Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Give Poor Mama a Break!

Image by Sean Birmingham
flickr.com/photos/seanbirm/15418978210/in/photolist-puwi2U-8u77Zj
If you're visiting from Christian Children's Author's blog, Welcome!

The past few weeks I've relived my child-rearing years as my daughter and her young family have lived with us while awaiting the closing on their new home. With a toddler and newborn in the home, I've felt like time reversed itself, but then my 50-something body reminded me that, no, no, that's not at all true.

Aside from the sore back and enormous fatigue at the end of the day, I've been reminded of how demanding mommy-hood can be as each child simultaneously demands her attention with distinct vocalizations at varying decibels all day long. Oh, there may be minor distractions like the second or third viewing of The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh or a precious few moments of independent play dough squishing creativity where Mama may get a break from constant demands. And, there are most days where the children take naps at the same time that last longer than the walk out of their room, but there are days that I collapse alongside my daughter and say, "Wow! How did I ever get through those child-rearing years alive?"

Thinking back on those years I remembered these few helps:
  • Ask for help - seek out a family member, close friend or a recommended caregiver to give you a hand with the kids when you need it. 
  • Get out of the house - if you're a stay-at-home mom, find ways to change your surroundings. Not only will it help you, but your kids' attitudes will benefit from the different atmosphere, too. Suggested places to go: a local park, kids museum, a friends house, a walk around the block, the children's library or as simple as running errands.
  • Group activities - enroll yourself and your child in a group activity like a children's story hour at your local library or book store, Gymboree's or MOP's clubs. Not only do these activities occupy and grow your child's creativity and social skills, they allow you to find encouragement from other parents. 
  • Power nap - it's amazing how a 15-20 minute nap on the couch while your kids are sleeping helps re-energize you for the rest of the day. It was a hard one for me to learn because I always saw the "to do list" when I shut my eyes. But, if you can learn to shut down for just a few minutes a day, it will make the after school to bed time hours more enjoyable. 
  • Share the after 5 pm responsibilities - discuss how your spouse or older children might help with dinner preparation, clean up, bath/bedtime routines.
  • Get away with your spouse- everyone needs a vacation, especially parents...Yes, without our children. This was the #1 best lesson I ever learned in my child-rearing years. When we enlist a trusted grandparent, relative, friend or babysitter to watch your children overnight, we build stronger families. Our children not only learn to trust us to return, but we teach them the importance of honor. When we give our marriage relationship its proper place of honor, we lay a foundation for healthy marriages for our children. 
  • Remind yourself, "It's temporary" - childhood seems endless. It really isn't. One day you'll wake up and you'll realize how incredibly independent your baby has become. You'll finally gain back all that sleep you thought you'd lost forever. 




Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lost and found Bunny: a lesson in prayer

The Beloved Toy Rabbit by Alyssa L. Miller
flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/3601329354
If you're joining me from the Christian Children's Authors blog, Welcome! 
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Psalm 17:6 NIV
Bunny went missing. Oh, not the Peter Rabbit sort that live outside among the garden rows and feasted on carrots and cabbages whilst we slumbered. No, this missing rabbit was affectionately called Bunny by my adoring five-year-old daughter ever since it traveled across the continent to our home via Grandma's suitcase four years prior. And now it was nowhere to be found!
Panic struck about 8 p.m. on a school night just as "T" returned to her bedroom with a glass of water in hand. Proud that she'd earned the right to fetch her own night-time drink, "T" woke me from my power nap as she snuggled between the sheets and drew up her blanket. Adjusting her pillows, she reached for Bunny only to find...nothing. "Bunny's gone!" she shrieked.
Now fully awake, I leaped to the floor and felt under her bed, under the covers, behind the bed and in her closet. Clearly, Bunny, not being "real" (although her fur had become worn, her plastic eyes were chipped and her nose was almost rubbed off)  could not have run off on her own.
We recruited the help of Daddy and Brother and after turning the whole house upside down Bunny was still lost. "T" was inconsolable and I only imagined a sleepless night ahead. Like lost car keys, God whispered into my ear, "Nothing is too small a request. If you ask me, I will find Bunny for you." Okay," I conceded. "But you'd really better come through on this one, 'cause it's "T" who's watching you!" I warned God.
Holding my sobbing daughter, Daddy and I led her in a simple prayer, "God, Bunny is missing and we can't find her anywhere. Please show us where to find her because "T" loves Bunny so much. Amen." After that God said, "Retrace T's steps." Oh, that's right, she'd walked downstairs to get her own water without me. She's the only one who could retrace her steps.
"Okay, T," I explained, "You need to think hard and retrace your steps from the time you left the room with Bunny in your arms, okay?" We followed her out of her bedroom, down the flight of stairs, through the living room and into the kitchen. Still no Bunny appeared. "God, she's trusting you to help her find Bunny. You see this, right?" I pleaded.
T opened the cupboard where she reached for a drinking glass. No Bunny in there. No Bunny on the counter where she rested her glass. No Bunny on the floor or under the sink. As T headed toward the refrigerator my heart sank. "Oh, Lord, don't disappoint her. This little one's faith is strong, please show us Bunny, please."
She pulled open the door and peered inside. "Bunny!" she shouted. Yup, there was Bunny propped up next to the jug of water  with her well-loved bald spots, chipped eyes and worn off nose just smiling back at us. "Oh, Lord," I whispered through my giggles, "you certainly do have a sense of humor!"
As silly as all this sounds now, I look back at it as a tremendous lesson for T. At such an early age she learned that God answers prayers, no matter how big or small the request. When something is important to us, it's important to God, too.
What a great lesson for us all.
Blessings,
Dawn 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

That's What Christmas Is All About: Charlie Brown Style

If you're visiting today from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!


"...the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."
Luke 2: 10-11
The first winter snow falls like grace, silently blanketing the world in pure white. I watch from inside where the fire warms and Christmas lights burn bright, chasing darkness from every corner.
It's been another year of extreme emotions - great sorrow and great joy - and my heart just needs a few moments to experience the Light. Memories of loved ones passed hang on my Christmas tree and overwhelm me. I shed a tear or two, until my attention turns to the crèche. I touch each piece: the shepherds, the Wise Men, the angels, the rudimentary stable, Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus - they all tell the story - the simple story that redeems life and chases darkness away.
That's what Christmas is all about.
It almost seems too simple, too easy, but Truth is simple as Linus shows us in A Charlie Brown Christmas:   

We all need reminding as much as Charlie Brown, our children, and our grandchildren, that Christmas isn't about the presents or the tree or the preparations. It isn't about our loved ones, or their memories, as much as it is about the One who loves us - loves us so much that he came to us - became God. With. Us. 
God came, never to forsake us, but to redeem all of our losses - past, present, and future - through His son, Jesus. It's through his birth, his life, his death and resurrection that God offers us a way to redeem our loss and offer us peace, good will and eternal life. Christmas points us to the birth of hope and light and life through Jesus, Emmanuel, that we might know him better and be so filled with His light that darkness runs. Jesus replaces our sorrow until his joy falls like grace upon our hearts and spills to everyone around us so that they too, might know him better.
That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Are We Waiting For?


“But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior.”
Micah 7:7
While we set aside lawn rakes for snow shovels, pumpkins for poinsettias we usher in the Advent season – the season of waiting and inward preparedness. But what exactly are we waiting for? And how do we prepare for it?

Are we awaiting a birthday celebration – the remembrance, the anniversary of the Christ child? Yes, in part. The incarnation of God’s love for mankind through Christ is certainly a divinely significant event to celebrate. Yet, if that’s all we celebrate – an anniversary- then we are left wanting after all the presents are unwrapped, the decorations torn down and put away. For what power does Christ’s birth have for us here and now without understanding the hidden cross inside his lowly manger on Christmas night as our hope of salvation and resurrection? (Watch for the Light, 2001 Orbis Books).

Join me at the {re}fresh blog won't you?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

S-A-C-R-I-F-I-C-E - It isn't easy


If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!



Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: “Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?” Mark 14:35-36 MSG 


At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve my one word S-A-C-R-I-F-I-C-E activated like a Cinderella spell, barely a week since God dropped it into my heart.

I tried to shake it off like a wet dog after a bath, but it wouldn’t leave. Sacrifice didn’t conjure up those fuzzy, warm, feel-good emotions like grace or faith or prayer. No, after a year of tremendous loss, sacrifice was the hardest word to accept because I already felt given-out. What more? What more could I possibly give? I felt exhausted, wrung out, spent and ungrateful and the New Year was only seconds old. 


Days later, I hunkered down for a relaxing winter’s night before we froze under the polar vortex headed our way. Another crisis came and I went out again; called to sacrifice and serve.


During short breaks, I closed my eyes and rocked silently in my own grief while my heart froze like the pipes beneath my mother’s house. This sacrifice was hard and painful. My hands and feet served until my nerves shook me to the bone and my ingratitude ground me to a pulp. Worn down, I prayed God would melt those frozen pipes, let the waters flow and release me from that place. Hours passed, and just when I thought God fell deaf, release came. Flowing water never sounded so good—like cascading waterfalls—from every faucet.  


Homeward bound on those darkened country roads, words from a familiar childhood hymn drifted from the stereo, melting my ingratitude. “Are we weak and heavy laden cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.”  


Tears I’d bravely suppressed spilled everywhere—my own heart’s release—and I cried that sloppy, blubbering, snotty cry all the way home. And when the tears stopped flowing, I wondered if I’d failed the test. Did I sacrifice well? Did I really offer up my best to the Lord in all I did this week, or had my ingratitude nullified my offering?  


Before my heart could punctuate the question, God’s answer came. “Well done. You obeyed and did the hard and painful things. You would fail only if you had ignored my calling and stayed comfortable.” 


“But, Lord, I grumbled inside. I asked for relief. How is that serving well?”

“Even Jesus asked for the cup to pass, didn’t he? But when it didn’t pass, he drank. He went where I called him to go. He sacrificed—gave until it hurt—out of obedience to his Father. And so did you.”
 

Sacrifice—the offering of all we are and all we do—to the Lord is hard and often painful or it wouldn’t be called sacrifice. I can’t say I’m excited about this word, nor have I fully embraced it, but my heart is listening and drawing nearer and nearer to God's throne because it calls for strength beyond my own.
Ah, yes. Maybe that. Maybe it’s all that—the drawing nearer to God—whatever it takes, until Heaven’s waters flow. When we surrender everything to God, we gain even more—God’s favor, authority, glory, salvation, eternal life.


Do you find yourself in the midst of a hard sacrifice? Maybe it’s been a long year of hard sacrifices and God’s calling for more. If you feel you’ve given all you have to give, take heart, Jesus is there to strengthen you, to walk along side you and encourage you. Call on His name and He will draw near to you.

Prayer: Heavenly Papa, draw near to us, especially when the sacrifice is hard and we feel spent. Teach us to draw upon the strength of Jesus. And Papa? When we pray for the hard cup of sacrifice to pass us by, let our hearts’ desires to line up with yours. Not our will, but yours, Papa. Amen.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
Romans 12:1 MSG

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cindy Lou Who Wisdom

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" Isaiah 55:2

Buried behind a tall stack of Christmas packages, Cindy Lou Who says, "Isn't this all a bit much?"

Feeling adventurous, my husband and I joined the midnight madness on Black Friday this year. Call us crazy, we arrived at the store with a fist full of store cash, two 25% off coupons, a short gift list and a plan: get what's on the list and dash.

Ha! Dash was more like crawl with the crowd winding around the store like a Python sneaking up on its prey. Without a cart and only a few things on the list, we snuck past the serious shoppers unscathed and two hours later, with our bargains stuffed under and over our arms, we joined the even longer checkout line coiled around the store's perimeter.

It was then, I felt like Cindy Lou Who and thought, "Isn't this all a bit too much?"

(Join me for the rest of the story at Christian Children's Authors blog...see you soon!)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fearing Insignificance: Now that Your Nest is Empty

If you find yourselves here from Encouragement Cafe: Welcome!



Image by Laura Hartog, Empty Nest Syndrome
 https://www.flickr.com/photos/starwillowstudio, CC BY ND 4.0

 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Sitting across from old high school friends, we caught up on all the years we’d missed between our daughters’ fifth grade graduations and weddings. Fifteen years later, we no longer sip a cup o’ coffee during their play dates, but instead we share similar experiences from our empty nests, now three thousand miles apart.

“What fills all your time, now?” I asked. And immediately I felt her embarrassment. I’d asked that dreaded question which plagues any stay-at-home mom and twice over for the stay-at-home-empty-nester. It’s the question I stammer to answer myself, as if staying home needs justifying.

While I couldn’t always afford being a full time stay-at-home wife/mother, I cherish the season I’m in now, where I’m not juggling office and home and church on the same plate. That doesn’t mean my plate isn’t full, but I’m now working for those that matter most—my God and my family.

I no longer run around like a banshee slapping four lunches together while gulping down a breakfast shake, or hunt for misplaced car keys while snapping at my kids to hurry out the door for school. Rather, as a stay-at-home-empty nester, I’m afforded breakfast alone with my husband every morning and uninterrupted candle-lit dinners. I can drive two towns over to sit in sweaty school auditorium and beam proudly up at my granddaughter singing a dramatic rendition of Disney’s newest theme song, or just lend a hand when my kids need help.

Staying home hardly means sitting around eating bonbons all day; although there are moments when I find myself in the empty nest talking to the cat curled up on my lap. But those days are rare. Often my days are spent caring for our aging mothers, helping them remain dignified, independent and healthy. I might drive them to doctors’ visits, pick up groceries, do their banking, mow their grass and rake some leaves; whatever they need.

And what about ministry? This…these words you’re reading, that’s part of my ministry. I felt guilty about it for quite some time. How can something I love, something I do in private, alone be ministry? Because when I hit that “publish” button on my blog, it sends my words around the world. The other way God uses my words? Children’s books. Silly little stories based on healthy family and moral values. And, when I walk into a school to present these books, or I’m at a fair signing these works, God’s right there, sending those who need these messages the most.

God presents each one of us unique opportunities to share Him with the world, no matter our circumstances or life season we find ourselves.

If you feel you are insignificant, know this: God sees you and He wants to use you right where you are to make a significant impact on those around you for His Kingdom.

Prayer:

Father, when we find ourselves feeling insignificant, especially in our family or ministry, show us how you want to use us. Help us to see that everything we do, how you’ve created us and the season we find ourselves can be used by you to make a mark in this world for Your Kingdom purposes.