Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Give More Grace

As I sit here in my office writing this and looking out my window, I’m captivated by the beautiful, big, pristine snowflakes falling down. I can’t help but see the symbolism of grace as I watch the peaceful stream of flakes swirl around and ever so gently fall to the ground.
What is grace? I decided to search for an actual definition and this is one I found, “Grace is God’s unmerited favor.  It is kindness from God we don’t deserve.  There is nothing we have done, nor can ever do to earn this favor.  It is a gift from God.  Grace is divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virtue coming from God; a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine favor.”  I also found this:

I love that!

Sitting here watching the snow fall, I feel like I’m in the middle of a snow globe, shaken by a small child, where the snow just swirls and swirls and very gently comes down.  And the more the globe is shaken, the more off balance it gets, and the heavier the snow falls.  And this is how I see God’s grace.  The more we mess up, the more chaotic our lives get, the more God’s grace is ever present.  We cannot earn God’s grace.  It is freely given.  It’s not an award we are handed for our good works, for making good choices.  It’s a gift.  A FREE gift for those who truly believe in Him.  It is always there waiting for us to accept, my friends.

God also calls us to give ourselves and each other grace.  This isn’t always easy.  But we are called to give grace when others fail to meet our expectations.  When others offend and hurt us but their words or actions, we are called to extend grace to them.  When our friends get so busy in their own lives and don’t reach out to us, they still deserve grace.  When we fail to get everything done on our to-do list or when we are quick to lose patience with our children, we are called to give ourselves grace.  We are called to give our children and our husbands grace as well.  We are all learning in this adventure called life and we all need grace.  As I mentioned before, grace is a kindness we do not deserve.  But we are called to give it just like Christ gives it ever so freely to us.  Grace doesn’t come with strings attached.

I recently experienced the true meaning of giving and receiving grace and I have to tell you, grace also comes with a peace that passes all understanding.  Yes, giving grace may require us to swallow our pride and show humility.  It may require us to step out of our comfort zone and ‘be the bigger person’, but the end result is beyond worth it.  I can honestly tell you that from personal experience.  God has a way of growing us through grace if we allow Him to.

As a mom of young children, it’s not always easy to give myself grace.  Maybe you feel the same way.  We set unrealistic expectations of ourselves.  Sometimes we look at other moms and we think we should be doing what they do or accomplishing all that they are.  When we do this, we set ourselves up for unnecessary failure.  We are all on a journey.  But this journey involves a path very uniquely created for each of us.  No two paths are alike.  We must embrace the path God has placed each of us on and give grace daily.  While we are here on this earth traveling on this journey, we will all triumph and we will all fail.  But with God’s grace, we get back up and continue on our journey, learning all the while. 

My friends, I encourage you to give grace.  If you have fallen, give yourself grace.  If someone else has fallen on their journey, give them grace.  Grace helps us all to get back up and carry on toward our end goal, which is God’s will for us all.

God Bless.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Keeping Expectations in Check

We all have expectations.  We have expectations of ourselves, our spouse, our family and friends, our children, God, and the list goes on and on.  Have you ever stopped to notice how expectations affect our happiness?  When our expectations are met, life is fairly easy.  But when our expectations are not met, it can be a different story.  Expectations are not a bad thing, but we have to carefully manage how high we set our expectations or we end up feeling sad, angry, disappointed or those who don't meet our expectations can be left feeling unworthy and ashamed and our relationships suffer.

Being a mom brings a whole new world of expectations.  Along with expectations I have of my children, I also have more expectations of myself as their mother and teacher.  We share with our children what our expectations are of them.  This allows them to share their thoughts and feelings about the expectations and if we need to negotiate them, then we do that.  Obviously, some things are non-negotiable for us like honesty, kindness, etc.  We have no doubt our daughter works to the best of her ability in school.  She has made this evident to us.  But it's equally important to us that her character is displayed to the best of her ability as well.  So, every day I pick her up from school, I ask her "how were you a kind friend today?"  She knows I will ask her each and every day and I expect her to share with me how she was a kind friend.  I smile because now her younger sister asks her too :)  Once she starting asking, I told my almost 4-year-old daugher I was going to ask her the same question every day when I picked her up from preschool and I do!  We teach our children that this is what God expects of them as well and that's why it's so important.  As they get older, it's easy to raise our expectations.  I try to keep my expectations of my children in check so they don't ever feel like they disappoint us or feel unworthy.  It's a fine line, but they know we expect them to use their talents and gifts God has given them and do their personal best.  We know this will look different for all three of our children, but it never hurts to remind ourselves of this.

Those of us who are married have expectations of our spouses.  But how many times do we set expectations of them without sharing what they are?  It's likely those are the expectations that don't get met sometimes because our spouse may not even know we have those expectations!  Sometimes the expectations are very minor things, but if they aren't communicated, discussed and maybe even negotiated, it can negatively affect our marriage.  It's not always easy to negotiate, but we all know marriage must be a give and take in order to survive and even thrive.

I could write a whole blog just on expectations of family, but I'll keep it short :)  I personally think we set the highest (and many times unrealistic) expectations of family members and when they fall short of our expectations, it creates resentment and hostility and we can easily lose respect and trust.  I think we'd all agree that sometimes it's the hardest to share our expectations with family members.  We may be fearful of how they will react or what they will in turn expect from us.  Unfortunately, sometimes it's easier and in some cases better to just lower our expectations of certain people (especially family) and be content with their choices and actions.  I think it's fair to say that we all have had a time too when we didn't meet someone's expectation of us.  But we have to remember we are all human and only human.  Through prayer, I've found peace in the fact that I won't always meet others expectations, including those of family member's, and that's okay.  At the end of the day, the only expectations we need to focus on are God's.  When we hold each other to high expectations while never allowing one another to make mistakes and be human, we are forgetting we are all human! 

Whether we think about it much or not, we all have expectations of our friends as well.  I'm willing to bet if you think of your closest friends, a few words come to mind with your expectations of them...for me it's, laughter, food for the soul, dependability, etc.  These are all great things, but we have to remember since we are all human there will be a time when even our closest friends don't meet our expectations.  And here's where grace enters in.  Just as we want others to show us grace when we don't meet their expectations, we must be willing to extend grace.  Again, we need to change our expectations to be realistic.

It's easy for us to blame others for not meeting our expectations, but maybe we need to take a good hard look at the expectations we set for others.  I'm not suggesting we should always expect the worst and just hope for the best, but they must simply be realistic.  I encourage you to pray on this today and ask God to show you who you need to extend grace to and ask for his guidance in setting your expectations for them.  We also must remember that many times we fail to meet God's expectations of us and yet he continues to show us forgiveness, grace, love and he doesn't allow our human errors to ruin our relationship with Him.  He expects us to do the same for others.

God Bless!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

God had something to say and I listened

For the first time in my life, I intentionally sat down to listen for God's voice one day.  I've been a Catholic my whole life and go to church every week not because I have that "Catholic guilt" if I don't go, but because I truly want to be there, to give thanks, to worship and feel that connection with God that I experience when I'm on His 'turf'.  God has always been a big part of my life and has gotten me through some rough times, but until about a year ago, I had never sat and just listened to Him.  I regret not doing it sooner.

Despite growing up a christian, never did I stop to think about listening for God to speak.  Sure, I've always prayed, but that meant I was doing the talking and and mostly asking.  So, when I attended a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) leadership seminar last January, I heard an amazing lady share some of her conversations with God.  I sat there thinking, "Wow, this is incredile.  I want to hear God's voice too!"  The thing she said that had the most impact on me was with regards to her daughters.  She said, "If something were to happen to me, it's important for me to know that my four young daughters are able to hear and follow God's voice.  If they can do this, then I know that no matter what happens, they will be okay."  This really stuck with me and I decided that's what I want for my children too.  

So a few days after this, it was a Wednesday and I was sitting out on my deck while my children were napping and I thought I'd sit and listen and see if God was ready to speak to me (little did I know, it was more a question of am I ready to listen, than is he ready to speak!).  First, I prayed that I would hear the words He wanted me to and that I would know that it was His voice and not just thoughts and words I was putting in my head!  I sat there for a little bit and then from nowhere I heard "feed the hungry" and I have to tell you, I starting laughing!  This wasn't quite what I had envisioned God had to say to me!  I thought, "umm, I feed little mouths three meals and a couple snacks everyday!"  But I figured I'd be patient and see what He meant and where it would lead.  I was just so thrilled that I was pretty sure it was God speaking to me (if it had been me putting words in my head, I don't think I would've chosen the words I heard)!  That Sunday in church, four days after hearing "feed the hungry", the priest was reading the announcements at the end of mass and he said, "The Sister Carmen Food Bank is in need of food, so be sure and grab a bag on your way out to fill and return!"  I about fell over.  I knew when he said this that God had truly spoke to me.  You better believe I took a bag with me!  I even took all three kiddos along to the grocery store (you moms know what a challenge that is) to get what was needed and deliver it to the Sister Carmen Food Bank.  It was my joy to be able to help others, to follow God's direction and to also teach my children about helping others in need and being selfless.

I now take the time to listen to God regularly.  I don't always sit in complete silence (very rarely do I get complete silence unless it's when I ready to fall into bed at night!) and wait for Him to speak.  Instead, I pause to listen for his voice when I'm driving down the road or when I'm in the shower or even when my house feels like a three ring circus!  But every time I pause to listen, He gives me the words I need to hear in that moment.  It may not always be what I want to hear, but I know God knows it's what I need to hear.  It may only be a word or two, but I know it's His voice and knowing He sees what I'm going through brings a sense of peace and comfort.

Sometimes I just sit and write down my thoughts, fears, joys, prayers, etc in a journal.  One day I decided to let the words I was about to write, be the words of Jesus and just see what would result.  First, I wrote my note to Jesus and then I paused for a moment and asked Him to share his thoughts with me.  I wrote the letter to myself as if it was coming right from Jesus.  I sat there writing and writing without a pause and sometimes smiling at the things I was writing, knowing it was not my words.  After I was done, I went back through the 10 pages or so and I was truly moved by what I was reading.  Some things brought me comfort, some things challenged me.  Some things didn't seem real relevant for that moment.  There were things He had told me to let go of that I had been holding on to.  I was simply amazed.  When I sat down a few weeks later, I reread what Jesus had written to me the first time and I couldn't believe how the things that didn't have much relevance the first time, were exactly what I need to hear the second time I sat to read them. 

In my second letter, he mentioned a friendship of mine and how He brought her into my life to draw me closer to him and vice versa.  I just smiled at this because I know she has already done that for me in many ways!  This was another example of His perfect timing as I feel like our friendship began at just the perfect time for both of us.  God knew we needed each other and it's awesome to see Him working on our behalf for our good.  If you have never done this, try it.  It feels a little awkward at first, writing a letter to yourself from Jesus, but when you ask him to give you the words to write you'll be amazed at what He has to tell you!

If you were like I was and haven't sat and just listened for God to speak to you, I encourage you to start today.  Even if you have only five minutes, it's worth it!  We have to be open and ready for it because He won't force himself on us.  He's ready when you are!

God Bless :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Becoming Better

Happy 2013!  I have not forgotten about this blog, believe me, it's been on my "wish list" of things to do so I'm making it a priority again.  I have been thinking about so many topics so I'm excited to get busy writing again!

I would like to start this post by thanking you for reading my blog!  It's fun to see I now have over 1200 page views since I started this, but at the end of the day, I don't mind if I only have one.  What I really love is to see from your comments or emails is that you can relate to my posts or they have inspired you or impacted you in a positive way.  I have truly believed from the first post I wrote that these are not my words, but words of the Holy Spirit using me a vessel to reach others seeking God's word.  Before I start writing, I sit and pray and ask God to send the Holy Spirit to speak through me, words that someone needs to read and has been waiting to hear for whatever reason.  So, if this happens to you, I'd love to hear about it!  I love to see how God is working among us and through us.

With the start of a new year I think it's natural to do a little analyzing of our lives and see what we like, what we don't, what we want to change and what we want to keep doing.  I thought I'd share a few things I've decided to do. 

1)  I'm keeping a journal on my night stand and every night before I go to bed, I write down at least 3 things (people, events, moments, challenges, unanswered prayers, etc) I'm thankful for or that have brought me true joy.  As a busy mom, it's easy to focus on the frustration, lack of time, chores left undone, etc that we experience every day.  I'm going to challenge myself to find things to be thankful for each and every day.  I'm excited to look back in a few months and see the ways God is working in my life that I haven't even realized before!

2)  I'm going to finish reading the book The Five Love Languages of Children (that I started a few months ago!).  I have read The Five Love Languages and I recommend it to everyone!  It's especially helpful for married couples.  I want to really understand what makes my children feel loved.  To assume all children feel loved in the same way is not fair.  I might be doing things that I think make my children feel loved, but I may be missing the mark!  The next step I'm committed to is doing more of those things to make my children feel completely loved at all times, even through discipline.  They hear me say I love you all the time, but I want to make sure they are feeling it too.

3)  When God puts someone on my heart to pray for, I'm going to let them know.  I don't need to know what's going on in their life that needs prayer, but I am going to let them know that I'm praying for them because God has asked me to.  This happened this past year a couple times and I didn't tell the people, I just prayed for them.  With one person I was praying for, a couple days later, they had to put their dog to sleep.  God knows who needs our prayers so just ask him!

These are just a few things I'm focusing on in the next year that I hope will make me a better mom, wife, friend and a more thankful servant of God's.  I'm sure more things will come up that I want to do, but I'll start here.  The great thing is we don't have to wait a whole year to start something new.  We can start new with each new day.  God has given us the gift of a fresh start, every 24 hours, so let's take advantage of it!

God Bless!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Is It Ever Enough?

What is the magic answer to finding balance being a wife, mom, friend, sister, daughter, employee, committee member, volunteer, homework helper, taxi driver, meal maker, bill payer, appointment setter, grocery getter, cleaning lady, laundry queen, dish washer, etc, etc?!  I'm still searching for the answer, but this is what I'm learning along the way...

I've been a working-outside-the-home mom and now a stay-at-home-working mom.  No matter what your situation, I think we'd all agree there is never enough time to get done what we want to get done.  There is always that issue of time management lurking around, making us feel guilty!  I thought once I became a stay-at-home mom I'd have so much extra time...yeah right!  I feel like more of a hamster spinning on a wheel than I ever have.  It's not a coincidence that God created this world with day and night.  He intended to only give us so many hours in a day to get things done and then he expects us to rest.  In this world we live in, we are consumed by technology, activities, social groups, etc.  While none of these are bad, they spread us so thin.  There are things that must be done, but also the things we enjoy doing that give us identity that sometimes can feel lost when we become a mom.  We need time for us and to nourish and be nourished by friends as well.  We can't let the much needed time with our husbands and our friends, who help refill our 'mom tank', make us feel guilty when we take time away from our children.  This helps me to be a better mom and a better wife.  A good, strong marriage is a priority for me as it directly benefits our children as well.  And, the love and laughter from my treasured friendships help me get through motherhood much more easily :)

So much is expected of us by so many people.  Many times at the end of the day, I feel like I've given a little to a lot of people and a lot of things.  I ask myself, "Did what I do really make a difference today or was I just lucky to make it through the day?  Was I great mom today or was I just there, rushing my kids around from here to there?  Did I really listen to them even when their story seemed to take an hour to tell?  Or did I zone out and try and get 50 other things done while my child followed me around the house, craving my attention?  Did I greet my husband with gratitude when he walked in the door or did I start grumbling immediately about what I'm feeling frustrated about?  More importantly, did I take even 10 minutes to pray and ask God to help?  Sadly, some days the answers are no and this brings the feeling of defeat.  On those days, not only have I not been the mom and wife I want to be, but to top it all off, the numerous chores I attempted to get done are still there starring me in the face!  And, I haven't taken a moment for myself to find a little peace amidst it all. 

Unfortunately, I know there will be days like this.  I don't have the human strength to do it all day in and day out.  But I know in my weakness, God is strong.  I believe I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).  I truly believe this.  Some days I wonder how in the world I got through it, but as I look back I realize the strength I had came directly from him.  We must remember, God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called!  Thank goodness for that.  God will always provide if we ask him.  He may not provide in the ways we want, but he will provide in the way he's knows is best for us.  When I find myself in these overwhelming and defeated situations, I'm reminded to draw near to God and ask for his hand in all of this.  Sometimes my human nature takes over and I feel like I can do this on my own.  Then he gently reminds me I can't do it alone.

This devotion is from "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young, a daily devotional written as if Jesus is speaking directly to you.  I have this as an app on my phone as well as the hard copy and I highly recommend it!  This devotion below is from July 26:

Relax and let Me lead you through this day.  I have everything under control: My control.  You tend to peer anxiously into the day that is before you, trying to figure out what to do, and when.  Meanwhile, the phone rings, and you have to reshuffle your plans.  All that planning ties you up in knots and distracts you from Me.  Attentiveness to Me is not only for your quiet time, but for all your time.  As you look to Me, I will show what to do now and next. 

Vast quantities of time and energy are wasted in obsessive planning.  When you let Me direct your steps, you are set free to enjoy Me and to find what I have prepared for you this day.

In this life, we will struggle at times as moms and women who try to do it all and be it all for everyone.  While this is humanly impossible, we must rely on God to show us what he wants us to do and where he wants us to spend our time.  It's easy to get wrapped up in the little day-to-day tasks, but our children will not remember those little things.  They will remember that we took time to listen when they knew we already had a full plate.  They will feel so loved because we truly made them our priority.

I don't have any excellent time management solutions to share, but I'm learning that whatever I do will never be enough.  There will always be more to be done.  Instead, I know that what I am is enough because God has equipped me and he continues to provide me with what I need to make it through each and every day.  And he's equipped you too, so know that you are enough to carry out his will for you! 

God Bless :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Heartache of Miscarriage

While a family picture can be a reflection of so many blessings and lots of happiness, it doesn't always show the hidden heartaches.  When people look at our family picture, they see our three precious children we were blessed to bring into this world.  What they don't see is the pain and loss we experienced through miscarriage.  Four painful times, actually.  A lot of people know this about me, but many do not.  And until I personally went down the awful road of miscarriage, I didn't realize so many other women have also.  Which I why I'm choosing to write about it. 

Most women don't openly talk about their miscarriage and can feel isolated and alone and even shame.  I found once I started talking about it, more and more women that I knew had also gone through it.  Knowing this didn't make me feel any better, but I didn't feel so alone and so "abnormal".  Miscarriage is a very different experience for a man.  My husband was extremely supportive and loving during those difficult days for me, but I couldn't expect him to understand exactly what I was going through because his experience of going through it was very different than mine.  No one can truly understand the dark, painful, horrible, heart-breaking road a woman travels down with regards to miscarriage unless she's been there herself.

All four of my miscarriages happened around the same time, about 6-7 weeks into my pregnancies.  Some people would say, "well at least it happened early in the pregnancy" and I agreed, but that didn't make it easy or less painful for me.  In my eyes, a loss of life is a loss of life, no matter what stage or age.  My first miscarriage came with my very first pregnancy.  My husband and I were so excited to start a family and I'll never forget seeing my first positive pregnancy test.  I immediately began to picture our family of three and all the hopes and dreams that came with a baby.  A week or so later, everything changed.  I'll never forget that pit in my stomach when I knew something was wrong.  After an ultrasound confirmed that I had lost the baby, we were crushed.  I felt all kinds of emotions.  I was afraid I would never be able to have a baby and that something was wrong with me.  It was almost a feeling of failure, that my body had somehow not been able to take care of that baby like it needed to.  My husband and I met with the doctor after the ultrasound and I just sat there and cried and cried.  She assured us this is very common and many women go on to have healthy babies.  That gave me a glimpse of hope, but didn't cure my pain.  The only thing that got me through it was my faith.  I knew God had a plan for us.  I truly believed that.  And I knew I had to trust that his plan was far superior than mine, so I did.  I trusted he knew what he was doing.  A few months after that, I got pregnant again and I went on to have a healthy baby girl, who is now 6 1/2 years old.

The other three miscarriages came between my first and second children.  It was about two weeks after I had my third miscarriage that I got a call one evening from a good friend to tell me she was pregnant.  It was their first baby and I was so excited for them.  I knew the joy she was experiencing and I wanted to share in that joy with her.  I honestly felt no jealousy or hard feelings towards her.  I wanted the best for her.  I remember lying in bed that night and I couldn't sleep.  The conversation I had with her had brought back the pain of my recent loss.  Tears just streamed down my face and I just kept thinking about how I wanted another baby so bad.  It almost seemed harder to deal with the miscarriages that came after having a healthy baby because I knew what it felt like to experience the love, joy and excitement of a baby like we were with our first born.  I knew what I was missing out on when I lost those other three babies.   God had placed this desire in our hearts for more children.  So even though I was thankful to at least have one child, I couldn't just shake off the hurt of losing those other three babies.  I kept trying to remind myself that some people aren't fortunate enough to even have children, so I really should be thankful I have one already.  And I was very thankful.  But that desire for more children was so strong and I couldn't let go of it.  I finally said to God one day, "If it's not your plan for us to have more children, please take this desire out of my heart because I can't bear another loss like this."  It was extremely difficult to pray this because I couldn't imagine not wanting more children.  But I also knew that I had to pray for God's will, not mine.  I remember thinking, "Wow.  I cannot believe I just prayed that."  That was a huge step for me in my faith and if I had not gone through the pain of the miscarriages, I probably would never have turned the corner in my faith and learned to pray for God's will, not mine.

While I was in the difficult season of the last three miscarriages, another close friend of mine was going through the heartache of infertility.  I remember her saying "well, at least you can get pregnant".  This was true, but that fact didn't take away my pain.  We both had the same desire for more children and we were both hurting, but in different ways.  We were there for each other, but it was difficult to find the words to console one another since our pain was different.  We didn't pretend to know what the other was going through because we truly didn't.  We just understood that we were both going through heartache.  She told me, "Please tell me if you get pregnant.  I want to know".  So I did.  I remember calling her and although she was happy for me, I could hear the hurt in her voice since she was still trying to get pregnant.  I was early in the pregnancy so I told her I was not getting excited about anything yet.  It was a difficult situation to be in.  I wanted to be happy I was pregnant again, but I was hurting for my friend and her pain as well.  After many, many prayers, God faithfully provided for both of us.  About a few weeks later, she called me to tell me she was pregnant as well!  My second child and her second child were born less than a month a part, and we were now able to share in each other's joy.  God's timing couldn't have been better.  But then again God's timing is always perfect.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

If you've never read the book Heaven Is For Real, I highly recommend it.  It's a true story about a little 3 year old boy's trip to heaven and back during his emergency appendectomy.  If you haven't read it yet and don't want me to spoil some of it for you, skip down to the next paragraph now :)  I started reading this book on a road trip from CO to IA and I was literally reading about Colton (the little boy) going to the hospital in North Platte, NE right as we were driving on I-80 through North Platte!  Crazy.  By this time, I was 4 hours into the book and couldn't put it down.  I got goosebumps and had tears in my eyes numerous times throughout reading this book.  But the chapter that really hit home for me was chapter 17, titled Two Sisters.  Colton's mom had a miscarriage in her second month of pregnancy before Colton was born.  His parents had not told him about this.  He talks about how he knew he had two sisters (not just his one older, earthly sister) because he knew his mom had a baby die in her tummy.  When his mom asked him who told him this, he said, "She did, Mommy.  She said she died in your tummy."  He then told his mom, "It's okay, Mommy.  She's okay.  God adopted her."  I loved the part where he described what she looked like and when he said "In heaven, this little girl ran up to me and wouldn't stop hugging me!"  His parents then asked him what her name was and he explained she didn't have a name because his parents hadn't named her.  They agreed as they explained to him they didn't even know the baby was a girl.  I had tears flowing reading all of this and just lost it when I read the part where he told his parents, "Yeah, she said she just can't wait for you and daddy to get to heaven."  I was crying so hard at this point my husband looked over and said "What's wrong?!"  For me, it was almost tears from peace and comfort that had come over me reading this.  Picturing my four other babies I've never met, waiting in heaven for me and my husband, is just an indescribable feeling.  I've always believed life begins at conception, but trying to picture a baby at 6 or 7 weeks old in heaven was not something I was ever good at.  I have just always trusted they were in heaven.  And the thought of God adopting those babies brings comfort beyond words.  This book brought more healing for me by giving me the peace of mind that my unborn babies are being loved and taken care of, even though I can't see them and hold them and even though their life ended so quickly.  It also gave me more hope that one day we will meet and my three other children we've been blessed to hold and love on this earth will also meet their four siblings they do not yet know about.  Amazing.  Simply amazing.

For those of you who have babies in heaven too, who never had the chance to live on this earth, my prayer for you is that you have faith, that although we have suffered great loss here on earth, one day God will bring us all together again and we will experience the wonder and miraculous works of him when we hold those babies.  I pray your hearts are healed and that you trust in God's will for those babies.  One day we will know why, but until then, trust that God is holding them and loving them even more than we ever could as their mother and they are in heaven waiting for you.

God Bless

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's All About Choices

"Choice" is a word that I find myself constantly using.  In our home, we don't tell our children they are bad or naughty.  Instead, we are teaching them that their behavior is either based on a good choice or a bad choice that they make.  I believe all children are good because they are a gift from God, and God's gifts are never bad.  But naturally, our children do make bad choices and when this happens, they know there will be a consequence based on the choice they have made.  Sometimes it's a consequence directed by us as their parents and other times it's a natural result of their choice.  Regardless of the choice, they are empowered to choose (unless it puts their safety at risk of course).  This allows our children to make decisions and choices for themselves, but then they also have to be ready to deal with the consequence that follows.  When this happens, a lesson is learned (good or bad) and that is our goal!  Because our children will continue to make decisions for themselves for the rest of their lives, we feel it's so important to help them get a strong foundation when they are little.  The choices they make now will not compare to the choices they will have to make when they get older, but they will understand the concept of consequences and will hopefully use this foundation to make good choices as they get older.

Right now we are in a season with my 3 year old where it's very difficult to get her to eat a variety of things.  But, we stick to our guns and she is served the same meal the rest of us have every night (while my 6 year old and 15 month old usually eat it all, so I know it's kid-friendly :).  I do this for two reasons.  1)  She won't always get what she wants in life and she must learn that now at a young age, even when it comes to meals.  2)  I think it's disrespectful for my children not to eat (or at least try) something that someone else has taken the time to prepare.  If they don't like it, they don't have to eat it but they must at least try it. There were a few nights when she refused to touch her food.  Not even take 1 bite!  After it caused a lot of turmoil for my husband and I watching her be so stubborn and not even try it, we finally decided we were not going to make an issue of food.  So, I served it to her, she refused to touch it and later she sat in agony watching her sister eat a chocolate cupcake for dessert because the consequence of her choice was not getting dessert!  The next night you better believe she found a way to eat her dinner (even though she acted like it was torture) and she was pleased with the consequence of her choice the next evening.  The lesson I learned from this is to empower my child to make this choice.  If she wants to go to bed hungry because she chooses not to eat her meal, then it's totally up to her!  I don't get upset about it anymore because she is the one who has to deal with the consequence and learn the lesson. 

I know I've talked a lot about choices in previous posts as well, but one thing I keep being reminded of as a mom is most of what life is all about is our choices.  Whether it's making choices for my family or teaching my kids to make their own choices, most things we do in life is done by choice.  Every family has different priorities when it comes to choices as well.  We are constant role models and our children need to see us making good choices in life.  By seeing the good consequences that come from making good choices, we encourage them to do the same and reap the same benefits.  There are lessons for them to learn when we make bad choices too.  Hopefully the consequences of our bad choices are enough to teach them those bad choices are not worth it.

The thing I love about making choices is we all have the privilege to do it!  It's easy to look at our own past and use the excuses "that was the way I was raised so that's all I've ever known" or "I'm not used to that because my family never did that" or "I was not raised to..." but at the end of the day, we all have the ability to choose our own beliefs, habits, values, morals, etc!  We all come from different families and so did our parents.  Many times we know people whose parent(s) never said "I love you" or hugged each other or they come from a family of addiction or their family never communicated in healthy ways, etc, etc.  No matter how difficult the past, we have the choice to break the chain and make healthy choices for our own children!  That is our privilege AND responsibility as parents.  I also commend people who seek counseling when they feel the need to deal with their hurtful past in order to make sure it doesn't negatively affect their own children. Sometimes it takes becoming a parent to see the impact of our past (good and bad) and then make the choice of what areas need improvement and what we want to continue to pass on to our children.  So many of our choices are directly related to how we were raised.  Have you ever thought about that?  Either we continue to do things similar to the way we were raised, or we choose to change them.   

In my journey of motherhood, I'm trying to really think about the choices I'm making for me and my familly and whether they will have a healthy impact in the short-term and long-term.  Sometimes it's easy to get in a routine of making choices because "that's what we've always known" or "it's easy and comfortable" but it may not be the best for our children.  We also have to think about our choices being passed down from our children to our grandchildren.  It's good to ask ourselves, "Is my choice in raising my children this way something I want them to do as a mother or father and pass down to their children?"  We won't always make the best choices, but we must do the best with can and be intentional with our choices each and every day. 

God Bless :)