Last September I wiggled my toes within my running shoes and stared at the road. My fingers tapped the sides of my shorts and I bit my lip.
It had been five weeks since I had done a long run, three weeks since I had ran at all. I had no idea how far I would be able to go now. With no respite care, a husband trying to get wheat sowed, and a horrible cough & cold, I had stopped getting out to exercise. But, there were no excuses for that day. All I could do was stare at the route in front of me.
Starting over takes courage.
I had spent the summer training for a 10k, but when fall came, I put my training aside. Now, my race was only a couple months away. If I was going to do it, I needed to start over.
I took a deep breath and moved my feet forward. Every muscle felt stiff. Every movement uncomfortable. Only a few weeks before the same movements had liberated me. Pounding my feet on the dirt and pavement had been exhilarating. Now it was only work. That first run back in training was only two miles and it completely wore me out.
But, I kept going.
As I ran I thought about why it had been so mentally and emotionally difficult to get my feet back on the road. I think it was the fear of failure.
When you have to start over, part of you already feels you have lost. If you have to begin something again, it means has stopped and usually the reason it stopped was our responsibility. To be honest, I could have found ways to keep training. I could have went on walk when my cold kept me coughing. I could have fought harder, but I hadn’t really fought at all. Now, all I could see was that I would be happy if I was able to complete the 10K race. Before I had been training to not only complete it, but to get a decent time.
Starting over takes courage, but it is also one of the most powerful self-growth decisions we will ever make. When we choose to start over, we begin to realize that we learned so much from our first go-around, so that when we begin again we are usually wiser and stronger. From diets to exercise to spiritual growth, starting over is the best things we can do.
Everyone fails, messes up, or gives up now and again. But that does not have to define us. Even if we have to climb the same hill a dozen times, I would rather get to look at my life from the top than to groan in despair at the bottom.
Have you ever had to start over to finally get where you wanted to be?
I grinned at the little green plants scattered over my tiny garden plot. I wouldn’t have to plant marigolds. Seeds from the year before had germinated and grew everywhere. Carefully I weeded around them. The marigolds would ward off bugs from my squash, pumpkin, and tomato plants.
Now, as a disclaimer, I am not a very good gardener. Part of this is because I have nearly zero passion for growing anything. If my only two house plants were to die tomorrow I would shrug and toss their shriveled remains in the dumpster. However, I love fresh vegetables. So, the summer vigilance of watering and occasional weeding is incorporated into our lives.
It was about mid August when I noticed the squash were not producing that much, the pumpkins had only found space for two round fruits, and my tomatoes were taking a long time to ripen. When I brought it up to my husband he gave me a lot of ribbing. Hadn’t I noticed that the marigolds had taken over the garden?
Life is much like gardening. We have to sow seeds. We have to water the good things and weed out the bad. We have to wait to see the fruits of our labor. And, we have to be cautious not to let something that seems good to overshadow and take up all the space in our life.
As I tossed bright blooms over my garden fence I considered the marigolds that I have to keep in check in my own life. The first one that came to mind is my protection over my girls. It is important that I care for them, but if I put too strong a bubble over their world, they will be left with little room for growth and relationships with others. Another “marigold” is my writing. I would love to devote oodles of time and resources into this dream, but each time I start to give too much to my books or blog, the happiness of my home falters. And, if I don’t have a happy home, I really don’t have a happy life either.
We all have marigolds. I know friends who are good at taking pride in their appearance, which is a totally healthy attitude, but it can start to take up too much time and money. Others might struggle with their personal drive in their careers, developing their homes, or even level of fitness. Even good things can throw the garden of our life out of balance and before we know it there is little fruit to harvest.
So, next year, I will be mindful of the marigolds and remember that you can have too much of a good thing.
The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.
Have you ever found that your devotion to one aspect of your life has started to overshadow everything else? What do you do to find balance again?
I was putting on makeup when I looked over and saw Micaela doing a downward facing dog in the hallway and giggling at herself. I chuckled and turned back to the mirror. When I did, the smile on my face revealed the fine wrinkles around my eyes, mouth, and forehead.
I swallowed. I’m getting older and it is visible. For a moment I didn’t like it. I started to fret over the years I have wasted not investing in anti-wrinkle cream and the days I did chores without sunscreen. Disturbed, I continued to put on makeup, but all I saw in the mirror were the beginning lines around my face.
It occurred to me, though, that, Lord willing, I might have several decades still in this body of mine. The wrinkles are going to deepen and lengthen. Other signs of aging will claim their positions. I am not going to stay young. And, God designed us this way. God gives good and perfect things. I truly need to find a better way of looking at these signs of aging. I will not allow the natural course of getting older to steal my peace or alter my confidence.
Perhaps I need to simply accept them as the blessings they are. When I thought about it, I realized that wrinkles are blessings in two big ways.
Wrinkles show that I have lived. I love it that God gave us blatant signs of having made it through a good chunk of living. The lines on my face tell others that I have experience and most-likely the wisdom to go with it. I’ve weathered storms, stood in the sun, and faced the music. It isn’t until we have lived through some of life that we have a lot of personal experience to help others through their own trials. The lines on our face tell others that we have something to share.
Wrinkles show that I have engaged emotionally with life. From frowns to smiles to scowls to chuckles, facial expression go along with keeping those wall down around my heart so that I can love and let others in. If we were to go around not reacting to things in any emotional way, we wouldn’t get many wrinkles. But the movement of laughing and crying countless times will definitely leave their mark. There is nothing more beautiful than a living soul who has let their heart be deeply and often touched by others.
In the end, when considering our wrinkles, we could always ask ourselves a tried and true question, “What would Jesus do?” What would Jesus do about His wrinkles? Would he buy expensive creams or try and hide his face? No. Jesus was the Son of God who did His fair share of living here on Earth. He wept, smiled, and was angry from time to time. Looking into a mirror, if He had spotted growing wrinkles around his eyes, mouth, and forehead, I bet He would have shrugged and thanked His Heavenly Father for each blessed moment under the sun.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
What about you? As you age, have you found a peaceful frame of mind to accept changes as God’s blessings?
The thermometer I ordered off amazon makes a frantic beeping noise when it reads a fever. The alarm starts a rhythm in my heart and in my mind I hear the wicked ringing of the alert that goes off in the movie Aliens. We are under attack!
My thoughts always go into over-drive. What medicine should I give? When should I go to the doctor? Will there be another seizure this time?
It is awful. But it is teaching me to put my life in God’s hands.
It seems this is the struggle a great many of us have: learning to surrender our illusion of control and rest in God’s provision.
I know I would be insane, depressed, or addicted to something if I did not learn to give God the heavy burden of raising my girls. I love them so much and I fear that I will mess something up. Their lives are too precious to be raised by a mere human such as I.
Every night, I kiss Adela and Micaela on the forehead and pray. I ask God to protect them and to hold them in His great love. I tell God that I give them to Him, their lives and their futures. Only then am I able to shut off the light in their room and close the door with peace.
We should pray this prayer all the time. We must try not to spin the wheels of worry but acknowledge that when we have done all we can, that God is still Master of it all.
The other night, I got to share this with Adela. She asked me about the smoke alarms in the house and I had to explain that they were there in case we had a fire. Adela immediately became terrified and asked a dozen questions. It was right before bedtime and with large brown eyes she asked if I could sleep with her that night and if her Papa could become a fireman to save us. I chuckled but realized that all my reassurances had done little to ease her fear. I smiled and suggested we simply ask God to protect us. So we prayed together. Afterwards, Adela let out a big sigh and snuggled into her blanket. She was asleep in minutes.
I wonder if she felt God’s peace as I did.
Someday I truly hope I walk unfailing in this peace, resting in God’s goodness. It is my idea of perfect bliss.
Life is going to attack us and the only true shelter will be found in the Prince of Peace.
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.
Have you learned to give you biggest fear or greatest worry up to God?
Do you have thoughts like this: “So much rests on my shoulders.” “My family is depending on me, I have to get this done.” “I never have enough time.” “I could do more.”
These thoughts have plagued my exhausted brain for years. There is always so much that I must accomplish and I feel like I am constantly falling short. I don’t give the girls enough attention. The house doesn’t ever feel clean enough. I wish I could study more, read more, learn more. I wish I could give Jovani more devoted time, too, but I am so tired.
In our last Monday post, Confessions of a Workaholic Who is Still at Home, I admitted that I was addicted to adrenaline. While I could have claimed that I was overburdened or overworked, the real truth was that I clung to the worry, anxiety, and rush that came with constantly being busy, constantly needing to do more, and constantly maintaining productivity. I cut God’s provisions out of the equation and bullied through life on my own strength. I didn’t sleep enough, care for myself, or trust my connection with God to direct my life.
If you took the Adrenaline Addiction Test at Soulshepparding.org and came up positive for this addiction too, then you might need to pull back and re-examine your life.
I found out about adrenaline addiction four months ago and since then have put in place new practices that have helped me rest in God. We still have to be productive. We still have to care for our families. But we can shift the burden of always needing to know what to do and who to help onto God’s shoulders. We can focus on connecting with Him and trusting Him.
We are not always supposed to be “doing”. Sometimes, we are supposed to rest with no other motivation except to connect with God, be replenished, and refresh our bodies. Crazy notion, right? And sometimes (this is even crazier) sometimes we have to stop and rest even when there are still things to do on our list. In years past, when I have felt frazzled and frustrated, I have self-soothed by getting busy, and getting things done. But, like any other addiction, I am not solving the problems behind why I feel upset.
This week, I want you to consider picking 1 to 3 things from this list and putting them into practice.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live out all my days feeling like it all rests on my shoulders. I want to find some rest. True rest.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
What are some others ways to shift the focus of your day from your own busy-ness to the goodness of God?
Taking care of yourself as a mother isn’t complicated, but it does take dedication. Our hearts want us to focus only on others. Our minds worry that there isn’t enough time. Our bodies feel too tired to consider yet another task.
Remember two things: 1. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. 2. You are a beautiful child of God who deserves to be cared for, too.
So, next time you are feeling worn, look at this infographic and consider how you could be treating yourself to some better self-care.
A wife of noble character who can find?
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Women are naturally caretakers for those around us, but we can get so caught up in our role that we begin to develop habits that make us both unhealthy and unhappy. Look at the list below and identify any that you are particularly guilty of.
1) Frequent sleep deprivation
When pushed to get something done, using our sleep time seems like an easy answer. Or, when we are needing time to relax we stay up late, knowing we will pay for it later. The problem is, everything starts to crack when we don’t get enough sleep. Studies shows that sleep deprivation makes us feel angry and frustrated. It makes it difficult for us to focus, retain memories, and even engage socially with friends. Tomorrow isn’t going to be better because you watched one more episode of your favorite show or got that last load of laundry put away. Tomorrow has its best shot at being beautiful if you begin with a well-rested body, heart, and head.
2) Giving no priority to our diet and exercise
We skip breakfast, eat what our toddlers eat, guzzle caffeine, forget where we put our water bottle, and decide there are more important things than taking a walk. Woah there, sister. That body that you depend on to change diapers and get the grocery shopping needs some respect. It will start to tell on you if you ignore the needs of your body for too long.
3) Quality time with Spouse and Children, Friends and family
Quality time means doing a single activity with your loved ones and enjoying those moments with them. It is so easy to get in a rut of preparing dinner and washing laundry for our family that we forget to stop and simply enjoy them.
4) Multitasking—during quality time, quiet time, any time
Multitasking is one big fat lie. The reality is we only attend well to one thing at a time. So, if we multitask our focus and quality of work plummets. Plus, it starts to make us feel insane. Don’t worry, sweetheart, God has your back. Take a deep breath and give yourself license to do one thing at a time.
5) Quiet time.
Introverted? Extroverted? It doesn’t matter. That quiet time, alone with our own thoughts and God, helps us reboot. It gives us room to think about what we are doing, how we are feeling, and what is important. Without this, the world can either morph into exhausting auto-pilot, or spin out of control into chaos.
6) Negative Thoughts
If your life is anything like mine, we are already pretty low on head space. There is too much to remember and too much to do. Worse, we are low on heart-space too. Our role puts us in situations where we must help others deal with emotional crisis. So, those negative thoughts about our life and self must be cut out. If your head and heart were a refrigerator, would you stash away a bag of moldy potatoes inside. No way! Learn new ways of thinking so your heart and mind are filled with good and healthy things.
7) Saying No to Help
I’m so guilty of this one. For years I tried to handle my kids and family with little-to-no outside assistance. I didn’t want to burden anyone nor did I want to admit that I was not capable of doing it on my own. However, about a year ago I had an epiphany: God did not design child-raising to be a lonely job. In the age of Abraham and Sarah, raising a child and caring for the sick was done with an entire group of family and workers alongside you. This idea that we must handle it on our own isn’t Biblical, it is a concept our society has created.
Stay tuned. Our next blog post is all about how you can turn these habits around and become your own best advocate for health and happiness and become an even better wife, mother, friend, spouse, or caretaker.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Can you think of some other ways you undermine your health and happiness?
So much has changed since last year and our post A Day in the Life of Micaela, A Special-Needs Toddler. It is definitely time for an update.
For those of you who haven't heard Micaela's story, let me catch you up to speed. Micaela was born premature at 27 weeks weighing 2lbs. She suffered a brain hemorrhage and also never fully developed her cerebellum. The end result was that she has less than 50% of normal brain mass. She has vision impairments, ataxic cerebral palsy, and a long journey ahead of her.
I like to tell people that my family and I have front-row seats to God's awesome power everyday of our lives as we watch this little girl overcome. She is amazing.
So, this is a typical day for our little family when we are at home and nothing unexpected occurs.
11:30am—The braces go back on and Micaela and I practice walking around the house. She is very proud of herself. Right now our goal is to be able to walk into the school independently this fall for preschool.
I started to believe that the bag of Brach’s jelly beans was the worst thing that ever entered my home. I opened the bag and treated Adela for finishing her school work. I put a few into her tiny little hands and then returned to chores. Within seconds she was back. She needed more.
With my refusal, the begging started, followed by whining, and trailed by the first tantrum I had seen from her in months.
Frustrated and at my wits end I took her outside and we walked around together until she calmed down.
But she had not forgotten the candy.
“Mamá, I need a little more. Please, give me the jelly beans. Please.”
The whining grated on my ears. I gritted my teeth. “No, Adela. You don’t need them. Why don’t you have a cheese stick?”
She considered for a moment and then sighed. “Okay.”
Returning to the house I gave her the cheese stick. She ended up consuming three of them and a cup of water before settling into play. I shook my head, realizing that it hadn’t been about jelly beans, really. She was hungry.
Bemused, I considered what “Jelly Beans” I have in my life. We all have things we use to refuge deep hurts, quick Band-Aids to cover wounds without fighting for a true cure. For me, television and social media are go-to’s when I feel frustrated. But, while they distract, they rarely fix anything. Whatever I am unsatisfied with, it waits for me to turn off the television or computer.
I always think, “Just a little more.” Just a little more time watching that movie or reading that book or catching up with friends and I would have felt emotionally solid again. Or, just a little more chocolate and I would no longer feel disappointed or sad. Or, just a little more coffee and I would have the energy to be a fantastic mother today.
None of those will ever fix me. If I really want to find emotionally stability, joy, and energy then I need to dig for reasons behind my hurt. Just like Adela and her desperate need for jelly beans-- if I had gave in, her body would have still craved good nutrients and hydration.
Jesus’ warning in Luke 21:34 speaks deep to my heart:
Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.(NIV)
There is so much around us that can weigh us down and we will always crave more until we learn to go to God for real answers and healing.
Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.
What do you always find yourself needing “just a little more” of?
“You’ve got to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.”
I heard that a lot the first few years of parenthood. Friends and family encouraged me to take care of myself. I clung to that advice, my license to devote a fraction of my life to my health.
But, there was a problem.
Every time I felt like I wasn’t cutting it as a parent or wife, I also felt like I didn’t deserve to care for myself. Bizarrely, I started to rate my level of performance and then decide if I had earned a walk out doors, or a special meal that I enjoyed. After all, If I wasn’t taking care of anyone else, then I didn’t deserve to take care of myself. That warped view sent me into seasons of despair or unhealthy physical habits that I had to dig myself out of later. It became a sad cycle.
Starting this year, I dug for verses that would become a power house to keep myself on a healthy road. There are many in God’s word that encouraged me.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
3 John 1:2, NIV
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
Proverbs 17:22, NIV
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 31:17, NIV
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
I love these verses. There is enough truth in each of them to fuel my determination for change, but the one that I clung to changed my world.
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8, ESV
I, Lora, am the work of His hands. I am precious and unique and made for His wonderful purposes. Me, just me. Not me, the mom or me, the wife or me, the sister, daughter, friend, etc..
I am precious and God wants me to find rest and health. I don’t have to earn the right for it…I was born into it with His love and grace.
Funny how one little way of looking at my world from a different angle has filled me with joy. I am excited to be healthy. I no longer look at it as another task I must perform in order to better serve others, instead I look at it as a precious gift from my Abba Father who sees me first as His child and longs for me to come to Him for spiritual health, emotional well being, and physical guidance.
And, as I changed the way I looked at caring for myself, I have a heart that abounds in love and joy more than ever before. I am parenting and partnering with my husband feeling loved and cared for by my Abba Father.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Today, my hope for you today is that you drink that water and have quiet soul time not only because you want to better serve others, but because you, just you, are loved by Abba Father.
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"...and God was already there with me."