Blog

Father’s Day: My dad’s life & death

(January 2018) It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I feel led to share something with you. This will be a long post, but I know this is something God wants me to share. So, take a seat and let me tell you a story about God showing up and showing out.

If you know me at all, you’ve probably heard me talk about my dad. I’ve shared stories, prayer requests, heartache, and hopes with a lot of different people. Strangers even. Why? Because my dad weighed heavy on my heart every day for as long as I can remember. If you’ve never heard anything about him, let me give you a brief re-cap.

My mom and dad divorced when I was 5. The main reason (from what I know) for my parent’s divorce was my dad’s alcoholic lifestyle. When I was old enough to understand how bad it was, I started praying for him. I would go through seasons of praying fervently. And then I would go through seasons of giving up on him. Through tears and frustration, I would pray….and not pray. But one thing never changed. I wanted my dad to have the hope in Jesus Christ that I had. Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with many of the same things my dad did. Depression. Alcohol. Isolation. Loneliness. But the difference was–I had (and still have) a relationship with God that pulls me out of every pit.

Over the last several years, my dad’s struggle with alcohol and depression became much worse. He lost his job due to a disability, and he never found anything else. He had so much time on his hands but nothing to do with that time. *I can’t even type this without my heart breaking once again.* I can’t even explain the disconnect that occurred between my dad and the “outside world.” The only way I can explain it is….people could only get as close to him as he’d let them. And I think he wanted to let people in, but he just wasn’t sure how. Or if he was even worthy of love at all. I made it my purpose in life to make him feel loved, encouraged, and hopeful. Until I realized that I couldn’t be those things for him. I would share with him how badly I wanted him to get help, but he just refused to admit he needed it. *Writing this post in the past tense is a dose of reality that I still can’t get used to.*

So, here’s the part of the story that I feel led to share….

My dad passed away on December 12, 2017. My. Dad. Passed. Away. Gosh, those words are still hard for me to say/hear/type. His body just couldn’t take it anymore, and it slowly started shutting down. Since my dad never remarried, my sister and I were the next of kin and everything fell on us. The decision to take him off life support. The funeral arrangements. The funeral expenses. And also….legal action that needed to be taken. But before I go on any further, let me share with you how God showed up during the week of his death and funeral.

When he arrived by ambulance to the ER, I started praying that Dad would pull through. It wasn’t long until we realized that He wouldn’t be able to pull through. So, I started praying that he would just wake up one time (because he hadn’t at all since he arrived). My sister and I wanted to be able to tell him one last time that we loved him. Well, he did. He woke up about 12 hours after he was transferred to CCU. My sister and I were both there and we got to tell him how much we loved him. We asked him to squeeze our hands, and he did. He was only awake for about 45 seconds, but it was answer to prayer. God showed up. After that, I started praying that God would not let my dad die without giving him one more chance to accept him. I had heard of people having that “one on one time” with the Lord on their death bed, and I wanted that for my dad. Several hours later, before we took him off life support, the chaplain came in to pray with us. When he walked in and opened “a book” and started to read, I was a little frustrated. “This isn’t even going to be heartfelt,” I thought to myself. But here’s what he read:

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘I myself will search for and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace. I WILL SEARCH FOR MY LOST ONES WHO STRAYED AWAY, AND I WILL BRING THEM SAFELY HOME AGAIN.” (Ezekiel 34:11-16)

God showed up. He gave me a peace that undeniably came from Him. Of all the scripture that chaplain could’ve read, he read scripture about God searching for his lost sheep and bringing them home. Now, after 30 years of praying for my dad, God answered my prayer.

My dad passed away at 11:20 that night. My sister came back to my house and as we were falling asleep, I prayed….”God, tomorrow is going to be a hard day. Please go before us and make every decision easy. Show us the way.”

The next day, we woke up and through the exhaustion of everything, we started making arrangements. And sure enough, everything just fell into place. The funeral home we chose was top notch. The funeral director that we worked with was as sweet as gold. And just a side note: My husband never left our side. Even at the hospital. He took off an entire week of work to be there and help us through each step. Let me back up a second. Because I have left out an IMPORTANT piece of information. There were two family members that made this whole process a living hell for me and my sister. They treated us so awful. Without giving specific details, we had to hire a lawyer to represent us and help us through this awful mess that they were throwing our way. I’ve heard that death can bring out the worst in people….and now I’ve seen it first hand.

So, anyway. Back to God showing up and showing out. Like I said, every decision really was so easy. Things fell into place, and I felt God’s presence every step of the way. On the day before the funeral my sister and I had a few errands left to run. Neither one of us had much strength left. We were exhausted-physically, mentally, and emotionally. Before we set out for the day I told her I wanted to run through Chick Fil A. We ordered our food and pulled up to the window to pay. The cashier says, “The car in front of y’all paid for your food.” My sister and I just lost it. Bawling. I then explained to the cashier what a blessing that was, because our dad just passed away and we were about to spend the day finalizing arrangements. She said, “I knew that was God. When the man told me that he wanted to pay for your food, I knew it was God.” And it was. He showed up. If you’ve never seen God in the small things, look harder. He’s there.

It’s so hard for me to write this story in the order things happened, because my mind is jumping back and forth. So, let me just list some other ways I’ve seen God show up:

*My dad’s brother passed away about 12 years ago. If my dad would’ve had one dying wish, it would’ve been to be buried right beside Uncle Darrell. So, we called the cemetery and asked if we could buy a plot there. I wasn’t really expecting there to be any available plots close to my uncle. It’s been 12 years, and that cemetery is small and packed. But wouldn’t you know, when we called they told us there was actually a plot right beside my uncle that was available. Right. Beside. Him. God showed up.

*My sister and I have been reconnected with a couple family members that we haven’t seen or talked to in years. There are family members that are stabbing us in the back, but there are also family members who have our back. They have encouraged and loved us through every decision we’ve made.

*People have helped us financially. Now, this is 100% a God thing. Like I said earlier, the funeral expenses have come out of our pocket. Unexpectedly. A week before Christmas. But people–friends, family, strangers–have given money to help. In fact, we’ve been able to pay off every penny of the funeral expense. Do you know what it feels like to have that type of burden lifted? God showed up.

Now, here we are at the part of the story that has not yet unfolded. This morning I’m waiting on a phone call from our lawyer to see what our next step is in settling my dad’s estate. He didn’t have a will, and honestly-he doesn’t have much. It’s not about money or “stuff.” It’s about being a voice for my dad. Standing up for him since he can’t stand up for himself. He will not be taken advantage of, and my sister and I are going to make sure of it.

3 months later…..

Since the last time I updated this post, the following things have occurred:

-We served “the two family members” papers to make sure we were taken seriously. They got the picture and agreed to let us get my dad’s truck and belongings. They were very civil during this process, and that is another answer to prayer.

-We ordered his headstone so that it will be installed before his birthday on May 25th. It was important to me and my sister that we have a place to visit on his birthday.

-The lawyer has been working to get his estate settled, and we hope to finalize everything by the middle of May.

2 months later….

Today is Father’s Day, and I’ve decided to post this blog that I’ve been working on for 6 months.

Today I can tell you that….my dad’s estate has been settled. That in itself is such a praise. The family members that I mentioned above have not been heard from since the day we got my dad’s belongings. Which, in all honesty, is such a sad thing. I’ve tried to reach out-in love-but have gotten no response. Why would you abandon your granddaughters in such a season? It’s beyond me. But I can look back with no regret. I did everything in a manner of honoring The Lord….and my dad.

I’m also happy to say that my dad’s headstone was installed the day before his birthday, so my sister and I had a place to visit on his birthday.

And that leads me to today. My first Father’s Day without my dad. I’ve had a lot on my mind today, and that’s how I want to wrap up this post.

Today isn’t hard because we would’ve normally spent the day with Dad. We probably wouldn’t have seen him at all. That’s just how he was. And that’s what makes today so hard. I prayed for years that things would change, and that Dad would change his lifestyle to make more room for me. But he never did. And even though God has given me a peace about it, it still hurts.

So, why do I share all this with you? The raw, real struggles and pain? Because I want my dad’s story to be used for His glory. Just know….you’re never too far gone. The Lord is waiting for you to come to Him. Just don’t wait til your death bed to make things right….there are people in your life that need your love today.

And also….God is faithful. His heart breaks when your heart breaks. He wants to show up and show out. Just sit back and watch Him!

 

a daughter of the King,

Tonya

 

 

 

Advertisements

Me, Myself, and I

Definition of selfish: concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

I didn’t mean to end up here. Concerned chiefly with my own personal profit or pleasure. But that’s where I am. How the heck did I end up here again?! After months of being at peace with where I am. Who I am. Satan slowly crept back in.

Health issues. Uninvited. 24/7 Mom duties. Unmet expectations. Messy house.

Insert social media.

Social media is a pit just waiting for more people to fall into.

If we’re not careful, we can quickly feel not good enough, not important enough, not rich enough, not pretty enough, not successful enough, not super mom enough, not fit enough, just not enough.

But it’s not just social media. It’s when we let our guard down. Because when we let our guard down, satan is ready to start throwing darts. And the more darts that hit our heart, the more pity we feel. And the more pity we feel, the more selfish we become.

Why ME? What’s wrong with ME? How come they did that to ME? When will they notice ME? What’s in it for ME?

That’s where I am. Having a pity party with me, myself, and I. A party that’s lasted way too long. I don’t normally like to be a party pooper, but it’s time to shut it down.

Not today, Satan. Not today, Tonya.

Today, I choose joy. Today, I choose love. Today, I choose selflessness.

 

your party-pooper friend,

Tonya

My word for 2018: Re-Center

Gosh, I just realized that it’s been 5 months since I’ve blogged. So much has happened in those 5 months, but today I just want to talk about one word. Re-center.

Every year I try to come up with one word to focus on. I’ve had a hard time over the past month trying to figure out what my word is going to be. What is it that I really want to focus on in 2018? I’ve tossed around a few different words, but none of them really felt right. Until Tuesday.

Tuesday morning I was sitting in a funeral service. It was unlike any funeral service I’ve ever sat through. One of my dear friends lost her 3 year old son last Friday. No sickness. No accident. He just laid down and went to be with the Lord. Something that no parent ever wants to go through. I just can’t imagine. But they wanted his funeral service to be a celebration of life. Not only his life, but the life that God gives. They wanted God’s glory to be known and shown. And it was. That morning, while I was getting ready for the funeral, my heart felt heavy. Mainly for The Powell family. But also, things were just weighing me down. Things that I thought were important. But as I sat in that funeral service, I felt God telling me that I needed to re-center my heart. And as I felt Him speak that word over me, this picture came to mind.

image1

Have you ever used the GPS on your phone? I’m sure you have. But have you ever noticed the re-center button? It only pops up if you click off of the route, or try to look ahead. The GPS has given you clear directions to your destination, and it plans on getting you there. But so many times, I try to look ahead. I want to see exactly what the route looks like and make sure the GPS is going to get me there. Once I touch the screen and start looking ahead-or to the left or right-the GPS stops giving me directions. It won’t start back until I click the re-center button. When I re-center, the GPS resumes and I’m able to see clear directions.

Wow.

Does anyone else see the correlation between the GPS on our phones and God’s GPS for our lives? He has a specific destination for us, but He doesn’t want us to see the whole route at one time. However, we’re real quick to click off of the route. To look ahead. To look left or right. To look behind. And when we do, we get distracted. We let those distractions get us off course. We let them make us fearful or hopeless. We try to take over and make our own route. We may even try to take a short cut. And a lot of times that gets us lost. Our hearts become weary and heavy. What do we do when this happens?

We re-center.

When we re-center our hearts, we let God have control. We trust His plan and His timing. We give Him the things that are weighing us down. And we remember what really matters.

I left that funeral service on Tuesday with a fresh perspective. Life is short. It’s too short to let things of this world weigh me down. My destination is Heaven, and the route is set. I just have to trust God with the rest.

 

your friend on this journey that we call life,

Tonya

Ok, so I had a baby…what now?!

Since my last post, I had a baby! Whew…I honestly didn’t think that pregnancy would ever end! It was the absolute hardest season I’ve ever walked through. Sickness. Depression. Disconnect. Isolation. Loneliness. Tears. Lots. Of. Tears.

But through those hard months, my faith grew. I fell in love with the Lord like I never had before. I learned to lean on Him. To rest in Him. And to trust Him. He brought me to a dark place so that I could see His light. I won’t recap all of that, but if you want to know more about those months….look back at the last two posts.

So, here I am now. I have a 10 week old. The most precious 10 week old baby girl in the world! I call her my little blessing that I didn’t know I needed. But God knew. I tear up just thinking about God’s love poured out in the form of my sweet Libby. Since her birth, I have felt more and more like myself. The depression has turned into joy. The disconnect has been reconnected. The isolation and loneliness have been replaced with friendships. And the tears have become tears of happiness, not sadness. I am in awe of how God brought me through a valley and is leading me to a mountain top. I knew He would, but I just didn’t think it would take 10 months!!! His timing is definitely not our timing, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

I’ve been struggling lately with the question…..”what now?” For the past year, I’ve felt a tug to do something more. I love being a stay at home mom….but I’m having a hard time feeling fulfilled in that. I’m just being real. From 7am-2pm, I have conversations with my 2 month old that consist of “goo-goo, gaa-gaa.” My routine has become: straighten up the house, change a diaper, take a nap with the baby, change a diaper, see if there’s anything on TV, scroll through social media, change a diaper, pick up the big kids from school, get homework done, take them where they need to go, wait for Daddy to get home, eat dinner, get everyone ready for bed. And then I lay in bed and think….what was my purpose today? I mean, sure, I kept all 3 kids alive. That’s an accomplishment in itself. But is there something more? Who am I outside of “Mama” and “Wifey”?? I’m not saying that those roles aren’t good enough…..and I’m not saying that I don’t see a purpose in them….I do! But my heart longs for something more. I want to find purpose outside of the walls of my home. I want to feel like I’m making a difference. I want to contribute to my family’s finances. I want to take some pressure off of my hard working husband. I want adult conversation, for crying out loud!!!

I’ve been praying that God would show me what He wants me to do. I’ve prayed that He would open doors, and that He would make His will very clear! And you know what? He has. Over and over again. In the quiet moments with Him. He reminds me to just trust Him. He reminds me that He has me at home for a reason. This is His will for me right now. This is my mission field. He knows the desires of my heart, and He has a plan to meet those desires. But right now. Today. This is where I’m supposed to be. Sitting in my keeping room, under a leopard blanket, listening to the baby swing creak back and forth, resting in the fact that God is in control. I read something earlier on Facebook and I want to share it with you:

“Stop frantically searching for God’s will; start frantically searching for God Himself. And as you do, trust that He will bear the responsibility to show you what He wants you to do and how He wants you to do it. He will speak through His Holy Spirit and His Word to reveal Himself to you, realign you to His perspective, and refocus you on His purposes. Do your part, and let Him do His.”

I was talking to a friend yesterday about this very topic. She was telling me that she felt like she was supposed to be doing something more. Like maybe go on a mission trip or something. And I gave her some advice that I haven’t even taken myself. I told her that we don’t have to go across the country or overseas to find a mission. Our mission field is where we are today. In our home. At the gym. Shopping at Walmart. In our workplace. There are people that we come across everyday that need to know God’s love. And when we’re obedient in sharing God’s love with everyone we come in contact with, then we’ll find fulfillment and purpose. God doesn’t want us frantically searching for something more. He just wants us to search for Him and to let Him lead us through our day.

My heart longs for something more…..but God just wants me to content with where He has me right now. There’s a purpose. And that purpose is to love and encourage those around me.

You may be the only light someone sees today. Shine bright!

 

~Tonya

What you think about, you bring about.

Let me just start off by saying…..how unfair is it that men can literally only be thinking about 1 thing at a time???? Meanwhile, women are constantly thinking about 583 things at any given moment. Let me explain it in a way I learned years ago and has stuck with me.

Men are like waffles; Women are like spaghetti. Meaning…..men can compartmentalize their thoughts. One square of a waffle=one thought, and they can only be in one square at a time. However, women are like a bowl of spaghetti noodles. One thought leads to another thought that leads to another thought that leads to another thought, and so on. Hardly ever are we EVER thinking about just one thing. This is why we stress our men out when we sit down to talk. We can start off a conversation about the grocery list and within 5 minutes we’ve talked about the kids’ grades, what our weekend plans are, why the grass hasn’t been cut, how we’re the only ones doing anything around the house, and now we’re crying about how overwhelmed we are. And we wonder why our men check out and don’t seem to care. It’s because they’re lost in our bowl of spaghetti noodles!!!!

What can we do about this?

Heck if I know!? I wish I had the answer, but honestly-this is something I’m in the middle of right now. But my thoughts aren’t just overwhelming thoughts, they’re depressing. These negative thoughts lead me down a path that I just don’t want to go down. So, how can I find a new path? Well, one thing I’m learning is the importance of taking every thought “captive.” What does captive mean? To imprison or confine. So….we either take our thoughts captive (lock them up somewhere and throw away the key), OR they will captivate and imprison us.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10: 5

Let me just share with you what my bowl of spaghetti noodles looks like these days….

“What am I going to do today? I mean, I can’t do much, because I’m 35 weeks pregnant and I’m tired and miserable. But I don’t want to just sit at the house all day. But there ARE things that need to be done at the house. Who cares. It can wait. I just need to get out of this house. {Guilt enters because laundry is piling up, baby stuff needs to be done, dirty dishes are overflowing out of my sink, sheets need to be changed, floors need to be vacuumed} Maybe I should just stay home and clean. But what are other people doing today? {Facebook check} Gosh, every single person on my Facebook feed are out doing something today. I wish I was on a beach trip, or shopping at Canton Flea Market, or playing tennis, laying out by a pool, planting a garden, exercising at the gym, having a lunch date with my husband, shopping, getting a massage. Crap! I’d even be happy sitting behind a desk at work!!! JUST GET ME OUT OF THIS HOUSE! {Jealousy creeps in and now I hate every one of my Facebook friends} Apparently nobody likes me. I’ll just go eat worms. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Because eating worms doesn’t seem so bad. I mean, it’s better than just sitting here.”

Ok, so I’ve never really eaten worms. BUT….that’s how one thought: “What am I going to do today?” can turn into depressed feelings. And just know–this is not something that’s easy for me to talk about. I honestly don’t even want to be sitting here writing about this, but I feel like someone else may need to hear this and know that they’re not alone.

I’ve already told you that this is not something that I’ve mastered. Taking my thoughts captive and not allowing myself to fall into a pit is easy some days…..but some days I fall into the pit. And I fall hard. The hard days are few and far between, because I. Am. A. Fighter. And I refuse to live in darkness. Here are some things I do to protect my mind:

*I don’t get on social media! Yes, this probably seems silly, but social media drives me NUTS! I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, but when I scroll through my Facebook news feed it’s just a reminder of what I don’t have, what I’m not doing, and who I’m not. Why does social media define us? Why do we feel the need to take selfies and tell everyone every single thing we do every day? Is it because we love our life that much…..or because we want everyone else to love our life that much? I’m talking from personal conviction. I started realizing that I wasn’t enjoying my life as much as I wanted to, because I was too worried about posting pictures (perfect, filtered, photoshopped pictures) of what I was doing. So, for ME, I decided to take a break from social media. I want to enjoy my life without needing “likes” and “comments” from other people. And also, I want to stop comparing my life to other people’s.

*I pray! Simple and cliche. But POWERFUL! When negative thoughts start to creep in, I start to pray. I know that if I don’t nip it quickly, then satan will continue to feed the negative thoughts and before you know it-I’m eating worms. When I pray, I name God’s promises and claim victory. If you need help in this, google: God’s promises and just start saying them out loud.

*Lean on family and friends! Now, don’t confuse leaning on family and friends with relying on family and friends. I still get confused with those two things, daily. When I start relying on my husband….or my mom….or my sister….or my friends….to get me through a bad day, then I usually end up more depressed. Why? Because people will always disappoint. They can only lift you so high for so long. And plus, when we’re drowning in negative thoughts, we start to set unrealistic expectations of what we want other people to do and say. And when they don’t do or say those things, we’re even more frustrated and disappointed. Now, don’t get me wrong….it IS important to talk to other people. But make sure that you’re not relying on those other people more than you’re relying on God. He’s the only one that will never disappoint you. He will never leave you. He will never stop loving you. And He will always take care of you. (I just keep repeating this to myself, because some days I just don’t feel it).

*I force myself to take the next step! This just means being intentional about getting up and doing SOMETHING! Some days it’s doing housework, or planning a lunch date with a friend, sitting at the reservoir and enjoying God’s creation, running errands that I’ve been putting off, or finding someone else that needs to be loved on. That’s the hardest one for me, because when you’re waiting for someone to love on you, how can you try to love on someone else? Yeah, I’m still working on that one. But the point is….just take the next step. Whatever that looks like for you.

So, as I wrap up this post, let me just go back to the title. “What you think about, you bring about.” This was a motto for one of my husband’s jobs a while back, and I’ve never really understood the depth of it until recently. But it’s so true. If you don’t take negative, overwhelming thoughts captive, then you’ll bring about those things. They’ll start to become your reality, and you’ll continue to spiral into more and more negative thoughts. Trust me, I know. Instead, fight against those thoughts. Replace them with God’s promises, and then rest in His peace. And on hard days, just remember….this too shall pass.

God will never bring you to it if He doesn’t plan on bringing you through it.

 

your #reallife friend,

Tonya

 

Why it’s taken me 6 months (and 1 week) to write this post!

edited: I wrote this post a week ago, but never submitted it. I’m not sure why. I guess maybe it was harder than I thought it would be to be completely vulnerable. Because vulnerability=accountability. Or maybe it was because I had expectations tied to what this post would do….or how it would minister to people. Or IF it would minister to people. But I still feel led to share my heart. So, here it is…..my heart…..typed out in words.

So….where do I even start?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself for months. I know God’s been pushing me to write this post….but I kept asking Him….”where do I even start?” And even as I sit down to write, I’m still asking Him that question.

So, here I am. Willing to be used. In the most vulnerable place I’ve ever been in. May the following words be used to encourage you and bring glory to God.

As most of you know….I’m pregnant. I found out about 5 months ago, and I am currently 29 weeks along. Little did I know, this pregnancy would mark the beginning of a season that I just was not prepared for. At first I thought it was just the shock of a positive pregnancy test in the stage of life entitled, “We’re done having kids, my husband just started his own business, we’ve downsized and cut every unnecessary expense, and I’m homeschooling my 4th and 1st graders.” Then after the initial shock wore off and the season got harder, I just thought it was because of the morning sickness that lasted all day-every day-for 16 weeks. I kept thinking….”Surely I’ll start feeling better soon, and then life will feel easier.” Nope. After crashing off of my sanity meds, I fell into a pit labeled depression. My doctor recommended that I see a christian counselor and during the first 15 minutes of our first session, she confirmed that God was releasing me from homeschooling my kids. It was a hard pill to swallow because I felt like I was letting my family down–and God. But at the same time, I knew this was God’s direction. After Christmas, my kids started back to school–a new school. Thankfully the transition was super easy and wonderful for everyone! PRAISE!! I just knew that now life would be easier. I wasn’t feeling sick anymore, I had energy, and I had 7 hours every day to myself! What a dream come true, right?? 7 hours. alone. stuck in a house. by yourself….God started speaking. And I had no choice but to listen. And the things He was telling me were hard things for me to hear. But before you continue reading, just know that this post is not about pregnancy.

This post is about God bringing you to a season of life where He requires your full attention, and there’s nothing you can do but listen.

I soon started to realize that God was up to something, and it wasn’t going to be a fun or easy journey.

There was a disconnect that had formed in my marriage since I found out I was pregnant, and it was time to face it. I pointed this out to my husband pretty soon after the kids had started back to school. I was honestly hoping it was just me that felt this way, but as soon as he confirmed it we knew there were things that needed to be dealt with. So, we sat down with a christian marriage counselor. It was the absolute worst hour of my life. The disconnect was not just a figment of my imagination. It was real. And it was deep. And it was something that neither of us could put our fingers on. We both wanted to fix it right away, but we couldn’t. It was going to require prayer and patience. Two things that I just didn’t have a lot of. But through lots of prayer–and patience–God started to reveal places in MY heart that needed to change. When all this time, I thought it was Michael’s problem and could give you a list of things that I thought needed to change in him.

That was the beginning of God removing me from the self-centered world I had been living in.

I started reading a book called “For Women Only.” It changed my heart. And it’s changing my marriage. I learned so much about Michael and about how my words and actions were creating a lot of tension in our marriage. I was ready and willing to make changes, but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be. I started praying that I would decrease so that God could increase. I had no idea how painful that prayer could be. I literally started to feel empty. Completely. Empty. He was stripping every selfish desire, action, and word from my body…..and I felt lost. Was I really that consumed with myself that there was nothing left inside of me after He emptied me of “me”?? He started filling me with His love and peace, and it brought me to the point of fully relying on Him to get me through each day. I took every thought and every potential negative reaction to Him first, before I let one word out of my mouth. And little by little I saw how HE was working things out and fighting my battles, instead of me having to. Let me just give you some examples of how this was playing out in my every day life:

  • The disconnect between me and my husband made me feel so unloved by him. Normally, I would lash out and let my emotions lead me down a path that demanded something from him-out of selfishness. But instead, I would just start talking to God about it. I would lash out at Him instead of Michael. I would leave my burdens and hurts with God so that He could fix them. And He did! It wasn’t always immediate, and it wasn’t always tangible…but He was faithful to make changes. However, the changes started in my heart.
  • The emptiness led to loneliness and the loneliness led to depression, and it was all too much for me to bear. Not only did I feel disconnected from my husband, but God had also disconnected me from the friendships I once depended on. I depended on them too much, in fact. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had been relying too much on my husband and my friends to provide joy and fulfillment. I started waking up every morning sick to my stomach because I felt so unfulfilled. What was I going to do that day? Who would I talk to? Who would I hang out with? Where would I go? I would try to fill my day with “this” or “that”….but God would shut those doors and demand that I just spend time alone with Him. And I’m just going to be honest….most days, I didn’t want to! I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted to do something. I wanted a friend. I wanted to get out of this house! I….I….I. And God would remind me….”Tonya, I’m emptying you of you so that I can fill you with Me.” I learned to be real and raw with God during this time. When everyone would leave in the mornings, the tears would flow….and the anger would grow….and I would just start yelling at God to make this all go away. Whatever He was doing in me was just too hard, and I didn’t want it anymore! {side note: the book that is helping me through this specific season of emptiness, loneliness, and the depression that goes along with it is, “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst. It’s a must read for anyone experiencing some of these same feelings.}

Thankfully, God’s strength shows up in our weakness.

I didn’t feel weak as the day went on….I woke up weak. And I had 2 choices: take the next step and trust that He would give me strength….or give up! Giving up was never an option. I mean, how could I? I wasn’t only trying to take care of myself…..I had a baby growing inside of me that needed her Mama to be strong!

So, for the past 29 weeks my faith has grown in ways that I could’ve never imagined. And if I would’ve known beforehand that this season would be so painful, I would’ve never put it on my calendar! But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Because the breaking of (the old) me has been the making of (a new) me.

I’m not on the other side of this yet….but I know I will be one day. In my darkness, God has shown His light, and it has forever changed my life. Living for me had its moments of fun and excitement, but living for Him is the most fulfilling place I’ve ever been. There’s a lyric in one of Toby Mac’s songs that says “Empty never felt so full.” Yes. Yes. Yes. The world tells us to fill our lives with more stuff…money…relationships…alcohol..etc, etc, etc. The world tells us that those things will make us happy. Been there, done that. Honestly, that’s where I was 29 weeks ago. I was filling my life with what I THOUGHT was providing happiness, but it wasn’t. Those things were only creating a temporary happiness. A happiness that had me always wanting more, because it’s not truly fulfilling. And it wasn’t until The Lord forced me into a “40 week rehab” (as I like to call it), that I started to realize:

He wanted something better for me.

He wanted to give me a fulfilling life….not one that you wake up the next day having regrets over.

He wanted me to dwell in His love so that I could know how to truly love others.

He wanted to restore my marriage to something new and meaningful….not a rollercoaster that was based solely on emotions and actions.

But I’m going to tell you….one of the hardest parts of this journey has been looking back at the things He’s stripped from me and wishing I had those things back. The friendships, the fun, the freedom. But in a gentle way He reminds me, that He’s not necessarily stripping those things from me…He’s just redefining them.

Living a life fully devoted to the One who made you (for crying out loud!), that will overflow your life with purpose and satisfaction. And it’s simple!!! Love God, and Love Others! That’s it! If you seek Him FIRST, He’ll work everything else out. It may not be the way you would’ve planned it….but it’s always the best way!

God wants to get your attention, so give it to Him today. And praise Him through the pain. Because diamonds are only formed after being chiseled. 

 

from one stressed, blessed, and hot messed woman to another,

Tonya

 

 

 

But the Neighbors are doing it!!

I’ve been kind of down on myself because I haven’t been posting as often as I want to. HOWEVER….it NEVER fails that God’s timing is not mine! When I sit down to read a book, there’s definitely a divine time line. He proved that to me again today.

So….I had to go get something out of a friend’s mailbox today. She lives in a very nice neighborhood, and on our way to her house the kids are “Ooooo’ing and Ahhhhh’ing” at all the “MANSIONS” that we’re passing. I hear a conversation like this:

Abby: Mama, look at that mansion! I wish we lived there!

Parker: Yeah…they have a drive through garage. That’s no fair.

Abby: Look how big their yard is. They could build an entire trampoline park in their yard.

Parker: Our yard barely fits a trampoline, and they could fit a hundred.

And so on….

It kinda made my heart a little sad. Why don’t my kids appreciate the house we live in? Don’t they know that we’re doing the best we can to provide a luxury life for them? But yeah, that house is REALLY nice. I DO wish we lived there. That would be nice. I bet they don’t have a worry in the world.

Fast forward to right now…..me sitting in the bed…..reading The Supermom Myth book….about comparison, envy, and discontentment.

{excerpt: We moms know how comparison creeps in even before birth. From pregnancy, we compare ourselves to other moms and our child to other children. We compare ourselves to other women–our body shapes, our accomplishments, our husbands, our homes. We compare haircuts, shoe styles, front lawns, and Christmas cookie cutouts.

You are responsible for you. I am responsible for me. God calls us each to follow Him, which involves loving and encouraging one another, yes, but we must resist COMPARING ourselves to each other. When we compare, we’re likely to draw one of two thorny conclusions: I am better, or I am worse. Neither is true according to God’s design.

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” (Galatians 6:4-5 MSG)

Comparison leads to envy, which leads to discontentment.

COMPARISON- Vacation plans, extreme couponing, diets, reading lists, scrapbooks, chore charts, and hand-sewn purses. Our spirits inflame with an impossible itch to be as clever, resourceful, energetic, and artsy as those OTHER women. Reality check–they can’t do everything. And neither can we. We all have our own “things”–yours aren’t better than mine, and mine aren’t better than yours. They’re just different.

ENVY- You know what happens when we covet, don’t you? We start thinking our stuff isn’t good enough. As if God doesn’t know what we need. Or worse, He’s holding out on us. If we really knew what went on in that bigger house or that supposedly perfect family, we might be relieved that it belongs to them and not us. In other words, we’d choose our own stuff. What if our fence lines are established by God for our own enjoyment and protection? Doesn’t that change how you look at your neighbor’s lawn?

My yard=boundaries and blessings designed just for me.

Their yard=outside of God’s plan for my life.

{insert my heart: Wow. Wow. Wow. That is so powerful. God has my family in this certain place for a reason. His blessings are overflowing, and I don’t need anything else!}

DISCONTENTMENT- Worry. Distractions. Coveting. Complaints. They inflame a mother’s perspective and steal her joy. But I’ve discovered a cure….STILLNESS.

{insert my heart: Be still and know that He is God. THAT IS ENOUGH!}

True contentment means putting God in charge and embracing His plans for your life, even when they’re different from your own. Contentment is not gained. It is learned:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

The more we talk and complain about a situation, the worse it looks, until the problem looms larger in our mind than our faith does. (Dr. Charles Stanley)

God will provide what is best, and this world is not all there is for us.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

{insert my heart: Y’all, this chapter revived my heart. It reminded me that my life has a purpose. And that purpose is God breathed. And that purpose is good enough. I’m not bringing in a significant income right now, but that’s ok. I’m pouring into my kids in a way that I’ve never been able to. THAT is more valuable than money. THAT is more valuable than a “mansion” or a trampoline park in our backyard. I don’t want to lose focus on that, because when I lose focus–I become discontent. I want to be content–and at peace–with my life right now. It’s the life God has chosen for me and my family, and it. is. a. blessing.}

Goodnight, friends!

 

Worry much?

I’m just going to go ahead and tell you…..worrying is something I used to do every second of every day! Literally.

I worried about realistic things….unrealistic things……I worried about things that would probably never happen, but in my mind they had already happened. I worried myself sick and to the point of sleepless nights. It was absolutely exhausting.

But over the past several years, God has released me from a lot of my anxiety, fear, and worry. Through His Word, and only through His Word, I have come to love God more and fear the world less. Perfect love drives out fear, and His love is the only perfect love. So, let me share with you the next chapter in The Supermom Myth book, entitled “Worry Much?”

{excerpt: We moms sniff out danger at every turn, fiercely protecting our cubs from threats both real and imagined. Hey, it’s our job, right? God entrusted these children to our care, so by golly, we are determined not to mess it up.

Our enemy, Worry Woman, can choke the life from both parent and child faster than any other dirty villain we face. Worry inhibits our ability to enjoy our children, and it instills in our kids a sense of fear that hinders them from exploring beyond their parents’ emotional confines. Do you enjoy worrying? I sure hope not. Does it make you feel strong? More than likely it weakens your spirit. So why should we purposely impart this same debility to our children?

Equipping our children from the inside out: The best action we can take to protect our children is to teach them about God. So make it a priority to pray with your children . Explore Bible stories and memorize verses together. Point to God in everything you do and see. And teach your kids to protect their hearts from anything that would draw them away from God. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

3 common areas in which many of us struggle to let go:

  1. Growing up–The natural progression to school and independence
  2. Decision making–Empowering our kids to make wise choices
  3. Allow Dad to be Dad–Relinquishing control to coparent

 

The less our kids lean on us, the more they’ll need to lean on God. And that is the ultimate goal of parenting. And how will our children learn to make wise choices if we constantly make their decisions for them? One day, each of our children will make the ultimate choice–whether or not to live for Jesus. Let’s start now, building our kids’ confidence in their own decision-making abilities so that someday, when they’re grown, Jesus will be THEIR choice and not just some habit they picked up from Mom and Dad. Proverbs 1:8-9 says “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”  This tells me that fathers and mothers are in the game together. For kids with two caring and well-intentioned parents in their lives, the wisdom from each is valuable. When we moms try to control child-rearing decisions and squelch a husband’s input, we are effectively denying our children a blessing their father was designed to impart.

{my heart: I am guilty of all 3 areas of not wanting to let go. And probably 300 more. I want to thrive as a mom and I want my kids to strive for God, but some days I’m doing more harm than good. I see that now.

Something that God revealed to me a few years ago, as I was punishing myself for not being a perfect mom was this……If I was a “perfect mom” (or even close to perfect), then my kids would never have any reason to look to God for anything. We’re imperfect for a reason. Because in our imperfections, He is made known. Let that encourage you tonight.

Goodnight, friends!

 

 

The GROUCH on the COUCH

If you don’t think God is real or personal or has a sense of humor…you’re SO wrong!

Let me give you a real-life scenario……

We had just gotten home and I was a little aggravated. My husband asked me what was wrong. I told him I didn’t know…..because I really didn’t. {the joys of being a woman} He asked a couple more times, and I felt pressured to provide an answer. So, I went with what I thought was the root of my “grouchiness”, and I told him that I was frustrated that the house was such a mess. His reply…”What’s a mess?” Um…..are you BLIND?!? The whole house is a disaster!!!! Not one room in this house is clean. But apparently I’m the only one who cares. AHHHHHHHH!!!!

So…..I went and sat on the couch. And sulked. He walked out of the room, and I thought….”maybe I’ll go read my book” {The Supermom Myth}

And wouldn’t you know….the title of Chapter 2 is: The Grouch on the Couch! Bahahahahahaha……ok, God…I get it! I’m a grouch. And I’m sulking on the couch. You have my full attention. Speak…

{excerpt: Dirty Villian No. 1: The Grouch on the Couch. Proverbs 29:11 tells us, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” And James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”}

Wow. Conviction already.

{excerpt as follows:

I’ve discovered–the hard way–six tricks to conquering the Grouch….

#1- Acknowledge the Grouch. The first step to conquering the Grouch is acknowledging her presence in the room. Recognize that your frustration is an object you can identify and control; it does NOT have to control you. Likewise, ignoring the Grouch, stuffing her down, or pretending she doesn’t exist can ultimately harm us and everybody around us. We become like pressure cookers, building steam until our tops blow and splatter droplets of frustration all over the people we love best.

#2- Know who your real enemy is–It’s NOT your kids. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), therefore Satan is thrilled when we act UNlovingly. One of the most effective tricks I’ve found for fighting the Grouch is this simple sentence–that unfailingly whips my perspective back into shape: I WILL NOT LET SATAN GET MY FAMILY!

{my heart/my personal dialogue:

When my children try to aggravate each other in every.possible.way….

I WILL NOT LET SATAN GET MY FAMILY!

When my daughter throws a diva-sized tantrum and needs my emotional presence, not my impatience….

I WILL NOT LET SATAN GET MY FAMILY!

When the house is a mess, and I’m the only one who seems to care…

I WILL NOT LET SATAN GET MY FAMILY!

{excerpt as follows:

#3- Discern Age-Appropriate Behavior. Our kids aren’t puppets; they’re people. They’re born with the same sin nature as ours and the same free will to make their own decisions. We all know how well that works for us sometimes. Can we really expect more from our kids than we do from ourselves? {insert my heart: wow. profound!}

We can’t control their hearts. We can only control our response.

Let’s follow God’s lead. He knows our limitations and our faults, yet He is kind to us. Can we do the same for our kids?

#4- The Quick-Switch Trick. Whenever we’re tempted to snap, immediately replace the angry thought with scripture. If only we woman could get our hands on a preventative drug for freaking out. We can. It’s called scripture. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) 

#5- Put a Little Love in Your Voice. Oh, how many disasters could be averted in our homes if we’d just put a little love in in our voice. Haven’t we moms figured out by now that impatience is counterproductive? When I bark at my kids, they tune me out at best. Sometimes they strike back. Worst, on rare but awful occasions, they cry. Then I’m left wishing for a do-over. Do you ever wonder if you’d act differently with Jesus in the room? Hey, I’d spiff up my behavior if the MAILMAN stopped by. Imagine how far I’d go to tame my tongue for the Lord??!??! But that’s the kicker….God IS in the room! His eyes are in our kitchens when we’re mopping spilled juice. He’s in our hallways when we’re wrestling kids to get ready. He travels in our vehicles when the kids bicker over who knows what?! Thankfully, the Lord is full of grace. {insert my heart: Thank you, Jesus, for your grace and unconditional love}

#6- Learn to Apologize. The key is to be aware of how our words, actions, and attitudes are stacking up–even in the midst of constant external pressures–and to make deliberate efforts to pile on more patience than pestering, more smiles than spewing, more softness than snits, and more hugs than hollers. When we apologize to our kids and ask for forgiveness, we show humility and invite grace into our homes. As moms, we need to take the necessity of forgiveness one step further and realize what it says to our children. When we apologize and ask our kids for forgiveness, it teaches them that we are not perfect, and we don’t expect them to be. Genuine apologies create an atmosphere of mutual grace, where kids and parents alike can feel free to make mistakes without condemnation. And that, my fellow moms, paints the very picture of Jesus for our children.

{insert my heart: God never ceases to amaze me. He always meets me right where I am. Tonight it was on the couch. In the midst of my frustration. He used this book to remind me that as a child of God, I’m called to rise above the Grouch that so frequently comes out. I’m super excited about using these 6 “tricks” and His Word to rise above what has become the norm for me and become the mom He’s called me to be. I was created in His image and I want to bear it proudly!

Goodnight, friends!

 

The Supermom MYTH….

So, as my mind’s been spinning the past couple of weeks with ideas of….Who am I? What’s my purpose? Am I doing enough? Am I doing anything right? What more do I need to do? etc….

I came across this book….

img_5193

And when I opened the front cover, I realized that I needed to read this book. ASAP!

img_5224

Because when it comes to my “Identity cRiSiS”….trying to be a SUPERMOM gets the best of me every.single.day.

So, that’s where this journey begins….and I hope you’ll join me. I will share excerpts from this book, and then I’ll share some things from my heart. One of my favorite quotes so far (from Chapter 1) is….”Honesty is a ministry.” So, that’s what I plan on doing–just like I have from day 1 of this blog. I want to share #reallife and #reallifeprobs with you. You are not alone. And neither am I!

Chapter 1–“Who are these little people, and how do I send them back?”

Before you had kids, did you have all these dreams about how perfect and adorable it was going to be? The baby showers were so fun, and all the baby items were precious! Feeling the baby move was amazing…..and then the baby came. Along with….sleepless nights, raging hormones, sporadic showers, lonely days, and “What the heck do I do with this thing” thoughts! Your husband heads back to work after several days….back to a normal life. Where adults are. And hour lunch breaks– with no baby to swaddle or nurse.  NO FAIR!!!!!

{excerpt: Children are demanding; moms are selfish. Children generate messes; moms hate to clean. Children get sick; moms fear that the germs will spread. Children hamper our social lives, sex lives, work lives, and our innermost can-I-just-have-a-minute-to-live-inside-my-own-head-please thoughts!!!! Because, let’s get real….most days we don’t have any original thoughts left in our brains after a day spent wiping green beans off the floor and singing the Doc McStuffins theme song over and over and over again.}

{excerpt: But like so many of us, I persevered with God’s help. I dug into the Bible for answers to my crankiness, my loneliness, my fatigue, and my fears. I prayed desperately for wisdom and guidance. I pocketed verses that fueled me through long and lonely hours. And as my husband and I celebrated first smiles, first steps, first words, and first birthday candles, we found ourselves living a new rhythm–one in which God’s grace sets the tempo. Oh, how we need Him every.single.day.}

{excerpt: Underneath the chaos and frustrations of family life, we moms cherish our children to the core of our souls. Why is it so hard to show it sometimes? We get cranky, anxious, and overwhelmed. We’re too busy, too tired, too ambitious, too distracted. We snap. We nag. We resent and regret, and on bad days we grant our children more pain than peace. How can we prevent those bad days from beating us down??}

{my heart: I’m pretty certain that this lady has hidden cameras in my house and has written this book about me!!!}

{excerpt: So, how can we prevent bad days from beating us down??…First, identity your villains. Then, with God’s strength, rise and conquer!}

Villains:

  • anger
  • worry
  • comparison
  • busyness
  • unhealthy approaches to housework
  • exhaustion
  • husband-neglect
  • self-neglect

 

Are you as excited as I am to move on to the next chapter?!?! I’ve purposely waited until I wrote this blog before I moved on. I want to give you a chance to go grab this book and read it with me! Put it on your to-do list tomorrow and check back in each day (or every-other-day) and let’s recap it together. BUT…..if you don’t get the book, please still tune in. You’ll be blessed by the excerpts I share and other things that God lays on my heart to share.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great POWER for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 1:18-20

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave is the same power that’s living inside you. and me. IF WE BELIEVE! Claim it, sisters!

Goodnight, friends!