God, that is why You made church, isn't it? I remember asking God that years ago when my husband, daughter, and I went to a small country church in New South Wales, Australia (Tumbarumba Community Church). It had been a long time since we had went. In Argentina there had not been many church options and when we had been in the Outback of Australia there had been no church at all. So, when we stepped into the Tumbarumba Community Church it felt like I had come home.
Family. I could feel it. My brothers and sisters. My family in Christ. I had never met them. I had not even learned their names yet, but I was home. I was accepted and loved.
Today I was so thankful for church. I couldn't be back in my own little church back in House, NM, but I was welcomed into another church here in Albuquerque. Today I sat in a comfy rocking chair that the church set about for their mamas with babies and listened to a beautiful sermon. The pastor at the First Baptist church up there on Paseo del Norte, reminded me that I was loved and part of God's kingdom just the way I was. A fellow mother sitting next to me kept picking up Micaela's dropped toys. A friend found me, hugged me, and made me smile when she announced that she lives right next to the hospital and will not allow me to sit alone through Micaela's surgery. (A lot of other people offered, and I thank them, but this lady will not have to miss work or jury duty to be there with me. God is being good to all of us.) Oh, and I have a new Bible that I am going to study for the next 8 weeks with the rest of the congregation. (If you are curious, this is the Bible.)
I feel blessed.
I am reminded that God designed fellowship with our sisters and brothers in Christ so that we can have a place where we always belong. Where we are always safe. Where we are always loved.
Where we can learn. Where we can encourage others and be supported. Where we can make bonds, join forces, and fight this good fight together.
Fellowship. Family. A church home.
If you don't have one you should find one. Just saying. :)
It is pretty amazing.
I flashed the doctor what I hoped was a brilliant smile. "Surgery? Monday? Sure. Sounds fine." Fine. If it takes another surgery to remove that ugly cyst from Micaela's eye then okay. Whatever.
Cool. I got the girls into the car, called the hubby, and texted family. I kept my chin up and the smile in place, determined to exude all the confidence and positive attitude of a seasoned mother with a special needs baby.
By the time I got home I had a headache and a fever blister the size of Texas.
Ok, I'm not as cool as I thought. Not as seasoned. Not as hardened. For whatever reason I can not "Whatever"-myself into a nonchalant reaction to surgery.
Goodness. Why not? I've put in my time. Rolled with the punches. Lived it out. Rode out the bad storms. Why can I not "whatever" away the situation? I dumped tylenol into my hand and pursed my lips.
Then I sighed. Okay, I'm not there yet. Ha. I'm not to the point where I can brush off a routine surgery. I'm just not. Have I disappointed God with my fears?
As soon as I asked that question the answer came. No. God isn't disappointed when life brings us things to fear or dread. Fear is normal. It shows what we care about. What isn't okay is when we don't rely on God in these times of need. It is not okay when we decide to hold all that fear inside and handle it on our own, thinking we can.
God wants to hold my hand though this too.
I made the plans for staying over here in Albuquerque and thanked God for providing family, friends, and doctors that keep my family healthy in all ways. I was never doing this on my own. Thank God.
So, Monday, February 1, we could truly use prayers for our little one's surgery. Thank you all for keeping my family close in your hearts.
And if you are going through your own time of trial, don't believe that you have to be tough enough to handle it all on your own. Say a prayer. Grab some chocolate. Call a friend. God is going to get you through this too.
God, Make Me More Like My Dog
Why can’t motherhood be simple? Simple like it is for other mothers in the animal kingdom? I watched, Maggie, our dog curl herself around her seven brand new puppies. Her peaceful expression filled me with wonder. Yesterday she had never been a mother. Today she is loving and nurturing her little ones as if she has been doing it all her life.
For a moment, only a moment, I wanted babies again. Babies to snuggle and hold. Babies that had no other purpose except to sleep, eat, and be loved. I sighed and sat back. I listened to the contented voices of full bellies, warm bodies, and a new mother happy with her lot in life.
Why is it so complicated for us? Feeding and keeping my little girls warm is definitely a high priority, yet it seems but two tiny fish in an ocean of worries. Are my girls polite? How do other people perceive them? Am I doing enough to help them grow? Learn? Adapt? Do they know they are loved? Are they emotionally healthy? The list goes on and on. And on. And on…
I tousled Maggie’s head and rubbed her behind the ears. “Lucky girl,” I whispered.
I’m jealous of a dog.
I want the simplistic and complete love she has for her newborn puppies. It feels like something I have never had and never will because my mind and heart are full of so many anxious duties.
We get glimpses of this simple heart-owning love. I know I felt it the first time I held my eldest daughter--that love-at-first-sight, breath-taking acknowledgment of someone who owns a piece of my heart. I felt this love holding my twin newborns skin-to-skin feeling the warmth of their impossibly tiny bodies burn an imprint into my soul. Yes, I’ve felt it. But life intervenes and steals it with its crafty ways.
Even as I write this post it is glaringly obvious what has robbed me of something that precious: worry. My worries for my precious girls prevents me from staying in love with them all the time. My mind searches for faults, flaws, things I can fix, prevent, change. But as I do that I keep my heart from simply loving them.
Oh, God, help me. Heal me. Change my heart. Please make me more like my dog.
Moms Get Days Off, Too...Sort of
Do moms get a day off? A sick day? A day we can call in and pull the covers back over our heads? No. We don’t. But sometimes we still have to take the “day off” anyways.
This morning I awoke under the weather. I didn’t have a malady that required serious attention nor intervention, but I was feeling pretty beat. A headache kept me tossing and turning most the night, probably due to worries and stress. I opened my Beth Moore Bible Study on Fruits of the Spirit and asked God to give me the energy, the spark, the attitude I needed to be productive today. But, He didn’t.
Instead I turned my Bible to 1 Kings and read the story of Elijah and the part where Elijah gives up in despair. Elijah falls into a suicidal depression with little faith that God will protect him from death. And what was God’s response? Anger? Rebuking? Discipline? No, God sent an angel to care for Elijah, providing rest and food. I cradled my throbbing head within my hands and knew that today would not be the day I crossed everything off my list. Because sometimes the most important duty we have is that of rest.
Today Elijah taught me that it is okay to be exhausted. It is not okay to ignore that condition and continue onward simply because of feelings of guilt or responsibility. All of us need days where we stand back, stand aside, and let God minister to our needs.
So, I cooked breakfast and did the dishes—and that was it. I’m sure at some point I will prepare dinner and there are little girls that need time and attention. But for now I am bundled up and letting the world turn around me.
As positive and loving humans, we want to give so much to the world. But before we can give, we need to receive. We need to receive God’s peace and joy and wisdom. And we need to receive rest in God’s presence.
Today if your list beckons but your body, mind, and heart have not been tended to, talk to God about it. Exhaustion happens. If you have reached that point and God is providing the time and opportunity to rest, do so. Don’t feel guilty. Instead, allow yourself to feel immensely loved by your Heavenly Father.
Beautiful Dawn. Beautiful Day. Beautiful Mama. Those are the three things I remind myself of each morning as I commit myself to loving whatever comes at me.
It is tough, really tough, sometimes. There are days where I would either like to start over or simply be done with it all. But I can tell you that the days that I follow through with my three steps to a beautiful day I do feel amazingly satisfied by the end of it.
So, here they are.
Step 1: Beautiful Dawn. How do you begin your day? Setting a tone begins the moment you open your eyes. I encourage myself to think good things from the moment I wake. I remind myself to have positive expectations. I crawl out of the warm cocoon of blankets, grab a cup of coffee, open my Bible study, and spend calm & peaceful one-on-one time with my Heavenly Father. In fifteen to thirty minutes I feel strengthened and full of joy. I am anxious to begin the day and see what adventures await.
Step 2: Beautiful Day. Life isn't perfect. In a heartbeat we can feel beaten by the most simple events. Someone gives the girls a xylophone capable of breaking glass with its ear splitting tones and you start counting down until naptime. Your daughter is going through the whiny phase and it seems she has an impossibly large quota of "Mama, mama, mama..."'s to be said by noon. A neighbor shows up and your dishes are still piled in the sink. Breathe. This happens. Accept that God allowed it because He loves you. Carefully He shapes and crafts you as you navigate your way through this day's events.
Step 3: Beautiful Mama. You need to take care of yourself. Keeping your mind, heart, body, and soul up to the task of caring for your family is an important investment of your time. Give yourself things to look forward to. Take breaks during the day to enjoy a coloring book, a novel, some music--whatever restores your peace and makes you feel like more than the house cook and cleaner. And, at the end of the day don't try to cram in more work because the kids are in bed. Relax. Snuggle up to your amazing hubby and watch TV. Don't ever tell yourself that you shouldn't do these things. They are important because you are important.
I'll be writing more about each step as we go throughout the first year of my Beautiful Day Project. And please, if you have advice on how you succeed in making your own day beautiful please share. We are all on this journey together.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. "Selah"
My dad always says, "The hardest part about cooking is figuring out what to cook." So, SO true. Cooking is a great joy to me, but also a definite source of stress. The feeling I get from hearing people tell me that they have enjoyed the meal makes me feel so fulfilled. But I live in fear of offending or disappointing others with the food that is placed before them.
A few months ago I was praying about this when God showed me something sad. I have a serious problem when it comes to how I view my relationships with others. My own happiness revolves around how others treat me and respond to me. This is horribly unhealthy. My joy comes from the Lord, not from someone telling me how they like their steak.
I'm prayerfully changing this attitude within me, but the going is difficult. Dinnertime, lunch, breakfast, and snacks are still my responsibility within our home. And of course I want to provide enjoyable and nutritious meals for the people that I love and our guests. But there are some mantras I've taught myself to maintain a good attitude as I prepare a meal.
"Nobody is going to go hungry except by choice." A meal is first and foremost served to provide for our bodies. There is food on my table and the people at the table can choose what or how much they eat.
"You can't please everybody." You might sometimes, even most the time, succeed in pleasing everyone with your cooking. But it isn't going to happen all the time. That is just life.
"You are not responsible for other people's feelings." Empty tummies make for poor attitudes, but when someone whines or complains remember you do not control how they feel. That is their choice.
"You're doing a good job." Lucky me gets to hear that often from my amazing husband, but I still tell it to myself when I am feeling unsure. Remind yourself that you are not perfect, but you are working hard to be a good wife, mother, and friend.
And lastly, most importantly, "My joy and peace comes from God." If you wait for joy and peace to come from the perfect family dinner you may be moping around for a while. So, allow God to lovingly provide this for you too.
Hope this helps you next time you decide what to cook for dinner.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Expect Good Things
Expect good things. I know that is easier said than done. Life is a dutiful teacher, reminding us that bad things happen. We will run into hiccups as we reach goals and even the most careful planning will not prevent downfalls.
Keeping positive expectations in my own life is a challenge. I am ever thankful to my daughters for reminding me daily of how powful faith and hope is.
For Christmas my three-year-old got a brilliant orange cape. When we got home she eagerly put it on and went outside to stand in the wind. I asked what she was doing and she excitedly replied that she was going to fly. Her expectations for that gaudy orange piece of fabric were entirely unrealistic but she had more joy as she stood in the wind than she would have ever had if she had simply acknowledged the cape was nothing more than a costume.
I'm a preparar, a planner. I want my heart, mind, and bank account ready for whatever life throws at me. But among my reasonable expectations its takes courage for me to believe, to hope, in the best.
Micaela, our 18-month-old baby born premature with extensive neurological damage, teaches me lessons every day. The last couple weeks she has bowled me over completely with what she is doing.
She finally started eating. Finally. After fifteen months of getting all her nutrition from a G-tube (a tube inserted directly into her stomach), she one day picked up the cracker on her tray and began to eat it. And she hasn't stopped. Its hard work for her, but she continues. You can see her excitement and determination.
If we weren't excited enough about that, we have been nearly in tears because she is trying to stand, to bounce, to take steps. She lacks strength, balance, and motor planning, but she is trying.
My heart rejoices as our hopes are realized.
Positive expectations have a dramatic effect on our world. If I hadn't been expecting Micaela to eat someday, there would have been no cracker on her highchair tray. If I hadn't been expecting Micaela to attempt to stand I would have never lifted her up and helped her touch her feet to the ground.
Is there something in your life that you've lost hope for? A broken relationship? An addiction? A habit? A friend? Do you determinedly lift your chin though inside you steal yourself to face hurt over and over?
I understand. Having good expectations for our lives takes courage, but until we believe we will lack key strength behind every attempt we make for change
I'm so thankful for my little Micaela for showing me how much positive expectations move our life. I'm going to take a page out of her book and continue to expect good things to happen.
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
I'm having a hard time with many of my goals. I desperately want to sleep 15 minutes more instead of fuel my day with quiet time that will prepare my heart for the day's trials. I want cake instead of oatmeal for breakfast. I want to read instead of buckle down and write. I want to lose myself in facebook instead of filing away papers and paying bills. Discipline seems to desert me and I wonder if I wasn't made for success in the goals I've set before me.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." I read that this morning and was filled with relief.
I'm not alone.
You are not alone either. God knows discipline. He understand what it takes to accomplish it. He knows your heart, your desires, your temptations. He is cheering you on, proud that you are striving towards good things.
Take heart, my dear friend. God will walk the road to discipline with you, providing you every claim to success. He is with you even if you fail sometimes. He stays with you even after you win. He will give you all the strength you need to stand against each and every temptation.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
It gets under my skin, that whining, complaining noise. When she clings to me and begs sometimes I have to simply pick her up and put her in timeout because if I don't I'll be checking into a loony bin by sundown. True story.
Motherhood can take a hit on your confidence, can't it? You want so desperately to do the right thing, the perfect thing, for your kids. But there is no one constantly informing you of the perfect method to handle whatever next misadventure your beloved child is getting into.
I can honestly say that I have been a little frustrated here lately, hoping that I'm doing just the right thing for my little girls. I pray about it a lot. I know God must see all the fear in my heart and this morning he very gently showed me that I am doing alright.
Adela was up at 5:30 ready for hugs and pancakes. I wearily began the day and begged the caffeine to kick in quickly. When that first little rush was over, I sat down with my coffee. Adela settled down to play. She is a quiet little soul. The stuffed animals were taken out of the toy box and cared for. She softly welcomed each little animal out of their storage and asked them how they were. Then she grabbed up three horses and carefully arranged them so that they were snuggling each other.
You could see her heart as she worked, talking with them and caring for them. Tears stung my eyes. It was as if God was making me see what he saw--Love. A heart full of love.
I took a deep breath and smiled. Ok. I guess I'm not doing that bad after all.
Just like everything in life, when we focus on the bad, the hurt, and the disappointment in our children we will fail to enjoy them. They are unique, precious individuals. God made them each different. They won't be like any other child on earth. That is why there is no one that can tell us how to parent them. In the end there is only God's still quiet voice reminding us that He will guide us through this, too.
I know I'm making mistakes as a parent. None of us are perfect. But I know too that God gave me these children and set before me this task to guide them into adulthood. Any task set before us by God He has also prepared us for. We are are not alone and our actions motivated by love will shine through the lives of our kids.
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
What to Do on a Sunday
I love Sundays. I love the lazy morning, waking at the last possible moment, cooking up pancakes with Adela, and sipping my coffee slowly. I like getting dressed up for church and doing the girls' hair. I love sitting in the church pew, singing beautiful songs, and connecting with my neighbors. Sundays are often the day we have dinner with family or do special things with each other.
I love this God-made day of rest. I do. But, I have to be careful or the day can slide by and slip into the same routine as the others of the week. After all, I am often spending most of it in my home with the duties of motherhood securely in place. However, if I don't somehow make this day special, the rest of my week begins on a rough note. Life starts to feel lack-luster. I have less energy to do chores and less enthusiasm to do things with my family. If you are like me, you might feel the same. So, here are some tips that always help me make Sunday special.
Plan something ahead of time. Plan a meal with family or trip to the park with your kids. Get out and do something different. Celebrate your relationships and the people that will be coming alongside you through the approaching week.
Take as many chores as possible off your plate. Mix up pancake batter and put it in the fridge the night before. Get a meal prepped in the crockpot or make a cold noodle and meat salad. Let the house clutter up. And, if you feel extra daring, don't do the dishes, take out the trash, or fold laundry.
Do something just for you. Have some quiet time with a good book. Call up a friend for a soothing chat. Cuddle with your kids as you select a family-friendly film that even you can enjoy. Sunday is about your rest, too, you know?
Rest. This day is about rest and worship. If there is a particular aspect of your self right now that that feels worn--heart, soul, body, mind--then make an extra effort to rest that part of yourself. If that means putting your cell phone on silent or sneaking in a nap then do whatever you can to get it done.
And, of course, worship. This is a beautiful day to devote some extra time to God. Church, personal devotions, singing praise--it is all worship. God likes to find Himself in your heart.
This week began with my shoulders relaxed and a smile on my face because I was blessed enough to have a day of rest. I hope you are able to do the same. Perhaps you can't have this day on Sunday because of work or commitments, but I challenge you to find a day that can be given to rest and worship. Be good to yourself and set your week up for deep-seated joy and peace.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
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"...and God was already there with me."