Faith

Joy and Sadness

“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.

Learning to Rise

Last week I hopped on a plane and traveled over 1000 miles in hopes of a few things: a fun time with one of my best friends, downtime away from my kids, and to have my butt lovingly kicked by a line up of fantastic speakers at the Rise Conference. I’m happy to report that I checked off all three, and then some. I dug into some hard things, learned some powerful truths, and left feeling more energized and certain than I’ve felt in a long time. 

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That whole weekend, along with this underlying dream I’ve had in my heart for years and years to do something BIG that I just have been too afraid to tap into, was really the catalyst into the changes you are seeing with this blog, this space (if you missed Wednesday's announcement you may want to stop and go read that first). I came home excited but also scared to say out loud the dreams and beliefs I was having in myself. The dream to reach and encourage more women. The dream to build this community even bigger and stronger that it is now. The dream to share my story in big and small spaces. The dream to be a provider for my family. Although I am really sad to see Courtney step back from this community we built together and to close that chapter of Cold Coffee Hot Mess, I am so thankful that we are both in a place where we can clearly see the right paths for ourselves. And although they ended up being different paths, they are both good because they are what is right for each of us. How lucky are we? Two women standing sure and confident in their dreams.

I think it can be easy to look around and see what someone else is doing and think that’s what you should be doing, too. But at the end of the day we have to let go of any guilt we are feeling over something we aren’t wired for, or something we don't even want to do in the first place (that truth bomb is from Mica May of May Designs). We aren’t in competition with one another and our dreams don’t need to look like anyone else’s. Can you even imagine a world where we all were trying to do the exact same thing? How sad would that be?? We each have such rich things to bring to the table. And the beauty is that there’s enough room for each and every one of us. If we waste our time comparing and striving for something that isn’t right for us, we are going to be left exhausted and depleted. Comparison is truly the death of joy. I’ll add in that striving for something that you aren’t supposed to be striving for is a sure way to kill joy in your life, too.

I’ve learned that sometimes the biggest obstacles we face in going after what we want is ourselves. I had this moment sitting and listening to these amazing women on the stage at Rise and thinking of all of the people in my life that I could see doing something similar. But not once did I think “I could do that!” Gut punch. I knew I had to dig in to that a little bit, no matter how overwhelming it felt. I’m not saying I necessarily want to do something like speak on a big stage, but there is no reason I shouldn't believe that I’m incapable of doing that if I really want to do it. You are the only person who can decide how big your dreams are going to be.

The image that comes to mind when I hear “dreams” is some beautiful magical thing. But you know what else dreams can be? Scary. Hard. Intimidating. But dreams don’t go away just because they get hard. You can let them go away (like I’ve done more times than I can count), but they will still linger there, begging you to pick them up again. But the time is going to pass one way or another. What’s on the other side of hard that you are allowing yourself to miss out on? You are worth the time. You are worth the effort. You are worth keeping promises to. Want to hear one more major truth bomb? If you’re not willing to push forward to make your own space (in whatever way that means to you), then you can’t be mad that there aren’t people who look like you at the table. Excuse me while I stand and applaud again (this mad wisdom came from the beautiful and smart Elizabeth Lascaze). 

What it all boils down to is this: Life isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you. Take advantage of whatever it is you feel like you are called to. You can’t change your circumstances. But you can change your response. You, and only you, are in control of how you act and live. You choose your attitude. You choose what you can or cannot do. We all have a past and a story - both good and bad. You can either cling to it, hide from it, or you can choose to make peace with it. And the only way you will move forward is to make peace and stand on where you have come from. We all have our junk. We all have hard things. But maybe you’ve been given a mountain to show others that it can be moved (quote from Elyse Snipes). Keep moving forward at all costs. Write your own story. Make your own way. Be unrelenting as you go after whatever your thing is, whatever is setting your soul on fire.

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Girl, Wash Your Face

The Lie: I'm not enough.

As far back as I can remember I’ve wanted to fit in. To keep up with my big sister and older cousins (they used to chase me with locust shells, and they gave me the superhero name "Fruit Juices", which I thought was SO cool, much to their amusement). Be in the latest “club” on the elementary school play ground. Be noticed by the popular boy in 5th grade (I still remember a group of girls getting him to pretend like he was coming to tell me he liked me, and then them all laughing). Stand in the popular kids' spot before classes in middle school. Get my ponytail as high and my bow as big as the girls in eighth grade. Be on the high school dance team.