I Stand With The Refugees…Because I Am A Mom and A Christian

Shaylee Woodard

I’m finding it difficult to write these days and to focus on much of anything. The direction our country is taking is leaving me quite heartbroken. I make it a point not to discuss politics on this blog for a number of reasons and I don’t plan to start, however I’d be lying if I said that the recent events of this immigration ban, or let’s call it what it really is, Muslim ban leaves me feeling quite ashamed.

As a mother, my heart aches for other mommas who are fleeing to save their children, trying to simply give them an opportunity not just a chance at the American Dream, but to live. Can you imagine that? Can you look at children and imagine them in a refugee camp? Can you imagine your them seeing haunting carnage of neighbors, friends, or loved ones that will forever be etched in their minds? I can’t and I pray that none of you will ever have to be in a situation where you have to flee your country. I don’t care what religion, race, or country you are from as a mom we all know what it means to a love our children so intensely that we would die for them, that we would risk everything to keep them safe.  Now imagine if you were fleeing and you finally after an intense vetting system were cleared to come to a safe place a new home. Imagine the joy and relief you would feel than suddenly, poof it is taken away. Think about telling your children that you won’t be leaving after all…I can’t fathom that can you? But, that’s what women… moms like you and I are facing and we need to unite as moms and as people of faith.

As a Christian I’m outraged. Outraged to tears and anger. This is the time that we need to be a beacon of light that shines in the darkness. More than ever we need to walk this path of resistance in unity, hand in hand, heart to heart and scream at the top of our lungs that all our brothers and sisters matter, not just the Christian ones. Will we allow this false sense of fear to stop us from aiding the most vulnerable population that is crying out to us? Or we will we honor our values, God’s word, and Jesus’ example? Are we not called to help the widows, the orphans and the poor? This goes beyond politics, terrorism, or religion this is about our heart, our faith and our character. How can we profess to follow Jesus if we shun our fellow brother or sister?

This is a time to not just walk the walk, but talk the talk. Let’s urge our congregations, our faith leaders and everyone to stand up for refugees who are being unfairly treated. I teach my daughter to love all people. I teach her that we are created in God’s image. I teach her that Jesus did not discriminate, that he came to be a savior to all people. I teach her to honor and respect human beings and this ban goes against everything I have taught her and if I don’t act then I’m part of the problem.

Our children are watching and now is the time to act, to show them we aren’t just saying we are a Christian in word, but in deed. Now is the time to teach them to use their voice for those whose voices are being oppressed. Now is the time to teach our children that we have a responsibility as Christians and as human beings to care for one another and embrace and respect one another for our differences and not to be afraid of them but for those differences to draw us together in love and unity.  This is an opportunity to teach our children about what matters most in this world…love.

If you want to help I encourage you to get organized, look for organizations in your local community to support, and have your voice heard by calling your legislators in the House and Senate. Together we can make a difference. Don’t take my word for it, research, educate yourself, read the scriptures and then decide what you believe is right. Most of all think about what would Jesus do?Below are some links that good resources to get started. Most of all we need to pray for our leaders, our country and our world to use compassion, kindness and wisdom,

International Rescue Committee

American Civil Liberties Union

United States House of Representatives

US Senate

The UN Refugee Agency

Embrace Your Imperfections

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I pray that each of you sweet souls embrace your imperfections with open arms. Accept your jagged edges, your messy mistakes, be filled with grace, speak kindly to and about yourself, view your body as a work of art, gently pick yourself up when you fall, release perfection and allow your imperfections to tell a story that is beautifully and perfectly your own.

Morning Walk Musings…

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I’m always enchanted by the trees during my morning walk. Especially, now as fall begins to settle in, I’m left in complete awe of how the leaves change slightly every day, how they shed off the tree and go through their own metamorphosis. The season forces the trees to change, however it doesn’t change their structure. Regardless, whether it is a gentle autumn breeze or a brutal winter wind that forces it to stand bare and naked, its stature remains. Today, gazing up at the tip-top of the tree with the clouds bearing in behind, I thought about the similarities between us and trees.  In some seasons we are full, abounding with fruit, colorful, and beautiful to look at, and then there are those difficult seasons. We all know those seasons well, where we stand vulnerable, stripped of our protection, and fragile as the coldness of life sweeps over us. But, we are still standing. We may not be the prettiest to gaze upon, but there is still beauty in our steadfastness, our nakedness, and our truth. The clouds may surround us but we’re still reaching for the top. There is exquisiteness in both our fruitful and barren seasons, if we stay standing, keep reaching, and believe in the roots that keeps us grounded in our faith that God will see us through.

Morning Walk Musings…

 

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Do you ever feel as though you are literally surrounded by weeds? It may seem like everywhere you turn something or someone is trying to strangle your growth, hold you down, or get in the way of your light, but you can bloom even amidst the weeds. On my walk today,  I came across this lovely purple beauty blooming in a not so nurturing spot. But yet, there it stood. A gem among weeds. It found a way to not only grow, but to be vibrant and stand tall in it’s environment despite the obstacles it probably faces in that spot.

You are that flower! Whatever weeds you’re fighting against, you can bloom right where you are in this moment. Just as this flower seeks the sun, you too can seek the light. The light of Jesus that lights the way in the dark, that pushes the weeds aside and allows you persevere in the most difficult circumstances. You are resilient and with the love of God, you’re unstoppable! Be that vibrant flower that makes people pause and see the beauty that can come even through the weeds.

Morning Walk Musings…

I try to take a daily morning walk for about an hour after I drop Anya off at school. This hour has become a precious part of my day. During my walk I listen to inspirational podcasts, pray, get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. It’s incredible the beauty that surrounds us and what it triggers inside of us. Today, I was walking and noticed how the trees are beginning to change and the leaves are quickly falling.  It made me think about how quickly the season is changing and how the seasons of our own life are continually evolving. While walking, I came across  a leaf on the street. Its colors were lovely but it was curved up. I haven’t seen many leaves with fall colors seeping through, so I thought I’d take a picture.  I was about to  flatten it out, and then I thought, why am I trying to force this leaf to change its shape. But, isn’t that what we do naturally?

When there are curves in our life  we try to bend everything back to the way we want it as soon as possible. Often times we become restless in the season we are in, unable to allow it to take its natural course . Today’s leaf reminded me that in every season there is imperfect beauty, whether it is a season of difficulty or joy.  Just as the leaf was released we too are released in our own different seasons if we are patient enough.

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10 Tips On Finding Your Rhythm As A Single Mom

Find Your Rhythm Through the Waves

Find Your Rhythm Through the Waves

Do you have a groove? I have a groove and it isn’t my awesome dance moves :) it’s my rhythm as a single mom. I found my rhythm and it works for me, but it didn’t come without some trial and error. Finding your groove takes time, practice and the ability to think outside the box, but your life runs so much smoother when you do, doesn’t it?

Today, I want to give you 10 Tips that may help you find your rhythm as a single mom and make life a little easier.

  1. Spend Time With God. Nothing, nothing, nothing made a bigger difference in my life than strengthening my relationship with God and spending time in the word and prayer. He is your partner, so go to Him every day and let God be your number one priority.
  2. Get Organized. You don’t have to be all OCD, but a little organization in your life will help you keep your head above water. There are different areas of your life that need to be organized, so start out with the one that seems to give you the most headaches. If it is your house, start a plan to organize it in a way that works for you. Then practice maintaining it by creating boundaries for you and the kids. Put systems in place that will make your day go smoother. Write lists, put up a central calendar with everyone’s activities and appointments, put a meal plan together, whatever will make your life smoother do it.
  3. Create Your Community. You need your people! It’s important to have good, reliable and kind people in your life. Reach out and create a community! Don’t go it alone. It’s important to have a support group and to be a support to others. Don’t be afraid to reach out because I can bet you some mom out there is needing you as much as you need her.
  4. Don’t Run on Overload. You are one person don’t try to be everything to everyone it doesn’t work. Know your priorities, don’t feel bad about saying  no, and know your limits. Saying yes to everything all the time will exhaust you and leave you feeling resentful. Evaluate what is important to you and spend your energy in the appropriate places.
  5. Don’t Compare Yourself. Comparisons are the devil. When you start comparing yourself you lose focus on your blessings. You lose the gratitude for all that God has done for you and instead you spend time wishing for a situation that isn’t yours. I’ve seen this time and again with single moms comparing themselves to other families and not believing their family is whole. Your family is as whole as you believe it to be, don’t allow your perception of others to form your reality. Listen, focus on creating the life you want for you and your family and do it!
  6. Keep Your Dreams Alive.Before you were a mom you had a life. You still have a life and it is enriched by your beautiful children, but don’t forget about the desires of your heart either. Go for your dreams! Be a role mode for your kids by teaching them to be tenacious in doing what they love.
  7. Stop Complaining About Your Ex. Listen, things happen, people get hurt and relationships end. All of it is hard. But, at some point you either make peace with your situation or you live in a state of conflict. This can be a long, arduous and painful process, but complaining doesn’t resolve anything it only keeps the hurt alive and leaves you angry and bitter. You are so much better than that! Take action, be an adult and remember what momma said, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all.” Keeping the strife going  isn’t healthy and keeps you stuck. Also don’t get sucked into friendships with other single moms who make it their life’s mission to complain about their ex because it becomes contagious! Know when to move on.
  8. Communicate With Your Children’s Father. Communication is key and not always easy, but if you want your children to have the best life they can in this scenario then it is key. Follow the schedule, communicate about activities, and allow flexibility when it can be accommodated.  Everyone’s life will be better.
  9. Take Care of Yourself. Everything falls on your shoulders, but if you aren’t physically, mentally and emotionally healthy everything will fall apart. Ladies, take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, and rest. Your kids need you more than anything so make loving yourself a priority and you will take care of everyone else by doing so.
  10. Think Outside the Box. When I become a single mom I started seriously thinking about how I wanted my life to look. My heart wanted to be at home. So, I started looking for telecommuting positions. Most people didn’t think it would work, but 3 contracts in and 3 years later it is working. Working at home has posed its own challenges, but I’m happier and I’m content with my lifestyle. Create the life you want and don’t allow anyone to discourage you on the journey. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try new ways that work for you.

Well, there are my tips! I hope you groove your way through this journey and find the rhythm that makes your life work for you!

Are We So Busy That We Are Starting to Feel ‘Stuck’ With Our Kids?

Take time to slow down

Take time to slow down

The lazy days of summer are right around the corner and I for one can’t wait! I’m looking forward to a relaxing summer with a lot of white space and unstructured fun. But, summer is a source of stress for a lot of moms. Yesterday, I was listening to the radio and the topic was about over scheduling kids especially in the summer. One mom called and said that basically you have to find a camp for your kids attend or otherwise you’re stuck with them. That word, ‘stuck,’ really hit me hard. Is this how a lot of parents feel? Don’t get me wrong I totally understand why parents have to send their kids to camp. We work! But, stuck? This made me feel so sad because I think too often kids are treated as an inconvenience. Listen, I get it we all need a break, but when did we start feeling stuck with our kids?

I’m sure that mom on the radio is probably a great mom who does everything she can for her kids and I never want to judge another mom. We all have our own shoes to walk in and issues to contend with, but it makes me wonder if our lives have become so full, so busy, so chaotic, so stressful that sometimes our kids just seem like another item on our to do list. It made me think about how important it is to prioritize our life. What matters? What are we putting first? Are we moving too fast? Because of the go go go lifestyle are our kids becoming an inconvenience? Are we feeling stuck with the most precious gift we could be given? Are we allowing the busyness of life and the need to work hard to give them everything actually rob us the real treasure in being a mom?

I think that is why being intentional about our priorities and slowing down is so important. When we think we are stuck with our kids we miss out on the fun, the laughs, the conversations, and just being present and simply appreciating the moment. Are we so caught up in doing that we are neglecting the very thing that needs our attention most? Our relationship with our children is one of the most meaningful relationships we’ll ever experience and these days that we have with them in our household are crucial to building and solidifying that relationship. Nothing is worth sacrificing this relationship. Recently, my cousin’s son graduated and I remember being at her baby shower! Time is fleeting and sooner rather than later we will be wishing we were ‘stuck,’ with our kids. Being a mom can feel like a job, but sometimes we cross the line between motherhood as a job instead of remembering it is a gift that comes with its stresses, but also comes with great rewards, we just have to try to slow down a bit and receive them.

 

My Beautiful Messy Mother’s Day

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day! Mine was great, well it was until a little stomach virus decided to rear its ugly head, but I’m getting ahead of myself. So, last minute I booked a room at the Country Inn for Anya and I in Berkeley Springs, WV. It is a darling little town that we love visiting so what better place to celebrate. We woke up Saturday, jumped in the car and had a fun road trip into WV. You’ll see through the pictures we had  a great time. We browsed through our favorite antique stores, had delicious burgers for lunch, ate ice cream, played a good old fashion board game in the cutest courtyard and then went to a quaint movie theater where I got 2 tickets, popcorn, 2 candy bars, Twizzlers and 2 drinks for under $20.00! Yes, I need to relocate immediately.

Then… Anya got sick. She said her stomach started hurting in the movie and then she got sick for the whole night. Basically, every hour I was up wiping her face down with a cool cloth and praying she’d feel better. Then Sunday came… it was Mother’s Day! My parents were planning on meeting us for brunch, but there was no way that was going to happen with Anya still feeling  so sick. Now some may say this was a wash, but here’s what I think…

As I knelt near the toilet holding her hair back and feeling a bit guilty (was it all the treats?) I was reminded that this is Mother’s work. Caring, nurturing, loving, comforting, sleepless nights, wiping up vomit all of it is Mother’s work and I’m so blessed to be able to do this work every day in good times and bad or in sickness and health it is all beautiful even the really messy parts. Especially the messy parts because we are reminded of the absolute pure unconditional  love we have for this child we carried for 9 months and will carry for the rest of our lives. At one point I began reading the Bible to her until she fell asleep and I felt overcome with gratitude and love for this sweet human being breathing next to me. As I wiped her face with a cool cloth throughout the night, I thought she is absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing about my Mother’s Day, well of course I hated to see Anya suffer, but what I’m saying is I got to be a mom in all it’s beauty and all its messiness. I drove home under the sun while Anya slept in the backseat and counted my blessings. We got home, hopped in bed, watched half a movie and drifted off to sleep. So there’s my messy beautiful Mother’s Day in a nutshell! Hope you enjoyed your day even if it wasn’t picture perfect!

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When You Realize You Aren’t Doing Everything Wrong As A Mom

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“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” is what Proverbs 22:6 tell us. I don’t know about you, but this isn’t always an easy scripture to follow. especially since I often feel like I’m still training myself! But, I do try. I try to raise my daughter to love God, others and herself. I’m trying my best to be intentional about leaving an imprint on Anya’s heart that  encourages her to read the scriptures, to apply them, to pray in all circumstances, to do what is right even when it isn’t popular, and to accept the grace and forgiveness that Jesus so freely has given her at the ultimate price. Do I think I’m doing a good job? Well, sometimes. But, I know that there are days that I just blow it! Days when I’m not a good example and my own attitude doesn’t reflect Christ. Those days I think to myself, ‘how is she going to listen to me when I just did the opposite of what I’m trying to teach her!” For example today I was annoyed because of her hesitation to do what I asked. I raised my voice and basically told her she needed to be more responsible. I didn’t handle it well. She did do what I asked and took the dog out. Then I heard her come back in and walk back out. I looked out the window and there was Anya sitting in a chair she dragged towards our steps reading the Bible.

Then my heart was full of gratitude. Once again God answered me. See, I had just been thinking that maybe I was failing, maybe I was too lax with her and all those other parenting self doubt bubbles that enter into our head when we’re feeling insecure about our parenting skills. But, at that moment I felt God saying to me in my heart, ‘you are teaching her about what matter most…me. ‘ It makes my heart swell with joy to witness how she is learning to nurture herself with God’s word. I give all the glory to God, because I know it is Him who is working in her heart. After awhile she came inside and showed me the scripture she was reading. We talked and cuddled for a long time.  I am not a perfect mom, I fall far from the mark, but every once in awhile I see the fruits of what I’m  trying to do and all the imperfect moments don’t mean so much. This was one of those moments.

I Thought I’d Lose Myself Being a Mom and Instead I Found Myself… Thank You Anya

I’ve been a little nostalgic and emotional this past week because Anya will turn 10 next Tuesday! I’m blown away and humbled by the degree to which my life has changed in the last 10 years! I was a totally different person pre- Anya one that seems so distant and almost non-existent. The old me was  scattered, always searching, reckless and never genuinely content. I always thought there was more. More places to see, more fun to have, more more more. When in actuality I always felt like I was lacking even at the height of all the ‘fun’ I thought I was having in the midst of my adventures. After Anya arrived  my heart was split wide open, it was as though I was led into this new secret  world that was starkly different from the one I had been living in for so many years. This world was more colorful more alive and in some ways scarier. It was a world that forced me to feel everything, to be present and braver than I ever thought possible.

I credit Anya for not only redirecting my focus, but  for in some way turning me back towards God. I never wanted her to fill the void that I was always so desperate to fill.  My deepest desire was to give her the life she deserved and for that to happen I needed to be whole. In the depth of my heart I always knew and that wholeness could only come from God. So my journey began and it has been amazing and surprising in the best and most difficult kind of way.  It’s interesting what your children extract from you that you had no idea existed. Through Anya my creativity was awakened, I discovered how strong, courageous and capable I am and she taught me how deeply I could love another human being. Anya woke up the warrior in me that laid dormant for so long. I learned to fight for us and most of all for Anya. Life really started 10 years ago on Valentine’s Day when I entered into the hospital to give birth to this magical, magnificent little person. The moment she took her first breath my life was forever altered in the most incredible and permanent way.

I’m so overwhelmingly grateful for my daughter who turned my world upside down and  made me discover who I was…the authentic me. Last night she told me last-minute she was having a party at school, so while she was finishing up her homework I created Valentine cards for her class.  I had to chuckle at how I am such a MOM! There I was holding the hot glue in one hand while I’m leaning over supervising her homework with craft supplies spread out everywhere. LOL! I never imagined I would love being a mom as much as I do. I’d be lying if I said it was perfect! Motherhood has also broke me many of times. There are days I want to lie in the middle of the floor kicking, screaming and crying (and in private I have!), but nothing compares to this kind of love on earth. In my single self-centered days I was always hesitant about being a mom because I thought  I would lose myself, little did I know I would find myself. So, thank you Anya for loving me unconditionally and making me want to be my best self.  You will always be my favorite Valentine and my life is infinitely better because of you my sweet and precious girl!Happy 10th Birthday I can’t wait to see what the years bring to you!

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