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What Memories of My Mother Have Taught Me

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Last week we had Sarah’s guest post about her thoughtful and sweet memories of her mother this time of year and baking cookies. This post especially hit close to home for me with my recent lost and I felt like Sarah’s article could not have been more timely. And then Julie’s guest post came along and it seems many of us moms have similar things on our mind this time of year of the loved ones we have lost.

When I met Julie in a fellow writing group, I was always interested to see what new essay she had written. She has a great ability to write as if you are flowing through her daily life with her. In my mind, I see Julie as she is experiencing life and then things to herself, “This is something other moms would want to know to. Let me share my experience with them.”

Whether she actually thinks about her writing process like that or not, I definitely love the genuine, simple and real appeal Julie offers through her writing tips to other moms. And since we’re all about mom tips around here, I was excited to have Julie guest post. I was even more excited to see that she also decided to write about her mother and provide endearing, honest encouragement for many of this time of year.


Meet Julie! She is a freelance writer and blogger, wife, and mom to three busy boys, & fur mama to two rescue dogs and two guinea pigs. She writes on her blog about motherhood, kids, family, recipes, DIY, travel, and faith. She is a vegetarian who loves to cook and create recipes when she’s not driving her three boys all over town to sports practices in her crumb-filled minivan.

In her past life she has worked as a Scientist and Medical Data Manager, a Pediatric Nurse, and a SAHM. She loves to volunteer in her kids’ schools and help fundraise money for their schools. She is a Christian who loves nature, animals, traveling, gardening, swimming in her pool, and simply spending time with her family. Her favorites are dark chocolate, red wine, and cheese with yummy bread. Catch more of her writing at www.juliehoagwriter.com. Better yet, check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or my favorite!! her Pinterest.


 

Memories are like tissues. Sometimes they are out in my hand and present with me. Sometimes they are all crumpled up and thin, or balled up and tucked away with tear etched and hand wrung crevices. Yet others are shoved down in the deepest pockets of my heart. Memories like tissues are cried on, nose wiped, smudged with food. They are loved or used to help me feel better and soak up my sadness. Or some memories thicken my sadness. Whatever their role my memories have built me into who I am.

My motherhood memories from my own childhood are real. They are mine alone. Those memories built me into the mother I am today. Having lost my mother days before Christmas as a teen taught me many things about being a mother. I learned the lesson the hard way that my own motherhood will end someday when I’m not ready for it to end. I will be ripped from my children’s lives and I won’t be ready for it. They won’t be ready for it. It will leave my children scarred, scared, terrified, angry, and feeling cheated. And I will feel the same as I take my last breath when I die. No matter what age I will be when that happens, I know I won’t be ready to leave them behind. I will want to stay. I will want to be with them and imagining that moment scares me to my core.

I shove those feelings down deep in the pockets of my heart most days but they resurface from time to time to teach me.

Having lived the loss of my mother has brought me to a place in my motherhood where I know I can’t waste this motherhood of mine.

As I near the age my mother was when she died, I feel this realization the strongest I’ve ever felt it. I can’t waste my motherhood no matter how busy I am or how many tasks I get behind on; I am a mother first before laundry, before homemade lasagna, before writing my next post, and before my messy kitchen.

All I have to do is fall back into my sixteen-year-old heart (and this isn’t hard to do because it’s always at the surface) to realize how special those mother and child memories are for a child. I instantly put down my vacuum and stop folding clothes when I realize this. Sometimes I’m dense and my mountains of work cloud my vision and I keep working like a mad woman to get it all done. Sometimes this realization to live in the moment comes at me like a concrete fist to wake me up. This realization helps me stop working when my child asks me to snuggle with him on the couch while watching a Christmas movie. I remind myself the Christmas season is short and he won’t want to watch these movies with me in a few short weeks.

I’m a hard core type A personality and I often forget to savor moments because I get wrapped up in my to-do list. I remind myself I need to slow down. I recall that piercing memory of how I felt at Christmas when my mother had passed away, and all I had left was memories. This stops my racing type A mind cold and I sit down and be present with my child while I can because I don’t know when I will lose the ability to do so.

This thought composes my prayers each night as I ask God to allow me to be with my children into my old age because I so desperately want to do just that. Loss of a mother at any age is extraordinarily difficult but when a parent is lost to a child that loss is devastating. The child doesn’t understand and they struggle to go on. Their world is forever altered and slanted yet they must struggle to walk straight. I know because I lived that loss and it devastated me even as a teen.

My memories of my mother are present all around my house today at Christmas time. My children place memories of her on the tree as they fit the little strings of her initialed ceramic ornaments on the branches. My memories are in the lit up ceramic Christmas tree she made as my kids put the little plastic bulbs on it. We listen to the faltering music box inside as they work with busy little hands. My memories of her are intertwined with their fighting chatter about who gets to put what bulb where. Their fighting annoys me, but still I smile because I know decorating this tree will be a memory for them.

Memories of her are intertwined in my time making cookies with my own kids. We make many of the same cookie recipes I made with my own mom as a child.  As I make these cookies with my kids the images of my mother drift into my brain. I can see her standing in the kitchen with a spatula raised like a magic wand, or setting the caramels pan on the snowy deck in the cold winter air to harden.

As my kids shake sprinkles heavily onto white frosted cookies, I recall the time as a child when I shook the sprinkles too much. I had loved to shake the sprinkles container, the cylindrical kind with the little colored ball sprinkles, and I thought it made a glorious sound when I shook it. I loved to see the tiny colored balls burst out the holes in top. After I sprinkled my cookie one cookie making day, I kept shaking, and shaking, and shaking that container. I shook it until there were little balls rolling all over the kitchen floor. My mother had looked at me and asked me to stop. She had the you-need-to-stop-now look I know so well now as a mother myself. She didn’t get too mad at me because we were making cookies, it was a joyous day, but I knew she didn’t like my thoughtless mess. The beauty of that priceless memory is I hold it cherished deep in my heart pockets where it lives soaked into my tissues, and it comes out to dance and make me smile at Christmas time when I make cookies with my kids.

What Memories of My Mother Have Taught Me. Growing in the loss of your Mother to be a better mother.

I want to create special mother and child memories for my own kids so they can hold them in their own hearts. Hold them deep down in their heart pockets where their tissues will live all soaked in Christmas memories, tears, but with tons of joy too.

I try to relish the moments of each day so I don’t waste this motherhood of mine. I pray each night that God will permit me more time with my kids so I can keep watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with them on the couch each Christmas. I pray for the foresight to sometimes ignore my to-do list. I pray I will get to nurture my kids’ Christmas memories by making cut-out cookies as they grow each year to add new talents like rolling out their own ball of dough.

I lost my mother just days before Christmas on a fluffy giant snowflake falling day. That is the day I learned how to be a mother even though I didn’t realize this until just now as I hug and kiss my each of my children goodnight.

The secret of how to be a mother is to truly be present with your kids.

I know this as my kids and I talk about how Christmas is only a lovely few days away. It’s clear to me as we talk about how we will make more cookies this weekend, the ones they love made of peanut butter and a chocolate kiss. It’s reinforced as we talk about how they need to write their letters to Santa quick before we run out of time.

I tuck them in at bedtime and say their prayers, and add my own that I will get yet another day tomorrow, another year, another Christmas, another fifty years with them. And I know in my heart it still won’t be enough and I will still want more.

Fellow moms, may God grant you more time with your babies and may God help us remember we need to love our kids and live in the now of this Christmas.

Sprinkles and Burnt Antlers: The Joy of Cooking with Kids

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I went back to her website to find that article. I remember it well because she had talked about her child seeing beauty in something that she, as the mother, saw as a mess. I remember this one well because it struck me to the heart. As a type A personality, I worry that I might rob the beauty my children will see in the daily mundane because I’m too worried about cleaning things up.

I’ve been following Sarah and her blogging since about February. I’m sure I stumbled along her writing in a mutual writer’s group. I do remember that I was immediately drawn to her writing. That’s what I love about growing as a writer. You find so many other great writers and you feel like you could be friends if you met in a coffee shop.

I wont keep you any longer. Sarah is our guest today and I can’t wait for you to meet her!


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Meet Sarah! She is a current stay-at-home mom. After years of teaching high school English (ahh my kindred spirit! 🙂 ), she is now enjoying focusing on her two children while learning to slow down and look at the world through their eyes.

She has learned more about dinosaurs and princesses in the past few years than she ever thought possible.  Sarah writes about parenting on her blog, One Mile Smile, and has recently been published in the following sites:  Mothers Always Write, Parent.Co, and Her View From Home.

Check out her Facebook or Instagram to see what she’s up to! After reading her post today, I think you’ll want to!


Spinkles & Burnt Antlers: Joy of Cooking with Kids. A Guest Post.

As a child, one of my favorite Christmas activities was baking sugar cookies with my mom. Every year, my siblings and I would clamor into the kitchen to help her, mainly for the opportunity to make a huge mess with the sprinkles.

Flour filled the air as my mom rolled out the cold dough on the counter and hummed along to Christmas carols. She used a family recipe for the kind of sugar cookies that are thin and have a bit of a crunch when you bite into them. These cookies take time and patience.

When I was young, I was mainly delegated to the task of sprinkling the colored sugar onto the cookies before they went into the oven. I would complete this task with utmost care. I sprinkled crooked red stripes on the candy canes and only allowed green sprinkles on the Christmas trees. Of course, more sprinkles ended up on the table and floor than anywhere else, but my mother never said a word.

As I got older, my mother taught me how to cut out the shapes. Her preferred shapes were the star and the bell because they were the most dough-efficient; very little dough was wasted between each cookie. These shapes also didn’t have small parts that made it difficult to transfer to the cookie sheet.

Of course, I preferred the most impractical of shapes, like the long and narrow candy cane or the angel with delicate wings. The reindeer was also a favorite; however, the antlers posed a problem, as they were narrow and cooked much faster than the rest of the cookie. Usually, they ended up slightly burnt.

One year, I distinctly remember slowly transferring prancing reindeer after reindeer onto the cookie sheet under my mother’s watchful eye. The dough was so thin you could almost see through it, and because of this, some reindeers lost limbs. I tried to smoosh them back onto the bodies, but they remained crooked.

My mother continued to roll dough as I set the timer and kept an eye on the cookies.  Although I was careful with the timing, all of the reindeer came out of the oven with the tips of their antlers and hooves singed brown.

I nervously waited for my mom to say something, maybe a comment about the impracticality of  the reindeer cookie cutter, or how I should have been more careful watching the oven.

Instead, as she slid them off of the cookie sheet to cool, she set aside a few on a small plate. “I’ll have these with my tea,” she decided.  I beamed with pride. Despite singed antlers, my reindeer were a success.  

Many years later, as I made my own tray of cookies to take to a holiday party, arranging them in a perfect spiral on the plate, I thought of those reindeer and finally understood my mother’s actions.

She didn’t want to break her daughter’s heart by throwing the ruined cookies in the trashcan, but she also didn’t want those burnt, crooked-limbed reindeer to end up on her tray of cookies she planned to take to my aunt’s Christmas party.

So, she just did what moms do. She ate the burnt cookies.

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After my mother passed away, the cookie cutters eventually made their way into my own kitchen. I now unpack them with the rest of the Christmas decorations stored in the attic. Some years, I simply set them aside because homemade sugar cookies involve so much time and patience.

This year, however, as I peeked into the bag and sorted through the various shapes, I thought of the reindeer and couldn’t wait to show the cookie cutters to my kids. At 4 and 6, this will be their first real introduction to sugar cookies that do not come in a slice-and-bake roll from the grocery store.

Although I love cooking with my kids, I find it a true test of patience. I struggle to bite my tongue when they drop an entire bottle of sprinkles on the floor. My initial reaction is to scold when I find them leaning over the bowl eating large chunks of raw dough. And that time when a bag of flour somehow ended up all over the floor? It nearly brought me to tears.

I know baking with my kids this holiday season will be a messy affair. They will want to use the impractical brachiosaurus cookie cutter I bought on a whim. I’m sure I will end up with plenty of broken dinosaur necks and scorched dinosaur tails. I’m sure there will be more green sprinkles on my floor than on the cookies.

But, I’m also sure that my children’s laughter will be louder than the Christmas carols playing in the background. Their smiles will be more delightful than a perfectly shaped cookie. And, the memories we create together will last much longer than the tray of cookies we offer to our guests on Christmas day.  It seems that these messy, less than perfect moments are usually the most memorable.

So, as I create these sprinkle-filled memories with my children, I will remember my mom. I will ignore the crunch of sprinkles on the floor, and I will look the other way when they sneak globs of dough from the mixing bowl.

And, the singed, broken-necked dinosaur cookies? I will simply put them aside on a special plate to enjoy with my cup of tea later.

Visit her site, One Mile Smile, or check out her Facebook or Instagram. Thanks so much for stopping by mamas to meet this special lady!

If you’re interested in guest posting, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at onlyaseasonblog@gmail.com. Check out other guest posts here.

Cheers Mom, I Get It Now

I remember scrolling through Michelle’s site and thinking, “This gal gets me!”. Her honest writing and cheeky thoughts about fashion and fitness, oh yah and how could I forget, WINE! had me from the start. I decided not to hold it against her that she lives in Canada. 🙂 Michelle is what I would call a no-nonsense writer. She’s direct and tells you what she thinks. I appreciate that in a writer, as I’m sure many of us do. It’s good to find someone you know who is out there over and over, being as honest with you as they can be as a writer. If you’ve haven’t found Michelle yet, hop over to her site and say hello!

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With a few-week-old baby curled into me as I sat on the couch, the day brought about a time of reflection on my short experience in motherhood. The previous weeks of taking care of a tiny human had been challenging. The demands of a newborn had changed everything from life as I’d known it…

I’d changed physically, mentally, and emotionally to anticipate the role of mom throughout 9 months of pregnancy, through labour and birth, and I changed even more so in the bumbling, inexperienced, stressful moments of assuming that role.

There were many skeptical moments where I questioned whether it was “all worth it” as I’d been reassured by other well-meaning moms. The weight of motherhood was settling around me like a lead blanket.

“Oh. This is what it feels like to be a mom.”

Heavy. Suffocating. Painful. Emotional.

It was terrifying to have a piece of my heart and soul separated from my own body to vulnerably exist out in the great big world.

But amidst all the complicated difficulties, there were powerfully contradicting feelings of joy, purpose, comfort, and belonging. I was a Mom.

It Was Then That I Understood What It Meant To Be A Mom

I really did, and in a way I couldn’t have possibly comprehended before baby. Becoming a Mom was one of the best (and most challenging) things I’ve done in life. The exhaustion, the changes in my body, the pain and trauma of birth, the explosively poopy diapers, the cries that couldn’t be consoled, endless laundry, and dependency of another life

As terrifying as it all sounds, there was something wonderful and joyous even in the most difficult aspects. Even in the toughest times, there has always been a small corner of my heart that laughed, smiled, or thanked God for the opportunity to experience life as it was in that moment.

And then there are the stop-your-heart moments of cuteness and life-fulfillment experienced in a way only Moms can relate to… those tender moments that forever imprint themselves into our maternal memories. The smell of newborn hair. Snuffly baby snores. Tiny fingers barely curling around one of yours. A first smile. Melt-me-into-a-puddle moments… moms, you know what I’m saying.

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As a new-ish member of the Mom-club, the depth of understanding has now settled in, and reality has formed an indescribable appreciation for my own Mother and all others out there. I get it now. The craziness. The emotions. The fear. The selflessness. The sacrifice. The joy. The love.

To all the Moms out there, YOU ARE AWESOME for all you are and all you do. I hold all of you in higher regard than ever before.

Cheers!

Michelle Thevenot

Article originally published on MT Bottles blog

Find me on: FacebookInstagramTwitterPinterest

michelleheadshotMichelle Thevenot is a work-from-home mom-boss and creative entrepreneur from Osler, SK, Canada. Manager of several small businesses, artist, blogger, and preventer of household destruction by a toddler-dog duo (partners in crime, those two), her hands are full, but so is her heart as she lives her passion. 

How I Missed the Most Important Day of My Son’s First Two Years

When you start meeting other writers you really only have a few ways to get to know them. One of those ways is to stock their writing and if you’re lucky, they’re blog or personal site. I met Kamsin from a writer’s group created by another author I love (Sarah West) and instantly was drawn to her writing. Why? because Kamsin is a reflective person who causes me to reflect on decisions I make throughout my day. If you get a chance and peruse Kamsin’s site, you will find that she is a genuine writer who really strives to be in the moment and enjoy her journey as a mother in Japan. I encourage you to take a few minutes and say hello on her site! Oh and she’s British which sterotypically makes me interested in her writing. I mean who doesn’t like to read something while imaging a British accent??

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A few days ago when I brought my son home from daycare, it seemed as if he was a different boy to the one I had dropped off that morning. Older? It was only 7 hours since I’d last seen him. Taller? All his clothes still fit. But the way he walked was different. A little more confident. He knew something new about the world.

He goes to daycare twice a week, and he doesn’t always come home more grown up than when he left. Some days those leaps, when they come, seem to happen during nap time. There are days when I am sure he has grown taller. Days when his face has clearly changed and he wakes up with a new look in his eyes.

And so a child grows. Some days a whole new version of your little one gets downloaded while they sleep. The list of things they can and can’t do gets rewritten constantly. When you’re waiting for each new skill to appear it can feel like nothing much is changing. Then all of a sudden you find yourself wondering where your baby went.

In long, exhausting days and in the blink of an eye, my son has transformed from helpless, sleeping baby into a two year old with boundless energy. He acquires new skills every.single.day. I can barely keep up let alone keep track of all the milestones.

During the first year of his life I dutifully took a photograph of him every month on his birthday. The teddy bear next to him in the pictures quickly became smaller than him. And at 9 months he crawled away, barely giving teddy a glance over his shoulder. I had to snap quickly to keep them both in the frame.

In the final photo on his first birthday he is just a week away from taking his first wobbly, in-such-a-hurry to get walking, steps. And he is clearly still a baby.

But when it comes to all those other milestones that mark the first two years of life I have been less conscientious. I am not very good at recording the milestones as they take place.

He learned to smile. Roll over. Hold his head up all by himself. And I forgot to write any of it down. I can tell you when he crawled because it seemed to take so long to happen. He got so frustrated in the weeks beforehand and it was such a relief for us both.

Then it was just 3 months later when he walked. And I say walked but really it was two wobbly, insecure steps. Repeated over and over till another week or so had passed and he finally starting putting all the steps together.

And as for first words, Mama and dadda not included, his first word may have been bear. Or was it Daisy (our cat’s name)? Or maybe bye-bye. How can I not know this?

What about all the milestones that it didn’t even occur to me to look for? Like the first time he jumped with both feet clean off the floor. Or walked up a flight of steps all by himself. That one took me by surprise as he walked himself up half a dozen steps while we were lounging by the pool on holiday. “When did you learn to do that?”, I wondered.

And what is the point of all these milestones anyway? They let anxious mothers and the child’s physician know that everything is developing on track. And sometimes they are boasting rights. “Little S said thank you all by himself today. Growing up so fast!”

Maybe it’s just our human need to observe, and make note of the passage of time.

The milestone I’d most like to record however, has no defining moment. There was no clear line and yet at some point he crossed it. When did my baby become a little boy?

In Japan, where we live, there is no word for toddler. He was an “akachan”, or baby, but somewhere along the line people started calling him “chichaiko”, little child.

And the mischievous look he gets in his eyes is all boy. His love of trains and cars and kicking balls has bloomed. Like someone flicked a switch and all of a sudden he knew fire engines were cool.

When did this happen? Why wasn’t I paying attention?

I missed his last day as a baby and his first as a little boy.

Was it when he learned how to blow raspberries, laughing hysterically at himself? Was it the day that he learned to say no? Was it when he learned to run at break neck speed round and round the sofa? Was it when he had his first public meltdown on a train?

He still wraps himself around my body and snuggles his face into my neck when he’s sleepy. When the world seems too much for him he reverts to calling me mama instead of mummy. In those moments he still seems like a baby to me.

And he is still my baby. Perhaps he always will be.

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I’m a British mom living in Japan with my husband and our son. I blog at http://lifeinthekeyofe.com. I am passionate about staying true to who I am and encouraging others to do the same. Follow me on twitter @kamsin_kaneko or Instragram @kamsinkaneko

Who I Am

You know that moment when your friend calls you because they got tickets to go see your favorite band? Or maybe that moment when you feel like you are beside yourself with happiness at the thoughtful gift your friend spent a lot of time making for you. Whatever it is–it’s that feeling of pure excitement and gratitude you have for that friend in that moment. I am not stretching the truth one bit when I tell you that’s how I feel about my guest post today. Marisa is a writer that I just absolutely love. She is raw, honest, and encouraging all at once. If there was ever someone who made you feel like you are not alone and welcome to a place of grace, Marisa would be waving you in at the front door. I am just beyond thrilled she is writing here today and hope you find encouragement from her words today.

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Who Do You Say I Am?

Simon Peter.

Foot-in-mouth, rough-around-the-edges, fly-off-the-handle, uneducated, doesn’t-get-it-the-first-go-round disciple.

I’d shake my head at his antics, but, a rueful chuckle would only follow.

Because He is all too me! Fumbles and stumbles galore.

Yet, it was he that knew without an ounce of hesitation how to answer in Matthew 16.

When Christ asked, “Who do you say I am?”, Peter back before he was officially Peter replies forthrightly, “You are the Messiah, son of the Living God.”

For such assured words to come from the one known for off-the-cuff oopses and brashness has always tickled me.

Another confound-the-wise-by-revealing-truth-to-little-children moment.

For, essentially, that’s what Simon Peter was- a big oaf of a child, gamboling after the Savior, little possessed of worldly knowledge or grander social graces, but ever guzzling down what Jesus was teaching.

He may not have always gotten it right. In fact, at times, he was downright clueless.

But, because he had a sense of Who he was running with, he kept after it.

And how did Jesus respond?

He pronounced him blessed, christened him Peter, the rock, one over whom the gates of hell would not prevail.


In Peter declaring who Christ was, Christ could declare who Peter was.


And, so it is for us.

Who we say He is reveals who we are and are to be-in Him.

By the same token, who we say we are directly reflects who we say He is.

If Peter had scoffed and said, “Who, me?”, returning to his nets with a disbelieving shrug, what he and the world would have missed!

And, what all do we miss when we say we are too much a nobody to be used by God?

Well, I’ll tell you, because I know far too well.

Joy. Peace. Life and life more abundantly.

Forfeited in a sea of self-doubt. Never salvation, mind you. Grace is certainly not so cheap. But that blossomy sensation we ought to relish in as His own?

Harder to hold in those billowing waves when we forget the simplicity of it all: greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

We’re a royal priesthood to be filled with His glory. Not to be puffed up and awesome in our own right. Oh, no. It’s all about Who is in us.

My grip’s been lost on this truth all too easily countless times.

To realize I am unwittingly calling my Messiah’s arm too short to lift my brokenness?

A mistake that makes a body cringe.

Just ask Peter after that fateful rooster crow. He’d forgotten who Christ was, who he was in Him.

And to find my self-deprecating tendencies in that realm of fallenness?

Wow. Total mindblower. Really. Like walking out the door and realizing you skipped the deodorant.

Something quite stinky catching you by surprise.

I mean, I know I knew this.

Yet…

Yet, people would quote me “God don’t make no junk.” all the live long day and I’d say, ” Yep. I know.” And still secretly roll my eyes and wince at the hokiness and poor grammar and go on my way unaffected.

But, till just recently, I don’t know that I really, really realized the level it matters on.

So…to own up to my poor self-esteem as poor God-esteem?

Takes a lot of swallows and throat-clearings to gather the courage to put voice to it all.

To see perhaps a bit of personal responsibility and yet not let it backfire into more berating of self?

Well,  it’s hard to grapple with this unfamiliar feeling of worth, honestly, but I know it is worth the work to try.

So, the burning question is…

Am I there?

All done taking internal potshots at my abilities?

Finished feeling my Eeyore roots, my Charlie Brown melancholy?

Well…I’d looove to say ‘yes’ but…

Aspiring is perhaps a better way to put it.

Improving.

Especially grateful in light of this new title of ‘published author’ to my name. But, no, not completely there!A lifetime of learned behavior does not go in one whack. And even articles and a soon-to-be book do not assurance make.

Only He can do that, really.


But, I am gaining, shaking out a new petal here, a new leaf there with a sense of celebration and wonder.


Seeking, as Peter sought. Stumbling sometimes, but running beside Him, like a leaping child ready to explore and confound a few wiseguys.

Knowing without a doubt who I say He is- and what that ought to say about who I am and what He wants me to be in Him.

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Marisa Ulrich is a mom of four, two autistic, all awesome. She is in a blessed second marriage to the handyman of her dreams. They make their home in rural Kansas in a great hundred year old fixer upper. You can find her ongoing thoughts on Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/MarisaJUlrich/ , Twitter: @mjubutterfly, and WordPress: https://www.brokencookiessite.wordpress.com/ . Look for her book, Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet: The Amazing Grace of Motherhood, Marriage, and Miracles on the Spectrum, to debut July 19th via eLectio publishing.

Living Under the Freedom of God’s Grace

I had been part of this particular online writers community for a little while and I remember I kept seeing her posts pop up. I liked her domain name “mywanderingheartsong” and I was immediately drawn to her faith based posts. For about four months, or so, I got to know Harmony through her writing and then one day, we said hello to each other.

I had been published on a faith based site and then Harmony was published on the same site, and then we started talking about that site and then we became Facebook friends and I had messaged her a few times about something random with my son and she said something about Britney Spears?? (was it?) and her daughter which made me laugh and here I am introducing her guest post on my blog.

Harmony is one of those people that I have a feeling if I ran into her in “real” life, we would be able to grab a cup of coffee and chat like we’ve known each other for a while. Her writing is that way too. She just writes and writes and I just gobble and gobble it up, easy peasy. She encourages me to keep moving forward in life and to keep my eyes on the One who IS my life. I am honored to have her hanging out here today.

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Recently my best friend, Joannie, and I were talking about some of the trials we have gone through and our preferred methods of coping. I have endured some seasons of tragedy in the past five years of my life so I’ve gotten pretty good at self-soothing. Is drinking an extra glass of Chardonnay with dinner necessarily the right thing to do? No. Have I done it more than once? Yes. (I admit with rosy cheeks.)

That being said, I was venting to my bestie about my recent bout with coping and she said something that has stuck with me ever since.


She said, “You just have to ask yourself one question at the end of the day- Did Harmony show up for her life today?”


I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Not because this was a harsh or judgmental thing to say. I knew it was coming from a place of love and accountability. I knew she was only giving me advice that she had already given herself countless times. It took the breath out of me because it speaks to the core of who I am. Purposeful living is something I’m very passionate about. When I have moments (or days) of sadness that result in me being a mom, wife, and friend on autopilot, well, I always feel guilty.

I know it’s totally okay to feel the pain that comes with loss. I believe that I have a right to feel these feelings without the threat of an appropriate timeframe looming in my thoughts.

However, allowing myself to get caught up in yesterday to the point of missing out on today is not okay in my book.

My BFF’s heartfelt words spoke to my spirit and caused an awakening of sorts to take place within. Am I showing up for my own life or am I just going through the motions? Am I allowing pain mixed with wine and trips down memory lane to trump the here and now with my beautiful family? After all, they are my future. So, in essence, avoiding the responsibilities of today is stealing from my tomorrows. OUCH.

The good news is that God’s grace is more than enough for me and all my days of wandering and wondering. In fact, my favorite Bible verse says just that:


And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9


I’ll be honest with you. I feel pretty darn weak lately. How grateful I am to see that just because I feel it doesn’t mean that I am weak! Actually, my weakness is the fertile soil in which God’s amazing grace grows. Talk about taking my breath away!

Joannie knew that her words would spark something in me. That they would remind me of the freedom I have in Christ to unapologetically be who I am. I can admit when I mess up and move on because my eyes are on the gracious One. I’m free to share my weaknesses with others without fear because I can trust that God’s perfection will cover me.

It’s not about how much I play with my kids or how many things I check off my to-do list. Those things don’t determine if I showed up that day. Living in the moment is good. Productivity is good (and something I am constantly striving for.) The gage for my purposeful living doesn’t come from a results driven standard, though. It has to do with my heart.

When I played with my kids today, did my words, actions, and facial expressions (yep!) tell them that I wanted to be doing that exact thing at that exact moment? When I checked off items on my list, did I make sure and prioritize people over things?

Grace isn’t really grace if it’s done out of obligation, after all. And how can I receive it for myself without joyfully giving it away to those in my world?

So, yes, I’m not perfect (in case you were wondering!) But who says I have to be? God sure as heck doesn’t. He uses my imperfections as a way to show off His glory and grace. (Side note- those two words are tattooed on my wrists because this flawed mama needs to be reminded of this truth at least 100 times a day!) Look at that- I drink wine and I have tattoos! Whew- am I grateful for the freedom I’ve found in God’s grace.

In case you forget what grace means, I highly suggest a best friend who tells you the God’s honest truth with some sass to help you realign your focus. Life’s way more fun that way.

I’d loan you my gal, Joannie, but she’s taken. Indefinitely.

harmonayheadshotHarmony is a proud Air Force wife and blessed mother of four children. Her heart’s cry is to love without limits and live without regrets. She plans to use her criminal justice degree to tangibly help marginalized women and children all over the world. Writing, singing, and running are her methods of soul therapy and Starbucks coffee is her happy juice.

The quote that she lives by is, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I’ve used everything you gave me.’ ” (Erma Bombeck) You can find her over at My Wandering Heart Song or on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

 Finding freedom from the day to day. Living in God's Grace as a mother.

Return the Child

When I read Carol’s heart-wrenching, raw story about her son, I immediately thought of a friend of mine who had gone through something similar and thought Carol gave words to a tough situation that my friend struggled to express. There were many nights of heart ache and struggle for my friend when they lost a little girl they had been taking care of for over two years. Carol’s story brought my friend’s struggle back to the surface of my memory. If you have ever experienced anything like Carol, then you know this experience is one of the hardest a mom can go through. 

Our beautiful babyGraham

I stood there…exhausted.  Staring at nothing in particular and everything in general.  It was all a blur; fuzzy, like my thoughts.  


Shock does that.  Moments earlier I held my infant son in my arms, cradling him, cuddling him.  Now my arms were empty.  The ache in my heart was like none I had ever experienced.  It only exaggerated the pain in my empty arms. Nobody could ever take that pain away except my son – back where he belonged.  

I buried my tear-stained face in his blankie.  Sobbing seemed to bring a bit of release.  I needed to deter my thoughts.

Watching the airplane turn on the runway took every ounce of stamina to hold myself together and not spring through the security doors to chase after it.  I deliberated between watching the aircraft until it was a speck in the sky or escape to my car to be in private.  Choosing the latter, I wondered if the fountain of tears would ever stop.  When would the pain of this loss be tolerable?

Does anyone ever recover after losing a baby?  It does not matter how you lose a child, the impact and grief are the same.   I could not deny it.   He was gone – forever.  

I was his mommy for a year

A year had passed since we adopted Seth.  When the phone rang that day I had no reason to suspect anything unusual.  My husband answered; and as I watched the expression on his face change rapidly, I did not like what I was observing.  He called me over to share the receiver.

“I am getting pressure from my parents to raise my son so I am going to have to get him back.  I am prepared to hire an attorney and you know you will not win.”  The words had been rehearsed and seemed too easy for her to say.  A couple sentences, that’s all it was — a couple sentences that tore our hearts out.

“I’m afraid you don’t really have a choice,” our lawyer informed us.  The law was clear.  If we chose to fight, there would only be more agony and great expense.  “I will set it up for you to return the child as soon as possible.”

GIVE HIM BACK – NOW!


RETURN THE CHILD as soon as possible.  I screamed on the inside.  I cried on the outside.  No, this just can’t be happening.  We loved Seth.  He was ours.  The bottom of my world dropped out from under me.  I loved him and cared for him. He was part of our family for a whole year.  I could not imagine life without him.  I was his mommy.  How could she do this to us?  How could she possibly love him like we did?  What about Seth?  He would be torn from his parents, his home.  Surely he would feel the rejection.  What path would his life take now? Nothing prepared me for the pain of relinquishing my son to someone who had not wanted him!  But we had no choice.  “Return the child.  Give him back.”

He handed MY son to her…


I watched from a distance as my husband handed him to her.  It was in slow motion.  I watched his hands leave the child as he lifted our son into her arms.  He was handing our son to a stranger.  I wanted to run and grab him but I was glued to the floor.  I felt petrified.  I thought I was either going to faint or throw up.  My hand fluttered to my mouth for a moment fearing I might scream out.  How could I go on?  Where would I get the strength?  This just could not be happening.  Please God — let this only be a dream.  Tomorrow I will wake up and everything will be normal again.

Our sonGraham

When someone says it feels like her heart was in her throat, that is accurate.  My heart became so heavy it felt like there wasn’t room in my chest cavity to hold it.  The heaviness moved to my throat and even my extremities, weakening my entire body.  I was fearful that my heart would implode, exploding on the inside from pressure, and yet wondered if that would bring some relief to the overwhelming state of heartbreak.  My loss consumed my thoughts.  Even when I was not thinking about it specifically, something would trigger a memory and the initial impact was felt once again.

In the months that followed, every time I saw a new baby or watched a child playing, I would cry.  I could not go down the aisle in the grocery store that sold baby food without breaking down.  Every time the telephone rang, I was hoping it was that ‘woman’ saying she had changed her mind.  Days turned into weeks, then months…….. then years.  That was over forty years ago.   I’ll never forget our little boy.  

HeadShotCarol Graham is a charismatic speaker whose stories bring hope. She inspires transformation and healing by using her own compelling life experiences to engage and connect on a deep emotional level.  Through laughter and tears, her audience learns how to move forward without denying the past. Carol is not your typical speaker; she is animated, high spirited and effective with a gift to connect with her audience who always leave with new inspiration. 

Carol has survived the challenges of major illnesses, devastating personal losses and financial ruin more than once, yet has refused to become a victim. Her goal is to share with others how to survive and thrive.

Carol hosts a bi-weekly talk show “Never Ever Give Up Hope” in which she interviews people with remarkable and heart-warming stories of how they overcame overwhelming obstacles and achieved success. “Never Ever Give Up Hope” has an international audience in over 50 countries.

Carol is the author of a fast-paced memoir, Battered Hope, the blog Never Ever Give Up Hope, a regular contributor to several blog sites and has been published in three anthologies including a best-seller.

In 2015, Carol received the Woman of Impact Award from Focus on Women Magazine as well as Author of the Year for her memoir, Battered Hope. 

In addition to motivational speaking, hosting a talk show and writing, Carol is a business owner, a wife, mother, grandmother and together with her husband have rescued over 30 dogs.

Connect with her on social media in whatever way you like best!
More About Carol and her blog.
Carol’s Podcast where she interviews others who have overcome life’s struggle.
Check out her memoir on Amazon.
Connect with Carol on Twitter, Facebook, Google, Pinterest or Linkedin

The Happiest You’ll Ever Be

I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll start with when I first met Aimee. We are in an awesome blogging group together and I remember scrolling through and seeing her blog pop up in a thread. As per the usual, I started stalking her site and surfing through her posts and I came across one that I loved, titled “Chasing Your Joy.” Have you ever had that moment when you read something and feel like you could have written it yourself? I have those moments often with Aimee’s writing. Although, I find more often than not that I admire her writing and I am inspired to be a better writer myself. So that’s about her writing. As an individual? Aimee is a genuine as they come with a transparency that draws you in and makes you want to get to know her more. I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to write for Only a Season. I find that I keep coming back to her writing when I feel overwhelmed in this life as a mom and she has yet again, written a beautiful piece about motherhood.

hand-palm-baby

In the quiet space of the evening, I am nestled beside him in his tiny bed. The golden light of the fading day illuminates his bedroom and he seems to shine as he drifts off to sleep beside me. Across the room his older brother draws in his journal, glancing over at us every once in awhile to flash a grin that beams pure adoration. I wonder how it is possible that in just a few months I will be the mother to a seven-year-old; it seems only a moment ago that I held my swelling belly, imagining with anticipation all of the ways in which my life was about to change.

In the room beside us, the tiniest of my three is contentedly sleeping, at last. An hour has been spent going from room to room to rock, nurse, read, tuck in and settle down, kiss, rock, and settle down all over again; bedtime can seem an endless feat. Just as I get my five-month-old into her crib, one of her big brothers bursts in to tell me about the bedtime book they’d like for me to read. Just as I begin to read the storybook, baby sister lets out a wail for one last cuddle. I feel my teeth grit and my patience wane as I long for a moment of solitude before my own bedtime calls my name. That hour before my home surrenders to dreaming can undo all of the gentle parenting I have worked so hard to practice throughout the day, if I’m not careful.

Yet, it always comes, the sigh and the closing of eyes, and I find myself snuggled in my boys’ room, unable to rise and walk away. The desire to be alone suddenly dissipates as I watch them sleep, reflecting upon these happiest days of my life.

It is a feeling that whispers to me throughout our days at home together. When a toothless, gummy smile is beaming up at me, or the preschooler’s giggle fills my kitchen with joy, the feeling floods in — these are the best days of my life.

When I watch their little hands growing more capable with every passing day, building blocks and painting with watercolors, it calls to me — this is the happiest you will ever be.

AimeeQuote


As I see them toddle into their first steps, and in a flicker, ride away on their two-wheeled bikes, the feeling beckons — hold on to these moments, for soon they will be recalled as the golden days.

Suddenly, in the midst of the chatter and Lego-constructing and mudpie-baking, I find tears rising as I play the numbers game. Almost seven. If seven years can fly so quickly, then that means fourteen will be here in a flash. And fourteen is just four years away from eighteen – then what will I do?  

They say the days of childhood are fleeting; is the best time of my life fleeting, too? If so, then this moment is just falling through my hands like grains of sand before I can grasp them. If they are all slipping away, what, then, is there to hold on to? 

It is the greatest conundrum of parenthood. We find ourselves caught between the hope for the future and the power of the present. We are bombarded with messages to savor the moment, while being cautioned to regard each as the best we will ever know.


Tell me then, how are we to acknowledge the honor we have in standing in this season of mothering, without regarding it with just a tinge of sadness, too?

 So I find myself, after the sunlight has settled into moonlight, waiting just a moment longer in the quiet of my children’s rooms. Kissing their little heads lost in dreamland. Memorizing the sight of their tiny toes jutting out from under their blankets. Watching their chests rise and fall as I give thanks for their health, for their happiness, for this blessing of being their mother. Praying that they will have the courage and the fortitude to live honorable lives of service and goodness. 

As each day closes, I am met with a choice. I can be lost to the bittersweet thought of another day passing, or I can gratefully surrender to the beauty that will be forever carried in my heart. 

Each night in their rooms I choose surrender, and commit that with the sunrise, I will pour my presence into the moment, while pouring my spirit into trusting in the promise of the future.

 

AimeeBioAimee is a homeschooling mama to three on a journey to get real with motherhood. Whenever she can find a quiet moment, usually in the stillness of the night, she writes soul-searching reflections at MamaCentric (www.mamacentric.com) in an effort stay centered in this beautiful chaos called motherhood. She is a regular contributor to Austin Moms Blog and has had her work featured on Scary Mommy and Youshare Project, and hopes that her words inspire others to always seek the joy in their lives.


You can connect with her on
Facebook (Facebook.com/MamaCentricBlog),
Instagram (Instagram.com/MamaCentric) and
Twitter (Twitter.com/MamaCentric)

 

 I would love to have your words on Only a Season. Check out more info here.

HappiestPIN