Y’all, I don’t think it’s a secret that I’ve been through it this year. In fact, I’ve actually been through it over the past year and a half. And while sometimes things look very sunny and all too perfect from the lens of social media, real life can be far far from it. So today, I just wanted to get real with y’all. I’ve shared little bits of my faith before, but I’ve been feeling this nudge to say more and share more. And today I’m doing just that. I’m sharing a bit of my faith journey because I’ll be honest: I always wonder about people’s stories. (They’re rarely, if ever perfect! And for imperfect people like me, that is encouraging!) And I’m also giving you my top 5 must-read devotionals that have helped me along the way!
I’ve always considered myself a Christian. Heck, I went to a Catholic elementary school for several years before we moved to Virginia. But somewhere along the way I feel like I lost that identity. At some point I decided that I wasn’t good enough or perfect enough to be “a true Christian.” I mean, yes I believed that Christ was my savior and that he died for my sins. But when I went to church I felt like I never measured up. Can anyone relate?
We would go to church and I would sing and make pleasant talk and smile. And the whole time I felt like a big fat phony. I didn’t really get the whole relationship-with-God aspect. That sounded foreign to me. Sometimes I would pray, and I even attempted to start daily quiet time to read my Bible a few times, but it all just fell flat. I felt like I was missing something that everyone else seemed to have down.
And then I got pregnant with Layla. I would say that this was probably my first real turning point. I felt so grateful. So blessed. So full of love. And I found myself turning to God more and more with that thankfulness. I started praying a bit more, mostly for the health of my child and her safe delivery. And I started listening to Christian radio, which really allowed me to focus on praising God daily, even if I was just singing really off key to the radio!
But once Layla was born, life got hard again. Raising a newborn is no joke. I was tired constantly. I was overworked. And for months since I was breastfeeding, I was the only one feeding my child. It was exhausting!! And even when she started sleeping through the night, I still felt in many ways that I was in survival mode. And guess what? My marriage suffered.
Aaron and I aren’t perfect people. Furthermore we’re very different people! We grew up in different places, were raised differently, and had completely different life experiences. So naturally, like in almost all marriages, issues came up. But for a while there it felt like nothing but issues.
I felt alone. I felt overworked and overstressed. And most of all I felt unheard. Notice how all of those things were about me? It was a time of “I, I, I.” And I’m human, so yes, I think it’s completely natural to be overwhelmed by motherhood and parenting and trying to navigate a marriage after baby. But I was so focused on me: what I wasn’t getting, what I needed, what I felt… And that focus solely on myself took me far away from my faith and robbed me of happiness.
So at one point my marriage felt like it was almost at a breaking point. I felt like a failure and so ashamed for letting things get so far, for not talking more, for completely cutting God out of the equation. And that’s where God met me: right in the trenches. And He didn’t judge me. He didn’t say I wasn’t worthy of His love (even though I 100% felt that way). Instead he gave me grace upon grace. The minute I started turning to Him, it was amazing how much my perspective changed and how much easier things felt. I just felt lighter.
I truly didn’t know my faith could get even stronger until we lost our baby. Yes, I’d had a previous miscarriage. And that was tough. But losing this baby, our sweet baby girl, who we aptly named Grace, changed me and truly opened up my heart to God. And honestly, it’s probably because it felt so ripped to shreds and so raw that I was able to open it so fully.
There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t miss Grace. Even as I’m writing this now my heart aches and my eyes are brimming with tears. But there is so much that she gave me. She gave me a deeper relationship with my God and savior. Just her very being allowed me to share myself with all of you on a deeper level! And my marriage has never been stronger. (Of course it’s not perfect! But it’s stronger.)
So that’s where I am today. I am broken. I am imperfect. Some days I’m a hot mess. But I am stronger because of Him.
Writing this is scary. Being vulnerable is always scary, but I feel it even more so with this post. I’ve never been great about sharing my faith. But I feel like maybe some of you are in the same place. Maybe some of you don’t feel “good enough” or maybe you’re lost, deeply heartbroken, or confused. And if you feel any of those things, well welcome to the party, girlfriend! Come sit with me! I want to encourage you. And love on you. And give you a hug.
I don’t want to give you the impression that I’ve got it down now, that I suddenly know how it all works. I’m not somehow a completely different person who doesn’t make mistakes, or judge people, or get impatient with the ones I love most. I still do all of those things! But I’m trying to be better. I’m trying to focus upwards more and inwards less. I’m accepting God’s love and his unending grace. And I’m really trying to be thankful, patient for God’s perfect timing, and accepting that His plans are not always my own. Y’all, that sounds nice and dandy doesn’t it? But it is a tall freakin’ order and a daily struggle!
One of the things that truly helped me along the way and is continuing to help me now is quiet time with the Lord. I am not the best at just flipping open my Bible and reading, so devotionals have been what keep me focused and on track. There are days when I don’t read. (Again, hey! Imperfect person here!) But I try to start my day with encouragement first thing as often as possible.
If you’re looking for a little morning encouragement too, here are my 5 must-read devotionals:
This is the first devotional that I actually ever read cover to cover. (Well mostly cover to cover…there were missed days in there!) It gives you two passages to read each day – one at morning and one at night. And what I loved about it was that it book-ended my day with positivity, hope, and encouragement. I was able to start and end my day focused on the right things, and not say, my phone. (Which honestly, I’ve slipped back into since I finished this one! There are always things to improve upon!)
The passages are short and offer several verses for you to read and reflect on. The twice-a-day schedule may sound overwhelming, but it’s really not; however, if you’d really prefer something once a day, there is also just Jesus Calling, which offers one passage daily! (My husband has this one and likes it!)
I would definitely recommend this study to anyone but especially those who are just starting daily quiet time. The time commitment is short but it is so encouraging for even the hardest times life throws at you.
This is another fantastic daily devotional. The passages are a bit longer than those from Jesus Calling, but I feel like they dig a bit deeper. There typically is one Bible verse or suggested reading for each passage. You can definitely get through each devotional in under 10 minutes if time is an issue for you!
I’m a few months into this one and am a big fan. Not only will you be encouraged, you will also be challenged. I really love the hope and positivity that Jesus Calling offers, but New Morning Mercies requires me to think deeper and even take action. If you’re looking for something to help you apply your faith to daily life, this is the book for you!
3. Finding I Am
If you want to dive in deep and really learn more about who Jesus is, this is for you. This study focuses on the Gospel of John, and it was exactly what I needed to lean in and get to know Jesus on a deeper level. This one is a bit more time-consuming. I probably spent about 30 minutes on it a day. But it is meant to be done only four days a week. (There is an option fifth day study.) You can read it on the days that work best for your schedule!
If I’m being completely transparent, I never finished this study. I completed the first five weeks, but I have one week left of it. I started reading this one while we were first finding out the very hard news about Grace and her diagnosis. When we lost her, I put it down. It’s not that it wasn’t helping my faith journey. IT WAS. It was that physically looking at the book brought too many emotions at the time. I think I’m getting to the place where I’m ready to revisit this study. Although I may end up ordering a new copy and starting over just because all of the notes I wrote throughout the book might be a little too heartbreaking for me.
If you’ve ever felt lonely or not good enough, (which I think probably applies to most of us, no?) then this book is a great read for sure! It is written by Lysa TerKeurst, who also authored Finding I Am. Lysa’s writing is so relatable and never feels preach-y. You will feel like you’re talking to a trusted friend.
Uninvited isn’t a devotional in the traditional sense. It’s a book about faith, but it really dives into scripture to teach us how to “live loved.” That sentiment is something that has stuck with me after reading this book. And I guarantee it will change the way you look at situations and people too!
If you’re going through a hard time, feeling rejected, forgotten, or unloved, pick this book up NOW.
5. Jesus Today
This is another book by the same author as Jesus Calling (Sarah Young), and let me tell you: if you just simply want to be uplifted and start your day on a positive note, this devotional is perfect for that. The passages aren’t super-deep in the sense that you’ll be delving deeply into the Bible. But they will make you feel loved, accepted and full of hope.
Jesus Today is one of the quickest reads I own (much like the regular Jesus Calling!). So if you’re just starting out or feel like you’re constantly operating on a time crunch, I can’t recommend this enough. It’s actually even small enough to throw in your purse. So there really isn’t a time you couldn’t spend five minutes connecting with God!
I also just recently read Wait and See. For those of you who feel you are waiting on a significant prayer to be answered, it’s a great read! It talks a lot about waiting well and how to handle the “in between” times. The book focuses on the life of King David and how his life full of times of waiting and challenges can be applied to our daily lives. As a mom who lost a child and felt like God didn’t answer that big prayer to “make everything okay” or give Layla the sibling that I so desired her to have, this book was helpful. (Order Wait and See here!)
If you feel comfortable sharing, I would love to know more about your faith journey. OR if you have a great devotional recommendation, PLEASE leave it for me in the comments! I so appreciate you!