HOPE #3

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We raised 4 butterflies.

They came to us as tiny caterpillars, no longer than a fingernail.  Over time they grew and grew and grew.

Then, they were shrouded in darkness as each caterpillar formed a Chrysalis around itself.  There it hung, no movement and no beauty, until finally one day it emerged.  A butterfly!  Weak at first, but beautiful and new and complete!

Much like Christ, who hung on a cross and was shrouded in cloth and laid in a dark tomb, but emerged alive and whole and new and perfect.

Isn’t that how hope is?  It grows in us, the longing becoming stronger and the dreams becoming larger.  Then, perhaps you feel it is snuffed out. Darkness covers it and it seems hidden.  But, you can not see the work that God is doing or the changes he is weaving beneath that darkness.  Then, one day, it will emerge.  It will be new, perhaps look different even, but it will be beautiful and perfect and whole.

Don’t lose hope in the darkness.  That may be the place where the most work is being done.  It is simply being done by hands greater and more skilled than your own.  Simply rest in that dark place and wait.

 

psalm 71: 5-6, 14

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
    you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.

I will ever praise you.

As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

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Why it is actually ok to “lose yourself” in Motherhood

Have you seen the titles?  The instagram captions?  They are meaningful and honest and well-intentioned.

How to not “lose yourself” in motherhood, or why you shouldn’t “lose yourself” in motherhood.

I’m not sure where this idea came from that motherhood inherently makes you lose part of who you really are?  Does motherhood change you? Yes, definitely.  Is that inherently bad?  No.  Is motherhood sometimes all-consuming. Yes. Is that wrong? No. Does motherhood define you in many ways? Totally!  Does that make you less of a woman?  Absolutely not!

It saddens me that many of the very women who seem to praise and love motherhood, are also belittling it by suggesting that in order to stay true to yourself you can not give your whole self to the task.  I do not believe that is the case.

After all, the same can be said for any phase of life. You can “lose yourself” in school and studying or in your career and work, or in a marriage. I think it is the word lose that really gets on my nerves. If you are lost then that means you are confused about which way to go, you are unsure, you have no direction.

That’s not really what we are talking about here.  What we are talking about is self-denial, yet also self-realization.

If I have always been a creative person, and then I become a mom and I use my creativity to plan a super adorable first birthday party, have I “lost myself” in motherhood?  Or, rather, have I just used a part of my personality to benefit my children?  If I love photography and my children become my main subjects, have I “lost myself” in motherhood, or am I just using my gifts for the people that are most important to me.

It seems to me that motherhood often makes us MORE of who we are, rather than detracting from us.  The difference is that we are no longer using our gifts, interests and abilities to merely serve ourselves.  We are using them to serve our children and our families.  The world says this makes us less of a woman and that we are “wasting” our talents or we are “losing” ourselves.  I disagree.  Who we give our all for or where we choose to demonstrate our personalities is not what matters.  It doesn’t change the worth.

A woman who sings beautiful grammy-award worthy lullabies to a crying infant is not less worthy than the woman on the stage.  A woman who cooks gourmet meals for a husband and hungry children is not more lost than a woman who constantly serves strangers in a five star restaurant. A woman who paints murals on the nursery wall for her coming child rather than for a museum is not wasting her talents.  She is still herself.  She is not lost.  Her personality has not changed. Rather it has more purpose.

If daily learning to deny myself and to serve my family is considered “losing myself” to motherhood, then so be it.  I am happy to be lost.  This “loss” has grown me and shaped me and fulfilled me more than any other pursuit of my life.  It is harder and lonelier than many other experiences I have had.  But, it is life-changing, eternal work I am doing.

After all . . .

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” philippians 3:8

So, mamas.  Don’t feel like what you are is not enough.  Be who you are IN your motherhood, not outside of it.  Tap dance in the kitchen, dress your children in the latest fashion, hike and travel with your kids, do what you love and be who you are FOR them and don’t be ashamed of it.

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Real life photo of my motherhood, and just for fun . . .  a LINK to a post on this same topic that I wrote very shortly after my first daughter was born.

How to Mentor Yourself.

This title is misleading.  One can not simply mentor one’s self.

I truly believe that mentorship is not only important, but a Biblical call.

Here’s a piece of my story:

I had two kids (only two!), but I felt overwhelmed.  Discipline was not going well, nobody was napping, I was working, I was hormonal, I was overwhelmed.  I found myself in the bathroom with the door shut, on the floor and crying.

Why was I failing at this?  All I had ever wanted was to be a mother and here I was mad at my kids, barely surviving and generally failing at the one career I had most longed for my whole life.  I was at a breaking point.

I was pouring out day after day with nothing to fill me back up. I was desperate.

My whole life I was shy and lacking in confidence around adults, so asking a woman to mentor me would have been a monumental task.  The thought horrified me, and honestly, I still haven’t brought myself to do it.

Instead I set out to “mentor myself”. With very few friends and very little time, I knew I had to be creative. I had been inspired by a book called Women Living Well (by Cortney Joseph), which had outlined a mentorship program she began at her church. I ached for something similar.  A way to be mentored without having to find some random woman and ask her to “HELP ME, PLEASE!” I began e-mailing the women’s ministry director at church about a mentorship program, but it was not to be . . . yet.

So, here is what I did and here are my tips for you:

  1. Podcasts:  

This was the turning point for me.  This was how I got out of my rut and began to thrive, rather than merely survive.  I started strapping my two kiddos into the stroller with some snacks and sometimes a bag for collecting nature items.  I’d plug in my iPod with some freshly downloaded podcasts and I’d walk and listen and sit under the wisdom of a godly woman.

The podcast I chose was by Sally Clarkson.  She and a younger woman (Kristen Kill) speak on many topics, but with motherhood at the heart of it all.  I was encouraged, challenged, and inspired by her!  They still record podcasts, so it is a great resource! Since then, I have added in the At Home podcast, which is also wonderful, but often focused on homeschooling.

Sometimes, if I hadn’t had a chance for a walk and I could tell I was losing it, I would ask my husband to watch the kids for a bit when he got home from work, and I would sneak off to my room to fold laundry and listen to part of a podcast.  Hearing fresh encouragement and wisdom always geared me up to finish the night strong.

 2. Instagram:

I know, I know . . . the rest of the world is all “stay off social media”, “don’t compare yourself”, “instagram is not reality” . . . but, hear me out. I found that there were certain people who used instagram as a ministry of sorts to speak encouragement and wisdom into other women.  Having these people in my feed contributed to seeing positive and inspiring messages during my week. Here are a few of my favorites:

@sally.clarkson

@athomepodcast

@proverbs31ministries

@gracelaced

@womenlivingwell

@yourfavoritehousewife (for her Theology Thursdays)

   3. Books: 

Gradually, as I got my life back under control and began to come out of the fog I had been in, I was able to manage my time and life more in a way that allowed me to add in some reading time here and there.  Of course, the Bible is the best book of all, but there were some specific books on motherhood that really encouraged me during this time.

  • Women Living Well
  • The Mission of Motherhood
  • Raising Godly Tomatoes
  • The Life-Giving Home
  • Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe

4. Real-Life Mentorship:

Real life mentorship is the obvious goal and has the potential to be the most life-giving and practically helpful.  I reached out on a mom facebook group when my kids’ bedtime routine was driving me insane.  I emailed a parenting expert at my church when a particular behavior issue with my child was challenging me. I was still too scared to talk to anyone in person, but this less personal methods still helped me a lot! I also switched my work schedule, so that I could attend a women’s Bible study once a week and I made sure to join the groups with leaders I knew would offer valuable wisdom.

I also continued to hound the women’s mentorship director about a program at the church. HA!  Eventually, we got together and a new ministry was born at our church.  We are preparing for our third mentorship event right now.  This event invites experienced women to lead a table on a specific topic.  Women sit at the table to ask questions, hear wisdom, and be encouraged.  It is a beautiful model of mentorship that requires no long term commitments (but opens the door to them) and no initiating on anyone’s part to begin a mentorship relationship (Shy people, rejoice!)

 

What resources do you use for “self-mentorship”?

 

Also, remember, you too are further along . . .

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 ****And here is one more thought for you.  I have heard people say that they cannot follow someone on instagram or listen to a certain podcast, or read a certain book because the person sounded too perfect.  Or they felt discouraged because the person was doing more than they were.  DON’T BE LIKE THAT!  Remember, a mentor is a mentor because they are further along the road than you.  Just because they are succeeding in an area that you may be struggling in does not mean that they have never struggled! Rather than feeling discouraged that you have been convicted or challenged, be encouraged.  If you see a flaw in yourself, that is GOOD.  Without seeing it, you cannot change it. Don’t seek mentors who tell you that you are great as you are, seek mentors who encourage you to be all that God called you to be.  That will give you so much more hope and joy in the end!

 

Hope #2

{ This hope series is designed to chronicle my “word of the year” as well as to enourage you wit scripture, resources, and more.  Enjoy!}

hope2

I am still focused on hope.

And, the funny thing is that hope breeds gratitude and gratitude lessens your tendency to hope for frivolous things.

There have been times that I have had such hope for a larger and more practical home.  Yet, this stormy season has brought such gratitude.  When I see rain pouring and wind raging outside, I am so very grateful for my home and my desire for something larger fades into the background of a thankful heart.

Thus, rather than longing for things, I am content in what I have already been blessed with.  Because, at one point, this very home is what I was hoping for.  This home is a hope fulfilled.

Gratitude reminds us of God’s provision in the past, it reassures us that we can hope again, but it also lessens our desire or hope for so many different things.  Hope is good, but we don’t want to spend all of our thoughts and prayers hoping for more.  Rather, believe that God can and be content even if he doesn’t.

“The iron did swim.”—2 Kings 6:9. Here is a great scripture and a link to a mini Spurgeon sermonthhhhgra that inspires hope.

Chicken Lady

We live in 816 square feet in a suburban neighborhood.  We share fences with four additional houses.

However, we still want to try our hand at some simple homesteading.  The first way we began that process was with raising chickens.  It has been about four years since we first got our chicks!  I have never regretted it!  In fact, I hope to expand our coop and raise a few more this year.

I’m sharing my tips for getting started with your own backyard chickens over at Raising Homemakers today!

Join me and become a chicken lady! Then, we can buy these shirts and wear them together!

chick

Raising Homemakers

Birthdays on a Budget

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I love throwing parties. So having three daughters is perfect!  I can throw parties at least three times a year!

However, when on a tight budget, throwing a party means using what I have and DIY-ing ALL. THE. THINGS.

So, I thought I’d share a few tips with you on how I throw fun and pretty parties on the cheap.

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  1. Use what you have.

I like to choose a theme for my parties, but once I’ve done that I consider what items I already have that can be used for the party and this often determines my color choices, decor, activities, etc.

For Sonora’s first birthday party I had the following items:

scrapbook paper, ribbons and fabric, cardboard, paint, vases, chalkboard, various dishes and cake plates, baking ingredients, horse figurines, edible flowers and herbs, popsicle sticks, craft paper.

This allowed me to create multiple banners, a backdrop, decor, sugar cookies, chocolate and whipped cream cake, and a pin the tail on the horse game for no extra money.

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2. Shop cheap.

I always buy my party plates and cups at the dollar tree and then “splurge” on a $3 packet of cute napkins from Home Goods.  I sometimes buy fun straws from the dollar spot at Target as well and then I have a stash to pull from. I spent $2 on plates and cups for this party.  I bought the ranunculas as a splurge and spent $12 total on the flowers, but they are still alive and decorating our home! I purchased the snack food from Food 4 Less and kept it simple: pretzels, caramel apples, and cream cheese/cucumber sandwiches.

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3. Accept help.

As a sort of go-getter, independent type, I tend to say, “I’ve got it” when people ask if they can help.  But, I am reformed . . . a little.  Parents often love helping with parties.  This time around my mom brought all the drinks and my in-laws brought a veggie platter and some edible flowers for decor. Also, grandma’s Christmas present to Sonora was the fancy horse dress she wore at the party.

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4. DIY

I’m going to admit that I almost ordered custom sugar cookies from this party.  But, then I found a 99cent unicorn cookie cutter and decided to make my own cookies (I cut the horns off, lol)! I also made a basic chocolate cake (2 layers with dollar store cake pans). I used whipped cream instead of frosting and then simply garnished with herbs and flowers from the garden as well as leftover scrap paper and one of my kids’ horse toys.

I purchased a few pieces of felt, iron on paper for her onesie (I used an old stained onesie), and one page of stick on gold glitter paper one package of pre-made flowers from Michaels.  I used a coupon and all of the decor cost me less than $12.

With these items I made the birthday crown, the high chair decor, the mini banner on the cake, the cake smash onesie, and the wording on the Pin-the-tail game.

The other item I love to DIY are the invites.  I buy a giant ream of cardstock that lasts forever and I use picmonkey to create a cute invite.  I print two invites per sheet of cardstock and then cut them.  I typically buy envelopes at Michaels with a coupon, which costs about $3 for 50 envelopes. I also hand deliver when I can to save on stamps!

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5. Keep it simple

I like to have my parties at non-meal times.  This way I only need snacks and drinks, rather than a main course.

I stick to easy games and often print out coloring sheets.  This time I had horse coloring sheets and I used craft paper that was used as padding in a package I received earlier in the week to cut our horse heads for the kids to decorate.

I will admit that we had a mini horse at this party, but in my defense it was free and unexpected! This brings up a great point!  Ask friends to participate.  Do you have a friend that teaches art, juggles, does magic tricks, sings, etc.? They might love being a part of your party entertainment!

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So, there you have it! A pretty party on a simple budget.  It was beautiful and fun and pretty easy to do!  Any questions?  Tips of your own?  I’d love to hear!