Being ME Bravely

Recently, I’ve stepped into the role of co-coordinator for my local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group.  Planning the meetings for the year and taking a deeper look at the theme of “Be You Bravely” has inspired me to do just that.  Growing up, I was often told that I was a leader, but I didn’t believe it.  I would rather sit back and listen, just be a spectator, rather than stand up in front of people. It’s not that I don’t want the responsibility, it’s that I feel like I have so much on my plate already and I can’t handle anything else with my 4 children under 5. Or, I am simply afraid to speak.

During the summer, I volunteered to plan the creative activities and as I met with the leadership team, I realized that not everyone on the team had the same vision for the group as I did or that of MOPS international.  So, out of passion for what MOPS is about, leading moms to Jesus, whether they know him or not, I found myself in the coordinator position.  This scares me…a lot.  But at the same time, it has brought me so much joy and freedom.  When we step out in faith and do what Christ has called us to do, yes, it can be a little (or a lot) scary, but it brings so much joy to be right in the center of God’s will.  That’s what being me bravely is.  It is bravely following Jesus wherever He takes me.  He is my courage and my strength.


Lately I’ve been thinking about the question “Am I enough?”  This is brought on in part from preparing for our next MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting next week.  The topic for the meeting is “Courage to Forget Comparisons (You are Enough).

As a mommy of 4 tiny kiddos (all under 5) I look at my disaster of a house.  I hear other moms talk about working and caring for their kids, leading groups and attending the YMCA every week.  Taking their kids to soccer camp and school.  Just listening to all they are a part of and how they “keep it together” and keep their houses clean and what not makes my head hurt.  I can’t do it.  I can’t do all of that and stay sane or even be fun to be around.  When I do too much, I’m exhausted…and grouchy.  I don’t like the words that come out of my mouth, especially toward my children.

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege to get away for a weekend in the mountains with some other mommy friends.  Late one night, we sat down and watched ”
Mom’s Night Out.”  We laughed as we watched the outrageous scenario unfold as 3 moms go out on the town for a nice supper, but instead find themselves searching the city for a missing baby, and end up at the jailhouse because of miscommunication (or none at all!)  As the main character, Allie, sits in the lobby of the police station talking to Bones, a tattoo artist and biker, she opens her heart to him and says “I’m just not enough!”

His response was filled with wisdom and truth.  He said “You’re not enough for who? the kids, Sean (her husband)….or not enough for you? … Y’all spend so much time beating yourself up – must be exhausting. Let me tell you somethin’, Sweetheart. I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did. You just be you – he’ll take care of the rest.”

You can watch the whole scene here

Wow…How often do I look at what everyone else is doing as a mom and think, “I should be able to do that!”  I’ve come to realize that I can’t do everything that other moms do.  If they can do it, great!  But with what I hold dear, the things that are important to me as a mom, I can’t do everything else. Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses, things that we are awesome at, values we hold dear.

In our family, we value being together.  For us, that involves homeschooling, family dates, and evenings at home.  In order to hold to this, we can’t fill our calendar with all kinds activities.  Those things are awesome, helpful, educational, and bonding, but we have chosen something different for our family.  so how can I compare myself with families who are so different to begin with? I am enough!

Why? “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

We are Christ’s workmanship…His masterpiece! That makes you enough.  The King of Heaven and earth calls you His handiwork!  He makes you enough.  That’s enough for me!

“I’m a mess, but I’m a beautiful mess.  I’m His masterpiece.  And that’s enough!”  ~Allie, Mom’s Night Out

Homemade blocks

We don’t buy a lot of toys for our children.  Most of what we have has been given to us.  We have tons of toys, but the most special ones are the ones we make ourselves.  Other than the special doll and the legos, the homemade toys are the ones that are played with the most.  So when I found this idea for homemade nature blocks from Adventure in a Box on Pinterest, I had to try it out right away.  My kids don’t have any blocks except legos, so I thought this would be perfect.

After lunch today, I went out back to our pile of fallen branches from the yard and gathered a few that I thought would be interesting.  I started with a hand saw and miter box and tried to cut different sizes of blocks from the branches.  I hadn’t told my children what I was doing, but as my 4 year old son stood watching me he got super excited and said “Mommy, we could build something with those!” I love the creativity that flows when children are presented with new objects!

After a while, my arms ached and I was starting to get frustrated with my saw getting stuck in the wood.  So I stopped.  I handed my creations to my son.  He piled them in a bucket, took them in the house, and immediately set to work.  My little engine came up with this.  He proudly told me it was a monster truck.


Then he excitedly asked me “Mommy, can you make more?”

This time I took my branches to the garage and turned on my sliding chop saw.  Within a couple minutes I had a set of 50+ blocks for my children to play with.  They were ecstatic.



After more than an hour, I finally sent my 3 year old to bed while my son continued to play for another 30 minutes or more.

Here is a sampling of the different types of blocks I cut.


Long ones, skinny ones, joints, half rounds…so simple, yet so much fun.  It is best to use DRY branches for these. Look for interesting pieces of bark or oddly shaped or varying branches and within a short time, you have your own blocks.  Some may need a little sanding to shave off rough edges, but I was impressed at how little time this took. My next step is to put them in the oven for a little while at low heat to kill off any bugs that may have made their home inside my wood.

Have you made any toys for your kids from things found in your backyard?  Leave your ideas in the comments section.
Also, Adventure in a Box is doing a contest with homemade toys from nature that ends September 23.  Check it out here.

Coming Alive

These past couple months seem like I’ve been on a high speed train speeding down a bumpy (do I ever mean bumpy) track toward…nowhere or maybe straight off the cliff.  To begin with, I’ve had my struggles adjusting to a new life in a new place with no support system.  Throw the death of my dad in the mix and then the birth of my precious new baby girl just 2 months later, and I found myself wading through a sea of depression.  My 3 preschoolers needed me, but I felt like I had nothing to give.  My husband started working crazy hours, 60-70 hour weeks on average.  I felt alone with no one to turn to for help. With 3 preschoolers and a new baby, forget making time to blog, read a book or do the things I love. Most days, I just wanted to find time to take a shower and often times just make it through the day.

Not so long ago, a good friend and I were talking and she said to me “I feel like you are just surviving!”  Just surviving?  Really?  I, personally, thought things were getting better by this time.  I was sleeping through the night by the time Baby was 2 months old.  I was no longer crying myself to sleep because I missed my dad. I was making supper for my family again and taking the kids on regular outings to the park and library.  Things were good, weren’t they?

But as she said those words, I realized that I was just surviving.  Honestly, that’s a horrible place to be in. It’s lonely and exhausting.  There is no joy in just wanting to get through. It may be necessary for a time, but there comes a point where each of us must begin to thrive instead of survive. Sometime that week, my husband and I had a long talk.  He had been struck by her comment too.  Those words from a dear friend opened our eyes to not only our situation, but also our attitudes and perspectives.  I feel like over the last 2 months, I’m coming alive again.  We were not created to simply survive. We were created to THRIVE.

But what does it mean to thrive?  As some would say to, “Bloom where you are planted?” For me, it meant being okay with the messiness of life. I don’t have it all together and I can’t always be happy.  I can’t have the toys all picked up and the laundry done.  Sometimes it means ordering pizza or going out for tacos instead of having a healthy, home cooked meal.  It’s finding what you enjoy and throwing yourself into it.  Taking care of yourself  (that includes sleeping when it is possible).  But most importantly, it means realizing that this life is not perfect and there are seasons of grief and seasons of joy, but through it all, “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

In the midst of contemplating what it means to thrive and how that is possible, I heard a song on the radio by Casting Crowns called Thrive. You can listen to it here

There were 2 phrases that stuck with me as I heard this song for the first time.  The first was

Like a tree planted by the water
We never will run dry

So living water flowing through
God, we thirst for more of You

Psalm 1:1-3 says that those who delight in the Lord are like a tree planted by the rivers of water.  Trees need 2 things to thrive: water and sunlight.  Yes, the soil and nutrients found within it are important too, but water is vital to the health of a tree.  My garden was a testament to this this year.  With all the craziness, I think I watered it 4 or 5 times all summer.  It was a very dry summer and my yield for the year?  Probably only a dozen rhubarb stalks, 5 cucumbers, one meal of green beans, and a handful of tomatoes.  It needed WATER, yet it died of thirst…literally.  When we are thirsty, a part of us dies too.  We no longer thrive, we survive.  Christ is the living water and as He flows through us, He is joy and strength.

The second phrase that stuck with me was “we were made to thrive!” God did not create us to simply get by.  He created us to thrive as we commune with him. Some days this is simply enjoying my children.  Others it’s turning my heart toward Christ as I watch a sunset or hold a sleeping baby in my arms. It looks different every day. But one things is for sure, it has been so wonderful to discover what it means to thrive these last 2 months.

Ahh. How refreshing it is to drink and be filled.

What does it mean to thrive to you? Are you surviving?  Or are you thriving?



Something to offer

As I was driving home last night from a visit to grandma’s house an hour away, the van was quiet.  All three kids were sleeping and I was left with my thoughts.  Since I became a mom, I have had very few responsibilities outside the home.  I can sometimes become overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising 3 small children 4 years old  and under and with another one on the way in May, it is easy to think that any other responsibilities would be overwhelming.  I was thinking about my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group and several moms I look up to and follow on their blogs, faithfully gleaning as much information and encouragement from them as possible. I watch them lead our MOPS group and think that they are much more qualified for this role than I am.

As I thought of all these things, God gently reminded me that the moms I look up to so much and glean from are just moms like me.  They don’t have a PhD in Mommyhood or a college degree or anything validating them as a mom.  Some of them may be doctors or teachers and have had schooling for those degrees, but no degree really prepares you to be a mom.  These moms I look up to so much have the same, or similar, experiences I do.  It’s the everyday experiences of caring for growing kiddos, the potty training woes, the temper tantrums in the grocery store, and the uptight, strong-willed three year old.  These are the best teachers and while I can glean ideas and methods of raising my kids from other moms and from professionals, I have something to offer to those in my community. Instead of learning and gleaning like a leech, it’s time for me to take some steps to give back to the other moms around me.  Be encouraged moms, you too have something to offer.  You have experiences no other mom has and wisdom to share.  What are ways that we as moms can share the wisdom we have gained with each other?


As a mom of three small children, my home has a tendency to become very cluttered.  A post on another mom’s site at simple mom inspired me to tackle those shelves and drawers and counter tops that always seem to become a catch-all.  So, I ventured into my bedroom, which I have been wanting to organize for weeks.  Every time I walk into it, I think “oh, this is such a mess!” Here are my before and after pictures.


This is my dresser.  Unfortunately, it seems like my bedroom is the last place to ever be cleaned because nobody except me and my family ever see it.


Then there is the bookshelf in my room.



Decluttering the dresser and bookshelf inspired me to deep clean and organize the whole room.  Now, my bedroom is a calming place to be rather than a source of stress. Thanks simple mom for inspiring me straighten those catch all areas.

All is quiet

Ahhh…it’s 8:30 pm and all three kids are happily tucked into bed and quiet.  My husband is sleeping too.  It’s been a rather stressful week fighting stomach bugs and the flu.  Every one of us was or is sick and yesterday, all of us were sick at the same time. Last night, I thought I was going to go crazy when, at supper time, I spent about 15 minutes making sure everyone had what they needed while constantly being whined at with “Mommy, I need…” or “I WANT MILKY!” or “My legs hurt” “More chicken.” Everyone was finished with their supper before I ever sat down to take a bite.  Sometimes I wish there were 5 of me. One to cuddle and care for each of my 4 sickos (big ones and little ones) and one to sleep off the flu myself.

This morning when the cuddling and caregiving to sick little ones (and my husband) continued, I was reminded that the time I have with my kids is short in the grand scheme of things.  And although I have 6 loads of laundry waiting to be folded, 3 to be put away, bathrooms to be cleaned and sanitized because of stomach bugs, and dirty dishes lining the counter, I can’t wish these days away.  Soon, my little ones will be all grown up. Yes, they may all be under 4 now and it is hard to keep after them, but someday I will want these days back.  I don’t want to look back on them and wish I had sat and cuddled my little girl and read her a book when she didn’t feel good or held my baby more when her teeth hurt.  The dishes and laundry, bathrooms and floors can wait.  My little ones and the bonds I create with them in the cuddling are more important!