being lost in the desert of depression and pressing on

In the past two and a half years I've had some really dark days. I'm pretty sure I had postpartum depression after Zane was born, which turned into high anxiety that never ended until after a few months after Ivy {#6} was born last year. So it was a full two years of feeling lost in the desert, so to speak.

Many times I wondered what I had done to deserve what I felt. It was such a sad, dark place. I had asked the Lord to do anything He wanted, and two years later even though I was trying to obey the Lord in doing what He'd asked, I felt like He had abandoned me.  Like the complaining, ungrateful Israelites, I too wondered if He brought me out of slavery to leave me to die in the wilderness.

Right in the middle of my desert though, He showed me two things: that the hard time there was necessary for getting rid of idols in my life, and that He disciplines and trains those He loves. The depression wasn't a punishment by any means, but it was a dark time God used to show me where I put my hope when things went wrong.

I fought giving up so many idols in that time- I didn't want to give up x, y, or z, and I felt like it was unfair that I had to give up this or that thing when other Christians didn't. 

But the Lord gave me the words of A.W. Tozer for encouragement:

"Others may, but I cannot."

I fought it and threw fits in my heart like a child having a temper tantrum. 

I always expected maturing in Christ to be so much different. When I was younger, taking up my cross was more something I thought meant not doing the more obviously worldly things like clubbing, drinking parties, watching really bad movies, and maybe it meant possibly being in ministry of some kind. I thought it just meant giving up more of my time to serve God and to read His Word more often. Things I wouldn't have a problem doing anyway, in theory.

But life in Christ goes so much deeper, and so much farther than I ever thought.

He exposes so much more sin in my heart than I ever thought I had. And it hurts.

Why, Lord? Why go there? Can't you leave that alone?

I've learned that usually where there's an area that is riddled by sin, it's guarded carefully in my heart by the words "the Lord doesn't care about that..."

What I feel are harmless, unimportant matters, the Lord shows me are deadly to my soul.

But Lord, even most Christian leaders don't have a problem with this.

Others may, but you cannot.

But I don't want to. I can't do it. I didn't know you were going to take me here. This is too hard.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

So many times I held on with clenched fists, kicking against the goads. But as time passed, even holding on to it stopped feeling so good. My heart knew it was not for me.

I didn't even want it anymore.

I wanted fellowship with Jesus more than I wanted it.

Finally I would let it go, and give it up.

And then freedom would come, and my peace before the Lord would return.

Over and over in the last few years, I've been through this same circle of tightening then relinquishing my grip, and even more intensely in the desert places, when I felt the most tired, weary, and alone.

But though I felt alone and it seemed impossible to get out of it, I knew in my heart I was never truly alone. 

Years ago, I had asked for God to do whatever He wanted with me, and He did and has been still. It just looks nothing like what I had imagined it would. What's incredible to me is that while I was in the lowest and hardest places, He worked miracles outside that showed me how much He loved me. He brought physical manna for my eyes to see so I knew He was there, even in the darkest days. The depression and anxiety didn't magically go away because I asked Him to take it, but I knew He was with me in it and it was being used by Him to train my heart to seek after Him alone.

If you're in the desert right now, I just want to encourage you: it has a purpose in your life, and the Lord has not forsaken you. 

It's there the Lord removes the ties of the world from your soul.

It's there the Lord makes you long for Him more than anything else.

It's there you find that nothing can satisfy you like the presence of the Lord God Almighty.

If walking with the Lord is harder than you too ever imagined, just know that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus ChristYou may never understand what the Lord is doing, taking you to such desperate places you feel entirely crushed, but believe His Word: He will not leave this work incomplete.

One day {maybe even soon!} you will see the Son, and His work in you will be finished. You no longer will only see through the glass darkly, but you will see Him and know Him fully, face to face. 

And this little pressing on now will be counted as nothing in comparison. He is with you, and it is worth every moment in the desert to see His glory. 

While you are in the thick of it- don't be afraid to go where He wants you to go. Don't be stubborn {like me} and refuse to remember how His hand has delivered you from the slavery of sin in the past. Look for His manna each day, fully seek His leading and direction, and rid yourself of the old idols while you press on toward His Promised Land.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 
Romans 8:18

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

Are you in the desert right now? How can I pray for you?

piles, pie, and pressing pause

I won't commit to it, but mayyyybe it's spring cleaning time here. You won't believe it, but we still have a storage unit that needs to be cleaned out from our big move in Fall 2014. And the time has come. For the last two days I've been sitting in the office sorting out bins while the kids are working on school. It's not pretty but it's getting done.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has 2-3 different sizes of clothes for every season. {postpartum x 6 probs} 

I'm not even sure what to do with them, other than keep them in case I need them again. My girls are now getting to the point where I can pass a few clothes to them, and in 5 years I have a feeling they will be completely sharing my wardrobe and I'm going to have to keep them from wearing my clothes. {they're ALREADY stealing my socks??!}

Pi Day was 3-14, and in our typical fashion, we were late to the game. But better late than never when it comes to pie, right? ;)

I'm sad to say that in spite of all my sugar-loving dessert obsessions, I still can't bring myself to like pie. Chess pie is the only pie I like. I made that coconut custard pie, and it was so gross I covered the whole thing with a can of condensed milk to make it edible. :D It never fails, La Lechera is all you ever need to take any dessert up a notch {or three}.

The kids loved it, anyway.

Sweeter {and altogether better than pie} though was getting this beautiful journal called Pressing Pause^ in the mail from Ruth and Karen:

I am so excited, but I took a picture of it so you can see why for yourself {hopefully that's legal? tell me if not?! haha!}:

You can see that it's not just a few easy, forgettable thoughts- it's more heart-searching that looks like it could really help. I can't wait to dig in and read more and fill out the journal questions. After I finish my piles I'm pretty sure I'm going to be quite ready to press pause. :D

^= Amazon affiliate link

my monday staples + every afternoon now

Lately beans, rice, and bread in bulk have been my Monday staples. After relaxed weekend eating I just tend to crave real food by Monday. :) And hey, I've learned I have more energy on Mondays so I like to make extra food in case I'm too tired to make something else later in the week. {it happens every week. :P}
beans: 2-3 lbs. dry pinto, quick soaked for 1 hr and boiled for 2+ with lots of salt
rice: basmati, cooked 15 min. in the microwave 
wheat bread: easy recipe in progress :) baked in a sandwich loaf pan for easy slicing

The kids love making bread too. Our standard recipe is so easy that the older ones can make it without help. The younger ones need more supervision. ;)

This little face tells you all you need to know:

I can't believe it took me 27 years to like coffee, but I'm making up for lost time with two cups a day- one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  When the kids all go down for a nap at 3 p.m. I recharge with 30 minutes of {mostly} quiet time and coffee. It's awesome.

And well... maybe it could be the reason she's still snacking all night at 7 months old. ;)

Even though she's not sleeping through the night, I've had a much easier time with #6 than with #5. Zane kept me up pretty consistently and I remember feeling seriously drained in March 2014. But this March with a 7-month-old is much better, and I'm SO thankful. :) Just goes to show you that every baby/postpartum time is different. You aren't guaranteed to have the same experience every time around. :)

I could probably train her to sleep through the night, but I don't really mind having her so close. Time with this little baby is already flying by and I truly treasure it more and more as I get older. :)

welcome to my called-to mess

In a single morning {just four hours!}, my house can go from completely clean to surprisingly messy.

Maybe it's the six kids thing, or maybe it's just having a 2-year-old, a 6-year-old, and an 8-year-old. I don't know. But maybe no matter how many kids, it's that way at your house too? I pick up my house constantly, but if you were to drop by you probably wouldn't believe me. :)

But today, even though you didn't drop by, I feel compelled to present to you photographic evidence that the struggle is real. All these photos were taken at lunch time, and the kitchen and most of the downstairs was clean last night when we went to bed. 

Here's {some of} our mess:
All Zane right there- it's a double whammy. Snacks on TOP of Legos.  
Girls playing on the island. Small toys: little girls love them but they make me twitch. :)
Note the three different kinds of nut butters, AND the peanut butter knife directly on the table. 
ANNNNNNND of course the pb spoon right on the floor there. With crumbs in case someone is hungry after lunch. 
Legos have become part of my decor now. ;)
Oh random toys, they are always everywhere. 
Cups and cleaning spray bottles always everywhere too.
Poor Elsa. And poor Mandy. ;)
Some days I really want to {and do} feel sorry for myself because it feels like this is ALL I do all day long. Go behind someone and clean up their mess. Make food and then make more mess. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Even if I had a full-time maid, she would need to get paid overtime. In fact, I'm pretty sure she'd give up and find somewhere else to work. I certainly would. :/

Maybe these things I'm telling myself are true, but in order to fight the self-pity and grumbling I have to tell myself three things pretty constantly:

1. This is my job, and I want it.
It's literally my job to do this. About 14 years ago, I had this idea to get married, have children, and buy a house. This idea was mine. By the grace of God, no one took me captive, arranged my marriage, and forced themselves on me to make me bear six children. And if they did, I would be called by God to love them and do a good job with that too. But even better, this was my choice. I wanted this, and by no means would I rather leave it to do something else. Even if it's hard, and it's more than a full-time job, I love it and thanks be to God I have it at all.

2. This is what God has given me to do.
Not only has He granted me a job to fulfill, He has called me to be a worker/keeper of my home. This home keeping thing is not just any job you'd take to make money, this is a CALLING from the Almighty God Himself. It was divinely appointed by God that I should be a wife to this man, and a mother to these exact children. And that I should take care of them as my primary and highest ministry and calling. God gave Adam just the right helper named Eve, and God gave Rob just the right helper named Mandy. And in God's sovereignty, you are just the right helper for your husband, and mother to your children. You are the only one who has been given that job.

3. This amount of work is normal, and a good thing.
That's why I took the pictures today. I'd honestly be rather mortified if you came by my house and it was this messy, but I need to get over it. This is NORMAL, friends. At least for me anyway, and maybe it is for you too.

Let's realize this together: this everyday mess is NOT bad. It's normal, and good. But Satan uses it in your weakness and pride against you as motivation for all sorts of evil. He tells you it shouldn't be this way, that you should be better than this, that you shouldn't have more kids because you can't keep up, that you deserve to do more than just cleaning all day, or why can't you be more like her because she can do it all, and on and on and on.

If one thing is for sure in every situation, it's this: Satan does not want what God wants for you.

Satan does not want you to be a worker at home like God commanded.  

Satan does not want you to bring the blessing of life into this world by bearing more children.

Satan does not want you to be content in the role God has given you.

Satan does not want you to serve others like Christ.

Satan does not want you to be happy and willing to love your husband.

Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy and he does it in the most subtle of ways to we who are workers at home. With the most sly sort of heresy- the believable kind. 

"Did God really say you were to be a keeper at home? Surely He didn't mean for you to have this much work to do so that you can't even spend time with Him..."

"Did God really say children are a blessing and a reward? Surely He wants you to be a good steward of your energy and money so you can do bigger things for Him like write and go on mission trips..."

"Did God really say you should serve this much all day? Surely you should think of yourself and find ways to get away more every week so that you can be happier... for your family, of course."

"Did God really say you shouldn't deprive your husband of your body? Surely He didn't mean you have to give him everything if he treated you so unlovingly at dinner like that..."

Oh friends, if there's one thing you need to know, it's that God's way is SO much better for us, even if we can't understand it or see the fruit of it right now.

The work God has called us to do is HARD work. And that is okay, because He gives us supernatural strength to keep going when we put our faith in Him. The world and our own natural mind refuses to believe these things are good, but God knows they are, and has told us they are, and we must put our faith in Him and His Word, and especially all the more when we cannot see what the outcome will be.

If you're weary, and tired of doing this home keeping thing, that's okay. It's normal. It's normal because it IS hard. Don't listen to the lies of Satan- run to Jesus and replace them with the truth that He has given you. Speak His Word- write it on your hand, your forehead, your refrigerator- in every room, if it takes that. Lean on Him for strength to do what He has called you to do, and refuse to listen to the lies. And if anything else is causing you to stumble, like a friend, or a blog, or an Instagram account, or any other voice or image that makes you NOT want what God has called you to- CUT it OFF. It needs to go.

Focus, focus, focus on what God has ordained and commanded specifically for you before time began. Your husband, your kids, and your home is your very own ministry of showing God's love and it's a beautiful thing when you believe what He said.

You are called.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women 
to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Titus 2:3-5