Learning to Hold Things Loosely

The banner I feel like the Lord is holding over this current season of my life right now is “Learning to hold things loosely.”

I realized my need for this lesson during Christmas. I had been gifted an unexpected gift card and in the midst of waves of wrapping paper and opened boxes and trying to keep Claire from eating all the tissue paper in sight, I started picking all the packaging up from the floor and stuffing it into a garbage bag. And somewhere in that process, I never saw the gift card again.

When I realized it, I found myself upset and emotionally affected by the occasion. In my head, I could rationalize: I am no worse off than I was before I received it; I don’t need it; everything is really God’s and I am but a steward.

But the truth is that all that rang empty at the moment. I knew those things in my mind, but it was obvious my heart didn’t follow suit. My heart still was frustrated and upset about losing it, even when I knew I shouldn’t be because in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Yet, in my heart, it still was a big deal.

And it was in that flurry of emotions that I felt the Lord nudge me toward this idea of learning to hold things loosely.

I’d heard that phrase many times over the past decade in my walk as a Christian. That idea of letting control over to God, not holding fast to the things of this world but instead to the things eternal. I’d heard it and could nod along with it and understand it, but it had never really struck me as it did right now, in that moment.

In that moment I realized my need for that ability to hold things loosely, to allow things–material things, stressful things, frustrating things, my sense of convenience, etc.–sift through my fingers like sand rather than clench them in my fist, trying to hold them for myself.

I began to see, mostly through my emotions, how much of a burden the alternative can cause me. How it makes me stress over things that really don’t matter and start to believe all sorts of lies about myself, the world and God, and how it makes me feel doomed and discouraged and just downright disgusted.

Though I saw that, I felt myself resisting in turning things over to God, to give him the freedom to take things away from me, to trust that he can fill in the gaps or multiply the loaves without me having to hold fast to every last crumb. I can let go and watch him provide, one way or another.

It can be a scary thing to let go to God, no matter how long you’ve been a Christian and how many miracles you’ve seen him work. I wrestled with it and pleaded that he would not yank everything from me and force me to loosen my grip, but that he would work this lesson into my heart gently, gradually, softly and sweetly.

What a compassionate Father that he would heed that scared little prayer of mine. Since that revelatory Christmas morning, he has been so sweet and gentle in teaching me this lesson, in stretching me in the smallest of ways, like you might stretch a balloon before blowing air into it. A small stretch at first, another tug later, another and then another until it’s ready to withstand the surge of air that gives life to its flimsy body.

I can feel his puffs entering into me. I can feel the small stretches that tug at my heart. I can see him fulfilling each one, showing me that it isn’t so bad, that I really can trust him, that I really can loosen my grip and watch him and his love flourish in that loosening.


Celebrate with a Custom-Made Diaper Cake: Review & Giveaway

McKenzie's Diaper Bakery is a custom diaper-cake and treat company started in 2012 and based in Atlanta. Each cake is meticulously handcrafted with name-brand diapers and baby products that are baby-safe and chemical-free.

They have all different kinds of diaper cakes available, personalized and made especially for you. For instance, they knew that I do some cloth-diapering along with disposables, and my preference is to use as many all-natural products on Claire as possible. Consequently, they sent me one of their natural diaper cakes, which incorporated a couple of cloth pre-fold diapers and almost two dozen of Huggies' Pure & Natural disposable diapers. (They can also accommodate other cloth-diaper brands by request.)

As you can see from the pictures, the two-tier cake they sent me to review also included some unexpected goodies, including a cute photo frame in Claire's favorite color (yellow!) and with her initial framed in it. I loved that they took that kind of attention to detail in making the cake especially for Claire. There was also a bottle hidden in the middle of the cake and some travel size packages of diaper cream, lotion and baby powder decorating the exterior. (Notably, I would have preferred if the baby products had been more in line with the "natural" theme of the cake, but since they were mainly for decoration, that's not a big deal. Claire still liked to carry them around since they fit her grip perfectly!)

Plus, I'm happy to share that they're offering one of their two-tier Natural Diaper Cakes up for giveaway. To enter, please "like" the McKenzie's Diaper Bakery Facebook page and then leave a comment here telling me you've done so. For a second entry, please follow their Twitter page and leave another comment letting me know. (Also, be sure to leave a way to contact you in case you win, if it's not available in your profile.) The giveaway will end Friday, February 28.

God's Grace Flourishes in Our Vulnerability

As any mom—and I’d even wager any babysitter—knows, taking care of a baby isn’t for the faint of heart. It is rough and tough business that hit me like a ton of bricks when I had my first baby. I had no idea a person as small as she could sleep so little and still manage to cry as much as she did. At times, I even joined in with my daughter in her crying spells when nothing else was working.

Those early weeks were nothing less than brutal, leaving me weak, weary and brittle, on edge of breaking.

When my daughter was two-months-old, our church threw a baby shower for the latest round of new or soon-to-be-expecting moms in the congregation. I was among them and toward the end of the luncheon, each of us were supposed to share how our journey was going, whether it was pregnancy or parenthood, and some prayer requests.

Early on, I’d committed myself to try not to complain about my daughter. I wanted to be honest about how hard things were going but I didn’t want to whine about it or make her out to be a foe. So when it came to my turn, I started off positively enough and asked for prayer for me to submit myself to this process of parenthood and learning self-sacrifice, which is what I felt the Lord was urging from me at the time.

And as I asked for that simple prayer, I couldn’t help it but the tears came. They came, they poured. Even though I’d spent plenty of time crying on my own at home, I hadn’t cried in public before. So when the chance came, the tears flowed and I couldn’t stop them until I shared the truth.

With them streaming down my cheeks, I couldn’t deny how very hard things were as a new mom. Raw with honesty, I shared through those tears how hard it was being a new mom. And through those tears, I began to see God work.

When I was done, other moms in the room came up to me, tears in their own eyes and told me they knew exactly how I felt. Other women who were pregnant with their first told me that they appreciated my honesty because it provided them a much-needed reality check that things might not be all as the commercials portray with a newborn.

But the biggest blessing that came from those tears became evident when I went home. Because once I admitted my hardship in the midst of so many other women and asked, so sincerely, so desperately for prayers, things actually started getting better: My daughter started to fight her sleep less, even going to sleep on her own. She began crying less. It was nothing short of a miracle.

It’s something I’ve seen over and over again in my life: God’s grace flourishes in our vulnerability. When I’m willing to let my guard down and admit my weakness, admit my need, admit my struggles before my fellow man, it is then that I oftentimes see God at work the most. Like James 5:16 says, I think there’s power in confession, whether it’s confessing your sins like that verse says or even confessing the truth about our circumstances and our needs, like I did that afternoon in the chapel of our church when I let the tears fall before a couple dozen women.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." John 12:24

This article first appeared on iBelieve on July 26, 2013.

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A Little Relief for Your Winter Woes

It's winter here in Ohio, and of course as luck would have it, it has been increasingly cold. There’s snow on the ground that falls fresh as soon as it’s melted away. We’re breaking cold-temperature records and with the wind-chill factored in, it really is freezing here. Along with that has come another winter woe: dry, chapped skin. I find myself having to slather lotion on at least once a day, so when BlogHer offered to send me a...

It's winter here in Ohio, and of course as luck would have it, it has been increasingly cold. There’s snow on the ground that falls fresh as soon as it’s melted away. We’re breaking cold-temperature records and with the wind-chill factored in, it really is freezing here.

Along with that has come another winter woe: dry, chapped skin. I find myself having to slather lotion on at least once a day, so when BlogHer offered to send me a couple of new products to try that feature natural ingredients, I was eager to see how they’d stand up to this wintry reality of mine.

Suave Professionals sent Moroccan Infusion Body Lotion and Moroccan Infusion Dry Body Oil. Both feature Moroccan argan oil, one of the rarest oils in the world because it comes from the argan tree, which can only be grown in specific growing areas, such as those in Morocco. It has been used in culinary and cosmetic ways for centuries and is now making a comeback for being naturally rich in nutrients and antioxidants.

The Moroccan Infusion Body Lotion is a daily moisturizer that absorbs quickly for up to 24 hours of radiant, non-greasy hydration, and the Moroccan Infusion Dry Body Oil Spray has a non-greasy formula that absorbs instantly and seals in long-lasting moisture. These products are both clinically proven to moisturize as well as Moroccanoil®.

Having pretty sensitive skin, I have found I am pretty picky when it comes to moisturizing my skin during the winter months. I tried my husband’s lotion a couple of weeks ago and it literally made my skin burn. I have found that ones that feature “natural” ingredients like the argan oil don’t have that effect. Instead, both left my skin feeling supple and soaked in pretty quickly without much residue. I was able to put some of the lotion on my hands (where I find myself needing to reapply lotion the most frequently), slather it on, and just seconds later get back to typing.

They also smelled quite luxurious (it reminded me of a tropical cocoa butter or suntan-lotion smell). I liked it (especially in these cold months when a palm tree is a pipe dream!) but I wouldn’t mind a fragrance-free offering in the future.

Both of these products are new offerings from the Suave Professionals® line, which is a new line from Suave that offers women everywhere access to premium quality products with the finest skincare ingredients. You can find more information about the Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion Body Care products at www.Facebook.com/SuaveBeauty. And while you’re there, visit the Suave Beauty Facebook page to get tips for radiant skin, style advice from celebrity stylist Brad Goreski and enter the “Radiant Wishes” sweepstakes for a chance to win Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion products, a spa day or a trip to Los Angeles. Plus, they are offering a giveaway to help relieve your winter woes even more: For a chance to win a $1,000 gift card, let me know which of the Suave Moroccan Infusion Body Care products you would most like to try.

Sweepstakes Rules: 
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 2/7/2014-2/28/2014.

Be sure to visit the Suave Professionals® brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

When clinically tested vs. comparable Moroccanoil® products. Moroccanoil® is a registered trademark of Moroccanoil®.


Dear Claire: 11 Month Update

(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.)

Dear Claire,
You are now just one month shy of a year. Can you believe it's been that long already? Can you believe we've made it this far? By the time you're reading this, 11 months will seem like barely a drop in the bucket. But it feels like so much right now. So much, in a good way.

You got sick for the first time this month. (Well, you’d gotten pink eye around six months, but it was mild and we caught it quickly so it never bothered you.) This time, though, you were miserable. Your nose was runny and it turned into an ear ache that had you wailing “Ow!” and “Oh!” and what I swear sounded like, “Help!” We took you to the doctor as soon as we saw you tug on your right ear, but it was too late. Even with antibiotics (azithromycin), you were still in great pain for the next two days anytime the ibuprofen would wear off. 

And to top it off, you were so congested you couldn’t breathe through your nose so you snored when you slept (causing your dad to dub you Darth Baby) and you gasped when you tried to nurse. (Consequently, you gave up sucking your thumb and haven't gone back since, something I am relieved about because I dreaded having to break you of it.) It was pitiful and I felt so sorry for you. But fortunately, on day three the pain subsided and on day four you could breathe through your nose again. I'm just thankful we were able to make it ten months until you really got sick!

Otherwise, another big achievement this month was that I realized your hair can be pulled back into pigtails! I love pulling it back. Of course, you love pulling the hair bands out, so they don't ever last very long, but I have captured a few photographs of the moment.

Right now you are in love with music. You now bounce when you hear a tune. Sometimes you'll tap a foot or clap your hands. You have an electronic drumstick that plays a rhythm that you can tap to, and you love the melody. You also have maracas and shakers and jingle bells and empty tin- and cardboard-canisters that double as drums. You love picking these up and playing with them; they bring a huge smile to your face when you discover them in the midst of your playtime.

You've got your daddy's love of playing music. (You've also discovered his guitar, hidden behind his desk that you make it a point to crawl around the chair and trashcan to play with the strings. Ain't nothing going to stand in your way of playing music, huh?) And you've got your mommy's love for dancing to music. We've recently started doing dance parties where we find some good music to play in the background while we sing and twirl along.

And this past week at church, we took you into service with us during the worship time, and you sat enrapt while the band played and everyone sang along. (Of course, as soon as they started praying, you decided the quiet was too much and started shouting and "talking" to make up for it. We then took you to the nursery, where I've been having to hang out with you, because you still don't like being left without one of us with you. I don't mind though; it's given me a chance to get to know some of the other women who are serving in the nursery better than I would have otherwise. That's one thing I hope you'll learn: There's always a silver lining. Always. Make it a point to look for it.)

So this newfound love of yours has been fun and I've been looking for ways to enrich and encourage it. I'm looking into music classes for you, because heaven knows you don't really need any more toys or clothes, and with your birthday coming up, I thought that might be more useful than more "stuff" for you. But we'll see. By the way, I'm sure your wishlist would include things like: a new cellphone/remote control that actually works and lights up (rather than the ones with batteries removed that you like to give me); a toilet paper roll I can tear apart as much as I please (and eat to my delight); a trashcan (full of trash, of course) I can explore, etc.

At any rate, we're getting closer and closer to that milestone, and it's been so much fun. I hope you're having fun, too.


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