Thursday, April 28, 2011

questions that plague a mommy's heart

This will be an all-around post because there is much to discuss.

So sit down with me, grab a cup of coffee (Grande soy xtra caramel Caramel Machiatto? yes please!) and let's chat.

Have you ever been clueless at parenting? I mean completely unsure on what to do and how? Insecure of what exactly you should or shouldn't be doing? I mean it's pretty much a hit or miss and this is someone's life we're talking about!

Oh, you haven't? Yeah, me neither. :l

Aaliya is growing by leaps and bounds and the more she grows the more unsure I am of my ability to mother. I know in my heart of hearts that I am more than able with His strength to raise and train up these little ones. After all, He has chosen me to be her mommy.

He's chosen me to be the mommy to this strong, loving and loud little boo-boo. Nevertheless, I wonder.

Is letting her cry it out really the best thing or should I comfort her and be close to her? Is wanting to be held and loved a lot a sign of spoiling or of a child who just loves Mommy, Daddy, and the others who often hold her? How can I get her to nap so that her little body is well-rested? When is the proper time to start disciplining on her heart and her character? Can I really train up this child in the way that she should go so that she can be an overwhelming conqueror in the trying times ahead? Really Lord?

Then, of course we've got our very unique and special circumstances with Daniella.

Being a stepmom is probably one of the hardest jobs in the world. Yes, even harder than being a biological mommy. As a stepmommy you love a little one like they are your own. But, you've got to share them. Sharing your children is one of the toughest things as a mom. It is painful and wonderful all in one. Don't tell me I can't love this one like she's my own. Because I do. So then the questions start to rise...

Lord, how do I convey how much I really do love her without stepping over the God-given boundaries that exist? What is my role in training up this young one? How will she feel about me? How does she feel about me? Does she know how much I really care? Does the time we're apart wear on her confidence of my love for her? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much?

Oh the questions that plague a Mommy's heart. My prayer to You oh God is that You will teach me, guide me and show me how to be a mommy to these ones.

Truly, I don't know how women mother without Christ.

Without Him, I'm not entirely sure I would have survived the last eight months. And, seriously kudos to you single mamas who don't have daddy's support and involvement.

It is truly by the grace of God that we mother and that we breathe.

What about you? What are some of the questions that plague your Mommy heart and how do you strengthen yourself in the Lord and in His goodness?

Monday, April 25, 2011

the character of Hannah

This part four of the Heart of Hannah series, if you're just joining us click here to start at the beginning.

Hannah's charater was absolutely remarkable. She was a woman who lived out honor with great poise and lowliness.

After Hannah had her mini-breakdown and cried to Elkanah (I mean who wouldn't? She's got no children and her husband's other wife is a mean lady who likes to taunt her and show off her offspring), she went straight to the temple and she poured herself out over the Lord.

"She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly." (1 Samuel 1:10)

She didn't hold on to her resentment. She didn't go back to Penninah's room, take off her jewelry and put on vaseline to throw down.

No. Instead she chose the Mary thing. She poured herself out over her Maker. She poured her heart out to Him knowing He would answer. (more on her prayer life next time)

And what happened after this?

The high priest, watching by the temple gates thought she was drunk. He essentially told her to put away whatever she was drinking. Hannah, in the middle of her distress was called a drunk.

"Then Eli said to her, 'How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.'" (1 Samuel 1:14)

Yeah, at this point I might've lost it. Seriously.

Yet Hannah with grave dignity and lowliness of spirit responded with a remarkable vulnerability and no offense.

"But Hannah replied, 'No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation." (1 Samuel 1:15-16)

In the midst of her pain, she again responds with grace and grave dignity. She never fought back in human standards.

She never dishonored Eli as the high priest. He was human and she understood this. She honored his authority and received his rebuke (though misplaced) as an opportunity to learn.

She responded in love, not offense.

Matthew Henry says it this way;

"It ill becomes us to be rash and hasty in our censures of others, and to be forward to believe people guilty of bad things, while either the matter of fact on which the censure is grounded is doubtful and unproved or is capable of a good construction. Charity commands us to hope the best concerning all, and forbids censoriousness. She had been reproved by Elkanah because she would not eat and drink, and now to be reproached by Eli as if she had eaten and drunk too much was very hard. Note, It is no new thing for those that do well to be ill thought of, and we must not think it strange if at any time it be our lot. When we are unjustly censured we should endeavour, not only to clear ourselves, but to satisfy our brethren, by giving them a just and true account of that which they misapprehended."

Are you a woman of character like Hannah? I want to be. I want to be like Hannah Jesus. In what areas could your character grow to be more like Hannah?

Friday, April 22, 2011

broken dreams can live again

pas·sion [pash-uhn]: a strong affection or enthusiasm for an object or concept.

Webster's proceeded to define passion with a series of descriptions defining lust and immorality and sex and ended with the definition the sufferings of a martyr.

As much as I'd like to say I'm writing about the last definition, I'm actually writing about the first. No, not the description of lust and immorality, the other first.

As a teenager I was one passionate kid. I mean, seriously.

It got me into trouble. Big trouble. But then again, it also served as a strength. I made foolish decisions out of passion while lacking in wisdom but I lived life to the fullest every second. But now, having lived a little, fell a little a lot, I've seemed to have lost most of the passion that defined me growing up.

Don't get me wrong, I'm passionate about my God and my family, yes... But even in that, there's passions placed in my heart for a reason and a purpose that I just seemed to have let go of.

And sadly this seems to be the case for most adults I know.

What is it about growing up that causes us to stop pursuing our dreams, to give up and give in to the mundane day to day living out mediocrity at best and forsaking the youthful dreams we once had?

Ok, so some of them are out of reach (let's face, I will never be a professional dancer) but does that mean that because I can't reach the moon I have to give up my love and pursuit of it altogether?

I sure hope not. For the sake of my family and unto the glory of God, I sure hope not.

I had a Daddy who was passionate about music. Playing it, hearing it, making it. I remember growing up, having watched him play every percussion instrument in the salsa world and the effect it had on me to see the passion in his heart being poured forth into music. It's always been an outlet. It's always been his way to worship... He is an outstanding Daddy passionate about his children, but he is also an outstanding man passionate about music.

And I think that's what we forget. At least I have.

I am a wife and I am a mother. But I'm also a woman with God-given passions, dreams and desires. I can't be great at one if I'm not great at the other. It is not a separation of identities, but rather the completion of who I've become. I cannot be an outstanding mother and wife if I am incomplete as a woman, and I cannot be an outstanding woman if I am forsaking the very ministry of family I have been blessed with.

I pray that my children grow up seeing how absolutely passionate I am about them and their Daddy, but I also pray they will grow up seeing how absolutely passionate I am about the Lord and how I worship and adore Him through the various gifts and passions He has ordained upon my heart.

I want to dream again. I want to dream as an adult, alongside my husband and children. I want to pursue the things I love to do with them and for them, so that they may see the complete me and not just half. I want both my girls to see Mommy do something that makes her come to life through Jesus. Whether it be dance, hospitality, teaching or painting...

I want them to see me worship Jesus through the passions He has placed within me.

Well, here goes nothing...

the line in the sand

Happy Good Friday Ya'll! =)

I got the absolutely outstanding opportunity to spend some time with both my daughters and do a devotional this morning.

It really humbles me when the reality of Christ's plan for my life really hits me. He has chosen to be a parent to both these little girls. He has trusted me to steward their upbringing.

So, naturally, today I told them the story of Christ's death and His resurrection. I wanted to go into as much as detail as possible without compromising Daniella's innocence, but still tell the entire truth.

The last thing I want is to teach my daughter a watered-down gospel.

Honestly though... It was hard and I mostly struggled through it. How do I explain to my 5 yr old that Jesus was stripped, beat, had his beard ripped out and was silent like a lamb for His glory, His purposes and His love?

I don't want to compromise the word of God, but I want to preserve my little on'e's innocence as much as possible.

Such is the latest challenge here in the Arrazolo household.

As I was struggling, choking on words to explain to my little one how Jesus died on that wondrous cross, I sent a silent plea to heaven for some serious help.

Once again I am reminded that I am simply a steward for my children and His leading will never lead me astray. Asking His help before devotional would probably be a good idea and learning more about my children will better equip me for devotionals like today.

There is just simply no "one size fits all" parenting and what works with Daniella probably won't with Aaliya.

This parenting business is a day to day, moment to moment reminder of our dependance on the precious Holy Spirit. It is an outward journey that screams out to me "My ways are better than yours and My thoughts are higher!"

"Thank you Holy Spirit for the uniqueness in each of my daughters and for your leading and guiding in parenting every step of the way. Lead me on Abba! Lead me on..."

What about you? How do you both spiritually and practically discern between what and how to explain "difficult" concepts to your children?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homemade Baby Food! Yipee! =)

So, remember when I said I wanted to start making things from scratch?

Well, I did it!

Well, not all of them of course... But I'm on my way! On Monday I made my very first batch of baby food and may I just say it was super easy and kinda fun!

On the menu:
Peaches && Yogurt
Sweet Potatoes

I wanted to start off easy so that I didn't frighten myself and convince myself out of it. I'm glad I did because with this first batch, I'm gaining confidence and I'm ready to take on the entire world (okay, maybe not the whole world, but I'm loving this cooking from scratch thing-- I think I can do it!)

Here is a memory book post on my "homemade baby food" journey... =)

I started off with the peaches. I used frozen ones because I'd heard fresh fruit turned brown when frozen. I allowed the peaches to be thawed, and then went ahead and threw them in the blender. I want to be able to do the baby food by the bulk since I'm using a blender and not a food processor. (*note: The blender glass is dirty because this was round 2 on the peaches. I forgot to take pictures the first go-around.)

I decided to add a little yogurt to the peaches because I had a hard time getting them to be completely pureed and because Aaliya is a huge yogurt fan! This actually turned out quite yummy and Aaliya loves it.

Tadaaa! Complete result =)

I found these great containers at Babies R' Us that I love! One of my concerns when making the baby food in bulk was how to store it. Some recommended the ice-cube tray method, but seeing as I wasn't sure how many ounces and such Aaliya would be getting when I found these at Babies R' Us I decided to try them. They are fairly inexpensive and I love them! (2 trays of 8 for $10.99, add a coupon [or two] and voila!)They are 2oz containers and they allow me to mix and match for Aaliya's menu. I shall be returning to the store for more!

On to the sweet potatoes! Peeled, cut and boiled, check!

In the blender they go... (note: I did add a little bit of formula to her sweet potatoes. Again, it just helps puree and gives it flavor)

Once again... tadaaa!

It's a work in progress... =)

The mess I was left with afterwards... Not bad.
Especially since the crock-pot thingy is in the sink. Haha!

These are the nifty things I was telling ya'll about. =)

She looked a little concerned at first, but I promise she liked it ya'll! =)

What about you? What have you cooked up from scratch in the kitchen this week? Are you inspired to make your own baby food yet?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

mary and martha

I am on a mission this week.

Chaos has ruled in my home entirely too long. And it. must. stop.

A great little lady named Sarah Mae over at Like a Warm Cup of Coffee wrote a book that has intruigued me. She called it "31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha house the Mary way."

Wait a second...!

I can have a Martha house with the heart of Mary? Is that even possible?

Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and forsook the mundane! Martha was obsessive compulsive in her heart of service and forgot the man whom she was serving.

Wait... I can have both?

Yes, please. Where do I sign?

No, but seriously. I struggle with this.

You know, being the wholehearted lover of Jesus who sits at His feet all day. Who forsakes everything else just to be with Him. Oh, wait... The baby's gotta eat. Oh and there's laundry. Oh and hubby's coming home... Gotta make the bed and look presentable, and make sure dinner's ready.

Oy. It seems the Martha syndrome comes with marriage and children. Yet my heart yearns for the heart of Mary.

Hence, the chaos.

But, I know I can do both. I can be both! He has called me to this according to His good purpose. So I know I can do it. After all, I can do all things through Christ who strenghtens me.

So this week, I fully intend on leaning and gleaning from His strength.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

routine, routine, routine

I look at the clock and I see it's 400p. Yikes! Dishes are still dirty, laundry is still not put away, dinner is not close to being started and I'm still in my pajamas.

I feel like I've been busy all day and yet have accomplished zilch. Hubbers will be home in an hour and the house is definately less than presentable, as am I.

Is this just me or does this happen to you other Mommy-gals out there? (Please don't say it's just me... I will officially go down as worse homemaker wife everrrrrr!)

Something's just got to be done. I can't continue to have my husband come home to a messy house and a pajama wearing wife. He works hard outside of the home all day and has a paycheck to prove it. I, on the other hand have nothing but the manner in which he finds me, our home and our children when he gets home as "proof."

So far, I should probably get fired.

Now, don't get me wrong-- this isn't an every day thing (no, really, it's not...). But part of being a Proverbs 31 wife is a consistent and continual honoring of our husbands. In everything! The way we look, the way our home is when they come home from work, etc.

Mike Bickle from IHOP-KC did a teaching series called "The Power of a Focused Life." In it, he mainly discussed the importance of scheduling our time in prayer and in the Word. He encourages us to schedule out our day so that we may be consistently using our time wisely and for the glory of God.

So, a few nights ago... I came home, sat down with my calendar, prayed and came up with a daily schedule that will provide me with structure throughout my day. I've scheduled in my time with the Lord, our little family's devotion time, Mommy's shower and "getting ready time" (yes, believe it or not, I have to do this... Otherwise I'll stay in my pj's all day and take a 2min shower right before bed) as well as daily homekeeping and cleaning.

I seperated my day into two routines; morning and afternoon. I much prefer it this way because it's not overwhelming. Seeing my entire day in one glance tends to overwhelm and discourage me, so breaking it down into two portions of my day makes so much more sense for me and keeps me encouraged at pursuing it rather than discouraged.

I also went ahead and stopped this scheduled routine when Daddy comes home. I didn't want to be too rigid with a routine when Daddy came home so that we were free to spend time as a family, without additional "requirements" for Daddy to fill. I tend to be a strickler when I commit to routines and schedules like this, and understanding my weakness, I didn't want to become a "dripping faucet" to my husband. ;)

Additionally, we have designated nights for things in our homes and I feel like that's routine enough. =) Tuesdays are family prayer nights, Wednesday's Mommy attends a class, Thursdays are date nights (hoorahhh!) and Fridays Mommy works and Daddy has Daddy-Daughters Date Nights!

Naturally, like Mike Bickle said, "we can't keep a schedule 100% of the time, but if we keep it 80% of the time (and that's high), then we are greatly increasing our productiveness..." as Mommies, Wives and Homemakers. Pretty much as individuals.

Having this routine this week has greatly helped me. It's been a busy week and I haven't been able to keep it super consistently, but it's already provided me with such a better ebb and flow to our day!

What about you? Do you keep a daily routine? If so, how did you break it up and how does it work for you?

Monday, April 11, 2011

the love story of Hannah and Elkanah

This is part 3 of the "Heart of Hannah" series. If this is your first time joining us, begin the journey here.

As we continue on our trek with Hannah, we have learned that Hannah had three great loves in her life... Heaven, her Husband and her Home.

She was the ultimate homemaker, bride and follower of God.

In her love for her husband, we have learned that she selflessly submitted to her husband despite her personal emotions and struggles. She took submission to the death of feminism... She said "Yes, my lord" and trusted the goodness of her Heavenly Bridegroom.

Today, I want to talk about the love story between Elkanah and Hannah.

Those two loved each other.

The few verses devoted to their mutual affection for one another carries a greater romance than any chick-flick I've seen... "The Notebook" has nothing on Hannah and Elkanah.

Let's just start at the beginning. I know what you're wondering... "Umm, Nicole, there's no way he loved her that much. He had another wife." Well, yes. He did. But remember that Hannah was barren. She was unable to have children and culturally speaking a man was without honor if he had no sons to carry out his name. So, technically speaking he didn't have a choice.

**I am by no means making an excuse for Elkanah in taking another wife. Personally, I'm not entirely sure polygamy is the way to go.**

However, regardless of that fact, Elkanah consistently showed Hannah his favor and his love. Even though Penninah consistently hurt and taunted Hannah, Elkanah showed his favor upon her by granting her double portions during the sacrifice (1Sam 1:4-5).

In this, I see that Elkanah prayed most for Hannah.

Although Penninah had children (many, in fact), Scripture shows us that he gave most to his barren bride. Because he loved her and she loved him back (she showed this by her submission).

Then, when Hannah had enough. When she'd had a break down and was crying hysterically over her misfortune and the lack of children, Elkanah spoke one of the most tender phrases in Scripture...

"Am I not better to you than ten sons?" (1Sam 1:8:b) In essence, Elkanah was saying...

"Baby, I know that your heart's desire hasn't been met. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but I want to be your hope. I want to be your good thing. I love you for you not for the sons you may or may not give to me, I love you Hannah for you. Please let our love be enough."

Oh. My. Goodness. This is love. A true picture of God's heart for us. Sigh.

How easy it is to respond in submission for such a love. :)

And won't you know it... Hannah loved Elkanah right back.

"Hannah's love for her husband is the first key to understanding her profound influence as a mother. Contrary to popular opinion, the most important characteristic of a godly mother is not her relationship with her children. It is her love for her husband. The love between husband and wife is the real key to a thriving family. A healthy home environment cannot be built exclusively on the parents' love for their children. Furthermore, all parents need to heed this lesson: what you communicate to your children through your marital relationship will stay with them for the rest of their lives. By watching how mother and father treat one another, they will learn the most fundamental lessons of life: love, self-sacrifice, integrity, virtue, sin, sympathy, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. Whatever you teach them about those things, right or wrong, is planted deep within their hearts."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

starting from scratch

So I've been on this kick lately and I've decided I want to make as many things from scratch as possible.

Part of preparing for the times ahead (take a look at the news and you'll note that our nation is in grave danger and we should be good stewards of every resource in not only providing for today, but preparing for potential crisis.

I have been seeking guidance and wisdom from other wives and mamas on how they are super resourceful. I've come across the exact same two answers time and time again.

Couponing and making things from scratch.

So naturally, I will be pursuing both and hopefully becoming super good at them! =)

My first priority is learning to make things from scratch. I will, of course, be combining couponing (to the best of my novice ability) but will really be focusing on making things from scratch and (hopefully!) freezing them.

I think this will be such a time and money saver as purchasing and making in bulk tends to be the most frugal and cost-effective.

I am so excited!

So, here's my "from-scratch" list:

1) Baby Food: Super excited about this one. I figured I'd try some basic fruits and veggies first and then I would jump in and mix 'em up and make yummys!

2) Homemade Yogurt: Aaliya's been on a yogurt kick lately and Caleb and I enjoy it (well, I do... sometimes) so why not? Plus, it's a neat way to add affordable and healthy snacks into our daily routine.

3) Amish Bread: Don't know if you know, but I've been on an Amish kick lately. I am fascinated with everything Amish. =) Sooo I'm gonna attempt the Amish Bread. Suuuuper excited and I hear it's so yummy.

4) Sofrito: This is a puerto-rican seasoning marinade-ish kinda thing. It's not hard at all, but I normally buy it and I figured making it would be best.

5) Red Beans: This is probably gonna be interesting... So, we'll see...

So, what sorta stuff do you make from scratch? Any tips or recipes you're willing to share?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The submission of Hannah

This is part three in our "Heart of Hannah" series. If you're just joining us, read the beginning of the journey here. There are days when I am over the moon. Others, I am plagued with every insecurity in the book.

Most of the time I am candid and vulnerable with my husband. When things don't seem to go my way and I just can't seem to see the light at the end of the very dark tunnel, he tends to guide me and two of course are better than one.

I remember one time, when I was sharing with him how insecure I was feeling (one of my many ongoing struggles) he very lovingly and yet very sternly asked me... "Don't you ever just tell the flesh to shut up? Pull out the Word of God and quote it. Just beat that thing with the Word of God."


How dare he? Here I am fishing for pity and some sort of compassion and instead I receive loving reproof. I would love to say I answered correctly and submitted and saw my wrong. Yeahhh, I didn't. I saw the value in what he said, but because he didn't give me butterflies before saying it, I chose to become offended. It didn't stay that way for long of course, but it happened nonetheless.

In 1 Samuel 1, when Hannah was teased by her rival, Peninnah (her husband's other wife... ooo the nerve!) she withdrew herself and did not partake of the celebration which they were in the tabernacle for.

Hannah was hurt! Her hope was deferred and that little... hussy... kept provoking her!

And yet, Elkanah, her husband, in love does what every husband should do. He comforts her, reproves her and says one of the most romantic things a [natural] man tells his wife.

"Then Elkanah, her husband, said to her, 'Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better than ten sons?' " --1 Samuel 1:8

[enter pause... fanning tears away from my eyes]

One of the things that stirred me about Hannah was her response. "She did not harden herself not grow sullen" in her grief nor her reproof.

She didn't call him an insensitive jerk who married another woman (like our matriarch Sara did to Abram).

She didn't withdrawal and refuse to be vulnerable. She didn't sulk for days and give Elkanah the silent treatment.

She submitted to her husband, strengthened herself in the Lord and prayed.

"Then Hannah rose after drinking and eating at Shiloh. Now Eli was sitting at the doorpost of the temple of the Lord." --1 Samuel 1:9

Although the reason for her avoiding food is never made clear, that reason (whether pity, fasting or just a lack of appetite because of heartache) becomes second to Hannah as she responds lovingly and submissively to her husband. She does the very thing he mentions and asks of her.

Her response is exactly who I want to be. Exactly how I want to respond. I wanna be like Hannah.

Monday, April 4, 2011


The house is *almost* quiet and I finally get an opportunity to sneak away and have me time. The only noise going is the baby's soundmaker, the dishwasher and my adorable *almost* four year old nephew talking away with his Momma. I'm enjoying the greatest blessings and joy right now in that I am attempting to serve my two sisters-in-law, one of which is expecting a sweet baby this coming September, my brother in law and my absolutely outstanding niece and two nephews.

I am truly beyond the moon.

And, I am also exhausted. This is only day two of hosting them and although I absolutely love love love them and I love having them here, I am also exhausted in more ways than one.

Truthfully, I have set myself up for massive failure. Once again, in my *almost* perfectionist state, I have set unrealistic goals that I just cannot meet. I once again forget that regardless what I think, I am not supermom and I am not a professional at hospitality.

I desire to be hospitable, I am willing. Even with limited resources I am willing and I am *trying* to do everything wholeheartedly unto the Lord.

But even in my willingness, my ever-faithful, ever bothersome companion, insecurity has crept in and made me wonder if I'm really any good at anything.

It has made me feel like my limited resources are an inconvenience and disqualify me from my willingness and hard work.

It has made me feel like I am a horrible mother because I don't mother like her.

It has made me feel like my faults are exposed and repulse every individual around me.

It has made me feel like I just don't have it together.

Frankly, insecurity is a big, fat, mean jerk.

And then, I hear that sweet, gentle, unmistakable Voice whispering to my ear;
"Martha, Martha, why do you concern yourself with such things?"

And enter in my reality check.

I remember that my Jesus values my willingness and delights in my servant's heart, despite the blunder that results therefrom.

I remember that regardless of what little I have, He is pleased because I'm willing to give it away, even if that means I might skip a few meals.

I remember that He is molding me to be the mommy that I need to be and He will complete the work He has started because I am willing.

And most importantly, I remember that He is working His salvation out within me, individually and uniquely.

I am not my sister(s)-in-law and they are not me. And although they *almost* have it all together (or at least it so seems to me), I am where I am because He has wants me here.

So, down goes the necessity to ensure that everything is perfect, and in comes in me actually enjoying my family while they're here.

Hmm, who woulda thunk?