The Good Thing about Hard Times

In the midst of all that’s going on in this world, it is easy for you to allow fear to grip your hearts.

Fear of the future, fear of sickness and death, fear of lack of resources, fear of the unknown. I know for my personal life, one fear has attempted to break my peace consistantly and that is the fear of suffering in some way.

Whether it’s suffering in finances, in lacking resources needed for my family, in the economy, whatever it is, there’s this uneasiness about my comfort being attacked in some way. My daily “normal” somehow changing. It can definitely be scary.

Obviously I am not the only one who feels this uneasiness, as toilet paper was the first thing we ran for during the scare. Toilet paper. Think about it. Something that is NOT a necessity being bought over food or water. Because of this one word that has imprisoned us for way too long: comfort.

I was reading in Romans today, seeking peace for my soul during this time and stumbled upon a passage I have read many times. But often His Word jumps out at us when we need it, so I figured I would share.

Romans 5:3-5 – “Moreover (let us also be full of joy now!) Let us exult and triumph in our troubles and sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character (of this sort) produces (the habit of) joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.”

Wow! What peace this can give us if we center our hearts on its promises. All too often as Christian’s these days, we pray for things like character, patience, integrity, more faith, more hope, and yet we never seem to pray for suffering or trials (I know, who would?)

But think about it. This scripture shows you the formula to having joy, peace, faith, and character; trials and sufferings which lead to endurance. All too often we pray for miracles in our lives and yet would pray against situations where God would be able to work miracles.

“Lord, please deliver us from bondage of the Pharoah BUT why have You led us to the Red Sea to be killed?!?” Sound familiar? The Israelites wanted the freedom without discomfort. But without discomfort the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea would never have been needed. Without sickness, we wouldn’t see His healings. Without struggle, we wouldn’t see His mighty provision. Without discomfort, we cannot grow.

So I take this time in my personal life to do as His Word tells us and exult in trials and sufferings. During this time where comfort and “normal” seem out of reach, this is a time to buckle down and praise the Lord that we are gaining endurance and patience. That we are learning what it means to rely solely on Him and not ourselves, our social lives, or our government. That during this time of stretching we can be thankful and renew our minds to see everything as He does and not what our flesh wants.

Take this time of isolation and really learn to be dependent on God. This is a time where distraction has been wiped out of most of our lives. Distraction and comfort that all too often keep us from our true Love and our families. Stop complaining, worrying, and fearing, and start praising God and thanking Him for your blessings, your life, and the ability to grow in Him.

Hard times are hard but they always restore my faith a little because it always seems that hard times produce such beautiful fruit in humanity. We see communities come together, servants appear in this individualistic selfish world, and neighborly love everywhere we look. Once again the principles of the Word evident all around us.

I wanted to encourage you in this time to look at things in a different way. Stay in your Word, keep your minds renewed, and walk in thanksgiving. Love you all! Happy homemaking!

I’m Tired: A Mommy Monologue

I’m laying in the bath, candle lit, writing this with tears in my eyes. Nothing “big” or “bad” happened today. It was a normal day of waking up early, diaper changes, bottle feedings, two baths, exploration of new foods, messy high chairs, laundry, toys scattered everywhere, new discoveries, chasing a hyper boy around, teething, falling down, laundry, cooking, cleaning… the list goes on and on.

That’s what a usual day looks like here at the Richards’ house but today I am just…. tired. I feel at my end and my limit. I feel like I have said nothing else today but “No no John,” “Don’t do that, John” “Come here baby” “Please don’t hit” “Don’t throw your food” “Don’tdrink the bath water”. So many NOs and not a lot of YAYs. As I got him ready for bed I just was so ready for him to be asleep so I can enjoy a minute of quiet.

And then overwhelming guilt hits me like a punch in the gut because I realized all day I haven’t got to enjoy John because I feel like I have had to discipline and parent. Instead of giggles and cuddles, today was a bunch of pitching fits and yelling. It doesn’t help that I was reminiscing all of his newborn pictures and videos last night either; making me miss those days of hectic quiet, coos, and soft cuddles.

Parenting is not easy. It is a never ending battle of wanting to slow time down and soak in every moment to please let this day hurry so I can enjoy some peace and quiet.

Time has moved so quickly lately. John is almost 10 months old and my heart is breaking. There really isn’t a point to my post except just to share what I’m feeling, which is raw feelings of sadness, exhaustion, immense love and joy, all at the same time.

But I think that’s what motherhood is; high elation and low valleys. Tears and laughs, smiles and frowns, yelling and praising. I know there will be more days like today; where I feel more like the principle from Matilda (bun included) than the teacher who comes in and saves the day with sunshine and giggles.

But that’s okay, because I wanted this and I love this. And its also okay to be exhausted and tired and frustrated in the midst of all that you wanted. Sometimes we feel so pressured to not seem “ungrateful” that we go along steaming up inside until we boil over.

You’re allowed to feel emotions, you’re allowed to miss the times when it was just you and you could do whatever you wanted, you’re allowed to crave solitude and maybe even a vacation where it’s just you, a beach, and a bible. When we strive to fit this perfect “mom” picture, the instagram mom, who always seems to have it together and enjoy every second of motherhood, then we find ourselves trying to fit a triangle into an oval; it’s impossible (yes, even my analogies now involve baby toys).

So, I just wanted to share with you mamas (and daddys) out there that, I am so tired. And I feel like poo for yelling today a lot. And I’m crying in the bath tub, simultaneously enjoying my quiet and fighting the urge to go wake the baby up for cuddles and kisses.

And I want to encourage you in this season, that you’re not alone. And God sees what you do for your family every day. And God sees your grateful heart thats just a little weary at the moment. And God wants to take away the shame that’s trying to tell you you’re not good enough for your family. And God wants to wrap you in His arms and tell you everything is alright and a new day starts tomorrow. And God wants to let you know He can carry you through the tough days as much as He’s present in the beautiful days. I want to encourage you to take a breath, start again, and truly try and savor these moments.

Parenting is hard. Motherhood is hard. Humaning is hard. But life is beautiful, messy, and amazing. So if you are like me, in the tub exhausted, tired, crying, and guilty. Stop it. Breath in. Pray for strength. And smile at this crazy, silly, beautiful life God has picked for us to live. Love you guys. Happy homemaking!

Are you Tired? Then Go Running

I love to write. I have always loved to write, since I was little. It’s the perfect way to get my heart across to another. Often in marriage counseling or talking with friends, I tell them to write. Writing helps get our thoughts across in such a way, that often distractions can’t come through. Usually when I write on here, I write from experience, revelations, or fun ideas. Often, however, I simply ask God what He wants me to say. What do they need to hear?

Today, as I was in my time with God I felt the urge to write. And this is what He wanted me to let you know. When you’re tired, weak, exhausted, and weary: run. Physically, this idea doesn’t make much sense. When you are exhausted physically, the last thing you want to do is go running. The last thing you want to do is use what energy you have left in your reserve.

Often when we are struggling spiritually, we feel the same way. We are so exhausted from the battle, emotionally and mentally, we don’t want to use any energy left to run to Him. We would rather numb ourselves in front of the television or with groups of friends, hoping the distraction will somehow create an energy in us to deal with the struggles. But simple physics tells us nothing comes from nothing. If we do not get gas for the car, gas does not simply appear in our tanks. If we do not run to God for refuge in the storm, we won’t have the strength to go forward.

One of the verses I “run” to all too often is Matthew 11:28. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” With my personality, I often am way too focused on doing everything myself without asking for help. I don’t know why I am this way, but I feel like a burden to ask for help. So I just do it myself. This can be one of the worst things a person can do to themselves. God made us as people who need others. We need Him. If you are feeling burnt out and exhausted, it is very possible that you are carrying a burden you were not meant to carry alone. The next part in the scripture explains a truth that set me free. Verse 29 and 30 says, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Not many know what a yoke is because not many are surrounded by farming and harvesting. A yoke is what holds two cattle together as they plow the fields. It is very important that the two remain working together, because if one pulls the yoke too fast, the other can be injured or even killed.

Jesus is telling us here that if we are exhausted and weary, it’s time we lay down our yokes and yoke up with Him. Our yokes, our burdens, our weights, are too heavy for us to carry. But when we come to Him, His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. When you are at your breaking point, feeling like you can’t push forward by yourself any more, it is not the time to run away from God, but to run towards Him. Drop your yoke of the world, and yoke up with Him.

“Cast all of your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Imagine your child walking alongside you on a hike. They are carrying a backpack they packed themselves before the trip and you are carrying the backpack you packed. As you hike along, the child becomes increasingly exhausted; crying, whimpering, complaining. “I can’t carry it anymore, it’s too heavy.” “Well give it to me then.” You would think the child would hand it over right? No. Instead you hear, “Well, I can carry it myself.” Or, “It’s mine though… I don’t want to hand it over….” “If I hand it over then I may lose something…” “I don’t know how to walk without carrying my backpack… if I give it to you then I don’t know how to go forward.”

Confused, you continue walking with the child. This time they stop, kneel to the ground, huffing at the exhaustion and strength it’s taking to carry the backpack. You kneel down beside them. “Honey, give it to me, I will carry it.” The child lifts their head, crying, and says, “I don’t know how.” “Just hand it me.” Crying heavily, “I don’t know how. If I give it to you, I won’t be carrying anything.” You lift their chin to you and say, “You carry my backpack, and I will carry yours.”

You take your backpack off and help them take off their backpack. As you lift it you realize how heavy it is. “What did you pack in here?” You open it up to find many stones. On the stones are written different things. One reads “fear”, another “anxiety”. There is a huge one, and on it says, “expectations of others”. You keep rummaging through the bag, pulling out the stones one by one. “Sadness”, “loss”, “depression”, “self-hate”, “suicide”, “bitterness”, “anger”, “hurt”, “abuse”, “rejection”, “condemnation”, “shame”, “guilt”. It goes on and on.

“Honey, how have you carried this for so long? Here, take mine.” The child, relieved, drops their shoulders. As they lift your bag on their shoulders, their eyes open in amazement. “It’s so light! What do you carry?” They open the bag and begin pulling out feathers. On the feathers are written many words: “faith”, “trust”, “peace”, “love”, “forgiveness”, “righteousness”, “holiness”, “joy”. The child begins crying, “You mean I could have carried this the whole time?” “Yes, honey, but don’t be sad that you have walked so far with burdens. All you have to do is hand them to me, and continue forward. And if you are tempted to pick up any rocks along the way, just give them to me.”

I know, it may sound corny, but this story is the perfect depiction of how God feels with us. You would feel so frustrated that you offered to carry your child’s burden, yet they continued in exhaustion and weariness. You would want to scream from the mountain tops, that what you had for them instead was so much better. But when we continuously rely on ourselves or others, to meet our needs and fill our emptiness rather than relying on God, we will be that child who continuously decides to carry burdens that are not ours to carry or pick up things along the road of this life, we were meant to cast away.

Enough is enough. Stop carrying the world on your shoulders and cast it onto the One Who is enough for you. Are you heartbroken? Wounded? Rejected? Bitter? Do you not know how to give it all up? Have you been walking so long with the weight that you’re afraid of what it may feel like to finally let it go?

The answer is not complicated, although the enemy wants you to believe that it is. It is simple. If you are weary, RUN. Run to Him with everything you have. Hit your knees, throw your burdens on Him. Trade your sorrows for joy. Trade your mourning for dancing. Trade your tears of grief for tears of laughter. Trade your brokenness for full restoration. Trade your bitterness for forgiveness. Trade your anger for peace. Trade your hate for love. Trade your dirtiness for righteousness. It is so much more simple than it seems.

Humble yourself. You do not have to carry it on your own any longer. You are not a burden to Him, He yearns to give you peace and rest. So, if you have been wounded and exhausted, RUN TO HIM. If you have been trying to numb yourself from reality, RUN TO HIM. If you have been running in the wrong direction, RUN TOWARDS HIM. You will find hope for hopelessness, faith for unbelief, and healing for your souls. Think on this:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Psalm 23

The “What-if” Trap: How I Broke Free from Anxiety

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.

Charles Spurgeon

I remember that time during my life, when anxiety was my “normal” state and I couldn’t remember what it felt like to just not worry. About anything. At that point I remember worrying about things that really didn’t matter; what people thought of me, if I was doing enough as a Christian, if I would ever make it in life or be successful. You may think those things matter but honestly, while I was worrying about them they were falling together without any help on my part in the background. My worrying was getting in the way of promises coming to pass.

But I worried still. One thing that really stuck out during that time of testing in my life was I continuously had to go to God. What felt like the darkest, most trying time of my life also was one of the times of my life I felt closest to My Father. I had to learn during that time complete reliance on His strength for my everyday. Honestly during that time there were days I would not have made it one my own; but God.

One thing that God taught me during that time was that had He just delivered me from anxiety, I would have never known how to fight anxiety when it tried to come back. You see, anxiety will rear it’s ugly head to everybody whenever it gets the chance. Some have learned to turn it away, others embrace it. During that time God had to teach me to stop embracing every anxious thought and instead cast it down and cling to His Word. So that three years later when an anxious thought tries to come back, I have the tools to tell it where to go.

One thing I realized as I tested every thought during that period was that most often, every anxiety attack began with two words: what if. What if I don’t get that job? What if I never get in that relationship? What if I get sick? What if that person I love walks away from me? What if I get hurt again? What if I’m not good enough? What if I am rejected again… what if… what if… what if….

It was a prison. A cage. A trap. Every time a thought began with “what if” I knew what would follow. A thought that led me down the path of fear into the storm of anxiety. I knew what I was thinking wasn’t true… I knew that it was fear and anxiety attacking me… but I didn’t know how to not embrace the thought.

One day as I was praying to God and crying out, I just began to be at my wits end. “How do you expect me to break free of it if you do not tell me what to do?!? ‘Fear not’ is easy enough to say, it’s the doing that’s hard!” In my frustration, He quieted my soul. “I have told you what to do. Read My Word.”

Begrudgingly I went to the Word and turned to one of the many verses on anxiety I had memorized at this point. I’m going to post it below because I believe if you’re reading this post, then you need to read this scripture:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.

Philippians 4:6-8 AMP

As many of you know and some may not, my undergraduate and graduate studies were in psychology and counseling. As I read this scripture, immediately I thought of psychology and counseling concepts for people with anxiety, trauma, and depression. The thought behind many of the techniques used for people with those struggles is to locate maladaptive thoughts and replace those thoughts with the truth and positive thinking. While I contemplated what this scripture meant, I realized our Counselor, the Holy Spirit, can help us do the same thing.

He essentially told me right then how to deal with anxious thoughts and cast them down. The above scripture is a formula for anxiety.

1. Take what is making you anxious and pray to God about it. Give specific requests (supplications) and thank God for His blessing and hand on your life; knowing that whatever may happen He has you.

2. Filter your thoughts through the list above. Is what you are ruminating on just, true, pure, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy, virtuous? Or is it anxious, fearful, angry, bitter, lustful, dread-giving, prideful? You will essentially live out your thought life. So a way to combat an anxious life? Stop anxious thinking.

You may be thinking, “That’s easier said than done.” And you would be correct. It was very hard work to be free of anxiety. For two years I filtered every thought I had; it was the most emotionally draining thing I have ever done. But it is not impossible to be free of anxiety. You are not doomed to it forever just because you struggle with your mind. The issue is to retrain your thinking. If you struggle with anxiety and depression I do recommend reading a book by Dr. Carolyn Leaf who is a Christian Neuroscientist. She helps explain your thought life and the physical and spiritual aspects of it. This book really helped me live free of anxiety and depression. I will post a link of it below!

Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions by Dr. Caroline Leaf (2007-05-03)

So after I read this scripture I asked God, “What does that look like practically? Replacing my thoughts?” And He simply told me what began my walk to freedom. “Instead of thinking what if something bad happens, simply turn it around and think what if something good happens.”

So when a “What if I never get married,” thought came around, I turned it around and said, “What if my God has my husband waiting around the corner?”

“What if I am never free from this bondage?” instead “what if my deliverance is tomorrow?”

“What if they don’t like me?” “What if God has anointed relationships and friendships waiting on me?”

“What if they reject me?” “What if rejection by them is what will put me on the path to the right relationships?”

You see it’s all about outlook. Anxious thinking is truly thinking without God in mind. But when you remember who you are and Whose you are, you remember to add Him into the equation. Then we remember that whatever the enemy means for our evil, God can turn around for our good (Genesis 50:20). Even if those bad things do happen that you are anxious about (which they most likely never do), then you have a God Who restores, replenishes, and redeems.

The what if trap steals your hope for the future, wraps you in anxiety, and chains you in fear. But if you begin to filter your thinking and align it with the Word, you can and will be set free. Freedom is not unavailable to you. If you have been trapped in fear and anxiety for 2, 5, or even 20 years, you can still be free. My mom lived in anxiety for over 40 years. And she walks free of it today. Don’t let the enemy lie to you and tell you that this is your forever. Begin surrendering your thought life to God and see His freedom today!

I will be sharing more of what I learned on my two-year journey with anxiety. Be encouraged and please let hope spark in you again. Happy peaceful homemaking!