Come Check Out the New Site!

That's right.

Devoted: A Mom's Faith Quest has moved over to Grace For Motherhood Overwhelm.

You can find it at GraceForMotherhoodOverwhelm.com.

It's a move I've been wanting to make for a long time. Like many things I procrastinate on, once I just took the time to do it, I found it was a simple and quick move thanks in part to Jeff Goins' post The Step-by-Step Guide to Launching Your Own Blog and others I'd read along the way.

Not everything is polished up and perfect on the new blog but that's okay. :) We may get there eventually. Or we may not; life is rarely perfect after all! Whatever the case, it's a big improvement and I think you'll like the new site.

I definitely do. It's more user-friendly on my end and hopefully for you too.

Please note: 
If you'd like blog updates emailed to you in the future, please take a minute to add your email in the sign up bar on the right side of the home page. For those who previously signed up for updates on this blog, you'll also need to enter your email on the new blog if you wish to continue receiving updates since I haven't yet figured out how to transfer that info.

(P.S. I'll be recommending WordPress to anyone looking to start a new blog, whether public or private. And for anyone needing to move a blog from Blogger to WordPress, it's truly an easy move even for a non-techie person like myself!)

See you over at Grace For Motherhood Overwhelm!


When We Get To Heaven And Find The Answers

When we get to heaven and take our place by Jesus' side, when we ask some of the most burning questions we've ever had, when we listen in awe as He tells us "The Plan", I imagine these reactions:

A hush falling over the gathering of friends and family. Sacred silence as we absorb in complete awe and reverence a plan so all encompassing in detail, so grand in expanse and so exquisitely beautiful in perfection that every question once asked seems trite and desperately insignificant in the face of such grandeur and wisdom.

I picture joyful exclamations and ecstatic wonder as understanding dawns and the sheer joy of it spreads across each face like a curtain unveiling something so divine and delightful it takes all breath away. 

"Brilliant!" and "Amazing!" and "So perfect!" are the feeble expressions we use to share our wonder and gratitude for such inexpressibly wise and majestic plans.

Life events that span generations, races, cultures and communities will be seemlessly woven together like an intricately designed web.

I believe we'll understand the answers to our questions in rich completeness and marvel at the stunning detail of God's perfect plan.

While we cannot possibly understand His complete plan while here on earth, I like to envision each detail of scenes like these becoming crystal clear to our heavenly eyes:

An illness that prompted a chain of events and reactions among countless others, something we may never see from our mortal perspectives.

A death that prompted life changes of unrelated people which in turn blessed future generations of the very one who died. .. a chain that no human recognized here but was orchestrated by God himself.

An unthinkable tragedy that our Heavenly Father skillfully and so carefully turned around to become the light that shone His love in hearts that no one else could reach, through ways only He could see and bring about ... things we may never see while here on earth and yet, with Him, no detail is too small, no path too unlikely, no soul too hardened for His plan to reach.

A financial crisis that saved someone from certain future ruin whether spiritually or physically - a possibility we may have considered and wondered about but God planned with certainty and proactively worked in love for our good.

A thwarted dream that paved the way for bigger dreams to be realized, dreams that made many things possible for others, though not in the lifetime of the one whose dream went unrealized.

Who can say what God is doing right here, right now, today, to weave a design in your life and mine that is of far greater beauty than we can ever imagine?

Who can even begin to grasp how awe-struck and grateful we'll be when we gather at Jesus' throne?  


Dealing With First Trimester Apathy and Anxiety

So I am officially PG and Baby #3 is on his/her way! :) Hence the silence here on the blog. I've been too uninspired to even think of writing something that could be remotely considered post-worthy.

Eventually though I did begin searching through the pregnancy advice links I'd saved, particularly those in the spiritual and emotional health department because that's what I usually need most in the first trimester (well, okay, throughout the entire pregnancy).

I am fortunate not to have great nausea but I think that most women, whether they admit it or not, just don't feel that great during the first weeks of pregnancy.

There's so many little symptoms in addition to nausea that one can have, ranging from the most minor to some that are completely debilitating and since many of us have a combination of symptoms, it's not surprising that the first trimester can be a difficult time.

Here's an excerpt from an email I recently wrote to some family and close friends with the intent to poke a little fun at myself:

"I am a repeat sufferer of first trimester apathy. It involves huge amounts of boredom, laziness, lack of energy and most especially lack of motivation.
In the past few weeks I've read more books than I may have in the past year. OK that might be a stretch but I definitely don't remember reading this much at once in many long ages. If possible, I hardly stray from the couch. You would probably cry if you saw how desperately lazy I am. And especially if you saw the laundry piles, dirty dishes, filth and mayhem that blatantly litter the house from one end to the other.
I distinctly remember when I was expecting my first there came a time when all my pregnancy books had to go because just looking at them wanted to nauseate me. Now I find, to my horror, that the feeling has greatly intensified this time to include most of my house! Furniture, walls, decor and most especially the evening routine: how they torture me!! But alas, they are not so easily discarded as books. The very idea of loading laundry or dishes seems unbearably taxing. The unpleasant results of this seem like an unwelcome but necessary evil. Ah, the joys and sorrows of life!"

Turns out I may have exaggerated too much once again since I was soon receiving more sympathy than my real situation merited. (Yes, I'm slowly learning that while humor is sometimes the best approach, it's probably wise to temper it with a dash of reality!)

Because the truth is that while apathy is a big pregnancy weakness of mine, it does come and go. Today, for example, I went on a most welcome and unexpected binge of cleaning and tidying.

All told, pregnancy symptoms are one of the most guaranteed illnesses to disappear with time and many times end with the happiest of results!

And for those who've lost babies, some say they'd do anything to suffer morning sickness again if it meant they had a baby to care for.

The importance of having the right perspective goes without saying. Some days, of course, that's easier said than done. Which is exactly where these articles come in because they help remind, remind, remind me on the days when it's easier to forget:
Pregnancy Limitations and Morning Sickness : There is a wealth of information here that covers housekeeping tips during pregnancy, morning sickness remedies and much more in addition to wise advice on keeping a good attitude throughout pregnancy.
God's Grace Through the Pain of Pregnancy : Marlena Graves shares how God works through difficult pregnancies and what she's learning from it. 
Choosing a Heart Attitude of Thankfulness : Angie Tolpin, a mom of six, shares thoughts on choosing gratitude in a letter to her younger sister. 
Taking Care of Yourself While Pregnant : While this post does not discuss heart attitudes so much, it's a reminder to take care of ourselves properly. After all, if we don't, it's even harder to have a healthy outlook. 
I also stumbled across these verses in my Bible and they added to the thoughts I'd already been having:

"And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered." (II Chronicles 31:20-21 KJV)

Here was a man who did what was good and right and truth. And one who, in every work that he began, would seek God and he would do it with all his heart. And then he prospered because of it.

I thought of myself and this baby. And I knew that I wanted the same to be true for me. 

There are so many things about pregnancy and about new baby care that I dread, if I'm honest. Baby's first year has been tough for me in the past. I don't expect a bed of roses the third time around either.

But this time I am working harder to stop the negative thoughts that want to come.

One thing I've found that helps with this is the 'faith versus fear' chart that Nerida Walker shares in her wonderful book God's Plan for Pregnancy. This simple comparison between faith and fear clearly illustrates the vast difference between the two.

{ FEAR has vision:  //  FAITH has vision: }
- Fear has a language (speaks) / Faith has a language (speaks)
- Fear links you to the natural / Faith links you to the supernatural .
- Fear sees you without the answer / Faith sees you with the answer
- Fear sees the worst result / Faith sees the desired result

Since reading this, I've realized that far too often I allow fear to rule. I envision myself without the answer and with the worst result instead of embracing faith.

My fear also links me to the natural (expected results) instead of the supernatural and God's awesome power (and ability to transform and work the seemingly impossible in my life). 

So now when I find fear wanting to take over, I remember that faith sees an answer, faith sees the desired result and faith sees God's all-powerful ways. And I choose faith.

Your turn! What has worked for you or inspired you when dealing with pregnancy difficulties?

(A note on the book God's Plan for Pregnancy: It's probably geared most toward someone struggling with infertility but what I've read so far applies to pretty much everyone: God's promises, what faith is and how to pray in faith, etc. I highly recommend the book to any pregnant or hope-to-be pregnant persons but I certainly wouldn't say it had to be limited to those in that condition!)


Courage for the Mom Overwhelmed By Christmas Preparations

We're on a fast countdown to Christmas and if you, like me, have just begun gift shopping and are beginning to realize that Christmas cards and fancy baked goods are simply not materializing for you this year, you'll love these encouragements as much as I do.

Christmas has long been a struggle for me. I already dreaded the barrage of commercialism and hectic schedules that pervades the holiday season before I became a mom. 

After children arrive on the scene, Christmas expectations only increase - at least if we allow them to. 

It's not that I don't love the message of Christmas, being with family and giving gifts. Rather it was (and still is) too easy to become stressed over an endless list of to-dos as the December days fly by with ever-increasing speed.

This year they've seemed to speed by quicker than ever and I've needed to be reminded of what's important in this season.

After sharing ten important things to remember at Christmas especially if you're stressed, I was inspired to find similar encouragement from others and share my favorites. 

The stories and gentle wisdom shared in the following links remind me to prioritize and see what's truly important in this busy season and encourage us all to let go of the endless extras.

I'm sharing them with you in case you need to hear the same things. These aren't lists of what you should be baking or making or buying. They're real encouragement from real moms who know what real life is like. 

Hope you enjoy! :)

If you're a mom who's dreading the holidays by Lisa Jacobson. 

I love hearing from moms whose children are older teens or adults; Lisa is one of those moms who shares wonderful encouragement to keep our priorities in place at Christmas and tells us what it is her kids loved best about their own family Christmases.

Why it's okay if Christmas is sometimes messy and chaotic by Rachel Jankovic.

Rachel walks us through the notion that Christians should have quiet, perfect Christmases and gives us a glimpse into the reality of the first Christmas - reminding us of just what it is that Jesus came to share and why we should make the effort to bring Christmas to our children even if it's imperfect. 

If you're a mom of littles stressing about Christmas, it's okay to let it go by Lisa Jo Baker.

Lisa Jo helps me realize that seasons of life come and go and that it's okay to give up something at the holiday season even if your friends are all doing it.

When your home isn't party-ready by Jennifer Schmidt.

I'm as guilty as anyone of wanting things to be perfect for my guests. But how much do we miss out on when we refuse to open our doors in spite of the imperfections?

Why I'm giving my children gifts this Christmas by Emily T. Wierenga.

Emily reminds us that Christmas is an important time to remember those who've lost loved ones. And to realize and cherish how much we have today.

5 wonderful experiences we can give our children at Christmas by Ruth Schwenk.

Maybe I can't afford all the things my children want but I can give them something so much better.

How to stop the holiday gimme monsters by Melissa Taylor. 

Here are some creative ideas for those of us whose children have so many wants at this season. Two ideas I simply love: 1) Having children write a giving list instead of a wish list. I think it would be a great exercise even for myself! And 2) (this one is for myself) display a wrapped box to remind myself to give the gift of my presence!

How we do our non-Santa Christmas by Kristi Bothur.

We don't do Santa at our home; since neither Kev or I grew up with Santa playing any role in our wonderful childhood Christmas memories, it seemed like a simple decision to exclude him from our own home. Yet I struggle sometimes to explain to my daughter all about Santa in a simple way she can understand. That's why I love some of the ideas Kristi shares here.

Do you have an inspiring article to share? How do you keep Christmas priorities straight? I'd love to hear! 

Wishing you peace and joy as you prepare for Christmas! 


Ten Important Things To Remember at Christmas (Especially If You're Stressed)

1. Jesus is the reason for the season. "Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus." - Neal A. Maxwell. I decide if there's room for Him in the kitchen when the gravy boils over, at the sewing machine, at the mall waiting in lineups, during a strained dinnertime hour, at bedtime when I'm tucking the last child into bed.

2. Consciously notice and share gratitude for what IS (instead of discouragement or despair over what is not.)

3. Gently and consistently replace I have nots with I haves, speak kind words to myself and walk in grace.

4. Most people would benefit from simpler holiday fare.

5. Meaningful friendships are not based solely on the giving and receiving of Christmas gifts, cards or letters.

6. Christmas decor and activities should reflect my beliefs about Christmas. (If I worry that a lack of carefully coordinated holiday decor will send the wrong message to friends or family, my beliefs may well be misplaced.)

7. The acquiring of new clothing for the Christmas season should be primarily out of need and not solely a reason to indulge in credit card debt or for strictly ornamental purposes.

8. Gift giving should reflect our heart and not merely our budget. It should, however, also evidence wise financial stewardship and promote good mental health (as in, not staying up till all hours of the night for weeks while I craft things, or hitting the malls with tired children in tow more often than necessary!) Yes, easier said than done! :)

9. Choose gifts of peace and love when ever possible. Especially at home during Christmas preparations.

10. Maintain an air of joyful expectancy... As in, something will probably not go just like I planned but I'm excited to see how the Lord will work it out for me and meanwhile I'll make the best of this situation.

What would you add to this list? 


Sometimes Service Isn't What We Think It Is

I've had a number of tired, uninspired days lately. Maybe it's the grey of November, maybe it's a lack of exercise, maybe it's well, anything! In any case, some of my days have seemed less than wildly successful.

One of these quiet dull days I happened across this verse in my Bible:

"With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that what so ever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free." (Ephesians 6:7)

I'd always thought of this verse as referring to the good deeds we do. Today I thought about all the things we DON'T do.

That verse somehow struck me differently this time.

It talks of service. And good things. I've always thought of those in practical terms like washing the dishes, folding laundry, cleaning up behind others without making snide comments, etc.

But today I thought of the things I didn't do.

There's far too many to list them all of course but here's a sampling:

I didn't jump out of bed this morning, ready to take on the day.
I didn't put breakfast on the table as early as I should have.
I didn't feel organized, I hadn't made a to-do list to keep me on track, I hadn't prepped for my day the evening before, I didn't unload the dishwasher first thing this morning, I didn't even get dressed for a long time, I wasn't motivated or inspired.

What I WAS though was tired, unorganized and horribly distracted. And carrying a hefty bag of guilt.

After my little ones were asleep after lunch, I wiped the table, took out my Bible, prayer list and notebook to jot verses in and I had some time with the Savior there at my kitchen/dining/family room/formal dining table.

And that's what I saw.

That sometimes service is just getting through a tired, uninspired day without doing anything too regrettable. Getting through and maybe even finding grace to clean bathrooms, read extra Pinkalicious and Thomas stories though they bore me terribly, smile at my husband and sing at the sink.

Sometimes service is pretty simple.

Simple, but not always easy. 

An important aspect of service not to be overlooked is that we're to do it to the Lord and not unto men.

Not to ourselves. Not to friends, mother or mother-in-law, author or Pinterest user.

Just to the Lord.


Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have been Grandma and have real live conversation with most of the people she interacted with: when she needed advice, had a question, wanted to find a recipe or make a purchase.

Instead of sifting through ebooks, blogs, cooking or children's clothing websites on any given day. Instead of texting and emailing conversations.

Wouldn't it have been a teeny bit easier to do service just for the Lord instead of for men/women/friends/family?

When the world didn't measure your success or status by your higher education, degree and job? When it was okay to be a stay-at-home mom that didn't even have a job on the side, didn't make or sell anything special?

I don't know. I don't think Grandma's life was one bit easy but I think she had that part pretty good, likely without even realizing it.

Nevertheless, I'm sure she and all the Roman Christian martyr, Jewish haulocaust and early pioneer mamas throughout history had moments when they wondered if they got enough done in a day. When they, in fact, were sure they didn't.

Days when they weren't motivated.

And not one of them had a blog or an email account. Most of them didn't have home businesses or jobs of any kind besides the SAHM thing.

I'm guessing they had days when their service consisted just in wearing a smile and saying something pleasant.

Without sweeping the floor, making a batch of cookies, or going to bed with all the toys picked up.

I'm slowly coming to see that service to the Lord might look a lot different than what service looks like to man (or mothers). I suppose I've always known that theoretically, but my heart keeps forgetting.

It's beautiful when I do remember. When I realize anew that I don't need to heap on the guilt. I don't need to beat myself over the head.  Instead, what I need to do is remind myself who I'm doing this service for.

It's the Lord's work. Not my own.

Perhaps His work for me today is simply taking time to visit with a friend, read an extra story to my child or say a kind word to my husband and clean the bathroom with the children.

It's quite possible He wasn't asking me to jump out of bed today, run efficiently through a to-do list and climb into bed with a spotless kitchen and manicured home.

Don't get me wrong. I think there's something to be said for jumping out of bed, organization, efficiency, and to-do lists! But we can't equate those things with God's will for our lives. Some seasons of life may require them to a greater extent, other seasons may be focused more on other things.

It's always easy to let the clamoring voices of fear, insecurity, guilt and anxiety override the Holy Spirit's still small voice. It's easy to let others define what service should look like in our lives.

However, we can't give in to these demanding voices and real or perceived judgements. We've got to keep in mind that the most important home management tool anyone can have is seeking God's face on a regular basis. 

And the most important service we can do is the service we do for God, whether that's wiping up yellow paint splatters or catching spilled milk before it runs onto the floor, giving an extra hug and "I love you" or finding the strength to be patient when a child is still awake an hour after lights out.

Whatever His work is for us today, it's enough. 


What To Do When Your Day (Or Life) Doesn't Seem Successful

I was having one of those days that I and my mom friends call "not very prosperous".

Really I would've used a stronger term than that to describe it. I was so, so uninspired and wasting time with tiny distractions: googling this, reading that, thinking about this work I needed to do and cleaning up things in first one room and then another, all while generally avoiding any large-scale, useful-type undertaking. (Am I the only one that happens to?!)

I felt guilty: like I wasn't using my time wisely and wasn't being present enough with my children. Those may have been legitimate concerns but it didn't stop there.

If I let my mind run unchecked on days like these, I can drive myself crazy. I go down a running list of virtuous things I'm not doing - but should be.

I think of friends, family and neighbors that I should and would like to be spending more time with, inviting over, making a meal for, etc. but am not for any number of reasons.

I think of how I'm failing my children. Of how I shirk my duties. Of my past mistakes and moments that weren't my finest. The list goes on.

I also feel guilty about how desperately I want my children to nap, even when they are clearly outgrowing the need for it.

And every time they fall asleep, I feel like I am so blessed. At the same time, I'm feeling guilty for needing the break. (Oh the mind games we play!)


Several mental pictures that compound my guilt come to mind. I think of my situation and compare it to these.

One image is that of a sod house on the wind-swept prairies, home to a young settler family just arrived from perhaps England or Scotland. One small room to cook in, eat in, sleep in. Dirt floors, mud walls. It's their new home.

You can see and step inside a replica of this house and hear the story of these settlers at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon.

A recording there tells the story from the young wife and mom's perspective: the despair when she first saw the tiny house her husband had worked so hard to build, the disbelief those back home would have if they saw it, and how she couldn't let her husband sense her despair.

That's one picture.

The other is of a Chinese apartment I once saw in a magazine. It's a small, very small room. But tall. A family of three or four shares this tiny room; it is their living and dining room, bedroom and kitchen. Their beds and storage are stacked and suspended above the other "rooms". All of this in a single room. The year is 2014, not 1914.

There are other homes that come to mind.

A tiny two- or three-room home we were privileged to visit several years ago in the Dominican Republic sat immediately opposite a local bar with pounding music. This woman's door opened right onto the sidewalk. Her yard was the street where motorcycles roared by or came to a stop at the neighboring bar.

Scenes like these pop up often in my mind when ungrateful thoughts threaten to take over.

What did the Jews in concentration camps have? How did the mothers care for their children in such desperate conditions?

Were the persecuted mothers in the catacombs discouraged, despairing over lack of funds, furniture or fresh air?

Even more commonly I think of my grandmother who raised ten children and fostered four, and worked so hard to give her family the necessities of life. She lost her father at a young age, lived through the Great Depression, birthed babies at home, and lived past her 90th birthday; today in fact would've been her 98th birthday.

These are the mental images I begin to compare my situation to. And soon I feel even guiltier than I already did.

Who am I to complain? Living in over 900 square feet of modern luxury and convenience, in a free country with healthy children and a wonderful husband?

And yet I do complain. Forgive me, Lord.


Is it fair to compare myself to mothers who lived in conditions so far removed from my situation?

I'd go so far as to say I don't think it is.

I do think it's important to consider them, to remember them and to place ourselves in their shoes sometimes.

But we cannot elevate them to a place of perfection. Just like we can't expect perfection from ourselves.

Those mothers - Jewish moms doing dishes at home before they were shipped to camps, and then trying to make some semblance of things amid filth and hunger once there; the martyr moms cooking dinner before persecution made hiding necessary and then later preparing simple fare in the tunnels they called home; the pioneer women who washed clothes in their home villages and later alone on the prairie - each and every single one of these women was human, with human desires and needs like yours and mine. 

Even Mary, mother of Jesus, needed her rest and possibly some time apart from her children now and then.

These women were real. I'm guessing the majority of them were much more schooled in the areas of faith and patience and trust than I am but I know they weren't perfect. They surely got frustrated with their children and were discouraged with their work at times.

Many, no doubt, struggled at times with debilitating fears and feelings of despair and overwhelm. 

Of course I don't only think of women like these; often the same discouraging spiral of thoughts happens when I compare myself to more talented peers, friends or relatives.

Maybe I'm comparing myself with my cousin's fun and imaginative mothering abilities, or my sister's creative frugality, my calm, even-tempered mom, my mother-in-law's efficiency or a friend's thoughtful ways. I see how I'm never going to be all of those things and discouragement wants to settle in.

Yet while it helps to remember that I need to maintain healthy thoughts and not play the comparison game, whether that's with my peers or famous people in history, that realization alone doesn't always make me feel much better about my own to-do list that at ten pm is still just as long as it was at the start of the day. My inadequacies loom large and it looks like there's little hope of redeeming my day!


Halfway through one tired, uninspired day it finally dawned on me what one of my biggest problems was.

It's that I'm trying to do it all on my own. The simple yet profound truth. It's been too long since I invited God into the picture and gave all the pieces of my day to Him.

I'm trying to follow the right formulas: be efficient, be on time, be organized, do fun stuff, be positive, or whatever it is - do this, do that, like this and you'll get there.

But I'm not getting there.  I'm just getting more tired and more frustrated and feeling further behind. Not to mention feeling even more inadequate alongside so many lesser fortunate or more talented women! 

I'm trying to be the perfect mom, getting increasingly frustrated because of course I'm not and never will be.

However, I finally realized I just needed some time with God. I need to spend a bit of time with Him however I can fit it in - a prayer on my heart, a verse to remember, a devotional during nap time.

Because God is really the remedy for my day and my problems. Not The Fly Lady, Martha Stewart, the latest home decor magazine, child training book, or housekeeping blog. I might find tips and great ideas among those but I won't find the complete remedy.

No hero from the past or present can offer a personalized remedy for my life. No friend or family member has the secret to making my life whole or complete. That's God's job and His alone.

It's only after I've recognized Him as the real remedy to my problems that the little things can begin falling into place and the guilt dissipates.

My life may not be filled with exciting adventures, daring feats and dangerous exploits. There's no award-winning accomplishments here, no grand victories, no extraordinary talents.

But my seemingly unsuccessful day matters to the Creator and He's got a plan for my life too, just like He does for all of you other moms and like He has for moms throughout history.

That's the beauty of God's plan. He uses each one of us, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

So I'll extend some grace to myself, remembering that mothers around the world and throughout ages have faced much the same things I face. And I'll take the time to talk with Jesus, knowing He will always care about me and my day's to-do list.

It's your turn! Share in the comments how you've found courage during a "not very properous" day of your own. 


Why Life Will Never Be Better Than This

It hit me, just like that.

I was sitting at my desk, having just finished reading my Bible, and was thinking about the possibility of someday moving from this home we love.

And suddenly I realized: today, this moment, these circumstances, this time and place, this is as good as it gets.

Oh but no, logic wants to say.

You're living in a little trailer home that's crowded and old.

You're surrounded by brown grass, bare trees, decaying leaves, empty fields, half-finished dreams.

After a year and a half of slow recovery,   your husband's health has still not returned to normal.

You are trying to potty train your son today and it's not exactly a walk in the park.

Your daughter, though sweet and charming, is a true challenge to nurture and train.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Yet I say it again. Today is as good as it gets.

How? How is that true?

Because life is never going to be perfect. Never.

And I have it so, so good. Right now there is so little I need.  So little I could ask for.

That's not to say I'm NOT asking for things. Because I am. I'm human and too often ungrateful and discontented and before I know it I'm asking for all kinds of things.

Not necessarily aloud but asking all the same.

I'm asking for a bigger house with more storage space. I'm asking for perfect health for my husband.  My whole family, really.

I'm asking to please just be done potty training already and could my daughter just magically outgrow those habits that I really have no clue how to change.

I'm asking for (well, dreaming of anyway) more help around the house and yard and less responsibility in the unpleasant, difficult areas.

I'm asking for new clothes, a bunch of books, some shrubs and landscaping, new paint and trim, more spending money. The list goes on.

But you know, when I stop and take stock, I know the truth.

This is the good life. This is a blessed life.

A life that millions would love to have.

We have so much.

A happy family, a good marriage. A healthy son and daughter. A home of our own on land of our own. A free country, a quiet community.

Access to excellent health care and a private Christian school. Peace in our hearts, a church home, Christian brothers and sisters.

Grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and dear friends who share common values and live nearby.

Plenty of food and water and all our necessities supplied. A dependable income, our own business and plenty of work.

Sure, my life isn't perfect. This isn't Heaven after all.

And I'm sure there will be future days of greater clarity and deeper joy than today: occasional bursts of intense gratitude and happiness that surpass the rather ordinary moments in today.

But what I see now is that the big picture - the major framework of my life - could not be much improved on in this life.

Though future seasons may bring a bigger house, better health, or whatever it is, something else might be missing.

Something I hold dear - a friend or family member, a way of life, privileges I now take for granted. I'm getting older, we're all getting older and there are no guarantees about anything.

I can't foresee the future but I don't need to to understand that what I've got right now is amazing just the way it is.

It's not a feeling. It's a choice. Many days may feel more memorable than this one.

But if I choose to give the missing pieces of my life to God and actively embrace gratitude, these days are going to add up to a memorable life, the kind of memorable I'll love to relive.

It's time I quit asking for the final missing pieces of perfection and instead practice greater thankfulness in the small, already beautiful moments of the here and now.


Four Things I'm Looking Forward To In Heaven

Almost exactly one month after the day we thought we lost our three cats, we truly did say good-bye to one. Several days ago one of our cats became extremely sick suddenly and had to be euthanized.

This lead to conversations about Heaven with my five-year-old. It's been a sad but good teaching moment, a chance to think of and dream about the splendor of Heaven.

I'd already been thinking a lot about Heaven lately; thinking especially of all the things we'll never again worry about when we're there.

I believe the Bible is clear that those who are saved will have a home in Heaven. We don't know much about what Heaven will actually be like but we do know there won't be any tears, sorrow, sadness or pain there. 

Neither will there will be darkness or night; God himself will be the light and we will spend eternity praising the Lord.

When we see the delights He has prepared for us, I'm sure it will be spontaneous praise bubbling from intense gratitude.

It is exhilarating to imagine the kinds of unparalleled detail and otherworldly design the same Creator who has already given us snowflakes, starlight, sunsets, sea life, sunshine and so much more here on earth will have saved for those who love Him to enjoy for all eternity.

That heavenly glory will be infinitely beyond what we can comprehend now but I still love to think about it and dream of what it'll be like.

I know even the best possible scenes I can imagine are such a pale comparison to the reality there. For example, the Bible doesn't say much about animals in Heaven.

I like to imagine there'll be lots there but it really doesn't matter what I imagine because the reality will be much more beautiful than anything I dream of!

Besides the most thrilling things of all - spending eternity with our Savior and meeting our loved ones again - here's four random things we'll love about Heaven:

- We won't say good bye to pets. Ever. But it will be so much better than that. Will we have an entire covey of all of our favorite pets there with us?

All the Belles, Coconuts, Fufus, Barts, and Marshmallows of our lives? And all the prancing ponies and the black stallions and the palamino mares that little girls want but aren't allowed? And the best puppy friends, soft bunnies, gentle calves, frolicking lambs, little fawns, and baby animals of all kinds?

- We won't have bad dreams; our children will never have nightmares. But it will be so much better than that.

We'll never have stories or magazines to avoid reading. We'll never have fear or worry of any kind. We'll never be tired, never wish to drop into bed. There will be no shadowy darkness, no monsters, no scary bumps in the night.

I wonder if Heaven will be like one long Christmas party with all our favorite friends and family.

Everyone relaxed and unhurried, at ease and enjoying each other's company to the fullest; banquets of food and we never get full or do dishes; opening one shiny present after another and they never end and each one just gets better.

- And... we'll never use the bathroom! (This is one I never thought of until my daughter asked about it! We'll have new bodies and I'm sure we'll have no need of washrooms!)

But it will be so much better than that. We'll never worry about too many calories, too much sugar, not enough protein, too many carbs, or junk food. 

We won't ever worry about drinking enough water or too much pop, juice, coffee or sweet tea. We won't even think about too much candy and not enough broccoli.

I wonder if Heaven will be filled with food, all the best steaks and the most amazing salads and decadent side dishes we've ever imagined, more delicious and artfully arranged than we can comprehend?

I hope there is. .. I hope the hungry on earth have one long heavenly feast.

I imagine sugar and chocolate in the most exquisite and delectable forms; a place where we never are hungry or thirsty: our mouths don't water over forbidden food but instead we eat for the sheer joy of delighting in the Father's goodness.

- There will be no unpleasant sounds, smells or sights. Nothing harsh, grating, deafening, tasteless, ugly, weird, or awful. Only perfection and perfection.

But it will be so much better than the mere absence of unpleasantness. I believe heaven will be an unending dazzling display of sensory delights....

Soft music carried on gentle perfumed breezes, panoramic displays of the most gorgeous flowering plants and sunrises that never fade...

The softest of feathers beneath our feet, awe-inspiring singing with unnumbered harmonious voices blending in perfection...

Vivid and pastel hues undulating in stunning detail throughout an ethereal landscape, sparkling jewels on each petal and leaf surrounding resplendent mansions...

Streets of gold, skies of glitter and star scapes we can touch and hold...

A glorious mingling of delectable flavors, exotic fragrances wafting over magnificent vistas, the flutters of gossamer wings dancing over sun-dappled retreats...

Pure radiant light from the Creator of all life, love and beauty, and the thrilling wonder of being in the presence of the One who gave us life.

Imagine the exquisite joy and adoration that will make us sing praises to our Creator with abandon for all of eternity.

I wouldn't miss it for the world.

And I thank the God that makes His children bow before Him in reverence simply with the death of one white kitty and the innocent questions of one of His little daughters.


What Does God Say About Our Health Care?

After writing about how I need to make steps to improve my family's health and trusting God to help us through it, I was inspired to dig deeper into what God has to say about our health and the way we care for our bodies.

How exactly does God look at health care? Does He say anything about it specifically? How does it apply to me? 

For some time I've been mulling over the differing health care advice we sometimes receive and how we as Christians should sort through it; listening to interviews from natural health experts at a recent online health summit gave me further reason to delve into this topic. 

I'd never heard of the bi-annual Children's and Teen Health Summit until I was notified of it by my naturopathic doctor, Dr. Jacqui Fleury, who was one of 25 speakers on the summit. 

Perhaps I could say the focus of the summit was on preventative measures we as parents can take to keep our children healthy. The speakers I listened to were all experts in their various fields which ranged from mental to oral health to home remedies and more.

I came away a little overwhelmed with the responsibility I have to keep my children in good health in today's world.

But I also came away with stronger faith and conviction. 

First of all, I realized anew that God is sovereign, all-wise and all-capable. He alone holds my life and the life of my children in His hands. 

If I lose sight of that and run to protect my child from all possible harm whether through diet, educational choices or whatever it might be, I am burdening myself with something that was never mine to bear.

Our Heavenly Father doesn't want us to be running to protect ourselves and our children from every possible thing our minds can conjure up. 

He alone is fully able to protect us. The same God that keeps us safe as we travel is more than capable of protecting us from toxins and disease. 

Of course that doesn't mean we're guaranteed not to suffer from these things. Traffic accidents and disease do happen, sometimes through neglect or ignorance and sometimes through no fault of our own. 

Does that mean we can and should simply leave it all to God, trusting He will provide for and protect us at all costs? No; most of the time it means doing our reasonable part while looking to Him for wisdom and direction.

We as parents are responsible to look after the children He has loaned to us for a short time.

It is our duty to teach them; most importantly, we model godly lessons in faith and character but also important are lessons about healthy habits that will keep their bodies in good health to the best of our (and their) abilities.

God cares about how we raise our children and He is also keenly interested in our health and the health of our children. 

A simple understanding of the Old Testament reveals how God instituted laws which promoted good hygiene and healthy practices for His people to follow and shows how well He cared for the health of humanity long before the advent of Western medicine. 

Today He has graciously given us the means and ability throughout history to develop new and improved ways to care for and aid in the healing of the human body and has increased our understanding of the amazing and highly complex design of both our brains and bodies. 

At no time, however, should we forget that God alone is able to direct our lives as He sees best. 

Though we may carefully avoid harmful food excesses, damaging products, contagious germs or dangerous situations, God alone sees the future. 

He is aware of all potential traffic accidents, work hazards, wars, famines, incurable diseases and toxic elements. And through it all He so carefully and tenderly holds our lives in His hands. 

The verses "Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." (Romans 14:8 KJV) and "In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind" (Job 12:10 KJV) tell us who it is who has dominion over our lives. 

In His Word, God has given us direction for both our mental and physical health. 

I wouldn't mind if the Bible was a bit more direct sometimes but yet I'm so thankful that God has given us the gift of choice; He hasn't left us with an impossible rule book to follow for even the most minor of decisions. 

Though this same gift can also be a burden as we know we must deal with the consequences of our decisions, we can take our cues from the following verses. 

Corinthians 6:19-20 is an admonition to care for our physical bodies and to keep them pure: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (NIV) 

James 4:17 says "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them." (NIV)

For mental health (as well as physical), Philippians 4:4-7 gives great direction: "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (NIV) 

It's followed by an admonition to think on things that are honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report and having virtue and praise; and finally, "whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." 

I think it comes down to caring for ourselves in a responsible way, just not in an obsessive way. 

Our foremost concern should be laying up treasure in heaven; if we're obsessing over health issues we really aren't conserving a lot of mental space to pursue godly treasures. 

"For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.

But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 

Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 12:30-34 KJV) 

If you missed Part 1, Trusting God With Our Health Care Decisions, you can read it here. 

Is there a Bible verse that has inspired you regarding the health of your family? Share in the comments. 


Trusting God With Our Family Health Care Decisions

For quite some time I've been wrestling with the need to make better choices for our family's health, both in the products we use and the food we consume. 

I don't consider myself a big health nut but I admit I do like to make educated decisions when possible. :)

I always used to think we were pretty healthy. (Okay, really I still do but now I’m more aware of the less than healthy habits we have and how they may be affecting us.) 

We didn't eat a lot of ready-made foods, at least my definition of ready-made. We didn't consume a lot of pop or juice. We made most of our meals from scratch. We brushed our teeth regularly. We practiced good hygiene. Stuff like that. :)

So what was all this hype about "natural" stuff?  Back then I didn't know and frankly, didn't much care. It didn't really apply to me as far as I knew or cared so I didn't concern myself about it.

But then I became a mom.

In many ways, I wish I could say I still didn't care. Didn't know. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Suddenly however, I was no longer responsible for just my own health. I became responsible for the health of two of the most precious people on the planet. 

Much of the responsibility for their health and well-being now rests squarely on my shoulders. Not only am I responsible for the health of my children but my decisions can greatly affect my husband's and of course my own long-term health as well. 

And I don't like the weight of it. I'd much rather shove the responsibility on to someone else. Someone I trust of course. Someone a lot more knowledgeable than myself preferably.

But here I am. No one is coming forward to take the job and so I, like the rest of you mothers out there, must shoulder that burden along with the rest of my responsibilities. I must give it my best go and educate myself to make wise choices.

As I'm gradually coming to realize, there is so much more to healthy living than I thought. 

So much about our world has changed in North America since the days when our grandparents were children or raising children of their own. 

Our diets have changed in subtle but important ways. Our culture has shifted away from home-grown, home-baked, home-made, home-canned goodness to many commercially produced foods that range from fresh produce, meat and eggs to junk foods that have little resemblance to and can barely be traced to any of the food God provided for us in nature.

Some of the food we eat hardly qualifies for any of the major food groups. 

Perhaps if there was a new food group labeled “toxic, chemical-laden, less than 5% natural food matter” we’d find it easier to steer away from some of those highly processed junk foods!

Many of us aren’t really sure what all those fifteen-letter words are in ingredient lists. 
We’re so used to seeing them that we don’t give them much thought. They’re just there, one of those mildly (or highly, depending on our level of concern) disconcerting things in the back of our minds.

Of course there’s many other issues that can and are taken up: the quality and origin of the fabric our clothes are made of, the chemicals found in baby care products, in medicines, in cleaning supplies, in almost anything we commonly use or buy, in fact. 

Few things sold in our local supermarkets seem to be free of all suspect ingredients. Some of the practices that we’ve adopted or had handed down to us from previous generations are found to be potentially harmful. 

Medical guidelines change; alternative health options are cropping up everywhere we look and someone is always trying some new miracle fix for one health issue or another.

So how do we navigate these sensitive topics? When should we consult a family doctor or a naturopathic doctor? 

How do we sort through all the information? How can we keep it all in perspective? How does it fit with Christian faith? When do we draw the line and when is it too much?

I don’t have all answers. I don’t expect you do either. It seems North America as a whole is slowly moving toward change: change in the way we view our healthcare and the decisions we make regarding the health of ourselves and our families.

And that's good. I don't believe this conversation is going to go away right away; in fact it will likely increase as we become more aware of the damaging practices we have come to accept as normal.

No, I don’t have all the answers but there is one answer that works for me.

God has a plan for me and for my family and I know I can trust Him with it. 

Maybe I don’t know what our health care should look like tomorrow or what decisions are in our best interests for the future. 

But I can certainly trust Him to help me one day, one moment, one decision, one small change at a time. 

I can’t usurp God’s authority nor do I want to - although it probably looks like I’m trying to when I seem to forget that I don’t know it all and never will. 

No, I don’t need to know all the reasons or all the scientific data behind each health change we make. I don’t need to have expert traditional medical and alternative health advice for all the decisions that must be made.

I just need God; He’s done a great job of keeping this world spinning in space and of protecting my family and I over the years. I know I can trust him to lead us through the questions and challenges surrounding the health decisions of the nation and especially the health decisions I make between my family and our doctors.

(Now if I can just continue to remember that...!) 

I'd love to hear how you find your way through questions like these. Share what works for you in the comments!  

Read Part 2, What Does God Say About Our Family Health Care?, here.


The Best Spring/Fall Cleaning Products

Last night I lay awake for a long time thinking about an unusual subject: Fall Cleaning my house. My poor, poor house. It has not been fall cleaned in much, much longer than either I or it care to admit.

I thought about flies that die and linger in light fixtures.
I thought about dust bunnies and miscellaneous little things that gather and fall behind beds.
I thought about crickets and mice. And spiders. And what if I met one in a dark corner?
I thought about the corner behind the toilet.
I thought about closet floors and closet shelves - the very back corners where the light don’t shine.

See, I’m an animal lover. I just don’t like cleaning animals. Or, more specifically, insects, rodents and dust bunnies.

So I thought and I shuddered. And I knew why it’s easier to push fall cleaning out of my mind than actually push a mop, vacuum cleaner or rag.

It’s because I don’t have some much-needed cleaning supplies. I have some of the little basics. I have cleaning cloths, paper towel, a vacuum cleaner and some bottles filled with cleaners.
But I don’t have the important stuff.

I don’t have:

Product Details
Full Body Suit and Mask

Product Details
Shop Vac

Product Details
Extendible Window Squeegee
Product Details
Pressure Washer

Product Details
Foam Sprayer

I don’t know about you but it just seems like fall cleaning would be so much more bearable with at least the hazmat suit. The rest I could probably get by without if I had to.

You can call me OCD or whatever you want but it just seems safer, doesn’t it?

Now I know you might be thinking that my house is really dirty or something. It’s not. I promise.
But still. Those dark corners.

I’m still pondering the possibility of fall cleaning my house perhaps later this fall or early next year.
Maybe you can help me out. Do you have a hazmat suit? If not, how do you make fall cleaning work for you? 


When You Only Have 365 Days Left to Prepare Your Child For School

In honor of a new school year beginning everywhere and new teachers teaching, parents sending off a child for the first time, and brand-new students anxiously starting off to school, I offer my hearty and heartfelt wishes for a wonderful first day and week.

May the year ahead be a truly delightful one.

School here began today. The private school I attended as a child is the same one we plan to send our daughter to next year.

It feels weird just saying that but it's true. I'm not sure how I got this old! 

I'm not sure how it's possible I have a daughter who's remotely near school age. Or how the twists and turns of life find me living here again/still/yet so close to "home"!

Melancholy, practicality, overwhelm and enthusiasm all converge into one big nameless emotion when I think of how I have just one year (only 365 days, I'm telling you!!) to help prepare my daughter for school - for oh, it seems like all of life even maybe! (!)

In one year's time she'll spend less than half her waking hours at home with me. Fully 55% of her time will be spent with other people than myself.

For many mamas who've had children in daycare and preschool since their littles were wee tiny, my five (almost six) years at home with my daughter may seem like a distant dream.

Which reminds me how fortunate I am and how very quickly I take it for granted.

This coming year as we spend our days together - all day, every day - I want to be more intentional about the time we share together.

So many moments throughout the past few years it seems, have been too full of me sighing in frustration and wishing away the time I have to be at home - all day, every day - with little children who need me constantly.

But now I see just a bit more clearly how fleeting this time is. Yes, it's so cliche, that statement "it goes so fast" is over-used and annoying. Yet what says it better? That's just the problem. It's too true!

So while we count the days down, starting at 365 today, here's some things I want to do as the days go by:

- consciously remember that this time IS fleeting; I won't always have a 5-year-old daughter wanting stories or asking me to play with her just when I'm sitting down to have "my" time or do "my" things
- intentionally seek out ways to learn to know my daughter better; to affirm who she is and was created to be and to instill an unshakable understanding of how much she is loved
- be more consistent, be more diligent with training her; soon, soon, she'll answer to somebody other than me and I want her to be prepared... school and more - all of life - is just around the corner
- spend more time in playful pursuits; less seriousness, less frustration, more joy, more laughter, more fun
- more purposefully instill in her Godly wisdom and character training

No, I still won't get it all perfect. That's a guarantee. Because nobody does. But I want to do it better. Because that's something we can all do.

Good-bye, Day #365! Hello, Day #364! Here's to a bright, beautiful day spent together - trying my best and getting up again when I fall down. 


How I Know God Answers Moms' Prayers Too (And How We Found Our Kitties)

We hear inspiring stories of children’s answered prayers but how often do we hear stories about moms’ answered prayers? Do we actually believe God cares about and will answer our little prayers as much as He cares about an innocent child's?

Let me tell you about my answered prayer.

Ever since the day we picked up three not-so-tame little kittens and brought them home sometime last summer I've had an ongoing battle with faith and trust in the area of God's keeping watch over my daughter's pets.

See these aren't just any cats. They're MY daughter's precious pets!

So it goes without saying that God will be looking after them, doesn't it? Or does it?

Last fall - almost one year ago, in fact - Coconut, the most-favorite-of-all black-and-white kitty, went for a ride on our vehicle unknown to us. He fell off and was badly hurt but we didn't find him until several hours later. We brought the poor kitty to the vet clinic thirty-five minutes away and after business hours. Not much could be done for our kitty so we paid the hefty euthanasia bill and went home with some sad little children.

This spring, Fufu, one of our two remaining cats and the then-favorite, suddenly disappeared. Just like that. One morning I noticed he wasn't around. After hours of hoping he'd come home stretched into days and then weeks, we pretty much gave up hope that he'd ever return. Many prayers were offered up for his safe return and I kept looking outside, feeling sure that God would answer such faith-filled childish prayers and such fervent mama prayers!

Yet my hopes were in vain. No Fufu appeared. Marshmallow, our sole remaining cat, seemed to keenly feel the loss, right along with the rest of us.

For Miss M's fifth birthday, we made a trip to pick up two little white kittens, soon aptly named Big Foot and Little Foot as per the size of their feet. (Big Foot literally has two extra toes on each foot.) These two kitties have spent hour after hour wrapped in blankets, being rocked to sleep and held lovingly by my two chilluns on many a morning, afternoon and evening. Like Coconut, Fufu and Marshmallow before them, they have been the best of pets - and cheapest entertainment I sometimes say - that one could hope for!

Well, today we thought we’d lost all our cats for good. How was I going to explain that to my little people?

It began like this: since last night was a particularly gorgeous evening and and I was home alone with the children, I decided to take them on a bike ride down the road to the swamp a half mile from our place. They love coasting down the hill, throwing rocks in the water, and discovering all kinds of things along the way. Getting out of the way quick when our big dog, Kenya, comes rushing out of the water is a game they enjoy along with seeing how far a stick will float or how far they can throw a stone.

Often on excursions like these our pets will come along for the ride - or fun, in this case. If you'd have driven by last night on this quiet country road, you'd have seen a long ragtag band traveling along: me, Mr. H, Miss M, one black dog and three white kitties.

Once we reached the swamp at the bottom of the hill, we looked around for a while and then headed back home. I noticed that the cats all stayed near the water, romping in the tall grass by the side of the road. I was sure they'd come back soon and didn't give them much further thought.

But when late evening came and they still weren't home, I began to wonder. Morning came and still no cats. Noon came and went. Prayers were prayed. After calling and calling her kitties, Miss M sadly announced that they must be out hunting. By then I was afraid worse things had happened but I didn't say so.

Suppertime came; Kev and I feared the worst.  We ate sloppy joes and baked beans around the fireplace among our trees. We were just biting into our s'mores when I heard a distinct "meow" coming from the direction of the house. Kev quickly hurried over there and returned with Marshie, our "senior" cat but there was still no sign of the two kittens. Worried what Marshie's solitary return might mean, I prayed yet again that they'd show up. This poor mama heart couldn't bear to explain the loss of more cherished pets to my children.

Kev and I never said a word about our concern to the children and were amazed but thankful that they hadn't seemed to notice how long the cats had been gone. Occasionally they'd be gone for a short time but never for 24 hours - or even 2 at a time.

As soon as we were finished supper, I decided to retrace our walk to the swamp. I called the kittens often as I walked, hoping but not really expecting to see them. It had been so long already. They could be anywhere. Coyotes, owls, hawks or other predators could easily have found them by now. Or they might have run far into a field or down the road.

As I neared the bottom of the hill, I called again. There was a rustle in the grass, and just like that - a white kitten appeared! After some more calling, the second cat appeared too! They looked quite content and a bit sleepy; I suspect they quite enjoyed feasting on mice and exploring in the tall grasses.

And I knew: yes, God cares and answers the "little" prayers of parents, too. Nothing is too small or insignificant for him. No, he won't always choose to answer every prayer in the affirmative (would our cats live to be 100 if he did?!) but he delights in blessing his children, that much I know!

Just as we long to show our children how much we love them and delight in them, our Heavenly Father delights in blessing us, His children. His blessings don't always come in the form I think I want or need but I'm reminded again today that He truly cares about the simplest and smallest parts of my day.

Now it's your turn; how do you know God cares about the little stuff in your day?