Forgiveness has been a really difficult subject throughout my life and especially throughout the last two years. I had to be taught who it's for, why we do it, how to do it, and what the results are. So, I've broken these four truths down to simplify the complicated nature of this action.
1. Who is forgiveness for?
This might seem like a silly place to start, but I've learned it's the simple questions that we sometimes get wrong. We have to first establish the foundational principles before moving forward.
FORGIVENESS IS FOR YOU... not the person you're forgiving. YOU are the one hurt. The other person may not even know that you're hurt. You are the only one being affected by unforgiveness. It's creating a wound in your own heart that needs healing, not the other persons.
2. Why do we forgive others?
We've been taught from a very young age that the act of forgiveness is necessary. Think about it. If Susie hits Bobby on the playground, the teacher instructs Suzie to apologize to Bobby for hurting him, but often won't explain WHY she's apologizing.
When we allow ourselves to walk through life with unforgiveness in our hearts, we allow anger to fester and spread. If it goes on for too long without resolve, that anger turns to resentment and bitterness, and before too long? We don't even remember how we became so hard and calloused.
When we allow ourselves to forgive others, we remove the anger, resentment, and bitterness that takes us space in our own heart and make room for joy, peace, and freedom to replace it.
Forgiveness is the first step in reconciliation. When two people agree and decide to move forward forgiving one another, it's important to understand that our words are very powerful in these moments.
I teach my kids not to respond to someone asking forgiveness by saying, "It's okay, don't worry about it" because this is telling that person that what they've done to hurt them is "okay". The act of forgiving is not to say that the action or words that were said are "okay" because there are still consequences to that act or words.
FORGIVENESS IS ACKNOWLEDGING THAT WHAT THEY DID HURT BUT YOU'RE AGREEING TO LET IT GO AND PUT IT IN THE PAST IN ORDER TO MOVE FORWARD AND START OVER FRESH.
I tell them when someone asks them to forgive them the proper way to respond is to say, "I forgive you".
3. How do we forgive others?
This is the part that seems to stump people the most. It's really difficult to do in the beginning, but once it's done, it gets easier and easier to do it again. We will continually experience hurt throughout our lives and the act of forgiving will never be completed. Learning to forgive is a lot like exercising a muscle, the more you do it the stronger it becomes.
-Sit down with a piece of paper, pen, and a red marker.
-Pray and ask God if there's any unforgiveness in your heart.
-Sit and write down anything that comes to mind.
(The first time I did this I had over fifty things written on my paper. There were things I didn't even realize were still in my heart that needed to be addressed. That's the work of the holy spirit. He reveals the wounds of our heart so we can then heal from them.)
-After you've finished, go down your list, one by one, and ask God to remove the unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, and resentment towards that person or incident and replace the wound with the holy spirit.
-Cross out the prayed over portion with the red ink pen. This symbolizes the blood of Jesus, wiping the wound clean and making you white as snow. The tool you need to rid yourself of the burden you carry has already been done through His sacrifice on the cross. You were never meant to carry the burden of unforgiveness. Giving it to Jesus is what will free you.
-Lastly, crumple the paper up after you've finished marking out each incident or person and BURN IT. The burning process is symbolic of removing everything that once weighed you down, removing it from your present, and placing it in the hands of Jesus. This frees you from carrying it into your future.
The more you do this exercise, the less and less time it will take. You'll begin to be able to forgive without needing to walk through each one of these steps.
4. What is the benefit of forgiving others?
There are two benefits of the act of forgiveness. The first is redemption. Redemption is the act of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil. Redemption only requires you and God. It isn't always necessary to tell the person you're forgiving that you've forgiven them. Sometimes all that's needed is to be able to move past it and redeem your life.
The second benefit is reconciliation. Reconciliation is the restoration of friendly relations. It's important to distinguish that redemption and reconciliation don't always hold hands. Redemption only requires you and Jesus but reconciliation requires two people agreeing to forgive one another, so they can move past the hurt and not carry it into the future of the relationship. Some people aren't willing to forgive. Plain and simple. We have to be okay with their answer.
It's important to remember that if someone rejects the offer of forgiveness, God is simply redirecting your life, and even though rejection hurts in the moment, it may be necessary to steer you in the direction He is calling you. So, even in cases where reconciliation may not be possible, redemption is.
Forgiveness is a process and it is pivotal in understanding so we can grow in our relationships. We learn how to love one another better when we learn these four truths about the act of forgiving.
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" Colossians 3:13, NIV.
By forgiving others, we remove the anger, resentment, and bitterness in our hearts and replace it with joy, peace, and freedom. It relieves you of the weight of sin on your own shoulders and gives it to the One who has already freed us from it.
There. I said it. You heard me right. I pee my pants. And I’m not talking about the time I peed in my mom’s closet while sleep walking when I was 5. No, I’m talking about just last week when my trainer decided to incorporate jumping jacks in our work out. (Thanks, girl.)
Truly, there’s not ONE day I can go to the gym, take a run, or even laugh hard without wondering if I forgot to put a pad on. I still remember taking my first run after having my daughter, Ellie. She’s my third born out of four kids. My first two kids were born via c-section. (Yeah, I know, I know. I did it backwards, but I do a lot of things in life that way.)
My first time pushing a baby out "the natural way" was the third time I got pregnant. And can I be honest with you? That little love nugget was more than two pounds heavier than my first two. Boy did I get the short end of that stick. Not sure what I was thinking when I insisted on doing it the “natural” way, but, nevertheless, I did. She came out as healthy as ever. All 9.2 lbs. of her.
When I say she “tore me a new one”, well, I mean it in the most literal of ways. My 5’4, slim-hipped self wasn’t prepared to push 9 plus pounds out like a bottle rocket.
That wasn’t even the worst part. At around six weeks postpartum, when you’re supposedly able to get back to “normal life”, I got a little surprise. I went in for my check-up, thinking it would be routine, only for the doctor to take one look at my hoo-ha, look up, snap her gloves off, and say “yeah, I think we’re going to refer you to the surgeon.” ‘Cause that’s what you want to hear when you think you just finished recovering from labor.
Turns out, sex isn’t supposed to continue to hurt after childbirth. It evidently wasn’t normal to pee all the way down your leg when you try to jog a block in your neighborhood, either. I was both relieved and terrified to hear this wasn’t the norm, but surgery was required to correct it.
Who would take care of my kids? Certainly not my husband. He worked a gazillion hours as a college football coach and taking time off usually required a circumstance involving bleeding to death or some sort of catastrophic event, like a house fire, or an earthquake. (Scratch that, they’d probably still come in with an earthquake, because wives are supposedly self-sufficient superheroes that don’t need assistance during extreme life events.)
Side note- all the mommas out there married to a coach, no matter what the sport or level, hats off to you, cause you’re not only a superhero but a saint. I didn’t make it in that season for very long. My husband switched careers after about 4 years of coaching and me claiming to be “fine” even though my hair was falling out, I drank about a box of wine a day, and didn’t really understand why I’d cry spontaneously, anywhere, at any given moment.
Anyways, I digress, let’s get back to peeing my pants...
You’d “think” my main priority for getting surgery would be to correct the issue of painful sex and peeing every time I laughed or exercised. However, in the interest of being completely honest and risking my reputation of “having it all together”, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. They weren’t the main reasons.
My main concern was rejection.
It was more important for me to resume sex, not because I desperately desired to do it like rabbits with my husband, but because I didn’t want him to fall out of love with me because I couldn’t perform my wifely duties of physically pleasing him. I wouldn’t exercise around anyone because I was terrified others would make fun of or judge me. I didn’t want other people to view me as “lazy” for not “losing the baby weight” quick enough, so I hid and worked out in the confines of my garage.
(Which totally works for some moms, but for me? It did nothing but stress me out having my littles screaming beside me and constantly interrupting me. The moms that do it with a jillion kids run around them are my own personal superheros.)
Why on earth was I more concerned about other people and their opinion of me than my own? Shouldn’t I have been more concerned about whether I wanted to have sex and enjoy it again? Why didn’t I care more about the uncomforts and set backs of the inability to hold my urine than whether someone would see the wet marks and judge me for it?
Because rejection was much scarier than personal health and happiness to me.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of the comparison game women play. It’s like we’re all in some secret competition to out-do one other. It’s all about who can lose the baby weight faster, breast feed the longest (or if you don’t at all you’re looked at like you don’t love your child as much as women who choose to breastfeed), or who can volunteer the most at school, keep the cleanest house, or I don’t know- fill in the blank of all the other nasty, judgemental, unnecessary comparisons that do nothing but cause division and loneliness between us.
I’m really, really tired of pretending like everything is fine when it isn’t, just to keep up with appearances. No one wants to befriend the girl who peed her pants but everyone seems to cling to the girl who talks bad about the one who sulked off to change her pee-soaked panties.
Why? Why is this a thing?
This is what I know. The friends I LOVE care more about my hoo-ha being repaired for my sake and will support me no matter the circumstance. And by “support”, I mean they’d run right along side me regardless of whether I soaked my pants or not. Matter of fact, they’d stop mid-workout just to help find me a new pair. The friends I want to keep are the ones who would never think about laughing, judging, or rolling their eyes at the woman who had to walk out of gym class because she just peed down her leg.
We can’t be truly known or receive the level of intimacy we truly desire unless we’re willing to stop rejecting others.
I’m happy to report, I don’t pee my pants when I run anymore (well, I may still a little, but at least not down my entire leg) and I really enjoy having sex with my husband, the non-painful kind. I’m also really happy to report that I care less about what others think about me, my life, my family, or my friendships, because I’m happy with who I am.
If someone is willing to make fun, gossip, or reject you for being you, can I boldly step out and tell you that you deserve better? My tribe of friends is small but they are loyal, selfless, transparent, and non-judgmental. Do yourself a favor, whittle down your own tribe or start building one with the same kind of people that are in mine. If you surround yourself with people who gossip, judge, and condemn, you’ll do the same, ‘cause friend, you are massively influenced by the people you’re surrounded by.
This I promise you.
You deserve to be known by the people that truly desire to know you for you, all of you, regardless of your flaws, your circumstance, or your season. If you’re at a loss and can’t seem to maintain those friendships, then it may be time to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself the hard questions. You may find the rejecting, comparing, and judging hasn’t been totally one-sided.
As for me, I’m off to go take a run and if I happen to see someone with wet pants? I’m gonna give ‘em a high-five and a pad instead of rolling my eyes and talking about her with the first person I see. I’m going to intentionally choose understanding and love over judgement and rejection.
Because you know what, girl? I want to be the person that others see and look up to. I want to be the friend people come to for advice because they trust I’ll listen and not cast judgement. I want to be known and loved for who I truly am by others and I know I can’t have that unless I practice what I preach.
I challenge you to do the same.
Make a promise to accept instead of reject, to cast kindness instead of judgement, to be encouraging instead of defeating, and love when it would be easier to hate. Your future self will thank you, I promise.
“Do you mind if I go take a thirty-minute break?” I asked my husband when he walked in the door.
“Sure! Why don’t you go take a bath?” he responded.
I was relieved. This was one of those days that motherhood drained every ounce of me. My two-year-old wouldn’t stop hitting, my four year old said, “mommy” about eighty times a minute, my six year old was unusually clingy, and my eight year old seemed to be picking a fight with anyone that came within two feet of her. I thought if I could take a quick breather, everything would be fine.
It wasn’t twenty minutes after being in the bath my six-year-old came sneaking in, crying and asking me for a hug. She didn’t want her daddy to put her to bed, she wanted me. This wasn’t like her. She loved hearing her father read to her, wrestle with her and her sisters, and sing her to sleep. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I was also frustrated that I couldn’t have that small amount of time I asked for.
“What is going on Evelyn?” I blurted out in frustration. “You never act like this. Mommy loves your hugs, but daddy hasn’t gotten to see you as much as me and he would really like to spend some time with you.”
What came next was unexpected. With her little head hung low in devastation, she began to tearfully tell me about a party I didn’t attend for her class.
My heart fell in to the pit of my stomach and my frustrations turned to pure shame. How could I have forgotten the only class party of the year? I remembered seeing the flyers come home in her book bag and I remember throwing each one out when I got stressed about the stack that would stockpile on my kitchen counters.
“I’m not capable of this.” I began to think.
“I’m not enough for four kids” was all I heard in my mind as I burst into tears.
I hugged my daughter, apologized for my mistake, and told her how much I loved her. In that moment, fear crept into my mind and disguised itself as shame. It quickly took me from having a bad day to being the worst mother in the world.
All it took was that one little moment to tear down the truth that I know the Lord tells me throughout His word. He tells all of us:
I am ENOUGH.
“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?” Isaiah 49:15 ESV
Isaiah speaks to the recognizable love a mother has for her child, so much so that it becomes a rhetorical question. It recognizes that a mother’s love is one of the most powerful kinds of love. What a beautiful reminder that I love my children more than anyone else ever could.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139: 13-14 ESV
God knew me before I was even born. I was made to love and raise my children before they were even a thought that existed in my mind. Just as I was hand-picked, so were my children. God knew my path and my children and appointed me to be the person to love them and teach them above anyone else.
“He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into light” Job 12:22 NIV
It wasn’t until I began to pray and ask God to show me how to be a better mom that I understood the negative thoughts flooding my mind weren’t from Him. It’s He who takes the lies and discouragements that prevent me from believing I’m not enough and replaces them with truth. When we open our hearts up to Him and speak from a place of vulnerability, it’s there He can do the deepest work.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Romans 6:6 NIV
As a mom, I know I’ll make mistakes. We all will. However, when our identity is firmly rooted in Christ, we no longer must worry about pleasing others, only Him. My mistakes, my sins no longer define who I am, Christ does. As children of God, we are no longer slaves to our sin but set free in Him. Our past doesn’t define us, our motherhood, our love for our children, or anything else in our lives.
“That the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:17 ESV
No matter how hard the circumstance, how difficult the day, or how drained I may feel, God has equipped me to handle it. If I continue to seek Him, He will continue to guide me for whatever He leads me into.
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 ESV
Our children are not our own. They are gifted to us from Christ to raise and love. It’s hard to fathom anyone else loving them more, but God does. We, as Christ-centered mothers, have the privilege of coming alongside God and guiding His children toward His plans for them. He utilizes us to be a pivotal tool in forging their little personalities and futures. It’s such a wonderful reminder that He has made us specifically for each moment we encounter. He is the one in control, not us. He is the one who owns them, not us.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” Romans 11:36
No matter what He calls us to or how difficult a season you may be in, remember that our soul purpose is to glorify Him. We do this by digging deep in His word, so when doubt and devastation want to flood our minds, we can easily identify them with the truth that is ingrained in our minds. The Word is a weapon utilized to combat the fears, anxiety, and lies the enemy so desperately tries to utilize against us. Arm yourselves, mommas.
The biggest mistake we as moms could ever make is to believe the lie that we aren’t enough.
You are uniquely picked and destined to raise your child. Remember this in the tough moments and He will strengthen you in your weakest. You are more than enough, more than capable, and much stronger than you even realize mamma. Don't let the lie that you aren't rob you of the joy of raising the ones gifted to you.
Repeat after me... "I am MORE than ENOUGH". Now go take a deep breath, maybe a bath, a handful of chocolate, and pat yourself on your back. Tomorrow is a new day, full of new opportunities. And I'm confident you're gonna crush it!
I’m just going to come right out and say it, guys. I’m impatient. My kids simultaneously jump in and finish my sentence when I say, “I needed this room picked up yesterday”. It’s seriously a daily struggle. I think every ounce of patience I had simultaneously flew out of my body along with my fourth child. Yes, I traded my patience in for my children.
Mucking through the process of anything is tough-whether it’s getting that promotion, cleaning up the house, writing my first book, or walking out the process of healing, I want it done, and I want it done NOW.
Not sure if this is something you struggle with? Let me help! Do you ever get easily frustrated or angry when something you intended finish required more time? Are you anxious or discouraged when you think about tasks necessary to accomplish a goal? Is your mind a hamster wheel of to-do lists and negative self-talk? Or maybe you just can’t seem to figure out how other people are capable of accomplishing what you’re trying to do with ease?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the questions above, well take a seat my friend, cause you need to hear this. Getting ahead of ourselves is an innate, human response. You’re not alone in this struggle. I’m riding that struggle bus hard most days.
Here are the things that help me settle my mind, find some peace, and keep from getting to that ugly “boiling point” that I unfortunately get to more often than I like to admit.
1.There is preparation in the waiting.
Have you ever seen what overnight success does to people? It’s toxic. The growth curve for someone to go from nothing to stardom tends to send people spiraling into some kind of rehab facility, divorce settlement, bankruptcy, or emotional breakdown (i.e. Britney Spears anyone? Poor girl lost all her hair, on purpose. Very unfortunate, but luckily it grew back, and she regained some of what she lost in the process). There are some exceptions to this, but they are very few and far between.
The truth is, we learn a lot on our way to success, whether it is personal or professional. Rushing through the pivotal steps of growth robs us of learning how to mature into the person who’ll be responsible enough for the goal we wish to achieve.
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” Romans 9:22 ESV.
Our God is sovereign. Therefore, He makes sovereign choices. Patience is learned through the process of following Him. When we pursue Him, we learn that He is the one calling the shots, not us. Therefore, everything has a purpose, whether we see it or not. Walking through life with the understanding that the journey is more pivotal than the outcome has given me so much peace when I would’ve otherwise succumbed to frustration and anxiety.
2.Staaaaaaahp, already. Pump the breaks, girl. It’s time for a break.
Oh my gosh- I’m the pot callin’ the kettle black on this one, girl. There’s a time to reap and there’s a time to sow. In other words, it all doesn’t have to get done right now. Take it one step at a time. Focus on one task, finish it, and then move on to the next. The days I do fifty thousand things half-way compared to the days I do two and complete them aren’t even comparable.
Don’t do the laundry, pick up the play room, cook dinner, bath the kids, and talk on the phone all at the same time. Not only will you be exhausted, but you’ll feel unaccomplished and beat yourself up for not “finishing” something at the end of the day. Or, at least that’s what I do. It really helps me to section things out. I’ve learned to let go of having my whole house tidy for now and get done what’s stressing me out the most and then leaving the rest for later.
For instance, I’ll leave the playroom a wreck and finish three loads of laundry, fold, and put it away on Monday. Yes, the playroom will still be a wreck at the end of the day but the laundry is finished. But here’s my rationale, the kids are going to destroy it tomorrow anyways, so why not wait and do it later? Maybe you’re the opposite. The laundry doesn’t stress you as much as that nasty playroom, you do you girl! Get after that playroom but leave the laundry for later!
Getting one thing finished instead of multiple things started help you feel accomplished instead of defeated at the end of the day. I understand this isn’t always feasible, but if we try and make it apart of our normal routine the rhythms of life seem to pivot towards peace and joy rather than stress and anxiety.
“so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” Hebrews 6:12 ESV.
You aren’t lazy for sectioning out your responsibilities. God clearly states that the promises He has for you comes through faith and patience. I’ve learned that making mistakes along the way teach me how to better prioritize my time and therefore result in less anxiety and frustration. It’s all a learning process. Take one baby step at a time.
3.It’s not always about me.
Did that hurt you as much as it did me? Goodness, y’all, I even had a hard time typing it. There are so many times throughout my day I catch myself having a pity-party. It’s hard to admit.
There’s a billion reasons and excuses I can use to justify why I should be pitied (in my own mind). But the reality is, I’m selfish. It’s a daily struggle to catch those negative thoughts and throw ‘em off the hamster wheel that’s spinning ninety miles an hour in my mind.
“with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” Ephesians 4:12 ESV.
The work it requires to become patient yields some pretty awesome Jesus fruit, my friend. He trades our pride in for humility, our anger for gentleness, and our loneliness with unity. He begins to show us how to live out our lives exuding love, accepting love, and receiving it in return.
When I stop and think about what truly matters, the things I get upset about don’t really matter as much as I allow them to. The days I’m crawling to bed without a single second to sit? They’re the ones I fall victim to those pity-parties the most. I want to be angry or upset I didn’t get any “me time” or tell myself I’m not enough when “everything didn’t get done that needed to”.
But here’s the truth. The more I walk out the work I’m called to do in Him? The less those days hold on grip on me. My work isn’t in vein. My babies are cared for, my friendships are growing, my marriage is getting stronger, and my relationship with the Lord is getting deeper.
I’m learning to hover in the process a little longer. The more patient I become the less restless, anxious, or stressed life seems. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth the work.
If this helps you, would you mind sharing it with others? I’d also love to hear how this moved you. Share with me so I can get to know you better! We’re in this together, and we glean from those around us who openly share their stories. Thanks, friend!
Ok guys, I know every body and their mother is talking about things to incorporate in the new year, but I want to talk about some things you should get rid of. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig hearing all the things people are doing to revamp and start fresh, but sometimes I just need to simplify before I can add anything else on, am I right?
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Nikki. I’m notorious for my love of all things involving guacamole and cheese, 90s rap, and midday naps, cause… life isn’t fun without any of those things. I want to clear the air and just state from the beginning of this article, I’m not writing this from a place of arrival but in process.
These are the things that help me in my crazy, four kids, busy husband, mom boss life. So, here it is!
5 Practical Ways to Stop Stressing in the New Year:
2. Get rid of the junk drawer.
Gbye’, clutter! Ok, ok. For me? The junk drawer turns into every stinkin’ drawer in my kitchen when I don’t pay attention to it at least once a year. Seriously, who needs an 8 billion rubber bands, a roge battery that may not even work, and about 9 million chargers that we have NO IDEA what they charge? Uh uh. The only thing that drawer is doing is causin’ this momma some STRESSSSSS. DUMP YOUR JUNK DRAWER. That’s right, dump it. You know what’s gonna happen right after you do it? FREEEEDOOOOM (Cue Braveheart riding into battle). I cannot be the only one who gets so stinkin’ stressed out about clutter. I don’t know if it’s your junk drawer, your closet, your makeup counter, or your playroom, but good Lord, DUMP IT. Having a hard time even looking at it? Easy…. This is how I start. Instead of looking at the whole picture, I narrow it down to one thing I can organize in about a half an hour. Wanna know what also helps? 90s rap music. There’s just nothing more motivating than Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” while you’re working girls, trust me.
3. Take Care, Brush your Hair.
Self care, y’all. It’s a daggon MUST. There isn’t a single person in this world who feels elated when they haven’t bathed in two days (no, dry shampoo doesn’t count ladies), talked with a person over the age of 2, or sat down for a minimum of 5 minutes without someone calling your name. Nah, girl. You need a break. Do something fo yo self. Take a daggon bath, drink a glass of wine, HECK, take a nap! That’s my fave! Whatever it is that makes you stop, do it, and do it often. I like to take a bath at least once a week with a concoction of “potion” my girl’s call it (but it’s essential oils, so, I’m not really a magician, but I like them to think I am). When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed? Take a breather. And for the Love of all sanity, turn off Disney Junior! Paint your nails, tell yourself often “YOU ARE ENOUGH”, and then you won’t feel like quitting. Life will get easier, promise. You just have to start taking some time for you.
4. Stop choosing people who don’t choose you…
“Go where you grow the Most”. One of the ladies in my small group said this the other day, and for the life of me, I can’t remember who she said it was from. Pretty sure it was a nun, but at any rate, it’s so gooooood. Find your tribe! It doesn’t have to be big, guys. Social media gives us a false impression of how many people one human being can be intimately connected with. Do you know how many people is the average for you to be in deep relationship with? THREE. Find your three! Good Lord, for the better part of last year my therapist took up one of those spots and my husband the other. I literally had enough emotional capacity for one other person without feeling exhausted. Find your people and open up to them. Give them your heart and let them speak into your life, but make sure you choose wisely, not everyone deserves such an important role in that pretty little brain of yours.
5. Stop letting fear keep you from your dreams.
I am the worst at planning, guys. Like, the worst of the worst. But, I know if I’m going to make room for my dreams to turn in to a reality? I need to write them out and put them on some sort of calendar. Planning isn’t easy. In fact, it takes work. But the end result? Accomplishment! When that little voice in your head starts spouting off all the negative stuff, recognize it as a lie and put it where it belongs, in the year 2018. Cause as Gabriel Frabasile (whoever that is) says, “a head full of fears has no space for dreams.” Get you a planner, dream about what you want to do, and write out how you can start achieving it THIS YEAR. You do you boo! This is your life! Take it by the reigns and show it who’s boss!
Alright, friends. That’s it for now. Stop stressin’, start livin’, and I strongly suggest eating some guacamole and jammin’ out to some TLC… cause, that’s what life is about, at least for me. Go get ‘em tiger! I'm actually rawring over here from my tiny office in my house guys... You're welcome for that visual... Claws up for 2019!
Turning my "what ifs" into "why nots"... How processing the trauma of my baby getting attacked by a dog changed my life, for the better.
Fear is a tricky emotion. It's a necessary response in "fight or flight"... like, if a bear is ever rollin' your way you kinda want it to kick in. Ain't nobody fightin' off a grizzly without some adrenaline and a healthy dose of fear. That kind of fear? Good. The other kind? The emotional one that tends to rob us of joy, peace, adventure, and growth? No bueno.
I did a live video on instagram yesterday and shared one example of fear that I had to process and let go of this past year. It's taken me a long time to talk about it because 1. I thought I was over it, and 2. I don't like talking about things that are painful. But I've realized talking about the painful things releases me from its suffocating grip.
When my daughter, now 4, was only 17 months old, she was bitten by a dog. I don't mean a little bite. I mean in the face, lacerated from the corner of her mouth almost two inches up her cheek. Our babysitter was watching her at the time and our new neighbor's dog came barreling out of the woods while my sweet baby was eating a popsicle on the front porch. The picture above is of Ellie a week after the surgery took place.
That day was a nightmare. I still remember getting the call from our babysitter and having to turn around the van from picking the girls up from school and return home.
"There was an accident. You need to come home." she spoke through broken screams in the background.
My van turned into a freakin' sports car as I drove home. My heart was beating through my chest. My breaths were even faster. I barely came to a full stop before jumping out and running toward the already opened front door to my home. I still remember, like it was yesterday, passing by the blood stained steps. I stopped. I knew before I entered the house I would have to prepare myself for seeing what only I thought I'd ever see in my worst nightmares.
I stepped in, my baby screaming my name from the kitchen. As I turned the corner of the dining room, I saw her. Her blood soaked cheeks, her tear filled eyes, and her outstretched arms were all it took for me to want to crumble into ash, right there on my kitchen floor. I couldn't, she needed me.
I quickly turned my emotions off, like a light switch. When my nurse brain turns on, my emotions are all turned off. Years in the medical field taught me to avoid my emotional response when faced with traumatizing situations. This serves a purpose for first responders, nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff. It's not only helpful, but necessary in those situations and for that profession.
The problem came when I never flipped the switch back. I held my baby's hand while she went under surgery with a team of pediatric plastic surgeons. I watched her scream and cry for me as she came out of anesthesia. I watched as a nurse tried to stick her for an I.V. not once, but twice... digging around in her little arm like that needle was a garden trowel. I stayed silent. I stayed calm. But everything inside of me wanted to scream. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to yell. 22 stitches later, we went home with an emotionally traumatized little girl.
At the core of me, I wanted to collapse on the floor of my bedroom and cry when I got home that night. I felt like a failure. Hopeless, unequipped and unworthy of being her mother. I failed at protecting her. I failed.... but I couldn't. I couldn't feel anything. I was emotionless.
Life after that day was cautious, at best. There wasn't a slide safe enough, puppy safe enough to pet, babysitter trustworthy enough to watch my daughter. I helicoptered around that little girl like I had nothing else to do in life. My mind would flood with the worst case scenario in everyday circumstances. "What if" kept her and I from doing a lot of fun things. I was filled with the fear of something ever happening to her again.
Until I started therapy this past year. I learned that I was living in complete fear. I was parenting her out of fear. She didn't deserve that, in fact, she deserved to experience life to its fullest. She deserved to go to playgrounds, run free in our yard, be babysat by responsible adults (and my marriage deserved that too, Lord Jesus...).
I made a really hard decision last year guys. I traded my "what if" mentality in for a "Why Not?". And it was haaaaaard. But as I learned to loosen the reigns one tiny bit at a time, I recognized how much of an impact it had on her. She started to do the same thing. I had to let emotion back in. There was a lot of ugly crying. A. Lot. There was a lot of anger, not towards the dog or the babysitter, who I love dearly, still to this day. It was toward myself. I had to learn to let myself feel again so I could process that trauma and put it where it belonged, in my past. Until I did, it would continue to seep out into my life, affecting everything around me with its poison.
My little four year old is now one of my most fearless of all four kids. She is still timid around dogs (as she should be), but she traded her hesitation for bravery, her timidity with assertiveness, and her own fears for freedom. She explores, seeks adventures, and lives like a little four year old should.
If I wouldn't have processed the trauma I went through that day, I wouldn't be parented her the way I am today. I would've held her back. I would've taught her to fear instead of risk. My fear of failing her kept me from allowing her to experience life. Heck, it kept ME from experiencing life.
After speaking out the FEARS and LIES to my husband and my therapist, God bless him, I realized how oppressive they were. It wasn't until I spoke them out into the light that I was able to recognize how they were impacting my life.
"He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into light" Job 12:22, NIV.
Guys, speaking about that day brought the darkness in my mind into the LIGHT... . It shined a light on them for what those thoughts truly were, LIES that were keeping me from the TRUTH, which was this: I am NOT a failure. I am WORTHY of being my daughter's mother. I did NOT fail her and I am charged with raising her without FEAR...
This is one of MANY fears that were brought to light in 2018. This is one of many fears that I talk about in my upcoming book. Thank you all for following along in this journey. I can't wait to share more.
Cast fear aside by first bringing them into the light. Talk to someone about something that you feel is holding you back. Take a step in putting that fear where it belongs, in the past....
Here's my little pumpkin now. Just as strong, beautiful, and full of life as ever. The journey we have been on in the last two years has been difficult but it's been worth every bit of work she and I have put in. I praise God every day for the little miracle that she is, for the resiliancy she has, and the life she breaths into everyone that knows her.
I really hate crying, especially in public. I’m not what you would call a “pretty crier”. Nope. I go from “ok” to snorting, snotting, and turning a a lovely shade of grape in about five seconds. Sometimes, it just hits me unexpectedly. Like, when I’m at a movie with all four of my kids, watching “The Grinch that Stole Christmas”. Yep. I’m that girl.
I tend to notice the inconspicuous, somewhat unremarkable attributes of my surroundings. When others are engrossed in the movie, my mind tends to wander. I notice the intricacies of digital theatre and marvel at things like the detail of the snow covering the Grinch’s bright green, hairy foot. Hey, we’re all a little weird, but I’ve just grown to accept mine and be ok with it.
I also hear the laughter throughout the theatre when Max digs himself into the snow when the Grinch snaps the reigns of his large sled and commands him to “mush”. More than the comedic relief, I see the friend in Max who’s willing to love the Grinch, despite how unkind and unfair he treats him.
I notice the businessman beside me with his glass of wine, bag of popcorn, and forlorn face as he hears my children giggle and laugh. I wonder what brought him there and why there wasn’t anyone accompanying him. I wonder what his story was and what brought him to that place.
I notice my daughter’s eyes grow ten times larger than normal when she sees the hurt behind the meanness of the Grinch. She connected with the pain, not the act of unkindness. Proof that I’m not screwing her up (completely). That’s a win for this momma.
I felt the tears when the Grinch watched his reindeer leave him when being reunited with his family, because at the heart of every misperception, mislead opinion, and act of unkindness is hurt. The Grinch focused all of his free time, energy, and efforts towards destroying Christmas because he never healed from the one thing that hurt him the most- being forgotten on one Christmas day as a child. The resentment and anger built up and made him hard towards others, isolated him from people, and creating unhealthy habits to satisfy the desire for what he truly desired: to be known.
He overate, used the only friend he had, constructed inventions to suck up toys, pouch lights, steal garland, and destroy everything about Christmas. The one thing that began changing his cold heart was Cindy Lou-hoo telling him if he simply closed his eyes and sang around the town tree it could erase all sadness. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get that little girl and her words out of his head. Yet he still went from house to house, pillaging all that he could fit on his sleigh.
Meanwhile, back in Hooville, even when everything was gone, he could still hear the people in town singing. No matter how much he stole, the Grinch couldn’t steal the true meaning of Christmas. He didn’t understand, didn’t they know what he had done? How could they still find joy?
Then the miracle happened...
The voices from Hooville grew in strength and volume, swelling the heart of the Grinch with soft, unexpected surprise. He began to heal, change, and feel again.
The end of the story is the best. He did a 180 and found what he needed most: friendship, love, and joy. He stopped dreading life and began to celebrate it. It’s when his heart softened that he saw his wrong doing. It’s when his self-awareness drove him to ask forgiveness from those he isolated himself from; those he thought wouldn’t forgive or accept him, for stealing Christmas and being unkind for so many years.
But he was wrong. They didn’t reject him. They accepted him. Even though he stole Christmas, that little girl that shifted his perspective came knocking at his door, inviting him to Christmas dinner, regardless of the hurt he tried to cause.
At that moment, I noticed the smiles on everyone’s faces around me as they left the theatre. Their hearts grew just a little bit bigger because of the Grinch’s story, as did mine. Cue the ugly crying. So embarrassing. I saw how the Grinch’s story touched each and every one of theirs. I couldn’t help but be moved by how beautiful that was.
There’s a beauty in the story of the Grinch, much like the journey of life. We might not always see the reasoning behind the hurt and the pain but we can hold on to the promise of hope and redemption through Jesus.
The Grinch got lost in the pain of his past. It robbed him of joy, love, and relationship. But to regain the loss he had to confront the past. That took courage and a ton of vulnerability. He had to push past the fear of being rejected to receive the things he desired the most. He had to acknowledge hurt when it would’ve been easier to ignore. He had to exchange selfishness for relationship, and that took self-awareness and the desire for change.
There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from the Grinch’s story, but the one that speaks loudest to me was hope. Even when reconciliation seemed impossible, there was still hope for redemption. If we are willing to soften our hearts to others, listen and seek out the answers from Him, we will be healed from our past and gifted what we desire the most: acceptance, love, and intimacy.
I challenge you to lean in to the uncomforts of the healing process, open your heart up to others (no matter how scary), and walk into the unknowns of vulnerability. The result will grow the size of your heart ten times the size you’d ever imagine. We all have similar stories to the Grinch, and so many of us are moved by it. From the businessman, to the child, to the parent ugly crying next to them, we all find ways to connect to his story. Start by recognizing what it took the Grinch so long to identify: you are worthy of joy, you are more than enough and capable to overcome your past, and you are deserving of intimate relationship.
Happy December friends!
Motherhood isn’t for the faint-of-heart and if we aren’t careful, it can wear us out more than it builds us up. These five verses have helped me grow as a mother with every stage of childhood I’ve been through thus far, which to this date, has been an 8 yr old, 6 yr old, 4 yr old, and a 2 yr old. I've crawled my way to bed at night wondering what in the wide world I was thinking when I let my husband impregnate me not once, not twice, not thrice, but FOUR times. Then there were other nights I went to bed deliriously happy and with a full heart, but it usually occurred after multiple glasses of wine OR a night without my kids.
I wanted to live somewhere in between those two norms and possibly with a little less wine, mommy had a lot of headaches. It started with my mindset. It needed to shift, desperately. These four verses and truths help me be a better mom, a better wife, friend, and individual. I hope they help you. Actually, I hope they make you cry, with relief, a couple of belly-laughs, and the feeling of not being alone. Cause you're not momma- I hear you and I'm walking this road of parenthood with you. From one momma to another, if you don't read any further than this, know you're one of many taking it one day at a time (or even a minute, depending on if you have a toddler or infant that requires a boob in their mouth so often you wonder why you even put on a shirt, or constant guarding from the possibility of death with every second of the day.)
So lets get started, cause I know you don't have much time:
1. Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
I don’t know if you realized this yet, but you were hand-picked by God to raise the child growing inside of you. There is no other person on this earth that could do it better than you. Fear-based isn’t holy-spirit based. Trust that God will deliver you and your child out of any trial.
When my daughter was only 18 months old, she was bitten by a dog while sitting on our front porch. The attack left her with 22 stitches on her little face and an emotional wound larger than the physical one. For the longest time, I parented her out of fear, keeping her from anything that could potentially hurt her. There wasn’t a safe enough slide, calm enough animal to pet, or babysitter qualified enough to watch her. It took time and prayer to realize I was robbing her of enjoying the simple things inher life and mine. I had to let go of the “what ifs” and trust enough to start saying, “why not”?
2. Psalm 127: 3-4, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth."
Your children will be the greatest joy of your life. You will love them like no other person on the planet, even in the most trying moments. This isn’t easy when your toddler is throwing a tantrum in the store because you won’t let her buy that block of blue cheese she doesn’t even like (how dare you).
Side note, there will always be an older woman that will see your children throwing the most epic tantrums and choose to remind you that these will be the days that you miss, right smack dab when you’re about to threaten all the spankings and timeouts. Don’t hit her, just nod and walk away, because we all know, that even though kids are loved, these moments are not the times we’d like to be reminded of what we’ll miss. The only thing we miss in those moments are silence and days when we didn’t wear yoga pants as our “work attire”.
Remind yourself of the good moments at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s a tiny giggle, a quick snuggle, or an unexpected hug that make all the rest of the stress float away. Give yourself a break, a glass of wine, and a bubble bath. You deserve it!
3. Psalm 112:7, “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”
It’s inevitable that our kids will disappoint us. No matter how many times we tell them not to do something, they won’t always listen. This isn’t a reflection of your faults, but a normal part of development, for both of you. When we approach our children with a steadfast love, like our heavenly father, they learn to trust instead of fear us and that’s what will win their little hearts.
4. Philippians 4:6-8, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
I don’t care if you’ve heard this a million times, from your grandma to your momma to your pastor, I’m gonna say it again, PRAY. Parenthood will make you say and do things you never thought possible. You’ll be left more confused at what you say than what they do, but when it all comes down to it, praying through it all is what will get you through it. It will deepen your relationship with Jesus and your children.
Let’s face it mommas, there’s a lot of truth in, “if momma ain’t happy, no one is”. We are the glue that binds our homes. When we stay strong, so does our family. Lean heavy on your maker. Guard yourselves with His word and ground yourself in its truth.
These last couple of weeks I’ve been singing again…. And it’s been uncomfortably freeing.
So, allow me to explain why Jesus sounds like Mr. Stapleton to my “hot-mess self”…
You might be thinking, “What in the wide world of weird are you talking about Nikki? How can you hear anything about Jesus through Chris Stapleton?”
And my short and simplest answer would be...
Because I’m looking for Him.
Jesus met me in some of my most painful moments with Chris Stapleton’s song, “Tennessee Whiskey”.
A verse that spoke in to my heart on some of the most difficult moments was this:
“I’ve looked for love in all the same old places
Found the bottom of a bottle always dry
But when you poured out your heart I didn’t waste it
‘Cause there’s nothing like your love all the time”
-Tennessee Whiskey, C. Stapleton
The nights my pain was too much to bare, I leaned heavier on bourbon than Jesus. Those nights helped in the moment but left me with guilt and a fairly large headache.
The difference between bourbon and Jesus? Jesus doesn’t leave me empty and needing more to mask the pain, He comforts and fills me with peace.
My heart grieved the loss of its innocence at such a young age and in such a traumatic way. Processing my attack caused me to feel again, which was healing, but it hurt more than I could bare at times.
Psalm 139:7-8 tells us, “Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”
I’ve made my bed in Sheol many nights in my life, but Jesus met me there… and He poured out His heart in ways that only He knew I would be able to hear Him. There was nowhere I could go or any amount of bourbon I could drink that would turn His love away from me.
He continually shows up.
At times when I’m sad, He looks a lot like a lumber jack, sounds like Chris Stapleton, and smells like warm apple pie.
Other times, He makes me smile harder than Jim Gaffigan, cry cleansing tears with Lauren Daigle (girl can sang), and feel warmer than any glass of bourbon I’ve ever tasted. But He somehow always looks like a lumberjack... much like the hunk of a husband pictured above... (I guess He figures if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… 😊)
I know, those are some pretty strange conglomerations of Jesus, but so was Ricky Bobby’s….and somehow, that worked for him….
“Dear Lord baby Jesus, lyin’ there in your ghost manger, just lookin’ at your Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin’ ‘bout shapes and colors. I would like to thank you for bringin’ me and my mama together…”
-Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Ricky Bobby might’ve been joking, but the image of Will Ferrell praying to a Jesus that looks so different than the one I pray to made me realize that Jesus can and does look different to everyone, and that’s perfectly acceptable …😉
Even if his or my version seem a little strange…
Here’s the thing folks, my Jesus consistently shows up when I need Him. He doesn’t always look the same, but His truth does. He knows what I need and how I need it more than anyone, including myself.
He never has, nor will he ever, abandon, reject, or demean me. Instead, He loves, listens, and talks with me.
Where people and culture leave me wounded, He heals…
What does your Jesus look like?
A baby looking at developmental videos, Chris Stapleton holding warm apple pie, or something completely different? ‘Cause I’m here to tell you- He will individualize His words and presence to each and every one of us, no matter how strange it seems to others. If you seek Him, He’ll show up in a way that will speak specifically to YOU and where ever you’re at in life.
Happy Hump day guys… Friday’s right around the corner…
Me and Chris Stapleton Jesus
“I can’t do this!” she screamed. Her brow furrowed as she fell back in the bed, exhausted from pushing for over two hours.
I swallowed the ball of tears that was welling up in my throat and encouraged myself, “you’ve been here, you can help get her through this. Don’t be afraid.”
“Look at me, Mandi. You CAN do this and you WILL. You are strong. Now get ready and push as hard as you can. We’ll get through it together.”
Her eyes met mine and I began to see an inner strength replace her pain. I gently lifted her leg, took a deep breath, and began to count her through the next contraction.
My sister had her first baby this weekend and it reminded me so much of my own labor and delivery stories. I had the privilege of being with her through every part of the delivery and I was so proud to be a part of her story. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
Child birth is such a beautiful reminder of what life looks like when we go through trials. There are five things I’d like to share that have helped me get through mine, in hopes it will be a source of encouragement for when you go through yours.
Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Trials will leave you feeling scared and weak, but if you remember who is with you, you have the power to cast fear aside and replace it with boldness and courage. He is made strong in your weakness. You will overcome any hardship when you put your trust in Him.
2. The result of any trial is wisdom and strength. Remember, there is purpose in your pain.
It was interesting hearing the doctor coach Mandi in the last half-hour of her labor. I’ll never forget when she leaned down to Mandi and told her, “I can tell you’re resisting when you feel the pain you’re pushing into, but that’s what you need to push through. That’s the body’s way of giving you a focal point. That’s what will get your baby out.”
I mean, HELLO? How accurate is THAT? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve resisted trials to avoid pain or suffering, when that’s exactly what I needed to push through in order to see the beauty on the other side. I realize this is God’s way of developing us, teaching us to lean harder on Him when we know we can’t endure it on our own. When we choose comfort over pain it prolongs the trial, or even worse, avoids it completely. When we boldly walk into the struggles of life, no matter how painful it may be, the reward is wisdom and strength.
3. Learn to rest when given the opportunity, to gather the strength to get through the next phase.
It was so difficult for Mandi to rest between contractions. For her, and most women, that’s due to a mix of adrenaline, pain, and hormonal shifts. But if I’m being honest, which I am, I think I have such a hard time doing this, in daily life. I’ve recognized that when I don’t stop and allow myself quiet time, to pray and get in God’s word, I become restless. I find that even when my day only allows for five minutes of quiet time (which, a lot of times, that means in the bathroom- am I right mommas?) I’m calmer and more prepared to take on whatever else gets thrown my way.
Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Your trial isn’t yours to carry alone, give it to Him and He promises to give you the rest you need to strengthen you. You aren’t alone, you can do this.
4. Remember that you were made to overcome whatever you face, regardless of how unequipped you may feel.
It was right at the end of labor that my sister needed help the most. Her energy was depleted, her spirit faint, and her pain the strongest. This was when she needed reminding the most. Esther 4:14 says, “…And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” What a wonderful reminder that whatever we are facing, we were made for this moment, regardless of how we feel! Sometimes, we have to detach ourselves from how we feel so we can attach ourselves to reality.
Mandi had a choice to make, give up or fight. She chose to fight, even when she felt she had nothing left to give. And the result was priceless, a strength she’d never known she’d had and the birth of a precious baby girl.
5. When you overcome your trial, you are fully equipped to share your story with those who need to hear it the most.
I’ve had four babies of my own. My first two were c-sections and my last two were vaginal. Yeah, I did it in reverse. I’m extremely proud of my story and the strength I possess as a result of going through them. But seriously y’all, I cannot tell you how empowering it was to watch my story and my trials impact my sister go through hers.
Whatever you’ve faced, I guarantee you there is someone else out there who has gone through something similar. God desires us to share our trials to empower others to overcome their own. His intention is for us to connect with others by sharing our stories, to encourage one another and draw us closer to Him.
Proverbs 20:5 words it beautifully, “the purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
You have a unique purpose that gives you an insight that no one else has. There’s never been, nor will there ever be another story etched in time quite like yours. This makes you invaluable, uniquely made, and more precious than gold.
Pushing past the fear of being known and sharing where you’ve been and what you’re going through is tough, but the benefits are great. Being transparent and authentic will yield a deeper relationship with the people you love and draw you closer to the one who loves you more than anything.
Allowing myself to be a part of my sister’s story added to the impact of my own. Sharing who we are not only benefits others, but has a residual affect on ourselves. I’m stronger because of her and I’m so thankful to have been able to be a part. I’d love to hear some of your own stories of overcoming trials and how they have impacted others! Your stories encourage and strengthen me along my journey! If there’s a trial you are facing, I would love to hear about it so I can pray for you.
Please share them with me by going to the contact page of my website and filling out the form.
If I don’t hear from you, hope you have an awesome week!