It is now 10 PM on Easter Sunday as I begin typing this…nothing like waiting until the last minute to write something about Easter.
I spent this last week leading up to Easter reading through the different gospels’ accounts of the Last Supper, crucifixion, and resurrection. I always like to do this to put my heart and mind in the right space before Easter.
The other night, I was reading Luke’s account of the Last Supper, when something jumped out to me that I hadn’t noticed before.
Jesus had just gotten done speaking about the bread and wine, and how they would take on new meaning soon. This is a pivotal moment in Scripture; the disciples didn’t realize fully what was happening, but Jesus was turning Passover on its head. Passover would no longer be about the lamb, but the Lamb of God. No more blood on doorways. No more focusing on God’s deliverance from Egypt. There would be something much bigger to celebrate, and the disciples were hearing about it first.
Jesus delivers some heavy news: someone among them will betray him. They all begin to think about who among them might do this…and then what do they do?
Check this out:
“…The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. 24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.
Luke 22, NIV
Right after Jesus spends his last meal with the disciples and lays out how he is completely changing what Passover means (and foretelling of his death, which is THE POINT OF ALL OF THIS), the disciples do what? They start a petty argument about which disciple is the G.O.A.T.
When I first read this, I had to laugh. What idiots! History is being made as Jesus is about to change the world forever and the disciples have front-row seats. Instead of pondering the meaning behind Jesus’ words and absorbing the gravity of the moment, the disciples are like “cool dinner party, Jesus” and get caught up in who among them is the “best disciple.”
The more I pondered this, though, I felt called to examine my own life.
I’ve been focused on a few things lately: my health journey, getting my house set up, making new friends here in Parker, and work. I’ve spent a lot of time praying over all of these things, and measuring God’s movement in my life based on how well He delivers on those exact things.
The disciples’ odd reaction to Jesus’ words reminds me that God isn’t just working in those areas I’ve asked him to focus on. There’s a lot more happening beyond what I see in my daily life.
It’s so easy to miss what God is doing in our lives when we’re focused on the stuff of everyday life. From jobs to money to friends to our looks, there are so many things vying for our attention. None of these things are bad, but when they become our focus over and above Jesus, what gets lost is what God is doing in our lives. We’re so busy praying for new jobs and friends and tangible changes that we forget to pay attention to what else God is working on in our hearts and in our lives.
When we focus on the clutter, we miss the cross.
Maybe God is sitting at the table with us, like Jesus did with the disciples, trying to tell us about all of the good things He has planned. We’re not really listening, instead caught up in thinking about our grocery list, how we’re going to pay the bills, or why God hasn’t answered a prayer yet.
We’re focused on the petty stuff. He’s got so much more planned.
Imagine how much we’re missing.
As I’ve wrestled this week with unanswered prayers, I feel challenged to look beyond the black-and-white of my clutter, the trivial stuff that gets me worried from day to day. Instead, my goal for this week is to ask myself what else God is doing in my life. Maybe He’s strengthening my faith, teaching me patience, or doing something entirely different that I can’t see but I know I need to trust.
If God is sitting at the table with me, I don’t want to be caught with my head in the clouds or checking my Instagram notifications. I want to be there, absorbing what He has for me in full.
You with me? Let’s focus on the cross, not the clutter.
Have you ever had that thing happen where you notice something and then you see it everywhere? Like you’re car shopping and thinking about buying a Honda, and suddenly you notice that everyone’s driving a Honda.
Well, that’s kind of how it’s been with fear lately.
As most of you know, my 2019 started out like, well, like total crap. I totaled my brand-new car on New Year’s Day (not my fault) and had a miscarriage a week later. By February 1, 2019, I was already ready for 2020 to arrive.
Having a miscarriage brought fear to the forefront of my life. I was deathly afraid of miscarrying again or of never being able to conceive.
Being aware of this fear slowly made me aware of all of the other ways I was constantly afraid: afraid of dying, afraid of someone I love dying, afraid of getting hurt, of failing, of not meeting my full potential, of a million other things.
Reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown highlighted even more ways fear was affecting me, and the more I mulled it over, the more it bothered me.
Maybe it’s because I’m a control freak, but I don’t like the idea of fear ruling my life. I want to rule my life, you know?
That’s why I’ve chosen an anti-word of the year: fear. The opposite of fear, in my life at least, means so much more than just courage, and I want to be the opposite of fearful in all of those ways.
So what IS the opposite of fear then?
The opposite of fear is courage.
There are a lot of words I’d use to describe myself, and “brave” isn’t one of them. Witty, maybe, depending on who you ask. Talkative, ABSOLUTELY. Brave? Nah.
So many situations already this year have put me at a crossroads: either I can be brave, or I can be fearful.
I remember very little of our drive to the hospital the night I miscarried, except for what was playing on the radio: Stand In Your Love by Josh Baldwin. In case you haven’t heard the song, it’s a Christian song and the chorus goes, “Fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in your love.”
Somehow, in the midst of total crisis, I knew this song, and this message, was going to be incredibly significant going forward. I knew this year was going to take a lot of courage. And it already has.
Speaking publicly about my miscarriage took courage. Thinking about trying to have kids again has tested courage. Besides these things, I’ve seen a need for courage in other areas of my life, too.
Case in point: church. We’ve had so many new people come to our church this year. I want to be that kind of person who welcomes new people into our church family like people so graciously welcomed us. But I’m always stopped by fear. What if I’m too young to welcome people older than me? What if I haven’t been here long enough? What if I’m just incredibly awkward?
Lately, I’ve been trying to push this aside and to be unabashedly friendly to newcomers at church, despite how awkward I feel sometimes. This verse has often to mind: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Courage doesn’t come naturally for me, but I’m practicing it in the small things.
The opposite of fear is joy.
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” – Brené Brown
I had a lot of epiphanies when reading Brené’s book, but the biggest one was about joy. She describes in her book how when she came a mother, she found herself sabotaging her own moments of joy. When she would find herself looking at one of her babies and experiencing pure joy, she would quickly tamp it down with thoughts of something bad happening to her children. She was afraid to be joyful, because what if something bad happened? Joy was dangerous. It was risky. It was vulnerable.
When I read this, I was, as the kids say, shook.
When I was a kid, I got this awesome (read: awesome in the early 2000’s) fuzzy leopard print coat. I was so excited about it… so excited that I never wore it. Why? Because I was too afraid that I would ruin it somehow. I was afraid to enjoy this stylin’ coat because the coat could be ruined or lost. It seemed easier and safer to never fully experience the joy of wearing my coat than to experience joy and lose it.
That pretty much says all you need to know. I have lived so much of my life, I now realize, in fear of joy.
This year, I’m leaning in to moments of joy. When I find out I’m pregnant again (fingers crossed), I’ve decided I’m going to feel that joy in full. I’m not going to shy away in fear of what could happen again. Because what if that baby is born healthy and I realize I spent my first pregnancy terrified and anxious instead of joyful and excited? The cost is too great, and life too short.
The opposite of fear is life.
I mentioned in a previous post that I’m working with a health coach. I hired her earlier this year because I was tired. I was tired of counting calories, of worrying about what I was eating, and of constantly worrying about losing weight – or gaining it. I wanted out. I wanted to JUST EAT and neither feel out of control nor worry about every little thing that went into my mouth.
After the holidays + multiple crises in January, I was also struggling with gaining back weight. Yep, I’m putting it out there, y’all. I’ve gained weight. And in January, I was really struggling with it. I was discouraged and disappointed in myself.
I’d been reading this health coach’s blog for awhile and had tried many of her recipes. Earlier this year, I listened to a podcast where she talked about the focus of her practice: helping women ditch the diet cycle and discover a healthy relationship with food. That’s exactly what I wanted. I was in.
It’s hard to summarize everything I’ve learned, but what I’ve learned so far is that disordered eating, or having an unhealthy relationship with food, comes from fear. It comes from a fear of gaining weight and of not being “thin” enough.
Sound familiar to anyone else?
When I was on Weight Watchers and constantly worried about gaining weight or not losing weight, I was letting fear get in the way of living. Basically, I was worried about whether or not I should eat the cake instead of enjoying the party.
Brandon once commented on how he wished I’d be less worried about eating healthy and just enjoy eating stuff, after I spent ten minutes at the fair debating whether or not I should order deep-fried oreos or not. At the time, I thought he was just being ridiculous. Now, I realize he was pointing out the exact problem that later would make me so unhappy: in my “healthy” diet, there was no room for “living.”
In 2019, I’m gonna live.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to eat ice cream for every meal; I’m just going to focus less on the scale and on conforming to our ridiculous societal standard of wellness and more on living my life. Food and eating and health is going to be a part of it, but it isn’t going to rule it.
This is the first year I’ve chosen a “word,” but it’s seemed too present in my life to ignore. So here’s to a year of being less fearful, and more courageous, joyful, and full of life.
If you’ve been following for awhile, you know I started Weight Watchers over 2 years ago and lost almost 50 pounds, then decided to quit late last year in favor of a life of less restrictions and more real food.
When I quit WW, I thought I’d achieved a state of self-love. I was happy with myself most days when I looked in the mirror, and felt proud of what my body was doing and could do.
Fast forward to the end of January. Getting used to life without counting points and the holidays combined with some serious grief eating from a rough month led to major weight gain. I realized that pants were starting to fit tight or not fit at all, and that my face had gained some of its roundness back. I’d lost a lot of my progress as a runner, and workouts were harder than they were before.
Did I look at my body in the mirror and glow with pride at it, still accepting it as it was and giving it love for what it had gone through that month?
Instead, I went right back to hating it.
I went from being excited to get dressed to staring at myself in the mirror in frustration every morning as I got ready. Every time I put on pants that didn’t fit as well as they used to, I wanted to cry. Every time I went to the bathroom at work, I stared my face down, hoping my glare would melt some of the squish off of it. Everything reminded me of how I’d gained weight and how unhappy I was about it.
I felt inadequate and unattractive. I felt like a failure.
These feelings took me a bit by surprise. I thought, after all, that I’d learned to love my body. When I was at my lowest weight, I was still 20 pounds away from my goal, with lots of lumps and bumps and still no abs (does anyone even have those IRL??) and was incredibly happy with how I looked. Didn’t that mean I’d learned to love my body?
No, I’d just gotten thin enough that I felt it worthy to love.
I’m working with a nutritionist and food mindset coach (more about that later!) and talking about these issues with her has made me realize that losing weight didn’t fix my problems with my body. It just made them less noticeable.
Here’s the thing: I was going to gain weight eventually. Whether it was being pregnant or going through a stressful time, something was going to cause me to gain weight at some point during my life. I might gain weight and then lose it again, but I wasn’t going to be able to maintain my weight exactly as it was forever. Life happens. Bodies change.
The truth is that self-love isn’t created by losing enough weight that you can love your body, and then never ever gaining weight so you can maintain those warm and fuzzy feelings.
It’s created by loving your body exactly as it is, even if that changes. It’s loving you and the body you were given and all the things you can do with it because you are worth it, and because life is full of grand challenges and adventures that are much more worth focusing on than how you look in horizontal stripes or a bikini.
I’ll be honest – I have a long way to go. Getting dressed in the mornings is still hard, as is looking at photos from last year or seeing people I haven’t seen in awhile.
Right now, I’m starting small – I’m working on talking to myself more kindly and seeing my body for what it is and can do, not what it isn’t and can’t. Some days go better than others, but I’m trying. (Having a husband who forces you to start every day by saying “I am super pretty” helps. 🙂 He is such a keeper.)
To all the women I know who want to lose weight: please, please don’t confuse weight loss with self-love. Self-love doesn’t appear when you hit your goal weight. It’s earned daily by loving yourself even as you are right now.
If you’re struggling with something similar (isn’t that part of being a woman??) please don’t hesitate to reach out so I can pray for you and cheer you on.
If you haven’t seen my last two posts (here and here), January has been A MONTH. I’m so excited that February is almost here. I’m ready for a fresh start.
One GOOD thing that happened in January was that I kept my goal of reading two books a month. I actually read three – yay for overachieving. Having a 1.5 hour commute daily (includes to work and home) has certainly helped.
As you’ll probably notice, my fave genres are history, nonfiction, and religion. Here’s what I read this month:
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
I am a HUGE fan of Yuval Noah Harari’s other book Sapiens, so I was super excited to read this one. I wasn’t disappointed.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century is part cultural meta-analysis, part educated conjecture. In the book, Harari investigates what the incredible pace of technological change and societal change means for life on earth.
From what AI means for our higher purpose and religious beliefs to the implications of nationalism’s quick rise worldwide, Harari broaches a variety of topics with expertise. I always walk away from his books feeling insanely more educated about the world, and that was no exception. If you like history, are interested in the implications of tech on our world, or just like to be challenged, would recommend.
She Reads Truth by Raechel Myers & Amanda Bible Williams
I received this book a few months ago from my pastor’s wife, who insisted it was a must-read. I read a few chapters, got busy with life, and sat down this month to finish it. After finally reading it all, I have to agree with her: it’s a must-read for any woman of faith.
The authors’ main point is that EVERYTHING is passing away: your career, your control, your body itself. Nothing is permanent, and any attempt to hold onto the things of the world is in vain. The only thing you CAN hold onto is Jesus.
Chapters alternate between the two authors, as each author tells powerful stories of how the impermanence of different aspects of life became clear to them and how the truth of the Gospel shone through it all.
This book made me think a lot about how I approach life on this earth and how I approach my relationship with God. Thought-provoking (and by that I mean, I cried while reading it) and powerful.
Inheritance of Tears by Jessalyn Hutto
Phew, this was a tough read. If you read my last post, you know that I recently suffered a miscarriage. This book was mailed to me by a close friend, and it was exactly what I needed.
The author does a beautiful job of describing the reality of miscarriage and how it feels to have suffered one while also shedding light on the Bible’s view on the subject. I cried all the way through reading this one, but they were good tears. I would highly recommend this one for anyone who has suffered pregnancy loss.
So that’s what I read in January! What are you reading? Any recommendations? Planning to finish Michelle Obama’s autobiography in Feb. V excited.
This isn’t a blog post I wanted to write, because this isn’t something I thought – or hope – would happen to me. But sometimes life has a way of surprising you.
I found out I was pregnant shortly after Christmas. As a hilarious pregnancy announcement online said, “We’re pregnant! Don’t be sad for us – it’s on purpose.” We were incredibly excited. Over-the-moon excited.
We knew there was a chance of miscarriage – there always is – but we didn’t think on it too much. We told our families. We dreamed big dreams. We basked in the excitement of it all.
I’m not going to take you through the messy details, but about two weeks after finding out, or when I was about 7 weeks along, that all came crashing down. I found myself in the ER at 3 AM, bleeding a lot and in a lot of pain. The ER doc, who I think would have rather have told me I lost a leg, delivered the terrible news to Brandon and I: miscarriage.
When I found out I was pregnant, I remember consciously thinking that if anything were to happen to my pregnancy, I’d tell people. I live with mental illness and work for a sexual assault prevention nonprofit, so I’m around stigmatized issues all day, every day. I’m passionate about bring stigmatized issues into the light. So after I recovered from two days straight of crying, napping, eating my feelings, and crying more, I started thinking: what exactly did I want to say?
I don’t have any wisdom about this. I’m only two weeks removed from one of the most traumatizing events of my life, and am still figuring out how to navigate it. After some thought, I realized what I want to say is A) this happened to me so B) you’re not alone and C) here’s what I’ve learned so far.
What I’ve Learned So Far About Miscarriage
I’ve learned through talking to friends and family that this happens far more often than I realized. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has had a miscarriage themselves or knows someone who has. For how little it’s talked about, it’s incredibly common. I – and anyone who else who has experienced pregnancy loss – am far from alone. Most of those people have gone on to have healthy pregnancies, often two or more. It sucks, but there’s hope.
I’ve also learned that it’s one of the most devastating losses you can experience. There’s no funeral, no body, no evidence that this person existed, but you feel the loss all the same: the loss of your high hopes for this new little person, the loss of your joy, the loss of a life.
If your parent or sibling dies, people understand your grief. Because miscarriage is invisible, it’s hard for others to understand. How could you love something so much you never even met, that wasn’t even a “person” yet? Gosh, if I could tell you, I would. All I can say is you DO, and the loss feels just as real as the loss of someone who walked the earth.
(We have been BLESSED with amazing family and friends who have grieved with us, but not everyone who experiences miscarriage is understood in their suffering. If that’s you, whether it just happened or happened a long time ago, I see you. And I feel your sadness.)
The process of miscarriage itself is also devastating. Watching your body expel what used to be your womb, your safe place for your little future child, is the most awful thing. It feels a lot like your body has betrayed you. It’s graphic and terrible and far from quick, a daily reminder for about a week of what you had and what you lost.
What I’ve Learned So Far About Myself
I remember early on in my very short pregnancy thinking about what I’d do if I had a miscarriage. In my mind, I had no idea how I’d go on. When I tried to visualize what life would be like if the unspeakable happened, I couldn’t see anything at all.
Fast forward to two weeks past my worst nightmare coming true, and I’m still here. I’m getting dressed, taking care of basic life tasks, and going to work every day like a normal human being. I’m still sad a lot of days. I still cry at least once a day. But, what I’ve learned about myself through this process is that I am a LOT more resilient than I thought I was. I am capable of surviving incredible grief.
Not only am I capable of withstanding the emotional pain that comes with loss, but I have been able to do it without the aid of medication. I’ve taken low-dose anti-anxiety meds since college. When I found out I was pregnant, my sister-in-law/nurse midwife told me that I couldn’t take them while pregnant, so I quickly tapered off my dosage.
For years now, medication has been my safety net. I’ve been able to rest easy knowing that as long as I take it, my anxiety can’t come at me full-force. I experienced the hardest loss of my life without medication, and I’m still standing. No panic attacks. No major mishaps.
I can’t even tell you what a victory this is.
(Relatedly, because I am a nerd, one of the things that kept me going in those first few days post-miscarriage was a study I learned about in a psych class in college. Researchers studied a group of people who won the lottery and a group of people who had recently become paralyzed due to horrible accidents. Within six months, the two groups were equally happy. The lesson: grief, trauma, and pain won’t define you forever. You’ll bounce back. And I’m getting there, very slowly but surely.)
This experience also taught me that I definitely do want to be a mom. Brandon has wanted kids since he can remember. If you know my husband, you know his love of golf, khakis, and complaining about “kids these days.” He’s already fully embraced the Dad role.
I, on the other hand, have taken awhile to come alongside him. Maybe it was my love of last-minute travels and being able to pursue my career unhindered or my fear of the whole pregnancy thing, but it took me much longer to decide I was ready to think about being a mom.
When I can’t make a hard decision, Brandon has this way of helping me choose: he puts both fists behind his back and one of my “options” in each hand. I choose a hand, he tells me which option I picked, and either I’m happy, which means that’s the right option, or I’m instantly disappointed, which means I should choose the other one.
This experience was a little like that. Only when I lost the pregnancy did I realize how much I wanted it. Now I know for sure.
What I’ve Learned So Far About God
Christians like to say “we live in a fallen world,” and when you’ve been in the church long enough, you really don’t think about what it means. Yes, there’s sin. Blah, blah, blah. Through this experience, I for the first time truly understood what that means, how horrible and awful our world is because of sin.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t wear rose-colored glasses. I spend 2-3 hours per day at my job reading news articles about sexual assault. I know the world is a horrible place. But there’s something about experiencing such a devastating, unjustifiable, seemingly unfair loss that drives the point home: this world SUCKS. Because of sin, this world is a horrific place where miscarriages happen, car crashes kill innocent people, and all manner of terrible things befall the good and the wicked alike.
This has strengthened my faith so much, as I’ve seen first-hand what a gift Jesus Christ was and is. God knew that Adam and Eve’s sin would produce such a horrible world, but He also provided a way to escape it. He provided us a hope that lives beyond this messed-up earth. And in the days following my miscarriage, and still today, that’s all I can hold onto. Because this world is an awful place.
I’ve learned that God’s peace is crazy stuff. As we drove to the ER at 3 AM on that morning, I knew. I knew it was over. And yet, I felt a strange sense of calm. I didn’t cry, I didn’t panic. I was just calm. And anyone who knows me well knows that’s a rare occurrence, even on a good day.
Even in the days following, as I struggled with heartache, grief, and every other negative emotion in the book, I still felt peace. I knew that God was in control. And as much as what was happening to me felt unbearable, I knew that my God saw me in my grief and had a plan.
That’s not something I would have expected, because it’s not something I could do myself. I didn’t pray or read my way into peace, though I did lots of praying and reading scripture in the days after; God freely gave it. And I couldn’t have survived this experience without it.
So that’s what I’ve learned so far from this horrible experience. While it’s been unbearably painful at times, it’s also grown me in ways I wouldn’t have expected. Already in the last two weeks, I have seen flashes of God’s behind-the-scenes work as He prepares something great for us. I know it’s coming. We just have to be patient. Thank goodness we can hang our hat – and our hope – on that.
Phew. This was a doozy. If you stuck with me to the end, thanks a million. It feels incredible to bare your soul and to be heard. If you’ve experienced miscarriage, too, and want to drop me a message, feel free. Hearing about other people’s experiences makes me feel less alone and more hopeful for the future.
And if you see me IRL, don’t feel awkward about bringing it up or asking how we’re doing. I wouldn’t have written a blog about it if I wasn’t ready to talk. Really, it’s okay. <3