Intentional Praise

I’ve been planning to write a post about my praise jar for about a week, but I just haven’t. I’ve been super-overwhelmed with a lot of things, (mostly Bennett and his notsleeping), and so I’ve put it off. Today, however, is so full of praises that I figured it was the very best day to write this post!

My neighbor, Rebecca, posted a very Pinterest-y idea the other day on Facebook:

I thought it was brilliant! I decided to make my own, with the specific intention of its being for praises. So here’s mine:

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No, I don’t dot my “i”s. In print. I do dot them in cursive. And yes, my jar is small. That’s what I had on hand. I’m hoping to upgrade when it gets full! Anyway, I wanted to make sure that my jar was prominently displayed in order to remind me of it, and I wanted to make sure that it was clear that this is all about making note of everyday praises. At the end of the year, I can look back and praise God very specifically for all the ways He blessed me during 2013! Awesome! I’m so excited, and I’m extra excited today, which is why I’m posting this particular post at this particular time.

I put several praise post-its in my jar today.

  1. I am exactly at my pre-pregnancy weight! Five months and three days after having my stomach sliced open and being handed a baby, and then curiously still being left with a giant belly and lots of pounds to lose! This is a great day. I celebrated by eating, and I’m going to celebrate again tonight by eating. 🙂
  2. Bennett’s notsleeping, as mentioned above, has been a huge issue. Huge. I’ve done everything I felt like I could do based on his age and my related discomfort with cry-it-out sleep training at his age. Anyway, my friend Alison gave me the courage to try something that she told me to wait until bedtime to try, so that I’d have my husband for reinforcement, but I tried it anyway at both naps today. BENNETT HAS TAKEN TWO NAPS TODAY WITH MINIMAL PROTEST! AND HE’S BEEN ASLEEP FOR AN UNINTERRUPTED ONE HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES ON THIS SECOND NAP, AS I TYPE VERY EXCITEDLY IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS MUCH TO YOUR ANNOYANCE!
  3. I have an amazing husband who is a great encouragement and help to me every day.
  4. I have an amazing friend, Andrea. (I have lots of other amazing people in my life, too, but she was most recently amazing.)
  5. I have an amazing God, who has been preparing me extremely specifically through Scripture (the book of Titus) for a spiritual battle. He is sustaining me, comforting me, and encouraging me spiritually as this is happening during a season of both physical and emotional exhaustion (see #2 above).

Amen, and amen.

(You should make a praise jar, too. It’s too easy to forget or ignore the good things when there’s so much crumminess around that’s too easy to dwell upon.)

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TDOT: (Embarrassingly Belated) Days Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Nine, and Thirty

So it’s been so long that I almost let it go. But then I remembered that “TDOT” is thirty days. I only did twenty-seven, and that’s really a stretch anyway since I combined so many posts toward the end! Still, I made a commitment. Although I lagged on my posts, November really was a month of more thanksgiving for me, and it has extended through now as I reflect on Advent. God is teaching me so many things; I’m being stretched and pulled and challenged and sometimes frustrated by His relentless love for me that refuses to let me stay where I am. Oh, how He loves us so.

On Wednesday, November 28, I struggled a bit, wrestling with the darkness of my heart. I didn’t have many answers, but I was thankful for the God who does have them. The Advent reading for the day, Jeremiah 33:14-15, talked about justice and righteousness to come, knowing that one day we will be fully delivered from oppression and darkness:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

On Thursday, November 29, I was so thankful to be able to teach an Advent lesson on the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to the ladies at my church. It was a challenging lesson to prepare, and I spent a long time on it, wading through way more Scripture passages than most one-hour meetings would tackle. Although I was afraid of being boring or of talking too much, I took my husband’s advice and just went with it; I told the Advent story from Mary’s perspective. I learned so much from her, and the best thing I learned was that, for all of her unique and miraculous experiences with the Savior of the world as her Son, her last appearance in the Bible leaves her exactly where we are, praying and waiting for the fullness of the Second Advent:

…as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

(Acts 1:9-14 ESV)

On Friday, November 30, I was so thankful to share in the joy of my pastor and his wife as they shared the 20-week sonogram findings of their miracle baby! Hallelujah and praise the Lord, for He is good, and the little blessing is growing strong and healthy. 😀  Reminds me of the little tune I made up to sing to my blessing baby while he was growing in my belly (it doesn’t rhyme–I can’t do that.) :

Little baaaaby
You’re so sweet and tiiiiiiny
I just wanna hooold you
So grow big ‘n’ strong!

I am so thankful.

TDOT: Days Seventeen, Eighteen, and Nineteen

Hi! I didn’t get posts written this weekend because I was in a cabin in the woods! I’m back now with lots of thanksgiving. 🙂

I’m thankful for:

Benjamin is blowing Bennett a kiss, but he saw the cameras and looked at us instead! Bennett loves his Aunt Dana and his cousin!

  1. Cousins! Bennett and his one-year-older cousin, Benjamin, were so cute this weekend! They’re starting to notice each other, and I think my little Bubs thinks his buddy is hilarious. (You know, between love-slaps in the face!) I hope they’re best friends when they’re older.
  2. Duck Dynasty! Okay seriously, I love this show. You should, too. In fact, you will, if you watch it. It’s on A&E, it’s hilarious, and you can even watch it on Hulu if you don’t have cable. Besides its obvious hilarity, one of the things I absolutely love is how it’s a family show with a Christian message. They end every show with a big family dinner and a prayer to Jesus, and you always get a dose of Pop-Pop wisdom somewhere in the episode: “Don’t marry some yuppie girl. Find you a meek, gentle, kind-spirited country girl. If she knows how to cook, and she carries her Bible and lives by it, and she loooves to eat bullfrogs, now there’s a woman… She doesn’t have to be a pretty girl. It’s hard to get a pretty one to cook and carry a Bible anymore.” Here are a couple of clips to whet your appetite!
  3. In-laws! I know a lot of people really struggle with their in-laws, but that’s not me! This past weekend, they made it possible for their three kids and their families to retreat to Beaver’s Bend in Oklahoma! They even brought yummy food! All we had to do was print out directions and drive up there. (Great practice traveling with Bubs, by the way. Sheesh! That kid does not travel light!) We had such a great time, made possible by Grammie and Pop-Pop.
  4. Horses! Mine was named Mex, Justin’s was Frosty, and my horse was better than his! Finally! Last time we went horseback riding was nearly ten years ago, and everyone in our group got these gorgeous Clydesdales. The stable boy took one look at me and gave me this scrawny, nearly-dead, old, spotty horse named Lucy. I felt so lame! But this time, I got a big-kid horse. Fun!!!!
  5. Pine cones! I forgot about them! It was so neat to see pine cones all over the ground among the leaves. I even picked up a little baby one for my little baby. It was his first pine cone, and he loved it!
  6. Hiking! Justin and I love to go hiking, but we haven’t in a really long time. It was so great to be out in the woods next to a trout-filled stream feeling normal and healthy again! Pregnancy and early post-partum days sure make one feel like a slug. I felt 100% normal, and I had a great time!
  7. My car! I got a CR-V while I was pregnant, so that we would have plenty of room for our new little family. I’m so glad! I love my car soooooooo much, and it was the perfect size for all our junk! (It may be a tight squeeze once we have two kids, though, and we’re traveling to Alabama for Christmas…)
  8. Not having to have another job outside the home! Bennett had a rough sleeping week last week, which totally put me out of sorts. It was terrible, and I can’t imagine having to get up and teach children all day long after one, and then two, and then three, and then FOUR nights of staying up with my kid past 2:00 a.m. I struggled to get through those days, but I was able to veg and just cuddle my baby. No way I could have dealt with teenagers on top of it.
  9. Peaceful sleep Saturday night! After the terrible week of no sleep and screaming all night, I was really worried about having Bubs in a cabin with ten other people. To everyone’s surprise and delight, Bennett slept in complete peace from 12:30 a.m. until around 8:30 a.m.! I was so happy to get sleep, number one, and to not be a bother to everyone else!
  10. Huggies! We had three blow-outs Saturday alone (two happened while traveling!) because of those loserface Pampers. NO MORE! Mine is a Huggies baby for life. (Oh wait. Well, I hope not. Ew. You know what I mean.)

What are you thanking the Lord for today? 

My Favorite Things…. (and a cute baby as a bonus)

Longer video than I meant it to be, but it’s about some of my favorite things! You just might find something you’d love, too. 😉

And for the grandparents…

****Disclaimer for my “My Favorite Things” video: I stumbled over my words when talking about the book by Dr. Laura because I know that some people would prefer to read a book about marriage that is from the Christian perspective. This one is not, but I still found it to be biblical because the author is Jewish. I found it to be great because she’s very smart and very practical. I love this book, and I love Laura Schlessinger and her show. So if it in any way sounded like I didn’t, or if anything seemed negative related to her being Jewish, that wasn’t intentional. The fact is that I was already on my second take of this video, and I knew Bubs would wake up at any moment! Hope you get where I’m coming from. 😉

What “They” Said

Disclaimer: This post is about labor and delivery. While it’s not graphic, I wanted to warn the guys who may not care to read about breastfeeding or cervix dilation. 🙂

On August 8, 2012, I gave birth to my first little baby ever. As a new mom, I was more than eager to prepare myself for labor, delivery, my hospital stay, and the first few days with this new little human, so I spent a lot of time searching on the internet and asking questions of my friends with children. Looking back now, it’s interesting to see what was spot-on and what was totally off! Just for fun, I’ve listed below a hodge-podge of advice/tips/information I got from all over the place, and then my actual experience. Of course, “every pregnancy is different,” so I should have expected to have a totally different experience!

You can leave your belly ring in the whole time.
False. It started to look ridiculous through my clothes somewhere around month 4. Besides, they make you take off all your jewelry at the hospital anyway. 

Don’t leave your belly ring in because it will stretch out your skin, and it won’t go back to normal.
Inconclusive. I didn’t leave it in, so I don’t know. What I do know is that my skin stretched out anyway, it hasn’t gone back to normal, and my belly ring hole is about the stupidest-looking part of my stomach right now. I’m only about 3 weeks post-partum, but it really looks stupid. My advice would be to just not get a piercing at all if you’re ever planning to grow babies in your belly. If you already have a belly ring, well, “every pregnancy is different.” Search the internet and decide for yourself!

It’s so nice to not have a period for nine months!
True. But I’d rather that than have all the side effects that came with pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters when I frequently felt yucky. Second trimester, okay. I felt totally awesome and enjoyed the excitement of a moving baby and finding out his sex and registering at Target and NOT having a period. The rest of the time, not so much!

You’ll have a “period” for about six weeks after the baby’s born.
Okay, I found this out shortly before we decided to get pregnant, and it was a lovely piece of news that completely negates the benefits of not having a period for the whole pregnancy, if the pregnancy side effects didn’t already negate it. SO NOT COOL.

In the hospital, all modesty is out the window. You won’t care who looks down there.
False! I cared. It’s not like there was a huge party or anything; it was only the people who were helping me try to have a baby, but I was very modest when other people came in there. Like the anesthesiologist, for example. I was a little embarrassed that he could see my butt crack when he gave me the epidural. I certainly wouldn’t have been thrilled about showing off anything else to him. (I doubt he would have been thrilled about it, either, because he’s friends with my husband! Ha!) It was a little weird to have doctors and medical staff I’d never met come visit me just because they knew my husband (he’s a physician there). I wasn’t mad, but it certainly felt a little strange because I was just meeting some of these people for the first time. So, in all, I DID care. If you’re a modest person to begin with, I’m not sure that childbirth will totally change that. You’ll have to relax a bit, but you’ll still care. 

In the hospital, all propriety is thrown out the window. You can say and do whatever you want because you’re having a baby, and no one can blame you for it.
False. I thought about this a lot before delivery, actually. I imagined all those TV scenes where the woman is screaming at her husband, “YOU DID THIS TO ME!” and cussing out doctors and nurses left and right. I was a bit apprehensive, because I knew that there was no way to really prepare for delivery, and no way to know what my hormones might be doing or what might want to come flying out of my mouth. Here’s what I realized about a week or two before I went into labor: Having a baby and/or having out of control hormones does not give me a license to sin. Just because my body is being ripped apart, it doesn’t mean I can verbally rip apart my husband or the people who were working to help me through labor. Thankfully, it turned out that I didn’t want to anyway. I never blamed my husband, and I was never mad at anyone in the room. I loved having my husband there, and he was so supportive and calming. (Although I didn’t seem calm, I’m sure.) In all, I firmly believe that you’re still responsible for your choices even when you’re in pain. 

In a hospital setting (as opposed to midwife/birthing center/home birth), they treat labor and delivery as a clinical condition, so it’s impersonal and sterile.
False. The doctors and nurses at my hospital were incredibly caring, patient, encouraging, and attentive to my needs and concerns. I had a great experience with the L&D staff, and since I was there for four days, I think I met them all!

In hospitals, they rush to C-sections at the first sign of trouble.
Inconclusive, because I did have a C-section, but I am inclined to say false. My baby wasn’t positioned quite right, and they did a lot to try and coax him into straightening up. They had me pushing for an hour and a half, but he really made very little progress. I’d been in labor for about 18 hours by then, and that’s when the doctor recommended the surgery. She offered to let me continue trying to push for a few more hours, but we ultimately agreed to go on with the C-section. I didn’t feel pressured at all, even if I was disappointed.

It’s hard to get support from a hospital nursery when you don’t want to use bottles or pacifiers.
False. They were totally supportive. He did come back from his circumcision with a paci, but I was 100% okay with that for a couple of hours, under the circumstances. Poor little bub. 

Breastfeeding is a beautiful bonding experience.
Not false, really, but I don’t feel any more bonded to him during feeding than when I’m looking in his eyes or kissing his fingers or anything else.

Breastfeeding is really painful.
False, mostly. If you and the baby are doing it right, it doesn’t hurt. I still think it feels a little weird, though!

I really hope you can breastfeed; it didn’t work for me.
I am thankful that my little guy was a natural; not everyone has that experience. I haven’t had any trouble from the first time we tried. However, there was an awesome lactation consultant who came and checked on me every day in the hospital, and there is a support group in place as well. If you have trouble breastfeeding, I recommend getting help and support before giving up. If you really want to continue nursing, don’t give up. 

Breastfeeding will help you lose all the baby weight quick!
True, then false. I was dropping a pound a day for a bit, which was awesome! I’ve been stuck at a certain weight for about a week now, though, so it appears I’m on my own for the rest of the weight. Too bad I can’t exercise yet! 😦

You’ll miss feeling the baby move in your tummy.
False. That was really cool until the end when it got really uncomfortable. Even thinking back to the time when it was still really awesome, I much prefer having my little guy in my arms and looking into his eyes. I don’t miss being pregnant at all!

They grow so fast!
True story. I’m already upset about how big he is! 

Your hormones will be crazy for a while. 
True. I cried at a Dreft commercial because they said that I’ll have a child forever, but a baby for only a year. ONLY A YEAR!!!! How sad! 

After you’re home with your little guy, you’ll forget about all the pain of labor and delivery.
That’s a big fat false. I remember. It was painful. Really. And I got an epidural around 5 cm, so I can’t even imagine… Natural birth people, you definitely have my respect. 

The pain will all be worth it.
Oh, so, so completely true. I’d do it again. (But not anytime soon.)

What about you?

To My Son

My son, if your heart is wise,
My own heart also will be glad;
And my inmost being will rejoice,
When your lips speak what is right.
Do not let your heart envy sinners,
But live in the fear of the LORD always.
Surely there is a future,
And your hope will not be cut off.

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice,
And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him.
Let your father and your mother be glad,
And let her rejoice who gave birth to you.

~Proverbs 23:15-18, 24-25

Even though it will sometimes feel like an eternity, I know that you will be little for such a short time. I know that you will look to me and to your father for guidance easily, implicitly, intuitively, in those early years. I also know that it is natural for you to begin questioning and seeking answers elsewhere as you grow. Not everyone lives like we do. Not everyone serves Jesus Christ. Not everyone makes this a priority, yet completely avoids that. There are lots of ways to live life, and you will see them and question us. That’s normal, and that’s healthy. Ask. Seek. Knock.

My prayer for you is that you remember why we choose to live life the way we do. That as you grow and search out your own path, that you will always be seeking wisdom and truth, and that you will find Jesus. That you will not be fooled by those things that promise a good time, yet lead to destruction. That when you challenge us, it’s for a good reason. We’re not perfect, and we’re not always right. I pray for your heart to be attuned to God’s voice — even now! I pray that He whispers love, truth, and wisdom to you even in my womb — I pray that you know His voice and His heart so intimately that you surpass us and teach us to serve Him better.

I don’t pray that you’re just like us. I pray that you’re just like you — exactly the young man God is creating right now. (If you’re a lot like your dad, though, you’ll be in pretty good shape!)

For God is forming your inward parts; He is weaving you in my womb. Give thanks to Him, for you are fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are His works, and I pray that your soul knows it very well. Your frame is not hidden from God, as  you are made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. His eyes have seen your unformed substance; and in His book they were all written, the days that are ordained for you, when as yet there was not one of them. (adapted from Psalm 139)

My son, fear God, and make your Momma’s heart sing.

I love you.

Hormones

Q: How do you make a hormone? 

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A: Don’t pay her! 

HAHAHAHA okay, sorry. That was probably inappropriate, but I couldn’t resist. Anyway.

It’s no secret that along with pregnancy come unpredictable hormones. In my first trimester, I was pretty weepy about just about everything. (Example: I burst into tears on the way to work as this song played on the radio. Because, you know, the love between the doggies at the end was just so sweet.) Things kind of evened out during my second trimester, and I was feeling much more like myself. Now that I’m solidly into my third, however, I’m noticing some inconvenient hormonal reactions again. This time, however, I’m also noticing some sinister activity that I didn’t notice before.

I’m nervous. Scared. Terrified. I am 33½ weeks pregnant, and there’s no going back. This child is going to rip through my *ahem*, and it’s not going to be pretty. (Beautiful, miraculous, amazing — okay, but not pretty.) And it’s gonna HURT! I’m scared of the needles, the poking and prodding and checking private areas, and that’s before you even get to the pushing. I saw a video of a doctor breaking a woman’s water and OH LORD I hope my water breaks on its own. I hope everything happens the way it should, Bennett does what he should, my cervix does what it should, and the epidural — please, Jesus — does what it should.

But what if it doesn’t? What if? What if? What if? I worked myself into a frenzy the other day with these fears. Worries. Anxiety. Bawling. I’m not ready; I can’t do this; it’ll be horrible… and don’t even get me started on breastfeeding. I’m scared about that, too. What if…?

Anyway, I was having a pretty emotional day that day to begin with. The last thing I should have been doing is thinking about Bennett’s birth day and watching other babies’ birth days on the interwebs. But I did. And then I couldn’t stop thinking about it and worrying about it and feeling inadequate.

Not surprisingly — although I failed to recognize it at the time — the enemy was all over that. My thoughts were consumed by all this negativity, by all these feelings of inadequacy and what ultimately boiled down to my not trusting God. Scriptures tried to poke through, but I just dismissed them with a, “Yeah, I know, but what if???” I chose to give in to the enemy and to dwell in these thoughts instead of resting in God’s love and strength. What started as a normal hormonal imbalance brought on by pregnancy turned into an occasion for temptation, and I gave in. It turned into sin.

Yesterday, something else happened that got me all anxious and planted a very small and unreasonable seed of negativity. It was quite a battle, but I sought the Lord and refused to let the enemy take over my thoughts any more than he already had. Here is how God encouraged me:

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.
~ Psalm 94:19

For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth. By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually of You.
~Psalm 71:5-6

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
~Philippians 4:6-8

God led me into victory against the enemy, because I chose to listen to Him. It was really hard to listen to Him, though, because the anxiety and the “What ifs” were so strong. Still, I persisted. I lost the first battle, but won this one.

I think as women, it’s easy to blame hormones for our bad behavior. That’s because it’s extra-easy to allow our hormones to lead us into bad behavior. This isn’t only the case during pregnancy; adolescence, PMS, and menopause mess with our hormones, too. These times bring about legitimate challenges that upset our emotions and, therefore, our way of thinking. This is largely out of our control. Still, we are responsible for our choices and our actions, even when the temptation is terribly strong.

Sin is sin, regardless of how in balance — or imbalanced — your hormones may be at any given moment. I can’t believe that I’m 29 and just realizing that this is yet another opportunity for the enemy to gain a foothold. Don’t let him. Saturate your mind with Scripture. It’ll help you immensely and really, really aggravate him. (That’s kinda fun.)