Blessed

A couple of weeks ago, after my almost-breakdown, I started cleaning out closets, toy chests, cabinets, our pantry…you name it! Nothing was safe.

In the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (if you read my other blog, you know how much I love this book…you can go to her website here), she talks about how outer order contributes to inner calm. In fact, the first month of her Happiness Project, she works on getting her life in order. One thing she did was acknowledge how clutter can cause anxiety, so she cleaned house, literally. She got rid of tons of clothes in her closet that she knew deep down she didn’t need, and she talks about how freeing it was for her.

I definitely agree with her on this! When I was struggling with my anxiety, I would look at my house and all of the STUFF in it, and the tightness would start creeping in. I got overwhelmed with the thought of going through everything, and at the bad times, I just ignored it. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to look at piles of bills and things, and I had to make myself sit down and take care of our finances… I just wanted to block everything out.

Finally, this began to recede and I began to organize. However, as I went through our food, spices, toys, and clothes, a different type of anxiety filled me. I almost got physically sick at times, looking at all of our STUFF and realizing how blessed we were compared to others. I read my Bible. I know what it says about giving and possessions. I don’t feel like I value possessions over people…but do I? Can I REALLY give up everything like I sometimes say I could, and be okay?

Carlyn walked in at one point while I was in Andrew’s and my closet, and I mentioned to her how blessed we were. I tried to explain to her how others don’t have nearly as much as we do, and how we needed to share what we have. She just didn’t get it. She kept asking, “But Mommy, why do they not have toys?” It is inconceivable to her that other children don’t have what she does. We didn’t talk about it again until Saturday – nearly 2 weeks later. We were in the car, and Carlyn pipes up from the backseat: “Mommy, why don’t the kids have toys?” Andrew and I just looked at each other – we are used to crazy questions coming out of nowhere by now. I tried to explain again that some people don’t have jobs like Daddy, and they don’t have the money to buy things like we do. She said that she would share with them, and we said that would be nice.

The next day, we go to church, and it’s Orphan Sunday. We saw this video:

Also, our church just had a group had just returned from Haiti, where they have partnered with an orphanage there. The group told about the children they saw, and how they built lockers for the kids with 4 shelves. The children’s possessions – everything they had in this world – barely filled those 4 shelves. However, the group told about the pure joy these people in Haiti had. So many would get up before sunrise every day to worship the Lord.

Why don’t we have that joy?

One of the pastors made a statement that stuck with me: There, they worry about demon possession, but we don’t hear about that much in America…could it be because we have our POSSESSIONS?

This is so true.

It might be tempting to feel sorry for those that don’t have as much as we do…but I think we have it all wrong. As I have pondered my struggles in the last month or so, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the case if I was one of those mothers in Haiti. I get so wrapped up in all of my STUFF here that I lose sight of what is important. I long to have the joy the group told us they saw there.

Sunday night, as I rocked Blakely for a minute before she went to bed, I just prayed and thanked the Lord for what He has given us as a family. It is just by chance – well, it’s His divine will – that He chose me to live here, at this time, and not in Haiti. Andrew and I have been convicted about being good stewards of what we have been given, because none of this – even our children! – is our own. I am praying daily that I will use what I have been given to further His kingdom. I heard Perry Noble say Sunday as I watched part of his sermon online – How can we say we believe the Bible about the Lord that saved us, but not believe what it says about giving?

Something to think about.

Note:

Capstone has been raising money for a clean water system to go to Haiti. So many people die EVERY DAY from lack of clean water, and we had a Walk For Water to raise awareness and money. One system costs $25,000, and that is a lofty goal for a church that has under 200 people – but we are about $7,000 away from our goal! Learn more about it here.

The Capstone mission team that just returned stressed how the orphanage is in desperate need of sponsors. If money is not donated SOON, the orphanage could close by January 2012. That means 43 children that our church members have gotten to know will not have a home. We (as in the Stoddards) picked up a boy to sponsor on Sunday; his name is Massa. It was not a coincidence, I believe, that we were able to sponsor him the day after Carlyn asked about children not having anything! Learn more about sponsoring and donating to this orphanage here.

Finally, Capstone is also helping with an event in Fountain Inn called Celebrate The Child. It is December 17, and it is a faith-based Christmas event for the less fortunate families in our area. We are collecting new coats, toys, and/or books for children and teens, as well as monetary donations. Please contact me for more information.

Find out more about Capstone here or on our Facebook page.

If you feel convicted about your blessings as I do, please prayerfully consider helping these causes! Be Jesus to someone who needs it!

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Here lately…

Just when I think I have things figured out, I get my world rocked.

I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, a nice house, car, clothes…everything I could want. I started grad school in August because since I started staying at home (something I never thought I would do in the first place), the plan has been for me to go back to teaching when the girls went to school. We figured this would be the perfect situation – I could be a mom full-time, but still focus on my schoolwork when I needed to. The Lord also brought us to our church, where we have already started serving, in June, and we are so thankful for this.

However…

Long story short – a month ago, I suddenly started struggling with anxiety. Not only that, I was having irrational fears, depression, and just a feeling of “I am going crazy”. I think I was having warning signs of this, but I ignored them until I was THISCLOSE to breaking down. I have family members that have struggled with anxiety and depression, but I never understood it until I experienced it this past month. I didn’t know what was happening to me, but I had some serious issues I had to get through as soon as possible. I wanted to declutter everything in my life.

First, I deleted my Facebook. It started to freak me out that people that never talked to me, kept up with my children and me online….and there’s no way for me to know about it unless they mentioned it. I realized that I also knew too much about people that I never talked to, and I wasted precious time on there – so I decided just to get off altogether. (I am now back on, as of today. Everything just seems to be on Facebook now! I will not be on it often, however.)

I started making sleep a priority. Carlyn has not been sleeping well…well, for a long time now, and it’s killing Andrew and me. I feel like part of my problem was not sleeping, so I tried to get as much as possible.

I started taking time for ME. I realized that I needed to make myself a priority. I still don’t go get pedicures, or go on long weekends away by myself, or read as much as I would like…however, it was huge for me to make myself come home after dropping the girls off at Mom’s Morning Out one day, just so I could do some schoolwork and pay the bills alone. Before, I always tried to cram in as much as I could during my alone time (grocery shopping, errands, etc.), so I would go to pick the girls up and be utterly exhausted.

I also started really focusing on my most important role at this time in my life – being a wife and mother. I just sobbed one night to Andrew when I realized that I have this wonderful gift – being able to stay at home with my children – and I felt like I had wasted so much time trying to find other things to do.  I feel a calling like I can’t explain (more about that later), but during this past month, it was like the Lord was telling me to look in front of me – this is my calling now! I have really tried to step it up at home and with the girls. (Disclaimer – my girls have never been deprived…they are spoiled rotten and I am the worst one about it. However, I was horrible about just being “in the moment” with my babies, and that’s the thing I’m working on the most.)

Can I just say….my mother has been telling me all of this for two years now? My grandmothers and sister have also chimed in a bit. It just took me getting to the brink to truly listen. So…that’s what has been happening here lately.

I ended up visiting my doctor and he prescribed some medication, which, THANKFULLY, I have not needed to take at all…yet. He reassured me that I was not alone. These feelings I was having were normal for a lot of women, and I was doing the right thing by trying to get help. And I have gotten help.

Not only do I have a very supportive husband, family, church, and friends, I also have turned to Scripture.  This has not been easy either – which is so strange to me, because even when this happened, I was reading my Bible and praying daily.  I feel such a conviction to serve in a church and share my faith in Jesus Christ, and I was certain I was following this. However, when this came about, I started having my worst anxiety about attending church and helping with anything. One Sunday, Andrew looked me in the face and told me – “You’re going.” This, thankfully, is what I needed, because the Lord spoke so clearly to me that day through John and Walt. I have really tried to push through my feelings of anxiety and I have continued my quiet time most days, making my way through the entire Bible (I started at the beginning of the summer). The Lord is blessing me through it.  I have not felt my anxiety creeping in a few weeks (with the exception of last night when I finally shared my story with our small group from church), and I have learned so much about myself and my Savior through this journey.

I feel something under the surface here…I can’t describe it, except that I know there is a bigger plan that I have a TINY part in. This has been in the works for months now…I thought back on my meeting with a pastor at our former church just last night. One day in the spring, I showed up in his office, crying my eyes out because I know God has a big plan for my family – I just didn’t know what. I still don’t know, either! I just don’t want to miss a minute of the FULL, JOYOUS, PEACEFUL life the Lord has called me to. At this point, nothing is off limits. I have no clue anymore if I am EVER supposed to teach again, or what is in store for our family in the months and years ahead…I just know that God is in control, and Andrew and I just want to be obedient.

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.