… be thankful

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(photos by Temi Coker… find him on Insta @temi.coker)

This past year, specifically, has been so difficult for me. From January til now, it’s been very hard… literally, no ease up.  And, over the past few months I’ve worked to deal with and address (within myself) the effects and feelings of everything that’s happened even though it’s so incredibly difficult for me to do.

I would pray and read and ask God for the strength to persevere, to “be right”, to endure, and to just get whatever it is I should learn from these struggles – even if it’s patience. And, my mind would wander to all of junk that’s happened and I would end up frustrated; not even focused on God.

So, this morning, I woke up committed to just breathing and being grateful in spite of what’s happened. I know that there is so much more to be grateful for aside from and even in the middle of chaos than I’ve allowed myself to see.

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Have you heard of She Reads Truth? It’s a wonderful women’s devo; I follow them on Insta, and have their app. Yes, I’m a total Stan!! I love how they use their little space on this app to encourage and speak truth… how their app is full of devos that refocus you and give you truth (not something that just sounds good) to rest in. This morning their IG posts says:

When we seek Him, we will find Him – His Word says it’s true. And so we give thanks. We cling to Him and to the promise of Him, and we give thanks For although we may feel lost, we know He never loses us. 

No matter what I’ve gone through, God has his eye on me. And, for that I am so incredibly grateful. Oh my God, if there’s anything to be grateful for – it’s that Jesus is within me, that he’s with me. That heartache isn’t for nothing. I’m grateful that He reminds me that the most important things to be grateful for are His promises….. that because of Jesus I have something to be grateful for.

That sounds so stupid. I know. So lofty and spacey, so trite. But, when everything has shaken and the reality sets in that nothing is certain….. all the truth and solidarity you have is that Jesus is with you – you quickly realize how much we take his faithfulness for granted. How we truly DON’T depend on Him for strength, endurance, and peace. How when we pray in difficult moments for patience and then immediately respond impatiently – that we aren’t trusting Him for what He promises He can give us. For what he so graciously offers us.

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I have experienced God being a redeemer.
I have experienced his faithfulness.
I know that He is a comforter & peace.

But, I’d forgotten.
I wasn’t focused.
I was afraid.

But, thankfully, I am reminded of what an amazing Savior He is.

I’m thankful.
Thankful for these girls whose lives I will forever be stilled by. I mean, I wrote back here about how Sarah and Hannah responded so differently to infertility….. I read my words, my truth about how over having my own children I was…. And, I see how this insane story has unfolded and I know that only God allowed me/us to respond to such foolishness, difficulty, hurt, and chaos the way He did. I pray for their lives daily…. pray that they have a heart for Jesus and are committed to “go slow” in trusting God. GO!!!
Thankful that I have family who double as real friends and friends who double as family who are the most supportive and encouraging…. who I can learn from and share so many hilarious and exciting memories with.

There’s always, always, always something to be thankful for……. We have just have to position ourselves to realize it and acknowledge it. Without comparing one thing against another. Without wishing and hoping things were different. Without disconnecting from life and our circumstances. But, showing gratitude for all things in the midst of having everything or having nothing because we know that although this life comes with struggle we have so so much to be grateful for.

And, finally, I am thankful that somehow this post was able to be restored. Idk what I did but I intended to publish this post and it somehow got lost and I broke down in tears.  I was already talking myself through getting over it… But, now, I’m happy and can cook with a peaceful, settled mind! 🙂

Post Jam: Jesus Saves by Jeremy Camp
*** I literally love this song….. hope you enjoy it, too! ***

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it’s all a dream….

IMG_3359(photo credit: Christin Armstrong)

It’s easy to take this belly for granted or to complain about the daily nuances of a baby belly… It’s easy to get so used to it that you begin to believe that it is deserved.  That it’s just “normal”, a “regular” thing. It’s easy to feel far removed from a past that was still very much a part of who you are. Although, the evidence of this pregnancy has become my norm and is the very beginnings of being defined as a mother, I make sure to keep at the forefront of my mind how spectacular a blessing it is.

The saddest part of this experience is that I don’t feel as if my heart has completely softened or slowed yet… I don’t feel as if I’ve caught my breathe or truly grasped the reality or heaviness of this pregnancy – which is insane. And, truly heartbreaking for me.

But, infertility will do that to you. It has a way of changing your heart and the very essence of who you are, how you relate to others, and deal with life. Some lessons of this journey are definitely beneficial, others I can definitely do without. Like, the numbness that results from constant disappointments. The roller coaster rides. The ups and downs of medications. The never ending poking, examining, and prodding. The adoption paperwork, meetings, and packets. The anxiety, fear, and difficulty in trusting what actually is or your gut feelings. Never knowing what’s coming next. The heartbreak of every failed attempt to just breathe. The empty desire to live each day without the worry or stress or chaos… because you know that that’s just not a part of infertility-trying to conceive-trying to adopt journey.

While an upside of being on this journey lends itself to the possibility of growth; in the moment, that reality doesn’t seem to matter in the moment. But, if you keep moving forward you realize that it’s the growth that has kept you going.  You don’t immediately see how you’re torn down while simultaneously built up, reinforced, and strengthened. You are stripped of everything you “knew”or “wanted” and given (without permission.. rude) completely new perspectives and desires. And, that’s frustrating. On many days I was angered and frustrated at how these past four years of infertility have negatively impacted my life. Bitter towards the seemingly most insignificant and most glaring ways it has impacted my marriage and my relationship with my husband. The wasted money, the wasted hours at doctor’s appointments, pointless injections and medications. The guilt of the twinge of jealously and sadness felt when you’re out and about and it seems that every other woman on the planet is expecting; it forces you to reckon with your inabilities and circumstances. And, dealing with it is hard. Balancing the thin line between the unmistakable joy you have for friends and family who are expanding their families and the unmistakable pain you feel when the next cycle begins or you’re in purgatory wanting to just give up but still wanting to soothe that ache in your heart. Or, issues with an adoption agency slow progress or things just aren’t going the way you feel they should. It all seems purposefulness.

The disappointment, guilt, fear, sadness, and pain colors and consumes so much of your life…. It’s easy to lose hope, to accept that it’s “never” going to happen, and to begin to believe that “expansion projects” just weren’t for you. Easy to succumb to this inner defeat that you truly don’t want to give in to but seems to be swallowing you whole.

So, you let it go. You move forward and begin to revamp your life plan. You begin to hope for new things and believe that there’s more than one way to live this life with purpose and experience fulfillment in ways that didn’t include a house full of children, noise, and sleepless nights.

And, then…..IMG_3310-Edit(photo credit: Christin Armstrong)

…. you realize that every single moment you thought was wasted is redeemed…. the humiliation, let downs, and devastations of every experience are being traded for crowns of beauty and you see with your own eyes that God really does make everything beautiful in his own time. That all things truly work tougher for good, that our Father in Heaven truly is the giver of really good and incredibly perfect gifts.

…. you learn by experience (which they say is the best teacher!) that God’s plan for your life truly is much greater than anything you could ever consider. You’re able to look back and see the struggles you’ve gone though and it pales in comparison to what is coming.

…. you are grateful for every experience meant to hurt you and break you because they drove you to the cross and positioned you to be vulnerable and open to the people put in your life to support and love you.

…. you learn that God can restore. That He gives you the desires of your heart. That your soul truly can trust in the Lord and rest in his goodness.

…. most of all, you recognize that these experiences, these years were not wasted, the circumstances not created to break you, but rather to point to someone much greater than ourselves.

This dream…. these girls…. didn’t happen because we finally “stopped trying” or because I “did things God’s way”….. This happened in spite of us  with the purpose of glorifying God alone. Our story happened the way that it did because God planned it that way. The worst of it shows God’s goodness and faithfulness, the best his grace and love for us.

Infertility isn’t the easiest life experience to walk through. Treatments and adoption aren’t either. While neither brought us children, I know how difficult they both can be. The most comforting part of walking any road is that you aren’t the first nor will you be the last to walk that same path. You aren’t alone. Finding, building, and engaging with women who have and are experiencing what you have is a blessing. Being able to walk along side other women who know that struggle is the most encouraging and comforting opportunity.

Share your story in your own way, in your own time. Other women and couples need to hear your voice…. even if it’s a whisper.

 

These little girls truly are a dream come true and I’m so thankful for all of you who have come along side of us, who have stood with us, prayed with us, cried with us, and who are finally rejoicing with us. This is a big deal. I am absolutely looking forward to celebrating our children (whoa.) with our closest friends and family this weekend. It’s going to be so special.

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lover of redemption

one thing i love about being a Christian, about being a part of the body of Christ is that we are never, ever alone. God not only provides us with other believers who surround us (and who we’re able to surround) with love, friendship, support, and prayer…. but, He has also given us the Holy Spirit. It’s a like an inner best friend who is with you always… who prays for you, who guides you, who “fusses” at and convicts you when you are verring from the path you should go.

He’s given us Jesus…… the one who petitions on our behalf, the one who honored His father until death for our sakes, the one who is the perfect example of what love in action truly looks like.

this life can be so painful…. it can leave you feeling lonely and broken and depleted. But, I’m thankful that God is a redeemer. I’m thankful that He can restore and heal.

I’m thankful for the many examples of others he has set before us that remind and encourage us to remain steadfast in our faith and trust in Him. Because, it’s hard. Because it takes a strength that we don’t possess naturally. Because this lilfe is out of our hands.

A few of my favorite redemption stories is the one of Joseph. Ups and downs, lies and betrayals, yet he still trusted God and honored him in each position he found himself in. I can’t imagine how broken and hurt his heart was on so many of the circumstances he put himself in and no matter how frustrated or angry he was, he trusted God. ACTIVELY. He didn’t act out in his frustrations, he didn’t seek vengeance, he didn’t quit doing what was right. God restored his family, redeemed the time he spent isolated and in prison. God had a purpose and plan for his life. He couldn’t have seen how being sold by his brother would be GOOD for him and the Israelites, he couldn’t have seen how being lied on and thrown in prison would be GOOD for him and how he would literally save millions of people from starvation just by being obedient. He had no idea how his faithfulness and obedience would encourage me.

Let’s not talk about Job…… I love how he complained and fussed to God and God basically told him “recognize who you’re talking to…” Job trusted God when his life and health crumbled FOR NO REASON other than to be sifted, other than to be tempted by the Devil for his own sick entertainment…. But, through the emotional turmoil and depression he continued to seek God. He stayed in His face. And, God honored him for it. Restored, redeemed, and healed. For whose sake?

Hosea…. who I know was sick and tired of having to be the “good husband”. Tired of dealing with his wandering spouse who so blatantly disrespected and disregarded him and their marriage. Publicly. I know he was tired of being loving and gracious and kind to her. I know he wanted to quit. But, this story to closely resembles what Christ has done and continues to do for us daily…. how often does God rescue us, how often do we come back to him broken and hurting after disobeying? How many times does he have to forgive and cover us with mercy and grace? and, HOW does He do it every.single.time? And, who does this selfless love benefit?

The patience, quiet spirit, and obedience of Ester and Ruth.
The triumph and fall, the waywardness and steadfastness of David.
The rebellion of Jonah.
The friendship and betrayal of Judas.
All for a purpose. All honor God. All turn our attention to Christ. All make us marvel and the goodness of our God.

The struggles of this life aren’t for nothing. Yes, while they make us stronger in our faith and in our ability to persevere which builds our character and gives us hope (Romans 5:4), our stories, our faithfulness, our obedience is for the Body, as well. We are all connected and we effect each other in every way.

While this life isn’t easy, while we will have to endure setbacks, failures, the consequences of poor choices, and just sometimes the sovereign plan of God that puts us in difficult places – we know that will get through it, we know that it is purposeful, and that it will honor God in some way.

My dad used to always tell me “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” I had no idea what that meant. Mainly because, looking back, I had no idea who good obeying is for you. Even when you’d rather be doing something else much more fun and enjoyable, even when it goes against every fiber in of your (naturally sinful) heart, and you don’t see the purpose. The learned discipline is good for you. I’m glad I see that now. Glad I understand from experience on both sides how when we obey we are truly positioning ourselves for the best possible outcome.

(Sidebar, which truly frustrates me about today’s children… some have no idea how to obey. how to follow rules. how to do what they’re told….. how can they obey and learn to yield to God when they can’t obey their teachers and parents? It’s GOOD for your children to have rules and boundaries… to learn discipline and hard work. They’re going to be someone’s husband and wife and mother and father one day……… NO ONE LIKES adults who have no self control, no concern for others, and can’t do what NEEDS to be done (i.e.. LAZY!). Give your children some chores that MUST be done, don’t let them quit because “they don’t want to anymore”, don’t excuse their behavior, blame others for their wrong doings, or let them get away with not obeying because you want them to be happy. We all want our children to be happy, no ones likes to see their children cry… however, Hebrews 12:11….. discipline benefits children and all of those who will be surrounded by them for the duration of their life…… rant concluded.)

Redemption, restoration, healing, and the overwhelming joy we experience on the other side of difficulty is encouraging. KNOWING what’s promised and what’s coming is worth enduring whatever is put in front of us.

It’s not easy but it sure is worth it.

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