I watched Adela pat in that last piece and give me a sweet grin. The clock showed we had spent half an hour putting together various puzzles while Micaela slept upstairs. I tried not to think about how many other things loomed on my list or how difficult it would be to finish everything later. Instead I smiled back at my four year-old as we started puzzle number seven.
This is what I like to call "Real Time".
We do things for our kids all day long. Even if we are at another job we are working to provide for them. At home we clean their rooms, cook their food, make doctor appointments, settle arguments, kiss bruises, and de-clutter work spaces for coloring and playdough. We are busy constantly doing things for our children.
Real Time is different.
Real Time is when you sit down and play with them. You leave your own agenda behind and engage in their world. You listen to their likes, dislikes, questions, and stories. You make sure your body, mind, and heart are all theirs.
Real Time is powerful. Real Time lets our children of all ages know that we don't just love them, we like them and value them and want to be part of their lives.
Real Time teaches our children how to be good listeners as they observe someone putting down their phone, walking away from the computer, and turning off the TV so they can be completely invested in the time they spend with another person. Even if it is just for five minutes it still holds the beauty of a dedicated parent.
Adela needs this so bad. Micaela gets plenty of Real Time from doctors, therapists, and myself, but Adela often cruises through a day without calling much of anyone's time completely her own. It is one of the reasons she is always so eager to jump in the truck with her Papa and get away with him to cows and sheep and be someone's partner for the day. With Jovani's new job she has less of this special time with her father. The rough spots in her recent behavior is showing me that she misses it.
Real Time: another piece in the puzzle of parenting. My best days, the ones I end with a smile on my face and letting our bedtime routine stretch a bit because I enjoying parenting, those are the days with plenty of Real Time.
Huh. Guess what? We all need Real Time. We need Real Time with our spouse, friends, brothers, sisters, parents, and mentors. It is worth taking off that multitasking hat and setting aside our to-do lists.
When was the last time you enjoyed Real Time with someone special?
I stared at my to do list and tapped my pen. There were two things on it, both a bit time-consuming and totally centered around my self. Besides the normal chores, Micaela's therapy, and Adela's learning, I also needed to set up my fit bit and cook some low-fat menu options to store for my meals. It was going to be huge chunk out of my day. For a long moment I lifted the pen above the two items, ready to cross them off and move them to tomorrow.
Then what? Tomorrow was not going to magically present a few free hours to help me become healthier. But today I felt that the needs of my home and children had to go to the forefront.
Oh, us moms, right? We are so good at un-prioritizing ourselves, aren't we?
What does our God think about that? Do you think He would like to clap us on the back and tell us "Well done. Keep up the good work."? Or, does he watch us scurring around, worrying about putting away those dishes and organizing toys and wish we would trust Him a bit more? The Bible is full of verses and stories reminding us to respect the health of our bodies, hearts, and minds. Check out this collection of 27 Bible Verses about Health from Biblestudytools.com. If God repeatedly mentioned the importance of our health, we need to trust Him to care for the other areas of our lives while we take time to be good to ourselves.
You know, I've seen many solidly amazing men and women whose biggest dreams had to be set aside because of their health. I've seen lives side-swiped by issues that could have been avoided if they had taken care of themselves earlier in life. God has asked each of us to do a great work for Him and we honor Him by keeping ourselves fit mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically so we are equipped to do His will.
We are worth this. There should never be an argument dancing around our heads that tries to argue its way into the logic that our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies have not earned a priority in our lives. A healthy you would be a stronger mother, a more joyful daughter, a more understanding friend, a more peaceful spouse...that list just keeps going.
So, today I want you to know, that you, my dear, are worth it. You are worth a spot on your own list, up near the top, and written in bold ink.
May your blessings abound for your faithfulness.
There is hard work to be done. The endeavor will test my resolve, challenge my strength, and try my courage. God, there are days I don’t feel up to it anymore. I argue that I am not made for such struggles and that the world works against me to prevent my success.
A couple weeks ago I visited my doctor and recieved the report that my cholesterol was now at 330. I don't know why the number shocked me. Genetically my body is predisposed to have high cholesterol. With our move last year to a new house and Micaela's changing needs, I had took a break from consistant exercise and dove into a large bag of shredded cheese. From time to time I hopped on the scale. Since there were no big changes in my weight I assumed my cholesteral levels would be staying level. They didn't.
I'm 31. If I don't learn how to make changes now, I am going to start paying for the bad choices I've been making.
Habits can either be life-saving or life-breaking. It seems like it takes no effort at all to form a bad routine, but making a lasting change costs excruciating effort. Thankfully there are a few things to keep in mind as you embrace your quest and renovate your life.
The task before me is challenging, but I am not alone.
God, You remind me that you are my greatest fan and most ardent supporter. There is work to be done. Labor that you will do with me. I will have courage and I will have strength. I will do the work.
Micaela. Oh, that girl. She is extensively developmentally delayed and we are constantly thankful that she keeps progressing. She has made it through one "normal" stage after another. But the past couple weeks made it official--she is going through the screaming, cling-to-mom, need-to-be-held, angry-about-everything stage.
It is so hard to dredge up a honest smile and sincere exression of tenderness towards your two year-old when she has been latched onto your body for the last five hours and is furious with you everytime you try to move away.
We've been working on setting boundaries with her. We are doing everything we can to help her through this. However, there are days where I barely make it to the girls' bedtime without breaking down in tears.
This morning I woke while the house was still quiet and braced myself for the hours to come. I prayed with a frightened heart. How am I going to get through this? What if like all her other stages, she stays here for months? A year? Oh, my God, how do I get through this?
From the overflow.
I had forgotten. A few months ago at a conference, Bill Gaultiere spoke on emmersing ourselves in the love of our Heavenly Father so that we can give to others from the overflow of our hearts. He told us that our loving God does not wish for us to dig into our reserves and deplete our resources, but to be so full of His Spirit that we can serve others out of the overflow of His goodness.
From the overflow. That is how I will survive this. If I want a heart that can give to both my girls and my husband, a mind ready to solve problems, and a soul that is encased in peace, then I need to fill myself with God's goodness. Daily, hourly, minute-by-minute.
I have no doubt that God has been waiting for me to come to Him. I am constantly in wonder at how abuduntly He blesses when we purposefully walk in His protection. What precious training He has provided to journey closely with Him. Micaela will remind me without failing that I can't do this without my Heavenly Father and that if I want to do it well, I need to be coming to the Father to fill me with His joy, peace, and especially love to make it through this season.
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.
It was perfectly arrogant the way I started 2014. Was that really 3 years ago? I even set some lofty resolutions for that year. I was going to finish writing my 7th novel, give birth to our second child (I had just found out I was pregnant), move to Russia for my husband's new job, and spend a lot of quality time with my mom as her health failed. That was how I pictured the year before me.
To this day, looking back over those months is often painful. The darkness of loss threw a shadow of that entire year. It hit me so hard, that when the next year started I did not even attempt to set another goal. However, I learned something.
The waves come. The storms hit. It is life. When we have to suffer through these things, I want to be in Jesus' boat.
You know the story. Turn to Mark 4:35-41. Jesus invited His disciples to get into the boat with Him and cross over the Sea of Galilee. Jesus knew that the storm coming would be terrible. He knew that the waves would crash over them and toss their vessell around. He knew that the tempest had the power to tear them to pieces. However, that was His boat. He even fell asleep as the waters thrashed about them. When His disciples came and woke Him, He quieted the storm with a few simple words. Then He chastised His followers for forgetting that they never had anything to fear.
By the end of 2014 my family and I had survived a storm that could have ripped us to pieces. It had full capability to steal our hopes, beat away our dreams, tear apart our relationships, and demolish our health.
There were scars. Oh, there were some bad scars. But we were in Jesus' boat. I can say that though I desperately miss my baby, Isabela, I have deep joy that she was born to me. I can say that though I wish Micaela had been given an easier journy in life, but I am in continuous wonder at how God shows His mighty power through her miraculous progression. I can say that though my heart aches to hear my mom's voice, even one more time, I have a heart that is open to be loved by others. My marriage is strong. I am so very loved and supported by family and friends.
In Jesus' boat we reach our destination within His great plans for us and under the protection of His perfect love. No matter what we suffer, we are never lost to the storm.
Last night the calendar turned over into 2017 and I set resolutions again. I have no fear. My goals might work out, or they might not. I believe in striving for personal growth, especially when it trains our eyes to be fixed on God. I hope to spend this year reading my Bible daily, lowering my cholesterol through diet and exercise, and learning how to market my very first published book.
Who knows, the waves might rise up and crash over me mid-year or even in a week and those goals will become useless. It doesn't matter.
I'm in Jesus' boat.
I will get safely to the other side. Only My Heavenly Father knows my destination. And, my God is good.
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
I can't believe that it is here either. A whole new year. I love writing resolutions, setting goals, and making plans. Something about beginning another year sparks courage and hope within me. My mind and heart fills with ideas and dreams. If you are like me, you might have also noticed that our resolutions have a far better chance of being fulfilled if we actually take the time to write them down.
Below is a free printable of a simple 3-page worksheet for setting goals. I left a lot of open space for you to make this page your very own. Fill in the margins with doodles, quotes, pictures, and whatever else helps you make these mighty changes in your life.
Happy very blessed New Year to you all.
They weren't the most fabulous gifts. I am not very good at those sentimental, deeply-touching presents that others give. My mind thinks too much about practicality--needs versus wants, usefulness instead of thoughtfulness. However, with each curled ribbon I prayed with hope that those who recieve each will know the deep love my husband and I have for them.
I stuffed the last box into a large grocery bag and tried to sigh away a little flutter that lurked deep in my stomach. I breathed a prayer to God to release the worry to Him. I had done my best, the reactions and reception of others would not be my responsibility. We have no control over how others recieve our gifts to them.
My eyes drifted over to our little nativity scene. The baby boy lay nestled in hay. Innocent. Perfect. Love. The greatest present of all.
What thoughts did my Heavenly Father have the night His Son was born? His gift to the world had been presented. An awesome, amazing, incredible gift was given to the earth. One that would be met with joy and awe.
But not by everyone.
God knew that before His Son was ever born. He knew before the gift was given. He knew, even then, that many would ignore it. Many would refuse it. Many would be angered by it. Many would reject His perfect act of love.
He chose not to control the actions of how His gift was recieved. He gave out of a merciful, wise, and peaceful heart. He gave fully and completely. He gave.
Presents are a beautiful symbol of what we celebrate this season. Perhaps that is why, even today, giving is my favorite part of the Christmas season. God gave regardless of how His gift would be recieved. He gave out of love.
May we all give the same way. May we give out of joy, wisdom, and peace. Out of a deep desire to show our love to others, even it is something as simple as a card. Because we have no control over how our presents are recieved. We only have influence on the condition of our hearts as we give.
Enjoy that deep love you feel this week as you give to others. May you have a very merry Christmas.
Two years ago I promised myself I wasn't going to allow parenting a special needs child to steal my joy nor to steal my life. We knew that Micaela's birth had brought a serious curve-ball into our future, but there still was a choice: We could become angry, bitter, and resentful or we could embrace an unknown life and accept that God gives good things to His children. It was with this kind of thinking that I began The Beautiful Day Project.
Yet, for whatever reason, the long trips to Albuquerque to see Micaela's specialists still frustrate me.
Yesterday the cans of pediasure were gathered up. We had snacks ready and Micaela's G-tube supplies. I hustled out as soon as I could, throwing Adela on the bus with a kiss and then drove quickly away. Yesterday a couple doctors in Albuquerque awaited Micaela and I for check-ups. Six hours of driving+7 hours of doctors and shoppings=1 exhausted mamma and toddler.
Some days I gaze rather too lovingly at my can of Redbull riding in its holder next to my seat. And yet, yesterday I realized that there is something special about these days.
I've had some of the most meaningful phone conversations when driving. I've been awed by a unique aspect of one of my girls' personalities that I had never noticed until they had to sit for hours on end and amuse themselves. I've listened to wonderful books. I've sang and sang and sang again. And, I've prayed.
I've prayed a lot.
It isn't often that I am given time just to sit. Sure, I drive. I talk to girls and sing to them when they are awake. But there are many long patches of pavement when all I can do is sit, pray, and think.
Yesterday marked a milestone for little Micaela. We won't be needed back in Albuquerque until the end of February! She is doing wonderful. God is so good to us.
As I pulled into our driveway yesterday evening, I was relieved. It was so very nice to be home.
But I know that I needed the long hours of quiet God gave me. My Heavenly Father had a lot of amazing things to share with me. It had been a while since I had given Him so much undivided attention.
My blessing are bountiful. Even long road trips and hours sitting in doctor offices are counted among the ways my God has shown His love to me and mine.
The Lord will keep
There will never be enough coffee to give me the strength to make it through this day like a human being.
I don't know why I do this to myself. But I do. From time to time I forget that I am not a super-powered woman who can make it through several nights in a row of just a few hours of sleep.
When you do that to yourself and get up in the morning, the day does not even seem new or fresh.
The cover of my book is what succeeded in keeping me up the last few nights. I was out of my comfort zone trying to design it. I learned a lot as I struggled different photo shop and cover creator programs, but I was far from satisfied with my work.
This morning I submitted my proof and cover. I was frustrated. I was grumpy. I wasn't ready to mother my sweet girls, cook, clean, or simply smile. I was so exhausted and disheartened.
I should have been sleeping the last few nights instead of allowing my desire for control and perfectionism to eclipse my trust in God.
I really should have taken Sunday off. I can feel my need to relax and chill-out crawling up and down my spine. My eyes keep closing involuntarily. This third cup of coffee might as well have been Sweet Dreams herbal tea.
Our desire to control a situation often gets in the way of following God's instructions and resting. Our urge to get things done perfectly will make us treat our own bodies badly. That is not God's will for us.
I know I'm up against a deadline. I know that I look back on the last few months and am angry at myself for not taking advantage of time I had when I had it. However, pushing myself like this is only making my life more miserable in a dozen different ways. I think I am even getting an ulser...
Really, I should have been sleeping.
Is there something you are pushing yourself with? Cooking Christmas treats, sending off cards, or preparing for a family get-together? In your anxiety, are you accepting God's gift of rest or are you pushing forward trying to get everything done on your own power?
Maybe you should be sleeping, too.
If God doesn’t build the house,
I miss my mom. I do. I miss being able to pick up the phone, hear her voice, and roll my eyes when she would tell me again, "Don't worry so much." But most of all I miss the well of encouragement and advice I lost when she went up to heaven.
Mom raised four children and managed to maintain a heart full of exuberant love. That is so admirable. If I could call her now, I bet she would have all kinds of advice on what to do the next time Adela spikes a random fever or how to keep my chin up when my husband must work long hours to make ends meet.
These days I need love, advice, and support more than ever before. And God has more than filled the bill. My list of contacts on my phone is full of women who are always willing to lend an ear, give a smile, or offer a hug when I feel frustrated. My Heavenly Father is so good to me.
But I do miss Mom.
Many of my readers knew my mother, Mary Bowlin (that is her holding her grandson, Nathan, in the photo above). She was a cheerful woman and a good friend. This week, author Tina Truelove, honored me as I reviewed her devotional, When Chronic Illness Steals Your Joy. As I read the beautiful words of this scripture-based devotional & journal, I thought about Mom. I thought of those last couple of years when she was in intense pain. I thought about all the unfair changes in her life. Tina Truelove's words were full of encouragement. I would have loved to have shared this book with Mom. Perhaps it would have helped her through some of the emotional hurdles that came from having to live with Multiple Sclerosis.
To be honest, I was humbled by Tina Truelove’s decision to write this book. In the 10-day devotional she addresses common thoughts and emotions that those with chronic illnesses often encounter. She brings her own experiences and power of God’s word to help her readers reclaim joy no matter what they are going through.
If you know someone with a chronic illness, I would recommend this beautiful devotional. I am Thankful that God has blessed us with writers like this who will help us stay close to Him, learn with Him, and be loved by Him.
Thank you, Tina.
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