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Approaching a New Year with Contentment

For the first time ever in my adult life I find myself approaching a new year without a desperate hope for change.  In the past, the new year came about and I was so relieved at the prospect of just starting over.

Of trying again.

Of getting things right.

I was often consumed by a sense of failure.  I experienced a nagging ache of depression that I just couldn’t shake. It was common for the end of the year to roll around and for me to feel inexplicably lonely.

Empty.

This year is different.  Sure, I have had struggles just like anyone else.  Just like any other year. But, my struggles have been different this year because I found contentment.

I found gratitude.

I found peace.

I know that I haven’t failed because I have progressed.  I know that I am not alone because I have my God.

I am content with the progress I have made.  I am content with where I am going. with the person I am becoming. I am excited for what tomorrow brings, regardless of whether I have to unwrap the cellophane around a new calendar or not.

I can wake up tomorrow, God willing, and know that it’s just a progression of what I’ve accomplished today.

I don’t need to start over.

I can simply move forward.

I have been reading lately about the practice of focusing on one word for the new year. Of rather than making a resolution or setting a goal, to write that one word on the front of a journal and reflect on it through out the entire year.

I liked that idea and am happy to try it.  The idea of exploring one single word and all of its meaning.  All of its possibilities as I apply it to my life.

It didn’t come to me instantaneously.  But, I prayed.  I prayed that He would guide me in choosing.

I choose Growth.

Happy 2014 to you all.  May God bless you.

Let’s grow together, shall we?

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We stayed true to our tradition this year of ordering Chinese from the little place my husband and I had New Year's Eve dinner 6 years ago when he arrived here from across the country.  My fortune tonight was perfect.  Each day we are blessed with the chance to start anew.

We stayed true to our tradition this year of ordering Chinese from the little place my husband and I had New Year’s Eve dinner 6 years ago when he arrived here from across the country. My fortune tonight was perfect. Each day we are blessed with the chance to start anew.

We always sit with the kiddos and discuss our goals and plans for the new year both as individuals and as a family, creating our visions poster together.

We always sit with the kiddos and discuss our goals and plans for the new year both as individuals and as a family, creating our visions poster together.

 

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My 3 Keys to Staying Sane With a Handful of Kids

It seems I am always being asked…

How do you do it all?  

How do you keep it together?  

How is it your house always seems pretty clean when we happen to stop by?

I plan to write more about just how I stay sane in the future.  But, yesterday I had the privilege of guest posting on the pregnancy and parenting website What To Expect.  I was thrilled that they reached out to me!

I provided a quick rundown of what makes this mothering gig, with four boys and one girl, a little bit more successful for me..

You can check out the post here.

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I Ran Away From My Family Today

Let’s just say this isn’t the post I had scheduled for today…

I ran away from my family today.

I hate to admit that to you, but it’s true.  And, I know that I can’t just share the good stuff with you. That maybe you need to know that I’m not just a series of pretty pictures containing happy children and ingenious crafts.

I’m aware that I have been accused (yes, accused) of presenting my life as perfect.

It’s true that I try my hardest to find the joy in everything.  I try to remain positive even during the toughest of times.  I try to encourage other women and lift them up.

But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt.  Or get angry. Or sad. Or feel down right crazy.

It’s true that I don’t bad mouth my husband.  That I’m quick to praise him and proclaim the beauty of our love and all that he is to me.  But, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t offend me. Or make me mad. Or let me down. Or annoy me.

Let’s face it– he is a man.

I try my best.  But, I’m far from perfect.  I’m just this woman who takes on a lot.  Sometimes too much.  And, who gets overwhelmed.

Today I had just had it.  I felt spent. I felt like I had hit a wall.  I felt like I couldn’t win.  Like I do a whole lot– for a whole lot of nothing.  Not true, I know.  But sometimes it feels that way.

Doesn’t it?

I literally left my family standing on our drive way.

And, I drove away.

That’s shameful for me. Especially because my neighbor saw me crying.  Me. The woman who corrals five children like it’s a cake walk.  The one who makes the neighbors wonder just how she does it all.  They saw me crying!

I didn’t know at that moment where I was going but I knew that I had to remove myself from there.  I ended up doing a little bit of shopping and getting a pedi-cure.  I could hardly remember the last time I had a pedi-cure.  So, it was nice. I exhaled.  I regrouped.  I prayed in my car. I desperately needed those couple of hours. Or else I might have ended up with a couple of days of staring at padded walls!

I came back and I made dinner for my family.  And, I was okay.  I even took my son to his football trophy ceremony, managed to engage in pleasant conversation and actually managed to have a good time.

But I’m learning that it’s okay to admit that sometimes I don’t feel like just smiling through it. That sometimes I feel tired, frustrated, haggard.  That sometimes I feel like I simply cannot bear another moment of tending to children or caring for a husband. That sometimes I feel done!

And that’s okay.

I truly was happy to clean and cook for the perfect Thanksgiving--even without sleep. That's just what moms do!!

I truly was happy to clean and cook for the perfect Thanksgiving–even without sleep. That’s just what moms do!!

This was a tough day for both of us!  But Mommy can't throw a tantrum and then take a nap while on time out! Ahhh-- the tough life of a two year old! ;)

This was a tough day for both of us! But Mommy can’t throw a tantrum and then take a nap while on time out! Ahhh– the tough life of a two year old! ;)

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Our OCC Experience

One of the most important things I can pass along to my children is instilling in them the desire to serve.

We try to think of ways to reach out all year-long, of course.  But, the holidays present many great opportunities to get my kids involved in the act of giving.

This year I knew they were ready to participate in the Operation Christmas Child movement hands on, and I let them take the lead.  They chose the sex and age range of each child.  They shopped for the items they knew a child would love to receive.  They packed the boxes with school supplies, puzzles, toiletries and small toys.  And, most importantly, we all prayed over the boxes together repeatedly.  To the point where we almost feel we know the children we are praying for now.

I really believe that this year they got it.  They fully understood what we were doing, why we were doing it and that where the boxes would end up was very special.

I loved seeing their giddy excitement as they prepared the boxes and envisioned the joy they were helping to spread.

We talked about Jesus and how He loved us.  We talked about how badly he wants for us to spread that love and minister for Him.  We talked about how people around the world face many challenges and by showing them the images on the OCC website they were able to understand how much we truly have in comparison to many.

We read the book Rain School.  It went along perfectly with this as it is about children who have to build their own school each year out of mud just to watch it be washed away by the rain.

But these children are so eager to learn! And they hope for such simple things like new school supplies!  Things that we can help give them.

I am so very thankful for Operation Christmas Child and for all of the opportunities God presents to me during the holidays to reach out.

That is what makes Christmas for me!

Matthew 5:14-16
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. “Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

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I am Thankful

The month of December seemed to creep up on me out of nowhere.  When I realized that Thanksgiving was over and it was now time to throw myself into our yearly Christmas traditions I considered just foregoing the “Thankful” post that I had kept meaning to write.

But then I thought about how hard I have been trying lately to be thankful every single day.  How the whole point of my new journey is to show gratitude — and not just on Thanksgiving.

So, long after the turkey left overs had been gobbled up and well into our Advent Calendar fun, I decided to tell you all about why I’m thankful anyway.

Right now I am most thankful for the way that my heart has turned towards God this year.  He has changed my life in such an incredible way. I mean, I was always a believer.  But since making the decision to re-commit to my faith, God has truly blessed me in leaps and bounds.  I have grown closer to Him.  I begin and end my days with Him.  I have learned the true meaning of putting Him first, in all things.  And, man, does it feel good!!

My husband and I have gotten on a very steady routine of showing up to Church with our children every Sunday.  Because I have admitted I used to struggle with this. I know that the devil was always in my face willing me to stay in bed, giving me every excuse in the book why I couldn’t possibly make it to Church. And now, I can’t imagine not being there, really. I lay out our things the night before with a feeling of excitement.  I wake up with a longing in my heart and soul to be there! And for that, I am thankful.

I chose to take part in our Women’s Ministry this year, which was somewhat of a big deal for me because I am really shy and I have to really push myself to put myself out there.  But being with that group of women each week has been amazing.  The way they have received me is just incredible.  I don’t know if they are even aware how much love, encouragement and support they give me. And for that, I am thankful.

This year I birthed a daughter.  And I can say that with four sons my life was truly wonderful as it was.  I had grown to accept that I would probably never accompany a daughter of mine to a chick flick and a pedicure. That I would never see her walk down the aisle or hold her hand in a delivery room.  And that was okay because my four boys brought me so much joy.  But, just when I thought my cup was full it went spilling right over.  There she was.  Daughter of mine! Every day I look at her and I am looking at a miracle.  And for that, I am thankful. 

The marriage Bible study I have taken part in this year has strengthened my marriage like I never thought possible.  We are not perfect by any means, but we are in such a good place.  A place of communication, appreciation, attention, spiritual togetherness and growth. I have learned so much about being the Godly wife my husband needs and I have seen that the more I put in the more I get back.  My husband is such a hard worker who provides for us, enables me to stay home and even after his long hours is such an involved father.  And, for that, I am thankful.

If I listed every single thing that I am thankful for I would never be able to stop typing!  But those are some of the things that have really just been transformed in my life this year and I wanted to share that with you.

I have been focused on living my life with an “attitude of gratitude”. Even on those days where it seems there is nothing to be thankful for because everything is going downhill.  Even on those days where I find that I could easily slip into a dark depression.

I remind myself that there is always, always something to be thankful for.

And with that, I can be content. 

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I was inspired to write this post by Heather, who is an 8-year survivor of mesothelioma – a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  When Heather was diagnosed, she had just given birth to her little girl and she was told she would only have 15 months to live.  Heather beat the odds, and she is one of just a few long-term survivors. Now, she is on a mission to spread awareness of mesothelioma by sharing her personal story.

Heather says– “If having cancer has taught me anything, it’s the value of life and the value of gratitude.”

You can find Heather’s website here.

My prescription for Life.

My prescription for Life.

I don't always get to journal as much as I'd like to--but at the very least I jot down three things I am thankful for each day.

I don’t always get to journal as much as I’d like to–but at the very least I jot down three things I am thankful for each day.

The "Thankful" tree I made with the children.  I LOVED hearing all that they are thankful for!

The “Thankful” tree I made with the children. I LOVED hearing all that they are thankful for!

A cute idea from a friend in my marriage Bible study.  I love seeing the Hubby smile when he sees there's a new "reason" scribbled there for him..

A cute idea from a friend in my marriage Bible study. I love seeing the Hubby smile when he sees there’s a new “reason” scribbled there for him..

The kiddos had such fun making these Thanksgiving cards for Gramma!

The kiddos had such fun making these Thanksgiving cards for Gramma!

Such a blessing-- our super sweet & chubby baby girl!

Such a blessing– our super sweet & chubby baby girl!

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I Used to Be..

This lovely piece was submitted by a guest poster, Jaymie Schwartz.  (You can read Jaymie’s bio below.)

used to be smart.  Graduated 8th in my high school class and Magna Cum Laude with my bachelors degree. Then I had kids.

Now I’m happy if I can follow simple directions to put together a toy or make a decent meal.

used to have a great memory.  Through many years of Bible quizzing I had collectively 16 books of the New Testament memorized almost word for word at one point or another.

Then I had kids.

Now I’m happy if I can remember to eat all 3 meals.

used to be a musician. I played the flute for over 12 years and had beginners lessons in trombone, trumpet, sax, keyboarding and drums.

Then I had kids.

Now I sing Disney songs.

used to be a writer. I won an award in college for a paper I wrote and was sent to the National Religious Broadcasters to read that paper to a group of professionals in the multimedia industry. I had a photo taken with one of the Baldwins.  Not the one from 30 Rock.  I don’t remember which one.  (See two paragraphs back).

Then I had kids.  

Now I write the occasional clever Facebook status about the kids, but mostly I write traceable alphabets and three letter words to help them learn to read and write.

used to eat meals while they were hot, go out to see movies, hang out with friends half the night and mainly worry about taking care of myself.

Then I had kids.

Now I’m excited to have a few hot bites now and again. The last movies I went out to see were Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University.  I slept through the second one in the back of my car with a baby on my chest.

I’m happy to have a couple of hours to sit at a coffee shop with a friend before we’re both so exhausted we go home to crawl in bed.

I worry about not having enough clean bottles, making milk to fill those bottles, making meals everyone will eat, making sure there are dishes to eat off of, wiping faces, brushing hair, setting out clothes, getting down games, putting games up, making Play-Doh worms, killing bugs and generally keeping everyone in the house alive.

Then I might be able to shower and dry my hair, in between breaking up arguments, telling someone where something is and giving (or not giving) permission to get a snack.

I used to be a lot of things. 

But, I traded them all to be the not-so-smart, forgetful, less musical, non-writing, cold meal eating, dishwasher, Play-Doh worm expert, referee, face wiping, laundry flipping

MOM.

 And, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. 

Wouldn't trade them for anything!!

Wouldn’t trade them for anything!!

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I spend my days making their days special..

I spend my days making their days special..

They're asleep!  I dare not move!

They’re asleep! I dare not move!

Jaymie Schwartz is a stay at home mama to 4 fantastic kiddos – 2 kindergarteners, 1 preschooler and a new little one. She’s been a foster parent and through that has received the great blessing of adopting 2 wonderful kids. She’s also had the honor of bearing 2 beautiful biological children – one of them a 10 week premature miracle. She’s just a flawed mommy doing her best to let Jesus call the shots for her family and home and enjoying the crazy adventures that come along as a result!

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He Ruined My Day

In retrospect, the funniest thing about today is how good I felt about it upon waking up.

You see, today I was supposed to attend a social for my Women’s Group at Church.  It was a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  Like many moms out there, planning for such an event and actually showing up without having forgotten one of your children–is a small miracle in itself.  I had stayed up late to make deviled eggs.  I had managed to locate all of the coats I had collected for a local woman’s shelter and I had even managed to get them all in the same bag and into my car.  The kids were dressed nicely, the baby’s things were packed, we were actually on time and, most importantly, I was donning one very silly Spartan helmet.

I flew into the Church and straight to the daycare just as I always seem to do. Hurried, tired, hot, flushed–you get the idea.  I was worried about the eggs sloshing around in my bakeware, the beads of sweat making their way out of my helmet and dripping down my carefully made up face….

And, then it happened.  I looked around to see that my lovely 4-year-old had not followed me into the daycare room.  When I saw him crouching outside, head bent down, with wet eyes, trying to quietly slink away, I realized this was going to be one of those times.  He was acting out.  He was going to refuse to go into the daycare.

He was embarrassing me.

He was ruining my day.

My cheeks became even hotter as I surrendered my eggs and bag of coats, gathered up my children and retreated to my van as quickly as possible.  I didn’t want the other women to see the tears that were coming.  But I know some of them did.  And I’m convinced they must think I’m absolutely crazy. And, not in a good way.

But, I didn’t want to stand in the lobby of my Church and have that struggle with my stubborn 4-year-old so that I could go to a party.  I didn’t want to continue standing there while some of the other ladies tried to entice him to stay, tried to pacify him.  Because I know him, and I knew that today he wasn’t going to budge.  And even if he did, at some point–well,by that point I would be tired, defeated and make-up less.

I just  didn’t feel like it anymore. 

I was angry. 

I was hurt.  

I mean, I needed that party.  I had looked forward to that party.  As a mother who works from home I very much enjoy the time I have each week with my Bible study ladies, while my children are in daycare.

At least those were the thoughts that played themselves out in my head as I wept on the drive home.  And my 4-year-old sat in stunned silence in the back seat.  Until he said meekly, “Why are you crying? Can we still go back to your party?”

As angry as I was that statement tugged on my heart and I was glad that at least, at that moment,  this little hellion understood.  The hurt that his selfishness and stubbornness could cause other people was actually becoming real to him.  He cared that I was upset due to his actions.  And, that mattered to me.

I knew too that this was much more than him simply wanting to ruin my day out of malice.  I knew that this was my little boy’s cry for help.  A cry that has been present and yet stifled over the past few weeks because it’s just easy for him to get overlooked in between his older brother’s school work and sports, and his younger siblings very basic needs.

After having a private heart to heart with him and then confining him to his room to think for a while, I put the other little ones to nap, took an aspirin and a long hot shower.

I tend to do some of my best thinking in the shower.

I thought about how in the past I could have easily buried myself in my bed for the remainder of the day and wallowed in my sadness.  But these days I have become stronger in my faith, thank God.  And so instead of drawing the blinds and escaping to my bed…

I thought about the Why.  And, I remembered that I am not in control.  Not only was God reminding me that there was a little boy who had some issues that needed to be addressed.  But, he was also reminding me that life does not go according to my plan.  You see, I had gotten so busy the last few days working, tending to the house and getting our things ready for this party and the upcoming holidays.  So busy that I hadn’t prayed enough.  So busy that I hadn’t opened my Bible every day.

But, today God humbled me. 

He was telling me that I couldn’t just love him, push him to the side whenever I felt like it and just show up to Church to mingle at my party.  He was reminding me that yes, the relationships and support I get from the women’s group is good.  But that His love and growing closer to Him are better.  He was reminding me that I can’t allow myself to get so busy that I just keep moving and manage to fly in and show up for the “fun” in Church.

That I have to be present in my walk with him. 

All the time.

And after much prayer and reflection I was at peace.  There will be other parties, after all.  But right now, there’s this little boy who needs me.

And, there’s this loving, mighty, wonderful God.

And I need him.

“For I know the plans I have for you.” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you”, declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29: 11-14

And doncha know, I sure thought I looked cute right before everything went down hill! =)

And doncha know, I sure thought I looked cute right before everything went down hill! =)

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Currently in my women's study group we are working on this book, Capture His Heart, on becoming the Godly wife our husband deserves!  It has already made some terrific changes in our marriage!

Currently in my women’s study group we are working on this book, Capture His Heart, on “becoming the Godly wife our husband deserves.” It has already made some terrific changes in our marriage!

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