life beyond the well…


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The Praise that Matters

When we were growing up, Preacherman and I both played multiple sports. He played basketball, baseball, and ran cross country and track.  I played volleyball and basketball, and also ran track.  We both really enjoyed the experiences (you learn some valuable lessons on teams), as well as the opportunity to be physically active; and we desire for our children to hone in on some activities as well.

BabyAlmondJoy can walk (and run) now, and already LOVES being outside. And, since we know it’s never too early to get kids started with being active, we encouraged (read: told) my mom that a Little Tikes Basketball Goal would be a great Christmas gift (besides, you gotta start early if you’re going to play Carolina basketball).  It miraculously appeared at our home before Christmas (thanks Mom!), and it’s been a hit with the whole family.

This past week, we were having our mini “basketball practice”, and after putting the ball in the basket, we would cheer for BabyAlmondJoy. But I also noticed that something else would happen after we cheered- he (BabyAlmondJoy) would immediately run to Preacherman to get a big hug or a high five. Despite me standing right next to Preacherman, the only praise that mattered for BabyAlmondJoy was that which he received from his father.  It didn’t matter that I was there, it didn’t matter that I participated in the process with him, it didn’t matter that I celebrated just as his father did.  When BabyAlmondJoy wanted to receive praise for his accomplishments, he went directly to his father.

I wish I could say that I was like this. Despite me knowing that the approval of God is much greater than the approval and permission of man, time and time again, I find myself worried about what people will say, as opposed to what God says. And when I find myself in positions of worldly victory, there are times when I’m slow to acknowledge that any victory I’ve experienced is the result of God working on my behalf (in me, through me, and around me).

I’m grateful that God plants these small reminders of what matters most into the life and heart of my baby boy, and I pray that I’m always open to receive what He’s sharing. But beyond that, I pray that I remember who’s approval and praise matters most- and that I line up my actions accordingly.

Until next time…

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!

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Only the Father Will Do

There’s a running joke in our home that the first person to grab BabyAlmondJoy and get him his milk/breakfast after he wakes is his favorite person for the day. It’s as if whoever meets that first, most immediate need for him is the best parent ever, and over the course of the day, he will generally indicate a preference for that person. We attempt to tend to his needs equally; however, there are days and tasks that lend themselves to one person over the other.  Parenting (in the midst of the many other things we have going on) lends itself to teamwork and an ebb and flow as it relates to who does what. That said, sometimes I am the best parent ever, and other days, Preacherman wins the award. We cheer for each other, and make sure that above all, BabyAlmondJoy knows he is loved and cared for by both of us.

BabyAlmondJoy and I recently had a bout of sickness (really the entire time from Thanksgiving until Christmas) that left us oscillating between feeling okay and terrible, but never at 100%. After multiple trips to the doctor, and a few rounds of medication, we both showed signs of improvement; however, just before Christmas break, BabyAlmondJoy encountered yet another virus (complete with fever, rash, and general irritability).  We took another trip to the doctor, only for them to tell us that, “It’s a virus” and, “You just need to give it time”. And so we did.

During that time, BabyAlmondJoy could ONLY be consoled by Preacherman. Despite my best efforts to be the nurturing mama, he let me know that in this moment, only his father would do. My attempts and desires to console and care for him were nice, but he knew that what he needed to feel better was wrapped up in the arms of his father.  And so, for about 36 hours BabyAlmondJoy stayed glued to Preacherman. It was only when he reached a certain point of restoration and wellness that he allowed me and his sister to really engage with him.

Though my mama feelings were slightly hurt, my soul was encouraged; and I was reminded that there are situations in life where only the Father will do. While there will be times that God will send people to work on his behalf, there are also times where I need to rest in Him until I reach a place of healing, restoration, and wellness before I engage with others. In those times, I need to press into His presence so that I can be given and accept the healing that is needed.

Until next time…

Peace and blessings.

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” – 3 John 1:2

 


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Stunted Growth

As a mom, I have really struggled with how fast the time passes. I remember others telling me that the time goes by fast, that if I blink, I’ll miss a moment. It’s definitely hard to hold on to that sentiment when you’re in the middle of newborn hazing and being fueled by prayer, adrenaline, water, and snacks. Now that we’ve successfully navigated the first year, I recognize just how fast the time is passing.

It is a wonderful feeling to watch your child grow and master new things. At least once a day he does something that makes me feel that my heart will explode from overwhelming joy. And while I enjoy watching this boy of mine grow so incredibly fast, there’s a part of me that wants to just hold him in this spot where I know that he’s safe, loved deeply, cherished, and valued.  Those aren’t things that the world can promise to my beautiful black son.

What I realized is that my well-intentioned desires to keep my son safe can also lead to stunting his growth. There are (and will be) things that he’s ready for developmentally, regardless of if I’m ready for him to be at that stage and it’s my responsibility to facilitate his growth and development, not stunt it. Being a good steward of his life requires that I (we) do all that we can to lead him as God leads us, to help him grow into who God has called him to be, in every aspect of his life.

For my mama heart, this means leaning in to God more and trusting His plan. It means yielding my worries to God, and embracing my little one’s curiosity and spirit of discovery. It means that I must intentionally raise the bar, time and time again, to show him that he is capable of great things; while also being willing to hold him accountable to  standards of behavior and character that are pleasing to God.

Lord, help us to steward the life of this child in a way that is pleasing and honorable to you. Help us to, with your help, lead him to levels unparalleled because of what you have planned for his life.

 


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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!