Attention Bloggers: Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin

 

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(This post also appears on gloryannaboge.com.)

I keep hearing a lot about how we can’t be all to everyone or we can’t be everything to all that’s out there. It seems we are always going going going and getting ourselves deeper and deeper into the busyness that is blogging. You see a lot of posts out there about “Simplifying Your Life: Use a Post Planner” or “5 ways to being more balanced in Your Writing.” I will quickly click on those posts because I, too, need to simplify and slow down, get focused and write. When you find yourself constantly clicking on these posts, you start to evaluate what you’re doing and why you have this constant feeling like you’re spinning your wheels and not ever moving. I started wondering why I get myself into that crazy mode that is the fast lane of blogging.I realized I wasn’t being honest with myself and I wasn’t being honest with my readers.

I try to do it all and have it all because at times I am not comfortable in my own skin.

I am constantly looking over my writing and my goals and where I’m going with all of it, but I get so easily wrapped up in the day-to-day demands, that I lose myself. Trying to stay up on all the social media trends, trying to find the right time to post an article on Facebook and the totally different time to try and hit the sweet spot on Twitter. Growing a readership. Making genuine connections with other writers and not just “liking” something so it will somehow serve me back. How do you keep the balance of the genuine and the reality of needing a social media base to grow your readership? A blogging friend of mine mentioned the other day about how we get so busy trying to put the daily fires out, we sometimes lose site of our long term goals. I find my constant attraction to these day-to-day fires draws me farther away from my authentic self.

No longer was I operating in my own skin, but the demands of trends or numbers. Stats or comments. I was becoming a servant to my social media.

I do this because if I was comfortable in my own skin, I wouldn’t worry about trying to get all the right #hashtags or getting in on all the blogging circle discussions and figuring out the best way to write engaging captions and posts to boost audience interactions. My own skin would stick with the genuine follows and growing my readership organically. My own skin would stick with when it works best for my family life to write and not when the stats tell me to. My own skin doesn’t like to post selfies. There I said it.

We all have our own interpretations of what it means to be comfortable in our own skin as writers. I know plenty of writers who have a system and are efficient with their time as they grow their readership. There are so many bloggers out there whose strength is connecting with their readers and building a community on their blog. These writers are passionate and comfortable with their writing processes.

I want to stay passionate and genuine to myself as a writer. I want to embrace my personality that shapes my writing. This means I’m not always going to be on the up and up with the latest social media trends. It means that I may miss out on some awesome blogging discussions. It means that I’m going to have to put my phone down for a while everyday so I can stay in the moment with my baby boy who is growing wildly fast. It means I need to set aside the evenings so I can focus on my husband and nurture our relationship.

I don’t want to be defined by my readers. I want to define my readers.

I find this to be such a hard act to balance. Clearly, writers need to be aware of their audiences and pay attention to efficient ways to interact with their readers, but when do you draw the line? How do you decide when you’ve gone too far and it’s no longer your genuine self out there but you, wearing a mask trying to be all things to everyone?

The comfortable-in-my-own-skin me would rely more on God’s direction for my writing. After all, He is the reason I started this.

Maybe you started your blog to make money by monetizing. Maybe you are working on a platform to being a freelance writer. Maybe you are writing a book and are hoping to grow an audience and use your blog to write more. We all have our reasons and we all have what makes us the writers we are.

We need to be reminded about those writing tips to boost our readership and  new ways to simplify our writing methods.

But we also need reminding to BE who we are and stay comfortable in our skin.

The result should be a simplified life.

What do you do that keeps you from drifting from your authentic self?

What reminders or tips would you give to writers to encourage them to be comfortable in their own skin? I would love to hear you thoughts in the comments below!

(This post also appears on gloryannaboge.com.)

Attention Bloggers-PIN

Setting Free the Horses

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I think about the day when Asher will not want me to walk him into school. Or the day he doesn’t want to be tucked in for bed anymore. Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll let me tuck him in until he moves out! I know there will be natural transitions as he grows, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be easy. As I think about these things I was happy to have Cara’s post featured here today.

As someone who is a big advocate for teen writers, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Cara. Not only does she have talent, but she is a cheerleader for teen girl writers! I was so pleased to learn more about Cara and her passion for writing and to encourage others to write. She is my kind of woman 🙂 I know you’ll enjoy her writing as much as I do.

When your children are small and snuggly and clamor for your attention you can’t imagine there will come a day when they will ignore you, dismiss you, or outright avoid you. But the day comes. And it doesn’t matter how sweet and loving your children are, or how close you are or how openly they share their hearts with you; one day they will shun you. I promise.

And it’s a good thing. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.

I looked up the word parenting in the dictionary and it says: “the rearing of children.” And what is “rearing?” I, being a horse person, of course thought of that moment when the horse lifts its front end off the ground and attempts to set you on your butt. But Dictionary.com says, “to take care of and support up to maturity.” I know more than a few parents who might take issue with this since they are continuing to support their mature children well into adulthood. I suppose this only means that it takes some of us longer than others to rear our children.

A big part of supporting our children to maturity is teaching them to function independently. To that end, they will, or they should, naturally separate themselves from us. The fact that they aren’t mature yet means that sometimes they do this with a callousness that causes your jaw to drop and your heart to seize up. To be honest, in my focus group of my two teens (the third one is thankfully still a beautiful little boy who wants me to tuck him in at night), some will do this more than others. But they will all do this.

They have to figure out that they can reject you and not lose you.

And your job as a parent? To take it.

But maybe not all of it. I drew the line with my daughter when she told me to shut up. She can ignore me, roll her eyes at me, argue with me, but she can not under any circumstance tell me to ‘shut up’. I value my opinions and will fight for my right to be heard, especially in my own house.

I think parents that struggle with ‘hovering’ and are overly protective of their kids are in for the worst of it. It takes a much bigger effort to break free of someone who has a death grip on you than from someone who has a loose hold. Finding a balance between the death grip and the loose hold is the art of parenting.

Some kids object to even a ‘loose hold.’ They would prefer you simply stay in the general vicinity rather than have any real impact on their lives. My own daughter made this clear at age two when she told me to stay in the car because she could walk into preschool by herself. She has been gently, and not so gently, asking for this space ever since. Sometimes I can give her the freedom she demands and sometimes I can’t help but hover and direct. Blessedly, for both of us, she is gaining the maturity to have more control of her life. And I am learning to give it to her because I’m well aware that if I don’t she will take it, one way or another. 

My other teen has been much gentler with us. Every now and again he asserts his independence, but almost immediately feels badly for disregarding us. He argues with me about his planned activities, school schedule, and hygiene, but he is also quick to give me a hug, regale me with stories of the lunchroom, and seek my opinion on his writing. We’ve done nothing different with this child. He is simply a softer sort of soul.

My daughter wasn’t always the distant one. It hasn’t been so long that I can’t easily call up the memories of her unquenchable need to be held. From the moment she was born, she wanted to be in our arms at all times. I carried her in a sling or snuggly for hours every day, sometimes forgetting that she was there. This led to a few heart-stopping moments as I lit the gas stove or clambered down the basement stairs. At night she became furious with us when we attempted to make her sleep in a crib – alone. I wonder, in my more cynical moments, if we used up all our hugs back then. Or if this independence she asserts now is her way of punishing us for teaching her to sleep through the night by herself.

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It is our job to rear these children. It is their job to take the reins at some point. We must let them be in charge of themselves. We can no longer tell them how to act, or what to say. We must let them steer their own lives even if it’s a course we wouldn’t have taken. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it comes more easily to some young people than others. Demanding personal space to do this is natural. If that means I’m not welcome to put my arm around my daughter in public or my son no longer wants my help as he sifts through the details of his day, well, then I’ll find a way to be okay with that. Because if I don’t, I’m certain this will be the part of the rearing where one of them dumps me on my butt.

Cara Sue AchterbergCara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her second novel, Girls’ Weekend, will be published May 3, 2016. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for living a more intentional life. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.

Pssst-she also has a new book that hits the market next week! Check it out here.Girls' Weekend cover

Dear Readers: I Haven’t Been Honest Lately

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I woke up at about 1:00 AM with a long night of tossing and turning. The fan droned in the background as my thoughts just wouldn’t stop. I had started to feel it a few weeks back. This feeling of always being unsettled. It was like I couldn’t breathe. I was questioning myself. Worried about what people were thinking.

As someone who likes to write and put it out there on the Internet in hopes that it reaches someone and meets them where they’re at, you are always running the risk of anxiety. Worry that someone will misunderstand what you’re trying to say. Worry that you’ve said too much about your perspective that you end up crossing the line of someone else’s privacy. Worry that you sound, well, like a jerk maybe. Judgmental. Whatever it is, you worry about the representation your words bring to the table.

Worry that you might lose yourself in the process and start writing for your audience instead of yourself.

At 1:00 AM in the deep of the night I had lost myself. Lost myself to a world that I slowly walked into.

When I started blogging, I knew that this was something God wanted me to do. I had made a big transition in my life going from a teacher to a stay-at-home-mom and I saw writing as an outlet. I saw writing as a way to still “teach” others one might say. I saw writing as a way to encourage others in their relationship with Christ. It didn’t matter if you were a mom or dad or aunt or uncle. What once was a vision to write to edify others, became a morphed road that I hijacked. God showed me an opportunity and I grabbed it with greedy hands and let it devour me.

In the middle of the night I was starving to know why I was empty without any of the peace I had once had when I started this little blog. Scenes started triggering my mind.

The first trigger came in a conversation I had with my sister. She made a comment about who my target audience is in my writing and she said, “Well you are writing towards stay-at-home-moms, right?” My response was that writings about my faith and walk with Christ could be for anybody. Later that night I couldn’t shake that feeling. The feeling that I had veered off what my original intent was with all this writing. I wanted to reach anyone in their faith. Not only moms, let alone stay-at-home-moms. Granted, God has given me this new role of being a mom, so there will definitely be times I write about that journey, but forgiveness? Grace? Those are for everyone. Looking over some choices I’ve made, my writing has become well, a little like tunnel vision and I feel like I am becoming blind.

The second trigger came when I got sucked into the bumpy road that is social media and started equating my writing success based on the interactions I would get via social media. God has opened my eyes to these sneaky, yet heavy chains and is growing in me about it. At this point, I rarely check my blog stats anymore and try to keep all social media outlets to a minimum. I use a post planner for social media as much as I can so I don’t have to actually be on it all the time. God has broken the chains in this department and His peace is starting to fill me up more. If you want to talk about losing your peace in a snap, spend too much time on Facebook. Let me just say, and as obvious as it might sound, life is not about likes. But that is another post for another day.

The third trigger came when I was cleaning up old photos on my computer and the original photo with my blog tagline popped up. It was only a few months ago, but in that time I had completely forgotten. I had chosen the name of this site for a couple of reasons. As we go through this life, we are constantly moving through the different seasons, and they happen in the blink of an eye. The baby that won’t sleep through the night? It’s only a season. The rough patch with your friend? It’s only a season. Not so much as in, “it’s only a season, get over it.” No, it’s like it’s only a season, slow down, work through it, or pause and enjoy it. Enjoy this season because it will go so fast. While I was pregnant with Asher, I clinged to Ecclesiastes 3:1

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.

Asher was 12 days late and this verse was the only thing that got me through that time of waiting. Knowing that everything happens in its time. Hence, my blog name was born.

What I didn’t plan for, was to let myself get sucked into a blogging world I wasn’t ready for. THERE IS SO MUCH OUT THERE FOR BLOGGERS. It is overwhelming. I soon became engrossed in approval addiction and statistics for viewership on my site. I slowly started writing differently, driven by these suffocating emotions. I sort of gave myself this “momblogger” identity that I hadn’t originally planned to be. I changed my website header, got rid of the Bible verse and started brainstorming like crazy over all these topics I could write about that would draw in the mom crowd. All the while, losing my identity as a writer. You would think as a mom, that writing about being a mom is a no brainer.

I have met some awesome mom bloggers and I have gained some phenomenal support from women in the blogging world. Unfortunately, I let some of these circumstances change my goal for writing. Instead of staying honest to myself and writing about what God was revealing to me in my heart, the raw, honest stuff about my faith, I started writing about the best way to cook homemade dinner rolls. Instead of writing about God changing my character as a wife, I started writing about the best baby food meals. Don’t misunderstand me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing about these things and I love reading about them and the world needs this stuff!! What became wrong for me is that I wasn’t writing about what I knew I should be. Writing became a struggle each time I sat down at the computer. Posting on social media became a task. The joy was slipping away.

I have realized that I haven’t been honest with you because I haven’t been honest with myself. I have been so busy writing to appeal to the masses at times, that I have lost site of why I originally started this. So, all of this to say that if you’ve been following me along this bumpy way, and have seen how I keep changing on here, well, I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen again, but hopefully you’ll see the real me continuing to emerge and it will encourage you in some way. Hopefully, you’ll draw closer to God in your relationship with Him.

I’m not in this to make money or some kind of blogging celebrity fame. I just want to write. I just want to stay honest to myself and be comfortable in my own skin. I don’t know if I’ll keep falling into the category of a #momblogger or #faithblogger or maybe #mombydaybloggerbynight.

Better yet how about a Child of the true God who writes for His kingdom.

I know one thing for sure. I will stay true to the calling God has placed on my heart right now and that is to grow closer to Him on this journey. Even if this writing gig is only for a season.

honestPIN

Pros and Cons to Having a Furry Big Sister

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I met Liz not too long ago in an awesome mom blogging group. I was excited to see that she had a post to share for It Takes a Village. I am a HUGE dog lover. If you haven’t figured that out already, check out my Instagram for some dog lovin photos. I was immediately drawn to Liz’s post as a fellow dog lover. It’s pretty amazing how pets become an extended part of your family. They can become such an ingrained part of life and I think many of us aren’t ready to balance them when a new little baby arrives. I totally get the change of pace for when you have a newborn and a high-energy dog that is ready to go go go!! As with anything there are pros and cons and Liz is here today to talk about her experiences with being a new mama and a dog lover.

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Newbie mom Liz Parker-Cook is the proud mom of a seven month old son and a 4 year old chocolate lab. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and the aforementioned dependants. In her other life, she is a high school music teacher, which is much louder than parenting but has fewer dirty diapers. You can read more from Newbie Mom athttp://www.newbiemomsite.com or on Facebook, Twitter or Bloglovin‘.

My husband and I brought home Hazel in 2012. For the first while, she kept us up all night and kept me busy all day getting into things and crying for attention. She has boundless energy and ruins all her toys, but she is clever and lovable at exactly the right moments. And boy, is she a ham for the camera!

No, Hazel is not a toddler. She is a 3 1/2 year old chocolate lab. Though Hazel has always loved children, we were nervous about introducing her to her baby brother when we found out that I was pregnant. Hazel has always been sweet and gentle, but we had heard and read stories of people having to make the difficult decision to re-home dogs when children arrive. It turns out we didn’t need to worry because in August she welcomed home her little brother, MB, with much excitement. (And even more wet doggy kisses.)

There have definitely been some challenges with being a mom to a dog and a newborn baby, but also some extremely sweet moments. Here are some pros and cons of having a dog and a baby.

Con: They both need attention. (Often at the same time.) Hazel was used to being spoiled with attention and going on walks often to burn off her energy. Like any big sister, she had to learn to share her attention. At first Hazel started to whine or cry when the baby cried, and then began doing things she knew would get attention, such as jumping on the counter or destroying something. I used to run back and forth giving them attention. Hazel would bring me a toy while I was nursing her brother, but put it just out of my reach and whine so that I would get up and play with her.

It has been almost 5 months now and it is improving. As the baby grows and begins to move, Hazel has become more interested in him and less resentful. We play fun games like holding the baby like an air plane and chasing the dog around the house. They are learning to co-exist.

Pro: When the naps align it is magical! This happens maybe once a week, but when it does it is the best. There is nothing better than having the baby fall asleep in your arms while the dog snoozes beside you. They just look so darn cute while they sleep. I start to wonder why I was stressed, with these two angels in my life. Then I think, nap time for momma! We have had some lovely naps together all snugly and warm. I have also had some lovely quiet time while they nap. Either way, win-win.

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Con: The walks. Hazel is an energetic dog. She loves her walks. She cannot do without walks or she becomes crazy and destructive or whiny and irritable. I hear people say that they just wait for their partners to come home and walk the dog. This is great for them, but not an option for us. My husband takes her for walks on the weekends and sometimes after dinner, but he works long hours, so the dog care is mostly up to me.

We are fortunate to be able to have a dog walker come in to take her out for morning walks, but we still walk between 2 and 5 kilometres a day, rain/snow or shine. Plus, it takes ages to get the baby ready, put him in the stroller or carrier, get myself ready and then get the dog leashed up and ready. In this winter, this is an epic undertaking. My dog loves the snow and cold too. I know other dogs who stay inside when it rains or snows. Not mine. She spent 20 minutes rolling in the snow during the coldest day of the year. We own a lot of waterproof outerwear.

Pro: The walks! The regular walking can be a positive too. I get outside everyday, which makes me feel better. And thanks to my dog, I almost always run into someone I know in the neighbourhood, which provides me with a dose of adult interaction. I also feel stronger, and fitter than I did during my horrible pregnancy. The walking has helped me lose my baby weight, and often leads to nap time for both the baby and the dog.


Con: Dog toys and baby toys are basically the same. I defy you to tell the difference. They both make noise, they are designed to be chewed on and they look like cute animals. Many a baby stuffed animal has gradually become a dog toy. Currently Hazel is fascinated with a musical octopus MB got for Christmas that says colour names when you squeeze it. We have to keep it up high or she steals it. Presumably to learn about colours.

Pro: They will be best friends. MB is becoming more aware and is starting to reach out to pet Hazel. She has always covered him in kisses, but now he laughs. The baby is endlessly entertained by the movements of the dog and she seems to enjoy sitting with him as he has tummy time. She also freaked out with joy when MB went in his jolly jumper for the first time. Now she brings him toys to play with and drops them in front of him. The minute he starts solid foods Hazel will never leave his side.


Con: The house is overrun with stuff. Baby toys litter the couch, and dog toys litter the floor. Or the dog toys are on the couch and the baby stuff is on the floor? Honestly, I’m not sure. They look the same. It’s safer to shuffle your feet across the floor here, rather than lifting them and potentially dropping them onto something painful. And this is just the beginning…

Pro: This may give me an idea of what it is like to have multiple children. (If only in a small way.) I learned a long time ago not to compare my dog to other people’s children. Especially if they are not dog people. I have put my foot in my mouth more than once doing this. However, dogs and babies have a lot in common. Everything goes in their mouths, they love squeaky toys, they both get into everything, they both nap at weird hours, make strange sounds and stare at me while I eat.


Okay, so my dog is not a child. But I have learned the valuable skill of juggling multiple needs of my dependants.

It is hard to not neglect your dog when your baby needs you, to get up and play with your dog when your baby naps and you are exhausted.

It is tiring and guilt-inducing and it is hard to explain it to either one of them. It is also hard to explain to people who are not dog people. I talked about the challenges of balancing the needs of dog and baby by myself during the week at a post-natal class and the nurse politely dismissed me, saying: “If that is the worst thing that has happened to you with the baby, you are doing well.” Thanks…

I am also incredibly impressed by mothers with more than one child.  When I see a mom at the mall with multiple children – or twins!- I want to stop what I am doing and give her a respectful slow clap. But when I see a mom with multiple kids and a dog (or two!), I want to run over to her and bring her baked goods in appreciation for all her hard work. (This is what I would like, as well, if anyone sees me out with my dog.)

 

A Day in the Life of a 10 Month Old

 

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I think someone once said curiosity killed the cat. Really, we should say curiosity made the baby cry. That’s what life is like right now with this guy. Curiosity out the wazoo while crying because when we were curious about that pretty green light on our Roomba vacuum and pushed it while mama wasn’t looking, we cried and freaked out. Now, we can’t even crawl by the darn thing. So, we take the long way around to get to the doggie in his kennel. Sometimes we take the long way down the hall and start to cry because we’ve gone farther than we wanted and where’s my mama?

Usually when we make the long trek around the Roomba we end up at the dog kennel watching fido eat his dog food. Yah, that food is small and round like the peas I love to eat. I wonder if this taste like peas, the babe thinks to himself. So, we’re eating dog food now. It’s kind of his thing if I don’t keep him away. Either this means my cooking is so bad he can’t tell the difference from dog food OR he is just curious. I’ll go with the curious bit, thank you.

Floor vents are pretty awesome. Did you know that you can run your fingers along them 50 times before one of your fingers actually gets stuck?asherbook10mon

We can’t quite figure books out yet. I mean, come on kid, you turn the pages from right to left. He is hellbent on turning the pages the wrong way and if I don’t let him, then we just throw the book upside down. And all I want is a kid who likes to read. Sheesh.

It’s amazing what happens over night in baby world. One day, we can’t even roll. The next, we’re crawling. One day he isn’t even aware of pulling himself up to grab something off the couch. The next, ALL he wants to do is pull himself up. The problem is that he wants to do it on ME. Every. Single. Time. Why pull up on random furniture when I can use mommy? But I can’t get enough of those drooly kisses and the sweet smile when we accomplish the feat of pulling ourselves up, so I am pretty much the #1 mom in helping baby move up in the world.

Sometimes when we crawl into a new and exciting room we’ve never been in before, we stop and raise our head as high as we can to look around, while the drool dangles from our chin. This typically stops me in my tracks. This curiosity is the best.

The new exploration. The taking it all in.

For us, the 10 month mark has been all about the crawl. The movin and groovin. And I am loving it.

Although, I wouldn’t mind if he decided to wait another 10 months to walk. I’m not ready for that game changer.

Peace.
Glo

It’s Who He Is

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(This post also appears on gloryannaboge.com.)

That moment when you’re totally engrossed in your own life. You feel like you’re never going to get that check list marked off. You feel like you are always going going. You feel like you’ve lost a little bit of something trying to do it all. Maybe you’ve lost a little bit of time with your spouse. Time with your friends. Time with your kids. Lost a little bit of yourself.

I get these enveloping moments when I’m doing the day-to-day mundane. I might be washing the dishes, running errands, paying bills, vacuuming. Whatever the mundane is in our house, I can always hear the faint sound of music in the background. We’re one of those families that has the radio lulling in the kitchen. Our station of choice is K-LOVE. I could probably write a whole series on K-LOVE calming the storms in the background in our household. Having constant praise music is a life source for me.

I was washing the dishes after a restless night worried about some decisions I needed to make. I’ve always been one that believes if you don’t have peace about a decision, then the answer is probably that you should shut the door on that choice. I was worried about what others would think of me. I was worried of how it would affect a few relationships. I was worried about how I would appear. Lots of “I’s” in that sentence…

I am one of those that also tends to look in the Bible for verses to make me feel better. Thank God for topical reference Bibles. If I’m worried, I look up verses about peace and trust. Nothing wrong with this at all. I think this can be a great reason to talk with God about where you’re at in life. The problem I run into sometimes is that my relationship with God becomes focused on me. Where I’m at. What’s going wrong. What went right.

What is a moment of distress seeking God for immediate help becomes a habit of a one-sided relationship.

I was washing dishes when it hit me. Chris Tomlin’s song “Good Good Father” came on the radio. In that moment, God wrapped me up in Him. Filled me with His breath of life. Filled me with His truth. Reminding me who He is.

He is the healer.
He brings restoration.
He provides.
He never leaves us.
He knows just what I need before I even say it.

It’s who He is.

When you’re in the day-to-day mundane, try to remember who He is and less of your mistakes and worries. If we keep our eyes on Him, we’ll see less of our messy world and more of His kingdom on earth.

(This post also appears on gloryannaboge.com.)

 

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Emerald is such a sweet soul with such a strong desire to help others see themselves how God sees them. As a woman, I am constantly encouraged by her words based on God’s truth, that encourages everyone to remember that they are beautiful. As a parent, I am always thinking of what I say or do and how when my kids get older, will they look back and see that I saw myself through God’s eyes? I was so impressed with Emerald’s drive to encourage others that I asked her to guest post here today. I knew she wasn’t a “mom” technically, I guess, BUT she has a heart and talent that makes me want to spend more time with God and grow as a parent. Her messages are a great reminder to us all as parents.

Emerald is a crazy cool author  and if you haven’t checked out her stuff, take a quick look. She has an awesome perspective about making writing available for others to read and she is worth learning about!

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I’m not a mother, but I the love kids in my life like they’re mine. I have three nieces, two nephews, and one of undetermined gender due out in October. (And yes, my sister wanted lots of babies!) I’m currently in a situation where I live with them, and I’m helping my sister with them.

I’ve learned a lot, specifically how much work kids are and how that changed my mind about even wanting kids, but what I do know, is that I love these kids with every beat of my heart. Moms, you have my deepest respect, and I know it’s not easy.

When I was approached about writing a blog post for Only a Season after she read my warfare post on a fellow author’s site, I wasn’t sure I would be able to write on the blog since I wasn’t a mother, but even though I’m not a mother, my message can still be useful to women, mother or not.

To start this post, you might need to know a little about me. I’m twenty-eight, quickly approaching twenty-nine if I’m honest, and for years, I’ve hated my body. I hated my looks, and I didn’t feel worthy of much of anything, especially God’s love. I was beat down and broken, and I honestly thought it was “normal” to feel this way. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t learned from my experience, though, and now, I’m using it to show others how they too can overcome their hatred of themselves.

One thing that I have learned is that women of all ages and marital status have a difficult time loving themselves. Why is that? Why is it so difficult to see how wonderful we are? In fact, the Psalmist of 139 said, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

God made you, made us, fearfully and wonderfully! We’re beautiful creations who were created by a marvelous God, but we can’t see that.

We can’t look past our reflections in the mirror, past what we see as “flaws” to learn to love ourselves the way God loves us.

From being this way for most of my life and from knowing kids who have self-esteem issues, I know that this topic has been one that is very difficult. Whether you’re overweight, skinny, or average, we hate our looks because we’re being bullied by others or we think we know what the “ideal” beauty is. The truth is, there is no one “ideal” beauty. We’re all beautiful, and we have to learn how to accept that. “But how? How can I learn to love myself? How can I help my kids love themselves?” you may ask. It’s not easy. I won’t sugar-coat it. It takes lots of work, but it’s worth it in the end.

One of my biggest fears is that my nieces and nephews will learn to hate their body instead of love it. I don’t want them to turn out like me, wondering if they were truly worthy of love and hating themselves. Yes, I was fat. Yes, I am still fat, but that doesn’t mean that it was easy hearing people make fun of me. It was from them and years of hearing the same thing that made me into the woman that I was. I loathed myself, honestly. I couldn’t stand looking in the mirror, and I doubled up on clothing so no one would really see me. I hid behind baggy t-shirts with tank tops underneath.

I hid, but it still wasn’t enough. I still thought I wasn’t pretty or worthy enough of love.

My parents had always told me how beautiful I was, and I believe that was part of the reason I never completely went over the edge. They kept me sane, and they held my hands and let me cry on their shoulder when I couldn’t stand being me for a moment more. But it wasn’t until my heavenly Father told me that I was beautiful because I was His did I really begin to believe it.

My advice to mothers who want to help their daughters (or sons) love themselves more is to openly seek God.
Ask Him to show your daughters (and even sons) that they are beautiful (or handsome) because they are God’s. Show them in the Bible where God loves them and how precious they are to Him, and most importantly, reassure them that they are beautiful/handsome. Even though you’re their parents, hearing those words, “You are beautiful,” could mean all the difference. Even if they don’t believe you know, they will. Trust me. I was there before.

My hope and prayer is that you learn to love yourself so you can help your kids love themselves.
The best way to help someone else is to help yourself. Don’t look in the mirror and see your stretch marks or weight gain or weight loss or hair loss or wrinkles or whatever. Look in the mirror and see a beautiful child of God.

Look at yourself and see the Savior who loves you. Look in the mirror and see the woman you are. The woman who loves her kids, her husband. The woman who would lay her life on the line to protect her loved ones. Look and see the woman who is wonderfully and fearfully made by a loving God Who would move heaven and earth just to prove that love for you.

#youarebeautiful

emerald4Emerald Barnes graduated with a B.A. in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. She resides in a small town in Mississippi and has the accent to prove it. She’s an auntie to three beautiful nieces and two handsome nephews. She’s a Whovian, a little bit of a nerd, a reader, a writer, and a family-oriented person. God is number one in her life, and she thanks Him continuously for His love and favor.

Connect with Emerald online:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fanpageforemeraldbarnes
Twitter: @emeraldbarnes
Blog: http://ebarnes23.wordpress.com/
Inspirational Blog: http://emeraldbarnes.blogspot.com
Site: http://www.emeraldbarnes.us

5 Parent Dream Moments for Instagram Gone Wrong

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I remember when we were trying to get pregnant, my husband and I were incredibly aware of parents walking around with their kids. I remember seeing the mom with her new baby, holding him in the restaurant, while he slept away in her arms. I remember seeing the dad at the lake with his toddler, probably showing him how to fish for the first time. Remember when you were pregnant for the first time and it seemed like everyone was pregnant too?

I knew as a first time parent that things would be hard and not so picturesque as the glimpses we see on the street. In fact, that’s why my husband and I put off having kids for almost eight years. But, we were excited first time parents and I remember sometimes, late in the night we’d both be awake and we’d talk about some of the excited memories we anticipated making when starting our family.

In a world enveloped by social media, you would probably be lying if you didn’t see a photo on Instagram and secretly remember to try that with your little one. Some of your greatest photo ideas come from your fellow Insta addicts.

A year and a half later with ten months of diapers (sheesh, when can we potty train already?) with a ten month old, you learn those memories are like flashes that come and go so fast, you can hardly remember they happened in the midst of sleep deprivation. And what about those moments we anticipated would be our “charming” little family memories?  What actually happens in those dreamed about moments?
1) Parent dreams about taking cute photos of their newly crawling baby, peeking out from under the coffee table and sharing it on Instagram. #cutestbabyever
What Really Happens: Your baby isn’t peeking out because they are way to engrossed in eating whatever unidentified object was growing under your coffee table because who has time to actually clean under there when you’ve got kids running around. Whew.

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2) Parent dreams about baby playing outside, maybe picking a dandelion and looking at it curiously.
Baby waits on parent while just taking in the world. Ah, yes, another Insta moment. Seriously, I had an exact image like this. Man, sweet mother. #justyouwait
What Really Happens: Baby eats the dandelion and another one. And another one, until you realize he’s eating all the dandelions while being so quiet.
Tip: Never mistake quietness with good behavior. Never.
By the time you find him, he has already found a new interest in the surprise your neighbor’s dog left as they walked by earlier.

3) Parent dreams about snuggling with their little one for naps as they gently fall asleep against their chest. Totally Insta worthy. Hello #sleepingbaby.
What Really Happens: Your baby has now discovered your nose and eyes and even your ears. These are incredibly fun to try and rip off your face. Now, this could be Insta worthy. #babyripsfaceoff
But your too tired to even care because all you want to do is sleep. Did I mention the biting? Ever had a teething baby gnaw on your shoulder as you try to sing “Go to sleep little baby”? Yah, no one ever makes it through that song with a teething little.
4) Parent dreams about their little’s first photo with Santa. This will blow up your Insta likes. #babysfirstsanta
What Really Happens: Screaming. Crying. Lots of crying. There will be a glare in this photo from all the tears. I don’t blame the kid for this one, really. A large, strange man, laughing at me for being so little? Really?

5) Parent dreams of hoisting your toddler on your shoulders as they excitedly watch the town parade and all the horses trot by. You decide to make them giggle with a little tickling. Thank you #documentyourday
What Really Happens: Vomit. Too much tickling. Yep, that’s the cotton candy you just had to buy him earlier. A sticky and slimy car ride home, followed by a toddler with an upset stomach from all the candy you let him eat.

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Parent dreams of that feeling they say you get when your little grabs your finger for the first time.

That feeling when they begin to crawl for the first time and you could care less what they eat under the table because you’re ecstatic they figured it out. OK, maybe you’ll do a quick sweep under there.

That feeling when you laugh with them as you hose off the doggie poo they ate while playing outside.

Who cares about the photo with Santa. They won’t remember anyways.

Throw up is never picturesque but the pure joy they experienced by running around with cotton candy in hand, while waiting for the parade to start? That’s what really happens when parents see their dreams unfold as their babies grow. Pure innocence and joy. #enjoytheride

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Come on guys. I know you have some #instamomentsgonewrong. Tell us what they were!

If you want to see more of me fumbling along as a mama to encourage yourself, check us out on Instagram.

Toodles!