That One Time When I Almost Lost it Over Rainbow Spaghetti…

I now know what the term “Running on Empty” means.

That is what I felt on Monday afternoon sitting in my car waiting to pick up my kids from school. I had been running non-stop for a week. Fundraising. Fall Fest. Matthew’s 7th bday. Planning for a birthday party at my house for all three kids in less than a week. (Whose idiotic idea was that??) Preparing for a speech that I was going to give at a local MOPS group.

rainbow spaghettiI knew God had control of it all. However, my human nature was freaking out, and I knew that the Devil was ready to pounce. When I got home I really wanted nothing more than to lock myself in my room and just have a good old fashioned crying jag to rinse away all these negative thoughts in my head. There was no time on the schedule for that though. I had three kids to help with their homework. I also had a special dinner of “Rainbow Spaghetti” planned for my birthday boy. I kept praying to God to help me get control and not let Satan pull me down.

As I pulled into my house a flood of relief washed over me when I saw my husband’s big, black truck parked in the drive. He never gets home until right before the kids go to bed. The kids were out of their minds with excitement to see him home. He is like a Rock Star every time he walks in the house… “Daddy!! Daddy!!” they always chant while pulling at his pant legs 😉 I was so happy to see him that I didn’t even feel slighted that I never get that kind of a reception.

After the Daddy Love pep rally, I immediately started with homework and dinner. I started water to boil on every one of my stove’s burners to make the special Rainbow Spaghetti. I was getting all my ingredients out while simultaneously giving my first of three spelling quizzes when I felt a hand on the small of my back. “Sweetheart, let me take over. Go take a break.”

Wow. Just wow. If I were not already completely over the moon in love with my insanely wonderful husband, this would have pushed me over the edge. And God. Just God. Talk about ask and you shall receive! That simple gesture was all I need to get me grounded and focused again. He heard my prayer and answered immediately. God’s got this.

The next morning I had a nice, long prayer during my morning run. I praised God for blessing me with such a caring husband. I thanked Him for inspiring Eric to take a load off my shoulders. He had a very long day and I am sure he would have loved nothing more than to sit in his recliner with Sports Center.

In a still, small voice I heard God say to me, “Stephanie, that is what you do for him every day. Of course he wants a chance to take a load off your shoulders.”

How amazing is that? God not only met my immediate need by providing some extra help when I needed it, but He also encouraged me as a mother. He reminded me how important my role is to my husband. Eric works tremendously hard be the strong leader and provide for our family. My cleaning the house, doing the laundry, preparing the meals, and all the gazillion other little things I do are things that he never has to worry about because I take them off his plate daily.

Thanks God for the answered prayer and Mama Pep Talk!

“I’m Gonna Need You To STEP AWAY from Pinterest” – God

Southern Lady-2

I got this little note from God last night. I was trolling Pinterest for decorations for my kids’ birthday party this weekend. I was literally having heart palpitations trying to figure out how I could make all these stinkin, cute decorations while juggling everything else on my plate.

“Steph, I’m gonna need you to step away from Pinterest. Now. Nope. Don’t pin that. SHUT IT DOWN.”

So I did. Instead I went to Party City this morning and dropped some change on some kinda cute, definitely tacky decorations. (The tackier the better to 7 & 9 year olds, right?)

And my kids probably won’t even realize that we even had decorations at all. They will, however, enjoy a mama who is able to sit on the couch and just snuggle. A mama who isn’t snapping at them because she has over scheduled herself.

Thanks God for letting me off the hook 🙂

Am I Worthy of Redeeming Love?

Am I Worthy of Redeeming LoveA woman in her 30s that battled infertility for years who cried herself to sleep wondering if she would ever have a baby in her womb. 

A girl of barely 20, unmarried and pregnant who cried herself to sleep wondering how she could care for the baby growing in her womb.

Two strong women and one unlikely friendship.  

But God…God knew that these two women from opposite sides of the motherhood journey could grow to be close friends and gain a wealth of compassion.

I am so honored to have my friend, Courtney, guest post for me today.  I met Courtney a few years ago when I was a preschool teacher.  We started at the preschool at the same time.  She is such a sweet girl with a beautiful heart, and we became fast friends in spite of our 15-year age difference.  I about died when I found out that I was starting my freshmen year of college when she was starting kindergarten.  Talk about feeling old!!

By the time I met Courtney, God had blessed me with children, but I was getting ready to go through IVF again with my totsicles.  I am so blessed that Courtney was brought into my life for a fresh reminder that every single life that God conceives is an absolute blessing.  Whether it is planned, unplanned, or through fertility treatments.  Every.  One.  When I was in the thick of the infertility struggle hearing about an unplanned pregnancy was devastating to me.  Now I have the benefit of Courtney’s friendship and my 20/20 rearview mirror clarity to have a clearer perspective on God’s plan.  God’s plan is always perfect even if it “messes up” our plan…

Every mother has the day she found out she was pregnant etched into her memory. Some, like Steph, had a hard, long journey to get there. I’m sure that day she, as well as many others, felt joy, excitement, and pure happiness. I can only imagine that she felt some type of redemption. This one test was her redemption that made every single obstacle worth it.

My story of redemption began the day I found out I was going to be a mom. The day that I found out I was going to be a mom was an incredibly hard day. It breaks my heart to say joy, excitement and happiness were not any of the emotions I felt at the time. I was barely twenty, had an incredibly rough past and wanted a new start that year. Charlie, my now husband, and I both sobbed while holding the “positive” test in our hands. I’m not exaggerating when I say I took eight of them before I actually believed I was indeed pregnant. We were devastated, scared and simply broken. In the whirlwind of emotions that we were experiencing, not a single one of them was joy.

Although Charlie and I knew long before this pregnancy test that we were going to get married one day, getting pregnant now, was not a part of our plan. We saw our future together from the beginning, but we had so many things we wanted to do. I lined up a new summer job, and an amazing mission trip opportunity to finally go to Africa was in the works. My heart was in Africa, I felt so called to the orphans and babies there, I wanted to be Jesus to them. I wanted to love on some babies, not have one of my own! Yes, it is possible to be a follower of Christ and still mess up. I missed the mark big this time…but God.

You see in the midst of the hurt, in the midst of telling our parents and fearing the wrath of God through them God gave us such grace. Our parents gave us such grace. Was there disappointment? Did it hurt more than words to tell my parents that their first grandbaby wasn’t conceived in wedlock? Was I tormented with the shame every time I saw someone that found out? Yes, yes and yes! I lived in Small Town, USA and everyone knew everyone and everyone’s personal business. I knew it wouldn’t be long before people figured out why we got engaged so quickly and why we planned a wedding so fast.

Charlie and I didn’t get married because I was pregnant. I loved him with all of my heart, and I knew this was the man God had for me to marry. This pregnancy just sped up the timeline. Did I have the wedding of my dreams? Nope. I certainly didn’t feel worthy of wearing white or worthy of my dad walking me down the aisle, but that didn’t stop him. That my friends, is unconditional love. That is redeeming love. The kind that draws a dad, who isn’t one to stand out in front of a crowd, to stop in the middle of a choir special in a Southern Baptist church and walk off stage in front of 500 people. He walked down the middle aisle to sit with his broken baby girl who was alone and broken. The fear that he faced didn’t stop him from holding on to me as I sobbed while they finished singing “Through the Fire.” He refused to let me be alone in my own brokenness. The whispers of everyone in the room wondering what was going on or the ones who knew and looked at us with such judgment, they were not stopping my dad from getting to me. I dare say that’s the kind of love that Jesus has for us.

I fought with depression during the pregnancy and after my sweet Anna Claire was born…But God.  Even though there was so much hurt and brokenness that took a great deal of time to heal, I never looked at her as a mistake. I never blamed her. I never felt like she wrecked my dreams. Jesus was there through it all; he never left me. He never left us. Our plans were derailed, but God took our brokenness and began shaping way more than we could imagine. Our precious Anna Claire was a living, breathing version of God’s redeeming love. True beauty from our ashes. The second year of marriage brought another positive pregnancy test, and another round of hurting, anxiety and fear. This time the process wasn’t as hard to swallow, but we had no idea how the heck we were going to afford another baby. We were barely doing it then…but God. He never left us.

Honestly, I wondered if I would ever be able to have joy finding out I was pregnant. I met Stephanie at our preschool, and I was blown away by her juggling 3 kids and working part time. I was struggling with a 2 year old and being pregnant again. I only spent a few days in the classroom with her, but I loved every moment. I felt so much compassion from her every time I nearly broke down talking about our situation. She even recommended I read one of the best books I’ve ever had my hands on, Unglued by Lisa Terkhuerst. God used her and that book to speak volumes. I didn’t know about her infertility struggles right off the bat, but once I did I felt the surge of guilt all over again. My own insecurities ruled my heart instead of God’s redeeming love.

The next school year God placed Anna Claire in Stephanie’s class. I wasn’t returning because over the summer I had my spunky Cailey and was on maternity leave. I had no idea that Steph was going through her final battle of infertility while Anna Claire was in her class. I only knew that once again I was fighting some major demons of Postpartum Depression. I had nothing in me to love on my girls or anyone around me. I felt so alone, empty, and worthless. I didn’t speak a word of this to a soul. All I knew is that every Tuesday and Thursday Anna Claire would light up to see Ms. Stephanie, and her love radiated from her every single time. Even though I didn’t realize it, God was using Anna Claire to love Ms. Stephanie unconditionally while she was fighting for her own baby. God broke down some major walls Stephanie and I built up. They all came down with redeeming love, long before we even realized it.

Courtney & Charlie :)

Courtney & Charlie 🙂

My Anna Claire is almost five now, Cailey is 2, and Stephanie loves on them every time she gets a chance. I never planned to have baby at 20, or at 23 but God’s plan is always better than we could even imagine. Charlie and I have been married for over 5 years now and can say that we are more in love and in tune with God than ever before. All because of redeeming love.

How can you allow God to use redeeming love to break down some walls in your own heart? My hope is that one day I will be able to look down at a pregnancy test and see a positive and feel never ending, undeniable JOY. I have no doubt that one day redeeming love will win, and I won’t have any negative or shameful emotions.

How You Can Kick MOMMY GUILT For Good!

How to Kick Mommy Guilt“Be joyful always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18

You remember the old song… “I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart. Where? Down in my Heart. Where? Down in my Heart.”

Be joyful always, 1 Thessalonias tell us. Was this directed to a mother of three?? Well if that isn’t a tall order, I don’t know what is!!

Several years ago we used to call the hours from 5 – 7 pm the witching hours in our house. It started when my youngest son, Matthew, had colic and he would WAIL constantly for hours upon hours each night. Now it is because Mommy straight up turns into a witch. It is the last few hours of my day and I am running on fumes…which is incredibly cruel because it is when I have the most to do and the least amount of energy to do it. My sweet little cherub children decide that their good behavior quota has been all used up at school. It starts with what my husband, Eric, calls my “crazy eyes.” If they are smart, they catch my crazy eyes and immediately retreat to their rooms. If not…and let’s be honest, they rarely do because they were too busy being crazy … if not, I quiet literally blow my top. And I realize that is completely hypocritical to be screaming at them to quit yelling! I am most certainly not full of Joy. Almost immediately a cloud of shame engulfs me.

We’ve all had it. It is a natural byproduct of becoming a mother. Kind of like stretch marks. Mommy Guilt. It can stick around and be just as permanent and shaming as those old stretch marks. Whether it is because we lose our cool with our kids or we feel guilty because we can’t go on their school field trip. Maybe we spend too much time trolling on Pinterest. Why can’t I transform my backyard into Arendelle for Ella’s Frozen party?? Oh look at these fun, nutritious lunch boxes! I totally should be making animals out of the 100% organic lunch so that my kids will have FUN eating their healthy, non-prepackaged lunch!

We can blame it on Pinterest, social media or society in general. That may be how it reaches us, but in reality, Satan is the author of Mommy Guilt. He has made it his mission to rob mothers of the JOY that God blesses us with in motherhood. He is a sneaky little devil. He makes us beat ourselves up for impossibly high standards that we set upon ourselves.   I don’t know a single perfect mother, yet I often beat myself up for not being one.

Well, when I was looking up the exact lyrics to “I’ve Got Joy in My Heart” on the internet, I found another verse. “If the Devil doesn’t like it then he can sit on a tack. Ouch. Sit on a tack. Ouch. Sit on a tack.” Pretty feisty, but I love it! Why do I give Satan that kind of a foothold in my life? When I think about it that way, it makes me adamant to not let him take one second of my God given Joy of motherhood. Does that give me a free pass to turn into the Wicked Witch of the West every night? Absolutely not. But it does allow me to forgive myself for my shortcomings. Then it gives me an opportunity to apologize to my children and teach about forgiveness.

I am slowly learning to embrace what talents God has blessed me with and to not sweat the areas where I am lacking. The fact that I had no less than five people contact me about my go to meal – Kraft Macaroni and Cheese – changing their recipe may be an indication that I am lacking in the cooking department. And you know what? That is OK! I make sure that my kids get the nutrition that they need aside from the cheese powder! I am not going to spend time beating myself up because I am not the Pioneer Woman. Besides think of it this way – I am giving my children wonderful ammo to torture me with at the dinner table when they reminisce about their childhood. Those are the times that my family laughs the hardest at the holidays J

Instead, I will pray without ceasing. Some days it will be filled with thanksgiving for the blessing that God has given me. Some days it will be to just have enough patience to make it to bedtime. If I keep my eyes on Him as I parent the children that God blessed me with, then I will have JOY in my heart.