Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring is Here (Part 2)

The snow has melted, and the earth lies cold and bare.  Birds hop excitedly on the newly thawed earth, and their melody, a new song, is carried through the breeze.  The bravest stems slowly venture through the leaves on the ground, and met with the warmth of the sun, begin to open their leaves.  The trees begin to form buds, and the whole earth awakens from it's long slumber.  The death of winter is forgotten, and all things are made new.


Spring is here.



The transition between winter and spring is a moment of awakening.  Rubbing your eyes, you sit up and survey your surroundings.  As the blurry world comes into focus, you are painfully aware of how different the scenery has become.  You see the life that has died, and briefly panic at what's been lost.  You wonder if things will ever be the same, and curse yourself for not being able to stop the winter from coming.   As the sun shines down, though, revealing the colors of spring, it also brings new clarity to what has happened.

There have been times when I would look back at the person I was before my season of depression and feel a sense of loss.  I had even gotten into the habit of telling my husband "if you could only see me then, I was such a better person".  But as this new season of spring begins to lighten my heart, and new buds begin to blossom in me, I see that it wasn't the best of me that died in that season.  It wasn't the joy, and it wasn't the peace that died.  Nor the patience, nor the kindness.  It couldn't be any of these things that died, because these were not fruits of myself, born of seeds that I planted in my own life.   These are fruits that have an endless supply from the outpouring of God's Spirit. 

Neither was it my salvation that died.  As the tree remains grounded with it's roots running deep, untouched by the winter, so my foundation built on Christ alone continues to stands firm.

As I start to take inventory of my mind and spirit, I realize that all that has been lost is any hope that I had in myself.  Any ability I had to feed my own spirit, any confidence in myself and in my accomplishments, has died and fluttered to the ground like leaves that feed a tree.  All that remained in the dead of winter, all that I had to stand on was my foundation in Christ, and His word stored in my heart.

And I realize this is what God intended winter to do.  To kill the facade.

In the very first stages of Spring, new life slowly emerges in us, and we step cautiously just in case winter decides to return.  The longer we are exposed to the warmth of the sun, however, the more comfortable we become.  As we forget the darkness, we begin to freely bloom and blossom in the light.  One morning we wake up, and the entire Earth is covered in green, brushed with flowers of  brilliant colors. 

As we begin to notice how beautiful we have become, adorned in fruits of the Spirit, we can quickly become arrogant.  We start to believe that somehow it was our own cultivation that created this life.  We fool ourselves into thinking that the sweet fragrance of the Holy Spirit is actually emanating from within ourselves.  We assure ourselves that we are not being prideful, saying things like "I am confident in who I am in Christ", and "I am wonderfully and beautifully made".  Peeking into the neighbor's garden, uncultivated and covered in weeds and dead brush, we turn our noses up and secretly commend ourselves for being stronger than that, strong enough to survive the winter.  On the outside, we give God the credit, but deep on the inside we start to believe in our own strength.  We hardly notice as the thorns of pride and the weeds of self-assurance start to entangle themselves in our lives. 

Winter becomes a distant memory, and we start to forget how desperately we cried in the darkness, when the freezing cold paralyzed us.  We forget the Name that we so humbly pleaded for when we awoke in a devastated garden.  We forget the Gardener who answered our call and rushed over to pull the weeds and clear the brush, the Sun who fed and nourished our starving hearts, and the Water who satisfied our dry and thirsty lips. 

Without winter, we would have no reason to rejoice in the spring.  But without the Gardener, spring only brings a garden suffocating in the remnants of death devastation from winter.  As we mature, we begin to recognize the piercing of thorns and the suffocation of weeds, and we call the Gardener to pull them immediately.  Eventually, springtime becomes longer, and winter seldom comes.   

Winter is necessary, but Springtime is beautiful

New leaves are beginning to open up in me, and everyday I find a newly formed bud, waiting to blossom.  I breathe in deeply the sweet, familiar fragrance of the Holy Spirit, and I could stand in the warmth of the sun for days.  I am being made new for the seasons to come.  I am not the same person I was before, but I am walking closer to the same God who was, and is, and is to come. 





Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Is Here (Part 1)

I think it is completely appropriate that my last few blogs have gone from discussing winter, to waking up, and now that it is April, spring is here.  I can hear the birds chirping outside my window.  The trees sway in the breeze, the garden is starting to bloom, and walking down my road the sweet smell of the flowers is overwhelmingly pleasant.  Being outside is completely uplifting to the soul.

We have been to a lot of places, and experienced a lot of seasons in the last few years.  Texas summers were HOT.  I mean ridiculously hot.  The kind of hot that can make you crabby, and keep you feeling in a constant state of desperately needing a shower.  In the fall of 2011 we moved to Alaska.  Autumn in Alaska is gorgeous.  The breeze is cool, everything smells like pumpkins, and the leaves won't. stop. falling.  Alaskan winters are breathtakingly beautiful.  The scenery is majestic and it can leave you speechless.  But the winters are long.  Sometimes it can feel like the winter will never end.  The snow will never stop falling, and the leaves will never be fruitful again. 

Winter symbolizes death. 

The fruit on the tree has been harvested, the leaves have died and fallen, and the tree stands bare and naked, appearing dead and fruitless.  The chill of the wind makes everything feel numb.  The earth is covered in white, and it seems like life has been stolen from everything.  The freeze makes things fragile, limbs crack and break helplessly.  The world accepts its burial under a blanket of snow.


We all look at trees in the winter and think in the epic battle of tree vs. winter freeze, Old Jack Frost has won and there the weak tree stands, stripped and battered.  What most people don't know (and normal people, unlike me, don't think about) is how a tree is able to resume life in the spring.  While most plants retreat in winter, even surrendering to death up to their roots and hiding in the warm ground, trees have an amazing defense mechanism enabling them to be completely exposed, yet survive.  The obvious chemical changes in a tree cause the leaves to turn brilliant colors and fall.  But the covert defenses of a tree are even more miraculous.  Without going into too much nerdy detail, the processes that occur on a cellular level go beyond what even science can recreate.  My point is, the tree didn't just take it.  Though it shut down the processes that make it fruitful and beautiful, it stayed in an active state of defense.  The tree was fully aware and fully prepared for what most of us fail to see in our own lives; seasons are inevitable.  You cannot escape it.

God gave us every season in our lives.  Let me repeat that.  GOD gave us every season.  I am not including mistakes that you made where you stepped out of God's will.  I am talking about seasons of struggle, seasons of pain, seasons of uncertainty where you have absolutely nothing to lean on but the promises of God.  Seasons when you feel absolutely frozen, fruitless and dead.  Seasons when you feel like you can't hold the weight of the ice and the snow that just won't stop falling.  Seasons when you feel like God left. 

Let me tell you that in those seasons of my life God was doing in me exactly what He designed in those trees.  He was building up my defenses.  His strength was becoming mine, and He was proving His faithfulness and omnipotence to me.

Let me pause and say that I didn't feel strong in those seasons.  I didn't feel God's strength, or God's faithfulness, or His omnipotence.  I didn't feel anything but dead and weak.  There were nights when all I could do was claim God's promises over and over again, fighting the fear and doubt that surrounded me.  Some nights all I could do was cry and pray, and cry and pray some more.  Some nights the only thing I could whisper was "Jesus".  Jesus.  Over and over, Jesus.  Nothing but God was stronger than what I was going through, and no one but God kept me.

Like a tree, I may have stopped producing fruit.  I may have shed all of the leaves, with all of the joy and brightness that made me look full and beautifully blessed.   I may have felt vulnerable, stripped, and cold like that tree, and when you saw me maybe you only saw death and defeat.  But God...

God was covertly setting up His defenses in my life.  While destruction knocked on my door, GOD had his Angels on guard behind it, keeping it shut tight.  Every time death begged God for my life, GOD said "no".  And when the enemy roared and lied to me about how my story was going to end, God was writing a new chapter entitled "Victory". 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Waking up! (Part 2)

I don't know what would have happened had I stayed in college. I don't know if I would have been able to tackle the depression and finish school successfully. I ask myself "what if?" every single day. It's almost torturous to think that I could have graduated almost 5 years ago. I think back on college, and my first feeling is a sour burn in the pit of my stomach. There were so many great times in college, so many great things that God did in my life during that period of time. The sad thing? I can't bring myself to find joy in any of them, because the word stamped over every single one of them is "wasted". I was watching a video last night, and realized that for the past 5 years I have felt thrown away. I have convinced myself that somehow, somewhere, I failed, and God flunked me out. I have dug through the trash over and over again, looking for my old quizzes, looking for the one with the big red "F" stamped on it, but I can't find it and it's driving me crazy. If only I could retake it! If only I could go back and fight! If only He'd give me another chance...I'd fail again. The funny thing is, saying "I'd fail again" makes me smile. It lightens a load. Here's the truth: GOD KNEW I WOULD FAIL. He totally knew the whole time, every single thing that I was going to do. Every single decision, and every single road I was going to take. He allowed me to complete 96 credit hours at Texas A&M University - He even knew I'd get the Aggie ring! - and not graduate. And yet knowing that whole time that I was going to fail and run home, did God ever ONCE throw up His arms and say "it's not even worth it!"? Not once... My time in college was amazing. I can honestly say it was the most precious time I've ever had with my Lord. For three years, I had so much quiet time - my Bible got so literally torn up! I spent so much time with the Lord, soaking up His grace and His joy and His peace. I was romanced by Jesus. I remember so many nights where I'd just walk through campus and find a quiet place under the stars, and I would worship Him. I would pray, and then I would read and receive, and then I'd pray again, and receive some more. God poured out so much love on me, knowing that I would fall further from Him. Knowing what I would be at this moment right now, God still loved me as much as He did then. And as much as He did then, He still does today. I have wasted so much time living in the past. I can't count the times I've said "I used to be so much better", almost mournfully as if I've died! I cannot express the joy that floods my soul when I think about this: as much as God desired to pour out His love on me while I was doing great things, He desires to pour out His love on me while I'm still stuck in the mud. He did NOT leave me behind. The only reason why I can't see Him is because I'm stuck in the mud, I'm looking down, and God is NOT in the mud!!! God's been slowly trying to wake me up for the past several months. It's been a process, almost like my sight is slowly coming back, and it's thrilling. I watched this video last night and I want to post it because it gave me so much hope and started this whole thought process. It doesn't matter how many times you've read the Word, it is so scary how quickly you can fall into believing that God has forgotten you or is done with you. This video reminded me that I do not have to sit here and wait for my joy and my peace. As much as I'm hurting, I can choose to resume my marathon - chasing Jesus. "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him..." (Lamentations 3:21-25)

Waking up! (Part 1)

If I haven't mentioned it before, I've struggled with depression for the past five and a half years. Sometimes it has been worse, sometimes better, but it's always been there. Every day has been a fight - but let me back up. I constantly replay in my mind what happened five and a half years ago to throw me, almost overnight, into a deep depression. I've discussed it with friends and family, and there are several theories. In June of 2006 I went to China for six weeks with a group to teach English to Middle School teachers. (That's actually when I started this blog, and you can read all of my blogs leading up to China and throughout my experience there.) It was probably the single most amazing experience I have ever had, topped only by the birth of my children. Upon leaving China, the organization we went with warned us that some people experience depression upon returning home. This could partly be caused by the drastic change in environment, or from leaving such an incredible Mt. Sinai experience only to come back to normal life as it was. I was convinced that would not be an issue for me - who could be depressed after being apart of such an awesome purpose? After coming back, I returned to college within a few weeks and resumed life for about two months before the depression knocked me out of that life. Another theory given to me by a friend, was during a conversation in which she asked me if I entered any temples while in China. I told her, yes, specifically we visited a Buddhist temple. We met the Buddhist monks, and were given a tour of the shrines, altars, and numerous statues of their gods. She offered that maybe my spirit was oppressed by something I picked up while there. A third theory, that I have only discussed in my head, is that after coming back to college, a lot of my friendships were significantly altered. I do hesitate to say this could throw me into such a complete depression - I never thought myself so vulnerable and easily defeated, but I will also say that whether or not it was the cause of my situation, it was very hard on me. I have always felt like a loner, and even in my closer group of friends, felt on the outer ring. I was okay with this, and settled for that position, but when my even closest friendships started to dissipate, I felt very alone. Because of some drama from the semester before, I started out that year living on my own. It was in that solitary space of my efficiency apartment that the intense fear and visions would attack. It didn't take long for the depression to overcome me. I remember one night I was alone in my apartment, and the mental struggle became so intense that I ran out of my apartment and went across the street to the mall. I called my mom and broke down sobbing to her, explaining everything I had been experiencing. She advised that I get some rest for the night and leave in the morning to come home for the weekend. I knew that I couldn't stay in my apartment alone for the night, so I grabbed a few things from my apartment and left that night to return home. I stayed in San Antonio for at least a week or two, and only returned with my parents and a U-Haul to withdraw myself from college, and move my things back home. I gave up. I saw Goliath growling and snarling at me, and I looked down at my little stones, and turned and ran home.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Next Chapter Please!

Ah HA! I remembered to blog before it hit a year since my last! WHOOP for progress! We are now (drumroll please)....ALASKANS! Yep, we did it - we moved all the way from San Antone to North Pole Alaska, home of Jolly Ol' St Nick. It is COOOLLLLD! At first, I thought it was all nice and breezy, yay for snow, yay for a White Christmas! It is now hitting single digits, some days negative numbers, and we are still only at the beginning of November. It hits as low as -60 here!! So yeah, I am getting a little nervous. I hope we are prepared for that! I'm just so excited about this new chapter. Our life has just changed drastically because of this move. I am no longer working. I started an at home daycare, but am still in the process of trying to find clients, which is slightly frustrating. I know that God will provide, because I know that God brought us here. It was very clear the way everything happened, and how smoothly everything fell into place. Within about 2-3 weeks of finding out about the job opportunity up here, Danny got the job and flew up to start. He came out by himself in order to start working and get a place for us, and I stayed in San Antonio with the girls to finish up everything down there. Danny quickly found us a beautiful 5 bedroom home to rent. We needed the extra space for an at home daycare, and it was definitely a God-send. The move has been so good for our family. Being at home has given me much more time to think about our lifestyles and habits. This past week, I got back on track with my weightloss journey, hopefully re-starting for the last time! I'm very focused and cautious this time, taking one day at a time. If you want to read more about that, you can read my weightloss blog called "Losing Me". I've also been able to slow down and take care of my family. After I had Lyssa, my work schedule changed to nights so that I could be home with the girls during the day. It was so hectic for me, to take care of the girls and house during the day, have dinner ready before I left at 4:30, and then work from 5:00 - 10:00 and sometimes later. I was always so overwhelmed and exhausted. I give so much credit to single mothers who have no choice but to work full time and still maintain their households. I had Danny, so I can't even imagine having to do that on your own. I don't know how long we'll be in Alaska. We may be here a few years and then decide to move on, or we may find that we love it here and decide to settle down here permanently. So far, I'm loving it. I definitely miss my family, and I miss the convenience of living in a large city, where there are so many options and everything is 5 minutes away. There's something to say for the simplicity of a small town, however. Especially when you only live a few miles away from Santa Claus!

Princess

For some reason Caitlyn has been on a Princess hype for the past 3 days or so. Everyday she has insisted on wearing her Cinderella dress. The first day she just woke up, as if straight out of a dream, and ran out of her room, carrying her dress and yelling "I want to be a princess!!!". She kept saying it until I put her dress on for her. As soon as she was majestically clothed, her whole demeanor changed. She stood up straight, her face glowing with the uninhibited smile of a girl who knows she is beautiful, and she began to carefully twirl around, as if she were donning the most expensive and precious garment ever made. At every mealtime, she would ask to take her dress off so that it didn't get dirty. As soon as she was finished eating, however, she'd jump out of her seat, grab her dress, and run to me yelling "I want to be a princess!!". Throughout the day I kind of took advantage of the situation, using it to correct her behavior. For example, when she grabbed a toy out of Lyssa's hands, I told her "Caitlyn, that is not how princesses act." Caitlyn immediately understood, and gave her little sister the toy back, smiling and exclaiming "here you go, Sis!". I smiled and told her "Thank you, Princess Caitlyn! What a good princess you are!". From that moment on, Caitlyn no longer just wanted to be a princess, she believed she was a princess. I called her "Princess Caitlyn" and she started to address me as "Princess Mommy". The next day, Caitlyn didn't hesitate to wake with the same aspirations for the day. Again, she wanted to be a princess, and in order to do that, she needed to put on her gown. So I obliged, and she was once again transformed into a glowing beauty. Not long after, however, Danny discovered that her dress had a fray in the bottom that was starting to tear and drag on the floor. He pulled off the dress and told her that she'd have to wait to wear her dress again until Mommy could fix it. I was in the kitchen doing dishes when I heard her world ending. She was destroyed, and just exploded with emotions. "I'm not a princess!!!" she cried. I cannot describe what those words did to my heart at that moment. Hearing my baby girl, my princess, screaming that she wasn't a princess - you could have torn my heart out and it wouldn't have felt any worse. I immediately left the kitchen, and, finding the dress, started to fix it. As her little heart was breaking, I assured her that she was a princess, and that she didn't need her dress to be one. She was not convinced until I fixed her dress and slipped it back on over her clothes. Again, her face immediately changed, and as if waking from a wonderful dream to find it all real , she exclaimed, "I AM a princess!" I watched my beautiful little girl dance happily away and felt this extreme uneasiness in my heart. My thoughts raced. Lord, how do I make my daughters believe their worth? How do I teach them to trust how valuable they are, despite what they can see or feel on the outside? How do I convince them that they are princesses, even without the dress, without the prince, without the horse-drawn carriage, without the castle? These thoughts have been weighing on me since that happened, until today when the truth just kind of came out and stung me in the middle of nowhere. For the past several years, inside my heart and my mind, I have been screaming over and over again the exact same words that Caitlyn did- "I am NOT a princess!". Now, to most women, the idea of being a princess is entirely silly, but as a Christian woman, it is the core of who we are and what we are to claim as our own. Our God is our King, and we are his daughters. We are the Princesses of God. I am God's princess, but for the past 5 years, I have been hysterically crying inside myself, exclaiming that I am not. Five years ago, I stopped going to church, and gradually stopped reading the Bible. My prayers became less frequent, and my life became less purpose-driven. I took off my princess dress, told God "I am not a princess", and walked out of the castle. I have forgotten who I am, and almost haven't cared, because I know that whoever I used to be, I'm not that girl anymore. Even if I wanted to be that girl again, I can't. I don't have my princess dress. If only Caitlyn knew what I was thinking when she was screaming out that she wasn't a princess. You are my princess! You are my beautiful, beautiful princess! You are worth far more to me than this silly dress, and the only reason I give you the dress is because of how much I love you. I give you the dress to wear so that you may see yourself the way I see you, the way I know you truly are. God did not save me because I went to church, or because I read my Bible or prayed. He didn't choose to save me because I had joy and strong faith. He saved me because I was His princess. I was His princess who didn't know my own identity. He gave me my princess dress because I was already a princess. Putting my old clothes on is not going to change the fact that I am His princess. It may change the way others see me, and it may even cause me to blend in with everyone else. But it will never change my identity as a daughter of the King. By taking off my princess dress, all I did was give up the advantages I have in being daughter of royalty. I gave up my joy, and I gave up my peace. It's been a long time since I've seen that dress. Though I let my dress suffer a little more than a simple fray, I'm pretty sure God's fixed it by now. I can see Him now, reaching into the huge wardrobe for a dress to outfit another daughter, longingly pulling mine out and setting it aside. I know He's just waiting for me to wake up and come running down the hallway yelling "I want to be a princess!!!" I also know that once I do, He will lovingly dress me in the beautiful robes of His Righteousness, and I will once again have my joy and my peace. I know that I will immediately stand up straight, my face glowing, and begin to carefully twirl around, donning the most precious garment ever made.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Growing Family

So it's been two years since my last post...I'm progressively getting worse at blogging. Caitlyn is now a wonderful two year old, and Ta-DA!, we have another addition. Lyssa Nicole Fields was born on October 7th, 2010. She weighed 7 lbs 13 oz, was 20" long, and (like her big sister) was born via c-section. The plan was to attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section), but even though I was having contractions, and went almost a full day thinking I was going into labor, nothing progressed. When Lyssa was born, my OB informed me that her cord was wrapped around her neck, which was probably the reason nothing was progressing. Again, God had a reason for not giving me the birth I expected. Caitlyn is a great big sister. She calls the baby "sissa" and is so loving. Lyssa is quickly growing up already. She is 3 1/2 months old (15 weeks old yesterday). She is so alert - there has never been a time when she's not in the mood to laugh and coo. Danny is still an amazing Daddy - actually he's gotten much better too! Caity has become Daddy's girl. Lyssa is still Mommy's girl for now -if she's like her sister, though, around her first birthday she'll cross over to the dark side, haha. I think that's because as they get older they interact more with Daddy and like to play and be flipped around and carried on his shoulders, etc. Caitlyn is also a little girly-girl. She just had her 2nd birthday party, where the girls all dressed up as princesses and danced and played around. It was also my first attempt at a barbie cake. My grandmother Mulholland used to make them for us as little girls. Mine was dressed as Cinderella, and I was mucho proud of it. Not bad for my first, I'd like to think. :) Danny and I are closer than ever. I think we understand eachother so much more. He is also growing and becoming a man's man. He encourages me when I'm discouraged, and more recently he's becoming more self-disciplined and setting a good example in that. Recently we were having a disagreement and I (not proud of it) was starting to bring up completely irrelevant things. His usual response is to get all wound up, but this time he just calmly said "you know what, you're just trying to get me going, so I'm not going to even respond to that". It actually took me by surprise and kind of put me in check, because he was completely right. This year is starting out with a lot of changes. I am starting another blog called "Losing Me". It's going to be centered around our attempt to make a major lifestyle change in the area of diet and overall health. So far Danny has lost 20 lbs. Not only have I lost all of the weight I gained with Lyssa, but also about 10 more lbs. I'm also hoping the new blog part of it will cause me to also keep this personal blog updated. I'm so excited and so proud of our growing family. Hopefully I'll update at least a few times before we have our next child. We plan on two more - hopefully both boys...we'll see what God has planned. ;p

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