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Friday, December 23, 2016

The Scary Truth of Becoming a Parent

My days blurred together when my first child was born, and the first month of her life was one of the single most difficult months of mine. It required coming to the end of myself in so many ways and in ways I had never experienced before. Those painful feedings throughout the night mixed with the desire to impress my husband with a spotless house, folded laundry, a home-cooked meal, and otherwise left me drained and exhausted. I lived under the false pretense that I could have it all together if everything was all together around me, but instead I suffered burn-out.

I truly wanted to bring joy and rest to my husband, my firstborn, and myself. Instead, my offering became a burden and my attitude became negative. Emotions swirled around me and my husband received the brunt as soon as he made it through the door. Every evening showed my ugly self in some form-the tears, the rants, the throwing myself on the couch, and I'll just leave you with those few details. It was a full on temper-tantrum. Life as I knew it had changed by bringing new life into the world and the change couldn't be described in any amount of words or emotions.

In full attempts to give my best, I gave my worst.

Oh friends, how I wish I would've taken the message so often repeated by loved ones for a season they remembered all too well. "Make sure you rest." Our greatest offering comes when we have allowed ourselves to rest. God himself rested on the seventh day for the greatest offering of all: creation. Yet, I failed to nap when the baby napped because of my running list meant to bring joy and rest.

Our second child later, and we've recently left the newborn phase again. What a difference it has made to carve out intentional time for resting! As soon as my toddler went down for a nap, I fed our baby and then settled in for a nap myself. Dishes piled high, toys spewed on the floor, and laundry sat in the closet. Those things would have to wait. When my husband returned from work, he either brought dinner home or made dinner for us. Afterward, he washed the dishes with our oldest while I fed the baby, and never once with complaint.  I have tears in my eyes as I unfold the beauty of a man who cares for his wife, who loves her without conditions, and who rises to the occasion to offer rest to the one he is one with, the one his soul loves, tenderly cared for as though he were caring for himself (Eph 5: 25-30). Difficult moments occurred, of course, but we were much less stressed and able to enjoy the first month with our sweet second, all because of a little rest and a few tasks left untouched. 

So how do we bring joy and rest to others? First, we recognize the joy in our own lives and we give ourselves time to rest. After that, we ask ourselves how we might bless a friend, a coworker, or a stranger, and we do the thing that brings them the joy and rest that we all need. 

Before you take on the next task in your day, here are some verses to remind you that it's okay to rest. In fact, if you are feeling a bit burned out, I recommend that you forfeit from trying to bring joy and rest to others and carve out a little time to rest yourself. God rested. Jesus offered rest. This rest is critical in every season, especially the ones that bring you to the end of yourself. And now, the scripture as promised on my Facebook video yesterday:

Genesis 2:2-3: God rested on the seventh day and sanctified the day of rest.

Genesis 8:9: A beautiful illustration of Noah offering rest and a safe place for the dove just as Jesus offers us.

Ruth 1:9: Naomi prayerfully offering rest for her daughter-in-laws in their future homes.

Psalm 37:7: A reminder to rest in the Lord.

Isaiah 30:15: Rest is critical.

Matthew 11:28-30: Jesus offers us rest with him.

Luke 23:55-56: The women who prepared the spices for Jesus' body rested.

Revelation 4:8: A powerful image of heavenly beasts who never rest because they are continuously worshiping God. That's a hard one to even picture.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Slowing Down: Creating Art

What if I told you that the mundane tasks in your life were instead paintings in the making, every brushstroke on canvas creating a masterpiece? Would you attempt to slow your pace, giving each task your undivided attention, allowing the painting of your day to unfold beauty, to reach the deepest parts of your soul?

Washing a plate, a stroke of pink. 

Folding a towel, a stroke of blue. 

Walking the dog, a stroke of brown.

Changing a diaper, a stroke of purple. 

Cooking a meal, a stroke of yellow. 

Making the bed, a stroke of green. 

Instead of rushing from one agenda to another, fretting about what you want to do instead of what you NEED to do, could I beckon you to stop? Breathe. Slow your pace. Start again. Command the anxiety wreaking havoc to dissipate. Realize that you were created on purpose, with a purpose, and that the purpose will not prosper with truth until you rid yourself of the belief that the seemingly insignificant, daunting, repetitive, and small is not worth your time. Dear friend, it's worth your time. Slowing down to the things that require your attention from week to week are meant to be lived fully, are meant as displays of art in the center of God's eye. 

God sees you. He sees your painting emerging as you tidy your home. He hears the melody as you hush and hum your infant to sleep for the umpteenth time. He sees the dance of you working frantically to appease both boss and customer. He sees as you sob behind closed doors, later choosing to wipe the tears, continuing the painting, the song, and the dance that is your life.

How I wish I could open up a portal that would allow for you to see him seeing you, his eyes looking lovingly on you, his heart feeling with you, his ears readily listening for you, and his arms always holding you. Instead, I remind you of the intimate words written in Psalm 139 detailing a holy God who knows you on such a personal level, and that you, yes you, are fearfully and wonderfully created and so very precious to him. He's constantly thinking of you. 

So I challenge you to slow down today. Let your next task be an intentional brushstroke, refrain, and curtsy to the Creator of this universe. You were made for this next thing, even in its smallness. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Prepping for Christmas: A Great Gift for Children Under 5

Christmas decorations are coming out of storage today in preparation for the decorating we will do this evening. This year, there was one box I was most excited to pull the items from and my oldest has already helped me set it up. We bought a Fisher Price Nativity Set for her first Christmas instead of a barn set with animals. Below are two lists. One explains why I love this product and the other describes why my daughter may love this product as well. She's played with it for hours since we set it up, so I think that's a sign that it was a great purchase!

Why do I love this product so much? Here is my list:

1. In keeping with the true meaning of Christmas, having a nativity set somewhere in the house to serve as a reminder is better than the stockings, bells, and mistletoe. 

2. We didn't have a nativity set when we bought this for our daughter last Christmas, but if we did, it likely would have been a "look but don't touch" situation as most are breakable when dropped. 

3. A typical nativity set, while beautiful to display, doesn't offer a hands-on approach. Children under five are all about activities that involve their fine motor skills. Every item is new and exciting, exploration and learning top priorities! 

4. I don't want my child to grow up hearing "there's Jesus," but don't touch him. No. I want my children to understand that there is a place for them involving Jesus, and that he knows them by name and could identify them and their need among those crowded around him like we read in Luke 8. Playing with the nativity set while hearing mommy explain the BEST and TRUE Christmas story might be that touching-the-hem-of-his-garment moment in her life as a little one. 

5. Bonus: If you have more than one kid or plan to have more than one kid, this nativity set will get more than just five years of use! Our second child will enjoy it with her sister come next year.

Why does my daughter love this product so much? If she could form the words, she might say: 

1. Mommy gave me something "new" to play with today. How exciting!

2. The toy comes with a few animals, and I love to emulate the sounds they make. I even made up my own sound for the camel.

3. There's a  button at the top that plays "Away In A Manger" every time I push it, and the star lights up.

4. A song I know how to sing is "Twinkle, Twinkle," and I sing that to mommy when the star lights up.

5. Mommy put the nativity set on its own shelf  in the living room, and I am allowed to grab the nativity set and play with it wherever I would like and then set it back up when I'm finished. I'm such a big kid!

Note: You can purchase this product by clicking on the Amazon link above or by clicking on the picture in this post. Both will take you to the same place. If you make a purchase using my link, I will make a bit of money, but the main purpose of this post is to recommend a product that you and your children will love for years to come. I know we will.

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