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A Raw State of Mind

This past weekend as I was scrolling through my instagram page I came across the page of a friend and neighbor who has had a beautiful journey with living raw. She took a break for over a year and decided a month ago to return to her raw roots. In her post was a before and after picture of her face from just one month of returning to raw and all I could say was “Wow!” Her skin glowed, looked a little slimmer and overall the after picture looked more livelier than the before. Immediately my heart began to skip a beat and I was drawn in.

In that moment I was reminded of how much I love eating fruits and vegetables and I remembered a time when I was inspired to go raw vegan back in 2017. It was a time in my journey where I needed to be healthier to help heal my body from my autoimmune diagnosis. I switched to a plant based diet and then went raw vegan for a couple of months. It ended abruptly when I fell sick and went into the hospital for a few days. Although my desired time was cut short, I really enjoyed that time and saw a difference in my body, skin and mind. Through the years, returning to that lifestyle stayed with me. I would have momentary thoughts that would quickly disappear as I did not have the mental discipline needed. This time however, something shifted. It was just the inspiration I needed. I was ready. And so the next day, I began my 30 day #highrawveganjourney.

When I first started this blog and was given the God-inspired name of JoyfullyRawLife, I hesitated on the word raw. Up until that point, my main connection with the word raw was eating raw. As such, I did not want raw eating to be my association but now God is showing me otherwise.

As I have decided to go on this journey, I see now that He has been wanting me to get to this place all along. I may have been hesitant about the word raw but raw is where He wants me. It’s not about just eating its really about living in a raw state of mind.

I believe my choice to eat raw has to do more with my mind than my body. The mind is where it starts. Most of my life I have lived trying to process, cover up or alter in any way that I could. I believed that in my natural state I wasn’t good enough, there were too many flaws. However, in my natural state is how God created me. In this natural state, I am imperfectly perfect.

Eating raw, foods in their natural state, is a way for me to connect to the person that God created me to be. Much of our lives are lived with an emotional connection to food. We eat for milestones, we eat certain foods when we are happy, sad, angry, etc. I am at a place in my journey where the need for food to answer to an emotional crisis is no longer existent. Instead, it is important that I view food as fuel for my body and an enjoyment in every bite.

My original motivation was definitely fueled by wanting to eat healthier and loose weight but getting to a place where I am not dependent on food and learning to love what I put in my body as a source of life is so much greater and is what is driving me. I am learning to love myself and value myself and its start with the belief that I deserve healthy food in my body. This desire and the application to live in an unaltered place- spirit, soul and body- brings me joy.

What God loves the most is when we come to Him in all our flaws and in all our disappointments and shortcomings. In this state of raw is where God does His best work. So as I align my body in this place, I believe and know that God is going to do His best work in my body.

The most beautiful thing about my decision to begin eating raw is realizing that I was already in the place I was meant to be…Living Joyfully Raw in every way!

Follow me as I take this journey!

A Dreamless Dreamer

This past week during my quiet time with the Lord, I heard something in my spirit that really shook me at my core. In an ever so firm but gentle way, God told me,

“Jonetta, you are a dreamless dreamer.”

OUCH!!!!!

Now, when I first heard it I thought, “wow, that’s deep.” As I began to sit with it more and more, sadness creeped into my heart. How could that be? How could I be a dreamless dreamer? What does that mean?

Up until this moment if someone would have asked me if I was a dreamer, I would have said a resounding “YES!.” My Miracle Morning routine consists of a daily blocking of visualization and its become a habit to visualize my thoughts everyday and I find myself always looking towards the future. So when I heard this hard truth about myself, I didn’t want to believe it. I did not want to see myself as someone who wanted less for themself. BUT the truth remains, I am a dreamless dreamer. 😦

This week has been hard as I find myself trying to sort out and unravel years of thoughts that have been blocked by the hands of fear. I questioned whether I wanted to write about this today. I usually find myself writing about things after I have gotten over the hump. But I also know there is strength in writing through things and sometimes we need an extra nudge to get us over the hump. As such, as I write and you read, it is my hope that this will be the nudge that I need.

So how do I associate myself as a dreamless dreamer?

Let’s think of the natural stages of sleep. There are five stages of sleep that we cycle through nightly. It begins with light sleep and gradually goes until we get into deep sleep. This is where dreams occur, during REM (Rapid Eye Movement). The last stage of the cycle.

A dreamless dreamer doesn’t allow oneself to stay long enough to get to the REM stage of dreaming. Very simply, they do not dream.

For me, I see the end or I see the beginning, but not all at once. As soon as I begin to dream, I interrupt my thoughts and lose sight of what I am dreaming. I stop myself from really seeing the middle. I stop and do not allow myself to see beyond the position I am currently in. I do not imagine what it feels like or looks like. Thoughts of lack, inadequacy, uncertainty and belief that “maybe it’s just not for me,” are my blocks. I’ve been playing it small instead of truly living big and going after what I know God put in my heart. This is who I have been.

For example, starting a blog has been a dream of mine. That’s it. I stopped as soon as I said I would like to start a blog. What I am learning, dreaming would be to imagine what my blog will be. To dream about the number of visitors, the number of entries, how it will be used, how often, how big, how detailed etc. What can I accomplish with this blog? Who do I want to read my blog? What great things can my blog accomplish? This, is what dreaming is about. Not playing it safe but really imagining what could be.

So what do I do now as I sit staring at this reflection of a trait which I could do without? A trait that I know is not destined for me?

It begins with the one thing I haven’t been doing…dreaming!

When we are faced with something about ourselves that we know does not serve us well, we are given a choice. We can continue to operate in that place of lack or we can choose to be different.

I choose to be different.

I’ve learned if one desires to become something, they must be and do the thing they desire. I declare today my desire is to be a dreamer so I will do what dreamers do…DREAM!

And although I am eager to grab hold of of this new title of being one who imagines and dreams as if there are no limits, I have to acknowledge I am not there yet. However, I do acknowledge with consistent time, practice and the greatest faith, I will be a dreamer. I will embrace everything God places in my heart to imagine.

I

will

keep

dreaming!

Gaining In A Season of Loss

The other day I heard a question that gave me a desire to tap into deeper. The question was, “What does it mean to lose in the name of God?”

Before I really gave my life over to God, the way I thought about loss was very limited and on the surface. A loss is a loss and there is no recovery from it. You lose something and there is nothing that can ever replace what you lost.

As I began to deepen my relationship with my Father, He began to show me the way things work in His Kingdom which is very different from the world. What we think is a loss is really a gain. We are asked to give up our lives for the gain of a new life in Christ. This new life comes with much more perks but it does come with a cost.

During this unprecedented time in our lives where the whole world has been asked to stay at home, we have been made to sit down, take a break and reevaluate life as we know it. As one who makes it a mission to practice gratitude, I found gratitude to be what carried me through the first few weeks. In the midst of figuring out our new way of life, I had to stop and remind myself and family, what we could see in the moment. Yes, we have had to lose many things, but lets find the gratitude in whats in front of us. And what initially was used as a means to give me strength to carry through, has now become my light during this time.

I am sure if I took a survey, the resounding commonality of feelings during this time is that this current way of life is challenging and sometimes sucks. With the orders to stay at home, businesses have had to close, many of the workforce are working from home, some people have lost jobs, children have lost the last months of the school year and graduation activities, relationships have been strained and so much more loss.

For myself and my family we have experienced this loss as well. Malcolm was furloughed, we’ve lost the ability to move around and about, my eldest is a graduating sixth grader who will and has missed out on many of her culminating activities… And yet, in the midst of this loss, I can say that we have nothing but abundance during this time. I would even go as far to say this is the most since we’ve seen as a married couple in the last three years.

What have we gained?

We have gained time with ourselves, love, faith, hope and joy. More than our finances being intact, this time has allowed us to talk more, love more and recognize one another in a way unlike before. We’ve sat down for family dinners almost every night and we are seeing our children in a way unlike ever before. And most importantly, we are seeking God in a mighty way. We have also found new ways to enjoy the things we already have.

With a comprised immune system, we decided that it be best that I didn’t go outside to be safe. This hit me hard at first, as I was enjoying my car rides and it made me incredibly sad at the thought that I couldn’t live a life outside. After talking with a friend, she reminded me that we have a balcony and could utilize that space and take time for myself. At this point our balcony was only being used as storage space but when I heard that suggestion something switched and my creative brain immediately went into action. I talked it over with Malcolm and we had a blissful 3 hours of Pinterest and planning.

To date, we have made a plan for the space, cleaned it out and are awaiting items to be delivered. The space isn’t where we want it yet but we have already begun using the space and what a beautiful space it is. I have been going onto the balcony everyday for at least 15-30 minutes. I use it as my time to soak in some sun, read and have my private time. Even as I type, I am sitting on my beautiful balcony. The rest of the family has enjoyed it as well. (Stay tuned for a before and after transformation post)

During this season, I believe the greatest reason for the gain is the shift in mindset. We are making the choice daily to not focus on what we don’t have but rather focus on what is present. This time has caused us to see the beauty in what we have. We’ve learned to appreciate things that we were already in possession of but was under valuing its potential.

During this time, I feel so blessed because despite what I’ve lost, I still have love, joy, faith and hope and guess what, you cannot take that away. It comes from the Father. It’s what we really need.

I may have lost the way I have been doing life, but what I’ve gained is so much greater. That is the beauty in my Savior, the blessings of His Kingdom are so much greater than what the world offers. I choose to live in His Kingdom with Kingdom mindset. He will cause us to lose so that we can gain in him.

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to think of what you’ve gained during this time? More family time, more home cooked meals? It’s time for us to switch from a time of lack to a time of gain. The choice is up to you!

A Letter To My Younger Self

This week God revealed some things to me about myself that touched me at my core. He told me to STOP shrinking my abilities and that it was time to step into all of me!

Whoa! What a word. Tears immediately began to fall down. This is an area that I’ve been working on lately and that I thought I had tackled. In my previous post Take the First Step, I wrote about facing fear and taking the first step and when I first heard this I thought, “but I thought I was over that?” But as with anything we are working to let go of, it doesn’t happen overnight and many times there are layers that we must conquer.

So in my sadness and frustration with myself, God immediately showed me areas where I knew I could be doing more. I saw how I allowed years of disappointment and fear and worry shrink me back in such a profound way that it didn’t even occur to me that I’d been doing it. The Lord also brought to my remembrance of when it all began.

When I was in junior high, I was apart of a Sports Academy. It was located on the campus of my local junior high. During the day we had class as normal and after school we played basketball. We had separate academic classes and teachers from the rest of the school. When I started, I wasn’t a sports player at all. My mom put me in the program because I could stay after school. But being in the program was the best experience ever. This is where I developed my love for basketball. It’s where I formed close relationships of friends that I’m still connected with. I learned so much about myself and I really enjoyed my time in the program.

Since the program was a sports academy, the coaches stressed not only sports but academics as well. At the end of every semester and year, they acknowledged and celebrated the students who were excelling in academics. I was one of the students who excelled. I was on the honor roll every semester and was the recipient of many awards. At the end of the year, we celebrated with an annual awards banquet in which the program celebrated athletes and scholars. I was awarded Student of the Year in both 7th and 8th grade and received a beautiful, huge trophy.

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Well at the time, I didn’t think so. Winning the awards, being singled out when scoring high on a test or being the only one who completed their assignment or earning student of the year every year didn’t make me feel good, it made me sad. I was sad that there weren’t more like me. Sad that I would get teased for being smart and made fun of. I didn’t like feeling different. I didn’t like being singled out. I didn’t like being seen as “the smart girl.” I wanted others to be great. I wanted others to be on top with me.

So what did I do? In high school, I began to shrink. I started not giving my all. I allowed myself to not be singled out in whatever way I could. Now I still did well, I just didn’t do my best and this has carried over into my life now. Knowing what I know now, I so wish I could go back and tell the 12 year old Jonetta so much. And then it hit me!

It’s not too late. That 12 year old Jonetta is still in me. She’s still there protecting me from that sadness and the feeling of being singled out. And although I love her, it’s time to tell her what she needs. It’s time to write a letter to my younger self. So here it is.

Dear 12 year old Jonetta who is still living inside of me scared and sad,

JONETTA, be confident in who you are and your abilities. God made you uniquely you. Shine, it’s all for His glory. Do not allow what others say dictate what you do or who you are. Be the amazing woman, leader , person that God made you to be! I forgive you for shrinking back but now it’s time to live big! Live like no one is watching. Live in faith. Live without limits. Live! Live! With All My Love, the Confident, Joyful and Courageous Jonetta

Wow, that really just put a smile on my face and freed me from so much. I encourage whoever is reading this, if there is an area in your life that is being hindered due to something from your past that you wish you could change, know that you have the power right now to change it. Stop and write a letter to your younger self, I promise it will begin to set you free.

Take the First Step

For many years I’ve had desires in my heart to do things but was just too fearful and/or wasn’t sure if I could manage.

For example, starting this blog. When I really stop and think about it, its been over 10 years since I have wanted to write a blog. As I just wrote that last sentence, I find myself in shock. 10 years! How did I let so much time go by? Well, if I’m real with myself then very simply I can say it was fear.

Fear- A little four letter word that challenges us all daily. Fear can be defined as a “panic flight” or “withdrawal.” “It’s a strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”

There are some ways we experience fear very overtly. We watch a horror movie and the sound of the “somebody is about to get hurt” music comes on and we know that danger is coming and we either watch or close our eyes in fear.

Then there is the fear that we don’t always see but will face daily. The fear that will cause us to run and withdraw.

Even though I knew God showed me that I was to write, the feeling of not being adequate had such a great hold on me. What I felt I lacked, seemed so much bigger than what I possessed. Instead of focusing on what I could do, I focused on what I couldn’t do. As a result, I ran away from it. I withdrew, shut down and convinced myself that it wasn’t for me.

So as the years went by, the fear stayed. I believe a part of me actually began to feel comfortable with the fear. Another part of fear is that it protects us. Our body feels fear when it senses danger. This feeling then gives us a choice to assess and we either go into fight or flight. When we choose flight, we are choosing the way out and we don’t feel. And that feeling of not feeling, felt great. As I would get a nudge to start the blog, my body felt as if it were in danger and fear made me feel safe. I would allow those thoughts of inadequacy to trump. And year after year I would just convince myself it wasn’t meant or would think, “maybe one day.”

Well as you know, that one day did come. What was the difference? Well I chose to fight instead. My mind was transformed by the renewal of my mind through the Word of God. Instead of focusing on my lack, I focused on the one who was full. I focused on God and his promises. I no longer felt inadequate because I learned who I am in Him. I learned that I am an ambassador for Christ, fully made by the Creator in the image of the Creator. Therefore, I’m already equipped. What I don’t have, He supplies. Perfect love casts out fear and knowing that I’m loved by Jesus, is all that I need.

The most beautiful part is that when I made the choice to fight, I didn’t have to do much. God has already won the victory and all I had to do was make the first step. And guess what, it wasn’t even as scary as I had made it up to be in my head. So I encourage you today to search for any fear that may be causing you to hold back and instead take a step forward. I promise it will be the best move you’ve ever made.

Leading My Children to the Fire

I heard a quote today about parenting from Glennon Doyle that I wholeheartedly agreed with. She stated that as a parent, it’s not our job to protect our children from feeling pain. It’s our job to point them to the fires of their lives and then walk them through those fires so they can figure out they are fireproof.

Wow!

Yes!

As an educator and mother I completely know the importance of teaching your children how to live life rather than living it for them. Innately we want to shield them from experiencing pain. We want them to feel comfortable as they are growing. As a preschool administrator, I often teach parents the importance of allowing children to make mistakes. It’s an important trait as a parent. It’s from those mistakes and experiences that build character.

However, there’s a little part of me that feels rebellious to that advice. I agree that we all have the power to be fireproof and it takes being in and getting through fires to know that it won’t overtake us. On the other hand, how do we know which fires to go through? As a parent, at what point do you point them through the fire and know which one is for them? What happens when you aren’t sure which fire to put them through?

Right now we are looking to apply for middle/high schools for my 11 year old daughter and it has been tough.

As someone who has been through the elementary school application process and who teaches parents to apply to elementary schools, I came into this process feeling pretty confident. I created a notebook with color coded tabs for each school I planned to visit and notes for each school and I felt prepared. I had a strategy, I knew who Eryn was and what would be good for our family and I wasn’t stressed at all.

Fast Forward to today, two days away from an early admission deadline and about 4 weeks away from regular deadlines; I feel completely the opposite. I’m unsure. I’m insecure. I’m worried and I’m second guessing every decision.

This process has forced us as parents to look within in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve been forced as a mom, to look within at my beliefs, at my desires and at my shortcomings. Although it’s about getting Eryn into a good school, it’s really been about me and I’m struggling.

When I heard that quote today it helped me realize why it’s been hard for me. I feel pressure to make sure I’m not sending her to a fire that will overtake her. Or if I’m really honest, I’m concerned that I won’t know how to help her walk through the fire.

Choosing a school for my 11 year old for what I desire for her from 12-18 years old is difficult because I have questions. Is who she is now going to be who she is then? Am I sending her down the right path? Will this fire consume her instead of strengthen her? Is she ready for these fires? Am I ready for these fires?

When I write I usually have an answer. Today, I do not and although I feel uncomfortable about that I’m okay. I’m excited because I’m allowing myself to be raw and vulnerable. I’m allowing myself the space to grow and ask questions. I don’t have the answer today but I know I will soon. The most important lesson is that I know I can’t be afraid to lead my children to the fire and I know I will find my strength.

This is My Confidence

A little over a week ago I was sitting in my living room while Malcolm was putting MJ to bed. We’ve learned that MJ loves listening to music as he falls asleep and periodically we try different songs. On this particular day, Malcolm began playing a new song and as soon as I heard the lyrics my spirit immediately nudged me to stop and listen.

“Your promise still stands; Great is Your faithfulness; Faithfulness; I’m still in Your hands; This is my confidence; You’ve never failed me yet. I’ve seen you move; You move the mountain; And I believe I’ll see You do it again; You made a way; when there was no way; And I believe I’ll see You do it again .”

I stopped and I listened, and as I heard the words, tears began to fall. The past month has been one of the toughest times I dealt with spiritually and emotionally. I’ve been learning to lean into the pain and it has been stretching me. In that moment I was reminded that this pain is worth every groaning. I was reminded that God has moved every mountain that’s ever been in front of me. He kept me through the darkest time of my life. He continues to give me the gift of life each day and I am confident He will do it all again.

Confident?

There’s one line in the song that says, “This is my confidence.” When I say those four little words, an unwavering feeling of uneasiness comes over me. For majority of my life, I’ve lived in a way that was complete opposite of confidence. I lacked confidence. Being secure in myself and my abilities were a challenge. Believing in myself was often non-existent. Instead, I believed a lot of what others thought about me. So saying that I was confident seemed like a challenge at first.

But as I began to meditate on those words, I realized that the confidence I must possess, the confidence that I have access to, is not confidence in myself but rather confidence in the one who created me.

My confidence is that my creator knows me. He created me with my own unique design. Therefore how dare I compare to others. How dare I feel as if I’m not good enough. I’m just the way the creator designed me.

My confidence is that God will defeat the battles for me. Therefore, I confidently go into battle knowing I have the victory and not afraid of whatever comes my way- sickness, disease, hardship , loss, pain- it doesn’t matter. Why? Because I am more than a conqueror.

My confidence is that God is my rock and refuge, I can trust in that. I can rely on Him. I stand on His Word. For when I am weak, He is strong.

You see when I release myself as the focus of my confidence and focus on God and His Word, I’m allowing my life to become more stable, strong and poised.

When I release my desire to do things my way and instead be obedient to the Word of God, I can live in the assurance of my salvation.

When I stop listening to the doubting voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough and instead start listening to the faithful voices that remind me of who I am, I can fully walk in what God has called me to do.

This is my confidence.

Get to Know Joy!

Since beginning this blog 6 weeks ago, I’ve found a greater awareness in the importance of stopping to reflect and it’s been so liberating. Ironically, as someone who has made a pact to be joyfully raw, I’ve been challenged lately with the word joy.

My oldest daughter is preparing to graduate 6th grade and enter middle school and we are looking at different schools for her to attend. I visited one school a little over a week ago and as I sat in the library interacting with one presentation, I heard a question that surprisingly had me stunned.

Presenter: “ Can someone tell us why they think joy is an important value for a child to have at school?”

Me:

I completely went blank. I immediately passed it to the woman sitting next to me. I could not believe I didn’t have an immediate response. I could not believe I couldn’t articulate what joy is. Me, Joyful Jonetta, could not talk about joy!

As I reflected on the moment days later, I wondered what happened. I wondered if I really knew joy. I wondered if I knew what it looked like. Was I able to recognize it? Am I modeling it for my family? Does my family have it? How often am I accessing it? And after a for real search within, I came to a daunting conclusion…

I

don’t

really

know

joy.

Wow!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m familiar with joy. I’ve had great moments of joy. I’ve lived with joy. I know the dictionary definition which means the emotion evoked by well being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires or feeling of great pleasure/happiness.

But…

I desire something deeper and so does Joy.

I desire a close relationship so does Joy.

For all that joy does…for all that joy is…for all that joy brings…we deserve to be connected. It shouldn’t be something that I just say I am. It should be something that I know that I am.

After talking with someone a few days after this revelation, I was reminded of a daily challenge that I participated in with my wonderful neighbor/friend, Cynthia of RawJackson where she challenged herself and others to live 90 days of Happy. During this 90 days, we posted daily in regards to something that we were happy for. It was such a beautiful time and I learned the importance of stopping daily to acknowledge what is around us. It allowed me to develop daily habits that have carried me today.

Life is truly about the daily choices that we make and as I remembered this challenge, I immediately was inspired to challenge myself again. This time in the exploration of joy. I’ve decided I’d like to explore Joy more. I’ve decided I want to Get to Know Joy!

So I’m doing a countdown from today until my birthday : October 16- January 2 of getting to know joy. My goals are to know Joy deeply; to connect with Joy; to understand when and how Joy is accessed; to learn how Joy should be embraced; and to look for Joy everyday.

So over the next two and a half months, I will be connecting with Joy and choosing Joy with a daily intention. On my Instagram page, I’ll be posting my daily interactions with Joy. Here, I’ll be diving deeper in my findings and I look forward to what’s to come. The best part about it, I won’t be doing it alone! I’m inviting you to take this journey with me. Hold me accountable, challenge me, learn with me and let’s all get to know joy. And just like the message inside this lemonade top, accepting this challenge may cause JOY! Are you ready for it? Will you come with me?

Don’t Fight the Feeling

The last two weeks

have

been

hard.

Weaning MJ from the breast and facing the necessity to begin a new stronger medication for my autoimmune disease has brought challenges I never knew I would face. In my last post Put the Oxygen Mask on First…Do I Have To? I wrote of my hesitation to begin this next step and the gratitude that brought me to understanding what needed to be done. I knew it would be hard but I don’t think I was quite ready.

The hormones hit me in a real way. I cried all the time. Watching tv, driving, cooking, looking at the sad look on MJ’s face, it all made me sad. I would have moments of triumph and then moments of defeat. I had made a decision but doubts would enter my mind constantly. I was familiar with the easy route and that made me want to turn around. I was headed down a path that was unknown, dark and felt lonely. And all I wanted to do was to find another route.

I reached out to a friend and her wise words were chilling but something I knew would be true. “It’s going to get harder before it gets easier,” and boy was she right.

Last night was probably one the hardest moments. I felt so helpless, so sorry for my baby that I couldn’t give him what his body desired. As he cried and pecked his mouth to my chest trying to find the breast, I cried with him. All my feelings came to a head and I began weeping aloud. It was over. I could no longer connect in that way. I felt like someone had taken away something from me and I wanted so desperately to take it back but I couldn’t.

In that moment I did what I could. I held him close and let him know how much mommy loved him. I held him close and embraced him with my love. I held him close and reminded myself that he would get through it, that I would get through it. I held on to the vision that one day soon we both would be good. I had to…

Stop

Fighting

The Feeling.

During one night as I was putting MJ to sleep, the sadness of his cries made me cry. Every attempt I had of soothing him didn’t work. Rocking, walking, talking, singing, patting, nothing worked. I knew what he wanted and I knew what would work but I couldn’t. As I sat patting him on the back, I cried out to God and asked, “Can I have some reprieve?” His immediate response, “No, relax in it.” And in that moment I let go. All the tension (pain, worry, stress) that had been stored in my body was released.

In that moment I realized I had been fighting. I wasn’t fighting to win but rather fighting to get out. I’ve learned through scripture that God tells us that there will be obstacles, struggles, hardship. Instead of allowing my body to work through the pain, I was trying not to have pain. I was fighting the wrong fight.

There is a natural feeling in all of us that cautions us to stay away from pain. However, as I thought about the words, “relax in it,” I could no longer stay away. My body was desperate. I had to rest in the pain. I needed to relax my grip and stop trying to push away the thing that I needed. I knew that submitting to the pain would produce a far greater result than fleeing from it.

Tribulation is the thing that produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4

Pain is what a woman goes through before a child is born.

Pain reminds us that we are alive and connects us to others.

Pain gets our attention and is followed by healing.

This pain has been tough and in some ways will continue to be. But through it all I will Rejoice! I will no longer fight it. I will embrace it and allow my body, mind, emotions to be strengthened to the end. The battle has already been won for me.

This is my hope.

This my peace.

This is my joy.

Put the Oxygen Mask on First…Do I Have To?

“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”

Ever flown a plane? If so, then you have definitely heard the words above from flight attendants all over the world. It’s a concept that we have heard so many times and may even have become mundane but what is the importance? Very simply, you can’t help someone else with their breathing if you aren’t breathing yourself.

Through the years people have taken these important instructions and used them as metaphors for life. In general, we are to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves before we can take care of others. Why the reminder? Well, I never quite understood the concept as much until I became a mother. When I became a mother 11 years ago, my role shifted to caretaker. I no longer lived for just myself. I lived for my children giving physical and emotional care and support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Last week I received news that challenged me in this area. My Sjögren’s syndrome (autoimmune disease) is causing an inflammation flare in my body. During my visit, my doctor decided that it was time to put me on some stronger medicine. After hearing her discuss the facts and symptoms of the medicine, I reminded her about my breastfeeding which she replied that I cannot do the both at the same time….. immediately tears began to flow. My goal was to breastfeed for at least one year. MJ just turned 8 months. It’s not time. Thoughts of sadness began to creep in.

Breastfeeding is an indescribable bond between mother and child. Research shows many benefits of breastfeeding for not only the child but the mother as well. For babies, breast milk is highly nutritious, it helps fights off infections, it may reduce disease risk, it promotes healthy weight. For mother’s it helps loose weight through calorie burning, increase of oxytocin which encourages relaxation, caregiving and bonding. And finally, it may present menstruation. Sounds wonderful? For me, it has been.

With my other children I wasn’t able to breastfeed for long. For my first, I made it about 6 months. For my 2nd , 3 months. So here I am with my third and excited and determined to make it to at least 1 year.

When I heard the doctor’s message, I knew immediately in my heart what I needed to do. My mind on the other hand, had plans of its own.

My heart knew the necessity of my need to put my oxygen mask on first. My mind questioned it.

My heart knew that 8 months is a substantial time to breastfeed. My mind wanted to complete the task of checking off the one year box.

My heart knew that the best way to love MJ is being my best self as healthy as I can be. My mind wanted to be the best through our breastfeeding bond.

My heart knew that MJ has received everything he needs thus far and will continue to get what he needs. My mind wants to feel like I didn’t do enough. It doesn’t want to give up.

For the last five days, my heart and mind have been going back and forth. One minute I’m ready for my oxygen mask, the next minute I’m telling myself I’ll be alright. Maybe I can wait four months. And even as I write this, there is a tug of war going on. The heart is pulling and gaining momentum and then the mind gets stronger and pulls harder. ‘Do I have to take this medicine?’ My mind says. ‘Yes you do!” Says my heart.

As much as I’d like to keep the picture of making it to a year in mind, I know what’s more important.

As much as I’d like to keep our bond when he gets fussy or sleepy, I know what I need to do.

So when I ask do I have to put the oxygen mask on first, I can confidently say “yes, I do ” and “yes, I will.”

I know for a fact, that if I am not good, no one in my family is good. This is a moment of self care and self love. I cannot and will not settle for less than I deserve. As much as I love my children and my husband, it starts with loving myself. I love myself enough to do what my body needs even if it means sacrificing another love. I love myself enough to forgive myself, protect myself and live joyfully at all times.

I had to come to a decision and that is to start taking the medicine and stop breastfeeding. I am giving myself one week for gradual weaning. I am giving myself the space to cry. I am giving myself permission to rejoice. This time with MJ has been great and will continue to be so.

This decision has not been easy but I asked myself one thing, “what in this moment can I be grateful for?’ And when they say gratitude will shift your altitude, it did. Instead on focusing on what I was going to miss, I focused on what I had. Glass half empty or half full? For me, my glass was just full. My cup runs over with God’s goodness and mercy. I am grateful for:

1- Regular doctor checkups and a doctor who is caring, thoughtful and kind.

2- Prevention- It could’ve gotten worse.

3- 8 months of breastfeeding. It’s my best record!

4- No more pain from MJ’s teeth . He has 6 teeth, need I say more!

5- God’s wisdom to listen to what I know and not what I feel.

And most of all…

My oxygen mask. 💕💕🦋🦋

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