Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Story of Redemption from the Manger

 I love the meaning of the word redemption.  Webster says it's "deliverance, rescue, salvation. Atonement for guilt, repurchase, recovery by payment as of something pledged."

Jesus is my redemption.  And by His sacrifice, He has repurchased me from the hands of hell. What a glorious, beautiful sacrifice He made.

And it all started in a manger.  This season is and should be one of the greatest seasons of the year for those of us who know Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and the only way to true redemption.

And here I am, feeling closer to The Grinch and whispering to myself "Bahumbug."  I try to blame the commercialism behind Christmas that is so embedded in our culture, but if I can be 100% honest with myself (and you, clearly), it all comes down to one thing.

My heart has fallen prey to the commercialism and I am once again unsatisfied. I love to give; and I love to give extravagantly.  This year, it's just not something we can do. God has blessed us abundantly with enough Manna for today and very little to spare.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  I am learning Christ has done this by design this year.  Because He's after my heart.  He's not wanting to instill me the art and beauty of giving, because He has done that already (though never will I reach its fullness on this side of eternity). What He's redeeming for me this Christmas season is truly the reason for the season.

He's reminding me of the humility of Jesus to choose to be born as a babe in a manger, where there was absolutely no room for Him.

He's reminding me that before my children may enjoy the presents and the gifts, they must saturate in the Truth of His ultimate gift.

He's reminding me that giving isn't about things, it's about giving of oneself totally and without reservation, just as He did. 

So, this year, I'm going to give.  But more so of myself and of everything He's placed inside of me through His Holy Spirit.  Things under the tree may be lacking, but at the end of the day, His Blessings will flow from within me out to those I truly care for and love.

I will remind myself daily of who He is...

And remember that my Hope began in a Manger.


Dayspring provided me with the above pictured free products.  All opinions on this post, are my own. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

when your heart set is wrong but you're doing ministry

It never ceases to amaze me how unbelievably ungodly my heart really is. Without full moment-by-moment submission and surrender to Jesus and the shedding of His Blood I am quite a nasty individual.

Which nasty truth did I encounter about myself today?  I covet. So very very badly.  And even in this beautiful season of transition for our family, my heart posture has not been correct, and I stand humbled before God.

Our family is linking arms with Apartment Life ministries as a Cares Team and truthfully, our hearts are filled with expectation and anticipation.  We totally see this as a wonderful God-setup.  We will be living and breathing ministry to our neighbors by service and love.  We will be encountering the second commandment daily and learning its truth by walking it out.  This is so exciting friends!  As a homemaker, I will be able to practice the gift of hospitality on a pretty consistent basis.  We will be living on site at an apartment complex and ministering within the community.

And here comes the problem.  Since we've been offered the opportunity with this ministry, my concern has been about where we will live.  I have been concerned about what my kitchen will look like, how big the place will be, and though I have prayed for wisdom and guidance for both our superiors (those who will offer us the complexes to minister in) and us, I have also consistently asked God to please meet my expectations of our new home.

How foolish and presumptuous of me.  I have totally lost sight of what really matters. Our family has been offered an opportunity to link arms with Jesus and minister unto people He loves and has died for.  This new season and ministry our family is stepping into has absolutely nothing to do with us and everything to do with God's heart for His people and the people who will come to Him through this endeavor.  How foolish and selfish of me to count things to be of higher regard than His Beloved people.

This coveting thing is so easy to fall into-- especially in this great nation of ours that promotes the American Dream. It is so easy to desire the things rather than the giver.  I don't believe things in and of themselves are bad. Some are called to great wealth-- like Abraham, King David, Joseph, Cyrus and Job while others are called to live simply like Hosea, Jeremiah, Moses, Joseph & Mary.  The point isn't trying to figure out which one we are, but rather to seek the Father and partner with Him.

 I love the way the Apostle Paul puts it,

"I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." 
Philippians 4:12-13 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Goals Nov 20-Nov 26

Yesterday was supposed to be goals day around here. Buuuttttt... well, let's just say it was a busy day and blogging was not on my radar.  Nevertheless, I do want to keep up with it, so here's last week's updates with this week's goals.

1. Have uninterrupted quiet time with Jesus daily -- I did really well at abiding in Him throughout the day regarding conversations with Him and such, but it wasn't uninterrupted, and it wasn't always quiet. 
2. Exercise 3x this week -- HA! Not even once. Oops. Here's to the reset button.
3. Look into education programs to work on from home I think I found the one I want to pursue, but Caleb and I are still praying about it and whether now is the time for it, or not. 
4. Read two chapters of current book I'm reading

1. Have a quiet date night -- Not even close
2. Chat with Hubby on upcoming Christmas holiday and schedule -- Sortaaaa.  Def will do this week, though
3. Sit with him and listen to his heart on Bids that Give (more on this later)

1. Have devotional time with kiddies every day -- We had daily worship time, but I wasn't crazy intentional about sitting down and having set-apart, devotions time. Oops. 
2. Print out "Joy Cards" -- I missed my chance. 
3. Make Thanksgiving Chain with them!
4. Plan out Thanksgiving crafts
What our Thanksgiving wall looked like last week
1. Make rice cereal for Justice -- He *hated* it by the way. He is eating some yummy peas and sweet potatoes now though. 
My little guy post pea meal :) 
2. Make special-meal-plan for upcoming week -- I decided with certain events in our life last week, it'd be better to save this for *after* the holidays.
3. Plan Advent activities -- Not even close
4. Keep up with laundry I only have the kids' clothes to wash today :) 

Here is an update on this week's goals.

1. Finish CARES application (again, more on this later. Lots of exciting changes going on for our family!)
2. Exercise 3x this week
3. Read two more chapters of current book
4. Wake up around 630a every day. 

1. Pray together as a couple, several times this week (>2)
2. Talk about Christmas coming up
3. Have a date night
4. Remind him how thankful I am for him

1. Talk about intentional thanksgiving that comes from the heart
2. Have special "Mommy & Me" time with each baby
3. Pray, every day, for my babies

1. Menu Plan & Grocery Shop (we've been living off several small grocery trips)
2. Try two new recipes for Thanksgiving
3. Keep up with basic home duties
4. Plan for Advent

What are your goals this week? 


Monday, November 12, 2012

Goal Setting 11-12 thru 11-18

A little while back, I began posting my goals for the week up for accountability purposes.  So, I want to get back to that. It worked for me to have the unknown (and somewhat known) world look into my goal-setting list waiting for progress the following week. 

That said, and keeping it simple, here are this week's goals. 

1. Have uninterrupted quiet time with Jesus daily
2. Exercise 3x this week
3. Look into education programs to work on from home
4. Read two chapters of current book I'm reading

1. Have a quiet date night
2. Chat with Hubby on upcoming Christmas holiday and schedule
3. Sit with him and listen to his heart on Bids that Give (more on this later)

1. Have devotional time with kiddies every day
2. Print out "Joy Cards"
3. Make Thanksgiving Chain with them!
4. Plan out Thanksgiving crafts

1. Make rice cereal for Justice
2. Make special-meal-plan for upcoming week
3. Plan Advent activities
4. Keep up with laundry

What are your goals this week?


Sunday, November 11, 2012

More ramblings on ceasing to strive

I kinda come in and out of this blogging world.  I try to stay consistent, I do.  But it's not secret that I'm one frazzled Mama of three little ones.  I often get disappointed in myself for not writing as often as I want, or about kinda jumping in and out of here.  It's not that I don't want to write nor that I don't have things to write about.  Part of it is the frazzled Mama syndrome and the other part is just me processing and figuring how I'm going to make sense out of the little whispers my heart hears Jesus speak.

Lately me and Jesus have been talking a lot about my incessant striving. It seems I'm a person who can't just stop and be still.  I'm always and constantly striving for acceptance; someone's, anyone's, everyone's acceptance.  I don't say no and I tend to work at pleasing the crowd.  My interest's in general and basic things tend to go with popular vote (by popular, I don't mean culture's popular-- I'm talking about my inner group of friends).  I dress the way I think I'll look less like a geek which tends to put me in this terribly "safe" box where I actually hate most of what I own. I talk a lot just to prove I'm not a dork and I'm just as cool as the rest... which most of the time ends up backfiring as I over-talk and I show my true, uncool colors. What is that thing the Bible says?  Oh yeah... "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Matt 12:34)

I just don't want to be rejected. I hate being made fun of and I work at avoiding it at all costs.

But, there's a little bit of a big problem.

By nature and design I am a strange and eclectic individual. I'm not the type to be popular or cool.  I've never really understood most "cool" behaviors, styles or general thought processes of the "cool" people I know. In school, I was strange.  I was often the butt of jokes.  It wasn't until high school when I learned how to "play the role" that I became semi-popular.  I really wasn't popular, I just knew people. Most of the people I knew I credit to my amazingly cooler big sister (SHE is the definition of cool) and even among the group of friends we shared, I was the weird girl.  I don't know what it is.  I'm just weird.  I'm strange and different and don't tend to fit the status quo, and I really really don't like it.

In essence, what I'm telling God is that I don't like me.

But lately, it seems I can do no right.  I'm realizing that I'm never going to amount to the person my brain thinks I should be.  Because that girl is an illusion and she is not me.  She is not the person God intended me to be.  I don't even know who that is or what she looks like.  But I'd really like to know because He's telling me I should know.  I think it's all a part of that "Cease striving and know I am God" thing He keeps talking to me about.  When I stop working at gaining other's approval, I can know God.  And at the end of the day, it's not about me. It's about knowing God.  So that's what I'm doing. I'm letting go of my fear and just knowing God. If people make fun of me, if I remain an outsider for the rest of my life... He's pretty much worthy of it and at the end of it all I will have known God.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Identity Crisis

I think there's an identity crisis that hits a lot of persons in the Church who walk by faith and call themselves Christians.  It's the identity crisis that comes after we've chased after righteousness in our own attempts and have failed miserably.  We've pursued the ministry and the leadership and the education and the recognition.  We've put on hats and roles we were never meant to fill for the purpose of purpose.  But because it's an ill-fit it never works out.  I think that sometimes, we have to fail at all our roles and everything we find identity in before we can be ready to sit at the feet of Jesus and truly discover our Heaven given identity.

I am a wife.  I am a mother.  I am a daughter and a friend.  A friend and a cousin.  I am an aunt.  I am an individual and I am a follower of Jesus.

And can I be honest, I have failed at them all.  Not once or twice but on a pretty consistent basis.  It seems I am never enough but always too much.  And I don't share this in an effort to pout or feel sorry for myself, but rather in a very real attempt at realizing that I will never be enough, for anybody. I need to learn to deal with rejection and I think so do a lot of stay-at-home Mamas.  What we do is counter-cultural.  In a culture that lives for self gratification married to riches and glory, our job demands death to self and everything we once found identity in.  Then, we immerse ourselves in this job-- the homemaking job, the wife role and the mothering.  Only to fail at it.  Dinner isn't always ready by 6, submission is an art yet to be mastered and using less than friendly tones with your children once in a while more often than you'd really like.

And then what?
photo credit

Enter in identity crisis.

But that's where hope is found.  In that crisis.  When we fail at everything else, Jesus is left and He is the giver of identity.  Only He can give the identity and security and purpose that our hearts long for.  He'll use tools like my children and my husband, my parents and my friends but they're not the end of the story, He is.

I don't know where to go from there.  That's as far I've gotten.  My living hope.  I know that at the moment, He is whispering His purposes, His thoughts and His desires for me to my heart. I may not hear it yet, but I hear this...

"Cease striving and know that I am God." --Psalms 46:10a

I will cease striving. Someway, somehow.  And I will soon hear His whispers loud as thunder. And oh, what a glorious day that will be!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

sit still and breathe.

Three times a day, for the next five to seven days, I have to man-handle my two year old while I administer a breathing treatment.  At bedtime, the dose is doubled and it takes twice as long.  My sweet Liberty screams. Bloody murder kinda screams.  And my Mama's heart breaks every time.

Truthfully, I tried to avoid the treatments as much as possible. I postponed them as much as I could.  Praying for a Jesus-kinda miracle that she'd suddenly get better and I wouldn't have to wrestle with her. I'd wait until Daddy got home so he would have the daunting task of the Nebulizer (back when she only had to do it once a day). But, Jesus clearly had other plans and I just had to do it.  I will admit, I shed a tear tonight as I was man-handling her.

photo credit
"I love you sweet girl.  I'm sorry you're not enjoying this, but Mama has to do this.  You have to get better.  I can't have you being sick.  This is for your own good," I would whisper in her ear.

And then, it hit me. How many times has the Father whispered those same words to me in my distress?  When trials and tribulations head our way, how many times do we throw a tantrum, scream and cry at God saying "Dada, no! Stop, please!" (Replace Dada with Mama and you've got a clear picture of what my little girl was asking of me mid-cries and screams)  while all the while our Heavenly Father is whispering to our hearts, "I have to do this. I have to administer this suffering for your own good. It's going to expand your capacity to breathe in the breath of life.  It's going to keep death away that you may live and live well."

There are "spiritual treatments" so to speak that our Heavenly Father administers to us to rid of us that life-threatening disease we inherent called our sin nature.  There are trials and tribulations that we just have to go through to be refined and purified.

We all know it.  We hear about it at Church (well, at least I do) and understand it with our mind, but do we ever embrace it and live it out?  Liberty's breathing treatment is actually not painful.  She just has to sit still and breathe. Sit still and breathe. I can't help but wonder how many trials we endure that are actually painless, but because of our struggle and fight, we make painful.  I can't help but wonder what life's trials would look like if I just sat still and breathed.

Though some medical treatments are painful, most aren't.  They just require our cooperation and consistency. I have a feeling God's refining is like that.  It's not that we crave the "treatment" so to speak, but that if we would just sit still and breathe, the trial would be quick-lived and gone and all would be better. I'm pretty sure most trials are only painful because of our inability to trust and have faith that this is for our good.  But just like medical treatments have to be consistent, so does His refining.

Trials and tribulations are a fact of life and will continue consistently as long we're alive and especially as we serve Jesus. So, I'd probably better learn to sit still and breathe and trust that these "treatments" are all a part of His perfect plan to make me an eternal Bride.

Not sure if my tired-Mama-babble is making any sense, but I thought I'd share some of what Jesus has been sharing with me.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

the unconventional way I became a mama...

My little girl is 7 years old. 
My little big-girl turned 7 yesterday. Seven years ago, I became a Mama and I had yet to fully know it.  I remember walking through the campus of UCF on that beautiful October day seven years ago and having a sense that something *great* was happening.  I didn't understand it.  I certainly didn't foresee that I'd become a Mama that day, but there was enough of a sense of greatness for me to journal about it.  And journal about it I did.

"I get the feeling that something life-changing just happened.  Not sure all of what it is. But I sense something was birthed today. I'm excited to see what it is."

I became a Mama, not by biology but by a covenant of love. My womb didn't carry her and I didn't have the privilege to bring her into this world.  But I'm her Mama.  My sweet Grace has the beauty of having two Mamas, and I am privileged enough to be one of them.  I didn't have nine months of bonding before I met her.  I don't have the scars to prove she's mine, but mine she is. I never got to see her crawl for the first time, or walk for the first time, but my heart has been there, every step of the way. I get to share her and keep her all to myself in one glorious swoop. Grace is my love and nothing can ever change that. Many don't understand it and probably never will, and truthfully I'm ok with that. You don't have to understand how I became a Mama or how that day seven years ago gave me the gift of motherhood-- but I know it did. 

So, in honor of Grace's* seventh birthday, here are seven things I absolutely love you about sweet girl!

1.  You, sweet Grace carry a servant's heart.  In everything you do, you live Phillipians 3 and look to the good of others above your own.  Whether you're interacting with your brother and sister, your friend or a complete stranger, I love the way Jesus shines through you in this way! 

2. I love your wide range of interests.  I love that you can go from playing dress-up and tea parties with 'Cole, to rumbling and tumbling soccer with Daddy, to coloring and drawing pictures for Mommy all in a day's work. 

She was most def MVP in her little soccer league. Averaged 4 goals a game! 
3. I am convinced Jesus gave Cole and Daddy another baby (no, this is not a pregnancy announcement, I'm talking about Justice) because of what an amazing big-sister you are.  I think Haven is your reward sweet girl.  You are the best big sister in the world. Your patience and kindness towards your siblings is absolutely beautiful and outstanding. 
Clearly, Liberty loves you very much!
Grace holding Justice.
She couldn't wait until he got up! :)
4. I love the way you love.  I love the way you fiercely love your Daddy and protectively love your Mommy.  It is evident by the way you speak about them and pray for them that your Mommy and Daddy are the light of your life.  And that your desire is to fulfill the 4th commandment-- to honor your Father & Mother.  I can tell you this Grace, you will indeed have a long life. 
Grace with her Daddy and Liberty for Liberty's 2nd Birthday

Grace out on a Daddy-daughter date 
5. I love your goofiness and silliness. I love that we can jump in front of the camera and make funny faces all day long.  I love that we can put on a dance party and dance all silly together

6. I love that you're both a little girl and a young lady.  You have lived so much life at the young age of seven, but you have adapted and always smiled and loved your way through.  Your maturity is well beyond your years, but you still maintain that childlike innocence that is incredibly rare to see. 

 7. I love how tender your heart is towards Jesus.  You are truly a young lady after God's own heart, and I am so blessed, honored and privileged to call you my first born.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When it feels like Monday...

It feels like Monday today.  And it looks like Monday in our home.  It's one of those discouraging days as a mom and homemaker (hey, I'm just being honest here).  I fell asleep unbelievably early yesterday (umm, I'm overestimating if I say 800p, I actually fell asleep *with* Liberty at around 730 as I was putting her to bed) and I'd been out most of the day.  The weekend was a blur because our little man, Justice decided to bust through two teeth at once. So, needless to say, I hadn't gotten much sleep.

So, waking this morning I had high hopes and great expectations for a productive day. Funny how those days are the days our children decide they want to un-cooperate with everything.  Justice is still weepy, wanting Mommy. Liberty's getting into everything and overall disobeying everything Mommy has to say.  Ah. It's just one of those days a Venti Pumpkin Spice Caramel Latte just can't fix... and that's a big deal.

But now, both my babies are quietly asleep.  They are dreaming about Jesus and Mommy's sitting, resting, and asking Jesus for an attitude adjustment.  I've determined that nap time is "oil" time.  I've purposed in my heart that no matter the disaster that is our home, nap time has to be resting time-- I have to lean into the Almighty during that time.  I want to develop the habit of waking up early, before my children (which means like 6am) but I'm not there yet, and I can't wait until I have it together perfectly to set aside that time. I just can't afford to.  I'm not a good person without abiding in the Vine.  I'm pretty crummy actually.

"Sit down for a little while, what's the hurry anyway? You can't do anything without abiding in Me."   
--prayer room song

And while I'm begging Jesus for grace and mercy on this, not-so-good-feels-like-Monday-Tuesday, He reminds me of His Word. 

"For the Lord God is a Sun and a Shield; the Lord bestows [present] grace and favor and [future] glory (honor, splendor, and heavenly bliss)! No good thing will He withold from those who walk uprightly."  -Psalm 84:11 (AMP)

Present Grace. Future Glory.  His Grace covers me today, when I'm not supermom, superwife or superwoman at all.  All I have to do is sit down, abide in Him and receive the grace I'm unworthy to receive but He freely gives anyway. 

So, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll unplug now and do just that. 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

cease and desist!

I stared at the laundry pile as though it had horns and an evil little tail. I promise you it breeds while I sleep.  Laundry (along with 85% of all housework duties) is something you just have. to. stay. on. top. of.  And, I like to take my weekends for my family and go out.  So, something happens and I promise you, our little family creates laundry every weekend to put to work my poor little (very little) washing machine for the entire week.

Life with two babies and a school-aged girl keeps me on my toes and it has taken me quite a while to adjust.  Something was always being left behind.  If it wasn't housework, it was Jesus, if it wasn't Jesus, it was the kids.  Something just seemed to be off-balance all the time.  But then, four months later, life began to have a semblance of normal again and I started to catch up and learn balance with three children (well, at least a bit of a routine and a whole lot of discipline).  And I realized that this mothering, wivering and homemaking business sure is a lot of work and that it required actual effort on my part.

So, that's what I do now.  I work.  Hard.  From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep.  I'm working and serving and communing with the Lord simultaneously in some sort of miraculous testimony of Jesus (because it takes a whole lot of grace to sustain me).  But then, there's days like today.  Days where I'm exhausted beyond the point of delusion, when I've been up most of the night with my teething son and sick big-girl.  When I chose to go to bed late last night in an effort to maintain a clean home but it backfired on me because then today, I can't see straight.  Days when I choose to serve our brothers and sisters from our House of Prayer community in the ministry of hospitality but aren't quite sure where my strength will come from.  Days like today, Jesus reminds me to rest. Even He rested after the glorious work of Creation. As a man, He often left the crowd for the stillness and solitude of the morning in an effort to rest upon His Father.

I'm pretty sure rest is important to Him since He practiced it Himself, commanded an entire day of rest be recognized in His 10 Commandments (I mean, it's up there with idolatry, murder and respecting the parents!) and continues to remind His friends today of that very commandment.


In the original Hebrew, to rest was the commonly used word of Shabath. Its literal translation is to cease and desist. Stop and let go!  In American English, we use the phrase when a command is given in a law enforcement job.  Cease and desist. Stop. Let go and don't do anything else.  

What a magnificent reminder to this OCD Mama. Yes, the practical ministry of homemaking is important and it musn't be neglected.  But the commandment to rest still lives today and we are to obey it.  I am on a mission and I choose rest.  Maybe not today (Sundays tend to be busy) but some time this week.  I will choose Sabbath.  I will unplug, stop. Cease and desist and listen to the gentle, violent voice of the Holy Spirit. 

I pray you will too. 


Friday, October 19, 2012

Some thoughts on marriage...

I am by no means a professional on anything related to marriage. I am very much still a newbie at this and will probably feel like I am for the rest of our lives.  Considering marriage is a union of two imperfect people that is meant to portray the perfect love of God for His people, I'm pretty sure we can (and will be!) married for 50 years and still know very little about the union and commitment itself.
Almost 4 years married.
12.21.2008 :)
There is, however, a trend that I've noticed among newlyweds that is completely out of sync with what He had in mind. I've blogged about it before, but it's such a deep and important truth that I feel it's worth writing about again.

Our society (and humanity in general) is pretty good at making godly, holy things into self-centered, bad things. Marriage has become about self rather than love.  Love has been reduced to an emotion rather than a daily commitment based on the good of another-- no matter the cost.  It grieves me, really.  But even more than that is the notion that marriage is meant to fulfill an empty part of ourselves.  You know the saying, "He's my better half?"  Half? Half of what?

I love my husband to death and back, but I was a whole person (theoretically speaking of course, because I was a broken mess before the Cross) before I met him and today I'm still a whole person.  There are zero halves in this marriage.  We are both two completely complete people made complete strictly by the grace of Jesus and His sacrifice on Calvary.  If either of us ever becomes a half, it's not by anything the other has done but because (Heaven-forbid!) we have chosen to walk away from sweet, sweet grace.

Marriage was never intended to fulfill. It was intended to be a glorious picture of Christ and His Bride.  Ultimately, whatever my husband chooses or doesn't choose to do or behave in relation to me is not my ultimate gratification.  Jesus is.  This seems like a pretty "duh" statement and I've always believed and known it was truth.  But if I believed this truth in my heart, offense would never creep up in my heart towards my husband. I would never argue with him or struggle to submit.  I would never have to "fight" for my opinions and views to be heard.  If I believe this truth in my heart, I would gladly and easily demonstrate a gentle and quiet spirit because my entire confidence would be found in the Lord and His goodness towards me.

Please note, I am by no means saying that desiring (emotional & spiritual) intimacy with our husbands is wrong in any sense.  It is good and right for two to become one in every sense of the term, but if by whatever reason our marriage lacks in an area of oneness then we understand our Source for peace, joy, and true intimacy comes first from the Lord.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The main issue in this upcoming election.

This post will probably be a little out of place in a blog geared towards the ministry of mothering, wivering (ha! just made up a word) and homemaking. However, it's October and in a little over a month, this nation will once again decide who they want as their leader and there's something I just have to get off my chest.

This post isn't about bashing any candidate. It isn't about convincing you to vote for one over the other. It isn't really about the election (very much).  It is rather about righteousness and a call to action to all those who claim Christianity as their faith (ahem, "98% of all Americans").

Facebook is inundated by political posts advocating one of the candidates for President and the person's reasoning behind it. Twitter has 3 second blurbs dedicated to advertising one political party over another. I'm sure if I look hard enough there will be thousands of full-length blogs dedicated to this subject. Presidential elections are a big deal. And yet, I don't know how to put this politely, but I don't care who you're voting for.  No offense, but it really doesn't matter to me. Do you wanna know what I care about?

I care about the millions of babies that are unwanted every single year.  A friend put it so tragically beautiful yesterday, "It's a genocide. Between abortions and people unwilling to parent, we have a generation that's being lost in the middle of our selfishness." The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob also values life and if we call ourselves Christians, how dare we make excuses for supporting death on behalf of a better economic system for our nation? As Christians, it is our duty to stand with Christ and be ambassadors for His name sake. The last time I read the Gospels, He is life, He loves and gives life and life abundantly. Death has no part in Him and neither should we. And I care about having a President that values life.

I care about the sanctity of marriage. I care about the God-ordained order of things, I care about keeping the sanctity of marriage between man and woman because that is the way it's supposed to be. God designed it that way and He said it was good. I also care about the homosexual. I deeply care about the homosexual.  Just because I believe in the sanctity of marriage doesn't mean I'm a gay-bashing small minded bigot. I disagree with their lifestyles but I deeply care for them. I think they're sinners, but then again, so am I.  I don't think their sin is any "higher" on the sin-scale nor do I think they're doomed to a hotter fire than I am because of my sin. I will not avoid speaking with them, talking with them nor growing in friendships with anybody who chooses that lifestyle. However, I do care about having a President who also values the sanctity of marriage. Not because it's my opinion but because it's God's opinion. 

Here's the crux of it all.  Our nation has shifted it's focus off the important issues and on to something that is insignificant.  The main issue this election Christians, is not the economy.  The economy is not the root of the problem.  It isn't about Obama spending money we don't have, or Bush having ruined our nation with the wars he declared.  It isn't about creating more jobs nor funding a health care bill.  The main issue during this election is whether or not this nation will choose to stand with what God says it's right and wrong.  That will determine our economy and the rest of our fate as a nation.  God doesn't care about the United States' influence in the world nor its balance in the checking and savings account.  He cares about the foundation of this nation and whether or not we will choose to remain rooted in that foundation or twist it to be something it was never intended to be.  Like it or not, history shouts that this nation was founded on Christian principles.  Christian principles that are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self, control, righteousness, peace, mercy.  None of those prove any threat to any one else's beliefs or choices. Christianity is rooted in goodness and good things because that is who God is.  Unfortunately the Church of this nation has gotten off that track and hence we have the small minded gay-bashing insensitive jerks who cry out obscenities to women entering into abortion clinics and declare a physical and verbal war on any belief that is not of Christ.  This nation is full of "churches" who forget that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal and take on a carnal mind to spiritual matters.

But. That is not the point.  The point is this.  God is who He is. Man is dust and He is not. He wraps Himself in light, He is glorious, majestic, all-knowing and righteous.  He is Holy and demands we are so because as Christians, we are of Him and have taken on the nature of the victorious Christ.  As Christians, we should stand for what He stands for no matter the cost.  Politics is a world filled with greed, power, deception and etc.  Romney and Obama are both men-- they are both dust.  But God turns the heart of the king whichever way He desires and He will use either one to bring His purposes for this nation to fruition.  It isn't about who gets elected because they're both weak men, bound to stumble.  Rather, the man chosen is a declaration by the people of this nation of where they stand.  Do they stand with their pocket-books and a liberal movement bound to further-silence righteousness in the name of tolerance or do they stand with a man who believes in life and the sanctity of marriage and who openly believes in the power of prayer to turn this nation back to the beautiful light it once was?

Both men will fail without the Spirit of God. But not both men choose to stand for righteousness. I pray you vote for righteousness so that we can see this nation restored.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Weekly Goals Aug 08- Aug 15

I have absolutely loved having and setting goals this week. Though it has been a busy week and I can't say I got *everything* accomplished, it's nice to have something to strive for in day-to-day.  Here's a recap of last week.

- Have uninterrupted time with the Lord (30-45 minutes) every single day-- not even once :l
- Keep up with my Bible reading plans

Work-Out three times this week -- worked out twice and a half. Did my video twice and walked around the lake (1mi) once pushing our double stroller. 
- Look into schooling-- not even close

- Read two chapters of Baby Wise & Toddler Wise (each) -- I'm half a chapter away from accomplishing this
- Keep up with "Mommy and Me" time with each kid, daily
- Create routine/schedule for Aaliya and Haven using Toddler Wise's suggestions
- Take Aaliya outside for a walk/play 3x
- Finish Aaliya's birthday party invitations

- Go on a date!
- Pray daily over my husband -- Almost. I have to admit I got busy and forgot a couple of days. Big No-No
- Pack his lunch, daily -- I missed it once. Grrr
- Pray with my husband daily

- Finish re-structuring homemaking binder (post soon to come!)
- Put items up for sale that need to be sold --  I did post them up, but haven't sold anything yet. I have two sales pending though.  However we'll be having a garage sale tomorrow. Hopefully I'll sell it all there.
- Organize girls' closet BIG win :) 

- Post 4x this week--  not even close
- Start looking into new layout :D -- ditto with the above. 

Soooo... This week will be another week of goal setting. Some will be repeats, and some not so much. I admit I stretched myself by making these goals, however can say that I'd rather be stretched than bored! Here are my goals for this week. 

- Start waking up at 7a consistently 
Have uninterrupted time with the Lord (30-45 minutes) every single day
Work-Out three times this week
Look into schooling (I think I'm going to focus on praying about this option and receiving guidance and counsel from the Lord

 Read two chapters of  Baby Wise & Toddler Wise (each)
- Start incorporating daily devotional times with the kids
Take Aaliya & Haven outside for a walk/play 3x
- Finish Aaliya's party planning.

- Pray over my husband daily
- Pray with my husband daily
- Pack his lunch daily
- Refrain from any nagging/negative speech

- Sell/give away all items that are on the "to-get-rid-of" pile
- Come up with a functional cleaning schedule
Finish re-structuring homemaking binder

- Post 3x this week (let's make it a little more realistic)

What're your goals this week?

Friday, August 3, 2012

what nursing has taught me about Jesus

I didn't get to breastfeed Aaliya.  I remember feeling guilty because I just didn't.  I wanted to.  I had every desire and intention to breastfeed her and yet didn't know what I was doing, was in an environment that quickly encouraged me to give her a bottle and formula and move on. I remember crying as I gave her the very first bottle of formula.

My husband was a champ at encouragement.  He knew what was really bugging me. "Nicole, you did not fail as a parent.  You are feeding your child to the best of your ability.  Forget what people (mostly at Church) will think.  Formula doesn't make you a bad mother. Especially since we've picked an organic brand that we're comfortable with. Nicole. You are not a bad mother."

He's such a hunk of a man-- and man is he godly.  I was comforted for the moment but anytime friends went to feed their babes under a breastfeeding cover while I shook a bottle with formula in it, I felt a twinge of guilt for having "failed" in this area.

So when I found out I was pregnant with Haven I half expected to formula-feed again.  I had significantly more support this time though.  More people on my corner, not only encouraging me to breastfeed, but willing to walk it through with me.  Uncomfortable, awkward semi nudity and all.

I can't say I was a huge fan of it to begin with.  Breastfeeding is incredibly intrusive and yet unbelievably natural, beautiful and intimate. This time around though, there was an innate commitment to it from my end.  Even though I hated it to begin with, (yes. I did. I don't now-- shoot me) Jesus in His faithfulness has taught me so much through it.  Here are the main three lessons God has taught me in this journey of breastfeeding.

1) God is genius! He is truly an intricate God who designed us perfectly to meet every need as mothers in feeding our children. I read this article about a week or so ago and was absolutely amazed at the brilliant God we serve. He designed a mother's kiss not only to be a method of emotional bonding (which is obvious to most of us) but also as a physiological way to ensure that the baby is protected from any threats or attacks on his little body. Reading how perfect God created my body to nourish my children truly humbled me and spoke faith to my heart on how big my God really is.

2) "Breastfeeding takes faith!" A friend texts me that as I'm going to her for breastfeeding concerns and worries for about the millionth time that day. Having been a bottle feeding mom before (and a Type A personality who enjoys control...ahem...), one of the largest concerns and challenges I faced was being unsure as to how much milk my wee-one was getting. My constant fear was "he's not getting enough food!"  And then, I got this text message, and it completely changed everything. I realized that even something as simple (and complex) as me feeding my son requires faith. He created my body to nourish these children, yet did it in a way that demands faith in His brilliance and design. Breastfeeding was designed to be an open door of communication with the Father. His design beckons us to trust Him with our children and come to His throne when we feel weak in faith.  Not to mention, I'm sure God knew how busy a season tending Wee-Ones can be.  I believe part of this design to encourage and strengthen our faith is one of many ways He kisses our Mama hearts in the "mundane."

3) I am not my own. I mentioned it earlier in the post. Breastfeeding is intrusive. Yes, it is. But I believe God designed it that way to remind us Mamas that as mothers, we are not our own. Being a breastfeeding Mother, no one else can feed my baby, but me. No one else can wake up at 3am to nurse him or feed him.  No one else can nurse him for me while I finish doing the housework, or my workout or whatever else I'm doing that may tempt me to pass on that responsibility and privilege. I bring my son with me everywhere because I know he needs his Mama for nourishment.  Nursing reminds me (and forces me to remember) what's truly important.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Weekly Goals Aug 01-Aug 07

There is a *fantastic* "trend" going around the blog world that has Mommies and Homemakers writing out goals for each week and posting them for the online community to see. I love this.  It creates a sense of accountability for me personally if I know you will be keeping up with my progress (or lack thereof!).  Plus-- I'm a list maker. I love making lists and checking them off as I do things. So this is really gonna work for me... I think. ;]

That being said, I will be posting weekly goals on Wednesdays (I know it makes more sense to do it on Mondays, but Mondays are a bit of a hectic day and I may or may not get to them) under several different categories; personal (all things Nicole-- spiritual goals, fitness/health goals, education), parenting (all things Daniella, Aaliya and Haven), marriage (all things Caleb <3 b="b">home
 and blog.  Here we go, week one

Weekly Goals for August 01-August 07

- Have uninterrupted time with the Lord (30-45 minutes) every single day
- Keep up with my Bible reading plans
- Work-Out three times this week
- Look into schooling

- Read two chapters of Baby Wise & Toddler Wise (each)
- Keep up with "Mommy and Me" time with each kid, daily
- Create routine/schedule for Aaliya and Haven using Toddler Wise's suggestions
- Take Aaliya outside for a walk/play 3x
- Finish Aaliya's birthday party invitations

- Go on a date!
- Pray daily over my husband
- Pack his lunch, daily
- Pray with my husband daily

- Finish re-structuring homemaking binder (post soon to come!)
- Put items up for sale that need to be sold
- Organize girls' closet

- Post 4x this week
- Start looking into new layout :D

What're your goals this week?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

the best piece of parenting advice I've ever gotten

I have her on speed-dial. And I text her about 13 times a day (and that's just before Aaliya's nap time!). She is my Sally Clarkson of sorts.  I honor and admire her and the fruit her mothering has bore. And she has my mother's name-- Jesus' gentle kiss on my forehead.

I was stealing some of her time on this particular day to talk about routine. I now have a just-about-two-year-old (yikes! Where in Heavens has time gone?) that is very... head-strong bold and loud lively and of course our newest baby addition. Life with two kids is significantly different than life with one. I thought some of the tantrums Aaliya'd been throwing had to do with a lack of routine. Turns out there's more routine to my day than I'd originally thought (boo-yahhh!).  Then she asked me the heart wrenching question... "Do you spend time with her alone, playing?

Mehh. I try. And earlier that morning, as I'd attempted to sit and play with my daughter, I realized that I didn't know how to just sit and play. I was completely at a loss when I went to sit down with her. And that made me feel really really bad. I don't want to be the kind of parent that never plays with her child. When I answered her, I answered her half-heartedly and told her "Yeah, kind of."

She could sense something was kind of wrong and she gently probed. "Were you played with as a child? Did you play a lot as a child? I can tell you're kind of sad."

Yes. No. Sort of. All I know how to do is educational stuff.  I'm a teacher by nature and by profession.  Whether I'm teaching adults about nutrition, teenagers about abstinence and their incredible value or my almost two year old the ABC's and 123's, I am always teaching. I am by definition the "non-fun" parent. I can sit down and teach her while playing any day all day, but my husband is insanely good at just playing with them.  All the kids anticipate Daddy's return home from work because they know Daddy is going to drop everything by the door and run and chase after them.  He will tickle them and tackle them and enjoy their presence as much as they enjoy his.

Sighh. I'm not doing anything right. 

And then she encouraged me and my weary Mama heart...

Just take 10,15,20 minutes every day and run around with her. Have no agenda, nothing to read, nothing to teach her.  Do whatever she likes to do.

"In my child's case that would be running around and screaming."

Well then run and scream too.  Children need to know they are enjoyed and appreciated beyond the practical (my educationally minded brain).

And so, there it is. The best piece of parenting advice I've ever received.  Be intentional about just playing with your kids.  Kick off the shoes every day and be silly for just a bit.  Tickle them, laugh, scream, jump in the mud with them (uhh, I'll build to that one) and just be intentional about being unintentional and spontaneously fun with them-- every single day.

How often do you play with your kids?  What kinds of things do you do?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Haven Justice's Birth Story

I had a planned cesarean section with both Aaliya and Haven.  But I've decided that just because it was a planned C-section didn't mean I didn't have a story to tell. I do have a story to tell.  I am passionate about natural child birthing even though I haven't had the privilege to experience it.  I fully believe a woman's body was designed by God to birth babies.  I also know and understand that the American culture of medicine believes in intervention and sometimes you just can't escape it.
That being said...

It was 330am on a Friday morning. The day before had proven to be, though hectic, very productive.  The previous weeks had been filled with a whole lot of work and very little rest.  I was on a mission to ensure everything got done before Haven Justice made his grand entrance.  His arrival (or at least the beginning there of) was scheduled for 7am on June 1st which meant we had to be at the hospital by 500am.  I had stayed up late the night before preparing bags (most were already packed, it was more of a frantic check and recheck making sure we didn't miss anything), doing last bits of laundry and loading the dishwasher.  I wanted to come home with our new son to a clean house and relaxation.  I wanted to give myself the best chance to actually rest when I got home.

So, it's 330 am on Friday morning and I'm awake. Today is the day I get to meet my son. There's something about having a son. The weight of the responsibility of having a son was becoming more and more real.  As I brushed my teeth and braided my hair I thought less about the surgery and more about the little man that God had entrusted to us to raise for His glory. We get in the car and both Caleb and I are unbelievably groggy and silent.  The ride to the hospital was fairly quiet and I have a feeling he was thinking about meeting the son of his prayers the whole way too.

We arrive at the hospital and everything looks fairly familiar.  We delivered at the same hospital Aaliya was born in and finding our way around was pretty easy.  We arrive at our pre-op room, err area thing and meet our nurse. She was an unbelievably kind soul who put me at ease right away.  At this point, my nerves are starting to kick in.  They ask me the routine questions and send me in the restroom to change into my glamorous hospital gown. Caleb makes himself comfy in the husband-designated chair they have available in the room, errr bed area thing. And on it starts, the poking and prodding of just about every nurse and doctor in the unit. They started with the heart-rate monitor thingies they stick to your chest-- yes, there's actual adhesive involved. Then there's a plastic bity thing for the finger (I can't remember if that one stays on permanently or if it comes on and off every so often), the heartbeat monitor for Haven (I love hearing the galloping horse that tells me this little man is ay-ok!) and the contraction monitor (that one was the quietest-- hehe)  and then comes the IV.  What a glorious miserable experience that was. My incredible nurse was suddenly replaced with a sweet but obviously inexperienced nursing student hoping to gain just a little bit more experience with my veins. Now, I'm not afraid of needles or anything but I'm also not fond of them.  I don't get joy or excitement from being poked and prodded  with sharp objects and this is a good thing because my veins have *never* been difficult to find. Until June 1st, 2012.  This sweet nursing student missed my veins twice and the one time she caught it was done "incorrectly" because of the way the IV would rest on my arm.  So my very juicy veins were bleeding-- a lot. About two rags worth.  At this point I give my amazing, experienced nurse a glance that yells help and she intervenes. Within 30 seconds, she finds the vein that works, pops it in and all is gravy.

At this point, Caleb starts to stir and starts to tell a fasting pregnant woman that he's hungry.  Yeah, word to the wise gentleman, not a good idea. The nurse encourages him to get something to eat before "the surgery" so he doesn't faint with all the commotion.  Ha! She's sweet.  She obviously doesn't know my husband thrives off blood and guts everywhere (No. Really!)  Either way, Caleb leaves his very pregnant and very hungry wife to go eat (I'm kidding. He did leave, but it wasn't a big deal. All I was doing at this point was waiting there, laying down.)  So his left me with a lot of time to anticipate my least favorite part of this whole ordeal-- surprisingly no, it's not the getting cut open part. It's the epidural.  In the meantime though my sweet nurse kept me entertained by making conversation. Turns out she has 3 kids and a husband who owns his own business; the economy affected his business which is what forced her to go back to work.  But she's thankful her kids are older now (middle and high school) and she works at night.  So, she sleeps while they're at school and works while they're asleep just a few nights a week.  Then, the anesthesiologist comes and tells me in medical terms (because apparently we all understand them) what exactly was going on. I look around for Caleb, really really hoping he'd be here at this point.  My sweet nurse seems to have read my thoughts because she offered to stay through the whole procedure and let me lean on her while they do the whole thing.

The epidural with Aaliya was quick, pretty painless and smooth-- it was done by a medical student (apparently Nicole has "experiment with me" tattooed on her forehead) but he nailed it with no complications. This time around, well... it wasn't so simple.  They asked me to let them know if I felt "something like electricity" on either side of my body.  Umm. Ok.  That made me nervous.  So, they insert the giant needle (don't ever look at the doctor's tool thingy when they're gonna perform a procedure) and do whatever else they need to do.  And then, I feel it. What they were talking about. "Umm, I feel like a shock of electricity on my right side."  "Oh, geez, ok." She proceeds to take out whatever in the world it is they insert and I can feel drops of blood dripping down my back.

Eeeek. I'm so not good with blood. I'm not a fan-- in fact blood freaks me out.  The only time I can manage it is when it's on someone else and I absolutely have to react and care for it.  The adrenaline takes over and I'm okay.  But you better believe after the fact, I'm gonna freak out thinking about it. So. There's blood dripping down my back and the anesthesiologist is once again explaining things in medical terms and how it's "common" for them to miss my spine and hit whatever else and not to worry. Umm. I don't care I tell her. Just wipe the blood that's dripping down my back. "Oh." She says.

Round two. No shock, but only half my body numbs.  25 minutes later, I'm feeling extremely nauseous and finally starting to fully numb up.  Or so I thought.  I'm coming in and out of sleep and consciousness and my sweet nurse bids adieu.  It's 7am, they're getting ready to roll me out and her shift's up.  I was beyond bummed but too focused on not vomiting to really respond.  And so it goes... Caleb was back, changed into an also glamorous man-gown and off we go.

"Wait here and we'll come and get you" they tell Caleb.  I always hate that part. I'm about to have major surgery and I feel like I'm going at it alone during those 4 and a half preparation minutes.  My amazing doctor is in the OR though and his bright and shiny smile puts me a little at ease.  "How was your vacation?" I manage to slurr. "It was good, thanks for asking. Now you just relax and let's have ourselves a baby." The next few minutes kind of fly by as I'm still in and out of it. Then, my incredible husband grabs my hand and tells me he's there.  I finally breathe (or so it seems).  And off they go. My doctor and the nurse chat away about his Hawaiian vacation or something like that. I am completely focused at this point on my son. A thousand questions run through my mind-- will he have light hair? dark? green eyes? (I prayed for that, yano)  A sharp pain interrupts my train of thought.  Turns out I was *mostly* numb.  There was a portion all the way to the right side that wasn't numb and so I felt everything. The cut, the tugging, the pulling (which there was a lot of because his foot was caught in my ribs)


But then, I hear it.  The little cat-like whine/cry thing they do when they're just born.  I hear the suctioning and then they show him off over the curtain. I start to cry (just a little bit) and there he is! My son, Haven Justice.

They immediately take him away to get cleaned and measured and all that jazz...  "Eight, Eight and twenty and a half."

"What? "

"Eight pounds, eight ounces! "

"One more time?"

"Eight pounds, eight ounces!"

"He's a football player!"

They bring him over to me and I can hold him. It is love at first sight. I am absolutely in love and infatuated with this son that Jesus blessed me with. The emotions a mother feels when she first meets her child are unlike any on this earth and nearly impossible to describe.  No matter what the method of delivvery or how the little person came to be in your arms, all that matters is that they came to your arms.

And my son, Haven Justice will remain in my heart and arms forever...