Saturday, March 30, 2013

You Just Don't Know

Hi Fellow Friends & Moms! We've reached the end of A Month 4 Moms, can you believe it?! I couldn't have done it without the help of some wonderful women, so to everyone who has posted, photo'd, researched, shared, bared, commented, followed, and simply nodded in agreement I say thank you. Thanks for reading. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for being apart of something that's hopefully much bigger than this little blog. 

For the last post of the month, I've asked E from E, Myself, and I to share. I think her outlook on motherhood is the perfect way to end a wonderful month made especially for mothers. 

Hi there fellow blog-o-hollics!  I'm E, and I'm SO honored to be rounding out Hollie's amazing Month 4 Moms.  Since I'm technically still on a blog-break for Lent, I'm sharing a (updated) post today that I wrote a while ago as part of a series I called "31 Lessons I Learned In My First Year of Motherhood."  This is kind-of a combination of Lesson #1Lesson #6 and, together, one of the most important (and hardest) lessons I've learned on this journey... Worry about being the mom your baby needs, NOT the mom you thought you'd be.  My Sam will be 2 this July, and I can honestly say that I am a different person today than the one I was two years ago.  It has not been easy letting go of some of the hopes, expectations, and "fantasies" I had about being a mom, but it has been so good.  SO good...

Ok, confession time (because that's kind-of my specialty): Before I became a mom, I judged other women for not keeping up with their friends after having a baby,  not controlling their crying baby in public, not having their baby on a schedule, or simply not being able to keep their kid from being covered in snot and spit-up all the time.  *I promise, I wasn't a total jerk.  I was just naive and stupid.

Then, I became one of those moms.  Yep, it happens to the best of us.

The truth is, I thought I knew what kind of mom I would be.  Shoot, I'd been babysitting since I was 11, stalking mom blogs for years, and reading parenting books like it was my job for at least nine months.  I subconsciously labeled the mom in front of my at Chick-fila as "good" or "bad" in the ten seconds it took me to observe her lunch order, kids' behavior, and her own personal hygiene.  

Ask me about my birth plan, and I had NO idea.  But, ask me my philosophy on feeding or sleeping or discipline and I was all over it. I could almost see my new life with my wonderful husband, perfectly decorated nursery, and my very own bundle of joy (who would always smell like baby powder, wear all BabyGap, and eat only organic food).

Instead, my sweet bundle of joy had colic and absolutely NO respect for a schedule - or any of my other plans for that matter. I never slept (much less showered), I drank way too much caffeine for a breastfeeding mom, I let my infant in my bed, he wore (gasp) white Gerber onesies 90% of the time, and my current "best friend" was the pacifier.   After almost having a nervous breakdown at about three weeks in, I realized I could either drive myself CRAZY trying to be the mom I wanted to be thought I was going to be; or, I could just love the baby I was given and become the mama he needed. Thankfully, for all parties involved, I chose the latter (sometimes grudgingly).

At one week.
At nine months.
Now, 20 months into this mothering gig, I am NOTHING like the mom I thought would be. I am messier, and tireder, and a lot less organized. But, I am also more fun, more relaxed, and a lot less judgmental than I was

Eighteen Months
One of the biggest (if not the biggest) lessons I've had to learn is that Sam deserves a momma who believes she is good at being his momma. I am not the perfect mom, and I sure as heck won't be writing any manuals anytime soon; but, I am exactly what my boy needs.  Today, I like the mom (and the person) I am SO much more than the mom I thought I was going to be. Today, things are just as they are supposed to be.  Today, Sam is happy and loved, and he has a mom that isn't afraid to dole out healthy doses of grace - to a rebellious little guy, the mom beside her on the park bench, and even to herself.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Mommy Guilt.

We've all felt it.

The mommy guilt.

Just yesterday, I realized that I'd sent my son to Mother's Day Out without Easter treats for his teachers and class. Not only that, I didn't know it was Easter egg hunt day.

Commence Mommy Guilt.

Of course, Pinterest and every other blasted mommy blog on the interwebz is just oozing with perfection in the form of delicious homemade treats and adorable crafts. Bravo to you mommies who can singlehandedly raise your child, work full-time, AND have the time to hand make holiday-specific decorations and treats (complete with color-coordinated paper products emblazoned with some catchy phrasing.). Seriously, High Five. Because I consider matching clothes (Isaac) and a shower (myself) to be a successful day... until the guilt creeps in. I should've done this... could have done that... why didn't I do x, y, or z. What will Jordan think when he comes home to a messy house, messy wife, and a meal that hasn't been cooked?

I wanted to share this article (found at the awesome Raising Godly Children) I read recently on the topic of mommy guilt. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did. Because I seriously want to underline and highlight every line, tattoo it on my forehead, write it on my heart. It's good stuff.

Guilt is a young mother’s habitual shadow. It has a nasty way of soaking through many of her efforts at nurturing, serving and loving others. “Am I doing enough for my children? For others? What do they think of me? What does God think of me?”
As a young mother everyone wants something from you—your family, your church, your boss, your neighbor. And most likely, you give way more than you ever thought you could. But along the way guilt nibbles at your soul, eating away your inner peace and joy. And it often lingers through the years, even after your children are grown and gone.
Dear young mother, don’t waste your guilt!
Don’t waste your guilt, but instead listen to it and evaluate it. Take it out of the shadows and examine it in the light of Scripture. Lay out your feelings before Christ. Is this guilt legitimate conviction of sin? Then confess your sin, receive his forgiveness and ask him where and how he wants you to change.
But maybe your guilt is a nagging, self-focused fear that if you were just a bit better or worked just a little harder, then you would be noticed and admired enough to feel okay about yourself. That is false guilt, rooted in pride. It will hurt your family and hinder your relationship with your grace-giving Father. If this describes your guilt, then remind yourself that through Christ’s death and resurrection, you’re accepted by God. The solution to false guilt, as to true guilt, is the gospel.
Paul speaks of these two kinds of guilt in 2 Corinthians 7:10. There is a godly grief that produces repentance, and a worldly grief that produces death. Ask yourself this question: is what I give my time and energies to driven by life-giving repentance or life-depleting pride?
One reason a young mother can feel wrongly guilty is that she forgets that her first and primary mission field must be her children.
God values children. He places great importance on our teaching our children to love and serve him (Deut. 6:7-9). Jesus became indignant when the disciples didn’t value the worth of children in God’s expanding kingdom (Mark 10:13-16). And God tells us that children are his blessing to us (Psalm 127:3).
Mothering calls for the best in us as women. As mothers, we shape the souls of our children and ultimately influence the world. Children are our gift to the future. So accept your calling from God to serve your family. It is not godly guilt that would call you away from a wholehearted investment in your little ones for his sake. Don’t feel guilty over making your children your primary ministry investment when they are young. You are teaching the younger generation to form intimate emotional bonds with others. Your sensitivity, availability, devotion, affection, and unhurried attention are irreplaceable.  
On the other hand, Paul’s word to me as an older woman is to “train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Tit. 2:4-5).
Why does the apostle have to tell us older women to teach these things to the younger women? Because it can be hard to love your husband and children. In fact, it can be easier to minister outside the home. Why is it more rewarding for us to plan a ladies’ retreat for two hundred women than it is to plan an indoor picnic with our preschoolers on a rainy afternoon? I think it’s because the rewards are more immediate and the demands are not so steady.
Being a young mother is plain hard work. At times it feels like slave labor! Young moms can identify with the cartoon of a toddler looking at a wedding album with his daddy and saying, “So that’s the day Mommy came to work for us!”
But God has called you to this ministry. He knows there are no neutral moments in a young child’s life, whose experience is one of continuous need and development. Your children will bear the imprint of your mothering throughout their lives because much of human behavior springs from imitation.
You are the only mother your children have. Your ministry to them is the deepest expression of your love for them. Raising your children has to be done right the first time around. It is one of the few places in life where you can not say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
You have received this commission from God. As a mother your privilege is to teach them how to respect their daddy and be kind to their siblings, how to choose good nutrition and wholesome entertainment, why they should value courtesy and orderliness, and which causes are worthy of their efforts, their reputations, and even their very blood.
Are you discouraged as you spend day after day immersed in the mundane tasks of mothering? Then think of the honor of guiding the spiritual and intellectual and social development of young minds and hearts. Think of the thrill of teaching them eternal truths from God’s Word. Think of the importance of teaching your young children how to live under authority, and of preparing them for future relationships by teaching them about love and trust. Think of the delight of sending one more godly, vibrant, strong, secure, loving young person into this needy world with the courage to live well for Christ’s sake. What a worthy investment! 
Another challenge for a young mother is cultivating a love for the home.
God has called us to love our children from home base (Tit. 2:4-5). We can’t improve upon God’s design! This means more than staying at home. It means fixing your heart on your home. Women can leave their homes through more avenues than work or outside ministry. Cell phones, emails, and chat rooms can take a mother away from her primary ministry, too.
Ministry means being “all there.” It means rejoicing that you get to show your children how to peddle a tricycle, make their bed, build good memories, and share their toys with others. You serve your family, and ultimately your heavenly Father, by helping your child do that puzzle for the seventeenth time, by washing those sticky fingers, by planting a little garden, by acting out Bible stories and praying together, and by preparing for their daddy’s return as the highlight of your day!
What is the alternative? “A child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Prov. 29:15).
Remember this: you have the privilege of passing on to young hearts a sense of God! Should you feel guilty for that? As you let your children experience intimacy, nearness, and availability in their earliest years with you, you can point them to find those soul-necessities in Christ, their Savior, as they mature. And then you have the delight of sending them out with a light in their souls to bless this darkened world.
Someone is going to be influencing your children, inculcating values and imprinting standards on their impressionable young minds. Let it be you!
Does this mean you will never invest in others outside your family? Goodness, no. But if you are a young mother, use your primary ministry of mothering to guide your choices about where to serve Christ now. Don’t let anything woo you away from your unique role as a wife and mother.
This season in your life is just that—a season. And each season is a divine calling from our Creator and King. Organizing a new church event is important. Teaching your little boy to be kind to his sister is also important. But which one can best be done by you during this season? Serve God well by ministering to your children first. Very soon they will be grown and gone and all those uniquely teachable moments will be gone. And you will have ample opportunity to serve Christ outside your home in the seasons ahead.
“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7).
Jani Ortlund is a former schoolteacher and holds a master’s degree in education. She is the author two books,Fearlessly Feminineand His Loving Law, Our Lasting Legacy. Jani is the wife of Dr. Raymond Ortlund, Jr. July/August 2010 ©9Marks

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

While I Wait

Today on the blog, Lyndsie is joining us and I am so excited! Although we have a few mutual friends, we haven't ever actually met, but that didn't keep me from lurking around on her blog(s) a couple of years ago (she has since taken a break from blogging). I can vividly remember reading through many of the milestones that she will talk about here today. When she originally titled her blog "A Love Worth Waiting For..." so many years ago, I'm sure she never knew how that simple phrase would prove itself over and over again to be a true representation of her life. Her testimony really is incredible. She is so heartfelt, sweet, and completely unapologetic about her love of Christ. Check out the amazing story of how her two sweet babies came to be a part of her & husband Daniel's life. 

I was so humbled and honored when Hollie asked me to guest post on her blog during A Month 4 Moms. As I prayed about what to share on adoption and motherhood, I felt like the Lord impressed upon my heart to share "in the waiting" of our adoption journey. It was during this time in my life when the Lord was more real to me than ever before. Even though I didn't see it at the time, He was molding me and making me into the Momma He would have me to be for our children. So many dear friends are "in the waiting," whether it be waiting on that one positive pregnancy test, waiting to bring their child(ren) home through adoption, waiting for a job, waiting for test results, or just waiting on God in general. It is during those times when our faith is tested. It is in those times when we must trust in the Lord and in His timing. Though the valley may seem impossible, the Faithful One is just preparing us for the road He has set before us.

My husband, Daniel and I met when we were 13 and 15 at a summer camp. Our "love story" started right away. Looking back, there was no doubt that God designed every step of our meeting, our friendship, our relationship, and eventually our love story. Daniel and I went through many hardships together at a very young age. As crazy as it sounds, I am thankful for each and every one of those trials. In those hard and devastating times it made me realize how precious life is and how great our God is. In the spring of 2006, at the age of 19, I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, it returned 2 years later in the spring of 2008.

At the age of 21, I had a total hysterectomy.

As you can imagine, this was absolutely devastating for both Daniel and I. We were making plans for marriage and for a future together. Even before marriage we had talked about having children; we both come from big families and we had always desired to have a family of our own. After coming to the reality that I would never be able to have biological children, I felt like my world was turned upside down. It was a very dark time in my life. It was hard to wrap my mind about what had happened and what my future would hold. It was hard to see or feel God working during that time in my life. Did he not know the plans I had for my future? Did He not know my passion for children? Did he not know that Daniel was planning to ask me to spend my life with him that very weekend I had surgery? I know there were many moments when I felt so alone. But I was never alone. He was always right by my side, pouring into me His all sufficient grace. And He did know about the plan I had for my life, but He had one far greater: HIS plan.

Daniel and I were married in the spring of 2009. Our wedding day surpassed all of my hopes and dreams. It truly was a "perfect day." I could never have imagined what our future together would hold...

We had an amazing first year of marriage! It was one of the most memorable years of my life! I remember like it was yesterday, we were sitting at a table on our 1 year anniversary trip and we were talking about our future and about children. We both knew at that very moment that we were ready to bring a baby into our family! (or at least we thought we were ready!!) We decided to start the adoption process right away. For a year we had one adoption after another fall through for one reason or another. Just the very thought of a baby made us pour our whole hearts into every adoption situation that came along and with that came a lot of heartache and devastation. We learned A LOT during this year and we made A LOT of mistakes. However, I am so very thankful for that time in our lives because through it all, we gained a new love and appreciation for adoption and for the precious birth mothers who make such a hard and selfless decision... and for that I am thankful.

Daniel and I grew closer to each other during our times of grief, and even closer to the Lord as we put our trust in Him. "The Waiting" was long and hard, and at the time felt unbearable. After months of trying to make everything work on my own, I finally broke down and told the Lord that HE was enough. If I wasn't meant to be a Momma, if that wasn't the plan He had for me, then that was ok with me. It did take me a while to get to that point and to truly mean it, but I needed to reach that point in my life. I realized that I had already been so blessed and if He chose not to bless us with a child, that He would always be enough and He would fill that void in my heart. Soon after I had that moment with the Lord, we got "THE CALL". Almost exactly a year after starting the adoption process, we got a call for our son, Ethan. Ethan was almost 8 months old when we brought him home and his adoption situation  was an extremely emotional and heartbreaking situation. Through Ethan's adoption, Daniel and I were able to understand the deep, deep love the Lord has for His children in a way that I do not think we would have ever been able to understand or experience if it had not been for Ethan's adoption. I have no doubt that the Lord had been preparing us for that very moment when we first held Ethan in our arms. I do not believe we would have been ready for it a year before when we thought we were ready. Once again, the Lord's timing was perfect and He showed His goodness and His love to us like never before.

 There is SO much to Ethan's adoption story-- so many God moments that I literally wouldn't know where to start. I will have to share one unforgettable moment that to this day still gives me chills and makes my eyes fill up with tears. Soon after bringing Ethan home, Daniel and I wanted to look back to see what we were doing around the time Ethan was born. We quickly realized that the exact day Ethan was born, was the very same day we got an email from our first birth mother saying she had chosen another couple. While we were grieving over what we thought was "our baby" the Lord was really just preparing us for what was to come... OUR SON! How great is our God?!?! This is just one of the many amazing God moments we had throughout our adoption process with Ethan.

As undeserving as I felt to be Ethan's Momma, the Lord chose to bless us again 8 months later when we adopted our precious little girl, Aubrey. What a year it was for our family. Aubrey's adoption was a huge reminder of the Lord's Grace-- The Unmerited Favor of God. Aubrey has a precious birth mother and birth family. What a humbling experience it was to witness their selflessness and their love for Aubrey. We are forever grateful for them and for the precious gift they shared with us! The Lord has blessed us far beyond anything we ever deserved.

"Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or thing, according to the power that works in us." Ephesians 3:20

I always wondered how I would feel when I held our children in my arms for the first time --- with both Ethan and Aubrey, I just knew... I knew that God had been preparing me for that very moment and for that precious child chosen by the Lord to be apart of our family. Our children are the answered prayer that strengthened my faith and deepened my relationship with God. What a beautiful reminder they are of His faithfulness!

I realize a year is not that long to wait and that there are many of you who have waited much longer, and others who are still waiting. When you are waiting for something you desire so deeply, a week, a month, or even a year seems like forever... I hope I can encourage you to embrace the waiting, no matter how long it may be. Because it is in the waiting when we feel the Lord draw us closer than ever before. The Lord has you there for a reason, no matter what that reason may be. I know for us, He used that time to show us so many things. For Daniel and I to draw closer to each other and closer to the Lord, we had to fully put our trust in Him. It was a time for us to learn to appreciate adoption and the gift of children. It was also a time for me to prepare to be the Momma Ethan and Aubrey would need me to be. I'm so thankful for the waiting time in our lives. It was then when He showed me that His plan is always something worth waiting for! This verse was such an encouragement to me during this time:

"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

Motherhood is not always guaranteed. It is a privilege and an honor and one that is denied to too many.

I am a Mother. Not because I deserve to be or because I'm entitled to be. I am a mother because I have a merciful Father who chose to bless an undeserving sinner. I have been blessed.

PS: You only have a couple of days left to win some supersparkleicious earrings!

Monday, March 25, 2013

5 Month Update

I say it every month, I just can't believe how quickly Isaac is growing up. Maybe this isn't going to be an "inspirational" or "educational" M4M post, but I couldn't brush off our 5 month update. While I've really loved hosting A Month 4 Moms, I also miss posting about everyday life... like losing my phone 2 weekends ago (devastation!!!), and unintentionally ripping a chunk of my eyelashes out (yowzers!), and surviving our first stomach virus (gross.), and on and on. Anyway, back to Isaac... who incidentally is the inspiration behind A Month 4 Moms, making this post completely appropriate. 

This past month has been total joy. Last month was a test, but this month has been wonderful. You have been so happy and easy going, it's really been so much fun to be your momma. Nighttime sleep and naps have been largely successful, and feeding is still going well, so I can't really find anything to complain about this past month. 

You're still nursing 5 times per day, but I have a feeling you'll be ready to drop a feeding soon. Your daytime naps are kinda sorta getting longer and your last feeding is getting very short, so maybe when we start you on solids, I'll make the change to 4 feedings per day. We'll just have to see about that. Like I said, we haven't done the solid food thing yet, and to be completely honest, I'm in NO hurry to start. Dr. Canales gave us the go-ahead at your last appointment, but you seem to be doing just fine with exclusively nursing. Maybe by next month's update, you'll be chowing down... or maybe not. You don't have any teeth yet and I don't see any evidence on your gums of having any popping through soon.

I'm afraid the thumb sucking is here to stay, but thankfully, I only ever notice you doing it in your crib when falling off to sleep. While I was hoping we'd escape pacifiers and thumb sucking, I guess I have to be okay with it and keep my fingers crossed that the habit doesn't start to cross over to wake time. You've also taken to sleeping on your side with an arm draped over your face. It's pretty cute. Despite rocking up onto your side to sleep, you aren't rolling over at all anymore. It seems, however, that you're minutes away from being able to sit unsupported. We'll see if that materializes soon.

Your sweet laugh is such a joy, and thankfully we are hearing it a little bit more. Sometimes it takes a lot of prodding, and then sometimes you giggle at the most random things. Like earlier today when we were sitting outside watching Mauve jump around, you got so tickled at her and giggled. Even if you are a little stingy with your laughs, you are always smiling and "talking". You've also really picked up on blowing bubbles/raspberries, which is as cute as it gets. Between the smiles, babbles, and bubbles, you really are SO fun to play with.

Mauve loves you... and you aren't totally certain about this.
You love being outside, so we go on lots of walks together. When Mauve goes along with us, she walks right next to your stroller and watches you the entire time. It's sweet to see her be so protective over you.  Now that she's gotten attached to you,  you're also noticing her more, and have even been known to "pet" her on occasion. You've really taken to playing with toys nowadays and you have a few favorites (The O-Ball, Sophie the Giraffe, your crocodile, and Marty the moose are always winners!) You're now wearing size 3 diapers and I would guess you're between 18 and 19 pounds. Your size is mostly brand-dependent. You can still [snugly] fit into some of your 3-6 month outfits, but 6+ month clothes are more your size these days. It makes Jordan and I laugh when you're around other babies who are older but not bigger than you are. We still have no idea where you got these huge genes from, but maybe you'll start to even out now that you've doubled (I'm assuming this since I dont have an actual weight for you this month) your birth weight.

You have my whole heart and are my great joy. Thank you, sweet boy, for being more than I could've asked for in a son. I don't know how I got so lucky, and I hope and pray that as you continue to grow up too quickly, that I can guide and protect you, that I can point you to Jesus, that I can give you many things to laugh and smile at, and that I can show you unconditional love.

PS: Don't forget to enter to win some great earrings!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Seven Things We Must Tell Our Daughters

I can remember in the days where I was pregnant and didn't know whether I had a girl or a boy growing in my tummy but had a sneaking suspicion that baby Mims was a girl. My pregnant dreams were telling me that I was carrying a bouncing baby girl and the initial excitement over bows and mary-janes quickly waned into fears of girl body image. How was I going to fuel her intrinsic value and protect her from the world's assault on women as being both sexual objects and never perfect. Imagine my relief when Isaac was pushed into the world. 

But this is still a HUGE deal! Maybe I don't have a girl right now, but this problem doesn't seem to be going anywhere except further into an ugly hole. What about the girls that Isaac will be around as he grows older?? What about the girls in our youth group or the women I work with? I got in touch with Kristen from We Are THAT Family earlier today and she gave me special permission to share with you guys her post, "Raising Daughters in a World that Devalues Them." Check out what she has to say.

I took my daughter shopping one night over Spring Break. It’s flip flop and shorts weather down here in Texas about 10 months out of the year, not to mention my girl gets taller every minute. She passed me up months ago.

Shopping with my teenager should be fun. And mostly it is, except for the actual clothes-shopping-part. It’s so hard to find modest clothes. My teen doesn’t even ask for the shorty shorts any more, even though it’s challenging to find anything but in the stores.

“Why do they do it, Mom? Why do so many stores sell such immodest clothes for girls?” She was frustrated. It was a question I didn’t know how to answer. I think about how girls are viewed in this world and in return, how they view themselves. How do I tell my 13 year old daughter that sex sells? But I do tell her. She’s a smart girl and notices that some stores sell padded bikini bathing suit tops to 8 year olds.

It’s time for moms to be offended and stand up to giant stores like Victoria’s Secret and the way they sell sex to our daughters. Their new tween brand is called, “Bright Young Things,” and includes lace black cheeksters with the word “Wild” emblazoned on it, green and white polka-dot hipsters screen printed with “Feeling Lucky?” and a lace trim thong with the words, “Call me” on the front. Source.

     “Our country is replete with an unprecedented number of young girls suffering from eating      disorders and body mutilation, while pushing the limits of sexual promiscuity. Is this racy underwear modeled by unrealistically thin girls really the best that we have to offer our girls? In this age when female sex trafficking is becoming a wide-spread crisis, reaching into the depths of our inner cities, is it really responsible for Victoria’s Secret to entice our impressionable young girls with this “come hither” message?
     Underwear that reads, “Call me” does nothing but cheapen a girl’s self-esteem while exacerbating the objectification of her God-given femininity. Our children are being objectified by retailers who see them as nothing more than a path to increased profits.”-Amy Gerwing
We live in a world that hates girls.
Too harsh? I don’t think so. Globally, did you know that more than 200 million girls in our world have been aborted or abandoned in what is being called a “gendercide?” Many who survive, face neglect, violence and most likely sex trafficking. We might feel detached from this epidemic on this side of the world, but we aren’t. The Super Bowl is the biggest day for sex trafficking in the world and most major cities including the one closest to me, is a hub for young girls to be sold into sex slavery.

Coupled with the pornography industry, when you consider every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing nude images of somebody’s daughter, it’s more than disturbing. Source

Yesterday I read about a young girl who was raped. She was just six years old. I’ve heard of horror stories like these thru our work at Mercy House, but this wasn’t in distant Africa. It was in our county, 20-something miles away. I have an innocent six year old and I am sickened by the crime against this child.

And as if all that isn’t enough to turn a momma gray, the surge of aggressive girls taking the initiative with guys at a very young age, trying to lure them into sexual activity has increased dramatically :

What in the world is happening?
What is going on in the hearts of some young girls that causes them to be so assertive? I think there are several reasons for what we are seeing: (from Family Life)
  • First, the culture is supporting it.  Movies, television shows, commercials, magazines, books …  they all glamorize sex and intimacy and the right of young women to go after whatever it is they think will make them happy.
  • Second, we have a whole generation of young men who are confused in their own sexual identity. Are they supposed to be sensitive or aggressive? Leaders or helpers?  Many young men today are not being taught how to treat a young lady with nobility, dignity, and respect. Many are growing up without a father or male figure to provide guidance.  As a result, some of these young men have no idea how they should expect to be treated by areal young lady.
  • Third, the breakdown of the family has resulted in a whole generation of daughters who have been abandoned. And in the absence of a healthy, emotional attachment to their fathers and mothers, they’re trying to fill their emotional gas tanks with the opposite sex.
  • Finally, there’s little or no preparation for adolescence occurring among parents of preteens or early teens.  This may be the core problem.  When you ask parents of preteens how many of them would like their children to have the same experience they had in adolescence, there aren’t many hands that go up.  But those same parents often become increasingly detached as their children move into the adolescent years.

Seven Things We Must Tell Our Daughters:
  1. You are Valuable:: She needs to know she is important and so valued that you will protect her with rules and boundaries because you love her. There is safety and comfort within those restrictions, even when she pushes against them.
  2. Your Worth Isn’t Based on Your Appearance:: She needs to be told she is beautiful–not because she’s wearing a sassy outfit or new lipgloss–her worth is not found in her appearance, the opinions of others or herself. She is beautiful because she was created in the image of God. Her appearance has little to do with true beauty and her worth isn’t wrapped up in looking good or being perfect.
  3. You Don’t Need a Guy:: She needs to hear starting at a young age (but it’s never too late to start telling her). She needs to be told a boy doesn’t complete her, God does. Chasing or enticing or wanting a guy doesn’t make her attractive and it doesn’t make her a woman. The only guy she needs in her life for a long time is her Dad or a father figure until God brings her a husband if that’s His plan.
  4. You Are Amazing:: Our daughters need to hear we are proud of them. She is enough. Tell her out of all the girls in the world, you’d always choose her. Sadly, she will be tempted to spend a lot of time in life trying to prove her value to others. Create an atmosphere where she is loved, just like she is.
  5. You Don’t Have to Believe What You Hear:: She needs to hear your affirming voice in her head. Because there will be mean girls in her life, peers with pressure and adults in her world who will let her down and have low expectations of her. She needs to hear the opposite at home, your voice will lead her to Him and she’ll know who to listen to.
  6. You Have Me:: No matter what happens in life, the ups and downs that will come her way, the losses and gains, our daughters must know we are there for them. She needs to know she can talk to you about anything. Anytime.
  7. You Can Change the World:: She needs to know she can dream big and can accomplish whatever she wishes. She can do so with God by her side and she doesn’t need a boy or society to make it happen. She can be anything she want to be with your help. Stand by her, with her and watch her fly.
I’m raising two daughters in this world and my heart cries for Jesus to rescue us all. But until He does, I can’t always protect or shield them, so I will tell them the truth. I can’t  change this world, but I can prepare them for it.

“Our daughters are precious, intrinsically valuable and deserve better — they deserve to be cherished and protected.” -Amy Gerwing

Kristen is a mom, wife, and author of the blog We Are THAT Family. She and her family founded Mercy House, a non-profit maternity home in Kenya aiding pregnant girls living in extreme poverty. If that weren't awesome enough, she has written Don't Make Me Come Up There (a devotional for busy moms) and That Works For Me (a compilation of over 800 tips & tricks for everyday life). Go check out her funny, honest, and inspiring blog for yourself!

PS. Don't forget to enter to win some earrings!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Just say no to mom jeans

Today's another fun day for A Month 4 Moms! We're talking about fashion folks!! Just like with the 5 Minute Face post, I totally think that motherhood doesn't have to equal wearing t-shirts and yoga pants everywhere. Of course, if you asked my husband, he'd probably tell you that's my official uniform these days. Hanging around the house all day often equals pajamas for me and onesies for the boy. I'd love to say that getting fixed up everyday is a must, but honestly it's just not a priority when the only person I'm looking at all day is my reflection in the mirror.

Going out? Church? Running Errands? Totally different story.

Initially, I was going to include a M4M blog about postpartum weight loss... until I realized that I know nothing about losing weight after baby since I'm currently still holding onto, ohhhhh, about a dozen extra pounds. Putting together some new outfits to fit a postpartum body? GOT IT. I've learned a few things about getting this squishy, pudgy body dressed for the day with a baby in tow. Check out my short list of do's and dont's.

1. Don't wear black. Black might be slimming, but invariably, this will happen:
That's dried spit up folks and there's no hiding it on black. 
I can't tell you how many times I've gotten dressed [[wearing black]] and while walking out the door, I  get a little baby barf on one or both shoulders. Never Fails. Light colors and prints equal wipe off and keep going, but with black (Lets just go ahead & lump navy in this category too... dark colors just aren't forgiving when it comes to curdled milk baby spit up), it's a change-your-entire-outfit kinda thing. Save yourself some of that valuable time and just say no to black.

2. Do light layers. This also helps with the unexpected baby contributions. Peel off top layer and voila! You're still good. Having a stockpile of mix and match layers makes it easy to pick and go super fast. Also, layers are key when being discreet while nursing. Totally honest here: I sometimes wear 2 camis underneath a top for extra boob coverage. One cami comes up, one cami comes down, belly's covered, cleavage is covered... you get the picture, right? Layering it up folks!

Top/Cardi: Gap Outlet, Jeans: True Religion, Flats: Gap, Earrings: My Splash of Color
Layers done right will help to camouflage some pudgy parts, but don't get sucked into spending a ton of money buying new clothes. You can get some great deals on those basic "stockpile" kinda pieces. Old Navy and Target have cami's and tanks for a steal. I've signed up for email notifications with Gap and Loft and literally EVERY WEEK they've got stuff on sale. Tonight, I got an email that Loft is having a 60% off sale-- and when their cardigans are a bargain, I'll get a few in different colors, which are perfect for layering up. Finally, when creating a layered look, I like to remember the Stacy & Clinton/What Not To Wear mantra: Color, Texture, Pattern, Shine. In the photo: mint cardi (color- check!), embroidered top (texture- check!), cheetah flats (pattern- check!), sparklicious earrings (shine- check!). Easy enough!

3. Do the skinny jean/full blouse look. This is another postpartum body ensemble score. The flowy top plus the skinny jean equals smaller appearance with the fluffy bits all hidden away. The #2 and #3 looks have become my daily go-to outfits. Add some boots and give yourself 10 extra points
Top: Gap outlet, Jeans: Loft, Boots: Frye
Getting a fantastic pair of jeans will make you feel like a million bucks every time you wear them. I have worn the same three pricey but awesome pairs of jeans for going on five years now, which for me, makes the extra money spent upfront totally worth it. Having a problem fitting back into those pre-baby jeans? *whispers* Use the old hair-tie/button trick. It'll give you an extra inch with a little stretch too. I may or may not know someone who does this.

4. Do a dress. Light. Airy. Feminine... the perfect pick-me-up for those days where being a mom has drained you of all lady-likeness. Plus, dresses can cover a multitude of sins. You really can't go wrong with a great wrap dress. A t-shirt dress plus a belt is simple and cute without looking stuffy or formal.
Dress: Gap Outlet, Belt: Francesca's, Shoes: Gap
There's just nothing easier and more put together looking than throwing on a dress. One piece and you're done! Plus, living on the coast, it's cool and breezy to kick around in a dress and sandals. One drawback to the dress in the picture? It's not very nursing-friendly, but Isaac won't be breastfeeding forever, and I'll have this great dress to wear for years!

5. Do rock some fun accessories

Scarves and fun belts, necklaces, earrings, bracelets... it's all going to give that outfit a little extra polish. Investing in a few multi-use statement pieces will really go a long way and add a little pop to everyday life.  I don't know if you noticed the fabulously sparkl-icious earrings, but they definitely fit the bill... and guess what?! Some lucky reader will win their own pair!!!! High Five sister friend! Adrienne from My Splash of Color is graciously giving away a pair of earrings -- and she sent me a pair too! How's that for customer service!?
One lucky gal will get these awesome earrings!
This is the easiest giveaway ever! A Facebook "like" and you're in like flint (just make sure to use the Rafflecopter widget!). Here's what Adrienne has to say about her business: Where can you find that one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry and add a "Splash of Color" to your wardrobe, all in the comfort of your own home?? That's what My Splash of Color offers. Visit My Splash of Color, "like" the page and visit every other Tuesday for some great deals on great jewelry. Visit throughout each week to get sneak previews of upcoming shows along with chances to win great pieces. Get excited, this is going to be fun!!! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Finishing Strong

March is already 2/3 of the way finished and I feel like the crunch is on to end M4M on a good note. I think there's been more activity on the blog this month than any other month since clicking the "start blog" button in 2008. I definitely have a newfound respect for you awesome bloggers out there who post on a daily basis-- it's definitely a full-time job! Despite the time commitment, I have been totally jazzed by the guest blogs and the feedback that's been coming in during M4M. So much so, I've been thinking about doing a M4M redux maybe once or twice a month in the future. Which begs the question(s):

Would you like to see M4M continued in the future???

What topics are you interested in reading about???

Leave me a comment and let me know what your thoughts are!

From here to the end of the month, we've got some great posts still on the way from some awesome guests. Coming soon is a sweet story of adoption, which I'm super excited about. I'll also be posting about quick/easy/fun fashion for Moms which'll include a fun giveaway. Another post will be about discipling your children from an incredible mom of three teenage boys. I hope you guys enjoy these blogs as much as I do!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Other Man

Today's extra special guest blogger is Samantha from Every Shade In Between. Sam's husband and my husband have been best buddies since they were children, so when Philip married Samantha a few years back, it's like I had a built in friend-- and I am truly thankful for this sweet friendship. Samantha's also a boy mom who recently traded corporate life in Chicago for mom life in the burbs. Today she talks about the importance of taking care of the other man -- the husband! 

About two weeks after the birth of our son, Ethan, I remember having a little breakdown over how much my relationship with my husband, Philip, had quickly changed. We were just approaching our fifth wedding anniversary and had gotten quite accustomed to life with just the two of us. We both knew that having a baby would change our dynamic, but I suppose we hadn't realized quite how much. Philip reassured me that there would be time for the two of us again soon and that the first few weeks with a new baby are naturally going to be hectic (to say the least!). As we have settled into a new routine and become used to our family of three, I have found that we have to work a little bit harder to keep our connection strong. When you have a new baby, naturally they are often going to take center stage. But we also believe that God comes first, then our marriage, then our children. We want our child/future children to see that mommy and daddy have a healthy, loving relationship. One day, those children will grow up and leave and it will just be the two of us again.

Here are a few things that we've done that have helped to strengthen and grow our marriage:
  1. Make Time Together - and savor that time together. This seems pretty obvious, but it's much easier said than done. We had a baby who screamed every night from 5pm until 10 or even 11pm for the first 8 weeks. There was no alone time. After two months of that, we felt very disconnected from each other. Getting out for a date wasn't much of an option as we don't have family that lives close and I didn't feel comfortable leaving our baby with a stranger just yet. However, we did make sure that anytime family came to visit we got out for a break, even if it meant going to Starbucks for 30 minutes. Now that we have our evenings free, we try to make every Friday night our own "date night." Even though we often don't leave the house, it's a chance for us to unwind. We order take out or cook a meal together and rent a movie. Pretty simple, but it gives us a few hours to reconnect and relax. I've found that our time together doesn't have to be fancy or expensive - we really just need it to be the two of us doing something we enjoy.
  2. Communicate. Another seemingly obvious one, but we struggled with this when we first had Ethan. We learned that we needed to be very clear with our expectations for who does what with the baby, the house, etc. I would feel upset with Philip over something that he had no idea was bothering me and vice versa. I learned that if I was feeling overwhelmed, I just needed to tell him! We also make time to pray together and we both feel that helps bring intimacy into the relationship. 
  3. Let Him Find His Own Groove. At first, I found that I tended to push Philip out of the way because I had more experience with babies. I'm home with Ethan all day and it's easy to just handle things myself. But doing that was leading to some resentment on my part and I felt he wasn't always helping enough... but I wasn't giving him the chance!! I'm really working on letting Philip have time just with Ethan to figure things out on his own. He won't do things exactly like me, and that's okay. If Ethan goes down for a nap 10 minutes later than my schedule typically plans for, it will be okay! By letting Philip take care of Ethan more often, he feels more confident in his parenting skills and I get a little break. I also think that by allowing Philip to take charge sometimes, it helps build respect for each other. If I take over all the time, it communicates that I think he may not be competent. Leaving him alone with the baby shows respect for his ability to manage and also acknowledges the importance of his influence in our child's life. He'll be more quick to jump in and help if he understands what is involved in caring for our little one and I feel more supported and respected as a result.
I know we will continue to face challenges together as life moves through its seasons. After all,our children need us. Their needs are loud and urgent and ever-present, and it's easy to let them take center stage and put our spouse's needs (and our own) on a shelf for later... My prayer is that if we remember to work together in keeping our relationship a priority, keep the lines open (to each other AND to God), and trust my husband to parent along with me, we'll grow closer as our family grows bigger. I believe that when we honor each other and hold marriage in high esteem that God will bless us.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The 5 Minute face

It never fails.

You're getting ready to go someplace and suddenly time gets sucked into some weird otherworldly vortex. Something about feeding and diapers and spit ups and getting dressed and then the ensuing diaper explosion... how do moms get anywhere on time?? But does motherhood HAVE to equal frump?! I like to think not, but there is definitely a need for easy routines and organizing the tiny amounts of time we do get for ourselves. Today I'd like to share with you my Five Minute Face. If you can spare 5 minutes, you can go from tired and frumpy to transformed and fab.

First, the goods:

  1. Prep: Primer (Laura Mercier)
  2. Prep: Shadow Insurance (Too Faced)
  3. Face: Foundation (Bobbi Brown)
  4. Face: Concealer (Bobbi Brown)
  5. Face: Bronzer (Laura Mercier)
  6. Face: Blush (Tarte)
  7. Face: Powder (Mac)
  8. Eyes: Eye Shadow (Mac)
  9. Eyes: Eye Liner (Revlon)
  10. Eyes: Highlighter (Mac)
  11. Eyes: Mascara (Benefit)
That might look like a lot of items, but I guarantee you, I have timed myself on multiple occasions and in 5 minutes (usually less) I can be made up and done! Each time I do my my makeup, I apply it in the same order, so when I'm short on time, I pull out what I need and organize it into 3 groups: Prep, Face, and Eyes. This way, I'm not rifling through my makeup bag trying to find the next item on my list, which in the end actually saves me time. Plus, laying my makeup out in the specific order that I apply it allows me to grab, apply, and toss back in my bag quickly. Another pre-Five Minute Face must?? A clean face of course!

Oh Lawdy. There I am with ZERO makeup. On the Interwebz.
So once you've got your makeup ready and your face ready, it's time to get moving. First step is prep. Adding in a face and eyelid primer takes only a few seconds, but keeps your makeup looking great all day. Not only that, but with a little face prep, your makeup goes on faster, smoother, and you use less! After finishing your skin prep, it's time for step 2 which is face/base makeup. This includes foundation, concealer, bronzer, blush, and powder. Don't get weary! It'll only take a couple of minutes-- and you've got five, right? Start with the foundation and use it only on the important parts: forehead, nose, and chin. You'll be putting bronzer and blush on your cheeks, so don't worry about covering your entire face with foundation. Dotting it on those three spots will cut down time from covering and blending over your entire face. Two or three quick swipes and done. Concealer is for those dark under eye circles... perfect for covering up that "I-was-up-three-times-last-night" look.

See? Already starting to look smoothed out. Next is bronzer & blush to warm up your face and give it a little life. The bronzer goes down each side of your face in a "C" shape, meaning you start just above the temples and swoop it down and under your cheekbones. Blend it around and then tap on a little blush right on the apples of your cheeks. On top of all that is a quick dusting of powder. Face is done!

A little contouring and flushed cheeks. She's alive! She's alive!
Last step is eye makeup! You're almost done!! If I weren't taking photos of this whole process, I'd be a little past the 3 minute mark. Next is eyeshadow, liner, highlighter, and mascara. With the five minute face routine, I like to use a neutral, medium dark colored eyeshadow. Easy to apply, not too light or too dark. I also splurge on good eyeshadow, because they're more pigmented and smoother meaning it is easy to apply and doesn't take much to make an impact. Currently, I'm using Mac Satin Taupe and I LOVE it. Apply one good swipe to each eyelid and then liner on each upper lid. After this comes the two most important steps of the whole burrito. Yum... burritos. I'm so hungry. Focus, Hollie, Focus! 45 seconds left! On the inside corners of each lid, put a little highlighter -- it'll really open up those peepers and fake a wide-eyed awake look. It's worth the extra seconds, and I rarely leave the house without it. Currently, I'm using Mac Crystal Avalanche. Lastly is mascara, which I also rarely leave the house without. Give your uppers & lowers a good coat and toss it in the bag. Take a step back and check out your hard work. You're done!

So there you have it, five minutes later and you're looking fresh and alive. Starting with the primer means your hard work will last all day. Now, whether or not you get around to hair also, that's a whole other story. Take some time today to make yourself look (and then feel!!!) gorgeous! (By the way, these are the products I use everyday *obvsly. I wasnt compensated in any way for using them in this post or including the links. I just really like them and I think you might as well. Over & Out.)

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