Just Keep Breathing
September 16, 2018
It’s Sunday morning.
And I am at home.
I would normally be at church right now with my family, but my (very fussy, teething who is obsessed with comfort-nursing) 7 month old is fighting a cold. Considering we just faced this last week with our 3 year old who is majorly sensitive to pain or un-comfortableness (well, what 3 year old isn’t dramatic, right?), all I can say is “Momma is tired.”
Stress has been high, y’all. My right eye won’t stop twitching. Sleep deprivation is starting to become a part of my daily reality.
Where my mommas at?? This is #momlife.
And in a weird, optimistically sadistic way, I love it! Ha!
Moms are weird. Or maybe, it’s just me?
I often wonder if I will be able to physically and emotionally be able to take another hard day. Each day seems to drain every ounce of energy I have to give and sometimes it feels like I have to remind myself to breathe.
Although sometimes I find myself holding my breath when I am stressed to the max (and there has been a lot of instances lately…), I don’t have to remind myself to breathe. My body simply keeps breathing. Adding mom-brain to the mix, I am so glad I don’t have to remember to breathe…I would be in respiratory distress way too many times throughout the day if that was the case!
As I was reflecting upon this basic human function- breathing- I realized how dependent I am upon my Creator to physically remain alive. He is the One who filled my lungs with breath when I came into being and is the One who sustains every single breath since my very first one.
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things… (Act 17:24-25, NASB).
Why do I worry?
I think it is important to truly acknowledge this. Instead of complaining about how stressed I am, I need to simply ask myself why I am worried.
This goes for all of us- not just moms. Stress, worry, and anxiety are our body’s response to being overwhelmed. Most likely we are putting ourselves into this state of panic because we are trying to control the outcome and trying to do it all in our own strength. As believers, we know that God is sovereign. We proclaim “God is control.” If we honestly believed this, we wouldn’t allow ourselves to be completely crushed under the weight of the stresses of life.
Life is stressful, but we do not have to live in a constant state of stress. If we do, there must be a part of us that believes we can completely control or fix our circumstances- this is oh so prideful, friends.
…all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5: 5b-7, NASB).
I love how these two ideas are connected in these Bible verses.
HUMILITY= ENCOURAGEMENT & GRACE
When we remain anxious for a long period of time, we are choosing to control the situation and not hand it over to the Lord. We are simply telling God, “It’s okay. I’ve got this. I don’t need Your help.”
Grace is a gift from the Father. It empowers us to walk out our calling and the assignments the Lord has given us. We are weak without it.
Jesus told the Apostle Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Like breathing, it is by His grace that we have the ability and strength to do anything for Him. If grace is like the air in our lungs, then constant anxiety is like holding a pillow over your own face.
(I am shouting at myself too…)
Stop trying to suffocate yourself!
Now, I know that for many people, anxiety goes beyond your thought-life and can be a very serious medical condition regarding chemical imbalances and inflammation in the brain. I have been there many times throughout my life and still struggle with it…hello, crazy hormones! In this case, seek medical attention if you believe your anxiety is caused by a physical problem going on in your body. I believe in total wholeness and wellness: spirit, soul, AND BODY.
No matter what, we need God’s grace and help!
Most of the time, experiencing anxiety, worry, and stress are signs that you are trying to gain control and are struggling. You will undoubtedly experience those things in life (the Bible tells that we must cast our anxieties upon the Lord, so obviously there will be anxieties to cast), but they do not have to be your everyday reality because we should never hold onto them. When we are beginning to panic or stress-out, this is an opportunity to humble ourselves and call out to the Lord for help. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that He cares for us, and because He is such a good, good Father, He longs to help take care of our needs.
Calling out to the Lord for help should be an everyday occurrence, especially during intense and overwhelming situations.
“Help me, Jesus” is my go-to prayer all-day everyday as a mom of little ones, and I am not ashamed to admit it! His grace and peace come into my situation as I fix my thoughts upon His goodness and faithfulness. I remind my head that Jesus is Lord and that He is in control. Without trying, breath fills my lungs, and hope fills my heart once again.
Take a deep breath and remember that God will care for you, no matter what stresses may come to overwhelm you.
Father, I pray for those who are feeling overwhelmed by their circumstances right now. I ask that You would graciously remind them to surrender their control over to You, the only One who can sustain all things and bring true peace and hope. Thank You for your grace and your strength when we feel so powerless. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
What God Has Taught Me Through the Seasons Where I Felt “Stuck”-iBelieve Post
June 28, 2018
“Hi, my name is Emily, and I am recovering from an addiction to do-ing.”
It took me many years to finally admit that. If there was a goal or task to accomplish, I would throw all of myself into successfully completing it. I still have great work ethic, but the problem was the fact that I was too concerned with what people thought of me based upon my accomplishments. I loved the high from “the hustle” and having my schedule full to the brim. I spent years upon year upon years crowding the margins of my existence with:
Dance class, gymnastics, cheerleading, running track, Student Council, Marching Band, Pep Band, Concert Band, Art Club, Peers Group, musicals & plays (“I can’t. I have rehearsal.”), auditions, performances, church choir practice, tutoring, youth ministry, college and career ministry, worship team rehearsals, Bible studies, prayer meetings, church leadership meetings, drama practices, event planning committees, speaking engagements…
…just to name a few.
Entering a New Season
Being successful and driven became the meaning behind every breath I took; I found purpose in my performance and productivity. This was all I knew for well over 20 years of my life.
Then came the day, four years ago, when God asked me to leave my job and become a stay-at-home mom. Even though there was always a daily task-list before me:
Laundry, feeding, burping, diaper-changing, vacuuming, mopping, dishes, feeding, burping, diaper-changing, lunch, emails, phone-calls, feeding, burping, diaper-changing, dinner, feeding, burping, diaper-changing…
…I didn’t feel accomplished at all.
I felt robotic.
I felt completely overwhelmed and frazzled, drained and exhausted.
My excellent productivity skills had always proven to be such an asset to my daily routine, but not anymore. I couldn’t focus on the here and now, let alone enjoy it, because I was always looking to the next thing that had to be finished.
What did I even do today? I would ask myself constantly because I never felt like my to-do list was completed. There was always more to do the next day too.
Using this Season of Life
Although I would have told you straight to your face that my identity and purpose was not in what I do, I don’t know if I whole-heartedly believed that. In this new season of my life as a stay-at-home mom, I felt absolutely stuck and quite frankly, like a failure. Surely, God wouldn’t call me to leave my job just to abandon me here, drowning in dirty laundry and a sink full of dirty dishes, feeling like it was piling up all around me. Surely, there had to be more purpose to my life than all of this!
This lack of productivity and accomplishment felt totally foreign to me, but little did I know, God was going to use this new season to teach me some of the greatest lessons of trusting Him even when everything in my life seems to be at a stand-still.
Read more at iBelieve.com
Special Delivery Part 2: My Birth Story
March 12, 2018
I wrote about my birthing experiencing with my son, Isaiah, just two weeks after he was born. He wasn’t a great sleeper (and almost 3.5 years later, we occasionally have our issues…Lord, thank You for Your grace!), so I found myself awake all through the night…a lot. I must have had trouble falling back asleep the night I wrote our story of his birth. Sleepless baby and sleepless momma. Man, those were some tough nights. But we survived, thank You Jesus!
Now with my second son, James, it has taken me over a month to sit down and write out our story of his birth. It must be because we actually sleep at night! Even with the time change last night, he STILL slept for 6.5 hours straight! He is my little sleeper…praise the Lord!
God has been so incredibly faithful to us with Jameson.
From the moment my water broke to these last several weeks with him finally here with us.
His grace, so incredibly tangible.
For the whole pregnancy, I was fully mentally prepared to hold our new precious baby boy in my arms around 38 weeks, since that is when his older brother graced us with his unexpected presence.
But to be completely honest with you, that didn’t happen, and the last month was extremely stressful, confusing, and exhausting.
I cried. A lot. I was moody. A lot. I was tired. A lot.
I started to have time-able/ pattern-forming contractions around 37 weeks along with baby boy #2; I was getting even more anxious for that special day to come when we would finally meet our newest blessing.
But that cycle of “fake outs” lasted for over 3 weeks. God bless my poor husband! I never really knew when it was “go time…”
…until a little after 6am on February 7th, 2018 (the day after my due date), just as Paul was headed out the door for work telling me to keep him updated, I gasped as my water broke while lounging on the couch!
No more guessing if it was “go time!” Ha! Grace! Paul called my mom to let her know the news because she offered to drive over an hour and a half to come watch little man AKA Isaiah. Grace!
Because a friend of mine offered to be present at the birth to photograph the joyful day (Grace!), I hopped in the shower and got glammed up, of course! 😉
I assumed that it would be awhile before contractions began, since mine never started with Isaiah after my water broke with him…Pitocin is the devil…
…but before I could finish my shower, they started to amp up. Grace! And they were definitely the real deal this time! Yikes!
I dialed (do we still use that word for cell phones?) the on-call midwife and let her know what was going down and we decided to meet at the birth center at 8am, just in time to get stuck in rush hour morning traffic! But by the grace of God, we were able to stop by Chick-fi-la for FREE chicken biscuits for a quick breakfast (eating in between contractions that were now starting to get pretty intense) and STILL made it to the birth center on time, not having to deal much with traffic whatsoever. Grace! Grace! Grace!
We pulled into the parking lot at 8am on the dot, shortly after the midwives arrived, and made our way to the room. Less than 10 minutes later, my mom arrived to take little man to the waiting room for a bit to play with their blocks. Grace!
I was able to joke through the contractions and make the midwives laugh a few times before it was game-time, which came MUCH sooner than I had anticipated.
The contractions intensified very quickly, so much so that I didn’t even want to lie and relax in the giant Jacuzzi tub that was just filled up for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was ready to push soon and hold that precious little peanut.
Not really knowing what position would be most comfortable for me because I didn’t have much time to decide, I made my way to the bed and laid down on my left side. Paul knelt by the bedside and held my hands and I used them to brace myself through each contraction. Before they got too close together, he asked if I wanted to listen to some music on his phone. I immediately said, “The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger.”
God’s peace filled the room. Again, I could tangibly feel God’s grace.
When I could, I sang and hummed along and looked into Paul’s eyes and told him how much I loved him. It was an absolutely beautiful moment with him, something so completely different than what we experienced with Isaiah’s birth that left us dealing with much anxiety and trauma in the weeks following.
In an instant, all of that was redeemed. Grace!
We really were such a great team together. Team Massey!
When the contractions became pretty unbearable, I found myself making an “O” sound to get through them. It really was the only thing that seemed to help me stay focused through the pain.
The midwives were so encouraging through it all, and kept reminding me that I was almost there and that I was doing such an awesome job.
It was very quickly time to push, so I made my way up to my knees and braced my arms around Paul’s shoulders. He told me later that I almost made him pass out when I accidentally had him in the sleeper hold! Hahahaha! Funny, but not funny for him, I’m sure!
Then suddenly, when I didn’t think I could take another second, at 9:40am (yes, that’s right, an hour and 40 minutes after we arrived at the birth center) they told me to pick up my baby who entered the world.
The birth center’s 1,000th birth, might I add…so cool!
“We did it, we did it!” I said with joy filling my lungs. Sooooooooooo….much GRACE!!!!!
I scooped up Mr. Jameson, discovering he had a head full of brown hair like his momma (Yay!), and said “You’re a slippery lil’ fella!” making the whole room laugh once again.
Just four hours later, were discharged from the birth center, both momma and baby healthy and thriving. It was so nice to be able to head home and start our life together as a family of 4. On the trip home, both boys were snoozing and stayed down for naps for a couple more hours for us. Grace!
A miracle, really!
The whole day was just perfect.
I’m really still in awe of it and just how good God is to us. He truly is a redeemer and a giver of good gifts.
So here I am, almost 5 weeks postpartum, and signs of postpartum depression/anxiety/rage or insomnia are no where to be found! Praise God! My milk supply has been overflowing, and we have no need of formula supplementation like we had to do with Isaiah. And thanks to an awesome lactation consultant that we saw 2 weeks postpartum, I am able to have success with breastfeeding this time around. A major answer to prayer that just ties the whole experience together with so much GRACE!
I’m so thankful for God’s grace, my friends. It is truly all-sufficient and is carrying me through this new season of motherhood in such a beautiful way. It doesn’t mean everything is easy by any means, because along with the demands and responsibilities that come with caring for a newborn, we surely have had some tough toddler days as Isaiah goes through some mega emotional development right now (ah meltdowns!), but God’s grace is my ever-present help to see me through it all.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).
And this momma will gladly boast in my frailty because Jesus’ gracious strength is so much better than my own.
Expecting: What will be birthed through me in 2018?
January 5, 2018
January 4th, 2018.
4 days into the new year. How’s 2018 going so far for you?
For me, it seems like I am finally finding time to write down goals/dreams and be still to listen with more clarity to what God wants to do in and through me this year.
Some people use the end of the year to reflect upon the past year and look forward to what is ahead when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.
I’d like to say that I had ample time to do some mega reflecting, soul searching, and waiting on the Lord for direction and vision for 2018 at the end of December, but like so many other people because of the rush of the holiday season, my life was pretty full, frantic, and fast-paced for much of the month of December.
Aside from birthday celebrations, my wedding anniversary, Christmas, and New Years, (and oh yeah, GROWING A HUMAN!), December truly was just the culmination of much hard work for probably 6 months, especially regarding completing tons of writing deadlines, serving on a team at the Gateway House of Prayer as a singer, and one specific Kingdom assignment- writing, producing, and directing a Christmas production for my church! Although that assignment is now complete, I know there is still much Kingdom work to do that God is calling me to!
All of this was a huge change of pace for me, considering I was in a “season of rest” and “pressing pause” on many responsibilities for like…um…2.5 years!
Instead of merely reflecting on 2017, God really has been highlighting a period of time where He had to intervene before the train completely derailed, and I ended up in a padded room somewhere.
No, instead of focusing on 2017, I feel like I need to reflect and give God glory for this last extended season of the soul because I am truly no longer the same woman.
I sit here and also reflect upon the fact that I am about to give birth to my second child within the next month, after months and months of growth and development of a life inside of me, experiencing a change in my appetite and a major change in the way I walk.
Just like my second baby boy that is about to be born soon, I believe God is going to “birth” something through me this year that has taken more preparation, growth, and change in me than a mere 40 weeks, I can tell you that much…how about a spiritual pregnancy that has probably lasted over 3 years!
Ironically enough, all of this preparation, growth, and change in appetite and change in my walk started when my son was born, on October 11th, 2014- the day I became a mom.
Because I thought that I could go on with “life as usual,” I was seriously shaken by the fact that life would never be the same, that I would never be the same.
Things that I thought I had overcome reared its ugly head and began taunting me.
Rejection. Depression. Anxiety. Fits of anger and rage.
Just a few months into motherhood, I heard God whisper that I needed to learn how to “just be,” but it was so completely foreign to me that I just kept trying to run full speed ahead (especially regarding the many leadership hats I wore at my church, my writing ministry, and the release and promotion of my book in 2015- radio and TV interviews and networking with ministry leaders filling up my schedule and my focus). I was seriously running on fumes from utter stress and mega sleep deprivation (because my son refused to sleep until I was holding him or laying next to him), and then trying to get high off of the fumes from my accomplishments and productivity, thinking that (and coffee) would fix everything.
It all caught up to me, and I started to severely struggle in my physical and mental health in ways that I never had before.
More anxiety. More depression. More panic attacks. Weird physical symptoms like restless leg syndrome, insomnia, chronic ulcers in my mouth, and eventually an irregular cycle that would lead to a chemical pregnancy later on.
I felt like the air was being sucked from my lungs.
I felt so completely broken, but I would have no choice but to continue to stand on the promise that God would bring restoration to my life!
Little did I know that I wouldn’t see that promise start to come to fruition for another 2 years…in 2017!
Within that span of time, God told us to sell our house and move back to the county, step down from ALL leadership at our church home of 4.5 years and transition us and prepare our hearts into searching for a new church home (which all sadly came with much wounds from rejection and abandonment from ministry friends- but praise be to God for healing this area of our hearts over time), all while completely deconstructing every single Christian ideology/theology Paul and I stood upon in our marriage. We truly learned (and are continuing to learn) why we believed what we believed for the first time in either of our lives, immersing ourselves in the scriptures for ourselves and not clinging to what our upbringing, our pastor, or TV preacher told us was truth.
We became like the Bereans discussed in Acts 17:
The brothers[b] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (10-11, ESV).
In January 2016, after months of wrestling with all of these changes and realizing many doors were going to stay closed for me for a long time, I finally embraced the call the “just be” and rest. I finally surrendered to God as He stripped me of any title that I tried to find my identity in.
So much happened in me from January 2016 into Spring 2017. I learned how to simply be “Beloved” and “Daughter,” and learned how to find my rest in God alone.
It was from that place of rest that I would eventually find healing and restoration- physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually- truly learning how to become a vessel for God’s glory- spirit, soul, and body.
That process did not come without resistance and struggle though, and there would be countless opportunities to become discouraged, as we began dealing with Isaiah’s nightly wakings again- every night, 3-5 times a night for almost six months, all while I was trying to serve on a night-watch prayer team for two 10 week terms back to back, and hold down a part-time retail job in customer service at the height of the holiday season. Yep, all of that will definitely try your faith!
But we held onto HOPE the best we could!
Eventually, we experienced such great breakthrough with Isaiah’s sleep because of our church community’s willingness to stand with us in intense prayer…for that I will be forever thankful!
Then on Resurrection Sunday 2017, I realized God had been so faithful to bring restoration and resurrection life in so many areas of my life. That morning, one of my pastors approached me during soundcheck on my first Sunday leading worship at our new church home (after not standing in that role for a year and a half by that point) and told me that the Lord had put me on his heart recently during prayer and kept hearing the word “restoration.”
“Does that mean anything to you?” he asked.
Yes, yes it did! He was restoring my joy again, just like He promised!
And the restoration continued throughout 2017:
- Where we had issues conceiving, I found out I was pregnant shortly after Mother’s Day. Timely… 🙂
- God restored my writing and teaching ministry- countless articles written, reaching and encouraging readers from all over the globe that email me constantly, more networking connections made and freelance job opportunities, and being able to continue to lead a group of precious women through the Bible at Diane’s House (Teen Challenge St. Louis).
- God restored and breathed new life into my creative outlets with singing at the House of Prayer here in St. Louis and brought theater back into my life with the assignment of writing and directing the Christmas production.
- God restored the assignment of testifying for Him and sharing more about my book with my church community where my book is given out to visitors for free! More reached for Christ!
- God restored and strengthened relationship after relationship, bringing genuine friendship into my life, as we learned how to encourage and pray for each other in our struggles and trials. I have some of the closest relationships with godly women in my life right now- it seriously overwhelms me with so much JOY to even think about it! An answer to a prayer that I have believed and ask for MANY YEARS!
- God restored and strengthened my marriage on such a deep level as we survived the first 3 years as parents and learned how to always fight to hang onto loving and forgiving each other, no matter how difficult it may get. I don’t know where I would be without the support of my best friend who works so incredibly hard for our family (yay for TWO promotions in ONE YEAR!). Super huuuuuuuuubbbbbssss!!
- God even restored and is restoring relationships within my family that I thought would be impossible to ever see reconciliation.
For over 2 years, all I knew to do was to keep breathing, even though I had to fight for air so many times.
But God gave me my breathe back. The air is back in my lungs, and I can run without growing weary because of how He has taught me to wait and rest upon Him (Isaiah 40: 28-31), one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn to date, let me tell you!
So what does all of this mean for me for 2018? What is going to be birthed through me this year?
Well aside from another baby boy, obviously, I don’t know exactly what will all transpire this year, but I can tell you that I am expectant!
The Lord has already been giving me specific instructions as to what He wants me to focus on this year as He strengthens me and gives me courage to face all that is ahead in this new year and new season (STRENGTH and COURAGE being my words for 2018).
I feel like since 2017 gave me the breath back in my lungs, I have gained the momentum to hit the ground running into 2018. I’m starting this year in wholeness, not brokenness.
Some of you had a really difficult 2017, experiencing so many trials, storms, disappointments, and setbacks. Feeling broken and bruised, your faith really took a beating.
That wasn’t really the case for me this last year.
I don’t share that to rub it in your face, beloved. My faith has definitely taken a beating in the past, and I have experienced those times of trials and storms and disappointments just like what I shared with you in this blog post and through so many other blog posts I have written over the last three years on this journey to restoration.
Those storms, trials, and setbacks are not the end of your story, my friends! Just like they were not the end of mine!
Hope is on the way! Joy is on the way! Peace that passes all understanding is on the way! No matter what, God has good in store for you! Don’t give up, don’t give in! He’s going to turn it all around…just wait and see! He is so incredibly faithful!
I pray that this year, I will be able to continue to lead and encourage many more people as the Lord infuses me with His strength and courage! I want to help you get your breath back so I can see you run alongside of me and help others on their journey to complete wholeness, as we learn to give God all the glory with every fiber of our being!
Blessings to you in this new year! Expect your miracle…expect your breakthrough…expect restoration and healing! Expect, expect, expect!
Destroying Mis-Identifications, Finding True Identity, and Understanding Purpose: Part 1
August 15, 2017
I woke up this morning with an overwhelming desire to write, to share something on my heart. I haven’t had that desire in awhile, and quite frankly, I haven’t had a lot of other desires besides eating and sleeping.
Growing a human will kind of do that to ya…
…oh yeah, I don’t think I officially announced that on my blog yet, have I?
Oh well, I will just blame that on pregnancy/mom brain! Trust me, it’s a VERY real thing!
Anyway back in April, before I got pregnant, I had a stirring within my spirit believing that the winds of change were blowing upon my circumstances and that God would be bringing restoration to many areas of my life and resurrecting joy within me. In fact, it seemed as if that season was already upon me, or at least I had hoped it was.
But somewhere between May and August, that hope seemed to fizzle and fade. Perhaps it was the unexpected struggles of mega morning sickness (that wasn’t just bound to morning, but morning, noon, and night and everywhere in between) that seemed to last FOOORRRRRRREEEEEEVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEERRRRR.
Yes, I’m pretty sure that has been my TKO (Total Knock Out- and now I am having flashbacks of playing Mortal Kombat on Playstation with my brother…hahaha) over these last few months. Since I didn’t really deal with the constant exhaustion, nausea, and vomiting with my last pregnancy, it was difficult to focus on much of anything else besides breathing, eating, and trying not to upchuck what I just ate. I was just praying that there would be an end in sight because I did not feel like myself whatsoever. Three months of feeling like junk definitely gave me a lot of more sympathy for those who suffer from chronic pain and illness. It’s definitely a challenge to hold onto your joy in the midst of issues in your body.
But thankfully the end has finally come; I have made it into the glorious second trimester and those miserable symptoms have faded! Hallelujah to the Lamb!
And although I have had my days here and there with the fun of raising a growing toddler (yay for potty-training and constipation!), I am beginning to gain more clarity and focus regarding what God has for me in this next season, especially the short time I have left before baby #2 comes and keeping another tiny human alive (and my sanity) becomes my central focus once again. 🙂
Okay, enough of the Emily-update and onto what I believe the Lord has put on my heart to share with you all today! Thanks to all of you who have stayed with me thus far! 😉
Since I have been sensing my season of rest coming to an end and hearing the Lord’s beckoning to come run with Him in ministry once again, I have been asking Him on and off these last few months for more clarity regarding my purpose and destiny. Now having finally grasped the fact that a huge part of my purpose on this earth has much to do with my role as a mom and raising my children in the admonition of the Lord, I also believe God has placed gifts within me that reach beyond just my very own family, although I completely understand that my family is my primary ministry, right after my marriage, of course.
Through dreams and times of prayer, God has been (slowly) unveiling more and more of my purpose to me.
One of the questions I have had though is “why does it feel like it has taken so long for me to have solid understanding of my purpose, Lord?”
I believe I got an answer to that this morning…
…I needed to understand my identity FIRST.
And like much of what God does in our hearts, understanding my identity has been a process- a process on the Great Potter’s wheel.
- Before I could even fully understand my identity and who I am in Christ, I had to first acknowledge my mis-identification and ask the Lord to help me dismantle it. When I wrote about this process back in December 2016, I finally admitted that I wasn’t sure who I was apart from doing, accomplishing, productivity, or even using my gifts for Him:
Although I would have told you straight to your face that my identity is not in what I do, I don’t know if I whole-heartedly believed that.
And that is why I think the Lord has had to strip me down where I do none of those things, with absolutely no opportunities in sight to even attempt them, or having very little desire or passion left in me to attempt doing any of those things at all and not much grace to accomplish them.
Looking back, I realize God began talking to me about learning how to just be and detach my worth from all the doing shortly after giving birth to Isaiah. I wrestled with God for many, many months, asking Him why I felt so stuck. It took me two years to finally yield to the hands of the Potter and give him every label and title I have ever held onto and see Him smash them to smithereens with is mallet, y’all. That’s a long time to wrestle with God, but thankfully, as He always does, He won that match!
- Once God stripped me of all of those wrong labels that I was trying to identify myself with by completely removing me from activities, ministry positions, and even removing certain desires and passions, I entered a time of formlessness.
This is usually the time on the Potter’s wheel where your world is spinning and nothing is familiar, not even yourself, because His hands are forming a masterpiece that only the Creator could create.
Who am I? becomes a question you ask a lot. God was teaching me to be still and know that He is God, even though I had no idea what He was doing. Telling a do-er to be still and rest was one of the hardest lessons I have ever tried to receive and live out.
Suddenly doors that were open, were now shut to me. I lost interest and passion in things that used to bring me such enjoyment (I know now that this was only for but a season as God worked on my heart). Leadership roles and responsibilities were now gone, and because of issues with Isaiah’s sleeping for many, many months, I could no longer write because of the lack of mental clarity and focus.
Even in the midst of motherhood, it felt like I was doing a whole lot of nothing.
There were times that I felt like I had lost myself.
But through the process of losing myself, just like Jesus tells us, I found myself all over again.
He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:39, NKJV).
In the moment of formlessness, I had to learn how to take my eyes off of the life that was familiar and the life I used to identifying with, and fix my gaze upon the Potter and see His hands gently, yet firmly and securely holding me, believing that He was molding me more and more into the likeness of His Son, and I would find the life I was meant to live, all for His glory. No matter what, even if I didn’t fully understand everything that was going on, I had to trust God and trust that the process was for my good. God had good in store for me.
In my next blog, I will discuss the next steps that the Potter took as I discovered what it truly means to be IN CHRIST, how that helped me learn to simply be God’s daughter, and how that revelation is leading me into further understanding my purpose.
Until next time, friends. 🙂
God Can Use Empty Cups: Part 2
May 13, 2016
Click to read: “God can use empty cups: Part 1”
I found out very quickly last Saturday that you can indeed pour yourself out even when you don’t feel like you have much to give.
God took full advantage of the fact that I was asked to sing “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom of the Opera with my cousin at my grandpa’s funeral. Phantom of the Opera was one of his favorites and my grandpa loved going to hear his grand-daughters sing when we were both involved in musical theater. I just thought I was going to (try to) perform this song (without crying uncontrollably) and quietly sit back down in my seat, but God had other plans.
The night before the funeral service, I rehearsed with my cousin and tried my best to get some sleep, knowing that the next day was going to be a very heavy and emotionally draining one for me and my whole family.
I wrestled on and off trying to fall asleep because I wasn’t sure how I was going to introduce myself and the song and try to make it all sound somewhat uplifting, since the song is VERY VERY DEPRESSING. Absolutely beautiful, but nonetheless, depressing.
Playing out in my head different scenarios, I mentally wrote out my script, but trusted that God would give me the words. Then He told me that He wanted me to say more than just an introduction to the song and why we were singing it.
He wanted me to share my faith and speak His truth about eternity. In front of MY WHOLE FAMILY, many of who are not believers nor have a relationship with Christ at all….yet. 🙂
Immediately, I thought of all of the reasons that I was not equipped to do such a thing:
I haven’t read my Bible in weeks. I’ve pressed the “Catch Me Up” button on my “Digging Deeper Daily” one year Bible plan so many times, I’m about 7 months behind on where my original end date was. My prayer life consists of “Help me, Jesus” and just praying I can stay awake. And YOU want to use ME? To be Your vessel? Right now? Like tomorrow? Or better yet, several HOURS from now???
But one thing I do know about the Lord is that He does not call the qualified. Even in seasons of dryness and weakness, He qualifies the called.
And I know that I’m not only called, but chosen.
So this little chosen solider in the army of the Lord said, “yes sir.” Then I prayed a very familiar prayer:
Empty me of myself. Fill me up with You. I want to be Your vessel. I want to over-flow with You.
Then I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, trusting that God would fill my mouth with His words.
And He did.
I can’t remember much of what I said, which usually happens when you become a mouthpiece for the Holy Spirit to speak through, but I can say that I poured out every bit of what God poured into me. Not just in that moment, but everything He poured into me in all the years of time spent alone with Him in His Presence. I’m so utterly grateful for the history that I have been able to form with the Lord, especially these last eight years.
I’m also EXTREMELY grateful that God would use this season in my life, a season where I don’t feel like I have much to give based upon my merit or Christian duties of prayer and Bible study, to allow me to share with my family (and extended friends and family who were in attendance that day) about one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given- eternal salvation through the finished work of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Proving that I will never be good enough in my own ability or strength. No, when I am weak, He is so very strong. And His grace is ever sufficient.
Through many tears and a shaky voice, I ended the song in prayer:
Boldly praying and thanking God for my grandpa’s life and all who he touched during his blessed 89 years here on this earth, thanking Him for the opportunity to share the gospel with my grandpa a few years ago where I was able to lead him to Jesus before he took his last breath and met the King of Glory face to face, and then praying for those under the sound of my voice to believe and trust in Jesus Christ and not wait another moment.
Then I opened my tear-filled eyes, slowly walked back to my seat, and sobbed. Many probably thought that I was crying so hard because we had to say our final good-byes to my grandpa (and yes, that was definitely heavy on my heart), but the tears were coming from a place of deep, deep joy and gratitude because God is so incredibly faithful.
He fulfilled a constant prayer of mine in an instant.
That is, I would be able to share with my family how much I love Jesus and how much He loves them, how much He has changed my entire life from the inside out because of His amazing love and forgiveness, and how they can spend eternity in heaven with this beautifully, merciful Savior too.
I thought this was all going to happen at a small, family gathering during the holidays, but God completely blew me away during the most unlikely of circumstances- turning ashes into beauty as He always does.
He used me as an empty cup that day. Emptied completely of myself and my own abilities or strength and filled me up with so much of His love and His Holy Spirit.
My cup now runneth over.
Love and miss you so much, grandpa. I can’t wait to see you again. Soon and very soon. XOXO
God Can Use Empty Cups: Part 1
May 11, 2016
This summer marks eight years that I came back to the Lord after being a prodigal daughter for many years, believing in God, but living as if He didn’t exist.
In the course of those eight years, I have grown so much in my spiritual walk that it’s sometimes hard to remember myself before that divine encounter with God on 4th of July weekend in 2008.
As time has gone by, I’ve learned to recognize the ebb and flow of what a journey with the Lord looks like. In the natural, God created Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall and I believe, if we pay attention to what God is doing in and around us closely enough, we will be able to discover what spiritual season we may be in.
In fact, I believe it is important to be attentive to what our current season in life is because I think God has specific directions depending on the demands that particular season brings or what is ahead for us when it’s time for transition.
I also believe we need to get honest with ourselves, honest with God, and honest with each other when things aren’t going so great.Not every season in life is going to be refreshing April showers, May flowers, or Harvest Time! Click To Tweet
For instance, what do you do when you you find yourself spiritually dry or weak? In a barren, winter season?
Admitting weakness has never been my strong-suit, but it always seems to be a lesson God brings me back to time and time again.
One of these days, I’m hoping to pass that test so I never have to take it again, but I don’t think I will as long as I’m in this earth-suit!
I believe that’s one of the main reason Paul tells us that he chooses to “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and to take off our “old self” and put on the “new self.”
assuming that you have heard about him [Jesus] and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:21b-24, ESV).
I believe while we are here on this earth, we must choose to do that every single day.
…sometimes our flesh gets in the way and our spirit man wrestles with those old stinkin’ desires!
And sometimes that wrestling match turns into an all-out brawl and fight to the death!
Days can quickly turn into weeks. Weeks can quickly turn into months. And months can quite possibly turn into years, if we tap out let our own flesh be declared champion over us.
I must have been in denial this time around because I’ve hard-core wrestled with my flesh since my son was born, which was 19 months ago today to be exact.
Learning the ropes as a new mom who battled postpartum depression and anxiety for almost a year and who also very quickly became a stand-in mom to another little boy over this last year, I can say that I have thrown some good punches as I have tried to figure out how to walk with the Lord in motherhood. I have felt God’s grace carry me through this season more than ever before, but today, I’m choosing to be honest.
I’m dry. I’m feeling a little like I’ve been running on empty for awhile. I really hate that I am, but I am.
I’ve allowed loneliness in the midst of chaos and stress to quiet my voice to my Father. Not to say that I wasn’t able to hear His voice or sense His Presence or that I haven’t made great strides in my faith or put forth any effort into nurturing my relationship with the Lord, it seemed that every time I took a few steps forward, something would come along and knock the wind out of my sails and I was right back at square one.
Time management has been very difficult for me: between mom duties, housewife duties, babysitting duties, trying to pursue a potential career as a writer/author/blogger, and then discovering a new fiery passion for health & wellness- too. many. articles. Can’t. stop. researching.
Not to mention, the fact that we sold our house that we hadn’t owned for even two years, moved into an apartment closer to our church home, then left said church home, tried to find our new church home, lost countless friendships, our second car crapped out on us completely, and now trying to form new friendships all while my hubs works 60 plus hours a week so we can get out of debt, I’m stuck at home with no car when I desperately long for conversation so I get sucked into making pseudo-friendships online, and have stress up to my eyeballs from playing referee with two active toddler boys, which had been affecting my health all along but I chose to ignore it and dive into working out and losing weight instead (I’m on the uphill, but there are still some chronic symptoms regarding my oral health and sleeping patterns that are lingering around).
And then my grandpa passes away.
And then I can’t fall asleep the night before the funeral because God tells me that He wants me to share my faith and the truth of the gospel with my (mostly all Catholic and/or unsaved) family. The ENTIRE family. Plus distant friends and family who I have never met before in my life.
What? God, I haven’t read my Bible in weeks. I’ve pressed the “Catch Me Up” button on my “Digging Deeper Daily” one year Bible plan so many times, I’m about 7 months behind on where my original end date was. My prayer life consists of “Help me, Jesus” and just praying I can stay awake. And YOU want to use ME? To be your vessel? Right now?
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Or can you?
Click to continue reading Part 2
Kayla Aimee’s ANCHORED- A Review
December 1, 2015
I spent the course of a few days reading Kayla Aimee’s book, Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected fighting back tears and almost choking on my food.
That type of combination of great sorrow and tongue-and-cheek humor kept my eyes glued to the pages as she described countless stories of her life wrapped up in one major event that would undoubtedly change her forever- the birth of her first daughter at just 25 weeks along in her pregnancy and the struggle she and her husband endured as they watched their tiny baby girl fight to live.
Experiencing the newness of motherhood over the last year, I have to admit that I held my precious son closer after I read each heart-wrenching chapter of Kayla’s five and a half months existence in the NICU with a mirco-preemie. Little Scarlette miraculously had beaten many of the statistics, but her journey (and her parents’) wasn’t any easy battle.
Kayla’s way with witty words helped to soften the punch to the gut, so to speak, regarding the storytelling of her not-so-pretty initiation into motherhood. Her vulnerability to share her fears, weaknesses, and doubts in her faith was definitely all for God’s glory. Anchored reveals God’s sovereign hand in the author’s life, as you watch the surrender to His ways and the trust in His goodness, despite the often bleak circumstances.
To me, that kind of hope- the one that clings to our faith in Christ no matter what storm we are facing- is what makes being a follower of Jesus so beautiful. It is what the world longs for and it is what Christians can reveal to them through the gospel, most assuredly, but also through stories like Kayla’s.
As many of you probably know, I am a huge advocate for testifying for King Jesus, being an author of a memoir myself, all for God’s glory. Memoirs of not-so-famous folks are definitely worth your time, in my opinion…
…but I may be a little bias. (*wink*)
Anchored shares the same triumphant message as Yielded in His Hands– In our weakness, Jesus is strong. In our trial, Jesus is triumphant. He is the hope for all hearts. He is the anchor that we cling to when we are facing the storms of life. The moment we give Him control is the moment we find the hope that only He can bring in the troubling waters that we face.
Purchase your copy of Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected today!
*I received this book free as a member of the B&H/Lifeway Publishing Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Jesus Loves Me- A Review
November 16, 2015
My one-year-old’s bookshelf is stocked with countless books: Toy Story, Thomas the Tank Engine, VeggieTales…
He definitely loves to look at all the pictures, and I love the idea of reading to your children, even early on in their life.
But the problem is he can’t sit still long enough for me to read them to him.
By the time I can turn a page, it ends up in one place- his mouth!
What I like about B&H Kids’ Little Words Matters books is that they are simple and quick to read to children that are in the everything-goes-in-the-mouth phase.
Their Jesus Loves Me book (illustrated by Holli Conger with beautifully bright and colorful pictures) is perfect for my reading time with my son because he can be involved with the telling of the classic children’s favorite. Each page has a press-able soundbite that reads the book to your child!
Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible Tells Me So!
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me! For the Bible tells me so!
Using these wonderful soundbites, my little one year old can hear for himself how much Jesus loves him. His precious short-lived attention is captivated every time!
B&H Kid’s Jesus Loves Me few little words helps me teach my son about the Lord for just a few little minutes, and I wouldn’t rush them any day!
Grab your copy of Jesus Loves Me for the little one in your life today…just in time for Christmas to help you tell the story of the reason for the season- JESUS!
*I received this book free as a member of the Family Christian Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”