Making Sure That You Are In Love With The Right Thing Before You Say “I Do!”

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I remember those days like it was yesterday: a starry-eyed girl, still “wet behind the ears,” dreaming of romance, weddings, and babies.  Now, I have the marriage, the babies, and yes, the romance too!

So many women my age have the marriages and the babies too.  Romance?  It’s something they still dream about and read about, hoping that some day their wishes might come true.  For many, it will only ever be just that: a dream and a wish.

How many countless young women marry because they dream of that “forever after”?  The odd thing is that the young man who once was so courteous to win their affections suddenly seems to forget the basic courtesies after a few years — especially after a few babies and a few more pounds thicken their wives’ waist-lines.

What happens to those same women who walked the aisle to marry their “forever afters” and heard their men utter those timeless vows of “in sickness and in health”?  Those same men who looked at them with wonder in their eyes now coldly or hurriedly demand and expect of those same wives an unending service and performance of meeting the needs of the husbands.

How many women lie in bed at night after meeting their husbands’ needs, only to roll over with tears streaming down their faces and face a wall that somehow seems more friendly then the husband who once promised to cherish them?

Am I being too hard on the husbands?  Oh, there are certainly women who have broken the hearts of their husbands, and I have known a few…

Love is so often viewed as,  “What can I get from the relationship?”  The truth is that isn’t love.  It’s selfishness.  True love is giving and giving and giving of yourself without thought of personal benefit as a result.  It’s not based on the performance or worth of the recipient.

God demonstrated the absolute perfection of love.  He gave His Son — His only Son, His perfect Son — to redeem and win back a people who had rebelled against Him and hated Him.  These people had accepted the lies of His enemy Satan over Himself.  These people had preferred the lies of the very one who hated them and desired their demise over the pure love of a God who desired to cleanse them and transform them into the people He had created them to be!

So few people even have a small glimpse of what this kind of love looks like in life.  Thus, we often believe the lies, the counterfeits of “love” and think that we are loving someone or receiving love from someone when it is often the opposite: selfishness, bullying, control, guilt, condemnation, fear even…

True love and romance is often revealed after the credits roll, the lights dim, the pounds pack on, and the years toll.  True love is powerfully displayed when the spouse no longer can roll out of bed on his or her own or even lift a glass to their mouth and when their mate selflessly and patiently wipes the drool that dribbles down the wrinkled chin.  It’s being willing even to clean the bed-pans and tie the shoelaces of the spouse that no longer has the strength or control to do it themselves.  It’s loving even when there isn’t anything for the recipient to offer in return except gratitude.  Sometimes, it’s not even getting that because the recipient is mentally too taxed to even perform that small return.

True love is more than romance and attraction.  It’s about seeing the soul beneath the surface.

How will you know if you are marrying the right person?

Look for characteristics of humility, kindness, patience, courtesy, meekness.  These are the characteristics that will make a good husband and father.  Als0, consider their general view of women.

Why are so many men and women in miserable marriages?

Many women marry because they are in love with the thought of marriage.  They read romance novels and are in love with the idea of a thoughtful, handsome, romantic man “sweeping them off their feet.”  So many young women/girls are more in love with the idea of love then actually marrying a guy for the right reasons.  The thought of a gorgeous wedding, cute babies, a home of her own, and a husband who cherishes her is perhaps a very common reason why these girls marry.  They meet a guy.  He turns on the charm.  He says the right words.  Does the right things.  The girl hears him proclaim his undying love and devotion.  They get married.  The wedding day is perfect!  The honeymoon might also be amazing.  And they live happily ever after, right?  Wrong!

The true test of character and of understanding of what true love is comes as the days, weeks, months, and especially years pass.  How do the husband and wife handle job changes, financial pressures, health concerns, in-law challenges, crying babies, toddlers with tantrums, messy houses, a fatigued spouse, the rebellious teen, discipline issues, and bodies that age?

True love becomes more of a decision than an emotion. 

Love is an action verb.

When the lights dim and the credits roll, your marriage will only be as good as you give.

True love is more about the lover than the recipient.  It’s more about your character — rather than the person you are loving.  How well do you love?

Note: True love does not mean you ignore or tolerate abuse.  This includes all forms of abuse: physical, emotional, and verbal.  Ignoring serious problems in your marriage is not loving for it is enabling the abuser and not helping them to recognize their need to find healing.

Marriage is an incredible gift — when it is with the right person, in the right timing, and with the right “love” at its helm.  Before you say “I do,” make sure you are in love with the right thing.  Make sure it’s not an idea or dream.  Make sure it will be a reality by knowing the character of the person you are marrying and by having the character to truly love.

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The “Mommy Martyr” Vs. The “Sisterhood”

Copy of IMG_1660The last few days, life as a mommy of five children with a newborn was difficult.  Yet into the emotional vortex and challenges of my life, some beautiful people transformed my days into something lovely.  Help from the sisterhood arrived!

Wednesday evening, I had spent time finishing the last of this week’s Bible studies on the life of David.   Beth Moore made some important observations in the studies.  She mentioned that God orchestrated events in David’s life so that he was dependent on others at times in his life.  Dependency was to reveal his need for others in the plan of life, to bring humility, and to bring compassion towards his fellow mankind.  Beth Moore indicated that God never intended us to live life as solitary units.  We are most importantly meant to live in the delightful fellowship of a relationship with God, based on His grace towards us.  We are then secondly created to learn to walk this life with the rest of humanity.  This walk can involve lots of trials and suffering, but it can also help to purify us, bring about a greater humility, and hopefully create a greater sense of compassion and awareness of our fellow mankind.

I was reminded of those lessons as this week unfolded.  This week had presented me with quite a few challenges, and I was quickly feeling “submerged” by life.  It was then that God began to bring the “sisterhood” into my life that revealed to me that I am not alone in this event called life.  It reminded me again that I don’t have to become the “Mommy Martyr”.

Sometimes, it seems like as women, we feel that we have to be invincible — a combination of hero, warrior, and martyr.  We feel that we have to do everything and be everything for everybody.  Anything less than perfection, we feel is not good enough.  We walk around with feelings of failure and as a result have simmering frustration which can then lead to anger towards ourselves and those closest to us (our children and spouses).  We transfer our unrealistic expectations upon our children and our spouses and then react when they don’t measure up to our standards of perfection.  Perhaps this lack of reality and truth stem from a false perspective of God and His dealings towards us.

Perhaps it’s a lack of recognition or personal awareness of how God is constantly working in big and little ways to reveal the immeasurable greatness of His love towards us!  Perhaps, it’s not understanding that God desires a personal relationship with us — a close and intimate friendship with Him.  He wants us to personally know His heart for us and His plan and purpose for our lives.  God wants us to discover that His love for us is not circumstantial, limited, or performance-based.  His love is based on His own nature — not reliant on ourselves or who we are or aren’t.  Our relationship with Him changes only as we change — as we move closer to Him or further from Him, based on our own tolerance of sin in our lives.

When we correctly understand the merciful nature of God and His great love for us, we are able to more readily accept His grace and forgiveness into our lives and then extend that to others.  We are also able to more readily accept love and grace from others as well.

As humans, we are created to depend on God and even others to fully live this life.  This is where the “sisterhood” is meant to exist and serve.

This week, I personally experienced how the “sisterhood” beautifully serves and assists and how dependent I am at times on them.  I had dear “sisters” who brought me meals twice this week.  I had a mother, sister, and father who helped pick up my kindergartner from school since I didn’t have a vehicle.  I had a cousin drive a few hours to spend a day, watching my kids so I could get a much-needed nap and then to help me grocery-shop and get some Christmas-gift shopping done.  She also made supper for us and brought toys to share with my kids.

I had a newborn baby who smiled at me!

I had a two-year-old daughter who sang a delightful song to her baby brother.

I had a “sister” who volunteered to drive me to a ladies’ Bible study.

Each of these actions encouraged my heart and helped me to be able to live life more fully — not just surviving but thriving under the care and nurture of love.

As “sisters”, let us not forget that even the smallest actions can encourage a heart.  We are needed!  We are not meant to live as solitary units nor are we meant to become “Mommy Martyrs” in order to live life.

A Day In The Life Of A Mommy Of A Newborn

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(FreeImages.com/MarcoOjeda)

I’ll be honest.  Yesterday was tough!  It was the first time since giving birth to my 19-day-old that I cried.

Up until two days ago, I had been feeling good.  Tired but not extreme exhaustion.  Holding a contented newborn.  Maintaining a decently clean house.  Keeping abreast of business stuff.  Generally doing well with recovery and life.

Yesterday it came crashing around me.  It’s not that anything was horribly major — like someone dying or a terminal illness or a house burning down.  It was all those “little” things that add up and when you are exhausted, make you feel like nothing is going right.

I get about 5 1/2 hours of sleep at most per night.  I know some can survive with that few hours of sleep, but I start to feel like a zombie or overly emotional after awhile if I am not getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night.  We know how it goes with a newborn, sleep just doesn’t happen much — especially when you have four other children too.

With three of them in school, I have to awaken them at 6:30 a.m. and help them madly scramble to dress, eat, pack their lunch boxes in the backpacks, find gloves and hats (always by their back packs), take vitamins, pray with them, and then send them on their way with hugs and kisses by 7:00 a.m.  In the mad scramble, the boys often are too noisy and to my horror — yes horror, manage to awaken their 2-year-old sister at 6:30 a.m. also.  That means that Mommy’s day has begun — whether ready or not.  Of course, there is a newborn to be fed every two hours in there, and the feeding takes 30-45 minutes total.  This also involves a partial outfit change as the poor little guy spits up a lot.

So, I begin my day with sleep deprivation which means everything is “amplified” — the stresses and hopefully the joys too.

Did I also mention that my two-year-old has decided that naps are a thing of the past?

On top of that, I had to spend my day talking with banks, auto mechanics, sales’ representatives, the hospital where I gave birth, the Social Security office, health insurance representatives, doctors, etc…  Why all of this?

Because… our van is in the shop — thanks to a bad repair job that should have cost us around $100 but is now going to cost us at least $2000!  As a result, I’ve been without a vehicle for a week, and it will be another half a week ’til I have a vehicle again.

My husband and I had lots of decisions, research, and phone calls to make to decide on whether or not we wanted to invest more money into a high mileage vehicle or take our losses.  We had to consider what type of vehicle we would buy in its place and how we would pay for it.  So many decisions and many phone calls and research!

No vehicle means I am house-bound and have been for weeks.  Thankfully, my sister and mom have been available to pick my Kindergartner from school, or we would be in trouble.

Then, there are all the insurance issues.  My husband changed jobs — a good thing — less than a month from Baby’s due date.  The new insurance plan offered would have meant we would have had to pay completely for the cost of the birth so we elected to go with Cobra, our only other option available at the time.  I did more research and found that once Baby was born, we could then switch to a cheaper plan.  I’ll spare you the details, but to get the best deal, it meant we had to go with Cobra for October, my  husband’s new insurance plan for November, and then I needed to apply for a third plan for December, that we hope to keep ’til the following December.  All these insurance changes meant time — time with a capital “T”!  I had to call doctor’s offices to get information.  I had to keep reentering information on our online application as it wouldn’t save prior information.  Lots of time involved!  I had to submit applications for Cobra and make more phone calls.  I haven’t even gotten to resubmitting bills yet.  That will come.

Then, there is the issue with our newborn’s birth certificate and social security card.  They have the wrong name.  So, I had to call the hospital, fill out paperwork, resubmit the form for a corrected birth certificate, try to reach the Social Security office to no avail, and now we have to wait for the new certificate before applying for a new social security card.

Of course, Christmas is fast approaching.  This is a season and holiday I love, but it means more work.  I have Christmas gifts to make and order, letters to write, and shopping to do.  This is not meant to be a burden, but add it with everything else, and I started to feel overwhelmed.

Boring you yet?  Probably an under-statement…

Yesterday when I started to cry, it wasn’t because of all of the previously mentioned challenges.  It was because my baby wasn’t acting like his usually contented self.  He would cry from hunger, I would attempt to nurse him, and he would turn up his nose at me.  There is nothing like holding her own crying and unhappy baby that will more quickly reduce a mother to tears.  I couldn’t satisfy him at the moment and help him, and that was “ripping my heart out.”

Thankfully, in the midst of my exhaustion and emotional stress, I remembered the necessity of prayer and began to pray for God to help my baby and I.  I attempted to nurse him again, and that time, he began to suck.  I still held him with tears rolling down my cheeks, but I didn’t feel like such a huge failure afterallThere is something about when you breastfeed your baby that makes you particularly vulnerable to a sense of success or failure, based on how your child takes to breastfeeding.  This, of course, isn’t true; but somehow, it feels like it. 

That evening, I also needed/wanted to finish the week’s Bible study on the life of David, directed by the Beth Moore devotionals.  I didn’t know if I would be able to meet with the other ladies the following day, but I wanted to stay on schedule.  As I began to read more of the lessons, I began to “hear” what God was trying to teach me through His Word.  It’s amazing how the Lord always brings exactly into our lives what we need to hear and when we need to hear it!  His timing is perfect!

I began to be reminded by reading David’s life story how God had time and time again shown a desire to be loved, to reveal the immeasurable greatness of His own love, and to have a close, intimate friendship with David.  I was then reminded of the many ways that God has worked in my own life and the truth of Who He is.  I was reminded to praise God for Who He is and what He is doing!  This was such a good reminder for me — something I needed to read that very day.  I was feeling so tired, so completely worn out, and overwhelmed.  God reminded me of how much He loves me and of how He has and is working on my behalf!

I may be a sleep-deprived Mommy of five.  My house may not be perfect.  My vehicle may not be running and may empty a good portion of our savings to fix it.  Christmas gifts may not be timely this year.  One thing I do know is that I am loved, protected, and desired by a God Who is Merciful, Gracious, Just, and Loving!  I can and will survive, and I can do it even victoriously!

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Creating A Welcoming Space & Welcoming The New Baby

It was the beginning of March this year when I found that my life would change drastically.  We were expecting Baby # 5!  I was surprised, scared, overwhelmed, and excited — all at the same time!  I kept hoping we were going to have a girl.  A sister would be nice for our only girl.  I had grown up with three sisters and loved the friendship we shared.  I wanted that for my daughter to experience.  Plus, I thought it might be good for her to not be the only “princess” in our home.  She gets a lot of attention being the only girl, and I didn’t want it going to her head.

In June, we would discover that we were expecting a BOY!  Our fourth son.  I remember the surprise.  My pregnancy had felt so much like it was a girl.  I tried to imagine another son.

As July drew to a close, I had made a decision.  We live in a house with barely a total of 2,000 sq. feet.  Not bad — especially downstairs.  The upstairs though is tight.  We have three bedrooms total and the one is very small.  The other is smallish.  The third is decent.  We had to decide how to fit our five kids into two rooms.

My decision was to brain-storm ways to fit a fifth child into our already crowded rooms.  At the time, we had our daughter sharing a room with a brother — a temporary arrangement at best.  The other two brothers shared the small room.  There was no room for another child in that room.  Our closets are small since we have an older home.  We already used larger dressers that were shared by two kids.  We were maxed out in closet, furniture space, and bed space.  This bothered me.  I wanted to have a “welcoming” space for our little guy when he arrived.  I didn’t have that so I began to brain-storm for ways to create a space that was “welcoming” to our little guy.  I prayed, researched, spent two weeks pricing items in various stores, spent a day on Pinterest getting ideas, and finally presented my plan to my husband with a proposed budget, based on real-life items.  My husband approved my budget and plan.  I began the process of shopping, painting, and preparing the rooms for new sleeping arrangements.

 IMG_9359 IMG_9342  IMG_9378   IMG_9367 IMG_9368 IMG_9369 IMG_9371 IMG_9388 IMG_9380 IMG_9381 IMG_9383 IMG_9385 IMG_9386 IMG_0179 (Large)   IMG_0178 (Large)Here are all the before pictures.

I spent August painting like crazy.  I repainted a bunch of our furniture, repainted both kids’ rooms, replaced carpet in the one room, cleaned, organized, and shopped.  The final outcome was pleasing to the entire family.  It was especially rewarding to hear my oldest sons praise their room and express their delight.  I had involved my sons by taking them on shopping trips to help pick stuff for their room.  Even though they didn’t have their own rooms, all three sons seemed genuinely happy with the final outcome.

Our daughter’s room would also serve as the nursery so I picked a color scheme that would be gender neutral and would be easy to decorate for both.

Our daughter moved into her new room and made the transition to a toddler bed.  She also seemed delighted with her new room.  I, for one, loved the new colors in both rooms and how relaxing they had become.  It was delightful for me to keep them clean and organized and to motivate the kids to do the same with their rooms.

After seeing the outcome of the nursery, I decided that I wanted a crib to match the nursery colors.  I also couldn’t justify the extravagance of buying a second crib just so it matched.  I spoke with my husband about it, and he said that if I could sell our old crib for enough to buy another one (would cover the cost) then I could buy a different one.  So, I began the process of trying to sell our crib on online sites and then to find one in our price-range off Craigslist.  It took a few weeks and patience because twice I had buyers “fall through” on us.  Finally, I was able to sell our crib.  My mom also decided to surprise us by purchasing the new one I found off Craigslist.  I was thrilled!  The new crib matches the nursery beautifully and will be perfect for when our son outgrows the bassinet we are borrowing from a friend.

My husband set up the crib.  I washed the baby clothes.  I organized, cleaned, and got rid of stuff so we had closet space for our baby.  I also found a dresser off Craigslist that was paid for by a generous relative on my husband’s side.  I finally felt that we had created a “welcoming” space for Baby. I finally felt ready to welcome Baby and eagerly anticipated his arrival.

IMG_0227 IMG_0227IMG_0202 (Large)IMG_0204 (Large)IMG_0176 (Large)IMG_0174 (Large)IMG_9814   IMG_9811 IMG_9812 Here are the after pictures of both kids’ rooms.  I love the colors and themes!

By the time I was finished renovating the kids’ room, I couldn’t wait to meet our little guy.  I couldn’t imagine having anything other than another boy.

I had spent so much time preparing for our new little guy and working so hard to get ready that two weeks before my due-date I had run out of ideas to keep me busy.  I had never previously experienced the anxious feeling of awaiting a baby’s arrival.  With this guy, I did.  I was so prepared that I had nothing to distract me any more.  Plus, my body had started preparing at least 5 weeks before, and I had two false starts to labor.  Not to mention, I had daily contractions that would last for hours and would come regularly every few minutes.  As the time drew closer to our baby’s arrival, the contractions continued to build in intensity.  I was starting to tire of interrupted sleep, the pain, and the questions of whether today would be the day that the contractions would finally send me into the “real deal.”

Finally, I got to four days before my due-date.  Once again, I lost a night’s sleep and we trekked to the hospital.  We were there 1 1/2 hours before going home because once again my body decided to stop labor.  My husband and I were able to laugh about it, but I was definitely feeling discouragement.   A few hours later, the prayers of friends and family began to be felt.  My contractions were starting to return.

In fact, within 1/2 an hour of timing them, I was clinging to my husband, broke down crying, and told him that we had to leave for the hospital immediately!  My contractions were still just four minutes apart, but I knew that their intensity meant that at any minute I was going to start pushing a baby.  That scared me.  We rushed past my napping dad, told him we were leaving for the hospital, and didn’t even get to say good bye to our children.  I was pushing to get to the hospital as fast as possible.  The hospital was eight minutes away.  Half-way there, another contraction hit.  Not fun when there isn’t anything you can do to work with the pain, strapped by a seat-belt in the front seat of a sedan.  My poor husband was trying to rub my back, but I begged him to not worry about rubbing my back but to just get us there as fast and safe as possible.

While on the way to the hospital, I called the answering machine service of my OBGYN practice to tell them we were on the way.  I was put on hold for minutes, finally heard a human voice but then was asked lots of inane questions repeatedly ’til we arrived at the hospital.  The woman never did listen to my message to please tell Labor & Delivery we were on the way and to have someone meet us with a wheelchair at the front door.

We pulled up to the front of the hospital. My husband dashed inside to grab a wheelchair.  Another powerful contraction hit.  Once again, I cried out, pleading with God to help me so that I didn’t deliver the baby by myself right then and there.  I was relieved to see my husband appear again with the wheelchair.  I stood and walked to him.  I think I could have run to Labor & Delivery if I had to; I was feeling so strongly the need to get to a room to have the baby.  The wheelchair wouldn’t open.  Finally, my husband got it open.  I sat down, and the race began.  My husband took off running and crying out for people to excuse us as we careened down the hallways, almost knocking into the receptionist desk and barely avoiding collisions with a few people.  Finally, we made it to the elevator and right outside Labor & Delivery, right in time for another contraction that held me in its vise-like grip.  With pleading eyes, I begged the front desk people to please get me a room.   As they rushed me to a room, the nurses began to gather with comments of, “We have a baby on the way!”  Nurses began to quickly prepare for the delivery and then six of them stood around waiting for the midwife to appear.  Surprisingly, I still hadn’t felt the urge to push — very unusual for me.  I would realize later the cause of this.

My midwife appeared, and the real work began.  Ten minutes into pushing, I was feeling discouraged as my midwife kept telling me I wasn’t pushing effectively.  I was surprised at this because I had never had trouble with delivering my babies.  Finally my midwife checked me again and said, “Oh, your water didn’t break.”  Um, yes.  I wish they had asked me about this earlier.  No wonder I was having trouble pushing the baby!  I was trying to push the baby and a full sack of fluid too.

As soon as the midwife broke my water, baby was out within minutes, if that.  With relief and immense joy, I beheld my son for the first time.  It was love at first sight!  I just sat there, holding my son and admiring him and showering him with kisses and words of admiration.  What an amazing moment!

I felt great too!  It was definitely my easiest delivery and recovery as well.

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Our son is almost two weeks old now and is starting to plump up nicely.  He is such a sweet baby — very pleasant and rarely cries, except when hungry or has a dirty diaper.

What a joy he is!  It is so relaxing to hold him in the rocking chair in our “new” nursery.  So worth all the work and the wait!

I am also so thankful for a wonderfully supportive and encouraging husband!  I couldn’t ask for a better one.

Welcome, Baby W2!  We love you!