As 2017 drew to a close, I knew that there were some things I had to change about my business. I was burnt out. I had planned new content on my blog twice a week, nearly all year long. I had a new pattern release or recipe almost every single week, along with my weekly Monday Messages. It would have been a lot for anyone, but for a mom with four children; two of which are still home, it was way too much.
I was expecting too much of myself, and at what cost? My children saw a lot of the back of my head as I worked on patterns and blogs on the computer. Admittedly, not all of my patterns were the quality I would have liked, and my food photography for my recipes really needed more work.
When I began planning for 2018, I found a happy planner by me & my BIG ideas which said, "grace upon Grace," on the cover, and had so many perfect Bible verses for me on this journey, found throughout the pages. I decided then and there that my word for the new year would be GRACE.
Little did I know just how much of it I would need.
Three weeks into January, I had fallen so far behind, that I hadn't produced any new patterns or recipes since well before Christmas, and I didn't have any ready to go any time soon. My husband was laid up in bed for weeks with his back injury. Scenes of the stomach bug in this house resembled that of an exorcism, and I was struggling with my emotions, missing my crochet, and stressing about actual, real, upcoming deadlines.
Many things in this house were ruined during the course of this time. We literally had to order a new couch, and we may need a new dryer, and to add insult to injury, the final vomiting episode came down right on my "grace upon Grace," perfect-for-me, happy planner.
I know. Here we are on week three of you guys hearing about how lousy this month has been for my family, but I do hope you get my intended purpose for these messages.
Because it isn't about me.
I am weak. I am a human being, with struggles, and anger, and sin. I share my stories with you so that you may know just how heavily I rely on Him...even when I don't, even when I turn my face from Him in anger, even when I cry out in doubt and fear, even when I forget to trust Him....He is there.
Do you remember being a teenager and being so angry with your parents you never wanted to speak to them again? Do you remember slamming doors in their faces? Maybe you even told them you hated them, or wrote that thought in your journal. Maybe they did something, "for your own good," that you couldn't fully understand at that time in your life.
But when you needed them, they were there. You still slept in their house, ate the food they provided, and wore the clothes they bought.
I had been angry with God over my husband's pain and inability to work, over the kids' sickness, over the vet bills and expensive things needing replacing, over the pain I've been seeing in the world, but I still ate of His food, clothed in His provisions. Even in my anger, He sent us blessings in the form of loving family, church family, and friends.
HIS power is made PERFECT in weakness.
His GRACE is sufficient.
I bought myself a new planner, one which will be kept carefully away from any future vomiting children, and I've wrapped myself in His grace.
Whatever it is that you're striving for, whatever it may be that you feel has been keeping you down, wrap yourself in His grace. It is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in our weakness.
If you read last week's message, you know that our family has been up against it. My husband has been bed ridden since Christmas with a badly herniated disc. We have had the toilets breakdown on us. The dog has been sick. The kids all had bad colds and THEN the horrible, awful stomach bug slowly moved through each one of them. I cleaned up vomit nearly every day for over a week. Our washer and dryer probably need to be replaced, and I don't think there's any help for our couches. Oh, and did I mention, my husband has been in bed? Meaning he can't work. Meaning, he's not getting paid.
Now, that you're all caught up, I have really struggled, emotionally and mentally through all of this. Vomit is pretty much my worst fear, and 4 vomiting children, with no help from my husband, is a complete nightmare. However, while having a hard time with all of this, I was also giving myself a hard time for having a hard time. I was beating myself up for not being the perfect wife/mother/Christian, throughout each of these moments. I was disappointed in myself for the way I was handling this, and mad at myself for being upset with God. When every single night I'd pray over the kids, that no one else would get sick, and then every single day someone (maybe even the same someone) would be throwing up, it was disheartening.
I had been beating myself up, for weeks, over feeling this way. I had been piling on the guilt, telling myself I was a whiner, a baby, for feeling the way that I felt; telling myself over and over how so many people have it so much worse. In doing so, I had only been adding to my pain.
But the truth is, parenting can be a difficult and lonely job sometimes. It can take every ounce of strength we have at times, and this has been one of those times for me. Contrary to what I have thought of myself, I have not been miserable and rotten, or even ungrateful during this whole ordeal.
I have found humor in our situation, and I have laughed at myself.
I have had moments of gratefulness, as I have seen God's provision throughout.
I have been able to find some silver linings. Hey, I lost 9 lbs in 9 days, y'all. Nothing kick starts a diet like cleaning up puke day after day! New year, new me!! Yay!
But, I have still felt the pain.
While I was going through this, and confiding in my husband, my overwhelming emotions and guilt, he simply, and wisely said,
"Even a paper cut hurts."
The book of Psalms is filled with brokenness and heartbreaking cries to God. It is a great place to turn when you're feeling all alone with, well, your feelings. God knows it hurts.
On Sunday, yet another week of church missed by my sick and hurting family, I popped in on my husband upstairs during a sermon he had found on TV. Brian Houston, of Hillsong Church, said something that really hit me, and connected to what my husband had told me. He said,
"It is better to feel pain,
than to feel nothing at all."
Maybe it's a paper cut, maybe it's bigger, but it is ok to feel that pain. We will not always be completely filled with joy, hands raised; rejoicing. Sometimes, we're exhausted, lonely, and crying, without the energy left to stand. That's ok. He hears us on our knees too.
I would like to give you a small glimpse into our lives right now, and it's going to get ugly, so brace yourselves, but the message is important.
Yesterday, my husband stood to hug me, in our bedroom. This is significant, because he has been unable to stand up for that long, or hold me in his arms for that long, since before Christmas. We recently discovered that this is the cause of a bizarre and random back injury, but in the weeks prior, his pain was a scary unknown. He is now on the mend, slowly, prayerfully. In the meantime, one thing after another has gone wrong, creating messes, making me feel a little (a lot) like a failure.
He hugged me because he knew that on top of everything else, the last thing I needed to deal with this weekend, was puking children. He hugged me, because he knows me well enough to know my extreme fear of the stomach bug. He hugged me because he knew that the messes I dealt with this weekend, which I will not detail for your sake and mine, nearly broke my spirit.
These things seem trivial to someone dealing with real hardships. I know they do, and I know that they, in fact, are. But it doesn't always work to tell myself that, and this last pile-on sent me to a dark place where I could feel an inner struggle rising within.
So, when my husband hugged me, and behind him I could see a picture frame with a collection of photos of us from our dating years in college, I thought with sadness about all the dreams I had back then. Yet here I stood, 15 years later, a mother without a shower for 2 days, who had been on her hands and knees, scrubbing up a horror scene in the bathroom, and with a great heaviness I thought, "This is my life."
Just as quickly, I thought what a horrible person I am for feeling that way! God has blessed me with so much!
I am in this constant tug of war between victory and defeat.
As I write this, with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes, I see in a messy pile to my left, an unfinished crochet project. I've been using it as therapy this weekend. I don't actually know what it is going to be, but I find the simplicity of this stitch completely beautiful and mesmerizing.
And the metaphor here, was placed heavily upon my heart; that this is life. Some of the most beautiful aspects of life are found in the simplest and even smallest of things, amidst a messy pile of unfinished work. Many of the most beautiful treasures which lie before us, are still completely unknown.
The young girl in those pictures, with the love of her life, knew that life wouldn't be perfect, but she didn't dream of the worse in "for better or for worse." We never do, right?
And for me, when things spiral toward worse, I all too often find myself mentally tallying a running list of every struggle we've been up against throughout our marriage; the job losses, the lost home, the sparse bank accounts and cupboards, the food stamps...
This is where the enemy loses. This is where he's got it wrong, because, while it takes me longer to get there than I'd like to admit, this list doesn't end in defeat. It brings me to all of the reasons I have to be thankful, all of the testimonies God has given us, in those hardships. It brings me to victory.
See, it is in the worse, where we find our strength. It is in the worse, where we cling to Jesus, even when; especially when, we feel the darkness pulling. It is in the worse we find ourselves grasping at even the smallest of things to be thankful for, as they shine like beacons of light in those dark moments. It is in the worse where treasure is found, because the better of this world, cannot compare to the treasures of Heaven.
Yes, this is my life. It is simple. It is messy. The future is unknown.
And it is beautiful.
Thank you, Jesus.
My sweet, sweet boy, Elijah, my fellow lover of all things basketball, turned down an opportunity for a basketball clinic held locally over Christmas break. He gave us an excuse of his bruised, hurting knee (when the camp was 3 weeks away), and it seemed odd, but I didn't press him, not wanting him to feel like he had to do it for me.
After a few days, I gently questioned why, letting him know that it was ok if he just didn't want to. He said he didn't want to deal with a bunch of kids he didn't know, but he still didn't elaborate, and the look in his eyes told me there was more to this story. So I asked again, why? He went on to say he didn't want to deal with kids who might be mean.
I was confused. I explained to him that he doesn't know what kids might be there, and they might not be mean. He insisted that he didn't want to take that chance. It occurred to me, something must have happened to make him feel this way. So I questioned him further.
Reluctantly, he explained that while at a local basketball camp this summer, they had a guest speaker, a man who used to play basketball, a man who had been in a tragic car accident, (a man I knew briefly, who was a really amazing collegiate player). Elijah told me that the speaker sometimes messed up words because his speech was effected by this accident. Elijah went on to say that a couple boys, who were sitting in front of him, laughed every time the speaker messed up his words.
To double check, I asked him, "Are you absolutely sure that's what they were laughing at? Could it be that they just weren't paying attention, and they were goofing around?"
Elijah, with sadness in his eyes, was adamant, "No, mom. They were right in front of me. They laughed specifically at the words he messed up, and made fun of him."
To hear Elijah tell me this, broke my heart on so many levels! To see how visibly upset he was by it still, months later, made me cry, but also made me proud of the young man before me; who loved so deeply, he couldn't bear the thought of someone being mistreated, even if they didn't know it was happening.
In that moment, words were sort of escaping me, but I managed to explain to him that he cannot avoid mean people his entire life, and he cannot let them prevent him from doing what he loves. I hugged him, and thanked him for his kind heart, and his deep love for people, and then I went and found a corner to cry in.
His love, in that moment, was so sincere, so heartfelt, and the cause of turmoil and pain. I pray that in the future this love for people moves him toward positive action.
But here's my point today. We often tell people that love shouldn't hurt, to encourage them to avoid hostile relationships, but what we should tell them is that to be loved, shouldn't hurt. However, loving others often hurts. Sometimes it hurts to love people so deeply, that you can almost feel their pain. It hurts to feel their sadness. If it doesn't hurt to love, then we're not actually loving at all. Because we should care. It should hurt us to see injustice. It should hurt us to see others in pain. It should spark a call to action in us, which only love can do.
Y'all, the most quoted Bible verse of all time, is John 3:16, which says, what?
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Talk about a call to action! He loved us, so much, that He gave his one and only Son! And when Jesus was beaten, and tortured, and crucified for us, it must have, quite literally, hurt like Hell!
To love like Jesus, hurts.
But God called us to it, and He showed us the greatest call to action in the history of the world, done in the name of love.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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