Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 7 Hardest Parts About Being a Mom

Being a mom is tough and until you give birth, there are many things that you will discover along the way. Realistically, what you may imagine it to be will be different in ways than what is to come. Most parents will agree that the good things outweigh the difficult ones. Moreover, I created this list for all you mothers out there.

1.) As a parent, you will go to find an assortment of reading sources throughout the years. The reading sources can vary from books to magazines to online articles. If you were to pick up a copy of a parenting magazine, the cover will suggest "7 Tips to Handle a Tantrum," "4 Ways to Help Your Newborn Sleep Through the Night," or "6 Tricks to Conquer Talking Back." You want those things that you read to fix the problems. No one ever tells you that those different ways to try for each topic are not cures. They may work for a moment, but your newborn will cry again, your toddler will test the boundaries once more at the grocery store, your 4th grader will ask "why not?" another time, and your teenager will have another round of emotional distress.

But through all the stages of tears, there are break-through moments of being the one to hold your child, wipe away their tears, and even cry along with them. Even though it was hard to be on the receiving end of the crying spectrum, you are helping build character through each of those moments.

2.) Point blank, your food is almost always cold or you have to scarf it! Someone spills something, the doorbell rings with a neighbor child standing out front right when you sit down, or you have about 0.15 seconds to consume the meal before needing to be somewhere. It's a rarity to actually be able to eat and enjoy a meal.

But since the food is cold, by the time you eat it, it doesn't taste as good or look as appealing to you. Weight loss solution, anyone? Or you are too tired to eat it which means when you do actually get those seldom moments to eat a hot meal in peace, you enjoy it more and you do not take it for granted. Forks dig in, mama!

3.) As a parent, there are so many things to worry about: food allergies, autism, Down's Syndrome, heartache, bullying, child molestation, a broken bone, etc. There isn't a moment where you really don't think about how something is going to affect your child. You want to take the pains of life away from them with all of your heart. While you know that every person has something in life to go through, you are trusting God so hard with keeping your child safe from harm.

But God says, "Do not worry about tomorrow!" Easier said than done, I know. However, we really don't need to worry so much or we will worry ourselves to death. It's hard to not worry when your child is out past curfew or when you are in the hospital due to severe illness. You have to pray about it when you worry and ask God to help you allow Him to take control. You have to surrender to Him and have faith through the process. These are moments where we draw closer to Him.

4.) Expectations for various moments, events, or outcomes will change. Those picture perfect kids in Gymboree ads aren't real. We might try to dress our kids for a moment to take a picture and two seconds later they will get dirty in some way before the picture was taken. We may hope to wake up before the kids do to capture on camera their reactions on Christmas morning only to be woken up by a child who has already opened everything. We may want them to make a wise decision about something only to be saddened by the path they ended up taking. We may think that our child will heal from a disease only to be holding them in your arms as they pass away.

But through it all, we need to persevere. No matter how disappointed we are or how much life hurts us, we have to keep going. The other people in our lives depend on us, whether they are co-workers, family, or friends. We are all in this together and we can all lean together through the disappointments. So let those expectations and ideas of perfect parenting go. Instead, let's bond together past the differences and encourage one another.

5.) Loss of sleep is guaranteed unless you are away with your husband at a hotel and even then the two of you may have other plans. *wink, wink* That sleep you crave so bad is long gone the day you become a mom. No matter their age, you are up with them for one reason or another. If you have a baby, you are up feeding them. If you have a toddler, you are taking them to the bathroom. If you have an elementary aged child, you are up calming them down from their nightmares. If you have an adolescent child, you are up listening to them talk. Sleep is a thing of the past.

But that is why we as adults can have things like coffee or wine to help us get through. That is why we eventually become zombies and sleep is totally not within our grasp, but it's something you kind of get over after awhile. Sure you would love to take a nap or get a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, but it's not the most important thing that you think about anymore.

6.) You get to play the Good Cop/Bad Cop game. Sometimes you get to help them in good ways like when you saved the day by finding their favorite character inspired band-aids for their minor scrape. You get to be apart of the "Don't Mess With My Child" Club look when you see the kid who bullied them that one day. You get to share with them the things you got in trouble for as a child when they are having a moment and need to hear it.  Of course, then there are the days when you have to lay down the law with time-outs, spankings, groundings or whatever you do. You have to keep them home from an event because of something that they did. Unfortunately, since you were Bad Cop for a moment, they may not seem to like you very much.

But, all of those moments that require either Good Cop or Bad Cop are times you are building up a relationship with them or teaching them character. They are all for good reason and are all something that needs to be done. They will respect you for what you are teaching them. You are a role model for them and they will remember those things you are teaching them. Pretty cool, huh?

7.) Some days you wish you were in Australia (just like the boy from The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day book). Some days are tear-jerkers and some days you don't know how you even got through it all. It was tough and no good, all at the same time.

But take note that as often as those days seem to be there, you are apart of something incredible. As they grow up, tender moments of holding them close, when you smile together, bonding over this or that are moments that are irreplaceable. They are moments worth more than all the hardest parts of parenting combined. We tend to want to look ahead. But don't look too far or you will miss it all. We will soon be old, lonely, and belong in a retirement home with Betty who has Alzheimer's Disease. We will look back on our life and wonder why we wished it to be on fast forward. I know the old saying of "Cherish Each Moment" that you hear at baby showers seem redundant. It also speaks volumes. One of my favorite quotes says it all:

Cleaning and scrubbing will wait 'till tomorrow, 
but children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow. 
So quiet down cobwebs! Dust go to sleep! 
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep. -Ruth Hamilton

So cherish each moment that you have and know that those hard moments will pass. The hard parts are worth it. Keep up the great work, mama!

Friday, December 26, 2014

When You Want To Persevere

Dear Grief,

You entered into my heart with a vengeance. It seemed as though you arrived without being invited. The door of my heart was knocked down and before I knew it, I was overwhelmed by your presence. My eyes began to flood with tears as I fell to my knees. I didn't want this to happen. I wanted to be joyful, no less. So why are you showing up now?

Not only do I feel the sadness of what I am going through, but for an instance, I also feel the sadness of others things. I feel sadness for friends and family. I feel sadness over all the surroundings of pain in this world. I want to shut down and hide.

Is this a glimpse of the pain our Heavenly Father feels for the world? Our freewill so carelessly sins against God without any remorse for most of it. We continue to hurt others at the stake of our own selfishness. We do things without considering the consequences beforehand. And yet, God still loves us. He loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son for our sake.

As I suffer through the pain I am going through, I can only imagine how God must feel. He whispers words in my heart to remind me that I am not alone. Grief, can you hear me? I am not alone. I will not loose hope. I will cling to my God and not give in to your defeating ways.

You may have arrived unannounced. You may have dreamed of staying for long. But it won't happen. Not as long as I push through and trust in the One who came to bring me light in this dark world. He came to bring peace and joy. He came to give eternal life. He came to satisfy our deepest thirst. And He came to seek and save those like me, who feel lost.

So I will cling to hope that only comes from Him. I will be sad for a time but I will rejoice in knowing the Truth. I will press on. Just like visions of castles in air, I will press on towards the promise of everlasting life. I will believe in things to come. I will continue His purpose for me here on Earth. Because He did give me purpose and I will persevere.

His Daughter,

***Are you a blogger? Do you like to write? Come join in on the party of Five Minute Fridays over at . This blog entry today was part of a writing exercise to write a letter to grief.  God Bless!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

When All Else Fails

 If you know me, you know I am a woman of order. I like things to be organized. I like to have a schedule. I like to know what lies ahead with plans. Spur of the moment drop-ins by random people at my door puts me in an immediate paralyzed state as my first thought is, "my house isn't ready yet." When I make plans for an event and it doesn't work out the way I thought, I go into worrisome mode. If the house starts to get cluttered, which happens frequently with six children, I get panicky and start to fret. I have the need to feel prepared for everything.

But what if life isn't supposed to go that way? What if I remember that life is dynamic and cannot always go as planned?  What if I start to let loose and have a contingency plan? When all else fails, I should remember that God's got this in His plan. It's His timing and His order of events, not mine.

Sometimes things don't go as planned and that is okay. I used to be much worse when plans changed and I wasn't always okay with it. My super organized self would go into "Panicky Carrie Rhythm." It wasn't pretty, people! You can ask my husband. He'd take a duck and cover.

"What? Change of plans? Methinks that is impossible." Breathe. Breathe. State of panic. "Uhhhhhhh! This isn't happening!!!"

Over the past couple of years, this is an area I've been working on. During the Christmas season, it's easy to get bent out of shape when we have certain expectations on how we should celebrate or the way things should be. Family members can upset us over Christmas dinner. You've realized you've spent too much on gifts. Or maybe you got carried away in the receiving end of things. Perhaps the weather changed and isn't what you expected. Or you got delayed at the airport and now you are later than you wanted to be. It happens! That's what we have to remember. Things happen, plans change, and people will say things we may not want to hear. Yet, that's not a reason for a person to go haywire. No matter how prepared we are for something, it isn't always in our control. But what if  we let go of those expectations and go with the flow of it all.

As I teach my children to prepare their hearts for Christmas, we talk about forgiveness, redemption, and the attitudes we portray. I've learned to share with my little ones the kind of attitude I've had over being stubborn as things have changed. I am trying to teach them to let go of these expectations and be opened to new options. More than anything, I am trying to teach them that sometimes God allows these changes for a reason. Perhaps He is protecting us from something. Or maybe He is teaching us patience. Maybe the people coming to our home at random times is a moment for us to work on our hospitality. There are reasons for everything and we may not always understand.

Let me encourage you to let loose a bit when you celebrate this season. Go in with an attitude of "that's okay" versus "I must be in control." Prepare yourself to remember that anything can happen. And try to find the bright side of the situation versus the negative side. Instead of preparing for a moment of perfection, prepare for glitches along the way. You'll be all the better for it and so will the people around you. God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Removing Toxins

2 Kings 4:38-41 Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company   of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant , "Put  on the large pot and cook some stew for these men." 

One of  them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of  his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, "O man of God , there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it. 

 Elisha said, "Get some flour." He put it into the pot and said, "Serve it to the people to eat." And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

Among Elisha's many miracles, one of them was the removal of the poison from the pot of stew so the people could continue to eat. Food was scarce and the people were hungry, no doubt. When it became difficult to find something to add to the stew, one person unknowingly gathered toxic gourds to add to the stew. Sure enough, the gourds were no good and Elisha removed the toxin from the stew.  The people were then able to enjoy their food.

When I think about things that are toxic in life, whether it be people, things, or emotions, we are often faced with either allowing the toxin to embrace our life or we must remove it. I think of things like relationships with difficult people, things that play on our emotions, or things that can cause us to stumble. For some it might be an addiction to something that has a stronghold on their life. For others, it might be a person who continues to bring them down. It could even be something that triggers the emotion of anger for a person. Or it could be consuming too much sugar in one's diet leading to the decline of the health and well-being of that person.

 If looked up in the Webster's Dictionary, the word toxic means, "Of or pertaining to poisonpoisonous." The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus says, "containing or contaminated with a substance capable of injuring or killing a living thing."   Other words for it are: "contagious, infectious, harmful, hurtful, unhealthful, deadly, corruptive, damaging."

Now think about the things that are currently toxic to your life at the moment. What comes to mind? Maybe it's something very obvious. Or maybe it's multiple things. These toxic things or people are enough to hurt us, damage us, and even become deadly. When thought of in those other terms, it's easy to see how these toxins can really be destructive in many ways, including our walk with God. They can be deadly and torment us beyond belief. They can suck the hope right out of a person.

When I think of what's toxic in my own life, I envision the slippery serpent in the Garden of Eden whispering into my ear in the most slithery way. It makes me shiver just thinking about how slimy and unfathomable those images can come to mind.

I think of that mother who thinks back on her day with thoughts of not being good enough because of what the world wants her to think is the only way to be... perfect. I think of the daughter who feels like she can never measure up. I think of the wife who wants to be better looking, a better cook, or a better mate. I think of the son who is seeking his father's approval. I think of the overweight person who can't stop consuming fried foods. I think of the husband who can't stop glancing at pornography behind his wife's back. I think of the person who can't stop gossiping about everyone else. I think of the one who continues to allow others to control their life without taking control for them-self. I think of the drunk who needs one more drink to take away the pain of the past. I think of all that we allow to control our thoughts, lives, emotions, fears, and much more.

As I travel through this life journey that God has given me, I have been in the process of trying to remove those things that are toxic to my life.  I watch the news less because much of it depresses me. I try to be careful with who I spend my time with as I focus on those who are going to lift me up, not tear me down. I turned off most social media sites so I could focus on what really matters. I don't bring beauty, entertainment, and most other magazines into my home as I know that a majority of the articles pertain to false ideas and images. And I also don't want to raise daughters (or sons) to think that many of those images are things we need to strive to be or that the articles having to do with certain issues are actually going to work. I don't watch many things on TV or at the movies as I know I will take offense to something vulgar or graphic. I take a careful approach to who I surround myself with, setting appropriate boundaries, and distancing myself from those who are toxic people.

Instead of embracing the things that cause damage, I try to focus on the beautiful things that lift me up, bring me hope, and lead me closer to God. I search my surroundings for things each day that are apart of God's Creation. I act silly with my little people like when we danced to Christmas music at the Amphitheater of a nearby park not caring what the spectators would pass by and think. I look for things to celebrate in all kinds of ways because life is worth celebrating. I do whatever I can to find ways to enjoy my day without the bad things or people so I can fulfill God's purpose for me here on Earth.

 Unfortunately, new toxins begin to come in and I start working on those as they arrive. It's kind of like a wave where I start to feel like I am sinking and drowning beneath the harmful and deadly things. As I remove them, I come back up for air and a sigh of relief. Yet, before long, I am starting to sink again.

But here's the catch! These toxins MUST be removed before it's too late. If Elisha hadn't removed the toxins from the stew, those people would have been dead. If we don't remove the toxins in our own life, we could very well be headed the same direction.

Now imagine a giant dustpan in front of you. It needs to be the biggest one you've ever seen. You are being handed a big broom, like one of those long outdoors ones you see at the hardware store. As you think about those toxins that are affecting your life at this moment, imagine them being swept right into that big dustpan ready to be thrown out. Come on! You can do this! Keep on sweeping until they are brushed away. Better yet, we might as well get that handheld blower. It'll remove them that much quicker.

 And breathe! Doesn't that feel much better? Now that they are gone, what will you do to keep them from coming back and taking over your life again? If you aren't sure where to start or what to do, give it all to God. He will show you the best way to remove them. Be blessed and know we are all on this journey together. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Running Into His Arms

'This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond; for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.'- The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

At the age of 16, I went through a season that was unlike any other season I could have ever endured. Because of how I was treated by others, I turned to cutting my arms out of despair.  I turned to harmful substances as well, looking for any kind of relief that I could get. Gratefully, my loving parents hung on to me tightly through this season never giving up on me. They prayed for me and loved me unconditionally.

There was a time in my life that I was literally inches from hitting rock bottom because of my own despair. Similarly, I felt like Christian from The Pilgrim's Progress when he was trying to get out of the Slough of Despond. He felt the weight of his sins overwhelming him and he was sinking quickly because of the guilt he felt.

"The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to Him is not to believe that He loves you."- John Owen

Sometimes the guilt felt in making mistakes is worse than the actual mistake that was made. We feel guilty and have a hard time forgiving ourselves. However, the first step in getting past our pain is forgiving ourselves. I knew I was messing up, BIG TIME!  And knowing that I was messing up was a much more of a paralyzing feeling than any of my sins.

Be that as it may, my Heavenly Father kept His arms open wide. He kept on pursuing me. He kept on loving me. He showed me by the people He brought into my life. He showed me by bringing me back to confidence and helping me overcome the Slough of Despond.

"Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us."- Spurgeon

Is the pain from it still raw? Yes, very much so. Are there ever moments that I feel complete relief from the past? Not necessarily. Am I fully healed? I'm afraid I'd have to say no. Occasions come up where I feel like I am back in that swamp and my eyes will fill with tears as if I am still in that moment of fear. Yet, over and over, He comforts me. So I run into His arms and listen to His voice of reason.  He leads me besides still waters and restores my soul.

When I look around at where I am at in life now, I have an amazing husband and six beautiful blessings. I do feel like the weight of my sins have been lifted. I know I am forgiven and I know abundant things lie ahead for me as I continue running into His arms.

No matter where you are at in life, keep on running into His arms.  He will embrace you beyond anything you can ever imagine. One day, we will be with Him rejoicing in a place without pain or fear.  And it will be the most joyous feeling that can ever be imagined. All you have to do is keep on walking forward down the path that He has laid out for you. Don't give in to the thorns and thistles along the way. Don't allow the trappings of  misery get the better of you. You can escape the Slough of Despond and enter into the Meadow of Peace.

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

When we do make those mistakes, we must pick ourselves up and start running again. Look for the Light on the path before you. You may feel lost at times along the way and the path may seem lonely. Still, the Light is there, so look ahead and know that the Light is expecting you.

Friday, November 7, 2014

When You Don't Know Where to Turn

Bullied time and time again, the young girl felt out of place.  Just shy of being eleven, she was quiet and often kept to herself. Her favorite past time was reading and she often found herself nestled at a table during recess. She made straight  A's and was considered the Teacher's Pet. But she often found no escape from the torment of a couple of other girls who made fun of her on a day-to-day basis.

One rainy day, she stepped outside of the classroom on the second floor and started to head down the stairs to recess. To be funny, one of her tormentors pushed her down the slippery, metal stairs. Hitting the bottom, she could barely move. After time of nursing her bruised back from the fall, she hid her emotions in her heart and tried to move on.

As the adolescent years came on with a vengeance, this girl continued to be bullied by mean girls. She couldn't understand it. It didn't make sense as to why she was plagued with such meanness. A series of events led from one thing to another and she soon found her relief cutting her arms with a razor blade. She felt abandoned, unloved, and afraid. This girl was me.

During my teenage years, I went through a rough period where I felt lost. I was confused and felt alone. I lost a lot of hope but I was never given up on. Growing up a believer, I was blessed to have that place in my heart that kept my hope alive. Even at my darkest moments, God brought people and situations into my life that kept me going. 

So when you don't know where to turn, don't give up. Turn to the One who always loves you and will never leave you. When you are in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, know that He is there. Never give up hope.

If I had given up like I wanted to many times, I wouldn't be where I am today. God had a purpose for it all. God had a purpose for me. He has a purpose for you too. He gave me life, not death. He brought me love when I didn't know I could be loved in this world.  He built me up to be strong and I came out better through it all because of what I endured.

Remember when David was being hunted down by King Saul. Saul was jealous of him and wanted him dead. David wrote in the book of Psalms about how he felt at times. He asked God for deliverance, which God gave him.

      Psalm 59:
  Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
    be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
Deliver me from evildoers
    and save me from those who are after my blood.
See how they lie in wait for me!
    Fierce men conspire against me
    for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
    Arise to help me; look on my plight!
You, Lord God Almighty,
    you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
    show no mercy to wicked traitors.[c]
They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
See what they spew from their mouths
    the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
    and they think, “Who can hear us?”
But you laugh at them, Lord;
    you scoff at all those nations.
You are my strength, I watch for you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
10     my God on whom I can rely.
God will go before me
    and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord our shield,[d]
    or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them
    and bring them down.
12 For the sins of their mouths,
    for the words of their lips,
    let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
13     consume them in your wrath,
    consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
    that God rules over Jacob.
14 They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
15 They wander about for food
    and howl if not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.
17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.
Heavenly Father, when I feel alone and afraid, bring me signs of hope. When I feel attacked by my enemies, help me to rely on You.  Like King David, may I sing your praises and rely on your strength to get me through those difficult times. Help me to remember that each person is made in your image and no matter how they treat me, help me to respond in love. I want to love others deeply. And Lord, help me bring hope to those who need it the most, those who suffered like I suffered. Help me to be that source of encouragement that will lead them back to you. Thank you, Lord, for second chances. Thank you, for loving me even when I mess up. You are amazing! Amen.
Taken from the To Write Love On Her Arms Website:
Self-injury is the deliberate harming of one’s body without the intent of suicide. Common self-injury behaviors include scratching, cutting, burning, hitting, biting, ingesting or embedding foreign objects into the body, hair pulling, and interfering with the healing of wounds. Research shows that, often, self-injury is used as a maladaptive coping mechanism to deal with intense emotions. (10)(11)

Some statistics:
-14-24 percent of youth and young adults have self-injured at least once. (10)
-4 percent of adults occasionally self-injure. (10) (11)

*Please note that I have not done this in years but my hope is to raise awareness. I knew many teenage girls that used self injury to cope through the adolescent years.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Overcoming the Hurt That Others Cause

The subject of forgiveness is a tough one for us all.  I know it. You know it. We all know it. All of us get our feelings hurt. All of us have moments where we feel persecuted. All of us get offended by the comments of others. All of us experience situations, some worse than others, where being able to forgive someone for the wrong they've done in our lives is pretty overwhelming. I wish I could say that as a Christian, it is easy to forgive. But sometimes, even considering forgiveness is out of the question.

"Very funny! Forgiveness? Do you even know what they did to me? I can never let it go. I mean, really. Why would I even want to forgive them? They were mean! They were hurtful! They made me cry! Never! I will never forgive!"

Quite frequently, I want to stay stubborn towards the idea of ever getting over what someone else has done to me. The pain of what they have done hurts too much. But, in reality, not being able to forgive leads to worse feelings than taking those steps to redemption.

2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Forgiveness doesn't mean that we forget what it is that hurts us.  Forgiveness means that we are trying to look beyond that hurt to a place of peace in our heart. Forgiveness allows us to not let our lives be hung over a fiery pit of torment. It helps us cling to God and question whether we've repented for what we may have done to others too. 

Words that others speak cannot be taken back.  They are buried inside our soul. The actions others can do to us cannot be forgotten. They are remarkably painful when we rehash it in our minds. But we must bury the hatchet of pain that this causes or we cannot experience unspeakable joy.

When I look back over the past events of my life, I can think of numerous times I have felt hurt and betrayed. I can remember specific events that cannot be erased without getting teared up by the hurt of those moments. It is never easy to move on from those feelings of pain. But what one suffers, God can relieve.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

We all make mistakes in our lives.  We all say things that we can not take back. Every one of us is guilty of doing things we wished we hadn't done. But do we apologize for what we say and do? Do we confront the person we've offended and explain the errors of our ways? Or do we just shrug our shoulders and call the other person "sensitive"  and "mistakably wrong?"

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly  Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how  many times shall  I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?"

Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Even though we should come forth and forgive the other person, it doesn't mean that we must allow that person back in to our life, depending on what they have done. It doesn't mean that we don't need boundaries. But it does mean that we need to be loving. It does mean that we need to let it go and move forward as best as we can.

This week at church, we heard from this woman who suffered a great hurt in her life and learned to forgive the person who caused a major pain. Check it out:

"Forgiveness must issue from the heart. It must be sincere. God has forgiven us; if we fail to show grace to others who have repented-guilty parties in a divorce, former  gang members, adulterers, homosexuals, gossipers, crafty politicians- then this text simply promises us hellfire( compare Mt 5:7; 6:12, 14-15)."- Matthew Henry

Let me encourage you today to think of those situations you are currently in and pray about them. Pray for that person who is hurting you and pray that God can change your heart so that you can forgive them. Pray that God gives you a peace over the situation so that it no longer keeps you dangling over that fiery pit. He will help you through this and He will heal.

I also want to encourage you to repent to Him for the things you've done wrong. Seek forgiveness from others for any kind of hurt you may have impressed in their life, no matter how large or small. Above all, forgive seventy-seven times or more. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

My 10 Reasons That I Love My Big Family

My husband and I love having a large family!  Sure, it can get chaotic and messy around here.  But when it comes down to it, if we had to choose between an immaculately, well-designed house filled with the latest gadgets to an often cluttered and incomplete home with less material things, I'd choose the latter. I'd rather have less stuff and more joy that I get to experience with my children. With this, here are my reasons that I love my big family:

1.) There is always someone to have a conversation with available at just about every hour. Yes, I mean every hour. There is always someone awake. BUT... my body has totally adjusted to the lack of sleep by now and hardly misses it. The fact that someone always wants to hang out is actually pretty cool!

2.) Extra hands means extra helpers. We've heard the argument that it's not fair for older kids to help out with caring for the younger ones. Believe it or not, they enjoy it. Not only that, but even if we had two, the older one will still help out the younger one. That's just what siblings do! Our children are very selfless. The older ones on down to even our three year old love to help out with whatever we have going on.

3.) We get to experience every kind of personality and see how God works in all sorts of ways. They each have different desires and strengths.  One wants to be a pilot. Another wants to be a farmer. And even more, another wants to be a builder. Seeing how it all unfolds and how God leads them in their life is pretty amazing! As I tell them each night when I tuck them in bed, "The world is waiting for them." All they need to do is follow God's direction for them with their life.

4.) They teach me something new each day! I also feel that my relationship with God stays stronger as my weaknesses are pointed out to me that much more when I go about each day. We have lots of good times but also moments of all-around forgiveness too.

5 .) There are more of us to serve in God's kingdom. My children love doing things for others, whether it's opening the door for strangers to helping an elderly person in a mobile cart shop at the grocery store. They love bringing goodies to our neighbors and sending notes in the mail to encourage others. If it brings a smile to someone else's face, they'll do it. They want to be a light that shines for others so they can lead others to the cross.

6.) They are each other's best friends. They love playing with others but their siblings are their best friends. And if one person is busy, there is always someone else to kick the soccer ball with them.  It's never boring around here.

7.) I get a hand-drawn picture from someone almost daily! Can there be any more reason to love being a mom to many? :-)

8.) We hear lots of laughter within our walls. Giggling, telling jokes, and being silly outdoes any amount of bickering any day.

9.) No matter what kind of life craziness get thrown in my direction, I at least get to hear, "I love you" from one if not more than one person during the day.  Those three little words will help any person get through the day.

10.) Getting to see different traits that come from my husband and other family members in each one is pretty cool. And knowing that each one shares something from the two of us just shows the wonder of God's design for marriage and family. He will use each arrow in a different way as they deliver His message to this world.

While every family has it's size, these are the things I enjoy about being a mom to many little ones! I wouldn't trade it for the world.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Joy of Sharing Our Lives With Others

In a world where we are made to believe we are too busy, the skill of being  relational seems to be lost. We are so connected over phones and computers, that we fail to relate in an interpersonal way.  Everyone is ready to share what looks good on the forefront but being able to share in a relatable way is covered up. Unfortunately, we are less genuine as a side effect.

As an introvert, it's easy to find the comfort of  relating to others  from a distance made available in this modern world. Making plans for an upcoming get-together? Wanting to catch up with someone? Responding to someone's recent question? Just send an email or text. Speaking to each other with our voice has almost become non-existent and being together, even more lost. The demands of every day life make this way much easier. However, the big concern is over whether we can still share our lives or build closer relationships on a much deeper level.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

When I'm busy with the kids and don't have a lot of quiet time around here, I struggle with knowing  what the best way to communicate is with others. Having someone over is often out of the question as I feel as though I am rushing around the kids to various activities and don't always have the time to be hospitable. At the same time, as an adult, I long for those moments to share my life on a deeper level  that is often missed because of both busyness and convenience.

Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your  good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

I love the lyrics to the song No Man is an Island by Tenth Avenue North that sums up much of what I believe many of us can honestly admit is a very real, yet serious problem. Loneliness can creep in when we hide our lives from others. We don't need to hide our lives from each other. We are made to  go through life together, not alone.

We miss out on opportunities to share our lives, open up to others, and be real when we hide behind a screen. We miss out on sharing our home, serving others, and being together when we fail to communicate on a deeper level. I struggle with this and I know other women do too. I intend to change that as I work on less digital communication and more face-to-face interactions. Who's with me?

No Man Is an Island lyrics:
"I see fear in your eyes
There's no safety here
Oh, my friend, let me in
I will share your tears
No man is an island, we can be found
No man is an island, let your guard down
Please don't try to fight me, I am for you
We're not meant to live this life alone."


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Joy In Being Comforted

When I woke up this morning, I awoke to rain. It instantly became a day of sweatpants, hot coffee, a pot of simmering soup, and children laughing from the bedroom as they built forts out of blankets from their beds. I settle into comfort and put on one of my favorites to watch, Christmas at Downton Abbey. As I relish in the beauty of the day, I also am reminded of the things I miss.

Weekends are difficult when my spouse is away. It's never the same when I know he is gone and other families are enjoying their weekend time together as a whole. He is missed and it never feels right.

And as I watch my British romance, I am also missing my Grandmother today. She shared a lot of things with me, these types of shows being one. She was the one I would call when my husband was away as we shared similarities with that lifestyle as well.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

When a person misses another, their heart feels as those it has leaped out from one's chest. You chase back after it but there is a sense that it cannot be recaptured for that moment. Jesus says, "You will be comforted." You are not forgotten when you are sad. But rather, He knows your sadness and He will deliver you. He will restore your soul.

Psalm 20:6 Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.

Rejoice in knowing that on days that you miss someone, God will see the sadness of your heart. Just like the rain, it does not last forever.

Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every year from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Joy in Being Dearly Loved by God


All around us, we are surrounded with photo-shopped pictures of "perfection." Everything from magazine covers that offer "Tens Steps to Slimmer Waists" to the mommy wars of posts on who feeds their child a cleaner diet, women are constantly overtaken by looking the best and being the best. I hear women talk about weight as if it's meant to be the sole identity of a person.

"Oh my, don't eat that one! You'll gain a tire around your waist," announces one. 

"I can't have any more of that or it'd be too many calories," voices someone with a hinting tone.

"Hmmm, I'm going to post a picture everyday of myself working out. I'm looking pretty good and in shape," thinks another.

Then you have the mommy wars between women on who feeds their child better or who's child has the cuter clothes. One only has to look so far as Instagram to see the copious amounts of pictures of girls in tutus of the day or boys wearing ties. Yes, it's all very fun to show off your child with filtered cuteness. But how far do we need to go in proving who's the better mom? Isn't keeping your child alive, clothed, and fed good enough? Instead, we hear conversations between moms on whether they are the better one because they chose not to vaccinate or whether they didn't take part in the soccer snack since there was sugar in it.

"I could never feed my child THAT," suggests some outspoken mothers.

Better yet, women have resorted to posting pictures of the often healthier-than-you-are menus. How's that going to make anyone feel better?

"Boy, I sure wish I had fixed something as healthy as so-and-so did for their children. They've got a full spread of good food and I'm lucky to get to the grocery store tonight to pick up a frozen bag of Tater Tots and already cooked chicken."

Other women find it their duty to constantly compare outspokenly through social media or word-of-mouth, all that defines them through the use of articles and quotes. I admit, I've done this before too. My mind says, "I'll post this one and yeah, it'll prove my point to that other person who gets on my nerve with their opinions. Boom!"
Galatians 6:3-5  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. 

Proverbs 21:4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!

JUST STOP IT RIGHT NOW! Since when did we become a society of women who insists on proving that they are the best? Everyone seems to be in a race to be the better eater, the smaller waist size, the smarter parent, or the more religious person. People giving each other opinions are overly done to the point that on the inside, it really makes no one feel any better. Instead, we are left with feeling defeated as though we can't keep up. 

Sure, the ideas on Pinterest are great. But what is our sole intention for it? Are we purposely doing this to outdo someone else? Are we just re-posting for the purpose of showing others we are more creative than them? No, I'm not saying it's all bad. I love finding cool hair-do pictures to try on my girls or some new allergy-free recipe to try. However, I'm guilty of wanting to serve the cool "soccer people" snacks that are Super Glued so that I could be the cool mom. Or in the past, I wanted to have the perfect kid's birthday party by having this or that. But what does it really say about me or my intentions? How did we get to this point of living in a "look at me and all I can do" world?

Yes, some of it can be helpful when you purposely share an article or well-meaning quote that encouraged you as a way to help others.  But then there are those that are shared for the purpose of saying, "Boo-yah! Take that because that's what I am hoping you'll know from me sharing this bit of information. What's that? Well, I'll raise you an anti-vaccine article but you can take that gun's rights article and keep it!"

The excessive posting of me-all-of-the-time is getting out of control. Not to mention, things that should be simple are now getting way too complicated. When it's meant to show that you can do all of this and more, that might not be such a great idea. "Lookie, look at me," is what it comes across to others sometimes. 

How about all of the pictures on social media websites? Is it really necessary to post a picture everyday? We are already aware of what you and your children look like so can't we limit the amount of pictures we share? I get that you think your child(ren) are the cutest. I've been there and once upon a time posted outrageous amounts of pictures too. Then it hit me. I realized that I was in that race to show that I had it all together. My children don't need to be shown as perfectly dressed for another picture posting or that I was a great mom in "appearing" to have it all together. Because in reality, I don't. 

I don't always get out of the door on my way to something with that five-star look. Some days, I need to leave the house without make-up on in order to get the kids to the dentist on time. There are other days, I feel drenched in sweat from carrying the twins and rushing from activity to activity that I'm sure the perfume I used that morning is long gone. Often times, I serve the kids cereal for dinner because we didn't get home from soccer until late and there was no way I had time to cook up the perfect "clean" meal. And gasp, the crumbs from breakfast are still on the floor long after dinner and maybe even in to tomorrow. 

So why are we as women so worried about how we appear on the outside to others? Are we creating an idol out of our self in proving our greatness? Why do we get embarrassed when someone shows up at random to our not-so-clean homes because of the chaos of the day? We all get stretched thin, so why would we want to push ourselves at "being" even more than what we have to give? Where is the joy in proving we are the best? Can't we be satisfied with knowing that we are dearly loved by God and that is all that truly matters?

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,  gentleness and patience. 

Proverbs 31:30-31 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. 

When was the last time you encouraged the tired mother at the grocery store trying to shop with small children? When was the last time you randomly paid for the person's coffee in the drive-through line behind you? When was the last time that instead of comparing calories with another woman, you left the weight talk at home and complimented her God-given strengths? When was the last time you thanked an older woman for the children she raised up into our society? When was the last time you invited someone into your home knowing that it wasn't all that clean but you offered the best you had and served them coffee/tea? When was the last time you brought groceries over to the woman who had a busy schedule? 

Proverbs 15:30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. 

We can all do our part in being an encouragement to other women in this world. Instead of trying to be the "better woman," how about throwing those comparisons out the window and just be YOU? God loves you for you and that is all that matters. So instead of caring so much about what the world thinks you should be, go on and be the woman God wants you to be: an imperfect, not-all-together , beautiful mess.                                                                                                                   


Friday, October 17, 2014

The Joy in Raising a Large Family

Over a year and a half ago, my husband and I received the joyous news that we were expecting twins. We have always had this dream that twins would be so great to have! Not too many husbands are wishful for twins, but my husband was always hopeful with each pregnancy.


When people first saw that I was pregnant when I was out alone, they would congratulate me on my "first" pregnancy, not knowing that I had four more children at home. The conversation would go as follows:

"Congratulations, you must be ready to have that baby," says stranger.

"Well, it's twins and I have three months to go," I would respond.

"What? Twins? You are going to have your hand's full," gasps the stranger with a shocked look on their face.

"Thanks, yes we have four others at home," I added on. Now, comes the jaw drop from the stranger and cricket sounds in the background.

(At 39 weeks preggo with twins)

Fast forward the time to now and what happens when I go out in public with children. Around me, I get every kind of comment from others. Sometimes, people are just naturally curious and other times, they are downright rude. I've had someone corner me at the dentist's office with comments about how I am contributing to the overpopulation of the earth. I've been asked if our family has a TV. I always get the questions such as, "Are they all yours?" and "Are you done now?" And I must get the comment, "Wow, your hands are full," at least three times in one outing. My children always hear the comments and sometimes, they are distasteful. For example, someone will ask me if they are all from the same father.  Worse yet, someone will make remarks about how my husband should get fixed or I should have my tubes tied.

Are my reproductive organs up for discussion with others? Absolutely not. Is it anyone else's business to pry into my personal life? No! And for the record, I am not just some pathetic woman taking orders from my husband. We are two that became one on our wedding day. We are following the calling He has for our lives. We enjoy raising the family He has given us. And no, we are not missing out on other things. This is the life for us. Furthermore, while it's not as common in today's society, it's something people insist on making comments on. It'd be easy for my to reply back rudely but then what am I teaching my children.

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Matthew 15:14   But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'

In my early years of parenting, I never thought I'd have six children. I remember wondering how a mom would go about having a large family when I was struggling with the first two that I had. Then, one day, God laid it on our hearts to have a large family. Through friends and from reading the Bible, we felt a strong call to follow God with His plans with our family. I truly believe that when you are convicted of something, you should seek wisdom and follow whatever it is God is calling a person to do.

Psalm 127:3-5 Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

When my husband and I courted, we used to talk about how much fun it would be to have a large family. But it wasn't until after we had our third, that we felt like God had more in store for us. Families come in all kinds of sizes. For us, God was telling us to have more.

The most common words others say to me when they find out I have six are:

1.) "You must have a lot of patience."

2.) "Pregnancy must be easy for you."

3.) "I could never do what you do."

Usually, I explain that my patience runs dry just like any other person. Pregnancies are not easy and I experience sickness and other symptoms just the same. And finally, I don't do it without relying on God's strength. I could never do it alone either.

God calls each of us to different things in life. As a little girl, I always wanted to be a mom. I played it, imagined it, and hoped for it. Before I married my husband, I knew he was the perfect guy for me because he loved children as much as I did. As a father, he works hard, encourages each one, and is great about spending time with each one individually as well. We make a great team together and we enjoy what God has given us.

There will always be naysayers when you follow what God wants you to do. It's the enemy's way to discourage you and I am not interested in listening to his lies. There are always hurdles and even those close to you can be hurtful in the process. I truly want to live out my faith. Each new blessing God has given us brings us a greater amount of joy. They contribute to this earth a strength laid out for them by their Creator. On this journey through living a life of unspeakable joy, I refuse to be broken apart by the world around me. I will be face-to-face with Jesus someday and I want to raise a new generation to live in the world ready to carry on His message.

I never need to worry about what others might say about the existence of my children.  They are not an accident. They are not a mistake. They are a gift, a treasured gift. My heart explodes with the love and joy they bring to my life. It's amazing and I am thankful for each one.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Finding the Joy in Each Season of Life

My favorite season of the year is here! I LOVE FALL! I love pumpkin spice lattes, cooler weather, Fall wreaths, Thanksgiving, mums, soccer, and many other things. I love when people go around saying, "Happy Fall, Y'all!" I love being able to actually enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning and then not burning up after because it's hot outside. I love being able to wear sweaters and boots. When the evenings are crisp and cool, I love being outside. I prefer cooler weather over hot weather. I would rather live where it's colder than hotter. Yep, I know. Crazy!

Sometimes, the hardest part for me is when summer weather lingers on. It gets to October and it still feels hot outside. It takes my joy away, like seriously! As soon as it starts to really turn to Fall, I become a blissful person. We all have favorite seasons that we look forward to with the weather. I would definitely say mine is Fall.

(These are Fall sunsets from our neck of the woods. Yes, this brings me joy!)

But I want to reflect for a minute on how God gives us different seasons. Not only does He give us different seasons of weather, but also seasons of life. Some seasons are full of sadness, such as when there has been a loss. Some seasons are full of worry and anxiety. Some seasons are really great and a person feels on cloud nine. Just like the weather, we endure the hard seasons to get to the good seasons. We never stay in those brutal seasons forever, although it sometimes can feel that way. Sometimes those hard seasons last for years.

My husband and I are in a season of big changes for our family. More or less, I feel sad about leaving this wonderful home where I can admire God's creation on a day-to-day basis. Yet, there are other emotions I feel about the changes as well. Some days, I feel really excited for the future. Other days, I feel overwhelmed by all that we have to do to get to the next place we are going in our lives. I am exhausted and I begin to grow weary. I start to question how it will all work. But it's not up to me on how it all happens.

"I have gone before you and prepared a place for you. Do not worry. I have it all planned out." This is what I hear God telling me through this process of change. As exciting, crazy, and scary it is all at the same time, I just need to put my trust in Him 100%. It's funny how much we can worry ourselves about tomorrow when God has it all planned out for us already. So I come back to that realization and let go of my fears, which is what worry is all about anyway.

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

When I face those seasons where sadness, worry, anxiety, anger, frustrations, or pessimism starts to sink in, I need to remember that I am being tested. Things cannot be GREAT all of the time. If it were, we would never have any reason to rely on God. Have you ever noticed that when times are tough, we lean more on God? As soon as things get better, we feel great and our relationship with God gets thrown on the backburner. Sorry, God! It isn't intentional.

But then again, what is intentional? Is our sadness intentional? How about our hopelessness? Our emotions can be the real deal. It's how we handle those emotions that gets us to tomorrow. Never give up hope. Once we start losing that hope, we stop trusting God.

Hebrews 6:19-20 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

I have lots of little ones here at home with me. Some days are peachy-keen and everyone is in a good mood. But low and behold, someone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed one morning and we have lots of bickering going on. My husband has a great word he uses for days that start out this way. He tells everyone that they need to "re-group." And we do! Sometimes, I pull everyone together and we talk about how the day started and how we can make it end better. We pray together as a family and wow, what a change!

Praying can be our best asset in those difficult seasons. Leaning on God and asking Him for changed hearts can really make a difference. When things are hard, I like to think of Job. I've always thought that the book of Job was one of the most challenging books of the Bible. Job suffered a great deal loosing his livestock, his family, and developing a skin illness. What I find so amazing about Job is that he never turns his back on God, even in the midst of all of his suffering.

Job 27:2-6 As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right, till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.

Lord, when I go through the different seasons of life, I pray that my relationship with You grows. Help me be strong through my suffering like Job. Draw me close to You. I thank you, Lord, for both the good times and bad. I pray that I can remain joyful always, giving thanks even under he hard circumstances in life. I lift up the current situation of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Lord, lead them to a place where they can feel safe. I pray you provide for them the food, water, clothing, and places to sleep that are needed. I pray that they stay strong through their difficult circumstances and that you bring relief to them soon. Amen.