09 December 2013

Cryoow doll winner

A while ago, I participated at a giveaway that was hosted by Grace for Moms. They were giving away one CRYOOW doll. I know..... you are wondering what that is! A funny name, right?

CRYOOW stands for CReate YOur very OWn personal doll! Here is a link to their webpage: CRYOOW. Basically, your child draws a doll, you send in the drawing and a doll will be sewn according to the drawing. This doll will be unique and there will only one be this one. So it is truly a one-of-a-kind-doll. Pretty neat, right?

So when I saw that I had won the giveaway, I knew my little princess (aka Peanut) needed to do a drawing in order for this doll to come to life....

She needed some help with the drawing, as it had to be a certain size for the company. So Mami gave a bit of help with proportioning things. She colored it all by herself and it took some time, as I told her she needed to work nicely.

Here is a glimpse - I think she did a great job.

I then had to scan the drawing and send it via email to Bali..... yes, a far away place to give birth to this doll. We waited patiently for the transformation to take place. I want to say, it was maybe two weeks. She had to be send all the way back to our country and was here in about five days.

In the meantime, my little girl had no idea that this was coming. So when the doll arrived, we called for a family meeting. We showed her the drawing to see if she remembered - she did! Then we showed her the package and told her to open it. She was so excited.
It took her a few tries to get her out of her package but then she finally held her in her arms.
Now the doll needed a name, and within minutes, she was baptized 'Abigail'. So now, Abigail sleeps right next to Peanut. A very special doll for a very special girl:
We are being blessed and very thankful for this gracious gift. 

Review: Time 4 Learning

We've had the wonderful opportunity to review the online learning program Time 4 Learning for free for the past month. Thank you to the team. For those of you that don't know what it is, Time4Learning is an online educational program that can be used in many different ways. It can be supplemental for kids that go to public school, like summer work or extra work after school. It can be used as a full curriculum and/or supplement for homeschooling families.

I heard about it from my friends that use it for their homeschooling and that are in love with it. So I was curious. We are not lacking anything this year, but it is always wise to check out what is out there for future reference.

I am not a computer person and I sure do not want my kids to spend any more time in front of a screen. We LOVE books and our entire curriculum is book based. But sometimes, it is helpful to send them off to figure things out on their own. And the kids think it is a treat for them to be on the computer for learning.

My middle child used it as a preschooler, and my oldest as a third grader. Overall, we are very happy with what we have experienced. I was impressed with the program, as it not only covers subjects like English and Math, but also Science and Social Studies. It is possible to change grades after you signed your kids up, too. This is a nice feature when you have a kid that is not a great reader but is ahead in Science, for example.

As a mom that limits the use of technology in our house, I really loved the feature of setting a timer for the kids. The program is very easy to use, my four year old had no trouble getting from one place to another. I love that the instructions are read to her, so that I could set her up with the computer while tending to my older child and his lessons. I also love that she could see when she had completed a section - it made her feel accomplished and proud.

Now my third grader had more challenging tests and he got frustrated a few times, especially in Math when he came across something that he hadn't learned yet. Nonetheless, it is easy to get around for him, too. At his level, the program is also keeping records of the things he has started and finished. So as a parent, I could go in and see which lessons were not finished yet, where he had problems, and what we needed to talk about later.

The kids really enjoyed their time, even thought we only used it a few times, not every day. 

Subsequently, we will not use this as part of our curriculum for NOW. Partly, because we spent money for this year's curriculum and I want to use it all up before I spend more money for something else.
Here, I would like to mention what my friend has shared with me: the program is very affordable, and one very positive thing is that you pay monthly. No big payment at the beginning of the year (like I did) but monthly. And I can totally see that this is a plus.

Secondly, we are a Christian family and I like the idea of integrating our faith in every subject. I have not come across anything offending at all, but I have read about other people that did. So I am a bit worried about that if we were to use this as our only curriculum.

One reason for our family to home school is that we like to spend time with each other. I love to interact with the kids, teach them, and also jump in when I see a problem arising before it becomes frustration. I would be worried about them spending too much time in front of the screen. I'd rather see them with their noses in a book  for that same amount of time.

It is a great program, and even though it is not the right fit for our family at this time, we will come back to it in the future, maybe as a summer program or in the case that I should ever fall ill for a longer period of time.

10 October 2013

What we are learning this year

We finally finished Second grade a few days ago - well, we both, my son and I, decided that it is time to let go and start something new. We were both excited to call it quits and start our journey to NEW adventures.

Last year, we used the full curriculum from Abeka. It was my first time buying an entire box, because I figured with the baby I needed extra 'help' with planning, or not planning at all because it was done for me. In retrospect, we had a great year. A year that left us with a great experience, lots of things that we learned, and the knowledge that we will never buy a full box again.

Talking to other homeschooling moms and reading many blogs made me curious about what else is out there. When I started researching, I got quickly overwhelmed by the MANY choices. Wow, there are so many great curricula, it's amazing and wonderful. Yet, it makes it hard to choose.

One night last year, the Hubby and I sat down and talked about what we liked in the past year and what we didn't like. We discussed what is important to us. Then we chose curricula subject by subject. It was a great night working together. And then I started buying.....

So we have come up with the following:

* We do Abeka Math again - Coqui thrived with it last year, so we wanted to do it one more year, at least. Additionally, we supplement with Singapore Math workbooks for extra practice.

* I was not thrilled with the entire English approach last year, so I switched to Bob Jones University for English and Spelling - and so far,  we both totally love it.

* I also decided that I didn't need a Reading program, that we would just read what we came across during certain unit studies. But then the entire set of Abeka books literally fell into my lap, so we are reading those. Coqui also loves chapter books like The Magic Tree House, the Magic School Bus, Flat Stanley, and others.

*Again, we supplement with some Scholastic Grammar books.

* I liked the Cursive Writing Curriculum from Abeka, but it was very intense last year. So much, that we got maybe 25% done so far.... But when I went to a conference and held the book for Third Grade in my hands, I loved it. So we are using it, and Coqui loves it, too. 

* I really liked the idea of teaching some Latin, but I thought that he was still too young. When I saw English from the Roots Up, I knew I had the right start for a better understanding of the English language, as well as a great way to introduce a foreign language that I want him to learn later. He likes it so far.

* At the end of last year, I heard about Apologia, and when I looked into it, I knew I wanted to try it. After talking to homeschoolers that have used it, we decided to start with Astronomy. Last week was our first day and Coqui loved it.

* For History, we chose The Story of the World. Actually, we have not started this one yet, but I can't wait to see what Coqui thinks. Ancient Times are not my favorite, so I guess I am a bit procrastinating here, but I also didn't want to start everything at the same time. We both like the idea of easing into ALL of the subjects.

* Coqui is really good in Geography, so I just got him The Complete Book of Maps and Geography.  He loves doing it all by himself. We also use Geography Through Art, but only to supplement with it. It was highly recommended by a fellow homeschooler and we enjoyed it last year when we did a few pages for our Introduction to Art lapbook.

* Art kind of happens around here. We are also going to a weekly co-op to learn and experience Art there.
   I am kind of sad that we haven't found a music curriculum yet. I would love to include that, as I remember to love it in school. So if anyone knows of something good, please share.

* We are also learning Spanish and German. My personal experience has shown me that learning a foreign language from a book is not only boring but also impractical, so we are learning from native speakers. It's also more fun this way.

So there is our list. It seems like a long list, but please be assured that we are not doing this every single day. My motto is that Math and English have to be done every day. Then, depending on time and other circumstances, we are flexible with the rest. At this age, science and social studies don't have to be done every day. And still, they get in alot of playing with friends, doing field trips every week, and playing sports.

03 October 2013

A constant source of joy


When I look into her eyes,
when I feel her hug me tight,
when she calls me by my name,
when she smiles as only she can,
when she throws her head on my shoulders,
and when she falls asleep on my back,

then I know... that I have been so blessed.

With a little girl that took away all those years of grief and sadness, just as it is said in Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." God kept His promise and I am honored to be able to see it every day right in front of my eyes.

She is beautiful. She is happy. She is mine.

I don't know where to start as I am constantly amazed by her and my heart literally overflows with pride.

Munchkin has been with us for a little over a year but it sure feels like it has been forever. She completes our family. She is a little firecracker, and yet gentle and caring. Anything that she is exposed to, goes right to her brain and is applied. Clapping, High-fives, throwing a ball, climbing up the stairs and scooting back down on her bottom, pretend-reading, sorting shapes, doing puzzles, and yes, eating with a fork. 

She interacts so well that I could easily forget how old she really is. She shows so much compassion for her siblings. If one of them gets hurt, she comes over for a pat on the back and a long-lasting hug of comfort. When one of them cries, she cries, too. They play kitchen, she has to be right next to them. We go outside to play soccer, she grabs her mini soccer ball and kicks it - just like the big kids!

Her small motor skills are incredible. One of our little routines, when I want to go to the bathroom, is to give her a small piece of toilet paper (clean of course!). In hand, she runs of to the stairs and rips it into microscopic small pieces. Nope, she does not put a single one into her mouth! And then she brings them over for me to throw them in the garbage.

And none of this goes without verbal communication. I am absolutely blown away by the things coming out her of mouth. At one year old, she knew every member of her family, including the extended family of grandparents and aunts and uncles - by name. Of course, like with Peanut, I am trying to teach her baby sign language, but really, it is in vein as she signs AND says it at the same time. Signing more and saying 'mo', so Mami and Daddy really get that she wants more!

Words that I have heard her say include: 'hi', 'bye-bye', 'baby', 'water', 'waffle', 'cereal', 'shoe', 'nigh-nigh, 'go', 'peek-a-boo', 'ba' (for bath), 'wow', 'than you' and 'please', 'wau' (German for woof), 'doggie', 'meow', 'lalala' (for music), and her newest thing: 'are you?' (for where are you?).
I do not remember my other kids being that talkative at this age.

She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it by asking for it. She understands pretty much everything I ask of her. When she stands up in the bathtub or her high chair, I ask her to 'sit down' and she sits. She drops a toy (and Mami does not feel like playing the pick-up game) and I ask her to 'pick it up', she does it. It feels like with child number three, I have really gotten a hang of parenting - at least SHE makes me look like it.

Thank you God for our little Munchkin, for blessing us with her presence - it is a gift that we cherish each and every day.

23 September 2013

Vegan Sugar Plum Cake

When I went shopping on Saturday I had a great find: sugar plums. I had never seen them in America until then. While I grew up with them and missed them (but not enough to go on a big search), it seems they are less popular over here. So I bought them.

Tonight, when I was washing them, prepping them for tomorrow's snack, I got the urge to make a plum cake. Like the one I remember from when I was a kid and my aunt would bake it - she is a great baker! Mmmmh.

My search was successful: on a German site (the link is here in case you want to check it out). I had to quickly change the metric measurements into the American units - with alot of guessing. And it has a special ingredient that I was dying to try out: it's what we call in our house bubbly water, aka seltzer. We drink it every day (it is a very common drink in Germany), but I had never baked with it.

Also, I just bought my first spring form, so I really wanted to use it! ;-)

Let's see how it turns out when I take it out of the oven.

I followed the recipe almost to a T (big surprise):

For the cake mix:
2 cups of flour (I used my regular all purpose flour)
1 cup of sugar (Vegan!) - it seems alot, so I need to taste and see if it could be reduced to half a cup or 3/4
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup of seltzer

For the Streusel (aka crumb topping):
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons of vegetable oil

In the middle:
enough sugar plums - according your own liking
I couldn't tell you how much I used - maybe about 15 in total

Making the cake:
* mix all dry ingredients in a bowl
* then mix in the seltzer
* grease the spring form
* put dough into the spring form, raise it a bit on the sides
* wash, clean, and cut the sugar plums
* spread the plums all over the dough, as thick as you like
* make the streusel in a different bowl, mix all dry ingredients together, then add the oil little by little
* you want the crumbs to be wet enough to stick together
*spread those over the plums
* bake at 350 degree Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes


Guten Appetit! 

 Mmmh, Lecker!

18 September 2013

God is all you need!

I did not want to be strong.

Nobody asked me if I wanted to be vigorous, tough, and courageous.

Neither did I know how capable I really was.

Lately, I have had a few people come up to me and say things like "I admire your strength" or "I envy your faith" and even "You are an inspiration".


Believe me, when I think of myself, I do not see any of this! And yet, I have to admit, there is a certain strength inside of me that I never knew I had before - and may it merely be my survival mode. I am a fighter, and not a person to be known to give up (easily). I CAN endure.

Though as nice as these compliments are - and they do feel good - I can not take in the praise for something I did not do myself! It was only with God and through Him that I am where I am today. God only gives us what we can handle, even when we think we can't take it any longer. He knows better. And He rewards us when we follow His lead.

Am I really stronger? Or have I simply learned to lean on God - more? I think what is bigger is my faith, not my tenacity or perseverance. I KNOW I can rely on my Savior for anything. My world might get shaken up, but my Rock will be the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Nothing can separate me from His love (Romans 8:38), and He won't give me anything that I am not able to withstand.

God was my hope in my darkest times. He saved my life, and today, I can 'claim' to be a survivor. He helped me to turn my anger into faith, in Him. He healed me physically and emotionally. It was a long road, and I do expect to fall back once in a while, but I also know that I will bounce back to the truth, God's truth. I surrendered and entrusted my life back into His hands, and I am very comfortable with that.

So I guess God made me stronger. He transformed me into a confident woman that desires to bless others. I have more courage to follow my dreams. I dare to be bolder about my faith. I believe that I am a little wiser, at least in my knowledge to cherish each and every day and not to waste life with foolishness. And if I lose all of the above, I am certain that I will always have HOPE!


If YOU are at a point in your life where it seems that you can't go on, that there is not an ounce of strength left inside your body to carry on - stop! Stop, get down on your knees, surrender, and let God carry YOU! It is a wonderful experience. Once He has picked you up, it will bring you joy; the joy of sharing His glory, and be a testimony to others.

God can do so much for YOU. God loves you. He delivers you from your trouble and lifts you up. He is satisfying. He brings peace, hope, and happiness. It's pleasing to please Him and others. It fulfills and gives a purpose.
God is all you need.

22 August 2013

True Friendship

Disclaimer:
I have lived in the States for over a decade and want to assure my readers that I like living here. I believe God put me onto this continent for a reason.

With that being said, I do have to rant today......

Usually, when Americans ask me what I think of their country, I reply honestly very positive. In my opinion, every country on this planet has pros and cons to offer. No country is perfect because no human being is perfect. Leaders make mistakes, just as the little people do.

In general, I like to look at the bad things that I left being in my native Germany, and only look at what I gained in living here. Believe me, there are many things. Many advantages that make this country a good place to be.

BUT in the last four weeks, I have talked with many of my old German friends, and for some odd reason, they all have complained about one thing: Americans and friendship, or rather the lack of it. The lack of closeness and the lack of being able to rely on them. The superficiality of small talk and casual get-togethers are hard for us Germans to understand.

There is a saying that it's hard to become the friend of a German, but once you are, you'll be one for life. With friendships comes expectations and responsibilities. As a German myself, I can testify this to be true. It takes a long time to trust someone, but once that bridge is crossed, there is no doubt of relying on one another. It's mutual and enjoyable. It makes life less lonely.

Going through my mental friends list, I have to say that all my friends are Europeans spread all over the world. Some of them, I have not seen in almost two decades, or one, or a few years. But I email with them, talk to them on the phone, Skype, or interact personally in one way or another.
I can not say that about my American acquaintances! Nope! Americans like social media..... and social media is great to hide at home, have lots of acquaintances, but no expectations and no responsibilities with true friends. It's shallow and quick and easy.....
And I want to point out that it is not a lack of trying to integrate myself. I have tried and failed many times. I simply want more.

I don't know about you, but I do expect more from life. I want real friends to laugh with, to cry on their shoulders, and to make memories with. I want real conversations about small victories and about big dreams. I do not expect my friends to agree with each and every thing I do, but I do expect them to be honest - something that alot of Americans are lacking! Sorry. I don't want just friendly people around me, I want real friends with their strength and their weaknesses. I want deep and meaningful relationships.

So if you can see yourself in the phrase: "I call you later." but in YOUR mind, you have no intentions to do so, or to do so anytime soon - know that there might be an assumption, or hope, in the receiver's mind to hear from you soon. When I say later, I tend to call later - meaning literally in the next FEW days. And there are many 'empty' phrases that Americans like to bombard their opponent with, with no true intention behind them. Small talk. And most people on this earth just don't know what to do with it.

When approached with a question, Germans tell you what they really think - I do not always get that impression from the people on this continent. I feel I get excuses, coverups, apologies, and even deceptions - everything but true feelings. After all, if someone asks you something, I assume that they want to hear the truth,. But I had to learn the hard way that this is not the case here. People like to be buttered and honeyed up, flattered and smooched. To me, that is all just a different word for lying. Don't sugar-coat the answer, BE REAL!

As Christians, we are to speak kind words to encourage and build another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and we are not to use our tongue like sword thrusts (Proverbs 12:18).
But the bible also says in 1 John 3:18 "let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth". That means, don't just talk about how great a friend you are but really BE there when you are needed in time of trouble. And what is the truth? God's truth! And God's truth is not always wrapped in gift paper with a bow on it - God has spoken harsh words before, words that needed to be heard for a change to arrive, usually for the better.

In my opinion, friends are there for the good times and the hard times. They are there to sharpen another, just as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). A true friendship can be so rewarding. And I am blessed to have many friends around the world that I can call true friends, and that I can rely on.

I found a great article, that I agree with for the most part, you can click on the link below. Please read it.

09 August 2013

List of lapbooks 2012-2013

Our school days were definitely busy with the curriculum that we were using this year. Math and all kinds of English subjects like Phonics, Reading, Spelling, Grammar and Handwriting, were great BUT it was lacking with the fun things like Science, History and Geography.

So I decided to fill in the blanks with lapbooks. These projects are fun and creative and can be done as deep (or not) as wished. We had some more broad view lapbooks, and then some very intense ones. No matter what, we enjoyed them very much this year.

Here is a list of all the lapbooks we have done:

2012:
- Native Indians
- Texas
- Numbers All Around Us
- All About Me
- Patriotic Day - American Flag and some American history
- Spiders lapbook
- Health lapbook
- Animal Classification
- Christopher Columbus
- Weather lapbook
- Thanksgiving lapbook
- Fables lapbook
- Christmas Around the World

2013:
- MLK Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Bee lapbook
- Poetry lapbook
- President's Day + George Washington + Abraham Lincoln
- Introduction into Art
- Books of the Bible
- St. Patrick's Day
- Easter lapbook
- Parts of Speech
- Good Citizenship
- Solar System
- Earth Day and Plant Life Cycle
- Introduction to Music + Orchestra lapbook
- Colonial Times
- Inventions and Technologies

We did a lapbook almost every week, just a few were done within two weeks. Most of our materials were either found online - the internet is a wonderful place for research - or in books that we bought or borrowed from the local library.

My kids love mazes and word searches and coloring pages, so we always included those.

In the beginning of the year, I thought I would only do these with Coqui (2nd grader), but Peanut quickly realized that she wanted to be a part of this as well. I let her join in a few like Thanksgiving and Christmas. She loved it and I could see that she was finally participating. So I had to adapt each theme for her. I came up with the following.

I took each week's theme and took one letter for her. Like during the Solar System week, she did letter S, and during St. Patrick's week, she worked on the letter P. This way, I figured, we will eventually cover the entire alphabet, AND she is learning many other things along the way. She felt included, got to work on a cover page and got to cut paper - her favorite thing to do in school.

Hopefully, we can give you ideas and/or help you find resources. Happy homeschooling. 

30 July 2013

Filling the empty picture frame with ME

"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and He heard my cry." (Psalm 40:1)

Everybody wants to know who they are and what their purpose is in life. As a believer, one can go to God and simply ask: 'Who am I, Lord?'  Sometimes, we get a quick answer, and sometimes it takes years. Sometimes we hear what we want to hear, and sometimes it's a surprise. But God always answers, we just need to listen.

Patience is rare these days, and I am not always good at exercising it myself. Going through this transformation, I have gotten impatient, frustrated, and even close to giving up. My endurance and hope have paid of - I can tangibly feel that I had a major break-through, and God answered some of my prayers. Hallelujah.

In the last couple of weeks, I have gotten quite a few revelations about myself, in trying to figure out and accept who I am, trying to love myself, and working on reprogramming my 'software'. It's hard work, to get rid of old habits and start new ones - but it's worth it. And it is quite satisfying to get an affirmation from the Almighty about the good things in me.

Some people might be scared by the thought that God knows everything about them (after all, He created each and every one of us), but I am not. I find comfort in Isaiah 49:15-16 "I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands." That is personal. God knows who I am, what my struggles are, my hurts, and joys. He knows my weaknesses and my strengths. He can help me turn those weak spots into virtues that will make me more Christ-like.

Our pastor started a new series the other Sunday with this: every story has the same components: a great opening line, some event, someone evil, a journey, and, of course, a hero. That made me think about my own life and how I ought to look at it. My life has a great opening line: 'I was born'. There have been many days in my past when I wished I was never born. Life seemed too hard to manage. That was before the hero of my story came into my life: my Lord and Savior. So who or rather what is the evil? It's my past! The past that I need to overcome! And it's satan that still tries to nag on my conscience in trying to put me down, because he is so scared that I might succeed in never being able to be tempted by him ever again.

So who am I?

I am a very passionate person. When I love, I love with ALL my heart. I do act upon my feelings, which makes me do stupid things, or daring things. I can act impulsive and emotionally. But I am never lacking passion. Love is like a deep wound, and if I get hurt - it takes me a long time to get over it. Yet I find comfort in knowing that I gave my very best, my all, my entire Me, with love - I didn't do it halfway. I don't want to have the attitude that people are replaceable. They are - we all know that - but going through life like that seems rather uncaring for the people around me. I love.

I LOVE God with all my heart and soul and mind. He is my heavenly Father and I am honored to be called His child. I love my husband and I know that we are meant for each other. Sometimes when I think that we don't fit together, I just look at him and I don't care what my brain tells me, I know what my heart says: that I love him. I love my kids, and would lay down my life for them. I want the very best for them.

God also showed me that I am the best mother I can be. My days are tiring and exhausting sometimes, and there are a few moments when I wish I could just be by myself and didn't have to act upon each and every request my children ask of me. But then I remember that this will only last for a short while - one day they will need me less, and that is okay then. For now, we spend pretty much every waking hour together as a family, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Being a survivor, I am constantly reminded that my kids might only get to be with me for a short time. I would want to be remembered as the loving, involving, and caring mother that I think I am.

God has assured me on multiple occasions that homeschooling is the best for us. He has said so before I even started it, and has confirmed it since. And He has brought the Hubby on my side as well. We are now one team pulling together and making decisions together, teaching together, and raising our children to be the best they can be. It is so much fun and I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

For anybody that knows me, knows that I am a very truthful person. I can't lie - I turn red and show all the physical signs of lying. I am just 'what you see is what you get'. Trying to appear as something that I am not seems way too much work for me anyways. I have many mistakes but I am standing up for them. And I am willing to change, to constantly work on myself to be more Christ-like. I am a constant construction site, or a piece of art that only will be finished when I enter through heaven's gates.

Our church did a series on the 'suitcases' that we all carry around with us, in form of unforgiveness or pride or hurt from rejections, abuse, failures, mistakes in the past, etc.... God's message was that we need to get rid of that 'carry-on' in order to move on. It was perfect timing for my transformation, especially the last sermon when the pastor even quoted from the book that started all of it. But I also learned that I have a problem..... it's forgiveness or rather my inability to forgive. Ouch!!! That was hard to digest. Me? Could it be? After much soul searching, I had to agree. Past hurts are still there and I need to learn how to forgive for MY own sake. So my new challenge is just that!

Recently, I had a big breakthrough while on the phone with my mom. It started out as one of those phone calls that I couldn't avoid because she is the kids' grandmother, so I chatted away about them and other not-so-important things. Then it started again.... those good-meant advises that I am so unwilling to hear, especially as they are only in her interest and not in mine or the kids. They are also self-centered and guilt-driven. I was about to get all defensive again, when God put His hand - literally - over my mouth, and said to me to be gentle and show her His true love. It worked! I was trying to be the better person, showing her mercy and grace. At the end, I could hang up the phone with a smile, not with a grudge. God is awesome.

And if you didn't realize that yet, I am also weird - or should I call it peculiar!? God taught me to love myself as an 'outsider'. As a matter of fact, I have come to love Me as ab-normal. I want to stand out with stuff that not everybody does. I love that my kids are homeschooled and do not fall into the peer pressure trap with clothes and TV shows and all that stuff that is oh-so-unimportant. They will grow up in a family where family time is the most important way to spend our days. We will teach them that being different is a good thing, not a bad label. I like that I am a little rebel and that I am not just flowing with the crowd, but rather would go against it. It makes me stronger. It teaches me to stand up for myself, when nobody else does. It brings out the person that God wants me to be, not what others expect of me. Truth be told, I rather try to impress my Savior than anybody on this earth.

So I am learning to make courageous choices, which means to do the right thing even when it is unpopular and/or unexpected. Now, instead of walking with my head between my shoulders, I think of the impact I might have on someone that needs a little pick-up. I try to remember that God put me here for a reason and that was not to hide within myself but to share my story - because my story is one full of God's mercy and grace, of His love for me and His many blessings. It's a story that I want to tell over and over because it shows that in today's world, miracles still DO happen.

Parts of my story can be read all over my blog, but foremost in the following posts:
- How we got here...
- New Hope - announcing baby #2 is on the way
- The Medical Side of a Surrogate Carrier
- the birth story of our second miracle: It's a ....
- How and why I became a Free-gan
- My Dream List, also known as To-Do-List or Bucket List
- Why we are homeschooling
- 100 reasons why I love my husband
- How I spent 9/11 and what it means to me
- Trying to figure out Who I Am
- Announcing Baby #3 is on the way
- My first Half-Marathon
- Arrival of Baby to make us a family of Five
- My post about the debate of breast milk vs. formula and being blessed
- finally the original post of how this transformation got started
- and my last post on this series: Hope and Encouragement

28 July 2013

Bittersweet End

Yesterday was a sad day, and yet I say that with a smile on my face and a warm feeling of being blessed in my heart.

At the end of my breastfeeding post, I mentioned that Munchkin was both formula- and breastmilk-fed. And today, I am happy to report that this was true for the past 13 months. We had found a permanent donor that provided milk for my baby for over a year. God was so good in sending this wonderful woman our way.

I feel so blessed that my story is a testimony of love. God's love for working things out for the good.
Because I love my children, I want the very best for them. Providing them with (in my opinion) the best nutrition that God 'invented' is important to me. And when I was unable to provide it for them, He found people to do that for me. People that love and sacrifice for others. I am so thankful for that.
Munchkin a week old drinking some breast milk
The story begins with a birth that took place way too early and a mother that had milk but couldn't give it to her baby because it was in NICU. So she pumped and saved, eventually threw it in a freezer hoping to be able to use it for her baby at a later time. It never happened and I don't know why, but someone else's breast milk was used instead, by the doctors. Which gave her the idea to save her milk for someone else.

That someone turned out to be me and Munchkin. We received the first badge of breast milk even before our baby was born. It was milk full of colostrum! Which was a blessing because we took it to the birthing center with us. We never got to use it there but eventually, Munchkin got that liquid gold.

But this first badge was suppose to be the only one, until she heard our story and felt called to keep pumping. At the end, she donated a total of over 2000 oz. - which are 15.6 gallons - of her precious milk for us. Wow, I never realized that it was that much in total. I only knew that - at times - it took over my freezer space. 

Munchkin received at least ONE bottle of her breast milk every day since. Except when we traveled - I was not gonna drive around with a cooler full of breast milk. Sometimes it was more, especially when she was sick and I felt she needed an extra immune boost to get over her sickness. Until yesterday, when that last bag was unfrozen and put in a bottle. Here she is enjoying it:
We were so blessed by this woman and her family to have supported us through this. I know it was a sacrifice on their part but she keeps assuring me that it was a blessing to her as much as it was for us.

I love when God puts people in our lives to pour His love out.

30 June 2013

Hurt and Healing

A cut.

Hurts.

A lot.

Here I am. Still shook up and not quite as steady on my feet as I want to be (but sure try to look like!).

Hurt is 'funny' in the way that it makes us withdraw from the outer world when our inside wants to explode.....

Loosing something or someone that meant alot to us is hard. Love just doesn't stop overnight.

Grieve has to happen and it should happen. So take your time.
Walk through each step as they are described in four phases by C.M. Parkes in Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life:
  1. Numbness with denial, distress, and anger
  2. Yearning for that which is lost
  3. Disorganization with despair
  4. Reorganization
I had to grieve so many times already, one should think I am an expert by now. But when tragedy strikes, especially unexpectedly, we are never prepared and the blow usually hits one way or another, hard or soft.

We fall. We scream. We imagine. We feel guilty. Our faith shakes. And we wonder if we will ever be happy again.

But we will get back up. We do stop crying. We hope for a better future. Guilt subsides. And happiness returns as well. 

A strong faith will make it possible to go through life's hardships, unshaken. Though at that very moment, we want to be everything else but strong.
(At least, I feel that way.)

How to get back up?

With God all things are possible. Where God is, there is hope. We need to believe that whatever happened did so with God's permission. And we need to trust God that He knows what is best for us. Do not doubt Him. Read His word to stay connected, when no other word comforts. He keeps His promises, always.

So I am back! Step Five: Accepted and pushed to the 'past' file. A new chapter started and I am ready for whatever God has for me and my family. I am feeling blessed with what I have. 

"As for God, His way is perfect... He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him." 2 Samuel 22:31 (NIV)

26 April 2013

Hope and Encouragement

In the beginning of the year, I got two verses that really spoke to me and that I am holding on. They have become my mantra, if you want to call it that.

Jeremiah 29: 11 - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

and Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Going through my transformation, I am holding on to Philippians 1:6 - being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. - especially on days when things seem way too dark and hard and discouraging. 

The verse and the picture goes so well with my new favorite song by Sanctus Real called 'Promises'. If you would like to hear it, here is a link to the youtube video. I AM holding onto the promises God has made. They are sometimes the air I breathe.....


The other day, a package arrived in our house. And when the Hubby came home, he told me that it was for me. It was not my birthday, Valentine's is long over, and mother's day is not here yet for another month, so why am I getting a gift? Well, it was a big surprise - it was this:
I might seem a bit needy when I say that I NEED encouragement, but I do! And this was such a nice surprise. The plate is just beautiful. I love it. Now I have to find a place where to display it.

All the books that I am reading are great and they have become my daily companions to help me, show me and teach me. God is my constant comforter and I am clinging to His promises as my life line. But there is nothing like a hug or a word spoken in person......

I am so blessed to have a husband that let's me lean on him and that supplies me with an abundant amount of hugs and kisses. I can talk to him and he comforts me. He gives me hope, too.

18 April 2013

Munchkin's update

I have not mentioned the baby in a long time. Yes, I am busy with three children, but really, that is not the major reason. It's homeschooling. So my posts are random and scarce and I apologize for that.
But now to the more fun part of this post. Our newest addition's update.

First a picture from her about a month old, smiling already.

She is still the sunshine of our everyday life.

To this day, I am surprised and impressed at how much she is loved by her siblings. They adore her!


Also, I finally feel like she has completed our family totally. Here is a very recent picture of us five.

Sorry for the picture-heavy post but I felt like I wanted to share the joy of the last few months. Her joining our family and becoming a part of it has been the absolute highlight, and none of us could imagine life without our Munchkin.
 She has had many milestones, like holding her bottle, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, new foods, and finally as of yesterday, walking. She only took three steps and tried a few more times. Today, as she is a bit under the weather, she only took two steps. But I know for sure, she will be running around our house in no time.

14 April 2013

Attitude change or more trust?

Now that I am writing about this book I read a while ago, a book that opened my eyes significantly, I had to face many realities, and I had to make a choice of wanting to be healed. Since then I have read a dozen other books on all the same issue: how to train my mind to reprogram my thinking that affects my actions. But at the end of each day, after reading and agreeing, I am sitting here, asking myself, HOW do I do it?

When a situation arises, that is not positive in any way, how can I change my thoughts to make it look more positive?
My mind keeps refusing to lie to myself..... I am not some machine that can easily be reprogrammed with hitting a few buttons. If the water is blue, I can not make myself believe that it is green! I don't know how I could do that.....

I agree that when something bad happens, there is no need to flip out, slam doors, threaten to take all the kids' toys away, and such..... No need. But facing reality, isn't that what God would want us to do? I know that our reality is only a glimpse of God's entire reality about our universe. I know that I can only see a part of what God is planning in the big picture. I understand that my attitude still needs to be a good attitude.

Maybe it is not a question of attitude after all. Could it be that it is a trust question? Am I really trusting God in the middle of my storm? Can He fix me?

Looking at it from that angle, I agree more with it than pretending to change my mind when I don't believe in it. But I can make the choice to believe God, and to trust Him. I can let go of my control over the matter, even with some attitude, but I can let go! Yes, I can do that. I can believe that He is simply not done with renewing me. Other people gave up on me many times over, but God will not. He has the perseverance and the unconditional love that it will take to accomplish His will.

I can believe that God works out everything for good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28). Every 'bad' situation in our eyes is a teachable moment in His eyes. He is the teacher and I have alot to learn. I believe that I can be open to the teaching and learning, to becoming stronger and more faithful. I am open and can not wait to meet the person that God wants me to be!

It's hard to give up control - I had to learn to have control of my life since a very early age, making my own decisions, bad ones and good ones. It was and is my survival mode. But it was also exhausting, to be my own boss for too many years. It is time to let go of that control. Now I am laying it down, to the feet of my Lord and Savior, to take the steering wheel of my life. I trust that He will never leave me, nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6).

My mind is truly a battlefield sometimes and so confusing. I have a hard time realizing what are my thoughts and what is God's truth. I wish I could jump into the bible and devour every word of it to truly know what God's truth is and what is not. I guess in the meantime, it is good to read as much as I can, to spend precious time with Jesus and praying and asking for answers. I have gotten a few answers, and they were great. They have given me some freedom, but also made me more hungry for more answers and more truth.

This fight is truly exhausting. In my mind and for my body. I am so tired but I know that I have to press on to see results. I am committed and I am thanking God for giving me the gift of perseverance and endurance. I thank Him for loving me the way I am. I thank Him for believing in me to get better. I thank Him for never giving up. For catching me when I fall. I thank Him for the hunger and thirst I have to read all these books. For comforting me in my worst moments. And lastly, for the hope He instills in me constantly.

09 April 2013

Low self-esteem part 2

In part one, we talked about the damage that low self-esteem can cause to oneself. Let's talk about what it does to our relationships, with God and with others.

The author of the book says that "satan uses your nagging sense of inferiority and inadequacy to isolate you. For the commonest way to cope with feelings of inferiority is to pull within yourself, to have as little contact with other people as you possibly can, and just occasionally to peek out as the rest of the world goes by."

Ouch!

He further states that low self-esteem ruins the relationship with God, because if we think that we are worthless, we call God a liar and also tell Him that He did a bad job with us....... ahem.!?

Well, I agree and I don't. I have questioned myself and God about my relationship with Him, and as bad as I think of myself, I DO know that He did not make a mistake - it might be my attitude that is wrong, but He did right. I accept Him as my creator, and I totally rely on Him to make this situation better. But maybe I am already on the road of progress.... so there is hope!?

Nonetheless, I do know that I have a ton of work to do in my relationships with my fellow earthlings. They are as faulty as I am, and as a perfectionist, it can be hard to overlook those faults, and to forgive them. And then to forgive my own! (But we talked about that already here.)

I have been hurt so many times - a few too many times too much. And every time, it leaves an open wound that takes me forever to get over. And really, now I learned from the book, that those wounds probably had never healed. And because I have been hurt, I have a hard time to trust, and to love others. So I am disobeying God's command to love one another as God did (John 15:12).

People with low self-esteem can't love others, because they are so self-absorbed in their own insecurities, that it would be too much to deal with the love somebody else might need. My cries for love and acceptance had to fail because I didn't even liked myself, how could I ask someone else to love me? Faux-pas! God wants to shine through my weaknesses, and I have been stealing His show....

So my mission is to make myself like myself! No more self-belittling!

I am learning that I am a Somebody. I count. God put me here to make His garden look beautiful!
I have something to offer this world that nobody else has. 
I am accepted by Him. I am loved by Him. He cares for Me. He enjoys seeing my progress. He wants me to grow more and more, closer to Him, to bring Him glory.
(And yes, there are (many) days where I have to say this over and over, more like a mantra to myself, to believe it and to live it! - It's a process that will not happen overnight. It takes time.) 
I need to believe it to meet everyday life. I need believe it to say that I can cope with the latest painful events in my life. That I can make baby steps forward, again. That hope did not die.

So what am I trying to do? Erasing the wrong programming, that started since my birth. The information that I have received in being dealt with as a child, as a teenager, and still as an adult, come from parents with imperfect parenting, their own failures, insecurities, wrong actions, and foremost conditional love. All those negative things need to be erased out of my mind, to be replaced with God's truth about a much more positive image of myself. Amen.

And next time, we talk more about how to correct my faulty theology.

Low self-esteem part 1

Let's keep going with the next chapter of the book "Healing for Damaged Emotions" from David Seamands.

Most of us know that satan is here to take advantage of our weaknesses. When we least expect it, he is there to make it even worse. With fear. With doubt. With anger. With hostility. With worry. With guilt. All those are pretty annoying emotions and can certainly take away our joy and happiness.

But do you know his 'Deadliest Weapon'? It's called low self-esteem, combined with a feeling of inferiority and inadequacy.

Any atheist would ask, how this could be. Most Christians are happy jacks all the time and smile in the worst circumstances. Right? Not all of us do! Not all of us. Not me.

I grew up in a family of negativity. I heard it since birth, day in and day out. Nobody was good enough for my parents, nobody, not even us children. Our behavior was not good enough, our grades were not good enough, and so we grew up, both of us, with a feeling of inadequacy. How should we ever want to reach our full potential? Both of us decided very early on that we were not to go to university - something our parents expected of us. But I think, we both just gave up, never even wanting to try......

Today, I read that this low self-esteem is paralyzing my potential, it destroys my dreams, and it  ruins my relationships. In my head, the question forms: which potential, do I even have that?What dreams?
The author writes: "Low self-esteem begins even in the crib, follows to kindergarten, and worsens during the teen years. In adult life, it seems to settle in like a great fog that covers many people day by day. Sometimes it lifts a little but always returns, trying to engulf, to drown."

That sounds like my life! How did the author know? Do others feel like this as well? Maybe I am not alone after all? Where are you, 'friends', people that know how this feels? Can you give me hope? I need some encouragement.

How many times have I screwed up, and then beaten myself up for it, asking God, why I am the way I am, and why He allowed all my past to happen. I know it is a criticism for Him, but I also know that He understands my pain. And He hurts with me, because He wants so much better for me. How great then to realize that He does care for me! Who cares if nobody else on this earth does - He does! And that is all that matters.

And I am taking great comfort in knowing that I am so special, that through my sufferings, He wants to pull ME closer to Him. Now, looking at it in this angle, it changes everything! It's an honor, and it makes me feel special. He wants me? The Lord of Lord? Wow! That is pretty cool.
And He gives promises. Promises like in Philippians 1:6 that "I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." I am holding on to that promise every day.
Little by little, my wonderful God is showing me that I am good enough and what I am good at, maybe even very good. He shows me that there is so much that I actually do want from life, but never dared to want. He has plans for me, plans to prosper me (Jeremiah 29:11). I don't want no 'watered-down' version of my life - I want the life God has planned for me. And even though my beginning has not been excellent, I know that He has an end planned with fireworks and trumpets. I can life my dream!

What is my dream? Oh, so many little things, but the biggest is to grow to the person that God wants me to be, for Him, for myself, for my husband, for my children! That is all that matters.
Really, I am trying to live Romans 12:2 where I am no longer conforming to the old patterns, but where I am "being transformed by the renewing of my mind. So that I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will for me."

He also showed me that, after years of not wanting to be myself, that I DO want to be ME and nobody else. I rather be myself, feeling the pain I feel but knowing that this is God's plan for my life and that I am doing His will. He will make me a better person. He deserves all the glory.

20 March 2013

God my healer

I have been going through this transformation, which I knew would take a while. Now the word 'while' can be a varying length of time, like a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. And really, it is not up to me anyways - it is in God's hands, His timing, not mine.

Now let's be honest, we are humans, and as humans we get impatient. We want something and we want it now. And isn't society teaching us that when we want something, we should go out and get it, no matter the cost? It teaches us to get what we want, which means to set ourselves to the action, instead of being still and wait. (Psalm 37:7)

But God wants us to stop "conforming to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."  (Romans 12:2)   HIS will, not ours. We need to learn to slow down and wait and listen!

God wants us/me to do a number of things:
1) put my burdens onto Him, He will carry my loads
2) trust Him
3) wait for His timing
4) accept His plan and
5) do what he asks of me.

It sounds 'easy' enough to follow. But what gets in the way of His plan are our/my expectations. Of ourselves. And unfortunately, of others. Even if we don't want to have those, we do, and we get disappointed. I told myself to only go forward from this point on. But I stumbled. Someone has promised me support, and they failed me. I expected to be at a better place already because I want that change so much. But forgiveness takes time, and so does the healing process. And I need to learn that the only one I can truly rely on a hundred percent is God!

And because I have been here so many times, I know that there is no escape but to run towards God, into His open arms! The biggest lesson I learned is NOT to step away from the Lord. NOT to stop praying, even on my darkest day - because He hears me best on that day. He holds me over the water that day, so I won't drown (in my own self pity probably). So I pray! And I read His word. I probably won't be able to tell you what I read that day, but whatever the passage was, it comforted me. I hold onto His promises.

God understands our hurts, our feelings. He is touched when we come to Him for comfort, He is our father and a loving father comforts His children. He wants to help and heal, more than we can imagine!
Jesus understands, too, because He has been there, rejected, ridiculed, bullied, forsaken. "There is not a single feeling that we cannot bring to Him." says Mr. Seamands in his book. Jesus understands, and He wants to comfort as well.
The Holy Spirit takes us by the hand and leads us. Not only is His presence comforting as well, but He also wants to show us what we need to do to change. He wants us to see that our suffering will make sense. It has a purpose.


11 March 2013

Next Step in the healing process: Forgiveness

After a hard week, I am ready to work on our next step in my little mini series about My New Habit - the process of healing. My eyes were opened to many deep hurts, that were then followed by many bad habits. I have ups and downs, but I think I am on the way of healing. But before that can happen, we need to talk about the next step: forgiveness.

"Forgiving everyone who is involved in my problem".
Forgiveness is huge. And it works on so many levels. There is to forgive and being forgiven, to forgive others as well as ourselves, and being forgiven by God, others, and ourselves.

That forgiveness comes with a price tag. The tag reads responsibility. Because when I take responsibility of my actions and reactions, I can't play the blame-game anymore. No more excuses. No more hiding behind the past. If there is something my parents did not teach me, well guess what, it is time to learn it now. If they did something wrong, that does not give me the right to do the same mistake again.

It was an action to take control of that responsibility. And it is and will be an action to forgive. For some people, it is easy to forgive, sincerely. I could even exercise this already (read here) long time before I ever read this book. Then for others, it is rather hard. Actually the thought to have to forgive is stressing me out, and for now, I have pushed it to the side.

A question came to mind. How does forgiveness work? I mean for the real deep hurts. The hurts that sit so deep that for the longest time, I did not realize they were still there. I had not even realized that they had shaped a big part of me, a part that is not so flattering at all. How do you forgive that?

My best friend Beth helped me, in talking it through. We spoke about every step. It is a process. Of the mind. And over time. It is an action that needs to be taken; a responsibility to be chosen over and over again, until it will be done. And once that forgiveness is deep enough, I will feel free again, I will be healed. (#goosebumps)

Whew, that is a big step still to be faced. I am not looking forward to facing it over and over again, but I am eager to reach the end of it. I want to forgive, because that will set ME free. That will heal ME. And that will change MY life for the better. I can not wait.

But.... that is not all. 
What? you ask. Yep, there is more to forgiveness, more to the process of healing:
forgiving yourself

When I read it at first, I was like: what? Why do I need to do that? For what? I didn't do anything to myself, did I? And then it came to me, very clearly......  that I did need to forgive myself!!!
For the sins I have done, resulting from my bad habits - habits that I taught myself because I was so hurt. Habits created by fear. Habits to rather push everyone out of my life before they could hurt me again, making the assumption that's what they were going to do. I needed to forgive myself for the many hurts I have done to others.

I knew what it meant for me. It meant to forgive myself because God had forgiven me already. He also had thrown it into "the sea of His forgiveness and His forgetfulness" as Mr. Seamands calls it, and then had "put a sign on it that read 'No fishing allowed.'" And that is exactly what I had done in the past! I might have thought that I forgave myself, and maybe I forgot it for a while, too, but for sure, I went back after a time and went fishing for those sins. Once I had them in my hands again, I could beat myself up again and again, thinking I would never be enough for anybody, not for God, not for my husband, my parents, my children, or my friends. And part of me felt 'good' in that victim-role, too. It felt like a shield of protection around me. Kind of like 'Life is tough, and so am I'-attitude.

But No More of that! I have asked for forgiveness and received it and accepted it and it is done now!

Yet, there is one more thing to forgiveness.
Now that you know that you can be forgiven and that you are able to forgive, you really need to accept and receive it. God's grace is infinite and we do not understand it. I think, God never intended for us to understand it. His love is never-ending, unchangeable and unconditional. And because He loves us, He can show us mercy and grace. I believe, it is actually easy for Him to do so. The problem is not God's, it's ours! We are either unable to believe Him and His forgiveness, or we can't accept it, because we think our sins were too big. God is doing what He promised, but we are not doing OUR part!

Believe me, I am preaching here to myself!  So now we turn that around: if we are not receiving that unconditional love and forgiveness, we fail to show others that same unconditional love and forgiveness. And that is a sin in itself. Because we are suppose to become more Christ-like: because He showed us mercy (which we need to accept), we can show mercy to others now. (We love because He loved us FIRST. (1 John 4:19))

At first, I did not understand. I was still blinded by my own sin, and the role of the victim still laying on me with the unwillingness to see that this might be true. Blinded by my own pity, I did not want to think of handing out love. My self-centeredness literally screamed for more love for ME - it was not interested in giving love to others. Because that old Self thought that everybody else had enough love already but that I needed more, or any. Really, I was my own worst enemy! But even those enemies, we need to forgive them! I needed to forgive myself.

How wrong I was! How could I have expected to receive love when I did not want to show it. No wonder that most of my relationships in the past drifted apart or broke off. It is unhealthy to only think of oneself in a relationship.
Relationships are a two-way street! They mean taking risks, being vulnerable and open, and to give MORE rather than less. It means to spend hours with my God, building the relationship I want with Him and He wants with ME. It means cooking and cleaning, even if the Hubby does not say thank you each time (which he does!). It means to take care of children that are so ungrateful to the things we do as mothers. (And by ungrateful I mean that they don't understand it yet, but hopefully one day, they will understand the sacrifices we made for them. And if not, that is okay, too, because I get my satisfaction from knowing I did what God wanted me to do.) It means to help a friend in need, even when we do not get anything back in return.

I think I really learned my lesson. Taking responsibility meant to put away anger and resentment and take action to forgive and change and give. It meant to leave the vicious cycle that I was riding (like a merry-go-round) - for a better path, a straight path towards a goal!

There are still days where I ask myself how much God wants me to serve and hold the other cheek.... but then I remember that my strength comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:2), and that His faithfulness is my reward (not human failure or success, or the uncertainty of which one it will be) (Psalm 36:5-6).
AND: God has a purpose "for those sins, failures, and hurts that happened earlier in my life". (Romans 5:3-5) He will wrap them up in His love for me. When He sets me free, He will set free a cycle far less vicious than the one I just came off. A cycle where I can extend His love for me to others, to be able to give grace and love to the people around me.

09 March 2013

The Easy Button?

Do you remember the Staples commercial about the big red button with white writing that read
Society today tells us that things should be easy, because they are available and we deserve them.
The Bible tells us something else. God tells us that we should expect things to get rough and hard, but that those times teach us faith and to trust in Him; and through the hardships He will make us stronger.

Easy sounds good, doesn't it? Making decisions based on how we feel in that instant would make things so much easier, right? We just follow our heart. And that will make us happy, or will it not? It applies to so many things. When we eat that last piece of chocolate cake because it tastes so good. When we shout at our children because they did something wrong, it feels good to let that anger out. When we keep hurting the people around us because it's easier to act out of habit and the programming we've got. It is easier.

But that is not what God wants for us. He wants us to become that new person He promised us we would become when we became believers.

This week has been a hard week for me. I fell back to old habits, including following my feelings and fears, rather than the truth. That resulted in hopelessness and a feeling of wanting to give up, which further led me to beating myself up over it. All that was a nice set-up for a complete meltdown.....

I am so blessed that I have a best friend walking alongside me. She caught me that day! And probably literally saved me from falling into a deep depression. Beth was there to talk to me about my feelings, my fears, my despair, and my anger. She listened and she gave advise. And I listened as hard as it was, and I learned.

For once, it is healthy to acknowledge my feelings rather than stuffing them down which will only lead to further frustration and maybe an explosion-bound-to-happen, like a volcano. Acknowledging the feeling I have, not only takes the power out of the feeling, it also gives me time to think about how I want to react to that feeling. God wants us to follow Him by faith not by sight or feelings. And sometimes, it requires us to do the opposite of what we feel like doing.

Only following my feelings (rather than doing what is right) will also make me a very unreliable person. In the common language, it's called being moody. Nobody knows what to expect when dealing with me.
Making decisions in a more Christ-like way, doing what is right, would not only give me more stability, it will make my relationships more stable. I want my family and friends be able to trust me and be able to rely on me. I want them to be able to depend on me. I am done being controlled by my emotions just like I don't want anybody else be controlled by them.

I also learned that wanting to make a change is the start to a new beginning. There are so many people that walk on this earth thinking that there is nothing wrong with them. I was convinced that it is so much harder to know that there is something wrong and that it needs to change, but the path there is so hard......

God is funny in making His point convincing. Since that day, every day, He made me hear from different sources that giving up is NOT an option! He has started a great work in me but He is not finished. And giving up would be a slap into His face. So here I am, ready for the next wave of progress, expecting to stumble again, but hopefully not as badly as this week.

My last point is that making any progress is better than none. Going forward any bit is gaining knowledge that no-one can take away from me. Making one good choice and then two bad ones does not erase the one good choice I made. Hopefully in training myself to make better choices, it will become a habit, and with that, yes, it will become easier.

It feels like God the potter has taken the clay jar I was and smashed it to the ground, now I am broken and it hurts! Oh, how it does. But He is also taking all the pieces and makes me into a new person. The pounding hurts, too. I am already so blessed but I know and trust God that He will finish His piece of art (aka Me) and bless me through this suffering. It will never be easy but it will get easier than what it is now.

14 February 2013

"Life is Like a Cup of Coffee"

Today, I am simply sharing a story that was shared with us at a local church. It is from this webpage. And while the words revealed on the screen, one after the other, it was so clear in my heart that I have been blinded all this time by cups, and I did not enjoy the coffee as God intended it.

"Life is Like a Cup of Coffee

Spiritual Story by Unknown

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee. Savor the coffee, not the cups! The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly."


Which cup would you choose? 

11 February 2013

Trusting God in Dark Times

This morning, I woke up to a dark world. I so did not want to get up. I turned around in bed to be faced by a beautiful baby girl - I guess she slept with me. At that very moment, two other kids jumped in bed with me, smiled and screamed 'hungry'. What does a mother do in a situation like this? Get up anyways. Even when everything inside of me wants to give up and just lay there, questions racing through my head, and no answers but an empty feeling.

The reason why I awoke in such a state comes from my day yesterday. Something happened in my brain - or was it the devil getting a stronghold again? - and all my doubts came back. My insecurities. Fears. Anger. Jealousy. Pain. And yes, the question if I could ever change after all, or is it too late for me? It not only put me in a bad mood, but it also affected our family day.

I had a good week. A week with some normal life and some trials. But I think I handled them pretty well. I reached out when I wanted to pull away. I talked when I just wanted to say "I am fine". I really thought about why I was feeling a certain way. I read the Word, books, devotionals, bible verses I had jotted down. I prayed. And I told myself the truth over and over. I did good.

How can it be then, that I got sucked into this state again, after only a week? Ugh.... This is so frustrating. And yes, I can be hard on myself, and I can get quite impatient with myself.  So besides everything else, I also need to learn patience.

At a local church, I heard a sermon that was so GOOD! The speaker doesn't realize what He showed me this morning, because really, his sermon was on something else. But certain words, verses, spoke to me and woke me up! Thank you, God!

I see the world as dark because I was taught to see it that way! My atheist parents walk on a dark path and to this day, deny that the light exists! But I know better now. God is my light, He is suppose to brighten my day. I just don't let Him sometimes! And really, I am suppose to be the light for others, too. So I have not done a good job in fulfilling my job description as a Christian.
Disobedience!

Is it hard to pull yourself up out of such a state? Hell, yes. Is it hard to worship God at a time such as this? Yes. Am I able to praise Him in the darkness? Not really. So what am I doing?
Disobedience!

The truth is that I am suppose to thank God in all my circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The truth is that we are suppose to face those trials with joy (James 1:2). 
The truth is that He will "restore, confirm, strength, and establish" us through those trials (1 Peter 5:10).
The inner pessimist inside of me wants to ask: "Why so many trials, God?" and "Why does it hurt so much, Lord?" I want to scream: "Why does it feel like my life is too hard? Why does it appear others seem happier and do not have to suffer this much?" Oh, the questions my little brain can come up with.....

I've got some answers this morning! It's all clear now.... now I just have to live accordingly.... 

It's the attitude. I need to concentrate on counting my blessings! And I have been a very bad manager of my blessings. I KNOW very well, how blessed I have been and how blessed I am right now, this second! "The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it." (Proverbs 10:22) I AM RICH.
That is a truth that I know.

In the past, I did not manage those blessings right. When trials come my way, when the devil tries to turn my attention away from the blessings, I see blessings that are not meant for me but for others. Jealousy is a sin! I need to concentrate on my very own blessings, and thank God for them! God created them especially for me, and I deserve them. My blessings are just as special as everybody else's.

God only gives us as much as we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). Then He comforts us with His peace in John 16:33, and He promises that all things will work together for good (Romans 8:28). Trials are suppose to teach us perseverance (Romans 5:3). After all, nothing is impossible for God (Matthew 19:26). Wow, the present and future look much brighter with this truth!

God intended for us to prosper (Jeremiah 29:11) and to be in good health of body and mind (3 John 1:2). He WANTS us to be happy with His will (Romans 12:2). And He wants us to thank HIM! (Psalm 107:1) In all my circumstances. So really, I have not trusted Him enough. I think I have doubted Him to be able to help me, change me.

Also, my attitude needs to change when I am faced with a problem. I need to ask myself: "God, what are you trying to show me?" Once He reveals that to me, I need to ask: "God, which way do you want me to go?"  He is the author of my life. He knows what is best for me. I need to listen to Him.

There is beauty in each situation. This world is beautiful. And in being a good person, an optimist, a light to the world, I will help to make this world a better place. It's my responsibility as God's child, accepted and loved by Him. And for myself, I want to feel God's blessings every second of my life -  I don't want to miss a single one that He has specially for me.

God is teaching me that if I couldn't trust in anybody else, I can trust in Him.
God teaches me that if I feel lonely, He is always there, He never leaves me. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
God is teaching me to have hope in MYself, to believe in me - He can perform miracles.

A transformation is not always going forward, it's also stumbling, falling, and being picked up.

(And in case, you don't know which transformation I am talking about, you can catch up here, and then here.)