Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A is for Acceptance

There are so many things we have to learn to accept when we become mothers.

We accept that our bodies are forever changed.
We accept that uninterrupted sleep is a thing of the past.
We accept that we will go out in public with spit up on our clothes.
We accept that the days of privacy in the bathroom have ended.

Then, there are the bigger things we accept as our children grow.

We accept that we actually have very little control over how our children turn out.
We accept that our kids may travel a different path than we would have liked them to.
We accept that our family may not resemble the picture we always had in our head.

We also need to accept that we will not be perfect parents. Accept that we will make mistakes and we will mess up and that is part of being a parent.

When we do mess up, we need to accept blame and responsibility.  When our kids make mistakes, which they will, we need to accept their apology and move on.

What part of motherhood do you need to accept today?

Till tomorrow,

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cherishing each Mama moment

I texted him at 9pm “This time 18 years ago you were 45 minutes old :) Love you so much!”
How do eighteen years go by in the blink of an eye?

How do you put the brakes on this growing up and becoming a man thing that is happening before your eyes?  How do you look up into the eyes of the baby that is taller than you and not want to press rewind to the days when he sat in your lap asking you to “read it 'gain, mama” or when he would fall asleep on your shoulder with a strand of your hair wrapped in his chubby hand so he would be instantly alerted when you tried to lay him in his crib?

I know that when you are in the throes of temper tantrums, runny noses and sleepless nights that it is hard to imagine ever wishing every.single.one of those days back again.  Believe me, I know!
But, you will.

spring 2013 107

The next time you think you just can’t answer one more question that begins with the word “why” or you are bent low, wiping up the milk that was spilled on your newly mopped floor or you are returning your strong willed four year old to the time out chair for the 15th time {that day}, know that you are doing a good job. 

That while every parenting choice you make may not be the right one as long as you are doing your best and loving your best and just getting through the best you can, your child is soaking it all in.

And, one day when they are turning 18 and realizing their time under your roof is coming to an end sooner than you or they ever imagined they will say “You are the best mom” and they will mean it.
Cause those days you lost your temper or crawled into bed thinking “I can’t do this another day” or wished for the day they would be grown and not need you so much, that is not what your son will remember.

He will remember the days you played H-O-R-S-E with him instead of doing the dishes, the days that you kissed his sweaty forehead when he was sick, the days that you read that story for the 100th time.

And, you mama- you will remember it all. And wish it hadn’t gone by so stinkin’ fast.

photo credit

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What Your Kids Can Learn From Frozen

If you have a child under the age of 10 in your home, you have probably seen the movie, Frozen, a bajillion times. Please tell me it's not just at my house!!!

My 3 1/2 year old granddaughter walks around the house, a sheet around her shoulders and her princess dress up shoes on, singing "Let it Go" and being Elsa. " You be Anna, Mimi" she will tell me. She is obsessed.

And, I have to say that if she has to be obsessed with a movie, I think Frozen is a good one. First of all, I love Disney movies. Probably because I grew up watching them myself {Lady and the Tramp was my favorite} But, of all the Disney movies I've seen I love the message of Frozen. It teaches important life lessons through the characters and the music.

Here are a few of the messages I like:
--Sisters stick together. Sibling relationships create a special bond. Your siblings are the people you've known the longest in life and the only ones that really know what it was like to grow up in your house with your parents. Elsa withdraws from her sister out of love for her and Anna pursues her out of love as well. It is a beautiful, bittersweet part of the story.
--Running away isn't the answer. Elsa retreats from the situation and creates herself a special ice castle. She isn't aware, until Anna tells her, that she left the town she cares about in a worse situation than if she had stayed. It's important for our kids (and their mama's) to remember that just because things get tough or people find out that we aren't perfect doesn't mean we should run away. Staying and facing a situation is often the hardest AND best thing you can do.
--Mr. Perfect rarely is. Anna gets caught up in the sweet nothings that Hans whispers in her ear. It is crucial to realize (and the earlier this happens the better) that actions speak louder than words, particularly when choosing a partner. I love the song the little rock gnome-y things sing, "Fixer Upper" because it's what love is truly about- two imperfect people that love and accept each other, despite their perceived flaws. And, the Hans' of the world typically have ulterior motives and will choose their own agenda over yours every.single.time.
--Love conquers all.

What is your favorite part of the movie?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Using Pinterest for Parenting Tips

I love Pinterest.  I get recipe ideas, crafts to do with the little kids in my life, home decorating ideas and a good belly laugh all in one place.

But, you can also find some great advice on Pinterest too.

Do you use Pinterest to help you parent? Tell me how! Till next time, Melissa

Sunday, March 16, 2014

How to Know What's True

The world around us communicates a lot of things.  Most of those things aren't true.

For example, if you listen to the commercials on TV or the Hollywood movies, you will think the following:

  • Money can buy you happiness.
  • Beauty is skin deep.
  • Relationships always have happy endings.
And, much much more.

In order to make good decisions and live an intentional life, it is important to learn how to know what's true and what's not.  How to make up your mind about what you believe and why you believe it.

Here are some ways I identify if something is true or not:
-If I am trying to decipher if someone is telling me the truth, I tend to watch their actions, rather than their words. Liars are usually very gifted at saying what they think you want to hear, but often the lie is discovered by an action or actions that is inconsistent with the words coming out of their mouths.
-If I am trying to figure out if I believe something I hear on TV or from an advice column in a magazine, I ask myself a simple question. Does this truth line up with Scripture? Finding out what God has to say in His Word is one of the easiest ways to determine what you should or shouldn't believe.

There are so many lies out there that can confuse you and trip you up as you journey through life.  Take time to discover the truth and settle for nothing less.

Till tomorrow,

Monday, March 3, 2014

How to Recognize Mr. Wrong

Last post we talked about why girls stay with the wrong type of guy.  I got a few emails from young mama's asking how to know if you are with a "Mr. Wrong".  I can't answer that question specific to your situations without knowing you and your significant others but I can share some general things to look for as warning signs.

{I would love for you to chime in the comments if you have been in a bad relationship and want to share something I leave off the list.}

1.  Your relationship has more ups and downs than a roller coaster.  Don't get me wrong, relationships will have tension and discord at times.  But, if one day everything is wonderful and the next you're breaking up and the next day everything is wonderful again, that is not a healthy relationship.  If you can't work through simple problems, your relationship is not built to last the tests that it will experience in a lifetime together.  If you invest more time trying to fix things or repairing the damage of a fight that got ugly then you spend enjoying each other's company, then something is wrong. 
2. He dislikes you spending time with your friends and family.  If a guy wants you to cut people out of your life that you love and depend on, you need to run {not walk} away.  When you get married and settle down it is normal for your time to be devoted to your husband and kids.  But even then, in the busiest season of life, maintaining relationships with family and friends is also important.  If a guy is trying to keep you from those relationships and have you all to himself, you are with a Mr. Wrong.
3.  He gets upset if you don't answer a call or text right away.  I have worked with young moms whose boyfriends would get angry if she didn't text him back immediately, regardless of where she was {work, school, etc}.  I have seen girls lose their jobs or flunk out of a college class because of the controlling and jealous behavior of a boyfriend.  If your boyfriend is that possessive and insecure that he needs to know where you are at all times, that is not love.  It is dysfunction.  
4.  You change who you are to please him.  If you are normally outgoing and you find yourself becoming withdrawn and sullen around your boyfriend, there is a problem.  If you feel like you need to change your likes and dislikes to please him, there is a problem. You shouldn't have to give up your identity in order to maintain a relationship.
5.  You feel guilty all the time or feel like you have to walk on eggshells to avoid an argument.  God designed us to be in a marriage relationship with one person for the rest of our lives.  He did not design us to be mutually miserable.  The occasional argument is actually healthy but constant conflict is not.  Name calling, guilt trips, saying mean and hurtful things...those are not the components of a healthy relationship.  Mr. Right will not be ok with seeing you cry, much less being the one to make you cry. Relationships are about give and take. If you are the only one giving, there is a problem.

While I can think of more but am far more curious to hear from you.  What are some things that make you think a guy is "Mr. Wrong" ?  As, you can see I used the phrase "there is a problem" several times in this brief article.  The good thing about problems is that most have solutions.  If you are in an unhealthy relationship, please love yourself enough to get help.  

Till tomorrow,

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why Girls Stay with Mr. Wrong

I wasn't one of those little girls that had my wedding planned out from a young age.  But, I knew I wanted to be a mommy when I grew up.  In the life I imagined long ago, I had a nice husband who traveled for his work and lots of kids, most of whom were adopted. Fast forward to 2014 and I have a wonderful husband {who thankfully does NOT travel for his work} and four kids, two of whom are adopted. 

It was a long road to the happiness I have today.  I had a bad habit of choosing the wrong guys before I met my husband and I almost didn't give him a chance because he was too nice and too quiet. When I worked with teen moms for three years, I saw many girls shy away from nice guys and gravitate to the losers. 
Why?  Why would you want to be with someone that makes you miserable and treats you poorly?  The answer may surprise you.

We are attracted to what is familiar.  If you have grown up in a dysfunctional home, you have most likely become accustomed to a certain amount of chronic stress and conflict.  In fact, sometimes you may have equated love with being controlled or manipulated. Girls, let me encourage you to realize that there is a better way to live.

Here are some reasons you may be staying with Mr. Wrong:

  • You want to feel loveable.  Maybe you didn't have a close relationship with your dad.  You may not even know his name.  Girls often turn to relationships with men at a young age because they are trying to fill a hole in their heart from not growing up with a dad.  You want to prove to yourself that someone can love you and often times, if this is a driving force in your life, you will settle for what you think love looks and feels like and miss out on the real thing.
  • He says all the right things.  Guys can be so sweet and charming, especially when they have the type of personality that seeks to dominate and control.  You may have been dying to hear how beautiful you are, how much someone needs you...and when the first guy that whispers those things in your ear comes along, you think you've found the one.
  • You never learned what a healthy relationship looks like.  My grandparents have been married for almost 60 years.  When my husband and I got married we decided to model our marriage after theirs.  Both sets of our parents were dysfunctional and had been married several times.  We both grew up in homes with domestic violence. We knew what we didn't want.  But, we needed a benchmark for what we did want and so we looked to my grandparents.  
  • You believe you can change him.  Unless someone wants to change, there is no amount of wishing, sulking, nagging and pushing you can do that will make one ounce of difference.  And, if your guy doesn't want to change for the right reasons, you can't make him.
  • You are afraid. Let me be very clear-- If your boyfriend/fiance/husband has ever raised a hand to you or threatened you with bodily harm, it is NOT ok.  Please call the National  Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and find a way for you and your child to be safe. If he has hurt you once, he will hurt you again. No matter what he says or promises, unless he is receiving treatment there is not hope for your relationship.  Please, please get help!
  • You fear being alone. You've gotten used to having someone to talk to that isn't a toddler, someone to hug you and someone that is on your team.  Being a single mom is hard and you just don't know if you have it in you to trust that God has someone out there for you that will love you and treat you the way you deserve.
Do any of these reasons sound familiar? If you need to talk about a relationship issue, please leave me a comment or email me at kmelissasmallwood@gmail.com.  Tomorrow, we will talk about how to let go of Mr. Wrong and then we will discuss what Mr. Right should look like.

Till tomorrow,

Monday, February 24, 2014

What the Bible says about Sex

Hi friends! I've missed writing here.  I'm sorry I was gone for a few weeks. My computer crashed and then my daughter had my second grandchild- a little boy born 2/13/14.  If you would like to see a picture of him (he is adorable!) head over to the Teen Mom 365 facebook page.

Anyways, it is still February so we are going to continue to talk about love.  This week we will focus on our relationship with guys.  If you are a teen mom, then it goes without saying that you've had sex.  That's ok.  I'm not going to tell you that sex is bad or dirty or shameful.

God created sex for two primary reasons- to procreate (the fancy word for having babies) and for fun.  Yes, you read that right.  God created sex for fun.

However, God also designed sex to be for a monogamous marriage relationship, which we will talk about more tomorrow.  Today I wanted to share a few scriptures to give you a glimpse of God's heart on the subject of sex and relationships.

I Corinthians 6:15-20
There's more to sex than skin on skin.  Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact.  As written in Scripture, "the two become one". Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever--the kind of sex that can never "become one".  There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others.  In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for becoming one with another.  Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit?  Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for?  the physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you.  God owns the whole works.  So let people see God in and through your body.

Genesis 1:28
Then God blessed them and said "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.

Genesis 2: 18, 24-25
Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a helper who is just right for him"...This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.  Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

Ecclesiastes 9:9
Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun.  The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.

Till tomorrow,

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

True Love

February is the month we are talking about love here at Teen Mom 365. Last week we talked about God's love and I shared how that love changed my life.

Another love that changed my life is the love I have for my children.

Jared was born when I was 17 and Matt 16 months later when I was 18. A year and a half after Matt was born, my husband and I got custody of (and I later adopted) his son Jason, who was 5 1/2 at the time.  Eleven years later, we met a homeless pregnant teen mama named Shayla, aging out of the foster care system, and she moved in with us (and we later adopted her as well).

As you can see my journey to motherhood was non traditional in every sense.  Yet, somehow, each child that was added to our family made the love in my heart multiply, not divide.

The Bible says that God loves you like a mama loves her children.
"As a mother comforts her son, so I will comfort you". Isaiah 66:13

 As you know, the love we feel for our kids is unconditional, deep, long lasting, inexplicable devotion.

I can't promise you had that type of love from your parents, but just like I know you love your little one, I want you to know that God loves you.

Till tomorrow,

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Filling the Hole in Our Hearts

I love to watch HGTV. My favorite show is Property Brothers.  They are fond of a product called spray foam insulation.  You spray it from a machine in between the frame of a wall and it expands and fills the empty space with insulation that will protect the home from the elements. 

God's love is like spray foam insulation.

Every one of us is born with a God shaped hole in our hearts. 

The hole gets bigger depending on the things that happen to us through out our lives.  A dad leaves when his daughter is too little to remember him.  An uncle touches his niece in inappropriate ways and threatens to hurt her family if she ever says anything.  A mom gets addicted to drugs and her kids leave in a police car to be bounced from foster home to foster home.  Kids lay silent in their beds listening to their mama cry as her boyfriend beats her. A teen girl has an abortion and gets rid of the problem so her boyfriend won't leave...and he leaves anyway. 

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. ~Mother Teresa

The holes in our hearts are deep and jagged. The knife of hurt, betrayal and evil has left scars and fissures where there should be healthy tissue.  We have been hurt too much to trust anyone to fix our hearts so we attempt to close the hole on our own.

We may try to fill it with other things such as relationships, drugs or alcohol, activities and even food but we continue to feel an emptiness until we allow God's spray foam insulation love to expand and grow in our hearts. 

God loves you more than you can imagine.  He longs to be your Healer, your Friend and the Lover of your soul.  He hurts when you hurt.  He hates the things that happened to you as much as you do.  And, He has the answers- the answers to how to move forward, how to change the patterns in your family so your kids don't grow up the same way, how to learn to love yourself.

Will you let Him in?

If you want to know more about how to begin or grow a relationship with God, please reach out to me at kmelissasmallwood@gmail.com or talk to a trusted pastor or mentor.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The best part of the story

The bitterness and apathy that had taken up residence in my heart materialized in ugly ways.  Drugs, promiscuity, callous behavior towards those that loved me the most...the saying "hurt people hurt people" couldn't be more true.
And, then at sixteen, two lines appeared on the pregnancy test.
I was alone in a cramped bathroom stall scared beyond anything I had experienced before. There was life growing inside of me.
At first I pretended not to care.  I would fix the problem.  Have an abortion, pretend that this had never happened.
When I look at my Jared and think that I thought of him as a problem or a mistake, my heart beats hurt and sadness.  It reminds me of the feelings I had on those dark, lonely days.
I would like to tell you as soon as I heard my son's heartbeat on the sonogram that I had an epiphany and turned my life around.  But, that wouldn't be true.
For the first few months of my pregnancy, I continued the self destructive lifestyle I had been engaging in prior to becoming pregnant.  When I think of the consequences my behavior could have had on my now {almost 18 year old} 17 year old boy, I realize the hand of God never left me.  Even when I turned my back on Him, He never gave up on me.
He knit my baby together in my womb to save me from myself.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Psalm 139:13
{You can read more about my salvation story by clicking here}.
Each child God has subsequently brought into my life, through birth or adoption, has changed me for the better and drawn me closer to Him.
You can't parent three kids six and under when you are barely 20 years old without the power of Almighty God.
You can't parent a hurting little boy, who has a deep mother wound, without the supernatural love of Jesus pouring through you.
You can't parent a girl who doesn't trust love without being able to trust the Lover of your soul.
Motherhood led me back to Jesus and it brings me to His feet every single day.

Till tomorrow,

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Heart of Stone

Read Part 1 here.

Yesterday, I started sharing my story of a sad and painful time in my life. Today, is part 2 and I will wrap it up tomorrow. Then, Thursday and Friday I will talk about what I learned in those difficult moments and how I figured out that God was there, looking out for me all along.

Why was God letting this happen?  What did I do wrong? 
This isn’t how it was supposed to be.

It didn’t take but a few days for my family and the authorities to find me when I ran away.  The family court judge deciding my fate took my “strong feelings” into account and allowed me to attend a boarding school close to my paternal grandparents rather than return to foster care.

That decision did improve my immediate circumstances. From the outside looking in, I had a good life.  Friends, good grades, acceptance to an elite academy, grandparents that loved me, material possessions– you name it, I had it.

But I also had a heart of stone.  A determination that no one would hurt me, a desire to manipulate before I could be manipulated.
An entry from my journal at the time put it this way:
Spiraling downward toward imminent destruction. Will anyone notice?  Will anyone care?  What they don’t know won’t hurt them, right? What does it matter…no one cares anyway.
The system might have found me in a few days but it would take God longer than a few days to get me back.
To be continued…

Have you ever felt like your situation was hopeless?

Monday, February 3, 2014

For when you want to give up on God...

Yesterday I introduced the theme for February- LOVE!
And, this week we are talking about our relationship {or lack thereof} with God.

Now, don't stop reading. I'm not going to preach at you. In fact, I am going to share a bit of my story over the next few days and then share how God met me in my mess. Maybe it will speak to your heart or answer some questions you have about God.  Maybe it will help you feel less alone.  So, here goes- Part One.


I remember the day I gave up on God.

I held the phone to my ear while angry, hot tears streamed silently down my face.  As I listened and realized that I had been lied to for months by those closest to me, I made a rash and defiant decision.  If no one was looking out for me, I was going to have to look out for myself.

I gently depressed the button on the phone so that my grandmother would not know I had listened in and started to pray.
Prayer was an automatic response to crisis for me.  Prayer had been my constant companion in my brief 13 years on the earth.
This time the prayers felt empty.  It was as if my heart’s cries were not being heard and I determined God must not be any more trustworthy than the rest of the adults in my life.  Right then, in that moment, hurt and confused I decided God hadn’t been much help to me thus far.

I had done everything right.  Followed every rule, memorized His word and His promises.  What good had that done me?

A deep place in my heart turned to stone.  I stopped praying and decided God and I were parting ways.

I slung my backpack over my shoulders, tossed my long brown hair out of the way of the thick straps and decided to go it alone.  No more God, no more grandparents, no more foster care.  I was going to figure this out on my own.  I quietly closed the door of my adjoining hotel room, careful not to make any noise that would alert my {maternal} grandmother or grandfather to my departure. I walked out into the streets of a small town, determined to never let anyone hurt, betray or use me ever again.
To be continued….

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The God Sized Hole in your Heart

It's February 1st! I can't believe we are already in the second month of 2014.  Girls, you've probably heard that time flies when you have kids and it is true!  The days go by quickly even it feels like they drag on and on.

Each week in February we are going to focus on a different aspect of love.

Week 1 will focus on our love for God. 

Week 2 we will delve the love we have for our kids.
Week 3 we will talk about romantic love and relationships.
Lastly, in week 4 we will talk about loving ourselves.

If you have questions about any of the topics, please email them to me at kmelissasmallwood@gmail.com

I'm excited to talk with you about all things love this month!

Till tomorrow,

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Learning From Your Child

It’s been awhile since I’ve been around toddlers, considering that my youngest son is 16!
Since moving to Florida I’ve been spending lots of quality time with my youngest niece and nephew {17 months and 4} and my Sweet Pea {who turned 3 September 1st} lives with the hubby and I for the time being.  I’m knee deep in potty training, temper tantrums, Bubble Guppies and the like. And, I LOVE it.  Toddlers and preschoolers have the sweetest dispositions and even when exerting their will can’t help but be cheek smooching adorable.

photo credit: Quiet Graces

Recently, Lariah {aka Sweet Pea} pulled me to the sliding glass door for the 3,491st time that day to “look at the lithards”.  I felt irritation creeping up my neck but it dissipated as I glanced down at her eager face.  She was genuinely excited to watch the lizards for the 3,491st time that day.  She watched and laughed and pointed as if it was a brand new experience.

In that moment, I wished I could bottle her inquisitive sweetness and drink it every now and then.  Her excitement is contagious and reminds me to pay attention to my surroundings. To take time to see shapes in the clouds and lizards in the grass.

So, I’m going to make an effort to learn from the cute toddlers in my life and inhale the life lessons they can teach like I inhale the freshly washed hair smell during story time each evening.
And, when I remember to, I’ll share them with you here.

Raising kids can be tiring and frustrating but it's also wonderful and sweet.  Try to take the time to get down on their level and see the world through their eyes. It will make your day brighter!

What lessons can you learn from your little ones?

Till tomorrow,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Simplifying Your Morning Routine

Verse of the day:
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1
 I know that with kids to wake up, breakfast to eat and the pressure to not forget anything, mornings can be stressful- but they don’t have to be. When we are stressed out, we tend to be short and snippy with our kids and that's no way to start the day.

 Here are five tips to make your morning routine work for you and your family:

  1. Prepare as much as you can the night before.  This means laying out clothes, packing the diaper bag, setting the table for breakfast, etc.  The more you do the night before the less there is to stress about in the morning.  As your kids get older you can enlist their help with the evening routine as well.
  2. Set realistic expectations.  If there are mornings that you need to leave the house at a certain time (for work, appointments, school, etc.) then a gourmet breakfast is probably not the way to go.  So often we try to cram things into the morning routine that aren’t necessary and then wonder why we are stressed.  Be realistic about the time that you have and what needs to be accomplished.
  3. Have a command center.  Don’t you hate those moments when the kids can’t find their favorite toy {that they just can't leave the house without} at the last minute?  Ever had shoes or coats missing in action and you are already five minutes behind schedule?  The solution is to have a place for everything and help your family get in the habit of putting everything in its place.  We had a small table by the entryway where diaper bags, binkies, blankies and favorite toys can go.  We had three hooks by the door for coats and book bags when my boys were small and a basket for shoes.  The more accessible everything is, the easier it is to find.
  4. Menu plan.  I am an advocate for menu planning and not just dinner.  We have a menu for breakfast Monday- Friday.  My boys knew that Mondays were cereal, Tuesdays waffles, Wednesdays eggs, etc.  This makes the morning routine easier and I don’t end up feeling like a short order cook.  It also helped the boys know how to set the table for the coming day. Even a 3 or 3 year old can help set the table for breakfast the night before.  If you pack your child's lunch for daycare or preschool, have a menu plan for that as well,so you know without thinking about it, what will go in the lunchbox each morning.
  5. Reward yourself and the kids.  Initiating a new routine can be difficult until the routine becomes habit for your family.  Consider having a special reward {a dessert, an outing, etc} on the week’s that mornings run smoothly.  The only way for mornings to work is for everyone to be a team in the household.  Acknowledge when the kids have pitched in.  Thank your man for warming up the car.  Reward your family for coming together to make something work. 
The way we start our day can often impact what the rest of the day is going to be like.  Sticking to an effective routine is essential for busy young moms!

Till tomorrow,

Monday, January 27, 2014

Taming Temper Tantrums

I thought someone would've called the cops last weekend.  That is how loud my 3 year old granddaughter was screaming {and crying and stomping her feet and throwing herself on the cold, hard floor}.  What was she upset about?  Two little letters that form one powerful word- N-O!

I was a strict parent and even though I am a little more lenient with my granddaughter, I still have pretty high expectations of her behavior.  Since she lives with me, I discipline her more than the average Mimi.  And, just like when my kids were little, her tantrums push ALL my buttons. 

While it is hard to maintain your cool when your child is having a meltdown, it is really important that you do. 

Here are some tips for handling your child's next tantrum:

Photo Credit: Quiet Graces
  • Remember that tantrums are a normal part of child development.  While you shouldn't tolerate the behaviors associated with temper tantrums, particularly as your child gets older, the behavior is normal.  For kids ages 18 months to 3-4 years, you can expect tantrums to occur.  As they struggle to develop their language skills, kids sometimes turn to crying, whining and throwing "fits" to communicate or achieve an outcome.
  • Don't "feed "the tantrum. I will not give my granddaughter what she wants if she threw a fit to get it.  She is learning this and I can see her internal struggle trying to calm herself down.  Let your child know that mommy doesn't like that behavior and will talk to them when they calm down. 
  • Stay calm.  If you get upset or yell, you are contributing to the problem rather than correcting the behavior.  Our kids learn from watching us.  Let them see that even though they are out of control at that moment, mommy is not.  This will help them feel safe and will often decrease the length and severity of the tantrum.
  • Look for the cause.  Yes, sometimes tantrums are simply because a child wants their way but often there is an underlying reason for the behavior.  Hunger, fatigue, disruption of routine or emotional triggers like a new baby in the house are often the cause of tantrums.  Toddlers have a low frustration tolerance and they don't have the verbal skills to communicate their frustration so a tantrum often erupts.
  • Talk it through.  When the tantrum is over, make sure your child knows that you don't love the tantrums but you love them. Focus on the behavior while making sure the child feels secure. Instead of saying "you're a bad girl" try saying "Mommy doesn't like it when you yell". 
Take a deep breath, mama! The toddler years will pass all too soon!

Till tomorrow,

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why I'm Here

How did a girl of nineteen, mama to two under two, take on another, wounded and broken, as her own?
God’s grace.
How did a family grow, through the pain and the twisted knife of fate, closer together rather than achingly apart?
God’s grace.
How did a woman break free from the bondage of silence and facade to spill out the grace from fingers to keyboard?
God’s grace.
How did she find strength to stand, heart bare and vulnerable and pour out the offering of her story for His glory?
God’s grace.
I spent many years viewing the gift of story as anything but.

The desire to hide the sometimes ugly and scarred truth of my life from people and pretend that everything had been okay, would be okay and was presently okay suffocated my story.

I kept secrets, not stories.

Tending deep, dark, festering secrets is a full time job.

Along with the secrets lived bitterness, regret, rage, anger and unforgiveness.
Until the day I allowed God’s grace to seep through to the crevices of pain and shine Light into the darkness.

God and I wrestle about words, my words, His story ALL the time.
Every blog post, article and manuscript bear the sweat of wrestling with the Word.  Laying heart issues bare in front of people I yearn to please is, to this closet introvert, unbearable.  There are days, like today, that clicking publish will take concerted effort.

God’s grace, meaning unwarranted and unmerited favor, was given to this girl. To be quiet, in this space or any other space God leads me to, would be to hoard grace.  The grace I know is to precious to hoard.  It must be shared.

There are two places in the Bible that speak directly to my heart when I feel conflicted about sharing my story.  One is found in II Corinthians 1.  We are told that one of the reasons for the trials we face in life is so that we can use the comfort we receive to comfort others.
I have been sent a Comforter.  One who wiped my tears, bound up my wounds and erased the slate of sin and shame.  That comfort would be wasted if I hoarded it.

Story is never wasted.

We are told in Revelation that our stories have power.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. ~Revelation 12:11
The prospect of sharing my story, putting my heart and thoughts out for people to see, is something I shrink from.  In the shrinking, there is no triumph.

For the sake of not hoarding grace, not denying others comfort and for the pleasure of defeating the enemy every time I type or open my mouth, I must speak my story, write my story, share my story..all for His glory.

Sweet mamas, I started this site because I know the road you are walking as teen moms is hard.  Many of you are dealing with the pain of your difficult childhood on top of trying to give your own child a roof over their head.  Many of you carry the shame of a past abortion or a miscarriage you think you caused because, so many sleepless nights, you prayed the baby inside you would disappear. Some of you listen to the voices of those that tell you that your life is ruined because of the choices you've made and so is the life of your baby.  Many of you accept treatment by a boyfriend or husband that you do not deserve because you are terrified of being alone.


My goal in this space is to help you realize that you are not alone.  That your story, even if it doesn't have a happy ending yet, has power to help others and to help you! I have been where you are and I will share more of my story in the weeks to come so that you can realize that today is not how your story ends.  In fact, in many ways, your story is just beginning.

With much love and till tomorrow,

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What is More Important- Work or School?

Today's question of the week comes from a 19 year old mom of a 17 month old little boy. She asks:

I am currently going to college full time and working part time as a hostess at a restaurant.  I am so tired and feel like I never see my kid.  Something has to change so I don't know what to do. Should I give up school or work?~ Jenni S.

Thanks for writing in, Jenni.  I know just how you feel.  I started college when I was 19 and had two little boys.  I also worked part time.  And juggling all of that is hard with a capital H. I admire your desire to continue your education because, in the long run, you and your son will benefit from that choice. 

You did say that you are in college full time.  Have you considered taking a part-time course load to give you more time with your son and more time to sleep?  I know that part-time decreases the amount of financial aid and makes graduation seem further away but it is something to consider.

I don't want to advise you to quit your job, particularly if you are the sole breadwinner for your child. Now, if you live with your parents or your baby's dad, then that is a conversation that needs to take place with them. 

If you end up keeping the schedule you have now, I want you to remember a few things.  First of all, school is not a permanent situation.  You may be making a sacrifice of time with your son in the short term for something that will benefit both of you in the long run.  Secondly, the quality of the time you spend with your child is far more important than the quantity.  Try to set up a time once or twice a week that you and your son can spend time together without any distractions or interferences.

All that being said, it's okay to say "now is not the time for school".  Only you know what will work best for your life and your particular situation.  I encourage you to pray, talk to a supportive adult in your life and consider all your options before making a final decision.

--Do you have a question you want me to answer about being a teen mom?  Email it to me at kmelissasmallwood@gmail.com and I may choose your question to be featured here.  I do respond to every email I receive, even if I choose not to publish the question so please feel free to reach out to me anytime.

Till tomorrow,

The information contained within this web site or within coaching sessions, classes, or workshops, is not a substitute for professional advice such as from a Medical Doctor, Psychiatrist, counselor or therapist of any kind. The information provided by Teen Mom 365 or Melissa Smallwood does not constitute legal or medical professional advice nor is it intended to constitute such advice.  Any decisions you make, and the consequences thereof are your own.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Baby Changes Everything

How has motherhood changed you?
It would probably be easier to name the ways that motherhood has not changed who I am but that, my friends, is not the question.  So here goes:
  • Where I once thought only of myself, there are now four human beings I would throw myself in front of a moving train for.
  • Those same human beings have made me want to jump in front of a moving train quite a few times.
  • I have become capable of incredible feats- cooking, baking, homemaking in general, purely out of a desire to create a cozy, comfortable environment for my kids.
  • My heart has physically grown as it swells with pride at their accomplishments and has physically ached when they are in pain.
  • Walls built around my heart, out of self protection, literally melted away when my first child was placed in my arms and by the time I adopted my step son (our third yet oldest son) and then my daughter (my oldest), my heart was made completely out of mush.  I am putty in their hands (and they know it)
  • Yet, I am tough when I need to be.  I learned it is important to me that I raise polite and contributing members of society.  To raise future husbands my future daughters-in-law (*gasp* that makes me want to cry) will appreciate. To show my daughter the kind of woman I pray for her to be.
  • I changed my focus thus far in life.  Career advancement, my personal accomplishments seem so unimportant compared to enjoying and cherishing EVERY moment I get to spend with these future adults.
  • I discovered that in order to be the best mama I can be, I have to care for my health, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  This lesson took me several years to learn and I hate that my children didn’t receive the best of me during that time.
  • But, I have also learned that in motherhood you can only look forward.  There is no perfect, there is no magical balance that means everyone gets all there needs met every time they have one, there is no way to undo something once it has been said, no way to take back  a harsh word.  Mommy guilt is toxic.
  • So, I choose to live in this moment with my children.  Treasuring when I can, nurturing when I can, disciplining when I need to, teaching something when I can, and apologizing for the myriad of ways I screw up and hoping they learn something from those moments too.
So, my friends, how has motherhood changed you?

Till tomorrow,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Setting a Good Example

~My 3 year old granddaughter walks towards the door, her toy phone in one hand and purse in the other. "bye, I'm going to work guys. See you later". 

~Later, she puts her doll baby to sleep. "Now lay down and be quiet. It bed time. No crying or I shut the door."

Needless to say, she listens to everything we say and watches everything we do.  Good and bad.  Some of the stuff she repeats is cute.  Some of it makes the grown ups in the house cringe and realize we need to try a little harder to pay attention to how we behave. 

When you were growing up, did you pay attention to the lectures? Or did you watch how your parents acted when no one else was around? Which spoke louder to you?

Our kids are watching everything we do.  Yes, that is a lot of pressure but it is also what we signed up for when we became parents.  It's no longer enough to excuse poor choices with "that's just how I am" or "this doesn't have anything to do with my kids". Once you create another life, your own life ceases to be just about you anymore.  And part of your role as a mom is to lead your kids by example.

Here are some ways you can do that:
  • Use positive language.  Sometimes we don't realize how negative we are.  Instead of saying "something bad always happens to me" try saying "it's ok, we will get through this".  Instead of saying no to your child all the time, use different words or phrases including "maybe later", why don't we try this instead?", etc. Save "no" for times that you really need to get a point across or forbid a certain behavior.
  • Practice gratitude.  We will be talking more about gratitude later in the year but for now, I want to point out that counting your blessings is the best way to turn a bad day around.  The old saying is true "there is always, always something to be thankful for". Encourage your kids, even the little ones, to tell you something they are thankful for each day.  Get them in the habit at an early age.
  • Avoid arguing in front of your child.  If you and your spouse or boyfriend need to argue about something, take it outside or wait until your children aren't around to discuss it.  Kids quickly pick up on tension and anger and it can leave them feeling insecure and stressed.  If you fight in front of them it sends the message that yelling is how you express anger and that being right is more important than being in right relationship with those you care about.
  • Enlist your child's help from an early age.  A toddler is not too young to help pick up their toys and put them in the toy box. Make it a game or sing the Clean Up song. Teaching them responsibility and a sense of satisfaction from completing a task while getting the toys put away is a win-win.
  • Be good to yourself.  Kids need to see their mama take care of themselves and make choices that show that you respect and value yourself.  Don't settle for less than you deserve, don't sell yourself short and don't engage in any self harming behavior.  One of the best ways to show your kids you love them is to love their mama too.
How do you set a good example for your child?
Till tomorrow,

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Days Go By So Fast!

Last May, I texted him at 9pm “This time 17 years ago you were 45 minutes old :) Love you so much!”

How does seventeen years go by in the blink of an eye?

How do you put the brakes on this growing up and becoming a man thing that is happening before your eyes?  How do you look up into the eyes of the baby that is taller than you and not want to press rewind to the days when he sat in your lap asking you to “read it gen, mama” or when he would fall asleep on your shoulder with a strand of your hair wrapped in his chubby hand so he would be instantly alerted when you tried to lay him in his crib?
I know that when you are in the throes of temper tantrums, runny noses and sleepless nights that it is hard to imagine ever wishing every.single.one of those days back again.  Believe me, I know!

But, you will.

spring 2013 107
The next time you think you just can’t answer one more question that begins with the word “why” or you are bent low, wiping up the milk that was spilled on your newly mopped floor or you are returning your strong willed four year old to the time out chair for the 15th time {that day}, know that you are doing a good job.  That while every parenting choice you make may not be the right one as long as you are doing your best and loving your best and just getting through the best you can, your child is soaking it all in.
And, one day when they are turning 17 and realizing their time under your roof is coming to an end sooner than you or they ever imagined they will say “You are the best mom” and they will mean it.
Cause those days you lost your temper or crawled into bed thinking “I can’t do this another day” or wished for the day they would be seventeen and not need you so much, that is not what your son will remember.
He will remember the days you played H-O-R-S-E with him instead of doing the dishes, the days that you kissed his sweaty forehead when he was sick, the days that you read that story for the 100th time.

And, you mama- you will remember it all. And wish it hadn’t gone by so stinkin’ fast.

Just a reminder to cherish every moment, mama's!
Till tomorrow,

Monday, January 20, 2014

Find a Way to Serve

One of the greatest things you can do for yourself is serve others.  In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. I am devoting today's posts to ways for you to serve.  Just because you need help at this juncture of your life doesn't mean that you can't give back at the same time.

Here are a few ideas:
  • Find a soup kitchen to volunteer at.
  • Hang out with younger kids at the Boys and Girls Club.
  • Use coupons and buy toiletries to donate to homeless ministries or a women's shelter.
  • Offer to babysit for another young mom while she goes on a job interview.
  • Take your little one to a local nursing home.  The elderly love to spend time with little one.
What ways do you serve others?  Remember according to Dr. King, you only need a "heart full of grace" and "a soul generated by love".
Till tomorrow,

Saturday, January 18, 2014

When Should I Have Another Baby?

This week's question comes from an 18 year old mom who currently has a 2 1/2 year old daughter.  She asked:
"I feel bad that my daughter isn't growing up with a little brother or sister. My sister and were best friends when we were little. But, I don't feel ready for another baby yet.  I guess my question is, what is the best amount of time to have between babies?" ~ Kasey T.
Hi Kasey! Thanks for submitting your question.  And, it's a good question; one that I think many young moms think a lot about.

First of all, I want to point out that there is no right or wrong when it comes to the spacing of children.  It is a decision that involves many factors and requires many things to be taken into consideration. 
Secondly, research exists to support almost all age differences between siblings.  Meaning there are pros and cons to siblings being close together in age and pros and cons to having many years between each child. 

The most important thing to consider is this: Are you in a position to bring another child into the world right now?

 Ask yourself these questions-
  •  Are you living on your own? 
  •  Are you financially independent?
  •  Have you finished high school and any other education you want to pursue?
  • Are you in a stable relationship, preferably married?
As you know from having already had a baby, kids are expensive. They also take a lot of time and energy.  If you are struggling now to balance motherhood and school or a career, etc. adding another child to the mix could be too much.  One of the things working in your favor is that you have many childbearing years ahead of you so there is no rush.
Also, sibling relationships are wonderful and complex. I am just as close to my brother that is five years younger than me than I am to the brother that is 2 1/2 years younger than me.  I think the important thing about whether your kids will grow up to be close is the type of environment they grow up in rather than how close or far apart in age they are.
All of this to say, giving your child a sibling is a great reason to have a baby.  But, being a teen mom poses many unique challenges and there are many other things that need to be considered before making such a choice.  You are not cheating your child out of anything by focusing on yourself and the baby already here right now and choosing to wait to have another child. 
If the answer to any of the above questions I asked you to ask yourself is "NO" then now is probably not the best time to introduce another child to the family dynamic.
I encourage you to pray about every decision including this one and seek wise counsel from an older woman that you trust.
Without knowing the particulars of your situation, there is my answer. Please reach out to me if you want to discuss this further.
Hugs and prayers,

Do you have a question you want me to answer about being a teen mom?  Email it to me at kmelissasmallwood@gmail.com and I may choose your question to be featured here.  I do respond to every email I receive, even if I choose not to publish the question so please feel free to reach out to me anytime.

Till tomorrow,

The information contained within this web site or within coaching sessions, classes, or workshops, is not a substitute for professional advice such as from a Medical Doctor, Psychiatrist, counselor or therapist of any kind. The information provided by Teen Mom 365 or Melissa Smallwood does not constitute legal or medical professional advice nor is it intended to constitute such advice.  Any decisions you make, and the consequences thereof are your own.

Friday, January 17, 2014

10 Ways to Make Life Easier with a New Baby

Life with a new baby is a sweet and memorable time.  It is also one of the most exhausting periods of a woman's life.  Anything you can do to make your life easier- DO IT! 
Here are a few things that worked for me:

{photo credit: Quiet Graces}
  1. When it's time for sleep, dress your baby in a drawstring gown rather than a sleeper. When you are hardly awake and changing a diaper with one eye open, it is much easier to get to than unsnapping a sleeper.
  2. Accept help. Let the baby's dad {if he is involved} do as much as he can. It allows them time to bond and gives you a break. 
  3. Sleep when the baby sleeps.  Some babies don't regulate their sleep schedules for several months. If you don't stay on the same schedule, especially the first few weeks, you will be very tired and very cranky.  If grandma wants to spend some quality time with the baby, take the opportunity to take a shower and catch some zzz's.
  4. As soon as you come back in the house from an outing, make it a habit to restock the diaper bag with whatever you used when you were out.  That way you have all you need anytime you head out the door.
  5. When your baby is fussing a bit, don't rush to pick them up immediately. Wait a few moments and see if they just needed to move around a bit or they fall back to sleep.  The more you rush in the second they make a sound, the more sounds they will make simply for attention.
  6. Make sure your baby's bottom is completely dry before putting on a new diaper. This significantly cuts down on diaper rash risk.
  7. Listen to your gut.  You are your baby's mama.  You will instinctively know what they need.  If you think they have gas, you are probably right. If you think they are hungry, trust your instincts.  If someone gives you advice but it doesn't feel right for your child, do what you think is best.
  8.  Take a walk or a drive.  It's important to get out of the house a bit, even if it's walking to the mailbox.  You and your baby will be home a lot the first few weeks and you will go stir crazy if you never breathe in any fresh air.
  9.  Stay calm.  If your baby is having a fussy moment, don't let yourself get flustered. Babies take their cues from you. If they sense stress, it can make their fussiness worse.
  10. Cherish every moment.  Your baby will only be a baby for a very short while.  Cuddle him, kiss him, coo and take lots of pictures.
You've got this, mama!

Till tomorrow,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

You're Worth More Than Gold

You are altogether beautiful, my darling, And there is no blemish in you. Song of Songs 4:7

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The tale of a really bad day

It was supposed to be a quick stop at the pharmacy and then home with two sick babies.  Looking back, I should have known better.  Expecting an 18 month old that doesn't feel well and his colicky 3 month old brother to keep it together in a busy Wal-mart was not realistic.  I handed the clerk the prescriptions and she said it would be 15-20 minutes.

And, an hour and 10 minutes later I finally had the prescriptions in hand and hauled my bags, baby in a car seat and toddler on my hip out to the car with absolutely no patience left. I could hardly think straight. The toddler had been flailing on the dirty floor for the last thirty of those 70 torturous minutes and I hadn't tried to stop him. The baby had cried himself to sleep and I had felt like joining him.  The other customers had looked at me like I was the worse parent on the face of the planet.

I was distracted and frustrated as I put the car in drive, finally on my way home and CLUNK.  I should have put my car in reverse but I hadn't and I managed to get my car stuck on the concrete curb in the parking lot.  I didn't have a cell phone in 1998 and just sat there and cried until I ended up slamming on the gas pedal and forcing my car off the curb.  I drove home and discovered I had completely torn off the oil pan on the bottom of the car.


You will have moments like this in your parenting journey.  I've never met a mom that hasn't had those days before. 

You will have moments where you want to tear your hair out and scream at the top of your lungs. You will wonder how you are supposed to survive the next eighteen years. You will second guess your decision to raise your baby, thinking surely someone else could be doing a better job.  You will think you just can't do this another day.  You will yell, you will cry, you will curse, you will wish things were different and this wasn't your life.


You will pull up in your driveway, dragging your oil pan behind you and glance in the rearview mirror at the two little monsters, I mean miracles who have cried themselves to sleep.  You will sit in the car and watch their little chests rise up and down and their little eyelashes flutter on their snot crusted cheeks and you will realize your day could have been much worse- it could have been a day without them in it. 

Hang in there, mama!

Till tomorrow,

{photo credit: Quiet Graces}

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Reacting versus Responding

Yesterday we talked about keeping our cool when our kids are acting out.  Today I want to talk a bit more about patience and how we react to our child's behavior.

Dictionary.com defines patience as:

an ability or willingness to suppress annoyance....even-tempered care. 
Suppressing annoyance does not come natural to me! Does it you?  Many times I tend to react rather than respond to my circumstances.

To react: to respond to a stimulus in a particular manner

To respond: to react favorably

See the difference? To react means that you are letting the stimulus {in this case your child's annoying behavior} dictate your response.  Responding indicates a positive reaction. A response requires an intention where a reaction is knee-jerk and impulsive.

Let's look at an example.  Your child spills their milk.

A reaction may sound like this:
"You spilled your milk again? How many times does Mommy have to tell you to drink your milk at the table?  Milk costs money and you just poured money on the floor.  Why can't you be more careful?"

A response would sound more like this:
"uh-oh, looks like the milk got spilled.  Let me get a towel and you can help Mommy clean up the mess"

Put yourself in your child's shoes.  Which would you rather hear when you make a mistake?  A reaction or a response?

People with understanding control their anger;
    a hot temper shows great foolishness.  Proverbs 14:29

Till tomorrow,

Monday, January 13, 2014

Keeping your cool

They say the two's are terrible but my little granddaughter is three and I'm thinking it may be worse.  Temper tantrums {she has quite a stubborn streak} combined with non-stop talking and a little girl attitude- oh my! She can test this Mimi's patience on a good day.

I remember being the same way when my boys were little.  My frustration tolerance was low and too many repetitive questions or mouth noises could push this mama over the edge. 

The Bible talks about maintaining our composure and I think verses like this can certainly apply to parenthood.

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires."~ James 1:19-20

Getting angry and frustrated with your kids doesn't fix any situation and it certainly doesn't make you feel good about yourself.  Here are a few tips for staying cool even when the kids are having an off day:
  • Count to 10. I know you've heard it before and it sounds cheesy but it really does help. If you can't count to 10, then at least count to 3. The point is to disengage your brain from your anger and give it time to think rationally.
  • Figure out the root cause. Kids don't act out for no reason.  Typically, they are over or under stimulated, tired, hungry, cranky or feeling out of sorts for some other reason. Figure out that reason and you can fix the underlying issue and everyone will have a better day.
  • Be consistent with discipline.  You can't punish a child for a certain misbehavior one day and ignore the same behavior the next or your child will be confused about what you expect from them. Focus on a few target behaviors and be consistent with the consequences. 
  • Let go of the little things.  If you are "on" your child about every little thing, you will both be cranky and irritated. You aren't perfect so it's unfair to expect your child to be. 
  • Stick to a schedule.  Small kids respond better to routine.  Have a bedtime routine, a mealtime routine, etc. It's okay to stray from your routine for a special occasion but the more a child knows what to expect, the better behaved they tend to be.
  • Put yourself in timeout.  It is okay to put a screaming child in their crib and go outside for a few minutes.  Know your limits and if you are going to act out in anger or frustration, put your child in a safe place and remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes. Call a friend or mentor, pray, listen to music- do whatever will help you calm down before you press re-start and try again. We all get to that place at one time or another. It is better to take a break for a few minutes then to do something out of anger that you can't take back.
What are some healthy ways you deal with frustration?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Truth about Church People

Last Sunday we talked about why you should go to church.  Today, let's talk about why you might not want to go.

Perhaps it was a negative experience as a child- were you the kid that rode the big bus that came to pick up all the poor kids from downtown, sat them in the front row and got yelled at about hellfire and brimstone for the next two hours?

Or maybe a more recent hurt when you walked in to a church and your swollen bellied self was met with judgmental glances and  there was not a friendly face to be found.

I'm going to tell you something about church- it is full of imperfect human beings.  People just like you- people that mess up, sin, go down the wrong path and make bad choices. People that misunderstand the Gospel and think they have to show you how to get to Heaven instead of introducing you to the only One that can get you there.

There are far more people there that have been where you are- people that messed up and had it tough as a kid.  People who one day realized they couldn't do life on their own anymore- they needed rescued.  And now they are eager to help others find their way to the Rescuer.

 I am so sorry if you have been on the receiving end of a Christian having a bad day or a church that is getting it wrong when it comes to reaching out to those that are looking for comfort and hope.  I wish I could say it won't happen again. But, the truth is- it might.  Cause like I said earlier, churches are full of imperfect people. 

There's a saying that going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car and it's so true. Just because you encounter a negative person at a church doesn't mean that person's feelings are indicative of how the rest of the congregation feels about you and your situation. If someone at church judges you or puts you down, they may need a dose of the same Jesus you came to church to find.

So, I am asking you to try again.  If you are staying away from church because things didn't go well the last time you were there- go to a different church {next week we will talk about what to look for}, ask a friend to go with you, call and talk to the pastor before you go but go again.
The benefits far outweigh the risk.

Till tomorrow,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Making Choices for Two

When women are pregnant, the phrase "eating for two" is often uttered.  Your mindset shifts when you become a mother. No longer are you living just for yourself.  You have an innocent, vulnerable life to protect. And, every decision you make from here on out will impact two lives.

What a responsibility!

Here are some things to keep in mind when making decisions that will impact not just your life but also the life of your child:
  • Do I truly need to make a decision right now?  Sometimes, what we are facing right now can seem huge and important but really, in the grand scheme of things, won't matter that much in the long run. Sometimes this sense of urgency will leave us feeling like we have to act on something or decide something right-this-very-minute when we need to push the pause button and think things through before acting. 
  • Have I considered the pros and cons, particularly the impact this decision will have on my child's life?   Just because you want to do something and you feel it is best for you doesn't mean it's best for your child.  As moms, we need to be willing to sacrifice our wants and sometimes even our needs in order for our children to have the life they deserve. 
  • Have I sought wise counsel?  I used to tell the teen moms I worked with that they shouldn't be seeking relationship advice from someone who has never had a successful relationship.  You wouldn't go to an investor and trust them with your money if they had never been able to turn a profit, right?  Find a mentor, a woman further along in life than you that mirrors the woman you would like to be someday. Find someone you can trust to confide in, a friend that isn't afraid to say "that's probably not the best choice" even if telling you that is going to make you mad.  Stay away from friends that agree with you about everything- I call them "yes" people. A true friend will tell you "no" every once in a while.
  • Have I prayed about this?  The wisest counsel you will every receive comes from the Ultimate Friend.  Be honest with God, talk to Him like you do the friend just talked about.  Tell Him your fears, your desires, your goals and your struggles.  Nothing you say is going to be a surprise to Him, so lay it all out there. Then, ask Him to show you the right choice.  He is faithful to answer us when we are listening for His voice.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6

What things do you consider when making an important decision?

Till tomorrow,

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Moving Past a Bad Day

We've all been there. Those days leave you wanting a do-over before you even get out of bed.

You get up late because you forgot to set the alarm, you quickly realize you didn't wash your work shirt and the baby has peed through her pajamas and sheets.  You wipe the baby off with a baby wipe 'cause there's no time for a bath and spray your little brothers Axe body spray on your work shirt to mask any offensive odors.  You rush out the door with a cold poptart in hand and have to go back in the house because you forgot the diaper bag.  You hit every stinkin' red light in town on the way to daycare and get to work just in time to clock in before the 7 minute late mark. And, so goes the rest of your day.

By the time you pick up your baby from daycare, you have spent a 6 hour work shift in an irritated state and sat through a boring 75 minute lecture in your sociology class where you were assigned a 12 page paper due in two days. The last thing you feel like doing is listening to a baby who is teething and yes, starting to run a fever.

And then, by the time you close your eyes and try to catch an hour or two of sleep before it's time to get up and press repeat, you wonder how you will make it through the next four days, let alone seventeen years.

Sometimes we forget that we have the power to choose our attitude no matter what our circumstances are.  When I am grumpy or cranky, I tend to take it out on those I'm closest to- my husband and my kids.  They should get the best of me but often times they get the short tempered, snippy, impatient me that not many other people see.

It's okay to feel overwhelmed.  It's okay to have bad days.  Just don't let those bad days turn into bad weeks turn into bad years. 

When you feel like you just can't make it through another stressful moment, there is One person that can help you turn your frown upside down.  His name is Jesus and He is a great listener and always there to help you turn your attitude around.

"call for help when you’re in trouble—
    I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.” Psalm 50:15

One thing I do when I'm feeling really stressed is to write down 3-5 things that I am thankful for.  Not the big things like: I'm thankful for my child or thankful for a roof over my head.  But, I pay attention to the little things that happened that same day that were a blessing.  Like my favorite creamer in my coffee, the guy that held the elevator for me at work, the sound of birds chirping. There is no right or wrong way to do this exercise. The goal is just to open our eyes to the tiny blessings that we encounter throughout our every day life that we tend to overlook, especially when we are cranky and feeling sorry for ourselves.

What do you do to turn a bad day around?

Till tomorrow,

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

35 Things I've Learned about Life

Today is my 35th birthday.  My age doesn't make me feel old but having my firstborn graduate from high school this year sure will!  A few years ago I wrote a post about things I had learned through life and thought I would share it with you here in honor of my birthday.  I added two more to the list since I'm 35 now :-)

  1. Polka dots and hot pink make me smile.
  2. There are few sounds that bring as much joy as a baby belly laughing.
  3. Marriage is hard work, but oh so worth it.
  4. There is a huge difference between a job, a career and a calling.
  5. When people say “enjoy these moments because they grow up so fast” they are not exaggerating one bit.  Kids literally grow up in the blink of an eye.
  6. Having a near death experience will remove most fear from your life and replace it with a sense of urgency to live EVERY minute fully.
  7. Chocolate makes everything most things better.
  8. God is good ALL the time and ALL the time God is good.
  9. Having kids old enough to drive is scary yet very convenient.
  10. God’s plan frequently looks nothing like my plan, but is always the best plan.
  11. No matter how many children you have there is always enough love to go around.
  12. Speaking of parenthood, it is the most challenging, rewarding, frustrating, meaningful, exhausting miracle in the world.
  13. You are not defined by your past.
  14. Life is not fair, but God is.
  15. Friendships, like gardens, need tended, watered and weeded regularly.
  16. Nail polish is a cheap and easy way to feel pretty.
  17. You can make any house a home if the people you love are there with you.
  18. God’s heart is for restoration and when it is possible, love and time can heal wounds.
  19. Friends are your family of choice.
  20. Writing is a salve to the soul.
  21. A good yellow makes a perfect wall color.
  22. Being organized makes life easier.
  23. I wouldn’t remember anyone’s birthday if it wasn’t for Facebook.
  24. Teen moms are special people and working with them is a privilege.
  25. Parenting teenagers is like having your fingernails plucked off with tweezers.
  26. You can’t save the world and God doesn’t expect you to.
  27. It’s okay to take antidepressants.
  28. Pets are members of the family too.
  29. Being connected with a body of believers is crucial to spiritual health.
  30. Why not me?
  31. Every day, there are blessings and miracles happening around you.  All you have to do is open the eyes of your heart and be thankful.
  32. Words hurt.  Guard your tongue.
  33. Just as Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
  34. Sometimes the best time is right now!
  35. Each stage of life brings it's own challenges and rewards.
I would love for you to share one thing life has taught you in the comments below!
Till tomorrow {and happy birthday to me!}