Why: Serve

I became a Christ follower 20+ years ago. It was the best decision of my life. That is not to say that I have not experienced hardships in my life. In fact, I would never describe life as easy. However, believing in something bigger than yourself – a higher power, the universe, etc – creates a belief that there has to be a purpose for everything. My belief in a “higher power” is in our Lord Savior Jesus Christ. There are many instances in my life where there is no explanation than a divine intervention – God’s timing.

I have shared a portion of my testimony in my post, He Never Fails. I would love for you to read that to see a small glimpse of how Jesus has changed my life. I have experienced so much of Christ’s love, mercy, and compassion from others that I wanted to give others’ the same experience of His divine intervention by helping them meet, know, and follow Jesus.

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:43-45

To serve

For those who are not familiar with the term “serve” as it pertains to a church environment, to serve is to volunteer your time in particular ministry at the church you regularly attend. The amount of time you usually serve can be as little as 45 minutes as a person who greets guests to facilitating a bible study group, every week. Requirements for volunteering your time is usually a background check and a heart to serve. The beauty of serving is that there are many ministries in the church that need volunteers from the nursery to making coffee to greeting guests to keeping the campus safe. Whatever your interests are there is a ministry that would love for you to step in and show Christ’s love through service.

Our family has been serving at our home church from the moment we started attending. We knew that getting plugged into a church was high on our priority list especially since we were moving to a new area where we only knew one family. Joining the service team has allowed us to make friends, serve our local community through service projects, and most importantly, grow our faith.

Community

I currently serve in multiple ministries as a personal choice. Each of these ministries have helped me deepen my faith in Christ as well as cultivate relationships with other Christ followers. It also fills that part of my soul that always felt as if it was never satisfied until I found Christ and began to share my testimony. As humans, we are innately drawn to seek community and a deeper understanding of the big picture. Both of these internal needs can be met a your local church.

I serve on the leadership team for Mother’s of Preschoolers (MOPS) ministry, as a small group co-leader for a monthly meeting for Moms for Mental Health, and as a coach to small group leaders in the tween ministry. I also serve in multiple other seasonal ministries such as a week long summer church program similar to Vacation Bible School and the women’s Christmas event. Each of these ministries are very close to my heart as they were different seasons of my life that I really leaned on the church for guidance as a mom with lots of little.

These ministries allow me to share how Christ’s love, compassion, and grace has shown up in my life and the life of my family with those who participate in each ministry. Every time I have participated in a small group, local outreach or church event, my heart swells with thankfulness because I had met an individual who had never been to church before or helped pray for a mom who is just overwhelmed by her current circumstances.

Just show up

Are you interested in serving at your local church but don’t know how? Well the easiest way to start is to ask someone who serves there already or contact the office and ask. Chances are they will share their testimony of how serving has impacted their live in an extraordinary way.

One of the biggest commitments that comes with serving is just showing up. While it is absolutely normal to not want to attend church on a regular basis especially to serve a bunch of people who don’t know you, know that your presence is deeply needed week in and week out. Your unique testimony could help someone you greet or even talk with. This simple interaction can change the trajectory of their life and all you did was show up and be yourself. So just show up and see how the Holy Spirit will move through you to bless someone else’s life.

Remember – it is ok to not be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!

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Doing it all

I have been asked how I manage to ‘do it all’ with of my all the current responsibilities – required and volunteered. In addition to managing a large family and their daily lives, I also volunteer in multiple ministries at church; work part time remotely for a software consulting company; run a blog utilizing multiple social media platforms; enrolled in a 6 month certification program; launching multiple project/business ventures at the beginning of the year; dating my husband; hangout with friends; and all the while making my self care a priority. 

WHAT!?! Yea when I list all the things I have my hands in, its overwhelming to see.

Do you have the same 24 hours in a day that I do? ABSOLUTELY.

Here’s the biggest secret – I DO NOT DO IT ALL. Over the past year, I have had to create an environment for myself to work towards a life I want to live. This new lifestyle isn’t perfect. I still need to tweak things but overall I feel like I am living more authentically now than ever. Yes, I am going to share how I’ve done that. It’s not complicated, expensive, or unattainable. It’s not even really an exact formula.

Here is how I’ve created “more time”:

  • I have voiced my aspirations, goals, and dreams to my family.
  • I have limited my time on screens for entertainment purposes.
  • I hold space for myself to rest.
  • I give myself grace when things don’t go my way.

I will expand on these bullet points in hopes it given you ideas of how to prioritize your time even more. Again, I am no expert on time management but I want you to know that there is time for you to do what you dream about. You are capable and equip with everything you need to create the life you desire. 

Be intentional

In order to “make time” for the goals I want to attain, I needed to be more intentional with my time. For me that means limiting my time on social media, watching tv, and falling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube. I realized once I decided that I wanted to start my blog that I needed to prioritize time for creating content, learning how to scale my blog and engagement. It hasn’t been easy. There have been many late nights as well as short spurts of time that I intentionally use to benefit all that I am attempting to accomplish in one given day. 

Fo example, as I edit this post, I am sitting on the floor in the Phoenix Convention Center while my oldest walks through the college fair asking all the questions she wants. I’m here as moral support even if she doesn’t need me to walk around with her. She has vocalized that she would like me here but would like to walk to fair alone. So I brought my laptop and charger with me to utlize my time while allowing her the time she needs. I brought a charger for my phone so the toddler can watch his favorite shows if he become extremely irritable – which is often – and snacks because everyone – except me – gets hangary. Yes, I know it sounds crazy but it works.

Cut myself some slack

Creating an intentional life takes time and a lot of work – physically, emotionally, and mentally. I am learning new concepts and beliefs. Which in turn means that I must let go of old concepts and belief systems that no longer benefit me. This is no easy feat. In fact its probably the hardest part of this journey. I must allow myself the time to let go of concepts, expectations, and beliefs I have about myself. These belief systems have been an integral part of how I have succeeded and failed in life. It takes time to change. I’ve accepted this transformation will probably take the rest of my life and that is OK. Moving forward is better than staying stagnant and unhappy. 

I have also allowed myself time to rest and reset. Yes that means naps and breaks from creating content, doing homework, and replying to emails for work. This is a marathon not a race! So I must be realistic with my mental and physical capabilities. If I am exhausted, I am not able to adequately write social media posts and blog post. I won’t have the energy to attend networking events and coaching sessions. Rest is essential. I have learned to listen to my body to take breaks and be ok with being still. 

Letting go of mom guilt

When I first pitched the idea of a blog to my immediate and extended family, I was nervous about their belief in my abilities and fear of judgement. Little did I know that my family was extremely supportive of anything and everything I aspired to do. I am very blessed in that sense because there are others who are not so lucky. Once I knew I had their support, I had to voice my concerns on what I needed to succeed. You see, my mom guilt is a very prevalent feeling I have at all times. I had to let go of that guilt and listen to the true statements my family was saying. 

“I believe in you.”

“Go for it.”

“I will support you.”

Once I believed in factual statements instead of mom guilt, I was able to move towards my goals. It hasn’t been easy letting go of the guilt. It’s a daily practice but I am getting better at it. One of my teens recently expressed that I exude more self confidence lately. I asked her to tell me what she sees and she says I seem more “sure of myself”. It was nice to hear – especially from a teenager, my teenager – that I am externalizing the confidence I have in myself. 

Moving forward with grace

As with any change, there will be uncomfortable transitional periods. I am constantly reminding myself that it’s ok for things not to be perfect and that there is no expectation but to try. The house will be ok even if it’s not as tidy as it usually is. Those important to me understand that my attention is occupied for only a period of time. Most importantly, I am capable of all I would like to accomplish. Extending grace to myself is not easy but I know it’s necessary in order to move forward with change.

I’d love to get your feedback on what I’ve shared. Comment below on what you are doing to live intentionally.

Its not just you – Mentally healthy mom

This post is part of a series on sharing individuals stories to help others realize, they are not alone. If you haven’t read the introduction to this series, please start here. This week’s post is from Criselle. When I read through her story, I cried because it resonated so deeply with me. If her story is familiar to your own, please know you can ask for help just like Criselle.

Tears were streaming down my face; I was sobbing and couldn’t control my breaths. “I can’t. None of it matters. We live and die, and that’s it. None of it matters, there’s no point.”“It’ll be okay Criselle, living life and being there for your boys is what matters.”

I was sitting in my car in a Target parking lot, 34.5 weeks pregnant with my second child, and I was in the midst of a mental breakdown, a severe panic attack, plagued with existential thoughts. My little sister, 24 at the time, on the other line, trying with all her might to help me get through the several months of anguish, anxiety and depression that I had been experiencing through a majority of my pregnancy. I had finally filled the prescription for Zoloft that my OBGYN had given me eight weeks prior. I told him two months ago I had been experiencing dark, suicidal thoughts. He explained that Mom comes first in pregnancy, and that the Zoloft could offer me the help I needed; then he also wrote down the number of a therapist I could call and set an appointment up with.

I took only one Zoloft while pregnant, while sitting in the car, crying to my sister, feeling all the pains of my diagnosed anxiety and depression. On top of that, the guilt I felt for possibly hindering the breathing development of my son; that’s a side effect of Zoloft while pregnant. I only took one because the next morning my water broke, most likely due to the panic attack. My son, Clayton, was born 27 hours after that. He was premature and weighed 4 pounds 11 ounces. And, of course, I blamed myself. 

Fast forward two months later, Clayton is still a tiny, little thing, but he’s gained about two pounds. I was finally feeling better mentally, two months worth of Zoloft and the endorphins of breastfeeding will do that to a person. 

I didn’t realize it then, but I HAD to take that medicine to not only help myself, but to help my unborn son, too. To help my four year old son. To help my husband. They were losing their mom and wife to a sickening hormonal imbalance, and I HAD to take medicine for all of us. Without it, I may not have made it past that day in the Target parking lot. 

Once out of the fog that is mental illness, I began to see how all the people around me were fighting in my corner with me. My sister, talking it out with me over the phone. My doctor, letting me know that I had to help myself and giving me resources to do so. My doula, who would check in on me during pregnancy and postpartum. My family, for understanding that I wasn’t able to fulfill my duties as a mom and helped me until I could. My friends and acquaintances, who after reading my post on social media regarding my mental health and early birth of my son, reached out to me with kind words and love. 

It’s been almost 2 years since that day in the Target parking lot. I have always known I would do anything for my children, but the most important thing I can do for them as a mother is to be mentally healthy.

Series: It’s not just you

One of the biggest reasons for creating this blog was to allow others to share their mental health journey, to show them and others’ that their struggles are more common than they assume. I put an email out to people I have spoken personally (at the beginning of the year) and asked them to submit their stories in discovering their diagnoses. After reviewing their submission, it became very apparent that mental illness is very prevalent in the Filipino community.

Suicide Prevention Month

September is suicide prevention month. I want to be 100% transparent and tell you that it will be a mentally hard month for me. I am preparing myself to feel all the feelings but also acknowledging those are past hurts that I must heal from.

Help is out there

If you or someone you know needs immediate help and is unsafe to leave the location, please reach out for help. Self harm is not the answer — ever. There are emergent resources available to you.

You can read about other ways you can seek help on my past blog series, Asking for help.

If you are wondering if you are suffering from mental illness, you can take any of the mental health screenings I posted in a previous post here.

My general self care tools

I’ve decided to be proactive find all my favorite ways to quiet all of the negative thoughts and actions. This has been my way of coping and managing my mind while living a full life. I have learned over time through trial and error, what feeds my soul and what drains me. After a few years of being more mindful, I have created a general self care routine that feeds my positive thoughts and propels me forward with hope. I am sharing my running list of tools and coping mechanisms in the hopes that it will jump start your own self care routine and find tools that work.

  • Exercising at least three times a week. 
    • my minimum amount of exercise is one mile on the treadmill or indoor walking path
  • Talking with people I trust with my feelings of sadness
  • Getting adequate rest
  • Limiting screen time
  • Reading or listening to self help books 
  • Talking to my therapist
  • Reassessing my antidepressant dosage
  • Listen to worship music
  • Spending time with my kids
  • Spending time with my husband 
  • Taking CBD or cannabis indica
    • CBD – Sublingual or as a vape pen
    • Cannabis indica – flower, vape pen, or oral consumption
  • Eastern medicine
    • Acupunture
    • Reiki
    • Ear seeds
    • Gut therapy
  • Guided meditation
  • Giving myself grace and limiting my movement through the day
  • Allowing myself to
    • Be sad, frustrated, overwhelmed, etc.
  • Not allowing myself to stay in a negative mental state for more than a day
  • Listening to past church sermons that resonated with me

Have you tried anything on my running list? I’d love to hear what works for you!

Support each other, heal our community

Could you please join me for the month of September by supporting those around you who need support AND asking for help if you are struggling? I believe reaching out, while extremely uncomfortable and difficult, is the only way we will be able to help those around us as well as ourselves. While the work to heal past hurts, hang ups, and habits is no easy feat, it will heal you and those around you.

Heal the world – Michael Jackson

Moms supporting moms

Come back next week as I share a story of one of my favorite bloggers and a person I am honored to call my friend, The Barefoot Preacher. Jennifer has dealt with chronic illness, melanoma, and parenting (and homeschooling) a child with special needs. Her journey while extremely difficult, shows how sharing your story helps heal those around you.

Remember – It’s ok to not be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!

Why MOPS is important to me

It has taken me over 11 years to realize how important it is to have a mom tribe. Absolutely pathetic, right? You see, I gave birth to my first child at the ripe age of 21. So while I was breastfeeding and changing diapers, my friends were partying and living their best lives. Do I regret having my kids at a young age? Absolutely not. Do I wish I had established a mom tribe early? Absolutely and believe me, I tried.

Early on in my motherhood journey, I tried multiple times to join mom group after mom group. I learned fairly quickly that I received more side eyes than invitations for play dates. I mean, guys, I look young for my age. So I would try again and the mom cliche wasn’t very welcoming. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends but most of them were single and kid free. I was just in a stage that they weren’t in yet.

Long distant friendships

I had a handful of friends who had kids but we were not local to each other. Life changes and busy schedules caused us to not talk on a regular basis. So our conversations would be few and far between. When we do have time to talk, it’s always interrupted by a kid who needs a snack. Why do they do that? Do these kiddos know the exact moment to be so needy?

When my oldest was at the tail end of middle school, I began a friendship with a couple moms at our elementary school. We soon hit it off and now we are a close as ever. There were many days were we would end up hanging out all day and plan to do the same the next day. It was glorious! Fast forward to 2016 and we decided to relocate, my two mom friends were crushed. I was crushed. It took so long to cultivate these relationships and now we will also have a long distance friendship.

Live a full life

The last therapy appointment before we moved out of California, my therapist was very blunt with me. She basically told me that I had to be open to changing how I interact with the world. I needed to live a full life and show my kids how to live a full life. She told me that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and find people to do life with in Arizona. Furthermore, she said if I didn’t, my depression would get much worse. So I mentally prepared myself to be more extroverted, start conversations, and find my tribe. 

Once we settled into our new home, I began to look for a community that I could join. The church we started to attend had a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, so I decided to register. The group was full and I was waitlisted. I felt rejected. I know what you’re thinking – It’s not your fault that its full. Friends, I know that now but at the time I was longing for interactions outside of my house and my depression was rising by the day.

Anxiety is a liar

When a seat was finally available, it was midway through the Fall Semester. I was so nervous to walk into that meeting because I knew everyone was already established and comfortable with each other. Here I am again, the newbie. My table leader texted me the night before our meeting to welcome me to her table. She was also very welcoming when I sat down. Midway through the meeting,  my anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt excluded as everyone at my table began to talk about the play date from the week prior. I remember leaving the meeting in tears, called my husband and he reassured me that it would get better.

My half Fall semester and full Spring semester was rough on me mentally. I was always late the playdates and meetings because my anxiety was clogging up my mind. Those negative thoughts of worthlessness and pity were so loud. 

“Why would they be friends with you. You won’t make friends here. You should just leave.” 

Find your mom tribe 

Friends, I did not leave MOPS. I came back the following Fall and Spring semester with a determination to be stronger than my feelings of inadequacy. I got dressed, put makeup on, and forced myself to go even if my negative self talk was telling me not to. It was the best decision of my motherhood journey. 

Through the last two years, I have learned time and time again that while my negative self talk is strong, I am stronger than my thoughts. MOPS has taught me to believe in myself and my abilities. Each meeting brought me out of my hardened shell of protection. I am happy to report that I have a tribe of women behind me that I am very vulnerable with and they love me through it. I have shared so many intimate details about my life with my tablemates and you know what, they support me, hug me tight, and give me words of encouragement – every, single time.

This year I am on the leadership team as a Discussion Group Leader (DGL) and I am on a mission to pour not only into the women at my table but the entire MOPS group. Motherhood is hard. Marriage is hard. It is so much easier going through life with a bunch of women who will rally around you at the drop of a hat. While I have no idea how Christ is going to do that through me, I am ready and willing to do His good works.

Do it anyways

I will be the first to tell you to join MOPS because it has transformed how I view mom groups. It takes a special group of ladies to do that. I had given up and now I am a true believer. Having people know the authentic you is so freeing. I can’t stress that enough. What are you waiting for? Sign up for Fall semester now! 

If going into a new environment makes you sweaty and your heart race a million miles a minute, do it anyways. As a semi new transplant to the Valley, I can tell you I do more things that scare me than makes me comfortable. When you live in a new area, you have to accept that you will do a lot of new things. So I do everything with sweaty palms and a rapidly beating heart. This has taught me time and time again that I am stronger than my anxiety. Proving my anxiety wrong is a huge victory in the smallest of change.

You can do hard things

The reason I am able to create this blog is because of all of the times I challenged my anxiety. While failure is a constant fear, I know that trying and learning is more important. So thank you MOPS for teaching me what it means to live authentically. I am so happy God placed each and every woman in my life whether for a quick chat or extremely long text threads. I so appreciate all that my MOPS chapter has done to create such a welcoming environment. I wouldn’t be the Arizonian I am today without this group.

I hope this encourages you to join a moms group or seek healthy Christlike friendships with women in your area. You won’t regret it! Most MOPS Fall semesters are starting right now. If you haven’t already, find your tribe and love on them hard. It’ll be the best decision you will ever make.

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