Choosing Our Words

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I wasn’t going to say something. I was trying to keep my mouth shut. But the coffee kicked in earlier than usual and gave me some extra caffeinated courage. The following words are not meant to criticize, only to offer another perspective.

When yesterday’s news story and pictures emerged of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge standing outside St. Mary’s Hospital proudly showing off their third child, they were met with much joy and the expected storm of comments and opinions. There were plenty of happy congratulations and joyful reactions but there were also a lot of opinions and statements that rubbed me the wrong way. That red dress! Her perfect hair! I didn’t look that good until three years after I had my baby! Oh, poor Princess Kate!

It made me wonder. How do we know that the Duchess of Cambridge was not completely happy and did not relish in that moment? How do we know that standing in front of the crowd did not remind her of how proud she was to be a princess, a wife, a mother, a woman? How do we know that the dress wasn’t picked out by the Duchess, for this exact occasion, for some special reason, and she couldn’t wait to wear it?  And honestly, what new mom wouldn’t like her hair and makeup done?

Critiquing others online has become the newest, most easily accessed type of tabloid reading. We need to stop relating to each other by comparisons. Stop giving compliments with underlying tones of sarcasm, dripping with false empathy. We need to stop using our own experiences as the ONLY benchmark for what others should do, should say, and what they should look like.

Yes, maybe the comments and posts meant no harm. Yes, we absolutely have a choice to ignore, not to read and not to respond. And, yes, everyone has a right to their opinions (I am giving mine now.) But all this represents part of a bigger issue.

Words have become more accessible than ever and virtual platforms are available to anyone at anytime. I believe we need to choose our words more carefully than ever before. Words hold the power of life and death, of creating positive influence or gaining negative attention. Words gather people together and hold them attentive.

And ladies, we use our words A LOT! Younger generations of women are watching us, seeing how we interact, listening to the comparisons and the comments, forming their own opinions and reactions, and they are gathering and influencing their friends based on our example. So, let’s be good examples. Let’s practice pointing out the positive and affirming uniqueness. Let’s use our words for good influence so that our comments would be uplifting to others and celebrate people for who they are, no matter what we may think they are or the situation may be. Let’s be the positive change, one word at a time.

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The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

 


Love One Another

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“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

We recognize people by their uniforms, identify people by their badges, and classify people by their actions. As followers of Christ, love is our uniform. It’s our badge, our mark of affiliation. Love is the driving force behind our actions, the effectiveness of our skills. Love is our testimony to the world that we belong to Jesus.

Yet, loving others can be difficult! I believe Jesus knew just how difficult it would be. Of all the things He could have said during his last hours on earth, some of his final instructions to his disciples were to believe and to love. Believe and love, two actions with supernatural characteristics, difficult to measure, and cultivated by effort and perseverance.

Four times, Jesus uses the word “love” in these verses. It makes me wonder if He repeated the word so it would make its way from our short-term memories into the long-term memories of our hearts. Love is an expression of the heart and sometimes expressions of love baffle our minds. The depth and cost of Jesus’s love is astonishing. He loved us so much that He sacrificed his life for ours and that is an overwhelming truth. It was the greatest expression of love. A love that redeemed us, restored relationship with God, and granted us freedom that set us free. It is in this love, He calls us to love one another.

On our own, loving others can be difficult. When abide in Him and believe in His trustworthy words, He supernaturally provides what is needed through His Holy Spirit, so others can know and experience forgiveness, grace, and love too.

This Easter weekend, how can we love others well? How can we live out love like Jesus? And how can we wear love as our a uniform, as a badge, so that others would know we belong to Him?


A Small Role in the Greatest Story

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Kings came to towns with proclamation and grand processions of their riches, power, and splendor. Yet, Jesus, the King of Kings, chose a donkey for his entry. A young, humble donkey, never ridden before, specifically chosen by Jesus (Mark 11:3). A donkey born for purpose- to work and serve a master. What an honor and task this young donkey was given, to carry the King, through a crowd of joyful people waving palm branches and praising the Lord. Jesus came through Jerusalem in a humble way, to proclaim peace and love, to serve, to seek and save the lost. Ultimately, Jesus came to give his life for the penalty of our sins so that we may be restored in right relationship with our Heavenly Father and so we can experience the forgiveness, freedom, and love that comes with trusting in Him.

The donkey had a small, specific role in the grand love story of Christ.  We have roles in His story too. As followers of Christ,  we are born with purpose, chosen specifically by Jesus to serve in His name. We are carriers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are to deliver His message of hope and love through our words and actions. Yet, some of us are still tied to the post outside the door (Mark 11:4). Tied up by our fears, insecurities, doubts, and exhaustion. Tied with things holding us back from fully living, freely serving, and fervently loving.

Let me remind you, you have been chosen.

You have been chosen to be the mother or father of your children. You have been chosen to be a friend to another. You have been chosen to be in the right place, at the right time. You have been chosen to lead and love well. You have been chosen to feed and clothe the hungry. You have been chosen as an ambassador of peace and proclaimer of love. You have what it takes because He chose you and He believes in you!

This Passion Week, I am praying we rediscover the passion and purpose of our callings in our lives. I’m praying we refocus our gaze on Jesus, seek Him out, ask Him for help in all circumstances and free us from the things that keep us bound. On Sunday morning, I pray we will praise Him as a large crowd of  people who truly, deeply know what it means to be forgiven and loved. And I pray we will embrace our roles with fullness of joy and peace of heart knowing we have a role in His story.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26–29.

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11




Five Things to Do This Valentine’s Day-That Fills Everyone’s Love Tank!

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Love is essential for emotional health and well-being and to feel loved is a primary human emotional need. According to Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages,”  love can be expressed and experienced in five ways:

-quality time

-words of affirmation

-physical touch

-receiving gifts

-acts of service

We have natural preferences and tendencies to give and receive love in one or two of the five ways listed.

Dr. Ross Campbell, a psychiatrist of children and adolescents, suggests each person has an “emotional tank” that needs to be kept full for optimal health and well-being. When our “love tank” is empty, we do not feel loved, perspective on life seems darker, we may feel irritable, and act out. “A lot of misbehavior in marriage grows out of an empty love tank,” said Dr. Gary Chapman.

Our children have their own love languages and love tanks too. Although, their primary languages will not be established until they are older, it’s important to keep their “love tanks” full by loving them in all five ways. Knowing your own and your family members’ love languages can improve relationships and help see interactions in a new way. Your can discover your love language here.

This Valentine’s Day be intentional with how you love and work to keep love tanks full. Below are a few ideas that reaches each type of love language.

Cooking: (quality time, acts of service, gifts)

For Younger Kids: Valentine’s Day Sparkle Playdough

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Sparkle Playdough Recipe adapted from https://www.iheartnaptime.net/

Ingredients:

-2 cups flour

-3/4 cup salt

-4 teaspoons of cream of tarter

-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

-red food coloring

-red and silver glitter

-quart size plastic bags

Directions: 

1.) Add flour, salt, and cream of tarter to a large pot. Stir.

2.) Add water, oil, and food coloring.

3.) Over medium heat, stir mixture constantly until dough has thickened.

4.) Separate dough into two bags quart size plastic bags and add silver and red glitter.

5.) Knead the dough in the bag until glitter and food coloring is incorporated and combined.

6.) Have fun!

The playdough can be packaged with a heart cookie cutter and given as a cute Valentine’s Day gift.

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For Older Kids and Adults: 

Try a new recipe and learn a new technique. Here’s a scrumptious recipe for truffles by my friend Stacey. They make a beautiful, thoughtful gift!

 https://www.inthekitchenwithstacey.com/chocolate-truffles/

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Crafts:  (quality time, receiving and giving gifts)

Younger, Older Kids and Adults: Pull out the craft supplies and lots of glitter and make Valentine’s cards.

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Older Kids and Adults: Sewing and Embroidery

We did a simple sewing project this week with muslin and embroidery floss. With a pencil, I stenciled a heart on the fabric and embroidered around the traced shape. They added heart after heart in different colors. The end result was so cute, we framed them.

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Appreciate Love and Others : (words of affirmation, quality time)

Grab a deck of cards and some paper. Write 52 things you love about a person or what you love about being a family. Cut and paste one thing to each card. Hole punch cards and tie together. (This makes a great gift! I gave this set to my husband about five years ago.)

52 Reasons Why I love You
Create a gratitude board with the  100 Things I Love activity. We did this at MOPS a few of years ago as a practice in gratitude. It was a great reminder of all the big and little blessings that make my life richer and more enjoyable. This activity could be done together or separately.

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Dance Lessons (physical touch, quality time)

Lego Birthday Party - Box Step Feet Dance Steps DiagramGrab a partner and learn a new dance with these fun dance cards from Step Calvert Art.

 

You can get printable dance cards like the one above at this link: https://stephcalvertart.com/lego-birthday-party-dance-dancing/

Here’s an example: Rhumba

Reading Books: (quality time, physical touch)

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One of my favorite parts of the day is when we are all snuggled on the couch with a cozy blanket and a good book. No matter what the book it is, it’s the time spent together, the amazing places you “go”, and the interesting characters you “meet” that makes it such a special time. I also love the great conversations that follow the readings.

Take time to slow down and enjoy your loves today.  Have a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Love,

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Ten Years Later- A Letter To Myself

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Photo Credit: Capture NH

Dear Shanna,

I know this is overwhelming and scary. It seems like the hospital exercised poor judgement by allowing you to leave with a baby. Your baby! When those big, glass doors closed behind you, I know you were secretly hoping a nurse would come running after you and bring the two of you back to the “safety” of the maternity ward. But she didn’t come, did she? She sent you off with gentle reassurance and a complementary diaper bag stuffed with humongous maternity pads, a few teeny-tiny newborn diapers, the phone number for a lactation consultant, and a booklet called “A New Beginning.”

What an appropriate title! It feels like you’re starting life over. Any knowledge and educational degrees you’ve acquired over the last thirty years seem null and void. Things are very different than what you read in those books. Those books about what to expect when you are expecting and now you are expecting to have no idea what to expect.

I know you dream of easier days and nights full of quiet, continuous sleep and feel guilty about wishing the days away. I know it seems like time is ticking slowly by and it feels like you are stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day.” The one where Bill Murray finds himself trapped in a time warp and he keeps waking up to live the same day over and over again. Except in your time warp, the day revolves around a baby- Baby cries, pick up baby, soothe baby, check diaper, change diaper, feed baby (for like hours), baby sleeps, you should sleep, baby cries and repeat. Repeat over and over again, every 3 hours or on demand, for what seems like every future day.  I know you wonder if you will live life at some sort of a predictable, “normal” rhythm EVER again.

I know it feels like you have completely lost yourself and wonder if you will ever find yourself again. I know you’re anxious, hesitant and constantly questioning yourself as you weed through a tremendous amount of information and opinions and try to make a variety of good decisions on behalf of your sweet baby. Very kindhearted people with good intentions offer you advice but since you are so overtired, oversensitive, and overwhelmed you cannot appreciate their wisdom. Or maybe more than that, some of their advice makes you feel like you are doing it all wrong or even worse, it’s a reminder that you are not enough. And even though you are surrounded by people, I know you feel very alone.

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Photo Credit: Capture NH

Ten years later, I can tell you the hospital did not make a mistake. It may have been a rocky start at home adjusting to everything new but no mistake was made. God picked you to be your baby’s mother. He knows you can do it, gives you everything you need, and you can rest in that. Hold onto that truth and embrace it during the long days and nights. Repeat it constantly to yourself and especially when the hospital sends you home two more times, with two more babies.

Your life has started over but in a new and beautiful way. Those degrees you acquired in school will be used again but the type of degree you are working on now does not come from schoolwork but lifework. This is a never ending study in unconditional love. It requires time, patience, mistakes, forgiveness, grace, sacrifice and it changes everything. Through the lens of love, relationships and the world will look different. You will begin to understand the sacrifices your mom made for you and what it means to be loved by Jesus in a way that brings you to tears almost every time you think of it. And as far as the what to expect, you will never know what to expect because each day, each baby, brings new challenges and blessings. It’s a constant practice trying to be content and present in the very moment. Oh, and just when you think you have something figured out, it all will change. So, expect the unexpected and expect love.

The days will get easier, you will get more sleep and sleep is awesome. Easier is relative though. In some ways it will be easier and in others ways more difficult. The cliche is true! Time goes by quickly, much more quickly than you ever thought it could. One day, instead of wishing the days away, you’ll wish they would stay. (Maybe the trade off for sleep is fast moving time?) Your life will find a predictable rhythm again but every season will have a different rhythm. And you’ll love the changing rhythms because you do not like boring, and motherhood is far from boring.

About the anxiety and sad feelings, it was a good decision talking with the doctor. What you see as an extra burden now, God will heal through medicine and faith and use this in ways to empathize with other moms and others dealing anxiety and depression. You will always have the threat of doubts and fears but you will persevere and overcome them with confidence in His strength. You will need to work on your “perfectionist” tendencies though and embrace the imperfections and the mistakes because those will make you better not worse.

BTW, you are not enough. At least, not enough on your own. You need Jesus and community more than ever before. Let down the walls. Let others in. Ask for help. Don’t try to do life alone. One of the greatest communities you will find will be in a MOPS group. You’ll find friends, faith, and freedom there. MOPS will encourage and equip you to be the best mother, woman, and leader you can be. It will help you find purpose and give you opportunities to practice confidence in the next things that God is calling you to do.

Make time for family and friends. Embrace your church family and the women in it. Their lives and experiences, their stories shared with you, are gifts. Gifts worth more than any amount of money can ever buy. You will see the importance of their words when you are not so overtired and overwhelmed, and you will come to crave being taken care of by them, tucked under their wings, and covered by their prayers. Your heart will swell a thousand times over when your babies are welcomed into these communities and loved by your friends too because we are better together.

Shanna, you are doing a good job even when you think you are not. Take one moment at a time. Remember, the challenging moments are more valuable because they are richer in experience and make you stronger. And even though it’s good now, the best is yet to come. Motherhood is an amazing, special gift.

With Love,

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