Are you opening your gift this Christmas?

I imagine sitting at a table together and listening to her talk about the time she embarrassed herself in high school, or that time she blew up the lava volcano with her son, or maybe she’d tell me a story when she couldn’t stop crying.

Whatever she has to say, I would be listening, intently, nodding my head in agreement.

Michelle has this uncanny ability to weave story-telling and metaphor meaning with her words. She’s the kind of writer that sets the stage for her readers and slowly unravels the truth for them, so they come away feeling enlightened or maybe moved to take action in their own lives. And she does this in a way that is soft and inviting. She’s the kind of person I would love to sit and chat with and just listen to. Listen to how God is moving in her life and see that with her story, comes an invitation to grow in my own.

Michelle brings a wrap up to our guest posts for this season, and I couldn’t have picked a better way to end it.


I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts lately. ‘Tis the season after all. The constant barrage of advertisements for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and countless incentives make shopping for gifts seem highly important. As much as I actually love to shop and save money, those aren’t the types of gifts I’ve been pondering though. I’m looking at this a bit differently.

I like to think that giving a well-thought-out gift is a skill I have. I agonize and delight over trying to get just the right thing. Gosh, there is such joy in giving like that. If you’ve ever given someone you love the perfect gift and seen the pure joy on their face upon receiving it, then you know what I mean. These moments bring truth to the statement it’s better to give than to receive.

It often isn’t the cost or size of a gift like this that makes it significant. It is the thought and effort put into it. It can be a desire mentioned that you’re certain went unheard or forgotten, then you open the gift and see just the thing you admired and while it is lovely to have the possession it is even grander to know you had the attention of your love. You were heard and they made an effort to remember and bring your wish to reality. Aah yes, that is a good gift. The kind that makes you feel loved.

Keep that warm, satisfied feeling in mind and remember you have a heavenly Father who carefully selected gifts just for you. No one else could give the gifts He does. No one in the entire world knows you the way He does. He has given you gifts that are ideal for you and you alone.

Are you opening yours?

How would you feel if you put all of your efforts into choosing just the right gift for your child, you knew they were going to love it, and they left the package unopened under the tree? You would likely encourage them to open it and give hints about the amazing contents. Their lack of interest would be crushing.

I’m certain that God has given us each special gifts. He hints at what’s inside and urges us to open them. Sometimes we resist, other times we simply can’t see there is a gift amongst all the clutter. What a shame it is to leave these perfect gifts unopened.

I think without these being opened and put to use, we aren’t living the life we are intended to.

It seems to me that so many people feel unfulfilled with the lives they are living. They are going through the motions doing what needs to get done, but constantly fighting the feeling there must be something more.

There is more of course. Opening those gifts opens up a whole new world of possibility.

The richness of life lives in your special gifts.

So open up the gifts you’ve been given with the enthusiasm of a young child on Christmas morning. Allow yourself to be surprised at what you’ve received. Enjoy the way it fits you perfectly. Marvel at the gratitude of receiving something so miraculously perfect. Soak in the love it was given with.

It is silly to be apprehensive of such an offering, and yet it seems to be our nature. Perhaps we feel unworthy or feel pressured to use the gift correctly. However, just as a parent delights in the joy of a child playing with a much hoped for new toy, our Father wants to see us enjoy what has been given.

Sometimes, it is easier to recognize the gifts others have been given. What if we made it our mission to nurture those gifts in our loved ones? This Christmas give voice lessons to your sister who secretly loves to sing. Give a journal to the friend who loves to write. Give tools to the husband who can fix anything. Rent a community garden plot for the aunt with the green thumb. Give your children experiences that develop the gifts you clearly see in them. Do this and watch them flourish as their souls come to life. Watch them use their gifts to bring joy, fill needs, and help others.

How empowering it would be if we emboldened those we love to take time away to volunteer at a cause where their gifts would be invaluable? They would likely find the abundance we all sense life should hold.

I could easily make a wishlist of presents I’d like to receive; I’ve got my eye on some cute gray booties and a plaid scarf, for instance, but what if I asked for something that encouraged me to hone my own gifts instead. Surely, that would bring more lasting joy.

This season, know in your heart that you already possess the most precious gifts you’ll ever receive.

Make sure to open them and give thanks.

 

Michelle truly believes that our lives are meant to be amazing adventures and that those adventures can keep us close to home or take us around the world. She dreams of living in the country, but within close proximity to a Target. She is married to a guy she has loved for more than 25 years and doesn’t feel old enough for that to be possible. Her son has her wrapped around his dirty little fingers. Michelle writes about seeking grace, celebrating beauty, and living with gratitude at One Grateful Girl. You can connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

Finding Gratitude in Torrential Trials

Simply Motherhood. The name of Ashley’s blog captures her writing so well. What I like about Ashley’s writing is her ability to speak simple, straightforward truths. She doesn’t sugarcoat things. She’s honest and real. She’s simply sharing her story with you because she knows that as mothers, we don’t have time for a bunch of fluff. The simple stories tend to be the most powerful, don’t you think? And while Ashley is telling you the truth, she delivers with a subtle wit that makes you feel like you two could sit down and chat over coffee, without any judgment. I don’t know about you, but I think we could all use more friends like that in our lives.


We’ve been in the thick of it lately.

Raising three small children, work, marriage, the many unexpected trials of life.

The last few months have been nothing short of difficult. With the holidays on top of us, my stress had gone to the next level.

We’ve all been there. You feel like you are just hanging on by the grip of your coffee cup for dear, dear life. Things have to look up soon…right?

When we fall into the thick of things our minds get a little cloudy. I know mine does. Everyday, I feel like I’m looking at cloudy skies waiting for another rainfall, waiting for another trial to add to our already heavy load of life.

When the rain pours, we start to feel stuck. Sometimes, we can’t see the things to be grateful for.

Things started pouring when we welcomed our baby boy who was five weeks early, followed by several doctor visits because he was losing too much weight. Our middle son was diagnosed with autism recently. We needed to find a bigger, yet affordable car. And recently I had a horrifying and terrifying afternoon with a call to the paramedics.

In the midst of this chaos, I found myself taking a step back.

I was on a slippery slope and I needed to shelter from the rain, from the downpour.

It was too much. I was so focused on all the negative going on around us; I didn’t see all the small things I could be grateful for in those moments.

I took a breath and looked at my family, at our current life and saw the bigger picture.

We welcomed a baby boy five weeks early who only spent 4 hours in the NICU. Other than his weight dropping, he was healthy.

He was alive. He was home.

Our son was diagnosed with autism, but that fact didn’t change our love for him. He is still our happy, though difficult at times, smiling boy. And now we are learning how to help him get through this crazy ride of life.

We had to find a bigger car in a rush, but now I’m sporting my mom van very proudly.

Our three kids are alive, healthy, and still driving us crazy. We have a home to call our own and we are all together.

And we can get through these hard times together.

We may be in the thick of life right now, but there are always things to be grateful for. Things to remind us that even though we are in the storm, there are rainbows if we just take a moment to look for them.

When we go through trials, we have the choice to only see the rain storms. We also have the choice to look through it and find even the smallest things to be grateful for.

In choosing to see the good in the bad, it reminds us we are strong enough to get through the storms in our lives. It reminds us that like real storms, there is always a rainbow waiting to be seen.

As long as we are willing to look for it.

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

 

 

Ashley writes here and there on the interwebs. She likes to connect with her readers on Facebook and Instagram. Head over there and say hello!

Focusing On Christ Amidst Holiday Frenzy

C.S. Lewis talked about how Christians have different ways of describing Christ forgiving our sins in his book Mere Christianity. He said “You can say that Christ died for our sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb….They are all true. If any of them do not appeal to you, leave it alone and get on with the formula that does” (p 182).

If I were to name a writer who lives this truth, it would be Traci. She has a way of writing about some of the different “formulas”  that in the end, bring you closer to Christ and understanding his Word. Traci has a way of seeing how God uses his church and his body to minister to others. Instead of turning away from something that seems different, Traci embraces it to grow closer to Christ. She sees God working through his people and ultimately, brings His revelation through her to her readers.

And that is something special.


She sat across from me at the table, casually discussing holiday plans. Family get togethers, last minute shopping, planning a menu. All of the typical things we women do to make sure our families have meaningful traditions and, ultimately, memories. Then, she said,

“I wish there was a way to help me focus more on Jesus during this time. I want my holidays to be more about him.”

My response came instinctively, which shows how far I’ve come. You see, five years ago I wouldn’t have known what to tell her. Likely, I would have listened politely, and nodded my head in agreement. Here’s how I responded,

“There are ways to better focus on him during the holidays! Times of preparation that lead up to the actual holidays, which often last more than one day too. It’s all in the church calendar.”

I didn’t say any more than that, but I hoped it peaked her interest. You don’t have to be Catholic, or any denomination that practices high liturgy to practice these seasons of preparation. Advent. Lent. Ordinary Time. Just as God did for the Israelites in the Old Testament, he’s built feasts and festivals and fasts into our yearly calendar to help us right our focus on him.

He reminds us again and again, we don’t have to practice our faith alone.

The church year actually starts with Advent, which begins on Sunday, December 3rd this year. It always begins four Sunday prior to Christmas (or Christmastide if you really do your church calendar research).

Up until about five years ago, the only thing I knew about Advent was that some of the churches I’d attended would put a wreath on the stage with five candles in it. They’d invite individuals or a family up each Sunday to light one of the candles and do a short reading. All very nice, but it didn’t mean a lot to me when I did nothing else for Advent the other six days of the week.

For our family, it started when our daughter was a toddler. Isn’t that the way of things? We’re willing to try something new if it enriches our children’s experiences. I found an Advent calendar in the shape of a house on clearance after the holiday season at Target. The following year, I filled it with candy and tiny trinkets. Wanting to make sure I included the Christmas story in our Advent time each day, I wrote a brief summary of the story, breaking it into 25 days of reading. Then, on Christmas morning, she would open the last Advent door and we’d sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

The first few years, I read the blurbs to her each day. Once she could read, I let her take over. Starting in 3rd grade, she began looking up the verses pointing to each day’s story in the Bible on her own. Every morning of Advent, she jumps out of bed, rushing to the table for that day’s reading. I realize it’s as much for the surprise treat, but it gets her in the word every day.

It prepares her heart for a Christmas morning that I want to be about Jesus, not just a bunch of presents. I’ve tried to graduate her from these simple readings I prepared years ago into maybe a devotional, but no, apparently the simple phrases she was introduced to as a toddler are part of the tradition too. Just the other day, she asked me if we could start Advent early.

The past few years, I’ve added other elements to our observance of Advent. For myself, I find a new devotional to read during this season. There are a ton of great choices! I’ve also started collecting picture books that teach children about Advent, this unique season of waiting for his coming. Each one is truly beautiful.

Last year, we added an Advent wreath to our table, complete with five candles. It’s a simple round wooden wreath my husband cut from a downed tree on our property. Together, as a whole family, we read a prayer each Sunday evening, and light the next candle. This from a family who doesn’t do family devotions together! I’m excited to see where this tradition might lead us.

Tis the season – for a season before the season. If you don’t already participate in Advent, I hope you’ll look into it. We’re given several weeks to start preparing for the coming of the Christ child. We have an alternative to the hustle and bustle of this time of year. Thank you, church!

 

My name is Traci. I live in southwest Michigan, somewhere in a triangular section connecting Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids with all things Lake Michigan. My husband and I parent one daughter. We have dogs, cats, ducks, pigs and chickens. Their number is always changing, as farm animal counts tend to do. I enjoy watching sports, reading, cooking and all things Bible study. I am a writer. When I first started blogging, I wondered about what unique voice I could bring. I’ve landed on this one line: A country girl goes to church.

You can find Traci on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I know why God made Autumn

Have you ever heard the advice to find your tribe and love them hard because they are your people and it’s what we do? Lisa embodies and epitomizes this belief. She is a true lover of people and wants nothing more than to see her friends grow and thrive.

And you know what’s even better about Lisa? Her intense love and encouragement transfers to those around her. You can’t help but become your friend’s biggest cheerleader when you see Lisa standing on the sidelines cheering you on. All that to say, I am thrilled to have her words on the blog today.

I asked Lisa to keep the Autumn season in mind as she wrote for us. When I opened my inbox and saw that she was starting her essay as a letter, in the voice of her 7 year-old-self, well, I knew we were in for a treat. She has a knack for revealing deep metaphors in life in the most simplest ways, many times inviting her readers to find the metaphor themselves.


Dear God (as spoken by my 7 year-old self)

My Mama told me that I can thank you a little longer in my prayers tonight because it’s the first day of Autumn and it’s my favorite time of year, and she said you would be happy that I feel this way and that I should tell you why I do

I’ll be right back God cause my Dad made me hot chocolate with marshmallows and I don’t want the marshmallows to melt before I eat them

I’m back God

I did not mind my manners cause I forgot to share my hot chocolate with you but if you are thirsty you can drink all the water in my sippy cup

Hold on please

“Yes, Mama?”

“Okay!”

God,

My Mama wants me to speed up a little and talk about Autumn

My Grandma told me that you paint the trees so that the grown-ups will feel gratitude cause sometimes they’re mad at you and they forget how beautiful everything is that you made and how blessed they are that you made them and that’s why my Grandma says you made Autumn to remind them how special life is

I think you made Autumn so that the lady in the crayon building won’t forget the colors of the crayons to make for the children

My teacher asks us to collect leaves and then we trace them and sometimes we glue them on paper for our Thanksgiving project and then we give them to our neighbors who are lonely

So they can get happy again

My favorite color is red like a fire engine except for when the leaf is broken and then my favorite color is yellow only not with the dark lines

When you run out of paint you can come with me and my Dad to Home Depot!

My Grandpa used to throw me in the leaves and then we would throw all the leaves up in the air and then Grandpa would rake new leaves and make a brand new pile

I miss my Grandpa

Mama always yelled at Grandpa for staying outside in the cold and then letting all the leaves stick in my hair

Grandpa never listened to Mama and whispered that he was pretending that he didn’t hear her

I miss my Grandpa

And sometimes when Mama plays with me in the leaf pile she misses Grandpa too

Our neighbor Mrs. Hammer says that Autumn is for your spirit to feel anew

I’m not sure whats that means; maybe it means not old

I know it’s a good thing cause when Mrs. Hammer tells me that she looks up at you in heaven and smiles

And when Autumn starts we carve pumpkins in the backyard and my Dad says we’re lucky to be a family and to have each other

So God I think that’s why you really made Autumn

Cause people feel more lucky and happy and you love when all the people you made feel your goodness

I have to go to sleep now God

So thank you for making Autumn

Pleasant Dreams!

 

Lisa Leshaw has worked as a mental health professional for the past 31 years. She currently conducts Parenting Skills Workshops, Group Counseling for Blended Families and Empowerment Circles for Women. As a consultant, Lisa travels throughout teaching Communication and Listening Skills, Behavioral Management Techniques and Motivational Strategies.

To de-stress she performs in children’s theatre and plays piano whenever requested. She is hoping to either write the next memorable musical composition or Great American Novel!

How Fallen Leaves Help You Measure Your Worth

Shelby has a knack for speaking straight to the heart by cutting through the hard stuff with a grace and eloquence that leaves me wanting more. That is a gift. And she grows in this because her words are based on one truth: God’s word. I love this about Shelby. I am so honored to have her over for “blogging dinner”–(is that weird? that sounds weird, but it’s so true!)–and to have her as a guest post for all our readers here. I think you will love what she has to say (hard as it may be!) and find yourself saving this essay so you can come back and read it again later. I found myself reading it over and over in one day; I just loved it that much!


Fall is a time of glorious transformation. God’s majesty dances amongst the trees in vibrant colors and hues—sunlight giving an extra sequence sparkle. And not only are blue skies a transcendent backdrop, but ponds and lakes reflecting the magic give us double the visual reward.

The display of beauty is a fleeting gift, as the full transformation continues to barrenness, then to new growth before the color wheel begins again. The cycle of life within the leaves a tangible analogy for the great paradox of life: it is in death we find new life.

But what if trees believed their colors represented their true worth? How useless and less than would they feel once all their leaves were gone? If this was true, it’s hard to imagine what standing naked in front of the world would do to their self-esteem.

What about us? Do we allow our life situation to define our worth? Do positive circumstances equate to high self-esteem and deep self-love, while pain and struggles render us invaluable?

Do we allow our life situation to define our worth? Click To Tweet

 

*****

The Autumn colors remind me of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Had Joseph linked his importance to the beautiful robe—a loving gift from his father, Jacob—then when his brothers tore it off his back and sold him as a slave, Joseph would have felt insignificant and unworthy.

But instead, Joseph remained humble and identified himself with the Lord. He knew who he was in God’s eyes, even when betrayed by family and having to spend years in prison as an innocent man.

Joseph stayed true to his authentic self, his value as a child of God, because he was willing to die to self. Rather than falling into bitterness, resentfulness, and vengefulness towards his brothers, Joseph chose forgiveness. Death to ego, new life through mercy and love.

What is our coat of many colors?

How our children behave, the choices they make? Is it our marriage and how well it’s holding up? Maybe our job and whether it’s prestigious enough? How about our physical health and appearance?

If the perceived success or failure of any of these circumstances determines our great worth, then we are in for a letdown when the robe is stripped off our back.

And to compensate for feeling less than or naked in front of a crowd, we often cover our brokenness with layers of self-preservation. Our true self cowers behind pride, insecurity, shame, judgment, selfishness, self-righteousness, jealousy, fear, resentment.

But Paul tells us, “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV)

Embracing the Divine image within us by dying to self leads us to a resurrected life of authentic wholeness, where our unsurpassed value is who we are in Christ. And from this place of inner authenticity and self-love, the splendor of Autumn always exists—both for us when we look in the mirror and as reflected into the world for our spouse, children, family, friends, neighbors.

The challenge is also to see this same glory in others. To know each person is God’s creation, holding a Divine image within regardless of whether their tree boasts new life, dazzling color, or barren branches.

Trying to find the beauty in what seems fruitless, lifeless, loveless is hard. But Joseph did this. He chose to look at the heart of his brothers, to see beyond the ugliness, and believe in the beauty of their soul.

Lord, help us to do the same.

To lose our leaves.

To transform so others can transform.

To let the Christ in us see the Christ in others.

To love with your love.

Amen

 

Shelby is a Christian mom to three beautiful knuckleheads who have left her with an empty nest in which to ponder what the mom thing has (done to her) meant over the past twenty-three years.

She invites readers to join her on the journey to find Grace in the mishmash of motherhood–one revelation, screw-up, gaffe, and joy at a time. Shelby is currently working on her first book.

You can find Shelby online on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She writers on her blog at www.shelbyspear.com.

Stop Letting Perfectionism Steal Your Joy

If I had to name only one writer who is as genuine and honest as they come in their writing, then I would tell you about Emily. Not only is she someone who stays transparent in her writing but she is someone whose insight and opinions about writing I value. Since we both have two littles within 2 1/2 years of each other, we have found ourselves at times messaging each other in the middle of the night. Of course they are mostly from me asking her for some writing advice!

When I asked Emily to write about motherhood and faith, I was excited to see how God would speak through her. And just like the last two guest posts we’ve had here this month, God comes through and Emily comes obediently with an open heart. Her words today have once again ministered to me during a season when I needed it most. Head over to Emily’s site for more of her writing. You won’t regret it one bit.

Do you let perfection steal your joy? For those who struggle with perfection and let it steal their joy.

My tired, temporary eyes can’t find something soothing to rest on. It’s too early, too dark, my brain too sleep-starved. The plates from last night’s dinner are in an unsteady pile by the sink, the full dishwasher asks to be emptied while my children ask to be filled, and so I serve oatmeal from a spaghetti-splattered microwave and breastmilk from my aching body, rubbing my eyes.

My eyes: they’re in this moment, which sounds like a good thing, but right now it feels like a trapped temporality—I’m stuck here. Stinging eyes see undone laundry, toys that I should repair, pantry appallingly disorganized—a household mismanaged, I suppose. Look deeper; you’ll see trim that wants painting, kitchen without backsplash (still), chairs with screws slowly loosening—a household always under construction.

Imperfection everywhere. If I’m honest, these trapped moments feel frequent and all-consuming sometimes. Raising babies comes with plenty of imperfection because babies don’t care about clean houses. Working from home and staying with my children enclosed by these same four walls gives my eyes too much time to study the drywall cracks on the bathroom ceiling and the slowly deteriorating paint on my living room furniture. Perfectionism wags its finger at me, showcasing my housekeeping (and other) failures like a nightmarish Vanna White. And the category is… how Emily is failing and has failed, circa 1990-2017.

I want things to be perfect. I want my house perfect, myself perfect. According to my Instagram feed, anything less is off-brand.

Now it’s dark again, but it’s the dark of growing colder, not getting warmer; the clock and my exhaustion announce the time when I climb into bed and pass out. But tonight, my closed eyes still see imperfection, and I can’t find rest. I’m gritting my teeth and making lists of projects and planning how to hide the mess when people visit on Thursday. An hour passes in sleepless anxiety, the list growing: it’s not just my house, after all, it’s my work-life balance, my parenting style, my interactions with friends—me. I’m the problem, right?

In the darkness, a clear word: Stop. You’re looking with temporary eyes. I don’t see what you see. Look again, and this time, think beyond Thursday. What has eternal significance?

I exhale. There it is: when I look without my time-bound eyes—when I look with an eye toward eternity—my home and life are entirely different. My house: a cozy construction of wood and plaster that is the safe place for my children to learn, grow, and make mistakes; their jumping-off point that we improve not for style points or to land a spot on HGTV, but to give them that tangible experience of an intangible feeling—home. Four walls that have sheltered friends and have hosted groups and are always open. My parenting: flawed but betting on love, prayer, and Saturday morning pancakes. My life: care-for, important, meaningful beyond my postpartum tummy and my mistakes.

When I flip my lens and look with eternity in mind, everything changes. My goals for the day are rewritten: less fruitless cleaning, more fruitful connecting. I’ll never stop craving order and beauty, but I can stop letting perfectionism steal my contentment and sour my motherhood.

James talks about perfection, and he does say we should strive for it. “Count it all joy,” he writes, “when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, ESV). His brand of perfection has nothing to do with lack of flaw—instead, it’s a wholeness that makes us complete. It’s a maturity that grows out of trial (and boy howdy are dishes a trial), and it’s a “perfection” that can make your insides full of order, beauty, and contentment, regardless of the state of your home or your life.

I wake up, willing the sleep from my body. It’s the same house, but it looks different this morning. It’s eternally significant. It’s perfect.


Emily Fisk swore she’d never be a mommy blogger, so now we all have something to laugh about together. From a cozy valley in Idaho, Emily writes between work deadlines and toddler tantrums. Follow along at emilyfisk.com or on Instagram (@emilyafisk) for attempts at sanity, humor, and faith. 

Who is it that you say I am?

When I invite my friend over to hang out and talk, I generally get excited to have our favorite drink and snack ready so we can cozy up and talk. When I invite a friend over, it’s not just to talk about the weather. I want us to be transparent with one another in hopes that we might leave our meeting feeling like God has enlightened us and encouraged us in some way. Quality over quantity.

Abbie does that with her guest post today. I invited her over to talk with me about motherhood and faith and she opens up, letting God minister through her. I first met Abbie when I started my own Instagram account. I came across her profile and then we both ended up in the same blogging group. Abbie has the gift of making you feel welcome as you are in the world of social media, and while she’s sharing her heart about hard stuff, she’s quick to make you chuckle with the tears at time,s all the while bringing you back to the Truth. I am beyond thrilled to have her voice here today and hope that it brings you as much encouragement as it does me. Be sure to check out her blog for more of her writing.

Do you struggle with your faith sometimes as a Mom? Do you let the world tell you what your worth is? Who is it that you say I am?

Who are you?

Nothing like starting with some giant existential questions.

When I think of who I am, I start listing my labels: Mother, Parent, Daughter, Friend, Wife, Christian, Teacher, Runner. I like these titles. I’m proud of them. I’m blessed by them. In fact, those of us with the label ‘mother’ get a special day coming up and it’s nice to feel celebrated, but the rest of the time we tend to fly under the radar.

This year, I’m full-time at home in this season in a new city, and I’m flying waaayyyyy under the radar, like leggings-every-day-under-the-radar. Before Christmas, we had family pictures taken and I thought, “This is my moment. I’m going to wear pants that zip so no one will realize that I have spent one calendar year in yoga pants.”

Happening into two years of being a stay-at-home mom has been a pivotal shift for me. I didn’t exactly choose it and while I know how fortunate I am to have this time with my girls, sometimes I’m guilty of being defined by what I do in these small, patterned days (maybe ‘confined by’ is a closer to the truth). In the microcosm of mothering toddlers, I’m not quite certain of what space I hold in the wider world around me or even what that should look like in the day-to-day routines at home. I find myself off-balance and hesitant where I would have been brash and confident five years ago.

Maybe you’re coming up to Mother’s Day with both arms open, singing “Bring mama all the goodies! I’m ready for the adulation!” or maybe you’re like me, excited for a little validation but worried that deep down, you’re not quite measuring up. In your secret thoughts, is your identity a tally list of failures?

It’s not at all about who I say I am or even who the people around me say I am. It’s about who Jesus declares me to be.

Anyone else need that reminder or am I the only one?

If you are in Christ, then your identity is already secure, whether you’re struggling with or nailing your roles today. My feelings are indicators of what’s happening around me, but my every day relationship with Jesus, through God’s word and through prayer are the only way to live in the ongoing, non-changing indwelling of His truth. So in a way, it doesn’t really matter whether I position myself as a domestic engineer or a rocket scientist, my identity is safe with Jesus. This God who tells us His strength is found in our weakness and that our quietest unseen moments are infinitely more valuable that external validation, HE alone tells me who I am.

And He says that I am forgiven.

He says that I have access to his strength.

He says that He’s already faced my struggles and has conquered them.

He says that I am without shame and radiant.

He says that I have a purpose.

And maybe most importantly, fellow moms, he says that I am His child.

As moms, we know what that means. It means grace, it means instruction and correction but most of all, it means unconditional love. Remembering the truth of who I am reminds me of who my children ultimately belong to as well. It shifts the focus off my abilities, success or failures and back onto Christ.

So this year, I’ll take all the chocolate and hugs on Mother’s Day because I know who I am and, as I care for my kids in this season of small, that is making all the difference.

 

Abbie’s a child of God saved by His grace. She’s also a wife, mama and high school French and English teacher. In this season at home with her two littles, she’s blogging about faith, fails and mom life from Saskatoon, Canada. She tries to find the humor amid the Huggies and wisdom in the whining, but so far hasn’t developed any love for the laundry. Join in the fun and discover an honest and encouraging community of mamas at her blog http://www.grumblinggrace.com/ and on Facebook

Trusting God To Provide

When she writes about topics like “why babysitting should be in your budget” and her husband’s “unique view of a Proverbs 31 wife” I knew Ayanna was a writer I could connect with. Her candor about having financial peace in your home will motivate you to break chains in areas of your life using God as your guide. That sounds sort of trite but her encouragement is true and when you read her words you can immediately tell she is lead by the Holy Spirit. And that is someone I want to read over and over. I’ll let her words here today show you what I mean.

Trusting God to provide, especially as a mom can be one of the most trying things. Read more about this mom's journey to trusting God as she transitioned to a SAHM.

Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a mom. Having a career, getting married, and having children were things that I always aspired to do. Growing up with a mother that worked and seeing how important it was to be able to provide for your family, made having a career being just as important as being a wife and a mother. So with that image of motherhood at the forefront of my mind, I set goals accordingly. I went to college, became a pharmacist, married my college sweetheart, and then we started a family. Yet once I finally became a mother, the image of what motherhood should look like for me began to change and God’s calling on my life as a mother started becoming clearer. So after my twin daughters were born, I went from being a working pharmacist to stay at home mom. This was a transition from trusting on myself and my husband to provide, to trusting God to provide.

God Will Provide

I knew being home full-time was something in my heart that I wanted to do and believed that God was calling to do this as well. So instead of focusing on what I was losing in the form of income, I  began to learn what I was gaining through trusting God’s provision.

And my God will meet all your needs

according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 4:19

Trusting God to provide is one thing, but trusting for Him to provide according to His ways is not the same thing. My husband’s job has primarily been the means in which God has provided for our family. Yet through his career, we have moved across the country about every 2 years. Would I have rather have stayed put and tried to convince my husband to get another job? YES! However, trusting God to provide means also trusting in the way in which He provides. Moving around has not been easy, but through it all God has provided beyond our wildest dreams because we trusted Him to do so. We have grown and see so many things we would not have if we tried to do things our way.

Trusting God Is Not Always Easy

Another thing I’ve learned while trusting God to provide is that it is not always easy. Have I ever been anxious and worried about how He was going to make a way when I could not see one? YES, especially during  layoffs at my husband’s company. We had recently moved again and still trying to get acclimated to a new city. Yet although not easy, I choose to continue to trust God to provide.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things,

and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

-Matthew 6:31-32

Being worried and anxious will not get us anywhere, and will only lead to becoming more worried and anxious. Trusting God to provide means trusting Him when you see a way and when you do not. Believing that regardless of the things going on around you, you know that God sees you, knows your needs and will provide for them.

Prayer Works

Yet I would not be being honest if I did not admit that even knowing God will provide and knowing that I should not be anxious, there are times when the weight of it all just gets too much. It is in those times that I do the only thing I know to do, PRAY!

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;

knock and the door will be opened to you.

-Matthew 7:7

Learning to trust God also means going to Him and asking Him specifically for the provision. There is nothing too big or too small for God. If He could make the moon and the stars, I’m sure whatever we are asking for is not too much. Praying to God to seek His guidance, His covering, and His provision is never too much.

From the moment you discover you are going to be a mother, you are forever changed. The lessons I have learned from motherhood so far are numerous, some big and some small. Yet, learning to trust God to provide has been one of the biggest because it has not only helped to shape me as a mother, but also as a daughter of the one true King!

Be Blessed,

Ayanna

 

Ayanna is a stay at home wife and mom of 3 little divas-in-training, two of which are identical twins. She is saved by grace, and believes her faith and belief in Jesus keeps her grounded and gives her strength. She loves to use her life and lessons learned to inspire and encourage you to live fun, joyful and abundant lives that shine like Stars. You can find more from her over at her blog 21 Flavors of Splendor, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

What Memories of My Mother Have Taught Me

Last week we had Sarah’s guest post about her thoughtful and sweet memories of her mother this time of year and baking cookies. This post especially hit close to home for me with my recent lost and I felt like Sarah’s article could not have been more timely. And then Julie’s guest post came along and it seems many of us moms have similar things on our mind this time of year of the loved ones we have lost.

When I met Julie in a fellow writing group, I was always interested to see what new essay she had written. She has a great ability to write as if you are flowing through her daily life with her. In my mind, I see Julie as she is experiencing life and then things to herself, “This is something other moms would want to know to. Let me share my experience with them.”

Whether she actually thinks about her writing process like that or not, I definitely love the genuine, simple and real appeal Julie offers through her writing tips to other moms. And since we’re all about mom tips around here, I was excited to have Julie guest post. I was even more excited to see that she also decided to write about her mother and provide endearing, honest encouragement for many of this time of year.


Meet Julie! She is a freelance writer and blogger, wife, and mom to three busy boys, & fur mama to two rescue dogs and two guinea pigs. She writes on her blog about motherhood, kids, family, recipes, DIY, travel, and faith. She is a vegetarian who loves to cook and create recipes when she’s not driving her three boys all over town to sports practices in her crumb-filled minivan.

In her past life she has worked as a Scientist and Medical Data Manager, a Pediatric Nurse, and a SAHM. She loves to volunteer in her kids’ schools and help fundraise money for their schools. She is a Christian who loves nature, animals, traveling, gardening, swimming in her pool, and simply spending time with her family. Her favorites are dark chocolate, red wine, and cheese with yummy bread. Catch more of her writing at www.juliehoagwriter.com. Better yet, check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or my favorite!! her Pinterest.


 

Memories are like tissues. Sometimes they are out in my hand and present with me. Sometimes they are all crumpled up and thin, or balled up and tucked away with tear etched and hand wrung crevices. Yet others are shoved down in the deepest pockets of my heart. Memories like tissues are cried on, nose wiped, smudged with food. They are loved or used to help me feel better and soak up my sadness. Or some memories thicken my sadness. Whatever their role my memories have built me into who I am.

My motherhood memories from my own childhood are real. They are mine alone. Those memories built me into the mother I am today. Having lost my mother days before Christmas as a teen taught me many things about being a mother. I learned the lesson the hard way that my own motherhood will end someday when I’m not ready for it to end. I will be ripped from my children’s lives and I won’t be ready for it. They won’t be ready for it. It will leave my children scarred, scared, terrified, angry, and feeling cheated. And I will feel the same as I take my last breath when I die. No matter what age I will be when that happens, I know I won’t be ready to leave them behind. I will want to stay. I will want to be with them and imagining that moment scares me to my core.

I shove those feelings down deep in the pockets of my heart most days but they resurface from time to time to teach me.

Having lived the loss of my mother has brought me to a place in my motherhood where I know I can’t waste this motherhood of mine.

As I near the age my mother was when she died, I feel this realization the strongest I’ve ever felt it. I can’t waste my motherhood no matter how busy I am or how many tasks I get behind on; I am a mother first before laundry, before homemade lasagna, before writing my next post, and before my messy kitchen.

All I have to do is fall back into my sixteen-year-old heart (and this isn’t hard to do because it’s always at the surface) to realize how special those mother and child memories are for a child. I instantly put down my vacuum and stop folding clothes when I realize this. Sometimes I’m dense and my mountains of work cloud my vision and I keep working like a mad woman to get it all done. Sometimes this realization to live in the moment comes at me like a concrete fist to wake me up. This realization helps me stop working when my child asks me to snuggle with him on the couch while watching a Christmas movie. I remind myself the Christmas season is short and he won’t want to watch these movies with me in a few short weeks.

I’m a hard core type A personality and I often forget to savor moments because I get wrapped up in my to-do list. I remind myself I need to slow down. I recall that piercing memory of how I felt at Christmas when my mother had passed away, and all I had left was memories. This stops my racing type A mind cold and I sit down and be present with my child while I can because I don’t know when I will lose the ability to do so.

This thought composes my prayers each night as I ask God to allow me to be with my children into my old age because I so desperately want to do just that. Loss of a mother at any age is extraordinarily difficult but when a parent is lost to a child that loss is devastating. The child doesn’t understand and they struggle to go on. Their world is forever altered and slanted yet they must struggle to walk straight. I know because I lived that loss and it devastated me even as a teen.

My memories of my mother are present all around my house today at Christmas time. My children place memories of her on the tree as they fit the little strings of her initialed ceramic ornaments on the branches. My memories are in the lit up ceramic Christmas tree she made as my kids put the little plastic bulbs on it. We listen to the faltering music box inside as they work with busy little hands. My memories of her are intertwined with their fighting chatter about who gets to put what bulb where. Their fighting annoys me, but still I smile because I know decorating this tree will be a memory for them.

Memories of her are intertwined in my time making cookies with my own kids. We make many of the same cookie recipes I made with my own mom as a child.  As I make these cookies with my kids the images of my mother drift into my brain. I can see her standing in the kitchen with a spatula raised like a magic wand, or setting the caramels pan on the snowy deck in the cold winter air to harden.

As my kids shake sprinkles heavily onto white frosted cookies, I recall the time as a child when I shook the sprinkles too much. I had loved to shake the sprinkles container, the cylindrical kind with the little colored ball sprinkles, and I thought it made a glorious sound when I shook it. I loved to see the tiny colored balls burst out the holes in top. After I sprinkled my cookie one cookie making day, I kept shaking, and shaking, and shaking that container. I shook it until there were little balls rolling all over the kitchen floor. My mother had looked at me and asked me to stop. She had the you-need-to-stop-now look I know so well now as a mother myself. She didn’t get too mad at me because we were making cookies, it was a joyous day, but I knew she didn’t like my thoughtless mess. The beauty of that priceless memory is I hold it cherished deep in my heart pockets where it lives soaked into my tissues, and it comes out to dance and make me smile at Christmas time when I make cookies with my kids.

Do you have memories of your mother that have shaped who you are today? What memories of my mother have taught me. Guest post.

I want to create special mother and child memories for my own kids so they can hold them in their own hearts. Hold them deep down in their heart pockets where their tissues will live all soaked in Christmas memories, tears, but with tons of joy too.

I try to relish the moments of each day so I don’t waste this motherhood of mine. I pray each night that God will permit me more time with my kids so I can keep watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with them on the couch each Christmas. I pray for the foresight to sometimes ignore my to-do list. I pray I will get to nurture my kids’ Christmas memories by making cut-out cookies as they grow each year to add new talents like rolling out their own ball of dough.

I lost my mother just days before Christmas on a fluffy giant snowflake falling day. That is the day I learned how to be a mother even though I didn’t realize this until just now as I hug and kiss my each of my children goodnight.

The secret of how to be a mother is to truly be present with your kids.

I know this as my kids and I talk about how Christmas is only a lovely few days away. It’s clear to me as we talk about how we will make more cookies this weekend, the ones they love made of peanut butter and a chocolate kiss. It’s reinforced as we talk about how they need to write their letters to Santa quick before we run out of time.

I tuck them in at bedtime and say their prayers, and add my own that I will get yet another day tomorrow, another year, another Christmas, another fifty years with them. And I know in my heart it still won’t be enough and I will still want more.

Fellow moms, may God grant you more time with your babies and may God help us remember we need to love our kids and live in the now of this Christmas.

Sprinkles and Burnt Antlers: The Joy of Cooking with Kids

I went back to her website to find that article. I remember it well because she had talked about her child seeing beauty in something that she, as the mother, saw as a mess. I remember this one well because it struck me to the heart. As a type A personality, I worry that I might rob the beauty my children will see in the daily mundane because I’m too worried about cleaning things up.

I’ve been following Sarah and her blogging since about February. I’m sure I stumbled along her writing in a mutual writer’s group. I do remember that I was immediately drawn to her writing. That’s what I love about growing as a writer. You find so many other great writers and you feel like you could be friends if you met in a coffee shop.

I wont keep you any longer. Sarah is our guest today and I can’t wait for you to meet her!


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Meet Sarah! She is a current stay-at-home mom. After years of teaching high school English (ahh my kindred spirit! 🙂 ), she is now enjoying focusing on her two children while learning to slow down and look at the world through their eyes.

She has learned more about dinosaurs and princesses in the past few years than she ever thought possible.  Sarah writes about parenting on her blog, One Mile Smile, and has recently been published in the following sites:  Mothers Always Write, Parent.Co, and Her View From Home.

Check out her Facebook or Instagram to see what she’s up to! After reading her post today, I think you’ll want to!


 

 

The Joys of Cooking with Kids and enjoying the holidays. Guest Post on the blog.

As a child, one of my favorite Christmas activities was baking sugar cookies with my mom. Every year, my siblings and I would clamor into the kitchen to help her, mainly for the opportunity to make a huge mess with the sprinkles.

Flour filled the air as my mom rolled out the cold dough on the counter and hummed along to Christmas carols. She used a family recipe for the kind of sugar cookies that are thin and have a bit of a crunch when you bite into them. These cookies take time and patience.

When I was young, I was mainly delegated to the task of sprinkling the colored sugar onto the cookies before they went into the oven. I would complete this task with utmost care. I sprinkled crooked red stripes on the candy canes and only allowed green sprinkles on the Christmas trees. Of course, more sprinkles ended up on the table and floor than anywhere else, but my mother never said a word.

As I got older, my mother taught me how to cut out the shapes. Her preferred shapes were the star and the bell because they were the most dough-efficient; very little dough was wasted between each cookie. These shapes also didn’t have small parts that made it difficult to transfer to the cookie sheet.

Of course, I preferred the most impractical of shapes, like the long and narrow candy cane or the angel with delicate wings. The reindeer was also a favorite; however, the antlers posed a problem, as they were narrow and cooked much faster than the rest of the cookie. Usually, they ended up slightly burnt.

One year, I distinctly remember slowly transferring prancing reindeer after reindeer onto the cookie sheet under my mother’s watchful eye. The dough was so thin you could almost see through it, and because of this, some reindeers lost limbs. I tried to smoosh them back onto the bodies, but they remained crooked.

My mother continued to roll dough as I set the timer and kept an eye on the cookies.  Although I was careful with the timing, all of the reindeer came out of the oven with the tips of their antlers and hooves singed brown.

I nervously waited for my mom to say something, maybe a comment about the impracticality of  the reindeer cookie cutter, or how I should have been more careful watching the oven.

Instead, as she slid them off of the cookie sheet to cool, she set aside a few on a small plate. “I’ll have these with my tea,” she decided.  I beamed with pride. Despite singed antlers, my reindeer were a success.  

Many years later, as I made my own tray of cookies to take to a holiday party, arranging them in a perfect spiral on the plate, I thought of those reindeer and finally understood my mother’s actions.

She didn’t want to break her daughter’s heart by throwing the ruined cookies in the trashcan, but she also didn’t want those burnt, crooked-limbed reindeer to end up on her tray of cookies she planned to take to my aunt’s Christmas party.

So, she just did what moms do. She ate the burnt cookies.

burntantlerssarahguest

After my mother passed away, the cookie cutters eventually made their way into my own kitchen. I now unpack them with the rest of the Christmas decorations stored in the attic. Some years, I simply set them aside because homemade sugar cookies involve so much time and patience.

This year, however, as I peeked into the bag and sorted through the various shapes, I thought of the reindeer and couldn’t wait to show the cookie cutters to my kids. At 4 and 6, this will be their first real introduction to sugar cookies that do not come in a slice-and-bake roll from the grocery store.

Although I love cooking with my kids, I find it a true test of patience. I struggle to bite my tongue when they drop an entire bottle of sprinkles on the floor. My initial reaction is to scold when I find them leaning over the bowl eating large chunks of raw dough. And that time when a bag of flour somehow ended up all over the floor? It nearly brought me to tears.

I know baking with my kids this holiday season will be a messy affair. They will want to use the impractical brachiosaurus cookie cutter I bought on a whim. I’m sure I will end up with plenty of broken dinosaur necks and scorched dinosaur tails. I’m sure there will be more green sprinkles on my floor than on the cookies.

But, I’m also sure that my children’s laughter will be louder than the Christmas carols playing in the background. Their smiles will be more delightful than a perfectly shaped cookie. And, the memories we create together will last much longer than the tray of cookies we offer to our guests on Christmas day.  It seems that these messy, less than perfect moments are usually the most memorable.

So, as I create these sprinkle-filled memories with my children, I will remember my mom. I will ignore the crunch of sprinkles on the floor, and I will look the other way when they sneak globs of dough from the mixing bowl.

And, the singed, broken-necked dinosaur cookies? I will simply put them aside on a special plate to enjoy with my cup of tea later.

Visit her site, One Mile Smile, or check out her Facebook or Instagram. Thanks so much for stopping by mamas to meet this special lady!

If you’re interested in guest posting, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at onlyaseasonblog@gmail.com. Check out other guest posts here.

Cheers Mom, I Get It Now

I remember scrolling through Michelle’s site and thinking, “This gal gets me!”. Her honest writing and cheeky thoughts about fashion and fitness, oh yah and how could I forget, WINE! had me from the start. I decided not to hold it against her that she lives in Canada. 🙂 Michelle is what I would call a no-nonsense writer. She’s direct and tells you what she thinks. I appreciate that in a writer, as I’m sure many of us do. It’s good to find someone you know who is out there over and over, being as honest with you as they can be as a writer. If you’ve haven’t found Michelle yet, hop over to her site and say hello!

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With a few-week-old baby curled into me as I sat on the couch, the day brought about a time of reflection on my short experience in motherhood. The previous weeks of taking care of a tiny human had been challenging. The demands of a newborn had changed everything from life as I’d known it…

I’d changed physically, mentally, and emotionally to anticipate the role of mom throughout 9 months of pregnancy, through labour and birth, and I changed even more so in the bumbling, inexperienced, stressful moments of assuming that role.

There were many skeptical moments where I questioned whether it was “all worth it” as I’d been reassured by other well-meaning moms. The weight of motherhood was settling around me like a lead blanket.

“Oh. This is what it feels like to be a mom.”

Heavy. Suffocating. Painful. Emotional.

It was terrifying to have a piece of my heart and soul separated from my own body to vulnerably exist out in the great big world.

But amidst all the complicated difficulties, there were powerfully contradicting feelings of joy, purpose, comfort, and belonging. I was a Mom.

It Was Then That I Understood What It Meant To Be A Mom

I really did, and in a way I couldn’t have possibly comprehended before baby. Becoming a Mom was one of the best (and most challenging) things I’ve done in life. The exhaustion, the changes in my body, the pain and trauma of birth, the explosively poopy diapers, the cries that couldn’t be consoled, endless laundry, and dependency of another life

As terrifying as it all sounds, there was something wonderful and joyous even in the most difficult aspects. Even in the toughest times, there has always been a small corner of my heart that laughed, smiled, or thanked God for the opportunity to experience life as it was in that moment.

And then there are the stop-your-heart moments of cuteness and life-fulfillment experienced in a way only Moms can relate to… those tender moments that forever imprint themselves into our maternal memories. The smell of newborn hair. Snuffly baby snores. Tiny fingers barely curling around one of yours. A first smile. Melt-me-into-a-puddle moments… moms, you know what I’m saying.

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As a new-ish member of the Mom-club, the depth of understanding has now settled in, and reality has formed an indescribable appreciation for my own Mother and all others out there. I get it now. The craziness. The emotions. The fear. The selflessness. The sacrifice. The joy. The love.

To all the Moms out there, YOU ARE AWESOME for all you are and all you do. I hold all of you in higher regard than ever before.

Cheers!

Michelle Thevenot

Article originally published on MT Bottles blog

Find me on: FacebookInstagramTwitterPinterest

michelleheadshotMichelle Thevenot is a work-from-home mom-boss and creative entrepreneur from Osler, SK, Canada. Manager of several small businesses, artist, blogger, and preventer of household destruction by a toddler-dog duo (partners in crime, those two), her hands are full, but so is her heart as she lives her passion. 

How I Missed the Most Important Day of My Son’s First Two Years

When you start meeting other writers you really only have a few ways to get to know them. One of those ways is to stock their writing and if you’re lucky, they’re blog or personal site. I met Kamsin from a writer’s group created by another author I love (Sarah West) and instantly was drawn to her writing. Why? because Kamsin is a reflective person who causes me to reflect on decisions I make throughout my day. If you get a chance and peruse Kamsin’s site, you will find that she is a genuine writer who really strives to be in the moment and enjoy her journey as a mother in Japan. I encourage you to take a few minutes and say hello on her site! Oh and she’s British which stereotypically makes me interested in her writing. I mean who doesn’t like to read something while imaging a British accent??

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How I missed the most important day of my son's first two years. Guest Post.

A few days ago when I brought my son home from daycare, it seemed as if he was a different boy to the one I had dropped off that morning. Older? It was only 7 hours since I’d last seen him. Taller? All his clothes still fit. But the way he walked was different. A little more confident. He knew something new about the world.

He goes to daycare twice a week, and he doesn’t always come home more grown up than when he left. Some days those leaps, when they come, seem to happen during nap time. There are days when I am sure he has grown taller. Days when his face has clearly changed and he wakes up with a new look in his eyes.

And so a child grows. Some days a whole new version of your little one gets downloaded while they sleep. The list of things they can and can’t do gets rewritten constantly. When you’re waiting for each new skill to appear it can feel like nothing much is changing. Then all of a sudden you find yourself wondering where your baby went.

In long, exhausting days and in the blink of an eye, my son has transformed from helpless, sleeping baby into a two year old with boundless energy. He acquires new skills every.single.day. I can barely keep up let alone keep track of all the milestones.

During the first year of his life I dutifully took a photograph of him every month on his birthday. The teddy bear next to him in the pictures quickly became smaller than him. And at 9 months he crawled away, barely giving teddy a glance over his shoulder. I had to snap quickly to keep them both in the frame.

In the final photo on his first birthday he is just a week away from taking his first wobbly, in-such-a-hurry to get walking, steps. And he is clearly still a baby.

But when it comes to all those other milestones that mark the first two years of life I have been less conscientious. I am not very good at recording the milestones as they take place.

He learned to smile. Roll over. Hold his head up all by himself. And I forgot to write any of it down. I can tell you when he crawled because it seemed to take so long to happen. He got so frustrated in the weeks beforehand and it was such a relief for us both.

Then it was just 3 months later when he walked. And I say walked but really it was two wobbly, insecure steps. Repeated over and over till another week or so had passed and he finally starting putting all the steps together.

And as for first words, Mama and dadda not included, his first word may have been bear. Or was it Daisy (our cat’s name)? Or maybe bye-bye. How can I not know this?

What about all the milestones that it didn’t even occur to me to look for? Like the first time he jumped with both feet clean off the floor. Or walked up a flight of steps all by himself. That one took me by surprise as he walked himself up half a dozen steps while we were lounging by the pool on holiday. “When did you learn to do that?”, I wondered.

And what is the point of all these milestones anyway? They let anxious mothers and the child’s physician know that everything is developing on track. And sometimes they are boasting rights. “Little S said thank you all by himself today. Growing up so fast!”

Maybe it’s just our human need to observe, and make note of the passage of time.

The milestone I’d most like to record however, has no defining moment. There was no clear line and yet at some point he crossed it. When did my baby become a little boy?

In Japan, where we live, there is no word for toddler. He was an “akachan”, or baby, but somewhere along the line people started calling him “chichaiko”, little child.

And the mischievous look he gets in his eyes is all boy. His love of trains and cars and kicking balls has bloomed. Like someone flicked a switch and all of a sudden he knew fire engines were cool.

When did this happen? Why wasn’t I paying attention?

I missed his last day as a baby and his first as a little boy.

Was it when he learned how to blow raspberries, laughing hysterically at himself? Was it the day that he learned to say no? Was it when he learned to run at break neck speed round and round the sofa? Was it when he had his first public meltdown on a train?

He still wraps himself around my body and snuggles his face into my neck when he’s sleepy. When the world seems too much for him he reverts to calling me mama instead of mummy. In those moments he still seems like a baby to me.

And he is still my baby. Perhaps he always will be.

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I’m a British mom living in Japan with my husband and our son. I blog at http://lifeinthekeyofe.com. I am passionate about staying true to who I am and encouraging others to do the same. Follow me on twitter @kamsin_kaneko or Instragram @kamsinkaneko

Who I Am

You know that moment when your friend calls you because they got tickets to go see your favorite band? Or maybe that moment when you feel like you are beside yourself with happiness at the thoughtful gift your friend spent a lot of time making for you. Whatever it is–it’s that feeling of pure excitement and gratitude you have for that friend in that moment. I am not stretching the truth one bit when I tell you that’s how I feel about my guest post today.

Marisa is a writer that I just absolutely love. She is raw, honest, and encouraging all at once. If there was ever someone who made you feel like you are not alone and welcome to a place of grace, Marisa would be waving you in at the front door. I am just beyond thrilled she is writing here today and hope you find encouragement from her words today.

Remember your identity in Christ by remembering who Christ is. Guest Post on the blog.

Who Do You Say I Am?

Simon Peter.

Foot-in-mouth, rough-around-the-edges, fly-off-the-handle, uneducated, doesn’t-get-it-the-first-go-round disciple.

I’d shake my head at his antics, but, a rueful chuckle would only follow.

Because He is all too me! Fumbles and stumbles galore.

Yet, it was he that knew without an ounce of hesitation how to answer in Matthew 16.

When Christ asked, “Who do you say I am?”, Peter back before he was officially Peter replies forthrightly, “You are the Messiah, son of the Living God.”

For such assured words to come from the one known for off-the-cuff oopses and brashness has always tickled me.

Another confound-the-wise-by-revealing-truth-to-little-children moment.

For, essentially, that’s what Simon Peter was- a big oaf of a child, gamboling after the Savior, little possessed of worldly knowledge or grander social graces, but ever guzzling down what Jesus was teaching.

He may not have always gotten it right. In fact, at times, he was downright clueless.

But, because he had a sense of Who he was running with, he kept after it.

And how did Jesus respond?

He pronounced him blessed, christened him Peter, the rock, one over whom the gates of hell would not prevail.


In Peter declaring who Christ was, Christ could declare who Peter was.


And, so it is for us.

Who we say He is reveals who we are and are to be-in Him.

By the same token, who we say we are directly reflects who we say He is.

If Peter had scoffed and said, “Who, me?”, returning to his nets with a disbelieving shrug, what he and the world would have missed!

And, what all do we miss when we say we are too much a nobody to be used by God?

Well, I’ll tell you, because I know far too well.

Joy. Peace. Life and life more abundantly.

Forfeited in a sea of self-doubt. Never salvation, mind you. Grace is certainly not so cheap. But that blossomy sensation we ought to relish in as His own?

Harder to hold in those billowing waves when we forget the simplicity of it all: greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

We’re a royal priesthood to be filled with His glory. Not to be puffed up and awesome in our own right. Oh, no. It’s all about Who is in us.

My grip’s been lost on this truth all too easily countless times.

To realize I am unwittingly calling my Messiah’s arm too short to lift my brokenness?

A mistake that makes a body cringe.

Just ask Peter after that fateful rooster crow. He’d forgotten who Christ was, who he was in Him.

And to find my self-deprecating tendencies in that realm of fallenness?

Wow. Total mindblower. Really. Like walking out the door and realizing you skipped the deodorant.

Something quite stinky catching you by surprise.

I mean, I know I knew this.

Yet…

Yet, people would quote me “God don’t make no junk.” all the live long day and I’d say, ” Yep. I know.” And still secretly roll my eyes and wince at the hokiness and poor grammar and go on my way unaffected.

But, till just recently, I don’t know that I really, really realized the level it matters on.

So…to own up to my poor self-esteem as poor God-esteem?

Takes a lot of swallows and throat-clearings to gather the courage to put voice to it all.

To see perhaps a bit of personal responsibility and yet not let it backfire into more berating of self?

Well,  it’s hard to grapple with this unfamiliar feeling of worth, honestly, but I know it is worth the work to try.

So, the burning question is…

Am I there?

All done taking internal potshots at my abilities?

Finished feeling my Eeyore roots, my Charlie Brown melancholy?

Well…I’d looove to say ‘yes’ but…

Aspiring is perhaps a better way to put it.

Improving.

Especially grateful in light of this new title of ‘published author’ to my name. But, no, not completely there!A lifetime of learned behavior does not go in one whack. And even articles and a soon-to-be book do not assurance make.

Only He can do that, really.


But, I am gaining, shaking out a new petal here, a new leaf there with a sense of celebration and wonder.


Seeking, as Peter sought. Stumbling sometimes, but running beside Him, like a leaping child ready to explore and confound a few wiseguys.

Knowing without a doubt who I say He is- and what that ought to say about who I am and what He wants me to be in Him.

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Marisa Ulrich is a mom of four, two autistic, all awesome. She is in a blessed second marriage to the handyman of her dreams. They make their home in rural Kansas in a great hundred year old fixer upper. You can find her ongoing thoughts on Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/MarisaJUlrich/ , Twitter: @mjubutterfly, and WordPress: https://www.brokencookiessite.wordpress.com/ . Look for her book, Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet: The Amazing Grace of Motherhood, Marriage, and Miracles on the Spectrum, to debut July 19th via eLectio publishing.

Living Under the Freedom of God’s Grace

I had been part of this particular online writers community for a little while and I remember I kept seeing her posts pop up. I liked her domain name “mywanderingheartsong” and LOVE her new one “grace for the wasted space” and I was immediately drawn to her faith based posts. For about four months, or so, I got to know Harmony through her writing and then one day, we said hello to each other.

I had been published on a faith based site and then Harmony was published on the same site, and then we started talking about that site and then we became Facebook friends and I had messaged her a few times about something random with my son and she said something about Britney Spears?? (was it?) and her daughter which made me laugh and here I am introducing her guest post on my blog.

Harmony is one of those people that I have a feeling if I ran into her in “real” life, we would be able to grab a cup of coffee and chat like we’ve known each other for a while. Her writing is that way too. She just writes and writes and I just gobble and gobble it up, easy peasy. She encourages me to keep moving forward in life and to keep my eyes on the One who IS my life. I am honored to have her hanging out here today.

Living Under the Freedom of God's Grace. Gust Post.

 

Recently my best friend, Joannie, and I were talking about some of the trials we have gone through and our preferred methods of coping. I have endured some seasons of tragedy in the past five years of my life so I’ve gotten pretty good at self-soothing. Is drinking an extra glass of Chardonnay with dinner necessarily the right thing to do? No. Have I done it more than once? Yes. (I admit with rosy cheeks.)

That being said, I was venting to my bestie about my recent bout with coping and she said something that has stuck with me ever since.


She said, “You just have to ask yourself one question at the end of the day- Did Harmony show up for her life today?”


I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Not because this was a harsh or judgmental thing to say. I knew it was coming from a place of love and accountability. I knew she was only giving me advice that she had already given herself countless times. It took the breath out of me because it speaks to the core of who I am. Purposeful living is something I’m very passionate about. When I have moments (or days) of sadness that result in me being a mom, wife, and friend on autopilot, well, I always feel guilty.

I know it’s totally okay to feel the pain that comes with loss. I believe that I have a right to feel these feelings without the threat of an appropriate timeframe looming in my thoughts.

However, allowing myself to get caught up in yesterday to the point of missing out on today is not okay in my book.

My BFF’s heartfelt words spoke to my spirit and caused an awakening of sorts to take place within. Am I showing up for my own life or am I just going through the motions? Am I allowing pain mixed with wine and trips down memory lane to trump the here and now with my beautiful family? After all, they are my future. So, in essence, avoiding the responsibilities of today is stealing from my tomorrows. OUCH.

The good news is that God’s grace is more than enough for me and all my days of wandering and wondering. In fact, my favorite Bible verse says just that:


And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9


I’ll be honest with you. I feel pretty darn weak lately. How grateful I am to see that just because I feel it doesn’t mean that I am weak! Actually, my weakness is the fertile soil in which God’s amazing grace grows. Talk about taking my breath away!

Joannie knew that her words would spark something in me. That they would remind me of the freedom I have in Christ to unapologetically be who I am. I can admit when I mess up and move on because my eyes are on the gracious One. I’m free to share my weaknesses with others without fear because I can trust that God’s perfection will cover me.

It’s not about how much I play with my kids or how many things I check off my to-do list. Those things don’t determine if I showed up that day. Living in the moment is good. Productivity is good (and something I am constantly striving for.) The gage for my purposeful living doesn’t come from a results driven standard, though. It has to do with my heart.

When I played with my kids today, did my words, actions, and facial expressions (yep!) tell them that I wanted to be doing that exact thing at that exact moment? When I checked off items on my list, did I make sure and prioritize people over things?

Grace isn’t really grace if it’s done out of obligation, after all. And how can I receive it for myself without joyfully giving it away to those in my world?

So, yes, I’m not perfect (in case you were wondering!) But who says I have to be? God sure as heck doesn’t. He uses my imperfections as a way to show off His glory and grace. (Side note- those two words are tattooed on my wrists because this flawed mama needs to be reminded of this truth at least 100 times a day!) Look at that- I drink wine and I have tattoos! Whew- am I grateful for the freedom I’ve found in God’s grace.

In case you forget what grace means, I highly suggest a best friend who tells you the God’s honest truth with some sass to help you realign your focus. Life’s way more fun that way.

I’d loan you my gal, Joannie, but she’s taken. Indefinitely.

harmonayheadshotHarmony is a proud Air Force wife and blessed mother of four children. Her heart’s cry is to love without limits and live without regrets. She plans to use her criminal justice degree to tangibly help marginalized women and children all over the world. Writing, singing, and running are her methods of soul therapy and Starbucks coffee is her happy juice.

The quote that she lives by is, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I’ve used everything you gave me.’ ” (Erma Bombeck) You can find her over at Grace for the Wasted Space or on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

 Finding freedom from the day to day. Living in God's Grace as a mother.

Return the Child

When I read Carol’s heart-wrenching, raw story about her son, I immediately thought of a friend of mine who had gone through something similar and thought Carol gave words to a tough situation that my friend struggled to express. There were many nights of heart ache and struggle for my friend when they lost a little girl they had been taking care of for over two years. Carol’s story brought my friend’s struggle back to the surface of my memory. If you have ever experienced anything like Carol, then you know this experience is one of the hardest a mom can go through. 

Our beautiful babyGraham

I stood there…exhausted.  Staring at nothing in particular and everything in general.  It was all a blur; fuzzy, like my thoughts.  


Shock does that.  Moments earlier I held my infant son in my arms, cradling him, cuddling him.  Now my arms were empty.  The ache in my heart was like none I had ever experienced.  It only exaggerated the pain in my empty arms. Nobody could ever take that pain away except my son – back where he belonged.  

I buried my tear-stained face in his blankie.  Sobbing seemed to bring a bit of release.  I needed to deter my thoughts.

Watching the airplane turn on the runway took every ounce of stamina to hold myself together and not spring through the security doors to chase after it.  I deliberated between watching the aircraft until it was a speck in the sky or escape to my car to be in private.  Choosing the latter, I wondered if the fountain of tears would ever stop.  When would the pain of this loss be tolerable?

Does anyone ever recover after losing a baby?  It does not matter how you lose a child, the impact and grief are the same.   I could not deny it.   He was gone – forever.  

I was his mommy for a year

A year had passed since we adopted Seth.  When the phone rang that day I had no reason to suspect anything unusual.  My husband answered; and as I watched the expression on his face change rapidly, I did not like what I was observing.  He called me over to share the receiver.

“I am getting pressure from my parents to raise my son so I am going to have to get him back.  I am prepared to hire an attorney and you know you will not win.”  The words had been rehearsed and seemed too easy for her to say.  A couple sentences, that’s all it was — a couple sentences that tore our hearts out.

“I’m afraid you don’t really have a choice,” our lawyer informed us.  The law was clear.  If we chose to fight, there would only be more agony and great expense.  “I will set it up for you to return the child as soon as possible.”

GIVE HIM BACK – NOW!


RETURN THE CHILD as soon as possible.  I screamed on the inside.  I cried on the outside.  No, this just can’t be happening.  We loved Seth.  He was ours.  The bottom of my world dropped out from under me.  I loved him and cared for him. He was part of our family for a whole year.  I could not imagine life without him.  I was his mommy.  How could she do this to us?  How could she possibly love him like we did?  What about Seth?  He would be torn from his parents, his home.  Surely he would feel the rejection.  What path would his life take now? Nothing prepared me for the pain of relinquishing my son to someone who had not wanted him!  But we had no choice.  “Return the child.  Give him back.”

He handed MY son to her…


I watched from a distance as my husband handed him to her.  It was in slow motion.  I watched his hands leave the child as he lifted our son into her arms.  He was handing our son to a stranger.  I wanted to run and grab him but I was glued to the floor.  I felt petrified.  I thought I was either going to faint or throw up.  My hand fluttered to my mouth for a moment fearing I might scream out.  How could I go on?  Where would I get the strength?  This just could not be happening.  Please God — let this only be a dream.  Tomorrow I will wake up and everything will be normal again.

Our sonGraham

When someone says it feels like her heart was in her throat, that is accurate.  My heart became so heavy it felt like there wasn’t room in my chest cavity to hold it.  The heaviness moved to my throat and even my extremities, weakening my entire body.  I was fearful that my heart would implode, exploding on the inside from pressure, and yet wondered if that would bring some relief to the overwhelming state of heartbreak.  My loss consumed my thoughts.  Even when I was not thinking about it specifically, something would trigger a memory and the initial impact was felt once again.

In the months that followed, every time I saw a new baby or watched a child playing, I would cry.  I could not go down the aisle in the grocery store that sold baby food without breaking down.  Every time the telephone rang, I was hoping it was that ‘woman’ saying she had changed her mind.  Days turned into weeks, then months…….. then years.  That was over forty years ago.   I’ll never forget our little boy.  

HeadShotCarol Graham is a charismatic speaker whose stories bring hope. She inspires transformation and healing by using her own compelling life experiences to engage and connect on a deep emotional level.  Through laughter and tears, her audience learns how to move forward without denying the past. Carol is not your typical speaker; she is animated, high spirited and effective with a gift to connect with her audience who always leave with new inspiration. 

Carol has survived the challenges of major illnesses, devastating personal losses and financial ruin more than once, yet has refused to become a victim. Her goal is to share with others how to survive and thrive.

Carol hosts a bi-weekly talk show “Never Ever Give Up Hope” in which she interviews people with remarkable and heart-warming stories of how they overcame overwhelming obstacles and achieved success. “Never Ever Give Up Hope” has an international audience in over 50 countries.

Carol is the author of a fast-paced memoir, Battered Hope, the blog Never Ever Give Up Hope, a regular contributor to several blog sites and has been published in three anthologies including a best-seller.

In 2015, Carol received the Woman of Impact Award from Focus on Women Magazine as well as Author of the Year for her memoir, Battered Hope. 

In addition to motivational speaking, hosting a talk show and writing, Carol is a business owner, a wife, mother, grandmother and together with her husband have rescued over 30 dogs.

Connect with her on social media in whatever way you like best!
More About Carol and her blog.
Carol’s Podcast where she interviews others who have overcome life’s struggle.
Check out her memoir on Amazon.
Connect with Carol on Twitter, Facebook, Google, Pinterest or Linkedin

The Happiest You’ll Ever Be

I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll start with when I first met Aimee. We are in an awesome blogging group together and I remember scrolling through and seeing her blog pop up in a thread. As per the usual, I started stalking her site and surfing through her posts and I came across one that I loved, titled “Chasing Your Joy.” Have you ever had that moment when you read something and feel like you could have written it yourself? I have those moments often with Aimee’s writing. Although, I find more often than not that I admire her writing and I am inspired to be a better writer myself. So that’s about her writing. As an individual? Aimee is a genuine as they come with a transparency that draws you in and makes you want to get to know her more. I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to write for Only a Season. I find that I keep coming back to her writing when I feel overwhelmed in this life as a mom and she has yet again, written a beautiful piece about motherhood.

Motherhood can be so challenging. Is it really the happiest you'll ever be? Guest post.

 

In the quiet space of the evening, I am nestled beside him in his tiny bed. The golden light of the fading day illuminates his bedroom and he seems to shine as he drifts off to sleep beside me. Across the room his older brother draws in his journal, glancing over at us every once in awhile to flash a grin that beams pure adoration. I wonder how it is possible that in just a few months I will be the mother to a seven-year-old; it seems only a moment ago that I held my swelling belly, imagining with anticipation all of the ways in which my life was about to change.

In the room beside us, the tiniest of my three is contentedly sleeping, at last. An hour has been spent going from room to room to rock, nurse, read, tuck in and settle down, kiss, rock, and settle down all over again; bedtime can seem an endless feat. Just as I get my five-month-old into her crib, one of her big brothers bursts in to tell me about the bedtime book they’d like for me to read. Just as I begin to read the storybook, baby sister lets out a wail for one last cuddle. I feel my teeth grit and my patience wane as I long for a moment of solitude before my own bedtime calls my name. That hour before my home surrenders to dreaming can undo all of the gentle parenting I have worked so hard to practice throughout the day, if I’m not careful.

Yet, it always comes, the sigh and the closing of eyes, and I find myself snuggled in my boys’ room, unable to rise and walk away. The desire to be alone suddenly dissipates as I watch them sleep, reflecting upon these happiest days of my life.

It is a feeling that whispers to me throughout our days at home together. When a toothless, gummy smile is beaming up at me, or the preschooler’s giggle fills my kitchen with joy, the feeling floods in — these are the best days of my life.

When I watch their little hands growing more capable with every passing day, building blocks and painting with watercolors, it calls to me — this is the happiest you will ever be.

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As I see them toddle into their first steps, and in a flicker, ride away on their two-wheeled bikes, the feeling beckons — hold on to these moments, for soon they will be recalled as the golden days.

Suddenly, in the midst of the chatter and Lego-constructing and mudpie-baking, I find tears rising as I play the numbers game. Almost seven. If seven years can fly so quickly, then that means fourteen will be here in a flash. And fourteen is just four years away from eighteen – then what will I do?  

They say the days of childhood are fleeting; is the best time of my life fleeting, too? If so, then this moment is just falling through my hands like grains of sand before I can grasp them. If they are all slipping away, what, then, is there to hold on to? 

It is the greatest conundrum of parenthood. We find ourselves caught between the hope for the future and the power of the present. We are bombarded with messages to savor the moment, while being cautioned to regard each as the best we will ever know.


Tell me then, how are we to acknowledge the honor we have in standing in this season of mothering, without regarding it with just a tinge of sadness, too?

 So I find myself, after the sunlight has settled into moonlight, waiting just a moment longer in the quiet of my children’s rooms. Kissing their little heads lost in dreamland. Memorizing the sight of their tiny toes jutting out from under their blankets. Watching their chests rise and fall as I give thanks for their health, for their happiness, for this blessing of being their mother. Praying that they will have the courage and the fortitude to live honorable lives of service and goodness. 

As each day closes, I am met with a choice. I can be lost to the bittersweet thought of another day passing, or I can gratefully surrender to the beauty that will be forever carried in my heart. 

Each night in their rooms I choose surrender, and commit that with the sunrise, I will pour my presence into the moment, while pouring my spirit into trusting in the promise of the future.

 

AimeeBioAimee is a homeschooling mama to three on a journey to get real with motherhood. Whenever she can find a quiet moment, usually in the stillness of the night, she writes soul-searching reflections at MamaCentric (www.mamacentric.com) in an effort stay centered in this beautiful chaos called motherhood. She is a regular contributor to Austin Moms Blog and has had her work featured on Scary Mommy and Youshare Project, and hopes that her words inspire others to always seek the joy in their lives.


You can connect with her on
Facebook (Facebook.com/MamaCentricBlog),
Instagram (Instagram.com/MamaCentric) and
Twitter (Twitter.com/MamaCentric)

 

Oh The Stories I Will Tell Your Kids!

You know what I love about having guest posts on the blog? You start to meet a lot of great people. You start to find new voices that make you cry, make you think, make you wonder, and make you laugh. I love Tiffany’s voice and I when I read this post I laughed out loud and thought, this is someone I could get drinks with. Cheers!

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Oh, the stories I’ll tell your kids

Sitting on the front porch one day

Your kids will be waiting

To hear what I have to say…

About:

The late night feedings.

The temper tantrums just because the sandwich was cut in a square instead of a triangle.

The shenanigans in kindergarten that almost resulted in serious counseling.

Getting the write ups about how you talk too much during class. 

The detention slips you forged with my signature…and watching you try to erase it as your teacher and I watched.

With both of my kids growing up, currently, 19 and 10, my husband and I decided that we would start building a treasure chest of the current things they do and say. These are things that have a tendency to annoy, astonish, anger, humor, otherwise kid stuff that they don’t understand how it affects us as parents.

When they are fully grown, married and have their own kids, that treasure box will be ripped open to provide wisdom. Nuggets of wisdom to their offspring. This will, hopefully, give their kids ideas (or weapons, depends on the context being used) on how to crawl right underneath their skin.

Here are the first 10 annoyances nuggets that have earned the right to go into the treasure chest. Things my husband and I will say to our kids’ kids:

1. Make sure you drink glass after glass of water right before bed.

2. Be sure to wake up at 6:30 am on Saturday mornings, bam on your parent’s door like you’re the police, requesting companionship. (On one occasion, my daughter even slipped us a note underneath our bedroom door, letting us know that she was hungry).

3. No matter how exhausted your mom looks, she absolutely loves how you bounce off the walls at bedtime. She musters up enough energy to read you a story most nights, so having you hide behind doors, your bed, underneath your bed and walking on her heels to follow her around, yeah, she LOVES all of that at 9 pm on a school night.

4. Blame your mom when you leave your book for your book report at school. Oh yeah, especially when it’s due the next day. (I recall my daughter’s words as being”what did you do with my book?”)

5. Yeah, go spend the weekend at a music festival, and forget to call your job to see when you’re scheduled to work again. Schedules are posted on Fridays, so be sure to wait until Monday to call for the schedule. My son decided to call for his schedule, he was met with an abrupt “you’re supposed to be here right now”, then CLICK.

6. Your mom especially likes it when you wake up on a school morning, decide you want to wear something different other than what she has already ironed for you. (I have a feeling this one’s gonna get more interesting as she grows older. Which will probably result in many blog posts.)

7. Yes, your dad likes it when you rinse the dishes without actually washing them. I think the food residue from yesterday’s dinner will add a certain flair to tonight’s dinner. (A tremendous pet peeve of mine. I cannot wait to visit his place over the next few years to see what that looks like.)

8. Your dad absolutely loves that he spent $500 on a laptop that you allowed someone else to step on and crack the screen. Yes, pumpkin, he also likes the fact that you cracked your iPhone screen (or whatever Apple’s making in the future) a few weeks after you got it. Yeah, he’s big on pouring money down the drain to satisfy your electronic needs.

9. Yes, you should wait until the last minute to sit for your senior pics. I know, they sent you notice back in July. It’s now September and the deadline is the first week of October. So what that everybody else waited too and the studio is over booked! No, the crowded portrait studio won’t bother him.

10. Your mom loves nothing more than watching the same episode of your Disney shows over and over and over and over…

Moms with littles, your day is coming! Start compiling your list now so that you can create your own treasure chest of stories to tell your grandkids.

Our treasure chest is bursting already with stories to tell the grandkids one day, we’re not in a hurry.

The beauty of all of this is that we can then send those kids, armed with the above nuggets of wisdom, home with their parents. At that moment, the Hubs and I will have our reward. 

Bwahahaha!!!

What tales will you store up about your kids during this stage of growing up?

Tiffany Benyacko blogs at unRehearsed (beunrehearsed.com), where she writes about raising an extroverted, prepubescent girl, who is in tweenhood. With a daughter well past sippy cups and diapers, Tiffany (an introvert and premenopausal (unofficially)) tries to figure out how to keep her daughter’s tweenhood terrific while keeping her own identity intact. 

Have a story to share? We would love to have you! Click here for more info!

Oh The StoriesPIN

5 Vital House Rules for When the Baby Is Teething

Yet another great guest post this week! Mariah’s sense of humor is one that I can relate to and I’m sure you will too! She brings a sense of honesty that I think we can identify with and I am thrilled to have her words on the blog today. I wish I had some social media links for you to catch  more snippets of her life but that’s not her thing these days.

1. Play them where they lie.
Oh, how sweet! You just sang my little angel to sleep. Did I mention how many times they woke up last night? Make yourself comfortable, buddy. You’re going to be in that exact position for as long as it takes for the baby to get a proper nap.

2. There will be noise control.
What am I saying – that sounds silly. That almost implies that I would let there be noise! When you spend an hour lulling your screaming child back to sleep after the hysterics involving rejected teething rings and Orajel, any sound is too loud. That creak of the cupboard is the equivalent to a nuke, in my book, and will be treated as such.

3. No non-parent opinions or advice.
Hey, I get it. If you aren’t a parent (or have never been involved with raising a child) then all my complaining may sound a little excessive. Hell, six months ago I would have been right there along with you. But your advice on teething tablets and counting sheep is more than a little unwarranted. And I have just one thing to say to you, pal: “Just you wait. Your time will come.”

4. Come bearing gifts.
The sleeping patterns of a baby are already hard enough to take. Add a child who’s severely uncomfortable while waiting for that glorious tooth to break through and you’ve got a disaster looming. So if I don’t seem like my normal self when we talk, it’s because I’m not. I have a million things running through my sleep-deprived mind. “How long till the Tylenol wears off? Maybe I can inject this coffee straight into my system. Why can’t babies just be born with teeth? Wait, no, scratch that. Terrible idea. Terrible.” So if it’s really important that we hang out, for the love of all that is holy, bring a girl a cup of coffee and maybe I’ll be able to focus on that twit at your work.

5. Be patient with us.
Friends and family, I know I’ve been driving you crazy and my bundle of joy hasn’t exactly been a picnic in the park. I’m going to tell you all something that I tell myself at least three times a day: “Teething won’t last forever.” Say it with me now – teething won’t last forever. It won’t last forever …

This post originally appeared on ScaryMommy

MariahBioPhotoMariah Radtke is a full-time mom that loves playing with her son and avoids small talk. She has found a new form of peace by deleting all social media accounts but does enjoy writing about the wonder of parenting for ScaryMommy. Currently she is chasing after her (now) mobile boy and wherever she is-she wants coffee.

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Get In The Picture, Mom

If you are like me, you love taking pictures of your kids and if you’re feeling brave, you hop in the photo with them. When I met Christina, I was thrilled that she wanted to share this post, especially since Mother’s Day is around the corner. Before I turn things over to Christina, I want to really encourage you to check out her site. I am most definitely an amateur photographer and I absolutely LOVE her site. It is incredibly helpful and user friendly for someone who dabbles with photography. Plus, her site layout is just lovely and clean. I really enjoyed stalking her 🙂

Moms who hate taking their picture. This reminder is for you. Guest Post.

I have never been one for being in pictures which is weird considering I am a photographer. I’ve just always been wired to hate almost every single image that had me in it. It still irritates me, however, when I hear other mothers pass on chances to be in the photograph with their children.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally get it when my clients want the pictures of the children without them in the shot. I know how it feels to not like what you see when the camera is turned on you. I know how it feels when you think that you getting in the shot is going to ruin it.

I get it but it is still wrong. You’re wrong. Get over it.

I know that that sounds harsh but I’ve had to tell myself this statement over and over again whenever the camera is turned on me.

Get over it.

My son is going to want these pictures when he is older. He is going to want to look back at these images and see me. See me laughing with him, kissing him, playing with him. He is going to look at these images and see someone that he loves. He won’t see what I see.

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My son will not look at these photographs and see a bad hair day. Or see a woman that could stand to lose a few pounds. He won’t look at these images, and see someone with a large chin or a big head. Heck, he probably won’t even notice that I have some serious double chin in some of the shots.

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He will see his mother. That’s all.

And that is who he is going to want to see.

One day, I will be gone. All that he will have left is these frozen frames in time to look back at. Because of that, I will always strive to be in as many pictures as possible.

Now, I won’t jump in every shot. There will be plenty of him by himself, with his father, etc. However, I will make an effort to always be in some. I aim for a few shots a month. I don’t always succeed but at least I am trying.

When he gets older, he will appreciate that.

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So, my message to you: Get over it. Who cares if you hate that picture of you with your double chin and your messy bedhead bun? Your children are going to love it, and that is really all that matters.

Christina Nelson

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Setting Free the Horses

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I think about the day when Asher will not want me to walk him into school. Or the day he doesn’t want to be tucked in for bed anymore. Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll let me tuck him in until he moves out! I know there will be natural transitions as he grows, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be easy. As I think about these things I was happy to have Cara’s post featured here today.

As someone who is a big advocate for teen writers, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Cara. Not only does she have talent, but she is a cheerleader for teen girl writers! I was so pleased to learn more about Cara and her passion for writing and to encourage others to write. She is my kind of woman 🙂 I know you’ll enjoy her writing as much as I do.

When your children are small and snuggly and clamor for your attention you can’t imagine there will come a day when they will ignore you, dismiss you, or outright avoid you. But the day comes. And it doesn’t matter how sweet and loving your children are, or how close you are or how openly they share their hearts with you; one day they will shun you. I promise.

And it’s a good thing. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.

I looked up the word parenting in the dictionary and it says: “the rearing of children.” And what is “rearing?” I, being a horse person, of course thought of that moment when the horse lifts its front end off the ground and attempts to set you on your butt. But Dictionary.com says, “to take care of and support up to maturity.” I know more than a few parents who might take issue with this since they are continuing to support their mature children well into adulthood. I suppose this only means that it takes some of us longer than others to rear our children.

A big part of supporting our children to maturity is teaching them to function independently. To that end, they will, or they should, naturally separate themselves from us. The fact that they aren’t mature yet means that sometimes they do this with a callousness that causes your jaw to drop and your heart to seize up. To be honest, in my focus group of my two teens (the third one is thankfully still a beautiful little boy who wants me to tuck him in at night), some will do this more than others. But they will all do this.

They have to figure out that they can reject you and not lose you.

And your job as a parent? To take it.

But maybe not all of it. I drew the line with my daughter when she told me to shut up. She can ignore me, roll her eyes at me, argue with me, but she can not under any circumstance tell me to ‘shut up’. I value my opinions and will fight for my right to be heard, especially in my own house.

I think parents that struggle with ‘hovering’ and are overly protective of their kids are in for the worst of it. It takes a much bigger effort to break free of someone who has a death grip on you than from someone who has a loose hold. Finding a balance between the death grip and the loose hold is the art of parenting.

Some kids object to even a ‘loose hold.’ They would prefer you simply stay in the general vicinity rather than have any real impact on their lives. My own daughter made this clear at age two when she told me to stay in the car because she could walk into preschool by herself. She has been gently, and not so gently, asking for this space ever since. Sometimes I can give her the freedom she demands and sometimes I can’t help but hover and direct. Blessedly, for both of us, she is gaining the maturity to have more control of her life. And I am learning to give it to her because I’m well aware that if I don’t she will take it, one way or another. 

My other teen has been much gentler with us. Every now and again he asserts his independence, but almost immediately feels badly for disregarding us. He argues with me about his planned activities, school schedule, and hygiene, but he is also quick to give me a hug, regale me with stories of the lunchroom, and seek my opinion on his writing. We’ve done nothing different with this child. He is simply a softer sort of soul.

My daughter wasn’t always the distant one. It hasn’t been so long that I can’t easily call up the memories of her unquenchable need to be held. From the moment she was born, she wanted to be in our arms at all times. I carried her in a sling or snuggly for hours every day, sometimes forgetting that she was there. This led to a few heart-stopping moments as I lit the gas stove or clambered down the basement stairs. At night she became furious with us when we attempted to make her sleep in a crib – alone. I wonder, in my more cynical moments, if we used up all our hugs back then. Or if this independence she asserts now is her way of punishing us for teaching her to sleep through the night by herself.

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It is our job to rear these children. It is their job to take the reins at some point. We must let them be in charge of themselves. We can no longer tell them how to act, or what to say. We must let them steer their own lives even if it’s a course we wouldn’t have taken. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it comes more easily to some young people than others. Demanding personal space to do this is natural. If that means I’m not welcome to put my arm around my daughter in public or my son no longer wants my help as he sifts through the details of his day, well, then I’ll find a way to be okay with that. Because if I don’t, I’m certain this will be the part of the rearing where one of them dumps me on my butt.

Cara Sue AchterbergCara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her second novel, Girls’ Weekend, will be published May 3, 2016. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for living a more intentional life. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.

Pssst-she also has a new book that hits the market next week! Check it out here.Girls' Weekend cover

Pros and Cons to Having a Furry Big Sister

I met Liz not too long ago in an awesome mom blogging group. I was excited to see that she had a post to share for It Takes a Village. I am a HUGE dog lover. If you haven’t figured that out already, check out my Instagram for some dog lovin photos. I was immediately drawn to Liz’s post as a fellow dog lover. It’s pretty amazing how pets become an extended part of your family. They can become such an ingrained part of life and I think many of us aren’t ready to balance them when a new little baby arrives. I totally get the change of pace for when you have a newborn and a high-energy dog that is ready to go go go!! As with anything there are pros and cons and Liz is here today to talk about her experiences with being a new mama and a dog lover.

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Newbie mom Liz Parker-Cook is the proud mom of a seven month old son and a 4 year old chocolate lab. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and the aforementioned dependants. In her other life, she is a high school music teacher, which is much louder than parenting but has fewer dirty diapers. You can read more from Newbie Mom athttp://www.newbiemomsite.com or on Facebook, Twitter or Bloglovin‘.

My husband and I brought home Hazel in 2012. For the first while, she kept us up all night and kept me busy all day getting into things and crying for attention. She has boundless energy and ruins all her toys, but she is clever and lovable at exactly the right moments. And boy, is she a ham for the camera!

No, Hazel is not a toddler. She is a 3 1/2 year old chocolate lab. Though Hazel has always loved children, we were nervous about introducing her to her baby brother when we found out that I was pregnant. Hazel has always been sweet and gentle, but we had heard and read stories of people having to make the difficult decision to re-home dogs when children arrive. It turns out we didn’t need to worry because in August she welcomed home her little brother, MB, with much excitement. (And even more wet doggy kisses.)

There have definitely been some challenges with being a mom to a dog and a newborn baby, but also some extremely sweet moments. Here are some pros and cons of having a dog and a baby.

Con: They both need attention. (Often at the same time.) Hazel was used to being spoiled with attention and going on walks often to burn off her energy. Like any big sister, she had to learn to share her attention. At first Hazel started to whine or cry when the baby cried, and then began doing things she knew would get attention, such as jumping on the counter or destroying something. I used to run back and forth giving them attention. Hazel would bring me a toy while I was nursing her brother, but put it just out of my reach and whine so that I would get up and play with her.

It has been almost 5 months now and it is improving. As the baby grows and begins to move, Hazel has become more interested in him and less resentful. We play fun games like holding the baby like an air plane and chasing the dog around the house. They are learning to co-exist.

Pro: When the naps align it is magical! This happens maybe once a week, but when it does it is the best. There is nothing better than having the baby fall asleep in your arms while the dog snoozes beside you. They just look so darn cute while they sleep. I start to wonder why I was stressed, with these two angels in my life. Then I think, nap time for momma! We have had some lovely naps together all snugly and warm. I have also had some lovely quiet time while they nap. Either way, win-win.

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Con: The walks. Hazel is an energetic dog. She loves her walks. She cannot do without walks or she becomes crazy and destructive or whiny and irritable. I hear people say that they just wait for their partners to come home and walk the dog. This is great for them, but not an option for us. My husband takes her for walks on the weekends and sometimes after dinner, but he works long hours, so the dog care is mostly up to me.

We are fortunate to be able to have a dog walker come in to take her out for morning walks, but we still walk between 2 and 5 kilometres a day, rain/snow or shine. Plus, it takes ages to get the baby ready, put him in the stroller or carrier, get myself ready and then get the dog leashed up and ready. In this winter, this is an epic undertaking. My dog loves the snow and cold too. I know other dogs who stay inside when it rains or snows. Not mine. She spent 20 minutes rolling in the snow during the coldest day of the year. We own a lot of waterproof outerwear.

Pro: The walks! The regular walking can be a positive too. I get outside everyday, which makes me feel better. And thanks to my dog, I almost always run into someone I know in the neighbourhood, which provides me with a dose of adult interaction. I also feel stronger, and fitter than I did during my horrible pregnancy. The walking has helped me lose my baby weight, and often leads to nap time for both the baby and the dog.


Con: Dog toys and baby toys are basically the same. I defy you to tell the difference. They both make noise, they are designed to be chewed on and they look like cute animals. Many a baby stuffed animal has gradually become a dog toy. Currently Hazel is fascinated with a musical octopus MB got for Christmas that says colour names when you squeeze it. We have to keep it up high or she steals it. Presumably to learn about colours.

Pro: They will be best friends. MB is becoming more aware and is starting to reach out to pet Hazel. She has always covered him in kisses, but now he laughs. The baby is endlessly entertained by the movements of the dog and she seems to enjoy sitting with him as he has tummy time. She also freaked out with joy when MB went in his jolly jumper for the first time. Now she brings him toys to play with and drops them in front of him. The minute he starts solid foods Hazel will never leave his side.


Con: The house is overrun with stuff. Baby toys litter the couch, and dog toys litter the floor. Or the dog toys are on the couch and the baby stuff is on the floor? Honestly, I’m not sure. They look the same. It’s safer to shuffle your feet across the floor here, rather than lifting them and potentially dropping them onto something painful. And this is just the beginning…

Pro: This may give me an idea of what it is like to have multiple children. (If only in a small way.) I learned a long time ago not to compare my dog to other people’s children. Especially if they are not dog people. I have put my foot in my mouth more than once doing this. However, dogs and babies have a lot in common. Everything goes in their mouths, they love squeaky toys, they both get into everything, they both nap at weird hours, make strange sounds and stare at me while I eat.


Okay, so my dog is not a child. But I have learned the valuable skill of juggling multiple needs of my dependants.

It is hard to not neglect your dog when your baby needs you, to get up and play with your dog when your baby naps and you are exhausted.

It is tiring and guilt-inducing and it is hard to explain it to either one of them. It is also hard to explain to people who are not dog people. I talked about the challenges of balancing the needs of dog and baby by myself during the week at a post-natal class and the nurse politely dismissed me, saying: “If that is the worst thing that has happened to you with the baby, you are doing well.” Thanks…

I am also incredibly impressed by mothers with more than one child.  When I see a mom at the mall with multiple children – or twins!- I want to stop what I am doing and give her a respectful slow clap. But when I see a mom with multiple kids and a dog (or two!), I want to run over to her and bring her baked goods in appreciation for all her hard work. (This is what I would like, as well, if anyone sees me out with my dog.)

 

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Emerald is such a sweet soul with such a strong desire to help others see themselves how God sees them. As a woman, I am constantly encouraged by her words based on God’s truth, that encourages everyone to remember that they are beautiful. As a parent, I am always thinking of what I say or do and how when my kids get older, will they look back and see that I saw myself through God’s eyes? I was so impressed with Emerald’s drive to encourage others that I asked her to guest post here today. I knew she wasn’t a “mom” technically, I guess, BUT she has a heart and talent that makes me want to spend more time with God and grow as a parent. Her messages are a great reminder to us all as parents.

Emerald is a crazy cool author  and if you haven’t checked out her stuff, take a quick look. She has an awesome perspective about making writing available for others to read and she is worth learning about!

Livining with insecurity about your body can be miserable. Read this raw, honest post about believing in the Truth about what God says about your beauty.

I’m not a mother, but I the love kids in my life like they’re mine. I have three nieces, two nephews, and one of undetermined gender due out in October. (And yes, my sister wanted lots of babies!) I’m currently in a situation where I live with them, and I’m helping my sister with them.

I’ve learned a lot, specifically how much work kids are and how that changed my mind about even wanting kids, but what I do know, is that I love these kids with every beat of my heart. Moms, you have my deepest respect, and I know it’s not easy.

When I was approached about writing a blog post for Only a Season after she read my warfare post on a fellow author’s site, I wasn’t sure I would be able to write on the blog since I wasn’t a mother, but even though I’m not a mother, my message can still be useful to women, mother or not.

To start this post, you might need to know a little about me. I’m twenty-eight, quickly approaching twenty-nine if I’m honest, and for years, I’ve hated my body. I hated my looks, and I didn’t feel worthy of much of anything, especially God’s love. I was beat down and broken, and I honestly thought it was “normal” to feel this way. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t learned from my experience, though, and now, I’m using it to show others how they too can overcome their hatred of themselves.

One thing that I have learned is that women of all ages and marital status have a difficult time loving themselves. Why is that? Why is it so difficult to see how wonderful we are? In fact, the Psalmist of 139 said, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

God made you, made us, fearfully and wonderfully! We’re beautiful creations who were created by a marvelous God, but we can’t see that.

We can’t look past our reflections in the mirror, past what we see as “flaws” to learn to love ourselves the way God loves us.

From being this way for most of my life and from knowing kids who have self-esteem issues, I know that this topic has been one that is very difficult. Whether you’re overweight, skinny, or average, we hate our looks because we’re being bullied by others or we think we know what the “ideal” beauty is. The truth is, there is no one “ideal” beauty. We’re all beautiful, and we have to learn how to accept that. “But how? How can I learn to love myself? How can I help my kids love themselves?” you may ask. It’s not easy. I won’t sugar-coat it. It takes lots of work, but it’s worth it in the end.

One of my biggest fears is that my nieces and nephews will learn to hate their body instead of love it. I don’t want them to turn out like me, wondering if they were truly worthy of love and hating themselves. Yes, I was fat. Yes, I am still fat, but that doesn’t mean that it was easy hearing people make fun of me. It was from them and years of hearing the same thing that made me into the woman that I was. I loathed myself, honestly. I couldn’t stand looking in the mirror, and I doubled up on clothing so no one would really see me. I hid behind baggy t-shirts with tank tops underneath.

I hid, but it still wasn’t enough. I still thought I wasn’t pretty or worthy enough of love.

My parents had always told me how beautiful I was, and I believe that was part of the reason I never completely went over the edge. They kept me sane, and they held my hands and let me cry on their shoulder when I couldn’t stand being me for a moment more. But it wasn’t until my heavenly Father told me that I was beautiful because I was His did I really begin to believe it.

My advice to mothers who want to help their daughters (or sons) love themselves more is to openly seek God.
Ask Him to show your daughters (and even sons) that they are beautiful (or handsome) because they are God’s. Show them in the Bible where God loves them and how precious they are to Him, and most importantly, reassure them that they are beautiful/handsome. Even though you’re their parents, hearing those words, “You are beautiful,” could mean all the difference. Even if they don’t believe you know, they will. Trust me. I was there before.

My hope and prayer is that you learn to love yourself so you can help your kids love themselves.
The best way to help someone else is to help yourself. Don’t look in the mirror and see your stretch marks or weight gain or weight loss or hair loss or wrinkles or whatever. Look in the mirror and see a beautiful child of God.

Look at yourself and see the Savior who loves you. Look in the mirror and see the woman you are. The woman who loves her kids, her husband. The woman who would lay her life on the line to protect her loved ones. Look and see the woman who is wonderfully and fearfully made by a loving God Who would move heaven and earth just to prove that love for you.

#youarebeautiful

emerald4Emerald Barnes graduated with a B.A. in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. She resides in a small town in Mississippi and has the accent to prove it. She’s an auntie to three beautiful nieces and two handsome nephews. She’s a Whovian, a little bit of a nerd, a reader, a writer, and a family-oriented person. God is number one in her life, and she thanks Him continuously for His love and favor.

Connect with Emerald online:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fanpageforemeraldbarnes
Twitter: @emeraldbarnes
Blog: http://ebarnes23.wordpress.com/
Inspirational Blog: http://emeraldbarnes.blogspot.com
Site: http://www.emeraldbarnes.us

Being Jesus

I met Tabitha in a blogging group online. I was immediately drawn to her genuine attitude and practical approaches to writing. She is one of those writer chicks I want to be like when I grow up. She has a rad Christian book series out that she’ll love to talk about with you if you ask. I really have enjoyed seeing her awesome support of other aspiring writers and I am thrilled to have her guest posting today on my little slice of the blogging world.

We live in a world that struggles to love others as Christ loves us. Read Tabitha's raw story about what it really means to be like Jesus.

First published at tabithacaplinger.com on November, 19, 2015

As I write this I am sitting in the surgical waiting area of a local hospital. My husband is having a kidney stone removed. (I call it the demonic kidney stone that has ruined our lives, aka Steve.) That last little parentheses is me being dramatic. Obviously its not demonic and its hasn’t ruined our lives, it just felt that way. My husband and I both agree that birthing a third child would take less doctor and hospital visits than getting rid of, and I quote the ER doctor,  this “rather large” kidney stone. But I’m not here to write about our misadventures with Steve the kidney stone.

I find myself sitting here, watching and listening. It’s hard not to hear snippets of other conversations in a closed space. I really don’t know anyone else’s situation, whether its life altering or just more demonic kidney stones. I hear the laughs and jokes of people trying to keep their minds off loved ones who are in the operating room. I glance at the distressed eyes of worried spouses. I notice the encouraging whispers of family members keeping each other positive.

All the while I think about how grateful I am that this is just about Steve, the kidney stone.

It could be worse. I could be sitting here because of something much more dire, infinitely more tragic and frightening. And then I think back to the woman at the urologist’s office.

I don’t know who she was. I had never met her before and will probably never see her again in my life. But I can’t forget the look in her eyes when she walked out from her appointment, headed through the waiting room on her way to wherever after her meeting with her doctor was finished. She came out of the doorway and her eyes met mine for just a brief moment. I couldn’t help but notice her tears. The look on her face was the look of a woman who had just gotten bad news. And my heart broke for this stranger.

 

I know nothing about her but in that moment I felt some sort of connection to her, a compassion for her hurt that tugged at my heart. I wish I had had the courage to walk up to her and ask her if she was alright and offer her at least a little something more than a compassionate smile. I wish I had not let my own fear stop me from being Jesus to her in that moment.
How many times do we let fear stop us from being Jesus to someone?

 

I feel like we are losing our courage. I feel like too often we cave to fear and because of this fear, people don’t see Jesus.

Jesus was brave. I don’t think he was fearless, I think he was bold and courageous in the face of fear. After all, He did pray and ask God to ‘take this cup’ from Him before his arrest. That sounds like fear to me.
Fear never stopped Him.

Not fear of rejection.

Not fear of persecution.

Not fear of death.

We don’t have to let it stop us either.

Trust me, I am afraid of things. I am afraid of school shooters and terrorists and the notion of the world my children might grow up in.

But I don’t want to let fear stop me from being Jesus to whomever is placed in front of me.

I also don’t want to confuse bravery and boldness with argumentative social media political rhetoric. (Yes, there I said it.) We are very good at hiding behind keyboards to debate politics in the name of Christianity but at the cost of the Gospel. (Yes, I went there too.)

Jesus does not need you to defend Him. He doesn’t need you to argue His Word. He and His word are quite capable of doing the work only they can do anyway. What Jesus needs is for us to love people. To tell them His story and to live it like we actually believe it. Not just when it comes to politics (being Christian, the Gospel, is much bigger than American politics)  but when it comes to actions. Even when those actions might cost us something. Even when they are terrifying.

Whether it’s asking a stranger if they are okay or giving a refugee a safe haven.

Maybe it’s reaching out to a neighbor or the homeless, watching our attitude, showing grace even when we disagree…I could go on but I will let you fill in the blank yourself.

My life could be a lot scarier right now. I could be dealing with more than evil Steve the kidney stone. I could have come home to lose my spouse to a burglar. I could have a child fighting cancer. I could be mourning a loved one who never came home from that Paris concert or the airport in Brussels or that park in Pakistan. I could have lost everything because of an enemy none of us want to win.

Scarier than all of those things to me is the idea that Jesus wanted me to be something, do something, and I missed Him because I was afraid. That I let my own comfort become more important than His Kingdom.

Jim Elliot once said, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” He was willing to go into death for the chance to reach someone with the Gospel. Maybe you are called to go. Maybe you are called to change. Maybe you are called to welcome. Maybe we are all called to sacrifice. Let’s be brave.

“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1 ESV

 

 

Tabitha Caplinger has been in student ministry for close to 15 years, and currently pastors at Faith Community Church in House Springs, Missouri with her husband Brian. They have two sassy daughters, Lila and Rory. Student Ministry is core to who Tabitha is; she loves discipling others and helping them see themselves through Jesus’ eyes. Her goal is for every young woman to be confident that, “she is loved more than she will ever know by someone who died to know her.”

When not working, Tabitha and her family like taking in a good movie or walking through the park. She also admits to being a little obsessed with TV.
Connect with Tabitha online:
Facebook: Tabitha Caplinger
Twitter: @pastortabitha
www.tabithacaplinger.com

Visit Tabitha Caplinger on Goodreads

 

The Juggling Act Called “Leap of Faith”: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

 

 

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DenafamilyDena is a mom of two and married to a man who shares her adventure for life. Dena was born two months early and weighed 2lbs, 14 ozs. From day one she hit the ground running and has never stopped. She built her family ranch into a reputable borading and training facility going on 16 years. Always moving, always learning, always thankful to the dear Lord for all she has been given. This is an opportunity she hopes to share with as many others as possible.

Story by Dena Dorn. Written by Mikayla Boge.

Up at 3 a.m. to feed the baby, alarm ringing at 6 a.m. to feed the horses. Get the husband out the door for work. My morning is crammed full of house cleaning, laundry, paper work and business calls. Afternoon is crammed with horses to train, picking up the teenager from practice, a grocery run, a crying baby and supper preparation. I finally feel my soft, cool pillow at 11 p.m., only to wake up to the sound of baby boy crying for his before-the-crack-of-dawn feeding… and thus the cycle repeats. Being a mother, wife and ranch owner is exhausting. Yet, my husband, Rob, and I decided to start another exciting, but busy journey, all because of a split-second decision and a leap of faith.

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It happened back in 2013 when a young woman, Lizzie, whom I give horseback riding lessons to, was excitedly talking about her upcoming mountain climbing trip. The trip was to Tanzania, Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The way she was talking about the culture, the scenery and the mountain, it made me want to go and I was completely shocked when she asked me if I wanted to go with her! She was leaving in FIVE days to travel across an ocean and climb a mountain for ten days. There was no way I could leave my family and ranch for that long with such short notice. The thought of leaving brought visions of Rob burning down the ranch and losing the baby. Just kidding, although not far from the truth, but there was just no way I could go. I was still laughing about the suggestion when my husband walked up and asked what was so funny. I told him her absurd suggestion, and he shocked me by saying, “Why not go, it’s a once in a lifetime chance?”

My journey of faith started without me even realizing it had begun.

Rob and I frantically got our ducks in a row for the ranch, a babysitter for the baby while Rob was at work and all of the items I needed on my travel list. As we were preparing, it dawned on me I was about to climb a MOUNTAIN! I’m an athlete and stay fit working around the ranch but I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a mountain. As the days passed and people started to hear what we were doing, I was inundated with questions such as, “WOW, that’s a huge commitment. How long have you been training? People die climbing that mountain. Are you sure you are ready? What vaccinations did you get to travel?”

There were so many more questions, and it slowly began to sink in that this may not be an average, everyday climb I was about to embark on. I still wasn’t deterred as my entire life has been about believing anything was possible and not to sweat the small stuff. However, as Lizzie and I flew across an ocean, I prayed continually that this was a good decision. I started to get scared because I couldn’t even get in touch with the climbing company AND I didn’t even have confirmation that I had a space in the upcoming climb. I really started to doubt my leap-of-faith decision.

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Adding to my nerves, we had a layover in Dar Es Salaam. Dar Es Salaam is known for people getting kidnapped for money, luggage being stolen and every other frightening scenario you can think of. I had just stepped off the plane into one of the most crime ridden cities in Africa. My family, my baby, my friends and the ranch were running through my mind. Thoughts of never seeing my family and friends again ran through my head. Trusting Lizzy and the seemingly nice taxi driver she had set up beforehand, we stepped outside the airport to get a ride to our hotel. Thankfully, we made it, but I did have every Kung Fu movie action move I had ever seen scrolling through my head until we made it back to the airport the next morning.

Thoughts of never seeing my family and friends again ran through my head.

We boarded the plane to Tanzania and I slowly began to find my true faith. God was with us and had been the whole time. As soon as I stepped off of the plane in Tanzania, Africa, I was struck by how amazing the culture and landscape around me was and that my prayers had not gone unanswered. The sights, the smells, the sense of adventure; it was intoxicating and I was in love. I had to pinch myself that I was actually there! Our lead guide, Faraja, met us at the airport, proving that I did have a place in the climb. I could finally breathe.

Faraja, who was from Tanzania, had started as a porter but worked his way up to guide status for climbs up Mount Kilimanjaro. Throughout our climb, I had the pleasure to learn more about Faraja, his dreams and aspirations for his family and for himself. One of his dreams was to climb every large mountain in the world, sharing his experiences with others along the way. Another of his dreams was to own his own climbing business, where he could share his passion of adventure with others. As I spent more time climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and learning about Faraja, I wanted to share in his dreams. I too wanted to give people the sense of adventure and excitement I was feeling. I wanted to help others take that leap-of-faith, even the busy moms that never dreamed of doing something such as this.

Finally it clicked, I knew my to-do list was about to get longer because God made it an easy decision for us.

As I climbed, there were continuous occurrences where Faraja and his team proved their ability to help us have a great adventure, be safe and make it to the top. Rob had bought me an amazing back pack for the climb which equated to 15 pounds when empty. Unfortunately, most people suggest a pack around 10-15 pounds full. Due to the added weight, my neck started to give out in the middle of the steep incline just past Kibo Hut, which was about day 5/6 into the climb. After seeing me struggle, Harold, the other lead guide, made me give him my back pack which he figured weighed around 40 pounds! I also was getting nervous during the climb because I was becoming increasingly cold. I couldn’t get warm, no matter what I tried even with changing my damp clothes and adding layers. The guides noticed my struggle and explained that I needed to cover my entire neck because the blood runs through my neck into the brain, so by keeping the blood warm going to the brain it keeps the entire body warm. I covered my neck and I started to feel warmth creep back into my body. It started to work but by the time we made it to the top, Crater Camp, I was starting to get very cold again. I have NEVER been so cold in my life and started to think the worse again. I was mentally making my last will and testament in my head when I remembered that this was a leap-of-faith adventure and that I needed to trust God to help me make it. I did eventually make it and I thank God every day that I took the leap of faith to have the adventure of a lifetime.

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When I returned home, Rob and I sat down to discuss what the next steps were. We both had a lot of soul searching and praying ahead of us but God opened the right doors for us. Faraja, already had a great business plan mapped out, incredible individuals in place to help out and all the equipment needed to get started. What Faraja lacked was a missing link, the “store front” of his business. My husband and I decided to be that missing link. In 2015, we officially started a travel agency called Adventure Africa, Inc. that would help bring individuals, ready for a life-changing trip, to Faraja and his climbing business, Faraja and Jande Adventures. We plan on offering five different climbs and four different safaris but as of now, we started with the best and most popular climb, Mount Kilimanjaro. We are still continually praying that our business will flourish and we can share our passion with many others, especially the busy mom that thinks something like this would never be possible, but we are relishing in the fact that we have found our purpose. We have found some solid ground in our leap of faith.

I thank God every day that I took the leap of faith to have the adventure of a lifetime.

 

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Dena Dorn and her husband own Triple D Ranch and Adventure Africa, Inc. in Watkins, Colo. To learn more about Dena, her family or Adventure Africa, Inc. visit www.adventureafricatravel.com.

Mikayla Boge owns a small, Colorado based marketing company called BAM Bar LLC and shares in Dena’s passion to reach individuals through Adventure Africa, Inc. To learn more about Mikayla, or BAM Bar LLC, visit www.bambarllc.com.