Four Truths About Self-Confidence

Throughout my public school education, I had gone to five different schools in three different towns. For all but one of those schools, I came into it not really knowing anyone. Yet, somehow, by the time I left the school, I had grown deep friendships which I still look back on fondly. I don’t remember ever feeling truly lonely throughout those years.

Yet, between starting college and where I am today, there was a change in how I related with people. It was no longer easy for me to create such deep friendships.

I had friends move away to different parts of the world.

I commuted from home to a state college, where I was hardly involved in anything besides my classes.

My church was small and growing smaller, and there weren’t many people my age.

My one job was a babysitter, so I had no co-workers to get along with. My other job was a math instructor at a company, and it seemed like everyone knew each other but me.

There were many times that I broke down, sometimes angry with God, that I felt so lonely in life. My husband had been with me through all of this time, but aside from him, I erroneously felt like nobody wanted me to be their friend. I felt like I wasn’t good enough.

This line of thinking showed up in other aspects of my life. Looking through my college transcripts, I realized how my grades dropped in relation to the seasons in my life and how I felt less and less like I belonged somewhere.

Things started to shape up after Joshua was born. At that point, motherhood had given me a new sense of purpose. But, still, I found myself wishing that I would belong in other parts of my life.

At the beginning of the year, I realized that all of these things stemmed from my own lack of self-confidence.

I wasn’t good enough.

Nobody wanted to be my friend.

Everyone but me has it together.

Nobody sees what I do and compliments me.

I was filled with self-pity as a result of my lack of self esteem.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized these things:

1. It comes from myself. 

For years, I had been looking for someone to validate me. I wanted someone to call me their friend so I could feel good about myself. I wanted someone to see what I had accomplished and be genuinely amazed by it. I wanted to know that I was good enough in the eyes of others.

Yet, self-confidence has nothing to do with anybody else. It begins with me.

Looking back, I realized that I did have many opportunities to get connected with others at work or school. There were skiing trips and lunches with the staff at my job (albeit, they were on Sundays during church). There were oodles (oodles?) of clubs at my school. I had even joined one for a semester. But I found it hard to go back. I saw plenty of familiar faces at school each day but did nothing to further the relationship.

These things were all out of my comfort zone.

I remember thinking “I’m a nice person. I’m a good friend. Why don’t people see that?”

I realized I had to step out of my comfort zone for the first step of confidence. If I believe that I was nice and a good friend, I had to show it, regardless of what the other person might say. Chances are, it would make them feel pretty good, anyway. 

Once I took that first step into the unknown, to be the first one to reach out to someone instead of waiting for them to guess that I’m a nice enough person to get to know, I realized how much fuller my life could be.

2. I don’t need to advertise it. 

Sure, stepping out of my comfort zone was a conscious decision. Sure, I had to choose to be confident in the person I was. But I didn’t need to read a thousand encouraging quotes on it, let alone post them all on social media within an hour.

I didn’t have to tell everybody, “oh hey guys, I’m choosing to embrace who I am, so watch out world!”

No, I simply exuded it.

I know it did because of how my relationships with others grew. There wasn’t a switch that was flipped, but I know that allowing myself to be the person I was helped for people to be able to connect with me, and it’s made a world of difference.

It was only after making that conscious decision to not be afraid to be friendly that I realized people did see me. They did compliment me. They told me things that I had wished I heard for years before that. Whether or not people saw that I was trying to be more outgoing, they saw me approachable enough to encourage me in many ways.

3. It does not mean I am not broken.

I think the biggest realization that I’ve had about self-confidence is accepting every part of me, flaws and all.

Back when Ethan was born and nursing all the time, I would scroll through Pinterest to pass time. There, I was able to easily find perfect pictures from perfect blog posts about perfect moms and their perfect schedules for their perfect kids. It crushed me.

But I had realized one day that no matter what it looked like, we are all human, and I doubt that those moms feel like they’re perfect. I know that because I felt far from perfect. I felt very broken and I knew I couldn’t be alone.

And yet, in the midst of that brokenness, I found I was able to accept the person I was. That is what made me confident. My ability to go through a (very occasional, perhaps hypothetical) day with no tantrums and with a clean house and dinner on the table by 6 makes me feel accomplished, but it doesn’t lend to my self-confidence.

4. It does not make me self-sustainable. 

If you are reading this as a self-help post, please stop. This is not a post how developing self-confidence has made me such a happy person.

The truth is, it’s still a conscious decision to step out of my comfort zone. I have flaws and I certainly don’t have it all together.

In fact, through this whole process, I have realized all the more how much I need to rely on Jesus.

For so long, I had looked to other humans and have quietly sought affirmation and validation. My first step was realizing that I didn’t need any of that to be confident.

But after I realized I did not have to be dependent on people, I was able to depend on my God.

He is the reason why I am here today. He is the reason why live where I do with the precious family I live with. He is the reason I am able to accept my flaws. He is the reason why I rejoice, because it is not my lack of self-confidence that defined me or the dirty dishes on my sink that defines me. He saw who I was in my lowest points. He died for me because somehow, when I didn’t think I was worthy enough, He knew that I was. He reminds me that no matter how I feel, we are all His creation and I should never feel less than because I am not.

As I said before, I don’t have it all figured out. I am not perfect nor do I claim to be. But God has created me for special purposes and I will not let a sense of false humility stifle me from doing my part to shine. It is because of Him that I know my validation is so far beyond what others think of me. For that, I am confident.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/eph.2.8-10.esv

 

 

 

 

 

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A Playroom Makeover For My Boys

I had the age-old issue of not feeling like there was not enough space in my home for my growing family. Downstairs, we have a decent size living room and dining room and a tiny kitchen. Upstairs, our bedroom is large, the boy’s bedroom is on the smaller side, and we have an extra [small] room that was used as an office when I was finishing up my degree.

Since I graduated, I didn’t have as much use for the office. After a year, it became more of a storehouse for things we needed to get out of the way. The door was always closed because I was afraid to face what was inside and a bit ashamed by what it looked like.

This room is tiny. I did the math and it’s approximately 70-75 square feet. And, clearly, there was a lot of stuff in the room. First off, we had the beautiful 5-ft Hemnes desk from IKEA, an 8-drawer dresser (over four feet wide) that I was in the process of refurbishing to sell before having Ethan, and another dresser by Hemnes in the little nook in the room (not pictured). This space was also not being used to its potential.

Since turning 3, Joshua has taken less and less naps. The boys share a room and Ethan is a light sleeper, so if Joshua’s not sleeping when Ethan is and they’re in the same room, Ethan almost always wake up early. I try to call it a “quiet time” but it’s hard for a 3-year-old to be that quiet and, more often than not, he wants to play with his toys downstairs in the living room. All that means I don’t get a true break from the kids, I don’t get to clean up in the way that I would like and I feel pretty spent by the time my husband gets home, like I have nothing left to give him.

So, a few weeks ago, I decided we needed a change. My plan was to take that current spare room we had and make it into a playroom/office where Joshua can stay during his quiet time. I wanted it to be a place that he never wanted to leave, a place where he felt safe and comfortable. I wanted there to be more organization, less clutter, and more open area for him.

So, we removed everything but the Hemnes furniture from the room to paint it a light blue/green color (Sunken Pool by Behr).

IMG_6625

I found out two things at this point: 1 – the Hemnes desk was way too big for the space (so I convinced my husband for us to build a new 4-ft desk). 2 – I fell in love with the paint color, which I had not previously tested, and loved how it went with the color of the chair, which I had spray painted the week before.

After the painting was finished, we went on two shopping trips over the next 24 hours to IKEA and Home Depot. To buy us more productive time, we took the boys to the pool to tire them out (thankfully, the plan worked and they slept for THREE hours!). We went back to work when they went to sleep and literally worked through the whole night. Less than 48 hours after starting, this was our final product:

IMG_6641

We built a desk using IKEA legs (which we already had) and the storage “leg” by Klimpen, which was perfect for storing the printer and some books. We also combined two 1x10s and one 1×6 from Home Depot to make our desktop. I liked the light color of the wood, so I just did a few coats of polyurethane without staining it.

We used the same wood for wall shelves and got some storage boxes from IKEA so I can hide organize a bunch of my things. They’re sturdy cardboard boxes that came at less than $5 each and they fit everything perfectly.

We got a nice high pile rug for $30 from the as-is section at IKEA. It’s so soft, I feel like I could easily fall asleep on it! I was concerned about the color at first but figured it was a good deal for an area rug in good condition, and we needed one to warm up the place and add to the sound-proofing. We used a kid’s table (also from IKEA) that we had in storage from when my niece was little. Not staining the desk meant that I didn’t have to stain or paint this table (as I had originally intended). I might still make cushions for the chairs, if I come across a good fabric one day, but for now I’m satisfied with how they look.

To display the books, we used a picture ledge (guess where from? ;)) that we had in storage from when we took it out of the boys’ room because it no longer fit. Since we kept the Hemnes dresser (which serves as storage for some of Joshua’s toys/crafts, as well as storage for my own “toys” and crafts), I like that the espresso color was tied in a bit.

We also got a hanging bar with hooks for a total of $2.99 from the kitchen section at IKEA and some pails from Target for organizing different writing/drawing tools. For coloring books and paper, I splurged on a cute organizer from Home Goods. Speaking of cute, I painted some wood letters from the craft store and put them on the wall with adhesive magnets to spell out the names of the boys. Also on this wall is my favorite art project to date: an old cork board that I redid with some spray paint, acrylic paint, and painters tape.

On the other wall, we used chalkboard paper from Amazon to cover the closet door. Once we got in a groove, it was simple to use, and an overall easy and cheap fix for a plain, unappealing door for the closet. In spite of the closet, though, we still have to utilize other space in the room to hang winter coats. To maximize space, I made the last minute decision to transform the nook into a type of cave for Joshua, complete with a mini road play rug from IKEA (a whopping $7.99). We made a “roof” from a curtain panel and added in his own little wall light for a cozy effect.

This room has easily become a favorite in the house. It’s definitely my favorite and I am proud of the work that we did to see this vision through. I love that there is a spot for everything in this room, so even when there are toys everywhere, it isn’t difficult to clean up. Ethan loves crawling on the rug in this room. Joshua is obsessed with playing with his new play-doh set in this room.

The longer I live in this small home, the more I realize how little space I need in my life for my family. In an age where bigger is often equated with better, I find myself becoming more and more satisfied with the notion of living small. After completing this room, especially, I’ve learned how just a bit of creative thinking could be used to redefine the confines of square footage.

Moreover, I’m thankful to God that I have this place to call home, that I have a space for my boys to play (both inside and out). I’m grateful for all that I have, that I could surprise my son and brighten his day. And I’m especially grateful that every day, He is teaching me to be a little more thankful.

To Become Like a Child

I was praying about what to write for today. There’s a list of things that I have on hold to share, but none of them seemed right for today. So in these times, I ask God for guidance. 

In the midst of these prayers, I heard the prayer of my 3-year-old son. 

“…Thank you for my toy, 1-2-3-7-9 toy. Thank you for napkin, thank you for tissue, thank you for baby food…”

I watched him, hands together under his chin, speaking ever so quietly, like a whisper for only God to hear, peeking out through eyes he was trying to close, looking around the dining room, finding things to be mentioned in his prayer. I almost lost it when I heard him say “thank you for my spoon.”

I watched my little boy and I tried to learn from that moment. It made my mama heart so proud to watch him WANT to pray and then make a huge thank you list of everything. As his mom and his Sunday School teacher, I often feel like I don’t set a good enough example, like I could always do more. And yet somehow, with the help of his dad and many other influences, he had learned from somewhere the values that I want him to learn. (We clearly have to work on counting, but that’s besides the point. ;))

But I learned something else. I listened to  him thank Jesus for every little thing that he saw around him — things that I so much take for granted. 

“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.18.2-3.esv

Oh, to be like a child. To not feel ashamed or silly to pray “thank you for my spoon.” Rather, to see the beauty in the small things and realize the value in having them. 

There are so many things that I am blessed to have. Often, it’s easy to focus on what I don’t have. But if I list all the things that I do have, I would find it to be a very long list. 

I want to have that mindset. I want to be grateful for the things that often get overlooked, and to genuinely express my thankfulness. I want to look at what I have and know that it’s because my God is the God who provides.

It is work to practice this line of thinking, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’ll make for a happier lifestyle. 

Yeah, I wanna be like this silly kid. 😁

Not Defined By Today

I am a mess today.

I’ve got baby food and baby throw up on my shirt. I’m wearing no makeup, though it wouldn’t matter if I was with the amount of sweat on my face. As such, the dark circles under my eyes are completely visible. My hair needs to be washed, or at least brushed. I’ve had a dull, barely noticeable headache since this morning. My temper is short. I’m exhausted. I’ve been counting down the hours until the day is done. 

Honestly, I’d take a picture as proof, but I’m not good with selfies (if you can believe it).

I’m sure you know these kinds of days. The kinds when the baby wakes up too early in the morning and hardly naps. The kind where the toddler doesn’t take a nap. The kind where you try so hard to give the kids a fun time but it feels like it only backfires. The kind where you think you’d be content with serving Oreos for dinner because you know the kids wouldn’t complain about it. 

Today was tiring and I tried to keep my cool as much as possible. But it took so little to set me off today. I lost it more times than I’d like to admit and I honestly feel ashamed for the way that I acted. 

But it’s on days like this, days when I feel overworked, underappreciated, and emotionally spent, that I am happy to know that I am still a child of God

My messy hair and clothes don’t define me. 

My moments of stress don’t define me. 

Today doesn’t define me. 

I am defined by Christ. It is His love and grace that gets me through not only the day but this life in general. It’s a sweet reminder that no matter how much I mess up, He is still faithful and good to me. 

“I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it. God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-10‬ ‭NCV‬‬

http://bible.com/105/eph.2.8-10.ncv



Now, I think I need a shower

Nothing to Fear, Nothing to Overcome

Worry. 

It’s something every mother, at any stage, is familiar with in some way. It’s a type of worry that is so incessant that only grows with your children. 

When you first see the positive pregnancy test, it’s what you feel when you wonder if you’ll be a good enough mom. 

For some, it’s what you feel when you wonder how you can possibly raise and provide for an unplanned child. 

It’s the feeling you get when you wonder if this one will stick. 

It goes away temporarily, at the first sound of a heartbeat. 

But it comes back when you suddenly feel a different kind of pain. 

It happens when you realize that you haven’t felt a kick in only God knows how long. 

It happens when you wonder if your baby will be born with something that isn’t considered to be perfect. 

It’s what you feel when you realize how close your due date is approaching and you wonder if you’re ready. 

It’s the feeling you get when you go into labor — far too early or even past your due date. 

Some moms don’t feel this at all, but they feel it when they wonder if the adoption process will go through, if the child who did not grow inside her will love her and if she could love this child with all of her being. 

But worry doesn’t stop at birth or when the adoption process is completed. There suddenly becomes so much more to worry about. 

It’s suddenly what you feel when you wonder if you’re feeding baby the right thing. 

When you wonder if you’re putting him to sleep the right way. 

When you don’t know if you should let her cry it out or rock her until she’s asleep, yet again. 

When you see the news and there’s another shooting, another kidnapping, another lost wandering child, another incident where a toddler is harmed in any way. 

It’s the thing that keeps you up at night wondering how you can protect your child from this world. 

It’s the feeling you get when you let your child ride the bus for the first time or walk home with a friend. 

It’s there when you turn around in the grocery store and don’t see your child right there. 

It’s what you feel when your teenager is not answering the phone that you have him in case of emergencies. 

It’s the feeling you get when your child drives alone for the first time.

It happens when you wake up in the middle of the night and your child isn’t home or when you are suddenly woken up by your child calling you.

It’s what you feel when you watch the news about another college rape and wonder how your daughter is doing so far from home. 

It happens when you wonder if your son is making the right choice about his career choice. 

It’s there when you wonder if your child is really happy in the relationship she’s in.

It’s when you hear that your about to become a grandmother and the cycle starts all over again. 

As a mother, there are so many opportunities for worry. So many things have paralyzed me in fear, especially when you hear about unjust shootings. I don’t feel safe almost anywhere these days, but moreover, I don’t know how to kee my kids safe. 

I could choose to keep worrying. I could choose to lose sleep over all of this. But Jesus said something that has stayed in my head for so long:

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I realize that I, as a mother to the children that God has entrusted to me, have so much to worry about. I don’t want anything but the best for the babies who grew inside me, and it kills me that I cannot ensure that to them. I hate that there is so much evil in the world that I cannot protect them from. It pains me to know that my children will have to live through their own pains one day. 

But what will worrying do for me? What will worrying do for them?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/php.4.6-7.niv

Guys, I’ve felt that peace, the one that transcends ALL understanding. It’s the most unexplainable, amazing feeling I’ve ever had. Worrying, on the other hand, kind of makes me feel like garbage. 

I’m not promised that everything in life will turn out the way that I want it to or that I and my loved ones will remain safe from all harm. But I am promised that wonderful peace if I surrender my worries at the Cross. It’s an amazing trade off. 

“The truth is we have nothing to fear and nothing to overcome because He is all in all and we are more then conquerors through Him.” (Oswald Chambers, Approved Unto God, 4 R.)

The Love of a Parent

I’m exhausted today. I got a total of 3 1/2 hours of solid sleep. Other than that, I was up with Ethan all night. 

Note: please do not interpret this as complaining. Stuff like this was in the bold print when I signed my contract for motherhood. 

Still, last night was one where I was looking forward to to being completely alone and taking some time for just myself. The boys didn’t take a nap in the afternoon, so they were tired and would go to sleep extra early, and Roland was at church for a board meeting which would inevitably go past my bedtime. I would have the house to myself for a few hours and it would be wonderful.

It was one of those days where you get kicked in the eye, your battery won’t start, and your favorite decorative dish breaks, to name a few.

Joshua explained to me that he was using the ball to get the candy bandaids. You have to give him credit for his resourcefulness!

While I was pleased with how I mostly laughed off situations that could have potentially been really stressful, I was looking forward to my quiet evening. But I had that feeling where I knew I should not count on my quiet evening.

Both boys were in bed by the time Roland left and about 2 and a half seconds later, Ethan was waking up. It was clear he wasn’t going back to sleep, so I brought him downstairs while I did the dishes and was able to put him back to sleep after that. About an hour later, he woke up again, so I picked him up and he threw up all over the floor (and him, and a little on me too).

I didn’t brush this off with laughter, though. My heart broke to see my baby uncomfortable and not feeling well. So I made a spot for him in my bed.

This was clearly his secret plan to getting more hangout time with me. Look how happy he is to watch Gilmore Girls with me!

I did my best to comfort him in any way that I could. I just wanted to see him rest and I could not sleep until I saw that he was resting.

The whole time I was awake, though, A verse was stuck in my head — if your son asks for a piece of bread, what parent would give him a stone? How much more will your Father in heaven give you?

““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.7-11.esv

I did not want to be awake for 2/3 of my night. Even less did I want to see my son suffer, to any degree. 

So if I, as a fleshly parent who can so often get stressed and annoyed with her kids (I can’t be the only one…) could give up the one thing I thought I deserved and looked forward to so much for my son and willingly give him what he needed from me, how much more will my perfect Heavenly Father give me?

 When I am broken and need comfort, he is the one who is with me until I finally find my rest. 
When I have any need, He is the one who supplies it. 

As a mom, what I can do is so limited in the grand scheme of things. I cannot always be there for my kids. Sometimes, all I can offer is temporary comfort in trying times. 

But my God reigns over all and is all powerful and is still willing to give me the things I ask for.

In fact, he loves me so much that he gave up his only son for ME.

I don’t think I could give up either of my sons for anything. 

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”

‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:7-10‬ ‭MSG‬‬

http://bible.com/97/1jn.4.7-10.msg

Birthday Party Fun

On Sunday, we celebrated Joshua’s third birthday. It was a lovely time with friends and family, and I’d like to think everything turned out as perfectly as it could, thanks to God (he controls the weather and it was gorgeous!) and loved ones (who helped with food and the set up).

excuse his face – he was tired of saying “cheese”
 


Joshua loves trains. I cannot describe to you his excitement when he sees a train or hears its whistle. He loves to play with them, watch them, draw (or ask someone to draw) them. Trains, trains, trains. So what better theme was there?

Here’s a little bit of what I did:

Theme: Trains

Colors: Red, Blue (various shades)

Fun/Entertainment: Lots of lawn games

Food: Small appetizers on tables, BBQ and salads, dessert table and candy bar 

a view from the rooftop of half of the party area
we knew that many of the guests would not be sitting the whole time, so we had a handful of small tables which had some appetizers
we added some picnic blankets (the red one is actually a shower curtain) for more casual seating. not pictured is the baby toys that we had on them for little ones
Joshua got tons of gifts! we decided to put them on a blanket instead of a table

appetizers consisted of chips/dip and cut up vegetables. I got simple white cardboard boxes from IKEA and decorated with ribbon/tape/paper to make them look like train carts. I was also able to use Joshua’s toys in the centerpieces.
I saw the “chew chew” and “chugga chugga” online somewhere and knew I had to use it! I put napkins and utensils in paper bags that I got from the dollar section at Target and made a refreshing drink from water, cucumbers, and oranges.
the food was a huge hit. there were many healthy twists on BBQ classics
I made some brownies and cupcakes (recipe coming soon!) and decided a berry fruit salad with a side of homemade whipped cream would be perfect for blending with the color scheme and providing a fresh dessert option.
Joshua’s homemade birthday cake! he wanted cupcakes but I decided a 6 inch cake would be perfect for his candles.
our lawn games! (not pictured are the cornhole boards). fun fact: the rings for the ring toss were homemade with rope and duct tape!

We had a fabulous time and were so excited to celebrate 3 years with many of our loved ones. Thank you once again to those who helped!