Catharsis

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On Thursday, July 24, I took three pregnancy tests. After seven months (with a break in the middle for the holidays…lol) of trying to conceive, J and I were shocked to finally see a positive test! It was so extremely faint that I could barely even see a line on the cheapy Dollar Tree test, so I sent him back out (twice) to get more tests. Each one came back with the most extremely faint positive. We cried, we kissed, we prayed…and my heart was heavy.

As the news trickled out to our families I had a hesitancy that I never had when I found out I was expecting A. Something was nagging in the back of my head, and I (along with the rest of my family) chalked it up to my neverending anxiety. I cried every single day, I worried constantly and I just had this awful sense that doom was impending. Three more pregnancy tests came back positive, and were increasingly dark, so I decided to go ahead and make my first doctor’s appointment for Thursday, August 7. I was really looking forward to getting some reassurance from my absolutely awesome OB. She was so great with me during my last pregnancy and she was extremely patient with my anxiety.

The Monday prior to my first appointment I had my first spotting. Brown spotting isn’t uncommon at all in early pregnancy, and I was used to it from the last time, so I tried not to focus on it. But by the time I got home from work I was crying, again, and really feeling beat down emotionally. Couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just wanted to cry. Right before bed I started spotting a very bright red, and it just didn’t look normal. [Not to be too graphic.]  I calmly went into the bedroom and told J, calmly texted my Mom and told her to start praying, and then told them something I know they didn’t believe in the least: I was completely at peace with what I knew was about to happen to my body. For the next 24 hours they tried every way they knew how to convince me that nothing was wrong, but I knew better, and my loving, merciful God had given me the peace to get through the days ahead without any anxiety at all. For the first time since I took the first pregnancy test I was calm.

On Wednesday, August 6 I woke up with a great deal more spotting than I was comfortable with, and by the time I went to work I was cramping. I decided not to tell J right away since he had just started back to school for the fall at a new school and I knew he didn’t need to worry about me. I texted my mom and my best friend, then called the doctor’s office. The nurse immediately told me to come in, and I could tell by the tone of her voice that she knew a miscarriage was imminent. I didn’t get to see my regular OB, but the doctor who met with me was so kind and encouraging, and I know God put him in my path that day. The phone call to tell J was the hardest one I’ve ever had to make. The next hours were the most difficult of my life as we came to grips with the fact that we weren’t going to be having this baby after all.

You’ll remember in my post a few weeks ago, Giving up the Reins, that I specifically have been giving over my desires to God in regards to having another child. I thought He had answered and blessed me beyond measure by giving me the desires of my heart. He answered, and He blessed me, but not at all in the way I anticipated.

I’ll never know the sweet baby that would have been in this life, but I believe with all my soul that life begins at conception, and that baby is with Jesus. I will never be able to understand why some women conceive so easily and never lose a baby while it takes such a long time for me and I have miscarried. But I am so blessed to have carried my daughter, delivered her into this world, and to have watched her grow and learn for the past 2.5 years of her life. And throughout every moment of grief (because you don’t really realize how much grief even a very early miscarriage brings with it until you walk through it) Jesus has been there, bringing the “peace that passes all understanding.”  He has given me deep, overwhelming joy that bubbles up from my soul, sometimes even while I’m crying my eyes out. 🙂  Joy is so different from happiness…we certainly aren’t happy about our circumstances, but we are joyful in the midst, knowing our Lord is in control of EVERYthing that happens to us. He wasn’t surprised by this.

The human side of me wants to know why God would allow bad things to happen to His people. The spirit-led side of me knows that sin is in the world, and because of sin bad things happen. While I don’t know when, or even if, we will conceive again, I know that God’s plan is SO MUCH BETTER than anything I can dream up for myself, and I can’t wait to see what He’s going to do.

To all of our friends who have been blessing us with your presence, prayers, encouragement and hugs, WE LOVE YOU! God has used you all in a mighty way to help heal our hearts. We will continue to praise Him for His goodness and faithfulness!

With much love,
B

Little A’s First Sin

Well, it’s happened.

The other night at my parents house I watched my Little Lady A (age 2) sin her first real, intentional sin. [insert gasps of shock and horror]

We were all in the living room talking when A noticed that there was an apple on my mom’s table and picked it up. She asked for it, but it was time for dinner, so I told her that if she ate her dinner she could have the apple as dessert. There wasn’t a tantrum (unusual, given her red-headed, easily provoked temper), or even any sass. But, then I noticed what she was doing with the apple. My sweet little toddler was doubled at the waist, holding the apple to her belly, sneaking as carefully and quietly as she could down the hall. While her back was turned my parents and I absolutely lost it–it was just too funny. Then, when I saw her raise her little arms to take a bite, I said, “Where did that apple go?” She jumped and whipped around as quick as she could and held it out saying, “Right here!” 

I’ve seen her disobey a lot, mostly in the form of temper tantrums when she’s been told no. But those are usually situations in which she doesn’t understand why it has to be that way, or doesn’t know how to process and release her emotions any other way. This time was different. She was deliberately trying to trick me!

And it was so laughable because she couldn’t have been any more obvious about it if she tried, love her heart.

How often do we sneak and hide and try to cover up our own sin, all the while thinking we are so clever? I know for me it’s more often than I care to admit. One of the sins I struggle with the most is anger. Sometimes it’s just in the form of impatience…easily rolling my eyes at a co-worker, friend or family member when they are pushing my buttons. Snapping at the hubby when he’s annoying me. Raising my voice at A when she’s been told to do, or not to do, something about a trillion times with no result. Sometimes it’s a great deal more lethal than that. Harsh criticism, backbiting, gossip, tearing down others, lashing out first before someone else can strike. I wish I could say that those sins just disappeared the day Jesus came into my heart, but that would be a complete and utter lie. And it seems I try to come up with excuses for them, pretend it didn’t happen, disguise criticism of others as a “prayer request.” He’s not fooled, ladies. 

God knows our sins and our strongholds, no matter how trivial we like to tell ourselves they are. And girls, I think He often looks at us and thinks, “Bless her heart…she really thinks I don’t see that.” 

At the end of the day, whether we are 2 or 82, we are all just children to our Abba Father, who longs for us to give those sins up to Him. To stop sneaking, hiding, pretending we aren’t doing it/thinking it/feeling it. Is there something you’ve been trying to sneak past God?

Giving up the Reins

This past week has been CRAZY BUSY. With the help of some awesome people we have been putting a new laundry room and half bath on the back of our house. While in the end it’s going to be totally awesome and will make my life a thousand times easier, it’s made things a bit chaotic in the mean time. Toss in birthday celebrations, church functions, relatives in from out of town and a host of other incidentals and you have yourself a schedule that allows no time for blogging.

But, God has really been working on me and regardless of how busy I am, I really feel like I need to share that.

FACT: I am a control freak of the grandest proportions.

FACT: One of the things that bothers me most is not knowing what to expect about something, be it a doctor’s appointment, new job, or my entire future.

Our pastor has been delivering a series of messages that’s really punched me in the gut. At the end of one Sunday’s service he flat out asked if we were willing to give up EVERYTHING we have, and all of our plans/hopes/dreams/desires, in order to follow Christ. It’s easy to give a quick and thoughtless “Amen!” to it and move on to Sunday brunch, but I knew I really needed to mull that over. It was on my mind for days and days after. And it seemed like God was whispering it to me every time I turned around, through Facebook posts, comments in our young adults group, random quotes in books, etc…

“Brittany, do you trust Me enough to hand over your plans?”

Of course I trust God. I trust Him with my eternal soul. I trust Him to protect me and my family. I trust Him to give me grace when I mess up, and to provide when there doesn’t seem to be a way out. But do I trust the goodness in His plan for me? Am I really so shallow and [let’s just call it what it is] stupid to think that what I dream up for myself could compare to what He would like to do in my life if I would chance to let go of the reigns?

I ran into this conundrum before I met my sweet hubby. Around my sixteenth birthday I had made a commitment to remain pure for my future husband, and with God’s help, I was able to do so. But I definitely still had a heart for romance, and I was starting to feel mighty lonely by the end of college when more than half of my friends were married and some were well on their way to starting families. I. HAD. A. PLAN. Married right out of college, kid by 24, second kid by 26, thriving practice as a therapist. I even had a BOOK for-goodness-sake where I had clipped stories, photos, ads, etc…and made a collage of what I desired for my life, and then proceeded to pray over it.

At my wit’s end and totally fed up with getting my heart broken by every single guy I came in contact with, I started changing my prayers and my perspective. I couldn’t tell you when [but I probably have a journal that could], but I finally threw my hands up and said, “God, if this is where you want me and You can use me more single than married, OK. You are enough.”  And it was maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Within a few months I had met my husband, we were engaged 6 short months after we met, and married a year later (at 23 rather than 22) and had our first child at 26 (rather than 24). All things considered, I think I can live with my slight shift in timetable. J   And you know what’s awesome?? While my career took a totally different path—and one I’m completely happy with—God was so good, and so faithful that He still gave me so many of the little details I prayed over in that silly collage, INCLUDING a red-headed little girl. I think that was His way of telling me, “Hey! I was paying attention! And weren’t my plans for you SO MUCH BETTER than what you could have dreamed up??”

When J and I struggled through several months of trying to conceive our daughter, I never felt led to give up the dream. I just leaned in to the promises of God’s faithfulness.

On that Sunday morning, sitting in the pew of my church, it was extremely apparent to me that I was back to where I started 6 years ago. That God was asking me to lay down my plans and my dreams again, and to say once more “You are enough.” Even if it never gets better than this. Even if I never advance, get a raise, or grow further in my career. Even if I never have a bigger, fancier house. Even if we live on beans and potatoes for the rest of our lives. Even if you don’t give me the second child we desperately desire. The job, the house, the money…that’s just stuff. But the idea of saying that I would be willing to give up that dream if He can use me more with one child than with two absolutely sliced my heart in half, and cut to the core of my own selfishness. Because it took me weeks to stop wavering and to honestly say I could do that.

But, let me tell you, friends…it ain’t been easy. There’s never any guarantee that God’s plan for us looks anything like our own plan. Maybe it’s marriage for you. Maybe it’s conception. Maybe it’s a job. Maybe it’s a call to a certain aspect of ministry that you’re avoiding. I finally broke down and turned it all over to God on Monday night. But I have to admit that I keep taking it back every day, at least twice a day. J  So I keep laying it back down…and it gets a little easier every time. Ultimately, at the end of the day, He’s never, EVER, failed me yet. He is SO good. He will never maliciously hurt me. He will never allow anything to happen that He hasn’t ordained to happen. And I’m OK with that.  And a little piece of my control freak personality gets chipped away every time I let Him have control. And that’s a good thing!

What is it for you? What area of your life is God asking for control over?

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” – Psalm 145:15-19, ESV

Reverse One-Up-Manship…My Archnemesis

HAPPY BELATED INDEPENDENCE DAY! We were blessed to be able to celebrate on the 4th with our dearest friends and their sweet kiddos, eating good cookout food, swimming and just enjoying being together. As I was getting ready for bed that night, something hit me, though. My best friend is a beautiful, loving woman who is encouraging and sees the best in the people she loves. She’s also just about the best mommy on the planet. But when we are together, we seem to get in some kind of bizarre reverse 1-upping battle that goes something like this: Me: My house is a wreck. Her: Have you seen my house?? It’s awful! Me: Can’t possibly be worse than mine, I’m a terrible housekeeper. Me: I really wish I could lose some weight…I’m up a pants size! Her: Look at my legs/stomach/arms/butt! Me: NO! Look at mine! I have so much more to lose! Her: If I could only lose X number of pounds…I’ve been working out, though. Me: I don’t even do that! …And I could go on and on. We both beat ourselves up terribly over the ways we don’t think we measure up. It occurred to me on Friday night, though, that our sweet daughters (who are mercifully still too young to be soaking much of this up) are growing up hearing their strong, beautiful, Christian mothers berate themselves every time they get together. That’s not the example I want to set for either of these sweet babies, whom I love so much! And I don’t want them to think it’s OK to put yourself down in order to build someone else up–it doesn’t work that way. My goal from this point forward is to a.) stop putting myself down, and b.) start immediately lifting my friend up when I can tell she’s down, through prayer and encouragement. While I don’t want to gloat or be full of myself, I do want Little Lady A to grow up hearing her mother’s confidence, not her insecurity. I want her to hear me proclaim God’s sufficiency that bears me up in my weakness. And I want her to know it’s OK to have a few extra pounds to lose, a floor that hasn’t been swept and dishes in the sink. None of those things speak to her (or my, or my BFF’s, or YOUR) worth as a woman. Do you find yourself engaging in “Reverse One-Up-Manship”? How do you combat it? -B

Minnie’s Bowtique 2nd Birthday

Several of you have mentioned that you’d like to know more about my party planning tips and tricks. It’s true that I’m crazy and love to throw giant ridiculous birthday parties for my little chick, but I do it on a shoestring budget and enlist some great friends and family in making it happen!

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For her second birthday, we threw Little Lady A the most fun Minnie Mouse party I could dream up, complete with a Bowtique for our guests to shop from. Here’s some of the details:

My vision for the party was hot pink and black, with lots of white polka dots. I was able to find balloons at Hobby Lobby and Walmart, paper plates and cups at Walmart and Dollar General, and napkins and utensils at Walmart. I’m a stickler for reusing, so I repurposed my glass serving pieces from her first birthday (which I will post about soon). The table cloths all came from Walmart and were wiped down and stored away after the party to use again.

DECORATIONS

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Excuse the poor quality picture 🙂

Decorating on a budget can be a challenge, but that’s why a birthday party that can have a color as the theme can be so useful! I made some tissue paper bows (modified from a simple tissue paper puff ball) to hang with our balloons and purchased a few Minnie themed items from Amazon. They were both super cheap (Walmart has them, too, for less than $10 each) and totally worth it. The kid’s LOVED having their picture taken with the backdrop, and the pictures doubled as a favor.

TIP: Don’t buy or make a lot of decorations until you’ve thoroughly taken a look at your space. Plot out in your mind what you could put in which place so you don’t make or buy more than you need, and so you know dimensions. I suggest taking photos of the pre-decorated space if possible.

For my centerpieces I used mason jars (which had been in our basement since before we moved in, and thus were free!) to create polka dotted vases. Inside each one I stuck a few stems of flowers (all from the Dollar Tree) and a Mickey Mouse Styrofoam head on a skewer. SUPER simple to make, and were the piece that set the whole room off. The jars were a pain, so I won’t go into detail explaining how I did them, but you can read the tutorial HERE.

STYROFOAM MICKEY HEADS:

You will need: Wooden skewers or small dowel rods, tooth picks, Styrofoam balls in two sizes (1 for head, 1 for ears…I recommend 3″ and 2″), black paint, pink paint (optional), foam brush, hot glue gun and glue sticks.

First, if you would like to have color on your skewers, paint them pink! You could also easily do yellow and red for a Mickey themed party.

Now, take all of your Styrofoam balls and begin dabbing them with black paint. They take quite a bit of paint to cover completely. You can easily allow them to dry by sticking them with a toothpick and inserting the toothpick into a sheet of Styrofoam, if you happen to have one handy.

Next, snap your toothpicks in half. You will need two for every centerpiece. These won’t be visible, so they don’t need to be painted. Place a dot of hot glue on the blunt end of the toothpick (where it was broken), and insert it into the smaller Styrofoam balls. Then, insert the sharp end into the large ball. Repeat to create the ear on the other side. Then, dot the pointed end of the skewer with hot glue and quickly insert in the bottom of the large ball. AND THERE YOU HAVE IT!

I also did some terra cotta pot menu card holders. This was a breeze and took me less than an hour to complete. I had some extra Styrofoam balls left, so I added a painted black ball to each pot. I created menu cards, taped them to toothpicks, and inserted them into the ball.

FOOD
There’s absolutely no reason to go overboard on food for a kid’s party, as most kids are terribly picky! Lady A’s party was at 2pm, so we offered Hot Diggity Dogs, Bowtie Pasta Mac and Cheese, Tootie Fruity Salad, chips, popcorn and lots of sweets. I just ordered cupcakes from Sam’s Club and printed Minnie cupcake toppers to go in each one, then dipped some Minnie Oreo cookies. I used the mini oreos that come in the ziploc pouch, twisting them in half and scraping out the insides first, as the ears. I stuck one half of the mini oreo at the top of each double stuffed oreo and then dipped the bottom in hot pink melting chocolate. After they dried on wax paper I filled a ziploc with melted white chocolate, cut a small hole in the tip and used it to pipe tiny dots all over the oreos! It was by far the thing I received the most comments on!!

ACTIVITIES
I provided Minnie Mouse coloring sheets and crayons, a puzzle station, a corn hole set, balloons, a pin-the-bow game and the photo op. Some of the guests had their picture taken a dozen times as they posed with the stuffed animals and feather boas!

FAVORS
This was the best. My mom, my niece and I set up a little assembly line one evening and made these adorable mouse ear headbands. My sweet friend, Brittani, created a slew of handmade hairbows for our Bowtique! She also did some awesome bowties for the boys to choose from! (You can visit her Facebook page and look at her awesome stuff HERE!) I threw in some Minnie crayon packets, ring pops and candy bracelets, all from the Dollar Tree. I stickered hot pink treat bags (Dollar Tree, again) with white yard sale stickers to create polka dots. Each guest went “shopping” at the Bowtique as they left!

TIP: Save money and buy items that can be painted over or used in a different way for your next party theme! Glass vases and apothecary jars are a great way to display food, candy, favors or decorations!

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That’s the long and short of it! Awesome party with lots of fun for all the kiddos! I’m already working on next year’s event. [I know–you’re rolling your eyes…that’s OK…I would be, too, if it wasn’t me! haha]

-B

My Reason for Writing

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Hebrews 2:14-15 (NASB)

I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t afraid. And not in the normal little kid sense of the term, where you’re afraid of things everyone ought to be afraid of. Since I was very young I have struggled with anxiety in a way that has been debilitating at times, and nearly always focused on my overwhelming fear of death. As I grew up, my fears multiplied exponentially, branching out to the fear of loss of control, fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of (fill in the blank because if you can be afraid of it, I probably have been or am currently).

I was raised in a Christian home and in a loving church, accepted Jesus as my Savior at 8 years old, and rededicated my life to Him in earnest at age 13. I knew what Heaven was supposed to be like, knew that Jesus was the Prince of Peace, could recite all the Bible verses about casting your cares, etc…Unfortunately, none of that could ease my mind one iota. Four years in a Bible college, a degree in ministry, and marriage to a pastor didn’t take the fear away, either.

One of my main goals with this blog is to be able to address the very flawed perception Christians have of anxiety and depression and the many forms that they take. I spent years living under the assumption that I was doing something wrong because it wasn’t going away. I must not have enough faith, I must not pray enough, I must not really be saved, I must not be doing enough. THE WORD “ENOUGH” IS A WOMAN’S WORST ENEMY. (But that’s a post for another day.) 

I was 21 years old, a junior in college in the middle of completing a ministry degree and a counseling psychology minor, and literally falling apart before everyone’s eyes before I sought the help I desperately needed. Even then, it took me months to admit to myself that I wasn’t a failure for having to ask for it. People in helping professions have a terribly difficult time admitting they are the ones in need. I would sit in my therapy sessions and apologize to the counselor the whole time for “being such a mess.”

I still struggle with my anxiety on a daily basis (and thankfully much less so with depression), but I refuse to continue to be silent and ashamed of it. Jesus Christ didn’t just die for my sins to be forgiven–HE DIED TO SAVE ME FROM MYSELF. And He keeps rescuing me every day, because, like Paul with his “thorn in the flesh”, I fully believe that this is something I will struggle with every day for the rest of my life so that I can live out the Lord’s grace being sufficient for me, FOR HIS POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS.

It’s time to take the mask off, and to empower others to do the same, especially in our churches. Thank you all for the amazing amount of support you’ve given me in starting to share through this blog. I never, ever would have imagined it would be received the way it has been, and I am just overcome with gratitude. May the Lord, not me, be glorified in every word of it.

-B

Angry Mommy

We recently took a much needed vacation to the Smoky Mountains for a week. Apart from the heat, the noisy neighbors and the lack of sleep, it was a peaceful relaxing week. Well, all except for the toddler tantrums.

We left on a Saturday morning, made the 5-hour drive, and had a pretty splendid first two days enjoying the attractions and food. Then, Monday happened. Inside of 2 hours, Little Lady A threw no less than 10…T-E-N!…tantrums and ended up in time out three times. As soon as she would calm down from one the next would bubble up, and I was so over it.

There was yelling (on both our parts), and discipline, and then eventually Mommy melted down and had to take some time to herself (after blowing up at Daddy, who was really just trying to help). When all was said and done the whole afternoon was a complete wash and I was left feeling like maybe vacation and a departure from her routine wasn’t such a good idea after all.

On Tuesday, the unthinkable happened. Little Lady A has a wooden Melissa and Doug bear puzzle with interchangeable faces and outfits. Each of the faces displays a different emotion. [You can see where this is going, can’t you?]  While she played in the condo on Tuesday she picked up the angry bear face, held it up, and loudly and proudly declared, “Look! It’s Mommy!”

She couldn’t have cut me deeper if she had deliberately tried. And, to make matters worse, she did the same thing with the angry bear face for several days afterward every time she saw it. How heartbreaking to think that my child associated me with ANGER!

Young mommy friends, take heart! Before vacation was over she had decided the angry face was actually Daddy and I stopped stressing about it. It’s so hard in the moment to not beat yourself up when you lose your temper with your child. I have to try to remind myself that she is very young, very resilient, and that at the end of the day the best I can do for her is to show her love and grace–to try my level best to live out Christ’s love, and to show her (even at this young age) that I sometimes make mistakes in how I handle things. I apologize to her and I (try to) shake it off, because that’s exactly what I would want her to do in the same situation.

I’m praying for all my mommy friends who are struggling with frustration today. It’s OK, Mama…go easy on yourself and revel in God’s grace, even when you totally blow it and lose your temper. Our children are watching us and they can learn just as much from our failures as from our victories!

-B