31 July 2015

Unmother

Please note: This was a post I have struggled to publish.
I have not used this blog too often to put too much personal information out there,
but after studying about unity and maturity in the body of Christ through Ephesians, I knew I needed to be authentic. I hope you accept the following with open arms, knowing that I am bearing my very soul to you.Not many people know the struggle that I have faced, but I am beginning to realize that it's important to share in each other's burdens.
SO here I bear my burdens, sharing with you in my heartache, that I might also encourage you, bearing your burdens as my own.



Today is Mother's Day.
Growing up, I never dreamed that this day could be associated with anything but happiness, joy, and thankfulness. When we experienced the miscarriage of our only baby on October 31st 2014, bracing myself for Mother's Day was something I didn't think to do. With the pain of my loss and everything on my plate with Christmas just around the corner, this seemingly distant holiday was not on my mind. But regardless if I was prepared or not, it arrived the following May as scheduled, and it knocked me on my butt.
There were many people who said "Happy Mother's Day" in assumption. I was a 28 year old married woman. Why wouldn't I be a mother by now, right? 
There were people who knew I wasn't a mother and badgered me about having a baby, telling me how my clock was ticking and that I was running out of time. 
Some made comments to the effect of "Just become a mother so you can celebrate with us!"
Then, of course, I was witness to a barrage of friends celebrating their first and second Mother's Day with their newborns and toddlers... all friends of which are my age. My Instagram feed lit up with photos of flowers and gifts hash-tagged with "thankful" and "blessed".
I was even appointed to be the one to hand out the yearly gifts to all the mothers at church because they needed a non-mother to do it. Being in leadership, I put on my biggest smile, passed out each gift, looked into the eye of every mother and wished them a happy Mother's Day. The glint of pride in each set of eyes, was like another needle into my heart.

I'm sure none of the comments I received were made maliciously, and I in no way fault anyone for displaying and announcing their blessings for the world to admire and share in rejoice, but you could imagine the devastating power each blow had to my now barren uterus.

I struggled with thoughts of why... I asked God why He had allowed all these women this precious gift of motherhood, yet had taken mine away. Since before Nathan and I married, I longed to be a stay at home mother. I've wanted to be the caregiver of the product of the third greatest love I've ever been afforded (God, My Mother, My Husband). I've wanted to feel that joy and I've wanted to experience that right of passage as a woman. I've wanted to be a mother and not long after I discovered I would be one, I found myself suddenly without.
I was an unmother.
And with the added weight of the Mother's Day frenzy upon me, I cracked beneath my smile.

I cried for awhile until God granted me relief enough to pick up and continue on in His will. We were reassured of His promise for us to bare a child naturally despite my body's objections and we began to prepare ourselves for the miracle we knew was coming. We readied our hearts and began to ready our home.

Then today came.
Just as I felt progress being made within my heart, today happened.

It has been over a year and I thought with all the progress we've made and the joy in my heart, Mother's Day would not affect me the way it did last year. I was wrong. I attended church this morning, greeting people as I entered and I headed towards the classroom to get set up for children's church. We were still unsure if the pastor wanted it to commence on this special holiday, but I prepared just the same. It wasn't until I completed my set up and had written "the Great Commission" on the white board that I looked up to see the banner the children from our guest church had made. Brightly painted hand prints and names written beside them with the same tiny hands. I felt it swell up inside me and I begin to break down. Not even a minute later my husband entered the room, set aside his agenda, and wrapped his arms around me. The floodgates had opened and I sobbed into his chest for several minutes. He rubbed my back and told me it was okay... and although those words seem so simple, they were exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.
"It's okay. I know. It's okay."
I composed myself enough to get through song service in which I sang, and the composure lasted throughout the service (no children's church after all) until the dreaded moment had arrived. I remembered this moment from last year. As the pastor began to call all the mothers up, I looked at Nathan and said, "I hope she doesn't ask me to do it. It kills me." No later than the words had escaped my mouth, I was called upon to be the non-mother that handed out the gifts to all the mothers of the church. I did as I was asked, and just as the year before, I put on my biggest smile, passed out each gift, looked into the eye of every mother and wished them a happy Mother's Day. It hadn't gotten any easier.

What had happened to this day I once looked forward to? The festivities were mere reminders that I was not allowed to join in. I was not a mother, but not only that, I was an unmother. I was a mother who's heart leaped for joy at the expectation of her baby... a mother robbed of her motherhood before she even had a chance to meet her child, to kiss her baby's little cheeks, or feel her baby's fingers tightly wrap around her own. It did't matter how long that life was in me... there was LIFE. IN. ME. No one saw me as a mother. I had no child to prove that I once held life inside me. My oven was broken and everyone sat around me with their loaves of bread asking me why I haven't baked yet.


I reiterate that I know none of the comments I received were made maliciously, and I in no way fault anyone from being joyous and thankful on Mother's Day... but what I am saying is...

If there's an unmother in your life, someone who has lost a child before birth or before the annual thanking of mothers, let her know that you're thinking about her. Take some time and show her that you're there for her. She needs to know that she's not alone. She needs to know that you understand that even though her child isn't alive today, she is still a giver of life. Speak life into her. Instead of joking around, maybe give her some words of encouragement. Let her know that you are praying for God's will in her life. Be careful not to say that you're praying for a child for her, but instead simply let her know that God's will is most important. Tell her that sometimes God doesn't always share what His plans are, but He loves her and He cares for her. Lend her a shoulder should she need to cry and an ear should she need to speak. Your presence of encouragement makes a world of difference.

Maybe you have experienced loss yourself. Perhaps Mother's Day is as hard for you as it is for me. Remember first and foremost to thank God for your own mother. Having a heart of thanksgiving helps us keep our focus on things above. Make sure she knows that you are grateful for all she has done for you (this applies to those of us who had adoptive mothers, grandmothers, and/or mentors who have stood in the gap for absent mothers). Next, pray! Pray for God to give you strength. Pray for God's will in your life. It's okay to be sad, but it's not good to stay there.
If you need to talk, talk to God. He hears us when we pray. If you need a sounding board, find someone you can open up to about it. Seek advice from those who are like-minded and equally yoked... meaning, if you are a Believer, you should find solace within your community of Believers. Speaking to someone who doesn't understand the Faith based following of God's will may lead you and your mind down a path God never intended for you to walk. Be aware that in most cases, the things that hurt are usually unintentional. Don't let your hurt become your bitterness.

Something that helps me is thinking about the wonderful life our baby is experiencing in heaven right now, at this very moment. Our baby will never know pain or sorrow. Our baby will never be disappointed or rejected. Our baby will never know of war or drought or famine or disease. Our baby is sitting in the lap of Jesus, filled with unexplainable joy and happiness, waiting for us to join them there. I look forward to that and I take great comfort in knowing these things.

I know this post has been a long one and I only pray that it is accepted in the right ways. It was informative in nature and therapeutic in result. I pray that it has helped you in some capacity or another.

As for me, I have picked myself up after a hard day and renewed my strength in the Lord. I know that Mother's Day will not always feel this way for me. Nathan and I are still resting in God's promise that we will one day have a baby of our own. I am encouraged that God continues to prepare us for a miracle (or miracles) and we continue to move forward in Him. God is so good to me.

25 July 2015

Becoming Unveiled

I am a daily reader of the emails I get from Jennifer at the Unveiled Wife. Almost everyday they hit just the right chord with what is going on in my life at that very moment, verifying the fact that she is prayerful in the way she words her emails and blog posts. I know that she is an instrument used by our Mighty God to witness to me exactly when I need to be moved by Him.

Something I have recently learned through reading Jennifer's book is the importance of being unveiled.

- First and foremost, I am constantly striving to become most honest and transparent with the One who knows me better than I know myself, my Lord, Jesus Christ. I have begun to grow in my relationship with Him, through my transparency, in ways I would have never expected to grow.

- Secondly, I'm learning to be open with my husband, choosing to have intimate conversations about the corners of my mind I have previously chosen to keep hidden. I feel our bond has deepened tremendously and our understanding of one another pushed to new bounds. We are actively striving to improve communication.
- Third, I'm trying to be candid in the things I post online. I am aware of the dangers of the world wide web, but I know the interactions we have in cyberspace can have a huge positive and life changing effect on people. Just as negativity and cyber-bullying are life impacting, I know from experience that encouraging words of wisdom, Biblical truths, and honest personal experiences can speak volumes to someone's well-being.

The third of which I know by experience to be true. I stumbled across Jennifer's book "The Unveiled Wife" by nothing less than God's divine direction. I was longing to reestablish an intimate connection with my husband, scouring the internet for articles and advice as how to bring my marriage to it's highest potential. I am a seriously flawed woman married to a seriously flawed man, and we are just two flawed broken people attempting to be better. No matter how much we press into God and His word, we are human; flawed and failing. Sadly it's in our nature to self-destruct, but I was not satisfied with complacency. If our marriage was one to be God-glorifying, there were definite changes needing to be made, but the flame of success was snuffed out by pride.


It was a few days ago when I read the words of Jennifer's Daily Marriage Prayer, that I realized I needed to excel in compassion. I might have shown glimpses of it here and there, but I was severely lacking in this area. The following prayer spoke volumes from my heart:
I do know that I am not at all as compassionate as I should be with my husband. He is so very patient with me, yet I fail to be kind, patient or generous with him. I thank God so much for bringing this to my attention and when He did, my heart was met with immediate conviction. I began to pray about my attitude toward my husband and I began to think about the way I've treated him lately. 

He doesn't deserve short answers said through irritated tones. He doesn't deserve a cold shoulder when we are in disagreement. He doesn't deserve slammed doors or heavy sighs, turned up noses or crooked jaws, crossed arms or turned backs. And if I feel he does, indeed, deserve those things whilst in the heat of the moment, I have to remember one thing... I deserved all those things, but Christ was compassionate with me. I deserved every bit of judgement and punishment, but Christ had compassion on me. He answered softly and calmly. He held my hand and caressed my face. He looked into my eyes, His filled with love, and forgave me. He loved me and was kind, patient and generous to me when I least deserved it.

I know if I am to be molded into the likeness of Christ, I need to embrace the compassion He has shown me, and show that same compassion to my husband. I need to meet uncomfortable or heated situations with love and kindness. I have to lay my pride aside and remember to treat my husband with dignity and respect, softness and gentleness, love and forgiveness. 

I challenge you to think about the way you've interacted with your husband today. Have you been compassionate toward him? Have you emoted kindness, patience and generosity? Have you meant it?
I challenge you to pray about this area of your marriage. I challenge you to make a change.
I challenge you to forgive yourself as God has forgiven you, forgive you husband in the like, and move forward in compassion from this day on.


If you haven't read Jennifer's book, I encourage you to look into it here.
If you are interested in her blog, you can read it here.
If you are in need of prayer, you can leave a comment below or contact me at lovealeethoughts@gmail.com



15 June 2015

Can You Handle It?

Your baby has cancer.

She's not quite a baby anymore, but she's your only child... a miracle birthed from years of infertility and hormone treatments. She is the center of your world. You spent her entire childhood protecting her as best as you could. You prayed for her daily. You raised her up in the ways of the Lord. You've watched her grow into a beautiful young woman who is compassionate and caring. She lights up every room she enters and she truly has been a blessing from God. You are so thankful that God has allowed you a daughter so precious, but there she lies in that hospital bed and you are unable to make it better. This is one boo-boo you can't kiss. You'd trade places with her in a heartbeat,
but God has not granted that request thus far.
She's not upset, but you are.
The mounting medical bills,
the straining to hold onto hope that she will be healed,
the days you've missed at work that have led to excessive worrying about your job security,
your marriage is cracking beneath the pressures of this crisis...
it's all too much.
Your mind keeps playing a loop of something you've heard your whole life
and a seed of resentment begins to grow in your heart.

"God will never give you more than you can bear."

"Why God?! You promised you wouldn't give me more than I can handle.
But this, God?  I can't handle this."

It's something often quoted at the precipice of a difficult time, in the midst of a darkened tragedy, and even when grieving for lost life. Everyone says it. People who don't even believe in God say it. Christians say it, and I don't just mean the people who only attend church on Christmas and Easter, but those who earnestly seek God. And sadly, most all of those who share this phrase with others believe it is true. 

The problem with believing it's true is that it's not.
It's not true at all.

The fallacy above comes from a misinterpretation of Biblical scripture.
That of which I am referring to appears to us in 1 Corinthians 10:13. It reads,
The Bible never states that God won't give you more than you can handle, but rather never more temptation than you can bare, and with that temptation He provides a way out of that temptation. 

What people fail to see is that God does, in fact, quite often, allow us to endure things in life that are way too much to bear. We often face things in life that feel unbearable. The weight of the life's circumstances sometimes feel as if we'll easily be crushed beneath the weight of it all. It's when this happens that those who believe in the saying feel betrayed and lied to.
But these are the moments we were created to press in.
These are the moments we were created to turn to our Creator.
These are the moments we are to devote to prayer, fasting and reading the Bible to
gather our strength from God.

When we take time and dig into God's word for ourselves, we find amazing comfort and strength!!

Psalm 73:26 reads:

Even better are the scriptures we find in Isaiah 40:28-31 which read:

Maybe your baby doesn't have cancer. Maybe that's not the battle you are facing right now.
Perhaps it's finances. It could be employment issues. Maybe it's family troubles. Maybe your marriage is facing some really tough trials. Perhaps it's anxiety or depression. Maybe you're dealing with the loss of a spouse or loved one.
You're not alone.

First and foremost, God is with you. There is a lot of power in prayer. Believe me. I've prayed and prayed until I got an answer. Sometimes we just have to seek His face with unwavering faith and submission to His will for our lives.

There are also people out there who care about you. If you need prayer, feel free to submit a request in the comments. I will pray for you!! We are called to lift each other up in prayer. We need to start being honest with ourselves and with each other. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but we need to put our sibling rivalry to bed and pick up the compassion we are called to exude.
There is also great power in team prayer!
 The Bible says in Matthew 18:19-20:

My pastor used to say something after he'd give a message that I hope would stick with you as much as it did with me. He said, "Don't take my word for it. See for yourself!"
It's so important to not just take the word of others when it comes to God.
It's our job to open our Bibles (or Bible apps) and see for ourselves.
People are flawed and we make mistakes. Sometimes misquotes about God become sayings that can turn hearts from God. Be careful when you are comforting others by using God's name... be sure what you are sharing with them is Biblical!!

1 Peter 4:11 says:

25 April 2015

Raising Arrows


I was reading in Psalm tonight and I came across a scripture that amazed my heart. It stuck with me in a wonderful way. Nathan and I have been slowly readying our home for the blessing we know God is going to give us and Psalm 127:3-5 just reminded me how children are a sweet reward from Him. It also reminds me that when we raise children, we raise arrows. We are raising warriors for God's tribe. We are raising soldiers for God's army. I want to raise arrows. I want to be that mom who equips her children with the love of God and the virtues necessary to be not only efficient, but mighty opponents of the enemy. I want our kids to be ready for anything the world throws at them because their roots will be deeply planted and watered by the Word of God. I want them to not only be reactive, but to be proactive members of the body of Christ. I want their testimonies to shine brighter than the glitz & glam the world uses to lure our youth in. I want them to be effective and sharpened arrows of God.

With this revelation, I wanted something in the nursery to place in front of the glider where I will be feeding my children to remind me of the powerful warrior I hold in my arms and the precious calling God has placed upon my life to help shape that arrow in my quiver, to guide it down the path it should take when it comes times to release it into the world. So of course I turned to Pinterest and it yielded this amazing print (of course no longer available). It did inspire me however to create a word art all my own to display in the nursery (I'll post it when it's completed). 

My search also rendered this really cute tank that I really want when the time comes!!

If you're raising children and haven't thought about the fact that your children are like arrows in your quiver, think about it now. Have you sharpened those arrows with the word of God? Have you treated them like the precious gift they are while preparing them for the war we fight on a daily basis in this world? Have you pointed that arrow in the right direction before you've let it go?
I am so grateful that God is teaching me these lessons early and I will pour over any advice the Bible has to give... and there's still a huge possibility that I'll screw it up (and I probably will). BUT-- I know my God is helping me and guiding me in my journey to becoming a parent and I know that He's impressing these things upon my heart now before I am bombarded with all the diapers and distractions that having a baby brings. This is so important.
I know He is busy molding me into the mom he wants me to be.
And now I know that I want to be a mom that raises arrows.




04 April 2015

Lovealee Thoughts

Why a blog?
I started this blog with an eclectic take on content. I have no one specific thing I want to share with the world, so I don't feel it fits into any category. I also know that the internet is full of blogs with specific purposes and intentions and I feel it overwhelming to try to fit my blog into a category... so I won't. I know that people probably don't care and I'm not sure how many people would be interested enough to read through my ramblings and writings, but I needed an outlet where I could share myself. I look at this as my digital scrapbook. The collage of my life. And although I will try not to get too personal (we all know the dangers of sharing information online), it will be an extension of my interests, beliefs, and imagination. Thank you for even traveling to my little corner of the internet. I hope this can be a place of encouragement and inspiration for you.

A Little About Me
I am the wife to an amazing husband after God's own heart who is currently completing his education to become a special education teacher. For now, I am one of the unit clerks for the busy neonatal intensive care unit at our local hospital, but once Nathan finishes school I'd love to cut back my hours there and spend some time at home starting our family. Together we are the Youth Pastors at a church called Church of God of Prophecy Madera where we are active in all kinds of ministries including: music, teaching Sunday school, conducting children's church, and even preaching on occasion. 

I'm really excited to start a family and this year is full of preparing for a new addition. Truth is, having a baby is something my body is resisting. The doctors may say one thing, but God has promised us a child and we are believing and resting in that promise. So instead of being worried about what might or might not be, we are trusting in God to carry out His promise by finishing the house improvements and getting the nursery ready for our little miracle.

What is "Lovealee"?
Lovealee Thoughts comes from my favorite scripture in Philippians 4:8 which says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." This scripture reminds me not to think on the negative things that my mind so easily wanders to, but instead to think on things that are lovely (love-a-lee) and pure. We all have those moments when our minds want to dwell on the ugliness all around us. We internalize things people say to us or ideas that are planted by the enemy, and that's why this scripture is so powerful and important. We can't let our minds wander off to negativity-town, but we need to train our minds to think on God and all the loveliness He brings. Even if God is not your thing, it still makes sense to focus your thoughts on positive things over negative things. It's important to have the right frame of mind in order to get through the rain fall of life's hardships. I pray that you learn to train your mind on things that are lovely and pure and cast off those times of self-loathing and poor-thinking. 



20 February 2014

Disney Party Invites

I recently began planning a surprise 30th Disneyland themed birthday party for my favorite person ever, my handsome husband Nathan. Being adult, as I am, I started to plan things out about 5 months in advance. When you're on a budget it's important to plan early, purchase piece by piece and have a clear vision.

The first step was to decide on the invitations. While thinking about my options, I considered the fact that my husband and I created our own wedding invitations on Microsoft Excel and they came out great! We had so many compliments and they fit our theme perfectly, so why not explore some homemade ideas?

I remember seeing something some time back on a wedding blog where a couple used Disneyland Fastpasses as their seating cards. I went in search and found them available on Etsy, but when I saw the prices I almost had a heart attack! $60 for 40 Fastpasses... and these were just the PDFs, mind you. This did not include the paper and the color ink to print them out. Outrageous!!! So I did the next thing anyone in my shoes would do, search online for a free template. To my dismay... nothing.

Although my thoughts of doing this easily and pain free seemed far off, I was pretty confident in my skills to pull this idea off on my own. First thing I needed was a few pictures of the Fastpasses available at Disneyland (and even maybe a few from Disney World - since there are so many more there), so I did a simple Google Image search for Disneyland Fastpass.
It took me awhile to comb through the possibilities, but I saved all the clean, usable images that I could find. I opened my favorite free online photo editor Pixlr (also available in a Chrome App) and selected one of the saved images to begin. 
I first needed to crop out the unwanted black areas (some of the images included fingers and/or backgrounds they were photographed on). You can do this using the crop feature or in some cases the eraser tool.
I then chose an image size I wanted to work with. Since all the images I downloaded would be different sizes, I knew it was important to pick one (I decided on the original size of the first image I worked with- which was 280x465). You can do this by selecting IMAGE from the top left of the horizontal menu and them selecting IMAGE SIZE from the drop down menu.
Once I did this I knew it was important to find the right fonts to make it look as legitimate as possible. If you do not have a lot of fonts installed on your computer, this might be a harder process than what I experienced. To do this, I opened the text tool and began typing in the info I needed next to the existing text. 
I then scrolled through my options until I found the desired font. (It may not be right on, but just get as close as you can.) Below are the fonts I chose to use for mine.

Once I decided on my fonts, I removed the rows of the words that were originally printed on the images and replaced them with the invite information. This was to insure proper set up and placement of the information. I wanted it to look as close to the original as possible. (In the following picture, I chose to just replace the word "Return" with the word "Arrive" in order to keep it as close to the original as I could. Also, remember to select BACKGROUND under the LAYERS box on the right when erasing things from the original image.)
I repeated this process for each line until I was satisfied.
Once I completed the first Fastpass I saved it like 20 times to make sure I really saved it. Then I used the crop tool to crop out the information. This will be used for the rest of the Fastpasses.
Once you've cropped as much as you desire, just double click in the center of your selection and save it under another name, such as "PARTY INFO."
Next, open up the remaining fast passes one by one, crop and resize to your preferred size.
Erase all the info you are going to replace. I used the eraser tool, but if you have a pass with a background color other than white, use the dropper to obtain the correct color, then use the brush tool to simply paint over the unwanted text.
On a few I had to use the eye dropper tool to color match and then use the brush tool to blend some edges. 
Next, select FILE from the horizontal menu and then select OPEN IMAGE from the drop down menu. Select the picture file with the Invitation Information. 
Once you do this there will be 2 images available to manipulate. (Note: When working/adjusting/altering an image, make sure you select the image you want to work with by clicking on the top title bar of that image. When you do this, the information in the boxes on the right will change to match that item.)
Go ahead and make sure the info image is currently highlighted. Select EDIT from the horizontal menu and then SELECT ALL from the drop down menu.
Select EDIT again from the horizontal menu and then select COPY from the drop down menu. This means that you have selected all of that image and now want to copy everything you have selected.
Next, highlight the Fastpass you are currently working on (you will know you have highlighted the correct image by the info displayed in the boxes at the right of your screen). Select EDIT from the horizontal menu and then select PASTE from the drop down menu.
All we need to do now is adjust and touch up. Use the move tool to move the info into the desired place on the Fastpass. This is why it is so important to maintain the same size for every Fastpass. This will ensure that your info will fit perfectly into each and every Fastpass you make.
Repeat as many times as you seem fit!!! I'm sure there are others ways to accomplish this without so much work, but this is just how I personally chose to do it. I'm not a computer whiz and I can't afford special programs, but I work with what I have. I think they turned out pretty good though. Check them out! I've blacked out some information of course. And in case you're wondering why the invite says Leah, these invites were a decoy to throw my husband off the scent. I actually made 2 complete sets of invites. One with his info and one with his cousin's info.

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?!







Just for fun...
In case you wanna make your own Disneyland Fastpasses but the entire process seems like a little too much, here are the fast passes I deconstructed. I hope this helps add that perfect little detail to your next party or event. Just right click on the picture to save it and open it in a photo editing site/program to add text. You could also open a Word document and insert the images into it. Just get creative.
...