His Strength in Our Weakness

Ah, social media.

What a marvelous tool we have at our fingertips to keep in touch with loved ones!  It’s great to see what people are up to through social media, but are you getting the full picture?

We see what others want us to see. Some people are more transparent than others, and that’s OK.

I recently shared something with a friend that I’ve been going through and she was both brokenhearted for me and also completely shocked.

I have been diagnosed with moderate depression.

After feeling off for the past two years and trying everything to get myself back to feeling like myself again, all to no avail, I knew I had to get professional help. It took three doctors to get me to realize that there was something wrong chemically in my brain. They all concluded it was a mixture of post-partum depression, possibly situational depression, but nonetheless: it was happening to me. I never thought it would, and it did.

I always try to be a positive and upbeat person. A silver lining seeker, a glass half-full believer. After I had a baby, I never felt so alone and hopeless. This made ZERO sense to me in reality. I had the sense that my thinking and feelings were flawed, but I couldn’t shake them. I had the reality of a blessed life with my family, my sweet baby girl, and all God has given us. Yet I had this overwhelming sense of hopelessness I could not shake. I hated that I felt so down, I was ashamed of it.

I went through about a year of just barely going through the motions. I was chronically sleep deprived with Tessa that first year, and it was the hardest time of my entire life. I had no idea how much getting little sleep could negatively affect your life until I had a child who wouldn’t nap more than 20 minutes at a time or sleep longer at night than 1-2 hours every night for  the majority of her first 1.5 years. It actually was more physically and emotionally draining than any other trauma I’ve endured. I tried several different methods, read books, etc, to get her to sleep more and none of them worked except time. She’s a pretty good sleeper now, thank God, good routines, and Essential Oils. Thank God He makes babies so adorable because, man, that was rough! But I love her so much, even when we went through such a hard time together.

I always felt an inherent sense of gratefulness for Tessa, never blamed or resented her, I wanted to help her sleep because I bet she was just as miserable as I was, if not more! I am grateful my depression was not so bad and I still had somewhat of a grip on reality. Many women who suffer from post-partum depression have had it much worse than me, and my heart breaks for those families. I am so grateful to God for giving me what I could handle and seeing me through it. I am on the healing side of this now, however this is still very difficult to write.

When my friend was so surprised to hear about my struggles, it made me think about how I am perceived by others. Something that’s always been a part of my nature is to be stoic. I don’t hang on to the negative, so I usually don’t talk about it either. I accept things, grieve internally, move on, and truly don’t let things get to me. When I am upset, handling myself from a place of strength and poise has always been important to me. These are not inherently bad things, however I have found so much of God’s power in my weakness by sharing it with others. We are not called to be prideful and stoic, to suffer alone and live in darkness. Through talking more openly about my depression I have learned the value of bringing our struggles to light, and seeing them in the light of God’s truth through scripture and the encouragement of others.

I’ve been learning a lot about this lately and it’s caused me to feel compelled to be more transparent about my struggles. Obviously, I never mean to suggest people should air their family’s struggles online, out of respect for the family unit that is not always appropriate. However, my own personal struggle with depression is something God has called me to share. Keep in mind, sharing your struggles may look differently for different people, too. But I urge you, if you are struggling, talk to someone you trust about it. Seek help. Seek God! You can get better. You will get better if you truly want to!

I’ve gone through so much in the past few years, lots of change in general. I have learned that God has given us the ability to feel emotions, we need to let ourselves feel them and lean on Him to deal with them. So often, while trying to remain positive, I have suppressed real emotions! Life is not always going to be sunshine and roses. It’s going to get messy, and that is alright. It’s how you deal with the mess that counts! And guess what? God loves us anyway, despite the mess.

I am so grateful for my life and my precious daughter. I am thankful to God for all this blessing of a baby has taught me about His love, about life, and about myself. I have grown in ways I never had anticipated. Depression is just a short season of my life, a drop in the bucket. This isn’t going to define me or be the end of my story, and it doesn’t have to be the end of yours either.  I have so many fond memories of Tessa and me during those years. I don’t want to let my depression taint my memories of Tessa’s baby years. I so badly want to go back in time and soak them up a little more, though. Ah, life.

Find the things you love and pursue them with your whole heart. Seek Jesus. Seek true JOY in the Lord. Know that you are so loved by a God who gave it ALL for us, while we are sinners. Yes, I am talking to myself in all of this and sharing it because God did not call us to do this life alone.

God says in 2 Cor. 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For this reason, among others, I’ve chosen to share my struggle. I am nothing in my own power without the Lord. This season of depression left me feeling weak, unworthy, unlovable, and hopeless. But God says His power is made PERFECT in our weakness. Out of this weakness, I am stronger because of the Lord, and good therapy! God will not waste any hurt or any negative experience, He will work it together for good. He comforts us and so we must comfort others. If you are hurting today, I would love to talk to you. Take heart in 2 Cor. 1 and know that you are SO loved and worthy of love. Again, talking to myself, too!

 

 

 

 

Ministry in Daily Life

A huge part of my heart behind Thriving on Grace is to share with people my journey with God, sharing how I am learning to thrive in His abundant Grace.

I struggle just like everyone else, deal with things that are unimaginable, just like everyone else, and try to take up my cross and walk in faith and light, just like everyone else. To be honest, some days feel like I am carrying my cross up hill with no end in sight.

But I started this blog to share my faith, open a dialog with other believers, and hopefully be an encouragement. Here’s what God has been teaching me lately about ministry.

In our world today there is so much suffering, and with round the clock news cycles and social media, it seems as though we all have a personal view of world wide problems. As Christians, many of us are called by God to go out into the world and be the hands and feet of Jesus. I am in absolute awe of people’s selflessness to get out of their comfort zone and set out to minister to those in need all over the globe in the name of Jesus.

But I want to bring light to something for a moment. Sometimes, with evangelizing, its easy to get wrapped up in big pictures, big ministry goals, and reaching as many people as possible.  God stirs a fire in me that burns so brightly that I want to sprint toward my goals and put blinders on everything else until I reach it. There have been times where I have been so focused on my current ministry outreach project that I have neglected to care as deeply for those directly around me. It’s easy to be overwhelmed and brokenhearted by the suffering of the poor in faraway lands and miss the opportunities to minister to those right in front of you.  I read the following teaching in Galatians and it encouraged me greatly to be more intentional with the people in my daily path.

“Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith.” Galatians 6:8-10 NLT

I am, of course, in no way suggesting to not go out into the world, other countries, other cities, and faraway lands to preach the good news. What I am suggesting is we must not forget to live out our faith in our daily lives here at home. We must not forget to minister to those in our own family, family of faith, and church family. These verses begged these questions of myself:

  • Am I being the hands and feet of Christ to those who see me daily?
  • Am I being an example of Christ’s love to all I come in contact with?
  • Am I loving those in my family, community, church family well first?
  • How can I better serve my own family, loved ones, and community?

Invest in your surroundings, and bloom where you are planted. The bible teaches us that we will reap what we sow. Establish healthy roots around you and grow from there to extend your outreach. Our first ministry should be our relationship with God, then our relationships with our loved ones and community.

As a parent, my main ministry is making sure I am a healthy Godly mother to my daughter. I have big ambitions, big goals, and feel a tremendous call on my life from God. Yet in the season I am in right now, God is calling me to lay a foundation, be faithful in the current blessings I have been given, and focus on raising my child to know Jesus.

My encouragement to everyone is to not compare yourself with other Christians. Evaluate the position God has you in, evaluate the current needs around you and how you can meet them in the name of God. Everyone’s ministry may look different, and just because your current season may not have you doing ministry in the same way others are at the moment, does not mean you aren’t a valuable asset of your family of faith. We all have our own set of skills, spiritual gifts, and calls on our lives from God. He created us distinctly different on purpose! Evaluate the gifts God has blessed you with and use them for the glory of God. It will be so life giving and fulfilling to you, and pleasing to God!

Not sure you are capable or qualified to minister to others? If you seek Jesus with a whole heart, He will equip you and meet you there. God can use ANYONE for His glory, all it takes is a willing heart and faith in Jesus. Through Jesus, we all have access to God’s power to do wonderful things for God and through God. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us that God’s power works best in weakness! I know this first hand to be true because I am WEAK without Jesus, I have crumbled under the pressure of trying to do life without Jesus as my focus.

Clinging to Jesus and accessing God’s power will sustain you in all situations. I am praying for all those reading this to step out in faith and love for Christ and make a positive difference in the position God has you in today. I am praying all these things for myself as well.

 

 

 

 

Grateful for All of It

It was 5:15am. Which is astronomically early for a stay at home mom who is frequently woken up by a nursing baby in the night. Let that all soak in for a moment.

Usually my daughter and I are both peacefully visiting dreamland this time of day but my husband had just came into our bedroom with a flashlight searching high and low for his favorite hoodie before hustling out the door to make it to the gym before work. Thankfully, she slept through it, but I wasn’t so lucky. After all, I am a mom and wake up to even the faintest noises. You know, like the carpet blowing in the wind of the air conditioner or my daughter faintly humming in her sleep. Anyway, I do frequently steal said hoodie (it is the best), so it’s understandable why he was searching through my closet for it (doh!). In any case, as I laid there awake I thought maybe I could get my day started early and get some things done. My daughter does not take very long naps and I don’t get much quiet time to myself to think. Around 5:30 I decided, OK, I’ll get up, get some coffee, read my bible and devotional, and get cracking on some things.

As usual, my daughter had other plans. She began to stir and wanted to nurse. I thought, oh great! This means she’ll sleep in longer if I nurse her now. Wrong again, mom! She promptly sat up straight in bed after nursing and stared at me. Ok…tried to coax her into going back to sleep – no luck. New diaper – still no luck. Next move, I went to get her a bottle, as she takes a supplement a few times a day, and thought maybe that’s what she wanted. Wrong again, she tossed her cookies everywhere after getting 1/3 through the bottle.

So now I’m up extra early, tired, and cleaning up puke. Not exactly the relaxing and quiet start to my morning I had envisioned. As I felt frustration and exhaustion start to set in, I began to pray and ask for patience. Ever pray and ask for patience? It’s God’s most favorite way to answer in irony as He’ll just give you more opportunities to practice. So of course what came next were multiple attempts to lay her back down and a baby fighting sleep.

After I finally coaxed her back to sleep, I quietly walk downstairs to get some coffee. Ah, yes. This is what I wanted! I got my coffee, a cozy blanket, my journal, and began to read my bible and devotionals. What happened next helped me make sense of my entire morning and refocus my attention.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV – A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

There’s a time for everything, because every season of life comes with all kinds of situations. This was a reminder to me that despite my occasional moments of difficulty, exhaustion, and frustration, this season of life also comes with the most beautiful moments too. It’s so easy to get stuck in the rut of frustration but to battle that, I need to always keep the bigger picture as my perspective for positive living. My daughter is almost a year old and I’ve loved to watch her grow and change every day. She is just beginning to walk unassisted, says mama in the sweetest voice, pretends to talk on the phone to me, gives the most slobbery adorable kisses, flashes me a smile whenever I walk in the room and has such a sweet yet cautious personality that emerges more and more every day. My walk through motherhood has been such a blessing and this season of my life is something I’ll always look back on fondly, so these verses were a real reminder to me that there’s a time for everything in all seasons of life. In order to enjoy the sweetness of this season of my life, I must also take with it the frustrations that come along and walk through them with grace and patience.

As with everything in life, motherhood’s adversities are no match for a grateful & loving heart.

My Daughter’s Inner Voice

This morning started off as just an ordinary morning with my 9 month old daughter, yet it will always have a profound and lasting impact on me as a mother.

After our morning kisses and cuddles, we got out of bed and I set her up with a few toys to play with while I brushed my teeth and got myself ready for the day. While standing at the sink, I found myself feeling a little  discouraged about my body and where I am physically in my postpartum journey. I had expected things would be going back to normal faster than they have. I expected I wouldn’t be as tired as I have been as a new mother and would have had the energy for the workouts I’d love to do. Yet, as I stood at the sink, I found myself lifting my shirt to examine with disappointment the battle scars I have on my lower abdomen from late in my pregnancy. The negative thoughts I had quietly in my head were screaming so loudly through the look on my face. Feeling two little eyes gazing up at me, I looked down to see my baby girl standing there, with one arm holding herself up against the bath tub and the other holding her own shirt up as she examined her own tummy.

Oh, my. What am I doing?

Sure, she’s just 9 months old and was just innocently mimicking her mama as she loves to do lately. But make no mistake, my actions were ultimately teaching her that it is ok to have negative thoughts about yourself and to give into the pressures of this life to feel you are anything less than uniquely beautiful in God’s eyes – no matter how you look.

Although it is reasonable to want to lose a little weight and wish away the marks on my abdomen, the problem was my heart behind it this morning. I was trying to live up to unreasonable expectations based off of other people that do not match up with my reality. I am recognizing this morning that as her mother, my voice  and attitude about myself will greatly influence my daughter’s inner voice about herself. I want to treat myself better in order to teach her that beauty is not the sum of your gravitational pull and overall outward appearance. Beauty is what flows from the heart through your actions. It’s how you love yourself and how you love others. I was not loving myself well this morning and it is a blessing I have had this revelation while my daughter is so young.

This is just one small part of the endless journey to try and thrive on grace! This is MY journey! I needed this reminder to be grateful for the amazing body God has given me that gave LIFE to my daughter. Every mark is worth it. It was an important reminder to love myself, accept the things I cannot change, and work harder with a positive attitude to change the things I can. But most of all, it was a reminder to always be confident and kind to myself, as little eyes are looking up to me.

Rock Climbing & Blogging

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It’s always that first step that’s the hardest, and sometimes the most intimidating, when stepping out to try something new. This was the case with rock climbing for me…and starting a blog. Both uncharted territories, yet climbing to the top of that rock wall and being able to publish my first blog post were both very satisfying. Both taught me valuable lessons about trying new things and driving out fear to accomplish your goals. Who knew blogging and rock climbing had so much in common.

Situations aren’t always easy, but it’s up to you whether you just survive or if you thrive!

Grace – You Are Enough!

As a woman, a mother, and a fellow human being, I find that it’s very easy to compare myself to others and sometimes come up feeling inadequate. In this day and age, with the rise of social media, we find ourselves living in the fakest reality world – ever. Everywhere you turn someone is using a filter, an angle, a clever saying, and the right lighting, to get you to think a certain way about them. I fear that this is perpetuating a problematic thought among us – that maybe we just aren’t enough. At times I have felt the need to edit things to the point where I’m almost editing reality out! But what I’ve learned is that when I edit out too much of my reality, I lose ownership over my authenticity, which is insulting to me and insulting to the ever-loving God who made me! Now, of course I still use filters and Chrisclever sayings! The point is, I’ve learned to be more mindful of social media and the trap of obsession with perception.

But unlike obsession with perception and thirst for other’s approval, grace tells an entirely different story. Grace says, “You are enough”, because God says, “You are more than enough.” God’s grace and unconditional love has saved us while we are still sinners and that is truly a free gift to whosoever believes in Him. Knowing who I truly am, (behind that Nashville filter and natural sunlight from that window I’m facing in hopes to hide my tired eyes) God says, “I choose you, all of you!”

Now, this of course has eternal implications but for the purpose of this blog post, let me get to the daily – minute by minute – application. Here it is, because God’s grace tells me that I am more than enough – I AM ENOUGH! So I must treat myself as such. This means that every day I choose, to the best of my ability, to extend grace to myself and not be too hard on myself. This means I fully accept myself as I am! This means that you not only extend grace to yourself but to others too. I’m choosing to think the best of others, and give more benefit of the doubt. God loves us all. He extends love and grace to us all. I am flawed and also trying my hardest to thrive on this sometimes uphill climb of life and gracefully love myself and love others in a passionate and genuine way!

I don’t want to just survive on tough days. I want to thrive! I want to thrive on the fact that God’s love and grace have covered me. It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to my new blog, Thriving on Grace.

About Me

The Voice of Thriving on Grace:

I’m Kristen, creator of Thriving on Grace, mother of one beautiful baby girl and a wife as well. We are a Christian family trying to do our best to keep Christ at the center of our home and we are no strangers to struggles along the way. We do love, grace, forgiveness, friendship, courage, honesty, and kindness! I am a childhood cancer survivor and, as a result, I was raised to be health conscious, to do whatever we could to keep ourselves healthy. You can’t prevent everything, but you can guard against a whole lot! I am grateful to my mother for instilling a strong will to live the best life I can and to always read nutritional labels. I’m grateful for my sister for lighting an even deeper spark in me, igniting my inmimitable interest in the world of cooking, food production, health and wellness! We’ve found that the more we’ve all learned, the more we want to know. I wanted to join the online community and be a voice for good in the sometimes shadowy world of cyber space. I want to share things I’ve learned while on this journey toward whole mind and body wellness from my perspective as a young Christian mother and wife. I also hope to interact with others who may have similar goals, share inspirations, and learn from them. I hope you find something of help or positive value to you on my blog, regardless of your faith, stage of life, or worldview.