Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Postpartum Funk

After (mostly) successfully surviving the newborn stage with Grace and Autumn, I thought it would be smooth sailing the third time around.

After a incredibly easy labor and delivery, I dealt with all the normal post-delivery transitions with John.  I healed quickly and he adjusted to life with us without a problem.

The first few months went by... the normal middle-of-the-night wakings, diaper changes, doctor's appointments, sweet family time, juggling time with all three kids, and constant eye bags... everything, I thought, was normal.  It felt normal.  We were walking through the normal things.

Toward the end of the summer, I saw a friend for a play date/catch-up-on-life session.  She asked me how my summer was.  Horrible was my reply.

For the next several minutes I began to say words I hadn't heard in my head until that point... I was sad... I felt angry... I just wanted to stay in bed... I felt disconnected with Joel... I didn't want to do stuff with the kids... I wanted to stay home... My quiet times with the Lord were out of sync... I couldn't pray... I didn't feel like me.

Her response?  I wish I had known.  Me too!

Seriously, I didn't know I was feeling... experiencing all those things until I was on my way out of the funk that hung over me for the first few months of John's life.  How could I have been struggling so much and not know it, until I started feeling normal again?

Poor Joel has felt the brunt of my postpartum funk.  I've told friends in our church small group that I've been feeling crazy.  Crazy is a good word.  I have not been myself... and my sweet husband has stood next to me, being abundantly patient with a crazy woman.  All at once, I've been mad, sad, apathetic and hysterical.  Not to say, I'm normally totally sane, but the last four months have had a few near bi-polar outbursts on my part.

I'm thankful for a man who is understanding even when I'm sure he is confused by me and wondering where Jill's gone.

So, I'm walking on the path out of this funk.  Now that I see that I've been struggling, I've had some very honest conversations with those who have been innocent bystanders in all of this.  I'm reading through the Psalms and cherishing the words that David says - saying exactly what my heart feels.  I've asked a thousand times for God to heal my heart, calm my emotions and remind me of His Joy.

I'm taking each day as it comes... realizing that the postpartum funk can sometimes come out of nowhere, that I need to ask for help and cherish each day that I have with my little Blessings.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mr J's First Blog Day Out

I know it's been quiet around A Troop's Girl the last few months.  We've been busy!  But before time got too far away, I wanted to share our sweet baby boy with you - Our sweet little John.  John was born May 14th and is 3 months old today!

He is an amazing baby - very content and seems to just love watching his sisters play around him... and he doesn't mind the occasional giant Autumn face getting very close to his.  (She is very interested in "Baby JA-OHN".) Joel and I are just in love with him, and as tiring as this baby-stage is, we wouldn't trade it.

So, enjoy those sweet baby cheeks.  I am!

More posts coming soon!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday - An Opportunity to Teach Your Children

Grace's Lent Book - age 7

Like most moms, I often think back at missed opportunities with my kids.  You know, those moments that the doors are wide open to teach your kid something important that you either fail to see at the time or figure it really isn't all that important?  Times when I should have taught about grace, forgiveness, patience... there have been many.

Yesterday I had a conversation with our pastor and a friend about this weekend's Easter services.  We discussed the Good Friday service and some of the plans that were underway, including showing a video and picture of aspects of the crucifixion.  We were trying to decide whether those things would be too-graphic for children who may be in attendance.  My immediate response was "yes!" - that's too much for my 7 year-old.  As we discussed further about the service and the heavy significance of Good Friday, my heart began to change.

Yes, Grace is 7 and we are probably more conservative than most parents about what our kids see and are exposed to.  But she knows about Jesus.  She asked Him into her life 2 years ago and can clearly tell you about who is is, why he came and what the cross meant.  I'm sure she's seen images of Jesus on a cross - probably the super-clean, gleaming-pale skin Jesus-on-the-cross picture... you know the ones.

Grace can also tell you about the Resurrection.  We actually just sat down at breakfast this week and talked about how awesome it was that Christ rose from the dead and the promise and hope that gives those who believe in him.

But I realized during my discussion with my friend and pastor that I've missed an important opportunity to talk about the cross with Grace.  We've never discussed the brutality of his death - all that he went through... how he was beaten, bloody, exhausted, tormented... She doesn't know that Jesus-on-the-cross story.

It wasn't until I was an adult, that I began to understand the weight of the cross.  As a kid, we never had Good Friday services.  There was one gentleman in our church that would share during a communion service about the physical brutality of the crucifixion.  But until I was an adult, no one helped draw a picture for me about the realities of the cross.

When you begin to understand the severity of the cross - the gruesome torture and death Christ went through for us, you then start to realize the significance of your own sin and the beauty of Christ's sacrifice.  Watching The Passion of the Christ in 2004 did that for me.  I wept through most of the movie and those images will be with me forever and have helped change my heart toward my Loving Savior.

So last night, after discussing things over with Joel, I decided Grace and I needed to talk about what Christ really did on his way to the cross and at Calvary.

Before I said anything, she said she wanted to read out of her Children's Bible - and she, on her own, chose the story of Christ's death.  I was blown away by how God was working out the details of our important conversation.  He was with us.

So after she finished reading to me, I began asking her questions about the cross and told her I wanted to share with her what Christ actually went through from the time he was taken by the Roman soldiers to the moment he died.  We talked about his sorrow, his open wounds, the people insulting him, the crown of thorns, the weakness in his body... his cry out to God.  It was incredibly powerful.

I don't expect Grace at 7 to fully understand what her Savior did for her that day.  As an adult, and Christian for nearly 30 years, I still don't understand how much Christ suffered for us... for me.  But my prayer is that starting with yesterday, Grace will understand fully how much her Savior loves her, the weight of sin and the price he paid for us.

I'm so humbled to be a part of her understanding of the Cross.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed
 - Isaiah 53:5

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Face in His Hands

There are plenty of times as a mom, when I kneel down in front of one of my little ones, and place my hands on each side of their sweet face.  It may be during a time of correction or punishment, oftentimes it's just to get them to be still and listen to me.  But sometimes it's because I need to encourage them and I want to make sure I have their attention.  Whatever it may be, those time are just ours.  For a moment in time, distractions fade and I have their attention.

Recently, I've felt God's hands on my cheeks - as He tries to get me to look at Him, to be still and to just listen to what He has to say.  He is looking into my eyes and into my heart, trying to speak to me, to get my attention.

He's been working on my heart in big ways the last several months - showing me the importance of His grace and living with the sweet, sweet Gospel in sight.  Somewhere, somehow, I lost the beauty of the Gospel.

The last several weeks, He's been holding me close, reminding me of where's I've lost focus - where I've lost track of His holiness, His beauty and grace.  My quiet times have been incredibly special and absolutely life-changing.

There are so many times throughout the day, when I feel Him grabbing a hold of me, pulling my face in His direction.  He is telling me to be still, remember who He is, what He has done and what He created me to be.  He has been like a loving parent, gently speaking to my heart - that I've lost focus and I need to look in His eyes.

God's grace does not fade, when we lose our focus.  He will, once again, bend down, grab hold of us, and speak, as only a loving Heavenly Father could.

"But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear." - Matthew 13:16

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Proud Mommy Moments: Autumn's Reflection

If you've been following for a while or know me personally, you know I've had my share of struggles with body image.  If you don't know the story, here's a post I wrote about my struggles with control, anxiety and purging.

As a mom to two girls, I know that I have a major role in how they see themselves and how they see themselves in light of what God created them for and to do.  Grace and I have had many talks about true beauty and how God created her perfectly (Psalm 139:13-18).  The world has already taught her about calories, health, exercise and the "fear of fat".  Autumn is just now paying attention to her reflection in the mirror.

Something I've tried to teach my girls, is to speak Truth to themselves.  One way I have done this, is to ask them to say "perfect" when they see themselves in the mirror.  Just a small way of reminding themselves that God has made them perfectly.  I do it too - not because I think I'm gorgeous, but because in God's eyes, He has made me perfect.

This week, while Autumn and I were having a super fun hang-out session reading books in my bed, she slid off the bed and went to the long mirror I have in my closet.  She looked at herself in the mirror for a few moments, smiled and pointed to her belly and said "Autumn.  Perfect".  It made my heart smile and I'm sure God's did, too.

Remember, whatever you're struggling with, however you see yourself, God has created you in His image.  He has known you from the beginning of time, and knit you together perfectly in your mother's womb!  We have a great God who loves us more than we could ever measure or imagine!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Nice Civilian Feeling

Next month will mark two years since Joel came back from his last tour in Iraq.  Two years.  That's the longest he's been home since Grace was born.  In four years, he was deployed three times.  Our life for a while was centered around his short times at home and the anticipation of his time away...

I started noticing this fall how "normal" life feels right now.  Although Joel's active duty, he's at a Guard base, so we life off-base.  He goes to work, comes home.  We have family time, church activities, hang-out times with friends.  Life feels really settled.  Normal.  Civilian.

Besides wearing his uniform when he leaves the house and the fact that there is always a pair of combat boots by our front door, life doesn't feel as military-focused as it has in the past.  It's been nice.

It's also been good for us - for our relationship.  Although we have grown so much as a couple and individuals through Joel's various deployments, it is really nice to do life with Joel on a day-to-day basis.  We are connected.  We are raising our children together - learning each day how to parent better.  We are pushing each other to grow in all areas of our life.

I've enjoyed this two years of togetherness.

But I've been struggling with some anxiety about what's next... It's been a strange feeling to feel like a civilian family... but it's almost like I can't seem to stay in the moment and enjoy now without thinking of the prospects of him leaving for an extended training or deployment.  It's like this has all been too good to be true.  That God must have something on the horizon for him - that Joel's just going to leave again, because life has been too good with him home.

Yesterday as I had some quiet time with the Lord, I read this in one of my devotionals - (it's called Jesus Calling and I would highly recommend it as a devotional to start your day and help you focus your heart...)

"I AM above all things: your problems, your pain, and the swirling events in this ever-changing world.  When you behold My Face, you rise above the circumstances and rest with Me in heavenly realms.  This is the way of Peace, living in the Light of My Presence.  I guarantee that you will always have problems in this life, but they must not become your focus.  When you feel yourself sinking in the sea of circumstances, say "Help me, Jesus!" and I will draw you back to Me.  If you have to say that thousands of times daily, don't be discouraged.  I know your weakness, and I meet you in that very place."

So, today I say "Help me, Jesus!" - help me to rest in the place you have us in right now, trusting in you daily that you hold today and tomorrow in Your Hands.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Our Financial Freedom Journey: 16 month check-up

Happy New Year!  Hope you all had a truly beautiful Christmas with those you love the most...

I realized at the end of the last month, as I was working on our finances, that's it's been forever since I've done a check-up on our road toward Financial Freedom.  The last time I did a check-up, it was last February, and we were just 6 months into all of this.  Now, we're starting off our 16th month... 16 months!  It's time to let you all know how we've been doing.

First off, this journey has gotten easier since we started in September 2011.  It has been easier to "do without" some things in order to stay focused on our goal of living without debt.  Joel and I are much better accountability partners in this area of our lives than we've ever been.  And that's been a vital part - to have your spouse continually remind you of your mutual goals and cheer each other on as your debt shrinks.

At this point, we are rounding the corner.  I'm hoping in the next several months, I'll be able to share a post with you that says we're debt free - that we did it!  We still have a little ways to go, but as I tally our debt pay-off each month, that number inspires both Joel and I to work harder and to finish this whole adventure strong.

So, here's the exciting part... Over the last 16 months of Joel working two jobs, us living on a budget (mostly but not perfectly) and us saying "no" to things that aren't necessary to survival, this military family of four has paid off $19,686.00!

If you've followed our story here on my blog or know us personally, you know that this has taken a lot of sacrifice - a lot of time with Joel away from us (for a short while) in order to help secure financial peace (long term).  Our thought the entire time is that we we're going to jump in with both feet until we were out of debt so we no longer had to live barely making it each month, hardly being able to save, with a large debt-number hanging above us.  We've made some bad choices that has gotten us here - we have bought too much, gone out too frequently, saved too little when we could have saved a lot and did not start our marriage with complete financial honesty and transparency.  It is because of several bad decisions, that we had to wake-up and drastically change the way we were living.

We realized 16 months ago, that in many ways, our children were going to have to deal with the consequences of our bad financial decisions.  We knew, if we continued to live with too much, that we wouldn't be able to move to a larger home, afford vacations, have a sizable savings for life-happenings and be able to save for college.  I'm not saying those are necessary for a happy childhood.  But I'm simply trying to say that our poor financial decisions was not only having a negative impact on the two of us, but the four of us.  Through this process, we've been able to teach Grace about savings, working hard and handling the money God has given us with wisdom.  I know she's only 6, but she can tell you why we're doing all of this.  And she's learned the importance of saying "no" today so we can say "yes" in the future.

If you're sick of living month-to-month, of living with anxiety about what's in your bank account and what you're financial future may look like, all I can say if we can do it, so can you!  Dave Ramsey has some great tools on his website, including this great budget tool.  On his site, you can look at the steps toward becoming debt free.  We didn't follow his 7 Baby Steps completely - we did follow his basic principle of living with the bare minimum and how he suggest you snowball debt.

Feel free to contact me with any questions!  We have really enjoyed sharing this journey - I've been so encouraged by the stories of others who have made this decision to live radically now so you can live freely later.