Give Until It Hurts

November 22, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

2 Corinithians 9:7

From the time your baby is being knit together in your womb, you are giving. Even without your consent, your body is giving blood, nutrients, space, and more to your tiny one. Compulsory giving turns into the best kind over time, though- cheerful and loving. You take care of your health because you want the best for your baby.You gladly spend “manicure money” on nursery items and spend “me time” on cuddle time. It  doesn’t even feel like sacrifice because the gift is so natural.

This is how God wants us to feel about spending time with Him and giving to Him of our tithes and talents.

Tithing has always been a way of life for me. My parents have always given at least ten percent of their income to the church and missions, and my husband has done the same from the time we were married. To me, it does not feel difficult, because I don’t even see that money as mine. I say that not to boast at all. We each have our own struggles, and it is by God’s grace that tithing is not one of mine. However, where I have been struggling lately is with giving my time. Raising 3 young children makes it very difficult for me to leave the house, much less volunteer. I have had to say “no” to so many wonderful service opportunities lately simply because I couldn’t leave my kids home alone!

I  asked God to show me new ways that I could serve Him. Disclaimer: don’t ask that question unless you want answers! Ha!

The first opportunity I was given was to  create an Operation Christmas Child box for a little one in need. It was such a blessing to teach my 4-year-old daughter about giving to others. She could not believe that a little girl had never received toys. “Even on her birthday?”  she asked. That hits home with pre-schoolers. She was suddenly delighted to shop for another and to pray for her “friend without toys in another country.” As I wonder if we have bought enough for our kids for Christmas, it certainly puts things in perspective.

We live in abundance even when we feel we lack.

OCC

Our church happened to start a 3-part series on giving right after I prayed for God’s “suggestions.” Pastor Scott Bland gave a wonderful message with the powerful statement, “Give until it hurts.” I wasn’t quite sure what would hurt. Until I felt the Holy Spirit urge me to donate my hair.

“Um, God, I can’t do that. I’ve never had short hair, it won’t look good, I’m too vain- sorry.”

“But you have been asking me what you can do while caring for your children. You can grow your hair from home.”

He got me there. I just love how God has a sense of humor!

Quite honestly, I didn’t want to do it. I made the appointment out of obligation, but through God’s mercy and grace, He softened my heart. I thought of the Locks of Love child battling cancer who would have a wig and feel pretty. I thought of my aunt who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. I thought of the blessing of health that covers my family and how giving my hair was the least I could do in gratitude.

locks of love

The Lord has also shown me answered prayers for my friends. I always admired “prayer warriors” but never thought I could be one of them. Through five years of spending a lot time at home, though, I have prayed for others when I couldn’t be there with them. So often I think it is the least I can do, but really it is the best  I can do.

God doesn’t need anything from me. My salvation through Jesus is the only thing that makes me worthy. He knows, though, that through service we are blessed.

Be of good cheer- there is always a way that you can give until it hurts. And then it feels great.

Finding Joy

September 27, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Pregnancy is hard. Yes, it is beautiful, amazing and awe-filled, but it is also h-a-r-d. Morning sickness, varicose veins, sleepless nights, heartburn-need I go on? It is a 40-week journey filled with highs, lows, and lots of unknowns- just like life.  You look forward to holding your newborn, but at times that doesn’t take away the struggle and pain of today.

Lately I have been wrestling with being overcome by the daily stresses of life and wanting to know exactly what we can expect in our family’s future, (where we will live, where the children will go to school, etc).

All of these burdens, (along with accumulated weeks of little sleep), led me to crying during a Kindergarten Info Night at my daughter’s preschool. Yeah- that was me-the basket case mom shedding tears over Kindergarten.

There I was, talking to a teacher about my daughter and our school options and- you know how you can feel it coming and can’t stop it? The waterworks flowed, I apologized, a rep from one of L.A.’s top private schools came to meet me, looked mortified at my blubbering and likely posted my picture on the “do not admit” wall in the admissions office. End scene.

I believe in  what God has promised- that if we walk with Him in His ways, He will take care of us and give us an abundant life. I know that everything will more than just “work out” but I need strength for the journey. Do you ever feel that way?

Pastor Care Crawford spoke to my mommy group this week and put it perfectly by saying that ,

“Happiness is due to circumstances. Joy comes from rooting ourselves in Christ’s love.”

Circumstances change. You won’t be pregnant forever, but you will have new challenges as a mom, (like finding a Kindergarten- sheesh…), and many more difficult than that by far.

Our joy must be firm- as solid as our faith in Jesus Christ. Out of that flows the fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. That’s what I want more than a temporary solution to today’s worries. God’s solution is everlasting.

As you face your challenges in pregnancy and beyond, dig deeper past happiness to JOY by seeking the One who knows that it is all going to work out according to the plans HE has for your life.

And if you have an embarrassing sob-session along the way, know that you’re not alone.

sour pumpkin liam

Be joyful even when the circumstances don’t make you happy!

Baby Dedication

September 16, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

Deacon Dedication 001

Last Sunday was very special for our family. We publicly dedicated Bonus Baby to the Lord at our wonderful church. I dressed him the same smocked jumper that his big brother wore; complete with a bonnet that I know they will one day both scold me for placing on their soft heads and tying in a bow around their chubby chins. The purity of the look, and of the age, and of the event is so special- and so important.

 deacib bonnet

As a we stood before the congregation as a family, our pastor agreed with us that our child would be raised in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. He prayed for wisdom for us as parents, (while my two-year-old son drove a car through my hair and made “vroom-vroom” sounds). The church promised to offer support to our family and guidance when we seek it. What a beautiful day it was.

Though we did not “officially” dedicate our baby until he was 7-months-old, we did in prayer from the moment we knew he was being formed in my womb. He is not ours- he is God’s and that is the way I want it. As hard as I try to be a great mother, I fall short. And every time, my Heavenly Father is there to protect and love my family, (and me).

As a Certified Baby Planner and a Wanna-Be Super Mom, I try my best to be great at this mommy job, but I have no shame in admitting that I can’t do it without the God who knew my babies before I did.

Surrender. Dedicate. Trust. Love.

 deacon dedication crop prayer

To Shower or Not to Shower?

August 16, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner


Here is a question that I get a lot- when is it not appropriate to have a baby shower?

I had three children in four years, so by the time Bonus Baby was on the way, I needed very little other than diapers. I did not feel comfortable having a full baby shower for my third, so instead my friend set up a meal plan and “invited” others to sign up to bring dinners once the baby arrived- it was so helpful and special! But what about you?

Well, first of all, let me say that EVERY baby should be celebrated- whether it is your first who you waited decades for, or your 7th little surprise. However, there comes a point when assuming that your friends and family should give you gifts is not considerate. 

First Baby- Shower Up! You need everything! If you are having more than one baby shower, though, consider inviting separate lists of guests to each so that no one feels obligated to buy you more than one gift. 

Second Baby- Many moms are given a baby shower for the second baby, but often on a smaller scale than the first- a “sprinkle” if you will.

Third Baby or Thereafter- This is where it gets tricky… There are circumstances though that could lead to an actual “need” for a baby shower at this point:

– You have all boys and are finally having a girl (or the other way around)
- This is a first baby for you and this spouse
- It has been more than 5 years since your last child was born

Now, if you do not fall into any of those categories, (as in my case), here are my suggestions for celebrating this new little one:

 

  • Have a small luncheon with your friends and make it clear on the invitation that it is not a shower and gifts are not necessary. Perhaps instead, the invite could state:


Ann is expecting another girl and with so much pink could not ask for more! So come celebrate with 
joy at a Baby Brunch, and bring a sweet letter cause we love her a bunch!

  • Another option is to have a Baby 2 Baby or Operation Shower where you celebrate your new addition, but the gifts are given to moms in need.  This invite could say:


Ann is expecting Baby #3 and has all the gear she could ever need! So let’s bless this baby by paying it forward and bring gifts for moms who cannot afford them.

Come celebrate Ann and her baby and consider bringing a new or used baby item to be donated to Baby2Baby.

For more information on donating to moms in need, visit:  http://www.baby2baby.org/ and http://operationshower.org/

It is always appropriate to celebrate a new life and when it comes to gifts, you may discover it is even more fun to get creative!

 

1st baby shower

The American Baby Dream

August 13, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner

As a mother of three and a Certified Baby Planner, babies are my dream, my life, and my career. Statistics show that many parents are choosing to limit their family size even when their dream may be for more children.

There is a common misconception in America that babies should only be born into homes with big yards, dual incomes, and large savings accounts. While these luxuries are certainly nice, they are just that- luxuries. So when a mother without such advantages is staring at a positive pregnancy test, what should be her reaction? New life should be celebrated- no matter what the circumstances.

Though I have the opportunity to work with many couples who are able to buy top-of-the-line baby products, hire domestic help, and send their children to wonderful classes and schools, I also volunteer at Westside Pregnancy Clinic where I teach classes on preparing for a baby to parents in unplanned and crisis pregnancies. What I have noticed is that, while the parents who “have it all together”, (according to the American Dream), may have a more delighted initial reaction to the news of pregnancy, by the third trimester expectant parents in all economic categories are excited about meeting their newborns and are eager to do everything they can to prepare for them.

Sure, those unmarried, out of work, and lacking health insurance may not be seeking my assistance on buying a stroller that cost the price of a car, but at the end of the day, that is not the main concern of the affluent, either. When the due date draws near, education on how to best care for a newborn and questions about how to be a loving and devoted parent are what matter most.

We need to focus on keeping our families united and on embracing the tiniest of blessings. If you find yourself in an unexpected pregnancy, rejoice through your fear. I have never met a mother holding her newborn who says she wishes she had never had him.

My challenge for all women is to reach out to expecting and new parents with support- even if it is simply by bringing over a home- cooked meal. As moms, we share a common dream to provide the best future possible for our children- so let’s do so together. 

liam usa

Dwelling in Safety

August 9, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

 We should be prepared and do all that we can to protect our little ones from harm, and then pray and trust God to be the ultimate father and protector over their lives.

The first night in the hospital with my newborn daughter, my husband and I did not sleep at all. Even when she was asleep, we kept watch to be sure that her chest was rising and falling. She made such funny little squeaks and snorts when she breathed, so we buzzed for the nurses constantly in fear that something was wrong.

When she had outgrown her bassinet and it was time to move her into her own room and crib, my husband was afraid that kidnappers would break in and steal her while we slept, (even though we have an alarm system).

These stories may sound a bit hysterical and funny, but the responsibility for keeping such a helpless baby safe can feel scary.

God wants us to be diligent and protective of our children, but He never wants us to live in fear. Therefore, we must find a balance and remember that prayer is the best covering we can provide for our children. Holding on with all of our might and watching every move our babies make will only make us paranoid and will keep us from the peace of trusting in a Father who loves our children even more than we do.

There are steps that should be taken to baby proof your home before your newborn arrives. The more drastic measures can be made before your baby crawls, which is usually around 6-months-old.

 

Home Baby Proofing Steps to Take Before Baby Arrives:

  • Check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to be sure they are working
  • Take an Infant CPR Class
  • Have an emergency first aid kit and supplies
  • Plan a fire/emergency escape route
  • Insure that all windows and doors are secure
  • If you live in a high rise building, have window guards installed
  • Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees or lower
  • Place non-slip pads under rugs

 baby as art 3

Royal Heirs

July 29, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner

So, in case you haven’t heard… the royal baby was born last week! I am a bit of a “royal geek” myself enjoying the stories of the British monarchy back to the Tudor era. Combining that with being a Certified Baby Planner, I have been like a lady in waiting for the birth of this heir!

I am trilled that Kate and Wills, (yes I refer to them like they are friends), welcomed a healthy baby boy in such a seemingly “normal” fashion. Kate looked radiant but still had a bit of a bump, and Wills installed the infant seat  and drove the youngest royal  home himself.

However, we all know that this baby’s birth was treated far differently than most by the media and by the world. From the moment that Kate’s pregnancy was announced, the child in her womb was referred to as a “royal heir.”

Not a lump of tissue.

Not a fetus.

Not a “maybe.”

No one argued over whether she should “keep it” or if “it” would be a burden to “it’s” parents or society.

Nor should they have.

Sure, this baby already had a calling on his life from the moment he was conceived. But so does your baby.

This baby is of royal blood. But so is your baby.

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ.” Romans 8:17

We are children of the One TRUE King.

I am thankful to the Lord for HRH Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge. For the day he was born, crowds cheered, cannons blasted, and the world agreed that the birth of a baby is cause for celebration.

It’s A Beautiful Life

July 19, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner

ali-metro christian

May We Be Servants

July 16, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner

There are days that are quite long for me with three young ones. When going on little sleep or little help, I tend to want to throw little fits- just like my children. Thankfully, I don’t kick and scream tantrum-style, but instead take a fast-paced walk through the neighborhood spilling my frustrations out for the Lord in prayer.

One particular Sunday evening, I felt overworked and under-appreciated at home and asked God why I had to do so many thankless chores without help or praise. Unlike during previous ranting sessions I heard,

“Because you are a servant.”

Whoa.

The stroller and I came to a halt as I was put in my place by my loving and faithful Master.

Those words have really helped me with my every day routines and chores. I have long tried to live out Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men,” but somehow being called a servant really put it all in perspective for me. Knowing my place in the Kingdom makes the work easier. Knowing I will not always be appreciated gives me a sense of peace and keeps me from getting angry at my family and friends.

In my quiet time today, I studied Luke and the beautiful mother of Christ. What a contrast her pregnancy was- horrible by the world’s standards, and perfect by heaven’s standards. This woman- actually this girl- could have taken walks complaining to God about how unfairly she was being treated and how He should have spared her such disgrace as an unwed mother… Instead, “I am the Lord’s servant, ” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38

As you carry your baby in your womb and later in your arms, find strength in knowing you are working for the Lord. Find humility in remembering your place in the kingdom. May we be the mothers who one day hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

 boys stroller

 

Praising God

June 21, 2013 by sweetexpectationsbabyplanner

 “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of our lips that openly profess His name.” Hebrews 13:15.

 

I have dissolved into tears after a long day of working, sacrificing, and trying so hard to please my family, when my 4-year-old pitches a fit over not getting one thing that she wants. It makes me want to scream, “do you not see how I have done and done for you all day long and you decide to get angry over the one thing I say no to- which by the way is for your own good?!” Gosh, don’t you think God feels that way sometimes? He abundantly provides for me, yet when something goes wrong; I spend my whole prayer time focused on that.

Inspired by Ann Voscamp’s wonderful book, “One Thousand Gifts,” I now start my quiet time each day by writing things I am thankful for in my Bible. Sometimes it takes me a minute- especially when I woke up tired and the kids are screaming… However, when I really focus on all that I have, my heart and mind change and I am able to praise the Lord and be a better mother.

Today I want the world to know how thankful I am for my dear friend’s new baby girl. My friend was told years ago that she could not bear children which led to the adoption of her amazing son. This afternoon, little sister was born because God is bigger than any diagnosis and simply knew that their little boy had to join the family first. Their family is beautiful and blessed through obedience and faith.

Praise may have to start as a discipline, but can grow to be natural. Start with thanking Him for your baby- for each has his or her own miraculous story.

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