Let Us Rejoice

I’m so bothered right now.  It’s taking everything in me to fight back tears, and I feel like I’ve been in tears all week.  If I’m pregnant and that’s why I’m so sensitive, then bring it on,  but otherwise, this just sucks (I promise the title of this piece is fitting….wait for it).

So, Tuesday’s are my husband’s day off work.  I coach crossfit teens at 4:45, but other than that, I have the whole day off.  We also have the kids all day Tuesday through Wednesday afternoon, so it’s a great day for a family day.

Once I was up, I made coffee and breakfast for my husband.  I cleaned up the kitchen, made our bed, and put what was in the dryer on one more cycle.  My husband asked what plans I had today, to which I replied, only crossfit.   When I asked my husband what his plans were, he said that he needed to go to Muscatine (about a 40-minute drive) to pick up a rent payment from our renters.

He proceeded to get in the shower and get ready while I finished picking up here and there. Since it’s rainy and wet outside,  I figured I’d plan a museum trip for when my husband got back in town.  The Putnam has a CSI exhibit that I thought the boys (and us) would enjoy.  So, I started looking it up online to check prices, hours, etc.

My husband picks up his keys and says, “Ok, so do you want me to take one of the boys and leave the other with you, or just take both of them with me?”

Puzzled, I said, “Why would you take either one?  Aren’t you just going to pick up the rent?”

He winced his face a bit and said, “Well, not really.  I’ll probably have lunch with George  and visit my aunt since I haven’t seen her in a while.”

My face wrinkled up too, and I said, “Well, why didn’t you tell me?  We could have gone as a family.  I figured you’d be back in a few hours, and we could all go to the Putnam.”

He said, “Well, Becky, I don’t always tell you everything.”

…….I won’t tell you what I was thinking in my head at that moment.  I said, “Well, can you wait an hour and let me get ready, and we can all go?”

His response: “No, I need to go now.  I can’t wait.  Do you want one of the boys or do you want me to take them both?”

I said, “Well that sucks………(long pause)……….I don’t like separating the boys.  They get bored without each other.”  He said, “Fine.  I’ll take them both.”

And then he left.

You know how people say that communication is important in marriage!  TRUST THEM!  So – 1 – my feelings are hurt.  I’m alone in the house on a rainy day with nothing to do but laundry and cleaning – great.  I just can’t wait!  2 – I’m hurt because he didn’t think about me.  He thought about the boys but not me.  3 – I’m hurt because by the time he gets back home, I’ll have to go coach, then when I get home, he’ll be out with the boys (they have karate at 5:30).

My feelings are hurt, and I’m actually really ticked off.  But I also know that this is probably a blessing in disguise.  So I’m seriously at this moment, trying to talk myself into seeing the blessing.  After all, when am I EVER alone?  When do I EVER have time to do things for myself?  Not often.  So – what can I do today?  Go shopping (my shorts are bit tight from last summer).  Spend time with God (with no interruptions).  Meet up with a friend for coffee? Maybe all of the above.  Actually, I WILL  do all of the above.

Here’s what’s hard about marriage and communication.  When do you tell your husband that he’s hurt your feelings? (PS – I don’t have the answer.  This is the question I struggle with the most in my marriage). Do we always tell them when they’ve hurt our feelings? Or are there certain times you just move on and don’t say anything?  Obviously, it’s selfish to only think about my feelings.  Trust me, I see my sin in all of this, too.  I got my hopes up to do something and didn’t tell him my plans for us.  We both didn’t communicate well.  So since I’m at fault too, do I not tell him how hurt I was? This is what makes marriage hard.  If you don’t want the past to repeat itself, you’d think you need to say something, but then again, it’s not like you’re going to change your husband.  Maybe we’re supposed to let things just fall where they may.  I can be hurt for a while, but then I need to move on.  Hopefully, my husband will be more sensitive or more considerate in the future, and I will be more forthcoming with my plans.  But right this minute,  I’m tired of being on the verge of tears, so I’m just going to choose to make the best of my day alone.  Here’s to coffee, shopping, and spending time with my Father!

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24


~Becky

We Need Each Other

Philippians 2:12 says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”

Women need good girlfriends.  We do, right ladies?  What would we do without them?  It doesn’t matter who they are: mothers, sisters, aunts, or friends.  But we all definitely need our girls.  God knows this.  I think that’s why we become such kindred spirits.  The word ‘kindred’ usually refers to relatives or family while ‘spirit’ has many meanings: soul, courage, vigor, or breath.  I just love the idea of kindred spirits: friends who are like family.  Friends who bring breath into our lives along with courage.  Friends who are connected to us deeply.  Thanks L.M. Montgomery for teaching me about kindred spirits.

As women, I believe we need each other. I know I need encouragement when I’m feeling down or when I feel like I’ve failed in some way.  I need honesty and boldness and correction when I’m wrong, and there’s no better person to do this than a friend.

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Words from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” An enemy will kiss your feet and tell you what they think you need to hear, which usually gets us nowhere.  But a friend can be trusted to be honest and bold but compassionate as well.

And that’s why I feel so lucky to be a part of a great Christian community.  Whether it’s the Women At the Rock (WAR), my local church’s women’s small group that meets monthly, the small group that meets at my house most Sundays, the Bible study that Tifani has put together through this blog, or just coffee with a good friend, I feel blessed to have such a great community of women  around me.  They teach me so much.  They remind me to put all my faith in God and trust him with every desire of my heart (thanks, Tif).  They teach me about motherhood and all the little things mothers need to keep in their purses (thanks, Suzie).  They give me the honest truth even when I don’t want to hear it, and they know not to sugar-coat it (thanks, Mel).

In Mark 5:9, Jesus sent a demon out of a man and said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” To me, this speaks to our individual testimonies.  It’s the one thing that we can use to talk about Jesus that we are the expert on .  No one can challenge our personal testimonies.  Sharing testimonies gives glory to God and encouragement to all who listen.  This is what we, as women, do for each other in our small communities.  We offer a safe place for each other to share our joys, sorrows, concerns, and miracles.  We have a place to turn to share our testimonies and hear the testimonies of others, which makes our faith in the Lord stronger than ever.  I am so blessed to have such a community.  I highly encourage every reader to get involved with the women of their local church.  If you don’t have a women’s small group, be the one to get it started.  If you don’t have the time to physically be a part of a small group, find an online community to be a part of.  It’s a place for you to be encouraged, be comforted, have fellowship, tenderness, and compassion, and to be one in spirit and purpose for each other.

~Becky

Our Powerful Father-God

As a family, we definitely have our rituals, especially our nighttime rituals.  The boys brush their teeth, use the restroom, and then get themselves into bed.  Usually, Hector and I sit on the floor, and I read a bedtime story.  Then the lavalamp is turned on, the overhead light is turned off, and we pray.  Hector leads our family in prayer, and we follow along and say what he says.  Our prayer is pretty much the same thing every night.  But one night not too long ago, it was a little bit different.

You see, my stepson complains of having frequent headaches.  Our solution for his headaches has been to try to keep him hydrated.  I feel like he is always walking around the house with a bottle of water, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Well, the other night as we were finishing up our bedtime story and he was getting into bed, he complained again that his head was hurting.  Again, I got him some water and put it by his bed and tried to comfort him by telling him sleep would probably help, too.  After our nightly prayers, I witnessed my husband lay hands on his son and say, “God, please take care of Zion’s headache and heal his pain.”  Then we gave our kisses and off to bed we all went.

The next day, I was still thinking about Hector’s prayer.  I asked God what he wanted me to know, and then He showed me that Hector modeled giving God the power to heal his son’s body.  I realized that this was something that we really had never done before.  I think God was trying to remind me that while I have a tendency to try to be the healer, He’s the real healer.  He wants us to come to him with everything, and if we want our children to learn to go to Him, we have to model and show them how to go to Him.  We need to show them how to pray and what to pray for – EVERYTHING!  We do pray together at meal time, and we pray before bed, but we don’t really model giving God the power to heal our bodies.  Most of the time, I find myself praying in the car when I’m alone, so the kids don’t hear my personal prayers, and I know that the kids don’t hear Hector pray either.  So even though we, on our own, give God the power to heal our bodies, minds, and spirits, the kids don’t see it.

What’s awesome about being a parent, or even just being an adult in a child’s life, is that we have the opportunity to mold these little people into God-loving adults.  And it’s not just the talks we have with them or the life lessons we present to them.  Sometimes, just by being who God made us to be, we’re modeling a belief system that they will pick up and carry with them for the rest of their lives.  Zion watches every move I make and hears every word that comes out of my mouth.  Doesn’t it make sense, that he would pray the way I pray and ask God for the same things I ask God for?

Proverbs 22: 6 says, “Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  I want the boys to go to God for everything, just like I do.  I want them to know that God loves us so much, that he wants every second of every hour of every day in our life to be filled with joy.  And more than anything, I want them to have a personal relationship with God.  God is our healer, our best friend, and our Father!  He longs to take care of us.  We just need to let Him.


~Becky Meneses

I Have Won and I Have It All

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I’ve been waiting so patiently for Him to do what He has promised, but then I grow tired of being strong and don’t feel like I can do it anymore.

It’s in these moments- on these days- that I know God is there. Which might not make much sense, but this is when He speaks the most.

But is He really “talking” more?

Probably not. I just get to a desperate place and am listening more.

Which I believe is part of why God sometimes makes us wait- because above all my wants and desires, He is all I need. And these painful moments always remind me of that.

Lately, each day has been a choice.

A choice to see what I do have, not to focus on what I don’t.

The funniest part about that, is I’ve had all these “things” in the past, and they did not make me happy.

But now I have a husband who loves and cherishes me more than even I can understand, and who I love, respect and look up to so much in every aspect of life.

My other relationships in life are healthy, and God is in them.

I have Jesus. I have my husband. I have my family. I have my friends. I have my health.

And if that was going to be “it” for the rest of my life, I have won and I have it all.

~Tifani Gocmen

A Change of Mind

Isn’t it truly amazing how God’s word can affect us?  Understanding God’s word, or even hearing someone else’s teaching of God’s word, can make a bad day so much better.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17.  I know there are many religions that have formal ways to repent, and since I was raised Catholic, when I hear the word, I usually conjure up the image of the closet-like structures in the back of churches that have screens in them. There, I would confess my sins (that I could think of) and say some prayers. Then I understood that I would be forgiven.

Now, I think of the word “repent” differently.  I think it just means a change of mind.

When I have a bad day, I have a really hard time turning things around.  Remember that saying, “Turn that frown upside down?”  Man, do I try.  But it just doesn’t happen.  I find myself reliving scenes in my head that made me upset, or I’m in the car saying what I should have said to whomever about whatever.  Anyone else who’s around me feels the brunt of my bad mood.  And it’s only because I  stay in that mood.

I realize that I have a serious problem with this.  Why continue to stay in moments from the past that make us unhappy or frustrated?  Why take all the unlived days, hours, and even seconds pouting and whining when this time could be filled with joy?   The kingdom of heaven is at hand!  Isn’t that exciting?  I’m God’s daughter!  He loves me so much that he sacrificed his only son so that I (ME), could come to heaven to be with him FOREVER. How can I not shout that from every rooftop?  How can I not be filled with joy?  How can I not have grace with others and myself and bring joy to the world?

Now, I’ve decided that when I recognize that I’m “having a bad day,” I’m going to just change my mind about things.   After all, a moment is just that: a moment.  And by the time you’ve acknowledged the moment, it’s gone.

I’m not going to worry about what happened earlier today, yesterday, or last week. I’m going to trust God to take care of me and my worries.  That’s a promise He makes, and He always keeps his promises!  Thank you, Jesus!

~Becky 

God’s Perfect Timing

“Why do you want to have a baby?” she asked.

“Well, ” I paused for quite some time and replied, “I–”

“Don’t answer.  Just think about it,” she said.

Well, I’ve been thinking about it.  I’ve given it a LOT of thought.  Here’s why I want children:

I want to pass on a part of me (and a part of my husband) to another human being. I want to leave a legacy behind in this world. I want to expand my family and make a lineage of people. I want to love someone instantly, just because they’re from me. I want to experience self-sacrifice the way so many other mothers do. I want to love a baby and experience their growth into adulthood. I simply want to do what people have been doing since the beginning of time.

I don’t want a baby just to “have” a baby.  Actually, everything about the idea of a “baby” freaks me out.  Physically having a baby is super scary.  Diapers? Yeah, right.  I’ve changed maybe five diapers in my life.  Feeding and burping?  I’ve fed but never heard the burp. Teething?  Potty-training?  Time-outs?  Seriously, everything from age 0-4 is a mystery to me.

I know that being a mother will teach me so much that I don’t know.  I know it will be humbling. I know it will affect my marriage and our kids, but I think a child will be a blessing to my entire family.  I know it will be complicated.  Blending a family is difficult, but with God at the center of our lives, we can do all things.

Do I worry about my life changing?  Yes, absolutely. But I’m ready.

I am learning that conception isn’t always about when I’m ready.  It’s going to happen when God’s ready.  God answered Hanna’s prayer.  Sarah conceived even when she thought she was too old.  He answered Isaac’s prayer when he and Rebecca conceived.  He gave Mary a child when she least expected it.

From these women I have learned that God knows, hears, and understands the desires of our hearts.  God answered their prayers. That means he’ll answer my prayers, too.  He’s just waiting for the perfect time.

Father God, I am so thankful for all of the blessings you have provided in my life.  Help me to wait on your perfect timing and trust that because you know me, you know the desires of my heart and will bless me with a child. Help me to live and walk in every moment and not dwell in angst during this waiting period so as not to miss out on what’s happening around me right now.  Your word says not to worry about anything. I trust you, Lord! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

~ Becky Meneses

 

SHE blessed ME!

 

I have been getting to work half an hour early to give extra help to some of my students. Because of that, I now get up at 5:30, and although my mother says I was always a happy child in the morning, the adult-Becky is not a fan of getting up earlier than she has to.  My morning routine is pretty much planned down to the minute.

Well,  one fine Thursday morning at the end of that morning’s help session, a student came up to me and gave me a big Hershey Kiss and a coffee mug with Valentine’s Day hearts all over it. She said, “Mrs. Meneses, this is for you. I know you don’t like getting up in the morning, and I know you like coffee, and I just want you to know how much I appreciate your helping me become a better writer.”

Oh – my! How sweet! How thoughtful! How awesome! Her gift blessed me so much.

As I began reflecting about her blessing and her words, I became somewhat mortified that my student could tell how much I disliked mornings. I’m her teacher.  My job is to help her.  How embarrassing that my student could see past my attitude while I couldn’t see past my 5:30 wake-up call.  Regardless of my downfall or my stinky attitude, SHE blessed ME! The unexpected grace of that day will not be forgotten!

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–  not by works, so that no one can boast.

Father-God, continue to teach me and mold me into the person  you made me to be.  Help me to be more Christ-like and more giving of my time and less concerned with myself.  Use me where I am.  I trust you have put me exactly where you want me to be.  Help me face every day cheerfully and with great faith.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

{the sun will always break through the trees…}

Road trips with friends have become one of my favorite things recently. There’s something about these memories that help me see Jesus in everything.

The laughs that are shared when another embarrassing story is told, and the tears we cry along with each other when someone’s heart is broken- Jesus is there.

A couple months ago I was enjoying one of these trips, and it just so happened we had to leave really early one morning- so we were able to experience that morning’s sunrise. (And well, I appreciate these rare moments. This girl strongly feels no princess should have to wake up before 7:30).

As the girls were singing along as loud as they could to Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” I noticed God’s amazing creation.

There was a fresh layer of snow on the ground, beautiful blue sky, and the sun was the purest color of gold.

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I tend to be a baby when it comes to the sun shining in my eyes, but for whatever reason it wasn’t bothering me today. (This is a big deal, just ask my husband).

I instantly felt the presence and goodness of God. As I studied the creation before me, I had the thought that God wants us to have everything He has to offer- not just parts of it.

The trees started partially blocking the sun as we continued driving on a small town country road. It made me realize- in an analogy, of course- that we are the fresh layer of snow, the trees are whatever we tend to put before Jesus, and the sun is, well- the Son. Jesus.

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We push through life, and we try so hard to do it all right. But so often, we don’t.

But the sun is still there, and there’s absolutely nothing we can ever do to get it to stop shining.

There’s nothing we can do to get Jesus to stop loving us, and kissing our lives with his warmth and gentleness.

The sun will always break through the trees to get to us.

The trees will always be there.

The sun will always be there.

But the snow…? It melts. It snows again. (And Lord knows, we pray it doesn’t come back again). But it will.

And that’s what I love about Jesus. Even when we are not faithful, He is there.

We change as the seasons do.

Tomorrow we’ll be the tulips blooming for Spring. Then the grass turning green for Summer. Last but certainly not least- the leaves changing colors for Fall.

We constantly change. And that’s ok, because change always turns around and is used for our good if we choose it. (Romans 8:28)

But Jesus, “the Sun,” is constant.

Never changing. And is a part of every season.

Jesus, is in everything.

Even if we don’t feel him on an overcast day, or see Him because it’s night time. He’s there. He’s here.

Through every tear and every laugh. In everything.

~ Tifani Gocmen

The Cherry On Top

We are thrilled to be featured as a guest blogger for Unexpected Grace.

The QCA is a small world, so Tifani and TCOT have a few common threads- and we were so happy to finally meet her in person!

For those of you that are not family with The Cherry on Top Boutique, LLC, we are an Ecommerce Business that is based in Bettendorf, IA. TCOT Boutique is run by two fun Mommas who love to craft, create, and shop!!!

Lindsay and I have 5 (soon to be 6) kids between us, and we love the chaos of a house full of happy kids. We love to dress up (when we aren’t in yoga pants) and it is not uncommon to find us guzzling a good cup of coffee while “cry laughing” at our blooper filled lives. Life is busy but we love it that way.

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morrisfam

We started out as a small headband/head piece business and have morphed into a full Women’s Boutique. We are thrilled to be working with some of the best wholesale suppliers on the West Coast (and soon, Chicago) to bring you some of the most sought after fashion trends in Women’s Apparel. We just can’t give up our passion to create headbands and photo props, so we continue to handcraft headbands as well.

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We LOVE to host Trunk shows on a monthly basis all over the Quad City Area. We bring along our entire inventory so that our local customers can come out to see it in person before purchasing. Be sure to check out our Facebook page here for details!

We would love to offer all Unexpected Grace readers a deal!!!

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check out our shop here

Use coupon code: unexpectedgrace

for FREE SHIPPING!!!

 

 

Sincerely,

Lindsay Asta and Carly Morris
The Cherry on Top Boutique

www.Facebook.com/thecherryontopqc

 

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How do you know?

 A few nights ago, as I tucked my son in bed, his eyes began to fill with tears. When I asked him what was wrong, he looked at me as if he had done something wrong. Growing more worried I assured him he could talk to me and that everything would be ok. Nervously he looked up at me and asked, “How do you know God is real?”

“How do you know God is real?” A question from my 12-year-old son. I suppose this could be a normal question for a child to have. At this point in their lives they are questioning Santa, the Easter Bunny, and most certainly the Tooth Fairy. So it is no surprise to me that he may be putting God in the same category as these fictional characters. Yet, he asked me with tears in his eyes, a quivering mouth, and a heart that was hurting. He said to me, “I want to believe, but I don’t know how, and that scares me.”

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I was baptized and grew up in the Methodist Church. I attended Sunday school every Sunday and choir practice every Wednesday night. I played bells, was an acolyte, and was confirmed when I was in 6th grade. I was very active in my church because well, it’s what I had to do. What I was told to do. I cannot say I ever had a relationship with God, not even enough to question if He was real or not. Believing was just something I did. I think a lot of people do this. They go to church because they think it’s what they are supposed to do. They say they believe in God, yet they have never really opened themselves up to Him.

And here is my son, still such a young age, caring so deeply and passionately about a God he does not yet know.  

Now typically when our children put us on the spot with such deep questions, we, as parents, tend to stumble over our words. We search for phrases that make sense to them and to us. And if Ian would have come to me a year ago and asked me this question, I’m not sure how I would have answered him.  Yes, I prayed when I was younger, and I have always prayed with my children at bedtime. Yet it wasn’t until recently I learned how to pray with purpose and to be able to speak the words I feel and hear the words I pray.  

We have been saying the same prayer as a family, every night before bed since Ian was born….

“Dear God,

Thank You for mommies and daddies,

brothers and sisters,

grandmas and grandpas,

aunts and uncles,

cousins and friends.

Please watch over us all, protecting us, keeping us safe and healthy.

Thank You God

for blessing our family with good health, love, and happiness.

Please continue to watch over and love our baby,

and please continue to keep us safe and healthy.

We love You God.

Amen”

A few months ago I asked the kids if we could try something different. I would say the prayer each night in which we would ask God for guidance and help with issues we may be facing at school or at home. My hope was to teach the kids a sense of confidence and trust. Teaching them to pray was a way to help them talk openly with us, or God, about anything they want. Their voice became their pencil and God became their journal. God is someone they can trust and believe will always be there to listen.

What I didn’t realize that not only was I teaching my children how to pray, I was teaching myself, as well. Words did not flow very freely at first. Yet when I took time to slow down and speak from my heart, from the very pit of my stomach, I opened myself up to God.  And He answered.

“How do you know God is real?” Ian asked.

Because I feel Him,” I answered.

“I have prayed to God and I have opened myself up to Him. I have put my trust and faith in Him in hopes He can show me the way. He has offered me strength, comfort, peace, and confidence. I have prayed to Him and He has answered. I know He loves me without judgment. I do not have to be perfect in order to receive His unconditional love. And when you believe in a love that is so mighty and forgiving, it allows you to give love and receive love just as freely as God loves you.”

For now, my son, keep doing what you are doing. It’s okay to question your beliefs. They cannot be forced upon you. We all find our way one way or another. Your thoughts and feelings are mature, proving you are wise beyond your years. Your heart is tender and real. Do not be afraid. Tonight we will pray for truth. We will pray with an open heart and an open mind. And with this precious gift of prayer, I can only hope that one day, all of your questions will be answered.

As it is from you, I learned, “God is real.”

Courtney Kaffenberger