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. ūüôā 

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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counting down and preparing

I’m (generally) a planner. I (generally) like to know what’s going on at all times. I like to have things in order and I enjoy being overly prepared way in advance. It makes me feel comfortable. Calm. Happy. And, at peace. PLUS…. it gives me a chance to make changes or adjust when things come up. Because they always do.

So, days away from my 28th week, the beginning of my 3rd trimester, I’m counting down.
Thanksgiving Day I’ll be 31 weeks. 31. 31. 31. That’s insane.
New Year’s Eve I’ll be 36 weeks.
My ob tells me to be ready the first week in January (37w), but to not be surprised if these girls make their debut in December.

whoa.

Nothing new. I’ve mentioned this in my last few posts and I guess I keep saying it because this is real. And, it is happening. But, I’m having a hard time believing it.¬†God’s faithfulness has blown my mind. The tangible truth that he gives good gifts is difficult to grasp. And, I just. can’t. get a handle on it.
Now, considering the type of person that I am….. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I feel like we have so much to do, purchase, organize, wash, and just make ready before the girls get here. Even though I watched my belly grow, my tops shrink, and my dresses fill out, December/January felt so far away and this reality felt so unreal. Yes, I saw these babies grow before my eyes from a little ball of cells with a beating heart, I watched their limbs grow and develop, their little faces mature…. I felt their kicks grow stronger and watched them vie for space in my belly but to know that I will be watching them grow on the outside in a matter of weeks is unreal. I can’t believe it. I literally cannot believe it. And, I’m not ready. {I don’t think.}

I love movies. I mean, I love movies. And, we’ve been going quite a bit lately. I want to see all the best movies out… My favorite are romantic comedies & films that depict love conquering all. I’m intentionally putting off ¬†all of the girlie movies for the days/nights I’m stuck at home or will be at home. So, we’ve been watching the deeper more thought provoking movies (which I love, too!!!) and ended up catching The Judge last night. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. For more than a few reasons, but left me wallowing deep in my feelings and more than ever adamant about preparing for raising our children. (No, I’m not telling the movie, so you can relax!!! lol).¬†All of this felt great because just a few days ago, I sent Thomas and email with a list of things I wanted to begin focusing on, discussing, and working toward in terms of spiritually preparing to raise our girls¬†with a heart for Jesus. ¬†I went to Flourish in June and was about 6 weeks pregnant. It was a beautiful conference which scheduled quiet time with Jesus. During that time I wrote down every character trait I wanted our kids to have (and, yes…. I wrote children many times and felt silly for doing so but that was what was on my heart), wrote scriptures associated with those traits and attached women in the Bible who portrayed the traits I longed for them to have.

After the movie, I was left encouraged to do all the things I’ve been running from, personally writing about, and convicted to do. I rambled on and on about how important it is for me to deal with hard things, emotions, hurts, and disappoints and to communicate because doing so builds and strengthens relationships, not doing it¬†tears them apart. And, hardens us. I’ve hardened in many ways and although I’ve been praying that God soften my heart, I truly don’t feel as if I’ve surrendered enough for Him to do it.

I know that not dealing with our own personal shit before we have kids and after they arrive, leave them be the ones shoveling both theirs and ours. If we don’t deal with our own junk, we pass that junk onto them. I know that¬†our issues impact our kids, shape their lives, their perceptions, and experiences. Noyhing will ever be perfect but my goodness I want to give my kids the best foundation possible.

I don’t want the things I suck at to impair my children. I don’t want the fact that mommy hates crying and being emotional so she doesn’t like really digging deep and dealing with things to hurt them. And, it will. It will hurt them, my relationship with them, how they see me interacting with their daddy, and their view of¬†me being a person who is supposed to be the heart and lifeline of our home. All of my decisions will shape and impact their lives. For better or worse.¬†

Treating them with grace, freely and relentlessly showing forgiveness, and intentionally guiding them to truth that they NEED Jesus will be all of our saving grace.

Especially when the less than attractive side of mommy comes out…. when she’s impatient, harsh, hard, seeking perfection & the best from herself and everyone around her, is HARD. It’s stressful. It’s limiting. It doesn’t help to build relationships or people.

With two extra little firecrackers (which they will inevitably be) in our home, finding a new balance will be hard, but finding it will be our peace. Learning to deal with things…. learning to be gentle, assuring, and kind even when frustrated will be what shapes our girls to be kind and self assured. It is what will keep the feel of our home warm, safe, and sure. It is what will tether us together when we’re disappointed in each other… when we’ve hurt each other… when we’ve just been less than loving and gracious.

Wanna know what’s burdening me right now?

When you experience pregnancy, everyone is focused on gender, names, a nursery, cribs, and collecting massive amounts of diapers. We have checklists and baby showers to collect a bunch of (needed, albeit) STUFF. We have childbirth classes and hospital tours, lactation consults, pedi interviews. While there are plenty of THINGS our children will need throughout their short span of newborn-hood, toddlerhood, childhood and on and on. And, duh.. it’s an exciting time. But, why is the focus on all of that but not on shaping these children’s lives? Why aren’t mommy-friends sitting mommies to be and new mommies down and talking to them about their experiences as new moms who have to maintain homes, marriages, and learn how to be a good (read: God focused) mom and wife in this new stage in her life? What this life is really going to look life before/after/during and under the surface of the beautiful photoshoots, Insta posts, and funny stories?

No one knows it all, we’re all struggling. Bringing a person into this world and having the responsibility to raise them cannot be easy. Why are we avoiding the conversation? Why are we trying to appear to be these women who have everything together and in need of nothing? As a mommy to be, I can only imagine the stress of having to care for everyone. How can we be more supportive of each other in this new role is my question. How can we build honest, trusting relationships with other new mommies who we can go to for a release? For advice and wisdom? Yes, we have our girlfriend groups and they are tight knit and deep……. But, I feel that motherhood is so personal. I feel that mothers are so harshly judged that even with our closest friends it can be hard to open up about what we need and what we’re struggling with… difficult to tell a friend that the teacher isn’t all the way wrong about her child’s behavior… or to offer help in an area that we see our friend needs help with… or to share with a friend what the future of that child and her life may look like if she doesn’t ease up on the super strict discipline or reign in a child who could use a bit more structure and discipline…. It’s hard.

Because we’re fragile and offended easily. Because we don’t know if our relationships can withstand such truth, an opinion, constructive criticism. We’re doing the best we know how to. The best we can. And, can get angry when someone points out a weakness that we may even know we have. But, who does that serve? How is being hard, in denial about our struggles, our junk helping? How is it shaping our families and our children? How is turning a blind eye benefiting us?

Who is talking about postpartum depression? Who is talking about how frustrated you’re going to be with colicky babies or late night partiers when you’re exhausted and working on two hours of sleep? or sick babies? breastfeeding issues??
Who’s talking to mamas who have lost their babies? ¬†Who is talking about¬†REAL LIFE?? Who is willing to?

We expect everyone to show their best face at all times because dealing with life is hard, messy, and ugly. All at once. Yes, life can be beautiful, wonderful, and peaceful, too. But, truth be told it isn’t like that all of the time. I know that because we’re all sinners and we can all make the worst of the worst decisions at times. We like to serve ourselves at some points, in some way whether small or large, that hurts another person. This life, our friendships, marriages, and relationships are hard because we are, because we’re unforgiving, we have junk we want to hide, and because we just plain ol sin everyday.

I’ve pulled out my notes from Flourish and have been studying, reading, and soaking up all of the wisdom that was given that weekend.¬†I’ve committed to dealing with all of the hurts and disappointments that I have felt, perceived, and experienced over the past six-eight months and I’m going to talk about them. Cry about them. And, truly work towards getting over it or learning how to carry it without allowing it to cause a negative impact on my life.¬†I’m going to make more of an effort to build deeper relationships and open up much more to that close knit group of gals and really learn to lean on them and position myself to be leaned upon.

The quality of our lives depend on it. Our depth of our character, marriages, and relationships with Christ depend on it.
Our husbands’ lives depend on it.
Our children’s lives depend on it.
Our friends’ lives depend on it.
Those we love the most depend on us truly being able to deal with our junk and love them deeply, serve them with gladness, guide them with grace and wisdom, and relate to them in a way that they learn to truly trust us with all of them Рboth good and bad.

Post Jam: Kari Jobe – Here.
Healing and finding peace begins with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. We have to ask and trust that He will bring people into our lives and/or further deepen the relationships we have to help us along and to push us closer to him.

I’m definitely encouraged to deal… to take a deep breathe and do hard things that will expose my heart and cause me to be vulnerable. To dig in, take root, and grow in ways that will honor God, strengthen my family, support my friends, and build my children. I know I’m not alone in wanting these things, but are we willing to take the leap to take hold of them?

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quick thoughts

flourishThis print was a Flourish gift. I recently framed it and placed it next to my bed. It’s such a sweet reminder that no matter what you go through or experience in life, you have the opportunity to flourish and sit in the presence of God if you choose.

If you aren’t too angry, if you aren’t too self focused or short sighted. Feelings and emotions that are real and hard to get through when you’re in the thick of hard times. It’s not easy, but understanding who you belong to and what that truly means & how those truths effect your life, are perspective changing.

I’m learning a lot about God’s sovereignty & just resting peacefully while He works on my heart & the hearts of the people around me.

Psalm 58:9 is pretty sweet, too..
For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And, I will hope in your name for your name is good.

At the end of the day, God is good and his goodness is a part of his character that never changes or is affected by outside influences. It doesn’t waver due to our sins, how He is seen or thought about, or because his feelings about us have changed for any reason.

That’s worth hoping in Christ for.

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