finding the light in a dark season

 Photo from almost a year ago... when life felt much "simpler" <3

Photo from almost a year ago... when life felt much "simpler" <3

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1

As you likely already know, we began this year with highly different expectations than how the days, weeks and months actually panned out. This time last year we were seeking out a nanny for Nora, as I was about to begin working in the wedding department at Sacramento's number one bakery. About a month went by and we both felt strongly it was the wrong decision to accept this position, so a week before I was supposed to start work... I had to sadly decline.

We were struggling financially and were seeking out other ways to bring an extra income without the added cost of childcare. We were also looking for a new home, as we were outgrowing our beautiful midtown one-bedroom apartment, and the cost for what it was being honestly out of our budget. A friend of a friend had a house for rent, with two bedrooms and a big backyard and a garage and a big kitchen in a wonderful neighborhood... AND THE RENT WAS LESS than what we were paying. It was like a ginormous answer to prayer, and a huge weight lifted from our shoulders. We were elated and couldn't be more excited as we began planning how things would be arranged and furnished... it was SO exciting!

Then about a month before we were supposed to move in, the owner decided he needed to sell the house instead, leaving us without a home to move into. We were devastated/heartbroken/confused. Didn't God answer our prayers with this? Wasn't this supposed to be the home we'd eventually buy and raise our kids in for years to come? Why was it even offered to us if we couldn't ever actually have it? We went for months dreaming of and planning for this house. Isn't it supposed to be ours?

Well, obviously not.

We continued to look for homes with less rent and more "home" but kept hitting dead-end after dead-end. We were not in a place to buy a house yet, and just couldn't risk biting off more than we could chew with monthly expenses or an unsafe neighborhood.

Nothing. And yet our deadline to lease-end was coming quickly.

I'd been open and sharing about our situation and some friends at church were asking if we'd found anything yet, jokingly saying we could join the Army. Seriously, totally joking. They knew we were not able to have health insurance, were struggling with our finances and looking for a home; all things that would be completely covered if we joined the military lifestyle. They were joking, but we looked at each other and knew.

When we were dating, DJ felt strongly he was supposed to join the Army specifically, but for many reasons decided it wasn't the right choice at the time. We took this as a potential answer - but chose to take it slowly, pray about it and make sure we didn't make any rash decisions. DJ did a ton of research the following week, and decided he'd go to the recruiter, talk to them and see what he felt after. He did a lot of research regarding jobs and what would make the most beneficial and substantial sense for our family's future. He felt strongly that if he got a certain score on the asvab test, then he would go for it if certain jobs were available, and if he didn't get that score, and if these certain jobs weren't open... we'd move on.

He scored way higher than his goal for the test, and a couple options for the jobs were available... so we did it. My husband enlisted and joined the Army in April, and we ended up moving Nora and I into a tiny one bedroom apartment with an affordable monthly rent.

Flash forward to November, and though at the beginning we thought he'd be home the very first week of this month, it's Thanksgiving week and we're still not sure when he'll be home. We know we have to be out of our current place by December 1st, and he will have a job start date pretty soon after he's sent home. I'm due with baby Mabel in a month, and I'm perpetually tired, trying to manage everything on my plate. It's been seven months since my husband first left. Seven months without my husband at my side at night. Seven months of our squishy baby becoming a toddler and little girl. Seven months without hugs and kisses and all the other things marriage brings. Seven months without every-night/weekend help. Seven months without my other half. Seven months of growing our second daughter, and him not feeling her kicks or being there to find out with me that she was indeed another girl.

Seven months of feeling like the weight of taking care and being fully engaged with my toddler while seriously struggling with pregnancy, taking out the trash, hand washing all the dishes, maintaining our car, keeping the apartment clean, laundry at the laundromat, grocery shopping, seeing friends and family, cooking meals, not eating chocolate for breakfast-lunch-dinner, maintaining a healthy pregnancy, reading books I need to read to prepare for childbirth, keeping up with my work (blogging/instagram), going to church, struggling with but not letting anxiety take over, misophonia while living in an apartment that has zero sound barriers, feeding my spirit, preparing for an out-of-state move while full-term pregnant with little to no detais.... you guys. It's literally too much. 

I could go on and on. It's a lot. It's too much for a single person to do on their own.

I have felt every single negative emotion you could possibly think of. I have yelled at God. I have been angry and felt like this was all a complete mistake. I have been in the pits, and allowed Nora to eat cheerios all day while watching Sesame Street. I have avoided friends because I knew I'd burst into tears.

BUT

I've also had really good days. Days where I get more checked off my to-do list than I had the entire week prior. I've had days where I actually make and eat every meal, plus read for pleasure and even wash the dishes on top of scrubbing the toilet and then teaching Nora her ABC's. 

What's the difference? Choosing joy in the midst of the hard. 

It's all been hard. It definitely outweighs the prominent joys... but being intentional about setting my mind on the good things makes the biggest difference, no matter what you're going through. My daughters are both healthy and strong and growing. That alone is huge! My husband is working hard to provide for his family. We have health insurance, which we've never had! As of what we've last heard, we'll soon be moving to our dream state! It's Fall here and the weather and changing leaves are gorgeous. We've been able to see my family quite a bit in the last two months, which has been awesome! I have a roof over my head, and nice neighbors. Nora has been sleeping through the night like she used to! We have food in our fridge and pantry. We won't be going hungry anytime soon (although Nora would protest, I'm sure). 

Just like my list of negatives... I could go on and on. There are so many GOOD things. Sometimes the "every day" things of life are enough to be grateful for, and a grateful heart is what can make any season seem brighter. A dark room is lit by the smallest flame, and when that flame spreads... well our joy can be like a wildfire if we allow it. When we dwell on the negatives, our hearts will droop with sadness, but when we think about the good things, it springs up like a well.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4:8

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23

I think it's really important that we recognize how important our heart and thoughts are; the role that they play in how we live our life. The days when I've dwelt on all the negatives and hardships are the days I lost my patience with Nora, or the days I felt I couldn't do this anymore. The days I wanted to quit were the days I refused to see any good; that's selfishness, and I want my heart to be in a place or purity and gratitude. I want to see my life and others' lives in a way that I can be genuinely happy for both them and myself, without any ugly comparison. When we're grateful for where we are no matter where it is in life, we see light wherever we are and wherever we go.

I don't see the full picture, but I'm starting to see things unfold. When I look back a year ago... I see why I wasn't supposed to take that job. I see why we were not given that house we thought we'd grow roots in, and I see how God provided for us in a time we felt desolate. I don't know or see what's happening this week or next month, but I know there's a plan even if I don't have the blueprints. I'm not alone, and I never was. It's not by my strength that I've made it through these past seven months. 

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

"Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!" Psalm 105:4

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one." Psalm 28:7-8

"The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights." Habakkuk 3:19

I love the lyrics of these songs, and some days, these are the words that I sing over and over until I'm able to see the light on a dark day:

"Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

I've seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I'll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I'll see You do it again"

Do It Again - Elevation Worship

"i’m nothing without you
i’m barely breathing
your heart is my refuge
oh Lord

when i am tired and weak
lord will you carry me
and when i’m feeling low
hold me close
when i am tired and weak
lord will you carry me

when i am broken in two
pull me through"

Nothing Without You - United Pursuit

I hope I've made any sort of sense with this long post. My heart isn't always in the right place; but when I am intentional about setting it in the right things, I see the light, even when it feels so incredibly dark all around. When I focus on what's good, and rely on the strength only God can give me... I'm able to make it through the hard days. When I focus on my fears, and all the negatives, my life drags like a very sad blur. I want my heart and mind to be set on all that's good and all the things to be grateful for, because even when life's hard there always SO so much to say thanks for.

Xo