Finding the Beauty in Motherhood

Finding the Beauty in MotherhoodI think it is slightly hilarious that I felt led to start a blog and then I felt led to stop writing. That God is a tricky guy sometimes. I’m feeling the itch to get back here, so maybe that means something is coming. We all know I clearly have no idea.

However, I wanted to come back, at least for today, and take a second to recognize Mother’s Day. Because for some reason this Mother’s Day weekend, I’m having alllllll the feelings. I think a lot of it is because of the season that I just went through, that I’m pretty sure occurred so that I could learn to enjoy and embrace every aspect of motherhood. Before I went through my little journey of refinement, of stepping away and stepping back, of looking deep inside myself at all the yuck, before coming out on the other side, motherhood wasn’t the blessing to me that it should have been.

It felt all-consuming, and not in a good way. It felt overwhelming. It felt suffocating. It felt like it was slowly stealing away every bit of identity outside of “mama”, every bit of Celeste, that it could. I didn’t see the joy, the beauty, the insanely chaotic, hilarious, pure happiness that I can now find in the every day. I felt burdened. I felt held back. I wasn’t near as happy as I wanted to be, especially since I knew how lucky I truly was.

Of course I loved my boys more than life itself, but I couldn’t feel all of the other beautiful feelings that go along with the love. I was too overwhelmed by it all, by my desire for more more more, more things that were for me and didn’t include them. I wanted something, anything, just for me, but they consumed me. I was drowning, even though I didn’t realize it.

But then I went on a really hard, painful, exhausting, uncomfortable journey of pulling back from EVERYTHING except for being a mama. I did not want to, but God made it crystal clear that I had to. I fought it, I tried to rationalize my way out of it, but he said nope. Let it go. Let it allllll go. So I did.

After two months of walking through that, I’m on the other side. I don’t know what’s next for me, but I do know that everything about motherhood has changed for me.

I see the beauty. I see the joy. I FEEL it down to my very core. I crawl on the floor like a dinosaur, I tickle bellies, I cuddle in bed, I rock to sleep, I read stories, I blow bubbles, I race, I give endless kisses and hugs, I praise and shower them with words of affirmation, I listen, I look, I study baby faces and chubby hands that are quickly turning into little boy hands, I answer endless questions, I watch sleeping boys and kiss their closed eyes. Of course I’ve always done all of these things, but it’s different now. I feel every beautiful bit of the love I have for these boys, and I feel it down deep into my soul. I LOVE them. I LOVE being their mama. I breathe it in, cherish it, try to capture it, because it’s fleeting. They’re growing, they’re so big, they’re so funny and smart, and where are my babies? How is it going so fast? How can I keep all of these beautiful memories inside my head and my heart forever?

Motherhood is different now. It’s the same, as in I’ve always loved and cherished my boys, but it’s different in the fact that now it is everything to me. I may still have hopes and dreams and aspirations, but THIS is where it’s at. I’m so thankful that God made me pause and dig down and find the joy in the mundane every day, because without that breaking down, I would have missed it. I would have MISSED all of this. And I can’t imagine missing a moment.

So Happy Mother’s Day mamas. We have the most amazing, wonderful, blessed job in the entire world. We have the honor and privilege of shaping our babies into human beings. We get the sticky kisses and the “I love you so much Mommy”s and the suffocating hugs and the knowledge that we are, for a few short years, their entire world. So even though I’m exhausted, even though I deal with more tantrums than any human should ever have to, even though my one year old won’t sleep and my four year old whines endlessly, even though I would kill for a shower without someone banging on the door or to sit down for a meal that is still warm – I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the entire world.

Making Room For God In The Busy Seasons of Life

Life is so strange and unpredictable. At least, my life feels that way. I feel like every time I think I’ve really got a handle on things, I’ve really started to figure it all out, then things get all flipped upside down on me.

The past few weeks have been really tough for me on a personal level. Nothing bad is going on, nothing that from the outside looking in would even be an issue at all, but on the inside I feel like I’ve been caught in some crazy battle between two versions of myself. I won’t go into extreme detail, but I feel like everything I though I wanted, that I’ve been striving for and working toward is being pulled away, and then God is realigning my priorities. Totally and completely.

So everything that I though I was working so hard for now has been placed on the back burner, and things that were important but not my main focus are now having a spotlight placed on them, and I feel like I’m being redirected over and over again. That THIS is where my focus, and most importantly, my heart need to be.

So this process that I’m going through feels like I’m being broken down to the very most basic version of myself, then all of my insides are being ripped out and placed in front of me to look at and examine. I’m being forced to see what really, truly matters at this point, in this season of life. It’s not fun. It’s actually really hard, on many different levels.

The reason it’s happening though, I’m almost positive, is because I’m seeking God on a regular basis. I’m constantly asking him to change me, to make me into the best version of myself, to show me what matters, to put me where he wants me, to use me however he sees fit. To help me fulfill whatever purpose he has for me, to be the best wife and mom and business owner that I can possibly be. To help me to be a positive influence in the lives of the people I spend my time with, to help me get to know him more and more. This is by far the busiest season of my life thus far, but I am making a point to make him my focus in the midst of it all.

Making Room for God in the Busy Seasons of Life | Haven Gray {the blog}

This also is not easy. I fail at this oh so often. I’ll go a couple of days and realize I haven’t spent any real time with him. Because, when do I have the time? But what I’m slowly realizing is I don’t have to get in my “quiet place” (which is the shower for me, because where else am I alone?) and spend half an hour praying earnestly. Instead, I can speak to him in the car. I can ask him for help when I’m struggling with my kids. I can thank him for the food I’m feeding my kids, for the hot water I have to wash my dishes, for my favorite blanket when I’m cuddled up on my couch. I can thank him for this beautiful, crazy, stressful life that I have, because really, how blessed am I?

I’m working toward being in almost constant communication with him throughout my day. I’m not there, not even close, but it’s what I’m striving for. And it’s not “Dear God, thank you for this day. Thank you for XYZ”. It’s “Man, these kids are driving me crazy. I’m so tired and I can’t believe it’s still five hours until bedtime. I seriously feel like crying. Can you please help me find a way to get this crazy energy out of them? And please help me be patient and just be a good mommy.” It’s not formal. It’s not serious. It’s not pretty or eloquent. It’s just a conversation with someone that I know cares about me. And it’s changing everything.

I feel like everything that I know about God is changing. I’ve never spent a ton of time thinking about him. He just kind of IS. Like, he’s there, he’s good, he loves us, the end. And for a long time I didn’t even really believe that. But now I’m really focusing on building a relationship with him, because that’s what I want. A relationship. And if you want to be in a relationship with someone, whether it’s romantic or a friendship or whatever it may be, the best way to do that is to get to know someone. To spend time with them, just hanging out, chatting, sharing stories, showing them your heart, what matters to you, where you struggle.

I get it, I get that it’s never easy to diligently seek God. I don’t have hours to spend reading my bible, watching videos, having theological discussions. But I do have two hours a week to go to bible study, and I try my best to get my weekly homework for the study done every week, because I ALWAYS learn something new. I do have time to listen to podcasts by wise women that really feed my soul and reveal new things to me – when I’m driving, when I’m folding laundry or washing dishes. I do have time to pray sincerely and earnestly when I get to shower ALONE a few times a week. And I do have time to chat with him throughout my day. Instead of picking up my phone to text a friend and vent about something crazy that just happened, I talk to him. It’s so simple I can’t believe how much it’s changing things for me.

Making room for God, I’m learning, just doesn’t have to be so complicated. It doesn’t have to be HUGE, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be crazy time consuming. I’m sure when my kids are older and can wipe themselves and get their own snacks and, I don’t know, actually sleep through the night or something, then I will have the time to pursue him in different ways. Hopefully I’ll eventually have time to read all these amazing books I keep buying. And maybe read more than two chapters in the bible at once. And have long, drawn out conversations with friends about our faith without being interrupted 23 times by little ones. But that’s not where I’m at now. So this is what I can do.

I want to encourage you, no matter what season you’re in, to just try it. Just pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read, or listen to that podcast you’ve heard about, or join that bible study. Reach out to that woman that seems so wise, that you really just want to get to know. When you’re struggling and it’s almost your kid’s bedtime and you just don’t know if you’ll make it through without losing it, just take a second to ask him for help. If you’re feeling stressed or confused or lost or lonely, all it takes is a second to tell him what’s up. I can’t explain to you the difference it makes. I never hear him say “Celeste, I understand. I’m here. I love you.” But he answers me in other ways. I’ll scroll through Instagram and see a post that feels like he sent out just for me. A friend will text me a book suggestion that is so spot on, or sweet encouragement that my heart needs in that moment. I’ll feel a sense of peace come over me that I know my frazzled impatient self can’t conjure up. These simple, tiny steps can truly start to change your life.

I also want to let you know, I’m here for you. If you have questions, if you want suggestions on where to begin, if you’re angry and frustrated and think God is a big waste of time – please reach out. You probably can’t shock me, because I’m quite sure I’ve had all the negative thoughts and feelings possible when it comes to this stuff. I’m just stumbling along this path, figuring it out as I go. And I want to be here to encourage you if you’re walking this road with me. My heart truly is to help women (and men?) as they’re starting out on this journey, or re-starting, whatever it may be. So please, never hesitate to reach out.

Surrender

Surrender | Haven Gray {the blog}

In the last year of my life, a lot has changed. I’ve learned a lot, grown a lot, and it feels like I’ve lived through several different “seasons” in just 12 short months. Last March is when I found myself somehow back in this world of Christianity that I had been absent from for so long, and it has truly changed every part of my life.

But It’s different this time. Partially I’m sure because I’m a woman in my 30s instead of a girl in my teens. But also because this time I have a true desire to seek God, to develop a relationship with him, to know him and to be known by him – things that I’m not totally sure I even understood before. But the more I seek him, the more I pursue this way of life, the more things seem to constantly evolve and change.

Just within the last couple of weeks I’ve entered into a new season. My seasons happen quickly and abruptly, and there’s no denying when they change. This one has been no different, and it has already been a challenging one. It’s hilarious, because I know God has a sense of humor and is doing this on purpose, but nearly everything I see, hear, read, etc., relates to this same theme – refinement. I feel like I’m being broken down, pulled apart, dug into. I feel like I’m having to reach down inside myself to figure out why and what and how and what for, for a number of things – many things I didn’t even realize were issues or even thoughts that I still held onto.

Not only do I feel like I’m being refined, but I feel like I’m being called to surrender. Surrender everything. EVERYTHING. Everything I’m involved in, the leadership roles that I have, ideas that I have. Dreams that I have. I honestly feel like right now God is asking me to take my dreams for my life – and I have SO so many – and just hand them over. Give them up. Say “They’re yours”. If it’s not his plan, if it’s not meant to be, so be it. And that is so incredibly hard. I am a planner, a doer, a “let’s make the to-do list and check things off ASAP” kind of girl. And I feel like right now he’s saying “Do nothing”. Literally, sit back, surrender, give it all up, do nothing. This might be my least favorite season thus far.

But I’m thinking that it all happens for a reason, right? And I’m thinking that this way is so much better, as hard as it may be. Because for basically 32 years I’ve tried doing it all on my own, according to my plan, in my own power, and it hasn’t gotten me too far. Of course this past year I’ve felt like I’m listening and trying to do things the way I feel he’s directing me, but I’m still clinging on to the last little bit of control that I’ve got. And I feel like he’s asking me to give even that last little teeny tiny bit over. So I am. I’m sitting and I’m waiting, I’m listening and I’m praying, I’m thinking through things and asking for clarity. I’m interested to see where this leads, what’s on the other side of this process. I literally have no idea what’s coming next, and that is an uncomfortable place for me to be. But I know it’s the right place for now.

Oh, How He Loves Us

Ezekiel36:26This whole journey to a real relationship with God that I have found myself on recently started with a random trip to the Hope Spoken conference early last year. My experience there is what changed everything for me. I saw a different side of what Christianity could be, how supportive Christian women could be, and the atmosphere was just amazing. I mean, it was beautiful outwardly, but the feeling throughout the entire conference was just so pure and comforting and welcoming, so many things that at that point I certainly did not relate with Christianity or God.

But even as amazing as it was, I still didn’t feel it deep down in my soul the way I knew I could. Or should. I loved it so much, but I wasn’t feeling that deep God connection that I had felt years and years ago when I was in that place, and on the last morning I was feeling a little let down at that. I thought, maybe it’s just been so long that I can’t get there? Maybe it’s just not for me anymore? Maybe it was never even real?

There was a time of praise and worship that last morning before the conference ended, and I was sitting at a table by myself, listening to all of these worship songs that I had never heard obviously, because I hadn’t listened to Christian music for more than a decade. Some of them I really liked, and I would make note in my phone to download them. But none of them were touching me deeply. I remember feeling like I was just an observer to this beautiful experience that all these other women seemed to be having.

But then finally, very close to the end of the morning, it happened.

And I broke. And I cried. And cried. And all I could think was, God, I am so sorry. I am so incredibly sorry. Because the song that finally touched me and let me get to that place was the song Oh How He Loves Us. And until that moment, I don’t think I had ever truly thought about the fact that God actually loved me. And the fact that I had completely turned away from him for over a decade – how hurtful that must have been.

Obviously as a mama, I thought about how I would feel if my boys walked away from me, wouldn’t speak to me, said they didn’t need me, didn’t want me, didn’t miss me – for 12 or 13 years. It broke my heart, just the thought. And I did that, I did that to God. Who loves me more than I can even imagine loving anyone or anything.

It blows my mind. All of it. I’m a super logical person who needs to understand things to believe them, I’m a researcher, I like to know the details about things. So it’s been easy for me to just not totally believe for all these years. My thing was always, well, IF there’s a God….because who can really truly prove to me that there is?

But then, you feel it. For me, it’s hard. It’s super hard for me to feel that love, and I’m not sure why. But now that I’m a mama, I can understand it. I can feel it in that way, as a mother loves her child, God loves me. Really? Yes. Really.

Once you’ve felt it, I think you always have a longing for it. Once you’ve felt the true love of God, there’s always a yearning to get back to that place, to experience it again. And it’s hard. I’m hoping that’s something that will change as I continue down this path, that I don’t have to try so hard, to seek so hard, before feeling it deep within. Because I know it’s there, surrounding me all the time. It’s something in me that’s blocking it. And I’m working on identifying that and breaking that down.

Still, the times when I start to feel that familiar feeling – which if you’ve experienced it you know exactly what I’m talking about – seem to always be when I’m listening to music that is focused on God’s love for us. For me. Another song that seems to move me every time is Broken Vessels. I keep saying I feel blocked in some ways when it comes to going deeper in my relationship with God, and I think it’s because I’m not totally able to accept and feel that love for some reason. So that’s where my focus is. And what’s working for me is finding some quiet time (which is so hard to come by in this season of my life) and listening to the songs that sing of God’s love.

If you’re a believer, is feeling love from God a struggle for you? Or does it seem to just happen organically? If it is a struggle, how have you worked through it? I would love to hear about other people’s experiences if you’re willing to share!