Women Encouraging Women, an I Love My Shepherd Mission Trip

We need each other.

It’s a fact. It’s a reality. God created us for this life together. We could try to go it alone, but we quickly find out it’s miserable, hard, and more than a little sad. We need encouragers, cheerleaders, listeners, insight givers, discerners, and people who love us, just for being us.

It’s time to put that belief into action in a way that I Love My Shepherd hasn’t done before.

It’s time to go.

There are women next door who need encouragement and there are women across the globe who need encouragement. I proposed lemonade parties for our neighbors. Now I’m proposing we take it wider.

I would like to invite each of you to join my friend Sue and me for the Women Encouraging Women Mission Trip to Haiti, January 18-25, 2018. We’re partnering with Ministry in Mission to join together to step outside our normal lives and learn from someone else’s.

The poverty in Haiti is world famous. Life in Haiti is far less privileged than ours and many women and families work hard just to survive day-to-day. Haiti is also so much more. Its people are heartfelt, creative, and beautiful. Opportunities like this help us to look outside of what we know and understand from our tiny corner of the earth and see through another precious child of God’s.

We are looking for women to come with us, to encourage women just like yourself, to spend time crafting with village women, to visit elderly women, and to do Bible study with local young women and mamas there.

The primary purpose of this trip is relationship, encouragement.

We won’t be getting anything done beyond that – the needed gift of encouragement – one woman to another.

The cost is $1600 for airfare, lodging, and food. You can find all kinds of details and contact information for questions in this handy PDF –
Women Encouraging Women 2018
I hope you’ll prayerfully consider joining us in the journey. Sometimes it’s not the right season or God’s answer is not right now. Sometimes His answer is- “Let’s do this.”
Let’s go be those hands and feet of the Gospel, in our neighborhoods and across the sea.

Ministry Moment: Loving those Newlyweds

Marriage is good and marriage is hard.

The more we say it out loud the more we edify the thing that is marriage, as well as those enjoying and slugging through it each day.

Marriage is GOOD.

Genesis 2:18 reminds us that God calls marriage good.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Something God calls good, let us not call blah or outdated, second rate or defective. If He says it’s good, it’s good. Even when it feels not so good.

What is good in marriage –

support

affection

two heads and two hearts for all of life’s problems

sexual expression

knowing and being known intimately

safety

Marriage is hard.

Marriage is imperfect.

Marriage involves two sinners, two wills, two personalities, two ways of processing, two of everything.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds us that two, however complicated, has its benefits:

Two are better than one…Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Two sinners, saved by grace, willing to let Him work in all that is hard, and let His light shine in the dark places, that’s marriage at its best, folks.

We need one another.

For some reason we have entered the last centuries with an ever more conscious idea that marriage is a private thing, that in order to keep intimacy, we need to keep our marriage triumphs to ourself, and our marriage troubles out of sight.

There are private things. There are things just for the two of you, but when God created the Body of Christ, He also may as well have sent us a giant flashing red light that said, “You need each other!”

God knows.

He knows we need others to build up our marriages, just as they build up our individual selves.

He knows we need safe and caring places and people to confide in, to get wisdom from, to turn us around, and to help us see our own sin in the matter.

He knows we need people who stand on the sidelines and pump us up for this wild marriage ride. People who will cheer us on as we get to mile five of the marriage marathon, and then will throw water in our face and yell at us to Never. Give. Up. at mile 23.

But all of this isn’t just common knowledge. Newlyweds need people in their lives to reach out and say it out loud –

Marriage is good. Marriage is hard.

They need people to open the conversation, and to keep it going, a safe space for advice and ideas, and someone to rip off that Band-aid of privacy even a little, so that encouragement can come in and heal.

Here are a few ideas for loving on and encouraging the newlyweds around you:

Be a marriage mentor, intentionally.

Mentors are a great idea, but we all tend to have a hard time finding them. Offer yourselves, not as an expert, but as a couple to walk alongside another couple. The difference between a mentor relationship from straight up friendship is that one person is more seasoned than the other and both parties are honest about that. Mentor relationships should involve a certain reciprocity, however. There is intentional love and intentional learning, in kindness and safety. Most people would love a mentor and have no idea who to ask. Offer yourself in humility and kindness, with genuine affection. Couples- seek mentors out. Just do it. Churches – consider creating a marriage mentor situation for couples who are newly married or in pre-marriage counseling.

Invite them to dinner

Take a newlywed couple out to eat or invite them into your home. Nothing creates good relationship like good food and good conversation. Love on them, literally. Shower them with a meal they probably can’t afford, show them what date night wow looks like, or feed them hearty food and hearty affection through your open door. Celebrate the good and the hard of marriage together.

Ask questions

What is marriage like for you?

What surprises you about marriage?

What differences do you see between yourself and your spouse? How are they helpful?

What is good about marriage for you?

What is hard about marriage for you?

Cook together or make freezer meals

Imagine if every newlywed couple in your church was invited by someone to make freezer meals – they leave with at least six meals, some good conversation, and a fuller heart. Or imagine that every newlywed couple from your church receives six meals with devotional cards attached and an encouragement to take it easy and just spend time together one night. This obviously could have nothing to do with “church” the organization. Find a newlywed in your life and love on them with some food prep.

 Give them a surprise gift card for date night

Teach them confession and forgiveness

Ask them what they need and remember what you needed

More on all of this in the podcast, on the I Love My Shepherd podcast, episode 7, Ministry Moment: Loving on our newlyweds, linked below, or found on iTunes and Stitcher.

Do you have an idea to share? Please do so in the comments of this blog post. We’d love to hear your wisdom and suggestions!

Now, go to it!  Loving on our newlyweds is a team effort.

Let’s rejoice in the good and hard of marriage together, every day.

Postpartum Anxiety – It’s real. I’m not crazy.

“This is it,” I thought, “I’m finally going crazy.”

I know the word crazy has a terrible connotation and can be quite disrespectful for those in the midst of a mental health struggle, but those are the honest words I said to myself, folding my laundry, in the quiet of my home, on a very normal Tuesday.

I had a gorgeous seven month old, a pretty decent routine. I felt like I was conquering momhood, finally sleeping, and able to give my husband some attention. I had friends, good friends, I could call for anything. We had recently moved, were both really still students, so impoverished, but happy.

So why, oh why, did I feel so overwhelmed by the simple task of folding a washcloth?

I had a problem and I knew it. I felt fine three-quarters of the time and then the rush of panic would come on, intense, out of nowhere. It never had anything to do with my beautiful baby, my marriage, or anything meaningful. It just was.

The anxiety and panic had its own realm, its own hold on my soul, and I felt like I would never escape it…it felt like an eternal vacuum, but in reality was really about two minutes, and then it would pass.

Every woman’s experience with postpartum anxiety is different, just like every person’s experience with any health issue is different. Just like diabetes and strokes have various symptoms and manifestations in our bodies, so it is with mental health. There is a list of symptoms – someone may experience three of them, or eight of them; they may be intense, or pretty vague; they may be there all the time, every day, or they may be more transient, and come and go.

Being a person interested in health and mental health, I read lots of articles and google searched everything I could, but I couldn’t find anything to match up with what I was experiencing. I found lots of questionnaires asking me if I was feeling blue or having trouble with motivation, but nothing that used words like

“anxious”

“foreboding”

“panic”

“on edge.”

However, on that day, folding laundry, I knew I needed help. I asked our family doctor at my baby’s next well visit…

“So is it normal to feel super anxious after having a baby?”

She looked up from checking my baby, and gently laughed, “Well, I think just about anything is ‘normal’ after having a baby! But let’s talk about what you’re experiencing.”

She sat down and asked me lots of questions, she shared a little of her own experiences with postpartum ups and downs, she told me about postpartum blues, postpartum depression, and a gamut of postpartum fireworks, from hormones, to body changes, to life transitions.

For the next half hour she sat with me and figured out some ways to try and relieve my symptoms and put our ideas in order of try now, try if it doesn’t work, and what to do in an emergency. We made a followup appointment for two weeks.

In that office, in a tiny town in Nebraska, my doctor gave me a gift:

I felt hopeful.

14 years later, we know a whole lot more about postpartum anxiety than we did then. It’s a thing. It has a name, and there are people working to have it recognized. When we shine light on a hard topic and give it a name and a realness, we help someone else to walk out of darkness, to feel less alone. We end misconceptions like “crazy,” so people can find truth and solutions instead.

My postpartum anxiety subsided slowly, with the help of three things:

Rest

I made a pact with my Dr. that I would do nothing or read a book for pleasure for one hour an afternoon, every afternoon. Sometimes I read a novel, sometimes I read the Bible. This was the first time in my life I ever sat down and read the Bible for reading sake, enjoying the words and soaking in the peace of it. It was a learned skill, cultivating rest, and I’m not sure I would have ever learned it without my doctor’s encouragement and help.

Support

She encouraged me to be more open about my struggle. She asked me to pick three people I could talk to about it that week, and who I could call on at any time if I needed help. As a new wife and mom, I was so afraid that I wasn’t doing life “right” that I was a closed book. I had no idea people were so important in this mom gig. Because of this struggle, and this wisdom, I have since learned that without people, everything is infinitely harder, less enjoyable, and life is laden with guilt and shame. People matter more than most anything – for my own good, as well as theirs.

Medication/Supplements

Doctors and other professionals are absolutely the best people to explain this. Let my encouragement be this: there is a time and a place for medications. There is no shame in utilizing medication as a part of treatment for any physical or mental health issue. It may take time and energy to find the right one, the right dose, and the right timing. My doctor prescribed me an as-needed medication and those as-needed moments came. I was grateful she had foresight to see past my flippant “I’ll be fine” to push a little harder, explaining and reassuring me with kindness and grace.

There is no crazy.

Life is hard.

Life is good.

Christ gives us the gift of one another, the wisdom of people He places in our lives, just for this purpose – to share His Hope in the struggle and His joy in the victory.

For more information on postpartum anxiety diagnosis and treatment, please see the following links, or ask your doctor or local mental health provider. I’d love to hear your story. Feel free to message me from the “About Me” page of this blog or share in the comments below:

Postpartum Support International

lots of resources for individuals and professionals also, symptoms, online support, and more

The Other Postpartum Problem: Anxiety

a really helpful, normalizing article from parents.com

2020 Mom Project

advocacy, awareness, and resources for maternal mental health