Do Hard Things

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Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. -Deut. 31:6

Funny how being a parent forces you to not only teach hard lessons to your own kids, but reminds you of your own shortcomings where you really aren’t practicing what you preach.

Sadie has done swimming lessons before for two summers in a row now. Neither time has she become totally trustworthy and water-safe. But thanks to her awesome Grandparents, we are at it again and confident she will get it.

Her first lesson happened this week. She was a screaming, crying mess. I figured it would be no big deal like times past and she would move on quickly.

She has been an emotional, weepy, sleepless, little being since.

She woke up this morning after a late night of worry and couldn’t stomach eating any breakfast. She sobbed the entire morning, begging me not to go in the car on the way there.

She clung to me asking me to pray for her bravery. She asked Him to be in the water with her.

Although to you and me, it’s just 20 minutes of swimming, to Sadie it was an impassable mountain she couldn’t conquer.

TJ and I both held firm that the more she did it, the easier it would be even though part of us just wanted to let her let it go.

We said,  “Sometimes we all just have to be brave and do hard things.”

She listened, got in the pool despite her fear and trusted in Ms. Sherry. The first five minutes were torture for her. And me.

And then something clicked. I don’t know if it was Ms. Sherry’s constant encouragement, that Sadie was audibly praying for bravery, or that she saw me right on the side like I promised I would be.

She hit her stride and before we all knew it, she was swimming unassisted under the water to grab rings on the stairs to bring to the surface. Every once and a while Sadie would pop up from the water, boldly confessing something to Ms. Sherry. It was as if getting over her fear of the water was purging other uncertainties in her three-year-old life. She confessed to being afraid of the dark at night, or that Jonah liked the water but she wasn’t so sure.

Each time, Ms. Sherry assured her again that she was still good enough despite her fears.

How powerful to watch my child bring to the surface, openly confess, and move forward with no more chains to bind her.

It was the perfect picture of how God longs for us to come to him with all of our stuff, no matter how bad or how messy. He sits ready to not only listen, but to reassure us we are His. When we openly come to Him, He stands waiting to give us the courage we need to move forward boldly and confidently.

Sometimes it means we simply have to do hard things and trust that God is with us in it.

I am so thankful for my three year old and how she points me to our Savior in such tangible ways.

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Getting Over Yourself: The Emotions Behind Anaphylaxsis

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You can easily picture how horrifying it is to watch your child go through Anaphylaxsis. If you’re like our family, we’ve encountered those life and death moments five times now.

You beg and plead with God to make them keep taking a single breathe, just one at a time until help arrives.

You panic as you watch your child swell into something unrecognizable, changing colors everywhere from pink, to purple, to blue.

It’s simple as a parent, whether you’ve been in that scenario or not to understand where your heart aches in those moments of uncertainty in the frailty of life.

But there’s more to it.

I remember sitting in the hallway of the hospital ER this last time I had saved Jonah’s life by giving him the EPI-Pen after TJ had discovered he was crying in his bed because he couldn’t breathe. I was holding on to him while digging for my phone with our allergy list, because in an emergency I can’t trust myself to remember all fourteen of them. The nurse ran through their typical questions and in my blur of sadness, worry, and panic another unexpected wave hit me, just as it always does.

Guilt.

Inadequacy.

Remorse.

Unforgiven.

Whenever I know we are in the clear, immediately these emotions rear their ugly head screaming at me, telling me I’m not good enough to take care of my son for weeks after the fact. Even bringing myself back to the scene in my head takes me there.

I could have double checked the nutrition label instead of wondering if people around me would think I was paranoid. I should have asked to speak directly to the chef at the restaurant to see if the recipe changed instead of relying on the waiter for right information. That I should have stayed at home instead of trusting him with another person because I would be in close proximity standing at the ready should something go wrong. That I should have been more of an advocate for him.

Especially in the beginning of our journey, I made a lot of rookie mistakes.

But the reality is that I am learning along the way. I was thwarted into this new allergy world and have taught myself everything I can every day that I get. I have dedicated my life to researching food, making my home a safe haven, planning ahead, cooking, double-checking cross contamination, educating those around us for his safety.

I have endured the looks, the disbelief, the rude comments, the sh-luffing off by general society all in the name of keeping my son alive. Breathing. Laughing. Playing. Happy.

Whether I could have prevented any episode of Anaphylaxsis or not, the point is that it is never my fault. What I am doing will always be enough because I’m giving him all that I have and all I am capable of giving.

And whether or not I feel it that day or not, my daughter and my son’s lives rest in the hands of a God who made them perfect just the way they are. Anaphylaxsis and all.

I will always be enough of a Mom for them.

I pray that where ever you find yourself on your journey, you have a renewed confidence knowing you are exactly who God had in mind. Imperfections and all. -Psalm 139:14

Hanukkah Family Traditions

Here is how we use each day to be intentional (and fun) as a family when we celebrate Hanukkah as a Jewish home who believes in Jesus (Yeshua). It’s a goal of ours to create a solid foundation for our kids in our home to grow up knowing their Jewish identity with Jesus being the focal point and these are some of the ways we want to celebrate this specific holiday as the years pass:

DAY 1: EXTENDED FAMILY NIGHT

Every year we get together with the entire Brown/Davis clan and celebrate together with a traditional Jewish meal, play dreidel, teach the kiddos about the meaning of Hanukkah, adults have a latke throwdown, sing songs, and exchange gifts. It’s tradition. We love tradition. Cue Fiddler on the Roof now.

DAY 2:LATKE/HANUKKAH STORY TIME NIGHT

It’s important to me that our kids know how to make traditional Jewish food for the holidays as a facet of their heritage and culture to pass down when I’m gone and they have their own families. Sadie is old enough this year to make Latkes with me in the kitchen and I know this is a tradition she won’t want to live without since the kitchen is here favorite spot to be.

We will also re-read (we’ve been reading leading up to it) the story of Hanukkah to Sadie and talk about it with her before bed.

DAY 3: DREIDLE GAME NIGHT

  • a) If נ (nun) is facing up, the player does nothing.
  • b) If ג (gimel) is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.
  • c) If ה (hei) is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot.
  • d) If ש (shin) or פ (pei) is facing up, the player adds a game piece to the pot.

Something tells me this will be a lively game with Sadie since we will be playing for chocolate gelt. The girl loves her some chocolate. Jonah will have tons of fun chucking the dreidle into breakables around the house.

DAY 4:JELLY DOUGHNUT NIGHT

We’ll take a quick trip to Krispy Cream for a traditional Jelly Doughnut since fried foods are a part of remembering the miracle of Hanukkah. We have to.

DAY 5: ARE YOU GR8FUL?

We will make a list together after lighting the candles of 8 things we are grateful for and hang it up for the remainder of Hanukkah so we can focus on everything God has done for us just like He did for His people then.

DAY 6: HANUKKAH COOKIE DELIVERY

Sadie and I will make cookies together from Hanukkah cookie cutters and deliver them to friends to celebrate with the miracle of light with us!

DAY 7: 8 SPECIAL PEOPLE

We will call 8 people who are special to us and tell them we love them.

DAY 8: FAMILY GIFT EXCHANGE NIGHT

We’re leaving this night for last on purpose. As much as we love to lavish our kids with fun things, we certainly don’t want presents to be the focus. Our goal is to end the eight nights of Hanukkah with the understanding of God’s miracle then, and God’s miracles He still does today.

Help the Homeless

My mom and I went to the LA Rescue Mission and an infamous homeless park of Pasadena a couple times a year growing up. I saw first hand serving how these people were so much like me despite our differences from a young age. One of my mom’s greatest traits was the fact that she gave selflessly to people, regardless of their background when she saw a need with absolutely no reservation.

I worked with one of the largest homeless populations in Southern California all throughout college in Long Beach serving brown bag lunches we packed on campus in the back of our cafeteria and took down in the trunks of our cars for the long lines of people hoping they got there in time to grab a couple meals for their family to eat. It might have been the only solid meal they received until we came back the next week.

After distributing all of the meals we had, we took our last batch to a local motel in a shady area of town. It wasn’t well lit, but the first time I knocked on a woman’s door I saw the light in her eyes despite the cancer that was slowly and painfully killing her. Every week I came back to her door, hoping she would still be there to answer. I prayed with her, forced her lovingly to eat the bag of food I brought, plus the fruit I collected earlier in the week from my own meals on campus. She was fighting the same battle my mom was at the very same time. The only difference was that my mom had amazing healthcare and no financial stress. Either way, they both died months apart from each other. Despite living in such different worlds, they were so much the same.

Just a couple of days ago, I was on my way with the $37 left I had in my grocery budget for the week to pick up on some necessities. I was fighting my own discontentment with the lack of leeway in our own budget and as I turned in, I noticed a family on the corner. The mom was sitting on a ratty blanket attempting to calm and nurse her screaming baby who was probably the same age as my Jonah. A second child, around Sadie’s age was sitting next to her and the eldest son was standing next to his father clenching his pant leg watching his father crying with defeat written all over his face. I went about my shopping, mulling over the best way to help them. As I left the store, I saw them walking back together to get in their run-down van. I thought in that moment, I was too late to do anything.

And then I turned around.

I pulled in next to them as they backed up, rolled down my window and asked what the father needed most for his family. He told me he had plenty of food for a while now that people dropped off, but they would be evicted if he didn’t pay his rent he was already behind on in the next 3 days.

I wrote down and talked a while with him about a couple ideas and local resources for him and his family I knew would help him more than the money I could give.

And then man broke down. Partly because I’m sure he is ashamed of needing so much help with so much responsibility, but as the man of his home, it was obvious he was feeling the heavy burden and saw no hope.

Remember, although there are plenty in the homeless population that have mental/psychological issues, drug addictions, and even violent tendencies, it does not mean that there aren’t people out there who really want and need our help. Every single one of them can be reached in a different capacity and have a need met. Every single one of them has a story.

So do away with the line that you never cross, the fear you have, or the rationalization you convince yourself is truth and just try to help someone when you see a need.

Forget the amount of money you make, the kind of car you drive, the phone, the schedule, the house, the toys, the job title, the food, and give yourself in some way to bless someone else.

Someone needs you in some way today.

Easy ideas to help somebody:

  • Carry a couple of $5-10 gift cards to places that only serve food that are always walking distance
  • Buy a day bus pass to give someone or a prepaid calling card for a pay phone
  • Have a couple of blankets in your car to give out to help someone through a cold night
  • Have a running list of local resources and programs you can write down for someone
  • Don’t just say you will pray for them, actually do it right then and there

The Devestation of a Tornado and the Hope of Rebuilding

“I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry, You raised me up again.” -Casting Crowns

A tornado usually only touches down in its windy fury for a couple of minutes. Each individual storm takes on its own shape, its own color and its own strength. If a tornado strikes down in the open plains of the Midwest, you can outrun it by driving at least 70 mph or hunkering down in your basement thanks to scouts calling in to sound the sirens to warn the public in time. But if you live in a densely forested area of the country, often times you won’t even see the tornado coming until it’s already too late. With their violent winds, tornadoes pick up buildings, flip over cars, and have the potential to devastate everything it its path.

When the winds cease and the blue sky once again appears, people look around to see what was lost. It might be their home, their school, or the lives of those they love. After a storm, people are left to pick up the pieces and begin again.

Life can be a lot like a tornado.

Sometimes you can see a problem intersecting the path you are on and do nothing more but bunker down and wait for it to pass over you. Then you look around, see what was lost and begin to pick up the pieces. Maybe this came in the form of your company downsizing and you had a month before your once secure job with benefits was lost. You endured 17 months of brutal unemployment where you lost your life savings and your home. Once you finally found a job to provide, you finally had a moment to take a breath and realize how much you had been through.

Sometimes you don’t even see the problem coming. Maybe everything was going great in your life until you got that phone call about your relative taking a turn for the worse and ended up losing them when there was so much more life to live. Completely blind-sided, you begin to realize you have to move on with a life continually in motion and look back at your untimely good-bye and feel like you will never get out of the fog of devastating loss.

The interesting thing is that there are so many different kinds of tornadoes. There are big storms and small storms. Just like in our own lives. But there are only three kinds of people.

One type will go through the storm, access the damage and crumble in its own mess. They will see none of the blue sky because they are too busy looking at the wreckage. They stay in a state of shock and disbelief so much so that others have to carry them out of it and they are never the same.

The other type will go through the storm, access the damage and rise through the rubble. They will look at the blue sky beginning to appear and thank God they made it through. They will make it their mission to rebuild what was lost. Not only will they re-build, but they will construct something that is stronger than before to withstand the next storm because they know there will be another.

The last type of person won’t care if they were able to see the storm coming or not. Whether there was forewarning or none at all, it really doesn’t factor into the reaction they choose. No matter the strength, no matter the amount of time it takes for the storm to pass, this person simply bunkers down in the storm and knows they are there for however long for a reason.

Which kind of person are you? Are you in the middle of a tornado and can’t see a thing? Did a tornado in your life just pass over you and you are challenged with the choice of which person you ought to be? Or are you in the middle of the wind and content, knowing it will pass?

The God of the Universe, the Maker of the heavens and the earth is with you.

“And I’ll praise You in this storm and I will lift my hands
For You are who You are no matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand
You never left my side and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm.” -Casting Crowns

Just So Thankful

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Sadie likes to start out with as many of her stuffed animals as possible with her in her bed every night. But you must never forget Ellie, her Elephant and the only animal that has a name other than it’s own title. Bear and Puppy come in a close second and third place.

At one time it was only Larry. Now he sleeps in the living room. With Bob.

Shortly after falling asleep, she will thrash around, change positions and everything including pillows and blanket will end up spread across the bare floor.

Jonah sleeps on his belly. Only after he has stood up in his crib laughing at who knows what for a while. When he finally settles, he will raise his arms above his head, holding the edges of his mattress underneath the bumper with his belly down and his butt up. He won’t move unless he gets hungry.

Except when he is teething. When he is in pain, he will sleep on the left side of his mattress cuddled up to his bear and blanket on his back.

That’s how I know he’s getting a new tooth…he sleeps on his back to take the pressure off his face.

I know these things because I’m their Mommy. And I’m so thankful.

 

What Nobody Says

So often you read blogs and it looks like these people have the perfect kids, the perfect house, the perfect dog with the perfect white fence.

Please.

The past two days have been filled with a screaming, crying, refusing to nurse, not sleeping,banging his head against anything out of frustration teething x2 baby boy with a hyper-emotional, needy, lacking independence, not listening and obeying all that well little girl.

Hear me out. I love my kiddos with a fierce love. They are my heart.

But days like this with little to no reprieve while all the regular demands of life still sit idle waiting for attention make me want to lose my mind.

Just saying it like it is.

Some days are beautiful. Some are ugly.

Now I will go do some praying, drink some coffee, sit in silence and hope for a miraculous turn around.

Can I get a high-five from all the Mama readers?!

A Breath of Fresh Air

My mom

Since I live so close to the ocean, you would think it’s not really anything special because it is somewhat of an everyday occurrence. But there is something about getting out of the car and taking my first breath. There is a reminiscence when my lungs are filled with the salty air and the breeze of sand hitting my skin warmed by the sun. There is something so familiar and comforting when my feet hit the sand, warm on my toes as I walk.

I often take at least a few moments to look as far as I can into that horizon where the sky and the water meet in the distance and wonder how a person can look at that creativity in nature and that indescribable beauty and not see God’s hand in it. I always meet God in that moment.

Few moments take me that close to God that quickly.

As I think back on my Mom’s last breaths on this earth 9 years ago today and walking out of the hospital to breath in the salt of the ocean air, I will be grateful that I get another day to live a life like hers.

I’m not drowning on that vast ocean floor in despair any longer, or mourning all that I have lost.

I just breathe in the air. In and out.

To know my mom more, click here or here.

 

How Soon We Forget

With two kids it is so easy to be on auto-pilot. You can be rushed and feel the pressure looming by all the demands of keeping everyone happy, fed, clean, and cared for that you can completely miss what is really happening. You can miss the very reality that your kids grow oh, so fast.

I long to remember Jonah where he is right now and how quickly he has grown up already before my eyes.

I already miss his floppy body nestled on my chest, matching my breathing, content to sleep in the same position for hours on end.

I miss his eye gaze unfocused until he found me and a crooked little half smile would instantly appear.

I want to remember the way he reaches his arm out for your face so he can give you a hug when you get close.

I want to remember how his little cloth diapered bum sticks straight up in the air when he has found his sweet spot sleeping.

I want to never forget how he pumps his arms and legs with so much excitement just before we open Sadie’s door to say good morning together while I’m holding him.

Or how I tell him to say, “Mama” and he smiles and proudly says, “Dada” like he’s conquered the world.

I never want to forget his gibber jabber as he busily plays with his toys by reaching with one hand, examines it with the other and then stuffs as much of it as he can into his mouth for a taste.

Or how I roll over in the morning to find him up on all fours in his co-sleeper just waiting to make eye contact with me so he can start squawking away about who knows what.

I never want to forget the way he rubs his eyes when he is exhausted.

Or how he has to scratch his ear and rub his head while he nurses to self-soothe.

He’s only been with us for these seven short months, but already there is so much we have learned about him and love him for. Things that make him uniquely our Jonah. They are things I never ever want to forget because I am so lucky to have experienced them.