Category Archives: Faith & Motherhood

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Whatever Wednesday: Things I’m Afraid To Tell You

In 2011, I dove out of my life, headlong into a brand new one. I still have no idea where that life is going but I can tell you that it’s been a hell of a journey.

There were days when I wasn’t quite sure who I was. Days when I fell apart and didn’t want to get out of bed. Days when I reached the bottom, wanted to delve even further, and never come back up for air. There were days when I didn’t want to breathe. Days when I sat, for what seems like forever, in front of my netbook, begging my brain to cooperate so I can write something for this blog. Yet nothing comes so I write for other websites about non-postpartum issues.

After all of this, I finally know who I am. I like who I am.

Here’s the thing I’m afraid to tell you and afraid to tell myself but I’m going to say it anyway – I have no idea how to merge who I used to be with who I am now. I’m at a crossroads, foot firmly on the brake, unable to move forward in any direction.

Frozen.

Do I need to merge the woman I used to be with the woman I am now? Is it necessary for me to move forward? Has the merge already happened as I have grown over the past year? How do I continue to do what I do here as a single woman and no longer an active full time parent? Am I still qualified to provide advice and support? Are my experiences negated now that I have stepped out of the very life which caused them?

These are the thoughts which race through my head. The thoughts which give me reason to stop and wonder about the very future of my blog….about my future. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I fought for my identity as me. Now,  I fight as me for my identity as a mother.

I have no doubt that the future which awaits me is filled with joy, happiness, love, and peace. A future in which I will no longer be lost to myself or to those closest to me. It is faith which has carried me this far and faith which will carry me until my days in this world are done. This is all I know, all I need to know. Learning to fully trust faith, to fully trust the plan laid out for my life, however, is the challenge I face now.

I am learning to lean hard on God with every day. In His time, I will understand and find my answers. Until then…I will wait, with joy in my heart, clinging to hope and fighting the ever closer creeping fear with fierce prayers emanating from my very soul.

This post written as part of a movement, Things I Am Afraid to Tell You. I realize it’s supposed to be more of a list, but this is how mine came out and I am okay with that.

You can find more brave bloggers sharing what they’re afraid to tell you here.

Faith & Motherhood: On Grief

We can plan all we want for how we want our lives to go. But then life happens and our plans fly out the window. We are left to improvise. Sometimes improvising hurts. Figuring out which way to go when a sudden change of plans strikes can be hard. But when we learn to lean on God no matter what, those sudden changes soften a little bit even if they seem harsh at first.

This morning I woke to the news of my Great Aunt’s passing. No one plans for phone calls like this.

My phone and I went into the front yard. I sat down, in between two humongous pine trees, sun shining down on my back, and cried. I sat there for nearly two hours. Wailing at first, then every so often my tears would just well up with tears until they couldn’t hold them back and tears would slowly slide down my face as I sat there, listening to the birds, watching the squirrels scamper, avoiding falling caterpillars, and chasing away tiny spiders from my feet. The wind softly played with my hair as well as with the trees. I sat there…. breathing. Taking in the sharp green of the surrounding trees, the echoes of life, breathing. For two hours, I got to just be.

My husband brought me a blanket and a cup of coffee. Apparently I sat in the sunshine for almost an hour despite the 50 degree weather.

Grief makes you do strange things.

In those moments outside, as I sat there, a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders, I felt so alone and abandoned.

Thing is, I was not alone.

God sat there with me.

He held me, comforted me, and provided a warm, safe place in which I could mourn.

Friends offered condolences.

My children offered hugs and giggles when I got inside.

I’m still struggling to accept that she is gone.

I know right now we are working on the Shelter of God’s Promises but instead of writing from the book today, I needed to share this.

Today, I tried to live in the Shelter of God’s Promise.  It was not perfect. But it worked. Not all day, but it worked.

And that, my dear readers, is progress toward learning to live in the Shelter of God’s Promises.

Faith & Motherhood: Introduction to The Shelter of God’s Promises Study

A song of ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121, New International Version, ©2011)

Over the past few years I have lifted my eyes toward the heaven to plead for help. He has thrown a lot at us in a short seven years. Two episodes of Postpartum Mood Disorder, depression during pregnancy, relocating,  a daughter with a cleft palate, an unexpected pregnancy, a totaled vehicle, jail, addiction recovery, and then there’s regular life on top of all of those extreme issues.

We have managed to come through all of it. Not unscathed, but still together. As a family. It is because He has carried us. Through all of this, He has been teaching us. Perhaps we are a bit slow to catch on but with each new challenge a wisdom from our previous situation has been applicable. Through Him, we have learned that God is truly our “shade at your right hand.” He is the reason we have been kept from true harm, the reason we have been safe even in the midst of what has seemed like hell.

Along the way, He has allowed us to witness the beauty of our daughter’s growth as she overcomes the challenges faced because of her cleft palate. The strength our five year old holds within her is more beautiful than anything I have ever or ever will witness. The determination she shows as she speaks each word with deliberate precision is more determination than most people ever hold within them in their entire lives.

Within the past few weeks, Sheila Walsh has been promoting her new book, The Shelter of God’s Promises, on Twitter.

I realized that the past few years have literally been lived within that shelter provided so unfailingly by God. Yes, it’s been hard. Yes, there have been times when the wind has whipped at us, when the rain has driven through us and chilled us to the bone, but we have had shelter. We have been safe. Fed, comforted, loved, carried, and protected even when we have not been able to feel His presence. We have not been alone. God has been there, always. He always will be there. He will never forsake you, even if you forsake Him. And that? Is a very powerful realization.

I have only read the introduction of The Shelter of God’s Promises but it struck home. Sheila talks about a trip she and two friends took into a mountain. In the middle of the night, a mountain sheep decided to sleep on top of her tent, causing her to seek shelter elsewhere in the middle of storm. But in the morning when she awoke, she was greeted by a gorgeous sunrise and day. God put her there to see the beauty he created, to show her that no matter what, He was her shelter. I am blessed to have the same shelter in Him. Grateful, beyond belief.

Where is your shelter? Do you feel comforted by His presence even in the face of all that swirls around you? Is there something you could do to move closer to living in the Shelter of God’s Promises? What one thing will you do this week to move closer to the shelter He offers you?

Faith & Motherhood: Upcoming Bible Study

 

It’s a lazy Sunday around here. We stayed home from church this morning (I know, I know). I would have stayed home regardless due to strep throat. The family didn’t go because well, it’s been pretty stormy here and they did not want to be out and about in a downpour. I can’t say that I blame them. Sometimes, it’s best to stay home and enjoy a quiet day at home.

When I was a little girl, I listened to a lot of Christian music. Among the Christian artists I really loved was one in particular – Sheila Walsh. Imagine my surprise when my daughter received a Little Princess devotional written by none other than Sheila Walsh. I had no idea she had begun writing devotionals.

Then, I discovered she was on Twitter.

Oh my heart.

She’s quirky, inspirational, compassionate, and all around awesome. I love this woman to pieces.

Lately, she’s been promoting her most recent book, The Shelter of God’s Promises. I checked it out on Amazon and really liked what I saw. The reviews were excellent too. I rushed out to a local store to purchase it and started reading. It got set aside due to sick kids, life, etc. But I want to dive back into it. And I want you to dive in with me.

So here’s the deal:

Pick up a copy of The Shelter of God’s Promises by Sheila Walsh either through Amazon or your local bookstore. For me, it was cheaper to get it locally plus I didn’t have to pay shipping. Start reading. In two weeks, on April 10, I’ll start with the introduction. I won’t be going too in depth as far as content of the book but will instead be focusing on my reaction to the book and the lessons it offers. I hope you’ll read along with me and start a discussion in the comments.

I can’t wait to begin exploring The Shelter of God’s Promises with you. I have a feeling it will be a very powerful study. Life-changing for some, even.

Faith & Motherhood: Faith, Mercy, & Miracles

 

Today’s post is fabulously crafted by Jess Arias Cooper from Mama’s Got Flair. Jess is a saucy chick and someone I am proud to call a friend in this land called the Internet. We can be ourselves with each other – sharing things we rarely share with others yet somehow feel comfortable enough sharing with each other. Every woman deserves at least one friend like Jess on the Interwebs. Someone they can share their secrets with and yet laugh at something inane as a multi-colored, multi-shaped mullet the very next second. She’s a heartfelt snark, this one. I was beyond thrilled when Jess agreed to write a post for Faith & Motherhood here. Her post is moving beyond words.

Today’s post may be triggering for some of my more sensitive and fragile readers as it deals with infant loss. So if you’re feeling fragile today, you may want to skip this one and read it another day.

Jess’ post truly exemplifies living in God’s grace and finding faith even in the darkest of corners. I am so blessed to have this amazing woman call me friend. Now I’ll stop writing and let her words fill your mind and heart.

 

I didn’t understand or appreciate faith, miracles and mercy until I lost my infant son in 2004.

My son, Aiden, was born 11 weeks premature by emergency cesarean. The second half of my pregnancy had been a rough one, to put it mildly, and my life was literally on the line. Though the doctors gave us as much time “together” as they could, my liver was failing and a tough decision had to be made.

Because I’d been so sick with preeclampsia and HELPP syndrome, my darling Aiden was born at an astonishing one pound, five ounces. In fact, he wasn’t much larger than a Barbie doll. Besides his miniature stature, he was also born with a rare condition known as Townes-Brocks Syndrome.

Townes-Brocks is generally a genetic condition, but in our case, it was one of those one in a billion flukes that randomly occurs in nature. My son had a wide variety of physical differences from the average baby, but I refuse to call them “birth defects.” In my eyes, despite his extra thumb, unusually shaped head and ears and disconnected digestive system, he was the absolute vision of perfection.

My husband and I tried for years to get pregnant, and Aiden was the beautiful answer to an unfathomable number of prayers.

I thanked God for every day Aiden grew bigger, stronger and more alert. I sat beside his little bed in the NICU, day in and day out, paced waiting rooms during his surgeries and loved that boy more with every beat of his heart.

Still, as he grew stronger, new things were being added to his list of diagnoses nearly every day. Hearing impairments. Brain damage. The list of Aiden’s differences continued to grow, and I prayed even harder for God to bring us a miracle and heal my poor sick, little boy.

It became clearer every day, that a few surgeries wouldn’t “fix” the problems that Aiden was bound to face for the rest of his life. And when my boy would become a man, with even the best outcomes to all the treatments that modern medicine had to offer, he would have to tell the women in his life that there was a strong possibility that, should they have a child together, he or she would endure the effects of Townes-Brocks Syndrome as well.

I had faith in God. I never felt that Aiden or my family was being punished. I trusted in his mercy. I had faith that he would reach out to my son and ease his suffering.

And He did.

Though, not how my heart had prayed for. On April 24, 2004, Aiden went to heaven.

I, of course, didn’t see the miracle and mercy at first. I was grief-stricken. The pain in my heart was heavy, yet I felt empty. I felt punished. My faith was tested in such an extreme way, I was angry.

But one day, as I was talking to God, asking to make sense of all the pain, I realized that the Lord had answered my prayers. He eased Aiden’s suffering. He was merciful. He reached out and made my son whole.

Aiden was spared a lifetime of painful struggle. His ears were spared the snickers and whispers of uninformed human cruelty. He wasn’t held captive in a body that wouldn’t do the things he longed to do. God is good. God is merciful.

I still struggle with grief and my arms continue to yearn for the embrace of my oldest son. I still find myself wondering what he’d be like if he were here with me. But that is a mother’s heart. I’m only human. I miss my son and look forward to the day when we’re united once again.

And, with my faith, I know that day will come. It will be a long time from now, as I have been blessed with three other sons to guide and care for. But, I know, someday, I’ll see my angel, Aiden, again.

Because God is good.

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Faith & Motherhood: Power, Love, and Self-Discipline

When I first experienced Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, my relationship with God was not what it should have been. I still prayed. Occasionally. I did not fear reading bible verses. I knew God was out there. Somewhere. But I was not actively seeking Him. I was not running from Him either. We had become roommates, God and I. Drifters in the night, one of us (me) barely acknowledging the other. Little did I know that my life would begin to change so drastically as I spiraled downward.

We lived in rural South Carolina during the my pregnancy and through the first five months of our oldest daughter’s life. No family nearby, no social support, no friends, no real knowledge of Postpartum Mood Disorders, an existence of ignorance of PMD’s within the local community – you see where I am going with this. Everything was right for me to experience a PMD. This is not to say that every woman who has these factors surrounding her will struggle but they do increase her risk.

With this perfect storm surrounding me, I succumbed to it’s power.

I worked at first to deal with everything on my own. I failed spectacularly for three glorious months. Then I sought help. My doctor denied my Postpartum and refused to help me. He did refer me to the in-house therapist but they kept rescheduling. At the time, I got angry. I felt so alone. Abandoned. Betrayed. Hurt. I had nowhere to turn.

If only I had opened my eyes then.

We moved back to Georgia, near my husband’s family, when our daughter was 5 months old. At first I was grateful for the help. But even then, I was not able to be fully appreciative. Relaxing? Hah. Totally out of the question. I lived filled with fear and anxiety triggered by my intrusive thoughts. Then we got pregnant again. My emotions continued to worsen through my pregnancy. Our second daughter was born with a cleft palate and spent a month in the NICU. Once again, a perfect storm slammed onto my shores.

During our daughter’s NICU stay, the first few verses of James became stuck in my head. In particular, verse 2 & 3. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” I finally opened to hearing the Word of God. We had begun to attend church a bit more regularly and leaned harder on our Church family as we struggled to come to grips with our daughter’s NICU stay and all the issues which lay ahead of us.

I know you may feel lost right now. I felt lost too. Completely lost.

God did not build us that way. Yes, we must get lost sometimes in order to find ourselves – even Jesus wandered in the wilderness. In order to walk strongly in faith, love, and have a strong sense of self-discipline, we must first be taught how to have faith, how to love, and how to practice self-discipline. I questioned my faith. I questioned why I had been left to wander in this wilderness. Now that I am a little over four years beyond my last brush with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, I see why I had to wander. I wandered so that my faith would be made strong, my ability to love myself and others grew immensely, and my ability to practice self-discipline toward myself and others also matured. For this, I am grateful. Yet still, I would not wish a PMD on my worst enemy. My faith, love, and self-discipline continues to grow, and I am re-assured on a daily basis by God that He will never forsake me. Faith, just as healing, takes time. If you feel you have lost your faith, please do not despair. You may not feel Him there but He is there, waiting for you to call for Him to carry you.

Faith & Motherhood: Lean Hard

Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee.

~Psalms 55:22~

Not too long ago, as I was cleaning out a closet, I came across a Bible I used as a child. I had not seen this Bible in a very long time. Flipping through it undiscovered a further treasure. A handwritten note by my Grandmother Jane, who passed away several years ago.

The note is entitled “Lean Hard” and begins with the above verse. Turns out it is a poem written by May Prentiss Smith.

Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;
I know thy burden, child, I shaped it;
Poised it in My own hand, made no proportion
in its weight to thine unaided strength;
For even as I laid it on, I said
I shall be near, and while he leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not his;
So shall I keep My child within the circling
arms of My own love.
Here lay it down, nor fear to impose it on a
shoulder which upholds the government of
worlds.
Yet closer come; thou art not near enough;
I would embrace thy care so I might feel My
child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I know it. Doubt not then;
But, loving Me, Lean Hard.”
~May Prentiss Smith~

As Mothers, we are often the ones to whom our children rely upon when they are scared, upset, or need comforting. Once within the safety of our arms, our children will often nestle their heads on our chests. They find solace with us, instinctively. So it should be in our relationship with the Lord.

Whenever I find myself struggling in my faith for the Lord, I think of my children. When they hurt, are scared, or need comforting, they run to me without question. Inside my arms are where they feel safe. Therefore, when I am scared, hurt, or need comforting, I should also seek comfort within the arms of the Lord just as simply as my children do with me.

Despite my experience with Postpartum Depression which is supposed to interfere with bonding, my children still seek solace in my arms. Even though we have faced challenges together, we still cling to each other and to the Lord. We have learned to lean hard in our times of need. At first it was a hard action for me to learn. Gradually it was easier and easier until eventually leaning hard was a reflex instead of an afterthought.

Just as with any other habit – it takes time to develop. Many research says it takes a minimum of 21 days to develop a new routine or habit. For the next 21 days, make it a habit to pray and give to God anything which worries you or makes you anxious. Ask Him to help you lean hard upon him in your time of need as well as in your time of cheer. Eventually, you’ll be doing this without even thinking about it. He will carry you through your storms. He wants to carry you through your storms. It’s up to you to let Him carry you as you carry your child when they need you most. Take a deep breath and fall into His breast. Let His arms encircle you. Feel the warmth of His love build within your heart and soul. The change trusting in the Lord will make in your life is immeasurable.

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Faith & Motherhood: 02.13.11: On Feeling Forsaken

We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them.

~Charles C. West~

Just as mechanics kick the tires when evaluating a vehicle, carpenters shake foundations, kick legs, make sure they’re strong and will withstand the wear and tear that life will bring their way.

Sometimes? God does that with us.

Every so often, He shakes our foundations to make sure we’re awake. To make sure that we are growing strong in Him as we journey through life.

It’s not fun when God shakes your foundations. Sometimes He shakes them until they break. Then we are left to decide if we will rebuild.

The thing is? God knows what we will do before we do. And He is there to help us do it. He’s got the plans, the tools, the nails, the screws, the crew, everything.

We just have to ask.

Every day, all day, every day.

Even then, though, the help we ask for may not appear in the manner we expect.

Prayer, while an important aspect of recovery for a woman rooted in faith, should not be the only tool used to fight depression.

God may send help in the form of an awesome therapist, a non-judgmental friend, medication, herbal remedies, etc.

What’s not okay is for someone to use your faith to make you feel guilty about your depression.

God often took strong men and women and put them in perilous situations in order to grow their strength. Think of Job, Esther, Jonah, Daniel, David, and many more.

I leave you today with Bible verses that kept me thankful for every single thing which happened after the birth of my second daughter. These verse soothed my soul during the month she spent in the NICU. It soothed my soul as I spent time in a psychiatric ward. I carried them with me everywhere I went.

The verses are from James 1:2-4:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Know that my prayers are with you as you find yourself tested by God. I know first hand it is not an easy place in which to be, especially when you have little ones who so desperately need you and cling to your every waking moment.

He is there with you even if you cannot sense His presence. He may be carrying you. He may be waiting for you to call upon Him but He is there, oh yes, He is there. He is always there. That’s the easy part. The hard part is trusting Him with it all, waiting, and listening for His answers. They may not be what you expected them to be but they will always be just what you need them to be right when you need them.

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Faith & Motherhood: An Introduction

Good morning.

Today marks the beginning of a new Sunday Series here at My Postpartum Voice, Faith & Motherhood. I’m glad you’re here.

When I began my journey down Postpartum’s dark path, I had strayed from my faith. Little did I know that God had plans for my path through the dark woods of Postpartum. His plans ultimately brought me back to Him showing me I had not strayed nearly as far as I thought. For this, I am thankful.

Maybe some of you reading know me via Twitter. Perhaps you’ve seen me say I’ll pray for this person or that person. I mean it. I pray right then and there and add them to the daily list of things I pray about throughout my day as God speaks to me and moves me to pray.

I also believe in meeting people where they are at the moment in which they enter my life. It is not my job to judge, hate, or dismiss. As a Christian, I am to love, listen, learn, and grow in God. I believe we are all family and therefore I am to love each and every one of you as if you were my sister or brother, regardless of your current state. I do this because I know that once upon a time, God loved me regardless of my current state. Loving those around me is the least I can do in gratitude.

As I moved toward supporting new Mothers struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders, I struggled with the question of faith’s role in my own recovery. Do I talk about it? Do I keep quiet? Do I make the meetings secular? Non-secular? How do I answer the questions about what got me through my darkest days? Do I have the meetings at a church? Will that make non-Christian women feel unwelcome? What do I do? I needed answers.

Then, as if to answer all of those questions and so much more, God put Tara Mock in my life. Tara Mock founded the website Out of the Valley Ministries, a Christian-based website for women with Postpartum Mood Disorders. Through email correspondence with Tara, the role of faith in my recovery became easier and easier to discuss with her, with others. I grew bolder and stronger.

Through Tara, I came in contact with Sue McRoberts, author of The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained me through Postpartum Depression. She sent me her book which I devoured in a single sitting. Sue’s book is one of the only books I know of which deals directly with Postpartum depression from the Christian perspective. Sue opens up about her experience and details how her faith carried her through. If you are a Christian woman struggling with Postpartum Depression, I strongly recommend this book.

Even though God put these two amazing women in my life, I still struggled with talking about my faith once I started to blog. I have mentioned it a time or two in relation to my husband’s battle with addiction and possibly once or twice in relation to my Postpartum recovery. More and more though, I have come across blog posts from moms talking about their faith and how it relates to Postpartum Mood Disorders. They have been increasing in number. In fact, this week’s Postpartum Voice talks about faith.

I feel that it’s finally time for me to address the issue of faith and Postpartum Mood Disorders on a regular basis here at My Postpartum Voice. To continue to ignore this topic would be akin to silencing a large part of who I am. If you’re a regular reader here, you know I’m not a big fan of silencing any part of anyone.

I will be addressing the Christian faith specifically when I post. I hope to find regular contributors to share their point of view based on their faith or their culture’s faith. Faith plays a large part in many lives and therefore in many women who struggle with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Their faith may reject them for their struggle, judge them, play into their guilt, steer them away from valuable therapies which they need to recover, or it may be their solace. Whatever the case may be, I believe the faith aspect of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety plays a large role in a family’s recovery.

I look forward to exploring this topic with you each Sunday!