Tuesday, April 30, 2013

See You in Park City!

I was going to write up a quick blog post about Screen-Free Week, our Power of Moms podcasts, and our Park City Retreat coming up, and then I read Saren's blog and figured it would be much easier to just say "Ditto!"

We're so excited about this weekend's Retreat (my last one for awhile), and if there is any way you can attend, we would love to meet you!  The registration closes Wednesday, May 1st.

Click here for Retreat details.

As I have been getting ready for this adventure, I remembered that Macy Robison took some beautiful photos of last year's Retreat at the same location (the gorgeous home of Richard and Linda Eyre).  Enjoy the photos!  Hope to see YOU in them next time.




























Aren't those fun?  It will be a great weekend.

I'll be back to tell you all about it next week!

Much love,
April
 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Everyone Can Be the Chocolate Chip. (It's Glorious.)

I was driving in the car with some friends a few years ago, and we were talking about how much we admire an acquaintance of ours.

She seems to have it all together.  (I say "seems" because it's hard to really know what's going on in another person's life when you don't know them very well.)

But from what we can tell, she's a great mom, she dresses impeccably, her house is gorgeous, she's thoughtful and talented, and every time she does something fabulous (which is just about every day), we feel like we simply can't compare.

Sounds really petty, doesn't it?

But we weren't talking about that because we were being petty.  We were trying to figure out our places in life.  We wanted to know how we were supposed to "shine" and fulfill our unique purposes when clearly we didn't have as much to offer as this other person.

One of my friends said, "You know, I just think of humankind as a chocolate chip cookie. We each play a part in creating the whole.  Some of us are the flour, the salt, or the sugar.  And some of us are the lard.  Even though we're all important, not everyone can be the chocolate chips."

I thought about that for awhile.  I've actually thought about that for a few years.

Sometimes, when I was having a down day, I would say to myself, "I guess I'm just the lard in this humankind cookie.  It's okay if I can't be a chocolate chip."

Wow, that depressed me.

But then I heard this song called "Glorious."

It was recorded for an album produced by a church conference called "Especially For Youth." (But for those of you who aren't religious, don't worry.  It's actually a religion-neutral song that could be applied to anyone in the world.  I think that's why I like it so much.)

I'm almost embarrassed to admit how many times I've listened to this song.  I play it while I clean the kitchen.  I play it in the car over and over again--especially when I'm driving alone.  I put it on "repeat" while I'm typing up pages for Power of Moms.  It's a gentle, beautiful song that somehow reaches right into my center and helps me remember who I am and who I'm meant to be.

This morning as I was listening to it on the way home from the school drop-off, I just felt like I should share it . . . because I'm really glad that someone shared it with me.

Click here to listen.



I really hope you'll listen to the whole thing a few times so you can think about all the lyrics, but one of my favorite parts is the chorus:


It's like a symphony.
Just keep listening.
And pretty soon you'll start to figure out your part.
Everyone plays a piece, and there are melodies in each one of us.
Oh, it's glorious. 

Don't you love that part . . . about how everyone has a melody to play?  If we were to apply the cookie analogy, I think that means that every single one of us has "chocolate chips" to offer.  Sure, every moment doesn't feel fabulous and meaningful and life-changing.  But each of us has something unique to do with our time here, and every ingredient of our lives contributes to a great whole.

During my scripture study this morning, I was looking closely at the word Glorious. I like the subtopics listed in the Topical Guide.  (You can see the guide here, if you'd like.)


I clicked on the word "Glorify," and I came across this scripture: 

Thou art my servant . . . in whom I will be glorified.  -Isaiah 49:3

That's what it comes down to for me.  I'm a servant.  And my purpose is to glorify God.

He doesn't require our homes to look a certain way or for our clothes to impress anyone.  He doesn't compare us to His other children.

He sees our hearts and magnifies our weaknesses, and wherever we are in our lives, we need to remember that we were created.  By a King.  And that's glorious.

Much love,
April

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Best Birthday

I turned 35 on Friday, and it was one of the best days of my life.

 This is my birthday "wall."  Eric's mom started this tradition in his family of decorating a whole wall for the person of honor, and my children have carried it on.  It's really sweet.  (Most of these were drawn by Grace.)

It started out with Eric sending me to spend the day with my mom at the rehabilitation center.

During the one-hour drive there, I was thinking about a list of questions I had written down--things I was hoping the Lord would help me to understand.

This process of simplifying and living by my deeper yes hasn't been as smooth as I'd hoped it would be.  I am continually stretched too thin, I feel like I'm always letting people down, and I constantly feel like my efforts don't measure up to where I think they should be. 

Though I felt a sweetness during the drive and an immense feeling of support, I didn't receive any specific answers to my questions.

When I arrived at the center, I practically leaped out of the car and couldn't wait to spend time with my family.

My dad, my sister Laura, and our neighbor Barbara joined us.  Laura brought a lovely lunch, my dad brought chocolate-covered ice cream bars, and we had such a nice party there in the courtyard.  I sat next to my mom and held her hand as much as I could.  She was quiet, but happy.

This is my mom and our neighbor Barbara--who has known my family for more than 50 years.   She told me all about what a fussy baby I was and how my mother could NEVER put me down.  She's such a good friend to our family.


After lunch, Barbara and my dad had to leave, and Laura and I wheeled Mom into the lounge area.


We've been worried about Mom lately because she has been crying a lot and asking over and over again when she can go home.  

The nurses told me that she keeps trying to find the exit.  One day they found her way out in the corner of the facility by the vending machines.  Often she will sit by the emergency exit door in the opposite corner.  (One time she made the alarm go off.)

But on Friday, she was calm and happy--totally at ease.

A nurse asked me, "Has your mom always this sweet?" She said that sometimes when people get dementia, their personalities change.

I assured her that my mother was the nicest person anyone could ever meet and explained how she raised us with the most beautiful, patient love.

The nurse then told me that everyone there at the facility loves my mom.  I was glad to hear that, and as I wheeled my mom around, I could see her in action.

Whenever we passed another resident in the hallway, she would wave and smile or reach out her arm to pat him or her on the shoulder.  When a nurse helped her use the restroom, she hugged her and said, "Oh, thank you for taking care of me." 

My mom doesn't have any boundaries when it comes to showing love and concern for others.  She gives it to everyone.

Now there are two very special things about the visit that I feel I can share here. 

The first was a sweet experience I had while my mom and I were sitting in the lobby together.  Laura had gone to take the lunch tray back to the kitchen, and as I sat next to my mom with my arms wrapped around her, she started speaking very quietly--almost indistinctly.

I listened closer, and I could hear that she was giving me counsel and advice.  I soon realized that in her calm, encouraging, beautiful voice, she was answering the exact questions I had written down for the Lord that morning.

I won't record the specifics because it was too sacred, but this was one of the most precious gifts I have ever received in my entire life.

My mom has had dementia for pretty much the entire time I have been running Power of Moms.  She doesn't know how to use the Internet, and she isn't involved in my day-to-day life.  But as we sat together, and as she talked to me about my responsibilities, my choices, my struggles, my heart, my goals, and my daily work with my family and with Power of Moms, it was as though she knew everything.  I can't even think about the experience without getting choked up.  No one besides the Lord could have known what to say to me, and He chose to deliver that message through the voice of the one I needed to hear it from the most.

I hesitated to even write anything about this experience here--because some things are just so special that you don't want to put them out in front of the world.  But in this case, I feel like He wants me to share this so that if you are struggling, you will know that He is aware of you, too.  I have zero doubt in the Lord's capacity to perform miracles.  I know He loves all of His children--from every religion and background.  He knows we all make mistakes and that we struggle and that we need help.  And when we turn to Him, He has a limitless ability to supply everything we need. 

I am doing my best to remember this during the days that feel so hard.

The second thing I want to record about my experience with my mom is that they served birthday cake that day.


Once a month, the facility celebrates everyone's birthdays at the same time. (We happened to be there when it happened last month.)

I asked the nurses if they always serve cake on the 19th, and they said no, that it changes every month, but that I could find the date on the main calendar.

Then it struck me that this was a tender mercy from the Lord.  On my birthday, when I got to go spend the day with my mom--who I miss so much--He arranged for them to have cake.

Have you ever heard how "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous"?

There were a few other sweet experiences I may share later, but as I drove home, and as I went out to dinner with my husband and children that night (except for cute Ethan, who I said could go to a friend's birthday party), I felt lifted--and so grateful for this life.




Thank you so much for your friendship and your love and concern for me.  I so appreciate you.

Love,
April

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Our 2013 Las Vegas Retreat

This past weekend, I had the chance to go to our Power of Moms Retreat in Las Vegas. During one of the discussion groups, I slipped out to take this photo:


It was such a beautiful home, and I felt privileged to be there.  (Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, Dyana!)

Before I go any further, however, I need to explain that my life isn't just one happy Retreat after the next.   I do love these amazing events, and often times writing up a "Retreat Report" is what gets me to post on this blog, but 99% of the time, I'm just doing my best to keep my head above water.  (Just wanted to be clear!)

This week, in particular, I have had such a bad case of Post-Retreat Let-Down Syndrome (that was even the topic of Monday's radio show with Saren).  And with all the worry and mourning over the Boston Marathon tragedy, I haven't even had the heart to write.

But today, even though I didn't shower until 5 pm and I kind of had a meltdown in front of Alia during a stressful moment, I wanted to share a little with you about this Retreat.  It was wonderful, and I hope you can come to one soon!

On the drive there, my new friend Briana Johnson and I recorded this video together where we talked about what we were hoping to get out of the Retreat:


We had a four-hour drive, a fun morning together in Las Vegas (even got to take a nap!), and then we picked up Tiffany Sowby at the airport.  I can't tell you how glad I was to have Tiffany and Briana there with me.  They are so fun and so sincerely interested in helping other moms.  I loved our time together.

This is me and Tiffany right before the Friday night event started:



Greeting everyone is one of my favorite parts of the Retreat.  (I try not to hug anyone who looks afraid of me, but typically everyone is so nice and hugs me right back.)


New friends:



Friday night we had our "Dream Night" where we got to talk about what a privilege it is to dream--and then we had a series of discussion groups where we talked about making our dreams into reality.  I have a TON of notes from that night. Amazing, inspiring women were sharing their tips and tricks (and heartaches), and I left with a whole list of resources I need to look into.

(I didn't take many photos Friday night, but I did take a lot on Saturday, so I'll just briefly walk you through them below.)

Part of our Retreats consist of prepared presentations:



And then we break into discussion groups (which is my favorite part):






I love the power of deliberate mothers.  These women are phenomenal.

This is Jonelle Hughes.  She and Cheryl Cardall made this Retreat happen.  They took care of all the details "on the ground" and helped present, as well.  It was wonderful to meet Jonelle for the first time and see Cheryl again.

Jonelle shared this brilliant idea of a "Contentment Basket."  She fills a basket with things that really strengthen her throughout the day--like books, a creative project, an exercise DVD, and even little symbols that remind her of who she wants to be and how she wants to care for herself.  She carries this basket with her, occasionally, as she moves around the house.

We all loved that idea.


Jonelle used to be a doula, and she said that when mothers in labor would say, "I can't do this anymore.  I have to give up!"  that really meant, "I need support."

I mentioned that to Alia today, and she said, "Then Mom, can you just tell me when you need support instead of crying all the time?"  (I don't cry all the time, but I admit I should cry less . . .)


Here's our panel with Jonelle, Dyana (our hostess), Shannon Brown, and Cheryl Cardall (led by Tiffany):



And more discussions:






Cheryl's husband was kind enough to deliver the lunch (so I snapped a quick photo of the two of them together).



We extend a HUGE thank you to Marcus and Tina Stewart, who own the Great Harvest at 6475 N. Decatur Blvd. in Las Vegas.  They sponsored the lunch for our Retreat (thereby helping us keep costs down and bring more moms to the Retreat at a discounted rate), and the food was absolutely delicious!  



If you ever need a great lunch in Las Vegas, this is the place!



Dawn (center) was one of our participants who had a dream of becoming a Zumba instructor.  So during our Saturday session, she led us in a 3-minute workout.  So cute!


We all agreed that we would definitely take classes from her, if she were in our area.


We had lots more discussion time:





And I know this is a silly-looking picture, but I demonstrated how I wear my "Angry Hat" that when I am upset with my children and need them to know it isn't their fault (because sometime mom just feels "angry").  I have a whole post on that at Power of Moms.


Tiffany talked about this "Above and Beyond" list from which her children can pick extra jobs to do:


I have this dream of creating a whole series of Power of Moms t-shirts (our first one is in the works right now).  This is a little sample of a shirt I want every mom to have (but it will be much nicer and won't use an iron-on).


This is a video of some of my closing words at the Retreat (in case you'd like to see a little snippet):



For part of the Retreat, we split into groups based on ages of children.  It was great to see such in-depth conversations taking place:




We also gave everyone a little time to write down the main thoughts they wanted to take away from the day:


This is Jessee, and we're going to record a podcast together (don't forget to email me, Jessee!).  Her children are both under three, so some of the ideas we discussed will need to wait until her children are a bit older, but she said, "I don't want to wait until I'm in the middle of a crisis before I learn how to run my home and family.  I want to learn now while my children are young."  I think that is FABULOUS.


This is a photo of Tiffany, Dyana, Aleesha (Dyana's sister who flew into town to help with everything), and me.  I love these ladies.  They are truly deliberate mothers who have gone through a lot of hard things--but they care deeply about their families and they live their lives with purpose, doing whatever they can to help others.


Here's our group photo:


At the end of each Retreat, I'm always sad to say goodbye.  I do feel a bit relieved, and I am always excited to get home to my family, but there's something bittersweet about knowing you'll never be in the same room again with that exact group of women.  I just consider these Retreats a special gift.

Our May 4th Park City Retreat is the last one I am going to attend for awhile (so I can spend more time with my mom), and Tiffany is doing a Dallas Retreat May 18th.  If there's any way you can attend one of these, please do.  I know you'll love it.

Much love,
April

 
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