Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Life that Sizzles and Pops: Celebration and Joy

Somewhere between being a child and an adult, I stopped giving myself permission to enjoy life. I wish I could blame motherhood, I seem to use that as an excuse for a lot of my "difficulties" -- but the sad truth is it happened long before my children. 

If anything, it's my kids that brought me back. Slowly, I started noticing the little things again. The leaves, the flowers, the Christmas lights, the danceability of music... 

But embracing joy and celebrating moments, that's still something I struggle with.

Yesterday, Gretchen Miller began her encouraging talk by reading a quote from Shauna Niequist:

“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don't want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.” 
Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

These words were so hard to hear. So many emotions hit me; sadness, happiness, struggle, love, resentment...

That quote describes my 8-year-old daughter, and her love for life and pretty things and the juicy fruits that come with celebrating all the things. And sometimes I hear myself condemning her joy, instead of encouraging it. I value responsibly and "getting things done" over enjoyment.

My reaction to the quote was, So you want the life of a child.

In my head it was said with disgust and judgement. That can't be the life of a responsible adult. You either take life seriously and win, or you play all day and watch everything fall apart. 

And there it is. That's why I'm stressed, and struggle with depression, and why when I fight with my husband I cry, What do you want from me???

And with kindness he says, "I want you to enjoy your life."

You guys. There's so much in my life that's beautiful. Amazing. Blows me away. So much to celebrate, so much music to dance to, food to savor, people to hug, funny to laugh at.

So much.

And yet I tell myself "no" quite a bit. No, you can't have that. No, you can't enjoy that. No, you have work to do.

The other week, my husband came up to me and showed me this on his phone:

It made me laugh so much, and then my heart fell, because I really feel like that when I commiserate about the dishes, or really anything I "have" to do. 

Sometimes though, I stand in the middle of the mess, and remind myself that all the to-do's are my own doing. No one is there telling me what to do. No one is shaming me, or making me lists, or telling me I can't sit down and rest...

I'm doing it to myself. 

Gretchen read Isaiah 55, and focused on the first verse:

"Is anyone thirsty? 
Come and drink --
Even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk --
It's all free!"

The Lord calls us to Him. He calls us to rest, to enjoy, to be nourished. He calls us to have joy

Gretchen also encouraged us to do a few things if the "discipline of joy" was a struggle (*raises her hand*):

  • Get in the word -- it will change you! Begin in prayer, and think through what is hindering you.
  • Find moments to treasure -- they ARE there!
  • Start a gratitude journal; this helps us to look back and see the little things we ought to be thankful for.
  • Schedule or make time to find joy and celebrate moments; invest in your marriage, invest in your friendships, play music, enjoy your kids, and finally SLEEP and REST.

As we run around getting to-do's and lists completed this holiday season, when the home that we dreamed of and the family we prayed for is threatening to overwhelm us and drive us to the brink of insanity, let's remember to take a moment and...


Don't do the dishes. Order pizza. Sit on the couch with your kids and watch "Elf" for the tenth time, or throw your brood in the minivan and go look at Christmas lights.

Do something that brings you joy. Do something that makes you laugh, eat food you love, give yourself permission to take a breather. 

Trust that God, in all his goodness, will not allow your life to fall into pieces while you enjoy a moment of peace. He's got you. And you are loved. 

Be blessed, ladies. And Merry Christmas to you. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thankful to Not be Alone!

Hi Y'all,

I'm Summur, the one who got up this morning during 'It Works For Me" and shared that nothing is working for me right now. So inspiring, right? I honestly didn't have it in me to share even a simple tip. It has been a really hard week and just making it to MOPs this morning seemed like an impossible feat.

But I am super glad I came.

Right when I got to my table, the sweet sister next to me noticed that I looked sad and asked me how I was doing. Of course I completely lost it. I shared with her how horrible of a time I am having right now and how just last night I took it out on my kids and husband. I told her that I am not being a very good mom or wife right now at all! She shared with me how she had a similar day yesterday, and just her seeing me and acknowledging that she is walking the same road, that I am not alone in this crazy storm called motherhood, was a gift from God for me today. 

Thank you Jesus that I am not alone!

Then it was time to hear the mentor moms. 

Honestly all of these ladies look so perfectly put together and so happy and content, I was seriously wondering how I could even relate to them. But of course, when we judge and compare, God is good to remind us that no one is perfect, that we are all just trying to get through each day the best that we can!

And of course, everyone was so REAL! Thank you Jesus that I am not alone!

Hearing these moms who have been through it, really gone all the way through parenthood and come out the other side and survived and even thrived having raised children who love the Lord, gave me a lot of hope.

Every woman up there had very different lives, different ways the Lord led them to teach and train their children, from simple advice like fewer activities for more family time and making your home the go-to hangout place, to the big dogs like puberty and the dreaded "Birds and the Bees" talk. They all seemed to communicate that there is no one way, no pat answer to how to parent. We all have different paths, different lives and different families. Do not compare your family because God made it unique. Lift up each of your children to Jesus and ask Him to show you how to raise them. Be united with your husband and point your kids to Him!

Thank you Jesus  for the encouragement of these women who did it and are here to tell us we can do it too!

It's Thanksgiving week and I am so thankful for MOPs, for Mentor Moms, and adult women to share life with. I am so thankful that I can go there, and say "You know what? Today is a hard day." What a blessing to be able to just be real, to ask for prayer and not pretend like everything is hunky dory all the time.

So thank you MOPs Sisters. Thank you for showing up and helping me through this rough patch! Thank you for laughing and understanding that I did not have a tip today, and loving me anyway!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Noticing Goodness: Choosing Joy during Pain and Loss

First of all, Melanie, Thank you so much! Thank you for sharing your faith, your hurts, your struggles and how God has used them to shape you into the woman you are today!  Your courage paved the way for the rest of us to share our brokenness, our struggles, and to encourage one another and pray! 

Noticing goodness and choosing joy is challenging because it is so easy to allow ourselves to become consumed by our struggles. Until a couple years ago, whenever hard times hit, I’d completely fall apart, focusing on the negative, angry with God and failing to see any good.  I’d worry, and stress and try to “fix” everything…control has always been a struggle for me, but thank you JESUS that He is a patience and faithful God! 

So, choosing joy among struggles.  Seems simple right? I think, “I can do this. I got this!”  Then 3 seconds later, a child starts screaming, the other two are beating each other into the ground over a Lego the size of my patience, dinner is no where near started (frozen nuggets sound good), and the husband just called saying he’s going to be late tonight.  Awesome.  Forget joy and happy feelings…this mama is done! (Exits stage right) 

Oh, wait.  I can’t leave.  Getting mad and yelling doesn’t seem to help or calm anyone down.  Good times.

Lord, have mercy on me and my sweet babes who’s bedtime just moved to 6:30pm.  Deep breath…3…2…1…

In my life, I’ve never been lacking in struggles or broken moments.  There is always something, and if you feel like your in a safe place, brace yourself.  There have been those world-shattering, fall to my knees struggles like being arrested when I was 18 years old, loosing our first baby just a couple months into our marriage, and having my 2 year old son break his Femur the week of my C-section with my 2nd son.  Then there are those less devastating but still very hard daily struggles.  Balancing my role as wife and mother, not yelling ugly words at the person who just cut me off, having patience with my children when I really just want to lock them in a closet…not to mention, jealousy, selfishness, resentment and bitterness just to name a few.

How can we move from these moments where joy seems obsolete? Thankfulness and being happy aren't usually the first things that pop into my head.  It’s usually “Why God?! Why Me?! Why Now?!” But hindsight is 20/20 right?  As I sit here, trying to figure out how to put my struggles and my heart into words, I think back on all of these difficult, painful times and our gracious God reveals to me how these moments, these struggles are still opportunities to be thankful….to be joyful!  My arrest at 18 years old caused me throw myself at the feet of my Jesus and my faith in Christ is stronger and my relationship with Him, so much more genuine.  When Liam broke his Femur the same week Cohen was born, I had to learn that I’m not SuperWoman, I can’t do it alone and had to rely completely on God and the love of others! Through the good and the bad, my children help draw me closer to God, where I am continuously sanctified. (Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”)  

So, when we are consumed by these struggles that seem to grip us by the throat, bringing tears to our eyes and clouding our vision, how are we supposed to notice the good? How do we notice God? James 4:8 says “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”  Seems like a good place to start.  Somedays this looks like a glorious hour alone with a hot cup of coffee (only microwaved once) and my Bible open in my lap.  There is time to think, to pray and beseech God.  Other days, just exhaling the name of Jesus is all I can manage.  But as we draw near, He will embrace us, holding tight. 
When we draw near to God, we also have to choose joy! Not only choose, but learn. You don’t just choose joy one day and remain joyful for the rest of your days! If only it set in that quick…wouldn’t that be wonderful!  Now choosing joy doesn’t mean you slap on a false facade either and say “I’m fine. He’s fine. We are just fine.” Don’t ever discredit, conceal or compare your struggles.  True healing and happiness doesn’t come from hiding.  By sharing our stories, like our sweet Melanie did, it allows God to shine through and be glorified…plus there is an added bonus of not having to deal with life's hardships alone!  Mamas, can I get an AMEN?! 

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes about her journey on living out joy in every situation we come across.  She says we have “to learn how to be grateful and happy, whether hands are full or hands are empty…to allow the losses (struggles) to be open places that we can look through the mess of this place and see God.”  
Paul said it first in Philippians…

“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”  Philippians 4:11-12

I am so thankful that we don’t have to have it figured out the first time, and that God allows us time to learn and to grow.  That through each struggle, time of plenty and time of loss, God does not abandon us, but instead He guides and comforts us by giving our pain a purpose even though we may not understand in that moment.  Nothing is a surprise to God. 

The difference between my past trials and the ones that are to come, is that God has better equipped me to handle them.  I now understand that I’m not alone, that God is looking out for my best interest and that depending on how I handle these coming moments, they are either going to shape or scar me….Lord, please let it be shape. 

I am challenging you (and I) that when a trial comes, and it will, that we will draw near to God, fix our eyes on Him, have faith, and choose joy. That when we fall, and we will, remember that we fall into the arms of a loving God who has chosen us, who will hold us tight as we get back up on our knees with thankfulness and renewed strength to better face the next tough moment.  

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

There's Hope For Happily Ever After

You know how everyone always talks about “that still small voice” of the Lord speaking to you? Yeah, yesterday was the opposite. The still small voice was a very obvious face-palm of “HEY, MEGAN, PAY ATTENTION AND LISTEN” straight from God delivered through the ever fabulous Rhonda Stoppe. Rhonda gave us some great advice for living a “No Regrets" marriage: peaceful, polite, predictable, purity, pretty, passionate, perfect love. Now I don’t know about you, but I struggle with every single one of those. 

Peaceful…Really? I have a two year old child, a two year old dog, and a husband who thinks he’s two. My house is the farthest thing from peaceful. However, Rhonda made me question the source of the lack of peace. Is it from having a two year old and a dog who love to be mischievous? Or is it because of me? Am I actually the one causing unnecessary strife in my family? I am a grudge holder. I was raised in an unforgiving household and I have, unfortunately, carried that over to my adult life. Romans 12:18 tells us, “So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” *sigh*

Polite…I grew up in the south where “yes ma’am, no sir” manners are second nature. The south is all about respect, but when it comes to marriage, I apparently lose all my senses. When you read the commandments of marriage, a husband is commanded to love his wife while a wife is commanded to RESPECT her husband. God knew we, as women, would love and nurture naturally. However, respect is something we must seek daily for our husbands. I have a hard time respecting my husband when I feel like I’m the only one that works 24/7 and I don’t receive any monetary compensation for this crazy job. If he was puked on, peed on, had to wipe butts, and clean up after people at work, he’d probably request a hefty raise. How can I respect someone when they don’t work nearly as hard as I do and they get paid for it?

Predictable…Ha! I laughed out loud at this one. I am so incredibly unpredictable because I am so fueled by my emotions, regardless of how irrational they may be. My husband truly walks on eggshells around me. I can see the hesitation in his eyes anytime I ask him to make a decision. He’s preparing for my angry explosion if he makes the “wrong” choice. In reality, I’m just completely irrational with unpredictable expectations. Some days I want the house spotless, some days I couldn’t care less.

Purity…This has been a struggle for me all my life. “If I hide iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayers” (Psalm 66:18). Basically, if you ruminate on all the wrongs your husband has done, God’s gonna get tired of hearing your complaining. I mean, I can’t speak about what He thinks, specifically, but that’s what this verse says to me. As we’ve already established, I’m a grudge holder. You can deduce how impure my heart is with harsh thoughts and feelings towards those who have done me wrong, namely, my husband.

Pretty…This is another laugh-out-loud one. Although it is nice to look good for your husband and whatnot, that’s not completely what this point was about. I mentioned at my table that MOPS is seriously the only time I wake up and get myself together and looking nice. Luckily for us, 1 Timothy 2:9 says dress nice, modestly, etc., but ALSO “by means of good works as befits a woman making a claim to godliness.” Rhonda spoke about a book that surveyed men about how they viewed women. The majority of men said that if a woman was confident in herself and recognized her self-worth and inner beauty, physical appearance did not matter as much. 

Passionate…This wasn’t so much a laugh-out-loud topic, as it was an internally-screaming-until-I-explode topic. Have sex with your husband. Seriously. Women crave emotional intimacy and love. Men are hard-wired for physical intimacy. A man will never truly be able to explain the deep connection that making love creates. I know this is hard to believe with society today, but given how the Bible speaks on the topic, I’d at least try to believe it. Sex with your husband is affirmation that he is successful and desired. When he signed up to be with you forever, he agreed to want only you and love only you. Don’t make him regret that decision by withholding intimacy from him. What would you do if he just didn’t care about how you receive intimacy and closeness from him? I think I’m going on three weeks without having sex with my husband. We’ve been going through a rough season, on top of illness. Maybe that’s why he seems so angry at me every day.

We’ve talked about steps to take to live a No Regrets Marriage, but I think the real application is in the last tip: Perfect Love

Perfect love comes only from our perfect Creator. I’m going to be real with you here because I really believe healing comes from truth. A few MOPS moms have watched me struggle with identity crisis, trying to find my worth in God instead of people. Rhonda Stoppe really spoke directly to my heart when she said that we put our husbands on a pedestal. We expect them to fill us and love us and be something to us that they were never designed to be. I think this is especially true for my situation. Most of my fights with my husband are about how I don’t think he did something the right way or he didn’t think of me when he did it. I expect him to love me in a way that is not possible for him. I expect him to be completely selfless and giving. 

While I know that God calls us to be Christ-like, I often forget that perfection from my husband is unattainable. I forget that I am not perfect either. I think that IF Ben was perfect, IF he did this or that, THEN I could be better, too. What I need to realize is that’s not the truth. 

*Deep breath*….Given my past and my chronic struggles of identity, I decided start going to Celebrate Recovery at Big Valley. I do not share this for sympathy or attention. I share this because I know how bad things have been for my marriage. I know how badly my pride has hindered our growth as a couple, especially towards Christ. I know how badly I need help. I know how close we have teetered towards divorce. Celebrate Recovery is not just about alcohol or chemical dependency. The tag line is ‘hurts, habits, and hang ups.’ I have never learned how to get over my past hurts. I have terrible habits of outbursts of anger, sometimes violent. I am hung up on not knowing my identity in Christ. In CR and in MOPS I have been told over and over again to love God above all else. When you love God with all that you are, His perfect love will flow from you. This is extremely hard for me. I have never had an extended exposure to Christ-centered marriages. I haven’t seen how others love God first and then love for their spouse comes second. Rhonda Stoppe said, “The secret to a happy marriage is not how much you love your husband, it’s how much you love your Lord.” 

I know every single person reading this has been hurt by someone they love dearly, someone they would die for, maybe you haven’t forgiven them. We all need to remember this, no matter how badly they have hurt you, how deep your wounds, it will never compare to our transgressions against our Father. It will never compare to the wounds inflicted upon Him. Yet, He loves us. He died for us. He FORGIVES us. If God can do that for us time and time again, especially with how deep we have wounded Him, can’t we forgive our husbands for not being perfect? Can’t we remember that our worth is in the One who gave His life for us? Can’t we remember that, though our husband is our life partner, our eternity is found in loving Christ above all else?

“When loving God becomes your passion, loving your husband for who he is – and not who you want him to be – will become a natural outpouring of your love for Christ. – Rhonda Stoppe

I love you all so much!

PS: God revealed this verse to me multiple times yesterday, so for anyone that needs it, know that mercy and love will be found from MOPS, even if your faith is wavering. Trust me, mine has and you loved me anyway.

Jude 1:22 “And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.” 

If you’re having a hard time trusting God or seeking Him, reach out. You don’t have to do this alone.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

True Colors

As soon as I layed my eyes on the title of the personality quiz this morning, 'True Colors' by Cyndi Lauper came to mind. Actually it was written by Phil Collins, but I hear Cyndi Lauper singing it! Did anyone else have this record as a kid? Yes, a record!

"But I see your true colors
Shining through"

What are our true colors? Who are we really? I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with these personality tests. As a wife and mama it is so easy to forget who I am. Am I just a person who feeds people and wipes butts all day?

So I find delight in taking a personality test and seeing a glimpse at who I am as a real living human person..Spontaneous, Eager, Optimistic, Enthusiastic, Warm and Bold!

"I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show"

It is so good to be encouraged by these positive attributes and remind myself that I am created in His image. My God is the creater of all things and He loves me so much that He gave me this personality for a reason!

"Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow"

The Hate side of these tests for me is feeling like I can only be that Orange/Blue girl. Don't box me in, personality quiz! At times we are all of these colors! The Holy Spirit is generous to lead us to be different things for different times. When someone is in pain, He helps me to be calm and collected, to be there for that person (which is not my go-to persona).

"If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there"

Be encouraged, dear Sisters! He has made you in His image. You are a unique, colorful rainbow. Trust that He has equipped you to serve Him in your own unique way. The Lord is faithful to provide everything we need in our current situation. So shine your light and your true colors!

"For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body" 1 Corinthians 12: 14-15


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Flourishing in the Dirt

Yesterday Dorothy Skiles proved that you can take something beautiful, like a flower, and jam it forcefully into a pot of dirt and cover it with moss, and it can actually become more beautiful.

As a woman who has had a black thumb forever, and will most likely to the end of time, I am in awe of gardeners; people who know plants, people who understand how to make things grow. 

But watching Dorothy, I was equally surprised at how easy it didn't look. And I forgave myself for not being able to do it well.  

I couldn't identify well with the gardener, but I understood the flower. I felt perfect in my little plastic pot with holes, and I was comfortable with my roots. I was alone, but I was happy. I didn't need to share my water, or be compared with another. 

And then Someone came along and pulled me up and ripped up my secure and intertwined roots and pushed me into a bigger place, in new soil, and surrounded me with other plants. And I felt so brutalized and small. 

What I didn't understand is that I would never continue to grow or thrive or flourish in that small plastic pot. I was not being fed. I would eventually die if left there. My beauty would not be seen or appreciated there. 

Someone else knew better for me. The uprooting is hard, isn't it? But the final picture changes my entire perspective. The pain of being pushed into another place, is overshadowed by the fact that there is where I will thrive. And the dirt that once suffocated me, feeds me. And the other plants that sometimes even tower above me, only serve to offset my beauty. 

There is purpose.

Being planted means being ripped up from what we know. It's not glamorous or comfortable. It's dirty, and scary, and confusing.

Like everything in life that's worth anything. Like Motherhood.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

First Day Flourishing

It was only the first meeting and it blew me away. Your smiles, the friendly chatter, meeting new moms, finding things in common, pretty colors, pretty faces.

It was just the beginning of this Flourishing gig. And you all made it. You showed up. I hope it was worth it for you; the early morning rush, the real clothes you had to put on, the getting of children in the car with bags and bottles, the forgotten cup of coffee on your counter because your brain couldn't handle even one more "I have to remember" (or was that just me...?). 

Sigh. That was a good cup of coffee too. But, you know what? I remembered my kids! So that's a win. I'm claiming that, no matter what anyone else says.

Also, that video, though. Can anyone else relate?

Don't hold back. Let the tears flow, mama. You're a mom, full of life and full of love. Motherhood is also full of pain, and struggle, and realities that only a fellow mom can understand. 

Maybe the hardest part of the struggle of motherhood is that we don't often stop and process anything; we are full speed ahead, taking care of these tiny people. They need us, and we would die for them. Loving another human that much takes a lot, and so we tire, and need our moments of rest.

Process here, fellow mom, in this room, with these other girls who get it. We're going to rest together, celebrate together, cry together, and flourish fiercely together.  

And it's going to be great. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Let's Flourish!

The summer is ending, you guys.

Maybe you're sad, maybe it went too fast for you. You wanted to get in that last camping trip, that last excursion to the beach; or you want more night swims and time with your family.

Or, maybe you're excited about fall because the heat makes you hate and loath and want to bite the heads off of your favorite people. I know nothing about this.

Last night the cool air blew through our windows and it held a promise. The promise of fall, cozy sweaters, pumpkin-flavored-everything, school for some of our kiddos... And MOPS!

I'm getting excited. I'm growing into this years theme, and I'm ready to flourish. I think the thing about "flourishing" is that in order to do so, you first need the right setting; you need feeding, love, care, attention. I don't know about you, but I give those things, and very little do I get anything similar back. In fact, often I feel quite empty and far from flourishing.

But this year, in spite of empty love tanks and empty stomachs, let's meet together and make a choice: let's flourish. Let's be brave, and get ready to be fed more than just a cup of cold coffee. Let's open ourselves up to fiercely loving each other into a place where flourishing no longer seems so hard.

Let's do this thing. See you all on Tuesday.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Mom of the Month - May

Our Mom of the Month for May is....

Amanda B!

1.) Who's in your family?
Me, my husband Dean, & Liam (18months)

2.) What is your favorite thing about MOPS?
Making new friends, "It Works For Me", & breakfast!

3.) Describe a favorite childhood memory.
Riding big wheels and just generally being up to no good with my sister and cousins at our grandparents' house.

4.) Who was your favorite teacher, and why?
Mrs. Little- 4th grade. She was so beautiful and elegant and had really pretty handwriting on the chalkboard. I wanted to be just like her.

5.) What is your favorite sweet treat (and your favorite tooth paste)?
That's a hard one, it's hard to pick just one. But, I'm gonna have to go with angel food cake with fresh, real whipped cream. Toothpaste -haha! I like good ole Crest. I prefer the one that has Scope in it.

6.) If you had a day all to yourself, what would you do?
I would go the city (SF) and get a hotel room all to myself, sleep in, take my time getting ready, shop and eat yummy food. Lots of it.

7.) What is one piece of advice that you can give to our MOPS group?
Don't be afraid to go after what you want in life. Dreams can come true if you trust in God and are willing to put the work in. Sometimes, they end up looking a little different than we envisioned, but it's all well worth it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

"It Works for Me!" - Jill's Table

"It Works for Me!" - Jill's Table

Jill M: Make "Tooth Fairy Preparedness" a breeze! Jill bought 20 of the $1 gold coins from the bank and stores them in a safe. Every time her kiddos lose a tooth, she goes to the safe and puts one under their pillow! 

Amy F: She had terrible morning sickness when she was pregnant with her 2nd child, and her son liked to wake up early. Amy bought some time in the morning by preparing the night before! She packed a small ice chest with a sippy cup of milk, a bag of cheerios, and juice. She set it by her bed with some toys and the t.v. remote. The next morning, her son could eat his breakfast, play, and watch cartoons while she rested a little bit longer! 

Samantha W: For easy iced coffee, brew a cup the night before and stick it in the fridge. Pour it over ice the next morning! 

Melissa S: Her friend is her own personal "StitchFix!" She shops for her, her husband, and her daughter!

Kathryn F: Ava Anderson's non-toxic diaper cream works for anything and everything. It works for acne, eczema, ect. Sometimes, she even uses it on her baby!  

Teresa A: Downey Wrinkle Releaser works for her! Just spray your clothes, pull on the wrinkles, hang, and let dry! It's your new iron! 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

4 Brave Mamas

           Oh my goodness Mamas, yesterday was powerful! Four AMAZING women shared their MOPS testimonies, and I balled like a baby. Seriously, I don't even know if I can read my notes, they are covered in tears. What struck me the most when I heard each woman share their unique story, was how much I related to all of them. I was like 'Yay they're as messy as me!' And then in discussion time, I found that others at my table had messy stories too, beautiful messes!
         First to share was the funny and beautiful Mama, Megan. She was so brave to go up on stage and keep it real! I really admired her transparency. She shared her struggles as a new believer, and then as a new Mama. Megan had Post Partum depression and struggled with anger. When she first joined MOPS, she felt the need to "Fake it till I make it," but God kept reminding her to trust Him. Through coming to MOPS, God used some women to rally around Megan through encouragement and unconditional love. Today, she is so thankful for God, her family, and MOPS. Megan shared how she is the youngest Mama we have in our group, but I feel like God has given her great wisdom. Her words of encouragement for us are "Trust God, be honest, and ask for help. He will send the right people into your life, you only need to let them love you."

      Next up to share is the magnanimous Katie. The second I met Katie, her warmth made me feel like I had known her for years. I would have never expected she had such a trial in her life. Katie shared about being separated from her family, feeling isolated and having a marriage that was falling apart. When she first came to MOPS, she had fears of being judged. But no one ever judged her, and she felt loved. She was able to share with her table leader her struggles, and that she was on the verge of packing up and leaving her husband. Her table leader was there for her and gave her godly wisdom. Through counseling and our Great God, her marriage is better than ever today, and her husband became a believer last year! Praise the Lord!
I am so impressed by Katie's trust in God and her ability to share with her table leader. Katie's advice to us is to "Ask for help and open up. Without these moms, I wouldn't be with my husband or have my family." Thank you, Katie, for being so brave!

      Next up is someone I call a friend and was instrumental in bringing me to MOPS. The lovely and sweet Amy. Amy also struggled with Post Partum Depression and feelings of loneliness. Her mentor recommended she join MOPS, and like our sisters above she hesitated at first. But when she came she realized "I am somewhere where people are kind of not okay too." She also shared about her battle as a perfectionist. The Lord revealed to her...."Amy, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you, it matters what God thinks of you." So true Mama! Amy is on leadership at MOPS. On of the best pieces of advice I thought she shared was that she turned her focus outward to serve others. Instead of looking inward like depression makes us do, MOPS gave her an outlet to serve others and focus on them. Amy's brave advice for us is to "Just take a baby step out of your comfort zone!" and " We are all moms trying to figure it out, all wanting to do the best for our kids." So refreshing to hear!!!

  Last, but certainly not least, is one of the funnest and funniest chics I know. I am thankful that I have been blessed to get to know her this year. She's the wonderful Ms. Teresa. Teresa had a tumultuous childhood that consisted of her parents divorcing, her mother's addiction to prescription drugs, and her step father abusing her mother. As a young girl she would tell God she hated him, and she learned to bury her feelings inside herself. This led to lack of trust, low self worth, and surfacey friendships. Teresa joined MOPS with her guard up. She was beginning to let them down and then she found out she was pregnant with her third child, while her second one was only 5 months old. She was devastated and began to put her walls back up. But you awesome MOPS moms opened your hearts to her and those walls came back down! God is so good! Teresa's last statements were so powerful I just need to share them all with y'all. "We are all broken. We need communities like MOPS to let our walls down." "I feel safe sharing my real self. Never did I think I could have these friendships." And my most favorite of her wise words "He loves me, He never left me. Even in dark days, He never left me!" Wow!

       Sorry I wrote a book, you guys, but I really feel the Lord saying through these Mamas, be open and share your hearts with each other. Each one of these women were apprehensive about joining MOPS. It was scary to all of them. Being real and truthful was scary to them too. But, just think how different their stories would be if they didn't reach out. Look at the Bravery of these women in spite of their fears. And, look how the Lord used their stories to encourage us to reach out. The enemy wants us to stay home and hide our fears deep inside ourselves. But our Great Father provides sisters to share with, give and receive love from, and know we are not alone. That deserves a Hallelujah!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April Mom of the Month (M.O.M.)!

Our April Mom of the Month is....

Cyndi D!!!

1.) Who's in your family?

Myself, my husband Walt, Grace 4 1/2, Emily 3, Wade 6m.

2.) What is your favorite thing about MOPS?

My favorite thing about MOPS would have to be getting to know other moms & learning that I am not alone in raising my kids.

3.) What is your favorite family activity?

Saturdays are my favorite...when Walt doesn't have to work, we go to Mr. T's for donuts, then take the kids to the park to play & then go home & spend the afternoon hanging out in our front yard visiting with the neighbors & enjoying family time.

4.) If you could hang out with any celebrity for the day, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

The only person I can come up with would be Sarah Drew (Mom's Night Out, Grey's Anatomy) She seems like she would be really fun & I really admire her values in the hollywood industry.

5.) Describe a fun childhood memory.

I love camping, so my fun childhood memories involve lots of camping trips...we have gone camping many places, but every summer we go to a place called Sly Creek Reservoir with my immediate family & my aunt & uncle and their 2 boys...we have been going to this same place for at least 14 years and we enjoy taking our wakeboard boat with us...there are so many memories that we have made there together!

6.) What is one piece of advice that you can offer to our group?

I try to remember to give myself & others grace. So, if I don't get everything done around the house (laundry, cleaning, etc...)I try not to be too hard on myself. I try to do the same with my husband & kids too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Being Brave To... Love Extravagantly

I don't make space in my life for extravagant love.

Most of the time I'm just trying to get dinner on the table by 6:00, my kids to bed on time, and to school with clean clothes and a lunch.

My baby needs diaper changes, and feedings, and naps -- preferably not in the car, but that's often how they happen.

At yesterday's meeting, listening to Bob Goff speak, I had tears. The kind of love he was talking about seems so far away to me; so amazing, but nearly impossible.

I'm surviving here. My days are a series of distractions. How do I love my kids this way? How do I love my husband like that?

If I think about it for long enough, I realize it's not necessarily all the "to-do's" in my life keeping me from going the extra mile.

It's fear.

Bob spoke about this in reference to his story about "four-footer" and the boy's miraculous recovery from a horrific attack by evil men. The boy knew that God was bigger than his enemy. And he was not afraid.

What am I afraid of? What are we, as moms trying to make it through the day, afraid of? What keeps us from loving extravagantly? Because, let's not forget that we love already. We love greatly. We love our kids and husbands by our scheduling, our dinner-making, our early-rising. We love them by meeting their needs, don't we?

I don't feel capable of more right now, to be honest; but I don't have to do this alone. I can not love this way, but God can. And He does. He loves us beyond just meeting our basic needs, doesn't He? He loves unconditionally, and without reservation. He loved us when we were still lost.

Keeping these three things forefront in our minds, we can also love that way, and encourage greatness in our kids:

1. Instead of telling people how far they have to go, what if we tell them how far they've come? Often we strive to "encourage" our kids, or our friends, or our husbands -- and instead of doing that, the complete opposite is accomplished. Let's tell them what they have done already! Let's encourage them in how far they've already climbed! Because the road is long, and life has steep slopes. When we feed this kind of speech into others, they will remember how far they've come and be encouraged to keep going!

2. Tell people WHO they are, not WHAT they are. I gave an example to my table yesterday of my oldest daughter. She's 7, and her personality... challenges me. She can be disorganized, and irresponsible. She loses things and blames others for her problems. Often we tell her what we want from her: Be more organized! Take responsibility! And honestly, I don't see this helping her. She gets discouraged, and beaten down. I see her spirit wilt under the weight of our scrutiny. What I have rarely done, and should do MUCH more, is encourage her strengths. She is creative, and loving. She tries hard to please her parents and teachers. She protects and loves her sisters and brother. These are words she needs to give her courage when life is hard. Some tasks will always be a challenge for this girl; but I want her to be confident in her strengths so she has the energy to also take on those hard things. Bob Goff said it this way: "Stop manipulating -- don't tell them what you want, tell them what you see in them, what they are turning into." What we want for our kids, isn't always what they will be, and it isn't always what God wants for them.

3. If you want to bring out extravagant things in your kids, do extravagant things. Keep in mind, that what is extravagant in my life may look different than what it is in yours. Don't define "extravagant" according to another person or another family. You don't need to pull your kids out of school and travel the globe in order to love them like this! But wasn't that an amazing story to hear? It really did encourage me that nothing is impossible. I can wake up on a Saturday, and choose to say "Yes, why not?" to my six-year-old and her list of places to go that day. I can write notes of encouragement and put it in my kids lunches. I can say "so what?" to my list of to-do's, and instead play a game with my kids, even if it's close to bedtime. I can choose to say a big NO to fear, and YES to joy.

Also, I think as moms, we get lost, too. We forget that there were once extravagant things we wanted for ourselves! Paths, dreams, hobbies -- we put them on the back burner. And they've since gone cold.  Don't you think your kids would be encouraged to see you enjoying your life? Doing something brave, going somewhere further? I think so.

I'm going to think about that for myself, and I challenge you to do the same. Our extravagance doesn't have to take us to other countries, but it can still take us on journeys we may have never known.

Be brave, ladies. And even when this MOPS year ends, and this theme of "Be You, Bravely" is no longer, still be brave. Make it your life's work. Being a mom is no small task, and loving extravagantly is not the easiest path, and having goals beyond breakfast may threaten to overwhelm. Still, be brave. I'm right there with you. We all are.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

God Author of Forgiveness

   I don't know about y'all (forgive the Texas affectation), but it is easy for me to go down that familiar rabbit trail of holding on to all the wrongs that have ever been done to me. We all have past hurts. For me it's a mother's on going addiction, betrayal by friends, men that used me, and most recently, leaving a ministry that was spiritually abusive. Life can be HARD. But God has a way of gently reminding us that He is in control. This time HE used the lovely Julie Westfall to remind me of that truth.

( me holding onto bitterness)

           If you missed our MOPs meeting Tuesday we had a video before Julie shared with us. The video featured a couple who struggled with forgiveness, stemming from past infidelities and how they were able to overcome those issues. What struck me most was when the woman featured in the video, Trisha Davis, shared this: "True forgiveness you offer to a person regardless of their response. You win! You let go of bitterness. Every time you choose forgiveness, you choose healing. I'm not going to let this control my life anymore." After hearing this, the Lord showed me that not forgiving is a control issue. I think if I just hold on to this righteous anger I can control the situation so that this person can't hurt me anymore. But forgiveness is letting go and letting God take control. So freeing.

           After the video, Julie spoke and it was so encouraging! I just had to--embarrassment be darned--shout out 'Amen' at one point. My favorite part was when Julie shared from Matthew 18. We are called to limitless forgiveness. 7 x 70 times. This is not a mathematical equation, it's a call to ALWAYS forgive. God has it under control! She shared a K-LOVE quote, "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die". Wow! It is so true how bitterness and anger only hurts ourselves. As people we want justice and we want fairness, but we have to remember to trust Him. Our God is a god of righteousness.

            Let's face it, forgiveness can be hard, but when we start to focus on the things above instead of the things below it gets easier. The Bible states 'the wages of sin is death'. The wages of MY sin is MY eternal death. I do not deserve forgiveness. If Christ died so that I may live eternally with Him in heaven, can't I forgive another for smaller offenses?
"For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Romans 5.10,11
          This Easter let's daily ask the Holy Spirit to help us keep our hearts focused on Him and not ourselves, remembering the price Christ paid for us. He is Risen!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It Works for ME! -- From the Hot Pink (Soma) & Light Pink (Dana) Table

Connie C - When you have an evening out at a friend's house, bring your kiddos' toothbrushes! They can brush their teeth before you leave, and then you don't have to worry about it when they fall asleep on the car ride home! 

Courtney V - Star charts for attitude checks, chores, and counting practice! She loves the chart by Melissa and Doug! Tip: Michael's carries many Melissa & Doug products & always has a weekly couple of 40-50% off a regular priced item. You can get your chart at a discounted rate! 

Soma D - Always carries a zip-up blanket in the trunk of her car. This works great for park play dates, Concert-in-the-Park, ect. Use a Bed, Bath, & Beyond coupon that always comes in the paper or mail to save $ on your purchase. 

Laura P - She keeps her kid's pajamas in a drawer in the bathroom, so they are ready to go after bath time!

Jessica D - She gives her kids cod liver oil (lemon flavored), vitamin D & C, & probiotics to stay healthy during the winter. She's a mom of 4, and she likes to steer clear of the doctor's office! 

Melissa B - Makes her bed every single day! This brings a sense of calm to her day, it inspires the kids to make their bed too, and if the rest of the house is a least the bed is made! 

Della B - When your kids go to school, carpool! In 5 years of carpool, her kids have never been late to school because each carpool mom is accountable to each other! Also, if you run into a car emergency, one of the other moms can help you out! 

Katie - She keeps a journal on hand in her family room to write the funny things her kids say! 

Diane - She uses a sweater shelf to lay out a weeks worth of clothing for her kids!

Zelda - She uses a portable potty called the "Potette Plus!" It comes with disposable baggies liners, and it's great for road trips. It cost around $13 at Babies R Us! 


Caryn L - She wants to instill a love of reading into her daughter, so she found that the best time to reads books to her is after nap time while she's still waking up!

Christine C - She loves a clean house! She's found that an irobot vacuum cleaner and a Hurricane Spin Mop works for her! 

Megan O - She suggests making your own Moby wrap by purchasing 5 yards of fabric & cutting it lengthwise down the middle! Moby wraps = great bonding time.

DeAndra T -  Changed her attitude from serving her family to serving the Lord. 

Dana D - While she makes dinner, her boys each get a special activity! The older brother gets to play with kinetic self-sticking sand (from Brookstone), while the younger brother plays with an empty/clean Parmesan cheese container & q-tips! This keeps them entertained for a bit while she makes dinner. The sand isn't messy, and the youngest enjoys putting the q-tips in the container over...and over again!