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!

Stones of Remembrance: Remembering God’s Faithfulness in the Midst of your Trial

If you have never read Joshua chapters 3 and 4 I urge you to go and read them now. You will read about a miraculous working of God once again in the lives of the Israelites. Essentially, God told Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan, and that when they stepped foot in the water, He would part the waters for them once again as He had done with the Red Sea. What a mighty God we serve.

Although I love to read of His miracles then and hear of them today, that isn’t necessarily the part of the story I want to touch on. As you read in this story, Joshua also tells the Israelites to do something else. As they cross the Jordan (which was by no means a small creek or brook), Joshua tells one man from each tribe to pick up a stone (large enough to carry on their shoulders) from the bottom of the Jordan.

And he explains that the reason for doing so is that when their children, and their children’s children ask why they have kept a stone, that they can then remember God’s faithfulness to them and the miraculous work that He did. These stones became Stones of Remembrance for God’s goodness and faithfulness.

I believe we all make stones of remembrance, but sometimes they are not for God’s goodness or faithfulness to us in the midst of our storms but of the suffering we have. For instance, when I battled anxiety I remember that one of the things I feared was, well, fear itself. At the back of my mind I was always fearing when the next big anxiety attack would hit or fearing if I would live this way forever. It was a dark cycle that was quite exhausting.

One day I was crying out to God regarding this; how am I supposed to ever be free from fear if all I do is fear anxiety?!? I stilled my mind to listen and heard these three words: Stones of Remembrance. I had remembered faintly of this from a teaching at some time, but I could not remember where to find it. So I googled it and read the story of Joshua. What a nice story, I thought to myself, but what does that have to do with what I am dealing with God? (Thank the Lord that He knows how to deal with our sassy attitudes and questionings).

“You have made stones of remembrance to your struggles and not to my faithfulness in the midst of your struggles. When you remember my faithfulness, then you will find yourself free from fear.”

Tears welled up in my eyes and heat filled my cheeks as I realized that I too had made stones of remembrance, but not to my God. I had built stones of remembrance to the onslaught of the enemy, but not to the goodness of God who always delivered me in the midst of those battles. When the darkness of fear gripped my soul, and God would bring peace on my mind, I should have built a stone of remembrance to His goodness to keep His promises. Instead, I remembered the feeling of despair and built a stone of fear’s threats.

Every time I would be going through a somewhat “good” time in my life, my mind would come across those stones made out to fear and fear would have a foothold in my mind. Thus the cycle continued. After God pointed this out to me, I decided to make stones of remembrance to His faithfulness.

Every time fear would raise it’s ugly head and say, “You’re going to have anxiety about this or this will always be a struggle for you,” I would go to my Stone of Remembrance and remind my soul, “Remember the last time you went through this anxiety battle, and God delivered you?” “Remember the last time you thought you would be overtaken, but God strengthened you?” “Remember the last time you didn’t think you could make it through the night, but God was with you until the morning?”

We can replay our sufferings, trials, storms, and traumas over and over again. And when we do we will often find ourselves on the other end of more suffering, trial, and storm. Your mind is a journey and where you allow it to travel, so will your emotions. But when we take control of our thinking and cast down those thoughts and fears and make our thoughts obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), then we can remember God’s goodness and faithfulness, which will give you hope and strength.

Stones of Remembrance were used by the Israelites to remind them and the generations after them of God’s faithfulness and workings of miracles. They would leave the stones in the place where God worked and when they or someone else traveled upon them once again, they could remember what the Lord had done for them. What I found interesting was that Joshua had them pick stones up from the bottom of the Jordan River. These stones would not have been able to be retrieved had God not done something mighty. The stones we pick up in this life our symbols of God’s mighty power and work in our lives. And when the enemy tempts you with a pity party over your sufferings, remind him of the mighty work God has done and will continue to do because He is able to make good out of what is intended for your destruction (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20).

When you go through a trial or storm and come on the other side of it, don’t create a stone of remembrance that will remember and praise the attack, but create a stone of remembrance of God’s faithfulness to you and His goodness to you in that hard time. It’s time we take back control of our thinking and instead of being accused all of the time by our accuser, we can remember the love and goodness of God.

So if you find yourself traveling through the same cycles of fear of the future, fear of the next attack, remembering struggles, sins, and traumas, go ahead and make a stone of remembrance that will help you remember that God gave you the strength to get through it and He will do it again. We do not have to live in fear of the future because we know Who is already there, Who has already prepared the way for us, and Who has already brought victory and deliverance through Christ Jesus.

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!

Be Still, Don’t Feel

I love the movie Frozen, and I cannot wait to have a daughter who will enjoy singing along to it with me! One of the lines in the oh so famous song, “Let it Go” says, “be still, don’t feel” and now you’re singing it in your head. You’re welcome.

With Disney plus out, I have been binging on Disney movies and watched Frozen this week. And this line has stuck in my mind. Not because this is the most catchy song ever, but because God spoke the same thing to my heart. Be still. Don’t feel.

Now you may be thinking, wait, God told you not to feel? And you would be exactly right. But God gives us feelings and emotions? Why would He tell you not to feel?

Because our feelings are a part of our soul that needs redeeming and sanctification every day, the things I feel may not always be from God. Sometimes I have to weigh what I am feeling next to the Word of God in order to know what is of Him and what is of myself.

This past month has been tough for me spiritually, personally, and mentally. God has been pruning me of myself, taking away selfishness, impatience, anger, and so many other things (why are we so messed up???). It can get very overwhelming in these seasons because it feels like no matter where you turn, you are being shown another bad part of yourself, and it really starts to weigh on you. You question everything about yourself, trying to do everything in your own power to fix yourself.

But I believe that is the hardest lesson in the midst of all of this; learning to be still and let God fix me. Letting Him finally be God over my life instead of me attempting to maintain control ALL. THE. TIME.

Now on to feeling. In the realness and vulnerability I promised to have on this blog, I had some rough feelings this week. With my selfish nature and impatience coming to the surface, you can only imagine tensions between my husband and I have been at an all time high. And because I have been so fleshy, I have not relied on the Spirit’s guidance but rather myself. So that has led to me overthinking, over reacting, and feeling/thinking up a false narrative about my husband, all because I did not choose to surrender my flesh to the leading of the Spirit.

So what starts as a small misunderstanding grows into feelings of division, separateness, bitterness, and anger. All because when a thought and feeling appeared that was contrary to truth, I decided to hang on to it rather than get rid of that garbage. And it continued. And continued. And days later I am literally a dumpster of feelings and emotions. An emotional wreck.

I was so anxious and in so much turmoil that I finally in my stubbornness decided to turn to God and hear what He had to say (should have done this sooner). And He tells me one line, “Be still. Don’t feel.”

1. Be Still. I needed to still myself in Him; rely myself completely in Him, and let Him speak truth to my mind. I needed to allow the Spirit to reveal my messiness so that it could be healed, rather than rely on a broken mind to filter my experiences through. Had I done this sooner, I would have realized that what I am going through is called purification and I need to lean on Him harder than ever before.

“Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

“The Lord will fight for you while you [only need to] be still [keep silent and remain calm].” Exodus 14:14

It’s time we actually start practicing what we claim all the time. If we claim that God is Lord of our life yet continue to disallow Him to reign, are we hypocrites? I know I haven’t been surrendering like I should, and that needs to change if I want to live in the Spirit and not the flesh.

2. Don’t Feel. Feelings, although real, are not always true. Your feelings only have as much merit as they align with the Word of God. If they speak anything contrary, then it is a lie, and needs to be made obedient to Christ.

“We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Thoughts and feelings not aligned with the Word of God destroy our lives. My feelings this week, had I continued in them, could have destroyed my marriage. My feelings could have broken a family apart. Feelings and thoughts are serious matters, and that’s why we are told to take captive every single thought. Those feelings that I was having were allowed because of pride, selfishness, and bitterness.

So I leave you with some wisdom God gave me this week. Stop feeling and thinking toxic things you were never meant to carry. We have the minds of Christ, and are given specific guidelines on what we should be thinking about and letting in our minds. If it’s contrary, make it obedient!

“Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].” Philippians 4:8

Just a simple switch of my feelings and thoughts from lies to truth led to one of the most redemptive, healing, and merciful moments I have ever had with my husband. A moment of God’s pure peace, grace, and restoration in our marriage. No it wasn’t a BIG problem; but taking our small issues and handing them to God protects our marriage from big cracks in the foundation. So there is no problem too little to take seriously in your marriage.

I urge you to watch your feelings and thoughts. Don’t let unredeemed, broken things tell you how to live, react, and carry out your life. Let God be the one Who reigns even over your hearts, minds, and emotions.

I love you all and hope that through some of my hard lessons you can learn to be still and don’t feel every feelings and thought thrown at you from the enemy.

Happy homemaking! Go make your home a place where God reigns!