Category Archives: The Freedom Happening

Why It’s Imperative to Lean On

I watched her grade drop by the day. Another assignment not turned in, another excuse or knowing giggle when I talked to her about it.
After two years, she and I have learned to be real with each other about parts of our stories that we had carefully guarded, building a trust that suspended the judgments that had kept secrets that needn’t be secrets. I knew what it meant when she read book after book rather than write a paper. She was going into self-preservation mode, knowing exactly what she should be doing – making her story worth the pain she’d endured for years.
Bit by bit, she has begun to climb out of the darkness of secrets, but the pit in which she has dwelt for so long is a looming one that takes immense courage, faith, and strength to escape.
“You always make me write about the things I don’t want to think about,” she would claim time and again.
“On the contrary, my dear, it is your heart that is begging you to unleash your powerful story. To move past being enslaved to it, and to victoriously share hope with someone else.”
It’s true. The stories within us will eventually reach a point of no return. A point when we know it’s not meant to eat us alive even after we’ve convinced ourselves we are worth nothing more than the false names and claims the villains in our stories have repeatedly whispered.
And writing those stories we never wanted to live takes all of the energy right out of our souls until we actually begin doing the work of getting those words out for others to hear.
Then all of the sudden, we realize how much we need to lean on others to lead others, to lead ourselves, to hope – to victory.
When she refused to even read anymore, I knew there was something more – a new painful chapter she was living on her journey out of the pit.
I waited. I prayed. I waited some more until one day she told me her new chapter of uncertainty.
And we cried together, leaning on the Truth that binds our hearts together in hope.
It was during that conversation that I knew stories like hers are exactly why I need to work harder to lean on others.
Climbing out of pits created by tragedy, evilness, and grief cannot be done alone. We are meant to lean on others, especially when we face feelings that tell us that we are burdening others too much. Because what we believe to be burdens for others, actually end up being glimmers of purpose, necessary shifts in perspective, and the stuff that genuine relationship is made of.
While she walked away feeling a bit lighter by not feeling the weight of trekking her difficult road alone, I walked away feeling all the more inspired to lean on the incredible people who are begging to walk alongside me in life rather than allowing my own burdens to weigh me down.
Living the victorious life and letting freedom happen is an intensely personal journal many miles along the way, but it will never be accomplished without tried and true friends who stick beside us, especially when we try to push them away.
So lean on.
Walk on.
Purpose on,
and start by sharing your story.

Copy of -POP by kwesterf

When a Good Thing Comes to an End

Today is perhaps my last quiet day home with just me and the kids for the summer. Monday morning, I officially become a full-time working mom for the first time. It’s a transition I am excited to make, and I’m beyond grateful for the opportunities it opens up for not only me, but also my family.

But of course, in order for something new and exciting to begin, it means the end of an era. The stay-at-home mom season of my life has to come to an end so I can become a teacher again. Seasons of transition always bring with them a jumbled excess of emotions to unwind and make sense of, so of course this summer has kept me busy doing just that.

The time I’ve been home with my kids has been an invaluable opportunity. It has also been the most challenging time of my life. I’ve undergone countless overhauls on perspective, purpose, needs, and identity.

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I now know the negative effects sleep deprivation has on me;

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the impossible yet necessary quest to strike up a balanced friendship with isolation;

Me + kids

three-year-olds can give you bloody noses (unintentionally of course);

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I’m capable of praising and loathing poop multiple times in any given day;

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play dates are sometimes more important for the moms than they are for the kids;

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and coffee has miraculous powers.

I’ve also learned one of life’s most important lessons in the time I’ve been raising these kids I love so much: Every experience- both and good and bad – is for a season.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom, and I will forever be grateful that God honored that desire of my heart, but for our family, it is time for a change.

My kids aren’t babies anymore because they weren’t created to remain in the infant stage forever. They were made to grow, and so was I. The greatest gift God has given me as a mother is that, no matter how many changes my family or I go through, I will always be a mom – Dash and Daisy’ mom. As their mom, I’m given an incredible responsibility to teach them how to be brave, try new things, and never stop learning or growing.

The saying, “All good things must come to an end,” may leave a melancholy air with it. As I’ve worked through my jumbled emotions this summer, I have decided it’s unfortunate and unjust to make that statement by itself. I’ve reflected on the numerous good things and times that have come to an end in my lifetime, but I can say with certainty that eventually, saying goodbye to those things has always brought about new good things, and oftentimes even better things.

So yes, I do feel a tad emotional as this time in my life winds up. I will obviously miss the luxury of staying in my pajamas on the mornings that follow up a rough night with a sick kid, but I am thrilled at the opportunity to leave a legacy with 130+ kids in addition to my own each year. I might not get to relish afternoon nap time in the way I used to, but I get to be a very active and empathetic cheerleader for Dash as we start school together in just a couple of weeks. Most importantly, I get to prove to my kids that it’s important to live with this philosophy:

When good things come to an end, make

 

Being Real

When you’ve been through a refiner’s fire or two, you come out on the other side changed. It’s impossible not to be different. Sometimes, even though you know that you are not who you used to be, you wonder if other people notice, too, or if they just think you’re crazy. 😉

The other night I got to spend some time with a dear friend of mine whom I’ve known  for nearly a decade. We attended church together when I was very much of the mindset that my purpose in life was to be the hardest-working, model church member out there.

That was when I believed that being faithful to God meant not only being at every church function, but serving at it as well. Why be in charge of one ministry at church when it was humanly possible to be a part of 3-5 at any given time?

That was a time in my life when I would have said and believed, “My identity is in Christ” but I did not yet understand that my identity was a balled up mess, woven into titles, expectations, and tradition.

This friend has known me through the unraveling of my identity. We don’t see each other as often as we used to, but she has prayed me through some extremely dark days. She’s a fellow lover of the beautiful stories that God writes with our lives and has been one of my greatest encouragers as I’ve grappled with how to share it.

As I once again wondered about my sanity while we talked, she made this whole messy process that I’ve been working through a bit more worth it by stating, “You are not the same girl you were five or six years ago, hardly even the same DNA. Now your story is real, and I can relate to you in my own mess.”

There was a time when I would not have considered those phrases a compliment. I’d have much rather heard someone say, “You haven’t changed a bit.” When your works come out as rubble in the fire, however, you have a different perspective. As I continue to sort through the mayhem of what remains after the fires God saw me through, there are times I wonder if it was worth it. Did I actually come out stronger or more chaotic?

I believe the answer is both. Because the truth is, I am still trying to find the balance in what was good about who I was before and what I need to let go of. A prime example of when the struggle was very real was just a couple of months ago.

I forgot to go help prepare a meal for the local homeless shelter because I was helping family. I cried the entire frantic trip across town in hopes that I wasn’t too late. I was. The grace that the sweet women I had unintentionally stood up extended to me was precious, but the old me swam intently to the surface begging for a chance to prove that I’m better than that. The new me, humbled and much more willing to receive grace told the old me to calm down and remember, “You aren’t defined by your mistakes. We all need reminders from time to time that we desperately need grace. In the end, grace is enough. It has to be.”

While we all appreciate people who are real and relatable, the process required to become that ourselves is no easy feat. If you find yourself in that process, let me recommend the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. She brings up some powerful points about the value of vulnerability, even in a culture that thrives on shame. I love the passage from The Velveteen Rabbit that she shares on pp. 110-111 of her book.  I hope you do, too.

   “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.””Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Reflections of a Mom: Letting go of Excessive Labels

Much like we all tend to do, I spent my growing up years building a picture of what my life should look like when I grew up.

One of those pictures of my grown-up years definitely didn’t include me being a working mom. Nope. It took actually being a grown up and experiencing all of the unexpected experiences that come with living to bring me to where I currently find myself.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on what it looked like to be a mother coming into it. I’d watched my mom do it and do it well. Then I grew up and became one. I wasn’t shocked by the actual work that came with it, nor was I amazed at how rewarding being a parent is. What has been crazy for me to comprehend is how much like a never-ending experiment being a grown up is. As a child, I looked to my parents to know the answers to everything I had questions about. Now that I’m the one in that role, I understand more and more each day that it takes a lot of prayer and ad-libbing to make it through the days. It also takes living life on purpose.

I haven’t always done the best job of that in my mothering. There have been times I’ve felt like I was drowning in isolation. I’ve floundered with how to handle discipline issues or the best way to educate my kids in their early years. All the while, I held onto one part of my ideal picture of being a good mother, and I could find comfort in the fact that, while I might not be doing everything right, at least I was staying home with them, and that had to count for something. That meant I wasn’t failing at everything. (I didn’t see other moms who didn’t stay home as failures. It was just the picture I’d built for myself as ideal. In my mind, it had to be my forever calling because it was what I’d always pictured myself doing for forever.)

Meanwhile, a great many experiences began changing me and my perspective of what it meant for me to be a good mother. For the longest time, I had a neat little package answer of why I couldn’t be a working mom, but then the wrapping began to rip.

I began to realize that what was truly best for my family wouldn’t always look the same. I had proof of this in many other areas, so I finally allowed myself to accept it in this one as well. It was time for a new season. My husband was working himself ragged and we rarely got to see him while the kids and I were together constantly with no breaks from each other. I had been allowed the amazing gift of being there for all of my kids’ milestones, but their dad was missing a lot of them. I’d tried every work-at-home job I could find, but none of us enjoyed it when I did. It was time for me to step outside of my comfort zone and work part time.

I pushed aside the guilty feelings that come with being a mom, for by now I knew, no matter what “kind” of mom I was, I would always fight those guilty feelings, and I started substitute teaching on my husband’s days off from fire fighting. There have been days I’ve bemoaned all that I must be missing by being away from my family, but each day when I come home, I realize that my kids don’t look at me any differently. They don’t see me as less of a mother. I’m still the same mama they love and need, but now I’m able to offer them a different set of lessons.

I was able to see some of those lessons in action the other day when I took them to the park after I got home from work. I smiled to myself on the way to the park at the memory of thoughts I had before I was working. I would take them to the same park and think, “If I were working, I’d be missing out on chances like this.” I have now proved that this sentiment was simply not true. As we ran around the playground, I watched how much more independent we have all become since I let go of this notion and proved myself incorrect.

The reality is, my working has made me value the time I have with my kids that much more. I spent years building a foundation when I was with them all of the time, but now we get to start building upon what we started. I can stand back and watch them push limits I used to cautiously hold their hand through. As a bonus, they’ve learned to hold each other’s hand through the changes, too.

Working Mom Reflections

I have a leg to stand on when I tell my son to be brave and try new things because I’ve been brave enough to do the same.

Working Mom 2

As they grow, I can tell them to take care in what they allow to define them because I’ve begun the work of letting go of all of my worth and identity being wrapped up in them.

When they face seasons of transition in their own lives, I can say, “I know it’s scary and exciting, but growth never happens without purposefully changing the way you do things from time to time. And of course, I’m here for you as you take the risk ”

Working Mom 3

I’m thankful to have gotten to a place in my life where I can be at peace with being a mom without throwing a label in front of it. It’s not about being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom,  a boy mom or a girl mom, a mother of two or a mother seven. God has called me to be a mother to some incredibly priceless gifts, and the roles I will need to fill throughout the years of raising them will change as much as they do. Motherhood requires letting go of so much, but thankfully we never outgrow the hugs.

Working Mom 1

I have held off sharing this part of my story on here for a long while because I know that this topic stirs up all kinds of emotions in mothers. The last thing I want to do is place negative feelings in anyone’s heart, but now that I’ve had enough time to process my own experience, I believe it’s important to share my story. I look at it as only that. My story. It’s not necessarily what your story is meant to be, but I share it with the hope that you can apply the principles of living life on purpose and the importance of being open to change when change is what is best. That is how we all grow.

Blessings to you all!

~Kelly

Have Courage, Be Kind, Make the Most of Grief

I have always adored Cinderella, but the new movie in theaters has only grown my love for the story and lessons to be learned from that simple girl who chose to be courageous and not let the negative voices in her life determine her happiness.

I took along my niece and son to see the film opening weekend, but I really went for myself because I knew deep down I was the one who needed to hear the story it would tell. A story of choosing a life of freedom in spite of a series of painful losses and disappointments, Cinderella inspired me just when I was wanting to give in to the temptation to give up the intentional efforts we must all put into living free.

Ry & Em   Princess Tori

I connected most with how she handled her grief. The fact that she chose to mourn her losses and then let their legacies inspire her rather than destroy her spoke volumes to me.

Grief is such a confusing process that isn’t talked enough about in our world, and I applaud the writers of this movie for doing such a beautifully effective job of teaching a powerful lesson about it. It’s our tendency to want to gloss over the devastating parts of people’s stories so we can be inspired by their “happily ever afters.” In doing that, however, we miss out on some rich truths that we will need when it is our turn to grapple with grief, not to mention we will miss the real inspiration that comes from seeing what others have found freedom over.

Loss of any kind, whether it’s death, a way of life that’s familiar, moving, changing vocations, dietary or health restrictions, or aging is accompanied by grief. While the results of the change can even be mostly positive, it’s still natural to go through a period of grieving that which was lost in order to gain a better way of life.

Cinderella experienced many forms of loss. She first lost her mother, and along with that, the carefree feelings of security of childhood. I loved how the narrator explained how she didn’t become ruined by this childhood loss, “They mourned their loss and over time allowed their sadness to turn into happy memories.”

None of us have a choice about being changed by big losses, but we do have a choice in how we change. How will handle our grief? Cinderella’s kindness and empathy only grew as she went through more loss. Her step-mother, on the other hand, chose to walk the road of bitterness and entitlement. Neither road will be smooth all the way, but it’s a courageous choice to stay on the road of kindness, especially when we meet bitter people who tempt us to give up and join them in their misery.

Another thing that I found inspiring in Cinderella’s story is that she was able to find a “happily ever after” with the prince because of the losses she’d endured and chosen to grieve properly. I’m sure she would have been a lovely young lady if she’d had the opportunity to grow up with all of the same privileges that she had as a girl, but she wouldn’t have been the courageous, grateful woman that caught the eye of the prince. She would have just been another girl who blended into the crowd at the ball rather than the smart, humble, compassionate woman whom the prince couldn’t get out of his head.

The more I learn about grieving in my own life, the more I understand that it truly is because of painful loss that we are able to gain a greater life. Without losing, we can’t fully appreciate what we do have. We don’t know courage until we have to live through experiences that seemed impossible, and we won’t comprehend grace and love until we realize that we would be eternally lost without them.

 

Remembering, Living, and Snapshots

A year ago, we were reeling from the sudden loss of my father-in-law. The details that go into wrapping up someone’s life once they’re already in eternity are overwhelming. The shock of knowing they’re no longer going to participate in the big or little activities of life is staggering. Last February is a complete blur in my memory.

However, in the process of grieving and moving forward, beautiful truths begin to come to light. I thought I’d share a few that I’ve observed as well as a few of my favorite pictures that sum up some of my favorite memories this February. I’m so thankful that God has given us the gift of some sweet days together as a family this year.

  • Life still has beautiful moments.

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  • Laughter is allowed and it does bring about healing.

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  • Your life may change, but it still has a purpose, which is allowed to change, too.

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  • It’s okay to feel the pain of loss from here on out, but you don’t have to let it consume you.

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  • Great things almost always come from losing good things.

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  • You don’t have to wait for the happy, polished ending to have a good life. Embrace all parts of life on this earth, for you aren’t going to get a second chance at it.

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  • You’re not going to handle everything perfectly. You’re going to have bad days, good days, and some days that have a little of both. Ultimately, do your best and don’t repress. God has already been your strength, so depend on Him to be your joy.

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  • Always, always, always rejoice at and celebrate milestones.

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  • We all work hard at building a life that we love. Sometimes, we’re going to have to rebuild it whether we want to or not. We may not have control over much in life, but we do have the power to choose whether or not we’re going to rebuild ourselves into messy heaps or stronger, more refined people who choose joy.

The Things That Matter

I wrote my first blog post on June 9, 2009, because I wanted to keep track of a certain little boy’s life, document his milestones, and share pictures and stories with family who lived far away.

I didn’t really understand what “blog” meant when I started since I only read one other friend’s blog and her mission was similar to mine, so I made it what I wanted it to be.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

As it turned out, the rest of the world caught the blogging bug shortly after I did, and the next thing I knew, all of these issues came up that I’d never even considered.

Is it safe for a parent to post hundreds of pictures of their kids on the Internet with no form of identity protection? Creepers are gonna creep, ya know.

You have to make your blog prettier in order to stand out.

Those snapshots you used to simply upload without a second thought are now a disgrace to the art of photography. You must edit before sharing your pictures if you have any self-respect.

Long posts are the worst.

Make all of your posts into lists! No wait! It’s so lame to jump on the “10 Reasons Why…” post bandwagon.

Link-ups are where it’s at in bloggy land. Sigh. Link-ups?!? Who actually has the time to sit and read through 100 different women’s posts every week?

Join my 30-day challenge. No! Join mine! I’ve made mine more unique than all the other copy-cats out there who keep trying to make 30-day challenges work.

Follow me on Facebook and while you’re scanning your newsfeed, check out the links to all of the blog posts about why Facebook is evil, Pinterest is bringing sin to a whole new level, and we should all throw away our cell phones because it’s the only way to be a good parent.

Write about what matters. No one cares that you went to the park. Again.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I tried having two blogs. One that could actually be considered a blog by all of the standards I was reading about while I kept my own precious corner of the Internet that contained my original blog about my family and for my family.

This venture soon proved to be far too ambitious, and I stopped posting on my private blog. I don’t regret this decision. I needed to grow and stretch myself in a new way by starting the new blog and growing comfortable with the thought of myself as a writer.  I still have the private blog to look back on and smile through.

However, my disenchantment with the “musts” of successful blogging has only grown with time. I’ve pulled away quite a bit from the din and nearly pulled the plug on my blog for many reasons over the last couple of years, but every time I’ve told God all of the reasons why I should stop, He hasn’t released me from it. It’s likely some parts rebellion, confusion, wisdom, and too much going on in real life to give too much thought to it, but I’ve “kept” the blog without contributing much to the blog.

In this year of walking in freedom, I have given thought to how that should look in all aspects of my life, including my writing and blogging. Here are a few of the rules I’ve made for myself.

  • First off, I must make time to write instead of excuse away doing something that I love and that I know helps me sort out my thoughts.
  • It also means that I give myself the freedom to make my blog what I want it to be. I miss writing posts about funny things my kids do because they may not seem worthy of someone else’s time.
  • I’m going to continue to post pictures I take from my phone on my blog and never apologize for it.
  • I’m going to write about all manner of things.
  • I’m going to share my story and let other people share theirs.

I have been pondering a wise statement made by Martin Luther King Jr. in light of how it can apply to my own life, and I believe that it even works in this particular area:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

There are many things that matter to me. Some days, those things might seem insignificant to others, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.  I’m beginning to see that it’s a tragedy for me to not say anything at all. I need this place of honesty and vulnerability to say the things that I need or want to say. I need the connection to the precious friends who take time to read my words. I need to be anything but silent when it’s more and more my tendency to not say anything at all because of fear, laziness, or misunderstanding.

Truly free people can’t be silent forever.