prayers and blessings

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May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

The weekend before my first doctor’s appointment/ultrasound, I went to a sweet retreat, Flourish,  where everyday we had quiet time with the Lord. We could read our Bibles, pray, journal… whatever. During one of those moments, I journaled prayers and wrote lists of characteristics “they” would have. Not “knowing” that there were two sweet baby girls were growing in my belly, yet I consistently used this plural pronoun. Even when I felt so stupid and would scratch it out to write he/she, it felt wrong. So, I kept writing “they” and moved it along. I spent that weekend pouring myself out to the Lord and praying for my daughters.

Most mornings and/or nights, when their heads are on my shoulders and their breath is on my neck, I can’t help but to thank God for these two little miracles. I’m thanking the Lord that they’re finally asleep and I survived another tag team, the best kisses, food spilled on the floor, the sweet sister moments, and the laughter. And, I pray for them…. for every aspect of their lives from their temperaments, personalities, work ethic, goals, friends, boyfriends, husband (one for each! no lol), their relationship with each other, the relationship we would share together and then myself with each individually…… I soak their lives in prayer.

It is up to me to pray for and bless my children…. to trust God with their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. To trust that he has created me capable and is molding and shaping me to be even more capable, more wise, more discerning, and ever loving to raise these girls to have a heart for him and a love for his people. Which means, there’s a lot of praying about who I am, a lot of focusing on the different things I feel the Lord pressing on my heart to better, and intentionally drawing closer to Him.

We don’t pray with our fingers and toes crossed, wishing the stars align and the universe responds to our good behavior. Do we? Or are our hands lifted in surrender, hearts poured out, and declarations spoken of God’s faithfulness, love, and grace? I hope and against hope, I pour out my heart, and ask the Lord for my heart’s desires. Trusting and believing that he will deliver, that his will certainly will be done, and that I will glorify him as we benefit from all things working together.

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The days are long, the years are short…. and, so are the nights… but our babies lives, but most importantly their souls, depend on our faith in Christ and how we lead them to the Lord. A question that has rolled around in my mind is: Am I taking my babies’ souls seriously? Are we? We take their fashion seriously, their hair, and other materialistic, outward beauty very seriously. But, what effort are we putting into their character and souls? Who are we teaching them to please and obey – us or Christ? If we are disciplining and training to make ourselves comfortable and easier for ourselves during the day (which I get!!!), they aren’t learning to look any further than the imperfect, taller person in their lives. But, when we teach them that there is a Father who loves us deeply and desires for us to serve others and love him, they obey us as parents out of respect for their God…the creator of the universe and the redeemer of the world.

Wouldn’t that perspective help foster a relationship between them and the Lord?
Respect for Him first and me second?
… considering they are His before they are mine?

I don’t know, ya’ll…. I’m just 15 months in and there’s more than plenty to learn on parenting children…..but, I’m praying that if I teach them to focus more on the Lord than on me, they’ll be better for it. If we’re a house full of people focused on honoring and serving the Lord, I’m faithfully praying that it will result in a home where fullness of joy, peace, forgiveness, love, service, grace, patience, and all of the goodness that flows from Christ reign…. rather than the pull and force that comes with training someone to please you… oh a house full of offenses, impatience, frustration, anger, disappointment and hurt and sadness is in control. Same people, same sin issues, same disobedience, same mistakes, same frustrations but a different perspective about the ones you share your walls with and your response to them because of who you’re ultimately trying to please.

Lord, be with us as we raise these little images of you. 
Cover us with your grace and love as we walk this tough and exhausting road.
Energize us, equip us, and bless us with your wisdom and peace.
Amen.

In what ways are you praying for your children? Do you have specific areas of their life you focus your prayers on at certain points of their life….  Ministry? Gifts? Character? Faith? Relationships??

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marriage. redemption. hope.

FullSizeRenderY’all when I say I’m tired. I really mean I’m whooped. I really mean that I have a ton and a half of things to get done and I can barely function. I mean that my ability to feel is at an all time low and smiles are rare. I mean that I’m emotionally exhausted, physically exhausted. I’m seriously only getting by with a whole lot of screamed and whispered prayers and the belief that Jesus knows that I know his promises to me won’t fail even when I disobey and suck at responding in the right way. That when I don’t have the energy to pray or to speak or to function the Holy Spirit is doing all the work for me.

My girls are a banging 8 months on Tuesday and they are rocking right along. I’ll spare the details of all the fun stuff they’re doing until I post about their 8th month but know that I don’t have the energy to care that my kids aren’t reading or know body parts or signing the three words I’ve been working on for 8 months (well, I am a bit salty about that one) because I mean, they’re 8 months. I’m trying to keep them as little as I can for as long as I can. But, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at the droolly, chubby goodness of my 6 month olds.

IMG_3656We took family pictures a couple of months ago for the girls 6 months photos. It was supposed to be their photoshoot alone but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get pictures of us all during such a sweet time. So, just about everything went wrong but I think everything also came out perfect. They were miserably hot the whole time and barely smiled. At least I’ll never forget their annoyed faces. Awesome. 🙂 

The photoshoot was a bit awkward because Thomas and I have been walking through what can only be described as the fiery pit of hell for the last year and a half. I’ve been fighting for my family like mad but things don’t always work out the way we want them to. For a moment, I looked at these pictures and saw evidence of reconciliation and redemption. Of  hard work paying off. Of all the weight and stress being worth the new found habit of grinding my teeth and functioning pretty much as a single parent. Worth enduring and the persevering the ugly, painful, and humiliating.IMG_3641
It’s swallowing the yuck and waking up ready to dig your heels in and work not knowing what the day will bring. It’s not understanding the chaos that’s happening around you but still needing to function for yourself and your kids. Still needing to work and friend and mama and sister and be wholly present in every role that you play without allowing the heart hurts of life to distract you or cause you to be anything other than what God calls you to be everyday – a peaceful, joyful, kind, loving, and nice. Besides, being nasty never made any situation easier to deal with.

“I’m too busy to worry about this….” – how I learned to let go. Thankfully. Because I was. And, I still am. While a marriage should be the one thing in your life that gets the largest percentage of your energy and efforts, for me it was very much like tossing out buckets of water while holes were being drilled at the bottom of the boat. That I had no time for. I was busy being productive…. I could and did accept a lot for a long time, but with accepting came a lot of worry, frustration, disappointment, sadness and everything negative that prevented me from showing up when I needed to.IMG_3634-2But, it’s a marriage. It’s a commitment. It’s a union of two very imperfect, sinful people who are trying to get it right. Two people who desperately need the Lord. Two people that have quirks and wants and feels and habits and dark places that they don’t always understand. Two people who have hurt and are hurt. Two people who have to practice patience, forgiveness, living with understanding, respecting, honoring, and selflessness. Two people who own fault and responsibility for every step of this life we have together – the good and the bad.

The real deal is that happiness isn’t always found where it “should” be found and it doesn’t look the same to everyone. Finding & holding onto it doesn’t always happen as smoothly and seamlessly as you think it might, like you dream it would. Especially if you’re a hopeless romantic and watch Disney movies your whole life.

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But, then reality kicks in and even movies like Dear John, The Notebook, and The Vow disappoint you when you finally come to accept that the characters are real people living out fake lives of fake people. (Although The Vow was based on a real life couple and I will forever believe Noah really does exist.)….. life doesn’t happen like that all the time. And, if it does, when redemption actually occurs and a couple is able to come back together and make things “right”….. it takes a lot more time, effort, and forgiveness than a 180 minute movie can show. It requires a lot more work that the producers are willing to reveal. And, commitment to a person who is literally making you want to peel the top layer of your skin off is never going to be enough. Ever. You’ve got to a have a resolve and commitment to something greater that helps you to get through the muck – whatever your muck looks like, you can get through it. But, never on your own, never without a world/life view that requires more of you than pleasing yourself. It’s just a matter of want to and a game plan. Toss in a couple of kids and priorities shift is even greater. My goals weren’t so much my happiness for it’s own sake, but my sanity so that I could mother well with self control, integrity, peace and joy. So learning how to do that in the midst of insane chaos has been difficult but so good at the same time. Of course I wanted (and still want) my family to be intact but intact/miserable/dysfunctional/stressful didn’t look as attractive as co-parenting/peace/joy/security.

Right now, after a lot of counseling. Some time a part. A lot of exposing. A lot of struggling. A lot of growth. A lot of pure crap….. I’m still working. and, really hoping that this time will be the last time we have such a hellacious year. IMG_3602-2-Edit

At the end of the day, life happens and things fall a part no matter how great our efforts are – we (as people) are selfish sinners. I still believe that all things work together for good… I still believe that God has this epic plan for our lives that will bring him so much glory…. I believe that the Lord wants for us, expects for us to be light, and peace, and salt, and joy in the darkest, most chaotic, the nasty, and hateful parts of our lives and the lives of others around us. We can do it. We can do it because he offers it to us – it’s simply a matter of us reaching out and taking what is offered to us by Christ himself. We aren’t all taught how to be peaceful in chaos, but we can learn. We can learn to be givers, we can learn to be thoughtful, we can learn how to do what’s necessary in order to live a God honoring life. Not knowing how to do something should never stop us from putting in the effort to do better.IMG_3666

As with newborns, there’s no New Owner’s Manual when you marry and have to learn to live with your mate. Just as you have to learn to adjust to parenthood, understanding your child, and figuring out life with a new little life, you have to do the same with your spouse. Learning as you go gives you the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with both your spouse and God, so…..it’s beneficial in the end.

The rough part about marriage is that people change over time and they don’t always communicate these changes well or even understand them. Our sinful nature can take root and guide us down paths we never intended to go. And, it’s scary – for both sides. I believe the general assumption is that we’ll all grow and mature and move forward in life.. when you’re married, the hope is that you move forward in the same direction and at the same pace. The assumption and hope is for peace and love and happily ever after; understanding that it takes more work for some than others, we don’t compare yards but do what we have to do in order for our yard to be at it’s best. That we want our yard to be at it’s best. Assumption. IMG_3631-2

The truth is that relationships requires a vulnerability, honesty, and transparency that can be difficult to accomplish when there’s personal confusion and chaos, when personal demons show up. When we aren’t comfortable and confident within ourselves. But, it can be. And, regardless of what happens, I believe that, too. It’s more of an issue of willingness than ability. Be willing. Be willing to work hard and be peaceful. Be willing to trust God with it all and stand in his shadow as he works things out. Even when there are days that I know we both are still here because its easier, God’s grace covers us. We are always covered and that grace has kept us…. even through the pits of hell.

What Thomas and I have realized is that we friend really well… a lot better than we husband and wife. I’m hoping that we can learn to find some sort of balance so that we can husband & wife just as well. But, until then……. we work and work and work.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know thatthe testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

And, because it’s important, you can find the girl’s outfit here:
Crowns: Love Crush Bowtique
Onesies: Lola and Darla
Moccasins: Potato Feet
(mama made the tutus… sorry! lol)
Both my skirt and top came from Dao Chloe Dao!!

And, Christin Armstrong (@christinshootspeople). Always.

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what’s for dinner?

bellyBut, thank God! He gives us victory over death and sin through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

THANK GOD!

I’ve been listening to this song on repeat for about a week. I play it as loud as I can when I can…… as softly as I can hear it when I have to. And, I allow it to get all the way into my spirit. To speak to my brokenness and hurt. To underscore whispered prayers through tears. To speak for me. To remind me of God’s promises.

A few things I’m believing God to give me victory and freedom over is my mouth. Lord, when that hurt and that brokenness is touched, it’s like pressing on a fresh bruise and your automatic response is to scream|cry out in pain. My pastor talked about anger and controlling ourselves while we’re angry….. I thought about the sin that follows anger. Scripture after scripture tell us not to sin in anger. “Do not… ” is said. We can control it. It’s a choice to yell and/or sneak snide remarks or just be outright nasty. My counselor (yes, I’m in counseling) and I have been working on just being quiet. Not saying anything. So, I’ve been very quiet this week. Especially when my bruises are bumped. When I’m hurt again. When things happen again. For my sake alone. And, it’s beautiful.

Beautiful to know that I can live peacefully.
It’s strength to not be controlled by any outside source.
Self preservation & self care is realizing that my inner well being is more important than everything.
More important than a jab or defending or trying to “get you to see”.

When I’m quiet, I give myself the opportunity to gather thoughts, to pray, to depend on Jesus for my peace, words, and tone. It barely feels good for a moment to go off and dig into another person, but it feels better and better to be able to not allow sin to throw me off my game plan. Which isn’t to do more than avoid setting fire to my life. To be seen as the crazy, angry chick when you’re really just hurting and waiting for someone to recognize that hurt and work to fix it.

James 3:5-9
Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.

Controlling my anger|words|emotions is what’s best for me but so good for my children and relationships. Being able to communicate peacefully and purposefully with tact is a beneficial. While I believe there are times you have to be more forceful with your voice & words, it’s only effective when rarely used.

Often I find that we know things but it’s difficult to implement until we’re ready.
I recognized that in relationships, I very much have a “team” mentality. It’s US until it’s not. I work very hard to be considerate and sensitive to other people although I’m not the best at it all the times with all people. But, I’m working. Anyway. So, when I’m doing that work with another person, I take it personally when they don’t give what I’ve given. I take it personally & it hurts me and makes me angry when it’s addressed but not worked on. What I’ve come to realize is that while you can ask, you can’t expect someone to give you something they don’t have. And, you have to stop making excuses for them. Potential & capacity have nothing to do with  desire & motivation. In trying to force the situation, we only end up frustrating ourselves. If they don’t have it, they don’t have it. They may never have it or they may get it in the future. Freedom is operating under what is right now peacefully. Not what you want to be or think it can be if this or that. Work towards the future, but operate in the present.

Recognize what is , forgive the hurts, then move on.
(Move on doesn’t always mean discontinue the relationship, it means get off the issue.)
{And, “off”is different than “over”}

Oh, this alleviates any reason to get angry. While issues may still hurt, there’s no need to get angry. There’s nothing to take personally. There’s no reason to label inconsiderate or unloving or anything else. Usually when I’m angry it’s because I’m disappointed (an expectation hasn’t been met), my feelings were hurt, or I felt as if I wasn’t considered. For the most part. Once I quietly deal with and label how I feel, I can move forward. I decide whether it’s worth bringing up or not. I decide how and when I respond – not my uncontrolled feelings. And, I change my expectations (not my standards) of that situation because now that anger isn’t narrowing my view, I can clearly see observe & respond based on facts// not feelings.

I’m not going to expect an organic meal from McDonald’s.
I know they don’t provide it, I’m not going to talk myself blue trying to convince them of the benefits of healthier choices and get upset when they don’t value of what I’m saying.
They serve what they serve. Eat it or move on, you know?
Without the mouthiness and fire starting.

Love yourself enough to choose what you want to eat.
You don’t have to eat what’s offered.
You decide what you will & won’t accept.
You decide how long you want McDonald’s.

When you recognize & accept what’s being offered vs. what you’re trying to add to an already set menu,
you’ll be able to move on in peace.
In a way that doesn’t disrupt your heart.
In a way that allows you joyfully eat of the current menu or open the next menu without still being bitter about the last one.

Ya know?

 

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