The Ugly Truth of an Overwhelmed Mom and Resentful Wife

I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined the writing team over at Her View From Home, a lifestyle magazine that connects your view to the rest of the world; embracing everyday living through daily articles about family, kids, fashion and health, recipes and faith. Below is an excerpt from my first article.

It’s 10:30 p.m. and I’m exhausted.

The kids have been in bed for an hour, and my husband is asleep on the couch next to me. I shut down the laptop, turn off the TV, and pick up the cordless house phone to put in the charger. I am aware that if I don’t remember to do this tonight we won’t have use of our home phone the next day because someone has used the other handset, forgotten to put it back, and now it’s lost with a dead battery, somewhere in my house.

I pass by the dog’s food dish and see the child responsible for feeding her did not refill the water bowl, so I stop to fill it. I start to climb the steps to the upstairs, picking up a lost sock, a forgotten toy, and dirty dish towel along the way. With each step I climb, I feel the resentment growing inside of me.

I am the director, the scheduler, the planner, the seer, the doer, the organizer, and the manager.

Why don’t they remember to turn off the lights, and pick-up their shoes, and run the dishwasher, and sweep up the spilled cat food without being asked?

To read the full post, click here.

And while you’re at it, give them a like on Facebook.

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This Christmas Give More Without Spending More: Seven places to buy gifts that give back

I love everything about Christmas, but perhaps my favorite part is seeing the look on a loved-ones face when they open a special gift I’ve chosen just for them. Yet, every year it seems to get harder and harder to come up with creative gifts for the people on my list, while staying within budget. In the last few years I’ve begun to seek out gifts that offer more, without having to spend more. What I’ve discovered are companies that not only sell a beautiful, quality product, but give back in some way with each sale.

It’s a double-whammy-win for me when I can give Aunt Ida a beautiful, hand-woven scarf, while also helping a young girl in Uganda get an education. Or get one of my kids some cute Christmas pajamas while helping another kid who is battling cancer.

In the endless aisles of big box stores selling the same old stuff, why not think outside of the (big) box and give gifts that are unique and unexpected? Why not give gifts that offer hope, freedom, education, or a second chance? Because really, who needs another scented candle?

Here’s a list of seven great companies and non-profits that not only offer amazing products, but are making a real impact on the world.

Sseko designs

  1. Sseko Designs – Sseko is a fashion brand based in Uganda. They are probably best known for their customizable women’s ribbon sandals, but they also sell beautiful leather bags, scarves, baby sandals, and jewelry. Sseko began as a way to help Ugandan women of high potential attend university through employment and scholarship. All of the products they sell are hand-made by artisan groups in East Africa – primarily Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia – using locally sourced materials. You can purchase directly from the Sseko Designs website, or find a local consultant to buy through. The one bonus of buying through a consultant is they support specific women, so you can put a name and face of who you are helping send to college with your purchase. Pricing starts at $15 for some accessories and goes up from there.

    cuddle+kind

  2. Cuddle + Kind – Cuddle + Kind was started by the Woodgate family, with the mission of creating something beautiful and safe for kids that would also help feed children around the world. They partner with artisans in Peru to create handcrafted knit dolls. The purchase of each doll provides 10 meals to children around the world through their partnership with World Food Program USA (WFP). The prices of their dolls range from $48 – $72, with over 20 different designs to choose from. They also sell illustrated inspirational prints, which run about $20 each and provide 5 meals for children.

    Punjammies_54_990x660

  3. Sudara (formerly International Princess Project) – Sudara started in 2006 by partnering with a sewing center in India to provide jobs for women trying to escape sex trafficking and slavery. The company’s founder, Shannon Keith, had an idea to create a simple pattern for loungewear pants and teach the women how to sew this pattern – thus came the first pair of Punjammies®. In the last decade Sudara has expanded their products to include women’s and men’s loungewear, graphic tees, children’s clothing, and accessories. But their goal still remains the same: to empower women in India to live in freedom from sex-slavery via safe, sustainable living-wage employment. Prices for clothing range from $29-$79.

    Fashion & Compassion

  4. Fashion & Compassion – Fashion & Compassion was originally founded to help offer employment and a fresh start for U.S. victims of sex-trafficking. Over the years, they have expanded their mission to help women in Charlotte, NC who are in need of economic stability, as well as helping women in Kampala, Uganda create micro-businesses and small village banks. They do this by selling hand-crafted jewelry, home goods, and accessories made by the women in both Charlotte and Kampala. Fashion & Compassion is a non-profit, which helps keep the pricing of their products very reasonable, and means that 100% of their net proceeds goes back into the communities they serve. Prices start as low as $9.

    yuhme

  5. Yuhme – Started by a Swedish husband and wife team, Yuhme sells water bottles made from a special type of bio plastic produced from sugarcane (meaning they have a negative C02 footprint). They also partner with Water for Good – a U.S.-based organization providing clean drinking water solutions throughout Central Africa. Each water bottle you purchase provides 6 months of clean water for one person. Their bottles are dishwasher safe and hold 750 ml (approximately 25 oz). They have three designs to choose from, each costing about $33 USD and shipping to the United States is less than $7.

    soapbox soaps

  6. SoapBox Soaps – SoapBox Soaps was founded in 2010 with the idea of creating an everyday, quality product that would change the world. Today they sell a variety of personal care and bath products and for every product sold a bar of soap, or month of clean water, is donated to a person in need – both in the U.S. and around the world. The company also partners with organizations to provide clean water, vitamins, and hygiene education. Each product has a unique “Hope Code” which, if entered on their website, will show you which project your purchase is supporting. SoapBox products can be purchased online from the website or at major retailers, such as Walgreens, Walmart, and Target.

    stjude

  7. Jude Giftshop – You are likely very familiar with the name St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — well-known for both their cutting-edge cancer research and treatment, as well as their promise to never make a family pay more than they can afford for treatment. But did you know that St. Jude has an online gift shop that sells products ranging from soup mixes to soup mugs, from Christmas ornaments to Christmas pajamas? They also have a great “for him” section for all of those hard-to-buy-for men on your list. More importantly, though, 100% of the profits from each purchase goes back to St. Jude. Pricing starts as low as $6.

These are just a few of my favorite places to shop for gifts that “give back” and I know there are many, many more. I’d love to hear about some of your favorites and add a few new ones to my list.

 

{Please note that the author was in no way compensated or incentivized to mention any of the above brands or organizations. She just thinks giving back to the community and creating a better world for her children is pretty awesome.}

90 days of thanks and giving, part 2

In the big picture, 90 days is just a tiny blip on the timeline of my life. A small fraction of the days I have spent here on earth, and hope to spend in the future. But when you’re in the midst of something really challenging, or when you’re waiting for something, 90 days can feel like an eternity.

Ninety days ago I began an experiment, set-out on a small journey, to see what it would be like to practice intentional gratitude every day for three months. I wish I could tell you that this challenge got easier the longer I did it. That, like working out or going to bed early, once I made the commitment and stuck to it for a month or two it became routine. But the truth is, finding something to be grateful for has often been difficult. Once I got through the obvious ones (my kids, my husband, my job, etc.) I had to really examine my world to find something new each day, made more challenging on the really hard days.

90days1

Unfortunately, the last 90 days have not been a season where things just seem to fall into place, and life flows along at a normal pace. It’s been a really, really hard three months in so many ways — emotionally, spiritually, relationally, financially, physically, etc. In fact, as I was writing this post my husband informed me that the dealer called…our SVU needs over $6,000 in repairs. *sigh* The hard continues.

But here’s what I’ve learned in this season, while doing this experiment:
God wants our gratitude and praise, even when we seem in short-supply of praise-worthy things.

Of course it’s easy to be thankful for all we have once per year, when looking around at the sum total. And of course it’s easy to be grateful when sickness is healed, and bills are paid, and the house is clean, and marriages are strong, and children are happy. But if we are only able to express gratitude when we feel blessed, then we have misunderstood the complexity and abundance of God’s love and provision.

90days1b

In Philippians, Paul tell us to: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:4-6)

What really gets me about this scripture is how much Paul repeats himself in just three verses. Twice he tells us to rejoice. Then he emphasizes the frequency in which we should rejoice and be thankful, saying “always” and “in every situation.” His main point is pretty clear. Paul doesn’t say to rejoice only when things are good. He doesn’t say to speak with thanksgiving only in the month of November. He says to do these things all of the time because “the Lord is near.”

And that’s it! That’s the only reason we need. The only catalyst to feel gratitude or to live a life of thanks and praise is God’s presence in our lives.

This is what the last 90 days have taught me. That when I stop and look, I can see God’s presence in my life every day.

When I am exhausted and worn down from the events of the day, I can see His presence in the quiet minutes after I crawl into bed.
90days2

When I’m stressed about financial burdens, I can see His presence in my daughter opening her first savings account and earning her own money.
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When I’m filled with worry and anxiety over my son, I can see God’s presence in my son’s smile while tossing the football with his dad.
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When life feels messy, and hard, and overwhelming, I can see God’s presence in a group of friends gathered in our living room, praying together.
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So for 90 days this has been my objective, to find these moments, this evidence of God’s presence. As I already admitted, it hasn’t been easy. Many times I’ve been distracted by my own wants and worries and fears, and I’ve had to really work to see past this, to see God.

But He is steadfast. He is always near.

So I’m gonna keep on looking. I’m going to keep praising Him. I’m going to keep on coming to Him with thanksgiving, “in every situation.”

Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

 

#90daysof Thanksand Giving

 

This is the conclusion of my 90 day challenge. To read about how it all began, click here.

How do we prevent sibling rivalry?

As a mom of three kids, two of whom are twins, one of my biggest challenges is keeping sibling rivalry at bay. I realize that some form of sibling rivalry is inevitable and it’s been happening since the beginning of time (thank you very much, Cain and Abel). My sister and I certainly fought and competed with one another growing up. But I always imagined — before having children – that my kids would love and support one-another, growing-up to be best friends. There were even signs that this might happen when they were very little. My eldest doted on her baby brother and sister when they came home from the hospital, bringing them her blankets and stuffed animals when they cried. When they were toddlers, my twins would waddle out to the playground hand-in-hand, or help each other up when they fell. It was so sweet and heart-warming…and lasted precisely 19 months, 16 days, 3 hours, and 27 seconds.

Now, here I am today with a teenager and two pre-teens. Mornings are torture as they snap at each other, blame each other, and try to boss one another around. Mealtime is filled with arguing over whose turn it is to talk, trying to get one another in trouble, or telling us about what the others did wrong at school that day. And car trips. Oh, don’t get me started on car trips! They are the worst! If I had a dollar for every time I said “no more talking, looking, or breathing at each other until we get home,” I would be able to afford that $30k a year private college my teen is eyeing.

Those pre-children dreams I had of raising three best friends are a distant memory now. Most days I’m just hoping nobody gets pushed down a well or sold to traveling Ishmaelite’s (thank you very much to all of Joseph’s brothers for planting that idea in my kids’ heads)!

I may not be able to completely stop the fighting and bickering that happens between my three, but one area I haven’t been willing to give up on is keeping them from the comparison trap. I never want any of my kids to feel like they aren’t as good as their sibling(s), or that they are expected to be the same. I know that this type of sibling rivalry will only create resentment and separation. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed as they get older this seems to be happening more and more, and it literally keeps me up at night worrying about the impact to their self-esteem, and their relationships.

Despite the many nights spent worrying and praying over this, and my resolve to not let it happen, I can tell you that [spoiler alert] I unequivocally have not figured out a perfect formula to prevent it. But there are a few things that seem to help more days than not, and I’m sharing these with you in hopes you will also share what is working in your family. Maybe together we can create our own play book on how to prevent a lifetime of competition and animosity between our children.

  1. Help them choose goals that are specific to their talents and abilities. This year all of my kids decided to run cross country. The three of them have varying degrees of athletic ability and experience running and if they all had the same goal of coming in first in their age group or running the same time, it would create a lot of frustration, disappointment, and comparison. So I talked to them regularly about what their individual goals were, focusing on improving on their previous times, and achieving personal bests, instead of all vying for the same goals. We do this with grades, too. My youngest daughter has really struggled with her spelling grade, so our focus this year has been on improving that. While my high-schooler has a history of late or missing homework assignments, so our focus has been eliminating those. This way we can celebrate when each child achieves a personal milestone that is meaningful to them, instead of only celebrating who got the most A’s and B’s.

 

  1. Privately encourage the older siblings to mentor the younger ones in specific areas. Now, I realize this may not work in every sibling situation. But my teen is great at making others feel included. She’s always been the kid who seeks out the loners and sits with them at lunch. Meanwhile, my younger daughter has been struggling to balance different groups of friends and the hurt feelings that can come between middle-school girls. Frankly, she doesn’t always like my advice or listen to it because, well I’m her mom – what do I know! So I’ve asked her sister to talk to her about it because my younger daughter looks up to her big sister. It lifts her up to think her big sister is taking a decided interest in her life. Meanwhile, it makes my eldest feel needed and important, instead of feeling annoyed by her little sister.

    If there is something one of your younger kids is struggling with, consider bringing in an older sibling, sharing only what is necessary and appropriate so as not to break confidences, and encourage them to help out. It inspires the older sibling, showing them what an important role they can play, while potentially opening doors to a pattern of siblings confiding in and supporting each other.

 

  1. Never, ever compare one sibling to another out loud. Notice my caveat of “out loud” here. What I really mean is don’t do it in front of your kids. The psychology magazines will tell you we, as parents, shouldn’t compare our kids at all. But just being real here, that’s not easy for me. Always in my head I look at my younger two and wonder how they are twins when they are SO different in every way. I look at my oldest and wonder how it is her sister is so organized and she struggles. I look at my son and wonder why dental hygiene seems to be so much more important to his sisters than it is to him. But I try very hard not to say these things out loud.

    If my children pick-up that I’m comparing them to their sibling and see one child doesn’t quite match another in a specific area, then they start to do this, too. Not only does it become a slippery slope to one feeling inferior to another, but it gives the other sibling a sense of superiority that I don’t want any of my kids to have (ok, well except maybe with the dental hygiene thing – if only my son cared enough about it to be shamed by his sisters!).

 

Those are three tactics I’ve been trying to employ in my house, and have found success, to varying degrees. I would love to hear what works for you and your children!

3 ways to prevent sibling rivalry

The tiniest seed

Have you ever had one of those weeks, or months, where you keep seeing the same message over, and over again?

Usually when that happens to me it’s because God is trying to get a message across. And for the last several weeks it’s been all about a seed.

A mustard seed, to be exact.

How many of you have seen a mustard seed? It’s pretty small, right? Smaller than a 1 carat diamond, tinier than a grain of rice. But did you know it can grow into a tree that is between 6 – 20 feet tall, with a 20-foot spread of branches?!

I only know this because God has put this verse in front of me so many times over the past month that it instigated my need to understand more.

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”  And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”  And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:14-20

One moment Jesus tells his disciples that they are lacking faith and that’s why they could not heal this little boy. But then in the same breath he says all you need is the tiniest amount of faith — just the size of the smallest seed you can imagine — and it is enough to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. At first, I could only gather that Jesus is telling the disciples that their faith is seriously lacking and doesn’t even amount to a tiny seed.

But as I continued read and research more about the mustard seed, and the other times Jesus had used that analogy, I began to understand that it was less a rebuke of the disciples lacking faith, and more a picture of just how big God’s part is compared to ours.

I think what Jesus is really saying is that all you need is a little bit of faith, and God will provide the rest. He will provide the sunshine and rain, and fertilize the soil so our mustard seed size faith can grow and expand to be a 20 foot tall tree.

We bring just a little to the table in comparison to what He brings.

I don’t know about you, but this is such a comfort to me because sometimes I feel like I have just the tiniest bit of faith. When I’m filled with fear, doubt, and anxiety my bold Sunday-morning, tree-sized faith starts to crumble and crack.

When things get really, really bad I let the words from the enemy consume me and my faith shrinks even more.

And then, just when I think I’ve been through every kind of hard there is, when I think my faith can’t possibly be stretched any further, I find myself on my knees sobbing, and crying out, “Lord I don’t think I can do this, I don’t know that I have enough faith to get up off the floor and move forward.”

And He whispers back, “I will pick you up and be your crutch. Lean on me.”

When I think that I’ve done everything God has asked of me, and I’ve trusted him with my future, my marriage, my children. But then my husband is in the hospital, or my child is suffering and scared, I find myself driving down the highway saying, “God, I don’t think I can do this. I don’t know that I have enough faith to trust you to heal them.”

And He says, “I am the divine healer.”

When I’ve said, “Yes, Lord, I want to obey your calling in my life, I am prepared to be your follower, your disciple, I’ll lead small group Bible studies and women’s retreats.” And then right in the middle of a really bad day, when my son is melting down and my husband and I are fighting and 8 friends are about to walk through our front door for Bible study, I think, “God, I am not equipped for this, my faith is too small to offer hope and encouragement to others.”

He says: “It is my hope they seek, not yours.”

This verse reminds me that God does the heavy lifting, not us. We don’t need a huge, mountainous supply of faith because we have a God who more than makes up for our shortcomings. He knows that I will struggle and sometimes my faith will feel really, really small. He knows there are times I won’t feel bold and brave, but scared and broken.

His promise is that as long as I cling to Him with just the thinnest thread of faith, HE will do the rest. He will give me power to move mountains. Because my strength comes from Him, and not from me.

 

 

Matthew 17:20

Romans 8:38-39