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3.09.2010

Unraveling The Mysteries of Life...

Not sure where this could go...I've been wanting to write this post for awhile, but I have had absolutely no earthly idea about where to start.  I've had much on my heart and mind lately.  Much more than I've been able to process, let alone share.  For good reason.  I love this blog and the outlet it gives me to connect with other Moms, with other friends, but I have really always tried to be very mindful of what I'm putting out there for the whole wide web to read :) And so as of late, I have just sensed a need to be silent.  To let the Lord alone work on me through this season, before I just throw my thoughts out there, with no truth behind them.  Do you know what I mean?  

In my almost 30 years of life, I have learned that it is not always wise or beneficial to share every thought or feeling that crosses my mind.  In fact, to do so on a regular basis would be foolish.  The thoughts that scroll across my mind are far too often embarrassingly shallow.  And selfish.  And prideful.  And reflective of the sin harboring itself in my heart.  I hardly want myself to own up to them, let alone the whole world to know them.  So I've learned that well chosen words are always better than too many words.  Too many words get us in trouble and often lead us to places we don't want to go.  You may have a hard time believing that, since I am the MOST WORDY person out there (which is evidenced in the length of my posts!) but trust me, I am still mindful of each word I type :)

But after some reflection, lots of time in God's word and some advice from people in my life that I trust, I think I can safely share some of the things God has shown me through these days.  Because they have been hard days.  Days that I have struggled to walk well in and days that have held some adversity for us.  

Adjusting to life as a Mom, and specifically a stay at home Mom, has come with plenty of ups and downs.  The ups have often been more than I could imagine.  The joy of never missing a minute with Ava, of being in my home and learning to run it more efficiently, of having the freedom to choose my activities for the day and the challenge of creating the oasis that we call home...Those things have all blessed me and I have learned to count them as a privilege during this season.  But the downs have nearly knocked me off my feet, several times over.  The grind of day after day, following the same routine, spending so much time at home, living off of one income, shouldering the weight of parenting alone all day, and feeling the intense isolation that has crept into my world as a Mom, has been staggering.  Some days I deal with it better than others, but some days are just flat out hard.  

I hate to say that I've had some very ugly moments in recent days.  Moments when I've wallowed in self-pity, when I've fallen prey to the comparison game of every one around me, and when I've just seriously sinned in my unbelief toward the Lord.  Low lows after so many high highs.  And yet, in the darkest of days there has remained a faithful voice in my head, prompting me to go back to truth, exposing the lies for what they are-LIES, and speaking the familiar promises of God's Word, that have been hidden in my heart for years.  I kind of feel like I slowly fell into a pit that only the Lord could pull me out of.  Before I even knew what was happening, I found myself riddled with anxiety and fear over all kinds of things. Those pesky "what ifs" that never help a matter, you know??  

On a particularly rough day, I finally reached my breaking point and dissolved into a million pieces right before Travis and then later with some friends.  Humbling.  Not my best foot forward, and yet an honest and authentic reflection of what was happening in my heart.  It was ugly.  But it was good.  Since that time, I've come to realize a few things.  One of those things is that we were not meant to live life alone.  God created us to need other people, to desire friendships and relationships and to live life together.  Because life is hard and we need one another for support, for wisdom, for refinement, and for correction.  

As I've been studying the book of Ephesians, verse by verse, in my Women's Bible Study at Church, this truth keeps coming up over and over again...The need for community, the importance of unity in the body of Christ, and the command to build one another up in Christ as ONE body.  And in this intense season of raising a little one, I've been missing that community.  Being a stay at home Mom, although wonderful, is probably the most isolating thing I've ever done in my life.  In an attempt to keep Ava on a schedule, to not spend money, to keep her healthy, etc., I realized just how much time I've spent alone, at home, in the last 10 months.  Too much time alone.  While God has placed an abundance of Godly, sweet women in my life, there has been a glaring absence of a friend or two who are also walking in the exact same shoes as me.  First time Moms, new in this world of motherhood, trying to navigate the waters like I am.  Some of that is just the circle of people I know and some of it is simply the cost of being in leadership and the way our schedule revolves around what it does.  Either way, I've needed that hole filled and God in His very gracious way, has recently brought a couple Moms into my life who happen to fit that bill.  I can't tell you how precious that is to me.  Not only does it meet a need I've had, but it reminds me that He is listening to me and He cares.  He heard that cry from my heart and He answered.  2 women just happened to join our Bible study small group, on the same week and in the middle of our semester, who are walking a very similar road as I am.  That wasn't random, that was the Lord.  

I've also learned in these days, that my mind has become such a battlefield for truth.  I don't know if it's the slower pace of my days, the isolation, or what, but I've never struggled with my thought life like I do now.  Everyday feels like a constant war to take my thoughts captive and stop giving in to the lies the enemy keeps throwing at me.  Lies about who I am, what kind of wife or Mother I've been, about our future, our finances, our security.  You name it and I've struggled in anxiety over it.  My poor husband, he's spent lots of time with me lately, praying through it and helping me identify the source of how I feel.  I hate it.  It's been exhausting.  But God is slowly working on me in that too.  In a series of circumstances, He's showing me that the control I desperately crave was never mine to begin with.  The things that have sent me in a downward spiral, were never words or truths He spoke.  I'm not sure I've ever faced the spiritual warfare that I have lately, but I'm finally seeing some victory in it.  I'm making myself recognize the lie, tear it down and replace it with truth.  I'm living out Romans 8 and Romans 12 on a minute by minute basis.  Transforming my mind and renewing it, setting my mind on Christ where there is peace and life.  It hasn't been easy.  I think that some forms of depression begin in our minds and without God's truth penetrating my own, I could have gone down that road.  But praise His name for keeping me from that.  For helping me see this for what it is.  A battle for my mind.  

Finally, the area that has convicted me the most has been in the realm of gratitude and contentment.  Lately, I stink at both.  Being in the confines of these walls, has made me long for bigger, better, and newer.  It's trapped me because the reality of where we are, the financial situation we are in, and the sinking economy has been nothing short of depressing in itself.  And yet, we have a roof over our heads.  We have just enough food on our table.  Our bills are being paid.  We are being taken care of.  But because our "excess" has been taken away, due to our choice to have me home with Ava-which we DO NOT regret, it's felt very suffocating.  And hard.  And I've struggled to keep my perspective while wanting to compare my life with anyone else who has more.  What is that???  I'm so disgusted by it and yet I keep dealing with it.  It's defeating.  All the while, God's still small voice has been whispering to me and asking me, "Why are you not content in me?  What is your security in?  Me or more stuff?"  That is convicting. And embarrassing.  And my reality.  But this week, as I've wrestled with it again, I've been catching some of the Compassion Bloggers posts on their trip to Kenya.  Reading the details of what the kids they are meeting are facing; the realities that they live in on a daily basis...and the JOY many of them have anyway...THAT is a dose of perspective I have needed.  A reminder to take my eyes off of myself and to look for ways that I can bless other people in need with what I DO have.  

Oh these days have been hard.  Depressing, devastating, and rich.  Rich with meaning.  Rich with perspective.  Rich with growth.  I wouldn't trade these last few months for anything and yet, I'm so ready to see them go.  Ready to move on.  Ready to trust the Lord more.  

I don't know if any of this resonates with you, but sometimes I think we're all guilty of carrying these kinds of burdens alone and not seeking the wisdom and support that others who have walked in our shoes can give.  That's why I share it.  Not because it makes me look good, I'm afraid it's probably the opposite :) And not because I've mastered it, I haven't it.  But it's where I'm living right now and to the praise of God alone, I am here to testify that "He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine" (Eph.3:20), He "who began a good work in you will carry it out on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6) and "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isa. 40:31).  

He hasn't forgotten me.  And He won't forget you.  Hang in there and look for the ways He's revealing Himself to you...He is waiting for us to seek Him and He promises that when we do, He WILL be found by us.  That's a beautiful reality.  That's hope eternal.  That's peace and security.  

"Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the Earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."
Isaiah 40:28-"29

19 comments:

amy said...

oh, Steph. you just described my life to a T. motherhood is hard... being a mom and a pastor's wife is even harder. thank you for sharing the encouragment that the Lord has provided for your heart... know that I am praying for you daily as I encounter much of the same feelings/anxieties/fears. wish you could come to the beach with us in april... it should be an amazing time with those who completely understand all that we are going through! love you, sweet friend!!!

Erin said...

I have been in your shoes, even when I watch other kids sometimes I just long for the adult interaction. I am serious when I say we should get together and take the kids places!!

I hope that you can now write what you feel and express to us other moms, friends and whom ever else might read your blog!

The truth is the most important and its so nice to express yourself and get it off of your chest!

Megan said...

It's funny how many things you wrote that I completely relate with! Being a mom has shown me just how selfish I am when I just want to sleep a little longer, just want to run out to the store really quick, just want to eat dinner without an interruption... :) Thanks for such an honest post - you aren't alone!

Sarah said...

Sounds like you could have worn your Dirty Jobs shirt today too. Great job of putting your hope in the Lord and not in your upcoming vacation.

Rachael Stensrud said...

Steph! Thank you so much for your honesty. There has been so many times I have felt the same way (lonely, isolated) but always felt guilty for it. Thank you for the reminder that God created us to have relationships and that we cant do it on our own. That is one of the things I struggle with. Giving myself time to have those relationships. Thanks again for posting this!! Hang in there.....someday we might have it figured out!! (but I doubt it :)

Holly said...

Steph,
Thanks for your honesty and I love how you write as I think these things, but can't write them how you do. I am so excited for you to have found some new mommy friends. They are so essential for us! I know when we first moved to TX it took a good 6 months to find friends. I cried and prayed daily and I like you was placed in a Bible Study at church with awesome girls. They are now my playgroup, neighbors, and like family. I so resonate with the monotiny, one income, etc... It is hard and I like you must have the right perspective to make the day a success. Love you lots!

Rebecca said...

Stephanie-
I have read your blog for over a year now and never commented. However I wanted to thank you for posting what you did, its easy to see the isolation in your own life and think that you are all alone in it. The depression, the joy of being able to stay home, the feeling of inadequacy because you now have only one income and there is no excess, and feeling like it is your fault. I needed to know that I wasn't alone and that I'm not the only one struggling with it. THANK YOU It is so easy to forget that our GOD gives us strength to move mountains. I will pray for you

Rebecca

Toni :O) said...

Hey there...loved this post and your honesty as others have mentioned. Parenthood is truly the hardest job on earth and I've been doing it for over 11 years. No one tells you when you have that sweet babe in your belly that you'll be going back to school..yes, K-12 every step of the way and the mounds of homework you have to help dig through. No one tells you that when you're baby won't sleep in the middle of the night that you'll RUN to your bedroom, tell your husband he MUST take the baby NOW and then run downstairs to scream "Why won't she sleep?!" in your most sleep-deprived moments(Definitely one of my lowest mothering points). No one tells you how bad the guilt and frustration is (especially from my OWN Mother-in-Law) when you don't have the choice to be home with your babies and yet your husband's two sisters stay at home or work minimal part-time hours and she NEVER lets you forget it. I worked part-time for nine years (still got hassled about that even) and then was forced to go full-time by my employer or be fired...we need my income to pay for everything that needs fixing in our home, to survive and pay our bills. I have SO been there with what you're feeling and it is incredibly HARD but also know there are many others feeling the same way you are. All we can do is stick together as moms, pray for each other and cheer one another on rather than bring each other down. I, like you, have been reading MckMama, and by golly, it sure has put my home and health in perspective BIG TIME! I treasure what I have, although I do have my low points, but I'm thankful I was entrusted by Him to take care of two fantastic kids and be a Godly wife. Someone once told me the days are long but the years are short...how true it is when you have children. Keep treasuring this time with your sweet Ava because it truly goes by in a blink of an eye! I'm sorry for the long comment...just how the thoughts flowed I guess. Hang in there, some of us are virtually here for you and hope your vacation re-energizes your batteries. Just the thought of Spring coming and a trip to Walt Disney World in three weeks is doing wonders for me. God bless!

Rebecca Jo said...

Oh Beautiful friend... I love a Heart that is honest before others & Christ...

And let me know I appreciate your honesty because I think we all struggle in some ways with this - but maybe in different areas.

For me, I have no children - so I experience almost that same "self-pity" of lonliness & have these same feelings...but maybe in a different way... but its still the same.

Shows us how God can bring people together with different life experiences & how we learn from each other... because you may feel like "but wait, you can work & do what you want with freedom" - & I can say "But you have that little precious angel to spend ALL the time with"... but the feelings are the same (hope I'm making sense)

What I guess I'm trying to say, even though we're not in the same boat, your words touched my heart as well... so thank you for letting God speak through you & your struggles & joys...

Charlie and Manda said...

Steph, Thanks for your open honest heart. Thanks for encouraging us to look for sin in our discontent hearts. In many ways I really understand what you're feeling/experiencing (minus the baby, but soon maybe!) Thankfulness for his mercy and grace in what I do have and dependance on his unfailing and understanding love is truly what it's all about. Thanks friend.

Faith said...

Stephanie, I can't tell you how much this resonates with me. I have been in this same place, and although our circumstances are different, the feelings are very much the same. Thank you for your transparency and for sharing your heart. It was an encouragement to me.

Lindsay said...

My oldest son turns two in a few weeks and my other son turns one a week later and I can completely relate. The loneliness, the mental struggle, the contentment issues. No one can understand the battles of a stay-at-home-mommy unless they have experienced it for a period of time. I have also been following one of the Kenya bloggers and I know exactly what you mean about that serious dose of reality. It seems that just when I start whining about our "little" house I am reminded how very blessed we are. Or when I lose my temper with my boys that I am reminded of parents who would give anything for their sick baby to be tugging on their pant leg asking to "cuder a pisher" (color a picture!) Thank you for writing what I was thinking and for the encouragement!

tapango1 said...

better days ahead :)

Mary Avery said...

Thank you for sharing your precious heart. I feel you on this one! Thanks for sharing. We just had our 2nd baby in Nov. and our first was 18 mos. Between the snow/ice, having a newborn and staying out of most all activities for 2 months, it became a lot to handle being in the house...all day, everyday with 2 kids under 2.

We also live on 1 income and try to live by our Dave Ramsey plan the best we can. It's never easy, but we have a home, my husband has a job, and we have healthy, beautiful children that God has blessed us with.
I am looking forward to spring so we can get out and about more. I enjoy your blog and love reading about Ava! Has anyone told you she looks just like your mom?!

Peggy & Ron said...

Winter is on it's way out and staying in with an active toddler is too!!! Yeah! Don't be hard on yourself, you are such a blessing to so many. Ava is thriving and you put her first every day.

RN Mama said...

This is my first time to your blog, and I just want to say I applaud you for expressing and writing out your feelings. I think every mother has at some point experienced the same feelings you are having.

I remember when my first daughter was born, I was overjoyed, but also felt very alone. I was so stuck on her schedule that I rarely went out. After my second daughter was born, we still kept a schedule, but we also got out and did things too! There are lots of things for free as well, such as story time at the library and walking the mall or playing in the mall play area.

I hope you are doing well, and your daughter is adorable!

suzzanna said...

I too can relate with the battle you are fighting to win. Im a mom and a wife. I find it hard to find time to do anything with 8 (almost 9) month old. I long for some me time. I'm always cooking, cleaning, changing diapers ect. I don't like admitting this because my 1st daughter died and I begged God for her. i sometimes feel like God will think im not grateful. I don't want to begin talking about content. I also have trouble being satisfied with my life and the things I have. I'm under construction...

Kruger Kids said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you dear blog friend! It was like you peeked into my life and heart for a few days and then blogged about it, that's how much I resonate with this post! I. KNOW. EXACTLY. WHAT. YOU. ARE. TALKING. ABOUT.
Thank you for filling this with scripture and truth. Thank you for the hope that it gives me. You are a vessel for the Lord.
Blessings Sister!
~janine

Rachel said...

Hey Stephanie ~
I just came across your blog on The Preacher's wife blogroll. I really appreciated this post - I can completely relate! I'm bookmarking your blog so I can do a little more exploring later. Thanks for the encouragement!
Rachel
P.S. You have a beautiful family!