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 Appointment

It’s not something that’s on my schedule.  If you were to check my iPhone and my Outlook calender, you’d notice that the space between 4:45pm and 5:00pm Monday-Thursday is always empty. It’s the end of the day, and during that time, I find myself doing two things: prepping for the next day and waiting.

Waiting for my appointment.

I don’t know when it became an “appointment”.  It kind of just happened.  She would get dismissed from her class and swing by my office before heading downstairs to get picked up.  Initially, it was just to ask a question about high school or college. But eventually it became more- the visits became more frequent and the questions (and conversations) became about life.  Real life stuff- the kind of stuff that can trip up even the smartest, most talented person if they aren’t equipped to deal with it.  She shares, and asks questions.  I listen- until she’s ready for me to ask questions or provide feedback.

After talking with Jesus, and praying with Preacherman, this is one of the best parts of my day. When working with students, you often wonder if you’re really impacting their life.  You wonder if what you do, what you say, how you teach and instruct is helping to move the needle; not just in the classroom, but outside of it as well.  Most days, I’m given this appointment- this 15 minutes to plant some seeds, water other seeds, and pull up some weeds in this student’s life.  It’s something that I cherish- and I’m grateful to God to be entrusted with this responsibility.  My life is better because of it- and I pray that hers is as well.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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Stuff Kids Say…

Our little one is growing by leaps and bounds, and it’s something that gives Preacherman and I great joy.  She has taken kindergarten by storm, and we’re excited to see how she’ll continue to mature and develop.

Kids are funny.  As with the Lord, their thoughts and ways are not like ours.  It’s funny to see and hear this come forth in conversation.  Here’s a snippet of last night’s conversation (we were talking about the different classes she has at school):

Preacherman: “So, in technology class, do you use computers or ipads?”

Our little one: “We use computers. THAT’S why it’s called TECHNOLOGY.”

Well, I guess that settles it!  Preacherman and I had a good little laugh about that.

Parenting is a joy and a blessing.  What are some funny things your kids are saying?

Be encouraged!  Peace and blessings!


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25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

I have my dear friend Jovian to thank for this.  She sent these questions out in an email to a bunch of us, and I thought I’d tackle them in this space…because I feel that doing so makes me slightly more accountable than just answering them in my head or replying via email.

So, let’s have at it (warning- this is long):

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

1. What am I most proud of this year?

I am most proud of my growth as a wife.  Every day, there are new challenges and new opportunities for growth.  In our first year of marriage, we had experienced changes beyond what either of us could have imagined.  I’m proud of handling the change with faith, and by being on the same team.

2. How can I become a better person?

I ABSOLUTELY must be better by asking for help.  Note to self: It takes a strong person to admit where they are weak, and to ask for help to become stronger.

3. Where am I feeling stuck?

In my pursuit of having a more healthy lifestyle. My current reasons have not been compelling enough, nor has my discipline been where it needs to be. I’m looking forward to overhauling this area, and really understanding my “why”; as well as creating SMART goals to make sure that I see the progress I desire.

4. Where do I need to allow myself grace?

In my role as a wife. Preacherman knows this more than anyone, but I am incredibly hard on myself.  I’ve decided to adopt Emily Ley’s motto as my own: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION.”

5. Am I passionate about my career?

Yes! I love what I do, and who I serve. It’s been a huge area for growth, but it’s been rejuvenating and fun. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help students see the possibilities, and then make them realities.

6. What lessons have I learned?

Not so much lessons, but reminders: God is a faithful. God is love. God is a provider. God is…

7. What did my finances look like?

I’m extremely proud of our saving this year- we came up with a plan that works, and with God’s provision, we were able to handle a huge move in the short-term without taking much of hit.  This year, the goal is to live lean, save more, and to look for ways to build wealth.

8. How did I spend my free time?

Pre-move: lots of time was spent serving at church, and fellowshipping with friends and family.  Post-move: lots of time was spent on organizing our new home, getting acclimated to new jobs and a new area, and creating systems to make us more efficient.

9. How well did I take care of my body, mind, and soul?

I started out on a roll with all three- exercising and eating healthy, striving to learn new things, and purposefully seeking growth in my relationship with God.  As things got busy and life happened, I didn’t do as great of a job at balancing all three- I would maybe have 2 things going well, but missing the third one.  Again, I believe that creating SMART goals for 2014, along with clarity about what’s most important in this current stage of life will help me be better at all of these in the coming year.

10. How have I been open-minded?

In seeking, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God beyond what I can see or feel.  The circumstances of my life this year have required that I be more open to seeing, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God.

11. When did I feel most creatively inspired?

I don’t know if I can identify a time, but I know that I feel more creatively inspired to write (for this blog and otherwise) when I’m most balanced in my relationship with God and can hear Him clearly.

12. What projects have I completed?

Getting the new home organized and decorated.  It’s great coming home to a place that you love.

13. How have I procrastinated?

Dissertation.  See also #15.

14. In what ways can I re-structure my time?

Reducing some of the social media activity (although I LOVE the debates and conversations that take place on Twitter and FB), Scheduling meetings in the mornings, blocking out my day tasks- and not being afraid to say no to someone else’s “urgent” (your emergency is not my emergency) when it could be detrimental for me.

15. How have I allowed fear of failure hold me back?

Dissertation- the feedback that I have received while working on my dissertation has been the most critical feedback that I’ve ever received in academic work.  I’ve always enjoyed school, and I’ve always done well at it.  While I enjoy this, I find myself in a situation where I’m doing a ton of work that is extremely time consuming…only to get a significant amount of feedback of where you can improve.  It can be paralyzing to know that you’re doing all that you can to submit your best work and you KNOW that you’re going to get  a return email with your document…and even more corrections to make.  I definitely let this affect my mental approach to this work, and that CANNOT happen this year.  I need to keep the end goal in mind.

16. Where has self-doubt taken over?

In appearance- turning 30 in a workplace where the average employee is a female around the age of 23 or 24 and has their college metabolism and college body really forced me to think about what I wanted 30 to LOOK like and feel like for me, and how to really get to “my best self”.

In competence- my school work transitioned from classes to sole work on my dissertation.  I thought that without having classes, I’d miraculously have more time and the ideas and words would flow freely.  But that’s totally not what happened…and while I had moments of progress and inspiration, it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d hoped for.  When I coupled that with my inability to really master my time in the best way, I began to doubt my ability to complete the task at all.  I ended this year on a high note, making much progress and getting positive feedback from my dissertation chair.

17. When have I felt the most alive?

In moments with Preacherman and/or our little- working on math problems, making funfetti pancakes, watching the Cosby show, helping to wrap Christmas presents, singing “Jesus Loves Me” before bed, reciting our confession of faith together in the mornings.  All the little moments that I won’t always have.

18. How have I taught others to respect me?

Setting appropriate boundaries- especially at work has been extremely helpful here.  Being vocal about what I need, and refusing to take on too much has been incredibly helpful here also.

19. How can I improve my relationships?

Be more diligent in maintaining and creating them.  This is a challenge as an introvert, but it’s one that I need to overcome…particularly if I want to keep friends and make new ones.

20. Have I been unfair to anyone?

I hope not (LOL!).  I’ve probably been most guilty of being unfair in not extending the same grace to others that I would want extended to me.

21. Who do I need to forgive?

There are a few people who really hurt me over the past few years, and while it doesn’t hurt anymore; there are times where I find myself angry or frustrated about the way things panned out, especially after doing what I could to reconcile the situation. I need to be better about taking any negative thoughts captive and committing my mind to complete forgiveness.

22. Where is it time to let go?

Overworking/being a workaholic.  I need to place better energy on being productive while at work, and not always allowing things to carry over into home life. My first responsibility is to be the wife and steppie that God has called me to be.

23. What old habits would I like to release?

Being mean to myself/being too hard on myself. Grace, not perfection.

24. What new habits would I like to cultivate?

Consistency in reading: The Bible, devotionals, and other books to promote learning and growth

25. How can I be kind to myself?

As mentioned above, I think Emily Ley’s motto sums it up perfectly: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION”


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The Safety Belt

I love my little one.  Her curiosity, zeal and zest for life is refreshing.  She absolutely loves to learn, is a super amazing artist (seriously, I think we have a prodigy), and has learned how to push the boundaries in the most delicate, thoughtful ways.   More often than not, I find myself in situations with her, where after the fact, I’m forced to ask God, “Is that how I am as your child?”

For example- the safety belt.  Or seat belt.  (Tomato, toe-mah-toe).

My little one enjoys going places (Target is her favorite store), and each trip unfolds some sort of adventure.  Of course, since she’s 5, she has to be strapped in to her booster seat before we can travel anywhere.  Now, when we first got her booster seat, she was pretty excited about it (I mean, it’s got CUP HOLDERS, y’all?!? I’m excited for her).  But after a while, she became pretty annoyed and uncomfortable with the safety belt.

At first, it was just a little thing, trying to position it properly to increase her level of comfort.  Then, it changed to slightly moving it over, so it ever-so-slightly rested off of her shoulder.  Though this behavior was corrected, it continued and grew, evolving to completely moving the safety belt so that it wasn’t protecting her to the degree at which it was designed.  After a more stern conversation, she was back to wearing the safety belt as she was supposed to, without maneuvering and manipulating it.

I have to admit that I was frustrated in this exchange.  While I don’t want her to experience discomfort, it is more important that she is safe.  And I as dealt with my frustration, the Lord gently nudged me and reminded me of how I am the same way.  He reminded me of the times where I’d prefer to ignore/disregard/remove the safety belt He has in place because it’s uncomfortable.  How often have I sacrificed my safety because of my discomfort?

While we overcame that challenge, as a parent, I continued to wonder the following: How do Preacherman and I parent in a way so that our children will CHOOSE the safety belt over the discomfort when they are older?  How do we parent so that she will choose purity over promiscuity in a culture that promotes the latter more than the former?  How do we parent so that she will choose virtue over vulgarity in a world that screams “I can do/say/be who I want and you have to deal with it”?

As an adult, there’s no one there to make sure that I use the safety belt in the car every day.  Sure, the car will beep to let me know that it’s not on, but otherwise, there’s not a real consequence unless I get caught (Hey Mr. Officer) or I’m in an accident.  I recognize that those consequences are costly, and instead of deal with the consequences, I’d just rather be safe (legally, and in terms of my life) instead of uncomfortable.

Even now, there are some circumstances and situations that God has me strapped in that are uncomfortable.  However, I trust that His wisdom, His plans to prosper me and not harm me are greater than the discomfort that I feel.  May you also trust that God has you where He wants you, that He has a purpose for you being there, and that despite the discomfort, you are safe.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!