life beyond the well…


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Managing Motherhood

It’s been just over 13 months since Baby Ethan Toddler Ethan arrived, and at almost every turn, I find myself in a new situation.  These situations are usually solved by Google and other Mommy friends, but the overwhelming amount of “new” that I have encountered in the past year has done a number on my soul.

You see, I appreciate patterns, traditions, dependability, and reliability. Schedules and systems make me happy. Consistently venturing into the unknown is far from my idea of fun. Having an infant a toddler frequently means that a good chunk of what I’m doing from day to day is venturing into the unknown. While there are skeletal plans and routines, I’m never quite sure when a diaper blowout or projectile spit up can cause a readjustment of the plans. Just when I feel confident that we’ve gotten into a good routine, a growth spurt or teething or a sleep regression happens. And while that absolutely throws us off, in many ways, my ability to thrive through this phase of life depends on my willingness to be flexible, have appropriate expectations, and give myself grace.

Managing motherhood, as I’m coming to realize it, has been much more about how I manage me…as opposed to how I handle this tiny person to whom God has entrusted in my care. It’s been about developing a different kind of trust and faith, that truly believes that God equipped me to “Mama” this wonderful little human, and that we will be just fine.

Is it hard? Absolutely.

Is it exhausting? In the best kind of way.

Is it worth it? Totally.

More than anything, the experience has allowed me to begin to grasp the magnitude of love that God has for us. A love that delights, rejoices, and corrects because we are made in His image, and He desires for us to live a life that reflects that.

To God be the glory.

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!

 

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The Limit DOES Exist

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

I have limits.  I have limits, and that’s okay.

If there was one thing that constantly resonated with me over the course of my pregnancy, it was that I have limits.

I grew up being told (and believing) that I could do or be anything.  And so I worked (and continue to work) as if that is possible. Adding that work with a hint of perfectionism, and you can only imagine how easily one can spiral out of control.

When I was pregnant, and now in this new period of life with an infant, I’ve had to say no to things.  I’ve had to ask for help. I have, in many places, been confronted with the truth that I can’t do it all.

And after being confronted with that truth, I’ve been comforted by the reality that it’s okay.

It’s okay because:

  • It’s not for me to do everything.
  • It’s not for me to be everywhere.
  • I’m not for everyone.

To be clear, when I say “it’s not for me…”, what I mean is that it’s not God’s will for me to do everything, be everywhere, and be for everyone.  Our lives have seasons, and in this season, I’m having to reestablish my priorities to make sure I’m keeping the main thing the main thing.

This is challenging for me. There are things that catch my attention–worthy causes, opportunities for personal advancement, events and outings–and more than ever, I find myself saying, “no”. Not because I don’t want to, but because in this season, it’s not for me.

Sometimes I feel bad; I feel guilty for saying no.  And sometimes it’s hard to explain. There are times where it’s not a matter of logistics (i.e.: there’s not a scheduling conflict), but it’s a matter of energy preservation.  I have to recognize when my tank is full…and when it’s running low. I also have to recognize the situations and circumstances that may take me from full to empty very fast- and govern myself accordingly.

In this season, I’m constantly reminded that good things aren’t always God things. With limited time, energy, and resources, I MUST be purposeful about what I’m doing and why. This season won’t last forever, but if I want the seeds that I’m sowing to reap a mighty harvest, I must be intentional about what I’m planting, where I’m planting, and why I’m planting.  And I believe that with that intentionality, God will send others to water those seeds and provide the increase.

I’m grateful for this season, for identifying my weaknesses and limits; so that God may be glorified and strengthened in me.

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!

 

 


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4 (and a half) Months a Mama

It’s hard to believe that it’s been roughly 4 and a half months since we welcomed our sweet baby Ethan into our home.  I feel like every day I’m learning something new, and I’m watching him grow right before my eyes. Seriously–how is it possible that he gets longer while he’s away at daycare?

Being a mama has stretched me (literally and figuratively).  While I’d like to think that I’m the same person that I was prior to Ethan’s birth, I know that’s not true. And that’s not a good or bad thing- it’s just the reality of this new life that I’m learning.

There have been days where I have cried from frustration and exhaustion, wondering how it would all get done. There are moments in each day where I feel that my heart will explode from joy as I see the sweet face of my baby boy. There are days where the state of our country overwhelms me and I worry about the opportunity (or lack thereof) awaiting my beautiful black boy.

There’s much more that swirls through my mind and my heart, but more than anything; these 4 (and a half) months of being a mama have taught me how to trust God in a new way, because now it’s just not about me. It’s one thing for me to believe for me–it’s something totally different for me to believe God for someone else.

There’s a press that I have to operate at a higher level in God because I want Ethan to know God authentically, and Preacherman and I are his first teachers. I’m trusting and believing God for more, because I want my son to have a better life than what I have.

Trusting God as a mama has also comes in other forms- like when you live away from family and have to make decisions about your pediatrician, daycare, babysitters (send some, Lord!), and overall day-to-day care. At every turn, I’m being pushed to trust God more, to listen more for His voice, and to lean on the people that He has sent us in Jacksonville.

I struggle to remember my life before Ethan, and I’m so blessed to be a mama- and to be HIS mama. Truly, the Lord has done great things for me, and I am filled with joy! (Psalm 126:3)

“’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!

 


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Give Us THIS Day…

“Give us this day our daily bread…” – Matthew 6:11 KJV

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34 NIV

When I think about my life, there’s a good chunk of it that has been spent in worry and anticipation.  Worrying about things that may never happen and anticipation of things to come.  I think we can all identify with those feelings.

The challenge with oscillating between worry and anticipation is that, if you’re not careful, you’ll be completely absent from the present, missing the moments that will soon be memories.  I don’t want my life to be like that.  I want to fully drink in the thirst of this day, celebrating the successes I experience and growing from the challenges I face.

We’re currently fully immersed in newborn hazing, which includes lots of quiet days and not-so-quiet nights.  Operating off of little sleep is not one of my skills, and according to Preacherman, I fall asleep faster than any person he’s ever met.  But this season requires that I am attentive to the baby’s needs, and while I am looking forward to the days where he (and I) will sleep through the night, I don’t want to miss the moments of today.

I pray that I always remember his newborn smell and how it feels to have him snuggled against my chest in those early morning hours that he and I share.  I pray that I never forget how he positions his hands while he’s sleeping or the faces that he makes when we swaddle him.

He’s only going to be this little for a short period of time.  I mean, he’s already close to a month old (Lord, how?!?), and if that’s any indication for how fast the rest of his life will go, I just know that I can blink and he’ll be starting school, sneeze and he’ll be graduating, yawn and he’ll be off to college.

The days are long, but the years are short.

And while they are long, it’s up to me to maximize each day; to find the beauty in these mundane and difficult to manage moments; to trust in the Lord for his daily provision- his daily bread…and to not worry about anything beyond what’s in front of me.

Lord, help my mama heart.  Help me to not just endure these moments, but to also enjoy them. 

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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4 Days Early, Yet Right On Time

I just knew I had one more week.  At least that is what I was telling myself.  My “last week at work” to do list was growing by the minute, and though Preacherman had put me on his own version of homestay/bed rest, I was determined to knock out a bunch of tasks at home in our “last weekend before baby comes”.

Except in our “last weekend before baby comes”, the baby actually came.

Thanks God!

No, but for real.  Thank you, Lord, for this most beautiful blessing.

We’ve made it through our first week, and it’s been a mix of good days, better days, sleepiness, tears (from him and from me), and the best baby snuggles.  Oh, the snuggles are everything.  Like, drop everything and snuggle.

I digress.

Baby Ethan arriving early (yet on time), has been yet another reminder of what God has been teaching me all year, which is:

  • I got you.
  • I run this, not you.
  • You’ve got what you need.  Just trust me.

Throughout my pregnancy, we saw God’s faithfulness and provision over and over again and in the most unexpected places.  As I struggled with understanding the magnitude of what was to come, I heard God speak to me, saying:

“I will provide the people, or I will provide the power.  Either way, I will provide.”

And yes, that promise has been fulfilled over and over again.

But then there’s the other reminders (some gentler than others) that I am not in control.  Which, for my perfectionist heart, can lead to so much fear.  And over and over again, God would come through in ways that just left me feeling so encouraged and loved.

More than anything, I wanted to “be ready” for Ethan’s birth.  With this being my first child, I had no idea what that really meant, but it was super important that we have everything, in the right place, ahead of time, because if we don’t, it will all fall apart.  So I talked with friends, reviewed list after list online, ordered some items, and got to work.

And he came 4 days early.  And we didn’t have everything. And what we had wasn’t all in the right place.  But- it didn’t fall apart.

Any “item” that I so urgently needed- was in place.  But what had really happened; the most necessary thing that was ready- was that I WAS READY.  Despite how I felt, I was ready. And perhaps it is fitting that the first step in this journey of parenthood was a reminder of how much God has equipped me to be this sweet boy’s mama, and that I can trust Him for everything else.

Oh my sweet boy, you are such a blessing to your mama’s heart. I can already see how God has an awesome plan for your life.

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!

 


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Welcome Home Baby Ethan!

 

On Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 6:36pm I gave birth to the most amazingly handsome baby boy- Ethan Micah Almond.  We welcomed him home on Tuesday, May 17 and have been on a glorious rollercoaster ever since!

To say that Preacherman, our little, and I are excited would be quite the understatement!  We’ve been excited throughout the entire process of my pregnancy, so meeting Baby Ethan in person has filled my heart with joy.

And yes, that’s why I’ve been quiet for most of the year.

Well, not exactly.  I mean, things got busy, I got (more and more) pregnant, and I had to make a decision to keep the main thing the main thing- which meant focusing and prioritizing my life so that we could all be fully prepared to welcome this beautiful gift of God that we have the joy of guiding through life.

God really used this pregnancy as a time to speak to me about me- my heart, my desires, my fears, my limitations.  I can’t wait to share more of that with you in the coming days/weeks/months.

Until then- please continue to keep us all in your prayers as we begin to navigate this new phase of life!

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!

 


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The Best Kind of Boring

Last week I had the opportunity to drop in to the 5th Grade Band Class.  My purpose was really just to quickly speak with the teacher, but since he was clearly occupied, I thought I’d sit for a few minutes and just observe the teaching and learning process taking place.

To be clear, I’m ever so slightly biased towards band/music programs.  I was forced to take piano lessons as a child, and the family legacy of playing in the band starting in middle school was incredibly strong.  My father was a percussionist in the marching band when he was high school at Hillside in the 1970s.  Simply put, I always knew that I was going to be in band- at least for a year.

Well, that year ended up being way longer that we all expected.  I spent summers going to band camp at UNC-G and made sure to register for band through middle school and high school.  I started out playing trumpet, but quickly moved to clarinet after getting my braces and struggling to get any type of sound out of my trumpet.

I’m digressing.

So, I’m in this band class, and the ENTIRE class is focused on getting the ALL of the clarinet players to get a sound out.  Some of the scholars are able to do this effortlessly.  Others are competing for front row seats on the struggle bus.

All the while, I’m watching our band teacher repeat the same process- sometimes with students individually, sometimes with the group.  He never raises his voice- he’s steady in his delivery of correction and also consistent in providing praise.  And as time passes, I watch these students get closer to the goal.

It was, quite simply, the best kind of boring.

Doing something over and over and over and over and over again- until the results came.  Accepting correction and praise, making necessary adjustments, and persisting until they reached the goal.  It made me mindful of the fact that while we often dislike the boring and mundane tasks, they can also produce the results that we’re searching for if we’re willing to accept correction and praise, make adjustments, and persist.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9 NIV

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!


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Hope for Hubbard: A Love Initiative

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:13

Since the end of last year, I’ve been feeling pressed to find a way to demonstrate love to a group of people in Jacksonville.  I wasn’t quite sure what to do, and while I had some ideas, none of them “stuck”.  It wasn’t until the new year (literally, the beginning of this year) that I had clarity on what to do and how to move forward.

Which brings me to Hope for Hubbard: A Love Initiative.

My big goal: to increase the faith and hope of the women of Hubbard House by showing love on Valentine’s Day.

From their website:

The mission of Hubbard House is Every Relationship Violence-Free. Our priorities include providing safety for victims and their children, empowering victims, and social change through education and advocacy. Every woman, man, and child who comes to Hubbard House finds support, counseling, and education as they begin the difficult and dangerous transition to safety and peace. Victims of domestic violence and their children are not charged for the life-saving services they receive at Hubbard House.

Here’s what I want to do:

For Valentine’s Day 2016, I want to provide each of the 75 women who are currently finding shelter at Hubbard House with a token of love–specifically a silver or gold wishing bracelet from Stella & Dot along with an encouraging note.

AND I NEED YOUR HELP TO DO IT!

Will you partner with me to help increase the faith and hope of these women by purchasing a bracelet?

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Order the silver or gold wishing bracelet.
  • Include a note of encouragement in your order in the gift section (to be shared with the recipient).
  • Have your order mailed to me at the following address:
    • Erin Almond
    • KIPP Jacksonville Schools
    • 1440 McDuff Avenue North
    • Jacksonville, FL 32254
  • Believe God with me that this gift of love will plant seeds that increase the faith and hope of these women.

Are you in?  I sure hope so!

Please feel free to comment with your email address if you have any questions and I will reach out to you directly!

Thank you in advance for helping me show love to others this Valentine’s Day!

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!


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Book Review- The Miracle in the Middle

I first heard Charlotte Gambill preach at Celebration Church in the Fall of 2014.  She was one of the guest speakers for their annual women’s conference, and both Preacherman and I really liked her message.  We left the service and stocked up on some of her materials, and on a road trip I found myself going through message after message.  To say that she is a phenomenal teacher of the word of God and biblical principles would be an understatement.

All that said, I was overly excited to get my hands on a copy of the book “The Miracle in the Middle”.  I’ve found myself “in the middle” of quite a few circumstances and situations, and wondering when/where/how the Lord was going to move me from the middle to the other side.  Gambill provides great insight for enjoying that uncomfortable middle spot, and recognizing it for the miracle that it is- as well as encouragement for us to press through to get to the other side.

I must admit that prior to reading the book, I had already heard her preach a sermon by the same name.  Despite that fact, I still found the book to be insightful, well-written, and a blessing to me.  My approach to my “middles” is much different, as I’m learning to look at it as an opportunity for growth as just a place where I’m stuck until something changes.  I’m also realizing that as I change my perspective, things around me change- regardless of if there’s an actual shift in position.

I would encourage you to check out this book, as well as some of Gambill’s other messages!  The practicality with which she delivers her messages makes it easy to understand and apply to your life.

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are mine


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Lessons in Weeding

One of the greatest blessings for us was moving into a new home.  After what seemed like an endless process, we were finally able to move…and after a longer process, I can finally say that we feel relatively settled.  The process for making a house a home is lengthy, and while I still wonder what color I want certain walls, I’m willing to enjoy the peace that comes with a blank slate.

Preacherman handles most of our landscaping needs with the exception of weeding the mulched areas.  The weeding is my responsibility.  It seemed like a small, yet appropriate and meaningful task to for me to handle.  While I long to have the patience of my grandmother or some of my aunts when it comes to working in the yard, I’m not there yet.  So I’ll start with something small, and believe that over time, my patience will grow.

Earlier this week, I tackled the weeding as Preacherman was handling the rest of the yard.  And there were some lessons that I learned in the process:

  • It doesn’t take long for weeds to take root.
    • We’ve lived in our house now for just under 4 months.  I was amazed at how quickly weeds had taken root in two of the mulched areas.  Ironically enough, both of those mulched areas are relatively close to our sprinklers.  Here’s the thing- we must be mindful of what is taking root (and subsequently being watered) in us.  It doesn’t take long for weeds of sin to take root; eventually taking the very nutrients that we need for our survival.
  • Something that’s small on the surface can be deeply planted.
    • I made an assumption that some of the weeds wouldn’t be “that bad” because they were small.  I was mistaken- and it was the smaller weeds that gave me the most grief when trying to uproot them.  What we must remember- it can take a while for what’s planted to surface. Just because it seems small, doesn’t mean the root isn’t deep. The “little things” that we may tend to overlook can actually hold strong roots in good. We must be diligent in planting and watering the right things and weeding out the wrong things. 
  • Just because it doesn’t look like a weed doesn’t mean that it’s not a weed. 
    • One of the challenges I had in one of the areas was determining if something was actually a weed or part of the landscaping because they looked similar. After close examination and checking our neighbor’s landscaping, I realized it was a weed.  Here’s the thing- we must be careful to know what’s a weed and what’s actually supposed to be planted in us.  Looks can be deceiving.  In a world that is constantly telling us what we need to have, who we should be, and what we should look like, if we aren’t sure what should be rooted in us (and what shouldn’t be rooted in us) and what that looks like- we’ll be horribly confused. 
  • You must be committed to the weeding process.
    • As much as I’d love to think that I’m done with the weeding, I know that’s not the case.  It’s an ongoing process that I must be committed to if I want our yard to not just look healthy, but to BE healthy.  Likewise- we must be committed to the difficult process of weeding in our own lives.  What weeds and other things need to be uprooted in our life to ensure that we are living the life that God has called us to live?

While I can’t say that I enjoyed the weeding, I’m grateful for the heart check that God gave me during the process.  If I desire to bear much fruit in 2016, I’ll have to undergo and endure the weeding process.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” -John 15:1-2 NIV

Until next time…

Peace and Blessings…