embrace.

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Is anyone else feeling the pressure of 2018? My inbox is filled with emails about setting goals, reviewing the year, choosing a new word of the year, processing 2017, making a resolution, and setting up a plan to be intentional in 2018. Meanwhile, my brain is like WHOA. Slow down. I feel like I am supposed to do it all to maximize every moment. But then, I remember to breathe. I remember my life is not defined by a word. I remember that I can live a full and joyous life without a huge list of set goals. Yes, these things are great tools to be focused and intentional. But you don’t have to do it all. So, if you are anything like me, take a moment to pause and figure out what’s going to make you the best you. Maybe it is a word. Maybe it’s taking a moment to pause and reflect with a cup of tea. Or maybe it’s scrapping your resolution list and simply taking it one day at a time. Whatever it is, give yourself grace. Grace to not be perfect. Grace to change your word of the year in February. Grace to take it day by day and grace to plan to your hearts desires.

In 2017, I chose the word “embrace” for my word of the year. To welcome the year and all that it held with open arms. I knew the year ahead would hold more unknowns than I could imagine. And goodness, it did. The best kind of unknowns.

I got to embrace a twin pregnancy with all its twists and turns. A velamentous cord insertion. Intrauterine growth restriction. My water breaking at 34 weeks. 11 days in the NICU. A reopened c-section and second surgery.

I got to embrace learning life as a mom to two newborns. Long nights. Learning to exclusively pump every 2-3 hours. Learning what it meant to be a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, an in-law, a sister, a person all at once.

I got to embrace needing others. Woof, this one was the hardest. Accepting help has never come easy but this year was humbling. I needed people to drive me around at times. I needed my mom and mother-in-law to come over and hold babies for me. I needed people who were willing to bring meals. Fold laundry. Wash bottles. Wipe tears. I had to embrace the fact that more people saw me without washed hair and makeup on that ever had in a lifetime. Stained tshirts. Unsupportive pumping bras. Hairy ankles. A postpartum tummy. They saw it all.

I got to embrace a body that has changed completely. I had to embrace the fact that going to the gym isn’t an option in this season. That hormones and breastfeeding and sleepless nights and survival mode would mean a few extra pounds this year. I’m embracing the fact that it won’t always look like this. Truth is, I couldn’t be happier and I know the time will come where my butt will get back into shape and healthy meal planning will feel more feasible than exhausting.

I got to embrace needing God in a whole new way. It’s the most helpless feeling knowing you are not in control of the ones you love most. When Logan had his hospital scare, it was a pivotal moment remembering that God loves my babies even more than we do. He can be trusted. But it’s not easy. I got to embrace the fact that my quiet time and prayer life looks a little different. Long are the days of sitting down for 2 hours reading and journaling and praying and worshipping. Now we sing worship songs during bottles, pray as we change diapers, and read devotionals in the bathroom, errrr, well, yes, let’s be honest.

I got to embrace my house looking different. My bedroom looking different. My baths looking different. My closet looking different. My marriage looking different (the best kind of different!). My friendships looking different. My “free time” looking different. My car looking different. My world looking different. My writing looking different.

Welcoming change with open arms. Wow. A few years ago I would have said it wasn’t possible, but this year taught me that it is. It’s humbling. It’s painful. It’s beautiful. It’s messy. It requires sacrifice. It requires pride to be lowered. It requires an exhausting amount of effort and yet, no effort at all. Change is hard. But this year, I fought to embrace it. To savor it. To welcome it. Every fiber of my existence has had to learn to let go of control, to become more aware of my desperate need for God and others, and in return, magic happened.

When we were knee deep in the early weeks, I remember crying and just telling myself “this is only a season”. We were tired. I was going through a major identity crisis learning my new roles. “This is only a season.” I kept repeating that to myself.

And then God whispered back “No it’s not.”

You see, He gently reminded me that seasons are cyclical. They come and repeat themselves every year. You always know what spring will look like, then summer, then fall, and winter. God reminded me these moments, these early days, they weren’t going to come back. Once they were gone, they were gone forever. The hard – it’s temporary. A new hard will come, but it will never look the same. The babies will be a little older, and the past will be a distant memory.

I learned to embrace every moment. Even the hard ones. Even the exhausting ones. I learned to welcome every second with open arms, even when there were tears, because time will never come back again. This lesson has been pivotal for me as a mom.

So, now, 2018. What’s ahead? I have no clue. I have good intentions to think of a word of the year as I enjoy seeing how God works with it but I also know that if I don’t come up with one till March, life will be fine. That’s the beauty of grace. It takes off the pressure. It reminds us that God loves us no matter what.

And for that, I am so thankful.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful and happy 2018,

Chelsea

 

immanuel.

Oh, there are so many emotions happening in my heart this Christmas season! First of all, complete gratitude to God that our Christmas looks so different than years past. I can’t help but pinch myself in awe that we finally have the family we prayed for. Instead of longing, there is a fullness that leaves me humbled and grateful. Thank you Lord!

I also can’t help but empathize with so many of our dear friends and loved ones whose hearts are not filled with fullness this year. Who lost a child this year, or in years past, and it leaves their hearts raw and aching. Who experienced failed cycles and whose test results left them in tears. The friends who see the commercials with pregnancy announcements and cringe, wishing it was them announcing news this holiday season, instead of hiding in the bathroom to avoid the questions. Maybe that person is you. Please know you are not forgotten.

Christmas centers on celebrating the birth of Christ Jesus. It starts a new chapter. The waiting and longing the world experienced was answered in a single birth. Jesus came. He was born, a helpless baby, a human child. The waiting paid off. Hope was here.

Maybe your hope feels lost this Christmas. You have spent the year disappointed. Your heart is filled with sorrow and your emotions have been stolen by tears and wrecked with discouragement. You don’t feel merry. You want to fast forward through the lights, the carols, the gifts, and the brutally cheerful Facebook feed. How can you cling to hope when you are still praying for your answers to prayer to come? Or maybe you are just angry. Angry that God would allow that to happen to you.

I imagine how lost the world felt between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Did you know there were 400 years of silence between those two testaments. One single blank page in the Bible. 400 years. And then, springs forth this reminder that God can do anything.

Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son …

A virgin birth doesn’t make sense. It is indeed impossible to have no biological birth father. And yet …

And why did it take 400 years for God to start the story of Jesus? This we may never understand, but God does. And He chose Mary, at the right time. He had a reason and the miracle conception of Christ Jesus our Lord occurred.

“…and they shall call His name Immanuel, which means, God with us.”

God is with us. God is with you. Whatever you are facing this Christmas season, whether it’s an ongoing divorce, cancer battle, marital struggle, or infertility, God is with you. You don’t have to face the night and sorrow alone. Sometimes it feels like you are stuck in the 400 year gap of silence.  I know, I have been there, standing in those shoes, wondering where in the world God is.. If you are in a season of silence right now, I understand. I understand how frustrated you are. I understand when people talk about hearing Him, or being answered by Him or being filled with peace because of Him, it makes you feel angry because you are doing everything you can and you don’t have that. I tell you this because I know the tears you are crying, the weariness you feel, the how draining the questions you are asking are. I tell you this because I want you to keep going. Even when it feels pointless. Even when you feel like He isn’t real. Even when you open up your Bible and you can’t seem to understand where this loving, kind, merciful God you are reading about is in your life. Keep going. Day after day. Keep praying. Because friends, I am certain, beyond a shadow of doubt, that in the moments I felt the most alone, looking back, He was holding me the whole time. He is worth fighting for.

Having faith in an invisible God isn’t easy. But Christmas is a reminder that our invisible God was made visible in the form of Jesus. And yes, Christmas may look different that what you had hoped this year. But I pray that you can dig deep, and even just for a moment, celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth, and be encouraged knowing that “with God, nothing is impossible.” (Luke 1:37) Your situation isn’t hopeless.

Believe that His faithfulness will endure time. That His Word is true. That He care deeply for you and situations you are facing today. He sees your tears. He knows when you feel forgotten. He knows when you worry that you will never move past “this” season. Rest in the promise that He is with you – He is our Immanuel.

When I miscarried our first child on Christmas day 5 years ago, I never thought this Christmas would come. I assumed all Christmas’s would be marked with grief, that hope was lost, that the sorrow would never end. But this year, we are celebrating His faithfulness. And it’s humbling and even better than I ever could have imagined.

If you are stuck in the sorrow, know its okay to grieve, but don’t get caught grieving as those without hope. He came, He conquered death, He broke the barrier to sin and He will come again. Because He hears your prayers, sits with you as you cry, collects your tears, and loves you so much. You are seen. Jesus, our Immanuel, is with you.

Merry Christmas friends!

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