Life Lessons: Acceptance

Yesterday while playing in the yard, two of Elijah’s neighborhood friends came over with another kid who had just moved in. Immediately Elijah offered her the piece of chalk he had in his hand and said, “Want to draw with me?” She smiled and sat down beside him. As I watched the four of them interact I smiled in admiration. One of the things I absolutely adore about Elijah is his eagerness to make new friends. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they look like, it doesn’t matter whether they’re boys or girls, or even if they’re his age, he just wants people to laugh and play with.

How many times have we turned away from possible friendships because of external factors? We turn away because they look like this or act like that. We turn away because our age difference automatically implies that we’ll have nothing in common. Quite frankly, that’s nonsense.

We could learn so much from children. Angela Schwindt once said, “While we try to teach our children about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” One of the many life lessons I have learned from Elijah is acceptance. Accepting others despite our differences and that acceptance has allowed me to form some of most monumental friendships.

Reach out to someone today.
Someone you usually wouldn’t.
You just may be surprised.

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Who’s approval are you living for?

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I stumbled across this quote and it instantly inspired me to share something very personal.

Throughout the course of my life I found myself constantly seeking the approval of others. Just about every choice I made was based on the notion that if I did this then I would be loved, accepted, appreciated or even just noticed. I struggled constantly with my actions but forced myself to believe that it was the only way to be happy and although I would have moments of happiness, I never achieved true joy. I was lost. Life became a mental, emotional and even physical strain. Depression overwhelmed me. I hated who I had become. It wasn’t until I stopped seeking the approval of others and starting focusing on living a life that would please God that I was able to experience unconditional love, unconditional joy and unconditional acceptance. Easier said than done. I know. It took time and effort and determination. I had to distance myself from distractions even remove myself from certain relationships and limit “luxuries.” In a sense, I silenced the world to be able to hear the one voice that mattered. Once I decided to serve Christ wholeheartedly I was able to uncover my true identity and I came to find that I am pretty amazing.

So my question to you all is, who’s approval are you living for?

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To My Future Daughter-In-Laws….

I may not know who you are right now but I already adore you and am fervently praying for you.

My husband and I are working diligently to raise men of God and it is our deepest desire that you would be a woman of faith; a woman who understands the importance of having God at the center of their marriage, a woman who is kind, compassionate, patient, gentle and respectful, a woman who will one day give us grandchildren and raise them to purse a relationship with Jesus.
To us, everything else pales in comparison.
The expectation to be the perfect homemaker? Not my expectation of you. If you haven’t learned how to cook (or just don’t like to cook) don’t worry, my son’s will know a trick or two. My mother-in-law showed me how to prepare a few special dishes and I will gladly do the same for you. Maintaining a spotless house? Impossible! But if you happen to know how to accomplish that, then please teach me.

All that I ask is that you choose to love my son each and every day. After all, that’s what marriage is, a choice to love and when we continuously make that choice, oh how tremendous marriage is. Tough times will still come though. It is my prayer that you will fight alongside each other, that you will balance each other, that you will be each others’ strength when one is weak, that you will be constant despite the seasons of struggle, that you will honor, support, respect and love each other.

Never hesitate to call me if you’re feeling overwhelmed, even if it involves my son, I’ve known him his entire life so I just may be able to help. I will not judge you. I will try my best to understand. I’m part of your team now. I will always be rooting for you.

I love you, not just because my son loves you but because you love my son too.

I know we have some time before we meet but I will continue to pray for you.
And know that when we do meet, those prayers will continue.

Similar But Not The Same

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A couple weeks ago I called a friend seeking advice. After the conversation ended one of the things she told me really began to resonate…comparison kills contentment.

Late last night I stumbled across photos of Elijah when he was a newborn. Immediately I began to see just how much Ethan resembled his big brother. As I was scrolling through the photos all I could think about was that statement. Initially I ignored it. I thought, that has nothing to do with these pictures, we weren’t even discussing my sons then BAM!

Although it is very evident that Elijah and Ethan share physical commonalities, they are still distinct. Yes, they may have the same facial features but I cannot expect Ethan to look exactly like Elijah. I cannot expect Ethan to do everything just as Elijah did. I cannot expect them to share the same interests, likes, dislikes. Why? They are two separate individuals. Comparing them would be an injustice.

If I allow myself to start comparing their physical features now, what is going to prevent me from comparing other things later on?

Elijah and Ethan may be similar but they are not the same. Nor do I want them to be. I want my sons to embrace their differences and I want them to support each other’s differences. For those things to happen, I must first eliminate comparisons and encourage their uniqueness.

Ask For Assistance

Sometimes being a parent can be so strenuous. Often times we tend to be our own worst critic, which just contributes to the stress. I cannot count the times I am overwhelmed with doubts and insecurities. I constantly question my capabilities as a mother. Even more so now. Why? I’ve yet to master caring for one child and now must learn how to tend to two. Discovering how to balance both boys has been difficult, to say the least. These past two weeks have been particularly challenging. Ethan has started to show multiple signs of colic and Elijah has entered into the question phase. Separately, these two things aren’t easy. Together they can be exceptionally frustrating. While one ear is being filled with a gazillion questions, the other is being drowned with uncontrollable cries then you look at the time and see that it’s only one o’clock (which means four more hours until your husband comes home). The frustration starts to sink in….

You’re frustrated because you’re feeling all alone.
You’re frustrated because there’s still food to be cooked and clothes to be washed.
You’re frustrated because you’re tired and hungry and probably stinky because you haven’t had the time to shower.
You’re frustrated because you cannot seem to find a solution to soothe your newborn baby.
You’re frustrated because you’re too overwhelmed to adequately answer your 4-year-olds questions.

So what do you do? You set aside your emotions and you sway your baby until he’s silent while answering each and every question your son asks. You do this for hours, you do this for days, you do this for weeks, you do this for months. But what happens to all that suppressed frustration? You stuff and you stuff and you stuff until eventually those emotions explode. And today, that’s exactly what happened to me. One second I was smiling then the next I was crying for what seemed like several hours.

Why am I sharing this?
I know that there is someone, who just like me, is too scared to say, “I need help.”

Don’t be ashamed to ask for assistance. Yes, you are more than capable of caring for your child/children. That is why God chose you. But you also need to take a break before you break. Stop stuffing. Stop suffering in silence. Set your pride aside, call a family member, call a friend or better yet fall to your knees and cry out to God for the Bible says, “Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].” – Phillipians 4:6-7

The Moment That Matters

I have been a stay at home mother since my son was born. I am going on four years now and I openly admit that I have yet to master it. I am constantly trying to find new ways to entertain him, new methods of teaching him, searching for clever ways to expose him to the world from within the home. It is not easy. In fact, there are times when it is very wearisome. Just about every night before bed, I reflect on the day and doubts begin to arise then that small voice begins to whisper…Today was a bad day. Do you think so and so has bad days? Do you even know how to properly teach Elijah? Do you really believe that you’re disciplining in the most effective way? How do you know if you are doing everything right or making every mistake there is? In those moments, I must force myself to silence that voice because the answer to each and every one of those doubt filled questions is simple. I don’t know. And that is okay.

My father would constantly tell me that children don’t come with instructions; with each passing day I am finding that to be more and more true. Raising a child is a journey. A journey that comes with it’s own strengths and struggles. A journey that is distinct. But knowing all of this doesn’t keep the doubt filled questions from coming… How many times did I raise my voice at Elijah today? Does he know that I still love him even though he has been on time out over 4 times today? Does he understand that when Daddy leaves to work it’s not because he doesn’t want to spend time with him but because that’s how he provides for us? Does he know that I could live the rest of my life without making another grilled cheese sandwich for lunch? Does he know that I’m not purposely ignoring him when I’m cooking or doing an assignment? Does he understand that we don’t like to tell him no? The uncertainties seem continuous. And I’m sure that there are just as many questions that never seem to escape each of you.

As parents, we must take the time to remember that we are good mothers and good fathers. We need to remind ourselves that our children enjoy every moment that they are with us. Whether it is just 10 minutes in the morning or before bed, whether we are home with them all day, whether we are scolding them or giving them time out, whether we are reading to them or even just enjoying a movie together because the truth is, all children really care about is feeling loved (and of course getting their favorite snack and/or toy).

So even when you are filled with countless uncertainties, even when that small voice tries to convince you that you are inadequate, even if you cry yourself to sleep from feeling overwhelmed, even if you’re just about ready to give up…stop!
Stop for a moment.
Look at your child, hold them, tell him/her how much you love them.
Then watch their reaction and embrace that moment.
That’s the moment that matters.
That’s the moment you need.
That’s the reassurance to help you get through.

Now I don’t know about you, but I plan on smothering my son with tons of kisses right now.

Dear Elijah

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Dear Elijah,

Today was a rather frustrating day for Mommy. I am currently 34 weeks pregnant with Ethan and I have been physically exhausted. But today, today I was more exhausted than usual. Today I was having a day. Ironically, you also seemed to be having a day. You woke up before 7am with the biggest burst of energy; energy that over time turned into not listening, talking back, some whining and even some stomping. By 3pm you seemed to have used up all of my patience for the rest of the week. Daddy wouldn’t be home for at least another two hours and Mommy really, really needed a break. So I sat you down on the sofa with a snack and put on Octonauts then silently escaped to my room. I sat on my bed, took a deep breath and just began to cry. I cannot say how long I was there but it must have been some time because you came looking for me.

You stood by the doorway, smiled and said something so powerful.
“Mommy, let’s pray.”
You walked towards me and grabbed both my hands.
“Thank you God for protecting me, thank you God for Mommy and Daddy, thank you God for Octonauts, thank you God for donuts…Amen.”
Tears streamed down my face as I embraced you in my arms.
In that moment I began to say my own prayer.
I began to thank God for YOU!

I cannot count the days that I feel like I’m failing as a mother. Despite my exhaustion, today wasn’t one of those days. Today you reminded me that I am doing something right. Today you reminded me where my strength comes from. Today you showed me where your strength will come from too. Even if Daddy and I fail at everything else, I’ll be satisfied knowing that we have already taught you the most powerful tool of all, the power of prayer.

Tonight as I write this you are just three months shy of being four years old.
I don’t know when you’ll read this…
Maybe you’re 15 and hates our guts (as most teens do), maybe you’re about to graduate high school and you’re unsure what you want to do next, maybe you’re about to get married and are having some jitters or maybe you’re a parent with a three year old of your own and seem to be having a day
…wherever you are in life, I hope that these words bring you encouragement and remind you that you’ve always known how to get through any overwhelming moment.

I love you my little angel.
Always and Forever,

Mommy