Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back

As 2012 comes to a close, I can honestly look back at the good, and the bad, and say that God is Good! A lot has happened this year! From two baby showers in my honor, to the birth of my son. From saying good-bye to dear friends who moved away, to meeting new friends. The joy of finding out we were expecting, to the pain of losing that sweet baby only 2 weeks later. God has been there through it all, and I know that without Him I would have no reason to celebrate at all. He has been my Protector, my Friend, and my Comforter this year. I look forward to what He has in store for me in the year 2013.
I've already talked about some of my goals for the year 2013, so for now I'll just leave you with some precious moments from the year 2012.

 Gunnar Joel is here! April 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm. 7.3 pounds, 19 1/4 inches long.
 At two weeks old Gunnar made the trip to see his Uncle graduate from Bluffton Univ. with a degree in Accounting. He is now living in Florida and going to Law School. We are so proud of him!

Gunnar's Dedication to the Lord on Father's Day!
 My Handsome Boy at 3 months old!
 Gunnar and his cousins at Christmas time. He is 8 months old here
My sister, brother, and I together at Christmas again. So proud of my brother who is doing an Amazing job in Law School, and my sister who moved to Chattanooga, TN the day after Christmas to start a new job down there! I sure do miss them though! I predict a lot of traveling is in my future for the year 2013 :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

When Man-Made Plans Fall Through

It's been a while since I've written anything. I've been under some stress the past few days, and needed to focus on giving it over to God, rather than keeping up with a blog entry.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to say you trust in God's plan when everything is going the way you want? But that the moment things start going out of control-the time when you need to put your faith in God's plan the most-it's the hardest thing to do? Or am I the only one that feels that way? (Please reassure me I'm not!)

Last year, my husband and I gave the area of family size over to God. We told Him we trusted Him and trusted that He would give us the family He saw fit. Two months later, we were pregnant! Then, when our son was four months old, we found out we were pregnant again! I was thrilled, and just knew that these two little blessings were going to have so much fun together. Unfortunately I miscarried two weeks later and those dreams seemed to come crashing down.

It was devastating. I couldn't understand why God would even allow me to conceive if He was just going to take the baby from me. I couldn't understand what I had done wrong. For months after I over-analyzed every little thing I did in the week before the miscarriage. I found ways to blame myself for what happened. My husband has been so supportive throughout all of this. He reminded me that it "rains on the righteous and the unrighteous." And that, as Christians, we are not promised a life with no heartache or pain. It's taking time, but I am learning to not blame myself for what happened. I am also having to re-learn how to trust in God's perfect plan, instead of trying to take matters into my own hand.

I pray that God will bless us with another child soon. I pray daily that this child will grow strong and healthy inside of me. But, I also pray that God will help me to accept His will for my life, and that I will ultimately choose to keep the faith, even when things aren't going the way I had planned.

Proverbs 16:9-The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

For now, I am going to focus my time and energy on my family as we celebrate the birth of Christ. I have much to be thankful for, and I know that time with my extended family is just what I need! 
Merry Christmas Ya'll!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Train Up a Child...aka...Blanket Time!

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

I mentioned last week that I was having trouble helping my son understand that some things in the house (like the Christmas tree!) are off limits and not to be touched. I was exhausting myself physically and mentally trying to stop him, and ultimately having to correct him, several times a day. Then, I remembered what I had heard about "Blanket Time". I remembered reading about it in both Michelle Duggar's book: The Duggars-20 and Counting! as well as reading it on Valerie's babywise blog. (For more information on what Blanket Time is, you can go here.) I thought if it worked for both of these mothers, then maybe I should also give it a try!

So, two or three times a day I will lay a special blanket out on the floor, along with a few "blanket-time only" toys. I then say, in my most excited voice, "Gunnar! Guess what! We get to have blanket time! This is going to be so much fun! We'll set our timer for five minutes, and then sit quietly on our blanket and play with these special toys. Oh, this is going to be so much fun!" He sees my excitement and starts getting excited himself. And, he does remarkably well staying on that blanket for those five minutes! I have noticed that if he is going to crawl off, it will usually happen when we are already four minutes into it! When that happens, I simply remind him that he needs to stay on the blanket, put him back on it, and give him a toy to keep him occupied. And, after the timer has rung, I make a big deal about how proud I am of him, and what a big boy he is.(I praise him regardless of how many times he tried to crawl off the blanket. I am more focused on training than punishing, and I want him to be excited about following instruction. I also know that an 8 month old does not have the same attention span as a toddler, and that while I can teach him to obey, it will not always be easy for him to remember why he is on the blanket in the first place!)

I have also noticed that he does better staying on the blanket when I am not in the room. I think having me in there distracts him, so I usually will stay in the kitchen, and peak my head out about every minute to make sure he is still playing on the blanket. And for now we are not in a hurry to have a longer blanket time. Five minutes seems to work well for us, and because he is younger than when most babies start it (the majority start around 12 months), I figure we are just ahead of the game and don't have to worry about increasing the time increment just yet.

One more thing: Blanket Time is not a form of punishment. It is not Time Out. Instead, it is the opportunity to teach your child parameter skills. Raising a small child takes a lot of training, and this is just one way I can train my son to listen and obey. Since we have started blanket time he has only played with the tree three times in the past three days! Training takes a lot of time and patience, but it is definitely worth it.

 This blanket was hand-made by a sweet lady at my church. The bright colors make it perfect for Blanket Time!
 Having fun playing with his special toys. And, doing quite well sitting up, too!
The timer went off! Proud of himself for playing on the blanket like a big boy!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

God is in Newtown, CT

It's been a couple days since I've posted, because, to be honest I just wasn't sure what to say after the horrific events that played out in Newtown, CT on Friday. I have struggled with with happened there, and can not even imagine what these families are going through. I look at my son and want to weep at the thought of his life being cut short. I can not even begin to imagine the unexplicable pain these families are facing, nor do I try to. I do not mean this as a cliche-I really am praying for these families that they will find peace that can only come from God.

With the internet and social media I have heard people approach this tragedy in several ways. I've heard it said that we need to better address mental illness so that these kinds of things don't happen. I've heard it said that we need to place stricter laws on gun control. I've heard it said that this happened because we took God out of school. And, I've heard it said that this is a good reason for Christians to home educate. To be honest, I don't agree with ANY of those statements.

The young man who murdered these innocent children and teachers was not sick, he was evil. It is as simple as that. Do I believe that some people do have mental illnesses? Of course. But when someone takes the life of another human being in cold blood, I do not think it is because they are "sick". I believe it is because they are evil.

A more restrictive gun control law would also not have stopped this man from acting out this crime. If a gun was not readily available to him I doubt he would have just given up on his plan. He would have either gotten access to a gun somehow, or he would have used some other means. On the contrary, I believe it is because of the strict gun laws that we are seeing this happen. If teachers had the right to a conceal carry in the classroom, and the right to protect themselves and their students, I believe this tragedy would have had a different ending. 

Some Christians state that this happened because we have forced God out of our schools, and that if we want our children to grow up in the truth there is no way we could justify sending them to a public school. I disagree with that statement as well. Now, my husband and I prayed about it last year and agree that home schooling is what is best for our family but I do NOT think that it is the right move for every Christian family. Christians are called to be the "light of the world" and to be in the world, not of it. If every Christian walked out of the public school system (whether they be a teacher or student), then what hope would there be for those still there? Because God IS still in the public school system! The Bible says "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am". God has not abandoned the public school system, and neither should we! Now, more than ever, I am thankful for the Christian men and women who work in our public schools offering the plan of hope and salvation to any student seeking for it.

I will admit that my first thought on Friday was "At least I never have to worry about something like that happening since I plan on home schooling!" But, evil is everywhere, and who's to say my child won't be a victim of a theater shooting like the one in Colorado? Or who's to say my family won't someday be harmed in our own home? It's easy to feel overwhelmed and terrified when I think of all the evil in this world. But, I have to remember that GOD is Bigger! GOD, who knows every one of us and loves us has a Plan for each of us! God was at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, December 14th. He was there beside every student and teacher in that school. He was grieved by what happened, but it did not take Him by surprise. He has a plan in all of this. In our human state we are not able to see it right now, but we can find peace in the fact that He does have everything in control, and that He offers us peace and hope beyond understanding.

To the families affected by this horrific day: My prayers go out to you. I know I could never be able to fully understand what you're going through. I pray that as the months and years pass, you would feel God's peace in your hearts.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Woman of Excellence--Looks DO Matter

I was continuing my reading this morning in the book of Ruth, chapter 3. In the beginning of the chapter, Naomi realizes that Ruth needs another husband, and has the great idea to set her up with her relative, Boaz. Now, what I think is interesting about this is that Naomi helped Ruth get all fancied up for her meeting with Boaz. And, isn't that what it's like today still? I know it is for my mom and me. I remember when I had my first date with my husband, and my mom helped me pick out an outfit, helped me style my hair, and give makeup tips. She wanted me to put my best foot forward, and make a strong first impression on this first date.  (By the way, it worked! To this day, Joel still tells me how beautiful I looked on that first date.)

So many times I think that we can get caught up in the whole "it's what's on the inside that counts" mentality and take it too far. Yes, the Bible does say that God looks upon the heart, but God also says that our bodies are His Temple, and I believe we need to make sure those "temples" look beautiful. Not to the point of vanity, of course, but I strongly believe that if we truly want to be a Woman of Excellence, then we need to take pride in the body God gave us. I highly doubt the Proverbs 31 woman walked around looking like a slob! It says that she provided garments of purple and scarlet for her household, and that her husband was respected in the city. It also says she did a lot of business with the merchants, which would imply that she was also respected in the city. She didn't stay in a bathrobe all day. She got herself fixed up, and got stuff done!

I also believe we need to look our best for our husbands. Just because I'm a stay-at-home-mom with no car, and no way to go anywhere doesn't mean I have to lay around with unwashed hair, gritty teeth, and ratty pajamas. Yes, our husbands have vowed to love us through better or worse, but I know that if I look nice and presentable I am more willing to believe my husband when he tells me how beautiful I am. I also have a better attitude overall when I actually get out of my pajamas and look acceptable.

In fact, I have included that in my New Year's Resolution: find more ways to enhance both my inner and outer beauty, so that I may bring glory to God and please my husband. 

So, in what ways do you try to please God-and your spouse-with your appearance? If you have been blessed with a daughter, in what ways do you try to encourage her to look her best for God?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Joys of a Crawling Baby at Christmas Time

So, this post is more so that I can gain some advice and insight from some parents of older kids who have already been where I'm at. Gunnar started crawling the week after Thanksgiving, (which is awesome!) however, his favorite thing to mess with is, of course, the Christmas tree! He loves pulling on the garland and the lights. I remember how prior to Thanksgiving I was encouraging crawling SO much, and now I'm not so sure why I did that :) I can no longer leave him on the floor in the family room while I run off to the bathroom, or to make lunch, or get a snack for him while he just lays there staring at whatever toy I put in front of him.

So, my question to all parents of older children out there: What are some ways I could help him to understand that the tree is off limits? I try to be firm, and tell him no, but he's at that age where he doesn't really understand "no" yet. I'd like to keep the tree up through New Years, but jumping up saying "Gunnar! Don't Touch!" 50 times a day is exhausting ;)

And, I hope this post does not sound as though I am complaining. Because I'm really not! I LOVE watching him "explore" his surroundings; he just gets so excited when he makes it to a "new" part of the apartment :)

Thanks for the help, ya'll!

Times of Trouble: Ruth or Naomi?

We've all heard the phrase "Are you a Mary or a Martha?" (and we all know the "correct" answer, too!) at some point in our lives, but I think another question we as Christian women need to ask ourselves is "Am I a Ruth or a Naomi?" Which Biblical woman to we best portray when life seems unbearable?

I am studying in the book of Ruth right now, and it never ceases to amaze me how kind and considerate Ruth appears to be. Here's a woman who has literally lost almost everything dear to her, and yet I still envision her as being tender, compassionate, and content. After her husband's death, she could have just said waved goodbye to her mother-in-law and gone back to the comfort and security of her own family, but she didn't. She chose begged Naomi to let her go with her back to Judah. (Ruth 1:16) And, it's not as though Naomi was much fun to be around anyway!Ruth saw that her mother-in-law needed her, and chose to move to a different country in order to help take care of her. She put Naomi's needs first.

Naomi handled the deaths of her husband and sons in a way that I think most of us would: feelings of betrayal, emptiness, and despair. It's healthy to grieve. It's natural. Jesus Himself wept when He heard news of Lazarus' death. But Naomi didn't grieve for a season. No, she turned into a completely different person. She gave up all hope, instead of trusting that God had everything in control.

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
– Ruth 1:20-21 (NIV)
The good news is that Naomi didn't stay bitter forever. God was able to work in and through her heart, and she was able to experience joy once again. Still, I can't help but wonder what Naomi missed out on in that time. 
So, as I look towards what it means to be a Godly woman of Excellence, I need to question how I'm going to respond to difficult times: Will I handle them like Ruth, or Naomi? It was through asking myself this very question 3 months ago that got me through one of the hardest times in my life-the miscarriage of my second child. Was I going to stay bitter and miss out on all the other wonderful things God was doing? Or was I going to grieve for the baby lost, but know that ultimately my Joy rests in God alone, and trust in Him to see me through? I chose the latter. I chose (and still do choose!) to be like Ruth

What about you? Which woman to do most likely relate to in hard times? Which woman do you strive to be like in hard times?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Woman of Excellence

As you all know, my goal for the coming year is to be more like the Proverbs 31 or Titus 2 woman. So, that got me thinking "how would I describe that to someone else?" I think most people would understand what I meant if I said "I want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman", but I like being able to explain things in a neat, concise way. After reading through Proverbs 31:10-31, I soon realized that what I am striving for in the new year is to be a Woman of Excellence. And, thankfully the Bible is filled with women who I believe are considered to be women of excellence from whom we can gain understanding from! Some women that immediately come to mind are: Ruth, Esther, Hannah, and Mary. What about you? Who is the first Biblical woman you think of when you think of a woman of excellence?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Friendly Reminder

This blog is meant to be an encouragement to those who read it. I understand that there are several different views when it comes to parenting, and I am not here to say that my way is the right way. I believe that as long as you are seeking God and willing to raise your children to obey God then you're doing a great job!

For me, personally, I am a stay-at-home-mom of one and I love my job! I suppose I am a bit of an oxymoron when it comes to parenting: I am an advocate for natural child-birth, use cloth diapers 80% of the time (for the savings!), but I also use the On Becoming Babywise method with my son--and I love it! So, I say all that to let you know that I don't care what kind of parenting technique or schedule you use! Likewise, if you are a working mom, please do not feel like this blog can't be for you, too! It is my prayer that I will be able to stay home with my child, but I understand that sometimes things come up and that it might not always be possible. You will not be judged on this blog!

It is also my hope that this blog be a dialogue, not a monologue. Feel free to give advice, criticize, or ask questions! I pray that you will find encouragement through these pages! 

A New Year's Resolution for 2013

Don't you love it when God speaks to you? Being a Christian for 22 years now, I still struggle with seemingly simple things such as prayer time and personal devotions. But lately, and maybe it's because I'm a mother now and want to instill a love for God in my son, but I've been wanting an even deeper, personal relationship with Jesus. With 2012 coming to a close, I began to think of what I wanted to accomplish in 2013. I usually don't make New Year's Resolutions, because I tend to think "If you don't set the goal, you won't feel bad if you don't reach it!" (A bit pessimistic, I know!) However, as God was speaking to me about spending more time in His Word each day I began to come up with some personal, spiritual goals for the New Year. After a lot of prayer and meditation I came up with my New Year's Resolution-aka-My Personal Mission Statement: 

I will strive to be a Virtuous, Godly woman with a Heart for Home each and every week. I will look to Jesus and His Word for answers, advice, and encouragement as I take on what I believe is His calling in my life: being a submissive wife, a loving mother, and homemaker for my family.

I will daily look for ways that I can encourage my husband, submit to him, and come together as a unified body as we grow and raise our family.

I will instill a love for Jesus in my children, and train them up to be kind, considerate, truthful and obedient. I will give thanks to God daily for the opportunity to stay at home and train my children.

I will manage the time God has given me in a way that is honoring to Him. I will not boast or brag of accomplishments, but will instead give all glory to God. I will seek Him out daily in prayer and meditation, and will listen for His voice and guidance.

Wow. WOW. I wrote that a few days ago, and every time I re-read it I think "What on earth was I thinking?! There's no way I can accomplish all that!" But, I think that's kind of the point. This isn't saying I need to be the pinnacle of the Proverbs 31 or Titus 2 woman in just a few months, or even by the end of 2013, but that I need to strive for that each day, and understand that there will be days where I fall short. And that's ok. God doesn't call us to be perfect, He just calls us. It is my prayer that I can work toward this goal He has set before me in a way that brings all Glory to Him.