This Beautiful Inheritance

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My Spark

I'm not gonna lie. I've had no motivation to blog lately. (Y'all probably noticed.) Something about having a new baby (and three kids!) has pushed blogging to the farthest thing from my mind...

But last week I attended a two day training for my job as a Sexual Risk Avoidance (abstinence) educator. And one thing the presenter taught us was the concept of "spark" -- a name given to that thing that makes people feel alive. You know what I'm talking about. It's that thing, that's different for each person, that excites them and gives them purpose and joy. It might be an activity or a talent or a passion. It's that thing that when someone asks you about it, your eyes light up and something inside ignites.

When someone asked about my spark, I knew exactly what it was --

Seeing families thrive.

It's not a concrete answer. The girl who asked me said hers was photography, and I knew if I asked my husband, his would be the outdoors. Mine has nothing I can grab or touch, but it is what excites me more than anything else.

Moms spending time with their kids and passing on a legacy of faith...
Moms living free from the burdens of comparison and guilt...
Dads stepping up to the plate and being there for their families...
Marriages making it...

These are the things that light my fire. They are the things I want to devote my life to making happen -- in my own home and in yours.

When my photographer friend asked how I'm living out my "spark," I could think of two main ways (aside from raising my own family).

Number 1 -- My work with teens as a Sexual Risk Avoidance Specialist. Yes, teens may be far from starting a family (hopefully!), but our work with them helps prepare them to have healthy, thriving families one day. By delaying sex now, they are protecting themselves from emotional consequences that could affect their future relationships and marriage. They also won't get pregnant with someone they have no intention of marrying, setting themselves up for single parenthood and other consequences. Practicing abstinence will also protect them from STDs, which in some cases, can lead to infertility and prevent their ability to have a future family.

Number 2 -- (and this is the main purpose of this post) My blog. This blog is not really about me. It has always been a way to challenge, encourage, and uplift moms. Yes, I have received many perks and blessings as a result of it, but my real motivation behind it is you guys. I want you to read something that makes you smile and brightens your morning. I want you to know you're not alone when you yell and feed your kids pizza and have a lousy day. And I want you to be challenged to try again, to keep seeking the Lord, and in spite of the trials, to raise your family to love Him.

As I explained to my friend why I blog, I knew I needed to get back on it. It's been especially quiet around here since adding Sweet Ezra to our clan, and I've even had thoughts of laying the blog to rest. But after thinking about my spark and my life mission, I know that I can't. If my little ole blog makes a difference in even one family or mom's life, it's worth it. I can't promise the posts will be as regular as they were before Baby #3, but until God tells me otherwise, this blog is here to stay.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back in the Swing of Things

School is in full-swing and we are back in a routine around here. I think we have adjusted very well to having a new baby in the family... It helps that he is such a sweet-natured, easy going little guy! I fall more in love with his handsome self every day. I know things will get more difficult as he gets older, sleeps less, and becomes more mobile, but right now he's just easy. He eats, sleeps, chills in his bouncer and smiles!

Selah started Headstart this year, which is very similar to Pre-K. She is LOVING it! This was a big step for our family, as we chose for Eden to stay home until Kindergarten. But children are different and family situations change, and this just felt like the right move for her and us right now. Every day I am thrilled to have those feelings confirmed when she kisses me and bounces into her classroom without looking back and when she spills her stories in the afternoons about what all she did. So far I absolutely love our Headstart program and the sweet ladies who run it. It is going great.

Eden started first grade this year and is doing great as well. She took her first ever real "test" last week and killed it with a 101! I was so proud of her. She did have one night during her first week when she shed some tears and said she didn't want to go to school the next day because "learning isn't fun," but by the next morning (and every day since then) she had forgotten all those feelings. I really think she was just exhausted and being a little dramatic. I know first grade is more work than Kindergarten, and there may come more times when she tires of it. But so far (other than that one night) she has been excited to go every day and has had plenty of stories to tell me in the afternoons. She has a wide variety of all kinds of friends, which is something about her that always makes me proud. She truly see and treats everyone the same.

I am coaching her first and second grade peewee cheerleading squad this year, which is another fun, new experience. I was a little nervous about my "baby" being a cheerleader (she seems so young for that!) so I figured I might as well volunteer to coach and be there every step of the way. ;) Saturday Eden and Selah both got to participate in a cheerleading "camp" hosted by our senior high cheerleading squad, and they loved it. They've been doing their cheers and jumps ever since, and they are pretty stinkin' adorable.

I've also started back to work with the abstinence program I teach in our local high schools. It feels good to be back with the students, making a difference... and having a reason to get showered and dressed in the mornings. :)

We are looking forward to a great year. I hope yours is off to a wonderful start too!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Different Kind of Summer

It is our last week of summer before school starts, which doesn't at all feel right. It almost feels like this summer didn't exist. Since we added a new little blessing to our family, we (the girls and I) have been stuck in the house a lot. There are not many places you want to take a newborn in 100 degree weather. Plus, Tyler started a new job this summer and was gone most of the time. PLUS that forced him to quit working a second job, which means things have been tight financially. Which means (like I said) we've been home a lot.

I'm not much of a "homebody." I do think it's important to guard your time at home as a family, but I also love to go and do. I love to take my kids to "go and do"! I love to seek adventures and make memories as a family. So I'll be honest -- this summer has been a little difficult. Of course getting our sweet Ezra out of the deal makes it all WORTH IT! :) But I start getting a little "bluesey" when I'm cooped up in the house too much. (I know there was a whole half of the summer before Ezra was born, but it's like I can hardly remember that part! And I was extremely pregnant then and still not able to do much.) And I'm not going to lie -- it's hard seeing person after person after person after person post their beach pics on social media. You know what I'm talking about.

Eden asked me a couple nights ago what she could tell her teacher she did this summer. She said she knew she would ask the class on the first day of school. I felt a little sad for her that she wouldn't have much to say. She didn't get to do anything big this summer. But I told her she could tell her class she got a new baby brother and she agreed that was pretty awesome. The thing is, kids don't really know everyone on social media is posting beach pics. They don't play the comparison game we adults often do. I have to remind myself that elaborate vacations and the like aren't the marks of good parenting or a happy childhood. And giving my girls the gift of a baby brother is something they will cherish for the rest of their lives as they build relationships with him.

Truth be told, I'm ready for school and my part-time job to start back. I'm ready to have a routine and a reason to shower most days! I even think it's going to make me a better mommy. The kids and I have had a little too much togetherness this summer, if that's possible. They are on each other's nerves (and mine) and my patience is thin and my temper on edge. I hate to say it, but I think we all need a little space.

And (fingers crossed) I'm hoping we can get away for a day or two one weekend soon. I'm looking forward to that and already looking forward to next summer. Ezra will be one and old enough for more outings and adventures. I love summer, and I can't wait to experience it to its fullest with him and the girls next year.

Friday, July 22, 2016

We Still Do {Ten Years of Marriage}

We were around the six-year-mark in our marriage when he sat across the dining room table from me and had the nerve to say it out loud.

“We can’t stay together just for the kids.”
His eyes were cold. We were a mere six feet from each other but there was no warmth, no emotion, nothing between us but distance.

I knew our relationship had been stretched to the point of barely existing. But I was stubborn. I would hold onto the shards of what was left for pride’s sake if nothing else. And yes, for the kids. How dare he consider otherwise.
My heart and my tears hit the hardwood.

I thought back to our honeymoon in Mexico, which I’ve never been able to describe without using the words “perfect” and “paradise.” It wasn’t the resort or the beach that elicited feelings of perfection but being wildly in love and excited about the future.
Now, here we sat – smack dab in the middle of the years statistics say most divorces happen. The predictability of our situation was no comfort.

I researched marriage counselors and drug him there three whole times before he insisted we quit. “We know what we need to do,” he said. “We just need to do it.”

Life went on and our kids kept growing and I kept cooking dinner and he kept going to work and coming back.
Somewhere along the way we started laughing and feeling again, although the road was never easy. There were a lot of fights and a lot of making up.

I made up my mind that by our 10-year-anniversary, I wanted the “lovey-dovey” marriage I dreamed of. I would hold my tongue. I would show him respect. I would do my part to make sure it happened.

On our nine-year-anniversary, we took a weekend trip to Branson. With no kids and no stressors, all arguing ceased. And as we walked through the outdoor mall, he reached out and took my hand. It sent hope and healing through my being and made me wonder if we were almost there. Were we on the brink of the marriage I dreamed of?
But year nine didn't hold the mass improvement I'd hoped. There were ups and also downs. I read in a magazine article some of the biggest indicators couples are headed for divorce and grew discouraged because I saw many of them in us. The end of the article, though, threw me some hope. The last stage before divorce, it said, is complete coldness. There is no fighting because there’s no communicating. There is just distance and carelessness about the other individual. The fire is out.

Our continued arguments, followed by “I’m sorrys” and attempts at date nights showed me our fire was not out. It needed constant fanning, yes, but it was a stubborn, persistent flame.

I had dreamed of visiting another all-inclusive resort ever since our “perfect” honeymoon, and no matter what, I was determined to make it happen for our 10-year-anniversary. It did, but an unexpected pregnancy made us move our trip up four months early.
As we flew out for Jamaica, I couldn’t help but evaluate our relationship. Were we where I’d hoped we’d be? No, we definitely weren’t. But the next five days showed we weren't where we'd been at year six, either. They held little arguing, lots of hand-holding, and general good feelings about the other person.  Our progress was slow but present. The image of an anchor came to my mind somewhere over the Caribbean. It symbolized our relationship. Would I have liked butterflies? Sure. But this was more tangible and solid. We had survived some very difficult times, but on the other side of each difficulty was light. We had learned to always hold on, because though things sometimes get hard, they also always get better. And holding on is always worth it. Faith, children, family, values and commitment -- these are the things we fight for. We made vows we intend to keep.

Recently I purchased a wooden sign to hang in our bedroom that reads "We Still Do." As Eden asked what the words meant and I explained it to her, I felt proud. No, we have not always done things as we should and yes, she's seen her mommy and daddy fight more than she should. But she also knows that every night, we'll be here. We'll hug Daddy when he comes in from work and we'll pray for his safety the next day. We'll take family trips to Branson and make memories and snap pictures. Our life and our family and our marriage are not perfect, but we hold an abiding love and commitment for each other. I've seen many marriages over the years with couples who publicly gush and drool over each other but think nothing of packing up when things get tough. If I had to choose, I'd gladly take what we have. Anchored by shared history, vision for the future, and yes, love, we're in this for the long haul. We now understand the weight of the words we uttered at ages 19 and 21... "I do" means so much more than it did then, and in spite of the difficulties, we choose wholeheartedly each day to say it again.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ezra Is Here!

Our son, Ezra Tyler, was born Tuesday, July 5 at 5:36 a.m. As you can imagine, we are completely smitten. I still can't quite believe I am a #boymom... It has already been quite the adventure! His entrance into the world was memorable to say the least.

My due date was July 4 and in the days leading up to that, I was in a slight depression. I had been expecting him to come "any time now" for the past two weeks (since I had Selah at 38 weeks) so every day past that that I was still pregnant, I grew a little more discouraged.

Sweet boy took his time getting here, but when he decided it was time, IT WAS TIME! I went into labor in the early morning hours of July 5 and things progressed quicker than I ever could have imagined. On the way to the hospital, my pain intensified like crazy. About halfway there, I remember telling Tyler, "This isn't like the other times." I could tell I had reached a level of pain that I'd never gotten to with the girls (thanks to my epidurals). By the time we got to the hospital, the pain was more than I thought I could bear. I didn't know how in the world I would make it inside and up to Labor and Delivery on the second floor. My water broke in the parking lot and I felt like a bomb was about to explode in my body! When we finally got inside and the nurses checked me, my worst fears were confirmed. I was dilated to a 10 and there was no time for an epidural. I kept saying, "I can't do this. I can't do this." But of course, I had to. There was no choice. Thankfully, my doctor got there quickly and within thirty minutes and three pushes I had delivered a healthy, beautiful baby boy!

My labor with him was one of the most memorable, and yes traumatic, experiences of my life. But of course -- it was worth it. We have fallen hard for this handsome, dark-haired little guy.

I've done a lot of nothing since we brought him home. I haven't left the house at all. We have had kind friends bring us meals and amazing parents clean and help with the girls. What I have done is a lot of rocking, changing, kissing and feeding. Oh my, A LOT of feeding. I am attempting to nurse Ezra (something I was never successful with with the girls), and so far it's going fairly well, except that this kid would eat every half hour if I let him. Perhaps this is just another sign that we definitely brought home a BOY.

Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and well wishes about our new addition. We are so thankful he is here and "healthy and strong," which is what Selah prayed for for months. God is good.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

When You Have To Tell Your Kids, "I Don't Know."

My six-year-old Eden is wise and intuitive beyond her years. She thinks deeply about things like God and faith and sometimes she springs questions on me I'm not prepared for. We've had a couple such instances lately.

The other night we were doing a devotion in her Brave Girls book and it led to further conversation on various topics. She wound up asking, "Why did God make hell anyway? And why didn't He just make everyone born Christians?" I was a little stunned. This isn't where our conversation was supposed to go. But out of my mouth, almost like a reflex, came the "Christian-ese" answer.

"Well, God didn't make hell for people. He made it for the devil and his demons. And people aren't born Christians because God gives us a free will, wanting us to choose Him." It sounded good, but she didn't seem overly satisfied. And to be honest, I wasn't either. I found myself wondering if I truly believed the cliché answers I spouted off. And I felt discouraged that my faith wasn't stronger deep down, no matter how solid my front appeared.

A couple nights later as I was putting the girls to bed, Eden told me that the night before she had prayed something specific. It was small and trivial (but not to her) and she said she had made "20 pinky promises" with God that it would happen. It didn't. She wanted to know why. Once again, I explained to her the truths I've come to believe over 20 plus years of serving the Lord... "God knows what's best for us, Sweetheart, and sometimes it's not what we think. It's kind of like when you ask Mommy or Daddy for something and we tell you 'no.'" She started to cry. I could tell this shattered everything she thought she knew about God, which perhaps is good, but it broke me too to see her struggle.

girls at "Construction City" VBS this week

The next day we were riding in the car discussing something a little less spiritual -- the influx of mosquitos that have invaded our yard and home, and once again the girls asked, "Why did God make mosquitoes anyway?" Before I could get out my boxed answer of "frog food," Eden stepped up her game. "Why did He make OUR blood their food?!" With that, I was done. I was all out of ready-made answers and had to tell the girls I just didn't know. Here is the *one* thing I knew I could tell them for sure.

"Girls, God is GOOD. We don't always know why He does the things He does, but we can trust Him." As if God was giving us a personal confirmation right then and there, the song "Good, Good Father" by Chris Tomlin was on the radio, so I turned up the volume and sat in silence. I had nothing else to add to the conversation, but I prayed God would use the words of that song to speak peace and assurance over my little girls' hearts and help them believe what they can't always see.

It's difficult as a mom to not have all the answers for your kids, especially when you want so badly to train them to love and fear the Lord. But the truth is, God is incomprehensible and faith is sometimes rocky. It often comes through doubts and trials. I have to come to terms with that and leave their seeking hearts in the Lord's hands. After all, I want them to develop their own tried and truth faiths, not become puppets for boxed answers that one day disintegrate with doubts. If the Lord is true and good and faithful (and I know HE IS because He has proven it to me!), then He will prove Himself over time in their own lives, and in a sense, I can sit back and watch it happen.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Be The Mom Who Does Devotionals With Your Kids

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.

We do a lot of children's devotional books around here. As a Tommy Nelson Mommy, I get new ones sent my way almost monthly, and all of them are so good! I feel like doing devotional books with my kids is such an easy way to teach them about the Lord, explore different facets of our faith, and spur conversations. It's all laid out in the books. We just pick them up and dig in.

The book we're in right now I especially love because it's designed for a slightly older age group than the ones we've done in the past. The Brave Girls - Beautiful You devotional is designed for ages 6-12 so Eden is just old enough to enjoy and get something out of it. She and I have been doing these devotions lately (with Selah sometimes listening in), and I can tell Eden feels special because they are designed for "big girls." They focus on teaching what real beauty is all about.... that it comes from the Lord, that it's not about being like everyone else, and that it's unique to each person. So far in her young life, none of these things have been an issue for Eden. But I'm happy to be setting the stage for truth in this area. Because I know it's just a matter of time before she deals with perhaps a mean comment about something she's wearing or feels jealous of another or wants to change something about herself. She's a girl so it's definitely coming. But I believe having been taught Truth on the front end will make all the difference.

This devotional is part of the Brave Girls line of books, designed to help little girls grow up strong and healthy in Christ. Each book features tween girl characters Glory, Gracie and Hope who write the introductions to each section and are pictured throughout.

Like I've said before, I enjoy doing children's devotions with my girls because I inevitably get something out of them too. Something about simple explanations of Biblical truths remind me that God and the Christian life don't have to be so complicated. It is simple enough for a child and it should be for me as well. They also provide wonderful conversation starters and opportunities for quality time together.

So I encourage you, Mama, get a devotional book and do it with your kids this summer. Whether it's one of the Brave Girls books or one of the many others I've featured on this blog or one you find on your own, it is an EASY way to spend time with your kids and actually invest in their spiritual lives (not just their tan) this summer ;).

Of course I'm giving away a copy of the Brave Girls - Beautiful You devotional. So leave a comment on this post telling me what you think young girls need to learn about real beauty (and then enter via the Rafflecopter box below) and you'll be entered to win. Happy Summer and Happy Reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is my last in the "Be The Mom" series I'm doing this summer with my friend Amanda Farris. Hop on over to her blog today to see how she encourages you to be the mom who's neighborly. If you missed any of our other posts this month, they were --

Be The Mom Who Plans Vacations me

Be The Mom That Eats a McDonald's Ice Cream Cone Amanda

Be The Mom Who Consecrates Downtime me

Be The Mom That Is The Right Kind of Busy Amanda

Be The Mom Who Teaches Giving me

Be The Mom Who Plans a Fun Day Amanda

And remember, any comment on any of our "Be The Mom" posts enters you to win the book "Be The Mom" by Tracey Eyster -- which means if you comment on today's post, you're entered to win TWO books! Thanks so much for reading our "Be The Mom" series this month. I hope it encouraged and challenged you to make the most of your mom role this summer!
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