Insight for Girls

Illuminating Wisdom, Inspiring Change

RSS

Michelle Warner

Return to Insight

Last month, I had the privilege to attend the IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas. I was struck by how many different speakers were represented at the conference and how contrasting their skill sets were, and yet when each of them used their gifts like they were created to, it felt like we witnessed a beautiful symphony. Jennie Allen spoke with charisma and passion, Rebekah Lyons shared with depth and sensitivity, Lauren Chandler taught with insight, Bianca Olthoff preached with humor and boldness, Angie Smith shared honestly, Jen Hatmaker spoke with conviction…the list goes on. As I watched them use their gifts well, I couldn’t help but be encouraged to want to do the same with how God is leading me.

I came to the conference with many thoughts swirling in my mind about how I feel God wants me to use my gifts in this season of life. It was rejuvenating for me to have the time to think, pray and dream uninterrupted from my sweet girls so I could take the opportunities to really listen and ponder.  I soaked in all of the insights each speaker shared and wrestled with how this played out in my every day life once I returned home.

After two days of refreshment, it was time to board the plane back to reality. Little did I know how true that statement was! Before my plane even took off from Austin, I found out that my family had been hit with the stomach bug. I returned home to putting new sheets on the beds and diligently applying essential oils to everyone’s feet to nurse them back to health. Being right back in Mom Mode left me little time to reflect on the lessons learned in Austin.

That night as I collapsed into bed exhausted with taking care of everyone, I realized the reason I don’t dream as often as I’d like about how to use my gifts or follow my passions is because as a mom of young kids, I am basically just trying to survive the day. If you’ve read this blog for the past three years, you have watched me grapple with these realizations of wanting to use my gifts well but unsure how to juggle them while meeting the needs of my one and three-year-old as well as my hard-working husband.

Many of these thoughts came to the surface at the beginning of January when Jared and I took a few days to get away together and reflect on 2015 and plan for 2016. It was much needed because the last time we tried to get away for our babymoon, you may remember our plans were hijacked by a hurricane.

While away, I did a lot of thinking about my life with two girls, a husband with a very busy work schedule, and a yearning to do more with my gifts but not sure what that looked like during these full days. In between the introspection and conversations with Jared about all of this, I soaked up the opportunity to read an entire book (gasp!). I picked up Jen Hatmaker’s new book For the Love, and was struck just a few pages in when she wrote about an example of a balance beam and how that related to the age-old question to moms, “How do you balance work and family and community?”

Jen writes,

“I’m not doing it all. Who could? I can’t. I decided what tricks belonged on my beam and dropped the rest or figured out a way to delegate…

Cooking and sit-down dinners? Live-giving for me. On the beam.

Coffee with everyone who wants to ‘pick my brain’? I simply can’t. Off the beam.

After hours with our best friends on the patio? Must. On the beam.

Classroom Mom? I don’t have the skill set. Off the beam.

You get to do this too. You have permission to examine the tricks and decide what should stay. What parts do you love? What are you good at? What brings you life?…

When I see another woman fighting for her balance beam, I am inspired because if she has permission, then I do too. Wise women know what to hold onto and what to release, and how to walk confidently in their choices—no regrets, no apologies, no guilt” (6,7-9).

The part that particularly connected with me: “Frame your choices through this lens: season. If your kids are under five, you cannot possibly include the things I can with middle and high schoolers. You are ruled by a tiny army you created yourself. This is just what it is right now.”

Yes. She said exactly what I have been thinking and what I needed to hear. It corresponded effortlessly with the quote I then read in the MOPS Magazine, Hello Darling, “The practical application of my gifts depends on my choice, my talents and my stage of life” (Alyssa Alexander, “This is Who I Am”).

Over the past year as I’ve prayed and pondered how to use my gifts in this season, I have felt a resounding confirmation to continue to write. I have missed that part of me and though I know that there are things I have to give up as a mom, I am realizing I need to find a way to make writing happen because it’s really good for my soul. Writing needs to stay on my beam.

So I have committed in 2016 to waking up at least two mornings a week before my girls to write. For this non-morning person, this is a big commitment, but I’ve realized that if I feel led to write, I have to do so when it’s quiet and that is about the only “guaranteed” quiet time in our house during my day.  I have also had to let go of these long stretches of uninterrupted writing blocks and accept little pockets of writing time (as well as cute interruptions like Olivia currently sitting next to me chatting away because she woke up early from her nap).

One of the things falling off the beam these days is spending as much time as I did previously browsing social media. It makes common sense but if I’m going to get out of bed when the alarm dings, I’ve got to get to sleep at a reasonable hour and that means putting the phone down—which takes some discipline for this people-loving-night-owl. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever check Instagram or Facebook but I am learning to place limits on myself; usually for me this means setting a time limit for how long I will browse and then putting my phone down and moving on. Let’s just say there are some days I add extra minutes onto my browsing but overall, it’s been a really wise tradeoff for me.

Another thing off the beam is deep-cleaning my house. I feel silly admitting that we’ve hired a cleaning lady because isn’t it a stay-at-home-mom’s job to clean her house? But after talking it through with Jared, we realize that my “me” time is very limited right now and if I want to be using the time I do have to write, then getting a cleaning lady is worth the investment right now.

There are other things staying on the beam as well. Serving on the MOPS Leadership Team allows me to meet with women, engage in conversation about faith and motherhood, and connect with moms. Teaching professional development inservices to teachers with the Ohio Writing Project uses my gifts of teaching and writing. Meeting with my Supper Club each month gives me an opportunity to get to know friends on a deeper level. All high priorities that are on the beam.

This is not to say I have all of my priorities totally figured out.  Spending more of my “me” time writing means I haven’t been as on top of other things (you should have see the pile of dishes in the sink as I write this!) but it’s worth it as I tap into my gifts and seek to nurture my whole self as a woman. (Shout out to my very tidy husband who has put up with lots of piles on the counters and laundry on the couch as I figure out this balance and then lets me say it’s worth it!)

As I examine what makes my heart beat fast and what gifts God has given me, one question from Lysa Terkerst’s The Best Yes has helped frame this even more: “What’s that soul-thing for you, that God-honoring thing that keeps slipping away because there’s been no time to set aside to actually start?” (27).

In wrestling with God about this answer, I know “that soul-thing for [me]” is writing. My prayer is this year I continue to learn how to say yes to things that feel life-giving–like writing, teaching, meeting with fellow moms, and even party planning (a blog post more about that coming soon!)—and no to the things that leave me feeling depleted (though somehow folding the laundry and cleaning the dishes are still on the list—ha.).

As I was finishing this blog post, I took Olivia to gymnastics and as I stood there watching her hold her arms out and point her toes as she walked across the beam, it clicked. The most important part about gracefully walking on the beam? Looking straight ahead rather than down at my toes. As I watched Olivia put one foot in front of the other, it reminded me that’s all I need to do too in this mission to use my gifts well in motherhood. Take one wobbly step at a time, keeping my eyes firmly planted on the One who created me with my gifts and passions in the first place. Then I can focus on what tricks belong on my beam instead of trying to balance everything perfectly in this season of motherhood.

beam2

Nurturing Your Soul as a Mom

Posted on April 15th, 2015

wednesdaywisdom

I have the app “Time Hop” on my iPhone which shows you all of the things you’ve posted to Facebook and Instagram over the previous years on that date. It alerted me today that two years ago I wrote the blog posted below. I decided to reread it to remind myself of what I was learning a few months into being a mom. And WOW. Don’t you find it funny when you reread something you wrote earlier and it speaks to you in new ways? I totally needed to read this today and so I thought I would repost it in case you need the encouragement too.

This morning I had a couple of hours to myself at Panera while my wonderful babysitter watched Olivia and Addilyn. I knew I needed some time to write some thoughts in my journal and spend time listening to my heart and the Lord. One of the things I was writing down was under the heading: what I enjoy doing. I’ve found that now over two years into motherhood, if I am not intentionally spending time with God, nurturing my soul, and giving myself room to do the things I enjoy, it is just not going to happen.

Typing those words makes me squirm a bit because I don’t want to sound selfish. I think as moms it’s easy for us to take care of everyone else first before ourselves and by the end of the day, there is nothing left for us. And over time, we realize that we hardly even know what we want or what we need because we haven’t tapped into it in so long.

Well, I’ll stop using “we” because I don’t know if that’s how you feel but I know that’s how I feel. And I know that God is wanting me to readdress it in my life. My church is beginning a six-week study on the word brave (and my MOPS group has just spent the year with the theme centered on brave), and I’ve been asking God, “what does my brave look like?”. I feel He is asking me to be brave enough to evaluate how motherhood is going and the effect it has had on me. To recenter my identity on Him, not dependent on the actions of my girls or my husband. To do things that a feed my soul and remind myself what I enjoy doing.

As I write this, I am also aware that I am in a special season of life–one with two little girls two–years-old and under. Time to write, or grab coffee with a friend, or sew, or read, or walk around Target uninterrupted isn’t going to be very plentiful. Part of me is still accepting this. But part of me also realizes that in order to nurture my soul, I must be intentional about ways I can do things that bring life to my soul.

I don’t have any major insights today, just more reflecting on this wonderful yet challenging thing called motherhood. I know the first thing is taking intentional time to hear from God and show me what this looks like. I hope to share more thoughts soon…

…but until then, I must go because I just got Addilyn finally to sleep and now Olivia is waking up. :)

 

 ***

 April 15, 2013

About two months ago when Olivia was about two months old, I read a quote that has been percolating in this new mom’s mind ever since: “A child isn’t an interruption from the important work; A child is the important work.” (I wish I knew where I read it, but “mommy brain” has clouded my mind and for the life of me, I can’t remember!)

In my heart I deeply agreed with those words. After all, I had dreamed of becoming a mom for as long as I could remember. At first, reading this wisdom brought great freedom from the guilt of not tackling the laundry or promptly returning emails. Life was different now, and my sole responsibility was to nurture my newborn instead of checking things off my to-do list. If anything else got accomplished besides nursing, changing diapers, and bouncing Olivia that day, it was icing on the cake.

But I’ll admit, even though I loved being a mom, I still struggled with adjusting to my new way of life and as I settled into my new role, that quote stirred up a slight panic in me. I didn’t realize how much I had grown accustomed to my pre-baby lifestyle. I loved having time to meet with women and chat over coffee, write for an uninterrupted block of time, read my Bible and journal my thoughts, cook dinner and entertain friends at our house, exercise when I pleased, and browse through Target at a leisurely pace. Not to mention, I looked forward to my weekly date night with Jared and enjoyed downloading about our days over dinner on the nights in between.

And then one day, we brought a sweet baby home from the hospital and our lives have never been the same. We fell deeply in love with our long-awaited bundle but we also experienced our fair share of difficult moments.

One of those challenging days was over a month ago now. It took me a while to figure out what was bothering me, but I felt very anxious. All day. I couldn’t shake the cloud that loomed over me. And of course on that particular day, Livi wanted to exercise her vocal cords. All day. It seemed everything I tried throughout that day didn’t appease her. And honestly, I was exasperated. At one point when she was screaming and I was trying to calm her down, I said to her, “I know, sweetie, it’s okay to cry. Mommy wants to cry too!”

I finally calmed her enough to rock her in the glider in her room. As my body swayed with the movement of the rocker, my mind raced with all of the things I still had to do. Cook dinner. Clean the hardwood floors. Empty the dishwasher. Finish thank you notes. Respond to emails.

Yet, instead of accomplishing anything on my list, I was sitting upstairs in a dark room holding my baby because she had finally dozed off to sleep. As I rested my head on the cushion and asked God to speak to me, I felt Him say, “Stay.” And I knew exactly what He meant. Don’t try to tiptoe to her crib, lay her down and then scurry out the door to accomplish a few things in those glorious moments of silence. Instead, I knew He wanted me to sit and hold my sweet daughter and allow God to calm me in the stillness as well.

I sat in that chair for over an hour as I held my sleeping girl and talked with God. I asked Him to enter into my frustrated thoughts and point me to truth. Slowly as I quieted my heart, He revealed some freeing insights to me.

One of the insights He showed me surprised me. I realized that I was carrying around some shame over not enjoying each and every moment of motherhood. I felt so guilty that I had prayed so fervently for a baby and then when she arrived, there were moments that I felt overwhelmed and even wondered if I was cut out to be a mom. Every time I talked with someone who exclaimed, “Aren’t you just loving every minute?” I felt a sandbag of guilt pile on top of me. Was it okay to admit that although, yes, I loved my daughter to pieces, no, I wasn’t loving every single second? In all honesty, I was shell-shocked with how much our lives had changed and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. And although I couldn’t believe I was saying it, I missed parts of my before-baby life. Sleep. Quiet. Reflection. Connectedness.

As I continued to rock Olivia, a quote came to my mind that kept popping up in conversations and in my reading: “Wherever you are be all there.” I have noticed whenever there is a theme I need to tune my ear to what God may be saying to me, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about these words.  (I wrote a few of my thoughts about being present here.) It is definitely the desire of my heart for Olivia to know that she isn’t just a distraction to what I really want to be doing; she is my primary focus and I want to be “all there” when I am mothering her.

However, if I could be honest in my brief experience of motherhood thus far, I am realizing that in order to be all there for her, I have to have some moments to recharge. I’ve struggled with the guilt I have felt for needing a break from wearing a mommy hat. Was it okay that I needed a respite? And was it okay to admit that even though I loved Olivia there were parts of being a mom that were really challenging and even discouraging?

Yes and yes, I have found that it is okay. It’s taken me a while to realize that part of my anxiety was due to the fact that I wasn’t living up to the elusive “perfect mother” image that whispered to me in my not-so-great hours, “Every other mom cherishes these moments; what is wrong with you?” Thankfully after several discussions with dear friends, I am realizing that many moms have felt this way too but they’ve been afraid to admit it. One of the most guilt-lifting realizations was that it’s not that I don’t want to be a mom.

Quite the contrary, I want to be a great mom, and I am learning part of the way for me to be that is to not only take care of my daughter and husband but take some moments for myself to replenish and especially have moments with God so that when I am mothering Olivia, I can be “all there.”

However, as we all know, having these realizations and integrating them into our reality can be the challenging part. As I look back over the last four months, finding time for me has hardly happened since Olivia was born—and not because my husband hasn’t been supportive or our parents haven’t been willing to babysit. It’s just that there’s so much to do and my rejuvenating time can easily be pushed out by piles of laundry, a full inbox, and a long list of errands.

I now can totally comprehend how motherhood becomes all encompassing and before you know it, you don’t even know who you are anymore apart from being a mom. Part of this is good; my life has great purpose in caring and nurturing for a little life. But part of this, I am realizing, can be so dangerous if I am not careful to nurture who I was before becoming a mom and who I want to be as a woman.

And so I am learning, as much as mothering can be very satisfying, it is not my sole identity. I am also a writer, a teacher, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a wife, and most of all, a follower of Christ. When my identity rests here and I nurture all parts of me, I can view my new life and my new role with such greater perspective and I can also enjoy my mommy moments so much more.

Just like spring is hopefully arriving here, I’ve come to view life in seasons. It occurred to me as I’ve been processing all of these thoughts about being a mom that this little block of time with a young baby (or insert whatever stage you are in) is a season. It won’t last forever and I can understand a bit more why people who have lived through a particular season look back with a glimmer in their eye and say, “Cherish every moment.” When you look back on a season, it is a lot easier to skip over the extra hard days and just remember the sweet moments (like my college days!).

Which reminds me of a situation I experienced recently with Jared’s lovely ninety-two-year-old grandmother. While we were visiting, she kept saying over and over, “the years go by so quickly,” and “enjoy every one of these moments” and “hold her as much as you can because she’ll be too big really soon.” I didn’t seem to mind her comments as much because I am sure when you’re in that situation where you are looking at your great granddaughter, the scenes from all of your life seem to flash before you and it feels like yesterday when you were cradling your own.  I also didn’t mind because she prays for us constantly, loves us well, and her heart is so kind.

Later on during our visit, Olivia became very fussy and started uncontrollably crying. I was bouncing her back and forth through the living room trying to calm her down to no avail. After a good while, Grandma Warner looked at me and with such sweet sincerity in her voice she said, “That was good for me to see and remember that there are hard moments too.” I can’t tell you how validated I felt. I have thought of that moment so many times since and have tried to take to heart her advice of holding Olivia more as well as remembering that some moments as a mom are just plain hard.

After two months of reflecting, I am realizing that yes, raising a child is very important work. But the most valuable endeavor is what Beth Moore reminded me in her teaching series on Deuteronomy when she said, “To be a successful mother in God’s eyes, love the Lord with everything you have got.” The overflow of loving and seeking God will bring the energy, joy, and perspective needed to be the mother and woman God has created me to be. Now, that’s important work.

Addilyn Elizabeth

Posted on February 15th, 2015

We are so overjoyed to announce that sweet Addilyn Elizabeth entered the world two weeks ago, February 2, at 9:02am. She weighed 8 pounds even and was 21 inches long. Everything about her is perfect and we feel so incredibly blessed! We were also thrilled that the oncologist gave me a great report after attending the c-section. Thank you for all of your prayers. We are over the moon and thanking God for His goodness to us!

IMG_0199

IMG_0007

 

image1

IMG_0213

IMG_0215

IMG_0428

 

 

Becoming a Brave Mom: Attack Anxiety

Posted on January 30th, 2015

Welcome back MOPS Moms!

If you missed the first two posts, catch them here and here.

I sat in my kitchen today while Olivia napped and chatted with a friend about fear. We both have felt the weight of suffocating anxiety. As we talked and shared the different ways we cope, I thought about the strategies I have learned over the years. It reminded me of this blog post I wrote almost four years ago about the ways I have found to help manage my anxiety.

I would now add a few more strategies to the list:

 

  • Replace the anxious thoughts with true thoughts. Aside from examining the underlying emotion and inviting God into the anxious thoughts that I shared in my post mentioned above, I have learned the value of surrounding myself with true thoughts. For me that means keeping myself plugged into Scripture and listening to music that reinforces those truths. (I’ve shared many of my favorite songs in the Wednesday Wisdom Well posts but one I love to play in my anxious moments is Cast My Cares by Tim Timmons).

I also have mentioned before that I have post-it notes on my mirrors and verses on my kitchen chalkboard to constantly bring myself back to what’s true. One of my most favorite verses is Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You” and when I am in a scary situation, I repeat it over and over.

When I was going through chemo, I used a spiral-bound note card book and wrote verses that God was using to comfort and encourage me. I would take those with me to my appointments and read them over and over when I felt the panic rising.

  • Take time out for myself–whether that be taking a nap (and let me just say, I totally agree with that quote I heard somewhere that, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.”), going for a walk, reading a book, journaling my thoughts, or doing a little shopping. I’ve learned giving myself some time to think, pray and clear my head is really important to help lessen my anxiety. (Now to figure out how to do this with two children!)

 

  • Share my fears with others. Sometimes it’s just me being honest about my fears with my husband but more times than not recently I have sensed God encourage me to open up with others about the various anxieties that are plaguing me. In doing so, it not only reminds others they are not alone in their struggles but it draws me closer to those who want to live authentically and bravely too.

 

  • Lessen caffeine. Practically speaking, I’ve noticed when I get super anxious, caffeine really aids in making me more stressed out and giving me physical symptoms (heart racing, tension headaches, etc.). In those situations, I try to drink green tea instead because it still has some caffeine but also is known to help relax you too. (And I’ve also found lavender essential oil helps counteract the anxiety.)

brave mom image

In Sherry Surratt’s book Brave Mom, she also listed some “go-to strategies to deal with fears and worries before they [get] out of control” (see pages 140-144).  I wanted to list a few that stood out to me.

 

  • “Do a laundry sort…Sort your fear into two piles: things I have control over and things I don’t.” If you don’t have any control, “tell God what you are nervous about, acknowledge you don’t have control and ask God to give your heart peace…If it is a fear you can do something about…take action. Then tell yourself, okay, I’ve done all I can do.”

 

  • Frisk your thoughts at the door…I can’t control every scary thing but I can control whether or not these things strike fear in my heart.”

 

One specific way I have been doing this is when I hear a really traumatic story on Facebook or in the news, my immediate thought is, “Oh my gosh, what if that happened to me?” and then I start to feel the panic rising.

A few months ago I had just blogged about how I made it to the five year mark of being cancer-free.  While I was elated, I also get nervous when I post things like that in writing because you never know what’s in store for the future, and though I don’t believe in jinxing myself, I always feel a little more on edge when I put myself out there. (I guess that’s just part of being brave and sharing more of myself even when I can’t control the outcome.)

So anyway, I felt a little emotional about the whole thing and a day or two later I received an email that asked if I would reach out to a young mom whose ovarian cancer had just returned. Immediately, I felt great fear and worried about that happening to me. After a few hours of ruminating off and on about this fear, I felt God remind me, “That is not your story right now. Stay in your story and where I have you.” I tell myself that all the time now. (It’s part of the “replacing the anxious thoughts with true thoughts.” I’ve become quite the self-talker!)

When I read a heartbreaking story that begins to stir up fear of “What if that happened to me?”, I literally tell myself, “That is not your story. That is their story and God is going to meet them in it.” As the quote says above, I have to frisk my thoughts and not let myself go down the imaginary road because it doesn’t do me any good! (And this is not to say we don’t empathize and reach out to those who are going through tragedies, but I am learning that I have to mentally remind myself the difference between their story and my story and not to take on what is not mine.)

 

  • Choose Gratitude…Fear makes us feel small and hopeless.  What makes us feel the opposite?…A thankful heart.”

 

The best thing I’ve done as I’ve written this blog entry is look back at my past posts and read about how God has been so incredibly faithful to me, which stirs inside of me a thankful heart. I almost think the best cure for anxiety is to look at the ways God has shown up in the past and remind myself He will show up again because that is just who He is! 

Writing this blog post has been very cathartic for me as I prepare my heart for our lives to change as we meet our next baby girl. Though transitions can frightens me, I am learning that fear and courage can exist at the same time. So instead of shutting down, batting away my fears, or letting them consume me, I am learning to come to God honestly, acknowledge what is scaring me, and take on the bravery He gives me. After all, as Sherry says, “Courage doesn’t mean we are not afraid anymore; it just means our actions aren’t controlled by our fears” (105).

Becoming a Brave Mom: Face the Fear

Posted on January 30th, 2015

Welcome back MOPS Moms!

(If you’re just joining us, I encourage you to read yesterday’s post here.)

 brave mom image

Have you ever picked up a book and wondered if it were written just for you? That is how I have felt as I’ve read Sherry Surratt’s Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears.  I want to be brave and courageously embrace the what-ifs that come with being a mama, but so many times I don’t know how to tangibly do that. Sherry’s book has helped give me some practical ideas as well as encouraged me to reflect on my fears and my bravery.

As I read the chapter on “Facing Your Emotional Monsters,” I realized the truths were the exact reminders I needed to put my fears about my baby #2’s arrival into perspective.

Maybe, like me, you’re about to head into the next stage of your family. Or a current situation is causing fear to creep up, or the daily what-ifs are winning out. If so, here are a few insights from the book that encouraged me.

Sherry lists three truths about fear (see pages 140-144):

 

  • Fear will come knocking and will want to come in….We pretend around [fear] and swat it away like an annoying fly, but until we deal with it directly, it’s going to come back.”

 

Reading this quote motivated me to take some time to uncover what was below the surface that was recently causing me anxiety. A couple of weeks ago, I took advantage of an extra kid-free hour after an OB appointment and headed to a coffee shop with my journal. I would have loved to have sat there all day reading and writing but I was grateful for the hour I had. Writing down my fears (listed on the what-if list in the previous post) and asking God to speak truth to me about them brought peace and freedom that I needed.

I faced (and am continuing to face and work through) the fear that yes, although there are no signs that the cancer has returned, it is a legitimate fear that the oncologist could find something during the c-section. Acknowledging that I am scared about that has helped me give that specific prayer request to God.

And on a less serious note, I have realized that some of the what-ifs I wrote about (like no sleep or toddler tantrums) will most likely happen at some point. It’s just the reality of all of us adjusting to life as a family of four. But writing those fears down has been helpful for me to frame where the anxiety is coming from and also to acknowledge that it may be hard for a while, and that’s okay. (And it’s also super encouraging to remind myself of how many brave moms have gone before me, survived, and moved into a new season–even with fond memories!)

 

  • While fear is very real, it doesn’t have to paralyze you…Just because a scary thought hits me, it doesn’t mean I have to ruminate on it, letting my emotions get carried away with every possible scenario.”

 

This is definitely a lesson I have learned over the last five years. As 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, I have to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” Not just because it says so in Scripture but because taking these thoughts captive brings such greater peace to my life than if I let my fears run ahead of me and freak me out.

In a blog entry I posted almost exactly four years ago, I wrote about this very thing after working myself up in a tizzy while waiting for some cancer scan results.

 

“After what felt like forever, my doctor entered the room and told us that everything on my ultrasound looked fine. As I breathed a huge sigh of relief, I was reminded all over again why God tells me in His Word to keep my mind steadfast and “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When I engross myself in God’s truth and promises instead of scaring myself silly with fearful thoughts, God’s peace “guards my heart and mind” (Philippians 4:8). Fixating on all of the what-ifs is not only a waste of time but it steals my peace and energy. Beth Moore says it this way, “Many of our mammoth captors began as seeds in the thought life, but we watered and cultivated them by continued meditation until they grew the size of the Sequoias!” (203).

 

Taking thoughts captive and working through my fears has been a theme throughout my blog. As I was writing this entry I pulled up many of the posts I’ve written; reading some of the quotes I shared from other authors, recalling the stories of how God met me in my distress, and reminding myself of verses God has shown me brought such encouragement to me. (I will share more practical tips about what I’ve learned tomorrow but if this topic is resonating with you, a few other posts I have written about fear can be found here, here, here, and here.)

 

  • The goal is not to eliminate fear but to manage it…Trying to avoid every scary situation as a mom isn’t in the realm of possibility, nor is it healthy to try. But it is possible to be the best brave mom you can be, who has go-to strategies that come naturally to you when you face tough situations.”

 

When I first read this insight from Sherry, I wasn’t sure if I agreed because I do think the ultimate goal is to eliminate the fear all together. I do believe when we ask God to take our fear away, sometimes He completely does that and I believe in asking Him to do so. But I also know that oftentimes God uses the fear to draw us more to Himself and uses it to teach us to trust Him as a loving and good Father. I know that has certainly been true through my cancer journey as well as my journey in becoming a mom.

A memorable mom-fear moment comes to mind that helped teach me that I could trust God as my loving Father. I was planting flowers the day before my 20-week ultrasound with Olivia, my firstborn, and thinking through what the next day entailed. Because of all that we’d gone through with my health, as the appointment approached, I began freaking out about all that could go wrong with the baby inside of me.  I knelt in the hot sun that day digging holes and watering flowers and telling God every one of my fears. He didn’t necessarily take away my fear, but He reminded me that He was good and that I could trust Him. And though I wanted Him to wave a magic wand and tell me all was going to be okay, instead He reminded me to trust Him with my fears and trust His character. That truth calmed my heart as I entered the appointment (and thankfully found out all was fine).

Wouldn’t you know, as I was sitting here typing these very thoughts, I realized that I hadn’t felt Baby Girl move in a while. Having known a couple of people who have lost their babies at the very end of their pregnancy, it is a real fear of mine that this could happen. I tried to ignore the nagging fear as I wrote but I could feel silent panic rising inside of me. I stopped typing and prayed, asking God to reassure me things were okay, but most of all to trust Him and not let my mind take off down a worry path. Then I took a drink of water, shifted my body to the left side, and kept writing. Thankfully she moved in a couple of minutes and I smiled because I had put into action the three steps Sherry suggested: acknowledged the fear directly (what if there is something wrong with the baby), took my thoughts captive (prayed and told myself not to go to the worst-case scenario), and managed the fear (took a drink and shifted to left side and kept my mind occupied).

I’ll share more tomorrow about the strategies I’ve learned to manage my fear and anxiety. Until then, what are your go-to strategies?

 

Becoming a Brave Mom: Let It Out, Let It Go

Posted on January 30th, 2015


Welcome MOPS Moms! Thanks for stopping by!

In just a couple of days, Jared and I will be in the hospital preparing to meet our second daughter. Just typing those words brings a whole slew of emotions to the forefront of my mind.

First, utter gratefulness. Five years ago right around now, Jared and I were trying to decide if we should do precautionary fertility treatments before my ten weeks of chemo started.  (For those of you new around here, five years ago, I was diagnosed with a very rare ovarian tumor at age 29. Though the cancer was not aggressive, due to one cell outside my ovary, I had to go through chemo. Read more about the details here and here.)

The doctors could not guarantee that I would be able to have children after the powerful cancer drugs infiltrated my body. Knowing how much I have always wanted to be a mom, I couldn’t bank on percentages that “most likely” I would be able to bear children. We decided to go forward with treatments to preserve my fertility but that came to a screeching halt when a stubborn (but thankfully harmless) cyst on my other ovary would not go away. My oncologist felt we shouldn’t wait any longer and encouraged us to move forward with chemo without any fertility treatments. (I wrote more about it here.)

I won’t ever forget that moment because it was a time of true surrender when I had to let go of my desires to be a mom and trust that God would handle it—whatever that looked like.  When the tears came during my chemo treatments, they were often wrapped up in this desire, which would manifest itself at times through fear: I so badly want to carry a baby, but what if I can’t?

This brings me to the second emotion I’ve been feeling as the arrival of baby #2 approaches: anxiety. I struggle with not letting my anxious thoughts control my life. God has done a major work in my heart since walking through cancer but that doesn’t mean I no longer struggle with fear. It creeps up at random times—sometimes legitimate and other times totally unfounded.

Over the past month, I’ve had a lot of what-ifs pop up in my mind about our next baby’s arrival. But instead of keeping them inside and letting them eat at my joy, I am learning to bravely acknowledge them.  To get them out in the open and name them. So at the risk of sounding a little crazy, I thought I’d take a brave step and list out some of the real what-ifs that have popped up in my mind recently.

  • What if something goes wrong with the c-section, for me or baby? (I don’t take even routine procedures for granted anymore.)
  • What if the oncologist (who will be present for the c-section) finds something suspicious on my remaining ovary?  (It gives us such reassurance to know he is able to do a quick check after they’ve delivered the baby but the fear of what they could find still nags at me…)
  • What if I get just as sick after the last c-section and am completely out of it for the next 24 hours like I was with Olivia? (That really was miserable.)
  • What if they find a health issue with the baby?
  • What if nursing doesn’t work this time around?
  • What if Olivia flips out with all of the new dynamics? (Knowing her fiery little personality, this is most likely to happen!)
  • What if I don’t get any sleep between taking care of a newborn and a two-year-old? (I really am a better person when I get sleep! Ha.)
  • What if Olivia throws lots of tantrums in the adjustment period of realizing this show isn’t all about her anymore?
  • What if I can’t manage an active toddler and a newborn?
  • What if I burst into tears in the middle of Target trying to keep Olivia in the cart and a newborn content? (This is quite probable, so if you see me in the Target aisle, please be kind!)
  • What if adding more responsibility and less sleep affects our marriage or my friendships?
  • What if I have even less time for myself and less time growing parts of me that are not “just a mom?”

 

Ah, that feels better already. I have learned over the last five years if I can acknowledge what is causing anxiety, I am much more able to invite God into my situation. As I let it all out, He meets me and helps me let it go.

brave mom image

Over the last couple of months I have been reading a book written by the MOPS CEO, Sherry Surratt, entitled Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears. I love that as I’ve been working through the fears mentioned above, God gave me this incredible resource to tangibly help me. In my next post I will share some of the insights from her book that have encouraged my heart during this time as well as have given me practical strategies to truly let the fears go and trust God.

It reminds me of a bracelet I bought recently that sums up these thoughts as well as totally signifies this pregnancy journey for me:

image

“Let it Go.
Begin today.
Surrender your fear.
Nurture your soul.”

 

Or another way to say it:

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7