It’s a Boy!

Six years ago, I experienced one of the most challenging events of my life- the birth of my son. His birth was the start of a journey through one of the deepest, unknown valleys I have yet to walk. It was a time that should have been one of the happiest moments in my life, but it will forever be marked with fear and grief, joy splintered by shattered expectations, and one of the most incredible seasons of seeking God and fireproofing my faith.

For months, I prayed and prayed for this child and on May 6, 2013, I was waiting to meet the little man I had fervently prayed for. I had spent the night in a hospital bed wondering when he was going to leave my warm, snug womb. Very true to his personality, he was making his entrance in his own time, in his own way.

Around hour eighteen of labor, the rhythmic machines I was connected to by the snaked and twisted cords, started making louder, more quickening sounds. A blur of multicolored scrubs, nurses and doctors rushed into my room. My head felt woozy and dazed. My oxygen level started to drop. I felt far away, like I was watching all this happening through a screen. I could see the worry on the face of my usually calm, level- headed husband.

Something wasn’t right. A wave of fear washed over me. My mind was unable to keep up with the noise and movement. My body was weak from the pushing and pain of labor.

The doctor said something about a C-section, followed by a push and a rush to the operating room. The white, blinding lights glared down at me. The curtain blocked my view. The medication blocked my pain. The fear attempted to block my faith.

I can not remember when my son was pulled from my womb nor do I remember hearing his first cry. I remember seeing nurses and doctors work on him and then on me. I remember someone bringing him close to my face so I could see him, to kiss his sweet face. Then I remember them whisking him away from me to the NICU.

I was wheeled back into the very same room I labored in. I felt an incredible amount of grief as I waited for my body to regain feeling. One kind nurse took pity on me and wheeled my over-sized bed down to the quiet, darkened halls of the NICU.

I saw my son through the glass doors of his hospital room. He was so tiny lying in a closed bed, hooked up to machines that made gentler noises than the hours earlier in the labor room. He looked so helpless, so alone.

The nurse positioned me as close to him as my bed would allow. She lifted him gently out of the enclosed plastic bed, placed him and all his connecting wires securely in my arms. Only hours before we were warmly connected to each other with a living life line, and now we were separated, connected to cold machines. I felt so disappointed, discouraged and then so guilty.

It wasn’t suppose to be this way. Everything I thought this birth was suppose to be, wasn’t. Every way I wanted it to go, it went a different way. My birth plan was completely overrided by unexpected events.

Guilt was a heavier weight. I felt guilty for not being more thankful. I had made it safely out of surgery. Shouldn’t I be happy? My faithful husband hadn’t left my side. Shouldn’t I be grateful? I had a community of people praying for me throughout the whole day. Shouldn’t I be rejoicing?? My son was alive! Shouldn’t that be enough?

I knew things could have been worse, so much worse, but I was caught up in the grief of “what could have been.” It’s amazing how feelings can powerfully cloud the truth. How fear can shame you into believing lies. I was weak in mind (and body) and trying to process the whole day. I was grabbing at anything to comfort me. Self-pity, discouragement, and lonesome lies were easier to find than truth.

It took four years before I was able to look at the first pictures taken of my son in the operating room. Four years. Up until then, every time I tried to look, I felt physically sick. It was too painful, too traumatic for me to be reminded and revisit that place, even in pictures.

One day with the healing that time grants, I felt brave to try to look again. It was then I was able to see things differently. A miracle of life was birthed in that room, but that was not the only thing.

A struggle, a season of suffering was birthed there too. A season that led to a bolder, braver, more faith-filled wife and mother of three. Walls I had pridefully built, God tore down. The need for control and plans to be craft-fully perfect was replaced with an invitation to trust and obey. God gave me fresh vision to see some of the plans for my life that He had written, and with His leading they were better than I could imagine.

A heart for fervent prayer was also birthed that day. Over the next long months, in the darkness of the weariest, loneliest nights, my friend Jesus walked with me, talked with me, wept with me, comforted me, and asked me to trust him time and time again. When I couldn’t pray, the Holy Spirit took over and He taught me what it meant to seek and wait.

It wasn’t a perfect time. It was a hard, difficult time. I endured lessons of failing and overcoming, patience and endurance. As my precious son grew in a stronger in a physical way, I grew stronger in a spiritual way.

We named our son, Jonathan, which means God’s gift. And God has used Jonathan as a gift that keeps on giving not only in my life, but in the lives of others as well.

From the very beginning of his life, he’s been loudly making his opinions known. He’s bold, brave and persistent. He’s playful and joyful, and his laugh and his giggles are contagious.

He’s makes me question my parenting skills more than any of my other children, but he has helped me know and stand firm in my convictions. He’s curious and asks the most interesting questions and this encourages me to research and know the most interesting answers.

On top of all these things, he has a heart of compassion. He is not afraid to go up to someone who looks lonely, say hello and even give them a hug. He can strike up a conversation with a stranger, and he asks the most poignant questions that goes straight to the heart. He teaches me more about child-like faith. Oh, and his prayers. He thinks nothing of laying hands and praying over people, and often we are following his lead in bowing our heads at any give moment, in any place, for any certain thing.

I am so thankful I get to be Jonathan’s mom. I’m so thankful for the son who God has made him to be and how Jonathan is growing up to be strong in so many ways. I am thankful for this journey of motherhood with him.

Although I wouldn’t want to go through the challenging beginning again, the valley of the sleepless nights, I can confidently say all of it was for my own good. It taught me a lot about myself and even more about God’s faithfulness and His love. God’s love is a strengthening, restoring, renewing, never fails, type of love!

If you are going through a valley, or a time that hasn’t gone the way you had hoped or planned, don’t give up. Keep moving forward, one step at a time. Maybe in a few more steps ahead, you’ll be able to look back and see something in the situation that wasn’t there before. A bit of new bravery, a root of resolve, a lesson learned. Often the best of what’s to be found is hidden in plain sight, but requires a fresh perspective to see.


Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

Happy Birthday, Jonathan! You are a precious gift more than you ever might know! xo


2019 Word of the Year- HABIT

It could just be me, but I seem to hear more about breaking bad, unhealthy habits than building good, healthy ones. While eliminating bad habits is an admirable, brave and an important thing to do, it’s more important to replace those tendencies with new systems and support. Add the action to the inspiration. Put the “how” into the motivation to change.

That’s where I feel things are lacking. There is an endless supply of motivational quotes and memes. Things that get us thinking about change, but what happens next? How do we actually take the next steps to action? Are there things holding us back? Maybe it’s the lack of time, maybe it’s the effort required, or maybe it’s the overwhelmedness of where to begin. Maybe there’s something more to help us make those next steps to healthier, consistent and permanent good habits. I want to explore all of these things this year. 

My word focus 2019 – HABIT.  My goals include pursuing healthy habits in my heart and mind with grace driven, spiritual disciplines. I want to cultivate good habits in my children’s lives and around our home. And I want to incorporate healthy habits for the better physical health of my family.

Building new habits require work and perseverance that lead to character and transformation. Through this year’s word journey, I’m sure I will have my share of hard work, fumbles, fails, and mistakes as I work toward change and transformation. I’m hoping to share with you want I learn and I want to encourage and equip you as I do. Stayed tuned for what I am sure will be a great journey!

Do you have a word for 2019? If so, I would love to hear what you have chosen?  


Our Favorite Books for 2 to 5-Year-Olds

Reading aloud is one of the best things you can do with your child. It promotes language development and early literacy skills. It enforces comprehension skills, builds vocabulary, and develops letter- sound recognition. When we aloud to children, we invite them to experience new things, encounter new places, and meet interesting people and intriguing characters. 

I’ve complied a list of our favorite books for 2 to 5-year-olds. Click on the book’s picture to find out more about each book. I participate in the Amazon Services Associates Program and make a very small commission for purchases made through the following links.

If you have older children, you may enjoy these recommendations. And if you would like more specific recommendations, I would love to help. Comment below or shoot me a message through my Facebook page at EMBRACE ENTHUSIASM.-


A Few of Our Favorite Books and Read Alouds (Gift Ideas for Christmas and a Giveaway too!)

One of my favorite gifts to give are books. Books invite us to experience new things, help us encounter new places and worlds, and introduce us to interesting people and intriguing characters. Books can change our opinions, our outlook, and our world.

There are so many wonderful books to give, it can be overwhelming scrolling through page after page of titles trying to decide which book would make a good choice. To help, I’ve complied a list of our favorite read alouds and picture books. Depending on the age of the child, many of these titles are great chapter books for independent reading. 

Click on the picture to find out more about each book. I participate in the Amazon Services Associates Program and make a very small commission for purchases made through the following links. If you would like more specific recommendations, I would love to help. Comment below or shoot me a message through my Facebook page at EMBRACE ENTHUSIASM.

As you think about gifts for others, I have a gift for you. I am giving away a few of my favorite things. A Starbucks gift card, coffee mug, Bible, Nature book, and a CD from my favorite band.  See the bottom of this post for more information and how to enter.  

FOR AN ANIMAL LOVER OR  NATURE ENTHUSIAST   

GREAT and MEMORABLE ADVENTURES

INTERESTING PEOPLE and PLACES

LOVED CLASSICS

BIBLE and BIBLE STORIES

“A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS” Giveaway 

-1 Starbucks Gift Card

-“Hearth & Hand with Magnolia” Gather Mug

-1 Holy Bible

-1 Nature Connection Book

-MINAMIZE CD

CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY ! 

I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I make a small commission for purchases made through these links. 

For more book ideas and books grouped by theme, check out our BOOKSHELF


100 Kind Things to Say

I went to put my purse down and noticed the small puddle filling the center console of my van. My five-year old son had “given” me his cup of water, which really meant he had half-haphazardly placed it on the uneven tops of the odds and ends we keep in the tray. Now the cup was on its side, water trickling out near the straw. Soggy receipts were turning to watercolored prints. Drowned coins reflected in the shallow bottom of the compartment like in a small wishing pool.  

I took a deep breath and made a conscious effort not to say something snarky or say something I would regret. Yes, he was being impatient and had not wanted to wait for me to take his cup. Yes, my patience had been tested many times today.  Yes, this was one more thing to clean up. Yes, this was an minor inconvenience. But really this was just an unintentional accident and an opportunity to show a little grace.  

I started to mop up the water with some napkins I had just grabbed while we were at the coffee shop. I didn’t realize they would be used so soon. It was quiet in the van- a rare moment of silence. My son was thinking and watching. When the last napkin had been used,  he declared with admiration, “Wow, Mom! You are always prepared. Really, always!” These words seemed too big for his sweet little voice. A compliment so gracious it disarmed any lingering sour feelings. I had almost traded kindness and grace for irritation and annoyance, but I hadn’t. This time I hadn’t let my emotions hijack the situation. Kindness won! “Thank you, Bud! Mommy tries,” was all I could reply.     

Words…powerful little things that add up to big consequences. When we stop and think before we speak, we can change someone’s day.  (We can change our day.) I have no doubt if I had said some things I had initially been thinking during the water spill, it would have left a dark shadow over the hour. Instead, it turned a small incident into a moment of positivity. When we speak encouraging words, we are giving people around us an emotional boost of hope, support and confidence. We are building stronger relationships. 

About two years ago, I wrote a post called “78 Kind Words to Say to Your Children.” I thought I could do better than just 78 and came up with more things to say. So, here’s a new list- “100 Kind Things to Say.” Originally, I had thought to use this list to encourage my children but there are many things on this list that would encourage anyone- family, friends, and co-workers too. 

And one more note, some of us have a natural inclination or a gift to speak words of affirmation and encouragement. For others it can be difficult and takes practice. If you feel like it’s difficult, do not be discouraged. Try saying one or two positive, encouraging phrases at a time and work up to speaking several each day. Like with anything new and with some practice, speaking encouraging words will start to feel easier to do and the people around you will benefit from your practice.  

  1. You make me smile.
  2. I believe in you.
  3. You have great ideas!
  4. You are a hard worker.
  5. You make a difference.
  6. Can I help you?
  7. I’m sorry.
  8. Will you forgive me?
  9. I forgive you.
  10. You are loved.
  11. You are creative!
  12. Great discovery!
  13. I admire you.
  14. You are kind.
  15. You are a good friend.
  16. You are a good listener.
  17. I’m listening.
  18. I want to hear what you have to say.
  19. Your ideas matter.
  20. It’s your decision.
  21. You can say “no.”
  22. You belong!
  23. We need your help.
  24. Here’s a place for you.
  25. I like spending time with you.
  26. Tell me what you are thinking.
  27. Thank you for helping me.
  28. Would you like to help me?
  29. I see you trying.
  30. Great job!
  31. I like working together.
  32. I like how you______.
  33. It’s okay to be nervous or scared.
  34. You are brave.
  35. We can learn from mistakes.
  36. Mistakes help us grow.
  37. Keep up the good work!
  38. I like you!
  39. Let’s share.
  40. Thank you for being you!
  41. God made you special.
  42. You have a lot to offer.
  43. You are right!
  44. You are fun to be with.
  45. I am excited to see you try.
  46. You figured it out!
  47. Well done!
  48. Thank you for following directions.
  49. Thank you for sharing.
  50. I trust you.
  51. I appreciate you.
  52. Thank you for being honest.
  53. You are joyful!
  54. You are loving.
  55. You are helpful.
  56. Thank you for waiting.
  57. You are patient.
  58. You give the best hugs.
  59. I like when you __________.
  60. Please sit next to me.
  61. You have a great sense of humor.
  62. I can help you with that.
  63. I want to help.
  64. What a fantastic idea!
  65. What do you want to do?
  66. Let’s do it together.
  67. Good thinking!
  68. Thank you for answering me.
  69. That was a kind thing to do.
  70. You have special gifts and talents.
  71. You are a gift to others.  
  72. Let’s pray about it together.
  73. You are good at________.
  74. I can tell you really tried.
  75. You have a big heart.
  76. You have the best smile.
  77. You are important to me.
  78. Thank you for helping your friend.
  79. That’s wonderful news.
  80. Tell me more.
  81. I am proud of you!
  82. You mean the world to me.
  83. I love you to the moon and back.
  84. You are beautiful inside and out.
  85. You made my day!
  86. You light up the room!
  87. You are generous.
  88. Don’t give up!
  89. That’s a great question.
  90. You can try again next time.
  91. Let’s take a break and try again.
  92. It’s okay.
  93. It will get better.
  94. I’m here for you.
  95. You inspire me!
  96. You are a great example to others.
  97. I am a better person because of you.
  98. You teach me new things.
  99. I love your enthusiasm.
  100. I LOVE YOU!

December Acts of Kindness Calendar

Although kindness and charity should be given in every month, December brings a special focus to these things. It’s a month of reflection. An opportunity to focus outward instead of inward. A time to give rather than receive. If you are looking for a few ideas to practice acts of love, kindness and giving to others, check out our plan for December.

Each morning, our Kindness Elves, Amelia and Olivia, will suggest the daily act of kindness to complete as a family. There’s something for everyone on the calendar. Some of the ideas, like donating blood, are obviously for the adults (that’s the one that is going to stretch me the most!) Some of the ideas will take a little longer to complete than others. All of the activities can be done together with each other’s support and encouragement. 

Just a note…This calendar is not meant to add to the holiday hustle and stress. It’s not to give us one more thing to do. Rather, it is a reminder to slow down, gather around a table, have good conversations, create for and think of others as a family. 


They’re Here…. Kindness Elves and Advent Calendars

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Our family has done many things to celebrate the days before Christmas. We’ve eaten our way through chocolate advent calendars. We’ve counted down days with a chain of linked construction paper rings. And we’ve made daily ornaments with Truth in the Tinsel and inspired by Ann Voskamp’s  “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.”  For the third year, our Kindness Elves have returned adding to our special Christmas traditions. Amelia and Oliver, come to America every Dec. 1 from England to help us spread kindness and think of others during the Christmas season.

I stumbled upon the Kindness Elves about a four years ago and fell in love with the idea. Created by a UK school teacher as an alternative to the “elf-on-the-shelf” tradition, Kindness Elves place the focus on positive, character-building activities while giving families opportunities to teach and practice acts of love, kindness and gratitude.

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Our Elves were shipped in their sweet, little home, complete with a working mailbox. Throughout the month they appear somewhere in our house with an introduction to the kids and notes suggesting an act of kindness to complete for the day. It is suggested to leave the elves besides an object needed for the day’s suggested activity. e.g. inside a mixing bowl ready to bake some cookies as a gift.

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kindnesselves3

kindnesselves2

Here are other ways we plan to use our elves as suggested by the creator of the Kindness Elves. I love the idea of the “Little Book of Big Kindness.”

  • When the elves see the children doing kind and lovely things, they leave a little note for them to find in the morning e.g. “Oh I loved it when I saw you sharing your new book with your little sister” or “you were very kind to help your Mummy load the dishwasher!” etc These notes can be collected into the Little Book of Big Kindnesses as a record keeping journal.
  • Some mornings they may wake up to find the elves have lined up their shoes, tidied their coats, got the breakfast things ready or fixed a broken toy etc. Modeling direct ways to be kind and helpful as a prompt for the children in the day.
  • Occasionally they leave a treat out as a thank you!
  • On the last day (Christmas Eve usually for us) the Kindness Elves leave a little goodbye letter, thanking the children for their wonderful stay and sharing so many lovely experiences together. They say that they might pop back throughout the year for birthdays or other special occasions and that they can’t wait to come again next Christmas!

One year, I only wrote a quick sentence on elf size heart notes. I punched hearts out of red paper. Here is a link to a sheet of heart templates to use if you do not have a punch. http://www.timvandevall.com/wp-content/uploads/Heart-Template-Printable.pdf  They are perfect elf size. 🙂

heartsandpunches

Last year, my daughters took to being “pen pals” with the “elves.” Which obviously meant, we got to be pen-pals. I look forward to this the most. There is something special about writing and receiving a letter. It’s an act of kindness in itself. We wrote about stuff  we sometimes forget to talk about during the day- places we want to visit, dreams, hopes and wants. A few minutes of extra thought and care is worth seeing into the windows of my daughters’ hearts. And I’m taking it all in now, praying the little extra effort is making a clear path for open communication in the future.

The Kindness Elves are adorable and we will enjoy them, but honestly, they not necessary to complete acts of kindness this season. I will be sharing our calendar of Acts of Kindness in a future post. Until then, check out the following Acts of Kindness Advent Calendars and start sprinkling kindness today.

Acts of Kindness Advent Calendars and Ideas:

advent-calendar

http://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/random-acts-of-christmas-kindness-advent-calendar/

50-acts-of-kindness-by-kids-for-advent-e1415797274687

http://www.muminthemadhouse.com/alternative-advent-calender-24-acts-kindness-kids/

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https://thechristmasangel.com/blog/activities/25-days-of-messages

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http://nourishingjoy.com/service-projects-for-kids-advent-calendar/

100-acts-of-kindness-for-kids-free-printable-in-post

http://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/100-acts-kindness-kids/