Category Archives: Joy

Free to be free…

2016_FebFreedom

Freedom is defined as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

Voluntary.
Without restraint.
Without cost.
To set at liberty.
(NIV Life Application Study Bible)

One year ago today, I was seeking freedom. Desperate to escape from a lifetime of hurts, I attempted to take my own life. If you haven’t read my story about that February day, please take the time to read it here and then come back.

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s talk about freedom.

Last year, I thought ending my life would bring me the freedom I desired. The depression I have suffered my whole life, the nightmares that still plague my sleep, the memories and flashbacks of pain and abuse, would all be gone. I had no doubt that God would understand and welcome me home. I would finally be free.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

When my plans failed, I faced a cruel reality that any freedom I had would soon be gone as well. I ended up spending three days in a mental hospital, for my own safety of course. Having never been in an actual prison, I can only imagine I had less freedoms than those behind bars. Everything, and I mean everything, was taken away from me. Physically, I had nothing. I also had no rights. All of the freedoms we enjoy daily, were stripped away. I had to ask permission to do anything and even those things were very limited.

I had to ask to use the restroom or take a shower.
I had to wait for someone to unlock the restroom door.
I had to ask for a pen and paper.
I was given the guts of a pen.
I had to ask to make a phone call.

I had to eat when they said eat.
I had to eat even if I didn’t want to.
I had to sleep when they said sleep, even if I couldn’t sleep.

There was no internet (no quick answers on Google, no Facebook, no emails…okay, maybe there was freedom with that, LOL!), no freedom to watch whatever I wanted on the one small television in the group room, no freedom to listen to the radio or any music, no freedom to call whomever I wanted, whenever I wanted, no freedom to wear what clothes I wanted, no freedom to read what I wanted, no freedom to view outside of those walls. It would be days before I would see the sun again.

Freedom as I knew it was no longer. Freedom as I had desired did not come. But that night, February 21st, 2015, I found a new kind of freedom…freedom like nothing I’d ever imagined.

Through the most difficult night of my life, I felt more alone than ever, and yet, I was never alone. I have never felt a greater embrace of comfort and peace than I felt that night. It was like God himself was sitting there next to me with His arms wrapped gently around me as I poured my heart out to Him. I cried for hours that night. I thought of my family at home. I thought of what mattered to me – God, my church family, my husband and children, writing, and teaching. It became undeniably clear that night, those were the things I needed to focus on. Those were the things that could bring life back into my empty heart.

As I sat there in that little room of four walls and a cot, I held tight to the words God had placed in my heart just days before…

“I will not die but live, and proclaim what the Lord has done.” Psalm 118:17

And the words from the song “Shoulders” by For King and Country played over and over in my mind…

“…My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders…”

God had planted those words in my heart and mind in the weeks leading up to my suicide attempt. I feel sure it was His was of preparing me for that night. That verse and those lyrics were exactly what I needed. When nothing else mattered, when everything else was gone, taken away. When freedom no longer made sense, He provided everything I needed.

This past year has been nothing less than amazing. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some incredibly difficult times and I imagine there always will be.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The difference since that night is assurance. I have no doubt God met me there. I have no doubt God is with me. I have no fear of anything this world can throw my way because I know that no matter how dark my world gets, no matter what is taken from me, no matter what is done to me, God will carry me through. All I have to do is let Him.

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6

That night, God set me free. I have been His for as long as I can remember but there have been times, I have ran from Him, feeling so broken and so unworthy. The truth is, I am worthy because I am His.

The freedom I found was…
The freedom to trust Him and others.

The freedom to let go of myself and let God lead the way.
The freedom to believe in tomorrow.
The freedom to let my heart heal.
The freedom to understand and accept God’s grace.
The freedom to allow others to love me.
The freedom to move forward, unashamed.
The freedom to see the beauty in the broken.
The freedom to rejoice in my sufferings.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Romans 5:1-5

You see, I do rejoice. I would not trade the choice I made for anything. That choice led me straight into a prison, more trapped than I’d ever felt and yet that choice led me to a freedom greater than anything I could have ever imagined.

“You have freed me from my chains.” Psalm 116:16b

For months, I thought out, planned, and prepared to say goodbye. For months, I waited patiently for the right time. The truth is, there was never a right time for my plan, but what played out was His perfect plan. Through my own chaos and darkness, He met me. He held me. He comforted me. He poured His grace over me. He accepted me. He loved me.

I admit, before that night, I still doubted and wondered if He could truly love me. That night, He freed me from those doubts. He left me with full assurance that I am His and nothing can ever take that away.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Life isn’t magically okay.

I am still just an imperfect girl living in a broken world. I still suffer with depression. I still have moments where those thoughts of suicide creep into my mind. I still have days when I don’t want to get out of bed. I still worry that I am too much trouble for those who love me. I still feel so very inadequate to be a child of God and to be loved by Him. And that’s okay…because through it all, He constantly reminds me that He’s not going to abandon me. He’s teaching me His truth. He’s shown me that He will prepare me, that He will make a way, that He is using me because He chooses me. I think I’m good with that! (…more like very grateful and honored that He’d choose a mess like me!)

Truth is…He gave me the best gift that night. He gave me the freedom to believe I am His. I am His imperfect princess…perfectly imperfect.

Don’t be sad for me.
Don’t pray away my depression or those thoughts.

Rejoice with me in the freedom I have been given. Those things that hurt and sting…they keep me close to Him. If we didn’t face trials, hurt, pain, sorrows, grief, loss, and more, we wouldn’t need Him. I want to need Him with every breath I take and if that means walking through a fire the rest of my life, then so be it. I’ll walk through the fire, just to be with Him.

People said I should have at least gotten sick when I attempted to take my own life. I didn’t. Not dizzy, not nauseous, not confused, not sick…nothing. NOTHING. What I got…was FREEDOM! To God be the Glory!

Above, I shared Psalm 118:17. I will proclaim what He has done! He has set me free!

I pray you don’t have to meet Him in the darkest, lowest, most desperate place…but even if that’s where He meets you, rejoice that you are His!

You are worthy.
You are loved.
You are enough.
You are His.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Choose life.
Choose joy.
Choose freedom.
It is well…with my soul.

“It Is Well With My Soul” – Matt Redman

Our scars are a sign of grace in our lives,
And Father how you brought us through
When deep were the wounds and dark was the
Night the promise of Your love You proved.
Now every battle still to come let this be our song.

It is well, (it is well)
with my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul…”

 

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Word of the Year…

2016_Faith

Word of the year…

Perhaps the word of the year has become the new hype instead of resolutions we often fail at. I hear a lot of people these days choosing a word and focusing on that word throughout the year. Focus and Intentional seem to be what I’ve heard the most lately.

I’d never really chosen a word of the year…until last year. Even then, I didn’t choose the word; it chose me.

Hope.

I’m a part of a beautiful group of ladies along with a dear friend, Suzie Eller. In this group, we were asked to share a word. Honestly, at the time I didn’t even put much thought to it. I just knew the word I was supposed to use was hope. I shared a little story about what hope meant to me at the time and this picture…

2015_April (3)

I wouldn’t know at that point just how much the word hope would come to mean. By February of last year, I had lost all hope…Not hope in a God that loved me or would save me, but in a life on this earth filled with peace. I was ready to be with God. I had been for a while. On the night of February 20th, after an evening of laughs with our closest friends, I attempted to take my own life (check posts from February and March 2015 to go back and read about that time). When my attempt failed, admittedly, I was quite disappointed.

Rather than losing hope, I was suddenly forced to find hope. I was still here. I was alive. I didn’t really feel alive, but by definition, I was alive. That wasn’t a part of my plan but that’s where I was.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

I had to find something to help me get through each day. This required effort. It hasn’t been easy by any means.

Hope.

It began with just having enough hope to open my eyes in the morning, eventually leading to hoping I could wake up and get out of bed. Slowly other things came…

Hoping I could look at my kids again.
Hoping I could put together a rational thought.
Hoping I could make it through an hour without wanting to die.
Hoping I could make it through a day, a week.

Little by little over the next year, those thoughts of hope have grown. I won’t say my thoughts have completely changed from the plan to end my life. I still struggle to find hope and peace with life here on this earth but I think one thing I learned was I was searching for something that can’t be found.

I will never be the person I was before that night. It didn’t change my thoughts but it did change me.

It’s strange how the darkest, scariest, loneliest, and most painful place can somehow become the greatest. My memories from that time are some of the worst and best of my life. I was searching for peace that can only come through knowing to Whom and where I belong. I now know the answer to both of those. Knowing that is peace.

Peace.

I still struggle to find hope and peace with life here on this earth but I think one thing I learned was I was searching for something that can’t be found.  While in this life, I won’t find peace from suffering, I have found the peace I was meant to find. This journey has not been without reward.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

With that said, peace was added to my word list. By the end of 2015, one more word had been added.

Joy.

Through the darkness of my depression and somehow stumbling back into His light, I learned what true joy is.

True joy.

It’s not happiness.

Happiness is eating a Big Mac without worrying that it will add pounds or a stomach ache.
Happiness is pouring water over your head on a hot summer day.
Happiness is having a few hours to myself when the kids are in school.

Happiness is based on circumstances and things.

Joy goes much deeper into the core of who we are. You have to search for it (again requiring an active part from us) and when you find it, there’s no denying it. You know you’ve found it. Joy is possible in both the best of circumstances and the worst.

As odd as it may sound, I found joy through my suicide attempt and because I have joy, true joy, I can share the good and the bad with you. I learned so much in the past year and in a lifetime of hurt and pain and honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it has taught me what hope means, how to have joy through anything life throws at me, and that peace is attainable when you search for the right kind.

So, that sums up last year. Hope, peace, and joy will always have a special place in my heart. I will embrace them and the joy I found through the lowest point of my life. And, I look forward to learning new things about them in the days, months, and years to come.

I can’t wait to see what words 2016 brings. For now, I already have two words.

Faith.

Faith is the word that I’ve chosen, but really, like hope, I think it actually chose me. I plan to focus a lot of faith, growing in faith, trusting the faithfulness of God and those He has placed by my side, and sharing the gift of faith. I’m sure there will be many posts on faith. Along with faith, is grace, extending grace because we all need it. Many stood by me last year in my darkest moment and showed me how to truly love someone. Part of that love was by extending grace. I want to offer the same to others.

Right now…

My faith is stronger than ever before.
My faith is in Him.

Lessons learned last year…

Find hope.
When all hope seems lost, His love still remains.
Joy is possible…in all circumstances.
Peace is found in knowing to Whom and where you belong.

And…

“Faith isn’t faith until Jesus is all you are holding on to!”

I don’t know where I heard the above quote but it has stuck with me. On the night of February 20th, 2015, nothing else mattered. Not my husband. Not my children. Not my friends. Nothing. I simply wanted to go and be with God. And that next night, as I sat alone in my bare, cold hospital room, striped of everything shy of the air in my lungs, He was all I needed and He was there.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Have you considered choosing a word for 2016? If you have, what’s your word? I’d love to hear from you all on your thoughts and stories!

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Love is Patient…

For the next few days, I’m going to pick apart 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 that I posted a couple days ago.

1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

The definition of patient includes bearing trials calmly or without complaining, not acting in haste, remaining steadfast even in opposition, difficulty or adversity and being able or willing to bear.  Kind is a sympathetic or helpful nature. 

I complain numerous times throughout the day.  Sometimes it’s over big things that have great impacts on my emotions and sometimes it’s over petty, silly stuff. 

But God says, love is patient.  Love is not complaining when things don’t go my way.  Love is finding joy in things in spite of my own desires.  Love is looking for the bright spot in a gloomy day.  

When I read love it patient, I think of young couples who have made the choice to wait until marriage for sex.  I can’t imagine being more patient than to set aside all emotions, to fight those demons daily and yet do it with such joy and love in your heart, so much respect for God, and themselves that they choose to save the most intimate part of themselves.  It takes patience and that patience is most certainly a deep love.

God says love is kind.  Love is not devaluing or criticizing.  It’s understanding and compassion.  It’s listening even when I don’t really want to.  It’s taking time to be there, to help, to reach out, to put others first, to speak softly with encouraging words.

Kindness makes me think of how I speak to my own children.  Do I always speak to them in a comforting voice or do I sometimes sound scary?  Do I carefully choose my words or do I sometimes shout words in anger without taking time to think about what they will hear?  Do I seem kind to them?  Often times, they would most likely answer, “no!”  

That’s exactly why God gives us these verses.  He knows we will struggle with these things and many others.  He knows we will fail.  He knows we are imperfect.  And yet he accepts us and wants us to seek Him for understanding, to go to Him in prayer.  We can change our ways and our hearts and He is exactly the one who can help!

Check back tomorrow for more on 1 Corinthians 13:4!


© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

Time well spent…

A perfect day? 

Is that possible?

What would yours look like?

Today, after dropping off the two boys at school, it was Mommy & Livi time.  Often, we’re both running around the house or the streets of Nowhereville joining the madness of being too busy.

Today, was different.

The princess and I curled on up the sofa together and started out our morning watching some dramas on Lifetime.  When the subjects got a little too deep, I asked Livi if she’d like to watch Disney’s Brave.  She quickly responded with a big shout, “YES!”, jumped off the sofa and within seconds, had Brave in the DVD player. (If you haven’t had the chance to see it, watch it!  It’s worth it!)

We snuggled back in close on the sofa and for the next 93 minutes, we shared giggles, grins, snuggles and tears.  It was heaven on earth.

The day outside was beautiful too.  Temperatures were in the 60’s, much different from last weeks ice, rain and freezing temperatures.  We headed out to pick up the boys and then back home.  All three kiddos road their bikes, jumped on the trampoline and enjoyed the outdoors.  Following that was a quick trip out to sign up soccer boy for the spring season, Happy Meals at McD’s and last but not least, a drop by visit to Daddy at the fire department to say goodnight.

Back home, showers, jammies and off to bed they went.

The day was pure bliss.

No drama.  Not even Mama drama.
No meltdowns.  (Well, except the little one when Livi didn’t finish supper so she has to wait until tomorrow to get her Hello Kitty toy.  Sorry sweets!)
No arguing.
No whining.
No gloomy skies.

It was a day filled with reminders.

Constant reminders that I am…

Blessed.
Loved.
Happy.
Amazed.
Proud.
Thankful.
Joyful.

Through the eyes of these little people, I saw all the many blessings in my life.  For too long, I believed none of this was possible.  Sometimes I felt unworthy.  Other times, I felt too weak.

Today, God used these little loves to reassure me just how great His love is for me.

I am blessed.

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

31 Days | Day 17 – Late Night

So, boy number two, aka Caleb, had a sleepover at a friends house last weekend.  When he came home, he was telling me all about his night, sleeping on the sofa, staying up late, etc.

“We stayed up until, like, 10:40!”

(“like” included because of course it wouldn’t be cool to say that sentence without it in there!)

As the parent who’s up that late every night, it’s easy to minimize his excitement but as the eight year old boy, who’s bedtime is 8:30p every night, it was a huge deal to him.

This conversation was  a reminder to me to get out of my adult mind sometimes and into their child minds.  When we lose all the ability to get on their level, we lose out on their joy.  He was excited, proud and happy and in my adult mind, it seemed so silly but to get on his level, I could feel the excitement and remember the magic of being young again!

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

The Name Game!

So with the new look all finished, it’s time to lose the .blogspot.com name.
Can you help a girl out?
I need something fun, fresh and full of glory for the new .com name.  I’ve tried a bazillion things like:
morningglory.com
jenarmstrong.com
jarmstrong.com
jennyarmstrong.com
psalm143.com
etc.  and yes, those are all taken :(  Needless to say, there must be a lot of cool Jen/Jenny Armstrong’s in the world cause there’s sure a lot of domains taken w/ the name.  I ran into that issue years ago when I started my photography website which is why is has the long, boring, confusing domain of www.jenarmstrongdesigns.com.
Nice, huh?
So, this is where I need your help.  I need some suggestions.  I really do like the name Morning Glory but I’m not opposed to changing the blog name to suit a domain name.  It’s still new enough that it will fly just fine.
I’m fine w/ using a Bible verse as well but I prefer it to be something that has to do with glory, joy, prayer, prayer in the morning, etc.  You get the idea, right?
Do you have any wonderful suggestions for me?  If I pick your name, there just might be some kind of goodie involved!

Some of my own thoughts are…

www.theimperfectprincess.com
(right now, this is the one that stands out most to me but is it too long?  I like something along these lines best – something fun or a little catchy!  For me the thought on this is He is King and I am His princess.  I am not and never will be perfect, thus the imperfect part.  Is this too out there or once people get the drift of my blog, the name will make sense?  Thoughts?)

Something with mom in it would be okay – psalmmom.com or morningglorymom.com.  Better suggestions there are much encouraged, welcomed and appreciated ;)

morningpsalm.com
(this is along the lines of morning glory but I wouldn’t want the assumption that it is a daily devotional of psalms and that’s kind of the feel I get from the name. How about you?)

www.jenarmstrong.org
(though with so many awesome jen’s out there would this be overkill & confusing?)

psalm143-8.com
(I like this okay but would the hyphen be too awkward? Not girlie enough?)

Oh boy!  I feel like I’m naming a child – well, this will be my baby for years to come ;)  It would be much easier if I were using my maiden name which is hard to spell and pronounce, HA!

Please help a girl out!
Yours truly, 

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com