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Take Comfort

After a week of pure parenting torture, I hit my limit. It was a solid week of tantrums, defiance, meltdowns, hitting, kicking, screaming, refusing to sit in a time out, teachers telling me that his behavior was poor in school that day. I reached the precipice of Mount Overwhelmed, when I had to carry him out of Christmas play practice because he was sobbing in the front row of the church.

He had hit his limit.

The next day was the worst day of parenting I have ever experienced. Everything above happened in rapid fire sequence in a matter of minutes. My husband and I tried everything to calm the chaos, literally everything. You name it, we did it and none of it worked. When my husband took our son for a “car ride” that we hoped would turn in to a nap, I broke.

I began wandering around my house aimlessly. It was a disaster. I had to step over toys strewn all over the floor in order to clean up the art supplies and activities that were on every single surface. Puzzle pieces peppered the floor in the living room. It felt like the playroom had sneezed and my house was the tissue.

I had to capitalize on my alone time and make some semblance of normalcy in my home. As I meandered from room to room, I began to stare off in the distance. I knew I wasn’t ok. This week had done me in, and I had nothing left to give. I tried to do the housework. I tried to clean up the toys, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt as if I was about to walk out the front door and never return. I knew that was not possible. I knew I could never run away, despite how desperately I didn’t want to exist in that moment.

I grabbed my Bible. I begged God to reveal truth to me. I pleaded and petitioned. With one hand on my Bible and the other on my tear-soaked face, I flipped open to the place where my finger had naturally gravitated. Nahum. Great, I thought. This should be really good, God. Can’t wait. Despite my sarcasm, I continued to read.

I will admit, Nahum has never been on my must-read list. In fact, I don’t recall ever reading it in the past. But that sorrowful day, Nahum became my sanity, my comfort. As my fingers spread across the words on the page, I felt like my Daddy was giving me a big squeezy hug. “The Lord is good.” Yes, He is. I know that. This is a truth that I can hang on to right now. He is a “stronghold in the day of distress.” Ok, Dad. You’re talking about today, my day of distress. “He cares for those who take refuge in Him.” Ahh…I see what ya did there, God. Today, I am taking refuge in You because it is my day of distress.

The conversation swirled through my mind. After reading and processing the words, my tears began to dry up, my shoulders began to feel lighter, and my mind was able to stop racing. The Lord, who is good, became my stronghold in that day of distress.

Did you know that Nahum in Hebrew means “comfort?” Wow. It is so incredible to me that my Father knew that Nahum’s words would reach me, thousands of years later, during my day of distress. As I reflect on this day and the way my Dad stepped in and showed me such limitless love and comfort, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, but my heart can’t help but wonder why it took me getting to the place of debilitating desperation to take refuge in Him. What could my week have looked like if on day one, I turned to Him? Why do I wait? Why do I try to figure it out by myself first? The glory of God is that He wants me to seek Him FIRST. Not as a last resort. Not when the thought of abandoning the beautiful life He gave me is at the forefront of my brain. First.

Are you in a day of distress? Seek Him. Petition Him. Beg Him to reveal truth and comfort to you. And after He does, stop taking the weight of the world on your shoulders, girlfriend. Stop feeling the need to do it yourself first. We serve a God who tells us that isn’t necessary and it’s time we believe Him.

Originally featured on iBelieve.com via the link below:

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-june-4.html?utm_source=iBelieve%20Truth:%20A%20Devotional%20for%20Women%20-%20iBelieve.com&utm_campaign=iBelieve%20Truth:%20A%20Devotional%20for%20Women%20-%20iBelieve.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=3345100&bcid=35f518170108dd12087c4f3266a768b8&recip=548977543%20

Instagram Beauty vs. Inner Beauty

Words like “perfect body,” “dramatic results,” “fit mom,” “ideal body,” and “fit and fabulous” are everywhere we scroll. EVERYWHERE.

The hashtag #perfectbody on Instagram yields 4.7 MILLION images. 4,700,000 images, most of which feature nearly naked women, flaunting bronzed skin, apple bottom booties, flat stomachs, perfect breasts, thigh gaps, and long flowing beachy waves – all of which I am without. Type in the hashtag #weightloss and you’ll find 60.9 MILLION images. Sixty freakin’ million. The hashtag #beauty garnishes a whopping 353 million posts, most of which feature the same style images as the #perfectbody hashtag yields.

But when I looked up the hashtag #innerbeauty, I was greeted with a lowly 828 thousand images, most of which still featured some gorgeous woman showing off her perfectly flat stomach. One even came up of a stunning woman holding a needle filled with Botox. I swear. I can’t make this up. How does Botox or a flat stomach have anything to do with inner beauty?

The thought baffled me.

It is no wonder that I and millions of other women struggle to feel comfortable in the skin we’ve been given….to continue reading, click the link below.

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-may-28.html

What God can do with our suffering…

I have a pretty spot-on, artificial southern accent. In the past, I’ve been known to order food from a drive-thru with the deep drawl of the south in my mouth, as my friends make their best attempt at stifling their laughter. When my husband and I were dating, I would joke that as soon as we had kids, we were moving south so they could call me “mama” in that thick-as-molasses cadence.

My affinity for all things southern hit a real peak when I was deciding what college to attend. I found a very small private university in a tiny mountain town in North Carolina and it was love at first visit. It was all sweet tea and southern hospitality. I was hooked and couldn’t imagine my life anywhere else.

Within the first week of school I knew something was a little “off,” but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I was 18 and had never lived on my own. Being hundreds of miles away from home made me feel free; as if the drama I had left behind didn’t exist. I moved to a place where I knew nobody and not a single person knew anything about me. There was no historical playbook of my actions or anyone to gossip about the person I once was. The proverbial slate had been wiped clean and I could be whoever I wanted…..click the link below to continue reading.

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-may-25.html

Choosing friends wisely.

“You expect too much from your friends and it’s unrealistic” the words flashed across my cell phone screen, my heart quickly sinking.

This single sentence would make me question my every move and every motive going forward. Will this put too much pressure on her?  Or, Does this set up an unrealistic exception for her? My brain was full of questions when interacting with every one of my friends, not just the one who expressed her discontent with my expectations. When the person you have been the closest to for the longest length of time rejects you and tells you that you expect too much from people, you listen.

Was I really expecting too much from her? 

I went through the full circle of emotions with this single sentence. Fear that it was true; guilt that I could have done that to anyone; shame that I could possibly make someone feel that way; doubt that it was true; denial that there was any validity to those words. It took me YEARS to process these words. After questioning my every interaction with my friends, I became a super friend. I became the doer, the checker, the planner, the helper, the fixer. I was the glue of every friendship I had, and I was determined not to put expectations on anyone. I was determined to be the very best friend that I could be. I was determined to prove this sentence wrong. 

And yet, the only thing that I gained from my overachieving friendship skills was busyness and loneliness…..Continue reading by clicking the link below:

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-may-21.html

Forgetting What is Behind…

After my son was born, we began to research new vehicles. My husband was looking for the highest safety ratings, and was adamant that it have a backup camera. Adamant.

I was indifferent about the backup camera, but humored him. We settled on an SUV that I loved and was rated safe enough for his standards. Of course, it also had a backup camera. Little did I know at the time how much my son would love that back up camera, or the life lesson I would learn from it.

As he grew and began to be more observant, my curious toddler noticed the backup camera as we were backing out of our driveway one morning. He was mesmerized. As soon as I put the car in drive, he freaked out. Screaming, shouting, and all the tears! I had no clue what his issue was, so I just assured him it was ok – whatever “it” was. The next day upon backing out of the driveway, we had the same problem.

When I finally realized he was enjoying the view the camera gave him while in reverse, I exclaimed, “Aww baby, I’m so sorry! But we can’t go forward if we are looking behind us!” Then I stopped myself and thought, “Woah, that’s some heavy Tuesday morning life lessons…I kind of needed to hear that, too.”

You can’t go forward if you’re looking in reverse….

To keep reading…click the link below!

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-april-27.html

Groundshaker

Our son is rowdy. He is rough and tough. He thunders through our home. He doesn’t walk, he runs. He is challenging to parent. We never know if we are doing the right things or saying the right things. I can’t begin to admit the number of articles I have read on the “strong-willed child.” Pfft…strong-willed. He is far greater than strong-willed.

He came crawling into our life when he was 13 months old. After 10 years of infertility struggles and all the pain associated, God answered our prayers and obedience to his Word with this adorable, squishy ball of blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. We were mesmerized, overwhelmed, overcome, and felt slightly in over our heads. We skipped the sweet, snuggly newborn stage and moved straight into the crawling, walking, curiosity-that-gets-into-everything stage.

Our entire home was baby gated. We had gates around our TV stand, gates separating each room, gates at the tops and bottoms of the steps. By 18 months, he could open almost every gate we set up. I knew then, something was up, but never being a parent before, I had no idea what to expect…..

To continue reading please visit the link below:

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-april-23.html

She clapped for me…

I know that I am overweight. It’s not some secret I try to conceal with contouring makeup or flawless fashion. I do not avoid mirrors. I know what size my pants are. It is safe to say that if I know that I am overweight, then I know the people whom I encounter aren’t shocked at this news, either. Weight is visible. In reality, though I know that I am overweight, I am also one of the most confident people you’ve ever met. Seriously. I smile at everyone (almost) and I’m consistently laughing. My weight has never dictated how I interact with people or even how I had felt about myself… until she clapped for me.

It was summer, it was hot, and my friends and I lived at the pool at my mom’s house. Whenever it was a sunny weekend day, you could be guaranteed to see all of our friends lounging around soaking up the rays or splashing around playing volleyball. One gorgeous Saturday afternoon we were all hanging out and relaxing by the pool and chatting about what was going on in our lives. Thinking nothing of it, I mentioned that I bought a bike. As in a bicycle, you know, like the ones we rode the neighborhoods with as children.

My words were muffled by her clapping. My mind started racing. Wait, what is happening? Why is she clapping? Did I miss someone else’s good news? Oh, no. That’s for me. She is clapping for me. Why? I don’t understand. Oh…I get it now. The FAT girl bought a bike and the skinny girl is clapping. Ouch. Dear Lord, please help me not punch her in the throat.

My thoughts collided in my brain like they were bouncing through a whirlpool. I felt hot. I was angry. But most of all I was embarrassed and sad. Not since elementary school had someone seen my weight as a hindrance. Not since elementary school had I been made to feel like I was “less than” because of my weight. I couldn’t believe it. This woman, who called herself a friend, was clapping at the thought of me purchasing a bicycle.

She continued on and said “I’m just so proud of you!” What? Proud of me? Just as my facial expression must have been shouting “Is this chic for real?”

Suddenly, another close friend popped her face in front of mine so it was all that I could see. “Can you help me make a drink in the kitchen?” I locked eyes with her and held it until I was clear of the judgmental pride I had induced in my so-called friend.

Continue reading at iBelieve.com https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-february-27.html?utm_source=iBelieve%20Truth:%20A%20Devotional%20for%20Women%20-%20iBelieve.com&utm_campaign=iBelieve%20Truth:%20A%20Devotional%20for%20Women%20-%20iBelieve.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=3104241&bcid=35f518170108dd12087c4f3266a768b8&recip=548977543%20

This is 28

Has life ever just slapped you across the face and woke you up to a fear filled reality that you never imagined could happen to you? Brittany has. 

Brittany married her best friend and like many other couples, they dreamt of the future. They imagined where they would live, where they would work, what they would do for fun, the children that their love would produce…all of it. They were young and happy and free. They loved Jesus and knew that He had a future for them that was beyond their wildest dreams. 

Then one day everything changed. With one word their vision of the future came crashing to the floor around them. 

CANCER.

Brittany was diagnosed with breast cancer.

What? How? No way! Not possible! Is this real life? Not me? Not us? What? Why? I can’t believe this. 

At 28 years old, her once gleamingly bright future began to look dark and disintegrated. Brittany went through the range of spiraling and chaotic emotions, as anyone would. The days between diagnosis and the treatment plan appointment were some of her darkest days. The anger, fear, and overwhelm became consuming. At work, she would see patients come in pregnant and completely unfit. Her heart ached for these babies and rage began to fill her mind. She couldn’t understand how this was happening to her. The doctors warned her that she may never have children and even if she is able to, it would be 5-10 years before she could even begin trying. Why could these women get pregnant but she was now preparing for the fight of her life?

When life slaps you across the face, the red hot sting will linger on your every emotion. 

Brittany loves Jesus and knew that the anger would go away. The fear would subside. But during those days immediately following diagnosis, she was angry. Rightfully so. 

After the shock wore off and the fog of anger began to lift, she could finally see things clearly again. Though still horrifically effected by this news, she was determined to have faith that He had a plan, even though she definitely didn’t understand and absolutely wished it was a different plan. She began to notice changes in her body. She assumed the cancer was making her feel this way. Then she got a nudge to take a pregnancy test. Yes. A pregnancy test. She knew her period was late but…cancer, right?! Who knew what was going on in her body.

The 90 second wait for the results of the at home test were nail biting. Could this be? Is there a glimmer of hope in this situation? 

POSITIVE.

The results were clear. He DID have a plan that was beyond her wildest dreams. 

Now, her only job was to trust in it. This dramatically changed her treatment plan to allow her to safely carry this tiny miracle. The duration of her pregnancy was filled with 3 surgeries, leaving her without her left breast and 4 rounds of chemo leaving her without her hair. I’m sure there were days wherein she questioned everything. I’m sure there were days where she didn’t want to go on this way; where she just wanted a “normal” life and a “normal pregnancy”. But to speak with her, you’d never know it. Brittany consistently abided in His plan for her life, despite any of her own emotions about it. 

Sweet baby Taylor was born in November, not long before Thanksgiving. The most incredible miracle entered this world in a month already consumed with thankfulness and she made it that much sweeter. She is healthy, happy, and growing like a weed! She is a living, breathing miracle. 

I know Brittany has wished to not have to battle cancer while having a newborn baby. I know she has exclaimed that she wishes she could just be a normal mom. I know she wishes to have her hair back. But she is adamant about dedicating this fight to her sweet baby girl. She is adamant about sharing her story, as a way to encourage other fighters and survivors. 

She is strong.

She is triumphant.

She is an overcomer. 

She is fear squashing, ground shaking, mountain moving, water walking wonderment. 

She is a woman who looked her fears in the face and knew, down in the pit of her soul, that her God was bigger than her fear. 

She is a WARRIOR. 

Surreally Surrounded

He is the strongest man I know. He is the most faithful man I know. He is the most influential man I know. And now he is gone.

This incredible man, the man who was more of a father than an uncle to me, lost his battle to cancer. He had beaten it once, so I was hopeful. But round two of this ghastly disease bested the best man I know. It was crushing. The weight was heavy on my chest. I felt as if my body just was moving with the forced motions of this overwhelming time. I felt as if I had to be strong for everyone else and never take my feelings into consideration. I didn’t want to process this loss yet. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the most incredible man there ever was. So, I remained strong. I wrote the obituary. I spoke at the funeral. I helped make the floral arrangements. I sat front row at the graveyard, next to my grieving family. I held their hands. I took my place at the luncheon afterwards. I smiled and hugged people I hadn’t seen in years.

I was vacant. A hollow version of myself.

Three weeks later, as I was attempting to avoid the emotions associated with his death, we got another phone call that shattered my emotional evasiveness. This time I got word that I had lost another incredible man in my life.

He is my “work husband”. He is the family you get to choose. He is strong. He is capable. He is the most giving and loyal human I know. He is always early and always eager to lend a hand. And now he too, is gone.

This is it. I can’t do this anymore. I’m never answering the phone again. This madness has to stop. I haven’t even been able to process losing my uncle and now my work husband is gone?

They died within weeks of each other. Weeks. Three short weeks, to be exact.

Losing my uncle was horrific but cancer is a horrific disease. My work husband was too healthy and too young to fall to the ground while running a 5k and never return to his life again. This was too much to handle. It wasn’t possible. Nope. This is a bad dream. I truly didn’t know how to handle this. Normally, I’m an expert avoider but I was failing this go round. I couldn’t pin point why the trauma was so intense this time. I didn’t feel as if I was warranted all the feelings I was having. After all, he was not mine. He was not my father. He was not my husband. He was not my brother.

Grief is funny like that. I felt stifled due to my position. Who was I that I felt such intense pain at his loss? Why was I having these feelings? I shut my mouth for months but my mind swirled in a constant state of overwhelm. I pretended I was fine but inside I was bubbling with disbelief and disappointment. I finally began sharing my emotions with my husband who said the simplest yet most profound thing I had ever heard. “Babe, what can I do to help you through this?” He didn’t solicit advice. He didn’t minimize me. He didn’t make me feel like my emotions were unwarranted, unlike I had made myself feel. He simply offered his help in any way he could. Just the offer to help allowed me the space to breathe.

In the months since these grueling three weeks of death, I have been afforded the space to grieve. The space to process. The space to cry. The space to beg God for answers. The space to wish longingly that I could call these men on the phone and they would answer. But I am far from healed.

Six months or so after the nightmare of bad news had passed, my Aunt asked me a question that allowed my healing to come full circle. She asked why I hadn’t reached out to her. I was shocked honestly. Stunned. I had reached out to her but not nearly as much as I should have. I knew that and so did she. Taken off guard, I answered, quickly. I did explain that I wasn’t ok but I neglected to tell her the real reason.

The truth is, reaching out to see how she was doing would force me to think about how I was doing, which would force me to realize that on this side of heaven I will never see either of these incredible men again. I couldn’t handle that at the time. I didn’t want to check on her or anyone else because I didn’t want to ask myself how I was doing. I didn’t want to know the answer. I wanted to avoid it. I wanted to live in a place where both my beloved uncle and charming work husband were still alive and thriving. I wanted so desperately to erase those three weeks of my life.

Erasing the memories of their deaths isn’t possible. Erasing their deaths made me feel as if I was erasing their lives. I didn’t want to erase the memories I had of their existence. I just wanted the hurting to stop. Like the impenetrable humidity of a sweltering summer day, grief can be all consuming.

I’m no expert on the topic and I haven’t been to therapy to discuss this with a professional but I can tell you this, avoiding grief will get you nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. You have to feel the pain. You have to feel the emotions. Only then can you appreciate the life that your loved one lived. Embracing the space between their death and our reunion in heaven isn’t for the faint of heart but my hope is in Jesus and in Him there is ultimate healing.

I will never be the same. I realize this now. I was avoiding processing this pain because somehow deep down, I knew I would never be the same and for some reason, I thought that would be a bad thing. What I’m learning is that no part of me will ever be the same but I am better for having known these men. I am more resilient for having experienced such traumatic loss back to back. And I can only lean on my Creator for comfort.

My friend, if you are grieving or avoiding the grieving process, like me, I urge you to find someone who can simply allow you the space to breathe. The space to process. Please know that you are not alone. Even though that is EXACTLY how it feels.

You are simply a warrior left in the space between heaven and earth.

Mind Control

“If you can’t control what you think, you will never control what you do,” I heard her say. She was right but why did it seem so impossible? As we stood around my kitchen island, just like we do so frequently, I looked at her absolutely dumbfounded. 

“How? How could I control what I think?” I silently pondered as she continued to cascade her unmistakable wisdom upon my ever-present ear. “How can I stop telling myself the lie that I am incapable? Incapable of being healthy, of living healthfully, of successfully carrying a pregnancy to term?” Incapable was the resounding lie I spoke so freely over myself during this trying season in my life. 

Throughout the duration of our conversation, she never judged me, she never made me feel like the words she was speaking were impossible for someone “like me” to accomplish. She simply expelled the wisdom that she had gleaned from her own life and trials filtered by His Word. So is the simplistic beauty of unadulterated friendship. This woman, who is one of my best girls, spoke to me that day as if she had a lifeline straight to heaven

To read the rest…please hop over to https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-november-8.html