Mommy, What’s Abortion?

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“Mommy, what’s abortion?”

The hair stands on the back of my neck and my heart begins to race. I feel a knot form in the pit of my stomach and I turn around to face my son. He is looking up at me so innocently, yet asking a question that can shatter all childhood innocence.

Suddenly, I bolt upright in bed and realize that I am slick with sweat. I have been dreaming – a nightmare, really.

My mind and my heart have been flooded with thoughts of the unborn. Thoughts of their mothers and fathers. Thoughts of the decisions and circumstances that lead to a lost life. Thoughts of the recent revelation that while the babies themselves are seen as worthless, their organs still hold value and are sold for profit.  Thoughts that break my heart into a million little pieces.

Someday my child will come to me and ask me about abortion and it will be real. I will have to look into his blue eyes and tell him that abortion stops a beating heart and ends a life.   I will have to attempt to answer why this happens when I have no idea why it is allowed to happen myself.

I pray about this future conversation and the words that I will say. I pray that my son will not lose his tender heart in the midst of this cruel world. My sweet boy who asks so many questions and recently had this conversation with me out of the blue:

“Mommy, did you have a blanket in your belly to keep me warm?”

“No, honey, I didn’t.”

“Was I wearing jeanies?”

“No, you weren’t wearing jeans. God made Mommies to have bellies that would keep their babies at just the right temperature – not too hot and not too cold. My belly kept you nice and cozy.”

“How did I eat?”

“There was a cord that connected me to you. It gave you the food that I ate and kept your belly full. Do you see your belly button? That’s where the cord was and that is your reminder that no matter where you go, you and I are always connected.”

“Wow, that’s amazing! Mommy, thank you so much for keeping me warm and taking care of me when I was in your belly. I love you so much!”

I love these simple and sweet words that I was able to share with my son. Since this conversation, he has randomly come up to me several times and thanked me for taking care of him in my belly.  But how do I find the words to explain that it’s not always this way?

In all honesty, I used to have a really difficult time forgiving women who chose to abort their babies. I used to be so filled with anger and could not fathom why anyone would think that this could be an option. But God has softened my heart. My stance on abortion has not changed – I will always think that it is wrong. If we don’t value a human life, then why value anything at all? However, my heart has softened toward the women that go through with this life-ending procedure.

I find it interesting that the media and society in general describe abortion as a choice when most of the time, it is a decision made when one feels that they have no choice at all.  We cheapen the value of life and dilute what really happens during and after an abortion in order to justify our actions.  We don’t want people to think twice about their decision, but what happens if they do think twice and what happens if it’s too late?  We label things as a ‘procedure’ or ‘lump of cells’ and focus on the physical aspects of a ‘simple outpatient visit’ rather than acknowledging that emotional, mental, and spiritual scarring are far more detrimental than a procedure could ever be.

There are women who were pressured by family to have an abortion. Women who felt panicked and had no one and nowhere to turn. Women who believed that when it was all said and done they would be able to move on with their lives only to find that they were plagued with the weight of their decision and consequences they didn’t expect to face.

We need to love these women.

We need to open our arms wide and let our tears mix with theirs. We need to be a safe haven and a shoulder to lean on. We need to be the kind of friend we believe a friend would like to have.  We need to make them feel like they do not have to bear their secrets and burdens alone.  We need to love like the One who loves us.

I have never had an abortion and I am grateful that I have never been in circumstances that would even allow me to consider it an option. But, I have done things in my life that I just can’t get back no matter how hard I try.

I know many, many women who have found themselves pregnant outside of marriage. It always breaks my heart to hear how upset people can become over this. Is it God’s ideal? No. But, a life has been formed – a life that has a God-ordained plan no matter what.  Who are we to condemn rather than celebrate life? Just because the circumstances surrounding conception are not condoned, doesn’t mean that we can’t walk alongside of someone in a time of great need and offer encouragement. A woman doing her best to mother a child should be praised.

In our most broken states, we need to be reminded that God loves us just the way we are. Nothing can separate us from His love. This is a truth that I love to hear time and again.

There are countless women who share their testimony of healing and redemption post-abortion. They have been covered by the grace of God and continually inspire me to reach out to those who are hurting. God withholds His grace from no one – we just have to be willing to go to Him to receive it.

This is what I will tell my son someday: decisions are made that are so difficult and maybe even impossible to explain.  There will be ‘Why’s?’ that can never be answered this side of heaven. But there is faith and hope and love because of Christ’s work on the cross.  Burdens can blossom into blessings when we give them to the Lord.

 

*This is a space of love and encouragement.  Regardless of your stance on any issue, comments that attack or are hurtful in any nature will be removed.

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Juggling a Balanced Life: The Exercise

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I love working out. I love to sweat. I love how strong I feel after completing a hardcore workout – like I can take on anything.

The problem is finding the time to work up a sweat.

To be honest, I took the time factor for granted in so many areas of my life before I had kids. But once the kids were here, life continues to roll on and something had to give. Working out was one of the first things to go.

I was an athlete. I guess I still am an athlete. My body is used to exercise and I find that it craves movement. Lately, the cravings have been so intense that I have decided that somehow, someway I must fit workouts into my schedule.

I keep a pretty detailed planner, so I sat down to search for time to exercise. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I would have to wake up at 4:30am in order to break a sweat the way I want to.   It took even less time for me to know that this would be a bad idea. I have to work around people…and be nice…and be compassionate. I know myself well enough to know that if I got up at that hour I would not be fit to enter society. I would turn into a bear. I would be in shape, but I would be a bear nonetheless.

I greatly admire the men and women who are able to successfully wake up hours before the sun in order to workout.  For a few days I did attempt to slowly adjust my morning schedule to see if I could legitimately wake up earlier.

This is how it went:

Day 1: Nah.

Day 2: The wind howled and sounded cold. I rolled over and stayed warm in bed. It didn’t seem to matter that I was going to workout indoors.

Day 3: I did wake up earlier, but I used that time to go to the bathroom by myself.

Day 4: The boys woke up early so I took care of them instead.

Day 5: Nope.

And that’s as far as that challenge went.

This never used to be a problem for me, but it was a problem in other ways. When I was younger, I would do whatever was necessary to get a workout in. I was obsessed, and in some ways things got a little scary. I was constantly practicing for sports, and then when I was done with my playing days I was terrified that I was going to gain weight so I determined that I would not become sedentary. I would get up and run before classes and then I would stop at the gym after classes in college. I knew exactly how many calories were going in and how many I was burning. There were days when it was all I could think about. Looking back, I firmly believe that I had a type of eating/exercising disorder. Through prayer and God’s grace, I have been able to break that cycle of negative thinking. But it has been nothing short of an uphill battle.

Determined to find a way to balance exercise with limited time, I have begun to do Pilates in the evenings while the boys are winding down.  Usually after their bathtime and before bedtime, they like to watch TV.  I let them enjoy a show and I get on the floor and run through a variety of movements that work my abs, thighs, and butt.  The reality of this situation is that I am planking with a 4- and 2-year-old on my back.  I am doing sit-ups with a toddler trying to crawl through my legs, and I am doing leg-lifts while trying to avoid kicking one or both of them in the face.  But the fact of the matter is, I am doing it.

I recognize my need to take care of my body, but now I recognize how important it is to keep a balanced view of what is healthy and what is necessary.  I am no longer training for anything, so attempting to do two-a-day workouts or beating myself up for missing a day of exercise because something suddenly came up just doesn’t make sense.  What does make sense is coming up with creative ways to incorporate exercise into the life that I already live.  I have found that summer is the best time to do this.  I am naturally more energized this time of year and we are always outside.  We have races in the backyard, I push and push and push the kids on the swings, and we love to go swimming.  Would I love to be able to go out and run several miles every evening?  Yes!  But that just doesn’t coincide with my life at the moment.  Someday, my kids will be able to handle themselves while I run, but today is not that day.

Today I must juggle the act of exercise with the more important job of motherhood.   Right now, a sick child takes precedence over my abs.  Catching up with my kids after a long day at work comes before a run.  I know that choosing sleep over exercise in the morning is an excuse/cop-out, but most days it trumps Jillian Michael’s 30-day Shred.  So I continue to balance things out by power-walking during my lunch break and doing strengthening exercises with the the ‘help’ of the kids in the evenings.  I know that eventually I will find a lasting routine to work up a sweat and juggle all of my other responsibilities.

Don’t forget to check out the ways I attempt to juggle a balanced life when it comes to food and clothing!

Every Woman Needs Her Tribe

Sometimes I collapse on the couch at the end of a long day and I just can’t shake it – this feeling of loneliness that creeps in and stays with me. How is it possible that I am lonely? I am never alone. I spend my days surrounded by kids or coworkers. It is the great paradox of motherhood – I long for ‘me time’, yet I long for connection just as much, if not more.

Every woman needs her tribe.   Those few people who know you and love you in spite of yourself, who pick you up when you fall down and are the first to pat you on the back when you succeed – I need them.  My tribe is my place of belonging.  It’s just that I have been distant from my tribe for a long time – years even – and it’s starting to wear on me.

I have always been one of the guys. I enjoy playing and watching sports, and have never been into girly things. Looking back, I can see how this prepared me to raise boys. But, I need my girlfriends more than ever now. No one is better able to relate to me and where I am in life than the women I call my close friends.

If I have these friends, why am I so lonely? Time, responsibilities, family, career…they all pull us in differently directions and leave little to nothing for any semblance of a social life.

Growing up, you go to school with your friends. In college, you live with your friends. Before marriage, you work, but you have a cash flow (albeit small) that enables you to enjoy time with your friends. After marriage, there is less time, but there is still time. Once the kids come, you blink and realize that six months of your life has passed and you can’t remember if you have spoken to any of your friends in that time-frame.

Some of my friends began having kids a little bit before I did. I didn’t get it. Why can’t we just go out for coffee? Can’t you just keep the baby in the infant carrier? How hard can it be? Then I had a kid and realized that just meeting for a cup of coffee turns into a 57-step process that requires three weeks of advanced planning to pull off. And even then you aren’t guaranteed to be able to keep this simple social engagement. If you are like me, then you found yourself just staying isolated in your own little world because it becomes easier than the extreme effort it takes to leave the house. It’s not that I didn’t want to see or spend time with my friends – I desperately did – it’s just that demand, after demand seemed to pile up on my plate and my relationships were the first things to go.

I have found that the best thing we can give each other as women is grace. Grace in our friendships to know that because we haven’t heard from one another in a while does not mean that the love and caring is no longer there. Grace to realize that this too shall pass – it won’t always be this crazy.

My friends are grace-givers. I pray that I am a grace-giver. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if something happened and I needed my girlfriends to come to my side, that they would drop everything and be there. I can still depend on my tribe and that is amazing. They don’t hold it against me when we haven’t talked in a while or haven’t shared that precious cup of joe. I try to do the same thing because I finally get it now.

tribe

Just last week I was having a day. You know, one of those days. As soon as I put the kids to bed, I myself crawled under the covers and prayed that God would give me the strength to deal with everything. And I prayed that God would help me to feel connected to others again – that I could find the time and energy to be with friends.

Shortly thereafter I fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, I saw that I had missed a text from a friend.  She said she was just thinking about me and wanted to see how things were going. The text was sent about ten minutes after I had poured my heart out in prayer. Coincidence? I think not – that’s a God-thing.  I responded honestly and said that I was overwhelmed and would appreciate her prayers and that I missed her greatly. She promised to pray for me and I believe her. I know she cares and I know those weren’t just empty words sent to my phone.

That’s the second best thing we can do for our tribe – remain honest. I didn’t have to share that I was overwhelmed, but it was the truth and hiding it wouldn’t get me anywhere.  I don’t need to feign perfection around these women, or pretend that I can do it all – no one is buying that lie.  Like I said, I know she cares and I know that she genuinely prays for me. Not only that, but these women are willing to give me tough love if I need it.  I trust them to speak the truth to me, even if it is hard to hear.  If my relationships aren’t authentic, then my loneliness will never be eased.

Honesty also provides an opportunity to give and receive encouragement. I don’t know about you, but at this stage in my life, I feel like I need an awful lot of encouragement.  I’m talking about an insane amount of encouragement.  Most of my closest friends are in the same stage as I am – young kids, figuring out how to keep our husbands first, maybe juggling a career, definitely juggling housework. It can be rough, but we need each other.

I’ve often heard it said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Frankly, I don’t want the village to raise my child because I don’t agree with all that the village does. However, I do believe that it takes a village to encourage a woman. It doesn’t matter if our beliefs or viewpoints on parenting differ, I can still offer encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. Also, encouragement shouldn’t be limited to just mothers. Some of the people in our lives who could use the most encouragement from us might be the ones in waiting – waiting for marriage, waiting for children, waiting for careers. Those can be incredibly difficult and lonely times.

I have seen encouragement come to me from different angles. It has come from the mom with kids the same age as mine. It has come from the woman at church who has been there and done that but has been a mentor to me in many ways. It has come from a fellow working mother with a heaping pile of responsibilities on her plate. Encouragement is a miracle worker and it can be so simple. I mean, that text that I received didn’t take a lot of effort, but it was still sincere and it meant so much to me. Reaching out to my girlfriends does not need to be this elaborate thing. The connection has already been made; I just need to acknowledge that connection.

Recently, I have had friends come out of the woodwork to reach out to me.  One woman noticed that I needed a pick-me-up and sent me a care package in the mail.  Amazing!  Another dear friend had a gift certificate to a salon that she offered to share with me.  Not only did we get to pamper ourselves (rare), but we desperately needed that time together.  It was what I like to call ‘soul therapy.’  There is something so special about meeting the needs of others, especially when you don’t even realize that you ministered to them exactly when they needed it the most.

Realistically, I can’t go and hang out with my friends all the time. I can’t afford to have a weekend away and I can’t meet for play dates in the middle of the day. But, it’s not always going to be this way. My kids won’t always be as needy as they are now and someday I might be able to afford a girls weekend. And when that day comes, I know that my tribe will be there waiting with arms wide open to welcome me back and pick up right where we left off because I will do the same for them.

I Don’t Want to be in the Trenches Today

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It was early on Saturday morning and I was already in a foul mood.  I had been coughed, sneezed, and snotted on too many times to count by 8am.  There is just something about wiping someone else’s mucus off of your face that will cause you to get up on the wrong side of the bed.

Not today.  I don’t want to be in the trenches of motherhood today.  I don’t want to be so heavily needed.

It’s not that I didn’t want to spend the day with my kids – I did.  I just wanted them to wipe their own butts, blow their own noses, properly brush their own teeth, cook their own meals, clean up after themselves, and use their inside voices.  And for the love of organization, I wanted them to just pick one or two toys out at a time rather than dump four bins and decide that they have nothing to play with!  I didn’t want to become the broken record that I am by the end of each day by repeating, “Be gentle.  Be careful.  Be kind.”

After a long week of working mommy, today was stay-at-home-mommy day.  I was girding my loins for a full day in the trenches when I felt so ill-equipped to be leading my troops.  My husband had a ten hour shift and the kids and all of my neglected housework from the week lay before me.  I just didn’t want to do any of it.

Before my husband left for work he could already sense my poor attitude.  I had raised my voice to one of the kids over something that really didn’t necessitate a raised voice.  He called me out on it.  While I knew he was right, I was less-than-thrilled that my weaknesses were being pointed out right in the middle of me displaying said weakness.  I accepted the accountability, but I did give him an icy stare-down for about 30 seconds.

My husband also pointed out that this was my day off and I look forward to stay-at-home-mommy day all week.  That’s when my thoughts overtook me.  Shouldn’t I be thrilled?  Don’t I know how blessed I am?  Aren’t there so many couples who would trade places with me in a minute?  Am I a horrible mother?  The thing is, recognizing how blessed I am only made me feel worse because I couldn’t seem to legitimize my feelings.

Then, as if on cue, Satan made sure that guilt (who he always has on-call) came to keep me company.

I finished my coffee with guilt, grabbed some lunch with guilt (and I severely burnt my tongue), and started the laundry with guilt.

Then something happened.

My oldest son went to spend some time with his grandparents and it was just me and my youngest who was fighting a nasty cough.  My little one coughed so hard that he threw up all over the living room.  Then he just stood there looking at me with his big, blue eyes saying “Mommy, mommy, help me!”

I was the only one who could comfort him and clean him up and assure him that it was okay and he would be fine.  He needed me and in that moment I was so glad that I could meet those needs.

When I got him situated, I suddenly felt like I was walking around without one of my limbs.  I realized that I missed my oldest son terribly and he had only been gone for a whopping ten minutes.  It turns out that I wanted to be needed after all.

I stopped what I was doing and prayed.  I begged God for forgiveness and prayed that He would give me strength and a change in my attitude.  I can’t do this parenting thing on my own.  The trenches can be downright suffocating and I’m truly not equipped to deal with all of these responsibilities every day.  But He is – God is the only one who can give me the ability to deal with life.  Not only that, but my feelings are legitimate to God.  He wants me to pour out my heart to Him rather than keep everything so bottled up that I fantasize about running away (I would never do that, but you know what I mean…maybe just a few hours alone in a bookstore).

I had to continue praying to get through all of my duties for the remainder of the day.  That and the four peanut butter melt-away Easter eggs that I may or may not have eaten seemed to do the trick.  I had a renewed sense of energy to tackle my housework and care for my sick son.  By the end of the day, my precious toddler was feeling better and he asked me to dance with him when he heard his favorite song in a movie.  We danced and twirled ourselves into a fit of laughter and it was amazing.

Not every day ends on a high note and not every day feels like I am deep within the trenches.  But, at this time in my life there are enough of those brutal days that can leave me feeling pretty discouraged if I let them.  I’m just going to refuse to let the hard times get me down.  This is far from my last rough day as a mother, but because I have Christ by my side for eternity I know that I will never be left to handle it on my own.

 

 

When We Uplift a Man

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We had just settled into our booth and ordered our food when I looked over and saw the sign on the wall. As part of the restaurant’s decor was a sign that belittled a man. I wish I could remember exactly what it said but it was something along the lines of ‘I’m just a helpless man who can’t do anything without my wife.’ Meant as something humorous, I asked my husband what he thought of it. He explained that he sees stuff like that every day, but only about men.

This incident happened a while ago, but ever since then I have tried to be more attuned to advertisements and general things in the media that portray men as helpless. The amount of things I have noticed has been astounding. The popular TV show that has a leading man who can’t accomplish anything or be trusted to watch his kids without his wife swooping in to save the day. The commercials that show an overweight man stuffing his face on his recliner while binge watching TV all weekend. The greeting cards that poke fun at a man’s inability to share his feelings. The local morning radio show that has a segment entitled ‘Help me, I’m a husband.’

Conversely, there are many TV shows that portray strong and successful women – whether they work or stay at home. There are plenty of commercials that show all that moms accomplish. You would never see a Valentine’s card from a woman to her husband that said, “I know I’ve let myself go and I can barely keep the house clean, but thanks for loving me anyway.” The media – local or otherwise – would never dare to poke fun at a woman’s inability to do anything.

Yet, when we belittle a man it’s all in the name of good fun.  Why?

Not only does this bother me for my husband’s sake, but it bothers me for my sons, as well. This has been going on for years and I have become immune to it, which leads me to believe that others have, too.

There are plenty of good men out there. There are millions of wonderful husbands and fathers who don’t get nearly enough credit for all that they do. My husband is one of them.

When I think about the sacrifices that my husband has made for our family, it’s overwhelming. He has put his career on hold to stay home during the day with our children. Do I think this is easy for him? Not at all, but he does it willingly and lovingly.  He loads both kids up and takes them grocery shopping. He takes them to play dates even when he knows that he will be the only man there. Then after a long day at home, he heads out the door and goes to work to further support his family. He is an amazing dad and I tell my kids this every chance I get. I also tell my husband that he is amazing, but I’m sure that I don’t do it nearly enough.

The last thing I want is for my husband to be viewed as some fumbling, bumbling idiot who doesn’t know how to do anything. That image couldn’t be further from the truth. He can fix seemingly everything, he can cook, he can change diapers at warp speed, and he can wrap me up in the best hugs. He’s committed to raising our children in a godly manner and he treats me with nothing but love and respect. He deserves to be praised, not mocked.

I want to conscientiously uplift my husband. I want to build him up and encourage him. I want him to know that he is loved and needed. I want him to know that his work is not in vain and we recognize and appreciate all that he does.

Regardless of how our culture might portray men, I am so thankful that my sons have their Dad to show them the way. He is the best example of all that a husband and father can do.  No matter what life throws at him, he stays positive; he knows what it takes to get back up after being knocked down.

I am hoping that our societal perception of men can turn around. This recent Dove commercial tells me that someone gets it.  I wonder what kind of a difference it might make if we built up the wonderful men around us and encouraged them as husbands and fathers.  What if it enabled the next generation to step up to the plate and follow in their footsteps? Let’s see what positive things can happen in our culture when we uplift a man.

 

Linking with Equipping Godly Women

An Apology to My Kids for Our Sexualized Culture

The three of us were all snuggled on the couch.  I had one of you tucked under each arm and we were watching some Duke Blue Devils basketball before bedtime.  This almost never happens: a) you never sit still this long, b) I never get to watch my team play.  I was more than enjoying this moment, and then there was a commercial break.

Suddenly there was before our eyes a man and a woman kissing quite passionately.  Things were taken further and the man took the woman’s shirt off and we could see her naked back.  They were (and I hate this term) heavily petting.  I searched frantically for the remote and could not find it anywhere.  I considered doing jumping jacks in front of the TV to distract you, but it didn’t matter – you were both locked in and had seen all of it.  Why is it that you never pay attention when I want you to, but the exact moment I would like you to be otherwise occupied, you are zoned in?

The questions started.  “What were they doing? Why did he take her shirt off? Why were they doing that?”  The fact that the commercial was for cologne was lost on all of us.  I really didn’t know what to say and so I found myself saying this: “I’m sorry, boys.  I’m so sorry that you saw that.”

The fact of the matter is, I am sorry.  We were enjoying a basketball game – at 7:15 in the evening – and sex was right in our faces.  You boys are not quite 2 and 4-years-old.  I have read the statistics, I have seen the reports – the number of sexual images you are projected to see before you reach adulthood is staggering and scary.

God made you, as boys and one day men, to be very visual beings and that’s a good thing.  I am sorry that Satan takes the fact that you are visual and uses it against you every chance he gets.  I am sorry that sex sells and it will be sold everywhere.  I am sorry that you will experience more peer pressure when it comes to sex than any other issue.  I am so sorry that holding on to your purity will be one of the biggest fights of your life.

As your mother, I am committed to do everything I can to help you grow from boys to men.  I want you to be men after God’s own heart.  The Bible talks repeatedly about fleeing from sexual immorality and lust.  There is a reason for this.  When I tell you not to touch the stove while I’m cooking, I do so because I know that you will be burnt if you do.  Likewise, when you are lost in lust aconsequencesnd sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage, pornography, etc.) you will get burned.  But beware, the world will tell you that there is nothing wrong with lust, they will encourage sexual immorality.  Our culture will tell you that you are not a man until you have lost your virginity and will applaud you when you do.  I am here to say that the world is wrong.  God does not warn us over and over again about the dangers of sexual immorality just because He doesn’t want us to have fun.  He mentions it throughout the Bible because He wants what is best for us and he wants to protect us.  I would be a horrible mother if I let you lay your hand down on a hot stove burner.  Would you trust God if He didn’t warn you about things that could have major consequences your life?

While I am sorry that this is a battle that you will have to fight over and over again, I am not sorry for doing all that I can to shelter you and protect you while you are being raised in my home.  I am not sorry that devices will be password protected and certain shows will not be watched on our TV.  I am not sorry that we will have uncomfortable conversations about sex because I always want you to feel that we can talk about these things.  I am not sorry that I will not let you off the hook when it comes to pornography and I refuse to succumb to the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality in this regard.  I am not sorry that you will be angry with me at times for not being as lenient as other parents.  I know that I will receive flak for having unrealistic expectations and being ‘out-of-touch’ or old-fashioned, but I am willing to handle all of that.  I love you and it is my job as your parent to build the strongest foundation that I can for you so that you will one day be able to make positive decisions on your own behalf.

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here, guys.  There are two big things that I want you to know.  First, this is not a new phenomenon.  I’ve already said that these issues were mentioned many times in the Bible.  That means that people have been dealing with lust from the beginning.  While technology has made things much more accessible, the issues remain the same.  Not only that, but Christ came to help us overcome all of this.  You can win this battle, but it is not going to be easy.

Secondly, this is not just an issue that affects boys and men.  It may not affect girls in quite the same way, but our sexualized culture absolutely damages them as well.  You see, I am a girl.  I have been and continue to go through this.  Girls are faced with feelings of inadequacy and lack of self-worth.  They ask themselves why they can’t look like that woman, why they can’t measure up to that level of sexuality.  The fact is, it is all a myth.  These advertisements are a myth, pornography is a myth.  No one will ever measure up to those standards because they themselves don’t exist.

Those girls that are dealing with this issue, they have Moms and Dads that are just as concerned about them as we are of you.  They have parents who are bound and determined to raise them and shelter them from our sexualized culture, who work night and day to make sure that their daughters do not buy in to the fake ideals the world projects.  Their parents are praying that there will be good men left in this world to one day marry their daughters – be those menworthit

This is good news, boys!  I know many of these parents. Like me, they pray constantly that their children will grow up and cling to God’s Word. Their commitment to raising godly sons and daughters is unwavering. You will find friends who are committed to leading a life of faith and you will one day find a girl who will make you realize why it was all worth it.  I promise you when this day comes, you will be thankful that God warned you not to put your hand on the hot stove.

Let me leave you with this: you will not be fighting our sexualized culture on your own.  No matter what happens, your father and I love you very much.  If you stumble and fall, we will be right here to pick you up.  More importantly, your Heavenly Father is always ready and willing to wrap you up in His grace and forgiveness.

Stay strong, boys.  Stay strong.

Linking up with Holly Gerth, Serving Joyfully, and Equipping Godly Women

You’re a Good Mom

A large part of me did not want to take the boys out for the evening.  Work had taken it all out of me, but in an effort to get out of the house and socialize, I loaded them in the car and away we went.

The boys and I met up with my coworkers for some holiday shopping.  Each year, our department sponsors several children in need and then we make a night out of shopping for the items on their wish list.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to put all of our talks about giving into practice.  They were excited and even though they were full of energy, they were pretty well-behaved.

Mom: 1, Wal-Mart: 0

That’s a stat I almost never see.

As promised, we headed to McDonald’s for dinner.  They have a PlayPlace and as winter has begun to descend on us, our need to burn this pent-up energy is apparent.

A long line had already formed and while we were waiting, my oldest decided to sit in one of the “spinny chairs.”  After too many warnings from me, he spun it so hard that he flew off and hurt himself.  Next, he decided to run off and attempt to get ketchup before we had even placed our order.  The act of me chasing him down resulted in us losing our place in line.  Now we had to go to the end and wait even longer.

When we finally reached the counter, I placed our order.  In the ten seconds it took me to order their nuggets, my oldest had taken out five ‘Caution: Wet Floor’ signs and arranged them in McDonald’s lobby.  What is he, a ninja?  Where is this speed and intensity when I ask him to clean up his toys each night?

I hurriedly paid and then had him pick up the signs and put them back where they belonged.  Two guys my age were in line beside us and kind of chuckled while saying, “He sure does seem like a handful.”  I nodded and said, “You have no idea.”

Once our order was ready, I grabbed the tray while holding my youngest and managed to fill our drink and stock up on ketchup.  As soon as I picked the tray up again, my legs were hit as if I was being tackled by a defensive end.  Somehow I managed to balance the tray and hold my son while my other son gave me that knee-buckling hug. If he remembers that technique, he’ll be the next JJ Watt.

We made our way to a table and I began to arrange the food.  Immediately, sleeves were dipped in ketchup as the boys reached for their fries and soda was spilled from our cup.  By the grace of God I was able to keep my cool and patiently clean up our messes.  I then held the boys’ hands and we prayed over our meal.

youreagoodmom

I was completely unprepared for what happened next.  The guys who had been standing in line next to us earlier walked past our table and simply said, “You’re a good mom.”  I thanked them as tears welled in my eyes.  I have no idea why I reacted with so much emotion.  I was in the middle of a rough couple of minutes, but it was otherwise a fun night.  Perhaps it was the fact that the source of this encouragement was so unexpected; it caught me off guard and made me realize how much I needed to hear it.

Sometimes we just need to hear it.  Sometimes we just need the assurance.  Let me be the one to tell you, “You’re a good mom.  You’re a great mom.”  Your hard work is not in vain.  Even if your kids don’t entirely understand all that you do right now, other people notice.  God certainly notices.  It doesn’t take much effort to encourage one another and in the process make someone’s day.

I have never been so glad that I took two kids, by myself, to Wal-Mart and McDonald’s.

A True Story of Faith, Hope, & Love

Faith
When they decided it was time to start a family, they were excited, as any husband and wife would be.  It took a few months, but one day the pregnancy test was positive and the journey of parenthood had officially begun. Thrilled doesn’t even describe the way they felt!
A few weeks later, she began to spot.  After arranging to see the doctor, their worst fears were confirmed – it was a miscarriage.  There were a ton of questions going through their minds, namely “Why?”  He was her rock and they leaned on each other.  As Christians, they turned to God and found comfort in their faith.
Months past, and the holidays came and went.  As spring was right around the corner, they found themselves expecting again!  While there was fear after experiencing a previous miscarriage, they were excited and thankful for this precious child.  During a trip to visit family, she began to spot.  They went to an out-of-town hospital and were told that it was just spotting and to go home and rest.  In her heart of hearts, she knew otherwise.  She knew that they were losing another baby.  It happened on almost the exact same timeline as their first child.
More questions arose and all they could do was pray.  She was his rock and they leaned on each other and their Savior.  While things were difficult, there was peace in knowing that their babies were together in Heaven – they were not alone and they were with their Heavenly Father.
Around this time, there was a special presentation at their church.  A woman in the congregation spoke of a ministry she was involved in that promoted adoption.  A seed was being planted in their hearts and minds.  She did a little online research and kept the information she found in the back of her mind – the timing just wasn’t right.  Summer had arrived and they were enjoying family vacations and time together.
At the end of summer, their third pregnancy test was positive.  Of course, it was a mix of emotions – they were excited but had their guard up.  They went to see a specialist and went through lab work and ultrasounds.  She had begun to take progesterone before the third pregnancy in hopes that the hormones would help.  Their doctors were amazing; they were incredibly supportive and didn’t bombard them with information.  EverythPsalm139-13-16ing was discussed and they felt that the doctors listened to their concerns and shared their feelings.  It was important to them that they work with physicians who recognized that they lost children, not fetal tissue.
During an ultrasound, they discovered that the baby was not growing.  She could tell a difference in the way she was feeling.  It was as if the hormonal changes she had felt at the beginning of the pregnancy had vanished.  They decided that they didn’t want a D & C, but would rather wait for the baby to miscarry naturally.  This happened just shy of the end of her first trimester.
There are things in life that you just can’t explain.  How can you explain how a family can experience the loss of three babies in one year?  The Bible talks repeatedly about the ‘peace that passes understanding.’  God can give you peace in the midst of suffering and you just cannot explain it through any other reason than faith.  This is what they were experiencing after they lost their third baby – a peace that can only come from God.  They knew that their children’s lives had been in God’s hands all along.  Where once there were many questions, it was now as if God was answering their questions without them having to ask. Through it all, God never, ever left their side.
Hope
The seed that had been planted in their hearts concerning adoption had been growing for quite some time.  Suddenly, it seemed very clear to them what God was calling them to do.  They began to do their research on which adoption agency they would go through.  They knew that they wanted it to be an organization that would advocate for them and have conservative values that would line up with their own personal beliefs.  After starting out with one agency, they eventually decided to go a different direction through the work of a family member.  This new agency also ran a home for girls and women who were pregnant with nowhere else to go.  The guidelines were strict, but throughout the application process they felt that the Christian beliefs of the organization aligned with their own faith.  They went to seminars on adoption, met with other families, and finalized their personal profile.  After their home studies were completed in April, the waiting game began.
It was a time of great hope and trust in the Lord.  They felt very strongly that the path of adoption was right for them and knew that in God’s perfect timing everything would be revealed.  Little did they know that God was also preparing the heart of girl several states away.
Five months had past and they hadn’t heard any news.  Then one Friday night they were asked if a birth mother could view their profile.  They were given some of her background information and after much prayer, decided it was all in God’s hands.  They felt a peace about her viewing their personal album.  Shortly thereafter, they were asked if they wanted to meet with this girl.  It was typical for the girls and women to meet with several perspective families, but she only wanted to meet with them.  Not only that, but as part of the process, they had to fill out a child acceptance form.  The birth mother was also required to fill out the same form and all of their answers had to be an exact match.  True to form, God came through and gave them that perfect match.
During this private and personal meeting with this girl, they realized that they wanted the same things for this precious baby.  Their guard had been up because they had not been expecting such an immediate and surreal connection to be made on this day.  Their hope was growing as they continued to communicate with one another in the weeks following their initial meeting.
God was showing them that it was okay to let Him take control.  They understood that while God did not want to see them lose their three children, He could use these experiences to bring glory to His name if they allowed Him to do so.
Love
A breath-takingly beautiful baby boy came into this world mere weeks before Christmas.  There were some final things that needed to be worked out – rights had to be signed over, and other legalities were to be handled.  All the while, the young girl knew she had found the parents for this precious boy.
They drove hours from home to meet this little one.  When they were finally to meet their son, a type of ceremony was arranged by the agency.  It was a private moment that they will never, ever forget.  The emotions that spilled forth when their perfect boy was placed in their arms were unlike anything either of them had ever experienced.  They had loved him before they met him, but the intense and overwhelming love they felt then and there could never be rivaled.  This little one they had prayed for was finally here and he was undeniably theirs. 
 whatfaithcando
God’s direction in their life all made sense.  At times when they didn’t know what was going on, God was pointing them to this moment.  While no one would take the place of their children in Heaven, this baby was meant to be their own and was created for them.  He would never be any less their child than the siblings that came before him or any that might arrive after him.
There was much rejoicing that Christmas, for there was much to be thankful for.  It was a wonderful time filled with friends and family and a season they will always cherish.
After the holidays, they felt like they were settling into parenthood and were loving every minute of it.  The joy of watching their son grow added to the contentment they felt as a family.  When their baby was just about four months old, she began to feel a little different.  Not necessarily in a bad way – just different.  Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your system, and like any new mom, she equated what she was feeling to that.  Because these feelings persisted, she thought that maybe she should take a pregnancy test.  It was positive.
Of course, all kinds of thoughts ran through their minds, but if God had taught them anything it was that He was in control and He would always take care of them.  While the specialist they had seen before was still their OB/Gyn, they decided not to do all of the ‘extra’ stuff and they wanted to wait to tell anyone.  They were soaking up every experience with their son and didn’t want to be worried about tests and lab work.
Weeks had gone by and a baby bump was beginning to appear.  They knew it was time to see their doctor but they were nervous – when they had gone in the past they had always received heartbreaking news.  The doctor gave them an ultrasound and it turns out that she was 3 1/2 weeks farther along than they had anticipated.  Their baby was healthy and moving around like crazy!  They waited a few more weeks and then shared the news with family and friends.  Yet another reason to celebrate!
As the baby grew week by week, God was calming their fears and allowing them to live in the present.  She felt great throughout the pregnancy and was able to keep up with her energetic boy.  He was growing like a weed and was just the happiest baby you would ever want to be around.  They felt truly blessed!
Less than a year after their first son arrived, they welcomed a second healthy baby boy into their family.  In twelve short months, they went from husband and wife, to a family of four.  God did not take the desire of their hearts lightly; they longed to be parents and He answered their prayers in a very real and mighty way.  While God has enabled them to rejoice here on earth, their greatest rejoicing is yet to come when they will all be reunited one glorious day in Heaven!
**I want to thank my friends for allowing me to share their story in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (October) and National Adoption Month (November).  My friends’ testimony has been so powerful in my life; they are amazing parents and amazing people with such a heart for God and for others. All of this has reinforced to me that God is still very much in the business of answering prayers in a big-time way. Not only that, but their story has made me realize how often I underestimate what God is capable of doing. When we allow God to work in our lives, there is just no telling what He can accomplish in us and through us.
Linked to these great blogs: Equipping Godly Women

Please Thank a Teacher Today

teach

It’s amazing that I did not become a teacher.  My Mom is a teacher and my sister is as well.  I dabbled with a degree in education while in college, but ultimately decided against it.

I feel like teachers get the short end of the stick.  They are blamed for the problems in education when they rarely have a say in all the changes taking place.  Common Core?  I have not talked to one teacher who is on board with that.  Saying that teachers are responsible for Common Core’s implementation is like saying that I am responsible for the Affordable Care Act because I work in healthcare.  Trust me, if someone had come to me for advice on ACA, things would have gone down differently.

Here are some reasons why we ought to run out and thank teachers immediately:

1. Curriculum

Imagine that you have been working in a job for several years.  You have built up a system and feel comfortable with your responsibilities.  Your files are up-to-date and you have kept meticulous notes.  Now imagine that one day you are told that the paperwork and notes you have no longer apply.  You need to start over and teach according to a new script, so-to-speak.  Not only that, but you have little time to prepare yourself for this new way in which you must do your job.  Then, you have to find a way to learn a new curriculum then teach it to a classroom full of students. You need to develop ways to make the new curriculum fun and engaging.  Your students are expected learn and apply what you have taught so that they can perform at a high level on standardized tests.  Have fun, but don’t forget that you will need to toss this new stuff in the trash and learn yet another new curriculum in a few short years.

2. Testing

Unfortunately, everything revolves around testing.  I was once an aide to a child in elementary school and his classroom had to take a practice PSSA test that lasted for a few hours on the second day of school.  Students were crying because they didn’t know the material.  These were very smart and capable kids, but they didn’t realize that they weren’t supposed to know the material because it hadn’t been taught to them yet.   It was a must that the students be assessed immediately because it was a predictor as to how much needed to be learned before the actual test was administered several months later.   The students became frustrated and anxious when it came to the actual test because they felt like they knew so little on the pre-test.  Teachers are under so much pressure to get through as much material as possible before the official testing begins.  They have little to no time to slow down and go over topics when their students need extra review.  Do you think teachers enjoy this?

It’s no secret that children learn in different ways.  One type of testing is not an appropriate indicator of what a child knows or how intelligent they are and teachers know this better than anyone.  But it is dictated to our teachers that they must find a way to make every child successful in this one measurement.  School districts and states are judged by these test scores and failure is not an option.

3. Paperwork

Everything must be documented.  Paperwork has to be turned in to show progress and plans have to be made for future progress.  If you are a special education teacher, the paperwork is endless.  In addition, teachers are in front of a classroom basically all day – when are they completing this paperwork?  That’s right, they take their work home and finish it off the clock.  They don’t get to punch out and leave it all behind for a few hours.

4. Plan Periods

Yes, teachers are supposed to get plan periods.  But, most of the time, they are not getting caught up on anything because of the aforementioned points.  Then there are the papers to grade, the letters that need to be sent home, the classroom that needs to be put back into order.  Plan periods are not a time of relaxation.  If I want to grab a cup of coffee and a breather during my day, I get to do that.  Not teachers.

5. Masters Degrees

How do you get a raise if you are a teacher?  Go back to school!  The teacher must become the student in order for them to receive a bump in pay. So in addition to the extra work they bring home from their job, they must also attend classes to further their own education.  Not all teachers have done this, but many of the teachers my age have while raising a family and taking care of a household.  Why not?  They don’t have enough on their plate.

6. Snow Days

Last winter, when the 10th snow day occurred in the Northeast, it dawned on me that these days are the worst for teachers.  Sure, it’s fun to be Captain Sweatpants and hang around the house for a day or two, but any more than that and it becomes a nightmare.  They have the task of assembling the troops and getting them to focus and learn something after unexpectedly having days off.  Seriously, last year the teachers practically lost whole weeks of school due to the weather.  How do you get kids to retain anything when that is going on?  Plus, all that standardized testing is always right around the corner and we all know we have to hang our hats on that.

7. Summers Off

This is why the rest of us think that teachers have it made in the shade.  However, it’s not all fun and games.  Once school is officially done for the students, the teachers have a few more days of in-service followed by another couple of days of cleaning out their rooms.  Given the snow days, this might take you until the end of June before your summer actually begins.  Then, if your curriculum has changed, you better learn it and prepare your materials and come up with fun ways to relay the lessons.  Raises are hard to come by, so in order to make a little more money, many teachers head back into the classroom to teach summer school.  If you are pursuing your Master’s, odds are it’s that time of year when you add a few extra graduate courses to your workload.  Vacation just wouldn’t be vacation without four term papers to write.

8. Out-of-Pocket Expenses

You know those cute signs and inspirational posters in your kid’s classroom?  I would be willing to bet that their teacher bought them.  Not with the school’s money – with their own.  Classroom supplies?  Yeah, I’ve known teachers to go above-and-beyond and buy a bunch of those too.  This is another fun way that teachers get to spend their summer ‘off’ – shopping for things to keep their classrooms fresh and functional.  Plus, there are countless things that come up during the course of the school year that would require a teacher to reach into their pockets for their students.  The teachers that I know do this willingly.  My sister has told me that one time she was checking out at Walmart and had her arms full of candy and toy dinosaurs.  The man in line in front of her turned around, looked at what she was carrying, and asked, “You a teacher?”  That would be correct, sir.

9. Budgets

It’s no secret that the budgets of school districts are tight.  Our taxes go up every year.  Because of these tight budgets, the teachers must fight for everything they get.  It’s why so many receive their Masters.  It’s why they deal with the out-of-pocket expenses.  I know teachers who haven’t received a raise in years – not even cost-of-living increases.
They don’t just sit back and watch as the arts are cut for their students.  They don’t brush it off when extracurricular activities are in jeopardy.  There are some school districts that can no longer fund sports; the students must pay in order to play.  Of course, many students don’t have the money, so fundraisers are organized.  Schools can’t afford to pay people to coach.  I have seen numerous teachers step up and coach these teams because they believe in the kids and they believe in the positive correlation extracurricular activities have to classroom learning.  Teachers are affected the most when budgets are cut.

10. The Kids

I would dare to say that the vast majority of teachers are doing what they do because they care genuinely about children and their future.  They put up with all of this other junk because they are passionate about education and want to make a difference in the lives of others.  Teachers hearts are broken when they see that child in their classroom who they know has a difficult life at home.  They know that passing a test is the least of that child’s concerns.  They personally take it upon themselves to love each child and make sure they know it.  Besides the paperwork and the new curriculum, teachers also take thoughts of their students home with them each night.  Concern about the troubled student or whether or not they are effectively relaying the course material can weigh heavily on a teacher’s mind.  Yet, teachers return to the classroom day after day, year after year, in order to help our kids become respectable, responsible, and educated members of society.

 

These points are just the tip of the iceberg; teachers deal with way more than the things I have listed.  I want to thank my teachers  throughout the years.  Their endless encouragement and words of wisdom shaped who I have become, second only to my parents.  They gave me the confidence to pursue my passions and believe in myself.  They made me feel capable and worthwhile.

I look back now and am so thankful that I did not become a teacher.  But, because I have those feelings, I am so grateful to those who did become teachers; it is truly a job that I could not do.  I think of having a classroom full of the same energy level my kids have and I get an instant headache.  Teaching is not for the faint of heart.  Please take the time to thank a teacher.  But let’s take it a few steps further and make it a priority to pray for our nation’s teachers continually whether they teach in a public school, private school, or homeschool. After all, they are shaping our future.

Worry is My Best Friend

I have a friend named Worry.  She is closer to me than my own shadow and almost always stops by unannounced and without invitation.  In fact, if I let her, Worry would come with me everywhere I go.

I can’t exactly give our relationship a specific start date, but Worry and I have been close for years and years now.  I was very young when we met.  We really began hanging out together during my high school years.  There were times when we were pretty close in college, but we drifted apart for a while, too.  After graduation the real world came knocking, and Worry was right there beside me.

These last few years, Worry and I have been closer than ever.  We talk every day, multiple times a day.  She knows the deepest, darkest parts of me.  Our pity parties are – in a word – legendary.  There are nights when Worry wakes me up just so we can stay up together until my alarm sounds.  If I am relaxing on the couch, Worry is there.  If I am making dinner, Worry is there.  If I am playing with my kids, Worry is there, too.

At first, I thought our relationship was harmless, but lately I have noticed that Worry is a taker – she never gives.  She knows much more about me than I know about her.  She brings out the worst in me and is a terrible influence.  She’s disrespectful and often leaves me in tears.  She tries to ruin my relationships with other people and never wants me to have fun and enjoy the moment.

I think we need a break.

I have struggled with worry and anxiety for a long time.  Sometimes I feel as if my anxiety has a choke hold on me and my life.  If I look at the relationship I have with worry as an actual relationship, it’s completely ridiculous.  I would never put up with that type of behavior from a true friend – I know better than that.  For whatever reason, I justify these things when it comes to my anxiety.  Yes, some things that worry me are legitimate concerns; however, I cannot truly control much of what I worry about.  On the other hand, there are tons of things I spend my time worrying about that haven’t even happened or may never happen.  What a waste of time and energy!

Because of my faith in Christ, I know there is a better way to handle all of this.  Over and over again, God talks about his desire to help us through all of life’s situations and ease our fears.  I am not experiencing anxiety because God hasn’t kept his promises.  I am choosing to hang onto my worries by not allowing God to take over.

The best example I can think of is this: my kids never don’t always share.  When one of them decides to share their toy, they will often change their mind in a matter of minutes and rip it back out of the other’s hands and yell “Mine!”  This is exactly what I do to God with my worries.  Sure, I’ll pray about it and ask for help, but I want to start worrying again shortly thereafter.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Matthew 6:25-27

I know I have trust issues and I like to handle things on my own without asking for help (a nice way of saying this is, I’m ‘independent’).  I am a Type A personality and I do not procrastinate.  I have little patience and when things are not accomplished in a timely manner, it’s very hard for me to let it go.  Top this off with perfectionism and you have quite the little mixture of crazy.  While this has served me well in some areas of life, it’s been a hindrance in others.

I have been worrying about the same few issues for a decent length of time now.  It has weighed on me so much that it has begun to have physical and spiritual side effects.  I am positive that much of my never-ending exhaustion is due to my anxiety levels.  I have the useless ability to jump to the worst-case scenario for every situation and then dwell on that scenario for an inordinate amount of time.  I also know that this is Satan’s way to attack me.

anxietygirl
But then there’s hope:

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.”

I Peter 5:7

How do I handle my worries?  I go straight to God through prayer and recommit to reading the Bible.  My struggles and inadequacies are not meant to defeat me – they are meant to highlight my need for a Savior and send me into the loving arms of Christ.  I cannot conquer my anxiety on my own.  I have to lean on God and let him carry my worries for me.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

It’s not easy for me to turn my worries over to God.  It’s something I have to do on a daily basis.  Depending on the day, I might have to submit worries to God on an hourly basis.  It’s not just a one-and-done process.  I am constantly learning and growing in my faith and it will be that way until the day that I die.  But I know that if I am ever going to find peace, contentment, and rest I have to trust in my Creator.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Please know that if you are struggling with worry and anxiety that you are not alone and there is certainly hope for you to find relief.  The verses I shared are just some of the many found in the Bible that talk about this issue.  Jesus himself addressed the problem of anxiety; that in and of itself provides a great deal of comfort.  I refuse to let the worries of life rob me of the joy I have in Christ.  He has given me so much to be thankful for and enjoy.

Linked to these great blogs: Serving Joyfully, Equipping Godly Women