Wednesday, January 28, 2015

{Motherhood} Spoken Blessings

Recently I've become increasingly aware of the power of words. Not just the written word, with which I've always had a love affair, but also the power of spoken words. Particularly the power of positive truth spoken directly to yourself or directly to someone else. Words have a way of affecting us like little else does, especially if we hear the same words or are presented with the same idea repeatedly. We begin to believe those words, live those words. They become a part of our psyche, sometimes almost impossible to shake {body image, anyone?}.

Not long ago I participated in a Bible study led by Priscilla Shirer, which was not really about blessings or words at all, but during a particular video segment she mentioned her habit of speaking Scripture in the form of a blessing over her three sons. I was intrigued. I had not ever really heard of this before. Memorizing Scripture, yes. Reciting Scripture, yes. Writing Scripture, yes. But using it as a blessing spoken over someone? It was a little foreign to me. The concept is that she would routinely, several times a day, like when dropping her kids off at school or before bedtime, repeat parts of Scripture to her boys that she wanted them to believe was especially true for their lives. She mentioned that though her oldest is still in elementary school, he and his younger brothers could all repeat this blessing to her because she'd said it so often to them. The idea was fascinating to me. I loved it. And I wanted to do it for my girls.

After a little bit of thought, and not really much direction, I settled on saying a Hebrew blessing from the book of Numbers to Maylin {this was before Hartlie was born} as I rocked her to sleep. It was a short verse: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. {Numbers 6:24-26} It was a good blessing and I liked the cadence of the words, but after a while it didn't seem to be enough. I wanted more. This is not to imply that any part of God's Word is not "enough," because it absolutely is, all the time and in every circumstance. It's just that I wanted to put a bit more thought and effort into choosing what to say over my daughters. Especially after Hartlie was born, I began to desire a specific blessing for each of my girls, something that would be meaningful to them individually.

I began to really consider what truths I wanted Maylin and Hartlie to know and believe in their very core. I looked ahead to what their future might hold- to the teenage years, onto college, through marriage, and careers, and children, and potential heartbreak and probable tragedies. I thought about their individual personalities, the little quirks and nuances that set them apart from each other. I pondered the meaning of their names, and how amazingly through no fault of my own, the meanings of their names happen to fit right in with their personalities. I thought about what lies they might be faced with and what lies they might come to believe about themselves. And then I turned around and thought about my Lord, about His personality, His character traits, His promises. What about Him do I feel is essential for Maylin and Hartlie to know? And not just know, but believe as absolute, unshakable truth? Then I began to search the Bible, marking down meaningful verses, underlining certain phrases, making a list of passages I wanted to include. 

After some time, I landed on my spoken blessing for each of my girls. I finished Maylin's first, and have been saying it to her for many months. I speak it over her after our bedtime story, as we're either rocking or lying in the teepee, chest to chest and heart to heart. It's the final words I speak to her before she goes to sleep, and it's become such a routine that now when I begin speaking her blessing, she quiets down, her little body relaxes, and she listens. It's the final sleep cue.

I finished compiling Hartlie's blessing this week after waiting for her own personality to emerge. I will speak it to her for the first time tonight, as I'm giving her her final bottle with the lamp off, chest to chest and heart to heart.

An unexpected, but wonderful result of compiling and saying these blessings to my girls is that I have read and written and spoken them so often that I now have them memorized. And it's quite amazing how much these words, with which I started out intending to bless my daughters, have actually blessed me as well. I'm sharing them below.

For Maylin, my strong little warrior::

You are a woman of strength and dignity, a woman who speaks words of wisdom and kindness. You are confident and can joyfully laugh without fear of your future. {Proverbs 31:25-26} No weapon that Satan tries to use against you will ever succeed in doing you harm, for this is your inheritance as a daughter of God. {Isaiah 54:17} God is in the midst of you, my strong little warrior, surrounding you, you shall not be moved. God's help will rise at the break of day, as the morning dawns. {Psalm 46:5} Therefore, my strong little warrior, be strong in the Lord and in the full strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand firm against the schemes of Satan. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against forces of darkness and wickedness. {Ephesians 6:10-12} But you have already conquered all of these things through Christ who loves you. For I am convinced from the depths of my soul that nothing, neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor things that are happening to you today, nor things that will happen to you in the future, nor depth nor height, nor anything that has been created can ever separate you from God's love in Jesus Christ. {Romans 8:37-39
This is my prayer and this is my blessing. I love you. Amen.

For Hartlie, my peaceful favored one::

You are a woman of strength and dignity, a woman who speaks words of wisdom and kindness. You are confident and can joyfully laugh without fear of your furture. {Proverbs 31:25-26} You are blessed, my little peacemaker , for you are a daugher of God. {Matthew 5:16} The Lord is your Keeper and He is a shade to the closest parts of you. Nothing under the sun will not smite you by day, nor will anything under the moon harm you by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil and will keep your soul. The Lord guards your every move from now through the rest of your life. {Psalm 121: 5-8} Therefore, my little peacemaker, let your light shine in front of all people in such a way that you illuminate your Father in heaven, so that you shine as a light in the darkness. {Matthew 5:16, Philippians 2:15} For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake and fall, but the Lord's lovingkindness will not be removed from you and His faithful promise of peace will not be shaken, for He has great compassion for you. {Isaiah 54:10}
This is my prayer and this is my blessing. I love you. Amen.

Note:: I also wrote a little bit more here about praying Scripture.

{I have taken a few liberties with the verses by paraphrasing my blessing, but I believe I have not compromised the integrity or meaning of each Scripture.}

Saturday, January 24, 2015

{Hartlie Anne} 2nd Month Memories

Sweet Hartlie-girl,

It's full on summer now. The days are growing hotter and you're growing bigger. You've spent most of your first month sleeping, but you're slowly starting to spend more time awake. It's been fun to watch you "wake up" to the world around you. Time seems to almost stand still during those first few newborn weeks, when we're both surviving within two hour segments of nurse, change, sleep- all around and around the clock. Then suddenly, this month I woke up one morning and looked over into your little portable crib by my bed and realized with a start that you, my newborn baby girl, don't look so new anymore. You're looking and acting more like your own person each day. You have so many smiles, so many effortless and ready smiles, and we love it.

You're our laid-back, easy going gal. You only cry for very good reasons and you sleep like a dream, which makes this mama really happy. And thankful. Very thankful for sleep right now. This month we discovered you're allergic to dairy, which means no more dairy products for me for the forseeable future. I'm praying you'll outgrow this allergy- as  most babies who have it do- because can you imagine? Life without chocolate or ice cream or cereal {oh cereal} or milk and oreos?? I had the bright idea one early morning this month to attempt dairy free buscuits, and they turned out okay. But just okay. May the good Lord spare you from a life of "just okay" buscuits.

It's been incredible to watch you form relationships with our loved ones, especially with your daddy and sister. Daddy/Daughter love will always be heartmelting for me, and that sister-bond is unmatchable. This month we ate cupcakes together, went to the pool together, tramped through the park together, you snuggled up in the Happy wrap around my torso or in the padded stroller while we made memories around you. Sunday afternoon snuggles, all four of us piled in our bed, became my favorite activity of the week.

The sunflowers I planted back in April grew to the size of my shoulders and blooms as big as dinner plates burst forth in golden yellow glory as their faces turned toward the sun. And these verses became my matra for this  month as we continue to celebrate your life, sweet Hartlie:

"The mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken, says the Lord who has compassion on you." Isaiah 54:10
"The Lord's lovingkindness indeed never ceases, for His compassion never fails. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

We love you, our dear girl.

Monday, January 12, 2015

{Hartlie Anne} 1st Month Memories

{Note: This series will be mainly retrospective, as Hartlie is now 7+ months old.}

Sweet Hartlie,

You are new this month. Brand new and we are smitten with love and ooey gooey emotions immediately. You arrived fast and with disregard to epidurals and time and Pitocin, but goodness, we couldn't be happier greeting you under any other circumstances. My wide eyed girl that made me a mama twice, you've made my mornings and evenings, mid-days and midnights so, so sweet. We welcomed you home with joy and love. I can hardly sleep at the sight of you. You are one of my two favorite reasons to embrace each morning.

My baby girl, so fresh and new, you caused my heart to expand 100% larger than it was already. Before you were born, I was secretly fearful I couldn't love you as much as Maylin, simply because I couldn't imagine the magnitude of that much love. I couldn't imagine that any heart had the capacity for it. But, my sweet girl, because of you I love 100% more. I love you 100% and I love your sister 100%. Thank you for bringing that much more love into my life.

We've taken this first month slowly. Easy. We've stayed in pajamas, taken leisurely walks, sat in the summer warmth on the front porch. We've spent hours rocking, hours nursing, hours snuggling and cuddling. Middle of the night nursing sessions became photo sessions as I snapped picture after picture of you in your nightgown with your wide eyes and your baby cap, wrapped in your swaddle blanket lying on my bedspread, your daddy snoozing beside us. I've watched Maylin become increasingly more aware of your presence and I'm excited to witness this sister-bond grow. 

Some things I've learned about you already- you never sneeze only once, always in sets of threes or fours, just like your daddy. You cry the biggest, most perfect crocodile tears I've ever seen, and when you're upset, they're immediate and constant, soaking your onesie or crib sheet or my shoulder in an instant. You're already grasping dangling objects. And your smile. Oh your smile. It slays us.

We are so glad you're here in the flesh, sweet little Hartlie Anne, so glad you're in our arms to stay. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

{Lifestyle} New Year, New Resolve

Well. It's been awhile. 

2014 was not a successful year for my blogging routine. I could be ashamed of myself for that. I could let that fact get me down. I could listen to the little lie that says I might as well give it up.

But I'm not going to.

Becasue when I think about what's kept me away- my two daughters- I'm positive I wouldn't trade the hours with them for all the blogging time in the world. I don't have much recorded to show for this year, to remember this year by, and I do regret that. In fact, when I think about all the months gone by of Hartlie's life that haven't been documented I get a bit sick inside. I didn't write much this year; I guess some years are just lean like that.

But now! New year, new resolve, and {perhaps most influentially} older babies who have adjusted and readjusted to schedules, which means now I have about an hour and a half in the afternoons where they both nap AT THE SAME TIME. Hallelujah chorus.

Speaking of the new year, let's talk a little about resolutions, since that's what everybody is talking about in January.

I'm hopping on the "word of the year" train, along with all others in the blogosphere, and choosing one word to live by in 2015. Although I will probably still write down a long list of goals because that's just the kind of person I am and when you put a Pilot pen and a cute notepad in my hand I can't help myself. I'll just have to break the rules and do both. {Living on the edge, I know.}

Jana's 2015 Word of the Year: Actionary 

Which, oh the irony, is not even a real word.

However, it infers the exact opposite of what I've been the past 22 months of my life- Reactionary.

Real talk time. Ever since Maylin was born almost two years ago I feel my life has been far from my control. More specifically I have felt lost, clueless, unsure, overwhelmed, maxed out, time-less, and not myself. I feel as if I somehow got attached to the wrong end of a long rope that keeps whipping me about from one place to another. I haven't been able to firmly plant my feet. Instead of acting, I've been reacting. Instead of being in control, I'd lost control. Instead of having a plan and being calm yet firm, I responded with anxiety, panic, and by throwing my proverbial hands in the air.

I won't blame my habit of being reactionary solely on motherhood, although the starting times of the two do coincide, and a lot of the things I've responded to with anxiety and panic {if I responded at all} are related to parenting issues. A lot of being reactionary also stemmed from an "identity crisis," in which I transitioned from teacher to mother to household manager to mother of two under two in a really, really lightening speed fast amount of time. Like, a "what is my new role?" and "where do I belong in society?" and "how does that merge with who I already am?" and "how do my dreams and wants fit in with this whole sleepless, selfless mother thing?" and "oh yeah aren't I suppsed to be a wife, too?" kind of identity crisis. {Mamas in the house, let me hear ya say yeah because I can't possibly be the only one? Or if I am just don't tell me.} 

So, I reacted. I reacted with my emotions. I  reacted with my time management. I reacted with my lack of planning. I reacted with my purchases. I reacted with my mothering. Most of the things I've done over the past two years have been done on impulse, as a response, and without thorough thought. The more I reacted, the more situations occured to cause me to react. And I'm sick of it. Therefore...


Here are a few ways I resolve to be actionary this year:

> Time- spend it intentionally // prioritize it successfully // organize routines
> Purchases- more thoughtful // less impulsive // abide by a list // no overspending
> Mothering- plan ahead // discipline plan // crisis management // relax and release anxieties
> Writing/Blogging- Do It // make time // photograph // document // nurture it
> Household management- meal plan // clean less // infuse my style in our home
> Emotional responses- calm // gentle // joyful // patient // confident // less guilt
> Spiritual well-being- journal prayers // daily Scripture // verse of the week

Part of being actionary is having a plan and sticking to it, thinking about what could happen and having a response for when it does, because it will. I want to know how I will handle situations before they happen, maybe not specifically, but with a general core of guidelines. I want to be prepared. I want to act, not react. 

So there it is. Resolution 2015.