Thursday, August 3, 2017

It's a Bit of a Fixer Upper



Last week, we stepped foot into our new (to us) home. We were greeted by about 600 spiders, a thick layer of grime on our feet, the wafting smell of dead mice, 4 different schemes of wallpaper, and some really sketchy aromas in our 50's style bathroom. We couldn't have been more excited!

(Exhibit A. bathroom straight from the 50's, possibly with a hint of mold)

I know that more than one person will walk through our home in the next year, thinking to themselves "What in the world were Sam and Annette thinking, and why do they love this home so much?!" ...The answer is simple--We see the potential, and it is absolutely thrilling that we get to carry out that potential, as a family, and make this our home.

This is exactly how Jesus loves us and pursues us, He intimately knows the dark corners of our minds. He has slept in the cobwebs, He's inhaled the poisonous mold, He has touched the dirt on our feet. He sees us, He knows us, and He still loves us.  Not only that, but He sees how beautiful we can be, He sees our potential, and He tells us that all we need is to trust in Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to come set up shop in our hearts.

Every home, no matter how nice, will give out in some way or another. Whether that's a leaky basement or an infestation of fleas, we can be certain that our dwelling place will need repair. Man is no different. We are desperate for Jesus! It doesn't matter if you're the home that has been built with the best of materials, or the home that is perhaps crumbling a bit and hard to look at. Both are equally as needy.

Sam and I were so in love with this home, that we offered $10,000 over the asking price. Not only that, we were willing to overlook anything that came up in the inspection that would cost under $2,000, in the spirit of keeping things simple and appealing for the seller. This was a sacrifice for us and we had to trust that this was really what we wanted and be willing to sign up for some hard work and potentially some suffering.

Jesus invested in us, as humans, in a much more sacrificial way! He purchased us, by His blood, on the cross. He came to earth, as man, and suffered for us! His agony was so immense leading up to the crucifixion, that His sweat became like blood as He prayed to the Father (Luke 22:44). But even still, He died for us, while crying out "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).

Do you see what a "fixer upper" you are?  Bask in His grace and His mercy, and allow yourself to be transformed and remade by the Holy Spirit. Invite Him into all of the dark corners, and even the clean corners, because even those spaces are dirty. Steep in His truth as watch your life be taken into His hands!

Father, Thank you so much that through you, I have been remade. Thank you that I am a new creation, and that you are able to use a sinner, like me, to advance your kingdom. Thank you for pursuing my dirty heart. Thank you for loving me perfectly when I am unlovable. Thank you that I can trust that your ways are best and that I can walk confidently with you, knowing that you only want good for me. God, I invite you into my heart today and everyday, and ask that you'd rebuild all the broken and ugly pieces. I pray for more of you, and less of me.
 In your name I pray. 
Amen.

Monday, June 26, 2017

I'm Going to Ecuador?!

Acts 13:47-49
"For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.' And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region."

It was just a few months ago that I was sitting in church, listening to the announcements, when something caught my attention. Our church was looking for a team to be sent to Ecuador in July 2017. This is a yearly routine at the church I attend, and normally I thank the Lord for those brave enough to volunteer, and that's that. This year, though, as our pastor spoke of this opportunity, I was insistent that my husband, Sam, should most definitely go! 

For a few weeks I nagged him and made him send in the e-mail saying he was interested, and then when it came time that the team needed some true commitment, Sam said "I don't think I really want to do this. why don't you go?" .....Crickets chirping.....Me? I have to be honest that the first thing holding me back was that others would look down on me for leaving my kids and husband for a week, 'cause hey, doesn't a "good" Christian wife send her husband off to do things like this?! God quickly revealed to me that he is not picky about who spreads the gospel, and that actually my situation of being a stay at home mom made me uniquely available to this opportunity. So I put my "yes" in Him and committed! 

A year ago I was talking to a sweet friend (Kaitlin!) after she had just informed me she was going on the Ecuador trip. I was in awe of her bravery and how simple she made it seem to just pick up and go as the Lord called her to do. I remember saying something along the lines of " I can't ever see myself going on a mission trip. I don't have a strong theological background, or the means to 'convince' people of Jesus." I remember this conversation and my fears so clearly, but I had it all wrong! God has shown me that it's not about how much you know, but rather how much you love Jesus with all your heart, mind, and soul. He supplies the rest as you grow in relationship with Him! I am no longer afraid, because I know HE will equip me to touch lives and love on people who have never known the love of Jesus, it's not about 'me' at all.

The Lord has supplied, abundantly, to make this trip possible for me. Friends and family far and near have donated generously, a hiccup in my passport application was corrected quickly, and my in laws even agreed to come watch the kids so that Sam wouldn't miss any work. I am extremely grateful all around! The Lord has been strengthening my heart each time I read scripture, and I am clinging to His promises for the various anxieties I carry. 

Now, at just 4 days from departing, I can only ask of your prayers. Pray for each of our hearts, that we would joyfully accept whatever the Lord has for us in Ecuador, and that He would unite us as a team for His glory. Pray that there would be more of Him and less of us (John 3:30). And lastly, pray that My in laws don't despise me too much after wrangling our two toddlers for a week ;) 

Until next time, 
Annette



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Unshakable


I have felt the arrows of attack this week. Satan tempts me..I can hear his call to internalize and be self focused. I can taste the bitterness planted in my heart, I can hear the song of self pity playing loud and clear. He tempts me, and I fall to my knees and I pray, because it's a scary world, without God. It's a fearful thought to ever stray from my heavenly father.

Yesterday, I stood at the counter, chopping vegetables, listening to Ephesians, and ignoring the cries of babes who would not take a nap. It was another one of THOSE battles...you know, when you think you've aligned everything just perfectly so that the kids will nap. And then they don't. In my experience, this has triggered one of two responses. The first (and most common) has been to throw a tantrum in my mind, which consists of something like "My kids hate me, I don't deserve this, I'm so sick of this, etc." The second response, and the one I'm working to implement always, is to take it to God in prayer.

When I take my cares to Him and allow Him to overflow my heart with truth, life, and hope, the missed nap and uncooked dinner seems much less significant. He gives me endurance when I feel depleted, He gives me time when I thought I had none, and he gives me patience when, by nature, I'm prone to snap. He gives me humility on days when I just couldn't clean or cook, and my poor husband walks into a train wreak.

He reassures me, always. He tells me "Annette, it's ok. I am bigger than your messy house, and your tired eyes, and your fighting kids." He says "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28). He says "Cast your anxiety on me, because I care for you." (1 Peter 5:7). He says "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10). He Says "Draw near to the throne of grace, receive my mercy and find grace in your time of need." (Hebrews 4:16).

When I feel like my worldly troubles will overtake me, and my past will bring me down, He reminds me that "I have not received a spirit of slavery which leads to fear, but a spirit of adoption as His daughter which I may cry out, Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15). He reminds me "This is the only race worth running." (Timothy 4:7). He reminds me that I should "Be in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the ages began." (Titus 1:2). And finally, He reminds me that "He is so rich in love and mercy that even when I was dead in my sinfulness, he made me alive with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4-5).

I am safe, I am saved, and I am satisfied, through Him. Life is not stable, the days can be long and difficult or sometimes short and gleeful, but through His truth and love, you can remain unshakable. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The armor of God in motherhood

If you know me even a little, you know that I love my podcasts, John Piper sermons, and worship music. Basically anything I can put on as encouragement during the kids' naptime while I do the dishes, clean, or whatever needs done. During my worst bout of depression I played "Oceans" over an over during the day and it helped ground me to the truth, even in my desperate state. I was listening to a podcast last night and a quote really jumped out at me which basically said that Satan attacks right before or after God has a mighty plan for us. We can see this in Peter 5:8 which says "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour". It makes so much sense that the enemy would mess with the minds of believers, especially when we're about to do great, God glorifying, deeds.

With that being said, yesterday was "one of those days". I woke up feeling unprepared, I didn't feel like serving joyfully, didn't feel like stepping into the work God has trusted me with, I felt snappy and irritable and wanting to go back to bed. Yesterday, I wanted to be a "victim" in a life that God has blessed me with. I wanted to snub my nose at His glorious plans and do it my own way. I could feel my heart diverging from the truth and immersing into self-pity and self doubt. Do you notice a trend here? I was entirely focused on me! I had my head down, instead of looking up to our glorious Father, and he reminds me (ever so patiently) that if I would take my eyes off me, things would be SO much easier!

Ephesians 6: 10-18 says:
" Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."

We can stand firm in truth   
-Philippians 1:6 "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
-1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."
-Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

With the breastplate of righteousness in place
-2 Corinthians 5:21 "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." in other words, we can stand clean before God, even as sinners. 

The Gospel of peace 
-Romans 8:28 "Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else?"

The shield of faith 
Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

The helmet of salvation
-Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

The Sword of the Spirit
-The Bible! Pray through scripture, meditate on it, fill your minds with God's mighty words of truth and promises!

Pray in the Spirit
-Romans 8:5-7 "Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will."
  
Ephesians 6 is such a beautiful piece of scripture, especially for us mamas! I am training myself to pray through this during the difficult moments and remember the truth of these words.We, as Christians, have been gifted with the armor of God...what then can touch us! Take up your armor, in faith, and in confidence, and be ready for attack, but also rejoice in the beauty of our almighty and his deep love for us. Hold your screaming child and remove yourself from the situation, and replace God. Serve while knowing that he is with you. answer those 1000 questions your toddler is asking while praying for patience and endurance. Put on the armor, and fight whatever lies the enemy is attacking you with and, as always, walk confidently in the perfect peace that God knows and understands you and your situation.









Wednesday, April 26, 2017

God power or Brain power?


Father, I pray that you would guide the words I am about to write. I pray that through these blog posts, you will shine, not me. I pray for wisdom , compassion, humility, and a sound mind. Amen.

As a parent to small children, I am hyper aware of all the messages out there for how to parent a child, not to mention my own predisposition to gravitate towards trendy techniques that might make me the "perfect" parent. There is an overabundance of information on what to do. I see statements like "if you breastfeed your child until the age of three years, two days, and 5 minutes, your child will be set up for an absolutely perfect life." or "If you ever put your child in timeout for more than 2 minutes, he'll grow up to resent you and never be a functioning human being". Yeah , yeah, I know those examples are dramatic and not actually things I've ever read, but seriously! It cannot be more true that EVERY one has got something to say about parenting, including myself. It has not been that long that I've realized God power is much bigger than brain power.

You see, Satan wants us to dwell and focus on our flaws as parents. We screw up, and he wants that mistake to fester and infect us. He wants to use a million different outside sources to distract us from the real purpose we serve as parents, and that is to raise them to know and love the Lord, higher than anything or anyone else! God's gift of grace extends into our day to day lives as moms and dads, and he uses every moment to teach and guide us, just as we do for our children. If you find yourself "losing it" again and feel totally frustrated, and inadequate to change these behaviors, it is vital to recognize that God is telling you something. He is telling you to give it to him, not yourself or the latest 5 step guide to be a better parent, or the newest blog that you've stumbled upon. He desires your heart in everything, and through your faith, prayer, and trust in him, he will transform you! By taking the burden on by our own strength and self discipline, we are pushing away the wonderful gift of grace and forgiveness and digging ourselves deeper into shame and self reliance.

 The bible tells us how to raise our children, both by the compassionate model of how Jesus interacted with people, and also by direct verses, like Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." We, as parents, are called to be used by God to raise our children, lovingly, and obediently and then; to trust that he is ultimately in control of them, and he is ultimately the one at work in their hearts. Settle on Job 23:13 for a moment which says "But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does." Allow this to bring peace to your heart and mind, and then pray earnestly, invite him into your day to day life, ask for help, thank him and adore him, and then go in confidence knowing that you've given it over to God.*

*This does not mean we parent passively, lazily, or abusively, but that we repent and move forward and continue to flood our minds with the truth of scripture. Godly mentors certainly can help along the way, God also instructs us to walk with those wiser than ourselves.




Sunday, April 23, 2017

fresh slate


Fresh slate. 
What an appropriate title for the words I have to share this evening. If you've followed my blog at all (which I don't blame you if you haven't, it's pretty boring) than you'll notice that I've changed the name! My previous blog was titled "Wholly Healthy Mommy" - and it just didn't make sense anymore. I started this blog thinking that I would be seriously pursuing a "career" in fitness and nutrition while mommying, but at some point God pricked my heart and let me know that wasn't where he wanted me, so I put down the fitness coaching and full-on dived into motherhood....except not really. 

Here's where I get super vulnerable and say stuff that I didn't think I'd tell the whole world. Sometimes God has different plans for our struggles and triumphs, and the Spirit moves us to share in various ways. I have prayed and asked God for guidance through sharing my story, and I want it to be clear that my only mission is to provide hope for the hurting and to testify of the power of God. All disclaimers aside, about a year ago I experienced a breakdown far different than any I've ever experienced. Something snapped in my heart and I was drowning in sorrow, utterly shocked at how terrible of a person I was (am). My mission in motherhood had always been to raise kids who won't need to recover from their childhoods, but in that mission I had put myself higher than God and developed expectations for myself that were just not obtainable by humans. I was idolizing the way I looked to the outside world, as a mother, and working by my own strength (which is very weak by the way) to obtain these ideas of perfection.

My breaking point happened when I was so utterly disgusted in how evil my heart was and how utterly out of control I felt to change myself. I spent a weekend very seriously close to suicide, and several weeks wrestling thoughts telling me that dying was the only solution to the situation at hand. My identity was not rooted in Christ and his goodness and his power and his grace. My identity was rooted in lies telling me I was worthless, tired, inadequate, embarrassing, shameful...the list goes on.  

There were a few months where the crisis remedy was medication and some modern psychology-based therapy. This kept me afloat for a bit, but I knew God desired me to dig deeper. It wasn't about "self care" or divorcing* my husband or all these immediate relief based remedies that modern psychology preaches. Rather, there were some very deeply rooted sin issues that God was desiring to show me in order to draw me nearer to him...and, shocker, he was very successful in his plan! 

Only by God's sweet and perfect timing, I began meeting with a dear woman for Biblical counseling. She gently guided me out of my selfishness and into the love and grace only our heavenly father can offer. From there, I've moved forward in hope. I have confidence that the Spirit lives in me and is changing my heart every day (Ephesians 2:2). I have peace that God knows I am going to screw up parenting these kids... he knows that I am darn well far from perfect and that's exactly why he sent his son to die on the cross for me (Romans 3:23). I have faith that endures during the hard moments and faith that my obedience to God, and his instruction for me, will bring great joy (Romans 8:28). How wonderfully and beautifully Peter writes: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:3-4) Amen! 

So friends, I leave you here with this one thought. Do you carry the burden of life entirely on your own? Are you weary and confused and drowning? Yes? I urge you to give your burdens to Christ. I urge you to surrender to his great power and watch as he transforms your heart. I urge you to take comfort from the only perfect father. I urge you to turn away from yourself and turn toward him and then soak in his goodness. Just be held.

*This statement is very much based on my personal experience with modern psychology. I would leave sessions feeling entitled, and angry at Sam, instead of humbling myself to my own faults.  Divorce was tossed around several times by my therapist as an easy way to "be happier", and the over all message was that I needed to think only about myself in order to find peace. Jesus models the exact opposite in his selflessness, and sacrificial nature. My prayer is More of Jesus, less of me, and through that process I have found joy far greater than the idea of living solely for myself and what I want. I want to add that Sam and I were really not having major issues at the time, this is what alerted me to seek a different sort of counseling because I was leaving sessions with more problems than I came with.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Reflections of a year gone by

A little over a week ago, we celebrated our son's first birthday.

You can read the story of our home birth here 

Wow. one year...in many ways, it feels like it's been one day but at the same time, some of those days felt like years. After Grace's first year, I was convinced that no other baby could be more difficult than her. I was kinda right...Finley was, in general, a calmer baby. He certainly wasn't the easiest of babes, and I quickly discovered that each child brings their own unique challenges. Postpartum, for me, is HARD. Like really, really hard. After Finn was born, I found myself crying uncontrollably over my lost connection with Grace...I think this was/is the hardest part of having a second child. I would sit, stranded, under a nursing newborn while so desperately wanting to snuggle and hold my precious little girl. Don't get me wrong...Finley absolutely won my heart over the moment he was born, but that didn't stop me from feeling a deep loss. I would cry to Sam, saying I felt like Grace had died....that's the only way I could describe the intensity of my grief over being a mama to two instead of one. I think these feelings were legit, but also that I was in the grips of postpartum depression/anxiety, something I never dealt with after Grace was born and something I was going to HAVE to face this time around if I was going to survive and keep the kids alive. A truth that has left me afraid for more kids and sad for the days I've lost from not being fully present in my children's lives. My concoction for bringing myself out of the darkness has been, counseling, medication, exercise, LOTS of praying, and LOTS of time in the word. I still stare in awe when I see a postpartum mama functioning like a normal human being...like having another kid was just like eating another piece of pizza when you're already full; no biggie, just a little uncomfortable. Even a year later, I still feel a little out of sorts. I still have days where I beg God to give me the strength to endure this season. I still have moments of illogical, paranoid thinking, I still feel low, at times, for no reason at all, and I still feel like screaming when I hear Finley cry. But a year later, I can say with confidence, that I would do it all again. Children have this way of changing us and making us face the skeletons in our closets. Children help us grow wiser, more patient, confident in our beliefs, and more compassionate. And most important, children love us in a way that can't be described. A love that is forgiving and understanding and so beautiful.

until next time.