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.

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.

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. 💕💕🦋🦋

I Am Not Afraid

I am not afraid… four words that rang loud to my ears one day as I was driving. As my apple playlist went through it’s random rotation, this song from Jesus Culture began to play. A song that I had heard before. A song that on this particular day, had a new meaning and met my ears with a deeper understanding.

My life is in deep transition and I have been faced with looking within. About 8 months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Malcolm Jr.(MJ). My third child after two girls and it’s been a joy. As I was beginning to come off maternity leave, in the midst of searching for childcare, something began to happen inside of me. I had this deep yearning desire to stay home with MJ. With a background in education and a recent career in early childhood education, I was the most qualified. At the same time I loved my job as a preschool director. I felt so conflicted.

I began fervently praying and asking God for His guidance and He answered. It was time to step down as director and focus on taking care of family. I had peace. The next part was to decide when to step down. The decision came to me in May and my desire was to stay until the end of the school year at the end of July. That felt safe, comfortable. Well, God doesn’t always work when we are comfortable. One week into June, my autoimmune disease flared up and I was forced to stay home for two weeks and then three months.

So here I am, in the midst of my three months trying to navigate this new life and at the same time learning to rest. Some days I feel like super woman; other days I feel so defeated. Some days I know the way; other days I’m so lost. This is where the song brought deeper meaning for me. There were unconscious fears that were trying to take control over my mind.

Deciding to leave a position I loved and cherished…scary.

Learning to live and rest with an autoimmune disease…scary.

Starting this blog…scary.

Worried about the possibility of our finances not surviving this new life. Wondering will I be okay? Do I need to be doing more? What will happen if I don’t? All scary thoughts.

However, there was an even scarier thought, not operating in the fullness of God. Not living as the Word directs me. Not utilizing the full power that God has given me. When I compared all those scary thoughts to the faithfulness of God, they didn’t compare. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible clearly shows us all of God’s faithfulness. He is exactly who He says He is. From 1982 until now, God has shown himself to me. I have no reason to doubt. His love for me is great and I feel it everyday. I Am Not Afraid.

“When I walk through the waters I won’t be overcome.

When I go through the rivers I will not be drowned.

My God will make way. So I am not afraid.”

Jesus Culture, Not Afraid

Fuel Up

This past weekend my husband and I went to a wedding that was about an hour away from our home. The bride and groom had a room block at a nearby hotel and we decided to make the trip a staycation and I am so glad we did!

For those who have never heard the phrase “staycation” before it’s like a vacation but in a place that is close to home. Some people visit local attractions that they have never visited before, take a drive for sightseeing or just spend time overnight at a local hotel. If you’ve never done one before, try it!

Initially our desire was to book a 2 night stay. However, as the date approached we began to realize that two nights away from our seven month old wasn’t quite a good idea yet. I even had moments where I doubted the one night. I thought “maybe we should just go to the wedding and come back later in the night.” “Will he sleep okay not in his crib, in his surroundings?” With all those thoughts running through my head, there was another thought that was even bigger, “fuel up!”

My husband and I just celebrated two years of marriage in July. Yay! When we married, I had two daughters and now with our new addition, we have three kids…Three! It’s more than a notion but I love every minute(I could do without some of the seconds lol). So with three children, finding time with each other that doesn’t involve some type of aspect involving children can be challenging. Although challenging, it is not impossible. It takes a desire, a commitment and intentionality.

With all my doubts and worries about leaving the baby, my desire to spend time with my husband was greater. The commitment that was made to each other to love and cherish was important to me. We had an opportunity to have some alone husband and wife time and we had to be intentional about taking the time. During this time, we had to fuel up.

Fueling up is a phrasal verb that is associated with putting fuel in a car. Fuel is a material that is needed in order for a car to run. The fuel is mixed with air, atomized and vaporized. The engine then converts the gas into energy which causes the car to be in motion. Without the fuel, the car would not be able to run. The same is true for a marriage. Without fuel, the marriage will not work. It is very important for couples to stop and take the time to fuel up.

For Malcolm and I , we fueled up by taking an overnight trip away from the children. During this time, we were able to have some alone time. We were able to cater to one another in an uninterrupted space.

Fueling up doesn’t require only overnight trips. Fueling up can be done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. Whatever is needed for your marriage. The main point is that you stop to asses and fuel up accordingly. Here are some other ways to fuel up:

What are some ways that you fuel up? Leave a comment. I want to hear from you!

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