Archive for the ‘Practical parenting’ Category

While we wait

Lately I have been dreaming of spring, literally. Green grass full of clover and bees, colorful flowers decorating the landscape, the smell of warm, fresh turned earth, and gentle, relaxing breezes fill my head in the night. A change of seasons would be good for my soul right about now. Not just the weather (although who talks about anything but the cold grip that winter has on the majority of the country as we post pictures of snowmen peppered with knives with captions saying, Die, Winter! Die!) but also this season of waiting.
I think I dream of spring because I am ready for change. I feel tired most of the day and completely exhausted by the end of it. My children can out-maneuver me in any kind of physical capacity which makes me feel defeated as a mother (when you have all boys keeping up with them physically is important!). I feel like I can barely manage my daily household responsibilities and it feels very much outside my normal realm to not be able to keep up! But God is showing me things in this season that make me realize it is better to embrace this time of dependence instead of closing my eyes and praying that it ends.

Here are a few things I am learning:

1. “For everything there is a season, a time and a purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
This season WILL end. I know it seems like it never will. A few more days carrying a baby can seem like a few more months when you are limited in what you can eat, how much you can drink, an achy body and limited, restless sleep at night. But there are many things to be thankful for. I have this time now to spend with our other children  before the arrival of a new baby and carrying a baby to full term is a blessing that many women are denied. I always try to remind myself that I would rather be tossing and turning at night instead of sitting next to an incubator in a NICU. This is a season of slowing down, I mean growing a human is kind of a big deal; I shouldn’t expect to keep up! The sweet snuggles in the mornings when I get up with our two-year old, listening to my middle child tell stories from his amazing imagination, or finishing reading “The Island of the Blue Dolphins” with my oldest at night are the things that will, most likely, be put on the back burner for a time. I am really working on fully being present in the now.

2. “Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:1
From where does my rest and comfort come from? Often I find myself seeking it apart from God. Foolish, I know, but that’s what I do. My mind doesn’t seem to have enough focus to really dig deep into the Word but I am trying to get what I can. A few verses a day that remind me of the promises of God, a good devotional by a mom whose story gives me hope or even just spending time in prayer while meditating on what I have memorized. These are the things that are my source of strength and rest and sustenance even in little tiny sips.

3. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5a
I don’t know about you but the end of pregnancy/postpartum makes me a bit emotionally unstable (if you ask my husband he will tell you this is the understatement of the year!). It is not something that I enjoy, the ups and downs swinging on the pendulum of moodiness. I don’t think this ever was an issue with my first two children but the added stressors of raising babies has significantly changes how I react. I was blindsided by these raw emotions during my third pregnancy and postpartum. Looking back I can clearly see how much it affected me but at the time I just did what I needed to do and felt like a crazy person on the verge of tears while I did it. It is not a good place to be.  As I wait for this baby I can see some of that creeping up on me. On minute I am so chill remembering that babies come when they come basically taking the usual granola approach to childbirth that I love. The next I am crawling into bed at night, almost crying, thinking, “Why am I still pregnant?” But these thoughts and mood swings are honestly not honoring to God. How can I acknowledge His sovereignty and question His perfect timing? It is something that I wrestle with but going back to this verse from Corinthians to take every thought captive is a timely reminder of living what I believe.

As far as I know no one has ever been pregnant forever. I also know that when I am at this point ‘pregnant forever’ does seem like a very real possibility and Discovery Health will soon be calling to run a special on my condition. I have seen God orchestrate so many things in my life and that of my family, especially lately, that I know He has a perfect birthday picked for our newest addition. While I wait for that day I will also patiently wait upon the Lord who knows whose plans are always good. Until then take heart all you mommas who are waiting. There is no better time than this season to press into God.

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To all mothers who are building cathedrals

I didn’t write this, although anytime I come across something poignant and well written I wish that I had penned it first! A dear friend sent this to me years ago and it has resonated with me ever since. I was cleaning out my email folders and came across it and even though it is a little late for Mother’s day I feel it is appropriate for anyone who is in the midst of parenting. I also have been somewhat of a sentimental fool lately as I have been scanning and archiving old family photos and my dear, sweet, wonderful grandmother, Avril, will be turning 93 years old on Saturday. She is a lovely woman whose parenting set the standard high and when I read these words I can’t help but think of her because her family is her cathedral and it is such a blessing to be one of the small birds carved into a beam. Enjoy!

Invisible Mother…..*
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’
Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this??
Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!?
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’
In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it. And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

*The email gave no credit for who wrote this piece but a quick google search told me a woman by the name of Mary Lynn Plaisance is the author. I am trying to give credit where it is due but be aware that the internet is a crafty creature and is not always a reliable witness.

The Ignorance of Strangers

A few weeks ago two things happened to me that helped set the course for my upcoming year.  I encountered a stranger, who was either lacking in command of semantics or was a master, and I also took my children to the Omaha zoo. It is hard to imagine how these two events could come together to form some kind of palpable teaching moment but I am amazingly adept and connecting seemingly unrelated things.

One: The Stranger

The weather has been unseasonably warm in Nebraska this last month which prompted a family bike ride one Thursday morning. While we were stopped for a water and trail mix break (where my kids pick out all the M&M’s so I am left with only the healthy raisins and peanuts to eat) a woman comes by walking her dogs. We make some small talk about the weather and other “safe” subjects when she asks me if we are on spring break. I told her that we home school so, no, we aren’t on break. Her reply, “Oh, so school is always out for you.” I must admit this comment kind of got under my skin mostly because my philosophy on education is that, especially for us, school is always in. I try to never let a learning opportunity pass by without involving my boys in some critical thinking so it kind of irks me that someone would assume that our day involves mostly field trips to zoos and theme parks and, when not doing that, we are just watching TV (educational, of course!). Not even close.

Fast forward to our trip to the zoo (I know how it looks!)

Two: Henry Doorly Zoo

If you have never been the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE, is really quite amazing. We bought a membership this year so on a Friday we loaded up to head to Omaha to see what we could see. I, by nature, am a shameless eavesdropper. I can’t help it! I have supersonic mom hearing and part of listening in is how I keep constantly aware of my surroundings (this is what I tell myself anyway but I digress). Besides, I am completely convinced that the zoo is one of the top places where the ignorance of the American public is very blatant. Case in point, we are standing at the fence of a lovely African animal, namely the Okapi. An animal that most people are not aware of if not for an American zoo, in fact. With a brown upper body and zebra stripes down the back haunches its a striking and interesting creation. We are standing next to a mom with young children, not so different from myself, who is questioning out loud what kind of animal they are looking at. “I have never seen one of those before. I am not sure what it is. It must be some sort of hybrid animal…it looks like maybe a deer mixed with a zebra. It definitely has to be part zebra, look at its stripes.” This mostly one sided dialog with her child went on for quite some time, too long, in fact. It seems to me that it takes more of an effort to fabricate a story about the origins of an unidentified animal than to back up 15ft and read the very information sign that the zoo provides at every animal exhibit. But maybe she wasn’t headed in the way of the sign. Too bad, it is a treasure trove of knowledge.

Then, a little later in our zoo outing, we come to an exhibit that contains reptiles from the swamp in the American south: alligators, gar, a variety of turtles, etc. In one corner of the tank, up against the viewing glass, two alligators are biting at a turtle…barely. A woman in the crowd is in hysterics, looking up the zoo telephone number to report it and trying to usher her children out of the building so they won’t witness anything “horrific”. She did stick around for a few minutes, though, commenting to anyone who would listen that, “They are eating him!” (To which my five year old is countering, “No, the aren’t! It would be way more exciting if they were”) and “I can’t believe they would put animals together that could eat each other” (To which I am countering, “Why not? Nature does all the time”) By the time she got out of there we had quite an audience listening to our inadvertent comedy routine!

So there is a point, right? Barely.

After the barbed comment on home school and zoo experiences I really started thinking about education. Although I am a proponent for home school and really love how it works for our family, I don’t view it as superior to educating your child outside the home. What I really think is critical is how parents are involved in their children’s education. Do they actively “teach” when opportunities arise? Or do they completely delegate that responsibility to an outside institution? More than memorization of facts are we teaching our children how to think critically and how to find information they don’t know? The mother at the okapi exhibit doesn’t have me convinced. Are we nurturing curiosity so that learning something new about our world is fun and exciting or are we shielding them from anything we can’t, or won’t, explain? The mother who had obviously never seen an episode of Wild Explorer doesn’t give me much confidence.

For me, raising critical thinkers who try to seek out logical progressions and new information when they want to know about something is more important than being able to answer ten questions on a multiple choice standardized test correctly. In that week, the zoo and a stranger confirmed for me that I want to take on homeschooling for another year because I really don’t think that someone else could do it better than me at this point. This is true for ALL parents, no one is more effective at teaching your child than you! Don’t let the formative years pass by while you wait for them to be “school age”. There are always opportunities to learn something new and if you don’t take them you will end up in someone’s blog or as a facebook status. Just saying.

Stepping off soap box now…..

Giant Baby Step

Recently I was asked if Dave and I had ever been away together, just us, no kids, a romantic getaway to a tropical location or even just renting a room at the Super 8, whatever. I honestly replied, No. Oh sure, we have date nights and every once in a while we stay awake long enough to watch a movie after the kids are in bed but as for going away together, overnight? Not once. This is the response I got, verbatim:

“I figure I share my thoughts to you about this in private and not out in the open. Do you strive and enjoy being in that position of being overwhelmed with that many kids all the time? me and [my wife] always plan for the grandparents to have our kids over night at least 3-4 times each year. We think it keeps us from getting burned out.”

Wha?! Maybe it’s just me but it sounds like I am being judged for NOT leaving my children enough. If it’s not one end of the spectrum it’s the other.

Mostly we have never been away due to circumstance. We haven’t ever really lived close to any grandparents or family who can take our children overnight and when you are having babies every two years it isn’t really feasible to leave an infant who is dependent on your for food or a  young baby who doesn’t sleep through the night with a well-meaning and underestimating family member. I mean, who wants to volunteer to wake up several times a night with a non-sleeping, needy child or warm up breast milk bottles for 8 feedings a day? Anyway, part of me really wanted to fire back (I sent a polite reply) but here is the rest of the story.

This last week was a big one for my husband and I. We bought tickets for our first trip together since we have had kids (so if you can’t do basic math or don’t want to, we have never been without kids, just us, for about 5 years and 5 months!). Now most people would take a weekend trip the Kansas City eating cheesecake on the Plaza and staying at the Marriott or to a quaint bed and breakfast where you can feel “away from it all” but still have internet access the first time they ever leave their children…but not us! No, we are travelling to Seoul, South Korea, roughly 6000 miles from our children and across 14 time zones, a giant baby step to say the least! And even though my brother assures me that the country has developed far beyond rice paddies and donkey pulled carts, I still can’t help but feel that we really are going to the other side of the world, really….it’s really the other side of the world.

So there are two things that I have been thinking about regarding this trip and the discussion that preceded it.

1. What causes burn out? Because honestly, even though we have never been away I generally don’t feel burned out because of my kids. I am not saying that there aren’t days when I am praying that God will speed my clock ahead to bedtime so we can all go to sleep and just start over tomorrow. But overall I am happy with our family and with our situation even if it doesn’t mean vacationing with my husband three to four times a year (which, by the way, I feel is a lot. I don’t know anyone who gets that kind of time away). Mostly, this is because I don’t rely on “me time” or “us time” to keep me full. Only God can truly keep me full and his portion is always more than enough. Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Anything else is self-deception because nothing else is truly fulfilling so we end up needing more and more. That is the myth of “me time”, it doesn’t really satisfy. Psalm 131 says,

” My heart is not proud, LORD,
   my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
   or things too wonderful for me. 
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
   I am like a weaned child with its mother;
   like a weaned child I am content.

    Israel, put your hope in the LORD
   both now and forevermore.

How many times have sat with my children, holding them, rocking them, loving them, giving everything I have, all my attention to quiet and comfort them? It is what the spirit of the Lord does for us and it resonates so deeply with me, especially as a mom, to know that I will never run out of things to give to my children because the well that I draw from is infinitely deep!

2. Taking this trip has really put my focus on trusting in God. Many times in the execution of this trip I have felt a panicky flutter in my chest, thinking, “What if?” A whole slew of things can go wrong and we will be so far from home. I mean any trip that I have to update our living will and create a power of attorney so our children can receive prompt medical attention tends to lead ones mind down the trail of “Worse Case Scenarios”. I know, rationally, that anything can happen at anytime but somehow I think that my chances of surviving a car crash while in the continental United States are far greater than clinging to life if we crash into the Bering Strait (which, surprisingly, I give my self about a 5% chance of survival. Let’s just agree that the number is optimistically high). I know that everything I do is in God’s control and that he is sovereign in all things (Romans 8:28).

So that is where I am putting my focus, trusting in God because he is my hope and security and relying on him to sustain me and that is where the giant baby step really is important because it has given me the opportunity to walk in obedience and step out in faith.

The Mom Friend

Making friends is hard once you are past a certain stage in life: no longer sharing the social situations that school affords, it can be challenging to find people who share your interests and experiences. Especially for moms (although, not limited to them) where living in the daily grind of raising kids severely limits your contact with the outside world making it tough to connect with other women who also are limited in the same regard. Despite the odds, that are seemingly against me, I have stepped outside my comfort zone to find a “mom friend” to commiserate with, laugh with, cry with and, basically, share an adult conversation with.

Finding a friend is no easy task.

First off, my husband’s job requires that we move around about every two years. Usually what this means is that just when I have found some really good women friends, who I am just getting comfortable with, we have to move. Sad, I know, but the positive side of this is that I carry with me their friendship wherever we go and through the magic of facebook I always have someone to talk to, even when they are far away.

Secondly, I tend to gravitate towards women who have at least as many kids as I do, if not more. So my three and her three + can end up being slightly chaotic when we get together. The logistics of planning a meeting that takes into consideration everyone’s nap schedules, lunch schedules, activity schedules is enough to frazzle the steeliest of nerves. Never would we consider meeting at anyplace out in public that did not include a playground, a fence, a restaurant with a  menu that contains items for one dollar or an enclosed ball pit. Conversations are never uninterrupted, they contain subject matter that would bore the average person, and thoughts are almost never expounded on, or even completed! Man, is it worth it though!

Thirdly, I am never sure what is appropriate when approaching a new friend. Have you ever met those people who you are just drawn to and you know you could be good friends? I never know how to let them know of our friend potential without coming off as too forward. Somehow, “I really like you and I think we could be really great friends if you would just get to know me” sounds far too desperate at this age (at any age, really, once you are past 6). So here I am finding ways to talk to new moms I have met and shamelessly using my children for an excuse for the adults to get together (which is WAY more desperate than the too forward approach), hoping they will like me, too, and praying they will never find out how completely thrilled I am that we are friends until it is past the point when that kind of full disclosure it completely appropriate.

Lastly, once we have moved past the stage where the moms just  hang out with the kids it is inevitable that we take things to the next level where the parents hang out with just each other. This always proves be a hangup as the women that I like have husbands that my husband is lukewarm with and the guys he really likes come with wives that I sometimes can just tolerate (this makes it sound like there is a 50/50 hangup issue here, but really my husband could probably hang out with anyone and I tend to be the much less tolerant half).  The step up from “mom friend” would be the enviable, and much sought after, “couple friend,” which I am pretty sure had a whole episode of “King of Queens” dedicated to it so you know it’s a big deal.

Recently, I have run into some very promising prospects for “mom friends” that I will be actively pursuing but I am always open to applicants.

Advent of Simplicity

Tis the season for mass consumerism and it makes me ill. Really, this aspect of the Christmas season didn’t use to bother me so much…until I had kids…and then my kids reached an age of expectation for what they might be getting for Christmas. The time for REALLY leading by example and making an active effort to teach them the true meaning of giving has arrived. It has proven to be quite a challenge when everywhere we go we are surrounded by Mammon-palooza.

Here are some things that have really kept my perspective:

Normally we only do three gifts per child as a way to tie back into the Christmas story. Jesus received three gifts so that is all we do. The gifts we do give are not completely indulgent, either. I always pick games, puzzles or other things that we all can enjoy together as a family. Except this year we also took ornaments off of the Angel Tree (for children whose parents are incarcerated) in lieu of one of our gifts. This prompted a great discussion in our household because the “gifts” that were asked for on our ornaments were hats, gloves and coats. Let me repeat: Hats, gloves and coats. When was the last time that your children’s needs for basic warmth superseded their wants on a Christmas list? It, for sure, has never happened in my home. Which makes teaching them to be cheerful givers so much more important to me. We have so much, we live in overabundance and yet we still think we need things and seeing those who are truly in need should make most Christmas lists hide in shame!

Honestly, I don’t want to buy my children any Christmas gifts. There it is. I don’t want to because it is expected of me. I will, however, because I love them and for me gift giving is an act of love. Turns out, though, that even if I got them nothing for Christmas they still have a warm, loving home, food in their bellies, clothes to wear and a stable (mostly!) family to call their own which is much more than an iPod touch could ever do for them. What I love to show them is how amazing NO gifts can be, when we are just grateful for what we have and who we love. My favorite Christmas scene, hands down, is from the animated “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. It puts a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye to see the Grinch’s heart grow three times its normal size until it is bursting out of his chest while the Who’s sing “Welcome Christmas”. This is what the true spirit of Christmas is to me, treasuring the ones we love.

So here is my controversial thought for the day: Putting Christ  back into Christmas isn’t going to work because he wasn’t ever there to begin with. The history of Christmas is pretty clear on the facts that a certain, very large church created the holiday to coincide with a pagan one in order to “Christianize” the pagans. Seems like putting Christ into Christmas is actually the problem because He doesn’t fit into our manmade parameters, the holiday stems from packaging Jesus so he would fit into man’s theology. Even those who claim to celebrate the birth of our savior still have a nice little package for Jesus which is right next to an extravaganza of all things worldly. What we should be doing is putting Christmas, as well as every other aspect of our lives, into Christ. Because everyday we should give thanks for the birth and death of our savior, everyday we should reach out to those who are downtrodden and lost, everyday we should love as Jesus first loved us.

The freedom in the simplicity of the Gospel is all we need and that is what makes the season of Advent so beautiful.

Desiring Change

Sometimes change comes in stages, it’s not always easy to let go of things or embrace new ones and, for sure, I have had to (and probably will continue to) marinate a while for this change.  I don’t really talk about it much but for a long time I have really, really wanted to have a daughter. It’s not something that is generally accepted as a valid feeling, most people write you off with a trite saying about being thankful or, even better, “Girls are much harder than boys. You’re lucky!” I have one friend,  also with three boys, who told me when I found out I was pregnant with number three, “It is okay to be sad.” A huge thank you to her because being sad doesn’t make me want to trade in what I have or mean that I am not a good mom. It just means that I’m sad.

After son number one, I was good, I still had time. After son number two I thought, ok it’s going to be lucky number three. After son number three things werent’ so optimistic, my odds are not looking so good and the realization that I might never get to have a mother-daughter relationship with my child comes into sharp focus. It also brings up ALOT of questions as to what my future looks like and it can make me feel like a crazy person. I have come out of a period where I, literally, think about having a daughter every single day and what that means for a next pregnancy and if we will try again or is this really it and what in the world will I do with four boys if we do and how to wrap my head around what God wants for our family and how that might not line up with my desires and how to let that go….the list feels endless and, at times, overwhelming. Then one day I read this:

“I hear people use the verse. ‘Delight thyself also in the LORD; & he shall give thee the desires of thine heart,’ (Ps 37:4) to justify the notion that if you go to church often, say a few prayers & quote preselected scriptures, that you can ‘live in prosperity & pretty much have it your way.’ Actually if you break the scripture down, what it really says is that if you delight to know Him then He will ‘give you the desires’, meaning the desires you have imagined may not be what He had in mind.” (Taken from La Vigne on facebook, Sept 12, 2011).

To put it plainly, it was very convicting. Partly because there is a very irrational side of myself that feels like God owes me a daughter, a yes to my prayer, because haven’t I put in my time with three boys? Aren’t I praying fervently enough? If I let go and give in to acceptance are you just going to give me another boy? (I gave you fair warning it was irrational!) I know that God owes me nothing, in fact, he has already given me an unmeasurable amount of grace, and still my flesh wrestles with earning His merit, especially in the arena of prayer.

A few weeks later I had this conversation with my 5-year-old: He says, “Mom, what happens when God does give us what we want?” I reply, “Well, then that would be a time to be thankful.” He asks, “What happens when God doesn’t give us what we want?” I answer, “Then it is probably time that we pray that God would change what our heart wants and ask God to make it match what he wants for us.”  Honestly, I couldn’t believe that something so profound and wise had actually come out of my mouth. I was giving him an answer that I wasn’t even applying in my own life. I had to turn away from him because I didn’t want him to see me cry, I didn’t want him to think that his question had upset me.

So where do I go from here? I know I can’t effect any kind of change on my own but God has graciously sent me many reminders that this change has to happen. I don’t know if my desire to have a daughter will change or my acceptance of what God has planned for our family will increase. I also know that the more time I spend in prayer, in the word, asking GOD to initiate and complete the change of my heart the more I feel at peace with each passing day. I am pretty sure that this is how a pickle feels and God is not going to let me out of the brine, so to speak, until I am fully changed and as hard as it is, I am so thankful that He will never give up on me.

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