my beauty hunt.

The past four years have been the hardest and most painful years of my life.
The past four years have also been the most beautiful years of my life.
All too often I focus on the hard parts, I dwell on the pain.

I forget to count my blessings.

Which is a shame because there are so many to count.

Today, after deleting a blog post that read more like a pity party, I decided to go on a beauty hunt.

I have severe adrenal fatigue syndrome, and this causes countless physical symptoms, as well as causing my anxiety (which is a lifelong struggle) to worsen. Some days I am on the couch all day, plagued by dizziness, and weakness so severe that I fear my legs will not carry me to the bathroom and back. On the worst of these days I often find myself overwhelmed by feelings of frustration with myself for not being stronger, hopelessness that I will ever again be healthy, embarrassment that I cannot do things that most moms take for granted, and the list goes on. Often I find myself in tears at some point throughout the day, and without fail my sweet, compassionate, Ezra notices and says, “Are you crying, mommy? Are you really sick? Don’t worry mommy, kisses will make you better!” And my sweet boy runs to me, in all of my ugly, and showers me with kisses that he truly believes will heal. And they do.

{beautiful child}

Most days, in our household, are considered a success if I am able to take care of the kids, get some sort of food on the table, and still be functioning when Johnny gets home from work. On a million different occasions I have watched my amazing husband come home from work, exhausted, and proceed to finish (or start) dinner, feed our family, straighten up the house, do multiple loads of laundry, bathe the kids, and somehow still stay in love with me. He does this tirelessly, without complaining, and I know that he truly does not resent me, or my health issues, or wish that he was somewhere else. He is a man who I could not have even dreamed of, a man full of character and integrity and strength and fierce love and devotion for his family that leaves me speechless.

{beautiful husband}

I care far too much what people think of me, and of our situation. God must think I’m ridiculous, but he is still so gentle with me. Placing people in my life that I cannot begin to deserve, relationships that go above and beyond the call of duty and then some, to love me, love my family, and take care of us in whatever way they can, no matter how near or far they may be, and in these relationships, I know there is never judgement, just pure, deep love. And the people who love me so well, always remind me that no matter how hard the battle, that the alive, vibrant Kelsey is still who I am, that she isn’t gone, she may be struggling, but she will never be lost. This is one of the sweetest gifts.

{beautiful relationships}

I used to fill my days with as much as I possibly could. I prided myself on my ability to do it all and I judged myself more harshly than anyone when I didn’t live up to my standards. The past four years have forced me to not just slow down, but almost stop completely. In some ways my life is so much simpler that it once was and something that would seem like a minor detail to another mama is a huge accomplishment for me. Sitting with Ezra and doing puzzles for a half hour, or helping him build a fort, or creating a robot costume, or helping Hudson “walk” down the hallway, or playing peek a boo and listening to his hysterical laughter and watching him crinkle his nose, these are my major life accomplishments now. There are days when even these tasks are too much, so when I do have the energy to engage in even these simple moments of life, I don’t ever take one single second for granted.

{beautiful simple moments}

I love being a mom. One of the things that I have loved the most is breastfeeding my babies. However, it has become apparent over the past several months that continuing to breastfeed may no longer be in my best interest as my body is tired and for my doctors to increase my treatments I can no longer be breastfeeding. My mama’s heart is breaking. I am able to do so little already as a mama, but breastfeeding is the one thing that I have always been able to do for my boys. And now, that too is being taken away. I have cried countless tears over this decision, it’s the one thing I never thought I would have to compromise on. However, as I move forward and begin this process, I feel like God is continually offering comfort by reminding me that doing this will make me a stronger, better mama. It will not harm my boys and it will not change the bond that we share.

{beautiful comfort}

I am not good at asking for help. I like to be the one helping others. However our current life situation makes us about 0% helpful to others and 100% dependent on the help of others. Something I find humbling, to say the least. Whether we’re calling my mom and my sister AGAIN for help with the boys or a ride to a doctor’s appointment, or Johnny is once again letting work know that he will be late or not there at all because I need him, or asking supporters for help because we cannot afford all of the doctors bills, or I’m sitting on my in-laws couch and they are selflessly entertaining my children so that I can conserve what little energy I have, or we’re asking friends to FLY from California to Colorado just to help me with the boys during my brothers wedding because my whole family has a role to play in the wedding and I cannot manage the entire day by myself with the boys, or begging once again for desperate prayers on our behalf, whatever it may be, I STRUGGLE to ask, and I STRUGGLE to receive that help. And once again God must find me so frustrating, but he gently remind me that I need to humble myself and allow people to help us, to sustain us, to love us, and know that even if we cannot ever repay them for their generosity that it is okay because they don’t expect us to anyways. What a difficult lesson, and what a change it has made in my heart.

{beautiful humility}

I think we can all have a tendency to look at a situation and cast judgement, even though it is not our place or our right to do. I know that I have been guilty of this. But through this process I have learned in an entirely new way, how impossible it is to understand someone else’s situation unless you have lived it yourself. Whether a family is dealing with chronic illness, or loss of a loved one, or loss of a job, or financial difficulties, or substance abuse or addiction, or divorce, or the list goes on and on…but each situation is unique and delicate and we are so quick to judge instead of rushing to LOVE. I am forever changed by this journey of ours and I know that I will never again look at another persons situation and assume that I know better, or I know what they should do, or how they should handle something. That is not my place in anyone else’s life, my one and only obligation is to LOVE them and to support them in any and every way that I possibly can. This is an attribute that I don’t think I would have gained if it weren’t for this process, and it has forever changed who I am.

{beautiful understanding}

In this process I have spent many days avoiding God. Avoiding him because I feel slightly forgotten, a little betrayed, and very scared that he isn’t listening. Then I feel embarrassed because, of course I know better, and yet somehow I still find myself in self-preservation mode, assuming that I am the only one who knows what’s best for me (wrong again). But when I finally have chosen to be open and honest with my Jesus, when I have finally allowed him to gently take my broken heart from my tight grip, he is always so loving and so kind. Reminding me that he loves me, that I don’t need to understand everything to understand that, and reassuring me that he is always near, even when I feel like perhaps he has forgotten, and that he uses all things for HIS GLORY.

{beautiful truth}

If I am not careful I spend my days dreaming about when I am healed, planning for when I am better, and forgetting to live today. When you are functioning at a fraction of what you normally do and you can think only of the day when you are returned to your proper self, then it is difficult to learn how to live in this new reality. Quite often I get to the end of a day and realize that I have done nothing but wait for life to get better. So even on days when I feel 10% of my normal self, I still try desperately to find that hour, or that 20 minutes or even that five minutes of energy and health and to live it for all it’s worth. If I have five minutes of silly in me, I’m going to enjoy them for all they’re worth. If I have 30 minutes where I’m not thinking about how awful I feel and I have a little bit more energy, I’m going to be on the floor playing with my boys, if I have a day where my body is kind to me and I have extra energy, I am going to go to the park with my family and I might even pack a picnic dinner. And I am not going to live in fear of the next bad day, I am going to deal with it when it comes but I am going to live fully in this moment, without allowing the cloud of what could be to rain on my parade.

{beautiful life}

I had a moment with God the other day. I felt like he asked me if I would do it all again. If I knew the struggle, if I knew how sick my pregnancies would make me and how long it would take to heal, would I do it all again? Without a second of hesitation my answer was yes. I would go through it all again, and then some, to bring these beautiful amazing boys into the world, and to have the gift of being their mama.

But I realized something else.

On most days I feel like a hot mess. I’m usually in pajamas, paying zero attention to what I look like, and only occasionally bothering to put real clothes on my kids. My house is a disaster, in a lot of ways I am a shadow of who I used to be. But then, occasionally, I look at it from a different perspective.

I feel like God has spent the past four years literally stripping me of every single thing I found identity in.

Leadership. Ministry. Church involvement. Taking care of people. Being outgoing and social. Being a fantastic wife. Being super mom. Exercise. Independence. And on and on.

And now here I am.
Feeling naked and vulnerable.

And I hear a whisper, almost too faint to notice.
It says this is who I truly am.
It says this is the most beautiful I have ever been.

When the world looks at me I know there is not much to see.

When God looks at me he sees a heart that has been forever changed by a fierce battle.
He sees a heart that has been broken and put back together by his mercy and grace.
He sees a heart that finally understands her life is not her own, no matter how tightly she clings to in.
He sees a heart that has walked through the fire and come out stronger for it.
He sees a heart fully convinced of the power of prayer.
He sees a heart that doesn’t expect immediate healing but does expect immediate grace.
He sees a heart desperate to spread his love.
He sees a heart that would have never existed if it weren’t for the struggle.
He sees a heart that is thankful, not for the battle itself but for the person the battle has created.
He sees a heart acknowledging that if the only reason for this battle was to become more like Christ, then it all will have been worth it.
He sees a heart that is more devoted to him today that every other day in her life combined.

He sees a heart in love with him.

{beautiful heart}

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kübler Ross

“but god’s not here yet…”

Few things bring me greater joy than watching my husband and my kids interact. Johnny is such a great daddy and he is able to play with the boys the way that boys are supposed to play. I try to play swords and pirates and power rangers but when I watch Johnny play with Ezra I see how lacking my “play like a boy” skills truly are. I won’t stop trying, but I really need to practice more.

A couple of evenings ago I was in the bedroom cleaning up after bath time. I don’t know about you, but after bath time at our house there is an ocean of water on the floor, clothes littered everywhere that seem to have multiplied somehow, and more wet towels than seem necessary for two small children. Anyway, I was cleaning up and I heard Ezra run out of his room gasping and exclaiming that he was scared in his room because there were monsters in there. I headed towards him to comfort him but Johnny had already dropped what he was doing and was kneeling on the floor in front of Ezra. I stopped in my doorway to listen to their conversation.

Daddy – “Ezra, there is no reason for you to be scared because monsters aren’t real. But even when we feel afraid of something God is always with us and he will protect us from anything scary.”

Ezra – “Okay daddy.”

So simple. So sweet. So quick to trust.

As I sat on the couch with Ezra a few minutes later, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, God will protect me from monsters and even from cactus monsters (apparently cactuses are scary).” I replied, “That’s right Ez.” His next comment caught me off guard…

“But God’s not here yet.”

I felt like I was searching for something to say in reply for about ten minutes, but in reality I think I replied right away with something along the lines of, “Oh Ezra, God is always here! We can’t see him, but he is alway right there next to you.” Or something else straight out of the Christianity for Beginners textbook. But in my mind, once again, the simplicity and innocence of something my son said had shaken me.

Ezra was talking about the fact that God was not physically present yet, that he couldn’t see him or touch him so he must not be there. But how often, as mature adults, many of us who have been Christians for years, do we walk through something difficult, perhaps even tragic, and we don’t feel God, or hear God, or we don’t understand how he could let something like this happen to us, so we ASSUME that “God’s not here yet”? We try to survive through the hardship the best we can, all the while not turning to the one who can truly make our burden light, because he didn’t show up in the way that WE expected him to so we don’t think he’s really there. 

I know I have done this more times than I’d like to acknowledge. Especially in my lifelong battle with fear and anxiety, in the worst of days, when I should be on my knees at the feet of my heavenly father, crying out to him for healing and comfort, instead I have a tendency to doubt that he is really there, I doubt that he is really listening, and I doubt that he has any intention of ever healing me or making my burden any lighter.

Shame on me.

I know my God better than that, I know who he is and  how he loves me, I know that if my heart breaks for my kids when they are sad that God’s heart breaks even more for me when I am struggling. But even after a lifetime of knowing and loving my God, when hardship comes, I still have the tendency to go into self preservation mode and assume that the only one with my best interest in mind is myself. And then I live in survival mode.

I survive. But I don’t thrive.

And just when I really and truly deserve to be given up on, God once again shows how deeply, how endlessly, and how unconditionally he loves me. He gently uses my son to remind me of the simple truth that God is always here. 

Ugh, how many times must he so gently and so lovingly remind me that he will NEVER leave me and he will NEVER forsake me? How many times will I be reminded and then forget again? Hopefully it will stick this time but the beautiful thing about our Jesus is that he will remind me if I forget again. Just like I will remind Ezra a million times that he doesn’t need to be afraid of monsters, and if he forgets again and is frightened then I will remind him yet again, because I adore him and I want him to live free of fear, free of heavy burdens that he need not carry, I want him to thrive. And isn’t that what Jesus wants for each of us to?

Oh, I think I forgot to tell you the second part of Ezra’s comment to me, the part that made me realize how much more like my son I need to be. He said…

God’s not here yet… but I still love him SO SO SO much!”

Just because Ezra couldn’t see God in that moment, and he thought maybe he wasn’t there, he wasn’t doubting his God or his ability like I sometimes find myself doing, he was making a simple observation. He didn’t see God at that moment but that did not change how much he LOVED his God or how much he trusted that he would show up if indeed there were monsters that needed to be fought off.

What a wonderful child. What a wonderful God for speaking to me through such a wonderful child.

Today I am walking around with an old truth in my heart that I have been reminded of in the sweetest of ways.

There will be more days when I cannot feel God, it will seem that he is not “here yet”, but he is here, and he loves me even when I struggle to understand his ways. Oh, and even when I don’t feel him, I still love him… SO SO SO much. 

So simple.

So true.

Thank you Jesus and Ezra for the reminder.

Maybe we won’t  have to hide under blankets anymore. Maybe we will. But I will continually remind Ezra that he is safe from monsters, not because of the blanket but because of how much his Jesus loves him.

Cherish the moment.

Kelsey