Silver Linings

For the most part, I have always been one to try to find the bright side in every situation. Several weeks ago, however, my husband – very gently and with grace – pointed out that I had been only seeing the negative in practically every situation. He reminded that I was always the one who found the silver lining no matter the circumstance, and that was not who I had been lately. And he was right. With taking 6 classes, working 20 hours a week, and being horribly sick in my first trimester, I was overwhelmed, over-stressed, and just done. 

It was a real wake up call hearing it come from him, but I really had become the ultimate Debbie Downer. I made a decision that day, however, to not let negativity rule my life anymore because it made me – and surely him – miserable. Because that’s the thing: being extremely negative about an already difficult situation is going to make the situation immensely worse. I remembered the power of simply being grateful for the things that we do have and for the things that are going right. When you do that, you realize you are much better off than you thought!

I still have a tendency to overreact and become overly stressed about certain things (thanks, pregnancy), but my sweet husband is always there to gently remind me to focus on the things that are going right, because what we look at – what we focus on – greatly determines our outlook on life.

So if you’re in that place right now where the world seems to be against you and you are in over your head, I’d like to remind you that for every negative in your life, there is a positive (I promise, they’re there); there is always beauty among the ashes. Focus on those things. Give thanks for those things. Hold onto and focus on the One who never leaves you and is always there even during the rough things. You can still have joy during those things, don’t let anyone – especially yourself – take that away. Find that silver lining.

With love,

B

Photo credit: unsplash-logoDaniel Páscoa

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Life Changes

“We didn’t plan for things to go this way, but can you even imagine what life would be like if this weren’t happening?”

I said this to my husband last night as we stood in the kitchen and I showed him the baby books I had just bought (our child will definitely not have a lack of reading material – I have a problem…). We originally planned to have kids when we were both out of school, or at the very least when I was completely done. But when I sat in the campus infirmary one February afternoon and watched that little line appear, everything changed.

I was half terrified because this was NOT the plan, but at the same time, I couldn’t contain tears of pure joy as I realized I was going to be a mom. Finally.

I realize that may sound silly to some as I am not quite 22 yet, but the desire to be a mother has been brewing strong inside me for years and has only gotten stronger as I do life with the most amazing man in the world. When my best friend had the most beautiful baby girl in the world last December, I was in love. There were tears of joy streaming down my face as I saw her perfect little face for the first time. Later, though, if I’m being completely honest, which I try to be, I was crying for a different reason. Seeing that perfect little girl and seeing my best friend’s face as she held her baby for the first time created a deep ache in my heart because I still had years to go before that happened for me, and as absolutely happy as I was for her and her little family, part of me was heart-broken.

I know that to some that may seem silly or selfish, but it was how I felt. So I gave it to God. I didn’t want those feelings inside of me getting in the way of the pure joy I really was feeling for my best friend of nearly 10 years. I stopped thinking about it and just my best friend and her sweet little girl.

A month later I was pregnant.

I’m not saying that just because you surrender something to God, you are going to immediately get what you desire – that’s not how God works – but His timing is different than ours and it is perfect.

A few months ago I was praying that God would give me the strength, peace, and patience for these next few years of waiting. Now I’m praying for this sweet baby growing inside of me, whom I already love more than I ever could have imagined.

Our plans have changed significantly since that day in February, but oh, they have changed in the best way. There are still many unknowns, but I know God will carry us through just like He always has and just like He always will. We have plans, sure, but as Thomas Rhett says, “Life changes, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Love,

B

Photo credit: unsplash-logoMaxime Lelièvre

A Letter to our Baby

Little One,

Right now you are still so small – not even half a pound! Part of me wants to keep you with me like this forever, safe and sound, but that’s not how this works: soon you are going to be in this world and subject to all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful things that come with it. It’s going to be such a wonderful, exciting, and terrifying journey raising you, Little One, and Daddy and I can’t wait.

I pray that you see love in our household everyday, that you see Daddy and I love each other and love you with the love of Jesus.

I pray that you always choose to see the best in people, despite what others may be saying, and that you always have a kind word to offer.

I pray that you always find that you can come to Daddy or me with anything, knowing that we will always be here for you.

I pray that you always find it in your heart to extend grace and mercy.

I pray that you always see people as people, not as their problems.

I pray that you remember that it is okay to make mistakes and to be wrong because that is how we grow and learn.

I pray that you remember that just because you don’t always see God actively working in your life that it doesn’t mean that He isn’t working in the background.

And I pray that you never doubt how much your Daddy and I love you, because it already cannot be put into words how much we do.

You are such a blessing, Little One, and I can’t wait to meet you.

Love, Mommy

Photo Credit:unsplash-logoKate Krivanec

For Better, For Worse

For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness, in health. Till death do us part. Marriage is pledging to be with another person no matter what: in the hard moments, in the joyful moments, in the scary moments, in the exciting moments. It’s often messy and tear filled, beautiful and rewarding. As a spouse we get the unique and amazing experience of doing life with someone for the rest of our lives. We see them at their worst and at their best, and we get to be their biggest fan.

We get the privilege of encouraging our spouses to follow their dreams, accomplish their goals, and grow into the person God has called them to be. We get to encourage their talents and their gifts and help them cultivate them. We get front row seats to see how God is working in their lives, and we get to hold their hand and look back with them and say, “Wow, remember when things were like that? Look where you are now. Look where we are now.” That is beautiful, and we can’t take that for granted. It is a huge blessing to be intimately involved in someone else’s life. Sure, sometimes it’s hard – often times much harder than we would like it to be – but it is extraordinary.

With love,

B

Photo credit:unsplash-logoPriscilla Du Preez

Heart-Matter

When we invite Jesus to be the Lord of our lives we become free from not only the penalty of our sin but from the Law as well. Though the books of the Law are still important and give us wisdom, we are no longer bound to it. While of course there are things that are simple – I mean, we really shouldn’t be out thieving and murdering – our lives are no longer solely painted in black and white.

This being said, a lot of people don’t live this way. The message of the church often seems to be full of dos and don’ts, cans and cannots. We have freedom in Christ and God has given us free will, but not everything is beneficial to us (1 Corinthians 6:12). The Bible also instructs us to use our freedom wisely (Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 2:16). Freedom in Christ isn’t about legalism, it’s about motive, which took me awhile to understand (Phylicia Masonheimer is very helpful with this topic).

The Bible lays certain things out clearly for us, but other things are vague or not mentioned at all, and what it boils down to is our motive. Is what we’re doing beneficial to me? Is it hurting someone else? Is it hurting my witness to someone else? And perhaps most importantly, why am I doing it? For example, there’s a lot of controversy over whether or not Christians should drink alcohol. Firstly, the Bible does not prohibit drinking alcohol, it prohibits drunkeness. That leaves us each with a choice of whether or not we choose to drink. Are we prone to making irresponsible decisions? Are we drinking because it’s “cool”? Are we drinking as a coping mechanism? By drinking are we encouraging a friend’s alcoholism? What is our motivation?

We have great freedom, but with it comes great responsibility. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be caught up in legalism – in fact, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for that very reason!- but we should exercise our freedom wisely through prayer and self-examination.

With love,

B

Photo credit:unsplash-logoFlo Karr

What is the Importance of Biblical Law?

As some of you may know from following me on social media, I have been reading the Bible chronologically since July. As of this week, I have finished the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as well as Job! I have now finished the Torah, or the books of the Law (those first five books), which aren’t always the most exciting to read; however, I learned a lot.

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I have read Genesis and Exodus before, but God’s Word is alive and speaks to our hearts. I took away things I didn’t get the other times I have read those books. The latter books of the Torah – the books that really dig deep into the law – were foreign territory .

Since beginning a relationship with Jesus, the Law has always been a perplexing concept. If Jesus came and died for our salvation, what is the importance of the Law? I have struggled with this question for six years. It’s part of the reason that I never read past Exodus in the books of the Law up until recently.

I still have questions and there are still things that I do not understand, but during my journey through these books, I have learned why, as Christ followers, it is important to read the Law:

  1. The Law reveals to us what is important to God’s heart.
    • For example, there are severe consequences for idolatry. This reveals to us that this matter is important to God. Exodus 34:14 tells us that God is a jealous God. He is our Creator and our Father. Just as an earthly father desires a relationship with his children, our heavenly Father desires a relationship with us.
  2. The Law shows us that we are not good enough by ourselves.
    • The Israelites were given the Law and they struggled immensely with living by it. God knew that it would be that way – that’s why He gave them the regulations for sin and guilt offerings. There are 613 laws in the Old Testament – that’s a lot to remember! The Law points out our inadequacy and our need for a Savior.
  3. The Law shows us the importance of Christ.
    • When Matthew 5:17 says that Christ came to fulfill the Law, that means when God looks at someone who has been covered by the blood of Christ, He sees a check mark next to each law. I have read this verse of Scripture several times, but never truly understood the meaning until recently. Jesus does not make the Law irrelevant, He makes it complete. 

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Having a personal relationship with the Creator without being bound to the Law is amazing. Jesus is our mediator, our sin sacrifice, our fulfillment of the Law. This is the best news!

The Law is not pointless, it’s just no longer the way to reach God. Jesus is the link to our Father – the only link. When we believe Him and accept Him, He meets the requirements for us, and we are blameless before the Father. As a follower of Christ don’t skip over the Law, but let it remind you of the beautiful sacrifice of our Savior.

Reading through the books of the Law has humbled me greatly. I expected to be utterly bored, but this process has strengthened my relationship with Christ in ways that I never thought it would.

Photo Credit: Ben White

Seasons of Life

Our lives are not linear; we do not stay in the same place constantly. Like the seasons of the year, the seasons of our lives come and go. This thought is comforting in difficult times and perhaps bitter in more joyful times.

The season that we are in is unique to us and may look quite different from the people around us even if they are in a similar time in their life. For example, my best friend and I are one month apart in age, we are both seniors in college, we have similar majors, and we are both married, yet we are in very different seasons of life. The season I am in involves managing a full-time course load for school, work, and an internship. I am not home very much and spend most of my time doing homework and housework. Genelle on the other hand is going to school full-time as well, has a work-study through the university, and is preparing to have a baby in three months! Though the seasons that we are in share commonalities, they are quite different indeed!

Both of the seasons we are in are beautiful in their own ways, and one of my favorite things to do as of late is have conversations with her about what is going on in her life and sharing what is going on in mine, because for the first time, the seasons of our lives are more different than similar and the priorities and focuses of our lives are different. I love it.

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The thing about life is that we can never really expect what the future seasons of life will look like. For instance, when I was a freshman in college, I never would have guessed that I would change my major or that I would be getting married my junior year. We can plan all we want, but that doesn’t mean that things are going to work out that way – and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Genelle, for example, wasn’t necessarily planning on having a baby this year, and the season she was expecting to go into changed, but the unexpected season turned into a season of joy and blessings.

A valuable skill I have learned in the past few years is to accept the season of life that I am in. The current one I’m in is quite busy. I rarely get to spend time with my husband or my family and I have to be extra intentional about finding rest and being still in the presence of the Lord. When things feel like they are too much to handle, when I’m upset about not seeing my husband as much as I would like to, I simply say to myself, “It is only a season.” Though it is a trying season at times, it is a season full of immense blessings and joy as well. I can’t sit around and wait for that perfect time in my life to come along – it’s never going to. I have to find joy in each day.

This season will go and the next one will come. What will it be like? I have no clue, but perhaps the mystery is part of the adventure.

Photo Credit: Fineas Anton

Satisfied in You

I mentioned last week about my struggles last year that resulted in me taking antidepressants. Though they improved my symptoms, I still struggled greatly for awhile. I would lie in bed at night plagued by negative thoughts. I felt angry and bitter and guilt and upset over feeling angry and bitter. It was a vicious cycle. One night sometime after I went to the doctor, I was lying in bed unable to sleep. I turned on Spotify and listened to the discover weekly playlist that had been compiled for me based on songs I had listened to. I was lying there not paying much attention to the music until one song came on.  Satisfied in You (Psalm 42) by The Sing Team struck me in ways I had never expected; I had never heard the song before. The lyrics shook me to the core:

I have lost my appetite
And a flood is welling up behind my eyes
So I eat the tears I cry
And if that were not enough
They know just the words to cut and tear and prod
When they ask me “Whereʼs your God?”

Why are you downcast, oh my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
I can remember when You showed Your face to me

As a deer pants for water, so my soul thirsts for You
And when I survey Your splendor, You so faithfully renew
Like a bed of rest for my fainting flesh

When Iʼm looking at the ground
Itʼs an inbred feedback loop that drags me down
So itʼs time to lift my brow
And remember better days
When I loved to worship You and learn Your ways
Singing sweetest songs of praise

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about Your faithfulness
Let my pain reveal Your glory as my only real rest
Let my losses show me all I truly have is You

So when Iʼm drowning out at sea
And all Your breakers and Your waves crash down on me
Iʼll recall your safety scheme
Youʼre the one who made the waves
And Your Son went out to suffer in my place
And to show me that Iʼm safe

Why am I down?
Why so disturbed?
I am satisfied in You

From the first line, I was hooked. I listened to the cries of a broken soul. I listened to the hope that the broken soul found. I listened as I sighed and traded sorrow for peace.

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I still struggled. I still had bad nights. But I would listen to that song. I would read Psalm 42. It became my lifeline. I would ask myself the same question that psalmist did: “Why are you downcast, oh my soul?” God had been so faithful to me. These trials weren’t going to last forever. I stopped trying so hard. I stopped torturing myself with feelings of guilt. I simply gave in to the peace the Father was offering. I became satisfied in Him. Again and again.

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To this day that song makes me think about the first time I heard it, the night that it was a life raft for me. Ironically, with this post already being planned for this week, a few weeks ago our pastor spoke on Psalm 42. I again sat and reflected on God’s faithfulness. How I came out of that trial with more empathy and more hope than ever before.

When feelings from before try to creep their way back into my life, I remember the night that I said “no” to my downcast, disturbed soul, the night that I “lifted my brows and remembered better days,” the night that I allowed myself to become satisfied in Him and filled with His peace.

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Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:5

Photo Credit: Gary Bendig

One in Four

One in four people will have a mental disorder at some point in their lives. Does this number surprise you? It doesn’t surprise me. As a psychology major, the prevalence of mental disorders is well known to me – I just never thought I would end up being the one in four.

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In the fall of 2015 I started noticing that my PMS was becoming abnormal. As the months went on, I almost physically couldn’t stand being around people – especially the people I was closest to – because I would get so irritated or angry. It wouldn’t have bothered me if I could go an entire day or more without talking to someone. I would lay in bed for hours watching TV. It would take everything in me to convince myself to get up. To interact. I didn’t really care to eat. I was so ashamed of the way I felt that even when I wasn’t PMSing I still didn’t want to be around people. I still wanted isolation. Finally, in May of 2016 I went to see my doctor. I told her what was going on, and she said that my symptoms sounded like Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (or PMDD).

I started on an antidepressant. This didn’t bother me. Because of my study of psychology I knew how beneficial medication could be when needed. By the time the next month rolled around, my symptoms were much less extreme. As time went on, I was able to better manage my emotions and my reactions. I could be around my loved ones without wishing for a way out. I was starting to feel normal again.

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Not many people knew I was taking medication. There is a belief that is common in the church that if you are a Christian, then you shouldn’t need things like antidepressants. In all honesty, I digress.
We live in a world full of sin, death, and disease and depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, conversion disorder, and panic disorder still exist whether you are a believer or not.

Because of this stigma around medication, I chose to stop taking my antidepressants too soon, in all honesty. I felt that if people knew they would look down on me because I should have had it together. I should have been able to overcome my problem without a pill. I study mental health and behavior, I know what happens in the brain and how therapy/medication can help, and yet I still felt this way. Something is wrong here. Because I chose to medicate and my symptoms calmed down to a manageable point, I was able to think more clearly. I was able to calm myself down enough to pray and to seek Him. I believe that God has equipped many men and women in the field of counseling. Therapy is a wonderful thing. Medication can be, too, when necessary. Seeking help doesn’t make you any less of a believer. 

As an believer, as an individual, you have the right to make the choice of how you choose to seek help if you need it. My decision was one that I thought about, one that I prayed about, one that I had peace about. If you found yourself in the same situation as I found myself in, your choice could have been different. You could have chose to seek counseling. Or to not to seek outside help. Or to seek help some other way. And that is perfectly okay. But don’t let someone make you think that because you are a Christian, you aren’t allowed to have mental health issues –  that would be like saying you aren’t allowed to have diabetes. I fully believe that through the power of Christ in us we can overcome the obstacles in our life – but just like we go to a doctor when we are sick, we are allowed to reach out when we are struggling mentally.

I am a Christian and I was on antidepressants. I’m okay with that. I’m grateful for it. When I struggle now, when symptoms start to creep back in, I can handle it because the time that I spent on medication allowed me to learn how to control what was happening, which I couldn’t do beforehand. Think. Research. Pray. Make the decision that you need to.

Photo Credit: Misael Nevarez

Even If You Don’t

“I know You’re able and I know You can/
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand/
But even if You don’t/
My hope is You alone/
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt/
Would all go away if You’d just say the word/
But even if You don’t/
My hope is You alone”

-“Even If” by MercyMe

I find this song and the message in it so beautiful. As a believer, things happen that I don’t understand. It can be so frustrating sometimes when I know that God could do x, but it doesn’t happen. I think this is particularly the case when it comes to health. We know God can bring healing – there’s several accounts in the Bible of God’s healing power as well as several accounts of it happening today – but sometimes He doesn’t. Why? I don’t know. Isaiah 55:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

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Even so, it can be so incredibly hard when you’re amidst a terrible situation, and the miracle you’re praying for doesn’t happen. It can make you fall on your knees and scream why until your throat is raw. It can make you doubt. It can make you angry. But can it also be well with your soul?

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Recently I was talking about how while I pray for miracles, I also pray for God’s will and for the strength for whatever happens to be well with my soul. I started thinking about it this way: When you see someone whose illness or injury has been healed, it inspires awe and praise of God. But have you ever heard a story about someone with a serious injury or disease that, though they haven’t been healed, they are one of the most faith-filled, joyous people you’ve ever heard of? I don’t know about you, but that inspires just as much awe and praise in my heart! It brings me to tears when I hear stories of people in terrible circumstances that can praise the Lord more than someone like me! How great is their faith!

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You bet I pray for miracles – but I also pray for strength and for God’s will. The things that happen on this Earth are bigger than me and the way that I would like things to happen. We live in a fallen world of sin, death, and disease. Bad things happen. Sometimes God steps in, but sometimes He doesn’t. I don’t know why, but all I can do is cling to the Rock that is higher than I, and as the song says, “[pray that You] give me the strength to be able to sing, ‘it is well with my soul'” and allow the miracles that don’t happen to strengthen my faith and my empathy towards others who are in similar situations. When the miracles come, I praise the Lord. When the miracles don’t come, I praise the Lord. It is well with my soul.

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Photo credit: Ben White