Category: Anxiety

I’m More Like Jonah than I thought…

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Her quilt swallows her tiny body. A large pink gingham mouth envelops her head to reveal her three year old face.

“Mommy I’m afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?” I bend down and kiss her brow, creased with a comma.
“I’m afraid because Jonah keeps getting swallowed again and again, because he doesn’t listen to God. He keeps ending up in the whale’s belly.”

My trained words respond “No.” “No honey, the whale spit up Jonah,” but in my head I’m shouting “Yes.” Exactly yes. That is the truest thing I’ve heard all day.

As my body sits there with her, my mind is deep, deep underwater, in the warm, dark, damp insides of a giant fish.

I’m afraid. I’m unsure, and my mind is lonely, but my body is flooded with touch and affection from two little bodies. My mind feels overwhelmed and bored. My heart feels lost and found, and achingly empty and spilling over full, all in the journey of a day.

My body puts away laundry, washes dishes, and cleans sticky hands and faces. While my thoughts float, and dip, and sink into the noiseless depths of obscurity, weighed down by fear and questions.

Do I love my children enough? Am I going to be enough of a mom to form them into good people? Am I the wife my husband needs— the sister, the daughter? What if my people weren’t mine anymore? Or worse, what if I blinked and they disappeared?

These questions flood my mind and steal my identity. I become a hungry whale that swallows and fills myself up with people, and approval, and validation. So full, and sick, and empty again.

I turn out the lights in my daughter’s bedroom and find my way to the living room in the darkness. I fold my body into the corner of the couch. A lamp seems too bright for my mood. The wind whips the branches of the trees and rain beats a dramatic tempo overhead. I wake up my sleeping computer and pull up the story of Jonah and the whale. I read these words from the Bible. Funny, I never noticed them before.

“Notice all through this story that, although Jonah was God’s servant, he was always thinking about himself. God protected Jonah and saved him, not because he was such a good man, but because he wanted to teach him a great lesson.”

A heart turned in on itself is rendered useless. I think of my fifteen month old, how she wobbles from foot to foot, eyes affixed on her bloated belly as she walks into whatever is right in front of her. Sometimes I am so unsure in my own skin that I clumsily stumble through the world, oblivious to the needs of others, rendered useless by my own fears and insecurities.

As I read these words about Jonah, they resonate with my soul. Maybe I keep entering into the same dark places so that God can teach me a lesson too. A lesson about how to resurface. How to look up.

But maybe a fish’s belly is where I need to be sometimes too. In the depth of uncertainty, to be alone with my creator; letting Him form and reshape me.

I think about how God himself entered a woman’s belly to reshape the world- and I crack a smile like the moon. My daughter is smarter than she knows.

Dear Elyse: Your Story

Yawn

Dear Elyse

As I lay immobile on the bed, it felt as though I were on a carousel with the world spinning around me.  I fixed my gaze on one immutable point, your daddy’s eyes, as I mouthed over and over to him, “I’m okay, I’ll be okay,” as the stream of tears threatened to blur my vision.

Despite my words, despite his steady eyes, the tears wouldn’t stop pouring out of me. I heard a healthy cry and I saw you from across the room, all ten fingers, all ten toes, your pink skin and head of dark hair, and then my consciousness gave way to the hazy background.

The long summer was marked by the dry California heat, and the long wait for you. The drought caused a strict watering schedule that turned the landscape from lush green to yellowed and dead. The trees’ leaves were dry and spotted as they scattered the streets with their lifeless forms. My own body felt huge and achy; my mouth and throat were parched with an unquenchable thirst.  My days were filled with to-do’s and restlessness, as I waited  for you to make your radiant appearance, like a small pretty bud giving way to a bright and beautiful bloom.

But in my waiting and quiet anticipation, my own life and perspective began to look stale and dried up. The longer I waited, my focus shifted from living to expecting, and my days became consumed by preparation and obligation– stealing the each moment  of its own vitality.

On a Sunday morning, at 39 weeks pregnant, my slow bloated body ambled through the streets of Old Town Orange in a feeble attempt to “walk the baby out.” The Old Town  neighborhoods seemed to be the one place that hadn’t been affected by the drought.  As my eyes drank up one green manicured lawn to the next, my focus halted on an ugly brown tangle amidst the tidy landscape. The gnarled dead vines wrapped around the splintered edges of the decayed wood siding. A dusty sign on an old stake poked out of a wheel barrel in the center of the dreary scene. It had only one word in bold lowercase letters, “grow.” I snapped a photo because it seemed significant- and then I left it like an unfinished sentence, to go about my business of walking.

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That evening I went to church. My heart felt heavy with the anxious anticipation of when you would come. I hadn’t had any contractions, and I was afraid I would need a c-section. I wanted to be in control over what would happen, and I wanted to know what to expect. Yet as we sang the worship song, “The Sound of Grace,” my racing heart and worried mind gave way to an overwhelming feeling of rest and peace.

Grace, sweet grace; A fountain for my soul.                                 Grace, sweet grace; A mighty waterfall.                                         Drops of mercy all around; Everywhere the sound of grace.

As the tears streamed down my face, I looked up and smiled. For the first time in a long time I was soaking up the moment for all its goodness as God nourished me with his love and assurance. Deep in my heart I knew that no matter the circumstances, His abundant blessings wouldn’t run dry.

I awoke to your weight on my chest, your soft warm body and hungry suckling mouth. Tears ran down my cheeks as I heard the heavy pounding of rain outside the window.

You came to me like the much anticipated rainstorm that refreshed us that Tuesday morning, quenching a deep thirst and washing me with relief and gratitude. And since you’ve been here the tears flow unbidden from my eyes. Anxious tears, tears of relief, tears of fear and pain, of fulfillment, and tears of pure joy. But every drop that falls from my face, whether born out of gratitude or struggle, I collect in an alabaster jar;  knowing that they bring me the nourishment I need to grow.

Despite the gnarled vines that threaten to choke out new life; the thorny weeds of shame, fear, and mistrust, God scatters new seeds in my life; He  waters them with His grace, and grows my life into an overgrown garden of beautiful blooms.

As I rested in my hospital room, I stared at your peaceful face. Your perfect lips pushed out little puffs of breath.  My phone lit up and buzzed quietly with a text message. Auntie Erin had sent a picture, with the caption: “Look at the full rainbow over Orange today!!”

Elyse's Rainbow

My arms were full of you, and my heart was full, knowing that God never leaves us exactly where we are. Through the waiting, through the tears and the struggle and the blessings, I never stop growing and He never stops pouring down His Grace.

God gives us rainbows to remind us of His promises, but all I need to do is look into your face and I know:  God is good.

 

 

 

 

I am not Ashamed: Battling Social Anxiety

Originally Found at: Me Too Moments for Moms
I am not ashameddear b

Social Anxiety–that’s what the therapist called it as I sat across from her on the mahogany leather couch. Her office was devised to look like a living room, to make me feel at home, but all I could think was, “I wouldn’t be here if I was normal.

The list of my oddities lay like the stacks of magazines, recklessly piled for bored fingers to flip through at the doctor’s office. 
 The list of my oddities lay like the stacks of magazines, recklessly piled for bored fingers to flip through at the doctor’s office. “No friends, no one calls, head down, ignores people, anxiety attacks…”

Finish reading at: Me Too Moments for Moms

 

“This is crap. You can do better.”

 


reflection

dear b“No! Let go of my necklace,” I yelled as I yanked my favorite turquoise beads out of your fisted hands. Your face crumpled like a used tissue and tears erupted from your eyes. I tucked my necklace back safely into the jewelry box that you had been pilfering, as guilt flooded my chest.

I knew I’d been too harsh, but so much of my jewelry had already become your casualties.

Then, I remember the day before when a wobbly baby had toddled over to you with open hands and a wide smile, grabbing curiously at the teapot you played contentedly with.

As the baby approached, you clutched the candy pink plastic to your chest, swinging your other hand around in protective circles, and screeched, “No! Mine!” I had been embarrassed at your behavior, explaining that you needed to be kind and gentle to babies.

“She’s younger than you, and she doesn’t know any better.” The words resound in my ears as I shamefully look into your hurt, tearful eyes.

You are a reflection of me.

So often those words become stale in my mouth from overuse, but as I sit with them now, they resonate as valuable truth: you..are..a reflection..of me.

When I first entered college I had to pass a test called the Subject A Exam which assessed my ability to write an effective essay. I have always loved writing, but in high school, my teachers focused on teaching me the conventions of writing rather than the art. Mixed with test anxiety, the Subject A and I did not hit it off.

After my third failed attempt, the university mandated that I take a Subject A prep class. I showed up the first day feeling as indignant as a two year old who’s forced into taking nap.

Over the first weeks of class, I stubbornly decided that no matter what, I would despise and resent the class. The teacher, Ms. Gypsum, was young, and carefree. She wore boldly printed scarves and blue rectangular glasses that were disarming with their quirky charm. But I held my resolve.

She had us read books and articles that were actually interesting. She would return our essays covered in her inky cursive with thoughtful feedback and questions. We would sit in class with our cups of coffee doused liberally with cream and sugar, and she would encourage us to have thoughtful and worthwhile conversation.

Despite her attempts to connect with me, the first half of the class I skated by with little effort or dedication. Until Ms. Gypsum handed me back my midterm essay, and across the top of the page, seven words were scrolled beside the big red letter D: “This is crap. You can do better.”

She’d taken three weeks to show me who she was, as a writer, as a teacher, and as a person, and now, she was standing face to face with me and challenging me to show what I was capable of. Her words took me off guard, they knocked me off my pedestal and infuriated me.

But then, they forced me to look in the mirror– and I realized that I didn’t like what I saw. What was my self righteous attitude about anyways? I thought I was such a great writer, but what was I producing besides bitterness and mediocre work?

Too many times in my life I have let my ego decide who I am and not my actions. Sometimes I need to be knocked off my pedestal and told: “This is crap. You can do better.”

Because as I seek to discipline you, God is disciplining me to become a better person and a better mom. After all, the word discipline actually means “to train.”

In order to be the kind of mom I want to be, I first need to be a student. I need to learn how to be patient, humble, selfless, kind, and generous. I need to say please: please God give me strength. I need to say thank you: thank you God for your abundant blessings. I need to say I’m sorry: forgive me God for falling short.

As your hurt eyes peered into mine I put my hands on your shoulders, “I am so sorry I yelled at you like that,” and I pulled you close in an embrace.

When Band-Aids & Kisses Aren’t Enough

dear b
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When you have babies you will understand that any trip out of the house requires careful preparation. During the first few months its diapers, wipes, milk, pacifiers, burp rags, and the list goes on. At two its snacks, clean Minnie Mouse underwear, your favorite butterfly water bottle, and the armful of toys you insist on towing along.

As you get older, the tangible things you’ll need from me will become less and less. But as the things I carry lessen, your intangible needs will grow.

I know the challenge of motherhood that lies ahead is when you have the wounds that can’t be made better with a kiss and a Hello Kitty band-aid.

Motherhood is exhausting, but less complicated when you can meet every need with a bottle, clean clothes, or a band-aid. I know the challenge of motherhood that lies ahead is when you have the wounds that can’t be made better with a kiss and a Hello Kitty band-aid.

I don’t have a balm for the ache that comes when kids make fun of you because you’re too tall, or too skinny, or too shy. I can wrap my arms around you and hold you close when you endure your first heartache from a boy, but I can’t hold your heart or heal the throbbing pain in your chest. I can give you wise words, but I can’t stop you from making choices that cause you to hurt yourself, or prevent the consequences of your mistakes.

There will be a time when my advice will be the last thing you’ll want to hear. You’ll have empty places in your heart that a million of my words could never fill. My hope is one day my words will be a guiding light when your world feels dim. I’m certain that there will come a day when all you’ll want from me is a new thought or  word, and you’ll only be able to sift them from memories. But when my advice fails you when you’re young, when it offers you hope and clarity as you get older, and when my silence feels like the loudest thing in the room, know that my love never, ever falters. My child, a thousand of my words, even the best and brightest, could never tell you all the ways I love you.

But my love can’t stop the world from hurting you. There’s nothing that I can carry that will stop the pain in your heart during your darkest moments or give you air when it hurts to breath. That’s why I know that although I’m tired and cranky because you didn’t sleep much last night, and you seem to find a new mess to make in every cupboard and corner…this is the easy stuff.

My prayer is that  I will find the wisdom and endurance to show love and grace when you make messes of your life. I already know I will find ways to fail you at every turn because I’m only human, so my greatest prayer is that you will know that while I’m the one holding your hand for a short while, He is the one that holds you in His hands always.

 

Prenatal Depression: How I Survived My Pregnancy

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My Journey in Overcoming

Prenatal Depression

Dear Daughter,
All I could think of was becoming pregnant. Every month as I waited to see if my test would be positive,  I’d become like a helium balloon, puffed up with excitement and hope, and in the days following my period, become deflated and weighed down with another missed opportunity. When I finally saw the faint pink line I was in such a state of disbelief that I made an appointment with my OBGYN right away to confirm the result. They did an ultrasound and spotted the embryo–the miracle–that was you. I saw the mass on the screen that looked like scrambled eggs, and tears of joy streaked down my face, because no matter what it looked like, God knew, and I knew what it meant.

The beautiful gift I’d hoped and prayed for, began to feel more like a burden.
The weeks and months following the happy news became an obstacle course of sickness, confused emotions, and irritability. The joy I first felt eluded me. It became an effort to get out of bed, to get dressed, and to even eat. As friends and family began to worry, I began to wonder if I would ever feel the same again, and the beautiful gift I’d hoped and prayed for, began to feel more like a burden. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was suffering from depression during pregnancy, or what professionals call “prenatal depression.”

We announced your expected arrival in December as the days grew grayer and colder, and my tummy began to swell with you. Members of our church in Sedona learned of our news with a picture of us we put up on the front screen along with our church announcements. The photo showed a happy couple in front of the Christmas tree, with a ribbon tied in a bow around my waist and  your daddy kneeling to kiss my bump. That Sunday morning, Barbara, a friend and mentor came up and wordlessly gave me a hug and a squeeze as tears quickly sprang to my eyes. Since we couldn’t find the care I needed in Sedona, I had been gone for the last few weeks staying with your Cece in San Diego as we tried to find a psychiatrist who would help give me the extra treatment I needed. I had spent my days as a kid would on Christmas break making gingerbread houses and ornaments, reading books, sleeping long hours, and watching mind numbing TV, as I grasped for the hope and excitement that I couldn’t seem to find. My prenatal depression left me listless.

Barbara held my shoulders and looked searchingly into my eyes. “I knew you were pregnant, but I wanted to wait until you shared the news before I said anything.” “You did?” I asked, “but how?” “Remember my best friend that I lost? I’ve told you about her before,” I nodded. Barbara had shared with me that in her 30’s her friend Candace and her were inseparable. They both had kids the same age and were involved in church together. After she lost Candace tragically to an untreated infection of strep throat, her friend had been appearing to her in dreams. She explained, “Candace told me to pray for you and your baby.” As she said this, a warmth filled my belly while a chill crept from my neck and down my arms and legs creating goosebumps. In all the grey clouds, sadness, and apathy, I had forgotten that you weren’t just something growing inside me, but a baby; you were my baby, and a child that God cared for enough to send an angel to my friend to seek her prayers.

The months following weren’t easy. God didn’t give your daddy an extra measure of patience but poured down buckets of love and patience as he shouldered the burdens of work and my depression that seemed to weigh on our house like a musty, woolen cloak. No matter what I did I couldn’t seem to find the joy and excitement that had filled me up at that first ultrasound. But, now I had something to cling to. Despite the sadness I felt in my prenatal depression, despite the void of emotions I wanted to feel, I clung to the knowledge that God already knew you as my baby, as His child, and that He had a plan for you beyond the fog of my prenatal depression and desperation.

Child, when you were born, I am not exaggerating when I tell you, you were my bright spot, my sunshine. The grey cloud of apathy lifted when I held your warm body against mine and I breathed in your sweet, milky scent. They say what I suffered from was perinatal depression. What I know is that it was a season that helped me to see more clearly. We don’t know what light is until we experience darkness–and although God let me experience the darkness of a mental illness called depression that I had never known before, He also allowed me to see His light and goodness in a way that I would have never fully grasped until I saw your face.

There are many things that can be gleaned from this story, but I think most of all I want you to know who your maker is. Mommy and Daddy dreamed of you and planned for you, but your God knew you by name before you were even scrambled eggs in my tummy. So while I will speak words to you of love and encouragement, I will try to guide you down straight paths, I want you to always know that God is the one who sent an angel for you when I couldn’t find you in my darkness. He’s given me the wisdom, courage, and strength now to be your mommy, but on the days that I disappoint you, He will never fail you.

If you or a loved one thinks they have prenatal depression, talk to your healthcare professional who can connect you with a support network. Don’t endure prenatal depression alone.

http://www.postpartum.net

 

Letters to B.

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dear bIn quiet moments, I find myself talking to you. I tell you about our day together, I tell you about the lessons I’ve just learned or the hopes I have for our future together. But in my inner ramblings, I’m not talking to the B with scraped knees, a button nose, and a gleeful giggle, but a vibrant and beautiful teenager, a young woman anxiously waiting to find love, a nervous and glowing bride, a swollen and radiant mother to be, and an exhausted, yet blissfully  content wife and mother. I imagine myself stringing together lessons, ideas, memories, and snapshots that can hang on your neck like a strand of pearls, giving you a piece of me, and helping you navigate the milestones of your life. I realize there’s nothing I can say that will develop the wisdom that is earned from bad breakups, betrayal, reckless love, and all the moments that mark how beautiful and sometimes how heart wrenching life can be.

I imagine myself stringing together lessons, ideas, memories, and snapshots that can hang on your neck like a strand of pearls, giving you a piece of me.
But I smile as I see you reading my words at sixteen and rolling your eyes, then again at 23, as you think you know better, and then finally at 34 and beyond, as you savor them, like the morsels of dark chocolate I keep hidden from you and daddy at the back of the pantry.

So while you nap soundly, covered in flecks of sand and salt from a morning at the beach, here I am with my laptop, putting off my zillions of chores to bang away at my keyboard, and try to distill all that I want to impart to you in the meager words I’ve been given. I’d like to think my thoughts to you could touch and benefit others, but maybe they’re intended for an audience of one–and that’s okay too. Because that’s the crazy way that God works, calling us to plant a seed that could fruit beyond our wildest imagination now, or lay dormant in the ground for years and years and then miraculously sprout up in a new and unexpected place.

My dear B as I share my thoughts with you in these letters I’m going to tell you what you’ve already figured out. I am only human. I’m going to fail you a million times before you ever sit down to read my words. Just last night, I kissed your face and my tears wet your cheeks as I apologized for raising my voice at you–you were refusing to go to bed and I was impatient and tired. But my dear, I hope by now you know that that’s what makes our world so beautiful–that God takes our shortcomings and messes, our half efforts and good intentions and wraps them up with lessons and forgiveness; He ties a ribbon of grace around them and transforms  them into the beautiful gifts that our lives are made of.

 

God: Where are You Taking Me??

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“Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Back in January, God planted the word “thrive” on my heart. I told the hubs about it; basically my convo went like this, “God wants me to do something in ministry with moms that somehow surrounds the word thrive. I don’t know what it is, I’ll let you know when I know more,” and he responded as he usually does to my bizarre tangents, “okay cool.”

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your purpose.” Aristotle

It’s not the first time that I’ve felt God give me a glimpse at what’s to come. However, it doesn’t come in the form of a road map or a lightning bolt, but more like an itch I just can’t scratch. It started when I told hubs I would be leaving the salon and working in children’s ministry–even though I had no reason or desire to leave my current job.  Six months later in a  twist of events I went from giving blowdries to wiping snotty noses as a preschool teacher. The most unnerving was when I told him we’d be moving and he’d be getting a job that was more missional. A year later he interviewed for a position as pastor of missions and outreach, and we accepted the call at our new church  and moved six months later.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

I don’t share this because I want you to think I’m gifted, and certainly not that I’m psychic. It really has nothing to do with me at all. For reasons I cannot explain, God has chosen to give me these small glimpses into what he has in store for me next.  There have been other times I’ve been dead wrong, like when I insisted I was having a boy, and we now have a very healthy 2 year old girl.  The difference is when I try to make a prediction for my own benefit, its as hopeless as dowsing for water in a desert. Rather, these ideas enter my life as a thought in the middle of an ordinary day. Before I know it that thought has found it’s way into my chest where it rattles around insistently. Then at inconvenient times, like when I’m trying to sleep, it knocks hard on my heart.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”         Proverbs 3:5

This brings me back to “thrive” and my deep conversation with the hubs. Everywhere I turn, the word finds me, in books, in devotions, even in blogs and social media. Lately the clattering  in my chest has gotten louder as I hear about fellow moms who are feeling loneliness and / or hopelessness. They love their families, but struggle to find a sense of identity and community in their role as a stay at home mom.  As women, how can we grow and thrive personally  in a world where our children, our husbands, and our responsibilities are constantly clambering for our attention? This is a question that I grapple with as the wife to a busy husband, mother of a toddler, and mother to be of another beautiful girl.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything you gave me.  Erma Bombeck

I don’t have the answer, but this word and this calling will continue to knock on my heart and awaken me at night until God reveals what He has in store. I wanted to let you in on the process so you can pray for me, mentor me, or share the things that keep you up at night.

I’m Mediocre and Happy

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Blogging Barbies Move Over–I’m Mediocre & Happy!

We are surrounded by images on TV, in movies, magazines, and ads of women that seem to show no signs of “real life.”

Somehow in print, and on screen, celebrities have managed to avoid the ravages of child bearing and aging.

At 31, I have a pretty good self image, but I can’t help but notice the lines around my eyes, the stretch marks on my hips, and well, the other imperfections that come with babies and age.

But as if “keeping up with the Kardashians” isn’t enough, I find myself facing another group of women that challenge my sense of reality.

I will dub them the “Blogging Barbies.” Like Barbie, they manage to spin a reality of their domestic life that is shiny, and seamless, and pure plastic perfection. From their designer decorated homes, perfect pantries, down to their immaculate underwear drawers, these bloggesses (no auto-correct, not blouse, I’m inventing a word here!) seem to have every stitch in place of their effortlessly homespun life.–And don’t forget their gorgeously dressed and beautiful children with sweet and original names like Harlow and Dax–who also manage to put their toys back in the adorably labeled toy bins tucked away in their color coordinated closets.

I’m not dissing women who love pinterest, and are crafty, and have cute homes. I know quite a few, and I hope someday some of their talent will rub off on me!

But as I browsed the black hole of pinterest today, and fell deeper and deeper into my own black hole of negative thought, I’m so disorganized, my house isn’t cute, what do I do with all my time, why isn’t my bathroom matching down to the toiletry bottles?!

I decided to take a step back and celebrate that my house is relatively clean, my pantry is 65% stocked, and my kid and husband are fed, smiling and their clothes mostly match.

So today, instead of worrying about a reality on blogs that I will never achieve in my real life, I’ll celebrate giggles, sticky hands, and overall domestic mediocrity!

A Belly Full of Butterflies; A Heart Full of Hope

“Because butterflies mean God is doing a new thing…”

As we signed the final documents for buying our new house, I felt a flutter begin in my stomach. No matter how much I do to prepare for a changing chapter of my life, it all usually boils down to a moment where my new reality crystallizes, and I lose every grain of control that I’ve scraped and grasped tightly onto. With clenched fits, and butterflies doing their practiced flight within the walls of my tummy, I close my eyes and leap to the next blank page of my unwritten story.

“…although my life story isn’t written, He knows the ending.”

But as I walk to the bank to transfer our life’s savings into what feels like thin air, the familiar butterfly dance I feel, fills me with excitement. I remember the last moments I felt butterflies: when I found I was pregnant with baby E, when Bree was born, and when I vowed my life to my husband. These butterflies mark something new and exciting. I realize as a grown woman of 31, butterflies mean I’m still growing up, and I hope when I’m 85, I still get this fabulous and unnerving flutter in my stomach. Because butterflies mean God is doing a new thing, and although my life story isn’t written, He knows the ending, and He’s written my name on the palm of His hand.

” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” Revelation 21:5