In Times of Trouble

When hard times in life hit you, how do you respond?  You lose a job, what do you do?  You get sick, what do you do?  I can tell you my tendencies.  My first response is usually to freak out and then I get busy.  The worse the problem, the busier I get!  I appoint myself to fix the problem!  I run around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to find a way, anyway really, to improve on my current situation. The bad thing is I don’t usually know what direction to go, so I spend tons of energy working as hard as I can in the wrong direction or in thirteen different directions.  My hope is if I throw out enough arrows, maybe one will hit a target.  I don’t stop to consider if it is the right target. Ultimately, I don’t get anywhere, I am tired, stressed out and things haven’t gotten better at all.  I don’t think this response is rare, I have a feeling I am not the only one that responds to life’s challenges this way.

Interestingly, my natural response is opposite of what the Bible says to do.  I guess that is not surprising, I have found most of the things the Bible says to do are not my first response.  I am by nature, sinful after all.

The Bible says, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am god: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

As I read this this morning, I started to think, that is all great but what does it mean to be still.  In my mind, I thought of it as being quiet.  I am sure that it does help to quiet your mind to hear God, but that isn’t what this verse is referencing.  The word ‘still’ is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, meaning “to slacken, let down or cease.”  In times of war, it denotes putting down your weapons.  This phrase actually means to stop the crazy stuff you are doing and just stop and be still.

The word “know”  in this case means to “acknowledge or be aware” in Hebrew.  The Bible tells us to stop the crazy activity that we are doing to fix the situation, and acknowledge that He is God!  God is all knowing, He is present everywhere, He is all powerful, holy, sovereign, faithful, and good.  He knows what you are going through and He cares about all the details of your life.  He also already knows how to fix it and He knows how to bring you through it.

Why is it the more messed up my life is, the faster I move….do I want to just get to the wrong place quicker?  Really, what is the point?  My natural response is actually not very logical when I remember who God is and how much He loves me.

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an everpresent help in trouble.” NIV

I don’t need to go into crazy busy mode when there is a problem.  The reality is, it won’t be me to fix it.  It will be God.  He is my everpresent help in trouble!  My first reaction should be to stop, go before the Lord and let God direct my steps.  How nice it is to know that He will give direction and be my help in time of trouble!

Popping the ME ME ME bubble

Are you like me?  Do you ever forget just how good you have it?  I do sometimes.  I tend to get swept away in my own thoughts, with my own problems, with my own life.  It is like a giant vacuum for me.  My brain gets so stuck on all the issues that I am dealing with in my own life, I forget about other people’s lives.

I see people every day and I don’t stop to think, what is your story?  What is going on in your life that is making you appear tired and frazzled?  What was it that caused you to lose your temper just now?  Is there anything I can do to help, even if it is to smile?

Sometimes, I think the good Lord wants to pop the giant bubble of “ME ME ME” that I have been residing in to wake me up to the issues going on in the people’s lives around me.  The other night, I went to a Pink Zebra Party.  I am not going to lie, it is my business, I was hoping for orders.  It ended up that only one person came.  This lady came not to buy Sprinkles (although she loves them).  She came because she was tired and stressed.  She needed a break!  She has four children.  I knew she needed a break.  I thought that she needed it simply because she has four children and every mom needs a rest once in a while.

As we spent the evening chatting, she started to open up as to why she was so tired.  The evening was May 2.  Her rent was due May 1.  She did not have the money to pay the rent.  She and her family have been having substantial financial struggles for a long time.  The family has been subsiding on pasta and potatoes for months, because it is all they can afford.  She is worried about how her children are going to eat in the summer, since right now they eat at school for two meals a day.  In their school district, you can get free meals in the summer only if you are more than 250% below the poverty line.  She has substantial physical issues as well, making her too weak to cook or to clean.  Her husband has had to do all of that stuff for years.

My friend that hosted the party and I prayed for her, loved on her, packed up as many groceries as we could and did our best to help her in some small way.  I took her home and helped her bring the bags of groceries into her home.  It made me tear up as the children met us at the door and excitedly said, “Yay we get to eat this week.”  My heart sunk.  The idea that these kids did not actually know if they would get to eat!  I realize hunger is very real in the world, but this was a stark reminder of how blessed I really am.

If you want to help people in this situation and help insure they get to eat, bring some food to your local food bank.  Donations are usually higher over the holidays, but people need to eat year around.

https://communityfoodbank.com/

Tonight, I am going to hug and kiss my husband and kids.  Then I will Thank God for blessing my family.  I will also go donate some food.  May you all be blessed.

Kindergarten Graduation

The last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster.  We have been working to wrap up the kindergarten school year with my daughter.  The year has been full of both victories and struggles.  I have seen her catch on to some things quickly and other things have been an absolute battle!  For Michaela, math has been easy.  In fact, we still have three weeks left of kindergarten, but she has been done with her math books for a couple of weeks.  She just decided to get it done and she did.

Reading has not been like that at all!  It has been hard.  It has involved tears.  It has involved changing curriculum mid way through.  It has involved a lot of work.  Some small victories, and my daughter just not wanting to do it.  She often complained that it is hard.  We decided that she is right, it is hard.  So we decided to reward her for trying her best to read (not reading correctly, but just reading with a good heart).  We set up a sticker chart and rewarded her with a new book of her choice when she filled her chart.  At first, this was effective to end the fighting.  Gradually, it changed to my daughter looking forward to getting a sticker and counting down to her next book.  I also slowed way down and repeated pages for months on end.  All of a sudden, it seemed to be easier.  Now she is actually reading.  To see her face light up when she realized she just read an entire story without having to sound out words, was an amazing moment.  It was probably the most satisfying moment I have ever had in regards to seeing work that we have done paying off.

My girl has learned so much this year and changed so much this year.  That it really does blow my mind.  It makes me feel like all of the crazy sacrifices to actually homeschool her has been worth the investment.  I feel honored to have the opportunity to play such an integral part in her education.

Needless to say, this past week as I have prepared and helped plan her kindergarten graduation, I have been a bit of an emotional wreck!  My baby is growing up!  How is it possible?  It feels like yesterday that she was born.

Congratulations to my sweet daughter.  This is just the beginning and I am preparing my heart to enjoy the ride.

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They grow up so very fast.

Finding Something Of My Own

I used to be a social worker.  I always wanted to go into Social Work.  I have always had a heart to serve and help the community.  It was something that I dreamed of doing as a child.  It was a big deal for me when I decided to leave my career behind (at least for now) and stay at home with my children.  In the course of working in the field of adoption, I realized the importance of being a mother.  I wanted to give my own children what the children that I worked with each day did not have.

When I decided to stay at home, I had a romantic notion of what it would be like.  Picture Leave It Beaver….. The house was going to be spotless each day, the children of course would obey perfectly, a perfect dinner would be on the table each night.   I am not sure what planet I was living on when I actually thought this would be what life was like, but reality soon followed, and so did the yoga pants.  My house is not perfectly clean, in fact it is usually the opposite.  I get one room clean and feel pretty excited, just to walk in to the next room and discover my sweet darling children have messed it up!  I am doing good to just maintain things.  Dinner is generally on the table each night, but I confess sometimes it is pizza or chicken nuggets.  Coming into reality was difficult.

I would say the hardest thing for me is this feeling that I have no idea what I accomplished today.  I  was ending each day and I wouldn’t have the first clue what I did that day.  I was busy, but what did I actually accomplish? I cleaned the dishes but thirty minutes later it looks like I haven’t done them in a week.  I would clean the living room and thirty minutes later there are toys out as far as the eye can see (this is improving as my kids are getting older).  The stuff I had to do each day was painfully mundane.  I also struggled with a distinct feeling of isolation.  I didn’t really talk to adults.  The extent of my conversation was at a two year old level.  I struggled emotionally a lot!  There was the part of me that was incredibly thankful for getting to spend so much time with my children and there was the other part of me that was fighting off depression.  Then as ridiculous as this sounds, I would feel horribly guilty for feeling depressed (I should be happy, I am with my babies) that I would actually get more depressed.  I really felt trapped.  My entire life now revolved around the kids and cleaning house, to the point that I could hardly remember who I was and what I enjoyed.  I some how gave up every hobby and interest that I had, outside of Jesus and my family.

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I read articles that would knock Stay at Home Mom’s for complaining.  These articles did not help me when I was struggling.  In fact, they did the opposite.  I started to pray and as I prayed I started to realize more and more that I was not trapped at all.  I started to see that I needed to have stuff in my life that had nothing to do with my kids or the dishes.  Things that I do just out of sheer enjoyment.   I gradually started putting things back into my life that I enjoy.  I found as I did that, the emotional struggles went away.  I am happy to be a mother, but I needed something that was mine.

I have this to say to you Stay at Home Moms that might be having a similar issue and to those mom’s considering becoming a SAHM.  Make sure you keep things in your life that are yours!  I don’t know what those things are, only you know what they are.  For me, I write this blog, I run my own small business, I get together with friends and I am involved with my church family.  For you, it may be different but you need to have those things for yourself.  Those things you can go to for a rest.  When you have little ones in your home, it is really easy to allow all of your attention and energy to go to your kids.  Your primary job does not stop, you are a mommy 24/7, being this fact it is all the more important to keep those things in your life that brings you joy and rest.

To All the Mom’s

When I had my children, my husband and I had to start making choices.  We made choices according to what we felt were important.  Many of those choices involved making sacrifices, as we have all made for our kids.  We decided together that I would stay at home with the children, we decided together to home school our kids, we decided that I would nurse the kids, and the list goes on and on.  Each of those decisions are highly personal decisions.  They were made according to what fit our family.   In all likelihood, you and your family have made different decisions for your family for your own reasons.  Guess what, good for you!  Make those decisions and do best by your kids.

I sometimes get tired of the constant criticism that flows out of people regarding the choices we moms make for our children and our family.  These criticisms come no matter what decisions you make as a parent.  If you are a working mother, the criticism comes from the side that would argue that you aren’t spending enough time with your kids.  If you are a SAHM the criticism comes from people who foolishly think all we do all day is sit at home in our yoga pants, eating bon bons and watching our favorite soap opera.

It is ridiculous to criticize each other all the time ladies!  I don’t care if you stay at home, if you nurse, if you work, what type of school you have your children in, etc. It doesn’t really matter!!  We made decisions according to what our individual families needed at the time.  Most of us are probably willing to change those decisions if or when we realize what decided on really is not working.

I think we can all agree that 99% of us are doing our absolute best to do what we believe is in the best interest of our children and our individual families.  We have all had our kids have melt downs at embarrassing very public places, making you feel like crawling under a rock.  We have all had those nights when our little ones threw up all over the house at 3 a.m.  We have all had those days when we experience sheer exhilaration and joy at watching our children finally accomplish that one thing that they have struggled with.  We have all been exceedingly happy and exceedingly tired at the same time, which is really hard to explain.

Ladies, let’s stop the madness.  Let’s support each other and encourage one another, not beat down each other because we’ve made different decisions!  We need to show each other love, we need to build each other up when we are feeling beat down (not pick up a bigger bat) and we need to be each other’s cheering section.

For My Nanny

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My Nanny always wanted to be called Nana when she became a grandmother.  My sister, her oldest granddaughter, had something else in mind.   My sister insisted on calling her Nanny from the time she could talk, and somehow the name Nanny stuck.  Thus, she became Nanny instead of Nana.  The name Nanny to this day just feels like the right name for her.  She was loving and kind, generous and warm, and unique.  She is everything that her unique name, Nanny embodies.

On Monday, I received a call from my brother.  He told me that I needed to go see her.  He said she wasn’t doing well.  I loaded the kids in the car, and within about fifteen minutes we were on our way.  She lives in a different city, so it took a bit to get there but I saw her on Monday night.  She looked weak and frail.  However, she was alert and we had a lovely visit.  I left feeling grateful because although she was weak, in my mind with some proper care she was going to be ok.

On Wednesday, I got a call from my dad.  She took a major turn for the worse Tuesday night.   We again left as quickly as we could to go and visit her.  This time, there was no relief.  She apparently had a major stroke the night before.  She didn’t look like herself.  She was not able to speak and as the day wore on, she was no longer even aware of her surroundings.  Her heart rate was ever decreasing, she stopped eating and drinking.

My entire family was there surrounding her.  We sang praise and worship music, which seemed to be soothing to her, we cried and sometimes we laughed a little bit as we remembered some of the silly things she has done.  I knew on Wednesday that she likely wouldn’t last much longer.

On Friday she passed on. My heart broke, as I can’t imagine life without hearing her voice.  My Papa and Nanny were married for 65 years.  They have been together since they were kids.  I am not sure what Papa is going to do without her.

As my heart was breaking, and through my tears, my five-year old daughter shed light on this for me.  She asked me why I was sad and I explained that Nanny had just passed on.  I explained to her that I was going to miss her.  My daughter asked if Nanny had loved Jesus.  I told her that she loved Jesus with all her heart.  My daughter said, “Then why are you sad, mommy?”  I told her it is because I love her and am going to miss her.  My little girl said, “Shouldn’t we celebrate?”  I asked her, “What do you mean?”  She said, “She loved Jesus so she is with Him in heaven.  She is happy and she doesn’t have those ouchies any more.  We should be happy for her.”

Isn’t it amazing how the Lord can speak truth  to us through children.  I immediately felt comforted because I know that she is right.  I know that my wonderful Nanny is in heaven with Jesus, praising him. I know that she is no longer in pain and that I am going to see her again.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Matt 5:4

Thank you Jesus for bringing comfort.  Thank you Jesus for allowing me to have the most wonderful Nanny, a girl could ever ask for and for allowing me the opportunity to visit with her one last time.  Thank you for speaking to me through the words of my little girl.

Farm Fun: Where Does Our Food Come From

One of the things that we have focused on in our homeschool this past year is learning about where our food comes from.  When the opportunity arose to visit Shamrock Farms Dairy Farm with our 4H group, I could not turn down the opportunity.  Shamrock Farms is after all one of the largest Dairy Farms in the United States.  Let me tell you, I have never seen so many cows in one place in my life!

Prior to our field trip, we studied about cows and dairy farms.  We looked up information online and we checked out books from our library.  We learned as much as we could about cows and milk production before we ever stepped on to the farm.  We did this for a couple of reasons.  The first one is obvious, we wanted to learn about where our food comes from and educate ourselves.  The second reason is that it increased my kids anticipation of our trip to the farm itself.  Every day we learned something new, and every day my kids got more and more excited.

The day of our field trip finally arrived.  Let me tell you, my little ones were totally excited to see cows!  We had to drive about an hour and a half to get there, and I was asked probably fifty times if we were there yet.  Finally I went with the answer, you’ll know we’re there when you can look out your window and see cows.  Then the question was, “Mommy, why can’t I see cows yet?  Are they invisible?”  So funny!  No they were not invisible.

We took an air tram ride around the farm.  Here are some pictures of our adventures

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This is a picture of the actual milking facility.  This picture doesn’t fully capture just how massive this facility is, this is just one of the lines of cows.  There were several lines of cows just like this.  I found this really interesting.  Apparently, among the cows have a hierarchy so to speak.  Basically, among the cows, they decide who the lead cow is in the herd.  Every day the cows come into the milk facility.  They follow the leader cow, that they chose.  The cows go into the facility themselves, and line up in the exact same order every single day, and get themselves into position to be milked.  We actually had the pleasure of watching the cows line themselves up and get ready to be milked.  I was amazed at the intelligence and organization the cows had, that was not facilitated by people.  The cows just knew what to do.  They all get milked twice daily.

We also got to see milking machines.  I knew it was more efficient to utilize machines to milk cows, but apparently it is also much gentler and it is also more hygienic.  This is a picture of my son checking out the milk machine.  We got to put a finger in the machine to see what it feels like to get milked.  I would argue that after nursing two kids, I am kind of aware of how it feels to be milked 🙂

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My kids favorite part of the tour was when they got to feed the baby cows.  The baby cows are so adorable.  We had to wear gloves in order to feed the babies in order to keep things as hygienic as possible.  I was truly impressed with how clean Shamrock Farm is and very surprised that it didn’t have an overwhelming cow poo smell.  They really go to great length to keep things as clean as possible.

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I love doing things like this as part of our homeschool!  I think sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in the book part of school and forget to get out and experience the hands on learning.  The things I remember about school the most are the special trips we took and the experiments we did.  I learned stuff out of books but it is memories like these that I treasure.