Thursday, April 3, 2014

RE-POSTED: getting the leaven out... one room at a time: INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES

[Note: This is a series I wrote four Passovers ago, so the timing is definitely off and our family has grown by one. Nevertheless, it is time to prepare for Passover, so I wanted to re-post it anyway!]
This year my Passover preparations must be completed early, as I am planning to travel and be away from home for the two weeks prior to the beginning of Pesach. In hopes of completing this task, I will be writing a series on "getting the leaven out... one room at a time" that will touch slightly on the physical removal of leaven from our homes, but much more so on the spiritual and lifestyle applications that have come to my mind during the past few days. You can go to any Jewish or messianic website and probably find oodles of information on preparing your home for Passover, "Spring" cleaning, recipes for using up the leaven in your pantry, etc. That's not what I will be primarily focusing on here, however, because if we fail to prepare our spiritual home, the heart, for Pesach, then all of our preparations have been in vain... so join me as I get my hands dirty in preparing the rooms of my heart for this very special feast of the L-rd...

Please scroll down to read all posts in this series.

RE-POSTED: getting the leaven out: THE HEART/the leaven is out, but is it out?

Note: This post is part of a series. Please scroll down for other posts and introduction.

"Any leaven that may still be in the house, which I have not seen or have not removed, shall be as if it does not exist, and as the dust of the earth"... from the Haggadah

"It is a positive commandment of the Torah to remove the leaven before the time when it is forbidden to eat it, as it is said: 'the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses' (Exodus 12:15)... What is this removal of which the Torah speaks? It is that one should annul the leaven in his heart and consider it as dust; and he should take to heart that there is no leaven at all in his possession and that all the leaven in his possession is as dust, and as something of which there is no need whatsoever..." -Moses ben Maimon

Now in the middle of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, I am nearing the end of this series of posts. As we consider the words above, if we have indeed thoroughly cleansed our homes and neglected to cleanse our hearts in preparation for Passover, we have prepared in vain. Fortunately, it is never too late nor too time-consuming to cleanse your heart before a loving G-d. This Passover season, as we remember and celebrate our own redemption from slavery and bondage to sin, let us also use this ever-appropriate time to get our hearts right with the Master who granted us our freedom. Although we are saints who still sin, He is always waiting, willing, and able to forgive us for our sins. Take some time over these remaining days of this Feast to confess, and ask for forgiveness for, your transgressions... and I plan to do the same.
Here are some Scriptural verses on the benefits of confession of sin: Proverbs 28:13, Psalm 32:3,5, Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 103:12, 2 Chronicles 30:9, 1 John 1:6-7, Romans 8:1, and Hebrews 10:19, 22.
For those of us who celebrating Passover, eating unleavened bread (matzah) and have tasted the bitterness of the herbs (horseradish) on the seder plate, these are excellent physical representations of the heart of Pesach for believers. Our Messiah, our Passover Lamb, died because of our sins, so sometimes remembering that can truly give us the strength we need to continue striving with a sinful nature and living for Him in a sinful world. While recalling our past sins and confessing our current ones, our gratitude to G-d for His deliverance is multiplied. As Philo of Alexandria wrote so many years ago, "and so, we who desire repentance eat the unleavened bread with bitter herbs, that is, we first eat bitterness over our old and unendurable life, and then [we eat] the opposite of overboastful arrogance through meditation on humility, which is called reverence. For the memory of former sins causes fear, and by restraining it through recollection brings no little profit to the mind..."
With that said, I wish you a bitter and sweet... solemn and joyous... tearful and freeing... Feast of Unleavened Bread! Let's celebrate our beautiful redemption and our wonderful Savior! Chag Sameach!

RE-POSTED: getting the leaven out: BATHROOM: the beauty of separation

Note: This post is part of a series. Please scroll down for other posts and introduction. Also, this post is NOT intended to be read by men... read at your own risk...

The reason that this subject has fallen under the 'bathroom' label in this series is because it will be about a 'potty talk' subject for women and something that men do not normally like to talk about: menstrual cycles. The reason that I would prefer that men not read it (other than my husband of course) is because I feel that menstruation is something that they should discuss with their own wives or read about it in medical texts.

The heart of this entry will be focused less on the actual menstrual cycle (there are many other places to find that information) and more on what orthodox Judaism calls "family purity" or "the laws of niddah" ...simply stated, abstaining from sex with your husband during your period.

First, let me say that menstruation is a monthly miracle (as hard as that it to believe for us sometimes!) Without it, we are unable to conceive children. Although many would view the laws of "family purity" as archaic or outdated, they really are more a celebration of life and the importance of intimacy within marriage. In Biblical times, a menstruating woman was considered "unclean" and "impure"... and if you really think about it, she was! Before the invention of maxi pads and tampons, what would she use to keep herself clean besides rags or pieces of cloth? That's all there was! So I imagine that she was probably hindered from her usual activities (much more so than modern women) and she had to stay close to home. The label "unclean" didn't mean that she had done something wrong, it simply meant that she was in a state of temporary vulnerability. When the menstrual cycle begins, a woman understands that the possibility for life in her womb at that time has ended, so in essence, there is a whisper of death. The uterus must shed its lining, cleaning itself out for the next opportunity to cradle a child... it is preparing to start over. Quoting again from the book, Jewish Women Speak about Jewish Matters, "when stripped to its essence, a woman's menses signals the death of potential life. Each month a woman's body prepares for the possibility of conception. The uterine lining is built up-- rich and replete, ready to serve as a cradle for life-- in anticipation of a fertilized ovum. Menstruation is the shedding of the lining, the end of this possibility. The presence of potential life within fills a woman's body with holiness and purity. With the departure of this potential, impurity sets in, conferring upon the woman a state of impurity or, even more specifically, niddut. Impurity is neither evil nor dangerous, and it is not something tangible. Impurity is a spiritual state of being, the absence of purity, much as darkness is the absence of light." (p.77)

Impurity is very a hard concept for the modern mind to grasp, because we don't tend to have a very holistic view of how the world and our bodies work. Therefore, science develops birth control pills that manipulate our bodies into having only four periods a year! Obviously, this is not what G-d intended, and I am glad that people cannot stop the cycles of the moon or seasons, because G-d's cycles are meant to teach us about the cycle of life. Even believers have difficulty with this concept, especially since there is no physical Temple standing in Jerusalem. I am not claiming to fully understand it either, but perhaps the impure were restricted from the Temple because they were reminders of death.... menstruating women, diseased or injured people, abnormal or physically "imperfect" people... the only thing that these people would have in common is that they make people ponder death and suffering. The Temple was to be a place of life and worship. Since G-d created the menstrual cycle (and also created some people blind, lame, etc.), these impurities were not punishment for sin.

When a woman of child-bearing age (a.k.a. woman who menstruates) becomes one with a man through marriage, that is when the issue of family purity comes along. There is no physical Temple, so how do we apply this mitzvah (commandment) to our lives? Although I don't believe that menstruating women should be restricted from houses of worship (how embarrassing that would be!), I feel that there is something to be applied here. At the very least, I don't think
G-d intends married women to have sexual intimacy with their husbands when they are menstruating. This is something that my husband and I discussed before we got married, and we do abstain from intercourse during this time of the month. In orthodox Judaism, married couples also wait for seven more days after the end of the menstrual cycle and after the woman has gone through a mikveh (ritual bath for immersion). The mikveh is to show that the woman has become pure again and that her status has changed. Afterwards, she is intimately reunited with her husband. Although I don't have access to a mikveh at this time, I think that this is a beautiful practice, and there are messianic believers who build mikveot for this purpose. Perhaps someday I will also have access to a mikveh, and until then I will apply this mitzvah to my life as much as possible.

If you are new to this concept, perhaps it sounds restrictive. The aforementioned book gives a wonderful perspective that will help us to focus on the benefits (blessings) of applying family purity to our lives: "At first glance, the mikveh system speaks of limitations and constraints-- a loss of freedom. In truth, emancipation is born of restriction. Secure, confident, well-adjusted children (and adults) are disciplined children; they understand restraint and ultimately learn self-control. The drawing of parameters creates terra firma amid chaos and confusion and allows for traversing the plain we call life in a progressive and productive manner. And in no area of life is this more necessary than in our most intimate relationships. Over time, open-ended sexual availability leads to a waning of excitement and even interest. Mikveh's monthly hiatus teaches couples to treasure the time they have together. They count the days until they can be together, and each time there is a new quality to their reunion. In this regard, the Talmud states, "So that she will be as beloved as on the day of her marriage." In this way, they are constantly involved in an ongoing process of becoming 'one flesh.'" (pp.79-80) In other words, family purity not only will prove to be beneficial to marriage if practiced, it can also prove to be detrimental if not put into practice.

Family purity not only benefits the married couple, it benefits us as married women. It offers us a "measure of solitude and introspection. There is additionally, an empowering feeling of autonomy over our bodies, and indeed, over the sexual relationship we share with our spouses... (let me clarify: this 'empowering' should not lead us to try to dominate our husbands or use withholding sex as a weapon for getting them to do what we want. That is not Biblical. It should have more of the effect of raising our self-esteem and causing us to feel good about our bodies, which is always rewarding to our husbands as well)... There is strength and comfort in the knowledge that human beings can neither have their every whim nor be had at whim." (Jewish Women Speak... p. 80)

Because the mitzvot concerning the laws of niddah are Temple-dependent, married couples need to come to an understanding of how they will observe them and to what extent. The important thing is that it is consensual, and both the husband and wife are in full agreement. As messianic believers, we hold Rabbi Sha'ul of Tarsus in high regard and he tells the Corinthians this: "The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command." 1 Corinthians 7:3-6

I like to think of my menstruating self as a closed flower, still beautiful to my husband, but temporarily unavailable... until that day that I bloom once again. Let us strive to view menstruation as the miracle that it is (not The Curse, or the unwanted monthly 'visitor"), and seek G-d's face in understanding the importance of cycles and seasons in His creation, including us. During this Passover season, may we rejoice that He has given us a picture of renewal and 'starting over' even in our own bodies. Indeed, we are wonderfully and fearfully made...

RE-POSTED: getting the leaven out one room at a time... KITCHEN/the mitzvah of moderation

The kitchen seems like an appropriate place to begin because even though I just successfully finished washing (all of) the dirty dishes and wiping up the splattered stove and counter top, my kitchen is still basically a disgrace to housewives everywhere! It's small, cluttered with mail and recipes (and who knows what else), and the floor is always dirty even a few minutes after I mop it. But as Brooklyn apartments go, my kitchen is big and in good working condition, and for this I am grateful. (By the way, the kitchen to your left is NOT my kitchen.)

In preparing for Passover, the kitchen is probably the room in which most of the hard work has to be done. It's time to start going through the pantry, searching the labels for yeast and leavening agents, using up those items as soon as possible, etc. Last year around this time, I was asking my Rabbi (in FL) Ben, what exactly I had to 'throw out,' and he took the time to graciously explain to me that I needed to be careful not to miss the point of the Biblical commands concerning removing the leaven from your homes. While it is perfectly okay to physically get rid of the leaven in our homes, we also have to understand that in the Scriptures, leaven represents sin. What Passover is essentially about is starting anew, (the women who saved a portion of the leaven from their challah bread to make next week's challah rise would throw it away and start over after Passover) and purging the sin (leaven) from our lives. As a physical picture of this spiritual renewal, we are also commanded to abstain from eating leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread as well. (I will try to write more later about why believers should celebrate Passover and how it is celebrated.)

As I explained in my introduction, this series is less about cleaning our houses (although important) and more about renewing our hearts and lifestyles, so this above paragraph is most likely all I will mention about removing physical leaven. As the title suggests, the heart of this post is moderation, specifically moderation in eating. Perfectly timed, I received my March issue of Parenting magazine only to find an article that began like this: Raise your hand if you've ever been asked, "So, when are you due?"... after you've given birth (like, way after).
(read the article by going to: and just a few weeks earlier a dear man (at least he was in his 70s!) asked me if I was expecting another baby, and I had to say 'no' and we were both slightly embarrassed. It's been over 15 months since I delivered my daughter, over a month of her being weaned from breastfeeding, and I am all out of excuses for being unable to control my appetite! I believe the statement that "diets don't work," but I think that changes in lifestyle certainly do! So as I prepare for Passover, there are items that needs to be removed from the "kitchen" of my heart and many others in need of moderation.

Upon first arriving in Brooklyn and admiring my new kitchen, I was initially comforted by the fact that I was utilizing someone else's kitchen. I thought to myself, "I will have to keep it tidy and take good care of it because it's not mine. If the landlord ever stops by, his kitchen will be clean!" It was like built-in accountability, but regardless, there have many times when I didn't feel like washing the dishes (I thought it was difficult to keep up when I actually had a dishwasher), or sweeping the floor, because it was easier to just leave the mess until tomorrow... or the next day. Unfortunately, sometimes this is how we treat our own bodies, which do not belong to us either. Our bodies are the temple of the Spirit of the Living G-d, and should be treated as such. Therefore, there are really no excuses for not trying to eat healthy or get some kind of regular exercise. I am well aware that this journey will be a long one for me, but I hope to be sharing stories of success in the future. During this season of renewal, it's a wonderful time to begin taking better care of our bodies... to better worship the Spirit that dwells within...

RE-POSTED: getting the leaven out: BEDROOM/shomer negiah

Note: this post in part of a series. Please scroll down for other posts and introduction.

"Imagine yourself at a checkout counter. You have never liked shopping at this store because of its less-than-wonderful service. Today is no exception-- you have been waiting to pay for what seems like an eternity. Finally your turn comes. You hand the slow-moving cashier your money. Usually you have to pick up your change off the counter, but today the cashier places it in your hand, and for a brief moment you can feel the warmth of his or her hand on yours. Outside, afterward, you sense something strange. For some reason, you're feeling more warmly toward this store than before. .."

The above quote was taken from "Jewish Women Speak About Jewish Matters," a composition of short articles by Jewish (but not messianic) women. This essay was about the power of touch, the topic of this post. Although there is no direct correlation between this subject and Passover, this series will be concerning topics that I have been pondering in my preparations for this Feast of renewal.
In Judaism, to be cautious with this powerful form of affection is known as "Shomer Negiah," or "guardian of touching." As the book states, "this strikes some people as extreme. But the truth is that for anyone who's serious about getting the most out of a relationship-- and avoiding the pain of failed ones-- being shomer negiah makes eminent sense" for the fact that the power of human touch "can be harnessed constructively or destructively. Touch can be used to comfort-- or to manipulate... and can create illusory feelings of intimacy and make you feel close to a person even when you are not really so close after all, creating many serious problems." (pp.60-61)

The best metaphor to use concerning the power of touch that I have found is electricity. I came to this understanding on an El Al plane returning from one of my trips to Israel. If you've ever made this flight, you know that the plane is scattered with orthodox Jewish people. The men will often make their way to the back of the plane during prayer times, and it is an incredible experience to be a part of. Something that I had been pondering while in Israel was (what I thought to be) a lack of affection between orthodox Jewish couples. Now I understand it much more. On that plane, I begin to think that if the couple in front of me did happen to touch, even unknowingly, I would see sparks fly or something! why? Because this couple did not treat touch as something common or to be shared with just anyone, anywhere, at anytime. To them, touch was sacred. There's an electricity that exists between husband and wife, whether they choose to make sparks fly in public or not. Honestly, most people are uncomfortable in the presence of a couple that shows too much affection in public, right? Well, that day I decided that my husband and I (I was yet to be married at this point) would be shomer negiah, guardians of touch. This can be applied to your life, whether you are married or single.

During our courtship, my husband and I did not kiss, but we did hold hands and hug one another (but if I could go back, perhaps I would change that). There is appropriate touch for an engaged couple. In fact, during our pre-marital coaching, we learned that affirmation is very important for a man, while affection is very important for a woman. While meaningful, non-sexual touch is one way to show affection, there are many other ways as well. This is why in orthodox Judaism, married men and women do not even touch each other during the woman's menstrual cycle (and the seven days following it. I will be writing more about this later). They do this not only so that there is less temptation for sexual contact, but also to learn how to communicate and show affection to one another without touching. They also do not touch people of the opposite sex who are not their spouse or relatives. I think we have much to learn from this principle.

Since I have become a married woman, shomer negiah has become much more important to me. In applying it to my own life, I rarely hug men other than my husband or my relatives. If a man (who is a dear friend of course) approaches me to hug, I don't deny him but i don't get close to him either. I also don't offer my hand to a man to shake, but if he holds out his hand, then I will shake it. Of course, I take into account that there are many cultures who are more openly affectionate than others, and I have never rejected a hug or kiss on the cheek from them, and it's not a huge deal for me in those cases. I am just mindful (cautious) of who, why, and how I am touching, because my body belongs to G-d first and my husband second. Without being rude or making people uncomfortable, I feel that being shomer negiah is healthy... for single people and married couples. Why? Because it is a meaningful way to show G-d that we respect and revere this powerful force that he created, touch. It also shows our spouse (or future spouse) that we honor them enough to preserve even our sense of touch for them and them only. Think about it: the fact that we cannot touch G-d proves that other (perhaps deeper, soul connecting) ways exist to show affection. Let's search our own hearts to learn what those ways are so that we can extend them to those who are made in His image.

RE-POSTED: getting the leaven out: LIVING ROOM/redeeming the time

Note: This post is part of a series. Please scroll down for other posts and introduction.

One of my family's biggest obstacles to keeping a clean house is not putting things away after we use them. Instead of taking the few seconds then to put the item away, I end up spending hours on it after things have piled up for a while! This is something I am really trying to work on. I think the reason that I struggle to keep up with organization is my lack of time management. One key culprit that has to be included in this calculation is the biggest time waster ever invented: the television! I have friends who have given up on cable TV and gotten rid of it, which is kind of the direction that I am possibly headed in the near future.

I can't help but remember the days when I was a college student, living with my mom, working part-time, and planning my wedding... there was no time for TV! I never even turned the power switch on. My life was full, busy, and rewarding... which it still is, but somehow I have made time to watch television... too much of it in my opinion. I also remember even earlier days when I imagined what my life would be like when I had children of my own... they would be extremely intelligent and they would not watch TV. My, how things change when your dreams become a reality! I am now grateful for the few minutes that my 16 month old actually spends in front of the television, because then maybe I can use the bathroom alone or wash dishes while she is occupied! However, I remain wholeheartedly against using TV as a babysitter for hours during the day. Any TV that my child does watch should also be educational and age-appropriate. As she gets older, I know there will be many more activities she can do alone as well, and I won't have to use the TV as a "crutch" to keep her engaged in something.

I have really realized the power of turning the television off. Even now as I write this, the window is cracked and I can hear the birds singing outside.... which is an even more precious sound to my ears now that I live in the city. In today's society, silence is something to avoid because then you are forced to deal with yourself, your mind, your heart, your existence... so there is always noise. I am convinced that most New Yorkers have probably never experienced true silence.

As my family decides whether to get rid of cable altogether or at least put serious limits on how much and what we watch on TV, we will enjoy the joyous sounds of our daughter, meaningful conversations, and silence (or as close as we get to it). Preparing for Passover takes a lot of time, and so it is a very appropriate season to improve our time management. We are all given the same number of hours each day, so we are responsible for how we choose to spend those hours. Let's redeem our time.

"So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom..."
Psalm 90:12

RE-POST: getting the leaven out: THE MIND/keep it simple, stupid

Note: This post is part of a series.

In thinking about dealing with issues of the mind two nights ago, the one conclusion that I was able to come to was to keep it simple. In all of the preparations for Pesach, the reading and researching, exploring others' blogs and having conversations to discover how they view and live a "messianic" life, searching my own mind to try to understand how I view and live a "messianic" life..... it seems to have gotten too complicated. So this is my attempt to simplify (at least for now...) what I have been processing in my mind.

I have come to accept the fact that perhaps there are not a huge amount of messianic believers like myself and my husband, who strive to find the balance of living for Yeshua, keeping Torah as He did, and respecting and embracing those Jewish traditions that neither contradict the Scriptures nor compromise our testimony. There are "messianic believers" from all different walks of life, different levels of Torah observance or non-observance, different cultures, different nuances.... from those who attend churches and have little regard for anything "Jewish" to those who have gone so far in their rabbinical observances of Torah that they end up converting to Judaism and renouncing their faith in Yeshua. We are somewhere in the middle of that wide, wide spectrum labeled "messianic" because we choose to follow the Messiah and His teachings. We may not always find those who walk, talk, or dress like we do... we are who we are, and we rejoice in the fact that G-d created us the way that He did... from non-Jewish (non-Hebrew) families, brought together on similar journeys for a similar purpose in ministry and similar lifestyle.

Nevertheless, living a messianic life is pretty simple. In essence, we need to simply strive and live like Yeshua lived in the first century... in the twenty-first century... which isn't always easy, but it is always simple. Love G-d, Love His Torah, Love His people... and show others how to do the same... simple, right?

During this Passover season, we celebrate and remember our freedom from bondage... from oppression... from sin... but sometimes we forget to set our minds free once again. I am reminded of what Rabbi Shaul wrote in Romans 12:2 ... "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of G-d is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Sometimes our minds become so cluttered and convoluted with everyday life, concerns, and worldliness that we become unable to think clearly about G-d, His Word, and His will for our lives. So what better time could there be to renew our minds than during this season of renewal? The trees are beginning to bloom and blossom, the birds are singing happily, and the winter is turning to spring... let us also follow nature's pattern, changing what needs to be changed, resurrecting what needs to be resurrected, and renewing what needs to be renewed, namely our minds.

"The conclusion, when all has been heard, is fear G-d and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person"

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Re-posted: getting the leaven out: OUTSIDE THE WALLS/watching the sidewalk...

Note: This post is part of a series. Please scroll down to read other posts and introduction.

Moving from a 'drive-everywhere' city to a 'walk-or-take-public-transportation-everywhere' city has taken some getting used to, but the weather was so beautiful today (high of 60 degrees) that I did a lot of walking and loved it! Since I have been walking much more than I'm used to, I have also noticed how New Yorkers tend to "watch the sidewalk" as they pass you, avoiding eye contact for the most part, and rarely giving any kind of acknowledgment or greeting at all. (Although I will say that a few people have acknowledged my daughter, Elli, especially when she is toddling down the sidewalk!) I strive to not conform to this cultural norm, even while living in Brooklyn, but it's difficult. Sometimes it's easier to just look down, rather than look into the eyes of the person you're passing, especially when you know from experience that they will most likely pass you in silence no matter what. Granted, there are a lot of "abnormal" people who flock to bustling cities, so people who live there tend to be a little more cautious or even suspicious of strangers, but I still believe that G-d provokes us and even commands us to reach out to others (even in New York).
Although Palm Beach County is home to a very large Jewish community, there are more "visibly" Jewish (religious) people here in Brooklyn, which is great because it means that my husband and I have more visual reminders as to why we are here and the ministry that we have been called to. Today, for instance, as a Chassidic Jew ran (literally) into the post office to drop off a package while I was waiting in line, I was again reminded of my ministry. Above all joys and aspirations I have as a writer, a mother, a wife... none would even compare to witnessing a Jewish person come to faith in his or her Messiah, Yeshua, and if that Jewish person is "religious" my joy would be multiplied even more!! Witnessing this miracle often happens far too few times for those of us involved in Jewish ministry. However, even if you are not involved with a ministry organization, we are all called to be emissaries for Yeshua... to be His hands and feet, to shine His light. But how can we do this if we conform to watching the sidewalk?
With Passover fast approaching, remember that we are preparing our homes for a Feast of the L-rd. If He is at the center of this celebration, I know He will share with us what it is that we must do. Who does He want you to invite to the Passover seder? What does He want you to share with them? How will it bring Him the most glory? If we clean our homes until they sparkle and shine, what ultimate good will it do if we only invite those who already live there?
During this season of renewal, rebirth, and redemption, let us make Yeshua known to all who will listen, especially His chosen people, the lost sheep of the House of Israel. There's no better time than now, and no better season than Passover, the time to remember Yeshua's sacrificial death and the salvation that comes from believing in Him who died in our place. Isaiah 53 is a great place to begin to share the Messiah's story. In case this is new territory for you, here are a few preliminary pointers for sharing Yeshua with a Jewish person:
1. Choose your terminology carefully. I avoid terms like "christian", "church", "Christ", "convert", and "cross" because these all have negative connotations in the Jewish world and are often associated with Catholicism. Also, if you have noticed, I never attempt to write out or pronounce G-d's name (the Tetragrammaton): 1. Because it is Holy and by not pronouncing it, I am attempting to not "take it in vain" as we are commanded. And 2. A religious Jewish person would be offended to see G-d's name used in a common manner, so I choose not to use any of those attempts at pronouncing G-d's name on my blog. (I completely understand, however, the fact that religious Jewish people will still be offended by me naming Yeshua as the Messiah, choosing to live by Torah even though I was not born into a Jewish family, and by proclaiming to Jewish people that they need to believe in Yeshua as well...and I accept that. But I would rather not offend them concerning the Holy Name of G-d, so I will continue to use "G-d", "L-rd", "HaShem", and sometimes "Adonai" to refer to Him. For more about using G-d's name, read this article:
2. Show them the Messiah using the Tanach (Hebrew Bible). (He's there!! ) He's in all the Feasts of Leviticus 23, and He's in all of the 39 books! I found this list helpful for presenting G-d's plan and man's need for redemption, taken from the booklet, "How to Introduce Your Jewish Friends to the Messiah":
---1. "G-d loves man and desires that all men should experience a life filled with His blessings: Deuteronomy 6:3, Psalm 16:11, Psalm 36:7-10, Isaiah 41:10
---2. Man is separated from G-d by sin: he is a sinner by nature and by will: Job 15:14-16, Psalm 53: 2-4, Psalm 130:3-4, Psalm 143:2, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 17:9
---3. The result of sin and separation from G-d is spiritual death: Isaiah 59: 2-3, Jeremiah 31:30, Ezekiel 18:4
---4. Man is unable to find reconciliation with G-d through his own efforts or good deeds: Job 14:4, Psalm 49:7, Proverbs 20:9, Jeremiah 2:22
---5. G-d has provided a way by which reconciliation can be accomplished. Atonement is available through the Messiah as a free gift to all men: Leviticus 17:11, Psalm 49:15, Isaiah 43:11 & 25, Isaiah 53:3-12
---6. The Messiah's atoning death may be appropriated unto salvation by faith in its efficacy: Genesis 15:6, Nahum 1:7, Habakkuk 2:4
---7. Only by repentance of sin and acceptance of Yeshua the Messiah as Savior, through prayer by faith, can reconciliation be made with G-d: Psalm 32:1-5, Proverbs 28:13" (pp.37-38)
3. Study Jewish history and culture and strive to make connections/relationships with Jewish people. They will believe what they see, so show them Torah being lived in your life! Share your testimony and share what Yeshua has done for you. For more testimonies and tips, go to
Well, I hope this information has been helpful. Let's pray that during this Passover season, many will come to know Yeshua as Messiah! Preparations don't cease once our homes are clean and ready! Many still have not heard that the Passover lamb was sacrificed for them, so let's tell them.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Help for the Introverted Mom... who feels like she's losing it...

*Please take one second to answer my poll question above. Thank you!*

This one has been a while in the making... researching (i.e. sneaking in reading during meals, naptime or whenever I can/ thinking/ lost sleep/ extra trips to the library/ thinking/"writing" this post in my head/ thinking/ you get the idea...) If you're an introvert, I'm sure I've got your attention already, and if you're an introverted mom who chooses to homeschool her kids and stay at home with them then this post is for you! I wrote (and composed) it for me, and that's where I'm at. If you happen to get anything beneficial from it, I consider it an added bonus.

saw on Pinterest
Perhaps I've known that I was an introvert for many years now. However, being married (to an introvert) for the last seven years now, and being a mother for five has shown me how much of an introvert I am. If you wonder whether you're an introvert or not, it has little to do with being "shy" or "reserved" and everything to do with needing alone time to recharge. You can definitely find an introvert/extrovert test online if you really don't know whether you're more introverted or extroverted, but everyone leans to one side or the other (while possessing qualities of both.) I would recommend you find out, because knowing what an "introvert" is has helped me tremendously in my personal life. In the past several years (and certainly months!), I have learned more about myself than ever before (and I'm 32!) Knowing that about myself has made me much more comfortable with who I am, and around other people. Here's a short and sweet blog post you can use to identify yourself as an introverted mom: 6 Signs That You're an Introverted Mom


The bestselling book, Quiet by Susan Cain , has really made conversations about introverts more common. My husband heard about it from one of his professors who was married to an introvert, and then one of my introverted friends raved about it (and also lent me her copy.) Truth be told, I have yet to finish it, but I do love what I have read so far. I searched for other books about introverts, and found a couple at the library that hold my (limited) attention better.

The topics that I blog the most passionately about are topics that I have experienced myself, and are dear to my heart. I am currently a stay-at-home mom who has started homeschooling my five year old daughter, so most of my posts are about either homeschooling or other adventures in motherhood (I also have a two year old son.) I started thinking to myself (introverts do this a lot) that I should write about introverted moms (like me) who maybe feel like they're either not cut out for this motherhood thing (kids can be annoying) or there is really something wrong with them (because their own kids are annoying them and they feel guilty about it!) In trying to find some good books on the topic, I didn't see any that were written specifically for moms.

 The Introvert's Way by Sophia Dembling has been a great read, humorous and casually written. Cute book, and a little colorful language I might add. She has an magnificent chapter on the weaknesses of the introvert mind, i.e. easily distracted, "checking-out", etc. But where are the screaming kids in your vacations that you take by yourself even though you're married, Sophia!? 

What, there aren't any?!   

Exactly my point. 
I'm pretty sure that Susan Cain has at least a chapter on raising introverted children, but I don't know if she has one on introverted moms. Then it hit me. Introverted moms with young children don't have the time or the energy to write books for other introverted moms! Oh yeah. They're just like me, just trying to survive the daily, emotionally draining, socially demanding, difficult-for-anyone task of being surrounded by kids all the time. Yeah, that makes sense. ;) 

What I failed to consider, however, was that there were other mommy bloggers out there like me who would at least write helpful or encouraging posts about what life was like for an introverted mom. Thankfully, before I set out to write this much-needed, even ground-breaking! post I have been thinking about for weeks, I did a simple google search for "introvert mom" and the results (pleasantly) surprised me! At least 35 articles and blog posts popped up, and I was dying to read them all! 

If you're an introverted mom looking for useful information and encouragement without having to go through all these, here's the best of what I found: (Hey, my kids are asleep and my husband is out of town. There's nothing I'd rather do at the moment!) ;)

First thing that caught my eye was the website and Facebook page entitled "The Introverted Mom" and after reading these two moms' bios that manage them, it could prove to be a good source of encouragement (and humor!) Their website logo is "We love our kids. We need our downtime." Enough said, ladies.

The title I fell in love with right away was "I gave up by noon: For the introverted mother" and her blog post did not disappoint! She hits the nail on the head when she describes the daily introvert struggles (comparing yourself to extroverted moms, mental exhaustion) and also does a great job of detailing the progression of your child growing older affects you and how it gets harder with each additional child: 

"When I first became a mother, it was still easy to meet all my introverted needs. In the beginning, the symbiosis between mother and baby is so great that being around them feels like being alone. They are simply an extension of yourself. They don't talk, they sleep a great deal of the time and they can be put in a stroller or carrier for long walks whenever you feel like it. It becomes harder when they start walking and talking, but even then the afternoon nap is sufficient to get that time you need.
My oldest daughter stopped napping altogether when she was 2 1/2. I was 6 months pregnant at the time. I managed to make things work for the next year with a combination of 'quiet time' in her room and part time preschool, but things started to unravel when my daughter decided to fight quiet time with everything she had. I was already physically exhausted, but it was the mental exhaustion that was really killing me. I was giving and giving all day every day, but without any peace and quiet I had nothing to fill me back up."

Yes, Lulu. My thoughts exactly.

In this post, she also has a list of ways to try to give yourself quiet time, which I thought was very helpful.These resonated the most with me:

#1. "Get your 'stuff' done while the kids are awake.
In the early days I used to spend nap time or time when my husband took the baby out to cook and clean and do laundry and then wonder why I felt so exhausted and miserable about it. Now unless I have a burning desire to do housework (which almost NEVER happens), I make sure I get things done when the kids are present. I get them to 'help', I speed clean the kitchen while they sit eating their afternoon snacks or breakfast, I run and throw in a load of laundry when they are mesmerized by a toy. The second they are asleep or not home I am OFF duty and I am only allowed to do something I find relaxing, which in my case is usually reading a book."


 #5. Be clear about what you need and negotiate.

My husband now understands that while he wants to spend his free time playing music or soccer with his friends, I want him to take the kids out for the afternoon so I can have a totally silent house. You have to let the people in your life know what you need the most and work out exactly how and when you can get it.

I found this to be an awesome post, but her oldest grew up and went to school moving right along... :)

For the next one, if the title doesn't grab you, the visual sure will!

The blog: Diary of a Bewildered Mother (and Facebook page)
The post: Grace for the Introverted Mom

She begins with this food for thought: "Being a stay-at-home-mom is the most unnatural thing in the world if you look at the historical order of things. Humans once lived in tribes, clans, family units, villages. Children were raised by their mother, plus any other number of matriarchal type persons. Fathers and other men were involved in the education and nurturing of their children as well. Mothers had help in the form of relatives, wet-nurses or nannies. These days, we tend to fall into one of two extremes: we are the sole caregiver of our children during the day, or else we leave them in the care of educators and coaches and have little time to interact with our own kids. Hopefully you fall somewhere into the middle! Anyway, this isn’t about societal norms or a call to action. It’s about introverts. Introverts who are drained when they are sole caregivers to one or more children."

She goes on to give four tips for introverted moms, the first of which I can definitely relate to:

"Tip #1—Favor reflection over distraction.

We introverts need time, alone, with our thoughts. If I don’t get time alone just to think, or sort out my thoughts, I end up distracting myself with the internet. (As a teen, I used to distract myself with endless hours of TV. As an adult, I don’t have cable, but I have my own laptop.)
I’ll spend hours and hours on Pinterest or YouTube or clicking on random Wikipedia articles to distract myself, when a 20-minute shower would be so much better for me, because I spend only 3 minutes cleaning myself, and the rest of the time, I just let my mind wander and sort and think and rest.
Right now it’s 2 am, and I should be in bed, but I’ve just been putting off my time of introspection all this time, and now I won’t be able to sleep until I think about it."

Distraction and not enough sleep are the story of my life right now! When my children can't find me at any time (because I'm actually hiding from them!) they know to check the computer desk first, and then proceed to knocking on the bathroom door. And while it's not 2 a.m. (yet), I know exactly what she means, although I haven't considered emailing myself before..  hmmm...  The other tips are good ones, too, so read the whole post! She and I seem to have much in common, as she wrote this post while her husband was away for two weeks (ditto) and he is also an introvert.

In the post "I Just Want to Be Alone: Confessions of an Introverted Mom," (ooh, sounds good) she begins with "I love my husband and daughter dearly, but sometimes the sights and sounds of them make me want to scream." (ooh, sounds even better!) This is a short post, but that quote alone made it worthwhile reading, especially when she talks about wanting to kick them out. ;)

Saw on Pinterest, and then doctored it up a little :)
 I just returned to my desk after being interrupted by my ever-so-clingy toddler who woke up wanting me to lie down with him in his bed so he could go back to sleep. I won't say too much about my lovely children here, but my baby boy has literally been attached to my hip for over two years now. He needs my presence to help him sleep, poop, and just about everything he does. He falls asleep squeezing my thumb, which kind of hurts. He melts my heart with his big blue eyes... which is a good thing, because my hip is starting to hurt and he drives me absolutely crazy sometimes! The good news is he is beginning to venture out of my shadow more and more, and he enjoys playing alone more than his five year old sister. I suspect he is an introvert, and we will be good friends one day. My little princess is intelligent, talkative, energetic, emotional, inquisitive, and creative... in a word, exhausting. She's also so observant and highly sensitive, that she requires a lot of sleep and down time (phew!) so that balances it out I guess. I highly doubt that she's an introvert. We will also be very good friends, and I suspect that when she's out on her own, she will call me every day, at least once a day, forever. They are so young and precious, too young to understand my need for alone time. Too young to be away from me for very long. I understand this, and try my best to put myself on hold. Self-sacrifice is what motherhood is all about when they are this little, but I secretly look forward to the days when they want their space (so I can have mine back.) I truly love these "little years" though, and wouldn't change them for anything. I try to enjoy them, chaos and all. Oh wait, did I mention that my daughter was talking in her sleep a few minutes ago....


Speaking of children, the mom at has several posts about telling kids what an introvert is, and her own list of confessions here. I'll warn you that she's a little edgy, but I did find the information helpful.

Now here is a really helpful post! This mom gives some more practical tips for being a "happy introverted mom"and she has four children, and she homeschools! Yay for her! :) Find her post here. Like me, she also loves Charlotte Mason's educational methods. CM is actually very introvert-friendly now that I think about it. I am still trying to implement more and more of her wisdom into our homeschool, which has been a little difficult while living in a big city instead of the English countryside... but I'm not giving up! ;)

I know this post is getting too long (but you should expect that from me by now!) I definitely have to share this one, which is excellent and covers the bases the others may have left out. In Motherhood: The Introvert's Challenge, this mother of five not only talks about the needs of the introvert, but also the weaknesses and sins of the introvert (of which there are many, so I'm glad she puts it out there!) To sum it up, she divides this post into The Tug (to be more like extroverted moms), The Guilt (from wanting to get away from your children), The Temptations (making excuses for sin, laziness, not making time for your spouse or G-d, self-pity) I don't know about you, but I'm guilty of ALL OF THOSE! That's what has driven me to compose this post in the first place. Thankfully, she doesn't stop there. She also gives The Solution ("recognize your weakness and remember the Gospel") which is beautifully stated:

"There is no quick and easy solution to the introvert’s challenge in motherhood. But the main thing is learning to accept that God really is sovereign. Knowing God is sovereign, means that you can accept and embrace the way God made you. You do not have to become an extrovert to please God or love people well. He thought making you an introvert was the best thing for you and those around you. It was freeing for me to ponder the truth that God made me to be the right mother for my children and that my children are the right children for me, because God foreordained them to be a part of my life. The Gospel frees me to embrace who I am while not using my weaknesses as excuses for laziness. God’s Spirit will use me, introversion and all. My identity in Christ has got to be the foundation upon which I build my personal identity, regardless of introversion or extroversion. He has promised to perfect me, yes, even use my weaknesses in His service. That helps me relax, accept myself while not giving in to my natural sins and expect change as the Holy Spirit works in me, through all circumstances.  Sure, there will be challenges, but that is how God intends to grow me and make me more conformed to His image.  You will be stretched to your limits. Every time you fail or sin against your husband and children in your introverted way, is an opportunity for you to receive grace from God and to live out the gospel: repent, ask for your family’s forgiveness and let the Holy Spirit transform you. It is a hard but beautiful process to which your kids are privy. It is the story of redemption playing out before them."

I didn't mention all 35 but that last one, I think, is a wonderful stopping place in our google search journey (thanks for reading this far!) Despite the challenges, I wouldn't trade introverted motherhood for the world. While I don't think that introverts are better than extroverts, I also wouldn't trade being an introvert for the world. All the reading I have done on introverts actually helps me understand and try to sympathize with extroverts more. I find it fascinating that G-d created people so differently, yet we can be compatible if we first understand who we are (and who He is!) 

I may be a great introvert, but I know I have a lot of work to do in order to be a better mom and wife despite the challenges I face. I'm realizing those challenges now more than ever, but I also realize the advantages that I have been blessed with. Having a wonderful husband, two precious kids, and writing to keep me sane, I am hopeful that we'll be fine. I have a sneaking suspicion that you will be, too.

To summarize what I have gathered in my search, here's a list of how to survive (and thrive) as an introverted mom:

~Pray! (and remember that time with G-d can be even better than "alone" time, since He's there when you're alone anyway. Talk to Him. He knows you're losing it. He made you! )
~Make time to be alone without sacrificing all your family time (and for me, that seems to mean getting up earlier than I already do...oy!)

~Be honest with yourself, your husband, and your kids (Know your needs and share them with your loved ones. I'm sure they'll understand.

~Be present... in the present. (This one is tough for me. I'm usually thinking about the past or preparing for the future.)

~Give your kids (and husband) some special one-on-one time (which means giving them your undivided attention without the usual distractions in your mind)

~Implement mandatory "quiet time" (thank G-d my toddler still naps, but my kindergartner doesn't. We sometimes do schoolwork during naptime, but I really want to change that.)

~Don't feel guilty about your need for "me" time. (Everyone needs it. You can't be awesome all the time!)

~Give yourself grace. I can't finish this post without linking to this one, which I read a few months back while I was thinking about writing on this topic: 15 New Year's Resolutions for the Introverted Mom. I was encouraged by every single one.

~Never underestimate yourself. Push yourself out of the nest a little (while not overdoing it). Get out with your kids. Befriend a mom or two. Join a small mom's group. I have been a part of one for over a year now, and I love it! I didn't seek one out, however. It was more like an answer to prayer from a lonely mom (at the time). I took my kids to the park when we were supposed to be doing school at home, and a wonderful thing happened. A sweet and outgoing little girl befriended my sweet and a bit shy little girl, and the rest is history. Those two moms I met at the park that day have become cherished friends of mine. All I had to do was leave the house! ;) That may be all you have to do as well.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Raising our Daughters, Raising Ourselves: Emotional Awareness I've Learned from My Daughter

"We tell our girls that their feelings are like horses-- beautiful, spirited horses. But
they are the riders. We tell them that God gave them this horse when they were born, and they will ride it their whole life."

from "Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches"
by Rachel Jankovic

The mom's group I am a part of recently started reading  and discussing this short, but profound book, Loving the Little Years. The fifth chapter is entitled Spirited Horses. It's a sweet and simple suggestion of teaching little girls about their emotions by comparing them to a "spirited horse." Beautiful, powerful... but in need of some training and control. Early one morning last week, after some silly sibling squabble over something, my five year old daughter proceeded to slap her brother and then turned to me, with anger and frustration in her beautiful hazel eyes... and said "And you, you shut up!" Sure I was taken aback for a second, because this was the first time she has said this to me, her own mother! In fact, I don't think she's said it to anyone. Thank G-d that my husband had gotten up before me that day, and I had been greeted with hot coffee and fresh pancakes! Another morning, under different circumstances, and perhaps I would have taken this affront personally or gotten angry (which happens frequently), and my response could have been very different. On this morning, however, I calmly told her to go calm down in her room, and that I would be in soon to talk to her. With this little book in hand, I went into my daughter's room, because I knew it was time. Fighting back tears (because we mothers are still riding this horse too!), I read her the story about the spirited horses, and why she had to learn to control her emotions. So...yeah, I could not have discovered this book at a better time than the present

I've been a mother for five (loooong) years, and I've found that parenting is "a lot of on-the-job failure and correction. Repenting and forgiving. Laughing. Lots and lots of laughing"...(at yourself, that is) as Jankovic says it is. I had taught my daughter about emotions in Pre-K, and we made some cute "emotional eggs" and everything, but now I am witnessing such complex emotions in her little self, and she (and sometimes I) have no idea what to do with them. It can be scary. That's why I'm so grateful for this mom, (mother of four daughters) and how she can help me (mother of one daughter.) Without the emotional outbursts my daughter has been experiencing lately, I wouldn't have been driven to research for this post.

I see her frustration. I hear her whining. I have experienced her moodiness. I've been angry with her for her behavior.
But now, perhaps for the first time, I feel her pain and want to help her. 

I think sometimes we, as mothers, are expected to know how to deal with little girls and all their "issues," because we were once little girls ourselves. I have found that raising a daughter actually shows me everything I don't know about little girls (or myself), and has motivated me to get to know myself better, so I can help her know who she is. I don't even remember what I was like at age 5, besides really quiet and shy. I was a tomboy, the only girl in the family, had two (much) older brothers, my father was a former drill instructor in the Marines, and my mother was pretty quiet, too. Sounds like the ideal family to raise an expert in expressing emotions, doesn't it?

Yeah, not even close.

I'm still quiet, and an introvert through and through, but I'm pretty confident that I know who I am. But I'm thirty-two. She's five. One thing I think that everyone recalls from their childhood and adolescence is that it took years and years to discover who you really are. We all go through those awkward stages to find ourselves. Now, after all that, we must help our children through them. At times, it feels like the blind are leading the blind. The good thing about mothers, however, is their willingness, even eagerness, to learn from other mothers. We yearn to experience motherhood, we learn from the good and the bad, we try suggestions as easily as we give them out, and we share stories with other mothers... every.chance.we.get. It never gets old, and there are always new things to share.

That's why there are "mom's groups" in the first place!
That is why I blog. 
To share, to encourage, to connect...

Girls of all ages long to connect with other girls. It's how we were made. We're relational. Sometimes moms and daughters have times of disconnection, and it's almost always because of emotions (on both sides.) When best friends stop talking to each other, when wives give their husbands the silent treatment, when little girls tell their mothers to shut up... it's always emotions. Your sweet little princess is growing up, and on her way to becoming a passionate young woman! Exciting and terrifying at the same time, isn't it?! Especially when you get those little glimpses of her acting (and reacting) JUST LIKE YOU! If that doesn't make your day, then I don't know what will! :) I don't know about you, but the last thing I want for my daughter is for her to be just like me! No, I want her to be better... a better mom, a better wife, etc. In reality, she will probably be dealing with this issue with her first daughter (B"H) many years down the road. If I accomplish little else, I definitely hope to teach her (allow her) to better express her emotions. 

It's been an emotional couple weeks here at home. Since she badmouthed me in the kitchen last week, I have had to turn around, (after successfully getting the two kids winter-ready and down the elevator) because she was crying hysterically and (I thought) making up excuses for not wanting to go anywhere... she was too tired... her foot, then her belly was hurting... And I really wanted to get out of the house, (we were heading out to her best friend's house for a playdate, not the dentist or something!) so I was not at all happy with her meltdown. As she was lying in her bed, still crying, I was in the kitchen trying to calm myself while texting my friend to say that we were not coming. And through the crocodile tears and whiny cries of "mommy!," I hear her say "Can you pray for me?" Those five little words immediately softened my heart, and told me that she really needs my help with this. Once again, with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I go into her room to sit with her and talk about those spirited horses. As my tears flow, I have to assure her that she is not making me cry. I tell her that mommies have emotions, too. She looks over at her two-year old brother, who is staring at both of us with wide-eyed wonder, still in his coat and boots wondering why we're not going "bye-bye" and she asks "Do boys have emotions, too?" I say "Yes, but they don't cry as much as we do." We both smile. I convince him to bring me a tissue, which in his mind is a square and a half of toilet paper, and we dry our eyes.

I love the fact that along with the four girls, Jankovic also has a two-year old son. She calls him "simple-- just right up the middle and easy. He either disobeys, or he doesn't. Sometimes, when he feels really complicated and deep, he fusses." This describes my son pretty well, except that when he feels complicated and deep, he imitates his big sister (which is quite hilarious). I try to put his sock on, and in his best whiny voice, he'll say "owwwww" or if I tell him to do something, he'll let out an exaggerated "noooo!"... but if I just wait, and look into his face, I can read behind his little smirk and it screams "I saw my sister do this, so I thought I would try it!"...and our eyes will meet, and we'll both smile. Then, he is himself again.

"I caught her on the kitchen counter getting into something. Surprise was my first response -- "What are you doing?" Her immediate response was to throw her hands up over her eyes in shame. It was at that moment I realized that she didn't know what was causing it either! She was just as surprised as I was to find herself being so delinquent. It wasn't any kind of deep malice that got her into those cupboards looking for chocolate chips-- it was just a simple lack of control."

from "Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches"
by Rachel Jankovic

Realizing that my daughter's emotions are kind of outta control right now, I started looking for resources to help us both learn how to manage them. Not to ignore them, or condemn them, but to understand and manage them. I found this great post here called "Resources to Teach Kids about Emotions, and How to Handle Them."   It was written by a mother of seven, including several adopted children with emotional/sensory issues, and contains a long list of books and games dealing with emotional awareness. I searched for some of these books at my local library, and found some good ones. I put others on hold, and am waiting for them to come in.

To give you an idea of just how many resources she lists:

And those are just the book! She also has games and cards, etc. So visit her blog and check them out!

I made a new Pinterest board on raising girls, but right now it's all resources for emotional awareness that I want to look into. To see it, click here

Being aware of your child's emotional struggles is the first step to helping them deal with them. It's like a puzzle that is coming together for me. I've known about the jealousy she feels for her little brother sometimes, and the sadness that oftentimes comes over her when her father is traveling and away from home (I'll save that for another post!). But I didn't see and understand how anxious she gets. It is widely known that anxiety and worry are actually bad for your health. Worry can cause bellyaches, especially in small children who don't know how to deal with it. For months now, my daughter has had the tendency to complain that her belly is hurting if we are in the car. Sometimes it comes and goes, and sometimes it gets to the point where she is crying out or ripping her seatbelt off while I am still driving. I was trying to figure out why it was happening, but I thought that she must have some mild form of motion sickness like my mother has. I would try to offer to put peppermint oil on her belly, but she hates the smell of it. I would make sure the seatbelt wasn't too tight, but that wasn't the problem. Now I'm wondering if it has more to do with her having anxiety about being in the car than anything else. Now that I'm intentionally aware of her struggle, I see how worried she can get. I sometimes wrote her off as being dramatic (which she most certainly can be) all the time. I see now that her anxiety has been building up, and I am capable of easing it for her. 

Probably the most helpful of the books I found at the library is What To Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner, MD. It's in a workbook format, having text that I can read to her and then a page for her to draw something to express what she worries about, etc. It was great going through this with her (she keeps requesting that I read it again!) and it has helped to ease her worries, mostly by letting her know she's not the only kid who worries, and by giving me the understanding I needed to not allow her to dwell on her them and make her feel worse. The book mentions the bellyaches and other side effects of worry, a "worry time" for each day, and does a good job of equipping parents and kids with tools to deal with this troublesome tendency. In addition, it has helped my husband and I to be much more mindful of what we say and do around her. It also makes us more aware of our own anxiety, and how and how not to express it in her presence. If you have children who worry, this is a great resource for the entire family.

Another wonderfully helpful idea from my new friend over at is a homemade "anti-anxiety kit" for children. Inspired by her ideas, I put together a "Worry Kit" for my daughter. Hers included some homeopathic stress relief drops, so I tried to offer some essential oils to my princess, but it turns out that every one I have smells "disgusting" to her. Lavender and Vanilla are said to be soothing, so I ordered some vanilla oil for her (she doesn't like lavender), which I plan to add to her little felt elephant pillow she helped me sew in school this week. (Got the idea here.)

Our Worry Kit also includes flour-filled balloons (much easier than filling with playdough) for a relaxing sensory sensation, and a large plastic egg filled with "worry cards" which I typed up and added clip-art to so she can "read" them to herself. They are all ideas that she can implement when she is worried to make the anxiety go away. Some of the ideas are from the website above, and some are from the "Worry Too Much" book. I also printed out a little card with a multitude of emotions (faces) on it for her to look at, and ordered the book "The Way I Feel" by Janan Cain. The cards say things like Pray, Take Deep Breaths, Count to 10, Hum a Song, Talk to Someone, etc. (Email me at why_b_messianic{at} if you would like the Word document to print at home.) So far, she has used the kit a few times, and she loves it (even shows it off to friends!) The best part of it is that we have not had to cancel any more playdates because she was too upset to leave the house! Yay! {By the way, in the process of writing this, we also missed the mom's group meeting that discussed the "Spirited Horses" chapter because of her emotional crisis at home. Disappointing, but at least now I have the knowledge to help her in the future!}

Raising a daughter has proven to be an amazing adventure, spirited horses and all. She has taught me how to laugh, and oftentimes reminds me to cry, too. She has pointed out all my weakness, but she also glorifies my strengths. She is my biggest fan, and my toughest critic... and I'm convinced it will always be that way. She is my constant companion, and sometimes a walking mirror of myself (scary)... Most of all, she is "G-d's Solemn Promise," and has taught me more about myself than anything else....

**As always, comments are appreciated. Moms of little worry warts, feel free to share additional resources and ideas not mentioned here. My research continues, so I will add any really good ones that I find!**

Be blessed!