Ten years a mother!

Ten years ago I became a mother for the first time.

Ten years ago life as I knew it turned upside down and inside out and then flipped a few more times when we welcomed our first daughter home from the hospital.  I was thrust into a new role.  Nothing was the same. Life took on a new shape. 

My identity changed.  I was a nurse on a surgical and obstetrical unit. I was finally settling into my career.  I had told myself that I would continue on in my education and career.  I would settle into my permanent position on my unit.  And I was happy and content with my decision.

Three days later, my period was late and with great shock, my pregnancy test showed a positive result.  I remember the moment.  I went white and all the colour drained out of me, then it all rose back up and I became flushed and hot.  My husband and I hadn’t quite been married for 4 months yet.  He was still finishing his university degree and we had grand plans to travel the world starting with the trip to Europe we were planning.

My husband saw my face, I was about to burst into tears, nothing about this was planned.  I was shocked.  I had not planned on becoming a mother.   Dreaming of children and motherhood had not ever crossed my mind.  I had recently recovered from a two year eating disorder and was finally enjoying a happy, normal life.  And I loved my life.  I loved my job and cooking for my husband and having a home to take care of.  I was so happy, this was not a part of the plan.  Matt took me in his arms and told me everything was going to be Ok.  He hugged and held me and I cried. 

I cried because I was shocked and caught off guard.  I cried because I did not know anything about children and I did not feel ready for this. I cried because this meant no Europe trip.  I cried because I was so happy with my life the way it was, and I did not want change.  I had not seen this coming.

By the next evening, my mind and heart started to change.  I was going to be a mother.  I remember my husband and I looking at each other and this new excitement bubbling up and we were smiling at each other. 

Matt was going to be a father.

I was going to be a mother.

From that moment on, life and plans took a whole new direction; and it was good.

We welcomed our daughter Summer home in October 2009.  Matt cried when he saw Summer for the first time, and my heart swelled with so much love and appreciation for my husband and our new little family.

That moment was almost ten years ago today.  Today my daughter nervously and excitedly took the bus to middle school, starting a new adventure both for her and for me and for her younger sisters.

I could never have foreseen how much motherhood would change me, and change me for the better.  Sitting here and reflecting on my past ten years is almost overwhelming and yet beautiful.  The largest theme is how I went from living for myself to living for my family.  Every day is about getting them up and dressed and fed; making sure they are clean and have clean clothes.  Making sure their needs are being met, physically, emotionally and spiritually; instilling love and morals and values into their hearts and lives.  From cleaning up after them, to teaching them to clean up after themselves, teaching them to cook and bake, teaching them to love others around them as Jesus calls us to love others.  The moment I found out I was pregnant I was called to the awe-inspiring yet relentless journey of motherhood.

I once read a quote from an unknown source, “Echoes of your voice will be heard through all eternity.”  This quote has always stayed with me.  The words I speak over my children, they will one day speak to their children and to their children and to those children.  Your words have power.  Today is my first time in ten years that I will not have children at home with me.  My oldest entered middle school, my middle daughter entered grade three and my baby entered grade one. 

Knowing my words have power in my daughters’ lives, I spoke prayers of blessing over each of them separately last night and this morning.  Before my Lord and Saviour, I surrendered each of my daughters into His capable hands for this school year.  I prayed blessings of courage and love, and acceptance and kindness and safety over them.  I affirmed each of my daughters that they are loved by God and loved by their father and me.  I affirmed that they are beautiful on the inside and on the outside, that they are strong and that no matter where they go, God goes with them.  I affirmed that no matter how much they are afraid, God will be beside them and they can pray to him for strength and courage.

As mothers, we can speak love and courage and kindness into our children.  As a believer, I will speak God’s blessing and promises over my children.

What anchors you?

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“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

What anchors you?

One thing is certain, we need an anchor.

Life is so uncertain.  One moment life is figured out and definite; the next moment you are stumbling in the dark.

What is your anchor?

I have lived my life without an anchor.  Well I should back up a bit.  I have been raised knowing God as my Lord and Saviour.  My faith was sure.  I knew who I was and where I was going.  I had an anchor in my life, The Anchor.

But then rough waters came.  I was in college and I no longer wanted an anchor.  I wanted freedom.  Freedom from rules, freedom from the restrictions my anchor gave me.  I hated being tied down.  I had been raised knowing the security of my Anchor.  But I did not want to be the good girl anymore.  I wanted to be the fun girl.  I wanted to live life on my own terms. No more rules.  No more restrictions.

I look back with such clarity on this moment.  I made a decision.  This was not a slow fade away from my faith.  This was an “I am done with my faith” moment.   I cut the rope that attached me to my anchor, the anchor being Christ.

I told God I was done.  If this was Christian living, I wanted no part of it.  I was sitting in my office when I made the decision.  But in my mind, I envision myself on a boat that is anchored.  And I take a knife and I cut the rope and I leave the anchor behind.  I immediately start to drift away, and I smile because I think I am free.

In that moment, I picture the face of Jesus.  He is sad.  But He lets me go; because Jesus never forces us to love Him or choose Him.  It is our choice.  He desires a relationship with us, but we have to choose that.

Cutting free of my anchor was the worst decision I ever made.  I drifted out to deep sea and faced the roughest waters. My life spiraled downward.  I made such poor decisions.  And before I knew it, I felt like I was drowning; drowning in regret and shame and lies. My journey which had started so hopeful was now dark and lonely and hopelessly lost.  My addiction to bulimia led me to lie to everyone I knew and hide from the ones I trusted and loved because I lived in shame.   I coped with my loneliness by partying.  But when the music faded and the party was over, I was still alone and lost, drifting in open waters.

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I finally saw my life for what it was.  I saw where my decision had led me.  I was not freeIt was a lie.  I was addicted to a life I hated and I needed help.  I needed my Anchor.

On my knees, alone I asked Jesus to help me. 

It was the first time I had prayed in over a year and a half.

I experienced God’s grace and forgiveness in a way I had never before.  I did not deserve it.  I chose to leave.  I chose to do life my own way.  I chose the decisions that made me happy, instead of what I knew to be right and wrong.  And even with all of that, God forgave me.  The feeling was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  My life was burdened with so much regret.  When I asked God to forgive me, with a heart that was in anguish, I felt the heavy weight of so much regret and shame lift and I was free.

Freedom was not leaving the anchor.  Freedom was choosing the Anchor.

So my deep love and respect for anchors continues.  It is my reminder that Christ is my Anchor.  He anchors my life, my marriage, my parenting.  He anchors my decisions.  When I start to drift, my anchor stops me and I do not drift out to open waters, but I remain firmly attached to the God who loves me deeply and strongly.

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What 33 taught me

As I turn a year older today, I am taking a moment to reflect on this past year. When I stop and really look back, I can see the challenges and the growth.

What 33 taught me:

You have to choose the life you want.

That doesn’t mean we get to choose all the circumstances life throws at us, but we do get to choose our actions and our thoughts. We get to choose what we spend our time and energy on. We get the choice to make our life better or worse by the actions we choose.

We get the choice to forgive and forget and move on.

We get the choice to wake up and show up.

One thing my job is continuously reminding me is that time is precious. Our days are precious. We take them for granted. Every day that we get is a gift.

Our thoughts take our energy and time. Make sure your thoughts are worth it; and if they aren’t, you have the power to change them.

My girls asked me recently what my motto was. I thought about it, and one that came to mind, one I write about often is:

“If it’s worth it, it’s not easy.”

Change is hard, growth is hard, overcoming addictions and bad habits are hard, working on relationships can be very hard, even pursing good, positive change can be hard when our default is to take the path of least resistance. The good and the great things do not come easy.

33 has been a year of personal growth and learning. I thank God for it, I thank Him for seeing me through it and I look forward to seeing what 34 has in store for me. Here’s to many more strong cups of coffee and days well spent!

Love, Sarah

Real

As I sit here and write, I think about lifestyle blogs, and fitness blogs. Catchy and trendy, sometimes I think about writing about those topics. Heck I even think about cooking blogs. That one tempts me less, even though I can endlessly watch those videos where they are quickly pouring ingredients in a bowl and voila! A fabulous meal or delectable dessert. How many people ACTUALLY make the recipes they watch?

I think about these blogs, and I know writing about them would be simpler, way less vulnerable. Today’s hot outfit or the perfect chest and triceps workout is for sure easier to talk about than ones personal failures as a woman and mother.

But this is not the narrative I have chosen. I have done this with intention. The most moving and life challenging pieces I have read, are not trendy, but rather they are raw and real. They do not inspire me to want to travel to an up and coming destination. They have inspired me to be a better human. They have reminded me that weakness is real; that I will fail and yet I will succeed. I will fall but I do not have to stay down. That’s it’s Ok to not be Ok every second of the day. They have given me permission to put the walls down and work on being seen for who I am and as I am.

This is why I write about authenticity. And Faith. There is enough fake in our world. No one needs to be told 5 ways to a perfect body (direct internal transition is “5 more ways that I will never measure up”). We need to be told 5 ways I am enough. We need to be reminded that we are not perfect, that we do not need to have it all together, that perfectly edited social media pictures do not show real life! That it is ok to take a breath and cry. Heck ugly cry! It feels so much better when we let our guard down and be who we were meant to be.

Real.

Authentic.

Unedited.

Cheers to the women who have gone before me and given me permission to be real. I have gladly taken the torch and will pass it on.

There will be war

As I sit here and watch the beautiful green leaves rustle and the branches swaying in the wind, I am in awe of all the shades of green I see.  The grey clouds over head unleashed a fury of rain in the night.  New growth of green is evident on most of the evergreens. The image is beautiful and serene even though it is tumultuous, like my heart.  This space is my favorite place to write.  I am surrounded by large windows that give me a front row seat of God’s awe inspiring creation.  You can find beauty in most places if you are willing to see.  It is in this place that I come to connect with God.  My Bible is open and my pen is beside my open journal. 

My heart feels turbulent, like the weather I am watching.  There is beauty and life and tumultuous winds all in one space.  I find it beautifully fitting that the very first verse I read says “May God give you grace and peace.”  1Thessalonians 1:1

Yes please!

I feel that these past two years have been a wild ride of challenges, emotions, big life decisions and it has challenged me and forced me to look deeply for what I believe to be truth about God.

There was once a time in my young adult mind where I had a very idealistic concept of what a Christian is.  There were upright and moral. They did not sin because they were God following people.  They overcame temptation, they overcame their weaknesses, and they did not yell or swear or lose their temper.  They never drank too much, they were always joyful and happy to help and serving others was second nature.

Right. 

I learned very quickly that idealistic view was and is not possible.  I am human and human nature is inherently selfish which can only mean one thing. 

There will war. 

War between who I am and who I want to be.

 I remember some years ago when this realization first dawned on me.  I was in church and we were singing a worship song.  It was as if the room of hundreds of people became silent, and God spoke just to me. It was unmistakable and perfectly clear.  I would mess up again and again, but God’s grace is real and He is waiting for me to come back to Him each time I make a mistake.  I realized in this moment, that there are weaknesses I may never overcome.  The victory is that I choose to come to Jesus each and every time and ask His forgiveness, and get up and try again. And repeat. And never quit.  This is the good fight.  And not just trying again on my own willpower, but relying on Christ to help me.

“For I do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13

I can get back up again, and try again because God gives me the strength.

We live in a broken world, there will be brokenness. That is unavoidable. The victory is choosing God’s grace and not quitting. Not staying down when we have fallen, but getting up and standing tall knowing that we serve a God who relentlessly loves us.

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Devotion is hard work

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Colossians  4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

Devotion is not something that comes easily to me.   

The definition of devote is “to give all or most of one’s time or resources to a person or activity.  

I see devotion as discipline which is driven by deep desire or moral calling.

I find for myself, that I can be deeply moved and desire to be devoted, but I find the daily grind of choosing to show up and then actually showing up requires great self-discipline and persistence.  I would love to get up early each morning and pray, but showing up every morning and actually praying takes way more self-discipline and persistence that I imagined.

Human nature seems to naturally take the path of least resistance.  I try to remind myself that nothing great has ever been accomplished by being mediocre. 

That it is actually in the mundane of choosing to show up daily, when the greatness happens;

When the breakthroughs happen;

When overcoming bad habits happen;

It is here when the change happens.

We do not one day wake up having achieved our goals.  If anything, we wake up and realize that we have done nothing to achieve the goals we desire and have wasted so much time on a course of least resistance.

It is my desire to be woman of faith, who wholeheartedly seeks God, and who is known for devotion to her God.  But the world’s pull is a strong one.  It pulls my heart, it pulls my thoughts, it pulls my time, it pulls me.  I really believe this is why Paul says, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”  Paul knew the pull of the world was strong.  We have to make a stand, we have to deliberately walk again popular culture and choose devotion to God and prayer.

And we have to choose an alert mind.  This means being quick to notice any unusual and potentially dangerous or difficult circumstances; vigilant.  I have written about this before, but it still amazes me.  I have found this in myself, I can be pursuing the right course, and before I realize, I have completely lost focus and wondered off the path I was pursuing.  Being ALERT is incredibly important if we are choosing to live a life of Godly integrity.  The devil is our enemy, and he would love us to fail, and will use the most innocent looking bait to achieve that. Be alert!

And the last part of this very short verse is….a thankful heart.  Do not underestimate the power of gratitude.  It has the power to completely change your heart, your outlook and your perspective.  Gratitude is being thankful, showing appreciation and returning kindness.  I make this a regular practice in my life, especially if I am noticing myself grumbling or becoming bitter.  I stop, take a moment and thank God for 5 good things in my life. 

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I suffer from back pain, and there are days I am hurting and bitter.  These are the moments I must realign.  I choose to thank God for the health I do have.  I thank Him that I can still lead an active life.  I am grateful that my longstanding injury is not worse for it sure could be.  I thank God for resources that help me with my back pain. Gratitude changes bitterness to joy; it changes hopeless to hopeful; it changes sour to sweet.  Gratitude does not make us unrealistic or unaware of reality, instead it allows us to find peace and be fully present and aware in our current reality.

Today, I challenge you and myself to devote yourself to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Declare it out loud

If somewhere were to ask you right now to describe your vision statement for your life, what would you say?

This has been on my heart lately.

I remember my first real job interview in healthcare.   I was still training to be a nurse and I had an interview to work as a health care aid while I was still in school.  I highly underestimated this interview.  I sat in front of a panel and was grilled with one question after another that had nothing to do with health care, but rather personality.  At the end of the interview, I was asked what the mission statement was for the hospital.  Although I had walked past the mission statement sign countless times, I had no idea what the mission statement was. My twenty-one year old self thought that was a ridiculous question, but thankfully I kept my opinion to myself. I did get the job, finished my nursing and twelve years later, I still work at that same hospital.

But I have never forgotten that interview.

Mission statement-a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.

One evening a few months ago, I was feeling overwhelmed.  Life can have so many demands and pressures as a wife, mother, nurse, friend, good neighbor, etc.  Add in the struggle to walk the straight and narrow; some days it just feels like the bar is always a little bit too high, in sight but out of reach.

It was in this moment, that I just started declaring out loud what I want my life to be.  This is where my mission statement was first created.  I declared out loud who I am and what my purpose is.  It does evolve but the foundation of it stays the same.

My mission statement

“Jesus is my Lord and Savior and I will put Him first.  I am a woman of integrity.  I am loved immeasurably and saved by grace.

I do honor my husband and support him.  I choose to love him every day and to be faithful to him, and build him up and pray for him.  When I mess up, I am humble and apologize to him.

I am a loving and gentle mother to our daughters.  I will not yell at them.  When I mess up, I will show a humble heart and apologize to them.  I lead them with godly integrity and teach them to how to grow up being strong, independent women who know their worth and that they are immeasurably loved by God.

I am a friend, sister, daughter, neighbor, co-worker who loves and is kind and generous.  I will encourage others.

I will invest in my health.  I exercise and choose to eat foods that honor my body.  I will listen to my body and give it rest when it is needing rest. I teach our daughters to honor their bodies and to treat them with respect.”

Having  your own personal mission statement gives you clarity and direction for your life. 

I challenge you to write one out.

When you start to wonder or lose focus, read it out loud and remind yourself who you are and what you are fighting for.  Let go of the things in your life that do not line up with your mission statement.

As a Christ follower, my foundation needs to be Christ. As a human, I do lose focus of this. I need a daily reminder to reset my focus for that day. Because even with the very best of goals and intentions, if you do not have a crystal clear daily vision, you will wonder off course. It is human nature to take the path of least resistance. It takes intention to live a God centered life of purpose.

Do not waste this beautiful gift of life. Show up daily, be intentional and set your course and follow through. No one loves mediocre.

Be exceptional.

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