Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, Brothers and Sisters!

Let me preface this by saying that if it were still pre-Christmas, I would have said “Merry Christmas” instead, but we’re less than a week away from New Year’s Eve and a short hop, skip and a jump away from Valentine’s Day. So Happy Holidays!

364 days

A little humor from yesterday’s Facebook postings. ūüôā

December was a really fun month for us. We hosted a fundraiser for our church’s youth group. They’re looking to go to Orlando, FL for Y15 a Methodist youth conference in June of 2015. We raised over $100 which is great for our tiny community. We’ll have another fundraiser around February and another in April. I’m so blessed to have been able to help in any capacity. The kids are truly amazing.

Sunday School has had a slow start, but I keep remembering to be faithful in all things, especially the small things. This ministry will grow with time. One of my downfalls is to want to grow things too quickly, but then I become fearful of the changes and chicken out. God has been working on that with me, yet I keep hindering Him. This is not one of my better traits. I’m praying He will work that controlling, comfort-seeking side out of me soon.

15 weeks

15 week scan. Will find out gender on New Year’s Eve!

Baby “Jacksovelt” is 18 weeks along (19 weeks this Wednesday) and growing well. S/he had a heartbeat of 144 a few weeks ago at my last check-up. Could this be our first boy growing inside of me? We’ll find out on New Year’s Eve! My doctor was so gracious as to schedule my 20 week scan on New Year’s Eve and allow my entire family to be in the sonogram room when we find out the gender! What is so significant about this date for our family is that on New Year’s Eve four years ago, I had a devastating D&C to remove a deceased fetus (“Baby Dill”) from my uterus. I will never forget that day. I was incredibly distraught and in complete denial that the baby had actually died, even having seen proof. For a couple of years, I carried a heavy burden of guilt, believing I had actually consented to an abortion and murdered my precious baby because I wasn’t a good enough mother. I believed I was being punished by God for past sins. Our minds can play funny tricks on us, can’t it? God is so merciful and gracious. He has healed that part of me and has given us a joyful reason to celebrate this day henceforth.

18 Weeks

18 week baby bump! Almost half-way there!

Theresa had three very cute, very sweet class concerts this month. Her teacher (“Mr. Awesome”) has been a really great influence on her, channeling all of her extra energy into positive learning activities. These class concerts required Theresa (and her classmates) to memorize several long poems and detailed songs such as Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” and the classic Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Theresa played one of the two turtle doves and blew a kazoo when it was her turn to make bird noises. It was completely adorable and my Mama heart swelled with love and pride. All the children in the classroom worked hard and it showed!

Theresa's Christmas Concert 2014

Chelsea also had a Christmas concert in her classroom. She played the role of the partridge in the pear tree during the “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol. Her tweet tweet had the same effect on my Mama heart as Theresa’s kazoo playing. It was a beautiful sentiment to the season – time spent celebrating with friends and neighbors. Her teacher, “Mrs. Awesome” did a great job of organizing a group of wiggly, squirmy kindergarteners into a beautiful chorus of carolers. I was touched by the effort put into the concert by such young children. Their hard work was evident to all.

Chelsea's Christmas Concert 2014

On the last day of school for both girls, we sent homemade teacher gifts – a hand painted ornament from each girl and a handwritten card from me, expressing deep gratitude for the love and attention that the teachers have poured out onto not only my children, but their entire classroom of students. Both teachers bring out the best in their students¬†and encourage them to strive for more than just the bare minimum. Theresa’s teacher reminds the students to value their education, be kind to others and to be peace makers within their community. Our community is going through a very rough time and tensions are high as crime rate rises and law enforcement coverage significantly decreases due to a lack of funds from taxpayers. Mr. Awesome is consistently reminding the kids to look on the bright side and strive for the best. We couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful teacher for Theresa.

As for Chelsea’s teacher, Mrs. Awesome has really brought our little Chelsea out of her shell. She’s making friends and joining play groups on the playground. I’d been concerned all summer long about her shyness, wondering how and if she’d fit in anywhere. I was afraid she’d hate school and want to come home since she has been so deeply attached to me since her birth. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about. She’s loving school and has made quite a few friends. Mrs. Awesome has a similar dedication to excellence as Mr. Awesome and is routinely encouraging the kids to strive for just a little higher achievement. I love that she doesn’t just let the kids sit in their comfort zone. That is so important, especially at their young age. Pushing past just a little at a time will benefit them in the long run. She’s been such a blessing to her classroom. It’s amazing to see how the kids have grown leaps and bounds in only a few short months.

Opening gifts

Christmas Eve Celebration with family.

And now, onto Christmas! Due to Anthony’s work schedule, we ended up celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve this year so he could get some rest. Most of our family was able to celebrate with us. My mom, brother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law gathered together with us in our little apartment and we had a wonderful few hours together opening gifts, talking and eating a delicious roast beef dinner. Santa came sometime during the night, leaving the girls a 2-1/2 foot tall stuffed singing Rudolph and a gift for each girl. We had a quiet Christmas day with a small outing to the dog park for our beloved pug-mix, Rosie Grace. Titus Aaron, our cantankerous kitty stayed away from the festivities. He’s the Grinch in feline form. We love him anyway.

Theresa, Chelsea and Rudolph

We weren’t able to attend the Christmas Eve service at our church due to its timing. It’s near impossible for me to stay up past 6:00 pm unless someone pokes and prods me repeatedly. There was no way I was going to make it to 9:00 pm for the service, so we had our own version at home. I’ll admit that this hasn’t been the most spiritual Christmas we’ve ever had and I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I didn’t take more time with the girls to explain the magic and mystery behind Jesus’ birth. This is part of me loving comfort, remember? I’ve been incredibly uncomfortable with this pregnancy and I made too many excuses for myself. One of the great joys of God’s grace is that each new day is a chance to change past mistakes. We don’t have to wait until we get it perfect or until the timing is right. We can just pick up where we left off and make different choices as soon as we realized we’ve messed up. I’m doing just that and I encourage you to do this as well. Don’t linger in feelings of inadequacy. Kick it to the curb and move on. You can do better/differently. Life isn’t over. You’re still breathing, right?

So to conclude this little update, I do have some projects and blog post subjects I’ve been working on, but have been busy creating Sunday School content and prepping for the holidays. Also, I’ve been feeling inadequate to write about certain subject matters, assuming I have to know everything about a subject before I write about it. Again, wow. My controlling and comfort-loving side is rearing its ugly head! I’ve been a bit paralyzed by fear as well. What if I’m just not good enough to write about certain subjects? A big part of me remembers who I was a few years ago, and she was definitely not a great person. I wouldn’t listen to a word she said. But now…I’m not her anymore. Praise the Lord! He has done many good and wonderful works within me. I’ve been humbled, deeply and I love who He has created me to be. I learn to love myself a bit more every day, and by loving myself, I’m able to accept His love more as well.

Me

Proud Mama of two girls born into my arms, one on the way and many more born into Heaven.

I wish you all the very best blessings and hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season. Look for new blog posts up within the week. I’ll be sure to update everyone on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning in regards to the gender reveal. I can’t wait!

In Christ,

Mandy ‚̧

Ten Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way

Ten lessons I’ve learned the hard way about being a wife and mother:

1. Always put your best foot forward. It may be extremely difficult to do at times, but you will never regret the outcome, especially when your attitude and behaviors are being reflected in your spouse’s and children’s attitudes and behaviors.

2. Bedtime stories are sacred. Never miss one if you can help it.

3. You’re not a partner with your spouse. You are ONE. Whatever you do, good or bad, deeply affects your spouse.

4. God has to come first all the time or you will never be able to give your family the kind of love and attention they need from you.

5. One major commitment a month. Nothing more.

6. Never say anything in front of your kids you don’t want repeated.

7. Marriage and parenting does come with an instruction manual. It’s called the Holy Bible. If you don’t understand, call tech support. You can do this most effectively by getting down upon your knees and quietly talking with God.

8. Keep it simple. The more complicated, the harder it is to store in the memory bank.

9. The greatest gift is the gift of a legacy of kindness and love. Never let your spouse or kids wonder if you love them. Show them daily.

10. Every moment you’re alive is a chance from God to make different choices, turn from sin and give Him your struggles, worries and cares. It’s never too late to fix what is broken.

Imparting Wisdom Daily Into Our Children

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 13:20 ESV

This is one lesson I truly want my children to understand when choosing friends. We have conversations with our girls every day about what happens at school, who they’re playing with, etc. We watch carefully who the parents are, what they’re up to in their personal life, and what types of kids the girls are hanging out with. Then we gently speak about the types of people we want them (our girls) to be. We remind them of this lesson and that the more they choose wisely, the more they’ll benefit from it and the more their choices can honor God not just today, but every day of their young lives.

One very simple way to remind the girls who God desires them to be, is to use our last name and say “A (insert last name)¬†is…” and then we fill in with “kind, loving, wise, etc.” (Use your family values here, or quote from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) We then remind them that we are a family that has chosen to follow God all the days of our lives, no matter what everyone else is doing. Sometimes we stand alone, just the four of us, and that’s okay.

We also speak to the girls about what type of man they should be looking for to marry. We speak specifically about certain qualities and what the family unit might look like – a loving set of parents/guardians, someone who loves God, attends church, is active in their community, respects other people on the playground (our girls are only 5 and 7, so we adjust to their age group to keep it relevant) etc.

These conversations take no more than about 10 minutes a day on our end and can happen over the course of the day. We let them come about organically as the girls share things with Anthony and I. If I’m the one they choose to share things with, I make sure Anthony has a chance later to respond to the big questions they’ve had. This way, they get both gender’s input and we work as a team, validating each other and solidifying our family unit’s value system. We’ve seen much¬†fruit from our labors, which began at each of the girls’ births. (We whipped out our Bibles and read to them within the first few hours of birth and prayed over their little bodies that God would keep them in His hands all the days of their lives.)

I’m¬†daily¬†amazed at how God is working in our family, especially in our girls’ lives.

What I’ve learned through parenting ¬†is that it’s not necessary to plant a whole tree in one day, or to even sit and watch that tree grow intently without ever looking away. Parenting is like planting a seed, watering it, nurturing it and caring for it over time. It grows slowly, may branch off into odd directions, and will definitely need pruning from time to time. When the tree is fully grown, if it’s been nurtured well, will be lush and tall and beautiful. Your community will be able to benefit from the fruits of the tree – from the fruit of your labor. Dear parents, you toil not in vain. You plant seeds not in vain. You – community of Believers are planting an entire beautiful forest. Toil on! One day we will all benefit from the fruit of our labors.

Let’s Pray: Dear Jesus, thank You for the gift of a new day. Thank You for the blessing of our beautiful children. Even when we are tired, discouraged or feeling overwhelmed, help us to plant seeds of wisdom, hope and love in our children. Help us to teach them to love You, love their neighbor and to respect themselves and their community. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.