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!

To the one Struggling: Hang on just a Little Bit Longer

One life saying that has gotten me through many hard trials and seasons of suffering is this, “The last catastrophe you thought would end you didn’t.”

In a sense, every time a new hard trial or task would face me, I would remember that the last time I felt the anxiousness, the fear of the unknown, the questions, and the heartache, I got through them. I am a standing testimony of the many trials and tests I have been through; and so are you.

You may be facing something old or something new that is rearing it’s ugly teeth at you, making you want to run as fast as you can away from everything. Whether it’s a sickness, anxiety, depression, a personal loss, a personal tragedy, a broken relationship, whatever it may be, let this encourage you. You’ve made it through hard things before; you were made to face hard things, and you can do it again.

There was a time in my life, in the pit of despair and anxiety, that I was walking outside. It was a beautiful day on the outside, but inside my mind was full of dark clouds of fear and depression. I remember walking and talking with God, and just telling Him, “I can’t do one more day of this. Please Lord, deliver me or take me. I can’t live like this.” Tears streamed down my face. Not hard sobs, no I had done plenty of that. These were just the remnants of what strength I had left, rolling down slowly. Each tear represented one more plea for freedom, one more begging request for ease to my soul.

I remember saying that to God and looking up at a branch above me. There was a bird and if you know me, you know birds are my favorite animal. They fly with such freedom; live with such a peace that God will take care of their needs. If they need food, they know where to find it. If they need shelter, they know where to go. I looked up at the bird and heard a still small voice, “Remember the last time you felt like this? You made it through. Keep going, I will strengthen you. Just like that bird, fly in freedom and know I am the supplier of your needs.”

I walked home, still anxious. I went to bed that night, still heavy. But I had a new way of thinking, I will make it through this too because He is taking me through it. I wanted my life to end that day if it meant carrying that heaviness one more second. Had I had my request granted, I would have missed the fulfillment of all of God’s promises and more in my life. At the time of this story I was single, childless, directionless, and weak. Now I am married to a godly man, have an angel baby in heaven and a baby here with me on earth, I have learned how to renew my mind in the Lord and fight against fear and anxiety, and I walk with hope for the future and joy in my heart. I couldn’t have imagined how much God would do between then and now. But that is my point. In the midst of your despair, don’t make decisions that can be permanent. Hold on a little bit longer.

Remind yourself of the last heartbreak you went through; you made it. Remind yourself of the laughter and joy and peace you have felt since the last time you felt anxious; it’s possible. Remind yourself of the other traumas and pains you have made it through; life continues. Sometimes we believe that the next catastrophe will end us…. then it doesn’t. I am not discounting your pain, your hurt, or your trial; what I am saying is there is hope for a future, so don’t give it up.

My undergraduate and graduate studies are in psychology and counseling. One interesting study I read once has really helped me through many tough times (I love when my faith and education combine; it’s beautiful). The study found that the “high” joyous times in our lives are not as amazing as we would imagine them. For example, you get that raise and you are joyous, but then come back down to a happy medium. But on the flip side of that, the “low” times we dread are not as bad as we imagine they will be. So when asked what you would do in a hard time, you imagine it way worse then it actually will be. Why does this help me?

Because when anxiety tries to make me dread something in the future, I remember that it won’t be as bad as my mind tries to make me believe. I remember that I am not alone to face hard battles; and if you find yourself alone on Earth, you are still not alone, because our God never forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). When that next trial or test or temptation comes against you, fight it with the strength of God instead of your own strength. Align your thinking with the Word instead of your “reality”. Thoughts stuck in a negative cycle? Make yourself think on good things, things of good report, things worthy of praise, things that are pure and true (Philippians 4:8).

One of the lies of the enemy in our lives is that we are stuck. We are stuck anxious, we are stuck depressed, we are stuck struggling, we are just stuck with no hope for change. But darling, let me shine some truth on that lie. You will never be stuck, not as long as you are breathing. 1 John 4:4 says that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world! That means whatever is coming against you, you can know for a fact that the One on your side is more powerful. Then why isn’t He working on my behalf, you ask?

Sometimes when God is trying to work, we can be working against Him. If you know you struggle with a sin and continually open yourself up to it, that is a matter of self discipline. Pray for wisdom and self discipline and He will give it to you. If you are continually choosing relationships with people who are abusive and in bad lifestyles, don’t continue to choose those relationships. Pray for discernment in people and good, godly relationships. If you know that you tend to be pessimistic and negative in your thought life, don’t be a slave to your thinking, renew your mind and make your thoughts come into alignment with the Word. Surrender every part of your life to God, and let Him do His work while you do yours.

All of this is to let you know, that if you are in the midst of a life storm and struggle, whatever it may be, it is not your last chapter. It is not your end. Life will continue and you will get up from this. And there will be laughter again, and joy will spark your heart once more. Peace will be there waiting for you and love is still alive. What is barren will bear life, what is dry and thirsty will be quenched. What is dead will be brought to life. Don’t lose hope, and don’t be a prisoner of your struggle. Instead, be a prisoner of hope. When life tries to force your hand to succumb to despair, instead choose to remain a prisoner of hope (Zechariah 9:12). Be in a place where you cannot stop hoping for change.

Know that whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever struggle you are enduring, keep enduring and hang on just a little bit longer. I am praying for you in this season and know that what was meant for your ruin, God will use for your good (Genesis 50:20). I love you all and pray for you earnestly!

A Letter to my Best Friend: From a New Mommy

Dear Best Friend (you know who you are).

I have been thinking about you a lot lately, and I hope you know that. So much has changed so dramatically over the last few years. I got married, became a mommy, and now I’m balancing how to serve as a wife, mommy, daughter, friend, all at the same time. It gets hard sometimes. Remembering what it felt like to drop everything and hang out with you, laugh until we cried, watch movies and eat the junkiest of food feels bittersweet.

I miss who I was back then, when it was just me and you sometimes too! When we would lay on your bed and dream for hours about our future and what we wanted and prayed for. And now I have some of those things and I am so grateful for them, but I also grieve what I lost in a way too.

I miss you. Life got so hectic and I was so overwhelmed trying to figure out how to hold it all together for everyone else without falling apart myself that sometimes I fear I forgot to think about you too. And those few times you would come to my rescue and remind me of who I was before all of these new roles got put on me saved me. I get to where I almost forget who I am apart from wife and mom, and you remind me of my true, goofy, sarcastic, witty self.

I am writing this letter because I want you to know how much you mean to me. I want you to know how much I cherish you even though I still am figuring all of this out. I want you to know that I miss you and I need girl time. I want you to know how much joy it brings me to see you love my family. I want you to know how thankful I am that you haven’t given up on me even through the many cancelled plans, exhausted friend dates, and boring hangouts.

I’m praying for a day where life slows down a bit or even I get better at balancing it all out to where I get to give you the time you truly deserve. I always say I have been so blessed to be surrounded by people who have true servants hearts. You give so freely, so easily, and never look back. You are pure joy, peace, and truly shine the light of Jesus.

One day, we will sit together and reminisce about the good days while making more good days, surrounded by our husbands and children. Until then, lets make the most of these crazy transition years.

I’ll live through your adventures and you can always come home for some yummy homecooked meals. You tell me of your latest excitement and I will tell you of the latest baby poop story. You tell me what’s going on in your crazy world and I’ll tell you what’s going on in mine. And in the midst of the chaos, we can become those two teenage girls again, laughing hysterically, talking in accents, eating way too much chocolate, and trying to find our way in this world.

I am writing this letter because I just want to let you know how thankful I am God put you in my life. How thankful I am that you are longsuffering with me and patient. That you really are a picture of true friendship to me, sometimes when it feels a little too one-sided on your part. I promise I will try to be better at being a new mommy and a best friend; I promise I will learn. But until then, thank you for still loving me while I figure it out. (Also just think of it as me clearing the cobwebs for you for when its your turn).

I love you, best friend. I cherish you. I miss you.

Love,

Your best friend.

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!

Finding the Sun in the Winter

Today I walked outside to get the mail and was pleasantly surprised at how great it felt outside. It has been pretty cold the last few days, so feeling the sun hit my face felt like a warm hug to my soul. I stood on the front porch and closed my eyes, soaking in the sun rays. Man, that felt good. Have you ever got a quick glimpse into the springtime in the middle of winter, that it gives you just a serge of energy? You think, just hold on a little longer and then it will be flowers and sunshine and warm rains again.

I soaked in the warmth for a little bit longer and just happened to look down. Next to my front porch I have tons of clover growing (which is one of my favorite things). When I looked down, it looked as though all of my clover were cupped, facing the sun. They were all turned the same way, soaking it all in just like I was a few moments before. And just like that, I heard the Lord say to me, “In the middle of the winter seasons, turn toward the light.”

Lately, I have felt like I have been going through a spiritual winter season along with the physical winter. Things have seemed drab, cold, and tough. It seems like wherever I turn there is something else going wrong, a sickness around the corner, financial struggles, personal struggles, the list goes on and on. It is so tough to keep the faith during these kinds of seasons, when it feels like the fight never stops. But what else is there to do but fight?

We can go through these struggles sometimes, taking each hit from the enemy, and forget that we can do something about it. Like the clover, who have been going through the winter season, in the midst of the cold, drought of winter, they turned toward the light. We can do that too. We can stop in our struggle and simply turn; turn towards the Light of the World. Turn towards His Word and promises. So often we think we are victims of our circumstances around us. We think we have to keep every anxious or depressive thought, we think we have to continue to be abused by the toxic people in our lives, we think we are doomed to the lives people have spoken over us.

One thing I am very stubborn about is letting people know they are not stuck. Even in the middle of the winter, you can find some Son (I know, it’s cheesy but it’s true). So often we wait for Spring to come in order to get some fresh air and light in our lives, when in reality you can find what you need in the middle of your bleak season.

John 1:5 states, “The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life, whom shall I dread?”

Ephesians 5:14 states, “For this reason He says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine [as dawn] upon you and give you light.”

I give you these scriptures (and there are many more) because although darkness does exist, so does the light exist even more so. So you may be in some dark season; you may feel like nothing is growing, no light is shining, and no hope of change is near. But I come to remind you to be like the clover and turn towards the Light. Turn towards the Son. Turn towards Him Who is able to do more abundantly than you can ask or think according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

I want to remind you that you are not a slave to your circumstances as long as you are a Child of God. You belong to the Creator of all things who can make something out of nothing. Don’t lose hope. Don’t hang your head down. Turn your eyes to the Lord and trust Him and watch Him work on your behalf. Align your thinking and speaking with His Word, even if what you see around you doesn’t just yet.

I don’t know, I just felt it heavy on my heart for anyone who may be going through what I am going through to let you know that hope still remains. Light still remains. Growth still remains. What’s been planted will bloom soon, what’s been freed will fly, and those things that have held you down will break. Just turn to Him and soak in His light and love. Be like the clover!

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

Single and Searching: What to Look for in a Godly Husband

Dating was such a difficult thing for me to do after I had been hurt. There really was only one word to describe the whole process of dating and seeking my future husband: fear. Fear enveloped every part of my thought process when it came to my promise. What if I choose wrong? What if I get hurt again? What if fear stops me from ever going after my husband?

It was so bad that for about 5 years straight I couldn’t go past one date with anyone. As soon as I got home, my mind went over all of the reasons that person wouldn’t work and why they weren’t my husband. I remember when I went on a second date with my husband, my mom said, “He’s the one, because she actually wanted a second date.”

Now it wasn’t because I was “too picky” and couldn’t be pleased. Really it was for many reasons. But one of the main was because I had not met the one my soul was ready to fight for yet. When I met my husband Tyler, I was finally ready to fight the fear of vulnerability and intimacy. You may struggle with those same fears too. “If I let myself be vulnerable, I will just get hurt again.” “How do I know he isn’t just like the rest?” “How do I know this is the one God has ordained for me?”

During that time I was so wishing there was someone who could walk through the process with me; a woman who had been through it before. So I thought that maybe someone reading this is going through the same battles and it may help.

I remember many times in my frustration and loneliness, someone would tell me, “There are plenty of people to date out there, you just have to put yourself out there.” And having been saved and committing my life to God, I was looking for a Christian man who was ready to be married and committed. It felt as though, honestly, there were no men my age who were committed to God and was ready to be committed to a wife. They were all playing the “Christian” game, but the fruits in their lives didn’t really show it.

I remember yelling at my mom, “There are no good Christian men out there!” I really felt that way. And I was afraid to date some because every time I tried, it felt like they said they were godly men, but their actions spoke otherwise. I didn’t want a counterfeit; I wanted the one God had for me, who would pour into my life in a godly way, and not try and take from me.

During this time I remember praying, “How will I know?” And God said so plainly to me, “You will know by their fruit.” So I will go over some things I learned to look for in a godly husband, and how I learned to be free of fear and trust God in the process.

One of the first things that let me know Tyler was my husband, was that he was immediately respectful and pure. Even when he messaged me on Facebook for the first time, it was a picture of a bear waving hello. There was no “Aye girl how you doing?” or “You’re cute, what’s your number?” He was respectful in conversation and really just wanted to get to know me. Ladies, if you are looking for a godly man, he isn’t going to speak to you disrespectfully because he will know who you belong to. Watch out for men who flatter with their tongues a little too much; compliments are one thing but when it crosses the line make sure you don’t cross the line.

As we started dating, I noticed some things about him that caught my eye. Not only was he respectful of me, he was respectful of everyone around him. He has one of the greatest servant’s hearts I have ever seen. He treated his mama well, he served his Gran Gran (who is in a wheelchair) without even being asked, and he was respectful to people like waiters and store clerks. A red flag to look out for is someone who is rude to others; if they don’t have a servant’s heart, they won’t be able to serve well in marriage.

Now you may think I am crazy, but one thing I firmly believe in is to state clearly your goals and purposes behind dating. If you want to get married…. tell them you want to be married. Don’t date someone who doesn’t have the same goals as you and then get frustrated because they don’t want to change! On our first date, I remember saying, “Listen, I want to date for marriage, so if you don’t then this isn’t going to work.” I know… I cannot believe I said it either, it just came out! I remember he took a second and then laughed, and with his beautiful smiling eyes I love so much, said, “I do want marriage too.” You see the one for you will not be turned off by your blunt personality (if you have one). You won’t have to change your silly sense of humor or looks for them. Another red flag is that if you feel you’re having to mold to fit better for them… they probably aren’t the one for you.

I struggle pretty heavily with self-esteem. There are many things about myself I do not like. I remember one night at Sonic, Tyler was wanting to hold and look at my hands. My hands are one of my biggest flaws in my mind; I think they are far too big, long, and ugly. I kept pulling my hand away from his and he got frustrated. “Why are you doing that?” I said, “Because I hate my hands.” He looked so confused. “Why? Let me see them.” After many tugs away, I finally let him hold it. He then looked at my hands and then glanced at me. “I love your hands.” And he went on to tell me why he loved them. Then he made me say something else I didn’t like about myself. “My eyes… I wish I had blue eyes.” The he told me why he loved my big brown eyes. We went on until I had named everything off; and tears went down my cheeks. He had touched my soul in a way no one else had. And none of it had to do with sexual attraction; he wanted me to know that he loved everything about me. Ladies, find a man who lifts you up. Who scares away all of your fears. Because one day you will give birth to a baby and your belly will be softer with stretch marks, and you will wish you had a man who still looks at you like you are the sexiest woman alive. Because he loves you and not your looks.

I was very open about my fears with dating. He walked alongside me through anxiety attacks, tears, and fear. He made me write down my fears on a piece of paper. From being hurt to being alone. He then went through each one and told me why I didn’t have to be afraid, pointing me back to God. Find a man who will continually point you back to God in your struggles, who will remind you that you serve a God Who can take care of all of your fears. Because one day you may be in the bathroom floor, just having a miscarriage and in your deepest pit of despair; and that husband will be the one to point you back to a Faithful Father you are mad at. Who will guide your soul back to peace and love in the midst of so much pain.

It’s important who you sign up to live the rest of your life with and become one with and I could go on and on about the many reasons why I knew my husband was my own. He has so many beautiful characteristics that continually make me want to be better and more like him. But I will leave you with a quick list of reminders.

1. God has someone for you. He said it was not good for man to be alone. There may be a small few called to celibacy and singlehood, but it is not many. Marriage is holy and is the best teacher of our souls. So hold on to hope and do not rush into something out of loneliness. You will know when your soul finds it’s pair.

2. Watch for their fruits. If you are dating someone who is not bearing godly fruits in their lives, then it is wise to step away. If they are angry a lot, mean, disrespectful, or pressure you to into sexual things, but proclaim to serve God, then you need to take another look. A godly man will point you towards God, protect your purity, and treat you well.

3. Listen to the Holy Spirit. We do not serve a quiet God Who doesn’t talk to His people. If you sincerely pray that God would let you know what His perfect will is, He will let you know. It is your job to listen and obey, and not go off of your own flesh and will. If you ever find it hard to pray for God’s will to be done in your relationship, it may mean that your flesh is fighting your spirit. God’s plan for our life is so perfect. I remember thinking that I had found my husband once, and God asked me to end that relationship. I found out later on after being married some scary things about this person, that would have destroyed a marriage. What may hurt for a little while, is not worth the hurt that comes with disobeying God and marrying the wrong person.

4. If you want to be married, date for marriage. Dating for “fun” is not really a biblical principle. It is not “fun” to continuously give parts of yourself away to many different people, all to find yourself feeling empty and still alone. I lived that lifestyle, of constantly needing someone to be interested in me. It led to hurt and loneliness, and a heart that had a wall around it. Had I just let God love me and make me whole, it wouldn’t have been so hard for Tyler to break down those walls. If you want to be married, your heart is not your own. Think of your decisions as impacting your future spouse, because whether you think they will or not, every decision you make impacts your future relationship. So, if marriage is your goal, make it clear to those interested in dating you (maybe not as bluntly as I did), but you get the point.

5. Lastly, marriage is not your ultimate goal. Marriage is holy, amazing, and definitely one of the best decisions of my life. But getting married and being a wife and mother, those things are not and should not be what you live for. Yes, I am so happy God blessed me to be Tyler’s wife and John’s mother, but my first purpose is as His daughter. My first goal is to serve God with my whole heart, mind, and soul, to do what He created me to do. If you are in a season of singleness and marriage is all you can think about, try letting yourself fall in love with God. Try serving God for the sake of serving your King, instead of hoping your obedience will lead to a husband. Marriage is a blessed thing, but it is not everything. Remember your season is a beautiful season to enjoy! Singleness has many perks that marriage takes away. So enjoy your season, hope in God, and serve Him however He asks.

I remember someone told me that the best way to find your spouse is to run towards God so fast, that one day you happen to look over and see your spouse running next to you. You may find them when you stop looking.

So, all of this to encourage you on your journey. Do not just give yourself away to the next cute person that shows interest in you. Be wise in your choices, prayerful in your decisions, and let the Holy Spirit lead you to His perfect will. I love you all! Happy (future) homemaking!


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!

He is with You in the Fire

In Daniel chapter three, the story of Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-Nego is told. I am sure you have read the story before (if not I urge you to), but essentially what happens is they are ordered to bend down and worship the image of King Nebuchadnezzar every time they hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, or psaltery. What happens is they of course do not worship another god, and so they are ordered to be put into the furnace.

When the king says they will be put into the furnace, he asks, “Who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” They answer essentially, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image you have set up.”

Later on, while they are in the fire, bound, those who were viewing it asked if the king had ordered only three men to be cast into the furnace, because as they looked they said, “I see four men loose (remember they were bound), walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

When they were released, they had not been touched by the fire. Not one hair had been singed, not one piece of clothing affected; the smell of smoke was not even on them.

God was speaking to me about this story the other day. Many times we pray for the storms and trials of this life not to touch us. We ask to be delivered from hardships and trouble, yet at the same time we pray to see the miracles of God at work in our life. Without trouble, how can we see miracles?

If the Israelites had not been pushed to the edge of the Red Sea without hope, how could the miracle of God splitting it be done? We want the splitting of the Red Sea, without the Egyptians following behind us. We want to see God come through mightily in our lives, without being placed in the furnace. We need to have the attitude of these three, who believe in the deliverance of God, but still say, “But if not…” We often will serve God and walk in faith as long as things are going our way. “I will serve you God, as long as it seems you are on my side.” We need to tell the enemy, “Listen, My God loves me and will deliver me from this storm, BUT IF NOT, I will still serve Him and love Him, because He is my God.” Adopt this attitude, and watch your life change.

With all that said, there was something more that God showed me through this story I had never seen before. Jesus was with them; He joined them in the fire.

With Christmas coming, it is a time we remember the story of Jesus’ birth. And we think of the baby in the manger, with the angels and gifts, and we smile. What we forget is that we are celebrating WHY He came. He didn’t come to just be a baby in a manger, He came to set us free from death and sin. And to do this He had to come wrapped in flesh.

He came in the flesh so that He could be tempted as we are, tried as we are, and troubled as we are. Yet, He did it without sin. He came in the flesh and suffered in the flesh; beaten, bruised, battered, crucified. All so that we could be free.

You see just as Jesus joined Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the furnace that day, so He “joined” us in our suffering here on Earth. Without Him, we would remain a people separated from the presence of God. Sick, dead, without hope. Now, because He joined us in the fire of humanity, we are given a hope, a new life, and complete restoration.

While this story can show how in the midst of our trials, God will show His glory, cover us in His presence, and protect us, there is also another beautiful thing. You see, God loved us so much, and was so tired of being separated from His people, He joined us.

In the furnace we set ablaze for ourselves through sin, Jesus stepped in to join in our suffering. As the three left the furnace, remember the fourth never stepped out. The three left completely untouched by the flames that were supposed to kill them. Not one hair singed. No smell of fire.

Just as that, because Jesus came and stood in our place, we can stand without a single hair singed from death and no stench of sin on us any longer. What was meant to kill us and separate us from God forever, Jesus entered into and stood in our place and now we have an Advocate at the throne.

I say all of this because this season, I believe people need to remember three things.

1. Some people need to remember the WHY behind Jesus’ coming. It was not to make you go to church more, to read your bible, or to “do” good things. It was to set you free from sin and death so that you can be one with the Father. If you aren’t one with God, ask Him to be one with you. Ask Him to forgive you and set you free. Ask Him to reign in your life. Religious duties will never stand in the gap for true relationship with God. He didn’t create you for church going, bible reading, and works. He created you for communion with Him. Remember this and be free.

2. Some people need some hope. You have been in a season of nothing but trial and tribulation. Maybe you are still in the midst of it and you are without hope. This is to remind you that we are never without hope in God, because we have a God Who loves us so much He joins us in our suffering. He didn’t leave you to suffer alone, but gladly came down and suffered in your place. Remember His faithfulness and hope in this. Trials end, but His faithfulness remains forever. Where catastrophe and storm has bruised and battered you, remember He is the God Who restores completely. When you come out of this, not one hair will be singed, and no one will be able to smell the fire you have been through. Have hope and expect in Him!

3. Remember they were bound in the fire before Jesus came. If you are bound and do not have the Lord in your life, He can set you free. What man had done to them, God had completely erased. What man had ordained for them, God rewrote their story. If the people in this world have touched your life in such a way that you believe the lie you are forever scarred and cursed to live in chains they have spoken over you, remember this: only God has the power to tell your story. What harm they intended for you, God will turn around for His Glory. You are not stained by your past, but God is the Master Artist Who can make all things new.

I want everyone in this Christmas season, not to rely on the pretty, “baby in a manger” scene. That baby in the manger was the King of everything. That baby was sent to suffer, on our behalf. That baby, after suffering for us, came back and took His seat beside the Father. We are co-heirs with Christ. This means you are no orphan, you are no victim, you are no poor man. You are new in Christ, you are a slave to sin no longer. You do not live in fear. You walk with authority and the power of God! I’m tired of seeing Christians continuing in bondage, when your inheritance is so much more. Accept the freedom due you, and walk in it.

I love you all and remember, happy homemaking! Make that home a powerful place of God’s presence and restoration!

#Momfail: They All Fall Down

Can I just be honest and vulnerable here? This week has felt like a non-stop strand of mom fails. Non-stop.

Have you ever just messed up so many times you just feel like stopping? Or running away? Or just crying? Or maybe all of the above? That’s been me this week.

So John has been accelerating in movement. I’m talking crawling, pulling up on furniture, moving from item to item, trying to LITERALLY JUMP OFF OF STUFF. I’m pretty persuaded he wants to injure himself.

It’s one thing if babies hurt themselves when you’re not watching, but to have them hurt themself everyday when you’re just two steps away is pretty frustrating.

Let me let you in on this week. He fell off the bed, he hit his eye on the dresser knob (don’t ask me how), he’s fallen from holding on to the table about 15 times, slipped in the bathtub and got water in his face, and the list goes on and on.

It has really made me question my ability as a mother this week. I am sucking it up real bad at the moming. I know all babies fall down, especially when learning to move their little bodies, but at the same time you can’t help but blame yourself when it happens and you can’t stop it!

In all honesty its just been a really hard week for me in general. As a mother and wife I’ve been going and growing through some things. I have felt like no matter how hard I try, I end up failing. I’ve been studying the fruits of the Spirit and ironically feel like I’ve done nothing but walked in the flesh this week. Impatience, anger, frustration. Just falling on my face, over and over.

And as I write this, maybe that’s the whole lesson for me this week? Maybe God is wanting me to realize, like babies, we all fall down. But scripture says the righteous man falls seven times but gets back up.

So, if you’re a mama who has failed this week? Get back up. If you’re a wife who has been naggy a little too much, get back up. If you’ve complained instead of being thankful, cursed instead of blessing, or have really done a bad job at portraying Christ, my answer is this: get back up.

Keep pursuing holiness and not perfection. Keep pursuing His strength and not your own. Keep leaning all of yourself on Him completely.

Paul says that he boasts in his weakness, because where we are weak, God is strong! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God’s grace is sufficient for you AND your clumsy little baby.

I love you guys! Happy homemaking!