12.16.2016

A Few of My Favorite Things: Mommy & Me Edition


Len is a cool young mom from NY. She's a stay at home mom and enjoys taking trips to different museums and parks with her one year old daughter Lena.

My first favorite item for Lena would be my Tula Ring Sling Carrier


There are so many wonderful features, but my favorite would be that it allows me to nurse on the go for those days where there is no stopping. I bring it with me when I know I'll be out all day, in case she wants to be out of the stroller.


Something we seem to use daily is the Mother Goose Club Youtube Channel


Sometimes I just need Lena to like chill for a second. I don't now if it's the funky costumes or the extremely happy tones of voice, but my girl can be entertained by all of their songs long enough for a boring car ride, or doctor office wait.


Another helpful item has been the Aveeno Eczema Therapy Cream



My daughter suffers from eczema and her doctor prescribed a cream which contained steroids, which is harmful for a babies body, and actually made her eczema flare up once I stopped applying it. I switched to the Aveeno Eczema Therapy Cream which has cleared up her eczema safely as well as effectively.


Last but not least is the Munchkin Sippy Cup




This is a newer discovery for us. It has a weighted straw so the child can drink sideways or even upside down without spilling! My cousin recommended it to us and we love it! It goes everywhere with us,

Now it's time for Mommy's favorites!

My first favorite for myself would be my camera


I love being able to capture life's beautiful moments.


Second would have to be yoga pants & bralettes!





It makes nursing and chasing my one year old much more convenient and comfortable!


Next is a trend that I'm loving


Choker necklaces make my effortless outfits look stylish and cool magically! So I can still be a trendy momma!


Last but not least is a household essential... drum roll please...



Coconut oil!! Like Frank's Red Hot Sauce, "I put that on everything!" No but seriously, from cooking, to hair masks, to teeth whitening, you name it! I live on this stuff!



I hope you enjoyed this interview with Len. You can follow her and her yummy daughter by clicking the links below! (:

Lenny: Instagram
Lena: Instagram
Lenny & Lena: Youtube





12.09.2016

A Few Of My Favorite Things: Mommy & Me Edition




It is the most wonderful time of the year! I am so in love with the holidays. Family, cookies, and singing, celebration, joy! Man I'm cheesing as I type these things. So here it is ladies! A few of my favorite things for Jaxen as well as myself. Let's get to it!

The first item on my list is this amazing chair by BabyMoov. 


Now my son thinks that he is grown, which is why this chair is perfect for him. Jaxen enjoys sitting at the table with us while we eat and this chair is so perfect for that. And lets be real, those moments where I need to get things done, he also enjoys lounging in this chair while he watches t.v. 

Second are these amazing bibs from H&M.

Jaxen is a drooly baby! He enjoys slobbering all over his toys, and sucking his fingers, which I am sure you guys know from my Instagram photos. (@josbeautifulencounters) These bibs are snug underneath that adorable fatty neck, so the drool doesn't get in between those rolls. They also dry easily, and come on, they are so stylish!

Next up is my amazing baby bag!


I can not even begin to tell you how many compliments I get on this bag. People often ask me if it's a diaper bag or a purse. The inside of the bag is super spacious. I can fit my Skip Hop changing pad which is stuffed with diapers, and wipes, a few change of clothes, and bibs, and still have room left. There is a smaller zipper which is where I stash my wallet, and any important papers that I may need for the day. On the sides there are two BIG slots that can fit at least 3 bottles each. And the front pockets have my little everyday necessities such as lotion, lip gloss, and emergency toys! Overall I would rate this diaper bag a 10+ and recommend it to every mom on the planet.

Last but not least is this Nuby rattle.


I honestly can not tell you where I would be without this toy. This is by far Jaxen's favorite toy and has been for a few months now. The ring  makes it super easy to wrap his chunky little fingers around it, and boy does that teething wave hit the spot! I have witnessed Jaxen chew on this for 25 minutes the most! That is enough time to get  a few things done! I'm sure every baby loves shaking a rattle. This will be on the list for every single child that  I have.

Now onto mommies faves!

First up is this heavenly perfume


Between sweating like a pig since I had Jax, and 2 minute showers, there is nothing like a heavenly spray of Flower Bomb to keep you smelling fresh. I love this scent because it isn't super strong. It's a soft hint of sweetness. There is something so amazing about that gentle reminder that I don't smell like the hot mess I feel like.

Second, gel manicures for all

Now when this item came out I was pretty skeptical. Before the baby I wen to get gel manicures every two weeks, and it actually worked. But could a product from target do the same thing? The answer is YES! It's so easy to do, and it dries quickly. Definitely a plus. 


Next up, my go to cardigan


Now I have this exact cardigan but just in beige. This is my go to, everyday cardigan. Not only is it super warm and cozy, but the size makes it so easy for breastfeeding. Whether I have a shirt that needs to be lifted up, or a tank top that needs to be pulled down, this cardigan covers it all. Jaxen hates blankets covering his face, but this cardigan just wraps him up like his favorite blanket. Not to mention I can dress this up or down. A pair  of jeans, and a tank become a super cool looking outfit with this cardigan,

Last, but not least, my go to kicks!


Anyone who knows me can probably guess whats going to be on my feet unless I'm dressed for church! I loveeee these sneakers. I actually leave them downstairs by the door, and I know I will just slip them on when it's time to go. First off, they slip on! I usually have Jax in one hand, and the diaper bag in the other hand, which leaves no room for me to be bending over attempting to put on shoes. They also go with everything despite the fact that there is green on the back. I have a closet full of sneakers but 9 times out of 10 these are my first choice.

Well ladies, that sums it up for me! I hope you guys enjoyed these items. Comment your favorite items below! Merry CHRISTmas (;






11.30.2016

Thankful Through The Strom: Minaa B.


Minaa B. is a NYC based wellness therapist and author of the book Rivers Are Coming. She is a mental health advocate and freelance writer for various publications and shares words of insight and encouragement on her Instagram account @minaa_b. 

Tell me about a time in your life where you felt as though you were going through the storm?
Earlier this year I found myself going through what felt like a tumultuous season. My depression began to flare up and I found myself struggling with issues related to my self-esteem, confidence and having an overall desire to get through life. Depression is something that I have battled with since I was 6 years old. As a young adult I had to go to therapy to learn how to manage my symptoms, and unlearn a lot of negative behaviors and thoughts, that were associated with it. So earlier this year when I found myself struggling again, it was something that was hard to deal with but rather than ignore my mental health I sought treatment and began to take medication for my condition.

At that point in your life was being thankful second nature?
At the time it wasn't easy. And that is because depression does a really good job at stealing your joy and reminding you of your hardships rather than your blessings. My head was in the clouds most of the time and it felt like there was no way out.

When did you find yourself finding hope through your circumstance?
I got right into action when I became aware that my depression was severe. As I mentioned before, I got on medication and I also created a treatment plan for myself that included self-care, community and honest reflection. Being on medication gave me the boost that I really needed and I was able to see my life from a different perspective and work on myself. I began to feel hopeful in knowing that I wasn't giving up on myself the way I normally would in my past. I found hope in my ability to push past the stigma that society has on mental health and antidepressants, and I did what was best for me and my health!

How did focusing on the good change your situation for you?
To be honest, I found so much good purely in my depression. That was the good for me. By being depressed I was reminded of how resilient I am. Humans have the power to bounce back from anything. And we don't know how capable we are unless we are willing to let life hit us with it's storms and find the courage to bounce back from it.

What are you most thankful for now?
I'm thankful for my struggles. Through this season I learned that my struggles don't define me; they equip me for the journey.

What advice would you give to others who are going through the storm?
Remember that humans are resilient. We are wired to face storms but we are also equipped to go through them. Don't let your mind plague you with stress and worry. Instead, fill it with joy, praise, and reminders that you are built to face any hurdle life throws at you.

With Love,
Minaa B.

11.19.2016

THANKFUL THROUGH THE STORM: JO CONTRERAS


Jo is a 20-something year old, from Queens, NY and is now residing in Florida. She dedicates her life to raising her baby boy Liam. Jo is an incredible Youtuber. Her videos give you insight to her amazing family, cool crafts, costume ideas, and much more. Jo has a love for God, and a genuine love for people.   

Tell me about a time in your life where you felt as though you were in a storm.

One point in my life when I felt I was in a storm began in December 2008. I was in a terrible car accident where I suffered from a broken spine, several fractures and lacerations to my face. If my spine would’ve broken an inch higher I would have become a quadriplegic. I was also informed that while in the ambulance my heart stopped beating and I had to be resuscitated. I had to learn how to walk, sit and do other daily things all over again.  Aside from the excruciating physical pain, mentally I was suffering as well. I had to hear from several plastic surgeons that from 1-10 my case was 100 and that they rather me see another surgeon. I became depressed and angry at God. I kept asking Him why would He save me when my heart flat lined, with my face like this with people constantly staring, little kids pointing and my body being in a tremendous amount of pain when He could have just let me die right there instead of keeping me like this. This specific storm lasted until 2011.


At that point in your life was being thankful second nature?

Honestly, being thankful through the storm didn't come easy to me. Through the grace of God, seeking Him, Him conditioning me that is what has changed my heart. Now at this point in my life I can say that is what I'm doing. Every morning I decide that no matter what anyone says, or whatever happens that today is the day the Lord has given me and I will rejoice and not take it for granted. Some days my back will give out and I will be in pain but then I look at the bigger blessing. I'm grateful that I can walk and take care of my son. When my son is throwing tantrums, and driving me crazy, I'm grateful for his life and that's he's healthy


When did you find yourself finding hope through your circumstance?

I began finding hope in my circumstance around 2010. Out of desperation I began crying out to God for hope and peace for my life. I also asked God to restore my face if possible. Slowly God started revealing Himself to me. I found a plastic surgeon who promised although it may take years and several surgeries that he wouldn't give up until I was satisfied with my face. I started relying on God and seeking Him more.


How did focusing on the good change your situation for you?

Focusing on the good helped me see the bigger picture and helped me enjoy life again and have hope for the future.


What are you most thankful for now?

Right now, I'm most thankful for the personal relationship I now have with the Lord, my son Liam and my husband Sabino.


What advice would you give to others who are going through the storm?

My advice to others going through storms right now would be to seek God wholeheartedly. First, tell God what's going on then ask Him for His peace. "I can't do this on my own, Holy Spirit help me." Then when you're not reading His word listen to worship music. Fill yourself and your home with His presence. Then thank God, praise Him through your circumstance, it's not easy but when you give God your burden He will give you His peace. Mathew 11:28 "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

I would like to thank Jo for sharing such a powerful story with us. You can follow her journey here:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lifewith_liam_/?hl=en
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3IhvAin8z2-dteCZBlsFBA

xx,
Jo

11.11.2016

Thankful Through The Storm: DaShawn Francis



DaShawn Francis was born and raised in the infamous Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of  Brooklyn, NY. After giving his life to Jesus in 2010, he felt that his life was meant for more than the ways he had previously been living. He quickly found a church in the Glendale, Queens neighborhood, in which he would spend the next 5 years learning and being trained in urban ministry by leaders and mentors. It was there that he found his passion for like: people. What started as an outstanding love for teaching and shaping young children grew into a passion to lead people of all ages. DaShawn's voice on social media platforms, as well as other avenues provides a boisterous and encouraging freshness that is uplifting and challenging. His words are often woven with Christian principles that even the layman can appreciate. Currently, he is actively pursuing a life of missionary work at the Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, TX. In  his free time, he enjoys talks with his many siblings, Torah observant research, and classic movies.


Tell me about a time in your life where you felt as though you were in a storm.

It'd be easier to tell you about a time when i WASN'T in a storm, haha. Man, these last few 18-24 months have been the toughest of my walk/life with Christ yet. I'm still in my storm. A lasting one. From lust, being disobedient, sleeping around in the church, being hurt by leadership in the church, finances amok anger, battling deep depression and suicidal thoughts, to struggling spiritually but trying to remain saint-like in a household where I'm the only believer and trying to maintain an example of Christ- I can say that this was a year that I finally broke down completely. I've dealt with each of these things individually, but never all at once. I shut down. I felt rejected by the church and thus rejected by Yahweh.



At what point in your life was being thankful second nature?


Oh, man! You'll laugh when you read this, but that hadn't happened until about a week and a half ago! I finally got to the place where I prayed, "Your will be done" and actually meant it. That awkward moment when you think you're at rock-bottom and then - BOOM! - sike, a trap door. That's what it was like. I had hit the lowest low, and then found myself finally finally finally meeting Yahweh. I felt Him saying, "Well it's about time!" All that to say, I became thankful when I became desperate.

At the best, most financially stable point in my life, had you asked me if I'd eat food out of the garbage, I would've looked at you like you were crazy. But back in 2013, when I was broke and starving and ACTUALLY eating out of the garbage, you couldn't tell me anything. My point being: when you're DESPERATE you don't care how you look; you don't care what you have to do to get what you need - you just do it. I got to the point where I was so desperate and degenerate that I finally cried out to Yahweh and said, "Okay, I'm here. I'm broken. What do I need from You and how do I get it???? I don't care what I have to do! I just want out of this hell." 


When did you find yourself  finding hope through your circumstance?

Hope. Man, that's a word I've found and lost the definition of countless times. My problem was that I had my hope in the wrong things. I'd say it was in Yahweh, but only because it was he right thing to say.

"My hope is in You...but I kinda still want this, Lord."

I laugh when I think of my old prayers. I found hope when I realized that Yahweh is really Elohim. Like, He's REALLY God. And He's not JUST God, but He's a Father. I had a warped reality and understanding of what a father was. I had to get in the Word and READ about what a father was, and learn that there are bad fathers and good fathers. He was the latter. It's a cool thing to read and sing, but when you get the revelation from the Holy Spirit that He's actually your Father - and a good one! - boy, does your hope soar! My problem was never ever ever an, "Is God real?" thing; it was a, "Man, is He really FOR me, though?" type of thing. Once I realized that He was, it changed things DRASTICALLY. 


How did focusing on the good change your situation for you?

Focusing on the good allowed me to show both myself and Yahweh that not only was I grateful, but that I trusted Him. Trusting Him allowed me to make room for more. I don't care how many times you pray a prayer, if you don't believe it, He doesn't believe it. The Word says, "..without faith it is impossible to please God"..so I went and got some! I decided that I would read about who He said He was and BELIEVE Him! As I focused on and became thankful for what He's done already, it helped me to think, "Well, He did that before; why would He listen and ignore me now?" It sounds so simple, but it took a while to manifest. 


What are you most thankful for now?

I am most thankful that Yahweh isn't like me. More than anything, He has shown me His patience. He showed me that He'd wait as long as I took (and that I should do the same for others). He showed me that no matter how many times my lack of trust and faith called Him a liar, He still loved me and knew I'd get it right. He showed me that no matter how often I'd lie, cheat, fornicate, or doubt, that He's unmoving and unchanging. He showed me that no matter how much I'd go back on my word, His Word was unfailing and unwavering. He's not who He is based on who I'm deciding I want to be today.


What advice would you give to others who are going through the storm? 

Hold. On.
Man, don't you lose that grip. I've gone MONTHS just barely holding on to the thinnest thread on His robe. It happens. You never know when it's going to end, but you know that He's real and that He has the answer. 

Get. In. The. Word.
Not a sermon, not a devotional, not a Christian book written by your favorite pastor, not a blog (no offense, Jo). His loving, breathing Word. Read about who He is, and see that He is good. If you don't believe, cool; that can be worked on. That's a different problem. But if you know that you know that you know Yahweh is real, it's simple: just remember who He is. When I was at my lowest, ready to jump off the ledge of a building, pleading for a sign and for Him to let up a little, I couldn't do it. I just knew for sure that He was real. I just did. And as hopeless and broken as I was, I just couldn't get the image of His face out of my mind. I knew He was real, so I knew that I couldn't end things on my terms. I even felt like a wuss because I'm like, "Dang, DaShawn, you can't even do suicide right??" But I knew the God I had experienced before, and I knew the God that I was constantly reading about. 

Journal!
In the Old Testament, our patriarchs would build altars out of stones so that they'd remember when and where they met with Yahweh whenever He did something miraculous. My modern-day equivalent to that is journaling. The enemy comes to ROB. He wants you to think that what you experienced before is a lie or not as big as your brain is remembering. He wants to rob you of your experience - and quickly too! But when you're in the next storm and you're looking back, reading your own words, no lie from Satan and no doubtful thought of your own can tell you that the God you serve didn't meet you. Journal it. Write down every word He says, every good thing He's done, and just know that He isn't a liar.

Embrace the storm.
Don't ask for it to end early or for you to get taken out abruptly. You'll be the same 'ol weak, struggling, masturbating, broken, lying, untrustworthy degenerate person you were before the storm. Know that He SEES and HEARS you, and that as a Father, He wants to intervene SO badly, but He can't because it'll cripple you. The answer, the freedom, the healing, the money, the breakthrough will come when it's supposed to. The purpose of the storm isn't to get out - it's to get something out of us.

I would like to thank DaShawn for being so honest, and vulnerable. It is not easy to be as transparent as he was in this interview. I pray that this post gives you hope, and encourages you to be thankful through the storm.

DaShawn can be reached via email at dsl.francis@gmail.com or on Social Media using the following handles:
Twitter: not_gregsbro
Facebook: DaShawn Francis
Instagram: yesimblacknoyoucanttouchmyhair

11.02.2016

Thankful Through the Storm

Photo by: F. Romero

But the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night, he came to them walking on the sea. -Matthew 14:24-25

Jesus spoke to them saying. "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid" - Matthew 14:27

I am sure that this months theme comes to no surprise to you as we celebrate one of my favorite holidays; Thanksgiving. I try to live my life being thankful for the many blessings surrounding me. Family, friends, life, health, strength, the list goes on and on.

But you see the thing is, it is extremely easy to be thankful in the good times. Of course while everything is going the way we would like for it to go, being cheerful is second nature.

But what happens when we face a storm?

This life that we all live can guarantee rainy days. Not one of us are exempt from experiencing pain, sadness, or stress. We all have a choice when it comes to how we handle these situations. Now I do not want this to be an "easier said than done" kind of post. Trust me, I have been through the storm several times in my life.

It is NOW that I am learning, and putting into practice how to not only be thankful, but to praise God through the storms that come, and will resurface in this life that I am living. I've found that when I focus on what I have to be grateful, and thankful for, the storm doesn't seem that cloudy after all. 

You know I like to keep it real with you guys, cause ya know "Real recognize real!" My husband and I went through a point in our marriage where we were not connecting emotionally. Because I am an emotional being this devastated me. I would spend hours of my day focusing on how far apart from each other we felt. I would replay conversations in my head over and over again. I was draining myself and making the whole situation worst.

And then I was reminded that there is always something to be grateful for. I began to thank God for the things that were going well in our relationship. The more I began to focus on the positive, the more I saw change. Although it was stormy, I forced myself to be thankful for what was good.

The opening quote is from one of my favorite bible stories. The disciples were on a high. They just witnessed Jesus do one of the most told miracles of the bible (three fish and five loafs of bread, five thousand people fed.) I'm sure they were on a natural high, loving life, but little did they know a storm would soon come.

The bible says that after the miracle was performed, the disciples all got in a boat to their next destination, when suddenly a storm hit. The boat was long away from the land, and was beaten by the waves. Man I know when I'm in the storm the waves can feel like they are literally smacking the crap out of me. You can only image how terrified the disciples were. 

But then the bible says "He came to them walking on the waves." The very thing that was beating them up, Jesus was walking on, like the boss that he is. He could've swam, or even floated, but I like to think that he walked on those waves to show them, and us that he was and always is in control of the very thing that they felt was bringing them down, and slapping them around. 

Through your storm you can find courage and strength in the fact that Jesus is in control. He is above your storm. Now if there was anytime for a praise break it would be now.

*Cue Music*

The disciples are human so of course they were like "Yo bro, a ghost is coming at us." (paraphrasing) And they were afraid. This shows that you can be walking with God on the regular like they were, and still in a moment of distraught, forget who he is and what he is capable of. It also shows that it is natural to know God, and still have a little fear... but then Jesus says;

"Take heart; it is I, do not be afraid."

Now Jesus could have said "Uh hello, ain't ya'll see me perform that miracle earlier? You still have the nerve to be afraid? Don't you know I'm good?" But instead he is so gentle. He is so comforting. 

Let's be thankful that in the mist of the storm, we know Jesus is controlling the waves, and he will never give us more than we can handle. Let's be thankful that he cares and is always waiting to say "Do not be afraid."

As I shared earlier, I too go through storms, and they can be extremely discouraging. But I firmly believe that finding something to be grateful for, even if it's the clothes on your back, can bring you joy in the mist of the waves.

Let's work together to make this not just a November thing, but an all year around thing. Find something to be grateful for, and even if you have to remind yourself of that one thing one thousand times a day, push yourself. A little thankfulness goes a long way!

xx,
Jo




10.31.2016

Miscarriage Awareness Month: Alyssa Brooks


As I write this I don't write this with ease but with difficulty. It is difficult because although the Lord has brought me a long way on my journey to healing there still exists the pain of loss. Yet, I continue to write because there is hope. I continue to write because I am not where I once was. And although sometimes I still experience pain I have hope because Jesus Christ is by my side every step of the way on my journey toward healing. And I continue to write because I know that God can use every experience both good and bad, both joyful and painful for someone else's healing. In fact, I believe that God has given my pain purpose. So I write for the one who has experienced loss whether it be due to miscarriage or giving birth to your still born baby. I write for you. In hopes and belief that God can use my story to encourage you and give you that bit of hope to keep going. To look forward to the future. Whatever it may hold. So with no further delay here is my story:

My name is Alyssa Brooks. I am currently 24 years old and my husband and I will celebrate 5 years married this January 7, 2017! Praise be to God. 

We got married in January of 2012 at the young ages of 20 and 22 years old. We were truly just kids but we knew that God has purposed us for one another. We knew that our desire to get married was God given and we knew that we loved each other unconditionally. And God opened door after door for us to get married so we stepped in despite the nay sayers and those that looked down on us because we were young. 

We both shared the same love for family and shared the same dream of getting married and having a family of our own. After all for us family is probably one of the greatest gifts that God can bestow upon us. But we did agree that we had time before we wanted to start having children. We wanted to dedicate the first few years of our marriage to just us. After all once you have children you can't go back. We also wanted to give ourselves some time to get more established. So when we found out that we were pregnant about 2 years into our marriage it was definitely a surprise. 

I remember the date! It was December 29, 2013. My period had been late and so my husband and I decided it was a good idea to just take a pregnancy test and make sure that I wasn't pregnant. We were not expecting anything to come of it because I had been late for my period before and nothing ever came of it. My cycle would change quite often. I remember going to take the test and going back to check after those long awaited 3 minutes. To our surprise and great joy the test was positive! My goodness we were so filled with joy! We weren't planning but man we couldn't help but to feel this excitement. I was so elated and overwhelmed with this immediate love for the being dwelling in my womb that as I showed my husband the test I began to cry and we just embraced one another in shock and joy. 

During my pregnancy things were not so easy going. Before I became pregnant I suffered heavily from insomnia, anxiety and depression. All three monsters continued to rear their heads into my spirit during my pregnancy. I was concerned that it would affect my baby but the doctor didn't raise much concern. Throughout my pregnancy my baby had a strong heart beat and there were no major complications. The only concern that was ever raised was that my baby seemed smaller than the time period of gestation. At that point they actually determined the baby to be younger in gestation and pushed my due date further back than the original estimate. Other than my own struggles mentally, emotional and spiritually with anxiety and depression there were no major physical issues or symptoms suggesting that anything was wrong with my baby. In fact, my baby was my source of hope and motivation to keep fighting against those feelings of depression that weighed heavy on me. My baby gave me a reason to be joyful and to keep pushing on. 

On April 11, 2014, about 18-19 weeks into, my husband and I went to the hospital for a special sonogram during which we were told we could find out the sex of the baby. Unfortunately, we found out that our baby didn't have a heartbeat instead. I can say this was the most devastating and painful moment of my life. I had never experienced loss. I've never had to deal with the loss of someone close to me or the grief that came with it. I didn't know what it was like to have my heart shattered in pieces and then have to figure out how to keep living. I was so unfamiliar with miscarriage. I was so confused. So overwhelmed. So distraught. So overcome by despair. I mean this was a Friday and I had just been in for a check up with my regular doctor that Monday in which my baby's heartbeat was fine. What happened? How did this happen? There were no signs. I didn't bleed or even have a cramp. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Was it my anxiety? Was it my stress from insomnia and depression? Endless questions and a complete sense of helplessness ran through my head.

My doctors explained to me that sometimes miscarriage occurs and they don't know why. They couldn't tell me why this happened. They told me that it wasn't my anxiety or depression. It was just simply inexplicable and very unfortunate turn of events that happens much more often than I realized. 

Goodness, if I thought I was depressed before I had another thing coming to me. After my miscarriage, I fell to the lowest, darkest, most hopeless place of my life. I was drowning in a sea of grief. I was trying to hold on to the Lord but I was so angry. I asked him why he did this to me. I asked him why did he let this happen. I was so frustrated, angry and confused. I had been praying and praying and praying for breakthrough from my battle with the anxiety and depression that was beating down on my spirit. Instead, I felt like he answered me with more pain and hopelessness. I was having a hard time finding joy as it was and now this? Why? I questioned God. How could you call yourself good? I wrote him many nasty letters. I was so torn because I knew I needed Him so desperately for He was my rock and my refuge yet I was so mad at him for allowing this tragedy to happen to me. Although I was angry I kept pressing in to talk to Him because I knew that as much as I wanted to harden myself to Him I knew if I did I would only make it worse. I would then truly be alone. Because he was and is my rock and refuge. Who else can I give my deepest pain to? Who else loved me like He did? Who else could heal me from this? 

Let me tell you, I am so grateful for my God! He truly is faithful. He is truly the lover and healer of my soul. I am so grateful for how patient He was with me even in my anger, how he loved me through my sorrow, how he kept me, how he has healed me. I know for a fact it was God because it is inexplicable. I have no idea how I made it through that dark storm except that God brought me through. He listened to every groan, every cry. He dealt with me blaming him and questioning him. He loved me through the pain. He brought people into my life like my Pastor Maria Durso to walk with me through the storm; to listen to my pain, give me guidance, to help me understand, to pray with me and to help me adjust my perspective. He gave me Pastor Becky Holmes who also experienced miscarriage to come along side me and encourage me and give me hope. He showed me so many people who I knew had been through what I had been through. He showed me that I wasn't alone and that He cared for me. I want to make it clear that it was not easy to overcome the depression, despair and hopelessness that I experienced but I didn't walk through it alone. Psalm 23:4 says “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Though during the time I didn't feel this way, in retrospect I realize that my Father was with me every step of the way. He held on to me when I felt I couldn't hold on anymore. If it were not for his love and faithfulness I would not be where I am today.

After the miscarriage, my heart was heavy with the desire to have a baby. I desired to become a mother and to experience the wonder of having a baby. However, I did not want to move forward with the endeavor unless it was the Lord's will and done in his timing. I also wanted to give myself time to heal not only physically but most importantly spiritually and emotionally. I knew that having another baby would not replace the baby I had lost and I did not want that to be my motivation in having another child. In addition, I debated as to whether I should go a k to finish school or pursue my retail career and just focus on getting established. After about 5 months and much time pondering over the decision my husband and I decided we wanted to try to have a baby. Although finances and school are very important priorities, I believe the right decision for my life was to pursue my heart's desire. I believe it was a God given desire and as I said before God used that decision to aid me along in the healing process by giving me hope. We started trying in September of 2014 and by October I discovered I was pregnant!  



On June 3, 2015 I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy! His name is Corey Anthony Brooks Junior, after my husband, but everyone calls him CJ. He is just about 17 months old now and he is so full of life and personality. He is handsome, funny, very intelligent and very feisty! He is the greatest gift that my husband and I could have ever been given. And He is definitely giving my husband and I a run for our money. But I absolutely love being his mommy! I love waking up to his beautiful face every single day. My heart is so completely filled with love for my son and my life would not be complete without him. He is the pride and joy of our lives and The Lord has used him to bring great joy and healing to our hearts! 

Can I tell you that I am in awe of God? I am taken aback by his love and awestruck that He desires to grant me the desire of my heart. Something I always struggled with was why God loved me. I could not understand it. I would look at myself and see mess up after mess up. I would see my disobedience and my failure. I would allow guilt and condemnation to over take my mind. I had the wrong perspective of who God was. I always thought He was angry at me and couldn't fathom why He would want to bless me. In fact, I always felt like needed to suffer or be miserable because there's no way God could want for me what I want for me. Yet God proved me wrong yet again(but that's a story for another time). He is the God of grace! He is the God of unconditional love. And he desires to prosper us and not to harm us as he promises in Jeremiah 29:11. He heard the desire of my heart loud and clear. He not only gave me the desire of my heart, he expedited it! In no way did I ever expect to become pregnant that quickly but with Jesus Christ nothing is impossible. Nothing is too difficult for Him. He is faithful to His promises. 

The Lord made me a promise when I was pregnant with my baby in heaven (as I call him or her since we did not get to find out the sex of the baby). He had used someone in our ministry to tell us that God said that he or she was going to be a mighty seed! When I had my miscarriage I was so confused by this. What did that mean? How could my baby be a mighty seed if he or she wasn't here to be planted? However, my vision of this promise was not God's vision. Sometimes his fulfillment of His promises don't look like how we imagine them. But the Lord kept his promise to me. My baby in heaven has truly been a mighty seed in the spirit. God has used my precious baby in heaven to be the seed of vision, hope and desire for a family that I didn't have before. My baby in heaven has been the seed that grew perseverance, strength and maturity in my spirit. My baby in heaven is the seed that grew and solidified God's will for my husband and I to have a baby. My baby in heaven is the seed that has grown the tree of purpose in me. I believe that God has given my life and my pain purpose because now He will be able to use me to speak into someone else's life who may be going through the same storm that He brought me out of. My baby in heaven is the seed that blossomed compassion and understanding for others' suffering that I did not have before. And each and every day that I am on this journey of healing God reveals to me how he has used my baby in heaven to be that mighty seed that  He called him or her to be in my life. There are days where I miss my baby so much and wish that I could hold him or her in my arms but I am glad to know that he or she has been such a blessing in my life. My baby in heaven holds a unique place in my heart and so he or she is always with me. And I know that one day I will see that baby boy or girl in heaven and I know for a fact that my baby is in heaven right now surrounded by the peace, joy and absolute love of the Father. What better place to be? 

Well my sisters and/or brothers we have finally made it to the end. If you're still reading I want to thank you for sticking with me through this long read. I pray that it blesses you, brings comfort, encouragement and or hope. In fact let's pray right now: 

Dear Heavenly Father,
This is for my sisters who are suffering and struggling in the aftermath of loss. This is for the one who is crying right now. This is for the one whose heart is broken. This is for the one that can't see any light on the midst of the darkness. This is for the one who can't see a way out of their pain. Father your Word says in Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Jesus I declare that over my sisters who need to hear that right now. I believe it for the ones who are struggling to believe it themselves. But Lord I pray that you would empower them to have even the faith of a mustard seed to believe and know that you are with them. Jesus right now I pray that you would flood them where they are at right now as they read this with your love. Wash over them like a wave of peace and comfort. Father your presence is like a shelter to us. So I pray you would fill them up with your presence so that you might cover me and hide them in your refuge in the midst of their storm. Jesus I pray for healing over their hearts and for hope to rise up. I pray against the voice of the enemy, the evil one who would want to fill them with hopelessness and lies that say that you don't care for them. Silence the lies that say that you can't make a way for their healing and for their heart's desire. Jesus have your way! Jesus I thank you in advance for the answered prayers. For the ways that you will heal your daughters. For the ways that you will show yourself faithful and good on their lives. I pray Lord for where my words lack would you make up in the moans and groans of the Holy Spirit. I speak life over your daughters even now Lord in Jesus' matchless name Amen! 



10.29.2016

These Are My Confessions


Being a mom has truly opened my eyes to the ugly that is dwelling in my heart. Everyday I strive to be an example to Jaxen of how to love, forgive, and live a life of kindness.

Being on this journey to better myself for the sake of him has really shown me some of my true colors. I mean for the most part I would say, and hope that others believe that I am a nice person, but there is always room for improvement no?

While reading Romans today, I was brought to a halt. You know how you read something that is trying to pierce your heart but you think "Who me? Haha, nah God I'm not like that!" Well I had one of those moments for sure.

Romans 2: 1-2 (MSG) 
Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isnt so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you've done. 

Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog. 

Now I am pretty sure that unless you have never judged anyone a day in your life, this scripture hit you like it hit me.

If I am completely honest, I can be super judgmental. Thoughts of what other people do with their children, their lives, the way they conduct themselves, all fall right under my judgement meter on a daily basis.

"Oh I would never do that!"
"You would never catch me wearing that."
"How can she speak to her children that way?"
"I would never, I would never, I would never!!"

Everyone makes mistakes. We all have struggles and sin differently. So who am I, who are we, to judge others. Who am I to place myself on a high horse and look down on others? The last time I checked my name was Jo, not God. 

The bible says that every single time that I allow myself to judge others situations and circumstances, I am condemning myself. How would life look for all of us if we thought of our judgmental ways as not just a thought, or a simple statement made to one another, but as condemning ourselves?

If I could just remind myself of this daily, I am almost positive I would see a change in the way I think about others. 

"It takes one to know one." 

That line made me chuckle. Who knew that a catch phrase that I threw around as a kid was actually biblical, and a line that carries a lot of weight. Being completely transparent, I am sure that there is a little bit of me in everyone who I am so quickly to judge. My fingers barely wanted to type that. 

It can be hard to take your eyes off of others flaws and actually examine your own heart and your own life.

But God isnt so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you've done. 

To some this may seem a little harsh, but when I read it, I instantly thought of grace. God's grace. You see it's just like a parent with their child. Because I love Jaxen so much, I am not going to allow him to do and act however he wants to. I am going to call him out and hold him accountable for his actions, because I want him to be the best that he can be, and I love the fact that God is the same way with us. 

I am learning every day to be a great wife, mom, follower of Christ, and although it is not easy, I am learning to look at the plank in my own eye before I so easily assess the plank in someone else's. 

I am completely guilty of being judgmental, but I am extremity grateful for this little reminder to get off of my horse and acknowledge that not only do I have junk, but the very junk that I am judging in others might very well be the same junk that is in me. 

Prayerfully this allowed you to open your eyes to the not so cute that lives inside of  you, and encouraged you to live a life of love. Let's try to take on this challenging task together, one day at a time.

xx,
Jo

10.20.2016

Put Some Respek On My Name


Disclaimer: My goal is to empower women. In no way, shape or form is this post dissing the working mom. 

I have heard a lot of things that make me cringe and roll my eyes since I've had Jaxen, but this statement is probably in the top three statements that makes me want to snap my finger & place the person speaking in my shoes. This statement has been made in a variation of ways, & I am sure that most stay at home moms have heard most of theses listed below...

"Oh you stay at home with the baby? How cute."
"Wow lucky you, you just sit home and play all day."
"Oh haha, I would do anything to have it as easy as you and stay home."

Let me just say that I am extremely grateful to be able to be a stay at home mom. I enjoy watching Jaxen do new things, and change right before my eyes. But come on please, please do not belittle my job.

For starters, everyday is a new experience. Just because Jaxen took a two hour nap, and I got to write a little and read today does not guarantee that tomorrow I will be able to do the same. As a matter of fact, sometimes Jaxen wants to do nothing but be in my arms all day.

What does that look like?

I put him down to eat, he screams. I put him down to do laundry, he screams. I try to take down chicken... I'm sure you get the point by now.

Being a stay at home mom is a 24/7 kind of job. Again I am not saying that moms who go to work and then come home and take care of their babies do anything less. What I am saying is stay at home moms are not home playing with their thumbs, overdosing on netflix, and sipping a glass of wine all day.

My son loves to be entertained. Which means I am constantly reading, singing, going on walks, talking, dancing, and performing my butt off.

In between that I am doing his laundry, our laundry, taking down food for dinner, paying bills, and making phone calls.

Being a stay at home mom is a fast paced lifestyle. Especially if you are trying to do anything like blog, sew, read a magazine, or anything for your benefit.

I remember when I first had Jaxen. My husband would come home from work and see me exhausted on the sofa. Some days the house would a complete wreck, and I could tell by the look on his face he was wondering "What the heck do you do all day? He's just a baby."

I knew that he would not understand unless I put him in my shoes! He ended up having two weeks off for vacation; except it didn't end up being the vacation he thought it was going to be.

Every two hours when Jaxen woke up to eat, I woke up my husband. Every time he cried, I allowed my husband to tend to him. If Jaxen wasn't crying because he was hungry, I allowed him to meet his needs and figure it out.

Well let me tell you, by the time the first week was up my husband was bragging to anyone who asked. The conversation went a little something like this.

Tom: "Hey bro, how is it with a newborn? How are you Jo?"
Marq: "Yo bro, my wife is super woman. I don't know how she does it. She really is a super mom bro."

Nothing made me happier than this. Although it bothers me that others think being a stay at home mom is a piece of cake, affirmation from my husband is really all I needed.

BUT

A lot of moms don't have that. Everyone around them is wondering what the heck they are doing at home. So for all of you moms out there busting your butts for your kids and household, if no one ever has, I salute you. I honor and thank you for being so selfless. You are a gem. In the words of my husband, you are SUPER WOMAN!

And ladies and gents, lets be kind to each other. Let's not be so quick to judge and make assumptions about people who may not have the same lifestyle as you. Stay at home moms do a lot more than you think.

So the next time you encounter a stay at home mom, please don't ask her what she does all day.
& if you ignore my advice
Please don't be offended by her response!

Being a mother, working or non working, is one of the most amazing opportunities on earth. Let's respect each other. & my stay at home mamas, don't be afraid to tell everyone to

Put some RESPEK on your name!

xx,
Jo


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