lifelong battle

Yesterday, Andrew and I finally got a date night (actually, it was more like a date afternoon) and we went to see Breaking Dawn. I am a Twilight fan, like so many others, and was looking forward to seeing the movie…but not nearly as much as something else that went along with the movie. What was it, you ask?

The POPCORN. 3 cups of movie theater popcorn (no butter) and a Coke Zero, to be exact.

You see, I am on Weight Watchers. I have been on Weight Watchers since the end of October, and I have currently lost 14.4 lbs! (That’s in about 4 1/2 weeks, for those of you that didn’t do the math!) It is very exciting….especially because I have been discontent with myself since Blakely was born. Actually – who am I kidding?

I have struggled with my weight pretty much my whole life. I know why, too. It’s FOOD! I love it. I can be kind of picky, but if it’s something I know I like…oh, I’m in heaven. I love to enjoy my food, and that has been my downfall. I have had to fight it since I can remember, and I still remember when I was a freshman in college…I stepped on the scale, and I had my “I’VE HAD ENOUGH” moment once I saw the number. (By the way…that number I saw is my current weight, even after losing 14.4 lbs!!!! Shows you how I’m still fighting this!)

I buckled down then and there – I ate Cheerios 2 out of 3 meals, took naps when I was hungry, and really watched calories. I worked out at Fike, the gym on Clemson’s campus, regularly, and finally broke the hold that food had on me. I started realizing that get-togethers, boredom, etc., should NOT always include something to eat, and I dropped 35 pounds by summer! I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. I will never forget the time Mom and I went shopping…we were in the Limited, and I tried on a shirt that had a boatneck. Mom didn’t like it because it showed how bony my collarbone was. Although that doesn’t sound good, that comment made me SO HAPPY – I had NEVER had anyone tell me I was bony before!!!

I got rid of all of my “fat” clothes then, and I was pretty happy with myself for a while. When I got married, my dress was a size 6 – that was exciting for me! We got married Dec. 18, 2005, in Key West, and that weekend I was in a bikini pretty much the entire time. (I was still so self-conscious about my stomach, even though now I want to kick the old me!)

As we settled into married life, the weight came back very gradually. I look at pictures of myself that first year, and I still was at a good size, but when I got pregnant with Carlyn in the fall of 2007, it was all downhill from there. I gained 40 lbs, like many first-time moms do, and it didn’t all come off after she was born. I then got pregnant with Blakely, and I only gained 28 lbs with her.  She was 10 lbs, 3 oz when she was born…talk about a different way to shed 10 lbs! (That’s actually what I said when they were cleaning her up – I kept talking about losing 10 lbs!) However, you would think that losing those 18 lbs. that were left would be easy. Nope! When I finally gave in and started WW, I was 4 lbs. away from my starting pregnancy weight with Blakely. That’s not saying I hadn’t tried, however.

I had been ready to lose the weight since Blakely was about 6 weeks old. I bought books on exercising for new moms, I started walking, I “watched” what I ate, I downloaded apps on my phone to track calories, exercise, etc. However, as you can see….it didn’t work! I even read books about being vegan because of chemicals, etc., in meat and dairy, and so I gave up most of my meat intake. It still wasn’t working!

The final straw was when I went to the doctor for my anxiety. I realized then I needed to get physically healthy, as well as mentally. I asked for tips on weight loss, and then later in the week I saw my gyno (Dr. Alt- LOVE HER – if you are looking for a new one, RUN to Highlands Center for Women in Greenville!). I asked her for tips as well, and she made some suggestions…one of them was Weight Watchers. She was so nice about everything – she said some of her patients who had wanted to lose weight had been successful doing WW. That was what I needed. (She has a way of getting me to do things – she is also the one who suggested I sign up to do Tastefully Simple. She’s one of my clients, in fact! 🙂 )

The next day – I signed up on the WW website to do the online program! I paid for 3 months, and I haven’t looked back. I QUICKLY realized that although some of my food choices have been healthy, I wasn’t watching portions or paying attention to labels. That makes a big difference. Also, on the new Points Plus program, you can eat as many fruits and veggies (well, most fruits and veggies) as you want. That is great, because if I’m hungry in the afternoon, I brew some green tea (no points) and eat a clementine or apple…and I can still stay on track!

The first week, I ate steak, potatoes, bread, a brownie, Chick-Fil-A, and some Halloween candy…and still lost SEVEN AND A HALF POUNDS. It’s insane to me. You get weekly points in addition to your daily points that you can use, but if you are careful, you don’t need to use them! You also can earn points by exercising…but not as many as you would think. Now, since that first week, I have had a slow week or two…one weekend we went to Atlanta, and I blew through my points – daily and weekly – like there was no tomorrow, and this past weekend I wasn’t as careful as I normally am. However, I have lost every week. In fact, the week I lost the least amount – .2 lbs – was last week, when I was skipping lunch! I was hardly eating during the day (I had to stop that though – it was messing with my gallbladder), and I guess my metabolism slowed down, because I barely lost.

This has been great for me, like I said. I see how the realization I had when I was in college – food does not need to be a crutch – is coming through again. We are eating in more, we’re more aware of the things we are putting in our body, and I am realizing that all the times I’m at home with the girls…I need to stay away from the pantry! 🙂 I don’t really deny myself stuff I really want, unless I see in my points bank that I really don’t need whatever it is I am wanting. I just really watch portions, and try to savor every bite…like someone said on a WW website – “the first bite will taste the same as the last!” I really like that.

I definitely still enjoy food. This weekend, we went to Bucky’s BBQ, and I thought I could die and go to heaven after eating some pork (which I normally don’t eat!) with the mustard sauce, green beans, sweet potato crunch, and sweet tea!! (I had not had sweet tea since I started WW because 1 cup is 3 points – however, it was worth it this day!) We went to my grandma’s for an early Thanksgiving lunch Sunday, and I enjoyed myself there by eating one small portion of everything I wanted. I also knew we would be going to the movies, so I calculated the points for popcorn the day before and ate as little as possible yesterday as I waited to go. I tell ya – it was worth it! We even went to Longhorn after, and I still stayed under my daily points when I ordered a steak, veggies, and salad.

My weight check is Friday morning, so we’ll see how much I’ll lose this week – but I checked this morning, and I’m already down 1.5 lbs since last Friday! Thanksgiving is tomorrow so I am going to be on my best behavior. 🙂 My goal is 30 more pounds…I know that seems like a lot, but I can’t wait to see if I can do it. I think I definitely can. 🙂

never done

As in….a mother’s work is never done!

I ran into another mom at the park one day a few months ago, and we started chatting. It turns out that she was a teacher-turned-stay-at-home-mom, like I am, and we were talking about how much of an adjustment it is. She said something that I think about often – the biggest thing she had to get used to about staying at home is that your work is never finished. When we were teaching, we could do a lesson with our kids, and for the most part, it’s checked off our list – on to the next thing. However, when you are at home, you do something – clean the kitchen, do some laundry, give the kids a bath, organize the toys…but before you know it, there are dishes piled up in the sink, clothes on the floor, dirty faces and hands, and toys scattered everywhere. I didn’t realize it, but this is very frustrating for me. I get very tired of doing the same chores all of the time (like unloading the dishwasher! YUCK!), and I am CONSTANTLY trying to think of ways to make my life easier. Pinterest has filled my brain with ideas, but when I try to put them in place, I fail miserably…I really lack the ability to transfer the creative ideas I see into my own home!

Andrew comes home pretty much every week to the furniture moved around, a new basket somewhere, things rearranged in the kitchen…and I still can’t figure out the best solution for “domestic satisfaction.” In fact, I put off cleaning now more often than not, because I know that once I start, I might not be able to stop!

Ugh!

Mumford and Sons

If you have known me for a while, you know that I am a huge music fan. I am not musically talented in any way, but I think music has the remarkable ability to lift spirits, touch souls, and calm nerves….not to mention bring back memories! (For example, matchbox twenty’s mad season album immediately takes me back to high school…remind me to tell you later the story about their song “Leave” and Andrew and I leaving the beach! Fun times.)

ANYWAY –

When I first heard Mumford and Sons, I immediately thought of my dad…he loves the banjo! (I would be curious to hear his take on their music, too…hmm.)

I became a fan of theirs after hearing “The Cave” – I would blare it in the minivan and sing my heart out (how cool am I??), but I didn’t buy their “Sigh No More” album until just a few weeks ago on iTunes.

Wow!

Their songs are beautifully cryptic, and when you listen to the words, you can see that they are talking about faith more often than not. I have Googled them several times to see what their songs mean, and I have found a few blogs discussing them. One had a post about  “The Cave”, and someone posted a chapter of a biography on St. Francis of Assisi. I haven’t really found anything that is straight from the band telling the meaning of their songs, but after reading this excerpt, I am sure this is what this song is about!

Here are the lyrics to “The Cave”:

It’s empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you’ve left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I’ll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s hand (*this is straight from the biography of St. Francis of Assisi!)

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

In addition to this song, they have a song called “Roll Away Your Stone”, and here are some of those lyrics:

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine
Together we can see what we will find
Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside

You told me that I would find a hole,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals

Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek

It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home
that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart

And then there’s “Awake My Soul”:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
You were made to meet your maker
Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
You were made to meet your maker
You were made to meet your maker

These are only a few of their songs…the others have similar messages as well.

I also found videos of them singing “Amazing Grace” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” on Youtube…check them out if you get a chance.

Like I said, I don’t know for sure what they believe…but some of their lyrics have certainly resonated with me. I am a firm believer that a song doesn’t have to be “Christian” to be taken with a Christian message…in fact, our former church played secular songs often, and some were just as worshipful for me as the ones that presented the Gospel.

I think one of the commenters on one of the blog posts I found said it best:

“…recently listening to Mumfords words for the first time I found myself praying “Lord I wish I could form poetry for you with this type of skill”. It is obviously not up to us to decide the relationship between Marcus and God, but there is no doubt that there is a relationship, and it overflows into the lives of both believers and non, regardless of what that relationship may be.”

If nothing else, their songs have proven to me yet again how powerful music can be.  Oh, to be that gifted in writing and performing!

*Disclaimer – the song that often plays on the radio, “Little Lion Man”, curses…it’s the only one I’ve heard with bad language. Just an FYI in case you want to check them out while kids are around. 🙂

fresh look

The girls somehow made their way outside as their daddy left for work this morning.

I went with it, and we ended up staying outside for about an hour.  Mumford and Sons played in the background as we laid around on the hammock, snacked on crackers, rode the scooter, and raked some leaves (this quickly ceased when I raked up a baby brown snake! YUCK!). Carlyn ran around trying to find red leaves, and by the time we went inside, she had a nice little pile.

As she searched for her leaves and gasped when she found the red, orange, and yellow colors, I sat there thinking of how lucky I am to have someone around me 24/7 that is so excited about the little things in life. There is something about a child’s excitement that is contagious. Carlyn is exceptionally happy most of the time – in fact, it’s exhausting some days. However, I often find that when she gets excited, so do I.

I posted just the other day on Facebook about how Carlyn found a little container of bubbles, left over from a wedding reception we had gone to. She was so excited, and when I blew the bubbles, she and Blakely just ran around in circles squealing. At one point, Carlyn was twirling with her arms out and she exclaimed, “Oh, what a wonderful day! I love EVERYTHING!” I couldn’t help but just smile at my sweet little girl and admire her joy. (It brings to mind a scene from the movie Knocked Up, where the men are watching the little girls run after bubbles…the dad says something like, “I wish I could be excited about ANYTHING as much as they are about bubbles.” I think about this a lot!)

As she exclaimed over and over again about her leaves this morning, I realized that I have not enjoyed fall (or summer, or spring, for that matter!) as much as I have with my children in a long time. Before my kids, I rarely took the time to look out and truly enjoy the changing leaves, the clouds in the sky, the seashells on the beach, or even the cows and horses in the pastures along the road. I was missing out on the beauty surrounding me – I didn’t have someone as innocent as a 3-year-old child reminding me, on a daily basis, to slow down and notice it.

In The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, he talks about something that has stuck with me ever since I read it. He talks about the grace given to us from God through Jesus Christ as a gift that we don’t have to do ANYTHING to earn…us receiving it has nothing to do with how good we are, or what we have done for God in return. He talks about how Jesus told us to become like little children, and he says we don’t take this seriously enough. He compares it to a child on Christmas – a child doesn’t hesitate to take a gift from you; they expect to receive it, and they are joyous when they do! They don’t get caught up in the details.

Why aren’t we like that with the free gift we are given – salvation for eternity?

Anyway, as a parent, I feel a constant responsibility to take advantage of every teaching opportunity that is presented – which, with a 3-year-old especially, is ALL THE TIME. Every moment is a chance to teach spelling, or counting, or shapes, or colors, or manners even.

However, I feel like my girls are teaching me just as much as I am teaching them. Because of her and Blakely, I take time to look up at the blue sky, or have a random dance party, or pay attention to the bugs and sticks in the yard. And I’m thankful for that.

Carlyn’s New Love

Carlyn has a new love…and her daddy couldn’t be more proud.

It’s Clemson football.

We were blessed this year – Andrew’s dad purchased season tickets to the Clemson games without wanting to use them, so we got to go to pretty much every game. The seats were great – in the West End Zone, shaded, with a wonderful view…and better yet, kids were all around us!

We went to two games this year on our own, but we decided to take Carlyn one game…and boy, did we start something! She went with us to every game after that first one. Well, Andrew and I went to Atlanta two weekends ago with some friends to watch the GA Tech/Clemson game (fun trip, horrible game!), and Carlyn just cried and cried because she couldn’t go see the Tigers. 😦

We tailgate with my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and she has a blast. Being at the game took a little while to get used to – she loves watching the balloons get released (“MOMMY, IT’S LIKE THE LANTERNS!” from Tangled, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie) and band playing…but the volume of the stadium upset her a few times. She LOVES being in the end zone, though, and she cries every time they kick a field goal and she doesn’t catch it. She even got on the Jumbotron her first game – she was shaking her pom poms during halftime and they filmed her! It was so exciting. Also during her first game, she kept asking if the players were being bad because she kept hearing them say they were taking a timeout. 🙂 Yesterday was the first day she actually got the cheers right – we have laughed at her because she will spell “C-S-O-S-O, N!!!!” and she’s so excited…she just couldn’t get those letters right. She also would say, “5, 3, 4, 5, fight, fight, fight!”

Yesterday was the last game of the season, and it was so much fun for her. We left at 8 am to drop Blakely off with my grandparents (too bad she puked right as we got there! YUCK! We think she gets carsick), tailgated some, and Carlyn made it through the whole game…well, almost. She fell asleep on me during the fourth quarter, which was crazy because it was so loud! She made some friends around her – they colored, played with my phone, and ate suckers. She has already asked several times about going to Clemson again to see the Tigers play!

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dogs

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*updated*

One hot summer day six years ago, an engaged YMCA camp counselor went on a field trip to Greenville Humane Society with her campers.

This field trip started something in that counselor that she is paying for….to this day.

While on that field trip, I (aka the engaged camp counselor) was visibly affected by all of the dogs I witnessed there. I brought my fiancee back that night, and we were expecting to pick out a puppy. Then we went down the adult dog aisle.

In one cage, there was a black and white dog cowering in the corner. He stood out for two reasons. One, he was the only dog not lunging himself at the cage door. Two, he had “Dog of the Day” hanging on the door. The worker explained that this means he was 1/2 price, because he had been there the longest. That sealed the deal for me. Although we had to pull him out of the cage and he ran from Andrew, we went home with Samson that night.

Andrew and Samson had a glorious time living in the little apartment off of Davenport Road until we were married and I moved in. There were incidents, sure…Samson eating 1 pound of chocolate, loaves of bread – whatever he could reach off of the kitchen counters; Samson eating my underwear; Samson snapping the retractable leash during a walk late at night, and a policeman having to help me coax him out of the bushes…but he was still our baby.

We moved out of our apartment six months later, into our house in Fountain Inn. We immediately forked out the thousands of dollars to put a wooden privacy fence around the backyard for Samson. He was spoiled rotten – the king of the castle. No matter what he chewed up or destroyed, we replaced it.

Then, one day, I was driving home from school – I had just started teaching. I passed a place called “Hugs for Hounds” in Mauldin. I decided to stop by, and immediately laid eyes on a brindle boxer mix.  Andrew had been saying for a while that he wanted a brindle boxer. She didn’t have her tail docked…she had been a stray that had been hit by a car and brought in. She was full-grown and very friendly. Stephanie (the owner of HFH) was fond of Sadie, and she warned me that Sadie could be protective over her. She insisted we bring Samson in before she let us adopt her. We did, they did fine, so we brought her home.

That was not my last day at HFH. After adopting Sadie, I spent many weekends up there volunteering. I fell in love with several dogs there, and my heart broke when I heard all of the sad stories behind the animals. I swore then and there that I would never be like one of those families that tossed their dogs aside when they had kids.

One day, a few months after getting Sadie, I was up there and we had the cutest little Jack Russell mix. He was so sweet and loving, and I called Andrew up there to come see him. Andrew came, but Stephanie knew what I was up to. She knew I was a sucker, and she wasn’t going to let me take this puppy who would surely be adopted soon, when there were other puppies there! I could almost see the gears turning when she went and pulled this blond puppy out of the “sick” room. This poor dog could not even stand up because he had been in a wire crate pretty much his whole life (he was 4 months old then). He was cute, and we laughed because he was like jello – he just melted into your body. He fell asleep on Andrew’s shoulder, and that sealed the deal for Max. We took him home that day instead of the Jack Russell mix.

In case you’ve lost count – that’s three dogs before our first wedding anniversary. Samson was 50 lbs. when we got him, Sadie was 60, and Max was our puppy that Stephanie assured us would not be NEARLY as big as the other two. (Had the dogs weighed today, five years later…Samson is 64 lbs, Sadie is 74 lbs, and Max is 94 lbs! Yeah.)

These dogs were our babies. We walked them, took them to the dog park, shelled out another $800 for another fence in the backyard to keep them pinned up, bought doghouses, dog beds, dog crates, an electric fence for when they started digging out of our fence, Halloween costumes, a jacket for Sadie for when it was cold….you name it. We have had several late-night trips to the emergency vet – I’m pretty sure they were all for Sadie – and several trips to our regular vet for various ills and injuries (Sadie getting hit by a truck, Sadie eating a bottle of bug spray, etc.). One day I stormed out of my parent’s house in tears because my dad hit Samson after Samson growled at him….that was horrible. They all used to sleep with us, even!

Then, the REAL babies came along.

I was so worried about how our “fur babies” would react, and surprisingly, they did great. Samson is our anxious, digging, crazy dog, so I figured he would be jealous. This isn’t the case. He immediately became the babies’ protector – lying in front of the pack-n-play, sitting right beside visitors as they held Carlyn or Blakely, barking at anyone he felt threatened by (usually my dad).  Max is still like Jello – he is so laidback. You can do anything to him and he doesn’t bat an eye. Sadie seemed to adjust fine as well…she has always been high energy, but she doesn’t show aggression….to people. Samson is another story!

Like I said before, Samson is very anxious and nervous. Sadie HATES that. If Samson whines too much, Sadie pounces. It used to not be a big deal, but if someone is visiting here, watch out.

I have advertised before to find Sadie another home before, and today I started again, because we didn’t know what else to do.

I know for a fact that the dogs cause me anxiety. We have had a few medical emergencies since the girls have come along, one being Samson’s eye and his glaucoma. He had his eye removed in July after several pricy vet visits and medications – in fact, the ophthalmologist we see for him is in Athens, GA. :/ We now have to continue the drops in his remaining eye, because it’s pretty much certain that eye will succumb to glaucoma at some point. Not only that – he is still an escape artist. He has gotten out of our fence three times in the past week and a half, and he was hit by a car one day. (I wrote about this here on my old blog.) Samson chews up any blanket or bed that is given to him. Sadie loves to eat toys, puzzle pieces, magnets…pretty much anything we don’t want her to. Max doesn’t really do much except annoy us by getting in our way – he can’t steer that big body too well sometimes!

I think I can handle everything, however…except the fighting. My dogs are great 99% of the time…but ugh, that 1%!

It’s ONLY when other people come here, though. If it’s just us 4 in the house, my dogs are perfect….Samson and Sadie will even cuddle if there is no one else here!

I get the tightness in my chest whenever I think about one of them moving out of our house. I also get the tightness when I think of putting one of them down – which is something we talked about a lot when Samson’s eye was giving him so much trouble. In the end, though, we couldn’t live with ourselves for taking away a life for no good reason.

Tonight I came home after grad class, when I had been sending emails all day about Sadie. I had been very distracted during to class thinking about our situation, and I knew Andrew had been thinking about it too. When we talk about it, we know that our girls are our priority…but it’s SO HARD to back out on the commitment we made when we took these animals in.

I notice that I have a problem – when I feel passionate about something, I tend to go overboard. I know that’s what happened with us taking in three big dogs. I felt passionate about shelter dogs and adoption, so I tried to fix everything by taking as many as I could. (Thank goodness our neighborhood has a 3 dog limit, or I might have taken more! Lord help me.) However, I have to learn that this is not in the best interest of anyone. I have been paying for this decision since August of 2005. I am determined to stick it out, but my goodness….!!!!

As of now, we have made a decision – Sadie is ours. She isn’t going anywhere. We have to start being PROactive instead of REactive.  Like I said, I know Sadie’s triggers, and we have got to take care of her before this happens again. I am going to start crating her when people come over (so keep that in mind if you ever come to the door – you might have to wait a minute!). I have also got to be more diligent about teaching Blakely about how to properly treat the animals.

I have to say, again…I have great dogs. As for Sadie, I just watched her snore yesterday afternoon as she was sprawled out in the den, and this morning she bounded into Blakely’s room to cover her with sloppy kisses when she woke up. Carlyn loves her. She’s wonderful…she listens, she’s housebroken, crate-trained, she loves to cuddle…it’s almost not fair that she is now in a house with two crazy little children and two other big dogs competing for affections. She needs exercise and attention, and we have not been good at giving it to her.

Who knew it would be so hard to be a fur baby’s parent?

(You can read more about our struggles with our dogs on my old blog, here and here and here. There are more entries, but you can search if you want.)

Blessed

A couple of weeks ago, after my almost-breakdown, I started cleaning out closets, toy chests, cabinets, our pantry…you name it! Nothing was safe.

In the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (if you read my other blog, you know how much I love this book…you can go to her website here), she talks about how outer order contributes to inner calm. In fact, the first month of her Happiness Project, she works on getting her life in order. One thing she did was acknowledge how clutter can cause anxiety, so she cleaned house, literally. She got rid of tons of clothes in her closet that she knew deep down she didn’t need, and she talks about how freeing it was for her.

I definitely agree with her on this! When I was struggling with my anxiety, I would look at my house and all of the STUFF in it, and the tightness would start creeping in. I got overwhelmed with the thought of going through everything, and at the bad times, I just ignored it. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to look at piles of bills and things, and I had to make myself sit down and take care of our finances… I just wanted to block everything out.

Finally, this began to recede and I began to organize. However, as I went through our food, spices, toys, and clothes, a different type of anxiety filled me. I almost got physically sick at times, looking at all of our STUFF and realizing how blessed we were compared to others. I read my Bible. I know what it says about giving and possessions. I don’t feel like I value possessions over people…but do I? Can I REALLY give up everything like I sometimes say I could, and be okay?

Carlyn walked in at one point while I was in Andrew’s and my closet, and I mentioned to her how blessed we were. I tried to explain to her how others don’t have nearly as much as we do, and how we needed to share what we have. She just didn’t get it. She kept asking, “But Mommy, why do they not have toys?” It is inconceivable to her that other children don’t have what she does. We didn’t talk about it again until Saturday – nearly 2 weeks later. We were in the car, and Carlyn pipes up from the backseat: “Mommy, why don’t the kids have toys?” Andrew and I just looked at each other – we are used to crazy questions coming out of nowhere by now. I tried to explain again that some people don’t have jobs like Daddy, and they don’t have the money to buy things like we do. She said that she would share with them, and we said that would be nice.

The next day, we go to church, and it’s Orphan Sunday. We saw this video:

Also, our church just had a group had just returned from Haiti, where they have partnered with an orphanage there. The group told about the children they saw, and how they built lockers for the kids with 4 shelves. The children’s possessions – everything they had in this world – barely filled those 4 shelves. However, the group told about the pure joy these people in Haiti had. So many would get up before sunrise every day to worship the Lord.

Why don’t we have that joy?

One of the pastors made a statement that stuck with me: There, they worry about demon possession, but we don’t hear about that much in America…could it be because we have our POSSESSIONS?

This is so true.

It might be tempting to feel sorry for those that don’t have as much as we do…but I think we have it all wrong. As I have pondered my struggles in the last month or so, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the case if I was one of those mothers in Haiti. I get so wrapped up in all of my STUFF here that I lose sight of what is important. I long to have the joy the group told us they saw there.

Sunday night, as I rocked Blakely for a minute before she went to bed, I just prayed and thanked the Lord for what He has given us as a family. It is just by chance – well, it’s His divine will – that He chose me to live here, at this time, and not in Haiti. Andrew and I have been convicted about being good stewards of what we have been given, because none of this – even our children! – is our own. I am praying daily that I will use what I have been given to further His kingdom. I heard Perry Noble say Sunday as I watched part of his sermon online – How can we say we believe the Bible about the Lord that saved us, but not believe what it says about giving?

Something to think about.

Note:

Capstone has been raising money for a clean water system to go to Haiti. So many people die EVERY DAY from lack of clean water, and we had a Walk For Water to raise awareness and money. One system costs $25,000, and that is a lofty goal for a church that has under 200 people – but we are about $7,000 away from our goal! Learn more about it here.

The Capstone mission team that just returned stressed how the orphanage is in desperate need of sponsors. If money is not donated SOON, the orphanage could close by January 2012. That means 43 children that our church members have gotten to know will not have a home. We (as in the Stoddards) picked up a boy to sponsor on Sunday; his name is Massa. It was not a coincidence, I believe, that we were able to sponsor him the day after Carlyn asked about children not having anything! Learn more about sponsoring and donating to this orphanage here.

Finally, Capstone is also helping with an event in Fountain Inn called Celebrate The Child. It is December 17, and it is a faith-based Christmas event for the less fortunate families in our area. We are collecting new coats, toys, and/or books for children and teens, as well as monetary donations. Please contact me for more information.

Find out more about Capstone here or on our Facebook page.

If you feel convicted about your blessings as I do, please prayerfully consider helping these causes! Be Jesus to someone who needs it!