Experiencing the Abundance of God in Times of Pain

Today I felt a strong and urgent desire to write. As I sat down at my keyboard, I allowed God to take over, and I just wrote exactly what I felt he was saying to me in this moment. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and even longer since I’ve written something like this. Rather than speaking from my own voice, I decided to write this from God’s perspective. If this is something you need to be reminded of, I pray that he opens your heart and allows you to receive what he’s speaking to you today.

Some people don’t believe that I am an abundant God. They don’t understand the fullness of the relationship that I offer them. They don’t believe that material or spiritual blessings are for them. They live in fear of what pain they might endure in this life rather than the abundance I desire to give them.

The truth is, I am an abundant God. As much as I can, I pour myself out to those who will allow me to do so.

Sometimes this looks like material and relational blessings here on earth. You were created to be loved, and in a perfect world, love involves relationships and gifts and total overflow of blessings.

In this imperfect world, which is ruled by the Prince of Darkness, some of you will endure times of trial. Although I am not the author of pain, there is no painful experience that will come to you that has not been allowed by me.

In the midst of pain, I am your source. During this time, I will do these two things in you:

I will perfect you.

I will shine through you.

In times of pain, pouring myself out looks like overwhelming peace in the midst of chaos, companionship in the face of loneliness, and joy in the midst of sorrow.

Remember that I will give you as much of this joy and peace as you allow me to give you. If you don’t understand this peace and don’t feel like you are experiencing it, the answer is to draw closer to me. You must abide in me.

Abiding in me is about much more than just having a devotional time – although you should be dwelling in my Word.

Abiding in me is about much more than attending church – although you should have fellowship with other believers.

Abiding in me is more than the prayers you say before you eat or go to sleep at night.

It’s more than getting advice from a pastor – you have the same access to me that they do.

It’s more than receiving a word of encouragement from someone else – you are just as capable of hearing my voice.

Abiding in me is when I am in your thoughts all day long. You may not always be speaking to me directly, but you are always aware of my presence. Sometimes your spirit will call out to me while you’re working or doing your daily tasks – even when you don’t form the words, I can hear you.

Abiding in me is living every day with an awareness of my presence and of your dependence on me. You may not fully realize this, but sin is a part of your very nature – you were born that way. In order to do anything good, you must rely on me fully.

Not on your good works.

Not on your reputation.

Not on the number of years you’ve attended church.

In order to be closer to me, you need to recognize that sin is your natural state. There is NOTHING good in you apart from me. Anything you do in the flesh is sinful. Even things that appear good, when they are not born from this dependence on me, are simply learned behaviors.

Anything that is not born of God is sin.

When you recognize your sinful state and your need for me, this is where things start to get good. Your realization of just how sinful you actually are can be devastating, but seeing how much I adore you – even in this state – will certainly soften the blow. Knowing that I fully accept you – even in your sinfulness – this will begin to grow trust. You will start to be more honest with me – and honest with yourself – because you realize that my love will catch you. As you confess your sins to me, I will forgive you and restore you, by the Holy Spirit, to the person I created you to be.

As your heart is restored, your vision will become clearer and clearer. You will begin to understand who I am, and your fears, your worries, your insecurities, and your failings will melt away in the light of my great love for you.

This trust and this renewed vision will increase your faith. You will begin to believe that I can do great things in your life, and you will have the wisdom to see these great things, even in the midst of difficult times.

And perhaps the greatest thing of all that will come of this newfound trust and faith – is the intimacy that you will share with me. You will sense my patient anticipation as you wake up in the morning, ready to start a new day with you. You will feel my hand upon you as you encounter the joys and difficulties of the day. You’ll fall asleep at night in peace, knowing that my hand is upon you. And you will hear my protective whispers over you as you sleep – because I do not slumber.

Is this what you want your relationship with me to look like? All of this is given freely – not to the great spiritual leaders or those who are wise in the world’s eyes – but to anyone who humbly asks for it.

If you want more in your relationship with me, all you have to do is ask.

 You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:2

Things I Didn’t Know About Motherhood

Motherhood is an experience that is both challenging and rewarding. Despite having many friends who became mothers before me, and despite listening to them tell me about their experiences, there was absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for the reality of motherhood. There were parts that were way more difficult than I anticipated, but there are also parts that are so much better than I could ever have imagined.

I’ve only been a mother to baby Alexa for just under two short months, but in this brief time period I’ve experienced so many highs and lows. Here are some of the challenges I’ve encountered in this journey so far!

Postpartum recovery can be lengthy and difficult.

I knew going into my pregnancy that there would be a recovery process after giving birth, but I didn’t realize how challenging that would be. After giving birth, the bleeding can last for several weeks, and everything hurts down there. It’s difficult to move around. Specifically, if I was seated and holding the baby, I had to ask someone to take her so that I could stand up. I couldn’t stand up and hold the baby at the same time.

Trying to keep up with things while I was recovering was incredibly difficult and overwhelming. The first night I came home from the hospital I started crying hysterically. I was sore, exhausted from the lack of sleep in the hospital, and I felt like my husband, Juan, was doing a much better job than I was of taking care of the baby. Fortunately, I had some great friends and family members that came over during this time to help clean, bring food, and hold the baby. I have no idea how I would have gotten through this without Juan’s paternity leave – and I have a newfound admiration for single mothers, because this was challenging, even with all the help.

Once I had fully recovered, taking care of things got a lot easier and I began to find my groove. Parenting still has its difficult moments, but it’s much easier now that my body has healed.

Taking care of a baby is incredible, but it can also be isolating.

During my maternity leave, I got to experience what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mother. Juan’s paternity leave was shorter than my leave, so I had about three weeks of taking care of Alexa on my own during the day. I had some absolutely incredible moments, but I can definitely see that taking care of a baby is isolating. It’s easy to get sucked into the baby vortex and fail to spend time with family and friends. It’s easy to get stuck in the house all day, as taking the baby with you can turn even a simple outing into an event.

I definitely recommend scheduling visits with friends and family and taking your baby out of the house, even if it’s challenging. Being able to spend time with others and go places is an important part of self-care. Don’t neglect your self-care just because of the baby. And make sure that you take some time away from your child to do some of the things you used to do for yourself. For me, that means leaving Alexa with my husband on Saturday for a few hours so I can go thrifting and grocery shopping on my own. It also looks like taking the time to write and journal in the morning before she has woken up for the day.

Breastfeeding can be incredibly hard.

In the hospital, I had a difficult time getting Alexa to latch. The nurses had me waking her up for feedings, and she was so tired that she had no interest in eating. She latched exactly two times, and both of those were times when the lactation consulting helped her do it. I wasn’t able to get her to latch myself, which led me to decide that I wanted to pump and feed her through a bottle.

I was advised to pump every three hours around the clock. This alone proved to be a difficult struggle – who wants to sit there with a breast pump all day, especially when no milk is coming out yet?

At the pediatrician’s office, I started crying when he asked me how I planned to feed her. We talked and it became clear that I didn’t really want to give up breastfeeding just yet. Since Alexa was over 9 pounds, he told me to take her home and for the next two days offer her nothing but breastmilk, even if she cried and refused to eat. We would check in two days later to see how she did.

Fast forward to later that night – Alexa is crying uncontrollably and refusing to breastfeed. I’m falling apart because I feel guilty letting her starve. Juan wanted to cave in and give her formula. Finally, my mom came over to help and with the aid of a nipple shield, we finally got her to latch.

Once she latched, there were still many challenges. The first challenge is cluster feeding. She tends to sleep pretty well at night, but that means that during the day she is making up for it with extra feedings. She can feed for 45 minutes and then half an hour later she’ll be ready to feed again. Making this even more challenging is her love of using me as her pacifier – she loves to comfort feed, and she could do this for hours on end. All of this leaves me feeling like a human milk machine.

Since I’m planning to go back to work, I had to figure out how to pump as well. To make pumping less of a hassle, I invested in a hands-free portable pump, which was a game changer. I hated pumping, but with this pump I am able to get some chores done at the same time. The only challenge is that I’m supposed to pump after each feed, but Alexa is often awake and requiring attention. The one thing I can’t do while pumping is hold my baby, so right now my pumping is a bit sporadic. When I return to work and she is in daycare, I’ll be able to adhere to a consistent pumping schedule.

I’ve grown to love breastfeeding her – especially since I learned to how to feed her while lying down in bed. I often will lie down in bed the afternoon with a tv show on and allow her to comfort feed a bit, which helps her fall asleep for a late afternoon nap. This has become one of my favorite parts of the day.

Leaving your child at daycare is super emotional

As of this writing, I have one week of maternity leave left. I am dreading having to drop off baby Alexa at daycare next week. We really love the daycare we selected, but I still feel the dread. I’m going to miss the long hours spent with her during the day, and I don’t want to pass her off to someone else who will get to enjoy her while I’m at work all day. Before giving birth, I didn’t think this was going to be difficult for me to do — I thought I might enjoy the break. But now that I’ve met my child, I have no idea how I’m going to be able to be apart from her during the week. Since I work from home, my plan is to prepare dinner during my lunch break so that I have the entire evening to savor my time with her.

Your Motherhood Journey

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your journey with motherhood? Do you identify with any of the ones I shared? Let me know in the comments!

On Weight Gain and Body Acceptance

Over the past few years, I’ve put on a lot of weight. It actually started with a medication that I had to take for bipolar disorder. One of the side effects was that I put on a few pounds. But it wasn’t until recently, when I got pregnant with my first child, that the weight really started to pile on. During my pregnancy, I was a bit overwhelmed at the rate at which I was gaining weight, and it was hard to prevent it from happening. I was constantly hungry, and as my pregnancy progressed, I replaced going to the gym with more leisurely walks because I was constantly winded and tired from my workouts.