Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Stay-At-Home Conundrum

July includes a lot of downtime for my part-time job. Lately I haven’t had much “work” to do so I’ve been spending long days with my girls. I’m there when they wake up. I fix them breakfast, lunch and dinner. I break up fights, kiss boo boos, teach memory verses, and tuck them in bed. And I relish every second of it.

There are a few things in life I’m wildly passionate about, and right up at the top is pouring into and investing in my kids. I LOVE that I get to be the one who knows what kind of day they had, if they skipped nap, and what they ate for lunch.

This full-time job is hard but it’s oh so worth it. 
 
But right when I start to revel in my role as stay-at-home mom and think to myself “This is the life,” I remember that while we’re thriving…he’s dying.

The reason I’m able to stay at home and the reason we enjoy the set-up we have is because my husband is working himself to a slow death at that firehouse. And at that one. And at that one.

He works at two departments, and as I type this, he’s on the last leg of a 72-hour shift. He’s beyond exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sometimes I think we’ll cheer him up by driving the 35 miles to visit him. It’s funny that it usually doesn’t work. It just makes him more frustrated and aware of what he’s missing.

There’s a constant tension in our family about who should work how much and how far the pendulum should swing. Sometimes I feel so guilty, but then my heart screams “MOTHERHOOD!” and how could I possibly be doing anything else?! It’s almost as if the choice is between the health of my children and that of my husband. And, no matter what, somebody loses.

I know there’s no easy solution. For those of us without high paying careers, this is life’s dilemma. It’s the stay-at-home conundrum. And it stinks.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ending Abortion In The State of Arkansas {via Every20Seconds.org}

Today's post is brought to you by Lucas Childress, co-founder of Every20Seconds.org, an organization devoted to ending abortion in the state of Arkansas.

The last year and half has brought exhaustion, frustration and disappointment but never regret. The smiles, tears of joy and opportunity to see life, that was but a moment from death's doorway, born into the world has brought my heart into a place I just can’t escape. But more than the feeling, the realization that God has called me to love my neighbor as myself regardless of the outcome has become real to me. The mothers, fathers and children in the womb are our neighbors, and they come Wednesday – Saturday to 4 Office Park Drive, Little Rock Family Planning, where roughly 30-40 abortions are performed each day. Some come broken and desperate. Some come laughing and mocking, but they all come lost. Every parent needs to hear truth in love, and every child deserves the chance for a hope and a future. So if we as the body of Christ do not reach out, who will? The answer is no one.


This is where Every20Seconds comes in, but Every20Seconds is not myself or any of the individuals who founded it. It is not some exclusive club with a secret hand shake. Every20Seconds represents the movement of the body Christ to end abortion in the state of Arkansas. Yes we need finances, but more than that we need willing hands and feet. I’m inviting you all to join us on this journey and take the challenge of looking at yourself in the mirror and declaring that if I don’t do something, no one will.

When 1% of the church shows up abortion in Arkansas shuts down. That’s what the Every20Seconds billboard states on the I-30 river bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas. I think the simplicity of this statement seems to confuse people. I get it all the time. “What does that mean?” What’s the 1% all about?” Let’s try to clear this up for you. In Little Rock alone there are roughly 196,000 people. In Arkansas, statistics show that 53% of the population claims to attend church almost weekly, but let’s go on the conservative side and say it’s 40%. If only 1% of Little Rock church members were actively participating in outreach at the abortion clinic that would be a total of 784 individuals.  I’ve seen what God can do on any given Saturday when there might be anywhere from 15-35 people praying and reaching out in love with offerings of housing, groceries and medical help. I’ve seen hearts soften when the sound of praise worship cuts through an atmosphere of death and destruction.  Can you imagine if 784 people decided to show up? I think we’d see not only the end of abortion in our state, but we’d see revival in our churches and communities. We as the church have ministries for children, couples, financial counseling, homeless, widows, recovering alcoholics and foreign countries, but there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to the pro-life mission field. We think that if we write a check to the nearest right to life group and check the boxes next to the pro-life candidates we’ve done our part.  The world has dictated our terms and created in us a fear of looking unusual. We’ve forgotten that we’re not of this world. When will we care more about what God wants than what the world thinks?
 
I’d like share a story with you. It was one of the first saves that I witnessed, so it holds a special place in my heart. –

Two young ladies drove into Little Rock Family Planning, at 4 Office Park Drive, just like many others had that day. After talking to each other for over 20 minutes inside their car, they got out and walked toward the door. Immediately one of the women with us who regularly counsels called out to her. “Can we pray for you? I had an abortion here and went through the pain and regret. You don’t want to do this.” With tears in her eyes, the young lady turned around, her friend by her side, and walked back towards the white line that we pro-lifers are restricted from crossing. I wish I had taken a photograph at that moment, because it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. In a circle they stood holding hands at the white line in prayer. The line that represented a barrier between two worlds at that moment united them in a bond of love.  Tears were flowing down their faces as well as mine. When the prayer was over, my aunt asked the young lady, “What is your name?” She replied, “Sky.” My aunt came that morning wearing a random T-shirt from her drawer from the Bible school theme at our church two years prior. She said, “Sky, look at my shirt," which said "Sky-Everything is possible with God." Sky had asked God to send her a sign that day, and he did just that. I was able to hold that baby in my arms this year, and I couldn’t help but get a little misty eyed once more. This child, that was almost torn apart, was lying in my arms, wide eyed, ready to face the world. He had been given the opportunity to live, all because the body of Christ decided to show up one Saturday morning and Love. His mother couldn’t be more proud.

Everything is possible with God. Do we believe that? Abortion is a giant, but giants fall because our God is mighty and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. God slayed a giant through a shepherd boy, freed his people from captivity through a stuttering man, and he can deliver us from the abomination of abortion if his people are just willing to show up.

I’d like to thank Kelcie for allowing me to be a guest on her blog. I hope you are encouraged and challenged to be active in your pro-life beliefs. The only way this movement will spread is if you tell others about it.  Send us an email at every20seconds@yahoo.com if you’d like to donate or have us speak at your church. (There are no paid staff members of every20seconds.org. 100% of proceeds go toward the ministry.) You can follow every20seconds at Facebook.com/every20seconds.org and visit our website at every20seconds.org to see how you can be active in this movement. We also have a weekly talk radio show, We The People Radio, which airs live on Faith Talk 99.5 every Friday from 3-4 p.m.  Keep up with us at Facebook.com/WTPRnetwork and wethepeopleradioshow.com.

God Bless.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another Summer at Pine Cove Family Camp

Another summer at Pine Cove has come and gone. After looking forward to family camp all year long, I'm feeling a little glum that our week there is already over. But I'm so very thankful for the life-long memories that we made, once again, and the way we were loved, served and prayed for during our time there.

Pine Cove is such a blessing to families.

When we arrived at camp last Sunday, we were greeted by the most exuberant, intentional, servant-minded college students on planet Earth. They cheered and jumped and handed me a rose and Tyler a root beer. We remembered some of their faces from last year, while many of them were new. But though they were strangers on Sunday, they would feel nearly like family by the week's end...



The thing about going back to camp this year, Week 6 at the Bluffs (that's Pine Cove lingo for our date and location), was that we returned to a family. There are so many of the same families that go back year after year, and coming back for a second time made it feel like we were a part of the family too. This year we talked and grew closer to many of those from last year, and I genuinely feel like we are invested in each other's lives. Many of them promised to pray for specific things in our family this year, and I know that they will.

But one of the other "best parts" of our week was meeting the NEW families this year. One of them, in particular, became our dear friends, and we are already planning how we can all meet up again soon!


Just like last year, both my girls were in Cove Kids, the children's class for ages 0-4. And just like last year, I was blown away by the staff girls who cared for them all week. They let absolutely nothing break their strides or their smiles. I remember one point when I was apologizing to one of Selah's teachers about having to deal with her tantrums, and she genuinely told me, "It is my JOY!" LOL. These girls never cease to amaze me.





My girls had a ball, and I knew I never had to worry about them when Tyler and I were off having adult time. Pine Cove designates Tuesday as parent date night, Wednesday as parent free day, and Thursday as adult banquet night. Whew. That's a lot of meals in a row that don't include sippy cups!


Tyler and I weren't alone all week though. There is much quality family time too. We always have a blast with the theme nights and go all out dressing up. This year's themes were "Word to the Nerd" and "Flip Flop Day" (kids dress like parents, parents dress like kids).




But I have to say, my highlight of the whole week was Wednesday night's Pine Cove talent show. Ever since watching it last year, my girls had talked about entering. But I thought for sure, when it came right down to it, they would chicken out. No sir. Even Selah, who is going through an incredibly unsocial stage, walked up on that stage like she owned it. And I think I'm completely unbiased when I say it was the best performance of Annie's "Dumb Dog" that has ever, ever been performed.



The theme for this year's camp was "Broken" based off Hosea 10:12: "Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord..." I loved the theme. I am not naturally a very "broken" person in terms of how I see myself. I struggle to see the blackness of my sin because I compare myself to others who I deem "worse" (instead of Jesus) and think I'm doing ok. My natural bent, to be perfectly honest, is pretty self-righteous.

But this week, and during one talk in particular, I started to scratch the surface of seeing my sin for what it is. The camp director's wife, Katie, spoke to the women on the topic of "Taming the Strong Woman." She weeped as she lovingly told us that we are not needed, we are needy. We are not the answer. We are often the problem. And we are not the Lord of our husbands. We are their helpmates. The passion in her words slowly eroded my heart, and by the end of the talk, my fallow ground was much more soft and fertile. (See Mark 4 for more.)

I am so thankful for Pine Cove and its heart for families. In just two years, it has left a mark on my family that I think will help identify us for years to come. The Pine Cove mission statement says it all:

"Pine Cove exists to be used by God to transform the lives of people for His purposes and His glory."

And it does just that.



For more information about Pine Cove family camps, youth camps or weekend retreats, visit PineCove.com.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Day That Could Have Changed Everything

Last year in the first adult meeting at Pine Cove Family Camp, they asked everyone to share a little of their family's story. What were their highs and lows from the last year? I've often thought about what we would say this year during that share time. Nothing spectacular or life-changing has happened, but I planned things to discuss and talk about...

But this week, I learned that "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." (Pro. 16:9)

In a moment's time, all our plans, ideas and visions of the future can come crumbling down.

As most of you know, this week my husband Tyler was in a horrible vehicle accident. It was a head-on collision that left our Tahoe in shambles. At 3 o'clock on Wednesday, I got a call that everyone dreads. And I had about five minutes after that where I didn't know if he was dead or alive. It's amazing what can go through your mind in that amount of time. I imagined telling my girls that Daddy wasn't coming home. I imagined myself as a single mom. I imagined telling my girls we wouldn't be heading to family camp in a few days, something they have been looking forward to all year long. And I prayed and cried and pleaded with God to save my husband.

And He did. Tyler walked away from the wreckage with nothing more than scratches, bruises and a bad headache. It was truly a miracle.

I don't know why some lives are taken and others are spared. All I know is this week when we head to Pine Cove, our family has a new story to share. We are there together by the grace of God. We are sure that His hand of protection is on us. And we appreciate each other like never before, taking no person or moment for granted.



The winner of my "I Love You All the Same" gook giveaway is Deborah West. Deborah, I'll email you about claiming your prize.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Different Definition of Love {A Guest Post & Giveaway}

 Today, I'd like to introduce y'all to my friend Julia DesCarpentrie, a fellow blogger at MomLife Today. Julia is passionate about orphan care, adoption and fostering. She has been blessed to live out God’s call on her life in those areas through her work with The CALL (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime), a foster care church initiative encouraging more Christian families to foster children in need. Julia has been an advocate for the fatherless for 10 years, as both a volunteer and also serving with Hope for Orphans before her work with The CALL. Julia is the mom of five children entrusted to her care through birth, adoption and fostering. She
and Branden have been married for 16 years.

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Tommy Nelson Mommies for Thomas Nelson, Inc. As a member of this group, I receive products for my use and to review at no charge to me. I receive no monetary compensation for my participation. All opinions are my own.

“I could never love another woman’s child.”  The comment rocked my world. I was sitting next to a new friend, watching our children play together. My youngest child was obviously adopted, a different race than my two older children by birth. No, I was not his birth mother but I was his mother. And I LOVED him.

There were times that I was startled, almost fearful, of the depth of love I felt for this son through adoption. I was fiercely protective of him, to the point of wondering if I even loved him more than my other children.  Was it because of his special needs that required many hospitalizations or his contagious laugh and charm?  Did my other two children notice?

Eight years later, another son joined our family through adoption. A year after he joined our family, I struggled with feeling the same depth of love and attachment that I felt for my other children. Affection was very slow growing. The guilt was overwhelming, crushing, painful.

After years of parenting and experience loving many children through foster care and adoption, I have come to realize that love is a choice. Not an emotion. Some of my children have been more ‘lovable;’ easier to express and return affection. Some are more withdrawn and fearful. Some have been annoying, even infuriating. And all 5 of my ‘forever’ children have been all of the above.

Love:  The daily choice to care for them to the best of my abilities. The daily choice to shower them with affection, even if they stiffen and push me away. The daily choice to share the love of God with them, though it seems like it is falling on deaf ears.

The other necessity: Grace. Grace for the broken, grace for me. Some days they fail, many days I fail. But understanding the depth of my Father’s unconditional love and grace allows me to shower the same on my children.

And that is how I can love another woman's child. 



I'm giving away the Tommy Nelson book, I Love You All the Same. This sweet, rhyming story features three bear siblings who are very different: they don’t look, sound, or eat the same. How could they get along in a family when they are so, so different? With gentleness and love, Mama and Papa Bear assure their cubs that even though they are different, they are loved the same, and God put them in the same family for a purpose. Eden loved this book and so did I. It's a great way to remind all your kids, whether they came to you biologically, through adoption, or however, that they are special and equally loved. Leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on Julia's post or telling how you show your children that you love them all the same, then enter via Rafflecopter. I'll announce a winner Saturday, July 5.

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lemonade Stand With a Purpose

Wednesday we hosted a lemonade stand to raise some extra money for our World Vision sponsorship child, Maureen. I don't really remember how I got the idea, but it just kind of came to me a few weeks ago. Eden had been asking for a long time to do a lemonade stand, so I thought, why not encourage her to give the money to someone in need? Eden never hesitated. She loved the idea. (Selah was just along for the ride.) So we waited on a free afternoon and went for it.


After advertising on Facebook that our money was going to a good cause, people were very generous. We weren't super busy, but we still ended up making $52. Not too bad considering they weren't even out there two hours. Too hot for these cuties.




The girls also checked out a "Pinkalicious" book about a lemonade stand from the library that morning. How perfect. They kept referring back to it throughout their sale. :)

After we packed up, I went straight to the bank to deposit the money. Then we went online and gave a gift to our friend, Maureen. According to the website, our special gift will be used to give Maureen whatever she needs most -- food, clothes or maybe even a new bike. Maureen lives in Uganda, and we have supported her with monthly gifts for a couple of years now. The girls talk about her all the time and love helping her. Child sponsorship is a really great way to teach your own kids about those around the world. And making them work a little to help others is one way to teach them to serve.

Go ahead and host your own lemonade stand with a purpose. It's super easy, meaningful, and your kids will have a blast. I'm already planning our next one.




The winner of my "Sleep Sweet My Little One" book is Jessica Hogan! Jessica, I'll contact you about claiming your prize. And FYI, there were so many of you who gave wonderful advice about getting Selah to sleep in her big girl bed, but although we've made a little progress, we're still not "there." Actually, what I've done is to gradually decrease our rocking time. I am still rocking her a little, but then we lay down in her bed awake. If I lay there with her a couple minutes, she goes to sleep. So it's not much progress but it's a start. I'm just hoping to train her to put herself to sleep, eventually.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Big Kid Bed and Bedtime Struggles

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Tommy Nelson Mommies for Thomas Nelson, Inc. As a member of this group, I receive products for my use and to review at no charge to me. I receive no monetary compensation for my participation. All opinions are my own.

I have gotten to a point lately where I dread the "bedtime routine."

I know, I know. My kids are young and this time is gonna pass quickly and I should enjoy every precious song and rock. But truth be told, I just haven't been lately.

My kids are 4 1/2 and 2 1/2. I feel like the going-to-bed thing should be getting a little easier. I picture myself tucking them in, saying prayers, kissing them, and going out. Five minutes tops, right? Instead, the process seems to drag on longer and longer each night, so that by the end of it, an already exhausted mama is now irritable AND needs someone to carry her the ten feet between her toddler's room and her own.

The main problem (as I see it) is that Selah, my 2 1/2 year old, still has to be rocked to sleep. I know this is 100% my fault because this is what I've always done, and I've never trained her any differently. But now we're beyond the point of "this rocking is so sweet" and we're at "give me a break child, take that sassy out, lay down and go to sleep like a big girl."

Too much honesty? This is just how I feel.

So in my mind I concocted a plan. We'd get her a big girl bed (goodbye toddler crib), and that would be the PERFECT time to transition her from rocking to laying down and going to sleep.

It was so going to work. It was perfect.


It so didn't.

My hopes of Selah laying down and going to sleep on her own and not getting out of bed during the night (another hope of mine) came crashing down. Instead, she got much more difficult to put to bed and started sleeping worse than ever.

After a week of pure nighttime chaos, I have pretty much resorted back to the old routine. Rock and rock and rock until she's sound asleep and has no idea where I lay her down.

Old habits die hard.

So my "big girl" sleeps in a big bed and wears panties but sucks a sassy and has to be rocked to sleep... we're a work in progress.

Please tell me... how did you transition your child from a crib to a big bed? Or better yet, how did you break them from having to be rocked? If you leave me a piece of really awesome advice, you're going to win this book from Tommy Nelson. :)

This adorable book, Sleep Sweet My Little One, is the perfect companion for bedtime. Though it wasn't a miracle worker for us, it is one of the most well-suited books for bedtime I've seen. The lyrical rhymes and soft watercolor illustrations will calm both you and your children before bed. Like I said, just leave a comment telling me your best advice on transitioning little ones to big kid routines, and you just may win. (Be sure to let Rafflecopter know you commented, and earn additional entries by Liking me on Facebook and Following me on Twitter.)






a Rafflecopter giveaway
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