Please Join Me!

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Each weekday on Alpha Childbirth’s Facebook page, I am writing a devotional centered around a weekly word.  I want to devote my mothering to God.  If you do too, join me as we all become #DevotingMothers.

I promise to give you a thought, reflection or prayer that you can easily stick in your heart and mind as you go about your busy day.

If Facebook isn’t your thing, or you prefer to have the devotionals sent to your email, all you need to do is head over to Alpha Childbirth and subscribe at the bottom of the page to have devos sent directly to you each and every Friday morning.

 

Are You Heeding the Warning?

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In the book of Mark, Chapter 8, verses 14-21 Jesus is talking to his disciples while traveling and uses yeast to teach a valuable lesson. Jesus and crew have just left a crowd of people that Jesus had been teaching. He had done a repeat performance of miraculously feeding a large group of people with a few loaves and small fish, and is now back on a boat with just his disciples. Bread was on the minds of the men with Jesus, as they were now getting hungry themselves. At this moment, with stomachs rumbling, Jesus takes the moment to impart wisdom instead of nosh. He says to the disciples, in verse 15, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” The Message’s version of the passage adds in the word “contaminating” to describe the yeast of these groups of people.

In typical fashion, the disciples seem to ignore this warning from Jesus and instead, argue amongst themselves about who forgot to pack the bread. But let us not ignore the warning, mommas. What am I putting into my life and my mind that seems so small but has the power to grow and expand just like yeast? Am I allowing myself to be contaminated with the yeast of the world or am I feeding on the word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit?

Read more at Alpha Childbirth

When God Interrupts

IMG_3261Last week I sat down to write my weekly blog post for Alpha Childbirth and I was highjacked. Right then and there at my laptop. I had my topic, my thoughts, my coffee. I was ready. And then God showed up. My nice and tidy post about how we teach nutrition was totally infiltrated by the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Thoughts were flying at me as I continued to type away my planned topic. I went ahead and posted on how we teach nutrition (what does that say about how thick headed I am?). But this past week God just wouldn’t let it go (I’m stubborn, but He’s off the grid on holding to His standards…).

So, this week, I’m going to share with you what God has been quietly and not so subtly reminding me.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take your complete reliance on God seriously.

I am not a self-made woman. I am not in control of my own life, let alone my children’s lives. As much as I can plan for the future, I can’t finalize the outcomes. Even when I do everything right (which is about never) life just may not go the way I want it to. Life is messy, unpredictable, hard and unstable much of the time. It will always be that way here on earth. It will be that way for me, for my children, for future generations.

As we say in the texting world…ugh.

But there’s this incredible hope that we can’t lose sight of. It makes the reality I just spit out at you much more palatable. It’s the second part of what God keeps telling me. God is self-made. He is in control of my life, as well as my children’s. He does finalize outcomes. God is right 100% of the time.

The crazy part of living in complete reliance on God is knowing that what He wants for me still may feel messy, unpredictable, hard and seemingly unstable. Maybe, because when I feel those things, I cling to Him and no other.

Realizing this for yourself is one thing, but it takes it to an entirely new level when thinking about your children. And this is where I want us to land, mommas. When we become pregnant and start dreaming of our children’s lives, we don’t even want to think about the times that may be difficult. We naturally want the best for our kids, right from the very start in utero. But the reality is, the best might not always be the best. I ultimately don’t want kids that grow up thinking everything is going to go perfectly all the time. I don’t want kids that think I can fix everything or that they themselves can make everything ok. I don’t want self reliant kids….I want God reliant kids.

When I wrote last week’s nutrition post what kept going through my mind was that I didn’t want to give readers the impression that if they just ate perfectly – I mean all lean protein and leafy greens with no hot fudge sundaes or Doritos – every aspect of their baby’s development and their own health was guaranteed to be successful. That’s just not the case. Yes, be responsible and try your very best! But don’t believe the lie that you can control all the variables and outcomes in your child’s life right from the start.

As I was mulling this over, my husband and I were walking through our incredibly safe and idyllic summer community talking about how wonderful it is for our children to have freedom to roam and play, and at that exact moment, a child on a bike came quickly rounding the hill and crashed into a car just starting to move after stopping at a stop sign. I literally saw this 7 or 8 year old bounce off of the car hood into the street. Thank God, he was safe and it was the bike that took the beating. But there was my reminder. A visual I still can’t get out of my head. I’m not in control of it all and I never will be.

The same week, I heard word that a family from my church lost their 20 year old son to a drug overdose. Then, I spoke to a dear friend who’s teen daughter was caught in a lie, years in the making, that is shattering her momma’s trust and straining relationships as well as plans for the future. These are good families with strong Christian faith. Moms and dads that love their children well, pray for their kids and live Godly lives. Reminders that parenthood is not for the faint at heart, and everyone one of us here on earth screws up, makes mistakes and needs Jesus as our savior.

Pastor Andy Stanley has a fabulous teaching series called Future Family in which he describes the tension we all have to live with; the tension between “the real and the ideal”. God sets the ideal standard of what our families are to look like and we should do our very best to live out that ideal. Right from the start as you are carrying your baby in utero, try to eat well, exercise, prepare for birth and pray for your baby. But know that none of us live up to the standards. We all fall short of God’s glory. “The real” looks more like only sneaking a Snickers bar twice a week, or yelling at your husband to fold his own darn underwear because you are sleep deprived caring for a six week old, or melting down alongside your toddler in the Target (all real life examples from my own life). “The real” may be more serious faults that we need to ask forgiveness for, fight against for years and experience loss over. But in all of it, if we rely on God and not on our own strength, we are where we are supposed to be.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take your complete reliance on God seriously.

God reminds us. For us and for our children.

20 Simple Ways to Make Summer Special For You & Your Kids

I recently read a blog post someone had shared on their Facebook feed listing a bunch of local, kid-friendly, free summer attractions. Reading it got me brainstorming all of the things we can do with our our kids during our precious summer days.

Some of my sweetest memories as a kid were during summer break. There’s a more relaxed vibe, a looseness about the days that allow for fun, connection and experiential learning to come into our lives and stick in our memories. I want my own kids to come out of childhood with their own special summer retrospection. These days are not to be wasted. They are to be relished. Savored. Remembered.

That said, summer doesn’t need to be a big production. Moms get to be refreshed and renewed too! There’s major value in teaching our children self-sufficiency – for both themselves as well as us mommas. Requiring work as well as self-directed downtime will benefit your kids throughout their lifetime.

Finally before I get to the list, remember to lower your expectations if you’re like most of today’s mommas and find yourself on Pinterest or doing the Facebook comparisons. That adorable project that they say you’ll really want to hang on your wall may just look like a preschooler made it (they did!) and your BFFs kid’s picture she just posted makes him look absolutely adorable, smart and loving towards mom…when know that two seconds later he had an all out melt down but that wasn’t shared. Kids will be kids and moms will have breakdowns of their own. It’s ok! You are human (and so are your littles). Enjoy the sweet moments and breathe deeply through the ugly. We are all in the same boat!

So in this spirit, here’s my summer fun list in no particular order…

  1. kid-friendly summer ideasLet your kids experience something they aspire to.

    For little kids this is often really exciting and easy on mom. Find a construction site, bring a blanket for a not-too-far-off spot and watch them build for awhile, take note of when the garbage man comes and let your little guy watch them haul it away, take a walk to the fire house and marvel at the fire trucks. Will this be their true profession? Who knows! But for a preschooler this is awesome fun! Up the ante and bake cookies (or buy some) for your child to give to these hard workers.

  2. Go on a woods walk.

    There’s lots of Forest Preserves in the area that are worth exploring. They are a quick drive and free! Head out with a mission to spot a butterfly, certain type of tree or water source and just explore for a bit. Many have wonderful bike paths to go for a ride or a roll. All of the Will County sites are listed at http://www.reconnectwithnature.org.

  3. Plant love bombs

    A friend of mine asked for people to do random acts of kindness on her birthday a few years ago instead of giving her gifts. Such a neat idea! Ever since, the kids and I have randomly planted the occasional love bomb and we enjoy it immensely. The ideas are never ending but a few to get your creative juices flowing…have your kids draw pictures and make cards to cheer people up and put them on the the windshields of cars in a hospital parking lot, bring cookies or $5.00 gift cards to your favorite grocery store worker or school administrator (the front office of school typically works most of the summer), buy $1 helium balloons at the dollar store and hand them out to kids you don’t know at a park (of course, ask mom first). You can even attach a bible verse that your kids help pick out.

  4. Be a secret encourager

    My daughter’s ballet studio assigns secret encouragers when the students are getting close to a performance. The girls write encouraging notes and leave an occasional piece of candy or small gift for each other. Why not do this for a neighbor during the summer? The kids can write the notes and run over when they notice no one’s home. Sneaky fun that’s positive!

  5. Do a messy project outsidekid-friendly summer ideas

    Kids love science experiments or art projects? Take them outside and there’s less mess for mom to worry about! Sit in the grass or on a cheap oilcloth and have some fun. We love to make slime in the summer (the kids even sold it and made some ice cream money one year!). Here’s the recipe http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/glue-borax-gak.

  6. Visit someone else’s living room

    My kids love Ikea (I do too). Visit on a Tuesday after 11:00 a.m. and the kids eat free! Kids can either visit the staffed kids area and you shop on your own, or keep the kids with you and let them play house in all of the staged rooms. Check out www.ikea.com for more information.

  7. See a movie

    The bargain movie theaters seem to be going the way of the dinosaur in our area but several theaters are offering $5.00 movie ticket Tuesdays. Both Cinemark Theaters (locally at the Joliet Louis Mall) and Marcus Theaters (locally Orland Park on LaGrange Road) provide this deal. Find more information here http://www.cinemark.com/discounts-discount-day and http://marcustheatres.com/Promotion/PromotionDetail/92/.

  8. Start a book club

    My kids know that I love my monthly book club. So why not make them feel grown up and encourage them to read by starting a book club of their own? If they are old enough, have them select a book of interest and invite friends to join them. Host a book club for them with plenty of snacks and help with creating (or finding on-line) discussion questions. Or, have a family book club where you all read something together and then talk about it.

  9. Get creative with the bible

    I have an artist friend involved in leading a bible study in which you not only read God’s word, but create art based on the bible as well. What a fun way to engage children of any age! Read a passage of scripture together with your children and then have everyone create artwork based on a verse or verses. You can get fancy with canvas and paint, or just crayons and markers will do.

  10. Grow a garden

    kid-friendly summer ideasWe plant a small garden every year and the kids do like to help tend it as well as eat from it (well, at least my kid that likes vegetables). This year, they saw blueberry bushes as the store and instead of saying no, I let them get a few. They are having fun watching them grow and produce one of their favorite foods!

  11. Be a roving reporter

    Have your kids become a reporter to investigate something they are interested in. After they research the facts and conduct interviews, they can write up the news report in written form, or video tape themselves in an on-air broadcast. All it takes is your phone! I love the idea (we will be doing it this summer) of having kids interview their grandparents to find out what it was like to be a kid when they were growing up and obtain stories about their family history. This can turn into a cherished family heirloom!

  12. Camp in the backyard

    There’s nothing like s’mores and stories told around the campfire. Even better in my opinion if there’s a clean indoor toilet and a comfortable bed nearby. Have the kids (and maybe dad) sleep outdoors if you have a tent and you can be indoors if you prefer. Some of my best childhood memories are camping all around the country, so do this too.

  13. Walk to an ice cream shop

    kid-friendly summer ideasSummer and ice cream are made for each other. I bet there’s an ice cream shop you can walk to, even if it is just Dairy Queen or McDonald’s. We are lucky enough to have a yummy local shop, Cool Creations, walking distance from our house. I love when we all have cones in our hands and are licking away!

  14. Write a postcard to someone you love.

    Letter writing is becoming a lost art. Encourage your littles to learn how to write a handwritten letter by grabbing some postcards (even if they are from your area) and sending them to a friend or loved one. In the letter, ask that person to write back and you’ve got a pen pal.

  15. Have a tea party or fancy dinner

    Another lost art? Proper etiquette. Teach your children how to properly set the table and behave as a gentleman or young lady while having fun. Plan a fancy tea party or a nice dinner complete with flowers from your yard, a table cloth and the good china (come on, get it out!). Have the kids make menus and serve the adults before they sit down at the table. My kids totally get a kick out of this…from menu planning, to décor, to serving. Not sure about proper etiquette yourself? Check out a book at the library!

  16. Say hi to a furry friend

    Visit a petting farm, zoo or even the local pet store. When my kids were younger, we considered it an official outing to go to PetSmart and look at the dogs, cats, fish and gerbils.

  17. Host a board game tourney

    Invite a few friends over for a board game tournament. Have some simple snacks and a few prizes for the winners and game time is elevated to an all-out event!

  18. Do some good for others

    If you have grade-school kids or older two great organizations that welcome helpers are Feed My Starving Children in Aurora and Ronald McDonald Houses around area children’s hospitals. You need to schedule in advance, but you may still have time to plan a great day and make a meaningful impact. Check them out at https://www.fmsc.org and http://www.rmhc.org/get-involved.

  19. Celebrate our days

    Did you know that there is a National Go Fishing Day? Or a National Chocolate Ice Cream Day? I didn’t either until I found http://nationaldaycalendar.com/calendar-at-a-glance. This site gives you a comprehensive list of all the “fun, unusual and forgotten designations on the calendar” which is perfect for creating a celebration out of just about anything!

  20. Learn a new life skillkid-friendly summer ideas

    Summer is the perfect time to teach kids life skills. Work each week on learning how to cook, do laundry, cut the grass, knit…the list goes on and on. Even three and four years olds can start to learn skills that will give them confidence and actually help you (eventually). Teach little ones how to sort laundry, unload groceries and dust. Each year older, they can have more responsibility. My friend Nadia Swearingen-Friesen has written an excellent and practical little book called Sticks that gives you ideas on how to get all ages and stages to participate in your family. Get your copy or read in e-book form here http://www.amazon.com/Sticks-Practical-Reduce-Improve-Discipline-ebook/dp/B00WZWMSLK/.

I hope these ideas, alongside the old standbys of pools, beaches, vacations and library visits will help you and your kids have a great summer in which memories are created. Enjoy every last warm and sunny day!

Pray Like Hannah: 3 Ways to Up Your Prayer Life As a Mom

 

Pray Like Hannah, prayer life, trusting God, praying as a momHannah’s story is found in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. It’s right there in the beginning, starting in Chapter 1. The book 1 Samuel, as well as 2 Samuel, is named after Hannah’s son, who becomes a prophet for God and the last judge before Israel’s clamoring for a king causes God to appoint Saul, using Samuel in the appointment.

Imagine….your son becoming an influential national leader and more importantly, an instrumental player in God’s greater kingdom. Two books of the Holy bible named after the child that you diapered and rocked to sleep! Mind blowing.

But Hannah’s story doesn’t start off with the glory and honor I’ve just described. It begins with a desperate woman who shows multiple signs of depression. A married woman who must share her husband with another woman. A lonely woman being harassed for not being able to conceive a child. In the ancient culture Hannah lived, there wasn’t another direction a woman could take; no career path to give her satisfaction outside of motherhood. Each day, she was the wife that couldn’t cut it, didn’t produce and clearly wasn’t fit to have God bestow the gift of children on her. Although her husband did love her, the lack of a family of her own grieved her own heart and soul.

Here’s where in many stories the bitterness sets in, the anger rises, the isolation takes hold and a woman is crushed in spirit. But Hannah does it differently. She certainly feels the bitterness, anger and isolation, but she takes it to God in prayer.

#1: Hannah takes all of her ugly feelings and raw emotions to God in prayer.
Hannah was not afraid to share her full range of emotions with her Maker. The text says she was so overtaken in inaudible prayer that the temple priest thought she was drunk! Just think about that – she must of looked pretty disheveled, messed up and out of sorts for the priest to confront her, assume she was drunk, and command her to “get rid of your wine.”

I experienced infertility for several years before having my daughter. I remember the questions for God, the anger welling up, the disappointment and heartache. I remember standing in a dear friend’s kitchen, her hugging me and telling me that this is where I had to decide if I was going to trust God. It was a decision. It wasn’t an easy decision or one made without lots of ugly emotions. Just like Hannah, I was raw with God and shared it all. And you know what? I grew deep in my faith. Years have past, and at this point I can say that I cherish that time; I don’t regret going through the drought because it caused me to dig deeper with God in order to find His refreshment.

For you, it may be infertility, or a struggling child, or a painful marriage. What will you do with your rage and disappointment? Who will you become when God says no? My guess is you will get angry, be full of sorrow and struggle with questions because you are an imperfect human like the rest of us. The greater question is will you travel through your experience alone or with God.  Hannah chose God. She drew close instead of laying blame. Will you?

#2: Hannah truly understood that her child was not her own.
If you continue reading 1 Samuel 1 you’ll read that God provides for Hannah’s greatest longings and Hannah gives birth to a son she names Samuel. In her prayers for a child she vowed to God, “if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayers and give me son, then I will give him back to you.”

Hannah holds true to her word and a few short years after Samuel’s birth, she takes him to the Tabernacle and gives him to the priest to raise saying, “I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” (1 Sam 1:27-28)

I haven’t been called to hand my children over to the local priest. Fortunately! But, who do my children ultimately belong to? The Lord. They aren’t my own. I have the privilege to love and care for them; to speak into their lives, but they are not my possessions to control. This is hard for me to really take hold of, but I know it’s truth. My children are only with me for a short time. To remind myself ( my kids think this is for them), I say at bedtime, “Mom loves you very much…and Jesus loves you even more.”

And that takes me to Hannah’s prayer of praise found in 1 Samuel 2. Imagine just dropping your small child off to a priest for a life-long “camp” experience (when I was a kid I couldn’t make it through one week of overnight camp in late elementary school!) To say I’d be a mom basket case is a gross understatement. The bible says instead of coming unglued, Hannah worshipped the Lord. She prayed a beautiful prayer that is all about God and his justice and mercy. Wow.

#3: Hannah worships God and gives Him praise in the good, the bad, the everything.
I’m not even close to being at this point in my own life. But I’m striving towards giving God all praise even when I don’t like what’s happening. When you read Hannah’s prayer you’ll see that she acknowledges that life’s less than perfect; she’s not naïve or brainwashed. She’s simply devoted to her Maker above all else. She’s trusting in Him for everything – including her own child.

Then Hannah prayed:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord!
The Lord has made me strong.
Now I have an answer for my enemies;
I rejoice because you rescued me.
No one is holy like the Lord!
There is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
“Stop acting so proud and haughty!
Don’t speak with such arrogance!
For the Lord is a God who knows what you have done;
he will judge your actions.
The bow of the mighty is now broken,
and those who stumbled are now strong.
Those who were well fed are now starving,
and those who were starving are now full.
The childless woman now has seven children,
and the woman with many children wastes away.
The Lord gives both death and life;
he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.
The Lord makes some poor and others rich;
he brings some down and lifts others up.
He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s,
and he has set the world in order.
“He will protect his faithful ones,
but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone.
Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven;
the Lord judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king;
he increases the strength of his anointed one.”

The Birth of Something New

Welcome to my brand new site!  Boy, have I learned a lot these past few weeks about properly developing a website, using social media in marketing,  search engine optimization, how to develop an email list, what’s an infographic? and the list goes on and on.  Seriously, my brain is overloaded.  I’m waking up thinking about this stuff – in the middle of the night no less.

All along as I’ve celebrated my little successes and had pity-parties when I couldn’t quite figure it out I’ve had the eery feeling that this roller coaster ride is one I’ve been on before.  And then it hit me.  Yes.  I’m giving birth to something new all over again.

This new venture isn’t quite as cute and squishy as my two children were when starting out (now 10 and almost 12 years old!) but there are similarities.

When we birth a baby and start the amazing the adventure of parenthood IT’S A RIDE.  Not one we should take alone.  When pregnant, I advise a momma to gather her people; those in her life that will give her encouragement, support and love.  Those that will tell her she can do it – even through the morning sickness (that may be 24/7), the fatigue,  the ever-expanding waistline, and the continual doubt that she will be a good mom.  In my new adventure of taking This Momma Knows to the next level, I have gathered my people and they’ve been my own private cheerleaders even when I’m crazy talking (and yes, that includes my very patient husband).

I didn’t just need the cheerleading squad, but some experts (thanks Cas McCullough) who don’t love me, but know what they are doing in this field!  As we are preparing for birth, mommas need these experts too.  I’m always flabbergasted when I hear a momma tell me that she isn’t going to take a childbirth class or determine if her doctor or midwife shares her philosophy of birth.  She’s just going to “wing it” and see what happens.  I know what would have happened if I tried to do that with This Momma Knows.  I would be a big puddle on the floor right now with nothing to show for it!  Yes, expert advice takes time to seek out, and most likely costs some money, but IT’S WORTH IT.

It’s hard work to birth something new.  But it’s satisfying work.  Becoming a parent; birthing one of God’s precious children into this world; it’s the BEST work here on earth.  It’s work that requires devotion, care and tenacity for those times when you are sleep deprived, uncomfortable, dealing with throw up, not knowing what to do with a strong-willed toddler…the list goes on and on.  So, when I’m up at 3 a.m., I’ll think of all of you mommas doing the late night work of feeding and soothing and just loving the gifts that Jesus has given.  We are in it together.  I may not know you yet….but consider me one of your biggest fans.