A Labor of Love

If you know me, you may have heard of how my second daughter practically came out running and hasn’t stopped since, or how I was induced with my fourth, sent my husband to get the other kids from school while I waited to have even one labor pain and proceeded to give birth, all within a fifteen minute span! I’ve told my stories many times over. I’m referring to the retelling of the “labor day” stories. We all do it–rehash the blow by blow of each experience with new moms, old moms, moms-to-be (albeit with small omissions to save them from sheer panic).

I know when I tell about the birth of each of my five kids, I get quite animated. Arms flail, voice quickens, eyes widen, volume escalates–and then the sigh of relief. Done. Some long and exhausting. Others short and, well, exhausting. I had all natural labors and deliveries which is quite the norm here on Guam because local women supposedly have “easier births.” Pshhhh! But I, like most women, enjoy telling the stories mostly because it is a Herculean accomplishment that is in the past.

Now that my oldest daughter is on the brink of her sixteenth birthday and my youngest is almost eight, I find myself reminiscing about those years bringing new lives into the world. (It doesn’t help that I’m also listening to soothing French cafe-type music that just brings tears to my eyes anyway).

Kids3 Kids2

If you’ve raised a child for any amount of time, you know one fact for sure. “Labor” doesn’t end once that little bundle of blessing arrives in the world. We labor every day to take care of our babies. We labor to provide for them, to keep them healthy and relatively clean. We labor to teach them and guide them. Along the way we also make many mistakes and we labor to become better moms. We tweak things. We figure things out. We watch others. Some of us pray and lean on God’s grace.

No, we don’t get constant applause and thank yous. We don’t get a 15% tip on the table after we’ve cleared it for the 6,402nd time. We don’t get a stellar review on our annual performance report. We don’t even get paid leave! In this season of my life; however, I’ve come to the realization that I spent more time than I should have on looking at the “don’ts” of motherhood.

I am profoundly grateful for the “dos” these days. I do get to see these young people develop into creative, young individuals. I do get to share in their dreams and hopes. I do appreciate the many lessons I’ve learned through the tough times that inevitably come with raising five kids with very different personalities. Most especially, I do get to experience a little bit of what Jesus did when He walked the earth. Agape love. Given but not always reciprocated. The truest “labor of love.” And this has drawn me so much closer to the Lord. How could I not be thankful for that?

Happy Labor Day fellow Mamas! Go ahead, rehash those stories that are such a part of our motherhood story. And let God be a part of your Labor Day because He made the biggest, sacrificial labor of all and continues to pour out all we need to refresh and be ready to labor on in our roles as mamas. Be Blessable!

Advertisements

‘T’ is for ‘Too Far’ or ‘Terribly Tired’

Two of my daughters decided to take me up on the invitation to go on a late afternoon jog. We weren’t 20 yards from our starting point when my youngest daughter Gia started to complain. (I already expected this of course because I know her all too well).

I was able to keep her motivated for a whole mile, but she soon started asking her sister and I for a piggy back ride! We humored her for the next half-mile, but when she realized that we had a steep uphill walk to get back to the car she all but lost it!

She begged and pleaded to quit. She asked if we could hitchhike, call Daddy to pick us up, call a cab, anything!

I realized that this was so much of the parenting experience with each of our kids. We walk beside them and encourage. We walk behind them and push them uphill. We walk ahead of them and show them it can be done.

And just when the words “I can’t do it!” made it past her lips, I had a choice to make. I could piggy back her and save her from having to do the work. I could tell her to “suck it up” and trudge ahead. Or I could point out a destination and say, “Look, I bet you can make it to that lamp post!” or “I’m sure you can make it to that sign!”

We can break the big goals down with them so they can experience small successes! This is true with just about anything in their lives, whether it is athletics, academics or even finding authentic faith. Our role is to lead them, one step at a time.

I pointed to this street sign and I rooted for her as she huffed and puffed uphill and of course, Gia translated this particular sign to be a “T” laying on it’s side, symbolic for the phrases “too far” or “terribly tired!”

And that’s when our job gets really hard. When they think they can’t take another step. When they want to quit because they don’t believe they can make it. What then?

I haven’t always handled this juncture very well. I’ve often been the “suck it up” parent I mentioned before. These days, I opt for a softer response. A hand on a shoulder that says, “I know you can do this,” usually while I’m praying silently that we can get through it with the least amount of drama. Guess what? The softer response wins hands down.

She made it to the finish line (our car) and assured me that she wouldn’t be attempting that journey again. I think she will join me sometime in the future–simply because she has tasted the success of reaching the finish line, one agonizing step at a time.

You didn’t hear much about Talia here. She did very well. She even volunteered to piggy back Gia to shut her up:-) I love these kids!

IMG_9722.JPG

Moms, Are You Taking Time to Encourage & Be Encouraged?

Inspire, teach, talk, share, listen

Inspire, teach, talk, share, listen

I spent a couple of hours with some ladies at a coffee shop the other day. That doesn’t seem unusual I guess because it happens all across the country everyday. Friends gathering to chat about life, children, marriage, new recipes found on Pinterest. This particular group was slightly different though. We didn’t all know each other. Leone, a friend and casual mentor of sorts, just put out the idea of coming together to share life’s successes in the first half of 2014 and inspire plans for the next half of the year. A “Meeting of the Minds” she called it. I’m all about dreaming big and planning it out so I medicated my cold-symptoms and headed to the café on that Saturday morning. I’m so glad I did!

Crafting My Powerful Life’s “Meeting of the Minds” with Leone Rohr

As women often do, we got to know a bit about one another with a little synopsis of our year thus far. We cheered for successes, we sympathized with challenges and we laughed about the chaos which we could all totally relate to! Each of us discussed plans for the remainder of the year and Leone shared some great printable tools and tips she uses for getting things done.

Getting things done–that was the hot topic of the morning. I find it a huge blessing when moms can share ideas about how we improve our productivity and, even more importantly, what is most worthy of our time and energy. As one mom said, “The days seem kind of like a blur.” Not so much once you decide to live a life of intention.

So, in order to be a woman of intention, we used phrases like “Eat the Frog” to discuss getting important things done first and asked questions like, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” to emphasize breaking big, overwhelming dreams into smaller goals and tasks. These ideas are generally used in business circles, but very applicable to motherhood. We’re using what works!

We shared some valuable tools we have used like Michael Hyatt’s Life Plan, and books that we are reading. Right now I’m reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead and iBloom in Business: Equipping You to Build a Successful Business while Living a Life You Love! by Kelly Thorne Gore.

Motherhood is often described as juggling many balls at the same time and trying not to drop a single one because the value of each is great–faith, family, friends, health, marriage, work, and so on. But we can indeed build each other up with the experiences we’ve had and inspire each other to do better than we ever thought we could on our own. This means sharing the toughest moments as raw and difficult as they are, accepting encouragement and help, then somewhere along the line, doing the same for another woman who needs that support. In Titus 2:3-5, we are called to encourage and support one another in our journey through the messiness of motherhood. We can be visible reminders of living in the moment, being intentional about how we live our lives, and with God’s grace, helping lead our children to be the people He intended them to be.

That, my friends, is a valuable investment in two hours of my time! I pray that you all choose to connect with other women, young and old, to learn from and to teach the lessons we pick up along the way that can make life, not just a little bit easier, but that make the stories we tell somewhere down the road just that much sweeter because we lived a life of intention.

Here is a free printable that helps me live a life of intention. Please enjoy!

Be Blessable!

Janiece

Is the Resurrection in the Closet with the Easter Baskets?

Quote from Crazy Love

Quote from Crazy Love

Resurrection Day or Easter Sunday is done. Pretty baskets have been placed back on high shelves in closets, colorful translucent grass with bits of candy wrappers and shards of ‘real egg’ have been tossed in the trash, and fluffy bunnies are placed on little beds to collect dust for the rest of the year.

But what about Him? What have we done with Him? You know–with Jesus? Did we put our even-momentary thoughts of Jesus in a cupboard somewhere to be retrieved at Christmas time? Did we pray a prayer of thanksgiving for His sacrifice and then tuck the resurrection away as if it isn’t important enough to have a profound effect on the other 364 days of the year?

This week’s Ladies’ Study at church was in Chapter 5 of Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. The chapter is entitled “Serving Leftovers to a Holy God” and in it, Chan asks us to really contemplate Matthew 16:24-25 where Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I’m thinking that at some point in our lives, we might have read this and thought, “Naaahhhh! He can’t seriously mean to follow Him all the time! What about I take a break on Friday nights so I can go out drinking? Or what about that Sunday when church just seems less important than the bar-b-que at the beach? Is He serious?”

I know I thought this way for a very long time. In fact, most passages I read in the bible initially, I read with my own filtering lense. I decided what I liked and what I didn’t and that was that. There was no humility in that posture. I was the weed standing tall in the field telling God Himself what I “think” He’s saying. So today, He has shown me a very different perspective on those verses in Matthew.

When Jesus tells us to “take up your cross,” we might ask ourselves, what is MY cross? No, I highly doubt it is your nagging mother-in-law or jealous boyfriend. How do we figure out what our cross is? Well, we know of one infamous cross. The one that Jesus was crucified on. It was an object. It was a place of sacrifice. It was “seemingly” a final destination. It was memorable. It had purpose.

So when we take up our cross, it may mean focusing on our destination, which is eternal, in a memorable, sacrificial, purposeful way. The cross was a burden. If you are a follower of Jesus and have heard Him speak to you in the many ways that He does, you are probably keenly aware of the burdens He places on your heart. There lies “purpose.” And by following Him, we are to carry out His purpose with all of the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, love and patience that He graces us with. That is hard stuff. That’s why it’s a burden.

It’s a burden to “deny myself” because, for me anyway, that means to set aside the big and lofty goals that I have and accept His bigger and loftier goals. “Deny myself” means to come to God with every decision, every split in the road, every conflict, every victory and share it with Him and walk in obedience when He guides my steps with His wisdom. So what about that last part? “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The key seems to be the words “for my sake.” Our Heavenly Father would never ask us to give up anything for no purpose. He asks us to trade in our mediocre desires for His awesome plans. In that, we find our true, authentic life. The one we were meant to live.

After Jesus’ resurrection, the world would change dramatically. A handful of apostles would be the impetus to spread the gospel all over the world. And here it is. In my hands and in my heart today. Maybe even in yours. And if it isn’t, He invites us all to come to Him so you too could share in the knowledge of the Father through His son. I am grateful that Peter and Andrew traded in their plans to catch a lot of fish and followed Jesus’ plan. I am grateful that Matthew gave up all of the money he’d make as a tax collector and followed Jesus’ plan. Despite many rough moments, they and the other apostles, took up their crosses and here we are 2,000 years later, learning from them, about this Messiah they knew as Jesus Christ.

Easter bunnies are cute. Cadbury eggs are WOW! Sharing a lovely brunch with family is sweet. But let’s not put the truth of the Resurrection in a container to be saved for another year. Let’s wake up each new day giving thanks and renewing our sense of awe for what He has done and what He continues to do in our lives. Let’s not offer Him our leftovers but our whole selves as living sacrifices. That does require more than “minimal commitment,” and not all will say “Yes” to Him. Matthew 7:14 says, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” I pray you find it.

Sanctification–A Beautiful Heartache

Cello AloneWhenever I hear a song with a cello, the world stops. My mind wanders to a place that I can’t describe as anything but a “beautiful heartache.” There is something soul-stirring about the deep, resonating sound of the strings that, in the hands of the right musician, can take you through the depths of sadness and despair as well as the heights of hope and inspiration! Pretty amazing for a single stringed instrument.

It hit me recently, that the process of “sanctification” or being “set apart by God” somehow “sounds” like a cello. I know–“Say what?” Let me explain. Actually, listen to this so you can understand the sound I’m talking about, then read on! I am raising four daughters and one little Prince Charming. I know that might conjur up images of tambourines and kazoos more than cellos, but humor me. Two of my oldest daughters are teenagers. Yes, I accept your sympathy. My third daughter is standing at the rickety doorstep of teen years as well. Yup! Scary.

Within my hormone-drenched house is something even larger. We are Christians. That puts a completely different spin on the whole experience of raising teens in a world that is so painfully opposite of Christian values. If you are not a believer, you might wonder what I mean. Here are some examples. We drive past a giant billboard ad from Pepsi which shows a bunch of young people partying with the slogan, “Live for today!” Although the bible does say, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” in Matthew 6:34, it clearly is not a recommendation to live today by throwing your hands up in the air and waving them like you just don’t care. Of course the ad prompts some questioning and discussion which may or may not lead to some pretty cool “Aha Moments” when my kids realize that the ad is meant to sell soda, not to be a reliable guide for their lives. Such moments might also be met with brick walls. The kind that say, “Seriously Mom! It’s just an ad.” Sanctification–it’s about having a godly perspective of the world even when it’s not easy.

Another example would be music. Music is so widespread and such an ingrained part of culture that it is difficult for young people (and many adults) to discern what is good to listen to or not good. I, like many believers, often lean on Phillipians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” So that is the yardstick by which we can judge what music we should listen to. It is definitely work bringing up children in an environment that has kind of given up on what is righteous and good. One of my kids asked me why President Obama and his wife like Beyonce so much and hold her up as a roll model for American children when she sings about really inappropriate things. The answer: Because even the President and the first lady are humans. They make mistakes. Sanctification–it’s about growing in the knowledge that only our Heavenly Father is infallible.

How are these experiences like the sound of a cello? As Christians, we are called to be “Christ-like.” This means that we should, even if it is a slow process, turn away from sin and grow in our faith. Sometimes we have to make choices that seem painful at the moment. Sometimes we have arguments over what is right and wrong. Sometimes we cry over relationships that must be ended because they are not bringing us closer to God. There is a depth of sorrow that accompanies sanctification, and if you are just looking at that single moment when hard choices have to be made, it might look like sadness or loss. Then, with God’s infinite grace, there will be shining moments, when one daughter encourages the other with Scripture that helped her get through a tough situation. Or when your little boy insists that he wants to pray and ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins and come into his heart and he wants to do it “right now.” There is the sweet, smiling melody of a child visibly battling her own will to say “No!” and choosing to obey because God would want her to do that.

Paul Washer said, “Because sanctification is progressive, you will spend the greater part of your life chasing other things. And those other things will leave you empty and that is why ‘the why’ of trials.” I know that the song doesn’t end as long as we are here on earth. But that’s okay, because as long as this song, that resonates with deep, sorrowful lows, offers hope of beautiful and glorious things to come, I will continue to be grateful for all of it.

What challenges do you have as a parent, to raise your kids according to Scripture, in a world that throws some ugly curveballs?

 

One Month on the Plan

Today marks the end of Month 1 on the Medifast diet plan. Here is a recap of my 30 day adventure.

Pre-diet: Ugh! How will I survive without my Mr. Brown! (See how I took ownership for that little can?!?)

Day 1: Mmmm…not too bad. Ooh, the cappuccino is pretty good! I enjoy these bars!

Day 10: Whoa my scale is going backward! Cool!

Day 15: Oops! Vacation in the Philippines with lots of great restaurants and MANGO SHAKES!!! Ahhh! (I was pretty good though. Ate clean for the whole trip…except half a mango shake…and half a salted caramel donut from Krispy Kreme:-P)

Day 30: YES!!! Despite my five-day set back while not doing the plan in the Philippines, I have lost 14.3lbs so far! Fitting into some old jeans is great, especially because I hate shopping.

Reflection: I really didn’t have the strength or will power to do this on my own. My life verse and prayer have been key to this and many other accomplishments in my life.

“But seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

This verse first compelled me to seek God daily by reading His Word every day. I committed the first portion of my day to reading and praying. When this became a habit that thoroughly brought me joy over the past year and a half, it wasn’t difficult to move on to a new habit that I could incorporate into my morning after my devotion time.

Planning meals and exercising was the next “thing” on my list. This was a big one because I am not a disciplined eater…at all. It has been a true blessing because I know that when I seek Him FIRST, all other things (according to His will) will be added to me–including good health. Praise The Lord!

The Thief’s Purpose is to Steal, Kill & Destroy–Even with a Donut

When I first read 1 Corinthians 6:19, I really had a feeling of conviction. The verse reads, “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.” I knew how important my mind and heart were to my spiritual life, but my actual, physical body? I would say I was getting a C- at best in this area. I was definitely not honoring God by being such a slacker in this area.

In Sheri Rose Shepherd’s book Fit for My King, she mentions a verse in the chapter titled “God’s Temple or Our Trash Can.” John 10:10 says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Wow! Okay, maybe I’ve watched too many food documentaries, or maybe as I walked down an aisle filled with shiny, foil-covered potato chips and preservative-laden cookies, but this verse really hit home. This “thief” will use any way possible to crumble a person, a community, and even a whole country. Yes, we are a fast food, sugar-addicted, white bread, white rice, soda-drinking country! Satan steals our self-worth, our self-image, and our motivation to do big and great things for God when we are mired down in an unhealthy body.

Sheri Rose Shepherd

Sheri Rose Shepherd

So I had to man up–okay “woman up!” Was I going to let the thief win? Will I be a slave to a donut?!?  Uh, NO! 2 Timothy 2:21 says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” I am clinging to this promise. Yes, for some, the “dishonorable” thing might be stealing, adultery, lying, blasphemy…and for some, it might be that dishonorable dish of ice cream that is actually three portions and not one. They are all bad.

As of today, I have almost lost 10lbs in two weeks of my Medifast diet and almost one week of vacation in the Philippines. (Aside, that was a little challenging as there are many delicious food options and we were on vacation. I surprised myself with my resolve and did well with portions and eating clean despite the occasional temptation).

Praise God for His promises!