Church Parent Rooms – Five reasons to keep going

What I’m going to share isn’t new information at all, but I think parents need to be encouraged anyway. Each new group of parents can benefit from learning from those before them, I know I certainly have. But first, some stories…

A story:

One day I went to church and spent the whole time in the nursing Mums room making awkward conversations with women I couldn’t remember the names of. Meanwhile my (childless) friends and husband got to sit in church like adults. My baby managed to do an explosive poo, getting it all over her clothes and we had to leave straight after the message finished, I should have just stayed at home and had a much better time.

 A story:

One Sunday I was in the parents room all by myself. For some reason none of the ‘usual crew’ were there. The vision and audio on the TV wasn’t working and I spent the whole time keeping my baby from pulling cords out of the wall and feeding him snacks. I was exhausted by the end of the service and just wanted to get out of there.

 A story:

One morning I was really eager to hear the message, but ended up spending the whole time in the parent’s room with my grumpy baby. The room was packed with other parents who were talking and letting their kids run wild. I tried to listen to the message, but I couldn’t hear a thing. I left church frustration and empty.

The question I hear a lot from (new) Christian parents is why do I even bother coming to church? I spend the whole time in the parents room with my kid/s, don’t get to worship, hear nothing of the sermon and go home without feeling connected. I have honestly been through seasons where I have thought the same thing, wondering why I put so much effort into something that felt like a waste of time. Or to be brutally honest, like ticking the ‘went to church’ box.

 

The answer to the question many flustered parents ask “Is going to church really worth it?” is – Yes. From my experience and those who have gone before me, here is five reasons why I would encourage you to keep going.

1. Community

You will make friends in that Parents room. If you are a new parent, connecting with others can be so valuable, but just remember that connection and relationship building takes time. Your little ones will grow up together and right now is a great place to cultivate friendship. Sometimes churches can have tight friendship circles, but in the parents room… we’re all in this together. You will meet people of all sorts of personalities and backgrounds that perhaps you would not normally get to meet. You won’t instantly connect with everyone and that’s ok, but you might feel less alone and who knows, maybe you’ll meet your next best friend.

2. Triage

Sometimes, the parents room at church becomes a sort of emotional triage. Parents (often Mums) share their frustrations, struggles and worries while others get around them to commiserate, encourage and provide a sympathetic ear. At times, I can be that person for them, giving encouragement and sharing my snacks, and other times; I need them to be that for me. Look, you may miss out on being prayed for by that Spirit-filled visiting speaker, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, when the audio cuts out in the parents room, sometimes that’s when God does his best work.

3. Growth

God has taught me a lot in my years in various parent’s rooms. I have learned a lot from other parents too and I feel my faith is richer for it.  My security comes more from what God thinks of me, than the preacher on Sunday. My faith expression is more than a once-a-week service. I’ve realised that being unnoticed suits me rather well and I prefer ministering and being ministered to in unexpected places where there is no where to hide and I’m at my most vulnerable. I’ve had to develop patience and learn to relax my ‘God plans’ a heck of a lot more, my Sunday church plans rarely work out like I think they should.

4. Go with the flow

Some churches have amazing resources and facilities and are able to cater to so many different needs, while others can’t. Don’t take it personally. Goodness me I’ve heard some parents say some interesting things while I have sat quietly in the corner pretending not to hear. When we are put out, we tend to take it personally and feel we are being deliberately overlooked when often it’s not the case. How many times did you think about parents with young kids before you had them (unless you worked in kids church that is). Many churches are doing the best they can. Speak up when changes need to be made, but don’t get yourself all twisted up in knots. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. You should be pretty good at it… you have kids 😉

5. Seasonal

Time with your littles in the parents room doesn’t last forever and it will get easier. Perhaps your church attendance will look different to how it did in the past (that’s fine by me), but stay connected because this too shall pass. What might be difficult for you could be a pathway to change for others.

 A story:

We had a terrible sleep that night up and down with the kids, but woke up and rallied to go to church. Our oldest threw a major tantrum refusing to put on her shoes while our middle child spent 20 minutes talking to a bug he found in the bathroom instead of brushing his teeth. To top it off my youngest son did a poo just before we got into the car to leave, so as usual we ended up being late to church. After dumping my older kids with the amazing kids workers (God bless kids workers)  I went into the parents room with my son. As I put down my bag and sat on the floor I realised I had forgotten to bring his snacks and we had a looooong way to go until we would be home again. One of the Dads saw my dilemma, generously sharing his grapes and laughing with me about how my carefully prepared snacks were probably sitting on the kitchen bench. Another five minutes went by and one of the single mums started openly sharing about how her older son was going through a really stubborn phase, refusing to do simple tasks and that it was really driving her up the wall. She had no idea what to do to reach him and I felt like I had found my people, I knew just what she meant. Before I knew it five of us were sharing tips and encouragement and I felt like less of a failure as a parent. If these amazing parents were going through the same things as me, I didn’t feel so alone. At the very end of the service, I felt encouraged and empowered. We even got to listen to the last five minutes of the sermon without anyone’s kid screaming. I left church feeling a little tired, but less isolated and down on myself than before I came.

So dear Parent with young kids, I see you. I understand, and goodness you are doing so very well. Keep at it, keep at least trying to connect with your faith community. Sometimes it is wonderful, sometimes it’s a challenge, but hey… we’re all in this together and often that helps.

Love Jess xxoo

An excellent spiral

This morning I had a full-scale mummy guilt spiral. Complete with tearful messages to my best friends and crushing feelings of failure.

We’ve been speaking about excellence in my faith community the past few days, and let me be honest with you, even using the term ‘excellent’ fills me with dread and frustration. It makes me want to roll my eyes and say sarcastic things about the value we put on performance within a church program. Clearly my response shows where I’m at. My past experiences with “calling people to excellence” have involved feelings of striving, comparison, fake smiles and exhaustion. So let’s take my morning spiral and look at it through the lens of excellence, because you know… that sounds like fun.

I got home from a frantic morning of Daycare drop-offs and parent-teacher interviews with a grumpy baby and an overwhelmed heart. Like most parents, I want to give the best I can to my kids, but sometimes, my best doesn’t seem to be cutting it. Sometimes, my best is disappointing to my kids and to me, hence the spiral. Unfortunately, one of my ongoing battles from childhood is a belief that ‘I’m not good enough’. This means, I wish I were more; I wish I could be more, do more and give more. I fear I am not enough.

After my cry and a few rounds of brutal self-criticism, I regrouped and decided that today was a day to go ‘gently gently’. Gently, gently means recognizing the things I’m doing right and acknowledge my limitations. It means lowering my expectations about what I can realistically give and get done today. What I might have been able to do yesterday is different today. My capacity is different. I am doing the best with what I have; and that my friends, is excellence. Today, what I am doing really well is looking after myself. To have battled with an unhealthy personal belief and come up for air is a win in my books.

Allow me to make this suggestion:

When it comes to people’s capacities,

the standard of excellence is different

for everyone in each seasons.

Rest easy, you are actually doing better than you think. We are often quick to disregard the internal struggles and believe the lie that we shouldn’t have spiraled in the first place. I believe that success or excellence is found in the rising.

Inside a church program it will look different on everyone. For some, they will be able to contribute to multiple areas by serving, for others, even making it to a service will have them maxed. The trick is in knowing what type of season you are in and what capacity you have. This won’t come from looking around at others or your church leaders. It comes from being secure in who you are. If I’m secure in my identity and who I am created to be, the thought of personal excellence doesn’t have to be so confronting. So when I hear a message or conversation around this topic, instead of wanting to yell “For goodness sake, don’t ask me to give anything more, just leave me alone”, I can look to the one I call the King of Heaven and check in with Him.

I like to imagine it goes a little something like this. Firstly, picture my hair everywhere, a piece of half-eaten, cold toast in my hand whilst I try to get everyone out the door for school:

Me: God, far out, I don’t feel like I’m excellent at anything at the moment. I am stretched to the max. I just told off my daughter for taking half an hour to put her socks on and the other one is screaming at me from the end of the hallway because I won’t hold her hand when she’s on the toilet. Plus Bubba woke up three times last night and I just wish he would stop making this annoying tired noise. I also can’t get this frickin’ jar of vegemite open. Grrrrrrr. It’s all a bit much. I’m certainly not my best self today.

God: Oh honey. Do you think you are doing your best with what you have got?

Me: Sigh. I sure am. I don’t have much, but I’m trying with what I have. I may throw this bloody vegemite jar in the bin, but I’m trying to do the best I can.

God: Excellent! Of course you are doing your best. I’m so proud of you! You are killing it.

Me: Phew, so I’m not a failure?

God: Nope. I think you’re wonderful.

Me (looks on Instagram): But look at this mum, she’s got more kids and has somehow managed to hand-sow her kids Book Week costumes. She runs a mid-week connect group, makes meals for her neighbours, does welcome lounge on Sundays, goes on actually date-nights with her husband, probably washes all the bed sheets weekly and doesn’t swear. Ever. Oh man, look at the sexy shoes she’s wearing. I don’t measure up.

God: That’s nice, I think you’re wonderful.

Me: Did you see her shoes though God? I would love to be able to walk in those heels.

God: Jess (long piercing stare), are you doing your best?

Me: Yes.

God: Then you are doing so well. Now, put the phone away and get moving, it’s 8:16am.

Me (yelling through the house): Amy! Get your bag we’ve got to leave soon. Where are your shoes? Put your shoes on! Oh my goodness, I forgot to go over your sight words with you last night. Oh well. No, Bella you can’t have something to eat, you just had breakfast. Ok, you can have something when we get back home, but right now we have to go. Shshshshsh Kai, shshshsh, Baby Boy, you’re all right shshshshs…. Dang it, I’ve got baby vomit on my jeans. I’ll just rub it in; no one is looking at me anyway. OK, everyone, we’re leeeeeaviiiiing now!

Me (to God): Excellent?

God: Yep.

😉

Love Jess xxoo

From struggling to learning

I will be honest, moving from two kids to three kids has been a struggle for me. I won’t go into the finer details, but those with a sideline view into my life hear all about the tantrums, fights and other parenting conundrums my kids are throwing my way. On a few occasions I have said to my inner circle “I am struggling”.

My church recently had Ben Higgins, from Life Church as guest speaker. He spoke a timely message about encouragement and being mindful of the words we speak to others and ourselves. During that message, Ben spoke the words:

“Our words shape our future – they don’t just speak to what is, but what will be.”

It was a good reminder for me to be mindful about what I’m speaking and the atmosphere I’m creating with my external and internal dialog. One morning last week, as I made the bed and contemplated what the day held, I really felt these words strongly in my heart:

You’re not struggling, you’re learning.

And you know what, it’s true, I’m learning. I love how this shift in language and understanding can change the way I view a situation or myself. I am learning how to be a Mum to my growing family. Sometimes I make mistakes and often it’s difficult… because I’m learning and so are my kids.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

This verse has become a bit of a mantra for me during difficult moments with my kids. My weakness, lack of insight or parenting mistakes are ok because that’s when God shows up. Sometimes, He shows up by giving me keys to a situation, sometimes He shows up by giving me a hug and encouragement to try again next time.

And so, I will focus on the learning, not on the struggle. Today’s lesson is in the language I am speaking over my heart and what this season is producing for the future. To approach this season of parenthood as learning rather than struggling is somewhat freeing. It allows me to move from things that restrict me to things that release me:

Another day dawns, here I go, watch me learn again today.


Love Jess xxoo

Digging Deep into Bravery

Digging deep, sigh, it can be tough. I had one of those days yesterday, but instead of digging deep and finding my inner strength and peace, I think I just ended up digging myself into a hole. A hole filled with frustration, emotion and lots of chocolate. Yep, I confess I was not my ‘best mummy self’ yesterday as I screamed at my two-and-a-half-year-old and messaged Tim telling him I didn’t like our kids very much at that point in time. Apparently, having one of my kids deliberately (and defiantly) pour a cup of water onto our laptop brings out the Hulk in me. My bravery abandoned me as I questioned what we are doing having baby number 3 and how on earth I was going to mentally cope with an extra little person in the house. However, even in my moment of (let’s be honest) blind rage, I could hear my sister encouraging me and reminding me that I had chosen to be brave and bravery is only present when there is something to fear or overcome.So, I write this little note to myself and to any other readers out there who have decided to be Ten Times Braver.  To one and all, remember that during your bravery journey, you will come across difficulties. You might find yourself wondering what you have gotten yourself in to and question if you have what it takes. Can you really dig any deeper into your faith/inner strength/reserves and find hope in this situation?

We all have days (or months) like this. Sometimes it’s during a busy workweek, other times in chaotic family life, perhaps friendship dynamics or creative blocks. Whatever the reason, there are days and seasons where digging deep is hard and the sense of bravery we felt before is just a little bit on the thin side right now.

But… We can do this! Yes, YOU dear friend, CAN do it. You can try again tomorrow. You can rise again from disappointment. You can give it another go. You can try something different next time. Keep being brave, keep pushing forward and remember… it’s ok to feel fear or confusion, frustration or discouragement. It is in those moments, when you choose to believe things will be ok, that your truly brave self emerges. If it’s not difficult, you wouldn’t need to be courageous would you?My girlfriends and I frequently encourage each other by send this pic (below) as a powerful reminder of how we see each other. This lady right here, the characteristic she exemplifies, are there inside you too – Dig deep, big breath, here we go (again).

As a side note, you’ll be pleased to know that the laptop was not damaged from its little baptism by Bella and I do still love Miss B, despite the epic battle of wills that occurred most of the day.

Love Jess xxoo

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Ten Times Braver

One day I sat at work with some people, and over terrible mocktails (I don’t know what I was thinking) I asked the question: “What would you do if you were ten times braver?” The answers they gave were varied, but all very brave and transparent.

I love asking people this question. I like to connect with people in a deeper way and see what is under the surface. This question pushes people to look deep into their hearts and find their secret desires. It also allows people to be encouraged to pursue something they may not have done. When you sit around with people and share something you wish you could to face, they will automatically be encouraging you to go for it. They help you find the reasons why you should overcome your fears; it’s hard to walk away from this question feeling discouraged. In fact, most of the time, people will realise that they were ten times braver all along.

Would you like to know what my answer to this question was?

I said I would have another baby. I confided that I would ignore the (realistic) concerns about finances, I would push pass the possible struggle of actually trying to conceive and the anxiety around the whole process. I would face the physical and mental exhaustion and realise I’m stronger than I feel and the provision would be there when we needed it.

Now, if you have followed any of Tim and my story on this blog, you’ll realise that we often face our fears and say to ourselves… why not? God is with us, He’s placed this dream in our hearts, let’s go for it! And so, a few weeks after I shared this question at work, Tim and I sat on the couch in our house and contemplated this question.

“What would we do if we were ten times braver?

We would have a baby. So, that’s what we’re doing. We are having a baby, due in early April. Yes, I am pregnant with number 3 and we are so very excited! We are being ten times braver! God is so good!

Our girls are so excited and constantly talk about if it’s a boy or girl, what Baby’s name should be and how they are going to play with Baby. It makes it even more special to share it with them and our family and friends.

          

Now over to you dear reader… What would you do if you were ten times braver?

What is stopping you? Go for it whatever it is! It’s perfectly normal to be scared doing it, that’s part of bravery. It is ok to fail; it’s ok to try something else if it doesn’t work out. You can do it. You are braver than you look. So, enroll in that course, apply for that job, plan that holiday, start a family, submit that book, play that song for someone, ask that girl out, say yes to that date, renovate that house, face your fear of heights, see a counselor about your past trauma, get that blood test, start to exercise, change your diet and lifestyle completely, whatever it is, at least give it a go.

Let’s be braver together. We can do this, we can try, and we can make plans and set ourselves time-lines. If I can be ten times braver, so can you.

Love Jess xxoo

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

It’s ok to sleep

We recently went to Darwin to visit Tim’s youngest brother and his wife (YAY). We came into this trip off the back of a number of unusually full weeks and Tim and I were both exhausted and recovering from illness.

Whilst there we had the opportunity to attend their once a month church gathering. We arrived 30 minutes early to take a look around and observe Mark and Christine in their ‘natural environment’. My darling Bella decided to throw a stellar tantrum about 3 minutes after the service officially started, complete with body thrashing, screaming and hitting. It really was rather impressive, so I’ll give her points for that. After removing ourselves from the main hall, I tried all my (patient) mum techniques and finally managed to calm her down. We rejoined the rest of humanity and I placed Tim in charge of both my little cherubs. I tried to engage in worship, but seriously, I had nothing. As I looked around the room at people’s heartfelt ‘worship’ faces, I couldn’t help but be amazed that they had any energy left to stand, let alone sing. I looked up at the lyrics of the song on the big screen and read:

“All the Sons and Daughters,

Wake up from your sleep.”

And man, all honestly, I just wanted to punch someone in the head. Wake up! You’ve got to be kidding me, I’m a working mum with small kids, I’m always awake. Goodness me, how much more am I meant to be giving? I exhaustedly told God that I didn’t want to wake up, I actually just wanted to sleep.

You know what I heard Him say?

He said, “That’s ok Babe. It’s ok to sleep, you’re exhausted.”

Phew.

When I heard Him say that, I felt so much release. He gave me permission to feel tired without guilt. I realised that He does see me in my current season and instead of being disappointed in me, He is cheering me on. I felt so much liberation that I packed up my two tired girls in the van and drove them home to sleep and rest.

It’s funny how I sometimes slip back into performance with God instead of authentic relationship. Sometimes, I still get caught up in comparison, not just with others, but also with my past seasons that I lock myself in a prison of self-criticism.

What I’m continuing to learn in this season is the fine art of balance and acceptance. Acceptance of myself and how I function as a mum, friend, employee, wife, daughter and sister. Sometimes I can’t give what I want and I have much less to offer than I have been able to in past, but that doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. Let me repeat… it doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. If my capacity is less than someone else’s, that doesn’t mean I’m not living a full life. I am not less, I am me.

And so, there may have been other mums in that church hall with screaming kids hanging off their arms, able to sing that song with all their heart and that’s great. I can cheer them on without feeling competitive or bitter and I hope that they can cheer me on, (whilst I sleep) without judgment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a kid-free day, so I’m going to hang out the washing, make myself a second coffee and read my latest lighthearted acquisition “That Hathaway Girl”.

Love Jess xxoo

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

To the Christian Couple trying to fall pregnant

To the Christian Couple trying to fall pregnant,

I have been thinking a lot about you the last few weeks. You are on my mind and I can’t shake you no matter how much I try. Some of you I know personally, while others I wouldn’t know you if you were sitting next to me right now. Regardless, I wanted to take a few moments and type these words to you, because what you are going through is painful, so incredibly painful and usually hidden.

Psalm 56 v 8
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

If I could sit and have a beverage with you, I would look you in the eye and tell you that you aren’t alone. I know it feels like it, believe me, I know it does. It may seem like others around you are falling pregnant with not a care in the world and you feel you’re the only one’s struggling… but you aren’t. For some reason, knowing that other Christians are going through or have gone through a similar struggle can make you feel less isolated. I say this not to take away from your unique experience, but to encourage you and remind you that your thoughts, questions, doubts, victories and triumphs are perhaps similar to what others have felt.

Psalm 31 v 7
I am overcome with joy because of Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles, and You care about the anguish of my soul.

Although some of your closest friends may not see your pain… I see you in my mind’s eye. I acknowledge this difficult season with its’ faith filled highs and the hopeless lows. I understand the courage you draw upon when you celebrate other people’s victories and the anguish in your heart when you see that photo on social media or glossy picture in a catalog. I can relate to the faith in your heart when you respond to an alter-call and the frustration when someone says something insensitive. Sometimes you have grace and things don’t bother you, while other times you want to put your fingers in your ears to block out the noise. It is difficult. Plus, those ever-changing thoughts and emotions can really throw you can’t they? Up and down and round and round. Then, there are the faith-based questions, medical decisions and ethical considerations that can keep you up at night! You are really doing so well. No, really you are. Be encouraged.

Psalm 9 v 9-10
The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you.

I am aware that your stories are all different and so will the outcome. I sincerely pray that your dearest dreams will be realized, and yet I know how hard it is to believe that at times. I don’t pretend to have answers for your situation; I only want to let you know that you aren’t forgotten. You aren’t abandoned and your journey is important, so important that God keeps bringing you to my mind. Even if you don’t tell anyone about this season, I am praying for you and for the child or children you want to have.

All my love

Jess xxoo

A victory on a hard day

Disclaimer: This little blog is for me – I am celebrating a seemingly small victory 🙂

I had one of those days where my little people were either, fighting, crying or touching me. It was difficult and long. I lost my cool more than once and when Tim finally got home I went and had a looooooooong shower.

20161230_171113-png

Usually on these days, while I am struggling to keep my sanity, an unhealthy critical voice joins the downward spiral. The negative thoughts about who I am as a mother, a wife and a person overwhelm me and I feel bad about feeling bad. Everything I’m not doing or not doing well is amplified and I feel like a failure.

But today, today I had a little victory – I had self-compassion. Even as I shut myself in my bedroom saying a desperate prayer for help, I didn’t feel bad. Why? Because jeepers being a parent is hard. I saw today for what it was… a parenting nightmare and I took it easy on myself for once. I didn’t think about how other people would handle it, I didn’t get depressed when I saw all dirt on the floor or the washing that needed to be put away. I didn’t feel like a failure because my kids were driving me up the wall. I didn’t think about all the mothers in Syria or any of the other painful comparisons that I’m usually unable to block out. YAY! This is a big thing for me, so join me by lighting a New Years sparkler and pulling on a party-popper as I celebrate this little triumph.

20161230_171152-png

Next time I may or may not be able to do the same, but that’s ok. I will celebrate today! Hi, my name is Jess and I survived this day by using self-compassion…

… and a whole lot of Justin Bieber tunes.
(Yes, Justin Bieber, I love that kid)

Love Jess xxoo

Into the pit and back again – A story about depression

I sat on the floor in the kitchen in front of a clean dishwasher that needed to be emptied. After angrily telling Tim to “leave me alone”, tears ran down my face and all I wanted to do was pick up all those clean dishes and smash them on the floor. I felt like I had fallen into a dark pit, alone with no way to get out. I rang my sister. When she picked up I sobbed and sobbed into the phone and told her what was going on in my mind.

Before (when I was pregnant)

Amy was my miracle, my long-awaited baby! God was on this and He was with us, it was going to be amazing! I prayed that He would prepare my heart and that I would be a perfect example of His love to my kids. That I would represent Him well and be the physical manifestation of His heart towards my kids. I ‘rejected in Jesus name’ any of the negative stories that I heard about parenthood, because I was doing this with Jesus. Holy Spirit and I…. man we were tight. I knew how to hear His voice so well and I certainly had His joy living inside of me. I felt I had been through enough personal ‘fires’ to be prepared. I had been through a lot, including seasons of loneliness, anxiety (with heart palpitations) and the pain of a miscarriage; I had the tools to get through the tough stuff.

Worship has such a central part of my journey when we were trying to fall pregnant. I would worship God when I was in pain and instantly be lifted up and filled with joy and freedom. I (naively) dreamt that Amy and I would worship for hours and hours together. That the atmosphere in our house would be as it always was, a place of peace and rest, where the presence of God would be so tangible.

Additionally, I was so conscious of the negative impact that parents can have on their kids. Little people’s personalities are developed by the time they are four, so what I did in those early years really mattered. I didn’t want my kids to have to ‘forgive my mother for (insert reason here)’ in a therapy or sozo session years later.

During the first year

During Amy’s first year of life she cried – A. LOT. – and so did I. I clearly remember one Sunday afternoon she cried for 5 hours straight. I did everything and I really do mean everything: Feeding, burping, cuddling, pumping her little legs, leaving her to cry it out (it got worse and worse), every holding position I knew, bathing her, giving her Panadol, walking up and down the house, changing the nappy, praying in tongues, praying with words, singing worship etc. Nothing helped and some of it made it even worse. I had nothing left to give… absolutely nothing. I put her back into her cot, shut all the doors and with tears slowing rolling down my face, I sent out an SMS to a few people and asked them to pray. Amy fell asleep 20 minutes later and I sobbed on the bed. People may say “Amen, yeah she did, those prayers worked.” All I felt was my failure. I had tried everything and I was carrying the Holy Spirit with me. His love never failed, but apparently mine did.

532298_10150992580483363_1443195120_n

Church life, which has one been a place of pure joy and freedom, become an isolating experience. Tim was on staff, so we rarely got to be with him during a service and he was unable to help me. I would drive to church and spend most the time in the nursing mothers room or unsupervised crèche. After the service one of my beautiful friends would usually seek me out for a quick hello, but by then Amy was in the ‘feral zone’ so I would dash off not having heard the message, been able to engage in worship or connect with my church community. I would then drive the 30 minutes home with a tired child screaming at the top of her lungs. We would arrive back home both in a mess of tears and totally exhausted.

282270_10150992582893363_2002579866_n

I started to become angry and I wasn’t a naturally angry person. I thought things and said things in my head that I never thought would enter my life. I would hear people say how well I was doing or looking etc. and all I could think was “You don’t know the half of it.” I was also constantly told (by people who no longer had young kids) to “Treasure every moment, because it goes so fast.” So, I started stressing about ‘treasuring every moment’ and tried to put my energy into that. Turns out that ‘treasuring EVERY moment’ is hard to do when your little one cries a lot and you are running on empty.

Looking back, I clearly didn’t ask for help as much as I should have, mostly because I believed the lie that I shouldn’t. I prayed for this, I asked for this, this was my new ministry and my responsibility. I also didn’t think people would understand why I was in so much pain and I didn’t know how to articulate what was I was going through. I had also heard it said (unfortunately many times) that when Christians ‘burn out’ it’s because they aren’t getting their strength from God; that it is somehow a reflection of their relationship with Him. They are a failure. The thing was, I was actually inviting Holy Spirit into everyday, I would say it when I woke up and asked Him to help me constantly. I was trying to get my strength from Him, but I wasn’t able to spend time with Him like I used to. Plus, any time I planned a worship session at home, Amy would go ballistic and cry the place down. I was trying so hard to not become self-centered and continued to pour into other people’s lives like I used to. I spent a lot of time praying for and ‘counselling’ other people through their own pains. I wasn’t working after all so ‘I had the time’. I was giving out in excess, while feeling as though I was letting everyone down.

562910_10151282192658065_1298642203_n

Just to add to the growing burdens that I was carrying, I knew there were many other people in the world who had it worse than me, which of course made me feel worse about feeling worse. I ‘should be able to do this’ and I ‘really didn’t have anything to complain about’. It was a downward spiral. I didn’t understand that I was burning through my serotonin levels faster than a mentally healthy person. All I knew was that I was somehow ‘failing’. Failing Amy, failing God, failing at this thing called Motherhood. What made it harder was the fact that I had prayed and dreamed about this season for over 3 years. Amy was a miracle, she was a precious gift, but all I wanted to do was be alone so I could cry without her seeing.

I asked God to help me. I asked Him to remove my heaviness, my sadness and my anger and yet… it remained. I meditated on scriptures, stuck them all around the house and yet it remained. I made declarations and proclamations and yet it remained.

The phone call

So, just before Amy’s 1st birthday, I sat on the kitchen floor talking to the safest person I knew – my sister. She listened and loved me so much. Looking back, she represented Jesus to me in that moment; a perfect example of God.

994100_10152456153373065_511380131_n

She met me where I was at and listened to the state of my heart. She loved me completely. She told me to go onto the BeyondBlue website and take their online questionnaire. We chatted for a bit and then she said she’d check back in with me every day for the next few days.

I did the questionnaire and it told me to see my GP ASAP because I was in the danger zone. Two days later, after being told I had post-natal depression, I started my healing process with the help of medication. They say it takes about 2-3 weeks before antidepressants work, but I honestly noticed a difference straight away. For the first time in about a year, I could think clearly.

And so my next journey began. Three years on I have come a long way in some areas, while others require a bit more attention. Honestly, sometimes I don’t feel completely victorious in these things but I chose to believe that I am a great Mother. With the help of Holy Spirit and others around me, I am gradually taking back the ground and replacing the lies and unrealistic expectations with truth and rest. I look back and I’m grateful for how far I’ve come.

After

My family and I were recently talking about whether or not God heals people with serious mental health disorders. The Flatt clan likes to talk about the deeper issues of life, like really talk them out and challenge each other… I seriously love it. This is where I land in any area of healing… Jesus is the standard. What I mean by that is when you look at the life of Jesus he healed EVERYONE that came to him. EVERYONE! So, regardless of my experience, it’s God’s heart and intention that everyone is healed and whole. If I pray for someone and they aren’t healed, I believe God still wants them to be healed. Really Jess? Seriously, read the Gospels, there is not one example where Jesus wasn’t willing or where he said ‘No, healing it not for you. I’m not doing it. It’s not my will for you to be healed.” So where does this leave us?

This leads me once again to the Goodness of God. He is so wonderful, so loving and so aware of our individual journeys that He meets us where we are. I prayed that God would remove my depression, but for whatever reason it didn’t lift. And so, He made a way for me. Does God want to heal depression? Absolutely. Did He miraculously heal mine? No. Wait a minute, does that mean He doesn’t heal depression? No. For me, my experience does not alter the person of God or His good intentions for His children. Jesus is my standard. Where there is a gap, He meets me where I am and continues to help me along my journey to healing.

35583_10152073276318065_1219959372_n

If my leg was broken and after being prayed for it was still broken, I wouldn’t pretend it was healed just to prove my faith was strong enough. I would go to a doctor and get that leg fixed. Why struggle through the pain and possibly cause more damage and increase the healing time? I view mental health issues/illnesses in the same light. I will pray and believe for healing in the mental health zone, but if it’s not healed, I’m not going to pretend it is. I will take myself to a doctor and recommend others do the same. There is no point carrying guilt and shame, because you haven’t been miraculously healed. Would you judge someone else for taking a clearly broken leg to a doctor? I seriously hope not 🙂

My own journey

I am not ashamed to share this with you, but I do feel slightly vulnerable. To share my own journey and own perspective is a scary thing to do at times, but we each have our own story and there is power when we share them with each other. I can learn something from you and maybe you can learn something from me.

PhotoGrid_1465535758596

I hope you are encouraged by my journey out of the pit, because if you’ve never been there, believe me, it really does feel like a pit. If you are in that pit yourself, you are not alone. Many more people have been there than you realise, in fact 1 in 5 Australian adults will be diagnosed with a mental illness this year. There is hope for us, for you and for me. God has made a way.

Love Jess xxoo

God, where were you?

In early 2010 I lay on the gurney alone in the halls of the hospital. I remember being left by myself as tears streamed down my face along with the crushing revelation that the baby we had hoped for was no more. They had not allowed Tim to come with me for the scan and I felt so sick that He didn’t know and I would have to tell him. I felt completely and utterly alone. 

Amy has had two seizures in two and a-half-weeks. It has happened to her before when we were overseas, so it wasn’t so shocking for us this time round, but it’s still not very nice. A virus enters her little system and her temperature can spike up to over 41C (106F) . If you’ve never seen someone have a seizure it is can be frightening and when it’s someone little it’s even worse to witness. We know in Amy’s situation that it is ok and it’s not uncommon for kids to have febrile convulsions.

The problem is, that as parents you can tend to worry more after the event has taken place. Visions of Amy’s body convulsing can haunt you when you least expect it. Unhealthy imaginings of when it will happen next and what will transpire do not help you sleep in the wee hours of the morning.

In recent years when Tim and I have faced difficult situations and not had peace, we will undoubtedly ask Holy Spirit to show us where He was when the event was taking place. For example, I asked Holy Spirit where He was when Amy was having her seizure. He showed me that as I had my hand on her forehead, He had His hand on my shoulder and at the same time, He was holding Amy.

*sigh*

Peace like a river. Fear, time to move along.

Years later, in a moment of beautiful Worship with Daddy God, Tim had a picture of me laying alone in hospital and he saw the word ‘abandonment’ written over my head. He felt God wanted to show me where He was when I was facing my darkest moment.

I want to encourage you, if you have been through a negative or traumatic life event, it’s important to ask Holy Spirit to show you where He was. If you see anything other than a loving, caring response, you need to go read about the life of Jesus. He was moved by compassion for people in all sorts of situations and He is a direct representation to us of what Father God is like. Asking God to answer this question can really start the healing process if you’re carrying trauma.

As soon as Tim explained what He saw, I knew what He was talking about. I knew that God was good, but somehow the feeling that I was alone had snuck in to my thought-life, so I asked Holy Spirit to show me where He was. And being so wonderful, He showed me. He was holding me so very close, arms wrapped around me, understanding all my pain and loving me so completely. The secret fears that I held started to fade and another level of healing started taking place.

Sometimes, it’s only when we ask this question do we realise He was there all along. Don’t wait years to ask it, don’t let the little moments go by without questioning those fears. Say it with me… God, where were you? Can you hear Him answer… I was right there.

His truth sets us free.

La-Gabbia-785x549

Love Jess xxoo