Faith

Made New

I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember. It started like all kids with paper doodles, and eventually led to me drawing on every piece of furniture in my room (which my mom was amazing enough to allow me to do) and painting my closet doors in black and white designs. The first time I held a film camera in my hand and pressed the shutter, something inside of me lit up and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Cue me deciding not to go to college for psychology, and instead choosing photography. Thankfully this was before I actually set off for college months later.

Art, colors, textures, light…they’ve all shaped the way I’ve seen the world around me. I finally decided to have a go at painting a few years ago. I don’t know exactly what pushed me to do it other than a deep desire. Kind of like that moment with the camera 10 years prior. I had no idea what I was doing, but I loved it. And turns out, I was kind of decent at it. And in turn successful at making art for other people. But then I found myself in a “rut” of making art I didn’t love, not sure what my style or “voice” was in the art world. And then I had another baby and life got busy, and the paint brushes stayed put away for a while.

And then that stirring up thing happened again. For months and months I kept seeing these visions of the kind of paintings I wanted to make. They weren’t like anything I’d done in the past. And they were beautiful. I loved dreaming of them and taking photographs as inspiration for them. But for some reason or another I just hadn’t brought myself to actually try to make it happen. I would like to say it was for lack of time, but I think underneath that was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it. That they wouldn’t actually be as beautiful as I was envisioning them to be.

Honestly I could have let myself sit in that fear and funk, and I’d still be here two years later with paintings in my mind and not on canvas. But I hit the breaking point of saying I either have to just go for it, or I need to walk away from this dream.

So I went for it.

I remember the canvas laid out on my floor in the living room (I didn’t have an easel, desk, or any type of “real” workspace back then). I cranked my favorite worship album on, and got to work. I don’t know how far into that first painting I was, but I know I stopped and just started crying. Because I was bringing my idea to life. And it was working! And I had decided to push past fear and doubt and step into what I believed God was giving me.

I fully believe God places dreams and desires in our hearts. He wants us to step into the gifts He's given us. He wants us to dream big and trust Him with the process and outcome. Maybe creating a piece of art isn’t your calling or doesn’t even sound that scary to you, but I bet there’s something like that in your heart. Something you dream about that feels too scary to say out loud. He takes our desires and plans and turns them into something even better than we can try to come up with on our own.

I named this first painting I did “Made New.” It marked such a turning point for me. I was learning to try things and not live in the fear of failing. I was learning to trust God and trust my gift. He kept reminding me that He makes all things new. And that He make all things beautiful in His time.

I’ve had quite a few people ask and encourage me to share more about the meaning behind my paintings, and I knew that God was also asking me to share more openly with you here! My hope is to make this “story behind the painting” a regular series here on the blog, so if you like this kind of content let me know! I will let you know when the original painting is still available to be purchased (“Made New” is, so just let me know if you’d like more info about it). I’m also linking some available prints! Maybe you need this visual reminder to keep dreaming, to make brave choices, and to know that He is in all things, making them new and making them beautiful.

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2018: Year in Review

Believe. It’s the word I chose at the beginning of this year. I also wrote down things like authentic, intentional, bold, brave. But believe just felt like it summed the whole thing up. Because if I could believe the truth about who I was, then everything else would flow from it. My prayer was that it would be a year that I would let go of lies that had held me back, and stand firmly on the truth of who God made me. I wanted to believe that I was capable, that I was created with gifts and with purpose. All I had to do was to step into that boldly and let Him work.

I had no idea what this year would hold for me when God gave me that word. But, He knew. He knew how much I’d need to lean on and rely on Him this year. He knew that I would have to dig into Him with all that I had, that my own resources would never be enough to get by. This year may have been unexpected for me, but He wasn’t surprised.

It would be impossible to sum up what this year has given me in just one simple blog post. But I’ll do my best.

I shared on instagram a few days ago that I was having a hard time navigating this whole end of the year/start of a new year thing. That last year I was the girl with the goals and the plans, and not to say that I didn't accomplish them throughout the year, but I was just swiftly reminded that I need to hold my plans loosely. It’s been hard to get my head around setting New Year goals this time. I think mainly because in order to move forward you have to sort through what you’re leaving behind.

From the get-go, this year was crazy. The first week of February is when I found out I had the BRCA2 mutation. And it’s set the course for much of my year. I feel like this year was sectioned off by “before my surgery”, “after my surgery”, “before my second surgery”, and “after my second surgery”. There was so much waiting, so much anxiety, so much unknown. A lot of pain, physically and emotionally. It’s hard to pinpoint other highs and lows of the year because BRCA2 and mastectomy were the banners hanging over a lot of it.

It’s been a freaking hard year.

But.

It’s also been such a year of growth, and there has been so much good. And I’m going to venture to guess a lot of that good wouldn’t have been possible without the hard. Trudging through the hard taught me so much about myself, about God, about trusting, about humility, about patience. There were many chances to let myself cave under the weight of it, and some moments I did. But I know I can look back and see how I’ve gotten through it and am stronger because of it. I chose to believe that God was still good. I chose to believe that He had things under control, even though I desperately wanted to be in control sometimes. I chose to believe that He was who He said He was, and that I was who He said I was.

Our trials, our circumstances, our hardships…they are all opportunities to grow our faith, to know Him more. I was the girl with the plan, set out to live my best year yet. But I believe that His plan was better. His goals for me were better. A lot of the things I wanted for myself still happened - embracing the season I’m in, being more honest and vulnerable, living well, living authentically, being present and more intentional, being healthy. Those things happened. But not because of me. Because of Christ in me, the hope of glory.

As I get ready to step into 2019, I’m still dreaming and hoping for things. There are goals both in my mind and written on paper. But He’s taught me to hold them loosely. He’s asking me to step alongside Him as we walk out this year together. Surrendered to Him and His plans, trusting Him as we go. I’m hopeful for the year ahead. I’m expectant and excited to see what He will do and where He will bring me. I’m anticipating knowing Him in new ways, and I’m praying I will continue to believe that His way is better than anything I could dream up. I’m praying that for you, too. Let’s set goals. Let’s dream big dreams. Let’s step into our callings. And let’s not forget who is the author of our stories, and whose ways are higher than our own.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

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Joy and Sadness - the emotional healing journey

“I’m doing pretty good” was the mantra I repeated to anyone who asked. I wasn’t lying. I really was doing good, all things considered. Everything was right on track, no complications. I honestly felt better than I expected to feel. Sure, my entire body hurt. And yeah, going into the OR and being put under anesthesia had been incredibly scary for me. I also couldn’t face looking down at my chest for the first 4 or 5 days. So “pretty good” seemed like a good description to me, because nothing was that bad and I knew it could be a lot worse.

But in those first few days when friends would ask me about going into surgery, I’d find myself near tears every time I recounted the experience. I felt silly because being put under anesthesia is just a common thing. Almost everyone has had to be “put to sleep” at some point. Lots of people have surgery. Some people have to have my same surgery and then also fight actual cancer. I’d just say it was scary and then move on because I felt a huge wave of emotion rising. I don’t think anyone noticed and I just kept moving on with my story.

The first night home from the hospital is when that wave I’d been trying to stay ahead of finally knocked me down. I felt totally confident that I could handle checking on all of my incisions and emptying my drains that were still in. I’d watched the nurses do it what felt like 100 times over the previous few days in the hospital. So I was confused when all of a sudden I felt lightheaded. I had to let Jonathan take over. I was burning up hot and had to quickly go sit down with the fan on full blast. And then the tears started.

“It’s just a lot” is all I could manage to say when Jonathan walked in and found me crying. I had finally been forced to acknowledge all that I’d been through. My body didn’t look like my own. I was bandaged, I couldn’t stand up straight, I had to have help with almost everything including putting on my own underwear. My boobs felt (and still feel like) like foreign objects stuffed in my bra. I had undergone a 5 hour surgery because of the fact that my body’s genetic makeup was nearly incapable of preventing me from getting breast cancer. This surgery that I’ve been praying over and been anxious about for months had finally happened. The surgery that I wish I had never had to decide to do in the first place was over.

But…but…I lived! I took my risk of cancer down to almost nothing. My boobs looked way better than I thought they would. I didn’t need much pain medicine. No complications had arisen. Why dwell on the hard stuff when there’s such a bright side to all of this, right? Wasn’t “choose joy” my mantra??

Friends, here’s what I am learning. You can be sad and still have joy. You can be overwhelmed or angry and still have peace. Just because one of these things exists doesn’t mean the other thing can’t. Our emotions can swing all over the map on any given day, and especially in the midst of a very difficult circumstance. We can still experience those negative or hard emotions while being grounded in truth.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 tells us to “Rejoice always.” It doesn’t tell us we need to be happy all the time. Happiness is a fleeting feeling based on circumstances, but true joy is straight from the Lord. It is totally independent of our circumstances. In the midst of a trial we can stand firm in joy and know that our trials and our struggles don’t have to control us. 

The scripture goes on to tell us in verse 18 to “give thanks in all circumstances.” To be clear, it doesn’t say give thanks for all circumstances. It says “in”. Meaning we don’t have to love what we are walking through. We can be hurt or sad or angry about it. But we are still able to give thanks because we hold on to the promise that God made: that He will bring good out of any and every circumstance we find ourselves in.

We have the choice about which banner we are going to hold up in our circumstances. Claiming victory and claiming joy does not mean we have to forget our hurt or sadness or anger. It means we stand firm on the promises and the truth we know, and we can give thanks for His goodness even if there are tears in our eyes. We can say “I’m having a really hard time” when someone asks how we are doing, even though at our core we know we are okay and secure. It’s okay to admit our struggles and our fears and our heartbreak out loud. It doesn’t make the truth of joy and peace in our lives any less true.

Just because our emotions aren’t pretty doesn’t mean we need to try to fix them. I don’t believe God would have given us emotions for no reason, or just to give us something we had to keep in check. Our emotions shouldn’t dictate our every choice and action, but they can serve as indicators to what’s going on in our lives. And they can point us to Jesus if we let them. What a kind Father to allow us to feel things. Can you imagine a world without our emotions??

So even though my emotions through all of this have been hard to navigate, and it’s difficult allowing myself to embrace and truly feel all of the things sometimes, I am thankful. I am going to allow myself to be sad and be angry, because my circumstances warrant that reaction. And just because I feel that way does not diminish the peace and joy of my spirit. It does not diminish the work of Christ in my life. It doesn’t mean I don’t have faith or I’m not choosing joy. Joy has been given to me and is experienced in my life because of grace, so no amount of bad circumstances or hard feelings is going to take that away.

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The Struggle is Real

June has kicked my butt. Although I probably shouldn't blame the month itself. It didn't do anything to me. It's just that the sequence of events and circumstances this month have teamed up together to try to single handedly take me down. Dramatic? Maybe. But it feels like an accurate depiction. Anyone else? (Raise your hand if you've been personally victimized by June)

I've been putting off writing about all of this for a few reasons:

1. I felt overwhelmed and incapable of putting all of my thoughts into legible sentences.

2. I felt like such a mess so I didn't see the point in writing. 

3. I didn't feel like I had anything of value to say. I don't want to just word vomit on you.

4. It's easier to zone out on TV than it is to sit and process your thoughts.

But I can't run and hide from it anymore. So although I feel a little terrified that I'm not quite sure where this is going and none of you even care, here we go!

First let me just say that I am fully aware that a lot of the aforementioned thoughts are lies. So let's acknowledge and replace those first, both for my benefit and yours.

1. I am not incapable, even if I feel like it.

2. I'm not a mess, even if I feel like it.

3. My words are valuable and important, even when they don't feel like it.

4. Well....the TV thing is true. But probably not healthy haha!

I also know it's a lie to think that none of you care. Some of you may not, but if you're here reading this then I know that you have to at least care a little bit. Even if caring just means you want to see the Hannah-crazy-train-wreck-show. WELCOME ABOARD!

I've shared a little bit of where my head has been at over in a few social media posts and stories. Let me briefly catch you up - Jonathan and I took a week long kid-free vacation, and the day after we got back was the first real day of summer with all 3 kids at home with me...all day long. I truly believe that the intense shift in my stress levels (from pure relaxation to full time SAHM to three young kids in the summer) caused me to crash a little bit. My body didn't know how to handle the influx of stress so it went into total fog mode. No energy, no clear headedness, no motivation. I was basically in survival mode trying to navigate how to function with breaking up constant fights between my older two while a very cute toddler had taken up the new hobby of screaming at my feet for the majority of the day. Maybe you saw this adorable picture I shared a few weeks ago?

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The reason they were all able to climb on top of me was because I had been sitting on the floor feeling overwhelmed and foggy and stuck. One by one they made their way to me and thankfully pulled me out of the funk for a few minutes. Being home with three kids who have no way to understand "mama is struggling" is so hard, y'all. And can I also just take a second to say that it is not normal for a person to be yelled at all day? It's not normal and I don't need to beat myself up for feeling insane after multiple days of someone yelling at me or near me for 12 hours straight. That's basically torture. Again, dramatic? Maybe. But I'm thinking that more than a few of you are nodding your heads in agreement.

All of this was the first week of June. So around this time I was also starting to add stuff to my planner for the coming month here and there, which means I was constantly seeing "SURGERY" written in my planner for next month (if you're new here, you can get filled in on all of that in my last post). Everyday I would get that little nagging reminder, which would lead to a little bit of tightness in my chest. But I was in the midst of full time stay at home mom-ness so there wasn't time to freak out about it, or really even stop and think about it. So there I was trying to dig through this new borderline depression I'd found myself in, and in walks anxiety. 

Here's where some of my thoughts and feelings get a little tricky. Deep down, I know that I'm ok. I am at peace, I know I'm making the right decision about having this surgery. I know that I will be ok regardless of anything that happens. I am actively walking with Jesus through both the days leading up to this surgery and just the day-to-day parenting stuff. So when I tell people "I'm good", I mean it. But at the same time, I'm really not that good. I'm freaked out about a 8+ hour surgery. I have no idea what recovery will look like. I'll have to be away from my kids for a while to heal. I can't get any of the things done that I have been working on and planning the last few months (blogging, the shop I'm trying to open, art, etc.) because my kids are home with me all day. My brain is wiped at the end of the day. I am stressed to the max with being asked approximately 7 million questions per day, breaking up fights, dealing with my 4 year old's epic meltdowns, trying to navigate my 6 year old's sassy attitude, having a toddler scream at me every time I go to pee...not to mention trying to maintain solid friendships and a good marriage....and ya know, function as a normal human being. So while I am good, I am also kind of a disaster right now. 

When you have to continually suppress your feelings, like literally HAVE to because you can't have a freak out meltdown when you have three kids who need you, it's exhausting. Your emotions feel all over the place so when you sit down to try to sort through them, it feels impossible. Everything I do all day long is interrupted, so trying to keep a solid stream of thought once I finally have a second...my brain feels so scattered. I have to actively fight the lie that I'm not a crazy person. I know that Satan wants nothing more than for me to feel like something is wrong with me. And I have bought that lie so many times. It's like he is a child pitching a fit and screaming at the top of his lungs trying to keep me from being able to think clearly, to pray, to hear from my Father on what is true. And what's true? Satan is a totally defeated enemy. He has absolutely no power if we don't allow him to. 

None of my circumstances have changed over the last few weeks. My kids are still hard. My surgery is still less than a month away. I still feel overwhelmed and stressed out. But I don't have to manage all of that in my own strength. I can be weak, and it's ok. I can be honest when people ask how I'm doing, even if it makes some people uncomfortable. I can admit that I'm struggling. I can let friends watch my kids for a few hours. I can accept a homemade meal. I can find supplements to help my energy and mood. I can find a counselor to meet with. I can take lots of deep breaths and call on Jesus every single moment of every single day, and with a clear mind I can tune into what He is saying to me. He may not rescue me from my circumstances, but He comes to my side and rescues my heart, rescues my mind and thoughts. 

Has it been hard to admit how much I've been struggling the last few weeks? A little bit. It feels embarrassing to say you feel like you can't handle your own life. It makes me feel like something is wrong with me that I am not enjoying this particular stage of mothering a lot of days. Or that I'm not marking things off my (non-existent) summer bucket list left and right. But every time I've shared even a tiny glimpse of this struggle, I am so relieved and encouraged with the amount of you that say "me too!". So even though being the one to go first is hard, I'll keep doing it time and time again. I want to give every other woman out there the space to be vulnerable too, and to know she's not alone. I know for a fact that I'm not the only one struggling, but it's still so easy to believe the lie that I am. So I will keep shouting the truth and all my craziness from the rooftops so that no other woman will even for a second buy into the lie that something is wrong with her. That she's not good enough. That she should have it all together. That she should be "enjoying every moment."

This life has hard seasons, and we aren't meant to walk through them in shame or by ourselves. Don't be afraid to let your friends in it with you. Don't be ashamed to let God in it with you (He already knows all of it anyway). Let His peace transform and heal you, and let Him use His people to show you love and grace. I hope you feel that here - loved and accepted. Because you are all of those things and so much more.

I told you at the beginning that I wasn't sure where all of this was going to go. And I'm still not sure if it went anywhere. All I know is that you are my friends, whether we know each other in person or not, and I want to always be real with you. I want to share my heart and my journey with you, the good and the hard stuff. So if we were hanging out this is the conversation I would hope to have with you. Friend, no matter what you're going through, you are not the only one. Even if our circumstances are different, I believe we all understand each other more than we think. You are so loved, my friends!

Know Your Worth

Worth.

It's a heavy word that can cause heavy feelings. It's something most of us have struggled with at some point; I know I have. I spent a lot of my teenage and early adult years constantly wondering what I was worth, looking for value in other people, worrying if I was good enough and if I was doing everything "right". To be honest, I still let myself struggle with those things from time to time as a thirty year old mom of three. Being in the age of the "mommy wars" and the never ending "mom-shaming" doesn't help matters one bit. We see it every single day on social media. We may even see it in our real life circles: mom's bible studies, play date groups, work break rooms. It's sadly become a constant background noise. And if you let it start to define you, you'll drown from the weight of it. So today I just want to make a few things clear.

Your worth is not in your job title or stay-at-home-mom title.

Your worth is not in your kids' healthy and hand crafted lunches or their store bought lunchables.

Your worth is not in your clean house or in your dust covered mantle.

Your worth is not in your meal prep skills or your pizza ordering skills.

Your worth is not in your perfectly designed or perfectly destroyed-by-kids living room.

Your worth is not in your instagram feed.

Your worth is not in your group of friends or number of followers.

Your worth is not in how long you breastfed or if you formula fed from day one.

Your worth is not in your natural childbirth or in your scheduled c-section.

Your worth is not in your pinterest-inspired outfits or the yoga pants you pulled out of the dirty laundry basket.

Your worth is not in your sidle hustle, or lack thereof.

Your worth is not in when your baby slept through the night (or didn't).

Your worth is not in the parties you host or get invited to, or the ones where you didn't make the guest list.

Your worth is not in the amount of kids you have or don't have.

Your worth is not in how long it took you to get pregnant, or if you can't.

Your worth is not in how long you've been married, or how many times you have been married. Or if you are single.

Your worth is not in your kids' outfits, smocked or thrift store.

Your worth is not in how many times you did or didn't hit the gym this week.

Your worth is not in that number on the scale or on the tag of your jeans.

Your worth is not what others say about you.

Your worth is not even in what you say about yourself, because we all know we can be our very own worst critic.

Girl, you are worth so much more than you give yourself credit for. And if you are struggling with defining yourself on all of the things you do, or as is the case with a lot of women, on all of the things you DON'T do...stop!

What you do is not who you are.

What you don't do is not who you are.

Your worth and value have been set by someone way bigger than you or anyone else, and there's not a single thing you can or can't do that will change that.

Worth can be defined as the amount you would pay for something, right? Do you know what God has paid for you?

Jesus.

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I'm worth the same as Jesus. You are worth the same as Jesus. I know this might cause some of you to clutch your pearls or mutter "blasphemy" under your breath, but please stick with me. You've heard it a hundred times..."For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." right? There it is, in scripture. God gave up Jesus for you. And that same God resurrected Jesus for you. And He's alive today so you can be alive in Him, too. God believed you were worthy, that you are worthy. So it's time for you to start believing it, too. 

Please let that really soak in today. Stop finding your worth and identity in things that don't last and things that aren't true, things that will never truly fill you up. He has defined your worth and made you right. You don't have to try to measure up. He loves you so much and believes you are worth the biggest price imaginable.