When Valentine’s Day Just Hurts… A word of hope for the heartbroken

When Valentine's Day Just Hurts

As I’ve been scrolling through all the Valentine’s Day posts online the past few days — the posts on marriage, the pictures of the flowers he bought for her, the details of the surprise date they went on — I can’t help but think about all of the people out there that are hurting this Valentine’s Day…

The mom of two whose husband recently walked out on her.

The gal whose heart was broken in pieces when she discovered the love of her life was cheating on her.

The husband whose wife suffered a traumatic brain injury a few years ago and has never recovered.

The wife of twenty years whose marriage is crumbling.

The single girl in her thirties who desperately longs to be married.

The woman who is in an abusive relationship and scared for her life.

The elderly man who lost his wife to cancer ten years ago and misses her more than words can express.

For many, Valentine’s Day is not a day of romantic gestures and beautiful flowers and heartfelt love notes. It’s a day of pain. A day of mourning what was lost — or what one never had in the first place. A day of sadness and loneliness. A day that dredges up old wounds and past hurts.

I don’t know all your stories or struggles or past. But I just felt today like I was supposed to write something for those of you who are hurting this Valentine’s Day. Who are feeling sad, neglected, heartbroken, and/or rejected.

Here’s what I want to tell you:

1. You Are Not a Failure

Despite how someone else has made you feel, despite what the voices in your head are telling you, you are not a failure.

You may have failed in some areas, but falling down and making mistakes does not make you a failure. It just means that you are human.

2. You Matter

You have worth. You have immense value. Do not believe the lies that others or your own head tells you that says you are worthless or are good for nothing.

Note: If you feel this way, I strongly encourage you to read Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.

3. You Have a Purpose

You have a story. You have unique life experience. You have gifts and talents.

You are the only YOU.

Own the gifts you have been given. They might seem small and insignificant. It might feel like you don’t have much to offer. But offer whatever it is you have to give.

Look for ways to make a difference and bless others. Often, it’s the seemingly small and insignificant things that make the greatest impact.

The world needs your gifts, your talent, your passions, your abilities. Be you, bravely.

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5 Frugal Ways to Show Love on Valentine’s Day

5 frugal ways to show love

Guest post by Abby Winstead Wandering

Valentine’s Day is a polarizing holiday. On one side, you have Team “every day should be a celebration of love.” Those people argue that February 14, is a “Hallmark holiday”, a day manufactured by greeting card companies and chocolate makers to boost sales. They say that, if you really love someone, you’ll spend all 365 days each year showing it.

On the other side, you have Team “Valentine’s Day is a day for you to lavish me with all the presents I didn’t get at Christmas”. That team asserts that… well, I’m not sure what their reasoning is.

I fall somewhere in the middle. In no way do I think V-Day should consist only of the obligatory exchange of gifts. I also don’t think it’s necessary to skip the day altogether. I think that, like Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day should serve as a reminder to treasure the things and people we should be grateful for every day.

For those of us who want to find a way to our love to the special people in our lives without breaking the bank or giving into the commercialization of the holiday, I have 5 ideas to help you out!

1. Write a love letter.

There are a hundred little things about my husband that I’m thankful for each day. From his patience with the kids during bath time to his enviable laundry skills, I’m constantly reminded of why I love him.

While we both say “I love you” on a daily basis, we rarely expound on the reasons why. Annual birthday and anniversary cards are about it. I know both of us would be thrilled to receive a handwritten letter from the other identifying all the reasons we’re still so happy to be a part of this marriage.

2. Do something they love.

My husband and I have divergent interests. He loves playing golf and watching futuristic TV shows, and I love spending time in the kitchen and watching cheesy dramas. Shock your spouse this year by planning a day dedicated to something he or she loves!

3. Give the gift of alone time.

I love my husband. I love our children. But from the time I was young, I’ve occasionally needed time alone to recharge. I’d guess that many parents are the same way. As much I love being with the ones I love, sometimes it’s necessary to have a break from questions and diapers and being “on”.

I never want or need much time to myself; I usually only last a few hours before I begin to miss the noise and the sloppy kisses.

This Valentine’s Day, giving the gift of alone time can be a thoughtful no-cost or low-cost gift. Consider allowing your spouse to get out and about alone, or maybe with a friend. A few hours sipping fancy coffee or browsing a favorite store might be the perfect gift. Or, if possible, take the kids out or to visit family while the other parent hangs at home, napping or catching up on a favorite show.

4. Take a walk down memory lane.

If your relationship is anything like mine, it has evolved over the years. The new and exciting affection of the early years has been replaced by a deep, steady love born out of confronting the raw realities of life together. That transition is natural and necessary.

I wouldn’t trade the lessons we’ve learned or the way we’ve grown with each other for anything, but it’s easy to get caught up in the details of day-to-day life. Sometimes it’s nice to remember the people we were when we fell in love nearly ten years ago (or more!) This February 14, dig out those old photo albums and love notes. Remind yourselves of the reasons you fell in love.

5. Prepare a special meal.

Tastes and smells have the power to take us back in time the same way sights and sounds do. Think back over the course of your relationship, particularly the beginning, and focus on the meals you enjoyed together.

What stands out in your mind? Maybe it’s the cuisine you enjoyed on your first date, or the first time he made you breakfast in bed. For dinner on Valentine’s Day, recreate that special meal in your own kitchen.

What are your favorite frugal ways to show your love?

Abby is the wife of a patient man, mom to their two baby bears, and teacher of some cool kids. She loves dark chocolate and pretty napkins; the kitchen is her happy place. She lives in Mississippi and blogs at Winstead Wandering, where she shares the wandering thoughts of one who is not lost.

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Dear Exhausted Mom of Littles… (what I wish I could go back & tell my 23-year-old self)

Dear Exhausted Mom of Littles...

In January, we celebrated my oldest daughter’s 10-year-old birthday and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned in the last 10 years. I’ve also been contemplating what I wished I could go back and tell my then 23-year-old self.

There’s so much I could say. So much I’ve learned. So much I wish I’d done differently.

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Before my first daughter was born, I went into motherhood thinking I knew a lot about parenting and caring for babies. In truth, I did have a lot more experience than many people: I’m the second of 7 children, I spent many hours and days while a teen babysitting for a number of large families of little children, and after my husband and I got married, I worked as a mother’s helper/nanny for three different families — all who had young children.

I had changed countless dirty diapers and soothed many a crying baby and child. I had helped potty-train. I had cared for sick kids. I had cleaned up throw up. I been spilled on, wet on, and spit-up on.

So I thought I was pretty well prepared and realistic. I didn’t expect motherhood be a walk in the park and fully expected that many days would be tiring and hard.

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But the day Kathrynne was born and we brought her home from the birth center, all that former confidence grew legs and walked right out of my life.

I felt so scared. What if I don’t feed her enough? What if I don’t lay her down in bed right? How do I know if something’s wrong?

I felt alone — especially since I didn’t know any other young moms in our area. Am I the only one who feels this way? Do all the other moms know instinctively what to do?

And I felt overwhelmed. Am I ever going to get in a shower again before noon? Will I always feel this tired and worn done? HOW ON EARTH DO PEOPLE HAVE TWO KIDS??

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If you’re a young mom right now, I want to tell you what I wished I could go back and tell myself when I was a brand-new mom:

1. You are not alone.

No matter how incompetent or unskilled you feel for this motherhood thing, I can promise, promise you that you are not alone. There are an army of other moms in the trenches with you. And none of us have it together.

Some of us may hide our struggles out of fear. Some of us may be more skilled in certain areas. Some of us may naturally have more energy or capacity.

But none of us have all our ducks in a neat and alphabetized row. We all have areas we fall short in. We all have times when we feel like we’re not doing a good enough job. We all have times when we struggle with “mom guilt”.

So, instead of trying to hide your struggles, be honest with those closest to you. Vulnerability breeds strong friendships like just about nothing else will.

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2. You’ve got what it takes.

I know it doesn’t feel like you’ve got what it takes. You feel scared and unqualified. You’re overwhelmed.

Your heart is walking outside your body. You worry that you’re not doing enough. You wonder if you’re seriously messing up your child.

But I’m here to tell you: you’ve got what it takes. You can do this.

You were uniquely gifted and equipped by God to be your child’s mother. God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies those whom He calls.

Cry out to Him for the strength, the grace, the patience, and the energy to carry out this calling He’s given you. He will never, never, never leave you or forsake you. And His grace is always sufficient.

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3. You won’t be this tired forever.

You’re tired of your child crying. You’re tired of waking over and over again in the night. You’re tired of doing the same things again and again.

You feel flabby and lethargic. You look in the mirror and barely recognize the woman staring back at you. You wonder if you’re ever going to be able to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans. You wonder where all your energy went.

Trust me on this: you won’t be this tired for ever. Even though it feels like you’ll be waking up every two hours for the rest of your life and propping open your eyeballs with toothpicks to make it through the day, it won’t always be like this.

So don’t stress over tomorrow or two years from now. Get as much sleep as you, accept any offers of help, do whatever it takes to get some shut-eye. And just power through, knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel — and it’s called kids who sleep through the night!

Also, please know that just because your 12-month-old doesn’t sleep through the night yet even though you’ve read all the books and tried all the tactics, you’re not a bad mom. You just have a child who struggles to sleep.

Don’t beat yourself up over it. Do the best you can, keep experimenting, and know that someday soon, your child is going to figure it out.

For now, just do what you need to do to make it through — even if not everyone thinks it’s the “right” thing. You are your child’s mother. Trust your gut.

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4. You don’t have to do it perfectly.

Really, you don’t. Just stop trying already.

I know you feel like you don’t measure up to Sallie Sue who arrives early to church every Sunday morning looking like a model with her three kids under 4 all in hand-smocked outfits and intricate braids in their hair. I get it.

Maybe that’s what gives Sallie Sue great joy and fulfillment, but take a deep breath and know that it’s completely okay to walk to the beat of a different drum. You’re not Sallie Sue. You’re YOU. Be you — and embrace what’s best for you and your family.

You don’t need to apologize for it or explain it. Just be you, bravely.

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5. You are going to work yourself out of a job.

Right now, it’s completely impossible for you to imagine not changing diapers, wiping bottoms, taking little people potty, not constantly hearing “Moooommmmy!”, not having to cut everyone’s food up, not having to buckle everyone in when you get into the car, not having to give baths, get everyone dressed, and help little people brush their teeth.

But there will come a day — and it will be sooner than you believe it will be — when you start working yourself out of a job. When those little people get a little bit bigger and they start learning how to do things for themselves.

It’s a S-L-O-W process, but looking back, it seems to happen in the blink of an eye. And all of a sudden you wake up one day and your oldest is 10 years old and she’s taking over the family’s laundry, helping with the cooking, cleaning bathrooms, and asking what else she can do to help you.

That day is coming. When it does, all these years of doing what seems like the same thing over and over again will pay off… and you’ll realize that those little people are turning into capable adults who are contributing to the family in significant ways.

In ten years from now, you’re going to look back a deeply fulfilling and happy feeling knowing that all that hard work, sleepless nights, and exhaustion was worth it.

So, as much as you might want to some days, don’t give up! The best is yet to come!

This post was inspired by my friend Beth’s post: Dear Mom in the Tunnel

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50 Shades of Frustration

50 Shades of Frustration

Those of you who know me well know that I am a person of strong passion and conviction. I am fiercely loyal, intensely focused, and highly opinionated.

If you’re a newer reader here, you’ve probably not seen this side of me as much as those who know me well have seen it. I’ve learned, from numerous mistakes, that there are many things that are better left unsaid online.

We have a very diverse group of readers here and I don’t feel like my calling is to stir up debate and controversy. Instead, I want to encourage, inspire, and challenge you to live lives of intention and purpose.

So most of my strong words and passionate beliefs are reserved for conversations with those I know best. However, every once in awhile, I just cannot hold back… and today is one of those days.

I hadn’t planned to blog about the whole 50 Shades debate. It’s long been swirling and, with the movie releasing this week, it’s escalating to epic proportions. While I believe that some debate and intense conversations can be healthy and helpful, much of the debate has seemed to be polarizing and divisive. In my (yup, strong!) opinion, conversations that only serve to create an “us” versus “them” mindset don’t foster anything worthwhile.

As a result, I’ve skipped over blog posts and Facebook posts on the subject and kept silent on the topic. We don’t need any more division in our ranks than it seems we already have.

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But after this morning, I can keep silent no longer.

You see, Silas (my 5-year-old) had finished most of his Daily List and was getting ready to watch a YouTube LeapFrog video on my phone. I’d picked one out for him, clicked on it, and then was sitting next to him fixing one of the girl’s hair while he started to watch it.

As soon as it began playing, I knew something was seriously wrong. He flipped the phone over face down and acted very surprised. I could tell that the sounds coming from the phone weren’t LeapFrog sounds at all.

I quickly took the phone away to see what it was and was AGHAST to realize that it was a 50 Shades of Grey commercial playing!!! Yes, it was playing before a kid’s educational movie clip on YouTube. For real!

To say I was upset and frustrated was an understatement. So was my husband.

I know that YouTube is not completely safe no matter how many controls we put on it. I get that. And that’s why we’re careful to keep close tabs on what our kids are watching when they do watch YouTube clips.

But seriously? Surely YouTube could at least have the decency to ban commercials for R-rated movies from kid’s channels!!

It was a stark reminder to me that no matter how careful I am as a parent, my children are going to be exposed to things that I wish they wouldn’t be exposed to. I cannot completely bubble wrap their lives from things I feel are objectionable and unhealthy for them to be filling their minds with.

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What Can We Do?

As I thought about this more over the course of the day, I realized that while it’s our job as parents to nurture our children, protect their little minds, and instill good values in them, there are ways we can take this a step further.

Instead of just being on the defensive and reacting to the bad attitudes, poor examples, and objectionable things they are exposed to, let’s become offensive and start being proactive about raising our children to be upstanding adults of strong character.

Here are 4 ways we can be on the offensive in our home:

1. We Can Provide Wholesome Role Models for Our Children

It has been well said that you become like the three people you’re closest to.

In the books we read to our kids, the media we watch as a family, the friends our children spend the most time with, and the teachers and coaches they have, we are seeking to have our children regularly rub shoulders with many wise mentors and models.

2. We Can Surround Our Children With Beauty & Purity

We want our kids to appreciate beauty and purity on a deep level, so we are encouraging them to read and listen to good books, develop a love of hymns and classical music, try their hand at drawing and painting, study historical men and women of character, and love the beauty of nature.

50 Shades of Frustration

3. We Can Fight For Our Marriage

A strong marriage takes enormous amounts of work, but it’s so worth fighting for. We’ve committed to do our best to prioritize our marriage over our kids, spend intentional time each week investing our marriage, constantly look for things to praise and express gratitude for in each other, and work hard to have honest communication between the two of us.*

4. We Can Teach Our Children to Be Critical Thinkers

We don’t want our children to blindly follow our beliefs or the beliefs of others. From the time they were little, we have asked them deep, open-ended questions on a variety of subjects (we let them answer and then we often follow up with, “Why do you believe that?”), encouraged them to question what they hear and make sure it’s valid, and to never accept anything at face value.

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How are you promoting beauty, wholesomeness, and a strong marriage in your home?

Note: This is a sensitive topic and one that could be highly controversial. By writing this post, I am not seeking to open a Pandora’s box of debate on whether or not you should read or watch 50 Shades. Because of this, comments of that nature will be deleted. Instead, I’d love to hear you chime on what you’re doing to promote beauty, wholesomeness, and a strong marriage in your own life and in the lives of your children.

*Update: Please note that section on marriage in this post was written for couples who are in healthy relationships where both parties love each other and want to work on issues together and personally. If your spouse is abusive, please, please, please don’t hide the abuse out of fear or let your spouse convince you it’s your fault. Get help immediately.

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A Day in My Life: Daily Lists, Lord of the Rings, purse clean-out, and the allergy appointment that wasn’t!

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As a family, we’ve been collectively working on going to bed early and getting up early. When we follow our plan, it’s always amazing the difference it makes! Today was such a good Monday and I think a big part of that was because we went to bed early, got a great night’s sleep, and all got up early.

I think it’s also helping a LOT that I’ve been following through with my #Choose30 Challenge to get up and exercise, shower, get dressed, and read my Bible before doing anything else. No more wearing my PJ’s at 10 a.m. in the morning!

When I get dressed in something that makes me feel great, it always helps me have an extra spring in my step and more focus and productivity.

If you’ve been feeling like you don’t have any energy and are just spending your day running around in circles, I encourage you to try getting up a little earlier, exercising and getting dressed, and making a simple plan for your day. Sometimes, something as simple as a few tweaks like that can make a world of difference!

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Meet Lillian. Kaitlynn spent a lot of time with her today and made her a collar and leash. :)

This is totally my kind of pet — no messes to clean up and no allergies to worry about (Silas and I are both really allergic to just about every animal. As a result, much to my kids’ sadness, stuffed animals have to suffice for our family in the pet department!)

After getting up early, exercising, showering, getting dressed, and reading my Bible, I spent some knocking out some blog projects, answering emails and comments, and scheduling some blog posts and social media posts.

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Then I got the kids up to eat breakfast and work on their morning chores. We are still loving the Daily Lists idea… and now that they’ve gotten into more of the routine of doing these, the kids get so much done, the house is staying so much cleaner, and everyone is happier all around. I highly recommend this idea!

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Kathrynne started reading The Lord of the Rings a few days ago and she is lapping up the first book. I wasn’t sure if it would be above her reading level, but she keeps telling me how interesting, exciting, and engaging it is.

I’m finding her with her head stuck in the book almost every extra minute she has… and I couldn’t be happier to raising such a voracious reader!

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After morning chores and breakfast were done, we sat down for Morning Time. We’re loving The Cricket in Times Square so far. It’s a fun and light read, but I think we’re all going to want to visit NYC after reading it!

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Jesse got home near the end of Morning Time (he had been at the gym, running a few errands, and in a business meeting) and brought me a Starbucks coffee — Pike Place coffee with lots of cream, just as I like it! I love that man!

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Kaitlynn was afraid Lillian might run away, so she made sure she stayed put during Morning Time. ;)

After Morning Time, I gave instructions to the kids to start working on their independent work and I gathered up my bag, coffee, and made a sack lunch before heading out for another string of allergy tests at the allergist.

Right about then, Kathrynne came to me worried and reminded me that I’d taken my meds last night and wasn’t I supposed to be off of them for the week before I did the allergy patch testing?? I completely forgot that the doctor had told me at my appointment last week. Whoops! Thankfully my kids are more on-the-ball and paying better attention than me! :)

So I called the allergist and they were so gracious to let me reschedule. Oh well, I wasn’t really looking forward to wearing patches all over my back for the next two days anyway… especially since I wasn’t going to be able to shower until they took them off on Wednesday!

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So instead of heading out the door, I hung out with Jesse for about 20 minutes and we talked about life and did some business brainstorming. And then I took 15 minutes to clean out my purse.

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I was thrilled to realize that my purse wasn’t at all as bad as I thought it would be. I’ve been trying to make a habit of always thoroughly cleaning it out when I return from a trip and it seems this habit is helping quite a bit.

I dumped everything out of my purse and here’s what was in there. I happy that there was so little trash and very few things that weren’t supposed to be in my purse!

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I also cleaned out Purse Emergency Bag. This little bag is filled with everything that I often find myself needing or wanting — lip gloss, tissues, essential oils, tampons, breath mints, Advil, hand sanitizer, lotion, and so on.

I use something from it almost every single time I go somewhere and love that when someone says, “Does anyone happen to have ____?” I often do, thanks to my Emergency Bag.

After my purse was cleaned out, I left Jesse with some instructions for the kids, told everyone goodbye, and headed out to work at our shared office space for the afternoon. I spent this afternoon getting caught up on email, working on projects, scheduling social media posts, and writing some blog posts.

And now I’m headed home for dinner, to work with Kathrynne on getting caught up on the laundry (she’s been doing most of the laundry, but I help her out when it gets a little behind like it often does over the weekend), and to hopefully do some knitting while Jesse reads aloud to us (he’s recently started reading aloud to us in the evenings and we all love it and so does he!)

How was YOUR day? Did you get any cleaning done? Tell us about it in the comments!

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We LOVE the LEGO Club Magazine (+ sign up for a FREE 2-year subscription!)

Free subscription to LEGO magazine

As I was thinking about what topic to write on for this week’s How I Saved post, I saw my kids huddled around the latest issue of LEGO Club magazine that just came in and knew I had to share about this for the few of you who don’t know about or maybe have forgotten about it.

My kids have been getting a free subscription to LEGO Club magazine for the past few years and absolutely love it. In fact, it’s one of their very, very favorite magazines to get in the mail!

Free subscription to LEGO Club magazine

There’s truly no catch to this free subscription. It’s 100% free. Of course, LEGO is smart because there’s definitely some marketing and advertising built into each issue as they talk about the new kits coming out and all things LEGO-related.

However, we’ve found that it doesn’t incite much coveting in our children and moreso encourages their creativity to build new things with the bricks and kits they already have. The contests are especially fun as they give kids specific types of LEGO creations to “invent” on their own and then enter these into the contests to win LEGO sets and more.

Free subscription to LEGO Club magazine

The magazine is filled with stories, comics, contests, creative LEGO ideas, and more. The magazine is aimed at children ages 7-12. They also have a LEGO Jr. magazine for youngsters who are 6 and under.

Every single issues is pored over by all three of our kids and is read from cover to cover more than once by Kathrynne. This magazine has resulted in hours of entertainment for all of our kids and we’ve never spent a dime on it.

If you have LEGO-lovers at your house, be sure sign them up for a free 2-year subscription to LEGO magazine here.

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