Category Archives: Mombassadors

MOMbassadors Interview: Mandy of Biblical Homemaking

It’s such a treat for me to share today’s MOMbassador with you because she’s not only a fellow blogger-mama, but she’s also my real life bestie, and we’ve known each other for a decade.

{Why do I feel old all of a sudden?}

mandymombassadors_thumb[2] Mandy and I are very similar in some ways. We both teach fitness classes and absolutely loooooooove teaching BODYCOMBAT. So much so that we sometimes dress in matching outfits, then pose like this for pictures.

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{Okay, so “posing” might be a little too elegant of a word for what we’re doing. I’m just glad I didn’t knock her over!}

We both love low-key girls’ nights out, even if it means getting our grocery-shop on…at Wal-Mart…at 10 PM.

mandy and me at walmart_thumb[2]

We’re also both avid thrifters…

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{Can you believe she scored this adorable Fossil bag at a Dallas Goodwill for only $10?}

And, of course, we both blog. Mandy recently redid her whole site (in all of her spare time…ahem), and it’s really pretty and user-friendly. You should definitely head on over and check it out!

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Of course, the most mind-boggling similarity of all is that we both have 5 children each. Their ages are: 10, 8 , 7 , 6, 6, 4, 3, 15 months (X 2), and 5 months. I would love to be able to show you a picture of THAT craziness, but it just occurred me to that I don’t think we have one. (Mandy, we need to remedy that).

But, even with all of our sameness, we are also very different. And one of my favorite things is learning from other women who are stumbling along this bumpy road of motherhood with me and to whom God has revealed different truths. It’s such a great way to be encouraged that you’re not alone AND find out ways to do things better.

But enough gabbing from me.

Let’s get to the good stuff.

Out of the possible matriarchal titles (Mother, Mom, Mommy etc.), which do you
prefer? Any particular reason?

Mommy, though we are definitely getting to be in the “mom” era these days. I’m holding on to Mommy with everything I’ve got until they absolutely refuse to say it. I may have 3 more years. If I’m lucky. :)
mandy kids bear_thumb[2]
What’s the number one thing you’ve done that you think has made you a better mother?

I know this is probably a common answer, but seeking after God has made the biggest impact in my relationship with my kids by far. The Holy Spirit has been so good to me- He gently reminds me when I’m off course {often!}. I still have so far to go and so often I’m tempted to focus on my own failures, but when I look back over the last 10 years, I can see how He was teaching me and refining me every year. I try to remember to keep my face forward and press on, not focusing on how terrible I was in the past with regret, but being thankful for the chance to be able to do better in the future. Sanctification in Christ is a long process {thankfully!}.

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You have 5 kids, ranging from 10-years-old down to 5-months-old. What is the biggest challenge that you face when trying to coordinate and love on a large family with a variety of ages and needs?

When they were all little, life was hard but simple. It seems now like the older they get, the less physical work they require, and the more emotional engagement they need. I am still trying to find that balance, but one thing that I’m finding important in our larger family is spending one on one time with them individually every now and then. We are mostly together all day long, so it is a bit of a challenge to spend time connecting with the older ones. Elijah {10} and I just went on our first date this week, and I am excited to make that a regular occurrence! :)

mandy kids_thumb[2]

If you had one completely kid-free day, where would you go, and what would you do?

It feels like it’s been a while since I had one of those… :) If you would have asked me that 10 years ago, you can bet it would have involved either Six Flags, shopping, rock climbing, or tubing down the Guadalupe River in South Texas.

Now that I’ve spent the last decade having babies and being a mama, I would sleep in as late as I wanted, wake up slowly to stay on my couch with a cup of coffee and my Bible for a few hours, take a hot bath and read a book, and get ready at my leisure. Then I would go eat Tex-Mex with my husband, browse around the book store, come back home, put on my pj’s and watch a survival show or Call the Midwife. :) Can you say homebody? I really never thought it would happen to me. Apparently it strikes sometime after baby #5. :)

What’s your best piece of advice for mamas everywhere? (i.e. the one thing that helps you stay the sanest).

The first thing would be to take care of your spirit by soaking in the Word and in prayer every day. It is life giving, it prepares your heart for service, and I think it’s absolutely essential if we want to obey Jesus in this hard season of motherhood. He is so good, and He is our only source of strength! :) We just cannot do this well on our own.

The second would be to take care of your physical body. Seasons of being tired are sometimes unavoidable, but those are the seasons to re-prioritize the less important things so that you can get enough sleep. And if you aren’t eating well, your family will suffer too, so it’s important to fuel your body appropriately with the right foods at the right times. Mama being hangry is no good for the rest of the family!

I’ve entitled this series Mombassadors because I believe that we have the potential to be ambassadors for Jesus + examples of joy in a profession/calling that’s rife with opportunities for negativity if we let it be. But it takes a very conscious effort/choice on our parts. Because being a mama is hard! What kinds of things do you do to actively choose joy in motherhood?

Practically speaking, it has really helped me to identify the things that make me feel less than joyful as a mother and avoid them if I can. :) Scheduling lots of outside activities makes our life complicated, so as a group, we tend to stay home as much as we can these days. Just getting out the door with all of us decently dressed is tough with 5 kiddos! :)

Taking care of my spirit and physical body {like I talked about above} also plays such a big role in how I feel on a daily basis. When I don’t physically exercise my body, I’m way more prone to being depressed or even just more easily annoyed at silly things. I’ve also found that I need to get out of the house every now and then, so teaching fitness classes at the gym 3 hours a week has been a wonderful outlet for me. :)

mandy family_thumb[2]

As a fellow fitness instructor, I know you know how hard it can be to avoid being overly focused on our bodies, especially after we’ve had a baby (or five!). How do you cope with that?

God has been so good to me in this area in the last couple of years. I emotionally bowed down to the idol of the scale for over a decade and made myself {and everyone else} miserable when I didn’t see the numbers I wanted. I held tightly to that major idol in my life, until God smashed it.

I am so, so thankful that He has given me freedom from that silly number in a plastic box. Even not knowing what I weigh now {and not caring!} I still find myself focusing on my appearance and size all too often, but thankfully it is getting better! :) It is always especially difficult in the first few months after birth when my body is constantly changing and most of my clothing doesn’t fit the way it should. And honestly, on top of that, it’s even more challenging to be a fitness instructor and have five babies, because truly, all eyes are on you! ;)

Some days have been harder than others, and I complain when I shouldn’t {like that time we launched BODYPUMP in matching outfits a few weeks after I had Zane- oh, that hurt my pride a bit!}, but overall God has been so good to me to help me realize over this last pregnancy that gaining weight is a good thing. This is my healthy body making a big, healthy baby boy, and then feeding him for months just the way God made it to do. It’s a beautiful example of God’s provision for my baby when I can be pregnant and then feed a small human exclusively from my body! It’s so incredible if you think about it! He created us to do this, and it is good! :)

God has been so merciful to me to give me a new perspective on my body, and it’s really exciting to think that someday I will get to leave all of these selfish desires and my pride of life behind. I am so looking forward to that day! Won’t it be amazing to finally see ourselves as He sees us?

Quick! Don’t think too hard if you can avoid it. What are the first three “M” words that pop into your head that describe you as a mom?

hmmmmm…

miracle {ask the people I grew up with and they will tell you it is a miracle I had 5 kids in 10 years! God completely changed my heart from wanting none to hoping for a house full!!}
multitasker {possibly the anti-buzz word of 2014…but it’s true}
mother hen? {two words still count right? even if one has “mother” in it? I won’t admit how long this actually took me…hahah! let’s not play Scrabble anytime soon, okay? ;) }

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I think what I love most about reading all of this is being able to see Mandy’s perspective on how God has changed her heart as it relates to motherhood and look back and know that it’s true for her…and for me too. God is so good and faithful not to leave us wallowing in our messes if we’ll only pry our fingers off our death grips on them, even a little bit.

And now as a treat for you, Mandy has chosen 2 things to give away that represent her personality.

mandy giveaway 

Her favorite candle (she raves about it!), and an ESV Bible.

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE ENTERED TO WIN IS ANSWER THIS QUESTION IN THE COMMENTS:

What is one area (related to motherhood or just life in general) in which you have improved over the past decade? {It can be small or momentous. But I bet there’s something. 

And if you want, you can get extra entries by filling out the easy Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

MOMbassadors Interview: Laine from It’s Just Laine

Happy Friday, y’all! Can you believe there’s only one more Friday until Christmas DAY???! (Pardon me while I assume the fetal position: too. much. to. do)

This week has been a hectic blur, but if I told you where I am this very second, you’d have absolutely zero sympathy for me, so I’ll just leave it at that (don’t worry; I’ll share next week…mmmmwahahaha…evil, I know).

In fact, this week was so blurry that, somehow, I managed not to announce our big winner from our last Mombassadors interview.

And she is:

Lari Franklin who said: “I try to be a glass half full person…it’s a struggle…when I start to be a glass half empty person my husband reminds me of how awesome our life is.” :)

Amen, Lari! I totally understand. I’ll be in touch soon!

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Oh, y’all. I hope you’re enjoying these MOMbassadors interviews as much as I am. I started them as a way to “outsource” a post or two about motherhood since I certainly don’t have all the answers, and I wanted so much for them to be a blessing to you guys. I hope they have been. Regardless, they have blessed me so much. It is such a privilege to learn from these sweet mamas—not because they’re perfect or claim to be —but because, each day they wake up determined to do better than the day before, by God’s grace. (Yup, me too).

I’m so glad I get to introduce you today to:

lainemombassadors Laine blogs over at It’s Just Laine (apparently, people have a hard time grasping that her name isn’t short for anything) and is a homeschooling mama to 4 kiddos (which is the same number that Emily and Mary had; I promise I know people with more/less kids than that!).

I know her best through her Instagram feed, which is chock full of fun, pretty images of her daily life with her family.

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Laine loves to create and has recently taken up crocheting.

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{And now, of course, I feel like my life could not possibly be complete unless I crochet something this cute at some point)

She’s also a fellow super-thrifter!

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But enough with my words. I think you’ll like Laine’s a lot better.

Out of the possible matriarchal titles (Mother, Mom, Mommy etc.), which do you prefer? Any particular reason?

Oh, definitely, “Mommy.”  I don’t know, it just sounds so sweet.  “Mom” always makes me think of “Mooooom?!” Like “Why must I clean my room??”  Although recently my 8 year old son has taken to calling me “Dearest Respectable Mother,” which always cracks me up.  He’s a funny kid…with a big vocabulary. Homeschooler. =D

What’s your favorite way to bring an instant smile to your kids’ faces? 

This is easy.  I just have to say, “Let’s eat!” They are big fans of food. ;)   But in all seriousness, they just want me to stop and be with them. Sing with them, play outside with them, be silly, etc.  They are so easy to please!  My children just want me, being ALL there.  Giving them my full attention always makes them smile.

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{Pumpkin dinner rolls with honey butter…Mmmmmmmmm}

Your first two kids have given you some health scares. Can you tell us a little bit about what that’s been like as a Mama?

Nothing has changed me more as a person than the deep valleys we have faced with our children.  Our oldest child, Lydia, was born with complex heart defects resulting in basically only having one-half of her heart.  (She has tri-cuspid atresia, transposition of the great vessels and a ventricular septal defect.)  Lydia had her first open heart surgery at 10 days old, her second at 5 months and her third at almost 3 years old, along with multiple heart catheterization procedures scattered throughout the years.  And 20 months after Lydia came a long, our son was born three months premature, weighing just 1lb. 15oz. 

Those days, weeks, and months of ICU and NICU life with them were some of the most gut-wrenching, tear-filled, yet awe-inspiring times of my life.  I cannot even begin to share here the way God showed Himself strong and mighty through our children. The tiny miracles all along the way that left us marveling at God’s power over and over. And I wish the calm that I felt so often during that time, the incredible peace of God that He gave, was something that I could adequately put into words. 

One thing that hospital life will teach you is that life is precious.  Every day is a gift! So often I would struggle with the question, “Why me?” But not the cynical, loathing, “Why me?”  But a, “Lord, why are you so good to me? Why is my child doing so well when others are not?  How out of billions of people did you choose me to be this amazing child’s mother?!”  I felt so unworthy and still do of His blessings.

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Another thing I have learned on this rough and rocky journey of motherhood is that God is worthy of my trust.  I am a mama to a daughter with a life-long, life-threatening condition and I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  But I do know who holds tomorrow and that always, always comforts my heart when I begin to feel anxious about her future! 

If your blog and instagram feed are any indication, then you’re a do-er. You’re always making something cute or yummy and taking pretty pics of it. AND you homeschool! Please share your secrets for squeezing so much into so little time!

Oh goodness, no secrets here!  But one thing that has helped me so much is getting up pretty early.   I need the quiet in the morning to read my Bible, have my coffee and get a jump on the day before my kids are awake. (Without it, I start feeling like crazy lady…it’s so much more important to me than sleep!)  Also, I have learned to delegate. My children are getting to the age where they are pretty good helpers and we all work together to keep the house clean, do the laundry, feed the animals, etc. Every day they have specific chores that must be accomplished before breakfast. There is no way I could do it all myself…it’s a blessing having little helpers! 

As far as school is concerned, keeping things as organized as possible a midst the chaos is also a time saver.  We utilize a work box system so everybody knows what they are supposed to be doing, and it really cuts down on papers and books being misplaced.  But I’m just like the rest of you moms, wishing there were more hours in a day so I could for once complete my to-do list!! .  Many days my hubby will say, “So what did you do today?”  And with a sigh I moan, “Well, I kept the children alive, taught school and made supper. And that’s IT.”  To which he replies, “Sounds like a busy day!”  Yes, yes it was. ;)   He’s a sweetheart, always encouraging me that those things really are enough in this busy season of life!

I love your focus on hospitality. Does that come naturally for you or is it something you’ve had to learn? 

Yes and no.  Growing up, my mom was always so willing to have people in our home.  People still love to come to my mom’s house, sit around her table and chat.  She makes everyone feel comfortable!  She would make the perfect Italian grandmother…”Eat more!”  =) So once I married and had a home of my own, welcoming people in wasn’t the hard part. It was what I was welcoming them into that was difficult.

Our current home and our home before this were both foreclosures and needed a lot of remodeling.  For far too long I had this idea that everything had to be DONE and perfect before anyone could come over.   For almost a year after we moved into this house, I didn’t have any kitchen cabinets.   And even though at first I was utterly mortified to have company, that’s when the Lord really convicted me and I had my big “aha!” moment. I had been so filled with pride!  Hospitality isn’t about showing off what you have, or impressing people with your home.  It’s about serving others and meeting their needs.  While I knew that in my head, I didn’t really get it until then.  For years I used to apologize about everything in my house when people stepped over the threshold! Silly, huh?

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Is our home all finished now?  Nope!  But again, hospitality isn’t about me, it’s about others.  So I attempt to fix something yummy and make sure everything is as clean as possible with four kids contaminating the premises constantly.    You know, sometimes all the bedroom doors stay shut and there are a few dirty dishes in the sink, but that’s okay!  Our purpose in inviting others into our home is to be a blessing, but I’m always amazed at how blessed and encouraged I feel when friends leave.  Just forget all of the imperfections that you feel your home has (or even obviously has!) and invite someone over!  You’ll be glad you did.

What’s your best piece of advice for mamas everywhere? (i.e. the one thing that helps you stay the sanest). 

It would have to be Deuteronomy 6:5, “Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thine heart and with all they soul and with all they might.”  In short, keep your focus on Jesus.  He is our Rock!  I cannot imagine life without Him.  Motherhood is a constant ebb and flow of change.  Children are constantly growing.  Feeding and sleeping routines always need adjusting.  And then there are the blessed hormones shifting all over the place!!  (yikes!)  Life is like a roller coaster, and unless we ourselves are firmly planted on the Lord Jesus Christ, well, we’ll feel like a train wreck. I believe all people, especially women, crave stability, and when we have that we feel secure and happy.   If you build your life on God’s Word and on the Lord who never changes, no matter what happens, you can have peace and joy. This is hard one, loving God supremely and keeping Him as your focus, and I’ll be the first to admit it!  But it’s a daily choice that will make such a difference in your life.  

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Do you have a life verse or one that’s become especially precious since becoming a mom?

During my pregnancy with my oldest, a sweet sister in Christ wrote me a letter and encouraged me to memorize Psalm 139.  It was soon after Lydia was diagnosed with heart defects and that passage became more meaningful to me than ever.  I absolutely love verses 13-17 which say:

“For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!”

My daughter’s condition was not a “fluke” as all of the specialists called it…God created her that way!  In His eyes, she is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Isn’t that just awesome?  And verse 17…goodness, it gives me chills.  The God of heaven thinks about me! Wow.

Another verse that I have found to be so helpful in this challenging season of motherhood is Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

I’ve learned the hard way that the way I think and how it turns into words and actions can be really scary!! I don’t want to be that mama, always snapping at my kids about anything and everything!  And changing what I think about to match this verse makes all the difference in how I act.

I’ve entitled this series Mombassadors because I believe that we have the potential to be ambassadors for Jesus + examples of joy in a profession/calling that’s rife with opportunities for negativity if we let it be. But it takes a very conscious effort/choice on our parts. Because being a mama is hard! What kinds of things do you do to actively choose joy in motherhood?

I’ll be honest and tell you that this is really difficult for me!   But here’s what I’ve been learning:

1.     1) A thankful heart is a happy heart, as I always tell my kids, and when I’m choosing to give thanks for things (even difficult things!) and controlling what I think about (you know, that Philippians 4:8 thing again) my attitude is so much more joyful.

2.  2)I have to make the decision to spend time with the Lord reading my Bible and praying every day.  Motherhood is exhausting because we give, give, GIVE!  And if I’m not feeding my soul with God’s Word and finding my strength in the Lord, well, I will wither so quickly and turn into a really grumpy mommy. And that’s just not pleasant for anyone!  

3.    3) Have fun with my kids.  It’s SUPER easy for me to be all business around here and I easily forget to just enjoy these little people.

4.     4)Remember that God is good all of the time, even when I don’t understand.

5.     5)Cutting way back on my “media” intake has greatly helped me as well.  I compare myself with others far too much and that tends to rob my joy like nothing else!  

6.     6)Find ways to bless others.  There is so much joy in giving!

Quick! Don’t think too hard if you can avoid it. What are the first three “M” words that pop into your head that describe you as a mom? 

Miserly. Militant. Moody. HAHAHA.  Okay so maybe not really, but that’s what I felt like Monday.  =P    Let’s try again….

Mad (as in crazy)

Musical.

Maker-of-things.  

How’s that? =) 

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Isn’t she adorable? I feel inspired and convicted and encouraged all at once after reading that. So good.

Oh! And just like with our other interviews, I asked Laine to choose some things that represent her as a person to give away to you!

She chose this fantastic-looking photo inspiration book, which gives you all kinds of ideas for taking pictures of your loved one in creative ways:

a beautiful mess book

AND

this book full of fun crochet projects (I just ordered it for me like 2 seconds ago!)

crochet book

REQUIRED:

Simply answer the following question that I asked Laine to enter (even if you don’t care about giveaways, I’d love to hear your answers!):

What’s your favorite way to bring an instant smile to your kids’ faces?  (Or, if you’re not a mama yet, how did your own mom do this for you?)

If you want, you can also fill out the easy Rafflecopter form below for extra entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):