Be Still

I was standing in the shower with a million things running through my mind, tugging at me, pulling my heart in every direction.  I prayed, “God, I really don’t know what I’m doing here.  Please give me something.

And He did.

My phone had been playing music quietly in the background.  But suddenly it was loud.  Kari Jobe was singing “Jesus, You’re all I need.

Her song, Healer, goes on to say:
You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease
I trust in You, Lord I trust in you

Sometimes I forget.  I forget that He’s all I need.  I forget that He once calmed the raging seas simply by saying, “Silence!  Be still!” (Mark 4).  And I forget that He can do the same for my racing mind.

As I stood in the shower–my thoughts battling each other, threatening to take over–He reminded me, “…you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

Exodus 14:14

With hope and love,
Kristen

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Crashing Waves

2 Thessalonians 4:13

They say drowning is very peaceful. Many who are saved don’t remember the experience.

My life, until recently, has been smooth sailing. (Hindsight is 20/20, after all.) But just as I saw land on the horizon, I was met by a colossal, crashing wave. It pounded my tiny boat until only pieces remained, floating in the water that is once again still.

From the day of Ryder’s birth up to today, I have felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I do still feel the pangs of grief, but I know that my anxieties, anger, and fears have subsided much more quickly than is “typical” when loss is experienced.

At first the peace felt terribly out of place. I remember thinking to myself I must be drowning in my grief–losing grip with reality. There is no way this feeling can be healthy. I need to snap out of it.

But eventually I remembered the countless prayers that had been lifted up on our behalf–prayers said for us and by us.

Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And that is exactly what I have experienced. True peace–not drowning.

Praise God!

If you have experienced loss, I know that it is very difficult to put your hope and your faith in God. It feels like he has abandoned you. But I promise he hasn’t. Remember that poem “Footprints in the Sand“? He hasn’t abandoned you; He is carrying you. When you feel like you can’t take another step, let him carry you. When you feel like you are drowning, let him rescue you.

The LORD is close to the broken-hearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18

With hope and love,
Kristen

Book Review: Savor by Shauna Niequist

My routine over the summer has looked quite a bit different than other summers. Summers are usually a time for me to veg out on the couch and be lazy after a hectic school year.

But after being on bed rest for a month and then moping on my couch for another month, I decided I needed to make myself get up. So I made a point to sit at the table instead of lying on the couch first thing in the morning. And in doing that, I motivated myself to start a morning devotional/quiet time. It has been soothing to my soul to start the day in conversation with God.

The devotional I chose is Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist. I had seen it mentioned on a blog I read, plus it’s just a beautiful book. Besides the devotions, it also has some of Shauna’s favorite recipes scattered throughout. I hadn’t read any of her other books, but I thought I would give this one a try.

{Beautiful details of Savor}

{Beautiful details of Savor}

At first, I felt very disappointed that it didn’t dig into stories from the Bible. I mean, how could I become closer to God without reading his Word… right? But it turns out, Bible stories were not what I needed.

These daily devotions give an in-depth look into the life of a modern day Christ-follower. Shauna shares intimate details of her joys and sorrows, hopes and hopelessness. And at the end of each passage, she brings the focus back to your own personal relationship with God. She asks questions that are sometimes tough to answer. They make you dig deep and really look into whether or not you are truly putting your life in God’s hands. There are times when I find myself rolling my eyes thinking, why did she have to go there?! I don’t want to think about that!

Eventually, I pull out my journal and pour out my heart, answering her questions. More often than not, it ignites more questions and thoughts that I hadn’t previously realized I needed to hash out with God. What I end up with is a written prayer.

My experience with this devotional has been introspective and therapeutic. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to grow closer to God. Whether you are struggling with putting your trust in Him, or if you feel steadfast in your relationship with Him, I believe you will be touched by Shauna’s words.

If you have used this devotional or read one of Shauna’s other books, tell me in the comments about how it has affected you.

With hope and love,
Kristen

**One negative review I have read about this devotional mentions that most of the stories in Savor come from stories in Shauna’s other books. So if you have read her other books, you may be underwhelmed with this one. But I think the reflection questions will help you see the stories in a new light. 

Faithful in Prayer

I have always felt like prayer was one of my weaknesses.  Being asked to pray out loud has always been a terrible nightmare.  It takes me a long time to find the “right” words.  I stutter and fumble the whole way through, even when praying in silence.  On many occasions, my prayer ends up simply as, “God, you know my heart.  Please help me.

I hear the men and women around me pray these long, beautiful, meaningful prayers.  They almost sound like recitations instead of spontaneous thought.

And I want so badly to be able to pray that way.

But why?  Are their prayers more likely to be heard than mine?  Are they more likely to be answered?

No.  Of course not!

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Romans 8:26-27 says, “. . .the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit. . .”

See, the Bible doesn’t say anything about it needing to be pretty or a certain length.  Sometimes my prayers are rather ugly.  Like when I cry out to God with my hurts and anger.  Sometimes they are short and sweet.  Like when I think him for his daily blessings.  And I know he hears each and every one of them.

When I was in middle school, my youth pastor introduced me to the Five Finger Prayer.  I think it is typically used to teach young children how to pray.  And every night before bed, I still use this method.

  1. Praise God
  2. Confess your sins
  3. Thank God
  4. Pray for others
  5. Pray for yourself

As adults, I think we often try to make things way too complicated.  But the Bible puts it simply:

The Lord is near to all who call upon him. . .” – Psalm 145:18

Psalm 145:18

With hope and love,
Kristen

New Normal

Life looks a little different these days as we try to navigate our “new normal.” Sam went back to work the Monday following Ryder’s birth, but I haven’t returned to work since school let out for Spring Break and I was put on hospital bedrest in March. I do miss work, but I’m glad I took the time off. My brain needed some time to shut off and reboot. I’ll return to my job full-time in the Fall when school starts up again.

My days in the “before” period consisted mostly of work, errands, meals, and sleep. And now? Now I’m getting to do all the things I used to put off until “some day.”

Some day, I’ll start reading morning devotionals while I sip my coffee. – check!

Some day, I’ll have time to read all those pretty books sitting on my bookshelves. – check!

Some day, I’ll make time to work out three days a week. – check!

Some day, I’ll learn how to play that guitar I got in college. – check!

Some day, I’ll get to meet my husband or my friends for lunch during the week. – check!

Well, “some day” has arrived. I finally have the chance to do all these things I’ve put off for so long. And it’s so refreshing!

But there are also activities that I never planned would be part of my life. Like support groups. Last Tuesday, I went to my second Glory Babies meeting. This time I took Sam with me. I think he was nervous about going, but in the end he said he wouldn’t mind going again next month. I thank God daily for such a supportive husband. And if we have to walk this path, I’m glad we are making new friends along the way.

I’ve had the chance to spend the last two Saturdays in the Dallas area with my best friend and her family. This Saturday, we celebrated her daughter’s third birthday. Princess-themed, of course! As soon as we arrived for the party, she pulled me in to a bedroom to see her new dollhouse and castle. Last time I saw her, she was just starting to put three words together. This time, she was ordering me around and even using different voices for all the dolls as we played. It’s been so fun to watch her grow! She calls us Kwi-ten and Uncle Sam. It’s pretty adorable. The previous weekend, we attended a Phi Psi fraternity alumni event at TopGolf. We’d never been before and it was a blast! Can’t wait to go again.

It’s odd how four hours of round-trip travel and an exhausting day can actually feel like a breath of fresh air. Besides my blood relatives, my best friend and her family are one of the few things that have been consistently part of my life over the past seven years. She took me in when I needed a place to live during grad school, she stood by my side while I said my vows to Sam, she was there for Ryder’s birth, and she always seems to know when I need some words of encouragement. She’s my person.

I wrote here about getting guitar lessons for my birthday, and I had my first lesson last week! I’m pretty sure I’m a terrible student. It takes me forever to learn a new concept, I always forget to practice, and then I forget things easily. But my teacher is also my friend and she was really good about teaching to my level and explaining things simply. (Stevie, if you’re reading this, I promise I’m practicing!!! Even though my fingers really hurt…) I’ll probably never be a songwriter or a worship leader, but I’m very excited to learn something new. I’ve always felt an emotional connection to music, so I think this will be good for my soul.

Tomorrow, I’ll have my morning coffee, read my devotional, have lunch with a friend, practice my guitar, and probably do some yoga. It’s all new to me. But it’s my new normal. And I could get used to it!

image

With hope and love,
Kristen

Life in Pieces

Groucho Marx

I had such a wonderful week. But today was a different story. Today was just one of those days when I wanted to curl up in bed and cry.

I have many more good days than bad days, but when bad days come, they hit hard. They take the breath right out of me and make me forget all the reasons I have to be joyful.

It’s difficult to feel happy for other people when their lives seem so put together while mine is in pieces. And sometimes I get jealous. (I know that breaks God’s commands, but I’m only human.) And it isn’t really about material things. I mostly measure my life in experiences. Making friends, mission trips, vacations, getting my Master’s, buying my first house, creating a family, etc…

It’s hard to watch friends hit milestones before me. I’ve worked so hard to be where I am and sometimes I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. God seems to have hit the pause button on my life a few times. In the two years that we’ve been married, we’ve lost our son and dealt with job loss twice. Only by the grace of God have we survived.

And that’s pretty much what I’m doing. Surviving. Taking one day at a time. I try not to look too far into the past or into the future. The Devil is quick to remind me of the sadness in the past, and tries to convince me that the future will only hold disappointment. Most of the time I succeed in stifling his nonsense. But occasionally he sneaks up on me, lurking unnoticed until it’s too late.

By then, the only resolution is to cry it out. And maybe take a nap. Naps are always good for the soul.

Today I got discouraged and cried and took a nap. Tomorrow is a new day. A new chance to remember the hope I have in God.

With hope and love,
Kristen

Walking with Grief

Since Ryder’s birthday, I’ve found quite a few things to help me as I walk through grief. This blog has helped immensely, but it’s just me and my thoughts. When grieving, you really need outside resources to help you up when you feel so stuck in your thoughts that there seems to be no way out.

People

People have been my first line of defense to keep from sinking into a depression. It’s a lot harder to get stuck in your thoughts when your friends are dragging you out of the house for dinner, to play cards, or watch them sing karaoke. Visitors, even a couple days after Ryder’s birthday, gave me a reason to get out of bed, take a shower, and put on clean clothes. That’s a pretty exhausting feat when you’ve just lost your son. But it’s a necessary step toward healing.

Support Groups

At first, I joined groups on Facebook, meeting women all over the world who have been, or are going through, similar situations. They’ve also introduced me to other bloggers who write about grief. It’s not a fun club to be in, but I sure am glad I’m not in it alone.

This week I attended my first support group meeting. There’s a group in town called Glory Babies for those grieving the loss of a baby during pregnancy or infancy, or those struggling with infertility. You can find out more about the group here.

This week, it was just the founder and me. That made me very nervous. I don’t handle awkwardness well and I’m no good at small-talk. She told me that sometimes there are ten people and sometimes there are none, but that “it is always exactly what it needs to be.” She was so right! We had a great chat. I think I really needed that one-on-one time with someone who has been where I am now. It’s refreshing to know that there is a future. I can make it. She spoke a lot about Ryder’s purpose. It’s exactly what I needed to hear. I look forward to future meetings.

Books

I buy my books like I buy my wine. If it’s pretty, then it must be good. So far, it’s worked out pretty well for me on the book side. Wines… not so much.

Look at this book!

image

{Savor by Shauna Niequist}

Isn’t it beautiful?!? Even the inside is beautiful. And I don’t just mean the blue-gilded pages, though that’s my favorite part. I’ve only read a few of the devotionals so far, but I like it. It’s real. It talks about real life. And I like that.

Each day’s devotional is one page long and starts with a scripture. Then, the author shares a story from her life to tie in the scripture. It ends with a reflection question to think on. It’s really great if you journal during your quiet times.

I’ve always been a quitter throughout my life. I’d start a sport and quickly realize I hated it and quit. I’d start a journal, forget about it one day, then get so far behind that I’d give up and quit. I’d start devotionals, only to get too busy…. and quit. You get the picture.

I don’t want to quit this. I’ve never been one to spend oodles of time in the Word. (I know… bad Christian.) I’ve been more likely to just memorize individual verses or read other books that talk about the Bible. I’ve always been a Cliff’s Notes kind of person. That’s why I’ve always loved the idea of a devotional. Hopefully this one will stick!

I’ve also read I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith. It was given to me by a couple of church friends when we found out that Ryder wouldn’t make it, and it was exactly what I needed after losing him. It’s actually a very good book for anyone to read. It gives the reader insight into what someone going through loss may be thinking. Angie Smith’s husband is a member of the Christian group Watermark and they wrote a song called I Will Carry You for their daughter who they lost. It’s a beautiful song and we played it during Ryder’s memorial service.

Yoga

I’m honestly not sure about this one yet. Arizona State University is doing research on how yoga helps bereaved mothers through their grief. It’s a twelve week study and I just started it yesterday. It was an intro day, so I just watched videos on technique, breathing, and props that can be used. I don’t even know if I like yoga. But… I was once that grad student begging for participants for research. (It’s really hard to get people to do something for free. Even if it’s the equivalent to a personal trainer.) So I’m going to try my best to stick with it. (I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter…)

This is just a small list of things to help with grief. I’d love to hear what has helped you through difficult times!

With hope and love,
Kristen