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New Year, new fruit

The end of another 21 day fast has come and gone. Although it was difficult it seemed to go a lot faster than last year. If you keep up with my Instagram stories (and no worries if you don’t…I tend to go on and I know I usually don’t watch stories with the sound on anyway so I really don’t expect other people to either) you saw some of my meals and some of the things I was learning. Some of the things I learned were the same as last year and some of them were brand new. So new that I am not really sure what they mean yet. If I had to sum it up in bullet points (for those of you who love bullet points as much as I do) they would probably be something like this:

  • Prayer time is anytime
  • New year with a new word
  • It’s a trinity, not a duo

For the physical part I can say that the first week was, in a word, painful. Detoxing from sugar and caffeine just plain hurts. The second week was better, broken up by a trip to Florida with my husband where I mostly stuck to the fast but not completely. I mean, how often does a mom of four get a kid free weekend to a warm climate with her husband? I would imagine it’s even less likely than the odds I ever get to pee alone again, or that the Lions will win a Superbowl. The third week was where I saw the most growth, and not coincidentally had the most cravings. Have you ever noticed that in the midst of or before a breakthrough, things seem to get harder? Temptation comes at a more rapid pace? Not a coincidence people, we have a real enemy. As for working out, I slowed down all my physical activity. I did a three week yoga course that I actually enjoyed. I used the time on the mat to do some prayerful meditation. Listening instead of talking at God is something I have always had a hard time with.

Some days were a struggle, not just because of the hunger or cravings but because I felt like I just couldn’t really get enough time to pray and focus on the real reason for this time. Then, I listened to a podcast where Stephanie Gretzinger, a singer and worship leader with Bethel Church was talking about how she felt like she wasn’t able to get enough time alone with God due to her everyday life demands (hello, was she inside my brain or something??) What she said was that she learned that her time of prayer and revelation from God (and she is a songwriter and prophetess so it’s kind of important for her) is something she does ALL DAY. Not just while she’s alone on her face with God in a quiet room. Let’s face it, for a lot of us the only time THAT happens is while we are unconscious at 3am. Even then a lot of us probably have a two year old kicking us in the spleen or laying on our full bladder that we have been ignoring hoping it would just go away so we could get a few more minutes sleep. So, from then on I stopped trying to do this fast “the right way.” I realized it looks different for everyone and while I may not be able to journal sit by myself in those times when hunger or cravings hit, I could pray right where I was and ask for revelation and endurance. Jesus knows our lives, he sees our struggle and he is gracious enough to meet us where we are, either in a quiet prayer time or while we are cutting up hotdogs or sweeping up cheerios for the millionth time of the day. I started to incorporate prayer more into our daily life. Praying as a family more times than just before dinner. Creating an atmosphere where praying out loud is not awkward, does not feel forced. As a child I always felt that whenever someone prayed at home it felt super weird and out of place. I decided that the best way to change that environment in my home was to pray out loud and often, speaking to God as a friend or a father, not as this unknown entity in the sky. It was when I was performing a super glamorous task of motherhood (aka changing a poopy diaper) that I was hit with a word for the coming year. Who knew that even when we are (literally) elbows deep in crap…God can still speak to us and through us? (other than the prodigal son, I guess he kind of set the standard on that but anyway…back to my word)

When I first heard this word I honestly had to look it up. I have never really prayed about or asked for a “word of the year.” I was hoping if I ever got one, it would be something cool that I could get put on one of those bracelets or necklaces or something. Or even better…make it into my next tattoo. What I got was a word that surprised me (and no husband, I do not feel led to go get this word imprinted on my body so no worries…for now.)

Fruition:

  1. the point at which a plan or project is realized.
  2. the state or action of producing fruit

Now, I have no idea what I am want most of the time. Ask me what food I feel like having and you may get an answer now or never (most likely never). If I’m supposed to pick the restaurant or activity for the evening…you might as well put your sweatpants back on because odds are we are staying home. The same rules apply when I’m asked to make a “dream board” or set goals or do whatever else Rachel Hollis has been asking me to do. I have sat many sessions staring at a blank screen that said “goals.” I sort of felt broken. What was wrong with me that I don’t have this aspiration to set goals and be a “goal digger” or “boss babe” or whatever else I felt like I was supposed to be? I know what I like to do, I like to encourage people. I like to laugh (mostly at myself). I like being a mom and I like coming alongside other women to show them that motherhood and life and womanhood is not one size fits all and it’s not perfect like we see on our screens. I have thought about a website or expanding this blog but to be honest, it all seems a little overwhelming. When I got this word I felt that it was giving me some confirmation that this last year of growth is going to give birth to something this year that is going to produce good fruit. What that is going to look like? I’m not sure about yet. That thought is both encouraging and terrifying, which is basically sort of how everything in my life feels so at least it’s consistent. I am looking forward to a year of plans coming into fruition.

Lastly, I realized that I wasn’t acknowledging the third component of the trinity. I mean, I feel like I have the “Father, Son” part down pretty well but when it comes to that third part, the Holy Spirit, that part is a little bit more mysterious therefore I tend to shy away.  I would do things like pray and ask God for discernment and hear nothing.  I had not really considered that as part of my relationship with Jesus. I was reminded of something Priscilla Shirer said in a bible study once that stuck with me. Why did God seem to show up in these huge and dramatic ways in the Old Testament but then, not so much today? Well the answer, in short, was the Holy Spirit. Jesus called the Holy Spirit a “helper” His Spirit that can live on the inside of us at all times (John 14:26). In the Old Testament, before Jesus went to the cross, they did not have the Holy Spirit, they had to cast lots, listen to talking animals, burning bushes, etc etc etc. The spirit of God could not remain in a person for the long term. This is why we see David saying things like “do not take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalms 51:11). See we have the amazing right through Jesus’ death to have his Spirit in us at all times. The even better part is, once it’s there, it doesn’t leave. Well for me, I knew that I had the Holy Spirit but I had been ignoring him so long that I kind of grew used to not really consulting or listening to him. I would read the bible and get nothing, I would pray and hear nothing. I would fail again and again and no matter how much I tried, my frustration levels with my kids were off the charts. Frustrated with myself, I would drown in guilt. Then I would start to think, maybe God had washed his hands of me. Why was everyone getting so much out of the Word? Why did I just fall asleep whenever I read it and when I did read it, not understand basically any of it? Well I wasn’t inviting the Spirit of God to go before me first, I was trying to do everything on my own. Well, we know how it goes when we try to do anything relying completely on our own power right? We can get far, sure. God gave us brains and strength and grit and tenacity but even the strongest person will fall and fail at times. I learned, over these past 21 days to invite the Holy Spirit into every part of my life. Did I still mess up and ignore the newfound discernment that the Holy Spirit gave me and continue to make bad choices, lose my patience, act unkindly? Yes. I’m a work in progress…it’s a marathon not a sprint here people. However, I can say that as I started to actually do this, to actually invite the Spirit into the conversation the Bible started to come alive in ways it had not in a long time. I re read chapters in Romans that suddenly seemed like they were written specifically for me. I was reminded again and again that there is NOTHING that we can do that can separate us from God, who loves us (Romans 8:38). I parked in Hebrews, a book that I had previously not spent much time in and found I was actually able to understand it. Verses like Hebrews 10:22; “let us draw near to God, with sincere hearts and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water”  freed me from the guilt over past sins. Hebrews 4: 15-16 reminded me that I am not alone in my struggles and that I can boldly approach God, asking for the help I need. I found myself wanting to read more each day. I ordered a bible study to do on my own, not because my church is doing it, but because I want to do it. And the best part is, this is only the beginning. Now that I have realized that I have been ignoring and leaving out this very important part of the trinity, I can only expect even greater things. Most importantly evidence of the fruit I am promised if I allow the Holy Spirit to take up space in my life. If you need a reminder, that fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (and notice that it is fruit, as in singular, as in if you have one you have them all). There is not one thing on that list that I am not lacking in. Some more than others but all are things that will come to fruition (see what I did there…) if I adopt the spirit of Christ as opposed to following my own flesh. That my friends is the best news I’ve gotten in a long time. I honestly don’t think I would’ve gotten there if I had not taken these last 21 days to fast and pray.

Now, I know fasting food isn’t possible for some people. For several years I was either too pregnant or too close to an eating disorder to really feel comfortable doing it. I think you need to use your discernment on this one, maybe ask the Spirit for some help since He is the one who gives the best advice. It was only the last two years (and really just this year if I’m being completely honest) that I have been in the right head space to fast for the right reasons. My pastor always says “fasting without prayer is just a bad diet.” If fasting a meal or limiting your food is triggering for you as you deal with an eating disorder, don’t do it. There are other things to fast, other ways to clear your head space and free you of distractions so as to more clearly hear from God. Do those things. If that isn’t you, if you are not in that place, I highly encourage you to fast and pray at least once in a while. Jesus says in Matthew 6:16 “when you fast…” he does not say “if you fast.” It’s important. It allows us to get out of our own way, to empty ourselves of physical things and ask God to fill those hungry spaces. I am so thankful for this time every year. The real challenge is carrying the lessons I learned into the rest of the year. Whatever 2019 brings, I have confidence that I will be able to face it with more of all things we are promised by the God who loves us.


“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

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Parenting: The first step is to admit you are one.

This is the post excerpt.

Hey there everyone. My name is Amber, and I am a parent. Sometimes, parenting can seem like a 12 step program. First, we have to admit that once that baby crowns, we are powerless over parenting and left unchecked it can make our lives seem unmanageable. Next, we have got to come to believe that only a Higher Power can restore us to sanity (Jesus, fix it). As a parent you are going to have to make amends, a lot. Amends for the fact that no one is a perfect parent (sorry perfect social media moms, we are on to you). Amends for the fact that you are going to have to live with imperfect kids, no matter what your bumper sticker says. We (as parents, or alcoholics) will have to continue to take personal inventory and admit when we are wrong. Finally, and really by this point I am starting to think the founder of the AA model was really also writing a parenting book, we have to humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings. Parenting is HARD. There is no other way to put it. However, it is also hilarious and wonderful and the best way to get ourselves out of our own way. There is no room for things like pride or vanity when you are coming off a three day ear infection bender covered in someone else’s bodily functions. There is no filter for that. In this blog I want to provide some stories from my own journey as a mom of four to make this thing called parenting seem a little more normal and (hopefully) a lot more joyful.

 

So Will I

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Trigger Warning: The following post is about my struggle with disordered eating and body image. It will deal with issues like purging and food deprivation; so if those things are going to be harmful for you to read about, don’t read any further.

 

So, I guess I should start by acknowledging the fact that I haven’t blogged anything in forever. I think it’s a combo of not feeling like I have anything important to say and also not having the words to say the important things I want to say. (And also, I’m just like really tired a lot because I’m pretty sure my kids are miniature siphons who steal my energy like it’s gasoline during a citywide blackout.) Also, it is because for the last, oh I don’t know, six months or so I have been fighting (and losing) and fighting a battle against myself that I was so ashamed of. It felt like it was going to be all that I did for the rest of my life. I have been weary to talk about it because it makes me feel weak, like there is something wrong with me. Well, anyone who knows me knows that the LAST thing I want people to think about me is that I am weak or a failure. This has made me feel like both. I struggle to even use the word because it’s a “label” and it sounds so…so….basic. Alas, as Mr. Shakespeare said what’s in a name anyway?

Bulimia.

There, I said it (or typed it). Although, I prefer to say, “purging” because it sounds better. Or at least it makes it sound a little prettier. I can tell you, it’s not pretty. It’s not something to try to put in a tidy little package with a bow on it. It is exhausting and embarrassing, and just plain gross. I remember very clearly the first time I did it and how mortified I was with myself but also, the small voice in the back of my head that said “wow, that was easy, it’s not so bad.”  Sure, with four small children constantly around me it wasn’t “easy” in that I would never want them to know what I was doing. But, like most things in my life; I found a way. I hate that I went down that path. I had battled with some eating issues before but never purging. I had never done that with any sort of regularity. I felt like a bad Lifetime movie. You see I went through a pretty big weight loss. I used a popular weight loss program and had “success.” Then, I started to read about and see the ugly side of diet culture and I felt the ugly effects of diet culture. Constantly worrying and planning and stressing over everything I put in my mouth. Meal prepping and ignoring certain foods “to be good.” Feeling like you have to “earn” any extra calories, any “bad” foods you eat were a failure to your “healthy lifestyle.” It was getting to be too much and I wanted out. Well, anyone trying to get out of diet culture will tell you that the side effect to that may very well be, weight gain. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared for that. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be smaller, thinner, more attractive, take up less physical space to make up for me taking up so much space in other ways. I can be loud, I can be crazy, I can silly and weird and funny but I cannot be….fat. In my head if I were bigger, it would overshadow and negate all the good qualities I saw in myself. Now, I am exercising, I am getting stronger and it is not (usually) a chore for me. I ACTUALLY like it. I see muscle definition in places I have never seen muscles, I have found a passion for exercise that I have never had before. But naturally, no matter what level of exercise I did, I saw some changes in my most sensitive area, my belly and waistline (as diet culture says, abs ARE made in the kitchen after al and we all want abs because it’s what they tell us we should want to have). I began choosing not to restrict, not to count calories, not to classify food as “good and bad.” (Please hear me on this, in a healthy place, I would have seen these changes, accepted them and even welcomed them because the TRUTH is, being in a smaller body DOES NOT necessarily equate to health or wellness. The TRUTH is, my body was becoming powerful and healthy and the only reason it felt scary to me is because I LIKED (like) looking smaller which is something that is unattainable if I don’t participate in some sort of diet or maintain some sort of “lifestyle change.”) Well, these physical changes plus feeling out of control, unsure of what to do or where to go lead to that first time I purged my food. Then I did it again, and again, and again and…well you get the picture. I started to hate the feeling of being “full” even if it was a normal amount of food I had eaten, even if I wasn’t “binging” or overdoing my food intake. Any feeling of being “full” made me want to run to the bathroom. Once I felt “empty” I felt slightly better, and a whole lot worse. Now, I am not uneducated on this whole thing. I know that throwing up my food is not the solution to it being as if I never ate it in the first place. I never saw any weight loss, actually only weight gain. I felt the physical effects of my choices in the constant bad taste in my mouth, the shakiness, the reflux, and of course the shame of knowing that I know better.

Now eventually, I did tell someone. I told my husband. This was a big step for me. I generally choose to keep all my battles private so that no one will think I don’t have it all together. Telling him, and then a few close friends felt freeing. I got some accountability and some people to walk along side me. However if you want me to tell you that admitting that I was doing this thing stopped the behavior, you will be disappointed to know that it didn’t. I went through times where I did well. I made myself a “star chart” (like the kind you make your kids for going to the bathroom…what can I say, I am motivated by setting goals.) I had things I would tell myself I could earn if I made it a week, two weeks without purging. I never could get more that a week. I would retreat back into my patterns and not tell anyone. I would say I was doing better when my friends or husband asked. Then I noticed something happening that at the time seemed like the only thing that could get me to stop, I found that I was having trouble singing. I couldn’t hit some notes that before I could. It was a huge blow.

I felt so selfish. Like, the only reason I would consider changing my behavior was not my kids, not my own health, but my voice. Now, I am not overly confident in my vocal abilities, I know my limits and I am not affected by the delusions of grandeur we see during the opening auditions of American Idol. I do however love to sing. I love to worship through singing. I have always been a worshipper. I get to be on the worship team at our church and in the choir on Sunday. When I sing, it’s usually a worship song (or a show tune…if I’m being totally honest here). I confided this to a dear friend and was feeling so ashamed of my selfishness and she looked at me and said, “Why do you think that it is selfish?” I told her how it felt so vain to only care about my voice being affected. She then asked me if I thought maybe this whole thing was exactly the type of thing the enemy would use to keep me silent, to remove my joy and my worship. There is nothing the devil wants more than to whisper lies into the ear of a believer that lead them to sin and then shame them into silence by telling them they are bad, because they gave into the bad thing they did. Thereby rendering them useless for the Kingdom of God. Armed with this revelation, I started treating it like an attack. I started to find verses to use in those moments of weakness, when I wanted to give into the urge to purge (lol even in a serious moment please laugh at that pun I just made. I mean, if Dr. Seuss wrote a book on bulimia he’d probably put that in there. Although I’m not sure there would be a huge market for a Dr. Seuss: eating disorder series but ya just never know.) Anyway, the result of this new found weapon in my fight was gaining some ground back. I found myself going a week without doing it, a week and a half even. I started to feel safe, like I was out of the woods. Then, in an act of self-sabotage I would get on the scale or try on the pants that used to fit and ultimately end up going back. Not as often, but still going back.

So where am I now? Well I am here, writing this out because I finally feel ready to share about it. I recently accomplished a really big goal and finished an intense workout program. I was so proud that I did but yet, so embarrassed and ashamed that I was still struggling with my food so much. I asked Jesus to meet me where I was, to help me where I was, instead of just beating myself up saying “why can’t you get yourself together? You need to handle this yourself.” When I was on a camping trip last weekend, hunched over a campground toilet, thinking to myself “who on earth would do this to themselves on purpose?” I felt probably the lowest I’d felt since this whole thing started. If you know anything about campgrounds, you know this is not the type of place anyone willingly throws up. It was a moment of clarity for me. In that moment, as I was rinsing out my mouth and blotting the tears out of my eyes in a routine that had become too familiar I finally, for the first time looked at myself in the eyes in the mirror and I felt the Lord. I felt him there in that dirty, campground bathroom and I felt loved, not beat down, not ashamed, but loved. I came home, I decided something had to change and that for now, I just wasn’t ready for intuitive eating. I don’t know if this is right or wrong, but to me, at this point, it feels so much better than what I have been doing. At some point, after some therapy and a lot of growth I am hoping to get there. To a place where I can truly say I am out of diet culture, where I can eat to satisfaction, not to overindulgence or deprivation but satisfaction and that I can be ok with my body in the healthy state it is meant to be in.

In the meantime, I got back on the stage and worshipped today. I wore my “So will I” shirt because it reminds me that no matter what is going on around me, no matter what battles are raging in my mind, I am not alone. I have a God who created all of heaven and earth to worship Him and so will I. I have a God who sees me exactly as I am and calls me whole, and enough, and loved. And if God says that about me…

So will I.

 

Joy Unspeakable

“Choose Joy.” It’s something we see lettered on wooden signs, embroidered on pillows, displayed on letter boards and on countless Instagram posts. Based on this, joy seems like something you could just go pick out of your closet. “I think I’ll put on my joy today. Good thing I did laundry last week so it’s clean.” Well, that’s all well and good but what happens when your joy isn’t hanging in your closet where it’s supposed to be? What if it’s not anywhere in your house? What if your kids threw up on it or wiped their nasty snot all over it and it’s sitting in the bottom of the hamper? What if your life got so messy and busy and cluttered that you threw your joy away or forgot where it was? Or, what if you never owned it in the first place because you thought you couldn’t afford it? Well I am here to tell you that the BEST part about having true joy, is that you don’t really have to “choose” it at all. It is already there.

The Bible tells us in Galatians 5:22 that joy is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our soul (our soul is made up of our mind, our will, and emotions). So, if you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you ALREADY have joy. Joy is not being happy. It is more than being happy. Happiness is dependent on circumstance. I am happy when I’m eating ice cream, or when I am feeling appreciated by my husband or when I get to have a night out with my girlfriends. Happiness is fickle. It is what our culture chases after to the tune of massive debt, multiple marriages, and an abundance of stuff that we will never use. I actually think it is hilarious that we buy all this stuff to feel “joy” then we are told that we should get rid of it all if it doesn’t “spark joy.” Things cannot spark joy. Having new things or better things can certainly make us happy, at least for a while, but it doesn’t last. Everyone wants to be happy but what we really need to strive for is to be full of joy. Too often in our world, we use the word “joy” when we actually mean “happy.”

Joy, unlike happiness is something that we can have regardless of circumstances or possessions. Colossians 1:11 says, “may you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with JOY.” Joy strengthens us in the midst of impossible circumstances. I can think of some hard times in my life when I relied solely on my knowledge that I had a God who loved me and who saw me in my pain. That knowledge gave me the ability to endure. When I am in the midst of the daily parenting GRIND I can still find joy. You mothers know what I am talking about. Those times when the days run together into a giant blur of exhaustion, and tears, and regret, and second guessing your abilities. In these times I can dig deep and tap into a strength that is not from me, it is from our perfect Jesus, who lets us have access to the joy that welled up inside of Him. The same joy that led Him to the cross! Think of that, in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 2 it says that “[Jesus] for the JOY set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame.” I am continually in awe that Jesus loves us so much that He joyfully died for us. Not that it was easy, in fact He asked God if there was another way, but there wasn’t and so, He did it. He paid that price for you and for me without asking anything in return. Then He sent us His spirit, which includes His joy! Hallelujah for that!

In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 8, Ezra was reading the law to the people of Israel. It says the people were weeping and carrying on, distraught over what had just been read to them. Then Ezra told them in verse 10 “…do not be grieved, for the JOY of the Lord is your strength.” Joy strengthens us to do hard things. My best example of this is childbirth. Childbirth is hard. It can seem unendurable. The pain experienced in childbirth is unlike anything I’ve ever known. Yet at the same time there is this unexplainable joy in the midst of all that pain. Why? Well, because we know what is on the other side of that pain. After all the screaming and swearing and sweating and crying, we get to have that indescribable moment when that baby is placed on our chests for the first time and we get to feel the closest thing to a perfect moment this side of heaven. That moment, that experience, makes all that pain worth it. Was it still painful? Absolutely! Do we truly forget the pain? NO! (I would like to call shenanigans on that whole “you totally forget all the pain” nonsense). Yet, many of us still do it again. Why? Because we are able to “count it all joy” as James tells us when we are on the other side of the pain. This is something that we can apply to more than just a physical birth. What hard thing are you enduring now? It can seem impossible to see the other side of that pain. Sickness and disease, financial struggles, relationship problems, wayward children, childhood trauma; these are all things that we go through that can rob us of our joy. However, I truly believe (and have seen happen in my real life) that if we hold fast to the promises of God, we can take back our joy from the enemy who tries to steal it. Promises that tell us that He will never leave us (Deuteronomy 3:16), that He heals the broken-hearted (Psalm 147:3), that He weeps over our pain (John 11:35), and that He only wants good things for us (Jeremiah 29:11). I am not saying that having joy in the midst of this pain means we walk around with big fake smiles on our faces. No we can feel angry and still hold onto the joy of the Lord. We can feel grief and yet rejoice. We can feel absolutely nothing at all and still know that we serve an amazing God whose joy is unlike anything the world can try to manufacture. I am currently doing a devotional out of the book “Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit” by Christopher J.H Wright and in it he talks about Christians who battle clinical depression. He says,

“I know many Christians among my friends who suffer from depression, and they testify to the fact that they still have their underlying assurance of the truth of the gospel and the love of God. Knowing that God can be trusted even in the darkest hour means that they can know joy as an objective fact or truth, even when they don’t have joyful emotional feelings.”

I don’t pretend to know the struggles of someone battling depression. I do have several dear friends who do and they are some of the strongest and most joyful people I know. They are also some of the most hopeful, despite being misunderstood by the church most of the time and offered very few alternatives other than “pray it away.” Being a joyful person means being a hopeful person. You can’t really have one without the other. In the book of Romans, chapter 15, verse 13 it says; “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may OVERFLOW WITH HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.” A hopeful person is one who can endure trials, with joy.

So, we know that being joyful is not being happy. Of course they can go hand in hand but they are not one and the same. We know that true joy can really only come from the spirit of God. There are lots of things that can bring you a deep sense of happiness or contentment and those can all be really good things. I am not saying that you cannot or should not chase dreams or engage in activities that bring you happiness. I am saying that if you want joy that is unspeakable, that goes beyond circumstances, beyond pain, beyond your feelings…then you need the Holy Spirit’s joy. Grabbing hold of this powerful part of the trinity has really impacted my life in so many ways. I believe that having the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life has protected me from staying trapped in the pain of past trauma and abuse. It has allowed me to endure hard things yet still raise my hands and smile to the heavens in worship. When nightmares and memories of the past invade my mind, taking over my senses, I am able to lean on the JOY unspeakable that I know I have within me, that is promised to me in God’s word, and feel peace. My prayer is that all of you would know the same peace, hope, and strength to endure. The joy unspeakable provided by our God who sees us, who cares for us and who will never leave, no matter what we do.

 

 

 

 

Monday motivation: Tuesday edition

I have been thinking about motivation lately. Mainly, what makes some people have it and others, not have it. For some people, it is obvious. They are training for a race or they have a dress they need to get into, or they’ve been given an ultimatum by their doctor. But what about the rest of us? What is our motivation and how does it start?

For me, the motivation to lose weight was easy. I didn’t like the way I looked. I am a fairly shallow person at times. I did not find the motivation (at first) to lose weight because I wanted to be healthier for my kids (although I said that to a lot of people) The reality is, telling people I was doing it for my kids sounded a lot better than the real reason which was, of course, that I hated the way I looked when I was naked…or with clothes on…or in photos. You see the pattern here, it was vain motivation but it was motivation and it worked. Now what helps me also is that I am an extremely goal oriented person. If I have a deadline or goal weight or finished product in my head…I will generally find a way to get it done. My husband knows this more than anyone. Like when I suddenly announce “I am redoing a bedroom” and then literally nothing else happens in my life until that room is redone. Sometimes, it’s a blessing…other times it’s a real problem (usually my goals seem to always cost us at least $300 and a week of no sleep…what can I say sometimes my goals require a capital investment and a sacrifice from those around me). Well, in the case of losing weight my “Enneagram 3-ness” (yes i just made that up) really worked for me. I had a goal number on the scale and I got there. Saying no to the bad foods was, at times easy because I had that number in my head. I am not saying it was always easy but it was manageable. If you are not this way, then you might have to draw from the next part of my journey. The one where the number on the scale said what I wanted it to but I still felt a pull for more…not to mention the fact that I had to find a way to KEEP the scale at that relative number.

I lost the weight by December of 2017 but I wanted transformation in my life in more than just my jean size. I began to kick around the idea of doing something that I had always felt was impossible, to get up early and get some time in with the Lord BEFORE my kids got up for the day. Now, some back story on this is that I have never gotten up early for anything. The thought of getting up at 6am was like the thought of walking in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Completely impossible and totally unattainable. I frequently laughed at people who got up early, or told them “I could never do that.” I was the person who was in bed at 8:15am, trying to will myself to get up as my husband was leaving for work because for some reason children require parental supervision during the day. I never could get up, I never thought I would be able to get up. Until one day, I got up.

I watch a lot of war documentaries. What strikes me is that no matter the war, no matter the time period or soldier they always have the same response to the question ” how did you survive?” Every soldier interviewed says the same thing, “you just focus on surviving the day. Then get up and do it again.” I realize that finding motivation to get up early or lose weight or work out is anywhere near the same level as fighting in a war but it is a battle. It’s a battle against our body that tells us that staying in bed would be easier. It’s a battle against our mind that tells us we aren’t strong enough or disciplined enough. My motivation was literally one day at a time. One morning at a time. I rewarded myself with coffee. It was the thought of hot coffee by myself that got my feet to move out of bed. I got up at 6am and I drank coffee and spent time with Jesus. It was hard, it was a battle but eventually I started looking forward to it. Did this mean I had to try to get my butt to bed at a time PRIOR to any shows with the words “late” in their title came on? Yes. Did it always work out? No. I am a mom, I have kids, they get up in the night and I lose sleep. On the really bad nights did I turn my alarm off and get some much-needed sleep? Yes. I am a human after all and from what I have researched we do actually require some sleep. For a few months I did this, got up at 6 am and I was seeing some amazing growth in my walk with God. However, I was also seeing some not so amazing growth on the scale. Remember, I hit my goal weight, I was goal-less in terms of weight loss. I knew I should probably start exercising because I had heard from people….alledgedly…that the ultimate goal is for our bodies to be healthy or something like that. I still wasn’t sure I believed them, seemed like it might be…for lack of a better term “fake news.” But then, I was walking up some stairs one day and I actually got winded. Like, I was tired from climbing some stairs. Here I was, a 125 pound person who reached her goal weight but a set of stairs did me in. I didn’t want that to be the person I modeled to my kids. I finally found that part of my motivation. I wanted to be able to keep up with and live a LONG healthy life with my kids. So, I had to figure out how to work out.

Now, in the past I had been a gym person but it just wasn’t working with my current situation of having four small children at home. I had tried working out at home during nap times or when my kids were up but it was not unlike the time I thought I could take up tap dancing…a giant failure. I cannot work out with my kids up and crawling all over me. I know there are people who can and God bless you, but for me…no way. I also needed direction. I am TERRIBLE at working out without someone telling me what to do. If I walk into a gym I stand there for a while looking like a lost soul then eventually end up on a treadmill or eliptical to watch re runs of “Fixer Upper.” I knew the only way to get a workout in was with some sort of guided program in the morning when the kids weren’t up and when it was too dark to see all the laundry piled up everywhere. So, I carefully explained to the Lord that I just wasn’t going to be able to spend time with Him in the morning anymore. I laid out my plan to find time for Him…somewhere else in my day. Then the weird thing is, He didn’t really give me a great pat on the back for my perfect plan. What I felt Him say was…you are going to have to get up at 5 am.

lololololololololololololol.

Now, I knew for sure it was the devil talking to me and not God because 5am is clearly the witching hour and thought only a demonic force would make such an asinine suggestion. Then I remembered that there was a time when 6am felt the exact same way. So, that night I set my alarm for 5:04 am (I have this thing about not setting my alarm for even times, it’s my life and my story so I can do whatever I want ok?) When the alarm went off, I wanted to throw my phone and curse the inventor of the alarm function to the depths of hell. But I didn’t, like those soldiers, I got up. I had my coffee and time with the Lord and then did a workout. The next day I did it again and again and again. Eleven months have gone by since that day and for the most part, that has been my daily routine. I have even gotten to the point where I don’t actually even have my coffee until after I am done with my workout…it is absolutely bananas! Yes there have been days where I did not get up. There have been times where I got no sleep and slept on through my alarm. There have been times when I got up late, skipped time with God and worked out or vice versa. Overall however, once I started to see results, both physically and spiritually it was not such a hard battle for mind and body to fight. Not to mention if you do something long enough it really does become routine, turns out that is not something people just tell you because they are psychopaths as I once thought.

The point here is, there is always something you think you could never do, until you do it. (Someone should probably put that on one of those message boards in their entryway or something because it is just so wise.) Motivation to do something can come from a variety of places, some healthier than others and some more lasting than others. Maybe start super small. Pick something you have always thought would be impossible for you, say getting up early to do something for yourself…and do it once a week. Then maybe add another day. Even if those two days suck, at least you will have the other five to carry on with life as usual. Then, when you are ready add some more days. See, it’s the little changes that mean the most. They all add up over time. I have seen the proof of that in my own life so many times. When I think back to that person who was dragging herself out of bed at 8:15, trying to find any ounce of motivation to face the day with my kids I can barely recognize her. If you do the brave thing and make the little changes, day by day; I promise you won’t be able to recognize the person you once were either.

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actual picture of me, after a 5am wake-up call and 6am workout…the smile is actually real now

Confessions of a bad classroom mom

Today, my four year old had a field trip to the fire station. She was to be dropped off there and picked up one hour later. She was the ONLY one, out of 15 kids who did not have a parent there with her.

*insert mom guilt: level 1,000*

Prior to taking on this stay at home mom life I worked full time. My son went to daycare full time until he went to preschool at age four. My first daughter went to daycare until she was two. At that time baby three was born and I decided I wanted to try my hand at staying home. I had big dreams and plans of helping with the class parties, being a “room mom”, helping the office staff with….whatever parent volunteers do for office staff. What I didn’t realize is that I wouldn’t really be able to do any of that stuff. At least not until my youngest child was also in full time school (by that time my oldest child will be in sixth grade). My son is now in second grade and I can count on a sloths foot the number of times I’ve been in his classroom. In three years of full time school I’ve been there three times. My husband has been on a couple field trips to the zoo but for the most part, my involvement is the same as it would be if I worked full time. For good reason, younger siblings are not allowed to attend the field trips, class parties etc etc. I totally respect this rule, I don’t want to bring my three, preschool age kids to a second grade classroom either. I think going to the gynecologist sounds more fun than that. It’s kind of like when people do an “adults only” wedding. I am totally for it. I absolutely do not want to bring my kids to your wedding either. By taking that possibility away, it makes it easier for me to say no if I can’t find a sitter or to actually work up the gumption to find one if I really do want to go. (Also, we rarely get date nights so…two birds, one stone is what I say.) But, I’m not talking about a maybe once every summer wedding here, I’m talking about almost weekly possibilities to be involved in a child’s classroom environment.

I don’t know if this is actually true since I stopped working before my son got to elementary school, but I seriously can’t help but wonder if it would be easier for me to volunteer or be a room parent if I was still working? If I already had my younger children in daycare, could I find more ways to adjust my schedule, take a different lunch time, get approved for leave? If childcare for my younger children was not an issue, I wonder if I could find it easier to go to the hour long parties or be the reading helper for 30 minutes? So much of the involvement in the classroom is a short period of time. This makes it seem almost more of a hassle to try to find childcare than it’s worth. Especially when “finding childcare” can be right up there with “finding out where all the socks go in the dryer” or “finding out what exactly takes my husband so long to go to the bathroom” it can feel almost impossible. Sure, I have great friends I can ask and they would probably say yes but they have school aged kids too. Most of the parties are on the same day. They also have lives and school things and volunteer things to do as well, not to mention their own small children at home. Adding an extra 2-3 kids is a lot for anyone and it is often times hard to ask that of our friends. So, barring a nice home school family with a babysitting teenager moving in next door with unlimited availability, I generally have to choose to sit the field trips and classroom parties out. This was not something I planned on when I became a stay at home mom.

Now, I am not saying it’s easier to be a working parent, please, I’ve been a working parent. I know it’s not easier. Being a working mom brings a whole new level of guilt and things to worry that you are missing or messing up or not doing well. It can be so rewarding but not without so many challenges. What I do know is that when I was a working mother I thought staying home was going to be a lot easier than it is (insert hilarious laughter). I actually remember thinking that my house would be cleaner if I stayed home. I neglected to factor in that when I worked, no one was in my house for 10 hours a day. Now, I’m my third year of staying home I can find myself thinking “I wish I could go back to work.” That is, until I actually think about dropping my youngest two off to someone else when I have been with them every day of their lives thus far and I start sobbing uncontrollably (not to mention my daily wardrobe of sweatpants is generally frowned upon in the professional realm, if memory serves).

No, you will never hear me picking a side in the stay home vs. work debate. It’s hard either way, there are great things about both and there are sucky things about both. I am only wondering for the sake of wondering if working would actually help me be more involved in my kids school like I always thought I would be? I know stay at home moms might say “yes, I absolutely think so” and working moms will say “lol have you gotten a jump on the recreational weed smoking because you sound high” so this isn’t really a debate with a winner. It’s just something I thought today with tears in my eyes as I watched my little girl take a seat next to her teacher, instead of her mom like all the other kids at the fire station.

Dear food, it’s not you. It’s me.

Food: we all have to eat it. It’s delicious and for most of us, it’s everywhere. Like most people (the sane ones anyway) I love food. I have, however also had a very tumultuous relationship with it. There have been times when I didn’t eat enough of it, times when I ate too much of it, and times when I tried to throw it up after I ate it (that lasted a solid 2 days or so before I realized it was NOT for me). At the end of the day I have realized that this relationship with something that is essential to life is also something that can make life miserable. If I am not careful, thoughts of it can consume basically every minute of my day. It kind of sounds like a pretty dysfunctional relationship. Like, if one of my girlfriends came to me and was like “so, I’m seeing this guy and he’s really great and hot and sometimes it’s really amazing. But then like, the rest of the time, he basically makes me feel like crap about myself and I can’t stay away from him or I stay too far away from him and then I just get all sick and weak.” I would pretty much say, in no uncertain terms that she needs to pull an Ariana on that relationship and say “thank you, next.”

For me, I seem to operate on an “all or nothing” type of mentality. When I have a project or a goal, it is nearly impossible to stop me from accomplishing it. When I wanted to lose the 40 plus pounds I put on from all the babies and all the pasta, I buckled down and did it. I drastically changed my eating habits and portion sizes. I’m not saying it was easy because it wasn’t. It was actually one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Generally, when I try to lose weight I go into it by doing what I thought forever was the only way to do it. Limiting what I eat so much that I end up shaky and sick and angry, eventually eating everything in sight. It goes round and round and the goal, losing weight, never really happens. I used to truly believe that I could never lose weight because I was bad at being anorexic. Like, I TRULY believed that the only way for me to lose weight was starving myself. I am not athletic, my clumsiness is enough to make me look like I belong in a Three Stooges remake and as a young woman my self-esteem was essentially non existent. The ways I saw other people getting those bodies envied were by working out and playing sports. Eating healthy and balanced never seemed to be part of the equation for the people around me. As a teenager and young adult all the women I saw who looked the way I wanted to seemed to eat whatever they wanted, they just played a sport or had good genes or high metabolism. I didn’t really have any of those things, I had the belief that starvation equals success and it became another thing that I just beat myself up over not being good at.

Now, I can’t really even say what the turning point was for me and food. Maybe it was realizing that my daughters would learn their eating habits from me. Maybe it was just getting sick of trying to do the same things over and over again without seeing any changes. I would be lying if I said the relationship has completely did a one-eighty and I’m now on the other end of the tunnel and it’s all sunshine and rainbows and balanced diets. It’s not a secret for those who know me that I used the popular points system weight loss plan for around 10 months and lost around 40 pounds. In the beginning it was pure grit and determination to reach my scale goals. I was still doing some of the unhealthy things such as eating the minimal amount of food to save my points so I could eat a big dessert at the end of the day. I kept my addiction to pop and just changed it to diet pop (spoiler alert: zero points does not always equal healthy food). I learned all the low point “tricks” and memorized serving sizes. I did see results this way and it did help to introdue me to some actually healthy foods and it showed me that I was out of control on portion sizes on most of the food I ate. I am thankful for that plan because honestly, I don’t think I could’ve started without it. Plus it did lead me to the place where I am at currently which is truly much healthier. Along the way I did slowly start to learn healthier habits. I started using all of my points on foods that filled me up and had more nutritional value. I started to cut sugar, I completely gave up pop last January, a move I thought for sure would kill me when I started. Now, almost a year later it feels like the easiest part of this whole thing (I was a religious 32-48 ounces a day Diet Mountain Dew drinker). When my weight loss goal was met I was kind of lost (remember I am a goal oriented person). I had learned to truly be content at the weight I was, I liked the way my clothes fit, and I really saw no desire to see it go any lower (a HUGE victory for me, I previously had never felt that way, not matter how low the scale got). So, I moved onto my next goal. The one I’m still working on which is getting stronger, more fit, gaining endurance and (hopefully) energy (I am conviced any energy I gain now is just magically funneled to my children bypassing me completely). I stopped using the points system, I got a subscription to an online workout program instead. I have found maintance success with other diets like the Keto diet but I have had to scale back on that because it started to feel too restrictive. Despite not really being on “a plan” or using a particular diet the scale has been staying relatively the same due to the workouts every morning and the fact that my metabolism has increased along with gaining some fat burning muscle. However, and this is where I wanted to get to today in this blog, I have been reminded lately that old habits die hard.

The workouts my husband and I are doing are a mix of lifting and HIIT (high intensity interval training) some days it is half lifting and half cardio type moves. Some days it is all lifting and the program is only four days a week. Now, I have been doing 6-7 days a week so this is a big change for me. The times I see my old demons rear their ugly heads is on those days where it is all lifting or on the rest days. I hear those little lies in my head “you really didn’t work that hard today, you were barely sweating, you probably should skip breakfast” (or whatever other meal the lies tell me to skip, sometimes it’s all of them). Even after almost two years of learning healthier eating habits, I still have a tendency to resort to this line of thinking. Like I said, old habits die HARD.

The good news is, now, for the most part I know what to say to the lies. I know that I have to go against my feelings, my emotions, and what I think I see in the mirror and go with the truth. The truth is, building muscle takes fuel for my body just like a high intensity cardio program. The truth is, not working out for a day does not mean I punish myself by withholding food, it actually keeps me from reaching my goals for my body when I do that. The TRUTH is, I am made in the image of a creator who loves me and who never makes mistakes and I know it breaks His heart when I believe the lies of the enemy that say I am not enough as I am. Now, I’m a work in progress just like all of us. There are good days and bad days. Balancing eating healthy food with living a full life can seem like they are in direct opposition to each other. Especially in our “treat yourself” culture where any little disruption in our day or schedule or routine seems to be met by a mentality that says “I deserve this” when we want to cope with food. Or if you’re like me and you have those moments where you do indulge, your shame driven brain can automatically switch over to feeling that you need to punish yourself by withholding foods, even the healthy ones. It is a viscious cycle that does nothing but keep us tied down in bondage. It is something that will destroy your life and as a mom, possibly pass down the same cycle to your children.That thought alone, is enough for me to say “no more, this ends now.”

There is no fun little bow to put on a blog like this, no completion where I say “and she never struggled with disordered eating again and lived happily ever after. The end.” I am working on that freedom in my own life. I hope you will too if you struggle with these issues in any way. Find a counselor who you trust, tell your loved ones when you are struggling, get in the word. Find out who Jesus says you are and read about what He did specifically for you so that you can be free to live your best life. I know that I am free, I just have to remind myself of it every once in a while, I hope, if any of this speaks to you, that you are reminded too.

Forests and trees and…donkeys

First of all, I need to start this blog by saying that I got most of this content from a sermon I heard preached a few months back. I meant to blog about it right after I heard it but then, I didn’t. So if you are impressed by this be impressed by Pastor Matt Keller of…some church that I forgot the name of, not me. Well, you can be a little impressed by me. I mean I DO still know the entire rap from “Waterfalls” after memorizing it in fifth grade AND I once brought an entire training room to stunned silence after quoting the movie “Anchorman” at a completely inappropriate time. So, yeah I’m KINDA still a big deal.

Anyway, back to this sermon that I am hijacking. It’s about something called a “donkey mission” and how they can be, well, a real pain in the…ass. (I can’t write a whole blog about donkeys and not make one “ass” pun…I just can’t. LET ME LIVE!) Anyway again, back to donkey missions. This whole thing actually comes from a real mission to find donkeys. It’s found in 1 Samuel chapter 9. The bible tells us that a man named Kish had a son named Saul and Saul was…oh I don’t know…like the Chris Hemsworth of all his other Hemsworth type brothers. Or the Liam I guess, if you’re into that…ok or the third, non-famous Hemsworth brother who is also very attractive. Either way, the point is he was attractive and tall and probably had an unexplainable sexy accent that no one else in his region had or something. So, one day Kish lost his donkeys and sent Saul to get them, along with a servant. Probably should’ve been a female servant in my opinion because they would’ve gotten found a lot faster, but I digress. So, Saul and the servant, (I’m going to call him Chris since we are talking about our favorite Hemsworth’s) go to look for these donkeys. They look everywhere and walk for days. Eventually, Saul get’s pretty ticked off and wants to scrap the whole mission because he thinks his dad is really going to be more worried about him than the donkeys. This sounds like something that would be true, but in actuality Saul was just a little ticked off that someone of his stature and importance was off looking for donkeys when he should’ve been back at home, where he was “really important.” Well “Chris” the servant stops him with some wisdom he said: “Behold, there is in this city a man of God, a man held in honor; all that he says surely comes true. Now let us go there. Perhaps he can show us where we should go.” Well, point number one for Chris because the “man of God” that he was talking about was Samuel. And Samuel had already been told by God that Saul was supposed to be anointed the first king of Israel. So, Saul met with Samuel and instead of finding out where his donkeys were, he found out he had been anointed as king over all twelve tribes of Israel. Can you imagine that? What Saul had thought was something mundane and meaningless was actually the most important thing he had ever done.

Drawing any comparisons yet? If not let me help you out. Motherhood, or parenting in general can seem like the world’s longest and messiest donkey mission.

Now, Saul knew he was important, he knew he was good-looking and had prominence in his tribe. He probably wondered why his dad sent him to look for a bunch of animals when they had servants to do things like that (I’m imagining him whining in a Draco Malfoy voice here; “but Dad, this is SERVANT stuff!”) Yet, there he was looking for donkeys.

Donkey Missions keep you humble. Parenting will humble you like nothing else will. Saul was humbled to go do servants work. As parents we do servants work every day. For me, I didn’t really know humility until I was up at 2 am, covered in other people’s bodily fluid. Or, when you want nothing but to be alone or do something for yourself but you still need to get those sippy cups of water to thirsty babies. Or, when you have to apologize to a little tiny person because you know that you lost your temper and it had nothing to do with anything they had actually done and everything to do with your own self. Parenting little ones is no respecter of persons. I’m sure even the queen Beyoncé has had her fair share of being humbled by her kids. For me, there are times when my pride will try to well up, just like Saul’s. “Well, why does my husband never do…? Why am I always the one…” And if you are like me, you sometimes use these words like “always and never” even though you took several classes in social work school that tell you not to because quite frankly it’s just not accurate. Or, just the old “I can’t believe I have a master’s degree and all I do is change poopy diapers and clean up other people’s mess all day, I could be doing so much MORE.” Many times your work goes unnoticed to others. Or, you don’t even see it yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten to the end of the day and thought “what on earth did I do all day today and why are we all still in pajamas at 6:00 at night??” Being a parent humbles you my friends. Just like going to look for a bunch of mules humbled Saul.

Donkey missions test your patience. I really don’t need to go very far for any parents reading this to shake their head and say “yes and amen.” In our story, Saul was getting pretty impatient and wanted to just turn around and go home. I have frequently lamented that I cannot actually “turn around and go home” in the midst of a challenging parenting moment (unless you count running to the closet and locking the door, I’m not above that sometimes). Staying home with my four kids has been the largest test to my very small patience that I have ever known. I mean, the other day I had to have the most frustrating conversation with a three-year old because a bear in a book we were reading didn’t have a yellow shirt on and she thought he should and was a complete basket case about it. I lose my patience way more than I should, I yell and I get frustrated. I am trying to be better, I think most of us are but it’s a daily struggle. The testing of our patience only gets harder the longer our mission lasts. I wonder really how long it took for Saul to start complaining, to start thinking about turning back? I can tell you it probably would have been a lot sooner had he been traveling with a seven-year old who was trying to learn new math. Or with a three-year old who could absolutely zip her own coat, thank you very much. Being on this parenting mission can get so daunting, it can be so overwhelming that it swallows you up whole. I can tell you as someone who transitioned from being a full-time working mom to a stay at home mom, the mission increases exponentially in difficulty the more you have to actually be around your kids. You see parenting, like looking for donkeys can be so tedious, so mundane, can make you feel so ordinary, and less than, and just plain tired that you forget what they are really about.

Donkey missions are always about something greater. For Saul, it was about receiving his anointing as king. For us, it is about raising children that make this world a better place by simply being in it. I am not going to say we have to all raise the next Billy Graham or Maya Angelou or Mother Theresa. I am saying we are on a mission to raise children that are a reflection of Jesus, in whatever form that takes. You know that cliché “you can’t see the forest through the trees” well if we let it that’s what can happen with parenting. I am as guilty as anyone at looking at all these trees and losing my way. Even now as I am reflecting on this I can’t say as I’m doing an amazing job at remembering my ultimate goal is to raise kind and loving people. Some days, my goal is just to get to the end of the day without committing any felonies, and that’s ok! But the reason this story and this sermon have stayed so fresh in my mind for all these months is because God wanted me to know that there is a bigger purpose for all of this unseen work I am putting in. Like Saul I may not completely understand it and I will lose sight of it at times but it’s there. It’s there in the four little faces that will one day become big faces who go on to live their lives in this crazy world. I am currently responsible for shaping four worldviews, four sets of morals, four little lives! When I stop to think about it that way, it seems so much more important that trying to find a bunch of donkeys. I hope you can see it that way too, my friends because it is so important and YOU are the vital piece.