Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013

I hope that each of you had a wonderful Christmas spent with your families.  We certainly did…probably one of the nicest to date!

We spend Christmas Eve with my husband's parents and we get together with my brothers and mom a few days after Christmas.  While we enjoy getting together with our extended family immensely, we cherish Christmas Day by ourselves.  It's the one day during the year that we all just stay home together and don't have to go anywhere.  How wonderful it is to just relax, play games, and enjoy one another.

This year, I didn't do a lot in Christmas preparations.  I didn't even begin my shopping until December 21!  If it wasn't for my daughters and their friends, we would not have had one Christmas cookie baked in our house.  This is the second year in a row we did not send out Christmas cards.  At first, I began to think I dropped the proverbial ball.  Then I realized how much I was enjoying the season without being stressed.  Due to various events and situations throughout the past year, my focus is different.  My family is precious and just being with them is enough.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it seems they all feel the same.

 Back row (left to right): Michael (16), Katrina (11), Seth (10), Cassia (14), Anna (13
Front row: Gloria (8), Zane (6)


I am so blessed to have my family.  We have our imperfections, but we love each other in spite of them, because that's what family does.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Springtime in Winter

For the last few months, I have felt the need to just "get away."  Away from the stress of everyday life, projects, responsibilities, relationships.  I just felt like getting away would give me the time with God I needed, quiet, and time to think and refocus.  God gave me exactly that…right smack-dab in the middle of Chicago.

My husband wanted to go to the AgSummit held by DTN/Progressive Farmer.  It was being held in a lovely Marriott hotel on Michigan Ave…just down the road from the Chicago Tribune, the NBC building, Michael Jordan's Steakhouse, and blocks away from Soldiers Stadium.  He and I flew out first thing Sunday morning and didn't come home until late Wednesday night.  Four whole days…away.  No school.  No directing chores.  No refereeing arguments.  No meals to make.  No appointments.  No stressful relationships to deal with.  No organizing projects or groups.

The Lord allowed me to wake up early every morning on the 16th floor over the city street and spend quiet time with Him.  I read His Word, talked to Him, sang praises to Him, read Spurgeon and other encouraging words, and listened to music that glorified Him.  I had quiet…in the city.

I spent one morning at a corner cafe eating a blueberry muffin, drinking a hot mocha, and reading a good book.  I spent time eating meals, shopping, and having fun with several ladies whose husbands were in the same meetings with Eric.  I met a sweet friend who only could have come from God and I hope will be a life-time friend.

In the evenings, Eric and I had receptions and dinners with his group, then we would go for a walk and explore Chicago…together.  We talked.  We laughed.  We held hands.  We kissed.  The snow fell, the wind blew, the Christmas lights shone on the tree-lined streets.  It was like being in a holiday movie.

Throughout the days, something wonderful happened.  The burdens slipped away.  I cast my cares on God & left them with Him.  My relationship with God was renewed and my relationship with Eric was made fresh and alive after a bit of dormancy.

I am home and back in the routine, but I don't feel as tired and weary.  I am not crying at every turn.  I feel alive again.  Love has bloomed once more - for my God and my husband.  The clouds have lifted and the skies are clear.

It's like Springtime in the midst of Winter.  Only God could make that happen and I praise Him for loving me enough to give me this gift in His perfect time.





Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Through it All

The Lord has shown His love to me in so many ways lately & just this morning He proved His love, yet again, by truly putting a song on my heart. It is a song I haven't even thought of in years & it's one of those "cheesy" 80's choruses, but I know He gave me that song this morning. Even after years, I was able to sing it from memory because it was from Him.

I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
There've been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation
God gave blessed confirmation
That my trials come only to make me strong.

Through it all,
Through it all, 
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
Through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.

I thank God for the mountains,
And I thank Him for the valleys,
And I thank Him for the storms He's brought me through.
For if I never had a problem,
 I wouldn't know that He could solve them,
I wouldn't know what faith in God could do.

Through it all,
Through it all,
 I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
Through it all, 
I've learned to depend upon His Word.

Thanking God for being with me through it all and for the knowledge that He will continue to be through all the days of my life.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Risk of Friendship

I won't comment on how long I've been gone.

I won't promise to be here regularly.

I won't be finishing the book study...too restricting and discouraging when I get behind.

I write because I love to write when I have the time.  When I have a deadline or a self-inflicted requirement, it is no longer enjoyable.

I also write when there is something on my heart...whether funny, nostalgic, contemplative, or sad.
Such as today.

I have recently been contemplating friendship.  Throughout my forty years, I have been incredibly blessed by many friendships.  I have been helped.  I have been made better.  I have experienced incredible joys and happiness.  I have laughed.

I have also experienced incredible heartache.  I have shed tears.  My heart has been broken.  I have helped when I was needed, then walked away from when I was no longer considered useful.

I have become fearful of getting close to friends.  While my joys far outweigh the hurts, the hurts have left scars.  Scars that I am afraid will be reopened and never again heal.

Throughout my life and the loss of friends, I have remembered that there is a Friend who will never leave me nor will He forsake me.  He never disappoints me.  He never hurts me.  However, I realized this week that I have often forsaken Him.  I have disappointed Him more times than I can count.  I have undoubtedly hurt Him deeper than any friend has ever hurt me.

When we offer someone our friendship, we offer a part of our hearts and a part of our lives.  Christ laid down His entire life for me.  When someone walks away with that piece of my heart that I gave to them, it is painful.  How much more when I walk away from the One Who hung on a cross and gave His holy life for me...an unworthy sinner...an unworthy child...an unworthy friend?

I ask myself if it is worth offering my heart in friendship when I know the risk of being hurt is very real.  When I think of what Christ gave and how His selfless love changed my life, I have to think that that is what He would have me do.

Love selflessly.

Love even while knowing it will bring pain.

Love.  It will change someone's life; even if they walk away.

When they do, I will run to my very best Friend Who loves me endlessly.  I will ask Him to comfort me and to keep me from being bitter.  I will ask Him for the grace and strength to love & give my heart yet again.  I will ask Him to forgive me for hurting Him deeper and more often.  I will thank Him, yet again, for His unconditional love.  And I will try to learn and practice that love throughout my life.



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Desperate: Chapter Eight (Yes - I'm Back!)

It's been a bit over two months since I've posted.  It's been an insanely busy two months with our church's mission's conference, two weddings (one of which I was in), finishing up homeschool co-op with a big night to commemorate it, house guests, various ministries, my fortieth birthday, and other crisis and celebrations.  This week, I have finally had time to relax and catch up on bills, laundry, and sleep.  Now, I am hoping to catch up on this blog, as well.

Are any of you still reading Desperate?  Are any of you done with the book?  Maybe some of you are still hoping to find the book and/or begin it.  After a long absence from this blog, I have had to re-read the chapter I will be posting about and it blessed me all over again.

Chapter 8 is entitled, Escaping.  Sarah Mae is, once again, painfully honest about her own escape method - internet addiction.  While not into anything evil, per-se, she was addicted to the internet via blogs, research, possibly even social-media.  Like Sarah Mae, I will not hammer the Internet.  The point is she used the Internet as a way of escape.

Our age is full of stay-at-home moms addicted to FaceBook, blogging, and Google.  A decade or two ago, moms were addicted to soap-operas.  Moms of all generations are found having adulterous relationships.  Why?  They are trying to fill their need of real relationships with virtual relationships.


"I really believe that because we do not have the community support families used to have, young mothers with little children are more and more drawn into alternate realities, to places that are big escapes from the mundane life." - Sarah Mae


  Cleaning up peanut butter and jelly messes, wiping noses, helping with math problems may be a wonderful calling as we nurture our children towards adulthood, but most of the time, we see it as just more messes, gross noses, and boring math that we never got when we were students years ago and now we have to try to explain it so our 11 year old will get through 5th grade.

We need to support one another with REAL relationships.  Relationships that offer support, encouragement, love, and prayer.  Without a real person reminding us from time to time what our real purpose is, answering our questions when we feel inept, giving us encouragement when we've hit the proverbial wall, we moms will seek a relationship in a virtual sense just to have something to hold onto.

"It is during the times when we are most overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and depression that we are most vulnerable to a snare." - Sally Clarkson


Motherhood is stressful.  It is challenging.  It is wearisome.  It is boring.  All of these things will make us feel inadequate and worthless. We begin to look for a way to make life better,  more exciting, or more worthwhile.  We just want to take our minds off of all the areas in which we are failing.  Some mothers get a career.  Some get a blog.  Some get 1,000 friends on FaceBook. Some get a boyfriend.  All of these are ways of escaping.


Sarah Mae encourages readers that have fallen into the sin of addiction to be honest before God.  He already knows what we're doing...we just need to be truthful and repent.  He is compassionate and merciful.  He will give us the grace and strength to conquer that thing that has a hold on us....our imagination, a wrong relationship, the Internet, the telephone...whatever it may be.

"If we are feeling lonely, then we need to figure out ways to find like-minded friends with whom we can cultivate healthy relationships.  If we are weary, we need to build rest into our schedule." - Sally Clarkson


We have a very real need for relationships.  Not just conversations with our precious two-year old or struggling 15-year old.  We need relationships that will give us fuel for the next leg of our journey rather than draining our tank, as our children so often do in their neediness.

Our first and foremost relationship must be with the Lord.  We must be addicted to Him.  Spend time with Him every day.  Talk to Him.  Listen to His voice.  Cry out to Him and seek His wisdom.

Our next relationship needs to be with our spouse.  Get on the same page or else life will be even more of a trial. Talk with him.  Dream with him.  Laugh with him.  Snuggle with him.  Make your romance REAL and you will prevent destructive fantasies and affairs.

Finally, you need a relationship with a like-minded woman.  A friend you can feel safe with that will not judge you, but will be honest with you.  A friend who may not have all the answers, but has an ear to listen and a heart to pray.  A friend that has shoulders big enough to bear your burdens.  Just check out your shoulders to make sure you can bear hers, as well.

"I don't want an escape; I want to trust Jesus with the life He has given me." - Sarah Mae


When you quit trying to escape your reality, look your life square in the face.  Live the life God has given you - a life full of blessings to out-weigh the trials, a life full of beauty, a life full of purpose.  No computer screen, imagination, book, or man will give you such a life.  Only our real God will give you  real grace, strength, and joy.  Be blessed in each day of your reality with Him.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Desperate: Chapter Seven

Selfish.  That describes me in a nutshell.  I get frustrated with my kids' messes because I am selfish.  I get irritated that I need to stop cooking dinner in order to tie a shoe because I am selfish.  I am annoyed when the kids are up past their bedtime and cutting into my "quiet" time because I am selfish.  I often won't take walks with my children saying I am busy when, in actuality, I am selfish.

Selfishness and motherhood do not mix.  Selfishness can have other symptoms other than pushing children away.  A selfish mom may not discipline her child because she doesn't want the headache.  She may push her child in education in order to feed her pride.  Selfishness comes in all packages.

Dolls & Towers

I love Chapter Seven, Sacrifice in the Mundane (On Selfishness), as I could easily relate to both Sarah Mae and Sally.  Like Sarah Mae, I am bored when I have to play with my kids.  There are so many things I should or would rather be doing.  I was never very good at playing dolls with my girls.  I was better at building with blocks.  Let's face it, building a tower and knocking it down takes far less time than trying to hold dialog with a couple of plastic humans.  Now that my kids are getting older, it's quite a bit easier to play with them as it usually involves a game that is more involved that "Chutes and Ladders" (which, by the way, seems to go on and on and on and...).

There is obviously a balance between always pushing your kids away and continuously entertaining your children.  Children, indeed, need to be able to play alone and use their imaginations.  However, I am out of balance in that way.  My children are masters at playing by themselves at this point.  I often need to make a conscious effort to spend real time with my children - reading, playing games, talking, etc.

Involve your children.

While Sally didn't come right out and say it, it was evident in her writing that she didn't necessarily get involved in what her children were interested in as much as she involved her children in what she was interested.  That is my kind of parenting!  I am not the kind of mom, as much as I'd like to be, who can spend hours playing dolls or war-guys with my kids.  I am, however, the kind of mom who loves to GO.  My kids love going to the library, to the museum, to visit friends, to deliver meals, etc., because I love those things. My kids will try almost any new food because I enjoy trying new foods.  My kids have learned there are games I enjoy and games I don't enjoy.  If they want me to play with them, they choose one of the ones I like.  I tend not to read children's books I find boring. I enjoy reading interesting, emotional, funny books...and I'll share those aloud with my children.  While each of them has their individual interests, they've all become avid readers.  

In spending time with your children, be you.

The  whole idea "you are who you are for a reason" resonates throughout this book and it's such a relief to me.  God has made me who I am with the interests I have.  Is it selfish of me to invite my children to join me instead of joining them?  I don't think so as it opens up their eyes and worlds to some great things and people they would otherwise never know.  If I had to do or read something I detest every time I spent time with my kids, I am afraid that our time would be greatly reduced.

Find out who your kids are and learn from them.

I have also learned to be interested in their individual likes.  My oldest son has known more about the Civil War and its battles since he was 8 years old.  A couple of years ago, I sat in 98-degree sun on metal bleachers in Virginia with him watching the re-enactment of the Battle of Bull Run as a part of a 150th anniversary observance for that first real battle.  This year, it is a good possibility we will be doing something similar for the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg.  I love history, so it's not too difficult to get interested in this area, but when it comes to artillery and the like, it's a stretch for me.  You know what?  I stretch.  We've made some good memories together in this.

My daughter is interested in farm animals and cares for several of them.  I am interested in hearing about the newest additions to the farm she helps out with.  I am happy when a sick animal gets better and, just this morning, I felt sad with her when her favorite goat died.  While I hate the cold and won't visit her four-legged friends in the winter, I'll get out there in the warmer weather and meet them.  Because I like dirty, furry creatures?  No.  Because I like my sweet daughter.

When the little ones come to me and say, "I want to show you something, Mommy," while I may have something going on, I try to take the time to go with them.  I have learned over the years that it often only takes a second or two to create memories for my children.  They will either remember me as the mom who was too busy to take an interest or the mommy who took a little bit of time to enter their world, even when it was inconvenient.  I don't always succeed, but, the older I get, the more I see the time is fleeting and am able to take my eyes off of myself and focus on my rapidly growing children.

There will be a day when I can accomplish all the projects I want in a reasonable amount of time.  I will one day be able to read books without interruption.  I can't help but think I will want to see just one more block tower or help put on one more little hat topped off with a kiss on a chubby cheek.

I do know one thing.  If I get involved with my children while they are still at home, they are likely to involve me in their lives when they move out of my home.  Maybe it's selfish of me, but I so want them to involve me then...just like they want me to be involved with them now.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Desperate: Chapter Six

"Are you allowing yourself to get distracted by the hectic and messy nature of life, or are you keeping your eyes straight ahead on Jesus?"

So ask the authors at the very end of chapter six.  While this is not the house-keeping chapter of the book (that comes in chapter nine), it is a focus of the conversation.   The gist of the chapter is that there are some undesirable aspects of motherhood that need to be tended to, whether we like those areas or not, and we need discipline to get these jobs done. In speaking of difficult & undesirable tasks it is no wonder that housekeeping was the illustration used to get the point across.

While neither author was trained well in the areas of cooking, cleaning, etc., I believe most young moms need to learn how to run a household with children, even if they have already been trained in the domestic arts. It's one thing to watch someone keep a home and it's one thing to help someone do it.  It's another ball-game when you are the home-maker.  Trying to give your children the attention they need while keeping up with the housework is a difficult balance.  In fact, as I still have yet to really accomplish this, I am beginning to think it is impossible.

So often, I do take my eyes off of Christ and set them on the clutter and mess that surrounds me.  I become overwhelmed and I am not the example of holiness I desire my children to have in front of them.  Like Sally, I take the messes personally.  Like my family purposely piled things on the table or counter just to irritate me.  They may have been lazy.  They may have been absent-minded.  They may even have been disobedient.  But they truly have not been mean.

"Letting grumpiness become a habit when doing housework was useless, and more often than not, only served to make me angrier."

While I have lived the truth of Sally's statement, I need to take it to heart and remember it the next time I face a disorganized house.  Grumbling and complaining about the housework leads me to grumbling and complaining about my children and husband.  This makes me irritated and angry with them and, the next thing you know, there is turmoil in our home.

I also have to admit, when my children grumble and complain about chores it is because they have seen the poor example I have set before them.  In grumbling, I am training my children to do the same and my daughters to be grumbling and miserable mothers.

"Don't measure your success in life by your ability or inability to do housework efficiently."

I am one of the women whose mother had an immaculate home.  Ask any of my friends while I was growing up...there was not a spot on the end tables, not a piece of lint on the floor, and I never understood what people meant when they talked about kids' messy rooms - I don't think I ever saw clothes on the floor or an unmade bed more than 10 minutes into the day.  Having people over was an event.  Mom would spend a couple of days cleaning the already-clean house. The bathroom was made spotless seemingly hours before guests would arrive, then we were not able to use it!  Mom made the entire meal - no one was allowed to bring a dish to pass - and the table was set beautifully.

 Mom lived to make a beautiful home.  Me?  Not so much.  While having a clean house was nice, I will admit it had its tensions.  Comfort was not exactly the rule. Sadly, in striving to make my own house more comfortable, I often see the line crossed into total disarray.  Where is the balance?

I used to stress before people would come over - so much so that having people over was put on the back burner for quite some time as it was too stressful for my entire family.  I would see every spot on the wall, every speck of dust, even the microscopic germs in the bathroom.  My house needed to be perfect or people would judge me as an inept home-maker.  I would fail the exam everyone was sure to be giving me.

A dear friend (the same lady mentioned in this post) once reminded me that, as I do not pay attention to the imperfections in the homes of others, others do not pay attention to the imperfections in mine.  Yes, my home ought not give people the heebie-jeebies, but it doesn't need to be ready for the cover of Better Homes & Gardens, either.  People just want to feel welcome.

Accepting my limitations.

Though it has taken me years, I have become more accepting of my limitations.  I honestly cannot homeschool my children, have fun with them, provide for their needs and keep an immaculate house.  It's one or the other.  I choose to do things with my kids. While I often get wrapped up in household chores, even then it seems to be the bare necessities.

When having people over, I have learned to make sure the floor is swept and the kitchen and bathroom clean before guests arrive (and if my kids need to use the bathroom, they can.  I just remind people that children live here).  If the floor is really bad, I will mop it.  I have learned to allow people to bring a dish to pass (if they ask) when they are invited to dinner.  Our home is comfortable, the food basic but yummy, and our family is relaxed.  I figure once everyone walks in the door, the house deteriorates quickly, so why put my family in a tizzy for days?  Some women, like my mom, have the gift of making things beautiful while they show true hospitality.  I don't.  But, I can make people feel at home.
That is either my limitation or my gift...or both.

Continuing to learn.

I don't know if I will ever succeed in always keeping my eyes on Christ and off the clutter, but I do pray that the long, disheartening gazes at the messes will soon become quick glances.  Instead of being overwhelmed, I pray that I will breathe a prayer to my Helper and pick up without grumbling.

Are you finding it difficult to be disciplined in the area of housekeeping?  Maybe it's something else -  Bible reading, schooling, cooking.  I would love to pray for you.  Maybe you have suggestions for me to not be overwhelmed...I love to learn from others!  Leave a comment!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Desperate: Chapter Five part 2

So, are you well rested from your nap?  (see last post)  I hope so!  Are you feeling refreshed and energized?  Or, are you still feeling depressed?  Maybe you aren't in a valley right now...good for you!  Maybe you remember being in one.  What did you do to get out of it?  Who helped you?

I love the "Assess Your Needs" portion of chapter five.  While this is a simplified list of reasons for depression and helps for its relief, I have found that all six of the ideas given have been what I've relied on to help me out of my seasons of despair.

Sleep

We talked about this at length when last we met.  Please, young mother, if you can possibly do it, get your baby on a schedule as soon as possible.  A baby who is tended to a the first little cry is the toddler who is still waking throughout the night.  By then, you have will most likely have another wee one who is waking you, as well.  Often, women are hesitant to have more babies because they cannot get one decent night's sleep.  This is horrendous for your health and, in all honesty, not good for your baby's health, either.  Like I said before, I get a full night's sleep and I still deal with weariness because motherhood makes one tired.  I can't imagine what I would be like if I didn't get that nighttime rest.  I have lived by the book, "Babywise" since I had my first child.  I found that the NICU went by the same schedule when my premie was there as they knew it was the healthiest way for the tiny patients to thrive.  I may post on this subject another time.  Anyway, sleep will help you with your postpartum depression as well as your times of motherhood depression.

Bible Reading

When I am depressed, my Bible reading is a struggle.  I feel like I get nothing out of it, at times.  But, I know that without it, I am swirling faster down the drain.  If I keep reading and begging God to show me something, He is faithful to do it.  Mom, if you are depressed, this is NOT the time to put your Bible on the shelf.  Open it.  Read even one or two verses and ask God to speak to you.  But, speak to Him.  "Help me, Lord" is a common prayer within the circle of mothers.  "Give me strength.  Give me joy.  Love them through me."  I have prayed these prayers along with others when I don't have the strength to form all the "right" words.  He knows our hearts.  He sees our tears.  He will lift us up out of the pit of depression, in time.  Maybe not right away - "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...thou art with me."  He's there in the darkness and will guide you to the light - no matter how long the journey.

Companionship

Often, when we feel depressed, we just want to shut ourselves away from everyone else.  There have been Sundays or Wednesday nights when I just stay home or sit out in our vehicle until services begin just so I don't have to talk with anyone.  Yes, me the "social butterfly"!  However, it's at these times when we want to isolate ourselves that we need people more than ever.  Just a kind word from a friend goes a long way.  I am approaching 40 and have the beginning signs of some "wonderful" changes...including the emotional upheaval.  There is one other lady in our church who seems to be going through this, as well, and she and I are honest with one another.  If I don't see her, I pray for her and she does for me, too.  Do you have, at least, one other person who completely understands your emotions?  Husbands are wonderful and they can help, but they can never empathize like another woman who has walked the same path.

Exercise

One of the first things to go when I am depressed is exercise.  Part of that is because I need a bit more sleep.  However, it's a vicious cycle.  Depressed + no exercise = more depression.  Getting your blood flowing will improve your outlook.  There have been recent days when the last thing I want to do is climb onto the elliptical and work out for an hour.  But, I force myself to do it knowing that it's good for me and I will just feel worse if I don't do it.

Help

I tend to get depressed when the housework gets overwhelming.  When I had a bunch of little ones, I often had help.  I had teenage girls at my house at least twice a month to watch my children so I could get housework done.  Often, they would run a vacuum, as well and even lend a hand in cooking dinner. I used to pay one girl $10/week to do our ironing.  It was worth it to me.  For a while, we had a lady clean our house once or twice a month.  The added bonus was that I got to know these teenage girls quite well and it was a joy to watch them grow up.  We'd sit and talk during nap time and they would pick my brain as I would remember what it was like to be in their shoes.  

We are often weak and we need to lean on someone else to give us a hand.  It's great training for a teen and it's a great help to you, young mom!  

Now that my kids are older, we sometimes will take a day off of school when things get really out of control and we focus on getting our house back in order.  It's amazing how a clean and uncluttered house will lift my spirits.  It's almost as good as chocolate.  Almost.

Adding Joy

Sally mentions just adding things to your life and surroundings that make you happy.  For me, that's clearing the clutter, turning out most of the lights, and curling up with a book.  Other times, it's going out on a date with my man.  Eric and I both seem to know when we NEED to get out and just leave the craziness of life and parenthood behind us for a few hours.  There have been times when he senses that I need to get out alone and care for the children while I get a bit of a break.

Sometimes, the best thing I can do is take my focus off of myself and my problems and focus on someone else.  Baking someone cookies, writing a card, surprising someone with flowers or a meal...these all add joy to my heart.  When you're drowning, the best thing you can do is reach out.  Sometimes, it's reaching for help while other times it's reaching out to help.  


Bottom line - get rid of the SuperMom mentality.  Living on little sleep, never getting together with friends, letting exercise go until the kids get older, not accepting the help you obviously need, and neglecting time with your husband or a few hours alone is NOT healthy nor wise.  I know women like that - they are often sick and depressed.  You want to be a SUPER mom?  Please, I beg you, take care of yourself.  Once you get through the depression, look for another mom who is struggling.  Encourage her.  Walk alongside her.  Love her.  

Where are you today?  Depressed or joyful, please know that you are loved by a loving God Who wraps His arms around you.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Desperate: Chapter Five - part 1

There are only forty-eight minutes left in this day, but I did say I would write chapter five's discussion today and I will keep my word!

When I originally read chapter five a week or two ago, I really felt a disconnect with it.  Sure, I remembered that I had dealt with depressing feelings before, but I was in such a good place that I basically figured I had it all under control.

Interestingly, just in the last couple of days, while I haven't been depressed per-se, I have felt "down."  You know...blah.  Just can't get motivated.  It's hard to "get" something out of my Bible reading.  Exercise?  Really?  Ugh.  I've been a bit irritated towards my family and just haven't felt good about anything in general.  Which, I guess, prepares me perfectly for this post.

This chapter seems to require two posts.  The area of exhaustion is an entire post in and of itself.  Let's get started.

You have what is known as, motherhood.

Again, I begin to think that Sarah Mae and I are living the same life in different dimensions.  Believe it or not, I also went to the doctor a few years ago because I just couldn't seem to get past a certain cold.  More of the tired and run-down part of the cold than anything else.  If you know me well, you know that I am not one to run to the doctor a lot...especially for myself.  So, I had to be pretty concerned.  The doctor asked me my symptoms.  I told her I just felt run-down & tired and couldn't shake it.  As it was the first time we had met, she asked me if I had children.  I answered in the affirmative.  "How many?" "Seven." (It may have been six at the time)  "Seven?" (much like Julie Andrews did in the Sound of Music!)  She then stood up and closed the folder.  Basically she diagnosed me with my chronic condition: Motherhood.  Twenty-five dollars to be told that moms get tired and I need more rest.

Exhaustion is key.

It's true.  Exhaustion is key to stress and depression.  After our first child was born, my husband was befuddled at my postpartum emotions.  I would cry at the drop of a hat.  He saw the same thing happen during my second pregnancy.  Eventually, he figured it out.  His wife was tired.  So, once the second baby (and the next 5) came along, when I would get tired and overwhelmed he would usually say to me, "Go on and lay down.  Take a nap.  I'll take care of things."  Yes, this was sweet and thoughtful, but it was self-defense on his part, as well.  He knew if I got tired enough, I'd start laying into him.  So, I got rest and he got peace!

While several reasons for depression are listed in chapter five, exhaustion, in my book, is the foremost. I think Sally & Sarah Mae would agree as they spend quite a bit of time on the subject themselves.  Sleep is essential for my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  All of my children, except for two, slept through the night by 8 weeks.  The other two were 10 and 12 weeks (and one of them was my premie).  I do not even begin to comprehend the moms who go through YEARS of interrupted nightly sleep.  How do they function?  Even with good sleepers, I still struggle with exhaustion.  Being a night-owl does not help, but even the nights I get 8 hours sleep, I am so busy during the days with organizing, schooling, housework, juggling schedules, etc., that it's wearisome.  The more tired I am, the more things bother me.  Clutter drives me crazier.  Noise drives me out of my tree.  Bickering sends me through the roof.  I lose my patience, then I feel like a failure.  It's a fast spiral down the drain and soon, I am depressed at the lousy mother and wife and Christian that I am.

They'd be better without me.

Let me open the curtain for you on a day I had several years ago.  All of my children were probably 8 and under, which means I had 5 or 6 little ones in my house and care for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I don't know what exactly happened that resulted my lying on the couch with my back turned to the room, but I am pretty sure it involved losing my temper with my kids.  My little sinners that just needed some guidance.  But, I do vividly remember sobbing my eyes out and really thinking that these children - and their daddy - would be so much better off without me.  I began to wonder if it would really hurt all that much to just end my life.  Sure, they would be sad for a while, but Eric would eventually find a new wife and one that would just love on and be patient with the sweet little children she would inherit.  He would be successful his second time around in finding a woman with patience and kindness.  I couldn't just walk away from my family.  I knew I could not live without them.  I would have to just leave the earth to improve their lives.

Obviously, as I am writing this now, I didn't go far with my plan.  But, it was very real.  For weeks, I was tormented with the thought that, indeed, my family would be far better & happier without me. I was depressed and, at times, angry.  I couldn't do it all.  I had "too many" children.  In short...I was tired.

Take a nap.

Those years with little ones were tiring years.  These years with teens and little ones are tiring years.  Different kinds of tired, but tired just the same.  I sit on the couch reading to my kids in the morning and try not to fall asleep mid-sentence.  I stand much of the morning, just so I won't feel so sleepy.  I learned my lesson years ago, thanks to my husband, that when I am getting edgy, feeling overwhelmed and tired, I need to just lay down and take a nap, if at all possible.  Some days, that's not possible.  But, most days, it is.  It is better that my house stay cluttered for a couple of more hours than for me to clutter my children's hearts with ill feelings towards me.  When I am in a good exercise routine, I need those naps less; but there are days when they are still necessary.  I have learned to take the hints my body gives me and I tell my kids, "I'm going to go lay down for a while."  Sometimes, I add, "...so I don't say or do something we'll all regret!"

Are you depressed, stressed, or overwhelmed right now?  You may just need some rest.  Even if you need to lay on the couch in order to keep an ear somewhat open to what is happening, lay down.  Put your feet up.  Rest your weary body so you may have the energy you need to keep going.

Rest is crucial to all areas of your health and well-being.  Rest is crucial to the well-being of your home.  Take some time to get the rest your body - and family - so desperately need.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Desperate: Chapter 4

Due to a field trip to our state capitol this week, I was not able to post our discussion on Monday.  I sincerely apologize.  I am making up for it by doing chapter four today and chapter five tomorrow.

While my life-changing chapter was three, I know of some ladies who may feel that way about this chapter entitled, "Oh Right, There's Sin."  This chapter helps me to realize that a lot of my impatience towards my children is exactly what I fight on a daily basis myself - sin.

There is so much in this chapter that I just can't cover all of it.  That's why you ladies are reading the book.  I would love to hear how this chapter blessed you, especially if I don't cover the particular area that most spoke to you.

Discipline

Sarah Mae talks about various discipline tactics.  I am not going to get into the corporal punishment debate, but I will say that I have learned, like the authors, that not all forms of punishment work for all children. Just because standing one child in the corner for an hour cured him of lying doesn't mean the next child will respond in the same way.  That child may need to be lied to in order to realize how hurtful lies can be.  Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all method.  The biblical principle is most definitely chastisement for rebellion and sin.  However, each parent needs to SEE their children as individuals and ASK God for great wisdom in reaching each heart.

Why do I expect perfection from my children while simultaneously enjoying the great grace God has toward me? 

Sarah Mae helped me to see Hebrews 4:16 in a whole new light:  "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

I claim this verse as a child of God.  How blessed it is to know that I can approach God's throne at any time and that He will be gracious.  I can receive mercy and grace in the form of forgiveness whenever I am in desperate need.  What a promise I hold dear!  Now...am I willing to be this gracious to my children?  I am to be like Christ.  Do I practice His grace?  Do my children feel free to approach me at any time?  Will they receive grace and mercy from their mother or will they receive sarcasm and resentment?  Do they feel that I will help them in their times of need or do they believe I will criticize and condemn them?  Am I thanking God for His kindness toward me one minute and harshly judging and punishing my child the next?

"...at what age did you stop sinning? Because that's when our children will stop." -Clay Clarkson

This chapter isn't a chapter about whether or not to discipline.  It's about how we respond to our children's disobedience and sinful nature.  If we remember that our children are sinners being raised by sinners, we should have a lot more patience with them.  Like Sarah Mae reminds us, "We are all just a work in progress."  Help your children progress towards holiness - and they will help you progress towards holiness as they give you opportunity to show the grace of Christ.

"Wrong expectations produce anger and depression." -Sally Clarkson

Our children are not out to get us.  They don't sit in their beds and plan mischief in order to make us think we are failures as mothers.  Our children are sinners.  If we expect that a certain parenting method will make our children the perfect cherubs we dream of (that are so opposite from our very selves), we will only be angry when those methods fail.  When we forget that our children are sinners just like us, we will be angry when they display that natural man instead of taking that opportunity to show them their sin and help them overcome through Jesus Christ.

If we expect to be the perfect mother because we are reading our Bible daily, praying, and memorizing scripture, we will only be depressed when we fall, yet again, due to our sinful nature.  We will sin every day we breathe on this earth.  We have a loving God who will graciously forgive us and, because of this, we don't need to be depressed.  We can, instead, "walk forward with confidence." God is with us and, even though He knows we are nothing but weak sinners, He is willing to use us to mold our children for Him.  He will give us the strength we need.  Do not despair, rejoice in the opportunity to lean on the God of the universe!

"I offer to Him all that I am and all that I have, limitations included."  -Sally Clarkson

We are sinners.  Our children are sinners.  Our families will not be perfect, but we can give all that we have to God and He will use it the way He sees fit...which is often beyond our wildest imaginations!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Desperate: Chapter 3

I just spent the day at our bi-weekly homeschool co-op.  Yesterday was one of THOSE days when I just could not wait for the kids to go to bed.  I woke up this morning at 4:30, knew I'd be exhausted if I got up right then, ended up going back to sleep and woke up at 7:00.  SO...I have the ingredients all ready to become desperate!  Praise the Lord for His working things out so that I have some time to write and read before I have to make dinner.

Let's get into chapter three.  For me, this was the game-changer.  This chapter gave me freedom in my motherhood.

Like Sarah Mae, I am a follower - give me a formula or direction and I will follow it.  I will add my own creativity to it after a while, but I need a blue-print.  So, for many years when I was a young mom, I loved "how-to" books...how to get your baby to sleep through the night, how to get your child to obey you on the first command, how to speak your loved one's love language, how not to lose your temper.  Over time, I began to realize that the best how-to book, the best blue-print, is the Bible. I can live by its principles in all aspects of my life, so I tend to stay away from those "how to do everything" books.

However, I began to get my "how-to" lessons from those around me.  I look to other women around me and compare myself and my kids to them.  Their kids are so talented and well behaved.  Why can't I be so creative, motivated, calm, etc., etc.?  Maybe if I were more diligent in this area or smarter, my kids would turn out better.  How do they do it?

I highlighted several passages in chapter three, but one of my favorites has to be:  "Every family's puzzle will be different...Each of us has a different personality, different strengths and limitations, and different passions and stewardships.  God gives us great freedom to exercise wisdom and authority in order to rule over our lives and make them productive for our own families."

You know what?  I cannot be like those other moms because God made me ME.  Instead of feeling inferior because of my personality and who I am, I need to acknowledge, accept, and be happy with who God made me to be and learn to use the personality with which He created me.  He gave me my outgoing, intense personality for a reason and He wanted my children to have a mom with my personality.  Yes, my personality brings about weaknesses...as all personalities do...but apparently, it has its strengths.  Strengths that my children need in their lives.

"Live well within the limitations of your personality and theirs and you will find more joy."  Realize that God made you who you are and He did that for a reason...to bless your family and to prepare your children for life.  If you keep trying to do things like others do them, you will consistently feel disappointed and frustrated.  If I am quiet for too long, people begin to wonder what is wrong with me.  I'm not kidding.  If I just sit and am not going from person to person in conversation, people think I must be ill.  Trying to become a consistently quiet, serious person will only depress me.  Why?  Because that is not who God made me to be.  For a shy person to try to be loud and talkative may only stress them out.  It's like trying to wear clothes that are 5 sizes too small or too big....it doesn't fit and it's obvious to everyone around.

There are families that I know where all the children are orderly, musical, and intelligent.  That's the direction their parents are leading them.  There are families that I know where the children seem so quiet and obedient and kind towards one another.  You don't have to look much further than their mother to find out why.  Then, there's my family.  My children may not be up in front of church playing music or singing often, but they are usually found around church with smiles and talking to various groups of friends.  We often have to tell them to settle down and relax.  My husband and I have to round them up from all corners of the building whenever we want to go home.  We'll go to the library or museum and almost invariably, at least one of my children will be talking to a stranger and making friends.  They like to debate and stand stubbornly firmly for what they believe - right or wrong - with a lot of intensity.  My kids don't do well in math, usually, but they love history and love to read.  Can you guess where they get all of this from?

I need to stop trying to be someone else and trying to turn my children into other children.  It's not fair to them.  It's not glorifying to God.  By trying to fit someone else's mold, I am telling God that I don't like His handiwork and I know better than He.

Sally said that she "see[s] women who are afraid to be themselves."  This ought not be me.  Why should I be afraid of who God made me to be?  I have been afraid as I have wondered if I will fit into someone else's idea of who I need to be.  I cannot fear men.  I need to fear, honor, and please God.   I need to go back to The Blue-print, The How-To Book, and ask God to lead me in my mothering according to His Spirit.  I can ask Him to create in me a new heart...make it clean...but I can not ask Him to change me and who I am.

At the end of the chapter, we were to read through several verses of Hebrews 11.  The main idea was to see how very different each person listed was from the others.  Their trials were different.  Their strengths were different.  Their personalities were different. God used each and every one of them for the purpose He had in that time and place.  God will use me and He will use you, if we allow Him to, to fulfill the exact purpose He has for us and for our families.


Be grateful.  Be yourself.  Be used.

1.  Take a look at yourself.  What is the personality God gave you?


2.  Do you see your personality in your children?

3.  How can you and your family use your God-given personality to honor and glorify Him?

4.  Maybe you're not comparing yourself to others, but judging others because they don't do things       the right way...like you!  Take some time this week to pray for God to soften your heart and appreciate that mom's personality, the one God gave to her and is being revealed in her family.  


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chocolate Strawberry Crepes



As promised, today I bring to you another delicious low-cal recipe from skinnytaste.com.  I have to tell you, my family LOVED these.  Every last member.  That doesn't always happen in this family of nine, as you can imagine.

Crepes used to scare me.  Once I figured out the right size frying pan (no, I do not have an official crepe pan), life became so much easier.  Find yourself a small frying pan, spray it with some butter-flavored non-stick spray and start making some crepes!

I will say that I used regular cool-whip for my family's crepes and the low-fat stuff for my own.  I also put more on my family's than I did mine.  I have learned to pick my battles and how to get compliments! ;)  Making it according to the recipe costs you only 139 calories!  Another note, I used frozen strawberries as "fresh" aren't so fresh this time of year.

So, without further ado:

Chocolate Strawberry Crepes (with thanks to skinnytaste.com)
12 servings   
serving size: 1 crepe
calories: 139


1 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened dutch cocoa powder
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups 1% milk
2 large egg whites
1 whole egg
1 tsp oil
butter flavored spray
24 medium strawberries, sliced (2 in each crepe)
1 1/2 cups fat free cool whip
3/4 cup chocolate syrup to serve

Blend flour, milk, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, eggs and oil until smooth in the blender. Heat a large nonstick pan on medium-low flame. When hot, spray with buttered flavored spray to coat bottom of pan. Pour 1/4 cup crepe mixture into pan, swirling pan slightly to make crepe thin and smooth. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until bottom of crepe is light golden brown. Flip; cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until light golden brown. Repeat with remaining buttered flavored spray and crepe mixture.

To serve, spoon 2 tbsp whipped cream into center of each crepe. Top with strawberries and fold each edge of crepe over filling. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar and top with 1 tbsp chocolate syrup on each. Serve warm.

Batter can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quiet Time

I spread out my Bible and Bible notebook on the table.  I lay my Kindle nearby from which I will read my daily devotional from Charles Spurgeon along with my other journal.  I open my Bible to Hosea, where I left off last time.

I usually get up in the morning before everyone else and have my time alone with the Lord.  However, I foolishly went to bed late on Monday night and now I was trying to get that time at 9:00 p.m.

"Mom, I think we should make these," my daughter says as she opens her history book to a recipe.  Then begins a look through the various fun activities in her book and some planning.

The four younger children are already in bed.  Soon, all three of the oldest kids are sitting at the table and we're having an unplanned evening chat before they head to bed.

Bedtime comes and I get back to my reading.  Various children kiss me goodnight before heading to bed.

"Can I read for a while?"
"Can I listen to my iPod for a bit?"

Yes, on both counts.

My eyes go back to my Bible, but here comes one of the younger kids who was already in bed (the one who comes back down almost every night).  Another kiss and another good-night.

Now Eric is trying to figure out why the internet won't work.  In and out of the house, messing with this plug here and that attachment there.  Mumbling going on in the front room as he attempts to solve the problem (successfully, I might add).

Trying to focus on my reading.  Re-reading that verse again.

A few minutes later, my husband reminds me that I need to make a list of all the medical bills for the tax report.  Our book-keeper wanted it a couple of days ago, apparently.

"Can I just finish my Bible reading first?"

I finish reading a couple of chapters in Hosea.  I read the evening portion of Spurgeon's words.  I enter two sentences into my journal:

"It is impossible to have a quiet time in a noisy environment.  Meet with God early in the morning before the hub-bub of life begins."

I was up early this morning.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Desperate: Chapter 2

*Note:  I plan to write a discussion post on Mondays & Fridays.  This way, you have all week to read one chapter and you have the weekend for another.  Don't stress about not "keeping up" with me...that's the lovely thing about blogs.  They're here for years and years!*

Desperate is a book about not being alone as a mother.  We are not alone in our feelings.  We are not alone because God promises never to leave us nor forsake us.  We are not alone in this world as there are many women who will come up along side of us in our journeys if we but ask.

Desperate is, largely, a book about the need for mentorship in motherhood.  Chapter 2 is dedicated to this premise.

When I read the chapter, part of me shied away from acknowledging the need for a "mentor."  I am one who looks to my God and my husband for the majority of support and help in my life.  At least, that's what I thought superficially.  While my husband is a faithful supporter and help in the raising of our children, I realize that I do, in fact, have a group of women whom I turn to for help in my walk down the path of motherhood.  I do, indeed, have mentors, though we've never formally planned it that way.

When I had 5 children in 6 years, I had a dear friend who lived just 10 minutes away and we attended the same church.  This woman had a few more children than I at the time (several more than me now) and her oldest three were all older than my oldest son.  While she was still in the trenches of young-motherhood, she had a few more years under her belt.  She was the one I called if my child had an odd rash and my mom wasn't readily available.  She would call me and check on me during my pregnancies just to see how I was feeling.  While my mom always taught me to take it easy after a baby was born, this friend clarified it this way:  "The first week of rest is for the baby you just delivered.  The second week is for your next baby."  Meaning, you need to take it easy to get healthier quicker.  It will take much longer to recover if you push yourself and you're not doing your body any favors.

This is the friend I called when my fifth child was 6 months old and I was at the proverbial end of my rope.  It's a long story that I will tell at another time, but she was the ONLY woman I knew at the time that had as many children as I as close together as mine.  I couldn't get a chance to read my Bible and I wasn't sure how I was going to make it.  I called her one day and said, "How did you get through it?"  Her answer:  "I don't know how I got through it, I just know that I got through it...with God's help."  Other than telling me to read just one verse a day a pray a lot, she really didn't give me any practical "do-this" advice.  However, she gave me the greatest help anyone could have given...understanding, empathy, and hope.

This friend now lives across the ocean and communication is sparse due to our busy lives.  However, I do know I will see her in a couple of months and we will pick up right where we left off...hugs, coffee, and encouraging words.  When she left, God gradually gave me several friends to whom I could be a blessing as they have children a couple years younger than mine.  Again, these friendships occur naturally and "morph" into mentorship.  I have found myself many times repeating many of the wise words of my friend to these ladies and they have helped me keep fresh in my mind the trials and struggles, as well as the joys, of being a young mom.

Sally Clarkson mentions that where ever she moved she usually had to be the initiator of groups and friendships. This is often the case...especially for those of us who recognize our God-given need for others.  I do not belong to a church that has "small groups."  We have lots of large families...and lots of tired moms.  Since reading this book, I am getting a burden to help these fellow-moms as we journey together.  It's like we're walking the same path, but not talking to one another.  I am praying about forming a prayer group every other week, maybe after our homeschool co-op, just to lift one another up in prayer and encourage each other with fellowship.  I have to step out. If it flops, it's God's will.  If someone is encouraged, it is God's will.

I love the verse quoted at the end of the chapter:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10:  Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."

Yes, we have our husbands.  But, let's face it...they will even admit they just don't "get" us on a regular basis.  Have you ever had your friend tell you something she did, you admit doing the same thing, and you both are amazed that anyone else in the entire world felt as you did?  This is what happens when moms open up and let each other into their lives.  They realize they are not alone.  They fall and the other helps them up...usually because they've fallen in the same pit along the way.

Older moms...don't leave the young moms behind to fend for themselves.  Walk with them.  Lift them up when they stumble.  Carry the load for part of the journey.

Young moms...allow yourself to be helped.  Don't be a lone traveller...those who travel alone, especially when it gets dark, are vulnerable and unsafe.  Accept help from one who has travelled the path before you.

How about you?  Do you have a mentor? Are you a mentor?  What is God leading you to do in this area?  I would love to hear about it!  I will reply to any comments...I want to encourage as well as to be encouraged!

Keep up the good work, moms!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Desperate: Introduction & Chapter 1

In this post from last week, I recommended the book, Desperate: Hope for Moms Who Need to Breathe.  I have been reading a chapter a day and my cup is being filled.  This book is challenging, painful, and encouraging. My routine is to read a chapter on my Kindle app, watch the video link, then go over to Martha Street to join her discussion, and, finally, read the posts about the chapter on Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson's sites.

There is so much on the internet already about this book, so why should I bother posting?  There's so much being written because there is so much to write about.  This book is speaking to women where we are as moms.  So, though I've never done this before, I am going to attempt a bit of a discussion right here on this site.  It will overflow from my own notes on how God is speaking directly to me, so feel free to check the other ladies' sites, as well.  There is so much to glean from those in the trenches with you.

I knew this was going to be a fabulous book when I was being convicted and blessed in the Introduction!  Sarah Mae is obviously a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of woman.  She is REAL and that is refreshing.  There are times in this book where I think I must be genetically linked to her....we have the same thoughts and feelings.  She is still in the stage of young motherhood, helping some of us to remember what it was like to have a bunch of little ones who still couldn't get themselves dressed, fed, or even to the bathroom.  She feels inept as a mom...don't we all?

My favorite quote from the Introduction:

"We moms don't need an instruction manual.  We need physical help."

Therein lies the premise of this book.  We don't need one more "how-to" book.  We don't need to be living up to the expectations of one more person.  We need rest.  We need companionship.  We need wisdom and advice from a real-life friend.  We need a meal cooked for us once in a while.  We need a maid.  Some of those things are obtainable while others are not depending on your circumstance.  When we don't get the help we need, we can become desperate.  I love the fact that in this book, desperation leads us to God.  The authors write about how we can get spiritual help, as well as practical physical help.

In Chapter 1, we see the ideals both Sarah and Sally had as they entered into motherhood.  Don't we all have ideals? Do you remember yours?  I had ideals of married life, then I had ideals of motherhood.  I thought for sure that when I got married, I would LOVE to clean house even though I detested it growing up.  After all, it would be my very own home...of course I would love to clean it.  I was right.  I did love it....the very first time I cleaned it.  After that, I realized that cleaning is cleaning and I still hate dislike it.  

My mother-fantasy was just as ridiculous, if not even more so.  I was going to be the beautiful woman in the flowing dress walking hand in hand with my clean and sweet children in the meadow picking daisies.  Life would be sweet and peaceful.  Yes, there would be a stinky diaper here and there, but, really....I would be so serene.

Enter my first child and pop that dream-bubble.

First of all, I am NOT serene!  I am out-going, somewhat loud, and intense.  I look ridiculous in flowing dresses and I don't know of any meadows nearby with daisies.  Ok...we have a dirt lane on our farm where, on the edges, wild daisies can be found for a few weeks out of the year; but, the kids would rather collect the stones out of the dirt to throw into the pond.

But I digress.

Sally says it best:

"Becoming a mother is a role that most women are ill-prepared for or ill-trained to understand, yet is has such vast consequences in the course and direction of history."

Motherhood is not an ideal.  Our ideals only set us up for disappointment.  We need to set them aside and look at motherhood for what it really is...a journey - a difficult journey, at that.  When we realize motherhood does not meet our pie-in-the-sky expectations, when we realize that we fall short of our dream of being the perfect mom, where do we go?  There is only ONE place to go...the feet of Christ.

Isaiah 41:10 - Fear thou not; for I am with thee:  be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen they; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."

This verse is in the Your Turn section of Chapter 1 (btw - I highly encourage you to answer the questions honestly at the end of each chapter.  This is where I am probably the most fed).  I have seen this verse often in my years as a Christian, but I do not know if I have ever read it in light of motherhood.  Read it again.  Powerful, isn't it?  

You failed.  You aren't the "ideal" mother.  You are making the same mistakes your mom made and you vowed you never would make!  You just know your 6 month old is messed up for life.  "Fear thou not."  

You are diapering a toddler while the infant is screaming to be fed.  In the meantime, your 5 year old just spilled his milk all over the floor and dinner is burning and your husband has to work over-time...again.  You feel very much alone.  "I am with thee.  Be not dismayed."

You haven't slept more than 3-hour stretches in months. You doubt you can get out of bed this morning. "I will strengthen thee."

Your child is lying and you've tried everything to break him of this sin.  "I will help thee."

Your child was just diagnosed with a major medical problem.  "I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."  

God is with you every step of this journey.  He knows where you are and how you are feeling.  The last question in the Your Turn section is, "Where is your source of strength?"  I hope it is God.  You may not have time or energy to read chapters of His Word, but read one verse.  I recommend Isaiah 41:10.  Then, cry out to Him.  Weep.  Beg Him for help.  He is with you and He hears you.  

Please, tell me if you are reading this book.  Let me know your thoughts - on chapter one or on this post.  I would love to encourage you, young mother.  I would love to glean from your wisdom, older and wiser mother.  Let's build each other up!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ode to Avocado & Crab

I recently posted about trying to exercise regularly and eating more healthy.  I have found (via Pinterest, of course) a wonderful source of healthy and delicious meals, snacks, and desserts.  Skinnytaste.com is a site chock-full of mouth-watering, low-calorie deliciousness!

Take, for example, this lovely lunch to which I am quickly becoming addicted:


That, my friends, is the heavenly Avocado and Crab Salad.  The obvious crab & avocado tossed with red onion, olive oil, salt, and fresh lime juice.  Filling, absolutely delicious, company-worthy and only 210 calories/serving.  

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 4 oz lump crab meat
  • 2 tbsp chopped red onion
  • 1 lime, juice of
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro (I hate cilantro, so I eliminate it from this recipe...and my life)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Directions: 
    In a medium bowl, combine onion, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro salt and pepper. Add crab meat and toss well.

    Cut avocado open, remove pit and spoon out avocado. Cut into large chunks and add to crab. Mix carefully, not to mash the avocado. Spoon back into avocado shells and enjoy!

    Many thanks to Skinnytaste.com!  Sometime soon, I will share with you the low-fat chocolate crepes that my entire family fell in love with!

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

    Shame and Self-Lothing

    The other day, I read Ezekiel 36.  In this chapter, God is making it very clear to Israel that he will give back to them their own nation, cleanse them, and give them new hearts for the sake of His name.  They had been punished because they had previously defiled their land and the name of God.  The heathen around them knew that the children of Israel were God's chosen people, yet they saw their wicked ways.  This profaned God's name and God had to deal with it.  However, He wanted to bring Israel out of captivity and not completely destroy them in order to glorify His name.  The heathen would have to see Israel's restitution and only credit it to the power of God.

    Ezekiel 36:31-32 - "Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.  Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel."

    After God restores them, Israel will look back on their wickedness and hate themselves for it.  God does not say, "I have forgiven you, so put away your guilt.  What's past is past, so move on.  It's OK."  No, He tells them to be ashamed.  He knows they will lothe themselves and this seems perfectly ok with Him.  In their self-lothing, they realize how badly they sinned in the past.  They see God's unexplainable grace and mercy in receiving them back to Himself.  They resolve not to profane the name of a forgiving God in such a way again.

    I realize that we no longer live under the law but under grace.  I realize that God will remove our sin as far as the east is from the west.  I understand that He cleanses me from all unrighteousness.  However, is guilt always of the devil?  "God forgave you, so you need to forgive yourself" is the oft-heard counsel.  He has forgiven us and cleansed us so that we may go to heaven and live with Him.  But, I think we ought to feel shame and lothing for our sinful ways.

    There are sins in my past that, to this day, shame me.  I have wondered why I still feel the shame and thought it wasn't God's will for me to feel that way since He already forgave me. God was merciful to me for His name's sake.  He has forgiven me, but I still feel the shame and I believe that may be God's plan.  In my shame, I am humbled by God's grace.  I should have been cast away from Him forever, but, instead, He accepted my repentance and sorrow.  He took me back into fellowship.  This astounds me and this astounds the world.

    There have been times that I have treated my husband badly.  I've been a jerk.  My husband is not one to fight back or retaliate.  His best "weapon" is kindness and forgiveness.  When I am in a bad mood and short with him, he gives me a hug.  He smiles.  He apologizes (even if he's not in the wrong).  Immediately, I am disarmed. I apologize to him and I know, without a doubt, that he forgives me.  But, at the same time, I am ashamed of my behavior.  I determine to treat him with the same kindness he shows me.

    Is this not how we ought to respond to the forgiveness of God?  We should not think, "Oh good!  He forgave me and I can forget about everything I ever did wrong."  We are amazed by His kindness to us, thus we determine to serve Him and love Him as much as lies within us.

    When the shame and self-lothing get to the point where we deem ourselves unfit to serve God, that is a problem - a pride problem, mostly.  God wants us to feel the shame, but He wants us to tell others how wretched we were and are but He STILL loves us.  Use the shame to glorify God.  Yes, to GLORIFY Him.  You profaned His name in public, now publicly state how you were wrong and God has shown mercy to you.  Lift up His name and the world who knows no such thing will stand in awe.

    I am confounded at how I could have gone against my loving Lord. His mercy magnifies my shame.  My self-lothing makes me more God-loving.  I am forgiven, but I am still ashamed.  But, I am grateful for it brings me to my knees in humility and adoration for my Father.

    Monday, March 4, 2013

    I am the Lord Their God

    For the past couple of weeks, I have been reading in the book of Ezekiel.  The majority of this prophetical book is God speaking to Ezekiel and the nation of Israel of the judgement that they will suffer as a consequence of their hardening their hearts toward Him.  Each chapter brings a new judgement or details of what God's chosen people will go through when they go into captivity.

    I noticed two recurring statements whenever God reveals a judgement:
            
     "I the Lord have spoken it."
    "And they shall know that I am the Lord."

    You will find these statements in almost every chapter of the book of Ezekiel.  They often, though not always, are the last words of a chapter.

    Until God speaks of the restoration of Israel.

    In Ezekiel 28, God talks about when the time of judgement is ended.  All of Israel will come together after being scattered and they will build homes and vineyards.  They will be sanctified and dwell with confidence.  Life will be good and blessings will abound.  The last words of this chapter is another repeat of the second phrase above, but with an addition:  "And they shall know that I am the Lord their God."

    Their God.  Two words not seen in the rest of the book, but God chooses to add them here.  After judgement, there is a reconciliation.  God is no longer the judge, but the Father.  There is now a relationship between God and His people.  Whenever there is chastisement, there is a distancing between the Father and child.  However, when it is over, the Father draws His children to Himself and communion is restored.  While the child feared his Father during discipline, he now feels His love.  The child has been corrected and has decided to obey and honor his Father.  He has now chosen to be on his Father's side.  

    While in the judgement, while the children of Israel were suffering, hungering, and dying, they came to see & know that God was the Lord.  However, once it was over and they were reconciled once again to Him, they knew Him as the Lord their God.  He was theirs.  

    So it is in my own life.  There have been times when I have distanced myself from God because of my own sin.  I still saw God, but only knew Him as the Lord.  The Creator.  The Holy One.  However, when I draw near to Him, have sweet communion with Him, and walk with Him, I know that He is the Lord my GOD.  He is my Creator.  He is my Father.  He is my Saviour.  I am His and He is mine.

    Those two little words added to that oft-repeated phrase reveal a closeness & restoration in relationship.  "And they shall know that I am the Lord their GOD."  Is that how you know Him today?

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    Desperate

    A few days ago, I became aware of a book by the title of "Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe."  Andrea over at Martha Street has highly recommended it and is doing an on-line book discussion, chapter by chapter.

    I respect Andrea, so I looked the book up on Amazon.  I debated getting the Kindle version - it was the cheapest, but paying almost $10 for a book is very difficult for me, even though I LOVE to read.  I am also not a big fan of "how-to" books.  I do, after all, read the greatest How-To Book each day! After a day or so, I went ahead and bought it.  I am so glad I did.

    This book will benefit mommies of little ones and encourage older moms.  I have only read the introduction through chapter two and have already been extremely blessed.  I am realizing that God created me for this role of mother and has given me all the tools I need for my children.  He is walking with me in this journey.

    Mom of littles....get this book.  You will see you are not alone nor does God intend for you to be alone as you raise your little ones.  You need Him and some godly women (remember Titus 2) to be with you throughout the daily toils, disasters, and joys of motherhood.  The authors of this book are both moms - one older and one younger.  They both know what it's like to be desperate...for God, for peace, for order, for wisdom, for friends...desperate to just breathe.

    Older moms...get this book.  You are an older mom if your children are grown...or if you have children older than your friend.  While I am technically still a young mom, I am a relatively older mom and need to be on the look-out for mommies to help along in their journeys.  I need to be walking with God in order to do this, but I also need to just be real and remember the days of sleepless nights, messy diapers, and being spit up on.  Those days are not that long ago...I survived and I can encourage another sweet mom who feels like she is drowning in...well, let's not get graphic!  If we have more experience than someone else, we need to fulfill the role of Titus 2.  If we know someone who has more experience that us, we need to seek someone from whom we can learn and be encouraged.

    I have been the most blessed by the verses and questions at the end of each chapter. It really helps me to seek what God has to say on the subject and how loved I feel when I see Him meeting me where I am at this time of my life.

    I love the Kindle version which has links to short videos of the authors discussing each chapter.  You can find these videos via YouTube if you *only* have the hard copy of the book.

    There's lots of on-line discussion on the book, as well.  Check out those sites.  Mommies & Moms...we need encouragement.  We need to learn how to be the mom God created you to be.  Join me and be blessed.  Be encouraged.  Spend a few bucks, get some quiet time (even if it's late at night), grab a cup of something hot and read  "Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe"

    Let me know if you get the book and what you think.  Don't be surprised to see a little bit of discussion happening here from time to time.  Join in!

    Wednesday, February 27, 2013

    Proof of God's Love for Me

    Last month, I read a devotion written by Charles Spurgeon in which he discussed how great is the love of God. He recalled various times God showed him love throughout his life, besides His merciful salvation. I began to think through my past and thank God for all the ways He has shown His love for me.

    I came to realize that one of the greatest examples of His personal love for me is Eric. Not only bringing him to me, but WHEN he brought him to me. I was 16 years old and at a cross-road in my life. God knew I was insecure and desired love. While not at all popular with the guys, there were some who were beginning to notice me. Eric noticed me, loved me, was kind to me and I loved him in return...as I probably would have done with anyone who came into my life at that time. However, Eric also loved The Lord and he challenged me to grow in God, as well. While we made mistakes during our dating years, I know I grew in Christ and in the knowledge of His Word due to Eric's encouragement.

    Eric was (& is) my first and only real boyfriend. God preserved me from much heartache and a bad road by giving this wonderful man to me. It took me many years to really learn how to love Eric in the way he needs, but he's been more patient than any man would be. He demonstrates God's love by the way he loves me and how he lives his day-to-day life.

    I am over-whelmed at the thought that God cared enough to see me as a 16 year old nothing and give me the man I needed in order to be the woman I needed to become. The love He gave to me proves that He truly loves and cares for me and I am forever grateful.