Windows To The Soul

Ok moms – I can’t be the only one that ADORES those baby pictures of my kids where their little eyes shine so brightly.

You know the ones I mean.

Those photos where it’s like everything else fades away and you can see right into their tiny little souls.

I have a favorite photo like this for each of my three girls, and I pull them out from time to time and look into their eyes and fight back the tears. Take the one above for example. That was taken exactly one year ago…my little baby still crawling and oh so watchful of the world around her. Fast-forward a year and now she is a fast-moving freight train that rarely holds still long enough for me to even snap a blurry photo.

I love how even though our kids change and grow and their features mature, their EYES still seem to remain the same.

Even when my oldest is arguing with me, I can look into her eyes and remember that she was my first little love…I can see all the preciousness that she has been and that she will continue to be as she grows.

Even when my middle kiddo is jumping off of the top of our swing set (she is why I am already graying, I’ll tell you what…no fear, that one) and I am scolding her for being so reckless, I can look into her eyes and be reminded that she has an incredibly soft and gentle heart.

If eyes are the window to the soul, then that means that by taking time to lock eyes with those we love we are essentially allowing one another to press in close to our hearts. How special is that!

1st Samuel 12:16 says,

“Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes!”

I encourage you to take time this week to look into the eyes of your kids, your husband, your friends, and to think about the amazing things God has done and has yet to do in their lives. Then look at yourself in the mirror, and remind yourself that He has amazing plans for you as well – you will see Him move in goodness and faithfulness if you take the time to watch for it.

In Him,

Jennah

Dear unorganized mommy

Dear Tired-Unorganized-Mommy,

You know who you are. In fact, you probably had a hard time even sitting down to read this blog because you spent ten minutes looking for your charger, phone, or laptop. It’s rough some days isn’t it? Take Sunday for example, I sat down feeling like such a champ because I finished one task from start to finish—which in the world of Motherhood should earn you some kind of merit badge. I had not only organized myself enough to pay the bills, but I also took the time to mail them on schedule. Champion status, I know! Then, I realized that I had done a lovely job of placing the stamp in the left hand corner and the return address in the right.

The thing is, this is my life. This happens to me ALL the time and call it ‘mommy brain’ or whatever you like, but the truth is—I struggle to stay organized. Right now I am staring at the weekly meal plan that has been hanging on my fridge for a month, which to my surprise never seems to line up with anything I have prepared with each corresponding day of the week. I’m late returning library books, I have to re-wash the same load of laundry at least two times, and I’m convinced you can never ‘over fluff’ that load that lingers in the dryer.

I think today though, I hit an ultimate low. I was taking my daughter and godson to one of those indoor kiddie play areas. I have a love/hate relationship with these glorified parent watering holes! On one hand they masquerade as a calm oasis with soothing classical music and drip coffee, but on the other hand if your kid is the child trying to run around naked and turn all the lights off—how serene can it really be? I managed to keep Alana clothed and keep my godson from clubbing other kiddos in the head with the wooden cross he insisted on carrying around, only to be exhausted by the time we made it back to the car.

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I opened up both passenger doors to get my kiddos loaded up and left my car door open to sling my purse on the seat, when low and behold. A chicken jumped in the car and started eating old cheerios off the floor. True Story. Now I wish I could tell you my car was so clean that the poor fellow starved to death, but sadly it was like an all-you-can-eat-buffet.

I think it’s safe to say that as well as an unorganized Mommy, I am also a self-proclaimed chicken nutritional humanitarian, changing the life of one chicken at a time.

So, here is a shout-out to all the other unorganized mommies, who have to work twice as hard as the organized folks, who are simply blessed to make it through the day with well-loved kids. We may not have the home-making down to a science, but we have our wits about us, and enough love to go around. I am with you and I feel your pain. Also, if your car needs vacuuming—call me. I know this chicken.

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Bad Friday

I’m not going to lie to you…

Today has ALL THE MAKINGS of a bad day.

My kids spent all night long taking turns wandering in to my room waking me up (me…not the hubby…ME) asking for things. “When is it morning?” “Can I watch TV when we get up?” “Can I sleep on your couch?” Literally I slept barely a wink from 10pm to 4am.

I just spilled coffee all over my pants. MY FIRST CUP OF COFFEE. You feel my pain; the struggle is real over here. Also, apologies for typing when un-caffeinated. It’s probably not safe.

The kids are whining for food and it’s not even 8. I’m like, GO GET A BANANA you know what time breakfast is…I’ve been telling you every morning for YEARS.

And then the Day 3 email for our 40 Day Challenge has the audacity to show up in my inbox and tell me to find the good in today. “Take time to thank God today?” SERIOUSLY, Asha…you’re killing me here.

Because even though I WANT to be thankful sometimes it’s hard. Like, “You’ve lost that loving’ feeling” kind of hard.

And I don’t think I’m alone here…am I?

I think this struggle to find joy in the midst of hard times…to be thankful when all you want to do is cry and go back to bed…to pray thoughtfully when you just want to shout angry things at God…it is part and parcel of being human.

And it is what makes the humility of coming to terms with the reality of our lives such a beautiful sacrifice to God.

Doing something that’s easy is, well, EASY.

Doing something that’s hard means much more.

Today is Good Friday – a day we remember Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. He died so we could have a REASON to get out of bed each day and to live lives of sacrifice for Him and for those around us. It is hard, but it is SO GOOD, too.

Below are some links to blog articles that have been inspiring me and melting my hard heart lately. If you have time, please read them and let them speak to you.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded that it is important to be thankful…and to give freely…and to love deeply…

Even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we’re having a bad day.

  1. Check out this article on “Why Women Rock.”
  2. You will weep over this one: “Giving Away What We’ve Been Given.”
  3. If you feel unappreciated, read this AWESOME article.

Please take heart today. I say that as much for me as for you.

IT IS HARD sometimes. It just is. I wish it weren’t.

But today of all days. let’s do our best to remember that Jesus chose the hard thing for love; surely we can choose the hard thing (the thankfulness, the humility, the grace) for love of Him and our families.

In Him,

Jennah

Equipping Our Children To Love Jesus For A Lifetime

I saw this short video by Jen Hatmaker over the weekend, and whoah, mommas (and dads) this is a killer video. She says things like:

“If God reigns in my kids’ hearts, I need to worry about nothing else…not their careers, not who they’ll marry…”

And she drops gems like:

“Our goal should be to show our kids a Jesus they can follow for life.”

And then she calls us out in the best way possible, saying:

“This is the best we can do as mothers; raising disciples – and disciples have to be ready to go wherever Jesus sends them.”

Preach it, sister! It is all to easy to get wrapped up in the Pinterest-loving, matching-clothes-wearing, pristine-house-living, best-face-forward parenting lie that surrounds us. The truth is, we have ONE JOB to do. One. To equip our kids for the greatness they were made for.

And make no mistake about it – EVERY child is made specifically and wonderfully and perfectly for a plan only God can see in full until it unfolds throughout the years of that child’s life. The baby we are nursing today…the kindergarteners we are learning with today…the teenagers we are tearfully and prayerfully preparing to launch into the world today….they are not ours. They are God’s. They are GOD’S workmanship, created in Him for GOOD WORKS, which God has prepared for them to do.

It is on us to nurture them and to help the desires and skills and talents and passions that God has planted into their hearts grow as their little minds and bodies grow. The days are long, but the years are so short, dear ones!

With that as our focus, everything else just starts to pale in comparison, doesn’t it? Let’s make time to let our kids be kids; to play freely and laugh wildly and through it all, we can work to find ways to introduce them to a God that loves them just as they are, for He made them that way, and He has amazing plans for their lives.

In Him,

Jennah

The Top 10 Rules for Preemie Parents

It is my joy to feature a guest post from the lovely, Megan Lubin of His Middle Name. Megan is no rookie to the preemie parenting gig and she draws from her own story to help others journey towards healing. Enjoy and be encouraged, we are in this thing together!

As a preemie mom four years out of the NICU, I get asked all the time what is the best advice I would offer to other preemie parents. The first time I heard that question I didn’t know where to begin. I stuttered and stammered for the right words; encouraging words. I had so much to share … but where to begin? I definitely had a few words of wisdom that I felt were standard; words that I felt weren’t a big leap from the usual advice. However, there were many more that were born out of my own experience with prematurity. How could I choose the right words to comfort those parents in the NICU or newly home? After some deep reflection, I was able to compile a list of ten guidelines that I felt were vital in moving forward and keeping the spirit happy. Let me preface this by sharing that I don’t have a PhD nor do I feel I am the authority on parenting in any way. I’m just a preemie mom sharing some tips – some that have worked for me and my family, and some that I wish we could have learned earlier. Tonight, however these words find you, I hope you can find relevance in them and maybe take a few along with you in your own journey.

The Top 10 Rules for Preemie Parents

  1. Acknowledge the miracle. All children are a blessing, however, as preemie parents we know that our children are especially precious because of the way they came into the world. It’s just a different experience – not better – just different. And if Dr. Seuss has taught us anything it’s that there’s nothing wrong with being different! Those milestones all children celebrate are that much more special with preemies because they are reminders of what could have been; that life has thrived against all the odds. Yes, thrived. Celebrate your miracle!
  2. Stop blaming yourself. You did everything right, didn’t you? I know I did. I took my vitamins, saw my doctor regularly, didn’t eat any fish or drink coffee and I still delivered my son 14 weeks early. My body, created to be fertile and carry a growing baby, had failed me. Even worse, I felt it had failed my son too. There was this looming sense of shame that I couldn’t shake. If you have struggled with feelings of guilt, you must know that it’s not your fault. Sometimes our bodies, strong and amazing, falter. Although most women who deliver prematurely will never learn a reason as to why, here’s some recent research from the March of Dimes: http://www.marchofdimes.org/news/new-research-finds-babys-genes-not-moms-may-trigger-some-preterm-births.aspx
  3. Trust your instincts. The best parenting advice Brad and I ever received was from our son’s awesome NICU nurse. Sara, a neonatal nurse and a preemie parent as well, shared this little nugget of advice that was so simple yet so profound: “Doctors are there to advise, but you are the parents.” I have carried that little nugget of advice ever since and it has made all the difference! It doesn’t matter if it’s a mosquito bite or malaise, a temper tantrum or a temperature – if it doesn’t feel right trust your instincts because YOU are your child’s only true advocate. I encourage you to create a partnership with your pediatrician and trust their recommendations, but ultimately, you are the parent and you have the final say.
  4. Healing is a part of the journey. I’ve never heard of an easy premature birth … because they don’t exist. Premature birth is unexpected, dramatic and blistering; nothing in your bag of life experiences prepares you for it. It’s not only physically demanding, but mentally and emotionally draining as well. No matter how much coffee you drink you’re functioning on “autopilot” because you’re solely focused on your baby and whether they had a brady or if they needed a blood transfusion. How do you rejoin the rest of the world after an experience like that? Well, the healing starts in small ways – grieve, pray, write, craft, etc. – just let go of some of that pain so you can begin to heal your heart from the inside out.
  5. PTSD is real. There, I said it, so now we can get past that big ol’ elephant in the room. Whether you’re experiencing flashbacks or anxiety don’t be afraid to call it what it is. PTSD can rear its head in so many different ways, too. Some preemie parents have described feeling panicked by their child having a minor cold because it takes them back to when those types of medical events were life-threatening. Others can’t stand the sound of a beeping noise, as it’s an instant trigger. If you have experienced what you believe are symptoms of PTSD, there is no shortage of help out there for you. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor or submit to therapy – you deserve health.
  6. Never compare your child to another child. This one’s a biggie because our very culture places an emphasis on measuring everything around us, and our children are no exception. We’re sizing up our neighbor’s full term baby and wondering what percentile the toddlers in our child’s My Gym class fall in to. Within limits it’s healthy to have standards to compare your preemie’s growth, but when it becomes competition, that’s when it can become a negative fixation. Every child has different genes, gifts and abilities. Learn to recognize your child’s and encourage them with love and acceptance.
  7. Don’t allow others to determine your parenting style. This actually comes straight from my husband Brad. He shared with me that if he could have done anything different, it would have been to better explain to our family and friends why certain rules were set up after we came home from the NICU. In hindsight, I admit it probably would have saved some hurt feelings on both ends. Unless someone has been through a NICU experience they don’t understand what it does to you and how it shapes the type of parent you become. Helicopter parent or not, healthy boundaries are a must when dealing with your loved ones.
  8. Don’t take it personally. This is a touchy one because when said in the wrong context, it can rub an already sensitive preemie parent the wrong way. When you’ve given birth prematurely it seems everyone around you is delivering babies full term. Log in to social media and you’re bombarded with beautifully styled maternity photos and perfectly posed newborns. I’ve spoken with so many preemie parents that have said this is one of the most difficult things they’ve encountered because they don’t understand their own feelings of longing and sadness. I promise you that you are not a bad parent for wishing you would’ve had a longer pregnancy or could’ve taken your baby home after two days. This is where “don’t take it personally” comes in – it’s a gentle reminder that your sister in law or coworker’s baby joy isn’t a slight at your experience. It may take some time, but eventually you will find that middle ground where you can feel happiness for another momma while also accepting that you didn’t get to experience some of those cherished moments.
  9. Reach out to your preemie community! Life after the NICU can be especially overwhelming for parents of preemies, but you are not alone. Connecting with others who have been there or shared a similar experience can be not only validating but so very healing. There are many ways to get involved including joining your local March of Dimes family chapter, forming a March for Babies team in honor of your preemie’s life or joining a local peer to peer support group. Not ready to go all out? There are also private groups and support pages via social media where you can share your birth story, ask questions or offer advice to another preemie parent who may be struggling. Our preemie community is strong with hope … let us lift you up!
  10. Take care of you. Listen up preemie moms and dads because this may be the most important tidbit I share because it’s the hardest to actually do! It’s something I wish I would have done more of myself, and it starts with little things while your child is in the NICU. Try actually sitting down to eat, going for a run, getting a pedicure, or start journaling. I know these things are hard, but you have to have some “me time” (even when your child is in the NICU). Once your baby is home and when you’re ready, try to take a vacation or plan a spa day. I know it’s hard to imagine being away from your child when you spent so many nights without them, but I promise you you’ll be rejuvenated. When you take care of yourself mind, body and spirit you’re able to give that much more to your preemie. If you make taking care of yourself a priority, those good habits you’re putting in place will carry on when your child finally comes home from the NICU too and will be the example of self- love that they’ll learn from and mirror for the rest of their lives.

  

 Megan Lubin is the founder of His Middle Name, an online resource that provides support, advocacy and education initiatives to parents of preemies and those who have experienced pregnancy complications. She is a Regulatory Affairs Administrator and works in Cancer Research. Megan lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with her husband Brad and four year old son Sutton Matthew. To learn more about her story, please visit www.hismiddlename.com or for a more interactive connection, visit the His Middle Name Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/HisMiddleName

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Join Our 40-Day Challenge!

Psssst!

Hey Mom! Yep – you with the tired, kind, overwhelmed-yet-hopeful eyes. We’d like to invite you to join us for 40 days of encouragement!

We get how hard it is to raise a family and keep the home fires burning while keeping your head above water at the same time. We know that sometimes the only shred of peace and rest you can find come when you are in the bathroom or sneaking a shower or – Please Lord, Let It Be – when the kiddos are down for a nap.

We want to offer you little tidbits of hope and laughter each day for 40 days…delivered straight to your email inbox so you can enjoy them whenever is easiest for your busy schedule.

Why 40 days? Well, no specific reason…it just seemed like the perfect amount of time for some of us moms to band together virtually between April 1st and Mother’s Day.

Even though it feels like it sometimes…

We Are Not Alone.

Consider this your chance to share a few moments of life with other women that are just like you – that love the Lord and thirst for rest and peace and community.

Join us by clicking here: 40 Day Challenge

We can’t wait to meet you!

In Him,

Jennah & Asha

What Heights of Love, What Depths of Peace

Recently I have been listening to a fantastic group called King’s Kaleidoscope. They. Are. Awesome. They have many songs, but my favorite album right now is “Asaph’s Arrows.” It is chock full of old hymns beautifully and powerfully redone…if you haven’t heard this band, get thee to your computer and LISTEN!

Anyway, one of the songs I have been listening to on repeat for weeks is “In Christ Alone.” You know – that old Sunday School song that you probably have forgotten all about but I promise you, you will remember it the moment the opening chords hit your ears.

The words that get me every time are:

What Heights of Love, What Depths of Peace – When Fears Are Stilled And Strivings Cease…Here in The Love of Christ I Stand.

Wow. Just wow.

I need love. I need peace. How do I get them? By stilling my crazy self and stopping all my crazy striving. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do anything, but it DOES mean that I should not get freaked out every time something doesn’t go as planned. I don’t have to create my own false sense of peace or security – it is right there waiting for me to take a deep breath and ACCEPT it.

I encourage you to find time to be still today…to take a deep breath, to relax to bake bread, to go outside, to drink coffee…to BE STILL AND KNOW THAT HE IS GOD.

In Him,

Jennah

Friendship in Unlikely Places

I don’t know what it is exactly about motherhood that encourages people to dole out unsolicited advice. I’ve been ‘that mom’ in Target too many times, whose child is wailing while a perfect stranger begins sharing their tried-and-true methods for child rearing, without even bothering to ask my name. It’s discouraging being in those situations, and the embarrassment is compounded by the awkward exchange of someone trying to in essence ‘fix you’. What weary young moms really need is a smile, we need grace, we need a friend!

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had so many people tell me that I would just make so many friends when I started my family. They would go on and on about how these friendships would just spring out of the frame-work of life that circles raising little people. Truth be told—this never happened for me! The friends I had before my babies, I was already in relationships with and if you want to hear the raw truth—I met one of my best friends in a support group.

We formed a friendship, while joining a club that we never wanted to be in. Our club was: Parents of Preemies. I’ll never forget walking into a room with other worn-out parents. We all sat there like lumps on a log around our sad campfire of grief. We hurt because we lost something—we lost choices, we lost normalcy, and we lost answers.

Fast forward 4 years and the grass is certainly greener. Our babies are healthy and our hearts continue to heal, but as I reflect on this beautiful friendship, I am reminded of how many of us meet our cherished ones in the most unlikely places. Sometimes we meet in the fray of life. We enter these clubs that we never signed up for, and somehow find ourselves members. There is no initiation period, no weird hazing rituals, no wait list, and yet somehow we make the cut.

Sometimes you find ‘your people’ in the waiting room instead of at the company Christmas party. You might find someone who truly ‘gets you’ in the last place you thought to look. I don’t know what club you might feel thrown into today, but I encourage you to fight the waves and come up for some air. Look around and you might be surprised to find someone else floating on their own life raft, right next to yours. It’s a lot easier to ride out the storm with a friend by your side.

Oh, and if you see that Momma in Target, the one who is desperately trying not to collapse into her own mini-melt-down, offer her something even better than your advice—offer her your kindness.

When You’re Feeling Small

You know the feeling… dishes piled high and no break in sight.

I’ve been there.

Sometimes it feels like you’re Alice in Wonderland, and you’ve just sampled the shrinking potion and find yourself growing smaller and smaller while life’s problems and unknowns and monotony grow larger and larger.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I love how Psalm 46 addresses the feelings of insecurity, stress, and SMALLNESS we often feel:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Take heart this week, knowing that God is there – an ever present help in time of trouble. The things that look so big to you are like tiny specks to Him.

So when you’re feeling small, find peace in the One that is over all things.

In Him,

Jennah

The Monotony Of Our Days

Do you ever feel like you are living in a bad remake of Groundhog’s Day? Getting out of bed day after day just to do the same things you have done for weeks on end? Parenting can do that to you. It can lull you to sleep with the monotony of each day, and if we aren’t careful, we can lose sight of the extreme importance of every moment and our calling here on Earth.

The Bible says that children are like arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior (definitely my own paraphrase), and last week my husband and I saw our first and oldest arrow get pointed toward Heaven with laser-like precision. We had been incredibly impacted by that week’s message at church regarding the incredible gift of salvation Jesus gave to all of us and so we talked with all of our kiddos around the dinner table that night about the sermon. She took it to heart, and her life will never be the same!

Our pastor – Levi Lusko from Fresh Life Church – has been doing a series of messages based on the words Jesus spoke from the cross…they have been challenging and heart wrenching sermons, but our family is so much stronger for hearing them. It is so easy to get hypnotized by the endless energy draw that young kids are; going through life on autopilot, forgetting that we have a huge responsibility in front of us. There is not one of us that would say we do not want salvation for our littles…but how easy it is to think, “I will talk with them about it later,” or to foolishly think, “They won’t understand this until they’re older.” The truth is – we all need Jesus and we all – from the smallest of us up to the oldest among us – have sinned, separating us from God…BUT FOR JESUS.

His death gave us life. that is something worth sharing, no matter how old or young our children may be. Sing it over your babies. Explain it to your preschoolers. And give your bigger kids the gift of finding Jesus for themselves through youth devotionals, adventure Bibles, and targeted teaching that will meet them where they’re at.

Let’s not fall prey to life’s monotony; let’s instead break loose and show our children how to live lives that are wild and brave and regret-free thanks to the freedom they can have in Christ.

In Him,

Jennah