Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Every good and perfect gift



By the time you read this, the next day will be Thanksgiving! I wrote briefly on how I am attempting to step back and practice gratitude throughout the entire month. One thing I have learned over time is that when you set an intention for yourself - especially a spiritual one - things often go differently than planned. When I pray for humility or patience, God provides me with experiential learning. So it should come as no surprise that oftentimes I had thoughts that were far from grateful. I found myself having moments of self doubt, and I fell into a pattern of thinking "what's next?" rather than being content with my current circumstances. I've mentioned before how powerful our thoughts can be, and so those thoughts left me feeling downright antsy. It wasn't until I took a step back that I was able to recenter myself. Many times I have to tell others exactly what I need to hear, in order to do so. Therefore here is a message for you and me:

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

God's love for you is constant. No matter your attitude, no matter your thoughts, no matter if you can see it or not. He is steady, waiting. Every seemingly mundane good thing that has happened in your life is a gift simply because He loves you. 

The time that stranger held the door open for you.
When someone pays for your breakfast.
Your friend who calls you out of the blue to ask how you are.
A faith community you are a part of.
Your education and your job. 
Family, no matter how complicated.

It is easy to overlook things that are in our daily lives. We begin to take them for granted simply because they are always there. The same is true for God. We forget to thank Him for our lives, for the simple things. How different would our outlook be if we made every mundane task an offering to Him, as a sign of thankfulness? 

I challenge you today to say a prayer of Thanksgiving for the large and the small gifts in your life. Enjoy your holiday. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Overflowing with thankfulness



grat·i·tude
/ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od
noun
  1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

November is upon us, friends, and I couldn't be happier. The weather is crisp, the leaves have changed to varying colors of red, orange and yellow. While Thanksgiving is at the end of the month, I am challenging myself to practice gratitude throughout November. Often I take the blessings in my life for granted. I would like to make time each day to sit back, take notice, and thank God for them. I love the definition above (thanks Google!) because it reminds us of a key component of gratitude: returning kindness. When we reflect on all of the good in our lives, we respond with love and kindness towards others. In fact, one would say we overflow with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7). We cannot help but extend our gifts, our blessings to others.

Gratitude also leads us to prayer. How could it not? I see the blessings in my life: my church, my husband, my daughter, my friends, my education. God is generous to us, and in turn I come to the conclusion that I don't deserve any of it. I once had a friend tell me that humility is just that, knowing you do not deserve the gifts God gives you, but recognizing them and using them anyway. God's love for me is overwhelming, and I need to recognize all the good he has put in my path.

Practicing gratitude means that we as people need to rest. With all of the day's responsibilities, this can be difficult. Resting, taking note of all around us, and whispering a prayer of thanksgiving can challenge us to step outside of our daily grind and truly appreciate our lives on a deeper level. This month I want to rest in God's love. I want to note one thing I am thankful for each day whether that is through journaling or listing them aloud. How can you practice gratitude this month?



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Simple banana bread

Back in April of 2013, my friends and family threw me a bridal shower. All guests were asked by my maid of honor and bridesmaids to bring a recipe card, so I could begin to put my family cook book together.


My friends know me too well. I love cooking. Some of my first memories are of me standing on a stool, helping my grandmother wash dishes or my mother make apple pie from scratch. When I visit friends and family, we inevitably gather around the kitchen island to talk. For my family, food is a simple way to show someone we care. So when I was given family recipes by my friends, it meant so much to me.

One of the recipes included was this banana bread. Sweet, simple, and delicious. Banana bread is a staple in our home, and my husband's favorite breakfast. This recipe requires no special equipment and is easy to adjust to your own personal preferences. In fact I love to call this a "base" recipe that you can use and add ingredients as desired. You can add walnuts, chocolate chips, or cinnamon to the recipe to make it your own. I have done all three with great results! With that being said, you can make it "as is" and enjoy the flavor as well.




Simple Banana Bread

Prep time: 15 minutes 
Difficulty: Easy
Cook time: 1 hour
Yields: 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large, ripe bananas - look for brown spots
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

METHOD
1. Cream together butter and sugar using a hand or stand mixer.
2. Beat eggs, add to butter and sugar.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to butter mixture.
4. Mash the bananas using a fork, mix in.
5. Add vanilla extract, mixing until combined.
6. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit in loaf pan for 5 minutes. Finish cooling on wire rack. 

If you would like to add any ingredients such as nuts, chocolate chips, or raisins fold in before pouring into loaf pan. 



Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Reflecting on my first year of motherhood


My baby girl is one year old this week, and so my emotions have been all over the place! I have written a letter to her, sealed it, and will be giving it to her when she is older during a special life event - marriage, having her own child, graduating college. In that letter I included all my hopes and dreams for her future, and so that is a private gift between her and I. I also thought it would be nice to write down some of my reflections from my first year of motherhood, to look back on in the future. This post may be all over the place as a result.

Thinking back over this past year, the only thing I can think is wow. So much has changed in what feels like so short of a time. Motherhood has been different than I expected, but in the best way possible. I have never been more exhausted, physically and emotionally, and I have never been more in love. More in love with my child, more in love with my husband, more in love with my life. There are so many moments I know I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. At the same time, it wasn't easy.

Luckily, over time I learned love outweighs perfection. I was reaching for some lofty goal of being the "perfect mother". There is no such thing. I know for a fact that I am the perfect mother for my child. I am the mother she needs, and her smiles and kisses tell me that. My only goal before I had my daughter was for my children to go to bed every day knowing they are loved, and I can happily say that so far that appears to be true. I am proud of myself for that.

Love also needs to be evenly distributed. Being a stay at home mother means that I wake up to my job, and I work until I go to bed. At least in this past year it did. I lost myself at times, and I am so grateful to have a husband call me out on that and help me try to find a balance. I am more than a mom, I am a wife, and I am my own person too. I founded this blog as a way to nurture myself and my own passions, and am glad I did. Taking time for myself each week and using this as a creative outlet has made me feel like me again.

This past year has shown me how amazing my family and friends are. My family - both my relatives and my husband's - have been there for us many times. I have friends both old and new who have helped me more than they can imagine. With every kind word and gentle push when needed, I have grown as a mother and a person. I am happy that our relationships are even stronger than before.

Baby girl, if you ever somehow run across this know that I am a better person just for knowing you. I wrote that in my journal at two months pregnant, and it continues to be true. You are the light of my life, my most precious gift, and I feel and see God in you daily. I am not sure what I have done to be so lucky, but know I never take it for granted.

Eric, you are my best friend. Thank you for being my partner in this new phase of our lives. There is no one I would have rather embarked on this adventure with but you. "Yours was the first face that I saw. I think I was blind before I met you." I see you now more clearly than I ever have. Thank you for being my partner, and walking with me hand in hand.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Forgiveness is a choice



My eyes popped open, and my heart was racing. The thought, "why?" piercing through my mind like a blade. I had been in this place before. I rolled over to look at my husband, trying to steady my breathing, match his. The thing about having anxiety is it hits you at inconvenient times, like when you're asleep. I bury my head under the covers trying to wrap myself in a cocoon. Eventually, I am able to rest again.

Like I said, I've been in this place before. I've had some things happen in my life. I've made mistakes, I have regrets, and I have been hurt. I have had friends dump me out of the blue, and people twist my words and actions. Instead of being angry at them though, I have often turned it back on myself. "What did I do that caused them to do that? What could I have done better? Am I what they say I am?"

Here's the thing: we are all human. We all make mistakes. However, sometimes things happen to us that were not our fault. I had something like that happen to me a few months ago. I racked my brain and read messages over and over. I sought counsel from friends, family, and church members. They laughed, laughed when I explained what happened. Not at my pain, but at the situation. It was so clear to them that I wasn't at fault, how could I not see it?

It was then that I stopped blaming myself. It was then I let the anger in. How could this happen? Why? I am not a perfect person, but I didn't deserve that. Everyone says so! Why isn't God doing anything about it? Where is the justice? I was a child shaking my fist at the sky and stomping my feet in the dirt.

While sorting through all of those thoughts and feelings, I was often told, "you have to forgive". There is so much guilt around forgiveness. It is something we "have to" do. Even if you aren't ready, even if you aren't vocalizing your hurt any more, even if you are still wrapping your mind around it. I've been told that by people's words and actions. Priests. Church groups. Friends. Family.

Enough.

I broke down to my friend, "I just don't understand. I don't think I will ever understand." "That's because you are trying to rationalize something that doesn't make any sense. If it doesn't make sense, it is about them. It isn't about you." Suddenly my breathing grew slower, my heart didn't beat as fast. It wasn't my fault. I can always learn, always improve, always grow...but this? This was not my doing.

I allowed myself to think about it when I needed to, and distracted myself when I didn't. I no longer felt the need to talk about it. I stopped analyzing how I could have done something differently. I prayed, and suddenly that person's name entered my mind. I've been here before, too. I've prayed for all of them. In that prayer, I forgive them. Truly, and with my heart.

However, that doesn't mean I stop hurting. That doesn't mean I am anxiety free. Sometimes that fear, concern, anger, or hurt enters my mind and my heart again. Which leads me to this: forgiveness is a choice. You choose over and over again to love that person despite what they did. You choose to hope the best for their future. You choose to live your life with love, kindness, and most of all joy. Despite what happened.

Why? Because God modeled that behavior for us. Time after time after time. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matthew 18:21-22)
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25)
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:15-16)

In the simplest terms, I choose to forgive because I know God makes the choice every day to forgive me. I mess up. I do so accidentally, and sometimes I do so on purpose. He loves me anyway. I choose to forgive because it hurts to hold a grudge. Sometimes you have to let go of something simply because it is heavy. I choose to forgive because I don't want anything bad to happen to anyone. I want for them to repent, I want for them to know God's love, and I want them to change. I want for them to never hurt someone ever again. But because I hurt people too, I know they will. And I know God will forgive them, just as He forgives me, if I ask of it.

You don't "have to" forgive, but it feels good when you do. When you make the conscious effort to say you are stronger than your hurt. When you recognize you are more than the ever changing tides of your thoughts and feelings. When you choose to let go, and see the peaks and valleys lying before you. Waiting for you to pick up, and start again.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Breastfeeding Essentials

Today we are talking all about my breastfeeding essentials! I'm in my eleventh month of breastfeeding, and am so close to the year mark. Along the way I have tried out different products, and what others claimed I would need. I have put together a list of the top ten things that helped me continue breastfeeding, and what may be helpful to you as well if you are a new mom. You can click on each product picture to go to the product on Amazon. As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.

A comfy chair: This may seem obvious, but it wasn't for me. I had my grandmother's old wooden rocking chair and thought, "that'll do". I slapped a cheap cushion on it and went to the hospital without a second glance. I ended up getting an episiotomy, and that chair ended up in another room. For the first few weeks I actually preferred to sit on the floor during night feedings. Trust me, get yourself a comfortable chair. You will use it, especially if you live in a two story home. I definitely didn't want to go downstairs every feeding to sit on the sofa, and I preferred not to co-sleep when my baby was really little.


   

A water bottle: Have one in the places around your home where you typically nurse. When you breastfeed you can almost feel your throat dry up. Be sure to stay hydrated in order to continue to produce breastmilk!





Breastfeeding pillows: Try out a few different ones, or use a pillow from around the home. Breastfeeding is pretty physically demanding on your back and your arms, so proper posture is important.




Lanolin/nipple cream: Just trust me on this, your nipples will thank you.




Soft shells: When I started breastfeeding I had an oversupply as well as a blood blister (ouch!). At one of my daughter's doctor's appointments the doctor took a look and recommended these to me. When you have sore or aching breasts, getting air to them is very important. Moreover, breast milk has healing properties! This product allows air flow and collects milk. Don't feed that milk to your child, and empty them often. You will feel better in no time.





Nursing bras and a sleep bra: or you can use nursing tanks. I bought a few off of Amazon, and they have lasted me the year. Easy access to your boobies is worth it, as often as you will feed. No need for fancy nursing clothes if you have these, as I mentioned in my previous post.





A baby carrier: I am a huge proponent of babywearing because it provides physical touch as well as easy access to breastfeeding! I have worn my daughter around the house and nursed her, all with my hands free to complete whatever task I am working on. When we have multiple little ones running around, I know this will be helpful as well. Look for a babywearing group near you! They often have Facebook pages. My local chapter allows you to try on different carriers and/or borrow them to test drive them.





A breast pump: If you are going back to work and plan to breastfeed, you need a pump! Luckily, many insurance providers cover this so check with your provider. I use the Medela Free Style.




A pumping bra: When I was working part time and pumping, I would often wear a pumping bra and multi-task by doing office work/documentation.





Nursing pads: will keep you from leaking onto your clothes! These are especially useful in the early days when your body is learning how much milk it needs to produce.






And there we have it! Please let me know what your breastfeeding essentials are in the comments.



NOTE: Included in this post are affiliate links to products.