Coming soon…like tomorrow

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Okay y’all…we’re a little excited around here. I’m about to show you something I’ve been working on this since last October (no, not the book…but wouldn’t that be exciting news?).

In August I tried to find a designer to help me freshen up the ole blog. Well, I met Annie (from Be Small Studios …creator of gorgeous watercolors…) at the Allume Conference last October. When I dug a little further I discovered her husband, Ted, designed blogs (Contemplate Design). When I dug even further I discovered he had designed two of my favorite bloggers’ sites (www.aholyexperience.com & www.lisajobaker.com).

I loved how Ann’s site fit perfectly with her purpose (highlighting her photography, resources & content) & how Lisa-Jo’s site fit perfectly with her purpose (community focused & mommy friendly). So I reached out to Annie & she set up a Skype chat for Ted & I.

This is the fun “God part”…

Before our chat, Ted sent me an email…”I’m looking forward to discussing the focus of your site. I’ve actually met you before. I went to Taylor University and lived on your brother wing.” (each wing/floor of the dorms had a matching brother/sister wing/floor).

Cool, huh?

Once I saw his face on Skype I immediately knew who he was.

ted.barnett

The crazy part is I wouldn’t have known Ted if I hadn’t had taken a big step of faith back in college. You see I wanted to become the vice president of our class. But my hall director had a different idea. She thought I should pray about being a RA (Residence Assistant). But In order to be an RA that year I would have to move to a different floor…which at a small school is like switching sororities half-way through college.

I listened. I prayed. When I prayed I felt God nudging me to trust Him. Even though it would mean not living with friends. And even if I didn’t know any of the girls on the new floor.

It was one of the BEST decisions I have ever made. God brought 10 new freshman that year to my wing. These girls bonded quickly, were full of life & we had a blast!

You know what? Of all my college friends I am closest to this group of girls.

So when Ted said he’d met me before…he was on my brother wing…the year I was an RA…I thought, “Of course, because that was God’s decision & He knew back in 1997 where I would be in 2013. He makes our paths straight.”

Since that first Skype chat in October Ted and I have been discussing the vision & purpose of GodCenteredMom.com. He has done a fabulous job creating exactly what I wanted.

It’s a mixture of my fun side/my serious side/my mommy side. I hope you can find encouragement for those hard mommy days & resources to help you know God more. 

So come back tomorrow and you’ll see a whole new wide-open space with room to breathe & connect & spur one another on to good works!

(group hug)

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How a Change in Tense Changes Choices

Y’all there are so many thoughts spinning in my head and I’m having the hardest time getting them to come out “perfectly”. So I’m throwing off perfection and gonna do the next right thing…which is tell you what God is telling me.

Last New Years when bloggers wrote about their “one word” for 2012 I scoffed and sarcastically claimed “survival” as my word. At a time when everyone made fun plans for the year and talked about their trips and projects and God-dreams, I knew my year held one major life-altering event…a baby.

Given my wuh-wuh, Debbie-downer state of being last New Year’s Eve, I decided to celebrate for reals this year. There would be laughter and smiles and excitement. Since my parents were in Dallas for the holidays (thank you Lord) Bruce & I headed out of the house for a fun night on the town…downtown, in fact.

NewyearseveDuring uninterrupted dinner conversation I shared my excitement about saying “adios” to 2012 and welcoming a new year. My optimistic husband’s glass is not only half-full, it’s overflowing. So he responded with, “What was wrong with 2012? I thought we had a wonderful year. We had Knox & made so many great memories.”

There wasn’t much of a pause before I made sure to burst his happy bubble. “Are you kidding me? This year landed me in therapy? Our house was broken into. I spent 2 weeks on crutches with a newborn. My grandmother died. It was NOT my favorite year…”

Crickets.

Remembering this was my night of laughter and smiles and excitement, I attempted to recover from my rant with, “But I’m really excited for 2013. Some people even pick a word for their year, instead of making lots of resolutions they won’t keep. In fact, a book just released called, “My One Word”. I went to their website, read the info, and decided on a word. What word would you pick?

I don’t know why I ask these questions of my husband. He needs time to process the answers to questions like, “What kind of adults do you want our sons to become?” and “If you could live in any country where would you live?” Yet I still ask him and get the same answer, “I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.”

It may seem silly to think a word can change the coarse of a year. But in the two weeks since I’ve picked my word, the word has come to my mind at least 10x a day. My focus on it actually affected making time to write this post.

So, what’s my word? (drumroll please…)

“Present”.

Not the noun, but the verb. As in ,”to be present”.

But also like the tense, not living in the past or over-planning for the future…but focusing on the present time.

ChrispicNewyears

Here are some of the scenarios which prompted me to pick this word:

  • When Watts wants my attention and says “Mommy” four times before I look up from my phone. Then when I do respond, it’s with an annoyed, “What?”.
  • When I’ve been given the opportunity to write for 3 hours and I’ve spent about 30 minutes writing and 2 1/2 hours on social media.
  • When my brain is thinking about all the things I want to write about and I don’t hear Price telling me about his newest invention idea.
  • When I take the effort to wake up early to spend time with God but end up spending more time thinking about what Scripture I could tweet.

I desire for this to be a year in which I attempt to be fully present.  With my family. With my friends. With God…

“Breaks in the day used to be small windows of replenishment for body & soul-like driving in a car, going for a walk, having lunch with a friend-are now filled with noise, interruption and multitasking…No wonder we feel disconnected from God; we are rarely able to give him our full attention in solitude and silence.

-Ruth Haley Barton

Monks left the “world” to pursue His presence. My goal is to be in the world but not of it. To make space in this place to see Him. To choose His ways over mine. To stop checking what everyone else is doing and pay attention to what He is doing in my moments.

I love to check Twitter and Facebook and to escape the crazy waves of my life. But I was made for my life. I want to live it. So I’m going to make the hard choices to be present in my life.

My prayer,

O God, give me moments when I am fully present to you and to others in love.  Moments when I am connected with what is purest and most authentic within me and able to respond to your presence in that place.” (Ruth Haley Barton)

Did you pick a word for the year? I’d love to hear what you chose (if you are reading from your email, click here to share).

The only way to write a book on humility {part 1}

Most writers have big plans to write books. I struggle to even call myself a writer. If you asked me about my “dreams” I would talk about women’s ministry or speaking. But God has a different plan.

God decided I should write a book.

I’m just coming to grips with His idea. This post should have been written 6 months ago. But back then I thought keeping the news secret was the humble thing to do.

Now I realize it was actually my pride keeping the news amongst a select few. I didn’t want to tell you about writing a book, because what if a book was never published. Then I would have to write a follow-up post: “Nevermind. God didn’t really want to me to write a book.”

But you know what? At Allume I was smacked over the head with truth: the calling to write a book has nothing to do with me. Yes, I have to physically type out the words. But it is 100% God’s message. He has orchestrated details in ways I never imagined (just wait…you will see what I mean). It’s my job to follow where He is working. Stop sitting around. I’m failing by not following. 

So here’s the story of how God decided I should write a book.

The Message…

In the Spring of 2011, while sharing my humbling journey of motherhood to my local MOPS group, God gave me the “God-centered” message of this blog. For the past year or so I’ve chronicled that journey here. Little did I know when I started “God-centered mom” how much further I would be humbled. This message of “replacing me with He” was never mine. It has always been God’s repeated voice in my head to share with others.

The agent…

This past April (2012), we unloaded all the boys from the car after a Sunday night Yancy Nancy concert at church. Given the “later than normal” bedtime, there were tears and gnashing of teeth, from both me & the kids. To escape from the crazy, I pulled out my iPhone to check my email (it’s a sickness I’m working on).

Typically opening my inbox on a Sunday night I’d find maybe an email from Gap offering 30% today “only” (an email I get every other day). Usually there is nothing important or interesting waiting for me, despite my frequent, obsessive checking.

But that night I found an email from an unknown address. I opened it to see these words:

Heather, I am Ann Voskamp’s literary agent, along with others of course, but I see you list her book as a favorite so I thought I would name drop. 🙂 Have you ever thought about book publishing? If so would you like to talk about how it all works? Grace and peace, Bill

Wouldn’t you know my first thought was skepticism? It must be spam. Then, instead of googling: “Who is Ann Voskamp’s literary agent?”.  I sent Ann a direct message on Twitter. Seriously. In my shocked state I simply said, “I know your life is full. Just got an email from a Bill Jensen. Is he your agent? Any information you have I would greatly appreciate.”

Within 20 minutes I received a personal email from Ann. She shared how Bill was in fact her agent, how he was amazing to work with, how he lives gospel, and how he views it as his ministry to help Christians publish the message God has given them. My favorite line (which in only Ann could write): “I am smiling, beautiful friend…God goes before you.”

Then I just sat in silence. Instead of joy, gratitude, and honor, I felt a mixture of shock, disbelief, and fear. I began to project myself as a book author. A pit in my stomach began to form because I had a two-month old baby. Everyone knows moms of newborns don’t write books.

The next day I shared the news with a close friend. Asked for her thoughts on what I should do. She brought be back down to earth. She reminded me how Bill wasn’t asking me to write a book, he just asked if I had questions about publishing. She gave me the wise advice to do “the next right thing.”

The next right thing was to schedule a time to talk with Bill. In classic, new-mom-mush-brain, I arranged our first phone call during the baby’s 2 month doctor’s appointment. But Bill was gracious and we scheduled for another time. While the boys were at school and the baby slept, he and I exchanged our stories and became acquainted.

He told me he loved how God-centered my writing was. He also said he never would have contacted me if he knew I had a newborn, because that is, “cruel and unusual punishment”. Reflecting back, I trust God was present even in this. It wasn’t me who impressed Bill, it was God. Like Ann said, “God goes before me…”

After our conversation the next right thing was to speak again. In that conversation Bill extended me a contract. And I signed it. But again in my publication ignorance I just filled in my name online and emailed it back to him. (forehead slap). Again Bill was gracious. (I took this picture with the hard copy I finally mailed in…unsure if anyone else would ever see it).

Just as he promised, Bill sent me sample book proposals. The next right thing was to study the proposals and begin to write my own.  However, the week after signing the contract to work with an agent towards a book on humility in mothering…I broke my foot. That event launched me into the most humbling season of my life.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good & what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

To be continued

“the only way to write a book on humility {part 2}–click here

10 truths…no lie {Allume Conference 2012}

It’s been a year since I wrote “10 things my roomie should know”. In a few weeks I will be boarding a plane and heading back to Harrisburg, PA for the amazing Allume conference (last year it was called “Relevant”). Side note: God knows I REALLY need this. I can’t wait to see how He surprises me with His love. 

Allume: I'm Going!

Last year I barely knew my roommates…not true this year. I will be sharing a room with 3 awesome ladies who I know “in real life” and online. Let me introduce them:

  • Stefanie writes UpLifting Words and was one of my roommates last year. She and Kristin (see below) worked with me on the DFW blogging conference, Mamas Write
  • Kristin shares the Beautiful Deep and comforts moms who lost a baby with her book, Empty Hands and Hopeful Hearts.
  • I met Kristi Griem last year in the Atlanta airport and the next day she and I shared my makeup. She inspires me through her work helping free trade artisans market and sell their products (like Freeset).

Do you ever play the game “Two truths and a lie”? Basically, you share two things that are true about you and one lie. Then everyone guesses which of the three was the lie. Of course to “win” you need to figure out which two things were true (but outlandish) and which was a somewhat believable lie.

Since I already know my roommates to some level, I thought I would share some of my outlandish 😉 truths and take their knowledge of me to a new level. As a reader of God Centered Mom, these 10 truths may be news to you as well.

  1. I’m not a team player. The only “team” I successfully participated in was “Synchronized Swimming”…that’s really a bunch of synchronized individuals.
  2. From 3rd grade through 8th grade I was homeschooled. (And ‘no’ I never participated in a spelling bee, if you were wondering).
  3. My freshman year of high school, I had a huge brown mole removed from my chin. Had always felt like a witch…I don’t miss it (the mole or the feeling).
  4. My sister is 16 years older and my brother is 11 years older than me…with the same mom & dad. (also have a little brother… 2 years younger than me).
  5. My best friend and I played with Barbies…in middle school…while making song requests on the classical radio station. (refer to #2).
  6. My dad ran for U.S. Congress, State Senate, U.S. Senate, and Governor. Like Abe Lincoln, he did not win those political races…perhaps he should have run for President?
  7. I called out Bingo numbers at a nursing home when I was in 8th grade.
  8. In 5th grade I called a boy asking him to “go with me”. He said “no”. But do you blame him? (see #2, #5, #7).
  9. I wrote about my “calling a boy” story and entered it in a Brio magazine contest. I didn’t win, but a picture of me with my brother was included (it was the issue with Candace Cameron on the front).
  10. There were many, many piano recitals in which my nose suddenly started bleeding…haven’t had a nose bleed in awhile (but keep the tissues handy!).

In case you didn’t click over to last year’s post here is a quick synopsis:

  • sleep with a blankie,
  • often forget to take out my contacts before bed,
  • can carry a lot of stuff w/out concern,
  • don’t like to “miss” any fun/party/conversation (aka extrovert)
  • take lots of notes (overachiever)
  • like to talk a lot (external processor)
  • get silly when I’m not with my kids
  • forget to take pics of myself at conferences
  • am NOT pregnant this year (but will be missing my sweet baby Knox…pray for my hubby home with all 4 boys!).

Told ya no lies in the bunch. What outlandish “truth” would you use in the game “2 truths & a lie”?

the one thing I can’t live without. seriously.

I’ve told you how awesome it is. I’ve told you how out-of-sync I feel when I DON’T do it.

Today I’m sharing how I truly cannot live (the way I want to live) without morning time with God. Since January of 2011 (for 1 1/2 years), I’ve risen early, headed to my leather chair and spent time in worship and His Word. Not because I’m “holier” than you are. Or God loves me more. Or I’m more disciplined. Nope. I do it because I desperately need to.

HelloMornings

It’s a Christian cliché–‘morning devotions’. If you grew up in the church you may roll your eyes or even feel a tinge of guilt when those words (‘morning  devotions’) are uttered. I imagine you saying, “I know, I know. I’m supposed to wake up and pray and read my Bible. But I love sleep. I have 72 young children. I am exhausted all. the. time. I just can’t wake up early. Stop making me feel bad about it. Alright?”

My response is, “That may work for you. But I’ve found I HAVE to get up early. If I don’t my whole life suffers. It is NOT worth those extra 40 minutes of sleep.”

The past couple weeks I have stayed up uber-late watching Olympics, taking care of ministry needs and following Jon Acuff and Jen Hatmaker on Twitter (really important things). When I stay up late the last thing I want to do is get up early (oh and sometimes I have a baby who wants to eat in the middle of the night). 

I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Just a few days of sleeping in. But then it became a habit…the wrong kind of habit.

I left myself open for lies because I wasn’t daily filling with Truth. My cup emptied quickly because I hadn’t filled up with the Living Water. Every where I turned someone else needed a piece of me, but there weren’t even scraps to offer. I cracked. In the drive-thru line of Bubbas after church, I lost it. Like for reals.

When my boys kept asking, “Why are you crying mommy?” I finally responded, “I’m sad.” Then their question, “Why are you sad?” made me stop my mommy tantrum and think.

Why am I sad. What is sooooo important to make me this sad? I realized it wasn’t really an event or problem that “made” me sad. It wasn’t earth shattering life events. It was just normal life. The true problem was how I was reacting to it. I wasn’t handling life well because I was trying to handle it by myself.

I hadn’t been resting in His all-sufficient, mighty hands. I hadn’t been sitting in His presence. I hadn’t seen myself through His eyes, but found my value in how others see me. I had made the temporary important and neglected the eternal.

Realizing how desperately dependent I am on my time with God I’ve made a commitment to my husband, and asked friends for prayer, to rise early. And in that time I will spend more face-to-face time with the One True God, not distracted by social media.

Fortunately my official accountability starts up again August 20th with the fall HelloMornings challenge. Like I’ve told you 20 billion times before Kat Lee changed my life for the better with her Maximize Your Mornings eBook (go read it).

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

If you have less than 72 children, you feel out-of-control, you need some structure, you feel pulled in 42,000 different directions, then join me in “waking up for your children, not to your children” (Kat Lee) and spending time in His Word. I’ll be checking in using the #hellomornings hashtag on Twitter. If you click on this link–> Fall HelloMornings Challenge, you can sign up for a group in your time zone either on Twitter or Facebook.

What’s keeping you from waking up early to “Meet with Him”? Share in the comments section if you’ve joined over 2,600 women in this Hellomornings Challenge.

*There was a LOT of hyperbole in this post, but that last number (2,600) wasn’t made up. Isn’t God awesome? Will you say a prayer right now for those leading this challenge and the Accountability Captains guiding women? One thing Satan doesn’t want is for 2,600 women to be reading God’s Word every morning and using His Strength to love & guide their families. Thanks.

I’m a mom AND a Marketer

One reason I love PBS kids over Nick Jr (or Hub or whatever other cable network offers Danger Rangers or Animal Mechanicals…) is the lack of commercials. But my boys LOVE the commercials and are 100% sold by every marketing pitch thrown their way.

The other day I was told by my eldest son we had to buy this “thing” which makes my computer “boom” because it’s just not loud enough. “I just can’t hear it sometimes mom and we need it to go ‘boom’.” Um, excuse me, what?

Another time I laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of pillow pet hats commercials.  I asked the boys, “What if aliens landed on our planet right now and turned on the TV to learn how earthlings live and saw this commercial? How silly would we look wearing stuffed animals on our heads?”

They responded with, “You can get Pillow Pet slippers too!” Great. Head to toe wacky-wastes-of-money. Yet, in full-disclosure, I totally just bought two Pillow Pet Dream Lites because the one thing our home was missing were stuffed animals who light up the ceiling  (uh huh, I admit I succumbed to the marketing genius).

Recently I was thinking about my marketing as a mom. What if an alien landed and read through “God Centered Mom” posts? What would they think about my boys? How have I marketed them? In being vulnerable about my frustrations regarding being a mom of 4 boys, I often haven’t shared all the wonderful things about my boys.

My mother-in-law once told me, “You are the marketer for your family. People only know what you tell them.”

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

So far on this blog I’ve been honest and shared a lot of the struggles (mainly my personal struggle with pride, contentment, joy) and some frustrations with challenging behavior. When I posted my few favorite Fridays you got a glimpse at how cute and talented my boys are. In general I find myself being more critical than complimentary. I thought this post would be a good opportunity to not only share what makes my boys great but to finally give them names.

Introducing…my amazing boys:

QUADE

  • My oldest son who is kind to and patient with his little brothers.
  • He is our “cruise director”, setting up and managing activities.
  • He enjoys life, and is frequently heard laughing out loud.
  • He is constantly creating, building, designing (wants to be an inventor).
  • He has a wonderful memory and helps me remember where the car was parked.

PRICE

  • Quade’s sidekick & “forever friend”
  • He is extremely friendly and comfortable in most situations.
  • He has a sweet spirit and jumps to help before being asked.
  • He enjoys figuring out how things work…even if that means breaking it apart.
  • He loves music and enjoys sharing it with others (just like his dad).

WATTS

  • He creates elaborate play schemes in the playroom for hours.
  • He enjoys looking at books and being read to.
  • He is a cuddly guy and always goes in for the hug.
  • He is pretty witty and hilarious for an almost 3 yr old.
  • He loves “Amazing Grace” and “Joy to the World” (melts my heart when he sings them!).

KNOX

  • He is a super happy guy (adios Colic!).
  • He loves tummy time and spends lots of time just chillin’.
  • He laughs out loud when his brothers entertain him or I hold him while doing lunges (1st happens more than the 2nd).
  • He is a great sleeper and not because of anything on my part…did the same thing I did with the other boys.
  • Can’t wait to learn more about his sweet personality.

There they are! My little men. They earnestly love each other. The 3 oldest are all sharing a room and it is so fun. Our home may be chaotic, but when it’s just our little family we have a super fun time.

How’s that for marketing, Mr. Alien?

How can you market your family today? 

**Addendum: I understand we still need to be real about the frustrations we face when parenting challenging children. However, I tend towards sharing the negative more than focusing on the positive. My goal in this single post is to help encourage myself to focus on the positive and allow my boys to hear me telling others about the positive. Even last night I heard myself telling a mom about how Watts used to be easy and now he’s the “hard one”. But I didn’t need to tell her that…it was obvious. He didn’t need to hear me describe him that way. Just something to think about…

One Year of God Centered Mom {a vlog & a giveaway!}

1 year.

220 posts.

1,337 comments.

48,232 page views.

1 mom about to have her 4th boy who contacted me thru this blog.

Talking face-to-face for 3 hours about God-centered mothering while sipping Starbucks…PRICELESS!

One year ago I started God Centered Mom based on a calling. A calling I received after speaking at our church’s MOPs group. Born from a desire to share my journey of humility and encourage other moms. A perfect ministry for me in this season.

Not only has writing been a calling & ministry, blogging has been my therapy. Helping me process the mundane and the extraordinary of the past year.

Shortly after launching God Centered Mom I discovered I was “miraculously” pregnant. Then dealt with the reality I would once again not have a daughter.

This year I’ve been robbed and I’ve broken my foot (both firsts for me). All of these events added to the daily lessons of seeing God in it all. To trust Him. Not just with words. To truly TRUST He has my life in His hands and I don’t have to worry.

First Vlog…

Had my cute, little helper make my first vlog. If I look tired…I was/am. (Note Knox’s reaction to my mention of a 2nd blogoversary.)

The Next Steps…

1. No more Few Favorites Friday

Looking forward to this next year of God Centered Mom I’ve decided to stop doing my “Few Favorites Friday” posts. Even though I love how they allowed me to reflect on my weeks and see the blessings. In the future when I have a great activity or resource to share it will be in its own post. This will allow for easy referencing (hard to find an activity when all posts are labeled: “few favorites friday”).

2. Tuesdays with Murray (ok this title came from my husband…)

I’ve decided to share the wisdom of Andrew Murray on a weekly/semi-weekly basis. I shared a quote from him in my “Sibling Summer Survival Guide”. Here is some background on Murray:

“South African pastor and author Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was an amazingly prolific writer, writing over 240 books.”

One book he wrote, “How to Raise your Children for Christ”, contains 52 short chapters. Each chapter deals with a different area of parenting based off a portion of Scripture. He begins in Genesis and his last chapter is based off Hebrews. At the end of each chapter he has written a poignant prayer based on the parenting topic. It’s simply wonderful!

Given his depth of Scriptural knowledge and experience with his own 8 children, I am hopeful it will be a blessing to many. My goal is to read the chapter and summarize it for you here.

Last but not least…

To celebrate a year of attempting to keep God center, I would like to giveaway one of the many books influencing my efforts: “One Thousand Gifts”.

This version of “One Thousand Gifts” was signed by Ann Voskamp. She is a beautiful woman of God, inside and out. When she speaks you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and no longer see her. Her artfully crafted words have shaped my blogging experience and my God-centered mothering.

If you would like to win this autographed copy, please leave a comment below. Giveaway ends June 11, 2012.

Thank you again for a great first year!! Excited for all God will continue to do!