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Archive | Mercy in Mamahood

A day in dragon land

Sarah ReadBy Sarah Read

It’s good I love my kids even when they are dragons. Today I found myself telling them both that I would search out a dungeon to put them in if they kept acting like medieval creatures. My daughter chuckled at my empty threat, informing me a dragon would be kept outside, not in a dungeon.

I had a suitable plan for the day. It included a dental appointment for my son that I wasn’t thrilled about, as it was an hour’s drive away, but it was scheduled nonetheless. I also made overdue plans with friends on that side of town to make the most of the trip. Not to mention, I only had to go to a specialty dentist in the first place because, at 23-months old, my son is too stubborn to let a local dentist look in his mouth, or, for that matter, to let myself or my husband brush his teeth. We brush them twice a day, mind you, but doing it while prying open a determined toddler’s mouth doesn’t make for the best brushing conditions. Pretty sure he has a cavity.

None of that matters now, because I had to cancel all those plans. We were five minutes from walking out the door, shoes on and all, when I went to change my daughter’s shirt and saw what could only be described as the chicken pox all over her body. She’s had this unexplainable raised rash on her trunk with no other symptoms and no fever for at least four days. Phoned the nurse yesterday and was told to keep an eye on it. If she was feeling fine, no fever and it didn’t get worse, just let it be. Well, this morning, it was worse. Took her in. Two doctors looked at it and couldn’t tell me what it was.

Keep in mind, my daughter’s fourth birthday is this Saturday. She’s having a small Princess Ballerina Tea Party. Shouldn’t I reschedule that then, I asked the doctors? Oh no, she’s not contagious, they assured me. How they can be confident it’s not contagious when they don’t know what it is, is beyond me.

Got home, called Grand Rapids friends to explain why I wouldn’t be coming there this afternoon. Drafted an email to the parents of invitees to give them a heads-up on the rash and see if they’d prefer a reschedule anyway. Took a call from a new member of our homeschool support group interested in co-op information. While on the phone discovered my son had undressed and torn off his mess-filled diaper on his sister’s bed. Wonderful. Half an hour after that, my daughter had a disaster in our bathroom from the potty seat not being on correctly. Awesome. Between all of that mayhem, the kids pretending to eat each other, and the cat sneaking outside to hunt our chickens… I’m ready to lock MYSELF in a dungeon. I surrender!

Luckily, I don’t need to surrender to being chained in a dark basement someplace, I can simply surrender my day to God and give up trying to control any of it.

My kids still haven’t napped, I didn’t get school in at all yet, they are watching “The Jungle Book,” begging for Halloween candy and I don’t have the slightest clue what I’m making for dinner tonight. But with some prayer and refocus, I’m taking a breather to write this, look at the bright side and regroup. We may start school at 4 p.m. today or pick up school on the weekend instead. We may just get by with emergency frozen pizzas for dinner. And I may feel like breathing fire again before the day is done, but we’ll survive. As Earl Balfour once said, “Nothing matters very much and few things matter at all.”

Everyone has days like these and to lament doesn’t make tomorrow’s sunrise any sooner. I would rather find the adventure in today, because even on the worst of days I’d prefer to be with my li’l dragons, potential cavities and scaly rashes included, than anywhere else on earth.

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A mini-van… and a chicken coop?

Eight years ago, if you told me I would be living out in Greenville with my husband and kids, that my mom would end up marrying our next door neighbor, that my husband would eventually take up hunting (of all things!) and that we would be homeschooling our kids, growing a vegetable garden and raising chickens, I would have not only told you that you were crazy, but I would have paid your cab fare from here to Bellevue.

Life takes us in unexpected directions!

I was raised in a Forest Hills suburb of Grand Rapids. I didn’t do 4-H. I didn’t even know what 4-H was until adulthood. We didn’t have deer in the backyard or coyotes. Our one neighborhood raccoon was a big, talked about, pesky celebrity amongst the neighbors. We had city recreation. We rode our bikes on paved streets. We swam in pools, not lakes. Sure, we would swim in lakes when we went camping, just as country kids occasionally visit pools. The strange thing about being raised in suburbia is you don’t regard yourself as a city kid or a country kid.

Having considered my childhood awesome, I envisioned recreating it for my own children someday. I wanted them to have the same experiences I did growing up. When my husband and I were house hunting, I fell in love with the homes I saw on cul-de-sacs, with basketball hoops in the driveway, and neighborhoods filled with kids that they’d ride the school bus with. My husband was not raised on a farm, but he grew up slightly more country than I did, and rode his bike on gravel dirt paths and swam in lakes and got lost in the woods. Looking for houses to buy, he fell in love with the big yards and homes that had character to them instead of “cookie-cutter” houses, as he called them. This was a source of argument for us. Yes, a big yard would be nice, I would say, but I don’t want to be out in the boondocks!

When we found an affordable house with a big yard out in Greenville, it was about 4 miles outside of city limits, a reasonable mixture of country and city. We compromised. The next several years I adjusted to country life without realizing it. Deer, coyotes, weasels, snapping turtles. We had whole families of raccoons at our bird feeders every night, one in the middle of the day that I would shoo off with a pan and broom.

Even our cat, who had always been an indoor pet and lived with me in apartments in downtown Grand Rapids, slowly became an indoor/outdoor mouse-eating, bird-catching country kitty.

In hindsight, I don’t know why it took me so long to realize I was becoming a country mom. But for some reason, in the last 2 years, with my husband deciding to take up hunting for the meat, my mom and husband starting a vegetable garden to grow everything from tomatoes to pumpkins, and now for my mom and kids to convince me (somehow) that we should consider raising chickens… it finally hit me. This is not at all where I envisioned my life would go.

For the record, I’m glad that God dreams things for our lives that we could never envision. I may never have dreamt I’d end up here, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I’ve come to realize that different doesn’t mean bad. Just because my kids won’t have a carbon copy of my childhood, doesn’t mean they won’t have an awesome childhood. Their social activity may come from various homeschool co-ops, clubs, community classes and camps, rather than the school bus, neighborhood and lunch line; but that doesn’t mean they can’t have valid, long-lasting friendships and a stable social environment. They may not have paved streets to ride their bikes on, but they’ll have trails to explore, gardens to water and chickens to chase. They’ll have grandma and papa next door to run back and forth from with frogs in one hand and buckets of rocks in the other.

Somehow, I am winding up as this strange combination of a soccer mom and farmer. I’ve got a mini-van and a chicken coop. I may never be on the PTA, but I’m an assistant organizer for our homeschool support group, which consists of 50-some families and growing. How did I get here? Only God knows, and He is winking at me.

“God’s surprises remind us of who’s in control. He knows us better than we do, and He wants us to give our relationships—the beginnings, middles, and endings—to Him.” -Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse

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Dandelion Prayers

By Sarah Reed

Sibling squabbles. Where to begin? My kids are young, so it has indeed, “only just begun” for me. However, I have already had my fill of the bickering. Not yet have I recorded how many days are “good” days, when my children enjoy each other and play nicely, but I should, because chances are high there are better days then I think.

The problem is, at 3-1/2 years old and 17 months, my kids are still at a vulnerable age in which sharing, tantrums and a sense of fair-play are hard to manage. Emotions ascend mountain tops over something as simple as whether the cardboard box they are in is supposed to be a train or a pirate ship. My daughter, being the older child and able to grasp the rules of playing fair, is especially struggling when she doesn’t feel like adhering to the rules, or when her brother is the naughty one. My son, not yet able to use words to express his anger, his wants or his complaints, does a lot of screaming and throwing.

I let them have their own quiet time to play in their rooms. This is particularly helpful for my daughter, who enjoys her right to not always share with her brother. I allow her to shut her door and have time to herself.

Lately she makes claim over whatever toy her brother has, or, for that matter, any toy he doesn’t have, but looks at, therefore may consider playing with. Sometimes, she cleverly tries to disguise this by offering him a different, less exciting toy instead. Given that he is now old enough not to fall for this, she has resorted to old fashion bullying. Last week, after she snatched his toy and made him cry by holding it out of his reach, I stepped in and told her to stop being a bully to her little brother. “But how do I stop being a bully?” she asked.

“You start by not grabbing toys away from him when he is playing with them,” I retorted. “You know how to be nice, take turns and share.”

I went on to elucidate that he is learning from her how to behave. If she acts nice, he will learn to act nice, if she acts like a bully, then he will learn to be a bully, too. She asked again, “but HOW do I stop being a bully?” I tried simplifying it further. She knows how to be nice. I could see she was still giving it thought, but she gave the toy back and left him alone.

A few days later, outside, she found a white wishing dandelion. I told her to make a wish, expecting to hear her desire for a goldfish or a new Barbie. “I wish…” she paused with reflection. “I wish I could stop being a bully to my brother.”

My heart ached.

She obviously did not like it about herself that she could be a bully at times and wasn’t sure how to change her behavior. I joined my daughter in the grass. It takes practice, I told her, to think before we do things. Even grown-ups have to practice this, I confessed. We must listen to the little voice God gives us that tells our thoughts whether it is something nice to do, or something not nice. It feels good and makes God happy when we’re nice. I went over “the golden rule,” do unto others as you would have done unto you. This, by the way, is the same lesson of ethics across the spectrum, no matter what religion you are. (Because I’m now a homeschooling mom, I’ve since dug up unit studies around The Golden Rule to incorporate into our curriculum and focus on in the coming weeks. Everything is a lesson!)

I also let her know, if there is something we want to change about ourselves but it feels too big to change alone, that is what God is there for. “Just like the wish you made on that dandelion,” I explained. “You say that in a prayer to God, in your heart, and ask Him to help you.”

As the bible reminds us, God does not want us to rely on our own strengths, but on Him. “Look to the Lord for His strength; seek His face always.” -1 Chronicles 16:11

It is invaluable to teach my children, and it is a lesson I am still trying to learn. When we need to overcome something, the power and necessity of prayer lasts our entire lives. We face challenges and pray for strength in place of our weaknesses. That does not wither away simply because you outgrow making dandelion wishes.

Come to think of it, why should any of us outgrow making dandelion wishes, anyway?

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Mercy in Mamahood

Cheers to Grace

I watched a segment on 20/20 regarding stay-at-home moms who secretly drink. Consumed by the lack of appreciation, loneliness, and sometimes mundane repetition that can accompany the tasks of raising children, these women have become closet alcoholics. One of the featured moms even published a book entitled, “Nap Time is the New Happy Hour,” which encouraged humor and cocktails to cope with the struggles of motherhood.

Initially, I found myself judging. “Please!” I thought, “I’ve had days when my babies are both screaming, won’t sleep, hang-on-me-through-every-last-disgusting-dirty-dish-in-the-sink that I’m washing by hand due to a broken, useless dishwasher while I have not showered or brushed my teeth in days… and I don’t fill my morning coffee cup with wine!”

Then I realized, I easily could have. In fact, I have had days where, if there had been alcohol in the house, I know for certain I would have turned to liquid courage. It is precisely the inspiration that started me writing this column in the first place! Sitting unshowered, half dressed and at my wits end with screaming, inconsolable kids, I searched my mind for a fix to escape, relax and unwind. Through the grace of God, I used prayer and His mercy as my fix. I have since been able to rely on Him through the times I have felt like ripping every last one of my rapidly-turning-gray hairs from my head.

My husband and I do not drink. There’s not even a bottle of wine lying around our house. Are we prudes? Perhaps. I have a long line of alcoholics in my family, including my father, who, due to his unstable behavior and severe alcoholism has never met my children. I decided nearly a decade ago that, while I didn’t have a problem with alcohol, it was best to stay away from it all together. If there were clear lines in the sand that showed “this many drinks” (whether socially or habitually) means you are addicted, then there would be no such thing as alcoholics. Everyone would simply stay one drink away from the line. Since there are no clear lines in the sand, and given my family history and tendencies to fall into bad habits, I steer clear from the party beach. We make our own lame-fun parties with bean-bag tosses and monopoly.

It is through God’s mercy that I am not one of those closet alcoholic mommies featured on 20/20. Instead of using humor and cocktails to cope with the struggles of mamahood, I use humor and faith. I write this column, in part, hoping to inspire others to do the same.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” -Psalm 46:1

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The Illusion of Super-Mom

A dear friend of mine, who I admire greatly in her abilities as a mom, a wife, a homemaker, and a gifted artist, recently sent me an email that left me scratching my head. “I have to tell you,” she wrote, “I really admire you… you’re my one friend who’s advice I’d take above all else on the subject of being a mom. Not only do you ‘do it all’ it seems, but it appears you do it all so well!”

Goodness, me! Had she sent it to the wrong inbox? As much as I would love to gobble up that amazing compliment and pat myself on the back for being Super Mom of the Year, it just isn’t so! I do not “do it all” or even, “all so well”! I am a terrible housekeeper; dinner doesn’t make it to the table on time 5 out of 7 days of the week; I ignore my kids more than I should; I let my husband “fend for himself” more often than not; I spend too much time on Facebook and other online message boards; I can’t use a sewing machine to save my life; I don’t clip coupons like I should; and forget about stocking my house with all-organic food. I am flawed in nearly every aspect of homemaking!

I see other moms who have time to quilt, or make homemade bread, or make breakfast from scratch more than just on Saturdays, (and have MORE KIDS than I do!), and I think, “Ugh! I’m a lazy, lousy, good-for-nothin’ housewife!” Right now, for instance, I chose to put my kids to bed without their bath, because I selfishly felt like writing this column instead. Sure, their teeth are brushed, they got tucked in and read a book, given kisses and such… but they are covered in marker doodles, play-doh, and specks of spaghetti sauce from the Stouffer’s Easy Express Cheese Manicotti that I “micro-baked” in 16 minutes along with some steam-fresh microwave broccoli when I looked up at the clock at quarter to 5 and realized my husband would be pulling in the driveway any second—tired and hungry—and dinner hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Want more proof my house isn’t perfect? See the photo of my undressed kids eating popcorn in the middle of the day watching a Disney movie! Photo by S. Read.

Want more proof my house isn’t perfect? See the photo of my undressed kids eating popcorn in the middle of the day watching a Disney movie! Photo by S. Read.

In spite of all these flaws (and more!) we’ve decided we are going to homeschool the kids. (Yep, as if I’m not crazy enough to think I can handle this wacky road of parenthood, I’ve decided to add “teacher” to my stay-at-home mom resume and tackle their education along with the heaping piles of laundry! Better open Belleview back up!) Even though my kids are still 3 and 1, I’ve been busier than ever trying to research, plan and prepare for the journey ahead. If that wasn’t enough, I’m also now an assistant organizer for a local homeschool support group which is just getting off the ground and running (and growing faster than we can keep up with) so I’ve got my brain full of things like co-op classes, field trips, clubs and newsletters. God didn’t waste a second putting me to work in the world of homeschooling the very moment we decided to take the leap.

So, when I have a friend tell me I appear able to “do it all,” I must smile, say thank you, while simultaneously shouting out, “IT’S NOT TRUE!” If it appears I do it all, then that is an illusion. I don’t! No one can! We all have flaws, we all have areas we take pride in above others. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all do the best we can, even when we feel like we’re at our worst. Why? Because we all love our kids. That’s one thing moms have in common whether they sew or not, whether they cook or not, whether their house is a showcase or a clutter nest, whether they make their own laundry soap or just buy what’s on sale, whether they are crafty or couldn’t make a homemade card stand up straight, and whether they take their kids on weekly outings to the museum and theatre or just to the nearest park. We all must feel at times like other moms are doing it better than us, but that can’t be true, because God didn’t give our kids to those other moms, He gave them to us, and He never gives us more than we can handle.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13.

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Mercy in Mamahood

Lost in the world of imagination

A stray Dalmatian wandered through our yard recently. It would not come to us, but you can imagine our 3-year-old daughter’s elation, especially since she happened to be wearing her 101 Dalmatian pajama pants at that very moment! You’d think her favorite movie came to life before her eyes, as though wearing those pants made the dog appear.

One of my favorite aspects of parenting is witnessing my children become lost in their own little worlds of imagination. The possibilities seem as endless, vast and borderless as the universe. As a child, if you are lucky enough to be gifted the opportunity and time to get lost in your imagination, it becomes as strong and vivid as any treasured memories, and more powerful than that which is concrete. As Albert Einstein explained, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

At our house, imagination goes hand-in-hand with childhood. Our dress-up chest is overflowing with costumes and props, large cardboard boxes are frequently transformed into hand-decorated fire trucks or trains, and our entire living room will occasionally become a gigantic blanket fort that is typically either a mouse hole or a dog house, but has also been known to be a cave to bears, octopuses and lions.

As fascinating and powerful as my children’s imaginations are, still more enthralling is what is imagined by our Creator. This beautiful world and all that we able capable of imagining or creating within it was first envisaged by Him. Even our wildest imaginations cannot grasp the full essence of God, nor, for that matter, what He has planned for our lives. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

What we are capable of imagining, as beautiful and creative as it is, and as alive and wondrous as it is in children, is but a small reflection of the creative beauty He imagines. From the smallest speck of splashed color on an isolated wildflower, or cloud-captured rays of a sunset, to the genius workings of the circle of life—His Mind’s Eye is ever joyous, His abilities beyond measure. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Whether a paper towel roll turned telescope is transporting them across the ocean to buried treasure or dogs are coming to life from the magic of their pajamas, I truly hope the essence and beauty of imagination lives forever in the hearts of my children. Perhaps tomorrow, if our daughter wears her Ariel shirt, a mermaid will splash out of the neighbor’s pond. We can only imagine!

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Mr. Clean to the Rescue

With a 3-year-old daughter who loves to color every day, and a 1-year-old son who wants to imitate but has yet to master the concept of not eating crayons or using my walls as a canvas, I’m bound to wind up with some crayon marks on the wall.

I am quite certain the little stress of coloring on the walls would be, in my world, a much more magnified disaster if not for one tiny miracle product. Moms, if you haven’t yet discovered this modern marvel, I have the blessing of four small words for you: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
Now, granted, there are much more powerful things in this world than Mr. Clean Magic Eraser pads to offer a path toward salvation. Similar to baptism, they sure appear to contain the regenerative power to wash away sins! No longer do I have to feel my blood pressure rise with despair as I watch my son happily defacing the walls, chairs and other furniture with his small wax weapon of choice. I can simply hand him a piece of paper to redirect his artistic efforts and sigh with relief. Yes, it really is that simple. The cleansing pads don’t look like much at first glance. Initially, you think, “Yeah, right! How is this feather-weight marshmallow square going to remove something an SOS pad couldn’t put a dent in?” Then viola! Right before your eyes, you witness the only product containing the word “magic” that astonishingly seems to live up to its title. Crayon marks, coffee stains, mysterious black scuff marks that until now no amount of elbow grease could uncover, is effortlessly disappearing with minimum effort. No, I’m not selling them. If I were, I’d be faring much better in these economic times than we are with my being a stay-at-home mom. It is just an amazing phenomenon. How do they work? I may never fully understand. Then again, there are a lot of things on the grander scale of faith that are even more unbelievable, mysterious and marvelous. And, while Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is not an actual requirement for spiritual sanity or salvation, some days, when life as a stay-at-home mom is filled with continuously scrubbing the walls of peanut butter, diaper cream, and Crayola murals, it feels like the little miracles can make a big difference.

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“It’s Groundhog Day!”

By Sarah Read

Laundry, dishes, diapers, meals, toys, vacuum, dishes, laundry, diapers, toys, meals, diapers, vacuum… life as a stay-at-home mom can often resemble the feeling captured in Bill Murray’s movie Groundhog Day. “I’m reliving the same day over and over,” said Bill’s character Phil Conners, a weatherman stuck in a time loop on February 2. It could be the mantra of many moms, especially during the last six weeks of winter.

Faced with his gloomy forecast, Murray’s character starts out extremely pessimistic and bleakly hopeless, but as the movie progresses, he slowly starts to learn the valuable lesson that true change can only come from within.

The truth is, that while God gives us the freedom of will and choice, the truly important outcomes, if we search within ourselves and trust in Him, are in His hands, in His time. That is why, similar to Groundhog Day, we cannot control the actions of anyone but ourselves. We can shape, influence, discipline, advise and teach, but it is up to our children whether they will heed the lessons and apply them. You can tell your toddler not to hit, your preschooler to say please, your teenager to just say no to drugs, but in the end, the decision for their actions is ultimately theirs. The better we know our children, the less we will worry about the choices they will make. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”- Proverbs 22:6

Zoom out on the bigger picture, and our Father, who knows our souls better than we know ourselves, is parenting us all the same. Some things He knows we have to learn for ourselves, other things He will show to us. Also, akin to the plot of Groundhog Day, there are even times He puts our own metaphorical blizzards in place, as a roadblock around our situations, to keep us right where we are until we get it right.

However relatable the funny repetition in the movie Groundhog Day can be, Conners is a man with no future, which is impossible to experience while raising human beings. God has tomorrows in store for us, even when it may feel as though there wasn’t one today.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” –Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

On days when you feel like Phil Conners felt when he said, “It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life,” just remember God promises rainbows after the rain, and spring following each winter. Just as Conners discovers at the end of the movie, “Today is tomorrow. It happened.”

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One point twenty-one gigawatts?

Prayer can be the bolt of lightening you require

By Sarah Read

I need a do-over day today. I needed a do-over since before the day began. In fact, I required a reset button before the sun came up. My son had his 1-year check-up yesterday. I declined his Chickenpox vaccine, but he still got two shots, the last in a series he was due. At 2:30 a.m., I was giving him another dose of Tylenol and by the time he was back asleep, my husband’s 3:45 a.m. alarm was buzzing. At 4, I decided it may be a good idea, as tired as I was, to get my much-needed shower in before my husband left for work and the kids woke up. Note to self: bad idea. It did not result in a quiet, calm, kid-free start to the day. Instead, I wound up with my 3-year-old daughter in the shower with me and my son in a screaming, crying fit in his dad’s tired arms. Even with the three of us back to sleep from 5-7, I still have had grouchy, rest-deprived, misbehaving children the duration of the day. I keep thinking, if I could just go back to that 4:00 hour and undo my decision to shuffle into the shower, all would be fine. Alas, lacking a DeLorean, flux-capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts, it cannot be undone. So, onward and upward with the day!

It feels next to impossible to keep my composure in tact on days like today, when so many factors are working against us. Lack of sleep, teething, shots, terrible-3’s temper tantrums, spilt milk and flung applesauce, even a van with a dead battery that won’t start after I have the kids bundled up and loaded in, topped off with a joint-injured, limping dog that can hardly get up and down the back steps in the snow and ice.

When I am worn down and weak, I know I am an easy target to let evil and anger consume my day. It is tricky finding peace and praise when you are surrounded by pandemonium. But the Bible tells us that we should be alert and mindful in the face of challenges. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” -1 Peter 5:8

Instead of hunting down Marty McFly, or losing my cool yet again with round 12 of time-outs, I decided to take my own time-out, along with a sequence of deep breaths and seek out the presence and patience of the Lord at my side. I may not get a do-over for the day, but God has another day in store for me tomorrow, and His promise to help me survive days like today. “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.” – Isaiah 41:10

As it turns out, when it feels as though my only escape is hitting 88 miles per hour in a cheesy 1985 film, all I need is the even more powerful drive of graceful prayer.

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Happy Holidays, not hectic ones

By Sarah Read

Black Friday is a bit of a conundrum to me. There is something insincere in the detail that less than 12 hours after Thanksgiving dinner, a meal at which we gather to reflect on all that we are grateful for, folks are literally losing sleep to rush, race and shove their way to accumulate more. On the other hand, with the indulgent heights of consumerism, one could argue we are lucky to get one day of Thanks before the days of MORE resume.

I am not saying I have never participated in early morning shopping on the big sale day in excitement for Christmas. Or that I never will again. Simply that we should pause with awareness, and examine our own raison d’être, or, reason for being. What is our basic, essential purpose, what are our motivations behind what we get swept up with over the holidays? What is driving us? If I were willing to get up in the wee hours of the morning to wait in line for the newest “gadgets” or deals of the year, would I, in turn, be willing to get up at that hour to, say, prep a food kitchen for the poor?

As a stay-at-home mom to a 3-year-old and 1-year-old, I need to watch the road I’m going down more so than ever, as I am not the only passenger anymore. My husband and I must live the example we want our children to follow. If I want them to learn that the Lord should be our guide, then I have to strive to let my actions be driven by Him, rather than the driving forces of advertisements, social standards, or what the Jones do.

After all, as the bible tells us, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

I’m not above a little retail therapy. I like to shop as much as the next mom out there and my kids are certainly spoiled in the way of toys. Our cup runneth over, and yet our tree will still be crowded with boxes, bags and bows. While our children receive more than their share of gifts, we also place just as much emphasis on our charitable activities and teaching the fun rewards of giving.

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “–Acts 20:35

There are many different beliefs, traditions, religions and customs this time of year. No matter a person’s faith, I think that, in the hustle bustle of the retail world and emphasis on Santa, wish lists and material goods, even honest terms of sentiment such as “it’s the thought that counts” or “the reason for the season” can become merely hackneyed phrases.

This time of year will only be hurried, chaotic and stressful if we allow it to be. My goal this holiday season is to enjoy the flavor without rush, reflect and create without guilt, and to savor the magic. And it starts with the homemade cookies I am about to bake with my kids, mess and mayhem included. But hey, with young kids, even a cup of calm comes with a dash of bedlam, doesn’t it?

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