Ethnicity: A good different

I’m digging through the archives of blog drafts that I never posted, and realizing, I’m too critical of what I actually decide to publish.  I also happen to be in a personal season of letting go of my need for things to be “perfect” and just freaking showing up. Present over Perfect. So here’s my post, completely unrelated to that little ditty, one year later…

This morning Maddox figured out his ethnicity. I witnessed the light bulb coming on in his head. At the age of 7, the revelation went like this:
“Hey Mom, when I was little were my curls this long?”
“You didn’t have curls when you were a baby.”
“Were you freaked out when my hair started to curl?”
“Well no, because I kind of expected you would have curly hair.”
“Why?”
“Well, because, look at daddy’s hair. It is like really really little tiny curls. Most African Americans, or people with darker skin like daddy’s, have curly hair similar to that.
And look at Mommy’s hair. (Standing in front of the mirror with him in the bathroom). Most Caucasians, or people with mommy’s skin color, have straight hair or hair that feels more like Mommy’s.”

LIGHT BULB. Eyes twinkle.

“So I’m like a mix. Both black and white…. Oh yeah, because my skin is in between!”
“Yeah!”
“There aren’t many kids like me at my school…” (He says PROUDLY)  “most are either all black or all white.”
“Yep, you are really special Maddox.”
“He grins ear to ear.”

I pray he never loses this appreciation for being privileged enough to wear more than one ethnicity in God’s rainbow of colored people. I so wish we could all see ethnic differences through the eyes of children and be thankful for them. Differences period. Like my mom always said, “Variety is the spice of life.”

In all our teaching, let’s also remember to learn from our children.

Adoring my colorful family today…

Fathers Day 2016

 

Egg Carton Convos with God

It was this week, May 18th, one year ago when the Lord woke me up at 3am, and in a matter of moments, life would never be the same. I knew what lie ahead of me: I had a pregnancy test to take, which had definitely happened before. And it could be positive, which had also happened before. But would I get to see and hold this baby if it was?! Because I could miscarry, it had definitely happened before. My heart raced faster than my mind ticked with all the what ifs, but before I could even ask the Lord to calm my anxious thoughts, he interjected almost audibly:
“This is the day that Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

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And I’m pretty certain I knew then, that THIS time was going to be different.

I took the test:

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After telling my husband the news, we were both filled with such shock and excitement that we couldn’t possibly sleep.

So we decided a super early breakfast was the next logical step, scrambled eggs and such at 4am. My hubby somewhat prides himself on handling breakfast almost daily, but this day I fetched his ingredients while he prepped the food. As I reached into the egg carton (the same Aldi egg carton that we always get), my eyes immediately settled on this:

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Printed on the inside of the egg carton was Psalm 118:24, “This is the Day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Wow. Just infinitely, incredibly, sovereignly wow. And a tangible peace and joy immediately clothed me.

He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to speak to me at all. But He definitely didn’t have to speak to me twice in 30 minutes. Yet He did. I was overwhelmed in that moment with how personally and tenderly He loves us. He KNEW I’d need a tangible confirmation that he’d in fact spoken to me when my eyes popped open this morning; that it hadn’t just been my mind making stuff up. Because when you experience sudden loss and grief, it does something to your ability to hope, to be glad. He knew I needed to know that He was in control and that he had good planned and that I could take heart and rejoice in this exciting news. So I had to take a picture, because I knew in that instant, this was an altar moment. One in which I was to worship and take joy. One that I would need a physical reminder of, so that I could recall the Lord’s faithfulness in the days ahead. And that I did. I returned to this altar moment almost daily. Through every step of my pregnancy, when doubt or fear tried to steal my joy, I was reminded that, “NO, God said to rejoice.”

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(To be extremely transparent here, when we married we were on the same page– no need to wait or prevent having another baby. But then the first miscarriage happened. And I grieved both the loss of the baby and the change of my husband’s heart. I was angry and hurting and grasping for what I thought would turn it all back around.)

The first two years of our married life were consumed with talk about babies. I’d certainly worn my husband out to death with my grief, pain and desires regarding the matter. Every month was a roller coaster, and in all my attempts to add joy to our marriage, I was probably sucking the life out of it 😒

BUT,  now I’d finally relinquished that desire to the Lord’s timing and set my husband’s heart toward that matter strictly in the Lord’s hands (not for my manipulating or persuading). In the couple months prior, I’d begun focusing hard on my health and my marriage. And I was truly content with that. We made plans to run a half marathon in CA and bought our plane tickets. THIS DAY being MADE was quite possibly the furthest thing from our minds. And low and behold, the Lord having a sense of humor, choose now to MAKE THIS DAY in the exact month when there was exactly one opportunity for it to have been made 😳😂☺️🙈.)

The Lord’s impeccable timing absolutely astounds me. Exactly one day before I was to take this test, my husband and I had returned from our friends’ wedding, and seemingly out of nowhere, James had shared with me that he’d had a conversation with a friend at the wedding…and then he proceeded to utter the words that my ears had longed to hear since our first miscarriage had completely rocked his world two years earlier: “I think I’m finally in a place where I’m ok with the idea of you getting pregnant.”

So it was settled. The Lord had given me every indication that this time was the real deal. And on top of that, He’d sovereignly chosen to express that His heart’s desire was for me to be glad and not fear. Sounds simple to some, but a heart that is gun shy isn’t quick to the trigger. AND HE KNEW ME. He didn’t want me to play it safe and avoid being excited for fear it would be stripped away. He didn’t want me to entertain thoughts of all that could go wrong to and allow it steal the joy he was sending. He wanted me to BE GLAD and to REJOICE, because THIS was the day that HE HAD MADE.

And only now can I see: He is faithful. He is trustworthy. He is all knowing. He knew better than I did. Because He knew our hearts. He knew what timing was best for both my husband and I. He knew the unity needed in our marriage foundation before he blessed us with another child. He knew the stripping away and rebuilding of character that He desired for each of us. And lest we be deceived into thinking we had control of when our family would grow, he knew the exact circumstances and timing to demonstrate that HE and HE alone gets the glory for being Creator and giver of new life! Oh! Won’t He will get His Glory?!

May 18, 2016, this happened:
We played with chew beads in the carpool line.
Glory to His Great Name!

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TOGETHER TO[GET]HER Freedom: Raising Awareness & Funds to Commemorate 1 Year’s Worth of Beauty

On this day exactly one year ago, I began this blog. My purpose in doing so was because I felt the Lord’s beckoning to see the beauty right where I was, and to believe in hope for the beauty that was to come out of all the “unbeautiful” my eyes saw in my life and in this world. October 15th also represents,  Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day, the day that we remember our Heaven Babies, the ones we never got to hold here on earth, yet radically changed our lives. That day, and this blog, were the beginning of a new journey for me. And as the Lord would have it, my soul has seen much transformation over the last year, and I once again find myself at the cusp of new season. My blogging frequency has been sparse at best, but that’s real life. There have been many real reasons why I couldn’t share in the moment what I was enduring {grieving, celebrating, fearing, hoping, believing}. Nevertheless, I find it appropriate to post the following on this, my 1 year anniversary of learning to both look for beauty in the present and to hope for the beauty that is not yet seen, but most certainly promised…

Exactly one month from today (on 11/15/15) my husband and I will be in Malibu, California on the beach. It’s a vision that I had at the beginning of 2015, but fittingly so when you walk with the Lord, this will look much different than what I’d originally envisioned… God’s plans are always lined with the “so much sweeter”!

At the beginning of the year, I was praying and praying about how I could make a greater impact on the lives of hurting people. How could I really put action behind all of the prayers I was praying. How could I bring tangible support for the concerns that kept me awake at night? For the men, women, and children who needed His rescue and restoration? One social injustice in particular that has broken my heart is the widespread terror of sex trafficking: and the many faces and ways in which has infiltrated our world wide society. From those who create the demand for it, to the those supplying it, and most horrifically, those falling victim to it. It disgusts me, it terrifies me, and it grieves my soul. It’s an epidemic to say the least. I just kept asking the Lord to please show me how I could DO MORE to join in the fight against it.

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At the time, I was working hard toward reclaiming my health. After two miscarriages in 2014, which lead to a downward spiral in every area of my health, I’d finally seen enough light to recognize that I’d fallen in a dark place and I’d been given all the FREEDOM in CHRIST to shine again. And that’s when it hit me: I’d been struggling with feeling like I just didn’t have much to offer this war on trafficking, but I had my body and I was freely able to choose how I used it.  I had everything I needed to reclaim my health. And what a victory it would be to use my FREEDOM to reclaim that health, for all the women and girls in this world that would give anything to have that kind of freedom to care for their bodies in such a way.

So there it was: I decided that this trek to a healthier me would end with an exclamation point in the form of running my 3rd Half Marathon, in an amazing place, on the last day of my 33rd year of life (11/15/15)! It was a big deal to me. Both a challenge and a reward at the end of two long years of fighting to see beauty. So I chose a big and beautiful setting: the Malibu International Half Marathon, ocean view from the PCH {Pacific Coast Highway} for the whole race. But it wasn’t solely for me, more importantly in my mind, I wanted to experience this victory on behalf of the victims of sex trafficking who have lost hope of ever experiencing such.  I wanted to raise awareness and funds on their behalf, and to do so backed by the excellence, expertise, and Christ-infused passion that characterizes an organization called A21 founded by Christine Caine.

A21 represents the vision of Abolishing human slavery in the 21st Century. There are over 27 Million people being held as slaves in our world today. This is a big and bold vision, birthed by a bigger and bolder God.  When I shared my plan to support this cause with my husband, he being the SAINT that he can quite frequently be, decided that he would make this his FIRST Half Marathon and that we’d do this together. So unbeknownst to me, he registered us both to run the race in March of this year. He has an uncanny knack for pushing me to actually pursue the larger than life  dreams I tend to toss around, and then all too often fall way short of chasing after…

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And almost as soon as I said that “YES” to the Lord…Cue the rest of GOD’s plans. LOL. In May, we learned the very unexpected {exciting and  honestly scary after two miscarriages} news that I was once again pregnant. MUCH more needs to be said on God’s goodness here, but that’s for posts to come. Suffice it to say, I sit here writing now at 26wks pregnant with a healthy little girl who’s face we cannot wait to lay eyes on in January!

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{Healthy as we both may be, 7 months pregnant and running a half marathon 2000 miles from home suddenly didn’t seem like the wisest plan for me}.

So now I find myself in a much different role than I’d originally anticipated, and I’ve found it to be a surprisingly sweet one…I get a tangible way of fulfilling my God-given role as my husband’s prime supporter! (And I don’t have to run all those miles- LOL). My husband has spent the last ten weeks in his “not-so-free-time” training to run the Malibu International Half Marathon BY HIMSELF, solely to fulfill the vision that I cast out into the world 8 months ago. What a a beautiful picture he’s painted for me of what Christ intended marriage to look like: a husband’s self-sacrificing love reciprocated by a wife’s greatest support and respect!

For the next month, I have two goals:
(1) TO BE MY HUSBAND’S GREATEST CHEERLEADER
and
(2) TO BE A VOICE for FREEDOM on behalf of the millions of sex trafficking and human trafficking victims around the world that A21 is working to bring freedom and restoration to…and I pray we can join TOGETHER TO[GET]HER Freedom.

Here is the link to read more about A21 and contribute to our fundraising efforts: https://www.a21.org/fundraising.php?id=871

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~ Dennika

My Motivation to Be Healthy

Brave Yes- Bikini 3

While I’d love to fit into that bikini again, that’s not where this post is going. I want way more than that…

Everyday of life is filled with lessons waiting to be learned, but I feel like last year was “life lesson bootcamp” in my life. I’ve decided to embrace this as a good thing. People sure do come out of bootcamp in extremely better shape mentally and physically than when they started; those who survive it anyway!  One of the lessons that’s been repeatedly (vividly & unmistakably) sent from above for me in the last year is that it’s time to get intentional with my physical health. Only my husband {bless his ridiculously patient & sweet soul} could count the many moments in the last year that I’ve sat in a puddle of tears feeling like my entire body had simultaneously decided to revolt against me. The entire year of life was marked by episode after episode that screamed I’m not in control and “my body needs help”. Two miscarriages, debilitating back problems, serious migraines, and one out-of-whack digestive system (not to mention reaching your personal out of pocket max on your sky-high insurance) will make you examine A LOT about life. Not so shockingly, the resounding question for me was: Am I doing everything I can to be as healthy as I can? The answer for me was: NO.

For me, the first miscarriage never caused me to question my health, it only rocked everything inside my soul. BUT the experience of seeing my body unable to do something TWICE that it once could do–bear a child–left me unable to ignore the idea that perhaps all of my body could use a little more support from all of my soul on being well cared for.

I’m not sure why I always have to learn lessons the painful way, but the Lord just seems to know I’m just that stubborn. I’m glad He still makes me learn them instead of leaving me on my own though…

I’ve never considered myself “unhealthy” per say. I exercise. (Consistently during some seasons and sporadically during others.) I eat pretty well, too. (Except for all the days I decide not to because I just don’t feel like it- sure “balance/moderation”- but I’m positive there was room for improvement.)

In between the two miscarriages, I also experienced more frequent debilitating migraines. Like the –knock you out for days, can’t stand the smell, sound, sight and definitely not taste of anything, lay deathly still in a dark room with super meds and never feel more like you’d rather die to be put out of your misery than keep enduring this– kind of headaches. I started watching for trends. That’s when I noticed that due to the emotional burdens I was carrying, the resulting stress and sugar intake, combined with their affect on my hormone levels were one massive trifecta triggering these beasts. And it wasn’t okay because they were interrupting important daily life events for me.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the month after my second miscarriage I spent four days lying flat on my back unable to even get to the bathroom on my own.  On Halloween morning my back had unexpectedly decided to call it quits on me. As I’d turned to get out of my car in the parking lot for work, I’d crumpled to the ground in tears unable to move. Fortunately, I always have my phone in my hand so I called my husband {who by God’s gracious providence works in the same building as me and had been too late to get to his Friday morning Bible Study that day}. He literally had to pick me up, lay me in my backseat, and drive me straight for help. Thirty-six chiropractor visits within 3 months later, I was starting to feel somewhat normal. I still go weekly. I now find myself wanting to learn as much as I can about how to best prevent that from ever happening again!

If I’m being honest, by my second miscarriage any choices related to health (food or exercise) were directly dictated by my emotional mood, whatever I needed to lift the mood, which clearly wasn’t faring well for me. At this point, I lacked the peace that I was giving my body the best I could give it. I’d weighed 20lbs less before the miscarriages and this entire year of valleys. Yeah I’d had some health set backs that prohibited exercise, but the every other day pity parties I was throwing for myself weren’t helping either. While I’d like to thank (blame) emotions and hormones for ALL of the weight gain, emotions and hormones alone don’t make you gain weight. Emotional Eating, however, will. The eating part, that’s what I had to own. Owning up to the fact that I was letting my emotions control me and determine my decisions, enslave me frankly, rather than taking them to Jesus; that was the first step in realizing I had some unhealthy habits that I COULD change. 

So here is my profound takeaway from all that my body endured last year:

All of the Everything in your heart that you SO want to enjoy in this world, and everything that you want to do to make it a better place,

Ain’t worth a hill of beans if you don’t have the physical health to do it! We have to love our own bodies enough to make healthy living a priority.

I’ve been given a handful of painful experiences, and I’ve chosen to see them as the catalyst for all that God desires to transform within me. I want to learn as much from this pain as I can (so hopefully we can move on to a less painful season)! Learning to sincerely care for the amazing gift of health that He’s given me is the next step.  I want to steward the gift of this body well.  I’ve been given pretty insane freedom to do almost whatever I choose to pursue in this life, and there’s a good chance you have to: we tend to find a way if we want it bad enough. As much as it is up to me, I don’t want to be a hindrance to that freedom. We are BODY, soul, and spirit by His design. I have a new awareness of how they ALL need to be a priority!

I have SO much more to share about my personal journey to reclaiming health in my life, but for now let’s just say…

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Oh How He loves Us!

Yesterday was one of those moments that only a sovereign God could have designed. They don’t happen so obviously every single time, but when they do, it’s more than my heart can contain! It was one of those days in which He so sovereignly chooses to reminds of how extravagantly and perfectly He loves us. Where He chooses to, for just a moment, give us a glimpse into His much wider lens at His ability to take the smallest details and align them to remind us of just how PRESENT HE IS and how he’s working together every detail for our good, even when we can’t see it.

This time last year we were celebrating the official adoption of Maddox by my hubby. When we celebrated the following week with our first official “Pryor family vacation” at the beach, we had these pictures taken to commemorate this life changing moment in our family’s story:

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My heart was so filled with gratitude for the Lord’s goodness in my life; I wanted the pictures to just shout that message: that everything good in us was all by His grace. When I saw this shirt, I knew it had to be the centerpiece of the pictures, because Jesus is absolutely at the center of our lives.  The message on this shirt couldn’t have better depicted all that my heart was screaming: “Jesus Saves, Bro.” I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! Never had I basked in the redemptive beauty of Jesus in my very own life more. From unwed single mama with a fatherless baby boy: to married, cherished, and having been given a new name! And now my son had been given a new name too. THE FULLNESS of the LORD’S redemption has rarely shined so radically in my life, and I was seeing with my own two eyes the absolute TRUTH: that JESUS does in fact SAVE BRO, like for real.

Now fast forward to yesterday, a beautiful friend who the Lord brought into my life as a single mama, the same friend who walked with me through our years as single motherhood, then got married to her hubby the same year I got married to mine, then experienced miscarriage the same year as me, was now finally getting to experience the adoption of her three oldest kiddos by her  loving husband! Yesterday was already filling my heart with such joy, because before yesterday many a tear had been cried together and many a brave step of faith taken hand in hand with this beautiful friend. Now here it was: the culmination of it all. When we’d finally get to see the Lord’s victory and how all the moments of fear turned to faith would turn out for the good!

This same day, Riley Clay Designs, the designer of the shirt that Maddox wore in our “adoption” pictures to display our heart’s gratitude for Jesus, was announcing the winners of her “brand rep search”. The same friend I mentioned above had told me about this search only the day before  yesterday, and I’d entered the picture of Maddox shown above. Yesterday ended with an exclamation point from God, he knows all of the desires of my heart, and He’d sovereignly chosen to grant my little guy such a cool opportunity: he was chosen from thousands of entries as a brand rep for Riley Clay Designs. Y’all, I can’t begin to tell you how much the Lord just stepped into my world yesterday and said:

I SEE IT ALL and I’VE NEVER ONCE LEFT.

I’VE NEVER STOPPED WORKING EVERYTHING FOR YOUR GOOD

AND P.S. I LOVE YOU.

down to the smallest detail.

In Mom’s High Heels

It’s been three months since I have posted on the blog so I thought I would share why! The silence was intentional {at least for the first month}. I needed a time of healing and renewal with the Lord. Life can be SO noisy and my soul was craving a resting place! I’ve learned over the last couple years that every time I’ve slowed down, and intentionally sought the Lord in the quiet moments of the day, instead of the more involuntary mindless habit of scrolling through my iPhone and browsing the internet, that I see things with such fresh eyes. So the silence began with that purpose.  I’m sure you’re much stronger than I am, but social media has an uncanny ability to make you feel like a complete loser by the end of the day if you unintentionally internalize every single area that you don’t measure up in! So I mostly needed a break from that. But I’m sure you guys have a much stronger sense of self and don’t have that problem. Me on the other hand, I needed a detox! And it was healing for me!

When the refreshing quiet began to morph into feeling more like a hermit hiding from the world, I realized it was time to get reacquainted with this world inside of our world, or maybe it’s better described as an alternate universe altogether! And I’ve felt like a little girl learning to walk in her mom’s high heels. Carefully trying to figure out this whole balancing act of life that feels way too big for me! Maintaining the discipline of quiet time with the Lord daily {to be filled} while still feeling somewhat connected with the rest of the world {to pour out}. It’s a daily deal to sort out wifehood, motherhood, servanthood, fulltime daily jobhood to support the family grind, daughter-sister-friend hood, and then adding on top of that “maybe aspiring blogger/writerhood” and to steward it all well. It’s so easy to get all of these God-given roles confused as my identity. Then on that particular (every) day when I fail at multiple roles, I’m beside myself because I’ve failed at ME. That’s why the daily quiet is necessary to hear Him say that our identity is never threatened by our failures, it’s always fully intact: I’m His Beloved who is Fully Known, Loved, Forgiven, and Hidden in Christ. Which enables us to keep learning to walk in these roles…

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So while there’s been silence on the blog, I’ve been learning a lot about myself and a lot about what God is redesigning within me: It’s been UGLY and BEAUTIFUL. Like my pastor once said, “Me” is a fluid concept. We are constantly being transformed and that’s a good thing. He’s making us braver, stronger, more fearless, more whole, and consequently a lot more able to LOVE others well. But the growth comes through the stretching {which can be so uncomfortable}.

Let’s keep learning to embrace the times when the Lord intentionally calls us beyond our comfort zones; where we feel wobbly and uncertain, because “lack of strength” is the prime ingredient for growth! And the second is His Grace; He never expects us to do it without Him!  I’m learning to welcome the times I’m nervous or afraid as I’m facing something I’ve never done before, because it just means I’m being given the opportunity to overcome it! He always sees me through it! So embrace challenge and be thankful for the growth opportunities, He’s giving us the chance to become who we really want to be! Let’s keep learning how to walk in these shoes that feel entirely too big for us, because God sees the “us” that will one day Be!

“I love you, Lord. You are my Strength.” Psalms 18:1

(*Above Photo by Stephanie Rausser @www.stephanierausser.com via Pinterest)

New Year’s Eve: 2013

Last year, by this time of day, we’d physically cried every tear our eyes could produce. My husband and I had slept almost none in 48hrs as all hell had broken loose so unexpectedly in our lives. We spent New Year’s Eve huddled in a pile on the couch attempting to grasp for some sense of normalcy. We ate our first meal in two days, pizza, and watched The Office on Netflix. Because what else do you do as you are losing your first baby…

After only 4 months of marriage, we’d just enjoyed Christmas reflecting on the birth of our savior Jesus and dreaming about the birth of our first child together. After Christmas we had even gotten a brand new bed for our 7yr old, because it was finally time for his old bed frame to be used as a crib. I’d wondered when and if this day would ever come. For seven years a single mom I wondered if I was saving it for nothing. It was waiting in the spare bedroom to be assembled in the coming weeks, and we’d spent a few hours cleaning up and organizing the room. My first appointment, that I had anxiously awaited for a month, was at the end of this week and we were finally going to see our baby via ultrasound this Friday…

And then all of a sudden all of those hopes and dreams were ripped away. Stolen in an instant. Gone. Gone so quickly that I had to keep reminding myself that I was no longer pregnant: when I went to eat something, I no longer needed to consider its impact on my baby; when I felt nauseated, it wasn’t because a baby was growing; when I woke up for the morning prenatal vitamin, it was only for my own body’s benefit. And at this current moment, that wasn’t good enough. Empty. I’ve never felt more alone and empty.

And it was months before I could go in the spare bedroom. And when I did I sobbed and sobbed. It was like the whole world suddenly stopped spinning, I couldn’t proceed forward, I didn’t know how, I was still trying to grasp what had happened in the past. Except that was the worst part, only my world had stopped spinning. Everyone outside of my husband and I, went on with life as if it was a completely normal day, week, month…while I silently battled the worst feelings I have ever experienced in my entire life.

I was devastated, sad doesn’t even cut it. I was envious, everyone around me was getting pregnant- not me though. I was angry, every time a pregnant girl complained about something being uncomfortable I wanted to slap her. And I wrestled guilt after guilt for feeling all of those things. Which made me even more angry, because I never asked for any of this. I felt like the world was just happening TO me.

And my husband was doing his best to stay strong while he was not only grieving the loss of his baby, but also grieving the loss of his new bride. Because I was no longer the same. You don’t go through something like this and remain the same…it changes you one way or another, for the better or for the worse. And that was the first time we endured this, one day I will share more about our second loss this year, on September 20, 2014…the day before our one year anniversary.

So that’s where I still I am…Attempting NOT to be swallowed up by 2014, but rather, to allow all of the pain to be used toward my own transformation into something more beautiful, so that both I and others may know there is hope beyond the hurting…

This New Year’s Eve is bittersweet, but we have chose to celebrate the fact that in one year, we now have two babies in heaven, and we refuse to allow this year to take us down. We will remain hopeful in all areas of life, to see the Lord’s goodness in 2015. It’s the promise He’s given us to hold onto through it all, and He has been faithful to be our strength daily, and we don’t want to miss the new thing He is doing…

Psalms 27:13-14

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

 

Living in a World of Injustice

The daily stories are too much for my heart.

Amazing moms who love and want desperately for their babies to live, plead with the Lord to spare their lives, and still have them taken by death.

Mothers who have been blessed with several children, suddenly and brutally, murder them all.

All within the same day. This is the world we live in. The brokenness is rampant. And there is no rhyme or reason. And just to be frank, “the everything happens for a reason” stamp that well-meaning folks try to put on tragedy, just doesn’t cut it. This world is hard. AND NOT FAIR!!!!

And most days I want to scream: Where is the Love or Justice?

As I wrestle with that today it hits me. I am reminded that I know where it is, that love and justice this world so desperately needs. It’s encapsulated in the greatest “anti-reason” event that this world has ever experienced: Jesus.

The collision of Love and Justice. Grace poured out as justice was served.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21(NIV).

WHAT? That still remains the most scandalous display of both Justice and Love that this world has ever seen.

Sin demands the justice of death. And yet in Grace and Love, the Father, who is Just, gives a sinless One in my sinful place. And He does so, in order that He may give me His righteousness? That’s unfair.

Can we really grasp any of it?

So Jesus, the most unfair gift that I’ve received in this unfair world, please be near when unfair turns ugly…and remind us that unfair is also how we are carried through it.

The greatest unfair is a good unfair, and it’s free for us all to receive.

And through it Death is defeated. When the story ends, good still wins.

We will hope in You Lord.

Thank you for your grace. We trust your goodness and sovereignty even when we can’t understand it…

still good

~ Dennika

Surrendering my Story: Being a Single Mama (Pt. 3)

Let me start off by saying, I’ve prayed repeatedly for the right words to say in this particular post, and by no means will I pretend to have figured this thing out, but  the words that follow are what I believe the Lord has given me to say… That being said, my sole desire is to speak truth that hopefully encourages your soul: because Single mamas deserve my best and most prayerful effort- you are valuable warriors. I pray these words add weapons to your arsenal that enable you to keep up the good fight.

The Lord’s timing in all things continuously leaves me speechless. As I prepared to release this blog last week, wouldn’t you know that the Lord gave me a timely opportunity to “relive” although just a glimpse of what it feels like to be a single mom again, as my husband went out of the country for a week and we had little contact. Let me just say: I’m freshly amazed at the daily grace that was required of the Lord as He carried me through single motherhood. No sooner had my husband gotten on a plane to leave the country than did my son and I both awake with killer sore throats- knowing the demands of the week, I decided it was best we both stay home that day and load up on vitamins and rest if we wanted to survive this week. The next morning, I woke up with the worst migraine I’ve had to date in my entire life, and I’ve had some bad ones: I puked three times in twenty minutes. It rained all week. The new puppy needed at least 3 always untimely baths, doctors bills rolled in, etc. etc. etc.  I was emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted: and I was trying to keep the house together for my husband’s surprise birthday at the end of the week. (Which I recognize is a beacon of hope that many single moms would love to have at the end of a week like this…) But the reality is, that used to be the life I lived year after year, without the certainty of relief from my husband at the end of a few days. (And as a necessary side note: Please see the last point of my blog: Marriage is not our savior. Jesus IS. There may be a man in your future, and if so, the right one from God is SO worth waiting for! BUT DON’T settle. Even the man God has for you will take intentional loving and forgiving, and they AREN’T all as awesome him.) I digress, so as I walked through last week, I asked myself with fresh perspective, “How would I receive the words in my blog if someone told me those things in my current situation…” That was my filter for what I’ve written. And frankly, my first thought would be: “umm yeah, easier said than done. Like you even begin to understand what I am going through…” But I assure you, these are things that the Lord gave me as answers in midst of my own life as I learned to navigate through life as a single mom.

So I say all of that, to say this to you: these words are not flippantly thrown down by someone who is now too removed from the realities of single motherhood. I still have a DEEP appreciation and reverence for the loads that you are bearing, and these words are meant in gentleness, simply to share truths that the Lord engraved upon my heart to carry me through one of the most challenging seasons of my life. So without further ado…

The Top 10 Lessons that Single Motherhood taught me:

1. You are stronger when you ask for help.

It will take humility, and it will take courage, but when it’s necessary, it’s a noble thing to ask for help. It is the BEST thing you can do for yourself and your child. Knowing your limits is wisdom, not weakness. It’s humanity. You are a Superhero of the greatest kind, but you are not an immortal one without limitations. You are human. Be willing to humbly ask for help when you need to do so, knowing that it will make you stronger as an individual and as a mom. And then rest with gratitude as God provides His grace in a thousand different ways. Because He will, and it is always sufficient to see you through the moment, no matter how tough those moments are…

christmas 2011b

2. You need community.

For YOU. Yes, you are selfless mama, but you need loving encouragement and support. You need to be reminded that in addition to being a mama, you are a woman. Many moms are selfless to a fault. The Lord has designed you as a woman first and foremost. And as His child, the need for Godly community and fellowship with other believing women is all over scripture. It’s for every believer: especially You. Ecclesiastes 4:12 “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Find a group of strong Godly women. If you don’t know where to look, pray that God will show you. (Or ask me and I will help you find one!)

christmas 2011c

3. You have to care for your own soul.

Remember the acronym: H.A.L.T. If you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (in other words breathing, right?), but really, if you are there, you need to take a step back and recognize your needs and care for yourself too. You will not love your child well or make good decisions in those moments of need, knowing that makes you wise, not selfish. The best thing you can do for your child is to care for yourself well. Ask the Lord to teach you how to step back. How to lean into Him in those moments. How to take a timeout and gather yourself. How to prioritize the care for your own soul. Your child is only as emotionally and spiritually healthy as you are…

christmas 2011a

4. When you feel like you desperately need #2 (Community) and #3 (Care for your own soul), but they just seem impossible to get (because they will ) See #1:

You HAVE to learn to be okay with needing the HELP of others. And you can’t be afraid to ASK. The Lord designed the Body of Christ for a reason. See Acts 2:42-47. He intends for us to pull together and help each other out. The whole body benefits when we serve one another.  The Lord knows your needs, but prayerfully remind Him of His promises to care for you (for your own sake), and then trust Him to provide the helping hands you need. Through the process I guarantee He’s equipping you to one day be able to meet the needs of others…

christmas 2011

5. Keep Dreaming.

Don’t believe the lie that being a single mom is a limitation. And don’t let others’ opinions or their foreseen limitations steer your decisions. BUT DO, submit your dreams to the Lord: Nothing shall be impossible with Him.

christmas 2011d

6. Make decisions out of Faith, not Fear.

TRUST HIM to be Enough. Ask yourself  whether there are any fears that could be motivating your choices? I’m convinced a lot of poor decisions are made when we trust our fears over our faith in Him. I’ve lived both. Choose Faith. Fear is a thief.

summer 2012 a

7. Cherish the moments as a Single Mama

I know they are exhausting. Let me repeat: THE MOMENTS ARE EXHAUSTING. But put aside whatever else you must to be sure that you don’t miss the fact that these moments with your children are also rare and precious and fleeting. Don’t wish them away. Pause in the midst of the chaos of the day, and soak in your blessings. The bond my son and I have now was forged in those moments; when all we had was each other and Jesus. And the more he grows, the more and more I am grateful that God didn’t let me “check out” during the little moments.

summer 2012e

8. It’s okay to cry in front of your children.

I’m NOT recommending that you do the all out wailing, ugly cry. OR that you repeatedly only allow them to see you crying. (BY ALL MEANS- MAKE SURE THEY SEE YOU LAUGH). But it is okay to have a tough moment and to be completely exhausted and to shed some tears in their presence. Turn it into a lesson for your kids; that You need God to make your heart well, too.  As much as you want to be their unshakable hero, that’s not realistic, and frankly, that’s not your role. They need to be pointed to Jesus as the Unshakeable One, not you. As much as you want to always be there for them, you are not omnipresent (present everywhere)- that role has been reserved for God alone. And p.s. If your kids have ever seen you having a tough day, I bet you’ll agree with me that children have the most tender hearts on the planets, and a God-given gift for cheering up a Mommy who just needs a little extra love. Grow together through this time…

2011a

9. PRAY. About everything. For everything. All of the time.

If you don’t have it and you NEED it. Pray. If you don’t get it right away, pray some more. Walk with the Lord. He knows your needs and He promises to meet them when you’ve placed your hope in Him. In some moments it is going to seem impossible to keep going. Turn to Him in prayer in that moment. I’ve been there, more times than I can count.  And in His Grace, He provided the ability to endure. And after you pray, set your mind to believe that He’s taken care of it. Believe it so much that you thank Him for it. And then keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Every mountain is climbed one step at a time. (Philippians 4:6-7)

summer 2012

10. Don’t compare your life to those around you. Discover You. You are beautiful. You are valuable to God. You are worth waiting for. MARRIAGE IS NOT YOUR SAVIOR, Jesus is…You are worthy of true Love. You are strong. You are courageous. You have the ability to face whatever lies ahead, in Christ Alone, but nevertheless, you HAVE it. You have an unshakeable Hope (It’s Christ). You have a Future. You’ve been entrusted with the hardest role on the planet, and God wants to give you everything you need to fulfill it. His plans are so much bigger than you can see today, and He’s already gone before you…

summer 2012 b

You are NOT ALONE.

~ Dennika

 

 

 

Surrendering my Story: Being a Single Mama (Pt. 2)

In God’s providential grace, I have a younger sister (who is also my best friend). She came to live with me the first two years of this whole new life, and I couldn’t have survived without her. She was my son’s nanny and my rock. A bond and a blessing that only the Lord could have designed. His grace is so sufficient. And then it was time to let her fly as she moved into a new phase of life: career and marriage, so at the age of 2, Maddox started daycare.

Organization has never been a strength of mine. Absentmindedness, however, always has. I’m notorious for trying to do TOO much at one time, please tell me that I’m not the only one? Anyway, inevitably I end up flustered and having missed something. But for some reason, each new day I find myself with the same case of amnesia about the day before: overestimating my ability to get EVERYTHING done, and rediscovering that I’ve fallen short again. I’ve come to believe over time, that’s just human nature; our minds have to be reset daily. With all that said: it was a miracle when Maddox made it to daycare and I made it to work with everything we needed, on-time. (In fact, it was a rare occasion).

Like the day that I got him to daycare and realized that I’d failed to put shoes on my two year old! We were 20 minutes from home, and 20 minutes into my 1.5 hour one-way commute, so the school was just going to have to break the state laws (that they informed me of) because I was NOT going back home to get a two year old shoes!

Or how about the day in my driveway that I was spun around in a complete circle (literally) as I slammed my car door simultaneously while running back into the house to get whatever I’d forgotten. Well the car door came to an abrupt halt when it collided into my forehead.  And the greatest evidence that I was overwhelmed to the max: I didn’t even realize the gaping, bloody, car door shaped gash on my forehead until 40 minutes later when I walked into work and a co-worker pointed it out.

Managing Maddox and I and all of life, on my own, was infinitely harder. And those were menial compared to some other days…

Don’t even get me started on the sacred day when my 3yr old did a Father’s Day project at school and brought up that topic on our evening commute home. In tears he asked if he had a dad and where he was…and I pulled over that car in the parking lot of a random church on a country hillside, and what followed was like something from a movie y’all. I can replay it in my mind at this very moment. I prayed for the right words to give him, I wanted nothing more than to take away his pain, and then I got into the backseat with my baby boy. And together we cried as I held him and explained that we were just going to pray that one day God would send us a daddy that loved us the way we should be loved…You’re never the same after a moment like that- and today, it is a sacred moment. A moment where God changed me and God molded my son’s beautiful heart, to trust in Him. God gave us courage to face the future together.

EVERY DAY was something y’all.

Meanwhile, all of my other single friends found their prince charming, went on their honeymoons and lived happily ever after…(at least in my mind they did.)

And here I was learning to survive and trying to teach another life how to LIVE…

2011c 2011d 2011e  2011a2011feaster 2011 2012

In retrospect: I learned a lot. The daily having to lean on the Lord molded me into the person I am today.  He knew my severe stubbornness, and in grace, He gave this difficultly beautiful season to me: because He knew I would never have changed otherwise. I say “in grace” because had it been “easy” I’m positive I would never have realized how desperately I need Him. It had to be hammered into me, repeatedly. He could have let me follow my own hard headed way of life (I shutter at the thought of where that would have led). But instead, by grace, gave me His hand for the journey, day by day.

Being a single mama made me better. It made me stronger. It made me TRUST Him. And my son and I have a priceless bond. And standing on this side of those tough years, I wouldn’t trade all that I learned for anyone else’s journey…God knew it was EXACTLY what I needed. And day by day, I became more and more convinced that choosing to trust His ways over mine, was so worth it. So step by step, Holy Spirit performed a transformation, through ordinary messy, everyday life.

The daily details, that while I was attempting to give them to the Lord, still seemed like a daily mess…He used all of it.

Every single bit of it. The overwhelming job demands, the daycare needs, the 2 job changes, the messy house, the financial chaos, the lonely and overwhelming days, all intertwined with those sacred and unforgettable moments when being a mom filled my heart with incomprehensible joy. And, last but not least, the precious close knit group of my God-given family and friends…He used it all to make something beautiful.

That is why, in my next blog, I am going to share the Top 10 Lessons from Single Motherhood that the Lord engraved upon my heart through the everyday walk with Him during that season of my life…and they are so relevant in my life to this day!

Blessings,

Dennika