Strength for Today

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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

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Do you ever feel isolated, depressed, or alone? How do you break it? This is what I did today.

Do you ever feel isolated, depressed, or alone? How do you break it? This is what I did today.

I started off this week super productive. After staying up late Sunday night meal planning to stretch my dwindled budget through the end of the month, I was up early for a doctors appointment. I made breakfast, loaded up all the necessities for me and my munchkin for the day (food, food, and more food), got him up and dressed and out the door. After the doctor, it was Costco, Target, Sprouts, then back home in time for lunch and nap.

Feeling über-motivated, I decided to meal plan for the month. I went Pinterest crazy with recipes and strategies. In the meantime, I made homemade chili with my best friend, Mr. Crockpot.

After nap I enjoyed an amazing afternoon playing chase, follow-the-leader, soccer, and rolling and dancing on the grass outside with my favorite little buddy, while waiting for “Daddy” to get home for dinner.

Following such a productive, fun Monday, you’d think I was set up for a successful week. Why then did I wake up tired, sore, sad, and sluggish?

Besides the obvious “I’m pregnant” response, there was something else wrong. All morning I battled this depressive and emotional state and nothing was fixing it.

I had a good breakfast and took my son to the park to get out of the house.

The empty park mimicked the desolate feeling in my heart. The family of crows seemed to mock my aloneness as they sat in the tree above me squawking and shaking the branches. It’s kind of funny now, in hind site.

Ever since we relocated for my husband’s work, I have eagerly sought out different locations to meet other moms. I so desperately need people in my life, as I think we all do, I’m just ultra-aware of how much I care about the people in my life.

Maybe it’s because from a very young age it seemed like every best friend I ever made moved away not long after. This taught me that maintaining friendships requires a lot of work on both parts. I have found that most of the time the other party doesn’t put in the same effort. I have also found that my very closest friendships DO put in the work. And we chase after each other if a few weeks have gone by without a call.

The hardest reality for me right now is that I haven’t connected with anyone in this new city. One mom and I connected immediately and then after a few unsuccessful attempts of getting together, she started back at work. Since all the other kids I see at the playground are raised by nannies, I thought I’d form some friendships there. We had some fun mornings digging in the sand with our little ones, until the parents decided preschool was the best summer option for their two-year old.

Eeeeevvvvery-once-in-awhile I see other moms with kids on play dates and wonder, “How the heck did they meet? It must have been “Gymboree” or “Mommy and Me”.

This morning I called my sister, who lives five hours north of here, crying because I felt so alone and isolated. I battled uncontrollable tears. In this crowded overpopulated city, where is everyone?

Have you ever felt like loneliness was drowning you?

It’s a weird reality that nothingness can feel like a giant ocean swallowing you in the waves.

As my sister and I often find in our conversations, I make the bitter comments about how “all the moms are working and letting nannies and preschool raise their kids” and she being a full-time working mom of two kids under three makes the comments about how moms who are home have “so much more time to get things done”…on and on go the differences.

Despite our vast differences, we both know in the depths of our hearts that we want the best for our kids, and each other’s kids; we long for our children to be happy, healthy, God-fearing individuals who love The Lord and want to serve and love others.

We talked today about how we all have different realities, but ultimately the only way to survive our worlds is relationship and support.

After our brief heart-to-heart moment we both scurried off the phone to chase our toddlers onto their next adventure.

I still felt empty. Really? Can’t this darkness just leave already? I have an amazing child to hang out with, yet I feel alone.

We left the park to do our little lunch and nap routine at home.

We finished reading and singing and I began to pray before putting him to bed.

It hit me.

Since he was a newborn, I have prayed the scripture, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper in the name of Jesus,” and we put on the full armor of God. Now that he’s older he’s able to repeat what I say and is learning where the armor goes. It’s been such a joy listening and watching him get excited about participating.

Today, as we said these things together God reminded me that “No weapon formed against me shall prosper!!!” This verse has power! Not only to protect us as we sleep (like we had just prayed), but that it’s God’s Word, His promise to me that when I stand in faith and in His reality, not my own, that the Enemy cannot mess with me. I am God’s child. I am protected under the blood that Jesus shed to conquer Sin.

I put my munchkin down. As I thought about this verse my emotion didn’t change, but I mustered up the energy to say those words out loud again. This time believing them for myself.

Do you ever feel so defeated that even the truth seems impossible to listen to?

Let me encourage you today. That was me this morning! I muttered those words once and the heaviness felt just a little bit lighter. I said them again.

I’m not going to over-dramatize the results and tell you the skies opened up, a light shined down and a beautiful choir started singing in the background… I will tell you this, the darkness left!!! To that I say, “Thank you, Jesus!” I am ready to face the rest of my day, whatever the reality of today might be. I’m putting a smile on my face, and doing my full-time job, the job and purpose God has set before me:

I am going to nurture the precious, little, miracle 19-month old baby boy with whom God blessed me.

I can only live my life, not everyone else’s. I can only pray God sends me wonderful friends in this new place and trust that He will, just as He lifted the darkness today.

In the meantime, until my munchkin’s next nap: Be someone’s friend. My life lesson for today: I’m going to stop looking for friends and start looking for opportunities to be one. I’ll start by smiling.

How much better do you feel when someone walks by and you actually acknowledge each other’s existence with a smile or “hello”?

Will you join me?
Will you commit to being a friend to someone?

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Tis the Season if Blessings and Baking

Along with being so incredibly blessed and thankful for God’s continuous grace in my life, this time of year also reminds me how much I love to bake!

I was given the heavenly gift of tasting a Cronut for the first time a few weeks ago and have been obsessively talking about it since. When my MIL asked me to bake something for Thanksgiving breakfast, I couldn’t resist!

I made the dough pretty quickly, but the rising and “turning” process required some precious TLC. The reward, however, after deep frying those precious, little, round circles of pleasure, and rolling them in sugar and cinnamon… and drizzling them with cream cheese frosting…was pure delight to say the least! It was Deliciousness! As my “Pin” board is appropriately called. YUM! YUM!

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<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/food52/diy-make-your-own-cronuts?sub=2374252_1313128&s=mobile#1313128&quot;

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Pinterest Recipe

I made up my own frosting. Super easy!
Ingredients:
1.4 oz cream cheese
2.1/2 cup buttermilk (or substitute regular milk and 1 tablespoon butter)
3.1 teaspoon vanilla
4.1-2 cups powdered sugar: (taste as you go)

1. Beat first 3 ingredients on high for 2 minutes: or get a really good arm work out and bust out the good ol’ fashion whisk like I did.
2. Whisk in powdered sugar gradually to taste
3.Try to only eat a spoonful and save the rest for whatever dessert you’ve made it for

I don’t intend on turning this into a cooking blog, but lately this is what my Mommy life is all about. I’ve utilized every nap time for the past few weeks getting ready for my munchkin’s FIRST birthday party next weekend. I cannot believe he turns ONE already! It’s so cliche, but time flies!

Needless to say, I’ve been a bit absent from the writing world, and spending every “free” moment being the best Pinterest mom I can be. I’m addicted, and will have plenty of photos to prove my obsession in the next few weeks.

That being said, I’m trying new recipes as well as creating my own. Today’s creation was a dessert for Women’s Bible Study. I’m calling these Apple Cinnamon Roll-ups, and I have to pass them on! It is so easy and is a must for all you Moms on the go.

Ingredients:
Crescent roll dough (I used Pillsbury; make sure you keep it cold or it becomes really sticky and hard to work with.)
3 Apples (just choose your favorite)
3 cups Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Raw Sugar (I like the texture)
Cinnamon– to taste (I used a few tablespoons)
2-3 tablespoons butter (cold)

Oven preheated to 350:
1. Peel and Cut apples into small squares

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2. Mix Brown Sugar, Raw Sugar, and Cinnamon in medium size bowl and pinch in butter (there will be a few clumps)
3. Add Apples and mix with hands until apples are coated

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4.Unroll dough on baking sheet

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5. Drop about a teaspoon of apple mixture at large end of each triangle

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6. Roll dough over, pinching dough on sides if necessary to keep apples wrapped snug inside: ( Don’t worry about how pretty the look. Once they bake, they puff up and look much better.

7. Bake 12-15 minutes: until fluffy and golden brown

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8. Drizzle that delicious cream cheese frosting that I used for the Cronuts and you’re set

9. Dig in and admire your mean baking skills and this gooey, flakey, yumminess!

Until my munchkin’s next nap time, happy baking! Smile! Do something you enjoy! You have control over what you make of life. This time of year is not only a great reminder to be appreciative of all of God’s blessings, but also realizing what your gifts are and making a point of sharing those gifts with others. My gifts to you today are my love of baking and those amazing melt-in-your-mouth yummies, but just wait…I made killer BBQ chicken sandwiches for dinner..keep your eyes out for my upcoming post!