Monday, April 21, 2014

When Life Doesn't Feel Picture Worthy

Along with every other parent or couple or person who celebrates with festivities on Easter Sunday, I found good reason to take pictures of three things...(people) I deem worthy of my time and effort to take said pictures. These three. 
If you have multiple kids, you know what an effort this can be on any normal day, much less when you are trying so very hard to keep them looking "perfect." Trying to get all three to look at the camera, smile for the camera, look presentable at the very least for the camera all at one time. 
It's nearly an impossible task that we take on with rewards of candy or presents or dollar bills if they do a good job. Personally, I give my kids opportunity to "act crazy" for the pictures, so it's a win/win. They get their crazy shots in. I hopefully get my "normal" shots (whatever those are) in.
"Smile for Mommy, look, look, look at Mommy, Leila, at Mommy, look at me, not at the cat. Wesley, put your hand down. Jada stop squinting... Ok, look at Mommy...Smile...Ok, make a crazy face! Stick your tongues out! Thumbs up everyone!" 
Because everyone needs a chance to chill out for a minute and go a little crazy, whatever crazy is to you, so life can resume again "as normal."

Life for me has been in crazy mode. 

I feel overwhelmed with preparations for our new soon coming arrival. I feel extremely exhausted. I wake up each day with swollen hands and feet and the very thought of walking to the basement to change the laundry over or going to the grocery store is uncomfortable to me and I'm on the verge of tears everyday, almost every moment. But life hasn't changed for my kids, so I have to stay in that moment, in their moment all the time, which feels impossible to do. They are still needy. They are still noisy. They still crave my time. They still need food. They still need stories read to them and games played with them and I try so hard with what little energy I have to not get uptight with them, for simply needing their mom.
I will be honest with you. It's been a challenge. I'm definitely not on top of my game. I don't have a lot to say that feels blog worthy or picture worthy these days. As I sit here to try to catch up on my blog, I have one kid coming to me screaming about the other one slapping her in the face. Meanwhile he follows her in and is calling her a "baby and an idiot." And the third one is right behind them both, saying something like"Jada gots a taxi." 
I'm not sure what that means, so I leave it at "I don't know honey." 
Because that's all I can even muster up the energy to say.

What do you say when you have nothing to say? Or when you have too much to say?
What do you say when life doesn't feel picture worthy or blog post worthy, but part of your livelyhood is based on writing and sharing your heart?
What do you say when your heart feels slightly confused or sad or whiney or too emotional...
or some days even too full (if that is possible) and it almost feels like too much is going on in your head to even try to relay it in a mere blog post?
Some days peoples motives confuse me. Some days other bloggers confuse me. Some days life confuses me.
Some days I just don't get it. I don't get what I am supposed to say to everyone. I don't get what I am supposed to do with all these thoughts and ideas, except be still with them.
And some days I feel like I should grab the bull by the horns, hop on and run with them.
But for today, I'm kind of doing neither. 
I'm taking it one day at a time with no real agenda to run with thoughts or ideas, nor to sit still.
I just need a minute to breathe. To let the crazies in my life and in my head do whatever it wants to do. 
Some days I don't bask in the presence of God like I know I need to to get through these kind of seasons. Some days I sit at watch movies on netflix instead.

Saturday night before Easter... you know what I did at about 3am? I watched Dirty Dancing. 
Then I googled Patrick Swayze. Then I googled Jennifer Grey on Dancing with the Stars. And I bawled my eyes out as I read about her tears as she remembered Patrick Swayze.
Yes, friends, that is what I mean. 
I will cry at anything and my mind is everywhere lately.
I can jump from extreme gratitude of the Lord working in my life to crying over Patrick Swayze in just minutes...
And I accept it is what it is right now. It's not picture perfect. It's not blog worthy. It's not inspirational or pretty. But it's real.
And real is where I live right now.
Expectant is where I live.
Exhausted is where I live

And now it's time to get my kids down for bed. I have no idea where my husband is, at church doing something I believe...
And by the way, I did find out what "Jada gots a taxi" meant. Jada poked a hole in the top of her water bottle with a tac and was sipping the water through the hole, so Leila wanted to do the same thing....

Kids. Life. Goodnight.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness." So I will boast the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What Are You Holding Against Her/Him?

Sometimes, I find it interesting the ruler we hold other people against. The ruler of perfection.
We stand on our pedestal, expecting the forgiveness of God to erase all of our past,
yet we fail to forgive others.
We call them fake, hypocritie, prideful...a fraud.
Because of some standard in our mind we think they should adhere to.
It's our standard, not God's.
God standard tells us to come as we are.
God's standard says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
And we proclaim the love and forgiveness and grace of God in our own lives.
We speak of how he has forgiven our past,
how he is so kind and decent and doesn't hold things against us.
Yes, He is indeed a merciful God.

After the thousands and thousands of times we have hurt him.
The thousands of times we have hurt others, when he specifically tells us to do two things.
1) Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul & mind
2) Love your neighbor as yourself
Yet, we have all clearly fallen short of these over and over and over in our lives.
And over and over and over he has forgiven us. Yes?

Yet, when we see something we don't like in someone else.
A mistake they made.
Something they have done to hurt us or someone else.
Something they didn't even know they did to offend us.
And it suddenly becomes okay to hold that against them.

Is it though?
What is it today that you are holding against someone?

Is it something they have done to hurt you over and over?
Is it something they said to you just one time?
Is it something you are simply assuming or over analyzing what they must be doing or saying about you?
Is it something they didn't do that you think they should have?
Is it a behavior you have seen that you frankly dislike?
Maybe it's not even something they knowingly did...
yet you are holding them accountable for that action YOU deem unworthy of your forgiveness.
You just disapprove. It's that simple.

Look at your life and all that you have been forgiven of. Look at all the times God could have turned his back on you, held grudges against you or even called you a hypocrite.

Yet, while you were in sin, he died for you. He didn't wait until you apologized for your actions.
Sometimes, in our attitudes or remarks and fits of anger or bouts of gossip, we don't even realized we have sinned. We just do it. We don't premeditate it. It just happens out of pure human emotion and before we know it, the words have come out of our mouth.
Yet it's still sin...
and it's sin that Jesus died for willingly.
He made the first move to redeem you from the hurt you caused him and others.
And then put the ball in your court.
If someone has hurt you, offended your or simply annoyed you in some day,
ask God to help you forgive them, or not judge them
in the same way he has forgiven you.

Look at these verses and see what God has to say about forgiveness and let it soak into your heart on a daily basis...
and notice all the reminders of 
"if, as, with the same measure, just as."

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Matthew 6:14

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Matthew 7:2

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Luke 6:37

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:13

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Matthew 11:25

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

No One Is Beneath You (Showing Respect As A Blogger)

This post/quote appeared on my facebook feed the other day and it blew my mind.

I've been more careful lately.....
I've kept my eyes peeled and my heart open to what I really am looking for when I look deeper into someone's story online.
Some people I have made friends with or at least have become friendly with over the time that I've been a blogger. And we have gained one another's unspoken trust to keep it that way. We support one another with encouraging comments, likes, favorites. We may not know or even remember why we are following each other, but we are there, not to abandon.
But others simply, and deeply inspire me in one way or another. So I pursue their story, whichever way they tell it, in pictures or words. Sometimes I follow more quietly. It may be more of a silent admiration because there is something about they way they do things... the way they write, edit, take photographs, encourage that I respect and honor.
And I want to learn from them. I decide "There is something I like about you" and in hopes to absorb what I deem as beautiful in that person.
After all, no idea is a new idea.

As a blogger, as an artist, as a writer we seek inspiration.
As a person, we seek motivation.
But at times, we seem to fall short. Our minds get cloudy. Our thoughts get dusty. Our energy sinks low. Our creative senses tend to dull. And we need a little help.
Secretly, we want someone to show us the way. To tell us how to get to the point they got to.
These days, we don't ask them how anymore. Instead we creep around on instagram feeds.
We stalk people's writing style on their blogs, their books, their twitter feeds.
We do a pinterest search. We watch them closely on facebook.

But let's talk about desire for a minute. That desire to have what someone else already has.
The desire to have great style or editing skills, the perfect blog post, the pinterest ready photo.
Or even the desire to have more followers than the next person.
Do we ever forfeit our integrity at times to gain status?

How do we leave a mark on someone's life without using cheap tricks to get us there?

I'm going to say this as discreetly as possible. My aim isn't to point fingers, but to get us to think about how we treat others if our online purpose is to inspire and encourage and show Christ to the people around us.

I've noticed christian organizations and/or bloggers that will comment and follow people, to me it seems for the sole purpose of getting a follow back...and then craftily go and unfollow soon after. One in particular that recently was following thousands on twitter, within days went down to following only 200, stood there for about a week, then jumped back up to following close to 700 suddenly.
The only reason I even noticed was because I was one of the people who they followed and then dropped a week after I followed them back. At first, I thought "Wow, this is cool. This organization is non-profit and is for a good cause and they followed me."They only followed 1000 people or so at that time, and I was one of them, so in support of them, I followed back. 
Suddenly I noticed they dropped about 800 people, so I then was only about one of 200 people they followed. And just days later, I was dropped, but they were suddenly following 400 new people.
I know twitter can be finicky and will randomly follow and unfollow people at it's own discretion, which is annoying. But it was hundreds of people, so it was deliberate...

It's not the follow/unfollow I care about personally, particularly from someone I don't really know.  But it's about being an honorable person, blogger or organization, while claiming the name of Jesus.  It lacks virtue and principle.

As a christian, I feel I have to walk in a certain amount of integrity. Unless someone is really getting under my skin, being hateful or obviously unsupportive, I don't really have a good excuse to gain their trust simply to let them down in the long run. I don't wish to hurt or misuse anyone simply to get my name on everyone's follow list.
We have all gone through the "decluttering" process in our social media feeds at one point or another, but to me, if you followed someone at some point and they are still currently following you back, there is a level of trust there. You are supportive of one another. I won't abandon you, just to declutter.
If you have been in general supportive, then I see no reason to hurt you that way. 
This goes even more so if we seem to have an understood mutual respect and friendliness towards one another over time.
And this certainly goes for people who follow, simply to gain your faith in them, then turn around and unfollow you almost immediately.

Let's have some integrity and ethics as people who are supposed to love people, who are supposed to be examples of the love of God.
Let's not gain the trust of those around us, just to build our ego or our list of worshippers. And let's not take away from someone their confidence when they have shown themselves friendly.  And my goodness, let's certainly not pretend to follow someone's story, just so you can sneak in a follow back from them before you disown them.
It's one of the tackiest things I've seen a christian organization or blogger do and it made me stop and think, how do I want to treat the people who have relied on me?
Do I want to show respect & honor to what they do and their story?
Or do I simply want them to live in mine?

If we disrespect people, use them and throw away their is God ever able to use us to reach into their lives or gain their trust again? 
It sounds silly. It's just a twitter follow, an instagram follow etc but this is the world we live in now and a deliberate unfollow to someone who trusts us can hurt the very people you are hoping to reach with the love of God. I don't want to be one of those people that follow along, just hoping to gain a new fan or else I abandon you. If I follow you, it's because I rely on you to inspire me. And if you follow me, I hope it's because I in some way inspire you.
How can I inspire & motivate & love those who I have abandoned? It's impossible.
Let's not let our big head or our pride cause our message of love to be tainted.

If what we do online is all about being a creative outlet for us, that's one thing.
I'm not saying to go and follow everyone who follows you,there is no way we can do it all and be everything to everyone. But if you've already gained someone's assurance by following them, then don't abruptly disreguard them one day. Don't pretend to be their supporter or encourager and leave them high and dry.
If we claim to love God, to love people and we want to encourage people online, to be there for people...then we should show integrity in all areas of our online lives.  
Actually on and offline.

You can only have from someone what you respect and honor in their life...
If you respect the creativity of another, if you honor the wisdom of can learn something wonderful. But if your motive is to gain fans or connections through that person, you are dishonoring them and in fact, dishonoring God and he can't use that.
Matthew 25:40 says ~"When you did it for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me."
Let's keep our hearts pure before one another and before God.
Let's show honor to those who honor us.

This is a challenge for myself and for you to continue to walk in moral integrity as Christian bloggers, motivators, writers. People are watching and people are hurting. And if you have any amount influence on others, and if your true desire is to love on people, then be that person who builds people up, rather than tears at their self confidence even if you think you are doing it quietly.

Choose the people you follow wisely from this point on, choose the people that you truly do honor and respect and gain inspiration from, so that you don't end up hurting someone in the long run because you feel the need to declutter or defriend.

No one is beneath you, and they don't deserve to feel that way...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Is Constant Devotion To God Even Possible?

One of the most captivating things about having faith in God is that we are assured that He is the only constant thing in our lives. He is the unchanging God. His faithfulness endures. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
It moves us to desire more, to crave the deeper things he has promised us, because we know that when the day comes that we are in desperate need, he will be the only constant thing we can cling to. When that defining moment arrives where our lives seem to lead to a variety of scattered events and emotions that can turn our worlds upside down, He will keep us standing.
It is our God that remains constant. We sing about it. We say it all the time. We write about it. His faithfulness to us remains uninterrupted. He is the hope that remains. He is invariable.
HE is constant.

But what about us? 
With mood changes, busy lives, families, emotions, unpredictable life events, church events, school events...where do we stand with our devotion to him?
Is it possible that we can remain constantly faithful to God and his word?
When we don't even have a quiet moment in our day from morning to evening, how is it possible to keep his sweet & gentle & sometimes harsh truths in our hearts?

I believe it is.

Joshua 1:8-9 says "Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it DAY and NIGHT so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper & succeed in all you do. This is my command~be strong & courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Study and meditation are two different things obviously. And obviously, we cant be sitting down, studying all the time. God has given us lives and families to care for. However the moments that we do sit down at the feet of Jesus and soak in each word he offers us that day, it has the ability to stick with us. We are able to keep it in our thoughts and in our mouths throughout our day, week or month. We are able to thank Him for his promises continually. We are able to ask him questions, seek his wisdom continually. And it's in that constant communion with Him, that his word is ever present in our hearts. We can be picking up kids from school, folding laundry, taking the animals to the vet or pacing through the aisles of the grocery store and still be communicating with the Lord...
and he in return continues speaking to us.
Are we listening at all times?

Don't let yourself feel defeated or guilty because you missed a couple days of devotional time. 
Of course, we want all that we can get from Him, but sometimes "study" time or "quiet" time just isn't possible. But that doesn't mean we have to give up on time with him all together that day or that week. 
We are always thinking about something. 
Let our thoughts be focused on what he spoke to us last week or last month. Or we can look around at the world, the creation, the people and let God use everything we see to speak to us or remind us of his truth.

Though are lives are surely filled with distractions, we can still adjust our thoughts.
We CAN BE constant in our meditation of Him and his word. 
It IS possible.

And if you look closely, you see this isn't simply a commandment because God is demanding of our every thought, but meditation on him is for our benefit and success in life. Every commandment God gives us is for our own good.
V.7 says "THEN you will be successful in everything you do..."

What an amazing God. He gives us the "how to's" of everything he has promised. And he teaches us, comforts us, warns us, instructs us, corrects us and gives us joy along the way.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Fear, The Truth & Toxoplasmosis

Eight weeks from tomorrow (if all goes as planned) we will be meeting our new baby boy.
I couldn't be more thrilled for several reasons. Obviously to meet him and finally hold him in my arms and kiss his little face.
I'm excited to have a summer baby too. My first 3 are all winter babies, so I went right from the hospital to bundling them up in the frigid cold of Wisconsin winters. Bundling kids up is one of the worst things about winter I think. By the time you get them all wrapped up, you're good to go for a nap.
Our plan is to deliver on Tuesday, May 27th...the day after Memorial Day. After 3 csections, we will be scheduling this one at 38 weeks, because of a high risk condition called "your skin and muscles have been stretched and cut too many times and we don't want you to burst."
Ok, I don't actually know what it is called, but my doctor told me he was out of town one time and one of his patients wanted to wait to deliver until he got back in town and she was 40+ weeks and you could actually see the baby's head through her skin. Eeeeesh. Don't want that. So 38 weeks it is!
With 2 of my 3 kids, I developed high blood pressure and preeclampsia so I ended up delivering one at 36 weeks and one at 37 weeks...I'm not completely opposed to go slightly earlier if I have to, but I'm not banking on high blood pressure. I'm keeping an eye on it though. I went in today because of some unusual swelling and it was slightly higher than normal, but nothing dangerous at this point.
Obviously the longer he bakes his buns in my oven, the better.

This pregnancy has been a journey of faith from the day I found out I was pregnant. Having 2 miscarriages behind you always can cause a slight array of emotions when you find out your are pregnant again, but I've also had 3 healthy full term pregnancies so I know the faithfulness of God. Then last summer, I had another miscarriage (or chemical pregnancy) so again, fear wanted to jump in the moment I found out.
There is the weird place of trying to contain your excitement and trying to control your fear when you have a sad  and uncertain history behind you. And I was just trying to remain calmly in the middle. The day after I found out I was pregnant with this little guy, I started bleeding. And I continued bleeding on and off through my 17th week of pregnancy. I have never had happen that before and the only times I did have it, I miscarried. But each time I went in for another ultrasound, they couldn't find a reason for the bleeding. I remember my Aunt Carolyn telling me "Don't base your faith in your history, but in what God is able to do in your future."
That stuck with me. My faith isn't based on what has happened before...

By the 3rd-ish ultrasound, I was getting tired of dealing with this feeling of being up in the air all the time, not really knowing why this was happening, but at the same time I was like "well I guess it's just one of those unexplained weird pregnancy things."

Between dealing with the continual bleeding and also severe ulcer pain, horrible nausea, a wretched eczema breakout covering my entire body, an injured back where I had to bend over to walk and just feeling sort of too old & decrepit in general, the beginning of this pregnancy was really a rough season for me.
So much so that it took me that long to tell people I was even pregnant. I finally asked for prayer from several people including confiding in the gals from Thrive Moms in on what I was dealing with and then my whole facebook friends list. I didn't really give the detail what was going on through facebook, other than I was going through a lot and it was one of those moments where I didn't have the strength to fight this on my own. I craved the prayers of others to stand with me. I'm not usually one to ask for prayer. I like to stand in faith and trust God on my own. But I was really at the end of myself and I needed someone...
anyone to agree with me.

At my 24 week appointment, I was feeling much better. Every other symptom I was previously dealing with was gone thanks to everyone's prayers, but something new came to my attention.
Right before I got pregnant we bought a pixie bob kitten. And despite all the warnings from books and people, I was the main person to take care of the cat and change her litter box through the first half of the pregnancy. I started getting frustrated, that when I asked for help from my family I felt like I was nagging constantly and if I didn't just do it on my own, the poop would sit for days...
So I just did it.
I knew there were dangers in it and I tried to be careful, but in the back of my mind I was wishing I wasn't the one doing this.

Finally, I broke down crying one night after seeing a mouse in our house and watching my cat sit for days in front of the area the mouse had made it's original appearance, just waiting for it to return. Generally, I don't always like to find out what google has to say about everything, but for the sake of being careful, I looked it up and learned that toxoplasmosis is a parasite that cats can get and shed in their feces... if they kill an animal or eat raw meat. It does little to no harm to children or adults, generally nothing more than flu type symptoms. But if a mother gets it during pregnancy, it has a 30% chance of being given to her unborn baby and can cause anything  from learning disabilities to blindness to seizures to still birth.

I broke down in frustration because I just wanted someone to take this seriously as I was...
I wanted someone to offer to help.
But in that moment of frustration, the Lord reminded me of a scripture...
In Mark 16:17-18 where Jesus says "And these miraculous signs will follow them who believe...and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not harm them..."

I thought surely that goes for if they touch any deadly thing, it shall not harm them, as well. 
Knowing full well, I wasn't purposely testing or tempting God, but if for some reason Nova (our cat) did kill an animal and I did somehow catch some sort of parasite from her, that it would not affect me or my child.
I would not let it. Because after all I believed. And I am heir to all of God's promises.

I went into my doctor appointment soon after this and I told my doctor about our cat and the mice we saw her chasing and I asked him to test me. The next day I received a phonecall from his office and the report I received was that I, in fact, tested positive for currently contracting toxoplasmosis.
In that moment, I could have freaked. I could  have feared all the possibilities of what may happen and there was a part of me that wondered why I was so calm. I let the nurse finish telling me that they would retest me at my next appointment and see what happened and we would take it from there. I turned around to my husband and told him point blank "I tested positive."
A few hours later I went to my mom and dad and started crying. It was weird, the scare and shock of it had me in tears. I'm an emotional person to begin with, so anything will make me cry. But at the same time, I told them "I still have peace. And I believe at my next appointment that everything will come back negative."

My parents listened and agreed with me in prayer. We took the scripture from Mark 16:17-18 about how any deadly thing will not harm me or this baby and we took God at his word.
I was also aware of a high rate of false positives with this test.
Either way, I was done playing around with all this fear and worry garbage throughout this pregnancy.
I had had enough, to be honest. I wasn't going to let the devil destroy my joy. I wasn't going to spend the next 4 weeks worrying about what my next test results would be. I'm not saying the thoughts didn't solicit me, but when they did, I would change my thoughts to something else. I would tell myself, Nope. You are not dwelling on fear or worry or the negative. You have a promise from God far greater than what some test says. You have the truth.

I even started getting the flu and started wondering if those were the signs of toxoplasmosis finally showing up. Seriously, it took everything in me just to remain calm and at peace during those four weeks. I didn't tell ANYONE because I wanted to remain confident in what I knew to be true. God's truth is the only truth I know. And absolutely didn't want anyone speaking words of doubt or fear over my situation to me or behind my back. I only wanted words of life spoken and I felt responsible to make sure that happened.   I can't control other peoples tongues, but I can control mine. And I continually thanked God that 'the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, gives life to my body (and my baby's body)' -Romans 8:11

God is so good though, you know.
He reminded me of another time, 13 years ago when I got a false positive of a fatal disease. Yes, this has happened to me before during my very first pregnancy 13 years ago with another disease.. It was the scariest week of my life I think, but in the end after seeing a specialist, my results came back negative. And remembering back to that gave me an additional boost of hope throughout this current situation.

Anyways, last week I went in for my 29 week appointment and we originally had to go in to do an ultrasound to check on the baby's stomach, because at my anatomy ultrasound at 21 weeks, the tech said it looked small so they weren't sure if he was swallowing correctly. And we also did a blood test for toxoplasmosis. I checked my website eagerly and hourly for the next two days waiting for the test results.
I am happy and ever so thankful to report & testify that it was a lie! It came back completely negative. Whether it was a false positive to begin with or whether whatever parasite that was growing was killed, I had complete peace and confidence that it would be negative despite my then current positive status. I wasn't even expecting a positive test result whatsoever the next time I went in. I kept telling myself that everything that has a name HAS to bow to the name of Jesus. He is the name above all names, afterall.
That includes parasites and diseases, right? Yep.

Not only that but, the baby's stomach looked good and healthy. Nothing scary to report there. Even if there was, I wouldn't report anything but what God says in his word.

Our little guy is measuring in the 79th percentile at this point,so we are doing one more ultrasound to track his growth. My babies were always in the 5th percentile, so that's a big baby for me. I remain confident in the character and promises of God concerning the remaining 8 weeks of this pregnancy, our baby's health and mine.

I'm excited to finally reveal our little guy's name:
We are naming him Wyatt Cash.
Wyatt was a favorite name of Jeff's since Wesley was born. Those two names were a toss up when we were thinking of names with our first son. At the time, I wasn't crazy about Wyatt, but I do have a deep place in my heart for the movie Tombstone. Haha. Seriously, I love the Wyatt Earp story, so yes, that is where his name came from. And as for 'Cash' I wanted something cool and "westerny' or 'country' to go with Wyatt, so we were going over famous cowboys or famous country singers and we think Johnny Cash totally rocks, so his middle name is after Johnny Cash himself.
Nothing sentimental from family or scripture, just a name we love and think is pretty cool...

Eight weeks to go, people, until our final baby is born. I can't wait!
After that, we have discussed the possibility of adoption of one more older child, believe it or not.
We will see where that path leads us in the coming years. Yikes!

On a side note: Yes, my husband has taken care of the cat along with some help from the kids every single day since that first result. I haven't gone near it. =)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

7 Ways To Live A Happy Life (No Matter What The Heck Is Going On Around You)

Although I live in Wisconsin and am becoming increasingly jealous of people posting 'spring time' photos on Instagram, while I go out still bundled up in my winter coat, I can see bits and pieces of spring and summer approaching every so often and it makes me happy to see the sun shining and the snow melting. There is something about new life and green grass and warmer weather after a very cold winter that makes us happy and want to stay that way. But even when the day is gloomy outside or things aren't always going our way, we can still choose to live a life of happiness. I wanted to share a few approaches to life that I have taken over the past few years that make me smile and live in peace no matter what is going on around me. Hope some of these you are able to take to heart and apply to your day and your life!

1. Today, I Will Be Intentional
You may not have any grandeur plans to change the world today. It's probably not even the day that you go out and start your own personal charity project to even a single person. But that doesn't mean you can't live intentionally. Each day is an opportunity to be a better person. There are a million ways you can live an intentional life and not let your day just go by without doing something good for yourself or someone else. Send an encouraging email or comment on facebook. Praise your husband or your children for something good you see in them. Eat healthy or go to the gym today and let today be the day that you start doing good for yourself. Set aside time in your car or in your room to pray for someone you know really needs it. When you live intentionally, you are happier. It's those days, weeks and months that slip by with no real purpose, you find yourself depressed or unhappy with your choices. Choose today (each day) to wake up and live a live aimed with purpose.

2. Today, I Will Forgive.
Forgiveness is hard when someone has hurt you terribly. Perhaps someone has hurt you repeatedly throughout your life, causing you to feel bitter not only at them, but distrusting with people in general. Maybe you even blame God. But unforgiveness is the easiest way to ruin your own life. So many times when we don't forgive, the person who has hurt us doesn't even know we are feeling that way or maybe doesn't even care. It's unfortunate, but it's true. So the only person our grudge is hurting is us.  We can even try waking up with an ultra-superior attitude that says "I don't care about anyone, anything or who says what about me anymore. I'm not anyone's doormat." But that is not healthy either. Because it still stems from bitterness which gives us an unhappy view of the world and life. Choose to live in peace with an attitude of joy. The biggest payback to someone who has hurt you is to be legitimately happy. Not fake, I've got an bad-a** attitude, nobody is gonna hurt me, happy. You don't live happy to "show them." You live happy to be happy. That's it.

3. Today, I Will Forgive Myself
This is another big one we all struggle with from time to time. Letting our failures defeat us into days, weeks and months of mediocrity. We allow ourselves to suffer because of something we have done that we feel bad about. We close ourselves off to the world and pretend we like it that way. Or we shut down, and block out everyone who cares about us because we don't know how to face people without appearing or feeling guilty. We also close our hearts down to the one who forgives all, God. We think we aren't good enough to even approach him. I've been at that place, where I almost feel embarrassed or ashamed to even talk to God about things, because I feel unworthy. But what we have to realize is, God already knows. He knows and sees everything we do in secret. The best way to get over it is just to talk about it with him and realize He has forgiven us. And it's an honor to God and to other people when we just get over ourselves, forgive ourselves and move on with what we are intended to do in this life, instead of sulk.

4. Today, I Will Be Grateful
I'm the first one to admit that I don't  have everything I want. I can't even always say I have everything I need. But I do have everything I need to be happy and content. Wake up knowing that as bad as things may seem at moments, you can still justify an attitude of gratefulness. We have all been at that point that it seems like our whole world has caved in and we feel like no one understands. Perhaps none of us have been through your exact circumstances, but every person has been in the ditches and trenches of life, feeling like we have nothing left to live for. But it's not true. We have the next day to live for. Even if we are on our death bed or in prison, we have eternity to live for. And we can be thankful for 2nd chances. We can be thankful that God spared our life for this long, allowing us to redeem some time on earth. We can be thankful the weather is getting warmer. We can be thankful for the smile on our child's face when they see us after school. Find something in your life that is good and say "God, I thank you today that you have given me....."

5. Today, I Will Be Confident
We can all find a great deal about ourselves that we aren't crazy about. From a physical aspect we dislike to a bad habit we know we have to something we want to succeed in that we haven't conquered yet. We can easily feel inferior when we compare ourselves to others. But instead of finding everything wrong with yourself that you can, try finding all the good things about  yourself and step up the confidence in who you are right now in this moment today. Having a good hair day? Make the most of it! Have white teeth? Flash them pearly whites. Have you been working out more than you used to? Have you been reading your Bible or spending time with God more than you used to? Have you been writing more? Blogging more? Have you become more aware of what you want out of life lately? Whatever good thing you have done for yourself or see in your self, be proud and confident in those aspects of who YOU are today. Don't focus on the failures, but on the successes and when you do, it will make you strive to up the ante on all the things you want to get better at or be better at.

6. Today, I Won't Let The Little Things Get To Me
Sometimes, when I accidentally cut someone off in traffic or I am daydreaming at a stop light and someone flips me off... or beeps at me...or drives by shaking their head or yelling from their car, I think to myself, "Wow, I really ruined their day, didn't I?"
I bet they went and complained to their wife about some crazy lady in traffic who wasn't paying attention, or went off on a rant on facebook how people need to learn how to drive. And I'm sorry but all I can think is, what a pathetic way to live. To let some little minor thing done by some stranger ruin your entire outlook on your day or your life. My husband is famous for getting beeped at and instead of ignoring it, he lets it bother him and rides up on the persons tail or else suddenly stops to a hault just to tick the person behind us off even more. And I always tell him "Chill out! Who cares! You are never going to see that person again."
There are things in life that we will never be able to change about our situation, our jobs, our bosses or about other people we have in our lives. Those things might ultimately bother us, but instead of letting their attitude, behavior, character flaw or their personal rant ruin our day, sometimes you can choose to simply walk around like you are in your own little world. It's easy. It's not a haughty  "I'm better than you" attitude, but its simply, I choose to be happy. That's all there is to it.

7. Today, I Can Say No
This was a big one for me. Because by nature, I am a people pleaser. I've said before how I'm a preachers kids and how I feel like throughout my life, I have let my fear of what people thought about me steer me into always trying to make other people happy, no matter how miserable or stressed out I got. I want the best for people. I want to help people. But ultimately I am of no use to no one~ God, my family, my husband, my church or anyone else if I am tired, crabby, unrested or haven't spent time focusing on myself or my relationship with God. Sometimes we just have to rest. We don't have to take our kids to every event available to them. We don't have to say yes to every event at our church. We don't have to be involved in every PTA meeting. We don't have to go to every party we are invited to. We don't have to do every craft we see on Pinterest that we love. We don't have to blog every day. We may want to, but we don't have to. Almost everything we do that keeps us busy is by choice. Even our jobs. It sounds crazy, but we can choose to go without some luxuries in life if we have to work so hard to get them that it stresses our bodies or minds out. I've had to say NO to people and things I love before and say "I'm sorry. I don't have a bad attitude. I want to help. But I can't do this right now because its stressing me out and it's no good for my family or my peace of mind." I seriously feel like it's a huge lesson God taught me last year is simply to learn to slow down.