Parenting 101 (part 2): Enjoying the View

Tonight, like every night, I will kiss my kids and tuck them into bed, and pray they don’t remember how I’ve failed them. I will lay in my bed, like every night, and think of how to be better, love better, be more present, be more prepared and ask myself, “how do I not fail tomorrow?”

The answer is the same. You are here. You are present. You love them. You are a good Mom. It’s not what you do. It’s not what you say. It’s that you love. And I love you.

I spent five days in the hospital, and by God’s grace He made me grateful for it. 
I saw the leaves on the trees. I was able to look above the concrete, from the elevator hallway floor-to-ceiling windows, and see creation.  

I saw people. Hurting people. Lonely people. Chronic pain. 100s cycled through; hundreds cycled through- just the NE wing: floor 7- in five days.

I saw my friends. I saw love. I saw compassion. I saw that I matter to a lot of people. I saw that I am not alone. As much as I believe that horrible lie, I saw that I am NOT alone.

I saw my husband. I saw how much he cares for our family. I saw how much he protects me. I saw his unique, individual, only-Joseph-shows-empathy-to-me-this-way love. 

I saw my kids. Not just their physical bodies. I didn’t just hear their words. By God’s grace I saw their hearts. 

When they weren’t even there, I saw them. I saw that my performance and parenting skills, at which I have often boastfully reassured myself to be good, does not produce mathematical results. I saw that there are not always answers to every question. I saw that I don’t have to make up an answer to every question when I can’t find one. I saw that my life that I define as “Crazy” is beautiful. 

I missed them. I missed the crazy that I often want to run and hide from. 

It was oddly bittersweet getting into those elevators; I knew I would not be able to stop several times a day, feel the warm sun peering through the glass, and see the view above the buildings. 

It’s amazing how quickly the images of hurting people leave my mind’s eye when the day to day tasks and frustration arise.

It’s amazing how all that I “saw” starts to become blurred by the distorted lenses of fear and doubt.

I am choosing to take off those lenses. I’ve done this before in other ways on my journey, but this time I don’t want to put them in their protected case. I want to step on them, crush them, destroy them, so they can never be worn again. Anyone with me?

Let’s take off the lenses of shame. 

Let’s take off the lenses of judgement. 

Let’s take off the lenses of doubt.

 Let’s take off the lenses of fear. 

Let’s let anxiety be the uncomfortable, itchy eye-sore we never want to enter our home, instead of wearing it like our cozy sweatpants we’ve had for ten years that we don’t want to get rid of.

And for those of you who don’t identify with any of this parenting stuff, love those in your life who might. Spend time with them so yours eyes see a little more clearly the reality they face daily. “See” them. Listen to them. Ask questions. Offer help with your hands not your mouth. 

Use your mouth to speak words of encouragement. If you start to judge, self-reflect. It’ll be better for everyone, including yourself! Maybe you’ll see the amazing qualities you have to be life-giving to someone who feels hopeless and helpless.

I Love this picture of my daughter and I hiking! 

This is friendship.

There are many mountains we will climb in this life. Let’s not kick someone in the knees and make them fall to their face. Let’s help lift each other up when it’s needed. Let’s walk side by side. Let’s find a walking stick to empower each other and strengthen each other. 

Find your people. Be that person to someone. Love even when it’s hard. Be the light that shines hope in the darkness not a magnifying glass to imperfections. 

Who’s in?

I used to say, “until my munchkins next nap,” but in this season the reality is my writing will wait, “until the next time I have an opportunity.” So in the meantime, surrender, smile, breathe, cry if you need to, kiss those you love, and find an opportunity to make someone’s day, not break it. 

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Parenting 101: The Test

Parenting feels like a multiple choice test. 

Not like a scantron where there’s actually a right answer. No. It’s the type where all the answers could be right and you have to select the best one. 

You ask yourself (as time is ticking), “what is the BEST for THIS situation!” 

You choose.

Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you’re wrong. Sometimes no matter what you choose… you’re wrong because there actually is not a correct answer. 

Sometimes you try “all of the above” and you’re still wrong. 

Because, my friends, in parenting, your strong-willed kid is that professor that gets to choose (not morally, ethically, or actually) what he thinks is right and wrong depending on his mood.  

No matter how much reading, studying, discussing, and reasoning you have done to come up with the best answer, if the professor has a different opinion, there is no changing his mind.


Example
: Your kid throws sand in another kid’s face. What is the appropriate response?

Answer

  • A. Walk over calmly take the shovel, explain (for the 100th time in his life) that it’s mean/not nice/disrespectful/not ok to throw sand. Tell him to make sure the other kid is ok. Tell your kid to apologize. 
  • B. Remove kid from situation. Give him a time out for making a bad choice. When time out is over, have him apologize.
  • C. Take shovel. Spank kid’s bottom for being mean. Tell him it’s unacceptable behavior and to make it right.
  • D. Leave the park. Your kid knows it’s not ok to act that way. Tell your kid if he wants to be at the park, he needs to earn the privilege of being at a park back by being respectful at home. 
  • E. Ignore it. They’re kids. They need to be able to work out conflict on their own and establish relationship rolls.

I’ve read about and come up with all sorts of great solutions. The reality is though, the ideas that “you’re the parent, and the kid will behave perfectly if you’ve done your part to establish authority” or ” your kid just wants to feel safe, if they feel loved and secure their behavior will follow suit” aren’t always true. 

So many people I know, including myself, who battle either depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, addictive behavior, and many other debilitating conditions were not allowed to take ownership of their choices and emotions as a child, and were often even criticized for them. 

Anyone else familiar with, “children are to be seen and not heard”, “children are to only speak when spoken to”, “she’s a child, she doesn’t understand”, “he’s a kid, he doesn’t know what he wants”?

When you witness scenarios like the example above, you might ask. “How old is the kid?” “Does he know better?” Was this the first time?” “Why is he throwing sand. That’s mean! Why is he so mean?” Do you compare him to all the other kids you “know”?

These are all great questions and concerns. They’ve gone through my head too. Both as a observer/bystander and about my own kids. 

Sometimes we don’t see the invisible ink:

  • F. There is no correct response.

Come on Moms, if we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we know that “breast is best” doesn’t work for a baby who’s Mommy can’t produce milk. Sleep training does not work for every kid. Some kids refuse a pacifier and will only suck their thumb. Potty training boot camp works wonders for some families, and for others it produces bathroom anxiety and long term digestive issues.

I have a secret… It’s all ok. 

Moms, it’s ok. 

Dads, it’s ok. 

This is not a test.

Do you need to do something? Absolutely, you are a parent; however, this is NOT a test.

Now, to the really nosey people who think that your “expert opinion” matters, it ok. It’s really ok that “those parents” aren’t doing it “your” way! 

It is NOT ok, however, for you to make them feel less-than. It’s NOT ok for you to give your opinion if it’s not asked for. Your unsolicited advice is hurtful and unnecessary. If you’ve had kids, you had your chance to raise THEM. 

If you want to mentor younger parents, then love on them, spend time to know them AND their kids, and if they ask a question, you then have permission to answer. You have been invited. Trust me, we need more of you who truly care!! We need more safe people. Otherwise, you are an intruder and are trespassing. Zip it please!! 

We forget sometimes that kids are people. They have brains. Emotions. Sometimes BIG emotions. Thoughts. Opinions. Good days. Bad days. Tired days. Tantrum days.

Oh ya, can we talk about this for a second?

Any one of those answers to the above situation, by the way, could result in a tantrum.  Some, for a child, are totally controllable and are out of complete defiance. Others, however, I believe happen when a child’s amazing developing brain is unable to process and respond to both the facts and emotions at the same time.  All the circumstances are so overwhelming that his or her mind and body explodes like ticking time-bomb.

I absolutely believe it is my responsibility to teach my children respect and kindness and integrity and love and patience and self-control.  

I am also learning that all I can do is teach it and model it. And most importantly pray about it. I cannot demand it. The more I push and strive and strain to control my children, the more out of control I become.

So, I pray for my own self-control. 

My kid is going to do what he wants to do because he is a person. He is not a programmable machine. He is not a dog that I can give a treat for good behavior and expect that he will eventually behave a certain way and make all the right choices.

Does positive reinforcement work? Absolutely! It encourages. It shows that there are good consequences and rewards for good behavior. But it does not change a heart.  

Do consequences work? Absolutely! They establish boundaries. Kids need to know what is ok and what is not ok. They need to know there are rules in life even as adults, and there are consequences for making bad choices. But it does not change a heart.

My kids also need Jesus, just like I need Jesus every day. When I come to Him, Jesus shows me my heart. He shows me when I totally mess up and yell or when I ignore because I don’t want to deal with it, when I make choices out of control or selfishness, and He forgives me and helps me start over or “push the restart button” like we say in our house. The reality is I make my own choices too, and I fail daily. 

I pray I bear the Spirit’s fruit of self-control because I am not strong enough to will it upon myself.

If you’re that frustrated Mom out there, like I am today, and you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing is working. Please don’t feel defeated. I feel pretty defeated on a lot of days, and you know what, I’m worth more than that. You’re worth more than that.  Though we feel beat up all day long, we are not punching bags.

You have value. You have purpose. 

We are not taking a test, being graded by the successful responses or good choices of our children.  

Observers, please stop grading us.

We grade ourselves. We judge ourselves. God gave our kids to us and us to them for a reason. We will do many things to mess up along the way, but it’s in those moments, when we can’t do it on our own, that we hopefully realize God’s strength to guide us through.

Please don’t assume we are bad parents because of the choices our kids make. 

Please don’t assume we are good parents because of the choices our kids make.

Please don’t assume anything.

Coming from a very opinionated person on a tough journey learning the time and place to put voice to my thoughts. Coming from a person who cares so deeply for people, and truly wants to see people grow and learn and flourish into the person they are created to be for the life they live: 

Use your mouth to speak words of encouragement. If you start to judge, self-reflect. It’ll be better for everyone, including yourself! Maybe you’ll see the amazing qualities in which God has gifted you, to be life-giving to someone who feels hopeless and helpless.

Parents, we can be protected from our head to our toes with salvation, righteousness, faith, truth, the Spirit, and peace. 

If you’re down on the ground, rise up to your knees, say a prayer. He’ll heal those wounds and support you as you rise back to your feet.  

I love brainstorming with other moms. The learning does not stop with the many incredible tools from my Mommy friends, podcasts (shout out to the seriously life-changing God Centered Mom), and other bloggers who have great parenting insight. Here’s the reality: those tools are super helpful, and sometimes nothing works! 

It’s ok. 

Tonight, like every night, I will kiss my kids and tuck them into bed, and pray they don’t remember how I’ve failed them. I will lay in my bed, like every night, and think of how to be better, love better, be more present, be more prepared and ask myself, “how do I not fail tomorrow?”

The answer is the same. You are here. You are present. You love them. You are a good Mom. It’s not what you do. It’s not what you say. It’s that you love. And my daughter, you love deeply. And I love you.

Breathe. Smile. Rest. 

I used to say, “until my munchkin’s next nap,” but in this season, the reality is my writing will wait until the next time I have an opportunity. So in the meantime, surrender, smile, breathe, cry if you need to, kiss those you love, and find an opportunity to make someone’s day, not break it. 

Re-addressing Meal Planning on a Budget

After 2 years of successfully implementing my monthly meal planning, I have learned ALOT!

First disclosure: I am NOT a good photographer, this is not a full time food blog, and I am horrible at making food look sexy.

I am a Wife and Mom, figuring life out and discovering how, with the help of my culinary-trained husband, I can make healthy food taste really yummy on a very tight budget. So don’t let my iPhone photos deter you from trying out some of these delicious, easy recipes on here.

Now to business. 

I was asked by a friend to share for a few minutes at a MOPS (Mothers Of Pre-Scoolers) meeting this morning and I realized, in my attempts to prep speaking on this topic, that I had WAY too much info to condense into 5 minutes.

As a result, what felt like a train wreck, I stood in front of these beautiful ladies, after drinking way too much coffee, and downloaded a bunch of info that I hope they were able to find useful.

So, thankful to them for their generous feedback, I now want to update you on how to spend $400 (or less) to feed 4 in a month, in as concise of a manner as my brain allows.

1. Establish your budget

Maybe it’s $400, maybe it’s $600. Maybe it’s usually $1000 and you want to cut back, so see how far $800 gets you for the first month. Set yourself up for success otherwise you’re destined to fail. Make small cutbacks and work your way to a smaller amount each month.

This budget by the way does not include dining out or household supplies (i.e. Toilet paper, paper towels,etc.). Those are 2 separate categories in our budget and each get between $75 to $150 depending on projected expenses for the month.

2. Make your list

Not your shopping list, your food list. I will clarify, but stick with me.

Start with breakfast. What are your favorite foods. Coffee? Creamer? Snacks? Lunch? More snacks? Dinner? Couch date treats for when the kiddos go down (any other parents out there? i.e chocolate, ice cream, Cheetos puffs, etc.) Keep your favorite recipes in mind.

When you buy foods you love you’re more likely to stick to a budget because you don’t feel like you’re giving up your life.

3. List your priorities

Here’s the kicker: think of that dollar amount you budgeted, now ask yourself:

What are my priorities? Organic? No preservatives? Gluten free? Cage-free? Non dairy? RAW? Fish? Red meat? Must have cheese with everything? Oh sorry maybe that’s just me… Wine anyone? 

(Maybe wine needs a separate budget for you; be realistic and honest about what’s important.)

Level your priorities: what is the most important? Can your budget afford it all or do you need to adjust your standards? 

We’re grown-ups, sometimes we need to actually “grow up”.

For my family it is important to find foods that don’t have preservatives or additives. I know we will consume plenty of unhealthy foods outside our home, but due to our family health history there are certain preservatives that lead to digestive issues we are predisposed to; therefore, we need to stay clear of preservatives on a regular basis.

 It took some homework to find the right snacks and cereals I am ok with that taste good AND are cost effective. I end up rotating when I buy them based on sales. 

Again, put in the leg work up front, and it gets easier!! I promise!!

I also know the importance of organic. Because no preservatives is of higher importance to me, I choose select produce items such as kale, spinach, and certain fruits that are always organic, the rest are not, unless the sale prices are better. 

If your budget is a top priority sometimes other things need to go. Coffee creamer for instance. We CHOOSE to alternate weeks of using creamer to save those $3 on a week that it needs to go elsewhere. But RAW milk is a must, so that will always take presidence over anything else.

It’s your budget. It’s your choice.

4. Grocery list #1: Bulk items

Take all those wonderful food items you listed. Copy and paste it. Now, delete all the food that is unnecessary to your daily function. 

Ok now, look at items that can be bought in bulk and separate those onto a Costco list. If it helps, these are my Costco items: 

  • bread (they come in a 2 pack and I freeze one loaf)
  • Meat: chicken, ground beef/turkey, Italian Sausage (I change up my meat choice each month to avoid redundancy)
  • cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, and Romano are staples in this house)
  • yogurt
  • butter
  • eggs
  • hummus
  • snack item: usually pita chips or “food Should Taste Good” multigrain chips
  • salad packs: Asian chopped salad or sweet kale are my favorites
  • deli meat
  • apples- always check the price, sometimes these are better at the grocery store
  • cereal-again only sometimes, depending on the selection. 
  • peanut butter
  • strawberry preserves
  • coffee
  • Creamer-if price is right

 If you don’t shop Costco it will be difficult to stock up; I couldn’t work my budget without them. 
Your first month doing this method you may spend a little more because your stocking up on everything, but each month the list changes a little because it’s not time to buy every item every month.

5. Grocery list #2: Grocery

Ok, go back to that first favorite food list. The remainder of those items go here.

Now, picture yourself in the grocery store. Where do you start? Do you wonder aimlessly? Or do you go in with a mission? If you’ve got kids, I suggest having a mission or its like shopping hungry; you end up grabbing random boxes and opening that box of cookies before even making it to the register.

I start at the left side of the store and I go aisle by aisle making by way to the back of the store than over to the middle and I finish on the right side. I make my list in the order that the food appears in the store. That way I’m on a fluid path and don’t have to jot across the store back and forth weaving through all the other shoppers because I forgot an onion.

Side note: my grocery store of choice is Sprouts. Their produce prices are the best and their sales are incredible. Their bulk bins are also a great way to get my kids involved in the shopping process and save a little extra too.

If you don’t have kids and can go to multiple stores for key favorite ingredients, please, do so! I make exceptions for Trader Joe’s if I really want their mango sorbet or pot stickers and fried rice.

6. Implementation: Bring Cash Only

Now that your budget is set and your lists are made, it’s go time. Look at that list at the beginning of every month. Add special items, delete unnecessary items. 

Be flexible! Life changes. One month you might have a new house guest every week, the next it might be a birthday, you might be on vacation. You are in charge!

Once you have established this outline, it’s as easy as adding and deleting a few items each week. Asked on what your family needs.

And yes! I said CASH only! When you have cash, you quickly become aware of the importance of certain items. You might find some items end up back on the shelf. No one wants to be at the register with not enough money to buy what’s in the cart. 

I’ve been there! Please, spare yourself, take my word for it! Handing back one item at a time to return as you watch your total decrease $1 at a time to what it’s supposed to be, ya that can be embarrassing! Not to mention the people behind you rolling their eyes as they comprehend your need to hand back that $2 box of muffins. Puts things into perspective!

7. Eat left overs/ Don’t waste

When you’re on a budget it forces you to consume everything purchased. You eliminate waste, you teach yourself self-control, you enjoy what you’re eating because you worked hard for it, you appreciate the needs of the world. 

When I start to get grumpy about eating leftovers, I quickly am reminded of the abundance I live in and blessings I have. It’s a quick sanctification process (for all you Jesus followers out there hehe) and it gives me a chance to teach my kids the importance of a grateful heart.

8. Have fun!

Remember, either your budget is a priority or it’s not. For us, it was necessary for the goals we have for our family. Making small sacrifices every month has been a huge payoff in other areas for us. 

Enjoy the process and you’ll soon realize that your money is buying you EXACTLY what YOU want. YOU are in control! YOU have hand selected every item that will be eaten in your house and will enjoy it so much more because you were intentional in the process. Trust me, your dinners will actually taste better to you because they were planned and not just a bunch of random items put together at the last minute (or worse, fast food).

9. One more thing

So often people say they can’t eat healthy on a tight budget. I’m here to tell you that is a lie! When my cart is filled with carrots and hummus or celery and peanut butter as snacks it’s much cheaper than when I grab those BBQ chips. Produce is cheap! Especially when you’re buying seasonally ripe items. Also to mention, I feel better, eat less, and have more energy because I’m eating real food that is meant to sustain me, not to drag me down and make me crave more. 

10. Ok this is the last- for the parents

Stop buying separate meals for your kids. That’s not budget friendly. It’s setting your kids and YOU up for failure. All kids go through picky stages, yes, some much more than others, but let them participate in the process and always provide healthy options. It can be fun. If they don’t eat the broccoli today, try again in a few days.  Keep it up! It’s hard, but press through! Those couple years of hard work will make family meals so much more enjoyable and affordable later. You can do it! I’m cheering for you!

Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have any questions. I am still learning and refining my process too, so if you have any suggestions or feedback, please let me know; I LOVE to learn new tips!

Anxiety: Underneath the Rubble

The more I learn about and am open about my own anxiety and postpartum depression, the more people in my life I learn have a similar reality. I’m learning that those who seem the strongest and have it all together for everyone else around them, usually (secretly) have little to no strength left for themselves. 

Not everyone struggles the same, not every remedy is the same. I don’t know if there is a “solution”, but I have found things that are helpful to me. We are all different, but we can stand together and support each other. 

The Mighty posted a video called The fear of anxiety can also cause it. I encourage you to watch it.

Videos like this, I think are a nice way of someone saying, “I get it, you’re not alone.” Not, “Here’s how I can fix you.” If you know someone who has anxiety, take a minute to watch this video. They may not have all the post-it symptoms, but I’m sure they have a few. This might help you understand a little better, sympathize a little more, and not think the burden falls on you to fix everything. Just love them. Listen to them. 

I am SUCH a fixer by nature, I try to FIX all-the-time! But it’s ironic, and certainly eye-opening at how much it irritates me when someone tries to “fix” me. I am broken. We all are in our own way. That is the reality of the world we live in. Acknowledging the brokenness is the first step to rebuilding.

Anxiety is one piece of that broken puzzle. There is only one person who can truly put the pieces back together to reveal that beautiful picture, and that’s Jesus. And he did it on the cross. When we celebrate his resurrection, we celebrate Him making all things new again. When we acknowledge that the stripes on His back were put there to heal us, the resurrection in our own life can begin. 

This is the same broken world that it always has been, but we have hope in Him, that in the end it has already been restored.

But in the meantime, in our brokenness, at the bottom of all the rubble is someone who just wants to be heard and lifted up, encouraged. It’s Jesus’ job to do the healing. It’s our job to do the loving. We lean on His word and his promises to be our strength, to be our truth. But we need His people to surround us and show us the love and compassion and relationship for which He put us here.

I want to be one of those people. What about you?

I hope this finds you encouraged today! You’re not alone. If you need a listening ear. I’m here. Send me a message. 

  *theodysseyonline.org

Strength for Today

Image

God, gives us strength, Even though we can’t see Him.(repeat)

He gives us joy. He makes lots of things. He made cats and pigs and dogs and all of the animals at the zoo. And He made all of the horses too. 

God, gives us strength, Even though we can’t see Him. (repeat)

LilyBelle was not having it. Minutes turned into hours which turned into all night of screaming. Absolutely inconsolable screaming!!

Finally after thrashing her body around in our bed most of the night, she passed out at 3:45am to then wake up again at 5:45am wide-eyed and ready to play.

I was not!

Not long after, were both kids awake and at full throttle and I just couldn’t get myself in gear.  My husband had full-leaded coffee ready for me before he left for his early morning, and I sat and prayed all breakfast for strength and energy and patience to make it even another 5 minutes without snapping. 

I excused myself from breakfast and let my kids entertain each other so I could try to #breathe.

My Munchckin comes running up to me,”Mommy! Mommy! I cleaned up my oatmeal. I did it all by myself! Look! I threw it in the garbage!”

 Oh no! Danielle, pull it together. There will probably be oatmeal all over the floor and trash can, but don’t crush his spirit. He’s THREE. And he’s trying. Get ready to be proud of him and teach him gently. God, give me patience, gentleness and self-control.

We held hands. I scanned the dining room and kitchen floor to ceiling searching for this slop of oatmeal that we needed to clean. Nothing. Spotless. He opens the trash and there it was, a small little pile of oatmeal he hadn’t finished, his spoon in the sink and his bowl set back on the table nicely so it wouldn’t break.

“Wow, Bud! Thank you for cleaning up!”

“Ya! I did it all by myself because ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength’ even when things are hard. Mommy, I want Jesus here. Can He come in our house?” #proudmommoment

“Jesus is here, Bud. He’s here because we’ve invited Him to be a part of our lives.”

“But I want to see Jesus.”

I gently picked him up and show him the leaves rustling on the trees. 

“Do you see the leaves moving?” (Ya.) “What causes the leaves to move?” (Wind.) “Can we see the wind?” (No, but we see the leaves move.) “Exactly! We can’t see Jesus’ face, but we know He’s here because we see what He is doing in our lives.” (Oh, like love and people.) “Yep! That’s right! He’s our love to people, our strength when things are hard, and peace when we’re scared.”

He picks up his guitar and starts singing at the top of his lungs. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper (and he did too, as you can see) and asked if I could write this beautiful song of his heart down so we could remember it and sing it together.   

I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

Through this exhaustion, battling the “I can’t do this” and the “I am alone” lies, I have realized I have strength because Christ is in me. But I must seek Him daily.

It doesn’t matter how many times I hear that I’m a good mom; I will always feel empty, weak, un-acknowledged, and worthless if my value does not come from God.

Operating with strength means operating in faith. 

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:2

My strength comes from God. If my faith is blocked, God’s strength in me is blocked. 

I found notes from a women’s bible study I attended a few years ago titled The Barriers to our Faith and began to take personal inventory. 

I want to share with you the following barriers to my faith and the questions that go with them.  If you can relate at all to what I’ve shared, I encourage you to look at the list and evaluate your own life. Doing this self-reflection made me realize I dwell on some of these questions daily. They are in the back of my mind steering the course of my day, my attitude, my reactions, and to be quite honest, it usually ends up ugly.

Worry: Am I making the healthiest choices for my kids and their future success?

Fear: Will people accept me for who I am? Will something terrible happen to my husband and kids? Will I be left all alone?

Doubt: Am I good enough? Do I have purpose?

My past: Are there people I have not forgiven? Am I one of them? 

Distance from God: (until recently) I was not spending time praying or reading the Bible very often at all.

Depression: Post-partum hormones and emotions associated.

Anxiety: Am I doing everything “right”? I’ve realized that for me anxiety and fear are very much correlated; one doesn’t exist without the other. 

She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong.

Proverbs 31:17

Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭31:25‬ ‭

  I love these verses (and all of proverbs 31, for that matter) because it reminds me that strength is woven into my DNA as God’s creation and as a woman living for the purpose He created me. I can’t be the mom, wife, daughter, sister or friend He created me to be if I don’t include Him in the process.

Being Mommy to these two precious kiddos is teaching me so much about me. 

Who am I? What do I value? Who do I value? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? Do I have influence? Am I using it? Am I living with integrity? When my kids look back, will they be able to look past my hang-ups (and how I’ve messed them up) and be proud to call me Mommy? 

Will they see God’s love and grace in me and through me?

Is there something or someone that has shaken your world so much, you constantly evaluate and reevaluate what life is really about? Do you know who you are? Do you know your purpose? Do you know you have a purpose

I now realize these self-shaming questions, “am I good enough?” or “am I doing enough?” Or the “I can’t do this,” and “I am alone,” are a reflection of God not being the center of my life.  They are I-centered not God-centered. 

It’s taken over a year of listening to the *God Centered Mom podcast for me to take full ownership that my life has not been, well, that: God-Centered. As Heather MacFadyen encourages listeners every episode, it’s time I start to “replace me with He.”

I may have been going through the motions of church, Bible study, talking about Him to people, teaching my kids, listening to podcasts… but God doesn’t ask for our motions or our actions, He asks for our heart. And gives us the choice to give it to Him. All of the above are not bad, but they should come from the overflow of His love in me, not out of mere duty or, frankly, habit. 
I stumbled on this verse, right now in fact, as I am writing out my thoughts.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 14:12

Relying on my own strength is what leads to exhaustion and negativity, and worry and fear and doubt and distance from God and depression and anxiety.  

   

 Just like each new day I encourage, teach and coach my kids to explore, take risks, and trust me to help them along the way, I need to remember God wants me to trust Him all the more. We will fall, we will fail, but He picks us back up, wraps His arms around us as if to say, “It’s ok. I’m here. I love you. Let’s try again.”

God used my three year old son to answer my desperate prayer for strength and remind me: 

“God, gives us strength, even though we can’t see Him.”

I’m so grateful God’s grace covers me and all of my imperfections. I am humbled that inspite of my inadequacies, God gives me strength for today. 

I’ll leave you with this thought that I tell my kids several times a day, and that I need to remind myself:

 “Let God pour so much of His love into your life that it can’t help but overflow and pour out into those around you.” 

It is in that love that you will find strength for today.


*note to parents: This podcast has been so encouraging to me. Every episode Heather MacFadyen interviews different Moms and Dads who have gone before us on this parenting journey. Whether it’s a Mom of one or ten, in her 20s or 80s, established a world-wide platform of millions or her platform is her home’s living room floor, there are gems to take away from every episode. I highly encourage you to check it out! Here’s the link again: God Centered Mom

Depression: Breaking the Silence

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 He turned my mourning into dancing again. He’s lifted my sorrows. I can’t stay silent; I must song for his joy has come.

-Ron Kenoly

It’s probably been 15 years since I last heard this song, but music has a way of flooding my spirit and speaking for me when I don’t always have the right words. 

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.

-Ecclesiastes 3:1

I’m turning a page. I’m writing again. At least today I am. Baby steps. This is the next step to freedom for me. I’m not sure what this season brings, but I’m ready to write again. After over a year of unintentional hiatus, I invite you back to join me on this next journey.

A time to keep silence, And a time to speak.

-Ecclesiastes 7b

Post-partum depression is real, and it is certainly different for everyone.  It can feel like a overwhelming darkness, or a heaviness consuming your body, or an anxiety that makes everything seem absolutely unbearable.

There have been times that this depression and anxiety roller coaster leave me feeling all of those physical responses to my scattered mind countless times in a day. 

The beginning was a fog. I went through the motions day-to-day with a disconnect between my brain, my heart, and my body. It was almost as if I was watching my life happen without getting to be part of it. I never wanted to hurt myself or anyone else; I just wanted to curl up underneath my down comforter, disappear for awhile, and actually believe the world could function for a few moments without my participation.  There were stages of having no idea anything was wrong, to being drastically aware and dumping the hateful self-talk that just seemed to bury me deeper. 

After having MyMunchkin I had similar feelings, but I managed to shift my thinking, smile, and change my paradigm without getting consumed. This time around its been quite different.

My story: LilyBelle  

We welcomed our beautiful baby girl, three weeks early, in November 2014. Our precious little flower, Lily, the perfect addition to our now family-of-four. My Munchkin was so excited to be a brother. He went to all my appointments, listened to her heartbeat, saw her on the ultrasounds, and put up with my arranging and rearranging of their bedroom time and time again; he was ready. 

When he came to meet her in the hospital he sat next to us in the hospital bed, just 23 months old, looked at me, looked at Lily, touched my belly, then reached out and gently placed his hand on Lily’s chest and said, “Heartbeat. Heartbeat, Baby Sister’s heartbeat! Not in Mommy’s tummy anymore.” We melted.

After an unexpected and very fast labor and delivery (bunny trail: the nurse actually told me not to push because the doctor wasn’t there yet, and then said it was more paperwork for her if she delivered my baby not him), and a whirlwind of beautiful moments with BabyGirl, I couldn’t sleep. I had my perfect little family and a surge of adrenaline; I was done being at the hospital. The whole experience was a neusence to the incredible miracle that this experience was created to be. I needed to be home!

Home. Visitors. House Guests. Helpers. 

All there to greet and spoil Miss LilyBelle with all things girly, and help us with whatever we asked. From as far as Idaho and Colorado, and from The Central Valley to South OC we had visitors sacrificing their time to stay with us, shop for us, cook for us, and even do laundry (thank you Auntie Em!!) for us.

Alone. Isolated. 

Nothing was enough. Why was all of their sacrifice never enough? It was never the right way or my way or what I needed. Not enough people in the house. Too many people in the house. Not the way I would cook. Stop asking me how to cook it!  Just help with Daniel. No, I want time with MyMunchkin; hold the baby. I just need sleep! Stop asking me if I need a nap; don’t you know me well enough to know I can’t nap?! Of course I need a nap, but it’s never going to happen. Because if I go to sleep the rest of my world is going to fall apart.

This is illogical, irrational, unfair, unloving, selfish…not me, not my heart! Stop this thinking, Danielle!! 

I would constantly beat myself up about it. My brain, my heart, my reasoning, and my faith all know this is not healthy thinking. They all know that beating myself up isn’t going to help. 

Why do I feel so negative, worthless, unloved, unlovable, unworthy, and in a fog?

Depressed.

The motions.

Wake up. Make breakfast. Frantically pack diaper bag for two. Rush Daniel through eating. If he wants to play before nap, we must leave…five minutes ago. Load kids in car. Run back inside and grab sunglasses that I left…where did I leave them? Don’t forget water. Jump in car. Did I lock the door? Run to check. Back in car. Kids ok? Ok. Snack for Daniel while we drive. Now….drive….sloooow. Pass…some…time. Why are there such bad drivers in LA? Arrive. Park. Ergo BabyGirl, throw on the backpack, get the toddler out without him smashing her head or kicking her. Success. 

I had to be out of the house. I needed fresh air. I couldn’t face the mess at home or even the possibility of making one. I had to put a fake smile on my face to just get through the day. I needed that vague interaction with complete strangers; it gave me some sort of falsely-perceived validation for what they inferred to be successfully and happily getting myself, a toddler, and a newborn dressed, fed, and to the park in one piece… all on day 4.

Insanity. Why? What is the purpose behind this behavior? What am I trying to prove?

This was my dark reality for a long time.  It took me four months to even realize this cycle that I was creating. Even after recognizing it, talking about it, trying to find solutions, I eventually just pushed it under the rug like survivors do and thought I was better. Not happy. Not enjoying life. But not depressed; therefore, I was fixed. Right?

I will make darkness light before them.

-Isaiah 42:16

“Joseph…Joseph!!! Call 9-1-1!”

That’s about all I could get out. Shivering,  hunched over in the fetal position, trying to hold myself up with my head against the bathroom wall, my tongue swelling, both hands clamped completely shut. 

After all my vitals came back normal and my body started to relax again, the firefighters were really confused as to what happened and decided it was best to take me to ER for further evaluation and monitoring.

Basically, all this drama was my body’s response to stress.  God had been trying to get my attention and was telling me to slow down for a long time. I didn’t listen. So He allowed my body to be completely immobilized. I had to stop; this insanity  has to stop.

I’m sure you’ve heard Urban Dictionary’s definition of insanity: 

Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result

Knowing all of that, it seems ridiculous to still get caught in this hamster wheel, but these next two definitions really hit home.

1. The state of being mentally ill.

2. Extreme foolishness or irrationality.

The night of the ER trip was actually the launching night of our church’s new small groups called Freeways.  Unfortunately, I was too sick to go, but I see how God used those  circumstances to stop me in my tracks and turn to Him.

You are my help and my deliverer.

-Psalm 40:17

The timing of Freeways was perfectly  ochestrated by God. Freeways was all about discovering our freedom in Christ. It was a step by step journey, arm-in-arm with our small group, learning what is my true identity in Christ and what from my past is preventing me from walking in the freedom and purpose God has for me?

I have taken a lot of steps backwards during this process, and I’ve reverted back to survival mode on countless occasions, but what I am discovering is that it is not about “deciding I’m better”, “changing my paradigm”, or “smiling” to make everything good again. This journey is about recognizing that life is constantly changing. With change comes struggles and challenges.  It is through these that God is stretching me and allowing me to grow and heal and be molded into exactly the woman He has created me, for the purpose for which He has designed me.

Why, even now almost 15 months later, I find myself going through the same motions is beyond me. I am pretty sure constant frustration, exhaustion, and yelling at MyMunchkin do not fit the category of successful parenting. 

This is a process. I am learning to be present and enjoy the process, no matter how painful or emotional. 

My life belongs to Jesus. He is the author and how dare I try to take the pen out of His hands and write my own story. I’ve tried that, and it left me stagnant and immobile.

I waited patiently for the Lord. He brought me up out of a horrible pit. He set my feet upon a rock. He has put a new song in my mouth. Praise to our God.

-Psalm 40:1-4

I’m ready to move again.

Life is too short to be tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged. I have a purpose and it’s time I get to it. 

I am so excited to share what God is unraveling before me! I have felt so alone for a long time. I have believed the lies that no one really cares about me or what I’m going through. I have believed the lies that what I am going through is so much more important or more difficult than others. I have believed the lies that what I am going through is not a big deal at all. I have believed that I am not a good Mom.  I have believed the lies that I have to earn people’s love and affection for me. 

I am choosing to believe the Truth and not the lies. I will be back soon to walk with you through how I am overcoming these doubts and insecurities.

Until next time, I pray today you are encouraged. I pray that you realize you are not alone. I pray that you will see God right where you are. I pray you hear His gentle words whispering, “I love you my child, you are not alone. I will never leave you or forsake you.” 

I pray that if you can relate to any of these feelings of isolation or depression, that you start to take baby steps to see the Light when you feel consumed by the darkness.

Would you like prayer for anything today? 

Do you have any experiences that might help me or others along the way?  

I would love to hear what God is teaching you on your journey! 

Top 10 Life Lessons

I was challenged by my uncle to list my Top 10 Life’s Lessons. I think I relearned all of these lessons simply by thinking about them all over again.

I saw this quote today not long after I received this challenge and its so fitting:

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What a great way to move forward and be present: reflect on how the past has made me who I am today.

1. Don’t gossip:
At a very young age I learned how hurtful words can be. It’s not worth trash talking people I love for the sake of keeping other “friends.” If they gossip to me, they’ll gossip about me.

Learn who you can trust:
My most valued and cherished friendships are girls who are honest, brutally honest sometimes, but who love me enough to be honest. There is no flattery! There is encouragement. We aren’t afraid to be down in the trenches with each other when needed, but we also help lift each other out of them.

2. Stop worrying about what others think of me:
I still have to remind myself of this one. Most of the time what I perceive other people to be “thinking” are just my own insecurities projected onto them. God gave me my own conviction, passion, and vision. The more I focus on others’ approval the less I focus on God’s purpose.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially when it comes to food:
I lived most of my childhood hating seafood. I had only had salmon BBQd, “well”-done, with a either lemon or a brown sugar glaze. Bbllleecckk! Now, hand over the sashimi or catch it fresh on the rivers of Idaho and sear it with a little salt and pepper medium-medium rare…now we’re talking!! I had never tried sushi until I was 21 because I was told eating raw food was dangerous.

Most everything tastes good if made the right way!!!!

4. Smile:
If someone looks grumpy or rude, smile, say “hello”. I’m only responsible for my own attitude and actions. More often than not, I discover how nice people really are. Some are just deep in thought, more reserved or not having a good day. When I smile, it makes their day and my day too!

5. I am my son’s (and soon to be born daughter’s) Mommy for a reason:
God gave him to me, not someone else. Not the over-opinionated old lady leaving the grocery store who thinks my 8 month old needs to be wearing sunglasses for his 30 second trip inside. Not to the family member or friend who sees things differently. We (my hubby &I) make decisions for our children based on prayer and the convictions God has given us.

It is important to learn from other people’s experiences and heed the wisdom, but discernment is also necessary. Just because there’s a blog that says this or that doesn’t mean our choice was wrong…just different than how that family decided to do things for their child(ren)…and that’s OK!

We need to support and love each other with our words and actions, not judge and tear each other down.

6. Forgive myself:
I make mistakes. I can and have been well-intentioned and still hurt people. Good people do bad things sometimes, and it’s not always on purpose. Being humble and apologizing is huge, but still not always received. Forgive myself, learn the lesson, move on and don’t repeat the same mistake. Living in the past just prevents me from being my best now and in the future.

7. Quinoa is a superfood: It is a complete protein:
It serves as a great alternative for pasta or rice. There are many delicious ways to cook it, both alone- hot and cold (mmm yummy greek salad!!)- or in a casserole or some other fun Pinterest recipe. Try it!
(This leads me to my next lesson)

8. Quinoa should not replace everything:
Meat is good! Sometimes you just need a good steak…or chicken…or ground beef or sausage. God created plants AND animals for us to enjoy. There are few things better than my Nana’s Rosemary Garlic Rack-of-lamb or All Day Meat Sauce!

9. Lighten up:
I’m still working on this one… One of God’s greatest gifts to me is my husband Joseph. He teaches me how to laugh at myself and not take life so seriously all the time. And now I have a son, with his Daddy’s sense of humor, who by 16 months had discovered the humor in hiding and jumping out to scare me.

I love to laugh and have a good sense of humor, but I also know I’m not that funny, so my most memorable moments are when I surround myself with people who help bring the silly out of me.

This reminds me of one of the funniest road trips: crank up the music in the car with a good friend, do some hand motions while you dance, and sing as loud as you can…and if you end up on the wrong freeway, remember the lesson: lighten up:)

10. Miracles do happen:
God heals! The stories in the Bible are important to teach us lessons in history, but Go is the same God now.

I, personally, within a 6 year period, was diagnosed with a chronic digestive disorder, suffered migraines, anxiety, had mysterious inflammation that “wasn’t quite rheumatoid arthritis”, a brain tumor, and was told it would probably be impossible to have children. All of which through prayer and God’s Grace are completely gone.

God wants to be present and in our lives, but He doesn’t force Himself. We must invite Him to participate. He wants to show us His power that will work in us, through us, and around us.

Until my munchkin’s next nap time: I challenge you and encourage you to Make your own list.

It’s really cool what happens in your brain and in your heart when you write stuff like this down. If you’re comfortable sharing some of them, I’d love for you to comment. I can always handle some more learning from others.