Dear Daughter-in-law

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Dear Daughter-in-law,

My sons are one of my deepest loves. I will fight for and support them until the day I die.  There is a lie out there that mother-in-law has to be the enemy. I am so thankful that this is not the case but there is more on my heart for you to know.
One of the best ways that I can love my adult son is to be your champion.

Champion: To fight for, defend, or support.

Daughter-in-law, you are a fellow woman but more than that you are now my family. I will shout for joy with your accomplishments, I will walk with you through the trials and be a source of hope when you are feeling less than.

Daughter-in-law, your concerns are my concerns. I will not side with my son just because he is my son when you come to me for counsel. I am your champion as well as his. You can confidently know that I will not run to him every time you may come to me with something on your heart. You can know I don’t ever expect you to come but I am always here when you need to.

I champion your success. I champion for you to be joyful, confident and fulfilled not only in your marriage but in your place of this family.
You are to always come first in his life. You are to be his focus and your happiness is his greatest concern.

Daughter-in-law, you are a treasure to never be overlooked as life gets crazy or the comfortable sets in, I will remind him to date you and pursue you forever. To listen to your heart. To be your helper and leader. To put your needs above his own and to love you first.
His greatest duty is to you, his wife and partner. I will forever be your champion because not only are you his, you are now mine.

 

Sorry… Not Sorry

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An open letter of apology, for those who were before and those yet to come.

Authentic: not false or copied; genuine; real: representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified: reliable; trustworthy:

I am sorry I had spoken too quickly, I will now be more aware. I am sorry that I thought our relationship was at a level that we could speak openly into each other’s lives, the good the bad and the real. I am sorry that you were hurt. I am sorry that you feel that I was not the kind of person you wanted to be around because in your words; “we are too different”. I am sorry you didn’t feel bold enough to tell me I crossed the line or anything was wrong. I am sorry that I thought you understood my physical limits, sometimes my smile hides the reality.

I am not sorry that I am authentic, it is who I am. I am not sorry that I seek a community that is bold and truthful with one another, I am not one for a smile and the fake.
I am not sorry that I can’t measure up to your expectations, especially if I don’t know what they are.   I am not sorry that I am human, flaws and all. I am not sorry that I want to know all of you; the good the bad and the real. I am not sorry that when I see one hurting and pouring out their heart to me, I have wanted to share that I too have been there and where my truths and personal victories came from. I am not sorry that when I share all of me, my hope is that you will share all of you. I am not sorry that I am open to the fullest connection. I am not sorry that I told the blunt truth even if it hurt, because others have done so for me and it was my defining moments of clarity. I am not sorry that I must grow and learn from this and now know that not everyone wants the same kind of relationship.

Yes, we are called to encourage, lift up, edify and bring joy.  However, if I saw you walking straight into oncoming traffic, I would grab you and pull you out of the danger zone. I would not smile and wave you on.

Let me say to the ones that are absolutely completely my polar opposites, that love me just as I am, to those that can discuss everything under the sun, even if we don’t agree and still smile across the table without being offended, that will tell me when I am too much, or that they flat out believe I am insane because I believe in a God that speaks to me and they don’t believe in one at all, thank you. Thank you for loving me, and making the effort to be true with me. Thank you for not discarding me like so many have. Thank you for the lesson that just because you want someone to love you, it doesn’t mean they will, but others are waiting. I am sorry for the disconnect, but I am not sorry for being me.

Lord help me walk in this truth. Reveal where I lack and give me the wisdom needed to know who is my community. 

Ephesians 4:20-32 English Standard Version (ESV)

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[a] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

10 Ways to Bless away the Stress

I mentioned in a previous post that by being a blessing and serving others, the focus was off of me and my ‘issues’ that were leading to anxiety. I literally was able to bless away the stress. To be quite honest though, that was not my intent, but it was the fruit of it all.
Now mind you, the motive is key.  If you bless others hoping to get something from them in return, you can be very disappointed and if you are not careful it can sow seeds of resentment.

10 ways to Bless away the Stress

1. Get involved in a local fundraiser in your community.
If you are not able to give financially, you can see if there is an area that needs your involvement through volunteering.
My favorite events from the past have been fundraisers for child abuse prevention, cancer research, rare disease awareness, newborn advance screening efforts,  youth groups, pregnancy counseling, school supply drives, and holiday gift baskets.

2. Send texts, cards, or letters of encouragement.  One of my hardest seasons left me very lonely, so I wrote letters to strangers. I encouraged them and shared what was on my heart. I had a PO BOX set up specifically. Remember the key is to encourage and edify, building someone up.
I had many replies back and corresponded for some time. I even obtained a very close friend as an added joy.
If strangers are not your thing, perhaps a pen pal to soldiers, prisoners or the many efforts asking for cards to those that are ill.

3. Leave flowers or your favorite craft on a doorstep to surprise someone. You may want to leave them for a friend, neighbor, or even local business that you frequent.

4. Serve someone that is ill or has a recent loss in the family. Meals, babysitting, dog walking, and house cleaning are all ways that you could bless someone with this need.

5. Give health packs to the homeless. I have handed out packs with water, wipes, soft granola bars, feminine products, socks, hand warmers, etc.

6. Visit the elderly. You could ask the staff at your local elder care facility if there is anyone that has a need for visitors. Or you can offer to set up activities in the common area. We have held Christmas Caroling in the lobby.

7. Far and away. It can be life-changing for you and a blessing to those you serve, to go on a mission trip. There are many options out there to serve all interests. If you are not one that feels comfortable or able to travel, consider supporting someone else’s trip financially.

8. Purchase gift cards and give as the needs arise. Often if families are out of work or have loved ones in the hospital, receiving gift cards can ease the burden.  Grocery stores, Gas stations, and restaurants are some of my favorites. If you know someone that has been under the weather, gift cards for self-care are great too!

9. Engage in conversation. Some of my most blessed moments are conversations in the grocery store with the clerk or encouraging my waitress in some small way. You don’t have to talk for hours. Just a kind word and a thank you can go a long way.

10. Host a community event giving others the chance for connection: Christmas caroling followed by hot chocolate,  lead a bible study or book group at a coffee shop, organize a block party for your neighborhood, or host a game night at a local meeting place are some examples.

I would love to hear more creative ideas, so please share!

Just Get Over It

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The darkness is overwhelming and their head is spinning and I have heard others that have never dealt with depression or anxiety, look at them and use the words, “Just get over it.” And I  see the faces of the ones in the struggle, hearing these words while the shoulders tighten and their head sags in defeat. My own thoughts start to swirl, and I think to myself if they were able to just get over it, don’t you think they would? Who wants to live this way?

There is an ever-revolving cycle when dealing with depression and anxiety that often leads to someone overwhelmed and in a place of isolation. The motivation and even energy to just get over it are lacking, as they might even see what they ought to do but just can’t bring themselves to make the changes that will bring them out.

There are some things that helped me in my own process of victory.
Yes, I may still get smacked in the face with anxiety or depression, but with these tools, I am not overtaken by them anymore.

While people may mean well when they say “Just get over it” and offer no solution on how to do so, I have listed some tools that helped me to actually climb above the mountain and see the joy on the other side. You see, you can’t get over something, without the climb.

10 Steps I use to get over it

  1. Talk with a professional:
    First and so important, when facing clinical depression and anxiety is to talk with a professional. I can’t emphasize enough, how encouraging it was to have the support of my doctor. We discussed medications and my reasoning for no longer wanting to be on them. She gave me solid advice on natural ways to combat anxiety and depression. Most importantly she reminded me that I was not alone.
  2.  Deep slow breaths when the thoughts come: 
    The anxiety may rise up, but does not need to become a stronghold. I can take deep slow breaths and release the concern. This is also where I meditate on the word the Lord has given me or spend time in thoughts of His goodness.
  3. Get to the root:
    Recognize where you may be feeding the anxiety and depression. I find it so interesting that even in the word, it says anxiety leads to depression! And over and over it is written to not worry, not be afraid, not to be anxious. But when you are in the ‘feeling’ of it all, how do you not walk in it?
    I was feeding my anxiety by obsessing on things I could do nothing about. I even recently had full-on attacks because so much came at me at once in the last months.
    This was a root, so I had to be aware of how I was opening the doors and being mindful to close them.
  4.  Journal:
    I get all my thoughts down concerning the situation. Then leave it there.
    There is no health in replaying the hard stuff over and over in my mind. Also often when I journal, I see the picture more clearly of where the root is taking ground, than if I try to figure it out on my own.
  5. Remember your victories:
    This has helped me so much! Recognizing joys rather than all the junk.  There is a plan for good things for your life. It may take some very hard searching for a victory but there absolutely is one there. Start with the simple truths if you must, and grow from there.
    Even though this moment is awful,  it is a moment. I know you have had some good ones as well!
    It may take longer than we would like, but the season will change. Remembering the past victories helps us in the waiting.
    This goes in line with focus. Our health is tied so much to what our thought life is. Find more on my thoughts to a victory mindset here: Victory
  6. Change the environment:
    Sometimes when the anxiety comes, just removing myself from where I am at helps. It may not always be possible, like if you are in the middle of a work shift, but when you have the ability to walk away and regroup, do so. When you leave the stressful environment, work hard at not living there in your mind when you are away.
    As crazy as it sounds, sometimes bedtime can be the most anxiety-filled moment of my day. I finally stopped doing and slowed down and my brain tries to roadrunner all over my peace. Honestly, sometimes I will have to remove myself from trying to sleep until I walk through the steps of getting over it.
  7. Diet/ Exercise:
     I am not going to get over anxiety and depression with a body in stress mode for lack of care.
    I know for a fact that gluten along with a myriad of symptoms, amps my anxiety through the roof. I do not have a marked allergy, it is just something that happens. Is there something in your diet that is triggering your anxiety? It may be time to start an elimination process to figure out what it is.
    My friend can’t drink coffee, another has issues with tomatoes, sugar, dairy, and the list goes on. I have touched on this topic on my post: Don’t eat the doughnut.

    Concerning exercise, I have health issues that make it difficult for me without feeling sick. Even walking makes me nauseated (unless I walk with my eyes closed). BUT exercise releases feel-good chemicals that relieve stress! Not to mention your stamina increases and your overall health improves.
    I was down a few days ill, and then my pup had surgery and just a few days without our walk, I felt the difference in my calm meter.

  8. Do for others:
    Community is so important. Isolation leads to depression. When we are serving and doing for others, the focus is off of all of our worries, our own mess and we reap what we are sowing into others.  Keep your eyes open to where there is a need near you. Also, important to remember in regards to this, don’t have expectations from those that you do for, just do for the joy of doing. Otherwise….more anxiety may follow as it may lead to resentment.
  9.  Don’t delay:
    It takes work to overcome anxiety and depression. The longer I walked in it, the harder it was to climb out. I would sink into my isolation and tell myself that I would do better tomorrow, then the next day would come and I would be in the same mess. It is hard to rise up,  but if you wait it becomes even harder. Nobody can do it for us. We must take action ourselves. We can make every excuse to not do, but we will not have victory if we stay still.
  10. Word, Prayer, and Praise and Worship:
    This is my MUST and listed last not because it is the lowest on my list but the one I want to remain on the mind.
    The presence of God is tangible and available. I have complete peace in those moments I am with him. The Lord is my refuge and hiding place.
    (Psalm 91)
    No matter all the steps I do, I personally did not obtain victory until I put this first in my life.
    People will let you down if you run to them for your refuge. They have their own flaws, their own ‘stuff’ and they can’t meet your every need. They make mistakes and they may be your very source of frustration.
    BUT GOD.
    Word helps me remember what He says about me, shows me other victories if I am in the struggle with my own. His word connects me to the heart of my creator that wanted a relationship with me.
    Prayer is my opportunity to cry out and rejoice and thank. I get to pray for others and their situations rather than let the anxiety overwhelm. It is my communication with him and another opportunity for him to speak into my heart.
    Worship is my intimate time with the Lord. It is my, you are mine and I am in your love and belong to you God moment. and Praise is my rejoicing in all He has done, and will do and all that He IS.
    There was a season where I had shut God out due to anger and frustration because life was a mess. The scars were deep and I had disconnected.
    That season was my most anxiety-filled season and the deepest depression I had walked in. Yes, some may argue that it was because the season was hard. Trust me, it wasn’t. Because with God I have walked joyfully through much more difficult seasons because he helped heal each of those scars. With Him, I can do all things and without Him, I fail in my own strength.

Even If…

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These last few months the words resonating in my heart are, “Even If.”

We have had many changes in our life recently and I hate change. My body reacts even when I tell myself everything is fine and all the changes have been for a great purpose and plan.

One of those changes involved us leaving a church of the last five years and follow the Lord in His leading to our next. We knew that we were called but not the why, to our calling.
I told the Lord, even if I don’t have the answers, I will listen to your voice. So in faith, we stepped forward in the plan for our life.

Even though leaving the team of people we had grown to love hurt my heart, I had to obey what I knew to be true and serve my God and husband first. Even if it meant uncomfortable change and new people, a new place and a new level of finding my self in the midst of ministry, I had to say yes.
Even if it means admitting that I took on roles at our previous church that were not my own to take on, in order to try to fill up the restlessness within me.
Even if it meant stepping into a new realm of vulnerability. Even if.

I know there are many purposes for following the Lord in the Even If seasons of our life.
I know that God has done many amazing things in the last 4 months and He has not even touched the surface. But in this process, He has stirred a call I had felt at 15 years old in youth group. Life happened and the leading faded but was never gone. I had begun a collection of paintings in the last few months and titled them “Women of the World.” Little did I know I was painting the very call within my heart…
The call to serve with mission teams.

Here the thoughts would rise up as the stirring would come, but then so would the excuses. Most of which was linked to how I am doing in this season physically. But the thought would not leave that I was called to go and serve.
The stirring rose afresh as I sat with the new church congregation and heard about the heart of serving in Baja Mexico at the Door of Faith Orphanage.
I had every excuse, but the tugging kept coming.
We had no money in savings and the trip was coming fast. I have been in an unbelievable flare physically. We just received additional fees to add to a huge bill from hospital tests and then a few days before DHS sent a bill for overpayment when we were foster parents. This doesn’t account for all the other life needs on hold at the moment.
But mostly my heart I didn’t want to hurt over leaving the orphans and I felt as if I had nothing to offer.
I felt that with my physical limits Dan would have to go and he has absolutely told me over the years this was NOT his area of calling. All these thoughts and excuses rushing my head and I still felt my heart-tugging… EVEN IF. Even if there is no way, God can make the way. Even if there seemed to be too many obstacles, God is able to move those obstacles. Even if I have my doubts…HE is faithful despite them.

So I prayed. I said, God if you truly want me to move in faith as your word says, faith without works is dead, then I am going to be as Gideon and request that you show me without a doubt that it is you that I am hearing and not just my over compassionate mama heart.

These were my conditions as I spoke to the Lord:
I need Dan to go with me. I will not ask.
I need the leader to come to me directly who I have not yet met and tell me that He feels I am to join the team.
I need the provision.

Service was over and Dan leans to me and says, ” I feel like I may be called to go on the mission trip.” I kid you not my mouth about fell to the floor. I may even have laughed out loud. You have to know this is absolutely a tugging from God. He would have not been opened to the idea otherwise.
I was stopped by a friend and visiting after church. I looked over at Dan and He was talking to the leader. Dan called me over and as I was introduced, the team leader said, “God highlighted you to me, I feel you are called to go on this trip.” (paraphrasing as I can’t remember exact words). At this point, I knew and I just nodded my head and said as much.
Now we are waiting on provision and believing for the plan to unfold as we walk out the little hiccups of life in the planning process. The trip is coming fast!
With my lack of knowing where the funds would come from and a time crunch, we had started a go fund me even though I felt so foolish in doing so, I said again…Even If.
The fees for the passport came in first at the Go Fund Me site as well as the cost of plane tickets that were mailed to us. I saw how it was exactly what we needed when we needed it.
We are over halfway to our goal and I know the rest is already accounted for. We are praying for the paperwork we need to move forward will come quickly as Dan had to order his birth certificate before getting a passport. We are on a time crunch. But of course, God already knows this.

I am excited. I know there are many purposes for following the Lord’s leading. But I am still reminded to hold fast to those words… Even If… because often His call does not match my human understanding. Even If I don’t see it, I can rest assured that HE knows it. Even… If.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Love them… Lead them…Let them

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The first and greatest commandment is to love. So often we hear that Christians are despised because they are judgemental and do not show kindness. Christians often confuse their role of loving someone as they think that because of the love they want to show them the way so much that they do in fact become judgemental.

Looking at the definition of LOVE according to Corinthians…
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

This is THE standard of love. So first and foremost we are to love others as God loves His children. We are to be kind and patient and not dishonor.

With that being said, when we have someone we love we are called to lead when we see a pattern of living in destructive choices. Whether they are a Christian or not, we can lead them. Lead by example, lead by action and lead by sharing wisdom. Sharing is not judging. Sharing is not shaming. Sharing is being honest in love with the hope that abundant life will be the result.
I lovingly shared how I saw all the destruction addiction was having on my loved one.
I lovingly shared that there was a better life. There was a life of goodness waiting. I shared how valuable and loved they were.
Same with my loved ones living an unhealthy lifestyle. I also shared how much I mess up my own walk of healthy choices. Being exposed, real and vulnerable.
The snag here is, often when you lead by sharing a better life, those that are not interested or not wanting a change can get defensive. But I ask you, have they become defensive because you mentioned something that concerns you in love with someone you have an established relationship, or are they defensive because you are pushing an issue that they have given you no place to speak into? Also, are you pushing the issue every time you see them?  There are times you must speak out, no matter the response because you are looking at a 911 situation. But, I admit that I have over spoken when it has not been my place (shocker I know ). I have been so excited for another to receive freedom, that I neglected to see the heart. I neglected the loving them first and foremost. Instead of loving as the father I rushed into the fixing and that is not my place.

We all have choices in this life. We all have the right to live how we choose. There comes a point that when you share what you feel may be healthier and produce abundant life, that if someone chooses not to follow your lead, that you let go.
Love them…lead them…let them.
By insisting someone makes the choices you make and then if they don’t you condemn them, you are giving the very opposite of true love.
This brings to mind, however,  that there are times you have loved, lead and then people living in their choices are in fact destroying you. They may destroy your peace, they may destroy your safety, they may just break you personally because your heart is so attached to them. Again… let them. Let them be in their choices and move on.
Jesus himself said (Matthew 10:14) if they do not receive the message you bring to dust your feet and move on. Invest where the investment is welcomed.

The painting above is titled “Goodbye”. The darkness represents all the hurts and blows from those that have rejected her, shamed her, left her, and not received what she had to offer. But the beautiful colors represent what is ahead as She has loved… She has led…. and now She must Let. It is not her place to carry the weight of an other’s unhealthy choices. It is her place to settle in the JOY of knowing that she did as she was called.
May she never forget that first she was called to LOVE.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

Discontent? Perhaps its time to Disconnect!

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My husband is most often a happy go lucky encourager. It isn’t very often that he becomes cloudy and in the dumps. So I asked him the other day if his emotions come in waves at all like the hormonal mad woman that I can be at times lately. I asked if he feels discontent and just doesn’t show it. He thought for a moment and his answer resonated with me.

He said, “I feel a quick rise in frustration or joy when things in life happen. I get mad when someone cuts me off in work traffic or a customer comes at me in ignorance. It is a moment and fades. But you know, what really gets to my emotions is the posts on social media. I have to be mindful to not spend much time on the negative junk that is posted. I can rise in anger at injustice or politics. I can sink in the dumps when I see what others have where I lack in talent or luxuries. I can feel unmotivated when others are doing what I want to be doing but don’t know how or feel I can’t leave my profession. A lot is to be said about what your thoughts are on. Until social media, I was a lot easier going than I am now if I let the junk in.”

I too have felt this very thing. It starts as a little stirring of discontent. Perhaps as you scroll you see someone far more talented than you see yourself. You compare and your brain begins to scramble with all the thoughts of how you can improve or how you can measure up, or even how you just can’t. Then you see a political post that you are the polar opposite of and you grow frustrated how far one way or the other politics has swung. Your mind is filled with even more scramble and emotions.
Maybe you make an innocent comment on a post and you are attacked with bullies hitting you in very personal ways. Add more scramble and discontent. Then you disconnect from those that are around you.
If you are unmotivated and discontent in your creativity perhaps you need to disconnect from comparison and seeing what everyone else is doing.
If attitudes you hear and read are affecting your own attitude, disconnect from the ugliness. The onslaught of thoughts can be so overpowering, the mind becomes scrambled and what is truly important can be tangled in the mess. Perhaps the rise of depression is linked to time spent online and not face to face with others, or tangible creative opportunities and living life without the screen in your way.

Maybe the solution for discontentment is to disconnect from social media outlets for a season, or online gaming. If you are just not resonating and connecting to people that are around you in the flesh it is important to see what is in your way. I saw a little girl crying and completely upset and her mother doing nothing more than scrolling her phone and pushing her child away. Another little boy fell and hit his head hard, and the mother had a very little reaction for her hurting child. We have to disconnect in alarming ways! We are not hearing the heart of others. We are not regulating our own emotions.

Social media, as a tool for marketing business or connecting with people, is great. But when seeds of discontent begin to be planted and the more you submerge into the cyber world the more discontent you can become, It can pour out into the attitude and emotions in the life around you. It is time to disconnect from the source of death and to reconnect with life-giving resources.

I ask you to listen to the words of wisdom of my love. If you are feeling disconnected or ‘off’ or if you are feeling more temperamental then perhaps look at how much time you are spending with screen time outlets as your social connection. Maybe it is time to disconnect from that screen and connect face to face.