Returning to work + Fighting to believe the truth about it

Encouragement for returning to work after maternity leave

Today marks the end of my maternity leave… Or, rather, the start of my return to work. I’m a ball of mixed emotions as I drive to the office today.

A huge part of me mourns the hours of my week that will no longer be devoted solely to meeting the physical and emotional needs of my daughter. I’ve spent the past 8 weeks learning how to care for her, anticipating what her needs may be and constantly shifting my priorities from my needs to hers. Very little during that time required me to shift my thoughts from her to something else. Those eight weeks passed in what now feels like the blink of an eye, although I know some of those nights felt like an eternity in themselves.

Related Post: Adeline’s birth story

But a small part of me fights to speak truth into my sad heart this morning. That small part reminds me that I’m acting out of obedience to God by returning to this job. I know this responsibility is a calling he has placed on my life – a calling he has given me in addition to motherhood and being a wife that I want to walk in because above all else, first I am his daughter.

My job is completely a gift from God; it’s one of the several loud, tangible examples I’ve seen of his grace in my life over the past two years. In fact, about this time last year I realized this job was the dream job I didn’t know my heart desired!

But I now know motherhood is another job I didn’t realize my heart desired… I had no idea how much I’d want this and never want to turn back.

So as I drive to work today, I’m reminding myself of these truths, because despite the changes this new season of working and motherhood will bring, I know I’m walking in God’s desires for me and my family.

When I go to work, I get to spend part of my week exploring how we can help people encounter God each week through the arts. I get to brainstorm and bring to fruition these ideas with people who are passionate about making the gospel known to our community.

When I go to work, I’m surrounded by people who inspire me to grow and be better. They inspire me to renounce selfishness and remind me this life is about more than just myself and my wants.

When I go to work, I get to lead my community in meeting God through song. What a joy and what a responsibility! I don’t take Sunday mornings lightly. What a privilege to gather freely as a community to preach truth to ourselves, to each other and to unbelievers who visit with us through the words we sing in those songs. I am incredibly grateful that God has entrusted me with the responsibility to lead part of his people in this act of obedient worship each week.

When I go to work, I get to use my gifts as a musician and grow in them! I get to collaborate with other musicians and be inspired by their discipline and talent. I’m driven to further develop my gifts and that brings me incredible joy.

When I go to work, I get to help provide for my family. I’m not leaving Adeline for my own selfish gain (not that “me time” isn’t a healthy thing for moms to have each week!) – I’m leaving her so that I can help keep a roof over her head, clothes on her body and food on the table! I am glad I get to help demonstrate for her the discipline and value of work.

When I go to work, I am walking faithfully in one of the many callings of my life. I’m renouncing Satan’s whispers that I’m neglecting my daughter or that I’m not qualified or that I’m not creative or talented enough for this job. And boy does he try to lure me away with those lies! Motherhood is another string for him to twist in my heart. No – when I go to work, I am honoring my commitment as a follower of Christ, as a wife to Jacob, as a mother to Adeline and as a woman who values growth, hard work and chasing a dream and life she loves.

So when I need to remember why I’m going to work, I’m going to re-read this post and ask God to use me, to make those hours count for his Kingdom and to help me remember the freedom I have to do so joyfully.

Ladies, no matter what your season of life looks like – whether you stay at home or go to work or do a mixture of both, live this season faithfully! If you are struggling with where you’re at, I encourage to to sit with the Lord and ask him to show you why you’re there. And then write it down! When Satan tempts you to sink into the lies that where you are isn’t enough, read that list to remember God’s truth. And then walk in it confidently! All of the seasons of our lives and motherhood look different, so don’t worry yourselves by comparing yours to the people around you… You matter right where you’re at, right now. As I press “publish” today and drive into work, I’m praying for each one of you reading this, that you’ll believe the truths God has for you in this season instead of Satan’s temptings to despair.

Mama, you matter right where you're at, right now. Whether that's at work or at home. Click To Tweet

Thanks for your encouragement as a new mom these last 8 weeks! I hope we can continue sharing so much more encouragement with each other!

What’s an area of your life that you are struggling to believe is purposeful or valuable?  Claim that truth today and ask God to help you believe it!

You matter. And so does your story.

YOUR STORY MATTERSWe all have stories, but how many of us spend the majority of our lives downplaying the power of those stories?

I love this blog – it’s my little space on the internet to share glimpses of what I’m learning and who I’m becoming as God shapes me. It’s a place to exercise my gifts of writing and creativity, to connect with others in my city and beyond who can relate to things I’m learning, and to document for my own benefit the work God has done and is doing in my life.

But I spend a lot of time doubting. I tell myself I have nothing worthy of sharing, nothing worthy of others reading… and that’s simply not true. Friend, your story matters. And you’re the only one who can tell it.

When you hear the whisper that you aren’t good enough, that what you have isn’t sufficient enough, or you aren’t skilled enough… don’t let that lie paralyze you from sharing anyway. You are the only one who can share your story, and you’re the only one who can hone your gifts… so use them. Use your gifts, no matter how developed they are, to write, to speak, to create, to photograph, to design – whatever it is that small piece of you buried deep down longs to do. Don’t let lack of development hold you back – it’s doing that will further your development. And God will use your development and your bravery to share along the way to empower others to do the same.

So whatever your story – share it. Don’t hold back. Show up anyway when that voice tells you that you aren’t enough and prove it wrong. You matter. And so does your story.

 

My 10 Secret Dreams

I’m going to be really honest here. Sometimes I feel like I’m overflowing with dreams and I can’t hold onto them long enough to make them a reality. I feel so pulled in every direction it’s hard to even know where to start.

Well, I know where to start. It starts with being intentional about my time. My life here is so short – in a blink it will be gone, and the last thing I want to do is spend it being lazy, watching too much TV or complaining about everyone around me.

I want to dream big dreams, chase them and encourage my friends to do the same. I want to love Jacob well and lead him in loving Christ beyond anything else. I want to do things. So today I’m sharing the 10 secret dreams (some not-so-secret) that I’m committing to making a reality in my life. Won’t you dare to dream a little and share yours, too?

1. Write a book.

2. Start a band. Write and record music and play as much as we can.

3. Love my job.

4. Memorize an entire book of Scripture.

5. Write music for my church.

6. Mentor other women in pursuing their dreams and believing the gospel.

7. See the world.

8. Live honestly, transparently, and with freedom from the bondage of others’ approval.

9. Love my husband wildly and devotedly.

10. Grow every day, no matter how (seemingly) little. I want to be changed, molded, and crafted into the very nature of Christ himself. That doesn’t happen accidentally.

Tell me, what are your secret dreams? What do you want to do in your life? Don’t be shy! Don’t be scared! Writing it out is the first step to realizing you can make it happen.

I’d love to cheer you on.

Believe in yourself, have some guts & make it happen.

Isn’t she beautiful? My run last night, while a complete mental battle, was filled with beautiful scenes. I couldn’t help but notice all the fall flowers on porches, wildflowers along the road and this stunning sunflower.

Last night was my first run in quite some time that was quiet. I almost always have a running buddy, and for the few times lately I haven’t, I’ve brought music to accompany me. But this run was just me and my loud mind, for all five miles. It was intimidating, but also freeing.

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I’ll be running my race solo a week from Sunday. Tonight’s run really let that scary truth sink in. Because I haven’t been running solo often, I learned my pacing is horrible, which of course made me nervous about pacing 13 miles by myself! Well, surrounded by a crowd of people running faster than me, anyway ;).

But with each pounding footstep, I told myself to keep going. Even though it was scary, even though it was hard, and even though I’m still unsure about my race… I kept going.

Last night I learned a huge lesson in being brave and doing hard things, which seems to be the theme of my life lately. What makes it the most difficult, though, is that it’s almost completely a mental game. Friends, I know this is cliche, but you can do whatever you set your mind to do – you really can. Believe in yourself, have some guts and make it happen.

There are a lot of exciting things brewing in my life right now, both blog related dreams and other crazy dreams of mine, I can hardly focus on one thing at a time. But none of them would be happening if I didn’t allow myself to think big and then believe those dreams could become a reality. Friends, life is short. Do things you love to do, be around people who inspire you and chase your dreams, y’all. Even if it’s scary at first.

Take one step at a time.

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Creativity & Christianity

Y’all. I have a straight up, cookie crumbles on top treat for you today. My dear friend Abbie is sharing some deep, critically important thoughts about creativity and Christianity, and I swear my heart beat quickened with her eloquent words. I hope you all will take a few minutes to consider her thoughts and ask yourself how you respond to them.

Abbie and I have been friends since fifth grade, and I’ve shared before that she’s my idea friend. She’s the friend I share my big, secret dreams with first because I know she’ll cheer me along. She recently started her blog and it’s one of my favorite online places to frequent. But I’ll stop blabbering and let you get to the good stuff now!

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I used to be a ballerina. I was good at it and I loved it. There were several reasons that I quit towards the end of high school, but one of the big motives was that I started to feel it was a selfish way to spend my time and energy. I began to think that any time spent not leading or participating in a bible study, doing “outreach,” discussing theology, or helping someone through a crisis was wasted, selflishly spent time and was not beneficial or glorifying to God.

Perhaps it was selfish for me, at that time. I don’t even know anymore. Regardless, I have spent the past several years pondering, praying, watching and reading about artistry in the life of a Christian. My view of creativity and craftmanship has since changed; I no longer regard it as a selfish waste of time. In fact, I see it as the opposite. The ability to create is a gift that needs to be honed, shared, and celebrated. Not only is it a gift, however. I believe it is a necessity in our lives.

We need to create because it glorifies God.

God is the most innovative, prolific, talented, passionate, push-the-envelope, take-your-breath-away Artist there is. Think of all of the God-made beauty that exists in the world. Think of how attracted we are to the rush of the ocean and all of the wonder that it holds in its depths. Look at how the most luscious wildflowers grow without any human help. Have you ever reached the summit of a mountain or looked up at a night sky full of bright stars? Have you felt that sense of awe, of being overwhelmed by natural artistry? God brings beauty from absolutely nothing. He paints galaxies and sculpts canyons and molds the perfect musculature of millions of animals. These are things that could never be replicated by human hands.

And yet, we are made in his image (Genesis 1:27). We were made to reflect this Artist, to represent him on earth. When we imitate him by creating, it honors him, and he delights in that.

We need to create because we cannot resist it.

Not only do we need to create for God, but we also need to create for our own wellbeing. The same way that we are made to eat and sleep, we are also made to create and bring order out of chaos. It is engrained in who we are as image bearers.

When I dance (whether that’s an impromptu dance party in my kitchen or a class at a studio), I feel that I am grasping what it means to be a human and I am grateful to be alive. I think it is crazy that our bodies can express
such specific things, deep things, things that people
can relate to, all without words. That our blood pumps and our muscles contract and our joints can work in such simultaneously strong, elegant, and powerful ways. That an arm can communicate so much grace in just one movement. That we are not robots. We are exquisite creations with marvelous bodies, beautiful minds and enormous capacities to create in ways that no other earthly beings can. We were made to create. It is who we are. We need it like we need water.

We need to create because it builds community.

Art brings us together. It literally brings us to the same place (an art gallery, a theatre, etc), and it also relates people emotionally and spiritually. It creates opportunity for encouragement and provides platforms for thought and conversation among people of different personalities, backgrounds and religions. I believe that there are common human experiences such as suffering and love and hope that can be communicated across time, distance, language, and cultural barriers. Through art, I have the ability to communicate to you that you are not alone and give you assurance and hope. This is a beautiful thing.

I realize, of course, that I am talking to a world of Pinterest and Etsy and artsy
Instagrams. So maybe this idea seems like common sense to you. Or maybe the opposite is true and
you’ve never really considered the meaning or motivation behind opening that Etsy shop, or why you should take that painting class, or the placement of those peonies for your next Instagram (something I would probably spend an entire eight minutes on). This is certainly not a new topic. People have been having this conversation for
centuries. But I think that it is crucial to our human experience and that we should keep talking
about it, writing about it, painting about it and dancing about it.

Although today I am talking primarily about creating art, I am not referring only to art. Perhaps you or someone you know and love are not the “artsy” type. There are many people who are not wired to enjoy or find glory, rest, and community in drawings or poetry or dancing. Maybe spreadsheets are more your thing. In Stephen Altrogge’s ebook called Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff, he challenges the stereotypical definition of “creativity” by saying, “When an accountant massages an unruly mass of data into an intelligent sales report, she is reflecting the image of God.” We are all meant to create. Even if that means creating an Excel document instead of a poem. (PS, I am strongly recommending this book to every Christian, artist,
and human being. It is extremely practical and helpful, you can get
through it in less than two hours and it’s only 99 cents on your Kindle
or Kindle app!)

So, what arena of creation are you passionate about? What is it that makes your heart beat, that inspires you, that opens your eyes and lets you see the beauty that exists in a broken and exhausted universe? Are you using your gifts and passions to glorify God and bring healing and restoration to yourself and those around you? If not, what is one step you can take this week to start creating? Share in the comments!

Artwork by my dear friend Jackie, with the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” by Robert Frost.

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Practical Steps to Dreaming with Intention

You guys have to be sick of me talking about chasing dreams by now, right? I hope not, because I don’t plan on stopping. I wholeheartedly believe that God gave us passions to use for his glory, and dreaming big is one avenue to be obedient in that way!

Now dreaming big is fun, but you can’t stop there… not if you want those dreams to become a reality, anyway. To do that, you have to take some action steps.

Write out your dreams and goals. 

I know this sounds corny, but take time to really think through what you want to accomplish. This might take a while, and that’s okay. It’s hard to sift through what other people tell you to do and what you actually want to do.

Write out achievable steps to get there. 

Sometimes it’s easy to work backward. So you want to write a book? Okay, when do you want to be finished – a year from now? That’s twelve months. Keep dividing that down to figure out how many words you need to write each month, week, and even each day. To launch my shop, I made a list of literally every single thing I could think of that needed to be done – researching, brainstorming a name, setting up listings, creating business documents, designing new products, etc.!

Tell someone your plans.

Choose someone who will hold you accountable and act as a great sounding board throughout the process. My awesome and long-time friend Abbie fulfilled this role for me. A lot of friends knew I wanted to launch a shop, but she helped me come up with the name, checked in with me periodically, and encouraged me to keep going when I couldn’t see how close I was to the finish line!

Carve out time to work on the steps you outlined. 

Even if you’ve followed all of the other steps, not making time to do those things won’t get you anywhere!! And life is busy, I totally get that. So sit down with your calendar and decide how you’re going to make this happen – I’ve started getting up at 6 am to work on dream things before my 8-5 job starts.

I love seeing people chase after things they love, and I’m so inspired by them! I hope this short list convinces you to do that thing you’ve been putting off for way too long. What are the dreams you need to start chasing??

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