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!

Clearing the Cobwebs: The Life of a Trail-blazer

You are more Christ-like in the storms, than when the sea is smooth.

Have you ever been hiking before and had the lovely job of being in the front of your group? If you have you understand that often you are the one who gets hit with all of the spiderwebs, branches, and unknowns. I once was the first in line on a trail and felt every single cobweb going across my skin, sticking so fast and hard it was almost impossible to get it off. I quickly learned that lesson and often took the second or third position after that.

It’s quite humorous to watch the first person on a hike because they usually are jumping up and down or swishing their hands in front of their bodies like a ninja attacking an invisible opponent. It’s not as humorous to be the one who is being attacked though.

There was a time in my life I felt like I was getting hit by life’s cobwebs; like I was the person in the front; the trail-blazer. I remember a time when I went from on fire for God to what felt like overnight into a battle with doubt and unbelief. I remember laying on my dorm bed and crying with frustration because I didn’t know why I was battling doubt and how to be rid of it. It was a very difficult spiritual season for me. I remember in the midst of that, I started isolating myself from others (which is a tendency for me in hard times). My best friend made me go out to a movie with her and some of her cousins, so I obliged.

After the movie (which did help distract my mind a little), we ran into an old high school friend in the hallway of the theater. We caught up with him and talked about our lives and what we had been doing for quite some time. I remembered that the last time I had talked with him, he was on fire for God and really passionate about the Lord. But the young man I was speaking to in that movie theater seemed to be a whole different person. He began talking about his struggles with his faith and the doubt that some of his college professors had instilled in his mind. Standing there in that theater the Holy Spirit immediately brought my attention to my struggle with doubt. “This is why,” He said to me.

I was able to empathize with my old friend and in that moment the Lord spoke much wisdom and freedom to him. Things I had been struggling with, the Lord began to preach through me to my friend and I sat back obedient, amazed at His faithfulness. I had bought an apologetics bible to help me with my faith during that struggle, one that helped people defend the Gospel. God told me to give that bible to that young man later that night. When I laid my head down to sleep that night, no doubt or unbelief remained. I was free. It was amazing how quickly it ceased.

I tell this story because that night I realized sometimes we go through struggles in order to help others. Sometimes, quite on purpose, God will let us deal with things in life so that we would be able to serve another in their hard season with empathy and compassion, rather than judgement. I remember that night being amazed at God’s faithfulness to that young man, that He cared so much for Him He would set me up ahead of time to help him.

That is one example of the many times I have gone through things to help someone else. I remember after my miscarriage sitting on the couch with my bestfriend and just talking a lot of my faith struggles out years later. She said something to me, about how I helped ‘pave the way’ for her as she goes through life changes after I have been through them. I remember saying to her in my frustration and flesh, “I’m tired of having to go through every tough battle to help others; I need a break.”

She looked at me and said, “Katie, you’re just clearing the cobwebs for others.” Since then, that saying as changed my outlook completely. When I go through hard times, I think of the “WHO” it may help in the future. When I struggle with something in my mind, my marriage, motherhood, or my walk with God, I don’t see it as an end, but as a beginning of freedom for someone else down the road.

When in a pity party about this trail-blazing anointing, the Holy Spirit spoke so sweetly to my bitter soul as He usually does. “You are more Christ-like in storms than when the seas are smooth.” In that instant I realized that Christ was our trail-blazer. Christ went before us, took our due punishment, and paved the way of salvation so that we could enjoy eternal communion with the Father. He didn’t have to do that, just as we don’t have to let our struggles help others. But He did it because He loved us, and to be like Christ and love others, we also take the struggle for even just one soul.

“For [as a believer] you have been called for this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you may follow in His footsteps. He committed no sin, nor was deceit ever found in His mouth. While being reviled and insulted, He did not revile or insult in return; while suffering, He made no threats [of vengeance], but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross [willingly offering Himself on it, as on an altar of sacrifice], so that we might die to sin [becoming immune from the penalty and power of sin] and live for righteousness; by His wounds you [who believe] have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:21-24

We also can heal through our woundedness if we allow God to take our struggles, sins, and brokenness and use it for His glory. I believe that God would have sent Jesus for just one person because He sees them as worth it. So even if your struggle helps just one, they are worth it.

So, if you are going through some battles and storms in this life, think of it as just clearing the cobwebs for those behind you. See your overcoming that obstacle as the way in which God can set free someone else. When you see your battle as a tool for the salvation of another’s soul, it makes the fight so much more worth it. So keep your chin up, flail your arms through those cobwebs in praise of Him, and keep blazing that trail.

So that one day you too can say, “I have fought the good and worthy and noble fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith [firmly guarding the gospel against error].” 2 Timothy 4:7.

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!

The Key to a Happy New Year

Happy…happy…happy! What a word that is thrown around all the time. Especially this time of the year! A new year! It’s such an amazing and exciting time for the unknown. One tradition I always do around this time every year is just take a moment to breathe and think about where I was this time last year. Did I do the things I wanted to do? Did I chase the passions I wanted to chase? And then I think about the next year; I think about all the things that can happen in one year.

New years are the perfect time to start “anew”. They are the perfect time to gain back hope and get excited for all the things that lie ahead of us. But they can also be a time where it is easy to fall into the fear trap. Many opportunities lie ahead in the new year, but so do many unknowns. That can be a little scary. We worry about the new year. Will it be like last year? Will I go through trials again? Will it be hard again? What if bad things happen? What if I’m not happy?

Last year was an amazing year of ups and downs for me. I had my first baby, bought my first house, graduated with my master’s degree and celebrated two years with my love. But also there were many hard times. Times of anxiousness, depression, doubt, and numbness. Many times last year I struggled with that word: “happiness”. I fell into comparison traps, I blamed everyone around me for not feeling happy (including my husband and baby), I blamed my past hurts for keeping me stuck in a pit of despair. Yes, there were times I felt strong in the Lord, but any time something hard happened and my “Happy” was hurt, I returned back to murmuring, complaining, fault-finding, and even finding myself angry towards God.

Yesterday, I felt a general sense of just unhappiness. As I walked through the day, I tried to find every reason for why I was feeling the way I felt. “Well, nothing new and exciting is happening in my life….” “Well, my husband has been getting on my nerves lately….” “Well, my baby has been very clingy and hard to deal with lately….” “Well, my body still isn’t what I want it to be…” “Well, God still hasn’t healed me…” “Blah, blah, blah”. I was sick of being with myself by the end of the day.

After I got baby into bed and my husband went to sleep, I thought maybe a “self-care” night would help. I soaked my feet, watched I Love Lucy, drank some hot peppermint tea, took a bubble bath, and yet the numb sadness was still there. I put my phone down beside the bath, took a deep sigh, and realized what needed to be done. The key to happiness wasn’t going to be found in more “me” time. It wouldn’t be from drastic romantic dates and notions from my hubby. It wouldn’t come from a constantly happy baby and a fit body. Happiness wouldn’t come when all of my wants were met. It could only come from one thing: humility.

I realized that I had been attempting to find blame in everyone and everything else for why I felt the way I did. I wanted to put the responsibility for my happiness on everyone else, that way I didn’t have to do it myself. I realized that I had been walking in selfishness and pride; thinking that the only person that mattered was “me..me…me”. It will exhaust you as a Christian to walk in pride and selfishness, because Christ’s nature of servanthood lies within you and they cannot coincide together in peace.

When you feel yourself always feeling unhappy, think about WHO has been on your mind lately. Is it you? This world teaches us that it’s all about making ourselves happy; it’s all about doing what makes us happy. Who cares if it hurts someone else or you have to walk over everyone else or you have to leave people behind, as long as your happy, you do it. What’s sad is that this type of thinking can slowly leak into our minds as Christians, if we are not careful and cautiously taking inventory of our thought life and heart attitudes.

Movies tell us that romance is always butterflies and fireworks, so if we are not getting that 24/7 then our spouses need to step up and make us happy. Instagram moms post pictures of their perfect babies, always clean, always happy, always doing what they are supposed to. Then our babies act like humans and we think that we did something wrong or got the short end of the stick. Prosperity gospels tell us that God should always bless us and fulfill our every desire, but when we don’t get every single thing we expect from Him, we get bitter and disappointed at God. But did you notice, we never turn our eyes on ourselves.

It’s time we stop blaming everyone else for our current emotional turmoil. It’s time we stop blaming our families for our stress and our jobs for our unhappiness. It’s time we stop blaming God for our disappointments and let down expectations. It’s time we turn the mirror on our own souls and get to the nitty gritty. It’s time to humble ourselves.

I sat in the bath and I wept. For so long I have been murmuring, complaining, and thinking negatively. For so long I was waiting on everything around me to line up perfectly in order for me to find happiness. When the whole time the problem was me. Wrong attitudes, wrong motives, wrong outlooks. Selfishness, pride, envy.

I asked God to forgive me for not being thankful for His many blessings. For always looking at the bad instead of the good. For wanting Him to do my will instead of His will. For blaming everyone else for my problems, instead of the fact that I was running. I didn’t need more self love or self care. I needed time with Jesus. I needed to hit my knees and humble myself and realize that it was me all along that was responsible for my happiness.

David in the bible was often in the midst of trial and turmoil. But one thing you can find in him, is that he always encouraged himself in the Lord. He didn’t need 15 different small groups, 100 new friends, and social media to make him feel good when he struggled. He took it upon himself to encourage himself in the Lord. Sometimes we don’t need to reach for the phone when we are feeling downtrodden or worried. We need to reach into our spirits and say to our soul, “Why, oh my soul, are you downcast? Why are you so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5).

There is a point when you have to tell yourself, enough is enough! Stop allowing the enemy to walk over you. Stop letting life’s circumstances declare whether you are going to praise God and walk in thankfulness or not. Stop waiting on everyone else to bring you peace and joy, when you can speak to your soul and tell it to rise up!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6). Sometimes, your struggles in life are not because of other people but because you have chosen to continue to walk in defeat. Sometimes you are your own problem. If you speak negatively, think negatively, walk in defeat, murmur, complain, and never count your blessings, then you can bet that you will walk in depression, anxiety, and bitterness.

It’s time to get up! Shake the dirt off, walk in victory, and be who God has called you to be. Stop waiting on others to do the hard work for you. The pastor ain’t gonna do it for you; the people in the alter ain’t gonna do it for you; your friends and spouses aren’t gonna do it for you. If you have struggled with the same sin, the same defeating thoughts, the same fears over and over again, it’s time to humble yourself, surrender to God, and walk in victory. Proclaim His Word instead of your fears. Walk in thanksgiving and praise instead of doubt and complaining.

Stop seeking blog posts to give you the “top 5 mindfulness attitudes” to bring you happiness. Stop buying all of the products that advertise they will complete you. Stop filling your life so full of plans that you cannot find a moment of peace and quiet to hear from God. Make this year the year that you stop relying on others to fill you up, and rely on God instead. Humble yourself, come to Him, and let Him be everything that you need. You will be amazed to find that in the midst of humility (which hurts very bad sometimes), you will find happiness.

The Never-Ending Cycle of Cycles: What to do when Baby goes through a New Cycle

If you have had a little one for any amount of time, you know what I am talking about. Cycles. They go from cluster feeding all night long, to sleeping a little longer. Right when you get used to that they start teething and sleep regressions. When you finally start sleeping again, separation anxiety starts. When they finally sleep again, teething happens, AGAIN.

It feels like a never ending cycle of well… cycles. Little man is going through two cycles right now… separation anxiety and teething. Right when I had him sleeping through the night and I thought I was getting my sanity back, hour wake ups, tears, and out right screaming begin again. It can really get exhausting!

What we are facing right now is mainly separation anxiety. It feels like I can’t leave the room to even pee sometimes and he’s crying. We attempted Santa pictures last night and well…. just see for yourself.

Sometimes it is precious to know that someone loves you so much and needs you as a comforter… sometimes it is smothering and you just crave a moment of silence, fresh air, a HOT cup of coffee, and uninterrupted bathroom breaks. I’m just being real.

So if you’re going through a new cycle, I am sorry and hang in there! I’ve heard it gets better! But last night, after FOUR times of trying to get John to sleep (me and the hubby took turns in between games of Farkle), I finally amidst the frustration thought about cycles. What was going through little man’s mind? What was he feeling to make him need some hugs? Was it because he was emotionally scarred from seeing Santa???!? (okay this one really did go through my mind).

Finally, I reached down and grabbed a small fuzzy rabbit and let him hug around it as I rocked him to sleep. And he took the ear and began rubbing it against his face as his eyes finally bounced, FINALLY drifting to sleep. I rocked him a little longer, and laid him down. He slept through the night, after about two weeks of waking up multiple times, he finally slept through the night.

Now I’m not going to say that a rabbit will fix every problem. But sometimes as mamas and daddy’s we get so fixated on sleep that we don’t really think about the Why’s behind the cycles. Maybe baby’s teeth are hurting bad, maybe they’re afraid when they wake up and find themselves alone because they’re still learning object permanence, maybe their tummy feels crampy because they tried a new food today that didn’t sit right. Babies are not just little dolls that go to sleep, they are humans with emotions and brains learning lots of new things. Baby John just needed some extra comfort, and to feel as though he was not alone.

Maybe if we remembered a time we felt anxious, we could extend a little grace and hug them a little longer. Maybe if we remembered how bad a tooth ache hurts or how bad it aches to grow wisdom teeth, we can cuddle them a little longer and give them some help with the pain. Maybe we can empathize with our little ones, when they wake because their tummies hurt by remembering that one time after a Mexican restaurant (we’ve all been there).

I say all of this because last night, I had to remind myself some things.

1. Babies are human; and that little human depends on me. So be there for them, and let the frustration go. I signed up for this.

2. It’s scary to grow and learn; there are new things every day that are broadening their minds. So empathize with them, and reassure them that you’re not leaving and you will be there as they explore new things.

3. We truly only have such a short time with them as little ones. Time goes by so fast. So let’s stop thinking about sleep and think about those precious times when baby can still curl up on your chest and you can still fit them in your arms.

So, if you’re going through a new cycle with baby, grab you another cup of coffee, suit up with your mom bun, and love that baby with everything in you. We are their safety nets, so let’s catch them, cradle them, and set them free. I want to start now as he is still little, letting him know it’s okay to ask for extra cuddles when insecure, to come to me and his daddy for comfort when he’s hurting, and that we will both be there for him, even if we lose sleep.

Love y’all and happy homemaking!