Monday, April 6, 2015

Dear Single Girl: Think Outside the Box

As long as I could remember, I was encouraged by youth leaders and well-meaning mentors to make a list of what I "wanted" in a husband and to stick to my standards.  While some of the things on my list were good, like "Christian" or "honest", I've come to believe that we girls all too often put our future husband in a box.

If you want to homeschool, you look for someone who was homeschooled.  If you don't want to homeschool, you look specifically for someone who wasn't.  If you're Baptist you look for a Baptist.  If you come from a stable family, you look for someone who comes from the same background.  We assume that a guy meeting these criteria will mean he's a good fit for us.

The only problem is, all of those things are outward.  God doesn't look at the outward appearance...He looks at the heart.  Marriage is meant to balance us out.  The perfect person for you may have an opposite personality or come from a completely different background.  Also, having the same background as you doesn't ensure that they'll have the same convictions...or the same heart.  I'd venture to guess that not every homeschooled guy wants to homeschool, or that every public schooler doesn't want to homeschool his kids.

I believe that girls limit the pool of potential husbands too much by assuming that the guy for them fits in a certain box.  I'm not saying you should settle or throw all caution to the wind and get rid of all your standards.  Know your convictions and your standards...just don't write off a guy just because he's not who you pictured marrying.  Sometimes the best diamonds come from the roughest places.




Friday, April 3, 2015

Taking Motherhood for Granted

The other day Miles crawled up into my lap while I was feeding Nora and said, "Mama, you've got your big boy and you've got your sister."  I smiled, knowing what he meant.  Sometimes, in the midst of wiping bottoms and cleaning up smoothies spilled all over the play mat and the baby and trying to stuff something edible in my mouth before the next crisis, I forget just how blessed I am.  For a moment, I held my baby girl and my "big" boy (who's still a baby to me), and just soaked in the sweet little blessings that they are.

When I was pregnant with Miles, I couldn't wait for all of the "mom" things that came with motherhood.  I couldn't wait to be putting my son's carseat in the cart at the grocery store, or picking him up from the nursery at church.  With two little ones, those things can become burdens rather than blessings.  Today, I'm going to view them as gifts once more.  



Here are a few more blessings that motherhood brings that I often take for granted:

Getting to run errands with my children and buckle them in car seats.  

Before Miles was born, I drove around with an empty car seat...I couldn't wait until it was occupied with my own tiny baby.  I couldn't wait for the challenge of learning to run errands and grocery shop with him.  When I was pregnant with Nora, I looked forward to the challenge of juggling two.  It's still a challenge, and going anywhere is quite the ordeal, but those sweet chubby faces are so worth it.

Always being needed.  

It's nice to be needed...it really is.  It's nice to be the only one that can make that boo boo better...the one who they trust.  Puke and poop and pee are so much easier to clean up when you are needed.

Teddy Bear Picnic at the Park

Getting out of myself.  

It's really hard to be selfish when you're a mom.  You have to learn to deal with the sleepless nights and never sleeping in.  The needs of a tiny little person come before yours and even your plans revolve around the kind of day they're having.  This is a wonderful thing.  Motherhood forces us to stop thinking about ourselves!

It makes you raw.  

Sure, hormones and lack of sleep and tiredness play a part, but being a mommy makes you emotional just by it's very nature.  You suddenly see movies and events in a completely different light when you have your own little ones to think about losing or getting hurt.  Motherhood wears off the tough outer shell and makes you vulnerable...but it is through this vulnerability that you find the most amazing blessings.

Getting to dress your kids.  

I don't spend a bunch of money on kids clothes, but it's still fun for me.  When Miles has his little suspenders on, or I find the sweetest tiny bow for Nora, I am delighted.  Andy teases me...but he can't help but pick out cute stuff too.  You can dress your kids however you cotton picking want...and that's fun.

My Favorite "Dirty Laundry"

Seeing them grow and discover.  

The other day Miles and I watched the bees landing on my spring flowers.  He was fascinated with them...especially when I told him that the bees were collecting pollen to make honey.  My sweet little girl has started reaching for us when she wants to be picked up.  It never gets old.  It's amazing to see their little eyes take in something new...like an amazingly absorbent sponge.

Giving them baths.  

Suggesting a bath to my son is like telling him he's one the lottery.  The joy that comes from such a little thing is amazing.  Yesterday I set Nora's bath tub in the big bath, so that my two munchkins could have a bath together.  They laughed and giggled the whole time.

Sibling interaction. 

Nora just adores her big brother and, while it's taken some time, he adores her as well.  I can't to watch their relationship grow and change.



What are some of your favorite "little" things about motherhood?   

Friday, March 20, 2015

Because the First Step is Admitting that You Have a Problem

Nobody would have known from the outside that something was wrong.  If you asked me how I was doing I would have said “good” or “fine”.  And wasn’t I really?  I had a wonderful husband with a steady job, a cozy house, and two beautiful children that I got to stay home with every day.  I should have been much more than fine.  Yet, inside, I didn’t feel fine at all.

For a time I denied that there was anything wrong.  I’m just having a bad few days.  I’ll get over it.  Yet, despite my best efforts to brush aside what was going on, I slowly slipped deeper and deeper into the fog.   

In public, I put my best face on, terrified that someone would see me for the broken, messed up woman that I was.  At home, those I loved most bore the brunt of my emotions, the offspring of feelings I couldn’t even describe.  I felt terrible guilt for my moodiness and anger.  I shouldn’t be feeling this way.  Strong, Christian women don’t feel this way.  If I would just do ____ I’d feel better. 

A strange feeling of hopelessness was sinking into my gut, silently squeezing the life out of me.  I tried without success to climb out of the pit into which I’d fallen.  I self-medicated my feelings in my own way.  I drank way too many cups of coffee and tea, wandered aimlessly in Target, and ate more dessert than I needed, desperately clutching for a cure-all.  I poured over my Bible, telling myself my problems were so few that I shouldn’t bother God with them…that I should just snap out of it.  The problem was, no problem can really get better until you admit you have one.            

Then came the day that my ever-intuitive mother asked me if I was maybe struggling with some post-partum depression.  At first I denied it vehemently.  As I thought about it more, though, I began to allow myself to consider the possibility.  What if that really is the problem?  Would it be so terrible to admit it?  Wouldn’t it explain all that I was feeling and experiencing?  

I called my mom back and told her that I thought she might be right and then I told my husband what I thought was happening.  Surprisingly, an incredible peace flooded over me.  You see, I couldn’t even begin to climb out of the pit until I first lay everything at Jesus’ feet.  In order to truly lay it all at Jesus’ feet, I had to admit that I couldn’t fix the problem on my own…and I had to admit to myself that there was a problem in the first place in order to admit that I couldn’t fix it.
    
So here’s me being open about something that even my closest friends might not know about.  The truth is, I struggled with Post-Partum Depression.  The good part is, I'm not anymore.  I’ve took steps to help straighten out my hormones and emotions, but mostly I learned to laying every feeling and thought at the feet of Him Who was and is able to fix everything...to fix me.  The fog lifted and joy returned as I came out of the pit.  Yet, I still have days where the devil gets the better of me.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  It’s not my fault.


If you’ve ever struggled with similar feelings, you know the guilt and burden they can be.  Just know that you are not alone and that you’ve done nothing wrong to make yourself feel this way.  There is One who can help…but first you have to admit that you need fixing.  



PS: Not everything can be fixed simply by admitting there's something wrong.  I strongly encourage you to seek out a good Christian counselor and/or doctor.  I firmly believe that God has given these people wisdom for a reason!  Feel free to contact me at thelifenotmyown@gmail.com if you need help finding a good one.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bitterness

It's like a cancer deep down inside of you.  Nobody sees it.  Nobody knows it's there.  Except you...and, of course, God.

I've known the nagging pain of it far too well.  It began with a valid reason.  A blunder.  Somebody did me wrong.  The fact that I had once called that someone a friend made it worse.  That that person claimed to be a Christian sunk me.

Why would they do this?  How could this person not see the hurt they had caused?  How could they claim to have been led by the Spirit when all they brought was pain?  These questions whirred through my brain in a never-ending loop.

Slowly, I found the hurt turning black, rotting my heart from the inside out.  Shamefully, I found myself hating.  I wanted to scream and yell.  I wanted to write a nasty letter.  I even dreamt of doing this person physical harm.

I wanted to hurt them, but instead all I ever ended up hurting was myself.  I let it breed in me and poison me.  With it came anger, sleeplessness, and even depression.  There didn't seem to be a way to stop it.

But there was One who could...the only other One who knew it was even there inside of me.   One day I realized that I needed Him to fix me.  I needed Him to get rid of this.

It was as if I looked down and saw for the first time that my fists were clenched, holding tight to the wrongs done me.  I didn't want to let them go.  I wanted to hold onto them until this person paid for what they'd done.

But that is not His way.  That's not how He works, how He heals.  No, instead of letting me inflict retribution, He asked me to do the opposite...He asked me to let go.

And I did.

It wasn't easy or all at once.  When you've held tight to something for that long, your muscles are tight and unmoving.  It took prying and tears and hard choices, but eventually I was able to let go of that last shred of hurt that I'd held onto for so long.

All at once I saw what the poison had done to me.  What I'd let grow in me.  I vowed to never let it grow in me again, although I knew I could never really keep that promise.

O Lord, cleanse me of the blackness within.
Rid me of this poison I drown myself in.  
Let me know the freedom of true forgiveness,  
And free me from this trap called bitterness.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Modesty Revisited

A few weeks ago, an anonymous person commented on one of my old posts from my newlywed days.  I had to laugh and cringe a little bit when I reread it, both at my writing style and a few of my thoughts.  Over the three years since I wrote that post, I've developed and grown so much, both as a woman and in my beliefs.

The truth is, I don't only wear clothes that my husband "likes" and, honestly, he wouldn't want me to.  I'm so thankful to be married to my husband.  We have our fair share of problems, struggles, and fights, but never once has he tried to control the way I dress.  If anything, he's given me the freedom to develop my own personal sense of style and convictions on modesty.  His questions about why I felt the need to wear certain uber-Conservative pieces of clothing were merely meant to question my motives and help me decipher my personal convictions and tastes from the voices of the outside world.

You see, I've come to realize that standards without conviction are legalism.  Instead of coming out of honest prayer and seeking the Lord, they come from other men and women who are very vocal about their belief that their standards are the only correct ones.  My days of wearing long skirts and no makeup stemmed from legalism and a desire to please people (specifically single male ones ;) ).  Here are some of my latest thoughts on modesty and what it really means:


The way you dress should bring respect, both to yourself and to your husband.


I know without a doubt that my husband will still love me and think I'm good-looking no matter what, but I want to walk into church or the grocery store dressed in a way that will make my husband proud that I'm his.  
"Her husband is known in the gates, 
When he sits among the elders of the land."
(Proverbs 31:23)  
The infamous "Proverbs 31 Woman" brought her husband respect.  Similarly, while I have my own personal style and convictions, (hey, I'm a daughter of the King, and I want to and should be respected), I also want to bring respect to my husband.  I don't want to bring upon him jealousy, mockery, or pity because I'm either dressed too provocatively or too frumpily (is that even a word?).


Modesty is not about wearing the "right" things and avoiding the "wrong" ones...it's about not drawing undue attention to yourself.  


Sure, I want to be dressed nicely and attractively, bringing respect both to myself and my husband, but if I'm drawing attention to myself because I'm standing out too much, then I'm basically defeating my whole purpose.  Sometimes, covering up too much can actually draw more attention to yourself than just dressing tastefully and appropriately for the situation.  Anyone who's ever seen a woman wearing a burka on a hot beach knows exactly what I'm talking about.  Dressing in a certain, Conservative way will make people think "Pentecostal" or "Fundamentalist"...not "Christian".  Not that there's anything wrong with those descriptions (especially if you are Pentecostal or a Fundamentalist), but if you're not, is that really the image you want to portray to people?
"An attitude of humility, avoiding improper self-exaltation or excessive flamboyance. Scripture urges modesty in personal behaviour, forms of dress and forms of behaviour" (Dictionary of Bible Themes).

Over hyped-up modesty only makes us ashamed of our womanhood.


Please don't try to argue with me on this point.  I've talked to many, many women who've come out of very Conservative circles, and the majority of them have experienced this at one point or another.  They were told that their bodies could make men stumble, as if they were wholly responsible for a man's thoughts.  They were told that the mere outline of their womanly bodies could cause a man to lust, and thus they became ashamed and paranoid.  They wore bulky, ill-fitting clothing in an attempt to be "modest".

Ladies, God created the female body as an exquisite, beautiful thing.  We should never, ever be ashamed of our bodies.  I don't want to get into a debate here, because I really don't have all the answers.  I just want to assure you that the fact that you have a chest, or a waist, or legs, or a rear end--the fact that you are a woman--isn't going to make any guy stumble.


To this day, I'm still guilty of dressing differently depending on who I am going to be around.  


Not that it's wrong to want to avoid offending someone or to dress situation-appropriately, but, at least for myself, I can definitely go overboard.  In truth, that just means that I'm being fake.  People are seeing the me I want them to see, instead of the me I really am.  


Summer in the South is brutal, especially for someone not accustomed to heat or humidity.


Honestly, a lot of over-Conservative clothing styles are impractical and downright oppressive.  When it's over 100 degrees and feels like a sauna, even jean shorts will stick to you like nobodies business.  I garden and do things outside in the heat.  I couldn't do that if I had to wear a floor length skirt or a short-sleeved sweater over everything.  This summer when it starts to feel hotter than Hades, I'll be thanking the sweet Lord that I have a husband who has no problem with me wearing shorts or a tank top.


I'm all for dressing modestly and covering up parts of ourselves that should be only for our husband's, but modesty standards are a deeply personal thing.  


I don't think that God convicts us all about the same things.  I have friends that have different standards from my own, but I honestly believe that we are all following what God has convicted us individually to do.  Because of that, I respect their standards and they respect mine.  In the end, the way we dress should reflect who we are in Christ, as well as the unique, beautiful women God created us to be.  


Have your views and modesty standards changed over the years?  I'd love for you to share about them!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

What I Want My Son to Know

Today a beautiful package of flowers and chocolate was delivered to my door from my sweet man.  Miles, of course, being the curious 2-year-old that he is, was full of questions and wanted to know where his flowers and chocolate were.  I told him that Daddy only sent them to Mommy because I'm married to him (marriage being a concept he is just starting to grasp).  

He said, quite honestly, "You married?  Where your dress?"

I couldn't help but laugh at his little brain trying to figure this whole situation out.  He'd looked at our wedding album the other day, so he knew that I had worn a wedding dress at some point...he just thought that I needed to be wearing it in order to be "married" to his daddy and receive that gift.  He didn't understand that a wedding is a one-time thing, whereas marriage is lasting.


It seems like our time these days is full of Miles asking a million questions as his growing brain explodes with new knowledge and concepts.  It's my responsibility to help him grow and teach him about this world.  Frankly, that scares me like crazy.  There's so much I want to teach him and so little time to do it.  Being a woman, I also feel inept to teach him how to be a man.  Yet, I realize that, being a woman, I have a unique perspective on what it actually means to be a man.  Here's what I want my son to know:  
  • You should do and be whatever God has called you to be.  Far be it from me to stand in your way.
  • Women should be treasured and treated with honor.  They are not for your personal pleasure.
  • Being obsessed with hunting, guns, and toughness isn't what makes a real man.
  • A real man puts God before anything else.
  • A real man desires the responsibility and fulfillment that comes from marrying a good woman.
  • A real man puts his wife and his children before himself.
  • A real man has a tender heart for children.
  • A real man is not afraid to cry.
  • Being smart or intellectual doesn't make you any less if a man's man.
  • It's okay to be different.



Friday, February 6, 2015

I'm So Glad You Don't

Some people criticize Valentine's Day for its materialism and its promotion of the idea that chocolates and flowers one day a year are enough to keep a relationship strong.  I get their reasoning, I really do.  But you have always felt that Valentine's Day was one of many opportunities to rekindle romance, and to proclaim your love for me.  I'm so glad you feel that way.  

I remember the heart ache that Valentine's Day used to bring.  "Single's Awareness Day" it really was, for I was painfully aware of my singleness.  No matter how hard I tried, each Valentine's that passed only seemed to stir up feelings and aching that could not be fulfilled.

And then you came into my life, soft yet startling.  Soft because it took a little while for us to actually get together.  Startling because I knew pretty early on that you were the one, and I didn't know how I could possibly know that about someone that I barely knew...or that may not even reciprocate my feelings.  But somehow I did know.

Our first Valentine's Day together we weren't even a "Facebook official" couple.  You bought me roses and we went on a double date with your parents to a quaint little Italian place.  The wait for dinner was a little long, so we made a quick trip to the McDonalds across the street while we waited.  You bought me a hot chocolate and we sat next to each other on the cold, hard fast food booth.  And I remember feeling so thrilled inside.  For once, I wasn't alone on Valentine's Day...for once, I had a guy to take me out and pay for my drink.  The fact that I was so crazy about you made it all the sweeter.

I realized today that this approaching Valentine's Day will be our 7th together.  Each one spent together a changing reflection of where we were in life.  There was the one where we were engaged and went back to that same Italian restaurant together before heading to premarital counseling.  Then there was our first as a newlywed couple, where I scrimped and saved to buy a steak to cook, only to have to keep it warm for hours as you unexpectedly had to work late.  There was the time we got to take a special weekend getaway, and there was the time that we merely went out to dinner.  Work, pregnancy, children, buying businesses...our Valentine's Days saw it all.

Yet, in each one of them, you made me feel special and loved.  It didn't matter the trials and struggles we had been through in the previous year.  It didn't matter how we or our family had changed.  There was always something special, always chocolate, and there was always you.

I'd still love you even if you forgot about Valentine's Day every year...but I'm so glad you don't.