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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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.

Hope in the midst of hopelessness

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I have been challenged in my own life lately. I often realize that as I work on growth in my personal life as a Christian, the more the growth, the greater the resistance.

The more I see positive change, the bigger the problems I have to deal with.  It often feels like a tug-a-war.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”Eph 6:12

Does that not make you uncomfortable?

It certainly makes me uncomfortable.  It explains the tug-a-war; the good versus evil.  It explains the push-back when there is positive growth in my faith.  It is not always easy to talk about evil and sin, but whether or not we are willing to see evil for what it is, does not change the fact that it is indeed real and a powerful force.  Fundamental to the Christian faith, is acknowledging that evil and sin is real.  It would be hopeless if it stopped there.  Watch national news for one day, and you get a very clear picture of the broken, sinfulness of humanity.

But it does not stop there.

In the depths of despair and hopelessness, Jesus won.  He defeated death and sin and brokenness and despair.  Light shone through the darkness.  There is power in our God, you just have to believe that He died for you and your sin and brokenness, and believe and accept that He is the One and Only God, and that once this life is over, that you will be with Him in heaven.  There is hope and there is purpose to your life. “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of our sins.” Romans 3:22-24

All this gives meaning to life.  In the midst of a dark, broken, sinful and hurting world we can have hope, healing and meaning.  In my college days, I turned my back on my faith.  I did it willingly and purposefully.  I was done with God and church and faith and Christians and I wanted nothing to do with any of it.  My life spiraled downward and these became the darkest years of my life.  My life came to a place where I no longer recognized who I was.  My life was once so full of hope and purpose, was now broken and lonely and controlled by addiction and lies.

Call it divine clarity, but God allowed me to see myself and what I had become.  I remember that day with perfect clarity. 

And I hated it.

I hated who I had let myself become.  In the absence of God, I made horrible decisions for myself.

If my story ended here, it would be hopeless.   But it does not.

For the first time in years, I got on my knees and prayed.  I do not always pray on my knees, but in that moment, it felt right.  I cried out to God.  I asked forgiveness for my decisions that led me to this hopeless place.  I apologized for all the bad choices I made, all the lies, all of it. 

And I experienced God’s grace in the most profound way, possibly the most profound way I have truly felt God in my life.

I did not deserve His forgiveness.  I had done so much wrong. And yet God forgave me.  He forgave all of it.  The weight of my past that I was carrying around with me every day was suffocating.  And in that moment of truth, of me admitting my brokenness and sin, I felt the heaviness and weight of my sin lift and disappear.  The shame was gone.  I could physically breathe easier.

That is grace.  God’s grace. And it is available to anyone who asks.

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Crushing goals

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2 years ago I wrote “Dare to Dream.”

Today I write about Crushing goals!

Two years ago I was unhappy.  Not like “having a bad day” unhappy.   I was deeply, emotionally unhappy.  I was missing joy in my life.  I was missing creativity.  I wasn’t sure who I was anymore or how exactly I had ended up at that point in my life where I just felt unmotivated, unhappy and uninspired.

I was a Christian, couldn’t I just pray this away? 

No. It wasn’t that simple.

Yes I was a Christian.  Yes my faith was real.  But I was still in a rut.  And no matter how much I prayed I still had to find a way to climb out of that rut.

I had recently quit my job as an agency nurse.  I had a crazy immune reaction that put me in the ER for days and the medication I had to be on for the following weeks caused me to gain 20lbs!  And to top that all off, my back locked up causing me to need intense chiropractic treatment and muscle relaxers just to cope with the pain.  I was a hot mess, and an emotional train wreck.

I remember praying one day, “God, help me lose 5 lbs.”

I wasn’t expecting an answer so quickly, but I very quickly heard that still, small voice say, “No Sarah, I am not going to do that for you. That’s not how I work.”

I was a bit offended and caught off guard. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how self-centered that prayer was.  God is not a genie granting me my wishes.  If I wanted to change, I was going to have to take a hard, deep look at my life and make a plan.

God didn’t want me to lose 5 pounds! He wanted me to stop looking for a quick fix and to start taking care of my body.  He wanted me to stop making bad decisions and to start caring for myself. I knew something had to change, I didn’t know how just yet, but I was determined that I was going to change no matter what.

This is the part where my goals first were created.  You see, deep down we all have goals, ideas of what we think our lives should look like, might one day hopefully look like.  But what we lack is a plan.  I got out a pen and a journal (I have about 5 at any given time that I write in) and I did something that scared me.  I dared to dream and I dared to write my dreams down.

What if I failed?

What if my goals didn’t work out?

Well, I figured at the very worst, I would still be in the same miserable spot I was in.  At the very best I would succeed. Either way, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So I wrote out goals and made them real. I dated my pages so that I could not forget. I was scared to dream big.

I wanted career fulfillment.

I wanted to lose the weight I gained and to have a healthy lifestyle day in and day out.

I wanted to be fun again.

I wanted to have fun again.

I wanted to write.

As a working mother of 3 girls, it is very easy to lose yourself and your identity in the daily chaos of real life and raising a family. The chores and to-do lists really never end.  You need to take time re-evaluate and set a course for your life that you want to travel on.

Today, 2 years later I had that moment of realization. That moment where I realized that the very goals I have been working on for the last two years are my daily life now.  The dreams that I wrote down on paper two years ago and was scared to even say out loud for fear of failure have come true.

As I take time to reflect, it is clear to see that it was not an easy journey.  There were tears and growing pains.  When I fell down, I refused to stay down; for I knew that if I didn’t get up and keep pushing forward, I would remain miserable and nothing would change.

I fulfilled my 10 year dream of becoming an ER nurse.  I am almost at my 1 year mark in the ER.  I am also working 12hr day and night shifts.  Something I simply thought I wasn’t strong enough to do.  And to take it one step farther, I have lost the 20 lbs and working out 4 times a week is a normal and natural part of my life; one that my family has come to embrace and join me.  We eat so much healthier than we used to. 

I am so proud of all the changes that have taken place.  All the small, daily decisions towards my goals have added up to an awesome outcome. 

If you look at your life and are uninspired, don’t give up! I have been there, its a hard place to be in. I challenge you, take a deep look. Ask yourself what you want your life to look life. What do you want your life story to say? And don’t stop there. Get a pen and paper, and give life to the dreams and goals that are deep down. Big or small, just start somewhere.

Pray for God to give you wisdom and direction on how to start making positive changes in your life. And pray for the audacious courage and determination to follow through on your goals and dreams.

Crushing my fitness goals one workout at a time.

If you do nothing, you will be sitting in the exact same spot one year from now. Don’t waste a year.

Dare to dream again

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Dare to dream again

Once upon a time we were all dreamers. 

From childhood we have been created to dream.  We dream of being astronauts, firefighters, scientists and ballet dancers.  We dream of being superheroes, world changers and race car drivers.

Our dreams were big, larger than life but vivid and to our childhood selves, attainable.

Dreams are beautiful, our soul is inspired, imagination and creativity are ignited.  Passion to achieve our dreams drives us onward.

As I walk around my messy house, stepping over abandoned toys, books and papers left by my children, a large part of me feels that dreams and creativity died a long time ago.  My days seem filled with tasks, chores and quite honestly, there isn’t a lot of energy left to spend on the pursuit of dreams. 

I was recently reading a book directed to mothers, and it asked “What are your dreams?”  And it challenged the reader to write down 3 or 4 dreams on paper.

I must have dreams, this should be fun.

So I thought about it.

And I thought about it.

And I thought about it and blank!

Nothing. 

I could not even think of one.  Not one.

Does watching Netflix and eating a peaceful snack at the end of an exhausting day count as a dream?!…because then maybe I had one.

Or maybe have my children clean up after themselves, then I would have two dreams.

But in all seriousness, this really shook me.

When did my dreams die?  Did my creativity die too?

I used to be such a carefree soul.  I wholeheartedly believed any dream was achievable.

Did the craziness and business of motherhood do this?

Maybe the very act of becoming a mother, of learning to ‘day in and day out’  selflessly serve your family and the very constant needs of little ones,  causes our dreams to fade away.

Maybe it’s the fact that motherhood, or adulthood changes us so much that we put the notion of perusing dreams away, dismiss it as ridiculous and no longer practical.

In a lot of ways I hardly recognize my 22-year old self and can almost laugh at her dreams. Ten years later, I dare say I am much wiser and stable.  Jetting off to a new country on a whim in pursuit of adventure is not as important to me as it once seemed.  Maybe maintaining a stable, thriving environment for my family is my dream?  I just do not always recognize the beauty in the mundane.

My God and my family are hands-down my absolute priority and I never want that to change.

But, I want to carve out space to dream again.

In my own life, in my day to day, I want to incorporate creativity, aspirations and dreaming.

I want to bring creative energy into friendships and relationships.  I want to be surrounded by people who encourage and inspire and support dreams, alongside with accountability to speak up when maybe a dream is misguided.

So, I took a journal and a pen (old fashioned here, I love putting ink on paper), and over the course of 2 weeks, I thought, pondered, searched, scribbled out and re-wrote down some dreams of mine.

So I will pass on the same question to you, what are your dreams?

I encourage you to write on paper, your top 3 dreams.

We come alive when we are creative.

I challenge you to find some creativity in yourself.

We are capable of so much more then we think we are.  Sometimes we need to be reminded, encouraged or perhaps given permission to dream big.

I bought myself a coffee mug with the words “dream big” on it. It is to be my reminder in my day to day to incorporate life, colour, creativity and dreams into my beloved chaos.

I wrote this two years ago on my previous blog.