Ten Years

Ten Years

While I was born in Ohio, I grew up in North Carolina. It will always be home to me, the place I spent my childhood and “grew up” and fell in love with Jesus.

I learned to drive there, I made lifelong friends, I experienced heartache and grief and joy and growth.

Ten years ago I celebrated my first birthday back in Ohio! A decade now of birthdays and life after coming back “home” to where I was born and growing up for real.

Celebrating my first birthday back in Ohio, learning “The Art of Being Happy.”

I’m turning 29! The last year of my twenties. I know that’s still really young to all the people who’ve lived a lot more of life than me, but the Lord has taught me a lot in these few years I have (and I know He has so much more to share).

In honor of my tenth Ohio birthday, I wanted to share ten lessons I’ve learned in my time here.

1. Crazy Faith Looks Like Crazy Obedience

I remember attending a youth conference when I first moved. During this season Crazy Love by Francis Chan was super popular, as well as the song Crazy Love by Hawk Nelson.

If you’ve ever attended a Christian conference you might know the “conference high” after you get refreshed and hyped for Jesus again.

We attend conferences and get amped up, on fire again after a stagnant season. We go home encouraged, ready to take on the world, spread the good news. Right?

But eventually that amped feeling fades. Because the conference high isn’t sustainable. What keeps the fire alive is intimate relationship with your Savior, not any certain speaker or worship singer.

Then, when God asks Crazy Love level stuff, we hesitate. We fear what people might think. We worry about the financial aspect. The “how.” Sometimes we don’t obey.

On the flip side, there are times we hear the call for crazy faith and we do step out. And “the world” doesn’t get it.

Nominal Christianity won’t get “it” either because it doesn’t make sense to human logic.

A friend once shared with our young adults group the time the Lord called her and her husband to tithe their entire paycheck.

If memory serves me correctly, they were paycheck to paycheck and in between jobs at the moment.

That sounds ludicrous and makes zero sense to the average human brain, right?

Yet they obeyed.

And God honored their faith and blessed their finances several times over that week; rent was paid for, her husband got a job, and they were blessed with an advanced check.

God asks some wild things of us sometimes… Give up an ivy league for the mission field. Donate your bonus to a homeless shelter.

My husband and I eloped at 20 + 19 years old and everyone thought we were nuts. Horrible things were said to us, I was almost pressured into signing an annulment by family, and it was a really rough beginning because of the opposition we faced.

Many people thought we made a really stupid decision, but we felt God led us to do so.

Was it always easy? No. But following God and obeying isn’t always easy. It’s often wild, crazy, and takes a lot of courage and hard work.

If we hadn’t stepped out in crazy faith we wouldn’t have the life we have now or be in the season we are now and I can’t even fathom it!

There’s been several crazy faith moments in my life but this one gave me everything I am so grateful for. Definitely worth it.

2. Romance Looks Different From What “They” Tell You

When Justin was pursuing me he took me to church, brought me medicine when I was sick, and made me laugh so much.

We had weekly date nights, went to the movies and geocaching, dinner out, all that good stuff.

But ten years in romance Looks different than the early puppy love. It looks like a husband that listens. It looks like learning what an anxiety attack and helping me through it with patience.

Romance is emergency take out dinners when he’s heard I’ve had a bad day, surprising me with my favorite pop, learning with me how to parent our kids well.

It’s brewing my coffee for me in the morning when the baby nursed all night. Setting firm boundaries to protect me. Hanging twinkle lights without complaint when I can’t reach.

Romance in the movies looks attractive (and sometimes unrealistic, honestly) and then marriages are so often portrayed as dry, loveless, and lacking.

With intentionality, purpose, and thorough communication romance doesn’t have to die off. It can shift and look different, but it gets better and better!

Love can age well.

Every year has been filled with more fun, more passion, more laughter, and more tenderness.

I still love surprise flowers and dinner dates. But I so love the quiet ways we get to love each other too.

Helping me through labor with our third 🧡

3. Boundaries Are Vital

I majorly struggle with people pleasing. I have had a hard time saying no to things, to people, because I don’t want people to dislike me.

In the past few years I’ve learned how unhealthy that is. My mental health is important because it directly impacts my life and family, and taking on too much affects it.

The health and well-being of my spouse and kids is top tier, and we can’t say yes to it all, or they suffer.

This can be anything from jobs, ministry, school opportunities, family, friends… You name it. Sometimes we have to say no. I can’t. We aren’t able to take that on.

Without excuses, without over explaining or justifying. If something isn’t serving you and your family, you don’t need permission or some grand circumstance to turn it down or say “this isn’t okay.”

You can’t speak to me like that. We can’t do that. No.

This isn’t always easy (what in life is). You will inevitably receive backlash, anger, and plenty of upset when you or every aspect of your family/time/finances etc aren’t readily accessible.

It’s always worth it to protect your family, your marriage, your mental health, your home, your budget, and your time.

4. I’m Worthy Of Good Things

I grew up thinking I was an inconvenience. It felt like I was a problem that ruined my mom’s life, that stole her freedom, and I wasn’t worth it (whatever “it” was in my little mind).

The burden sat heavily on my shoulders for far too long. It’s an inner voice I still have to ignore and fight off sometimes (aka way too often).

“The way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice” hits me hard. Because it’s so true.

But I’m not an inconvenience. I was designed by a Creator who fashioned me carefully, every detail for a reason. I was created with purpose for a purpose.

I’m not useless, I’m not an imbecile, I’m not worthless. These are not my identity.

My identity is beloved. Daughter. Redeemed. Worth dying for. Treasured, adored, fiery, lovely.

His voice is louder than all the rest, when I remember to listen.

I’m worthy of good things. I’m worthy of joy, love, laughter, and friendship.

I deserve people in my life who love me well, respect me, and don’t mistreat me. I don’t need to accept treatment that doesn’t align with that.

5. Feelings Aren’t Facts

I used to think if I felt something, it was true. This was before I learned that anxiety is a liar, that my inner dialogue can be abusive talk still ingrained in me, and that the heart can be deceptive.

We need to keep our thought life in check. We can hold space for hard feelings but we can’t keep holding on to them, lest they become bitterness taking root in our hearts.

I might feel ______ but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s truth. I might entertain ______ for so long and it’s fine, but then it spirals me into a bad place for my heart.

The what-if’s and the but if I‘s aren’t helpful. Intrusive thoughts aren’t reality. And assuming the worst doesn’t actually prepare me for anything.

I could feel like my husband is mad at me because his tone was off, assume the worst, and act out of that assumption and let it affect my mood and behavior towards him…

Or I can assume the best and turn those thoughts around, maybe he’s having a hard day, maybe he needed to burp and it came out funny (I speak from experience).

I can communicate with him and ask instead of assuming the worst.

Learning about feelings and the power of my thought life has been a game changer for me and my freedom and emotional regulation.

6. It’s Okay To Have Bad Days

I used to think if I had a bad day, and wasn’t cheerful all the time, or made a mistake/lost my temper/had an attitude that I was a bad Christian.

We have to be the salt of the earth! I have to be a witness. I need to be the light in the darkness and if I appear to be a human with emotions outside of joy ever than no one will want to know Jesus.

This is not healthy. God gave us emotions, and we can use them as tools to understand what’s going on in and around us.

Losing my temper with my kids after an exhausting day doesn’t make me a bad mom.

Sometimes I’m snarky because I haven’t eaten and my blood sugar is dropping! (Hello, fellow hangry people.)

It’s okay to have a day where things go wrong, or dinner gets burnt, or I yell or spill coffee.

A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life.

A bad day doesn’t mean I’m a failure. And it doesn’t mean I’m a bad Christian. I’m just a human with humanness, who happens to also live Jesus.

7. My Too-Muchness Isn’t For Everyone

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard “you’re too much.”

It’s been said in jest, in anger, in exasperation. It used to hurt a lot.

I don’t wear it as a wound anymore though. It’s a unique badge of honor that I wear proudly (sometimes… Haha).

See, I am a lot. I’m loud, all the time. I am loud in every color and emotion! I am passionate about many things.

There’s some weird stuff too, like sensory overload, stuttering, major fantasy adventure nerdom, ADHD behavior (I could write a whole novel on that topic alone)…

The whole package of *waves at all this* can be a lot for some people. And this really bothered me (recovering people pleaser that I am) for a very long time. I had to prove myself to them, and I was crushed when my Too-Muchness wasn’t their cup of tea.

Some people think I’m weird (I am, but they do in the “that’s a bad thing” way). Some people think I’m too loud. They don’t get it about how I am.

That’s okay. I don’t need to be everyone’s friend.

There are people that love all my Too-Muchness and adore it. My volume, my Lord of the Rings quotes, my passion about whatever soapbox I happen to be on. And I treasure them.

And I try not to hold it against the people who don’t like my Muchness haha.

8. I Am Resilient

My anxiety might like to lie and tell me otherwise, but dare I say – I am resilient. I’m going to toot my own horn here. (My husband inspired me to write this one so I have permission, I won’t be cocky I promise!)

I can do hard things. I have been through the RINGER and back, okay? It’s too much to even sum up in here.

As I mused what I should include here, my husband brought this up to me. That even in darkness and “the depths of despair” (if you’re my level of nerd you’ll get the quote) I don’t give up.

My faith has been through the ringer too, but it just goes deeper.

This lesson is 1000% God, not me. His grace alone has gotten me through suicidal seasons, miscarriages, backstabbing and so much more.

I am resilient because I cling hard to the hem of His garment. Sometimes I’m holding on by a thread, or the skin of my teeth! But guys, I’ve tasted and seen His goodness. It’s all that matters. It’s what’s kept me alive.

This one could take an entire series, a few paragraphs here won’t do it justice. It’s coffee date level. Jesus has brought me through it all, His strength is what makes me resilient.

9. Gratitude Is The Key

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:17‭-‬18

It’s easy to complain. It’s so easy to focus on the bad and not see the good. I got so stuck in that cycle, viewing life through the negativity lens.

It’s where my Finding Daily Delight project came from. I wanted to rewire myself to look for the little things to take delight in again and practice gratitude.

I could list countless scriptures about thankfulness and gratitude! It’s repeated so many times.

Think about it, if you are focusing on the negative only, it will affect your attitude. (Remember earlier when I mentioned thought life? Mindset matters!)

This isn’t about toxic positivity. This is about operating from a grateful heart space. Holding space for the both//and, where you can have both hard moments and joy, and not settling into despair.

Paul was able to worship and praise from a prison cell. David wrote Psalms crying out “where are you God?!” in one breath and worshipping Him in the next breath.

We can too. Both//and. Gratitude unlocks next-level joy and peace.

10. I Like Who I Am

It’s okay to be different and weird and like strange things. I used to despise that about myself.

Surely, I thought, if I just dress more normal or liked this type of music or hopped on that diet wagon or this fad I would come across as more normal and then people would like me.

This was before I discovered my Too-Muchness. Striving to be what people wanted me to be so I’d have their approval led to a lot of unhappiness on my end.

I’m loud, I am neurodiverse, my playlists on Spotify range from anthem worship to punk rock to folk and bluegrass.

I like who I am. I like the things I like because those things make my soul come alive.

Lake Erie might be a smelly mess to some people but it’s where I feel Jesus next to me in the car. I love that I love Lake Erie, I love that Jesus meets me there.

I like that I cry during Hallmark Christmas movies. I’m “sensitive” and feel all the things and Hallmark movies are a safe, cathartic release.

There is not box for me to fit into, my design is unique just as yours is. Quirks, dislikes, the things that make us laugh… Trying to change or fit into someone else’s peg is pointless.

I enjoy who I am growing into. I’m excited to see who I am in ten more years!

29th birthday selfie – 10 years after that Barnes and Noble date night

Here’s the thing about all of these lessons: I don’t have one of them mastered. God still works on these same lessons with me.

Even my birthday today. 90% of this post was already written. My morning was splendid, but by afternoon some stuff hit the fan. My birthday wasn’t sunshine and rainbows.

It could have ruined the rest of my night. I had to fight off those thoughts that I was a failure again. But as my oldest says, we had a restart! The rest of my birthday evening was redemptive and sweet.

Happy ten birthday, Ohio. I’m so glad to be home. When I celebrated my first birthday here I never imagined in a decade I’d be watching my daughters run around our front yard from my porch. This is what dreams are made of 🧡

Right Where You Are

Right Where You Are

This week I had a phone date with my “NC BFF,” who I am so blessed to still have in my life 11 years and 500 miles later. She’s known me since my early teen years and been by my side through a lot of pain and joy.

She remembers who I was before the life I have now, and as we chatted recently she mentioned how this *gestures broadly* was my dream.

18 year old Alyssa didn’t know if she could have kids. She didn’t think she could be a mom because of her upbringing.

She had grand ideas of producing movies and being a bestselling author, living a wild life to numb the pain she carried, never getting married because boys hurt her, but underneath it all was the dream to be a wife and mother.

I didn’t know how I’d ever achieve this dream, of a husband who loved me and kids and a home and joy.

Lo and behold… here I am with everything I prayed for and didn’t believe possible. A sweet husband, three beautiful girls, and a house I get to make into a cozy home.

I was thrilled. Those early years had their fair share of hardship, but it was everything I wanted. I’ll never forget the morning after my husband, baby, and I moved into our “big” apartment. I woke to sunlight streamed in, hitting our new yellow quilt and a smiley baby. For the first time I felt absolute contentment.

This was it! Hashtag wife life! Starting the day feeding my girlie oatmeal and fruit. The faraway dream was finally reality.

And yet, somewhere along the way something whispered to me. A lie crept in and deceived my heart.

This lie told me it just wasn’t enough. I was just a mom. I wasn’t there yet.

It stole some of my joy, and striving took it’s place.

If I do this then I’ll matter. If I do that, or serve here, or work there, or get a degree, or do ______ THEN it will be enough. When I finally get a house, when I work a “real” job, when we can afford _______.

I know moms aren’t alone in being fed this destructive lie. Women from all walks of life experience this!

I have ________ but I still need to get married and then I’ll be happier. I have the dream job but I still need to visit _________ or do ________ and then I will be accomplished. I need to take that class or have this certification and then things will fall into place.

I should be doing more. I can do it all. If I can’t do it all, there’s something wrong with me.

Let’s break that off right now. May I be bold?

You are enough right where you are.

You can still have goals, you can still walk the steps to get there! But listen to me right now: you matter, you are worthy, you are enough in this season. Before you get to the next one.

Don’t let the “hustle” lies tell you otherwise.

Whether you are a mom, or work at Subway, or are in law school or anywhere in between!

You are enough.

Comparison and striving steals our joy from the right-now moments.

You can have dreams, you don’t need to step into all of them right now. You deserve joy before you get there, on the way there, and when you arrive.

If you are an intern in this season of life, you get to be the best intern you can be. You have purpose. You can have joy!

If you are a mom in this season of life, you get to be the best mom you can be. You have purpose. You can have joy!

The same goes for pastors, counselors, students, graphic designers, artists, and farmers.

You don’t have to be married to be whole. Wanting a partner to do life with is absolutely valid, but you’re a still a whole person on your own.

Traveling the world is amazing! It’s okay if you start small and get to know the city you’re working in til you can afford bigger.

Wanting to be in ministry is an incredible goal! It’s okay if you can’t right now because your family is your first ministry and needs your time more.

Culture sells us “more” but so often we lose hold of what we already carry to grab hold of it. Where you are right now deserves your attention.

This past year has brought me back. 2020 was difficult on so many levels, but it forced me to slow down and reevaluate. To rewire some thinking and take charge in my mental health, boundaries, and growth.

I think the Lord set me free from that deception. The weight of that burden being gone… It makes me feel light as air sometimes (when life drama doesn’t remind me there other weighty things haha).

This picture I have framed on my hutch gave me pause as I perused Pinterest one day.

The little girls, the baby wearing mom with coffee in hand, fresh bread and a cooling pie. The windows open to show off a gorgeous sunset.

A little moment of my dream captured in folk art.

Of all the things inspiring me lately, giving me joy, helping me fall in love with life again… This little painting has stood out time and time again.

It’s the background on my phone now too, because it centers me to my most-importants. It reminds me of what used to be my dream, what I have now that’s so important.

Right here is pretty stinking awesome. I could live only looking forward, dissatisfied with what I’m missing, and pining for the future… but I’d really be missing out.

My season of life can be hard, but it’s still good. It’s where I am. I still have goals and dreams! But I am no less of a person whether I’m “just a mom” or an author too. This goes for you too, my friend.

Dreams are good. God gives us dreams! He has a calling for every one of us. But sometimes we try to rush future dreams into the right now. We can invest in the future and still hold space for what’s valuable right now.

If you can’t breathe because you’re so busy, if you have no time for rest because you’ve taken too much on, if you’re finding yourself unhappy and overburdened… Some things might need to shift.

Plan out your goals, that’s not unimportant, but live in the present. Give yourself room to breathe and time to rest here. Don’t pack it all in to get their faster, because burnout is REAL.

You don’t have to get there before you’re real or valid.

You already are.

Live in that freedom, friend. You are loved and important in every stage.

Celebrating Joy in the Midst of Depression

Celebrating Joy in the Midst of Depression

2020 has brought on a “silent rise” in mental health crises.

It’s no secret that it’s been a rough year, but viruses aside, the job losses, bankruptcies, and isolation has had devastating repercussions for mental health.

People already struggling with anxiety and/or depression may feel like they’re barely treading water with their mental health. Others who have never (or rarely) experienced anxiety or depression have, unfortunately, begun having their own bouts.

I know for myself, dealing with end of pregnancy and postpartum, on top of dealing with repressed trauma responses… Covid depression has been the icing on the cake.

Of course there are good days. We feel a camaraderie, like we’re all in this together! We got this! It sucks but we’ll get through it.

Other days though might feel really dark. Numb and apathetic. Lonely and weary. What is the point of x, y, z?

Last Fall was a very difficult time for me, a lot of joy was stolen. As this season has approached I’ve entered it with a jaded attitude. A lot of pain is resurfacing for me to face, and I’m learning the dance of holding space for pain but holding on to joy too.

Both//And

What I wanted to talk about today is the in-between of those two extremes. The both//and space.

You can hold space for hard emotions and bad days, and still look for the light shining through, for the joy moments and the silver linings.

You can also hold space on your fantastic days for the trauma that you’re still working through. You can enjoy things and still recognize that you are wounded and that there’s work for you to do.

Your joy doesn’t have to erase your pain.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you’ve ever worked through traumatic situations or had to process hard emotions, we can almost sort of gaslight ourselves if we have good days.

Like, oh I’m having a really good day maybe this isn’t bad as I thought it was. Until something triggers you or you’re faced with more emotions that you haven’t processed through yet.

Likewise, when you’ve dealt with depression or anxiety and have felt like you’re spiraling, we can become consumed with those difficult feelings as well.

Our vision can become clouded with everything that is wrong in the world because of the hardship that we are working through. It feels impossible to “choose joy” because everything is painful, or we are numb to everything.

We do need to be cautious in those circumstances though. We are not victims to our mind, and though we can deal with mental health issues, we must take authority over some areas as well.

Becoming consumed with our depression or anxiety, not seeking help or utilizing tools that can help us, can be destructive not only to ourselves but to those around us too.

I’ve seen depression and anxiety steal away so much from families; I’ve seen it in my own family growing up and the repercussions that it had for me as a child.

This has been the number one driving factor for me in trying to grow and heal, so that my problems would not negatively affect my children.

In that same vein however, we can also be consumed with running from our depression and anxiety, or our trauma that needs to be dealt with. This is also unhealthy.

Rather than communicate our pain, or face difficult emotions, we try to be happy and bubbly and ignore the pain. “Fake it til you make it” can be as damaging for some people as it is helpful to others.

Because pain that we swallow down instead of facing and processing will absolutely come back to bite us. It can look like rage, depression, fear and anxiety, and many other things.

So where is the line? How can we not let depression and anxiety rule our lives and steal all our joy, yet also not force happiness and joy when we are in the midst of pain and grief?

I’m no expert, I’m just a mom who’s done a lot of reading and praying haha. But I would love to share what I’ve learned, and what helps me.

1. Grace

Have grace with yourself. Have you ever heard that phrase? What does it look like though? I’d say it looks like being kind to yourself and what’s going on in your head.

Don’t be a bully. Don’t make yourself feel bad for what you’re going through. If your inner dialogue is making you feel bad, you need to reroute that language!

Even if you have to over and over, tell yourself no! And talk to yourself like you would talk to a hurting friend or loved one.

Would that dialogue be uplifting or edifying for a beloved friend? If not, than don’t speak that over yourself.

Another thing to consider here: when we are numb we might not even be able to give ourselves grace. But we can receive God’s gift of grace.

All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us. And just as we experience the abundance of Christ’s own sufferings, even more of God’s comfort will cascade upon us through our union with Christ. If troubles weigh us down, that just means that we will receive even more comfort to pass on to you for your deliverance! For the comfort pouring into us empowers us to bring comfort to you. And with this comfort upholding you, you can endure victoriously the same suffering that we experience.

2 Corinthians 1:3‭-‬6 TPT

This might look different for the person or by the day, but we can sit in His grace and comfort when we can’t give ourselves grace. He can hold you, just rest in Him.

2. Choose Joy

I know some people get super irritated by this phrase. I get it, being told to be happy when you’re suffering is upsetting.

But choosing joy in spite of your circumstances isn’t forcing happiness when you’re miserable.

It is tapping into a supernatural gift and a fruit of the Spirit which is yours to have when you know Jesus. The joy of the Lord can be your strength when you have no strength of your own left.

Choosing Biblical joy and gratitude isn’t faking happy, it’s a deep-seated soul joy, soul rest, to enter into.

I wanted to pick a Bible verse about joy but there’s so many!! Let me just reference a few:

  • “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” James 1:2
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” Galatians 5:22
  • “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…” Psalm 16:11
  • “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22
  • “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
  • “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Psalm 4:7

The list can go on and on! The Lord has joy for you that goes far beyond surface worldly happiness, another verse called it “inexpressible joy.” To me, that goes beyond a circumstantial emotion like happiness.

Joy is like a pressure washer.

A lot of people don’t really know that though.

Pressure washers are wonderful inventions, in seconds, they can remove years of build up. Years of caked on dirt in the most walked on areas around our homes.

We all have these areas, and I don’t mean around our homes. Around our hearts. Places people have walked all over us. Trampled on our hearts. Brought their dirt (and other things) into our lives. The areas that have become not only dirtied, but hardened from so much traffic.

Much of the time, we think we have to get everything cleaned up before we can be joyful. We think we have to have it all healed before we can get out of feeling down and dirty.

And those who think like that often never become joyful. They stay depressed. They stay bitter. They stay hurt. They stay is self-pity. All the while protecting themselves from the very thing that can remove it all.

The pressure washer of joy.

God wants to give us His joy to remove the years of build up. To quickly blast away the years of pain. To clear up the places that seemed impossible to clean.

Is. 35:10 says…”those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

It’s joy that’s makes the sadness and sighing flee. It makes them run from us. It’s joy that blasts it all away.

Don’t wait to be joyful. Don’t fix everything before you smile and laugh again. Don’t wait. Don’t even hesitate.

Receive joy today and watch what happens as you do.

Seth Dahl

3. Glimpses of Gratitude

A few years ago I tried to keep a gratitude journal. I’d sit at the table and try to comb through my day to recall and write down everything I was grateful for.

While it was a good suggestion, it wasn’t realistic or sustainable for me. I often forgot to pull the journal out or just sat there with my mind wandering trying to pull out something to write down!

And on my bad days? I honestly couldn’t think of things. Of course there’s the I’m grateful for my home, my family, food in the fridge, etc.

Sometimes it’s really hard to see beyond that when depression has a grip on your feelings and everything is numb.

I wrote a post about taking every thought captive; intrusive thoughts, depressed thoughts, spiraling thoughts, and tips to help you realistically take those thoughts captive! Read that here.

Instead, what has been helpful for me is momentary glimpses of gratitude.

It can happen any moment of the day, but it’s something that lights you up. Morning sun dancing on the hardwood floor in my kitchen. My girls giggling and dancing in the living room. The way my warm coffee feels in my hand.

It doesn’t have to last long, but pause and sit in that moment and feel the gratitude. Thank the Lord for that glimmer in your day.

Instead of reciting off everything you’re supposed to be grateful for, look at your day or those moments with your God lens on.

You can even ask Him! Lord help me see with Your eyes today, help me see the beauty. Feel His delight in the moments around you.

Just like joy, there are so many verses about gratitude and thankfulness in the Word!

  • “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
  • “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” Colossians 3:15
  • “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1
  • “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” Psalm 28:7
  • “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

Gratitude is the key to a heart posture towards Jesus and walking in joy regardless of outward circumstances.

4. Victors Not Victims

Feelings aren’t facts. It’s one of my mantras this year. I talk about that more in the above mentioned post about talking all thoughts captive.

One of my favorite podcasters, Blake Guichet of The Crappy Christian Co. recently wrote about this topic and it’s so good!

 â€śIt’s not that our feelings don’t matter or aren’t valid – we should honor one another’s emotions and bear each other’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. But the line gets blurry when we start treating those emotions as though they are the facts of the situation.

I know that the reason I personally function this way is because of my generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis. Through years of therapy, I’ve learned to separate how I feel from the truth to avoid spiraling out of control. And for the most part, it really serves me well.

The truth without love is harsh.

Love without truth is enabling.

That’s why we tell the truth in love (Eph 4:15) This a necessary maturity of faith so that we are no longer tossed to and fro by our emotions, but deeply rooted in what God says about us and others.

I’m honestly thankful that our feelings aren’t facts. When things feel hopeless, we know they never are. When we feel isolated, we have the knowledge of God’s nearness. When it seems like the world is out of control, we know the One who holds it all.

Your feelings aren’t facts, friend. And that should provide you with peace. Let’s stop allowing our emotions to run the show and instead turn to the truth.

Blake Guichet

We are not victims, and living with a victim mentality will steal your joy and suck the life right out of you. Maybe you were wronged, abused, mistreated. That’s valid.

But staying a victim in every area of your life, not growing or healing, is super damaging.

The Word tells us we are more than conquerors, in ALL things. That He works ALL things together for our good. That the Lord can make beauty from our ashes. The ashes of abuse, trauma, accidents, pain, etc.

We see what’s right in front of us. But the Lord sees an entire atlas of roads leading from our current circumstances. We have no idea what He can do through us and our stories!

A note on victimhood…

Mental health struggles are not a free ticket to be a jerk.

Yes it happens. I’ve experienced this. I have seen awful, atrocious behavior justified because of where someone was mentally. This is wrong.

We still need to take responsibility for our actions; mental struggles cannot be a crutch or excuse for bad behavior.

Victimhood clouds judgement and can cause immense pain, for others, and yourself too.

You are not powerless, you are still in charge of you.

5. Validation

“You can sit here but you can’t stay here.”

Validation is important, but dare I say, needing validation can also be a crutch. Some feelings can’t be validated if they are skewed or untruthful, but they can be acknowledged.

Having safe people, trustworthy friends or family, who can lead you back to your foundational truths when you are blinded by pain, apathy, or spiraling thoughts is so important.

Staying somewhere unhealthy and stewing in negative thoughts is a counterproductive narrative that will keep you bound up. Stewing and processing are not equal.

We can sit with grief. We can sit with hard things that need to be processed. Ignoring doesn’t help!

But staying there is when it becomes dangerous. We can miss the steps towards healing that God has for us. We can miss the beauty that’s transforming by remembering only the ashes.

Don’t run from your pain, but don’t let it swallow you either.

You don’t deserve to be consumed by dark thoughts and days of sorrow. There’s a bigger plan for you!

Depression is real, I have felt it’s nasty claws. Anxiety is real, I have experienced is vice-like grip.

We can acknowledge our hard and still see the joys. We can find delight in little things, even when bigger things are going wrong.

Remember the both//and my friend, and remember you are never ever alone.

Take Every Thought Captive

Take Every Thought Captive

Refining.

It feels like such a Christianese term nowadays… “I’m being refined.”

Do you know how silver is refined? It’s a process to be sure. Yet afterwards, the metal is gleaming and shining with all the impurities removed.

Despite the overuse of this term, I feel like I’m being refined right now. This season is hard.

I’ve been struggling recently. I don’t want to call it postpartum depression, maybe it’s the baby blues or hullabaloo of hormones and emotions…

But I’ve been experiencing my first depressive episodes since my time of healing five years ago.

There are days that are good and easy and joy-filled. There are also days that I am so weepy and morose.

On those difficult days my emotions try to spiral. Negative thoughts, lies, fears and anxieties abound. It’s exhausting trying to keep my mind in check. This is when “taking every thought captive,” as 2 Corinthians 10 tells us, comes into play.

What we feel is not necessarily truth, feelings aren’t fact.

Not everybody hates you or is out to get you! Not everything is going to go wrong. You’re not a failure.

My logical brain knows this. In those times of mental spiral and negative to thought, we need to stand on our foundation of truth to keep us steady when we feel shaky.

What’s Your Foundation of Truth?

This is a place in your mind that you can come back to when you’re struggling. It’s your core, unshakable beliefs.

This can be things like-

  1. Jesus died for me and rose again.
  2. I am chosen, redeemed, and loved.
  3. God is for me, not against me.
  4. I am a child of God.
  5. My family loves me.
  6. _____ is not my enemy.
  7. God will never leave me.
  8. I am safe.
  9. I was created with purpose.
  10. God is not taken by surprise and knows what’s ahead of me.

When thoughts come into our mind like “I can’t feel God, He’s left me, He isn’t speaking to me” we have a baseline to come back to to correct ourselves and align our thinking with the truth.

No I am not alone, because the Word says God will not abandon me, leave me, or forsake me.

Let’s go back to 2 Corinthians 10:5, where Paul tells us to take every thought captive. This passage is so important and addresses the battlefield in our minds.

As the Enduring Word Commentary says (really awesome insight into this passage), we are not helpless victims to our thoughts! This might be unfathomable to you, but hear me out for a moment.

You cannot help what pops into your mind, but you are in control of what you choose to dwell on.

An example of this for me is when I drive. I often have intrusive thoughts about getting t-boned when I go through intersections, or getting in an accident on the highway.

Can this happen? Of course. But if I give space to these thoughts in my mind I can easily be consumed by fear. I might even get to the point of not driving at all out of my fear!

Instead, I need to take those thoughts captive and reroute my thinking.

For me this looks like reassuring myself, and if those thoughts are really loud, I sing a song or talk to my kids to shift my mind, I even pray out loud.

If your thought life is damaging to yourself or your relationships, you might need to think about how you can take authority in your mind.

Maybe on your bad days you have thoughts about your spouse not loving you, or your friends hating you. How can you take those thoughts captive?

Think about your good days. How do your friends make you feel when you’re with them? Do they uplift you, edify and encourage you?

Remind yourself of the good things and assume the best.

All couples have moments of conflict and experience times or even seasons of struggle. But like above, go back to the moments on good days. Assume the best of their words or intentions.

We can’t live in a constant state of offense or victimhood. This is dangerous and so damaging to our mental health and relationships.

(This is not meant to simplify or condone abuse or toxicity in anyway, of you are truly experiencing that in your relationship consider counseling and help! Consider separation from friends that aren’t safe or take advantage.)

When we entertain negative thoughts again and again we can develop patterns. We can also develop positive patterns overtime as well! It just takes practice.

According to Dr. Athena Staik of Psych Central, an independent mental health information and news website, our thoughts create “inner standards” that spark neurochemical dynamic processes that govern our choices and actions.

Thoughts spark emotions and drive decisions to take action or no action at all. Whether we realize it or not, our thoughts are very much linked to our reality.

Her Style of Tea (tap to read more)

If you’re having a bad day where nothing is going right it might be tempting to sit with those self-pitying feelings, but that’s some swampy territory.

A bad day doesn’t make a bad life! Let’s shift the focus and make the best of what we can.

Part of this journey of finding delight in my daily life has been taking control of my thought life. This feels like hard work sometimes!

But it’s worth it, because what you allow in your mind affects SO much!

If we continue to allow negative thoughts to reign it can affect our daily outlook, behavior, relationships, jobs, and more.

You are not a passive bystander. You can train your mind just like you can train your body.

Taking thoughts captive might seem impossible, so what are some practical ways to retrain your thinking?

  1. Reach out to a friend.
    • Call someone you can trust to remind you of those foundational truths when you’re having doubts.
    • Text someone when you’re having anxiety and ask them for an encouraging word or reminder.
    • Facebook Messenger and Instagram DMs have a voice message feature. Ask a friend to pray over you!
  2. Journal.
    • Write down your thoughts and fears, and then write another column of scripture that pertains to that line of thought or fear.
    • Make a gratitude list. Gratitude is the key to joy. Shift your focus from your complaints to the good things in your day or your life.
    • List your foundational truths and read over them. Maybe place them on a wall or mirror so you can see them!
  3. Get in the Word.
    • Read scripture and focus on Biblical truths, meditate on what the Lord says about your mind.
    • Memorize verses! This is so helpful when you’re having a hard day, to call to memory a timely verse in a difficult moment.
  4. Worship.
    • Feeling all over the place? Put on some quiet worship music to calm yourself. I love the Peace album from Bethel Music for this!
    • Have a worship dance party. Blast some upbeat worship music or even some Christian rap and dance! This kills two birds with one stone; you’re shifting your focus and moving your body – endorphins!
  5. Pray.
    • Pray out loud, talk to Jesus in your heart, or even write your prayers down.
    • Speak Biblical truth over yourself, ask for peace, for discernment, for insight into God’s plan if He would allow, and for contentment.
  6. Move.
    • Move your body. Get some exercise; Jesus dance party, go for a walk, mow the lawn.
    • Change your scenery. Get out of the house and get some fresh air. Do a lap around the office away from your desk!

Does choosing joy or shifting my mindset cure my anxiety or depression?

No. But I guarantee you it can turn my entire day around. We don’t need to suffer and just barely survive.

We can thrive.

There are some really hard days where I need to have a lot of grace with myself; I lean on my husband for help and friends for encouragement. I slow down and let a few things fall off my plate.

I know the power of my mind. If I allow those lies of failure and assumptions of others fester I can start to live out of that and let those things become my identity and baseline.

An especially weepy day. The baby wouldn’t be put down, so I wore her and decided to find delight in cooking my family dinner.

When you start working out it can feel uncomfortable as you stretch parts of yourself that aren’t used to moving that way.

Likewise, when you aren’t accustomed to changing your thinking, it can feel uncomfortable too.

Just like you build muscle and lift more than when you first began exercising, after repetitive effort, taking your thoughts captive can be second nature!

You can do this friend! Make yourself a fresh cup of coffee or grab some water, and conquer your day. Choose to shift your thinking and take on your day as victor, not a victim.

I’m tired in this refining season. But I am taking heart that as my spirit is being refined, I am growing and maturing and becoming shiny and gleaming.

Take courage, dear heart. Let’s do this together and be more than conquerors 🧡

To read more about the spiritual aspect of taking your thoughts captive, please read this amazing, in-depth post by Shanté Grossett, at Her Style of Tea. Her words really resonated with me!

Magnolia’s Birth Story – Pt. 1

Today is International Homebirth Day! Considering the day, I thought it would a perfect opportunity to share the first installment of our newest princess’s birth story.

Some of my background here. My oldest was born at home (to be real, my in-laws’ home, because we lived in a third floor apartment) almost 8 years ago (enter mind-blown emoji here). I was young, only 20 when she was born, but I’d know I wanted a home birth and water birth since I was 14.

That goes to show the power of our birth stories and testimonies; a lady I babysat for had an incredible homebirth after a traumatic hospital birth and hearing her share her experience, seeing the glory and joy in her eyes, is what set that desire in my own heart. It impacted me and changed how I viewed birth from a really young age.

My second was a planned homebirth but we transferred to the hospital for an induction as I went past 42 weeks. My oldest was born at 42 weeks and was a big baby and I had a lot fear from that experience to deal with, which I honestly believe prevented me from fully entering labor after weeks of prodromal labor. My hospital experience was not fun. Not nearly as traumatic as others but still hard for me. My membranes were forcibly stripped without my consent and it was awful, scary, painful, and very triggering for some abuse from my past. Experiencing that at the hands of a care provider was bad enough that I originally didn’t know if I wanted anymore kids. Especially not in the hospital system.

Now for babygirl #3… There’s so much more from her story that I want to share another time, because this entire pregnancy was marked by the touch of a very good God. But for now, let’s start towards the end of my pregnancy.

While this pregnancy was my best physically, it was my hardest emotionally. The beginning of my pregnancy was tumultuous enough that I didn’t even really process my pregnancy til my second trimester. It was one thing after another week after week, so it only made sense that the end of my pregnancy would be in a pandemic!

As we were preparing our nursery the world went into lockdown and I very nearly had a breakdown. Maybe I had a few ha. Definitely cried a lot. As any pregnant-during-Covid mom could tell you, this has been a rough season. I, at least, already planned to birth at home. My heart has been breaking for the women now not allowed to have support during their births, or having to labor with a mask on (I’d turn into a banshee noo way).

I had such a night and day experience this time around I foolishly believed maybe I’d have a baby that came “on time.” To borrow my words from Gandalf however, babies are never late. Nor are they early. They arrive precisely when they mean to. I had yet to truly have that sink in haha.

As is my usual, my prodromal labor began a few weeks before she came. I’d have contractions all night, pass out from exhaustion, and wake up not in labor. I was used to it, but really over it. We had a few instances where we really thought “this is it!” My squeezes were a minute long and five minutes apart for hours! THIS WAS IT!

It wasn’t. Definitely was not.

At 40 weeks I started doing some herbs and things to encourage my body, my brain knowing “this won’t work if my body isn’t ready” but still delusionally hopefully it would magically work the first time. Definitely got some strong contractions here and there but nothing that kept going.

At 41 weeks I was getting so angry and nervous. My midwife had a client due after me and to my mind it felt like a race. I was scared we’d go at the same time! And with every pregnancy of mine, I watched alllll the women have their babies before me. I was determined to have my baby first for once haha.

My midwife came over for a prenatal and both baby and I were good, we chatted about trying something else the next morning and seeing what happened. My body was working towards the “cliff” I just needed something to push me over the edge haha.

The next morning I took my stuff and decided to lay down and take a nap just in case somehow this time it worked. I had a strange little feeling it might, but I was also jaded enough to not want to believe it might work.

I had a handful of squeezes but I was so used to constant Braxton Hicks at this point that I didn’t think anything of it. One was strong enough to wake me from my nap, but I fell right back asleep. I slept a few hours and got up to go sit with Justin as he worked in his office and noticed that my squeezes were kinda consistent. I didn’t want to buy into that again though, after so many nights of the same thing.

My husband suggested I text my midwife to just give her a heads up, and I told her I didn’t want to time them but she said I should. I did for an hour maybe and she said that her and her assistant would be over to check me out

Now see, I didn’t think I was in labor. I honestly thought they were just coming to check on me. But they showed up with all their equipment in hand and I realized, “oh shoot, this might actually be it, they must think so.” Still, my mind kept telling me it wasn’t real and it would all come to a halt.

My friend Kathy came shortly after, she was going to be filming my birth. Everyone sat and chatted as I rocked on my birth ball, and eventually we went to sit in the front porch. It was a beautiful breezy, sunny day. So I sat in my rocking chair and labored away. (But was it labor?? – me at that time)

I went inside to use the bathroom and came back out to my husband holding a small dog. Um. What??

As everyone waited for me outside a group of these dogs came running up to them, and then ran off. This little one was left behind and my tenderhearted husband didn’t want to leave her outside alone. I labored on the porch as my husband frantically tried calling the APL haha.

We eventually did track down the owner, but that whole story was a hoot. We would deal with a side quest while trying to birth a baby!

We came inside and listened to my playlist and sat and talked during contractions. I still couldn’t believe it was really labor. Because it was too easy.

Here’s the thing. My two previous births got hard quick. It was painful! I’ve known women to have incredible, peaceful, pain-free births – I had not been one of them. That WAS something I had been praying for this time as I prepared for birth. My mother in law even prayed with me for it, my husband did nightly. I read about it, listened to podcasts about, even did a birth class about the fear-tension-pain cycle.

Even though I’d been hoping for that experience, part of me still thought it was impossible. Yet here I was, experiencing squeezes of pressure but not actual pain. I think that’s why I had such a hard time believing this was labor. At one point I went to the bathroom and texted my mother in-law “I know we prayed for easy, but this is almost too easy!” I wanted my water to break or something so I could know this was legit!

Time didn’t seem to exist for me, I looked at the clock shocked that it was already late in the evening. The pressure was beginning to get harder to cope with so Justin and Emma (midwife’s assistant) began to set up the birth pool. Rosie, my midwife, pushed against my knees during contractions, it felt soo good! My birth team as a whole made me feel like I was at a spa during each squeeze, rubbing my shoulders, gently talking me through each one. I was so doted on.

I got into the pool, my twinkle lights on above me giving the room a soft glow. Justin was behind me, Rosie was monitoring the babies heart rate, and it was so peaceful. At one point I began to cry, because this experience was so amazing and I wish my previous two experiences could have been this calm and lovely.

Soon after this Justin’s mom arrived with the girls. I’d asked her to be there for support and I really wanted the girls to be a part, as long as they were comfortable. Bree wanted to cut the umbilical cord, ever since she heard her cousin got to cut her baby brother’s cord at their latest homebirth.

Rosie checking the baby’s heart rate, Kathy capturing a special moment, Emery sharing her excitement.

This was my favorite moment. My worship music quietly in the background, surrounded by people who loved me and genuinely cared for me. Having a birth team that is emotionally invested in you and cares makes such a difference.

I stayed in the pool for some time, still peaceful, still not considering these contractions painful. Just intense pressure that needed my focus. My previous births were 14 and then 10 hours long. We were almost ten hours in, so surely this baby would be coming soon!

This was everything I wanted and more. I just couldn’t anticipate the curve ball coming!

Part two can be found here.