heart. They started growing the day he died. WHY? A root grew. WHY ME? Then another. WHY MY SON? Another root. 

A holiday passes without him. A root grows.

I look around and see how blessed I am. I realize how thankful I am. Shouldn't my thankfulness outweigh the bitterness and make it disappear? Another root. I am bitter because I am bitter.

And over two years, this bitterness has formed a solid system within me. Between Barrett's death and other events that year, I have clung to it because it is familiar. Familiarity is "safe". 

I've been wrestling with God over it. God wanting me to surrender it and me clinging to it like a safety net.

But what good has come from me clinging to bitterness? None. I should have been clinging to God.

This is not news to me. I've known all along what I should do. But I'm stubborn and I fought God over it. I ran and hid away with my bitterness. But you can't hide from God and at each turn, He has been working on me.

And so, little by little, root by root, one finger at a time, I'm letting it go. And I'm giving it away. I'm tired of running. Tired of hiding. Tired of clinging to the wrong truth.

Confession number two. Barrett's death rocked my world. It shattered my fairy tale views of the world. His death has forever altered everything about me. How I think. How I feel. My hopes, my dreams, my fears. 

Along with that has come severe anxiety. About everything. I hide it well, but it eats away at me. I've wrestled with God over this too. What do I do? How can I ease this and let go?

And you see, God has been giving me an answer all along. But it's been an answer that I didn't want. It is pushing me out of my comfort zone. 

I'll discuss this more in a later blog, but I felt an immense relief and weight lifted off of my shoulders when I finally said "Ok God. I will try".

But for now, my point is, I am broken. I am a mess. I make a lot of mistakes along the way.

But my Jesus has been with me every step of the way. I don't know where I would be if not for that truth.

It's ok to be broken. It's ok to be a mess. Just lay it down.