Roadtripping as a Single Mom

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Hi Mamas!

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say or imply that you can travel more if you don’t have kids. This implies that once you have kids, you are extremely limited or you have lost your freedom to travel.

That is false. You can travel as a single mom, you just need to approach traveling with a little creativity and flexibility!

Many of you may be preparing to travel for the holidays over the next two weekends. If you do not live near family, traveling can become somewhat of a necessity (especially when grandparents haven’t seen their grandkids in a while). However, it can get pricey when trying to make arrangements!

For me, my traveling default is roadtripping!

My daughter and I used to drive from the Midwest to the East Coast during the first few months of her life. Then, we drove up and down the East Coast while I was in law school, since my family stayed 10-12 hours away (depending on traffic). I would guess that I drove about 50,000 miles during road trips home for me and Raegan from the time she was an infant until about age 3  1/2 (Raegan’s first road trip was at 2  1/2 months old for 6 hours). Now that I am out of school and practicing law, I have work trips to consider.

Below are some considerations for your next mommy and me road trip.

Drive or Fly?

  • Driving was/is often cheaper than flying for me and Raegan. A round trip home could cost me about $500 to $600 for both me and Raegan to fly. I could not afford to fly home if one trip would cost me a good deal of my rent money. I was in school at the time, so that just wasn’t feasible. Driving, by contrast, was cheaper, even when gas was more expensive a few years ago. Now, it costs about $25 to fill my car up from empty to full. It takes about 2 tanks to get home- so $100 round trip. Driving is more often the winner, but it means I will be spending a good deal of time in the car.
  •  If you cannot picture yourself driving that long with your kids by yourself, then I would recommend checking out this blog by my friend Heather. When I buy plane tickets,  I usually stalk Southwest for a sale!
  • Driving also wins out because I prefer packing for a road trip rather than dealing with luggage restrictions for flying. I can put what I want in my bag and don’t have to worry about carrying my bags, her bag, and her car seat by myself  around an airport (I strained a back muscle from carrying so much last time I flew!).
  • Makes sure you take care of your car to avoid headaches! There are coupons galore for basic things like oil changes, and I have saved money learning how to do stuff like change wipers, air filters, and head lamps. Also, I have learned that I like a clean car for traveling, so I usually detail my car myself. That saves me a couple of dollars!!

Fuel Costs

  • When roadtripping, keep in mind that gas is cheaper outside of larger cities, and certain states are cheaper. For example, I often traveled from Georgia to Virginia. Gas was cheapest in South Carolina, the most expensive in North Carolina, and cheaper in Virginia (excluding Northern Virginia). If I was traveling from Georgia across the Southern states, I found that gas was cheaper outside of Georgia in states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
  • Choose exits that have a couple of gas stations. This makes for competitor fuel pricing, versus an exit with one gas station is more often expensive AND not safe. See  “Safety Considerations” below.
  • Sign up for gas rewards through a grocery store savings card (Kroger’s savings cards allows you to earn cents off per gallon of gas)!

Efficiency 

  • Set time for stops. I know a full tank of gas lasts 5.5 hours. So, if I started the trip with a full tank,  a trip home meant one stop for gas at some point. During that one stop I would use also grab food and take a restroom break/change Rae.
  • Travel around traffic–larger cities have rush hour, so plan your travel time arund rush hours. For example, I knew that I would have to pass Charlotte on my way to Virginia before 7:00 a.m., between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and after 7:00 p.m.
  • If we had to stop for food, I would place the food on her tray. 
  • Pack a change of clothes, paper towels, towels, baby wipes for blow outs/big spills. This kept me from wasing time stopping at Wal-Mart or some other place.
  • Keep in mind that efficiency NEVER TRUMPS SAFETY. The destination will still be there, so make a schedule but realize life happens with kids and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Food

  • I would rely heavily on my EBT card to pick up food at gas stations that accepted EBT.
  • I would also use my EBT card to buy foods at Walmart and then pack foods for me and Raegan.
  • Speaking of food for Rae, I traveled when she was quite young. I would pack her bottles and baby food in car cooler made for bottles. I also had a bottle warmer for my car.

Entertainment

  • This is a big one. People usually picture a screaming child. I usually ask, “Where they do that at?” I usually had zero drama from Raegan, and that was largely because I spent a great deal of time talking from time she was born until now, which helped her vocabulary (I really think this contributes to her vocabulary being at the 6-7 year old level based on evaluations done by her teacher).
  • Driving gives you teaching moments galore– we talked about colors, animals, plants, sky, and vehicles.
  • Time for family worship–we sang worship songs together! Raegan will usually make a request and I get to be a Bethel music, Jesus Culture-slinging DJ.
  • A time to minister– we talked about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, you name it. I have preached whole sermons to my child.
  • NAPS. NAPS. NAPS. I keep Raegan’s nap schedules by turning down music, laying a blanket across her, and telling her “it’s time to go to sleep so lay back.” I then used that time to listen to sermons.
  • Buy a Travel Tray for your car seat!! This is what it looks like. I used it for her meals and it allowed her to color, do puzzles, you name it. IT WAS A REAL LIFESAVER. I bought mine for maybe $5 on Groupon. They also have pockets for sippy cups, crayons, juice boxes, and snacks.
  • Consider electronics. A family member bought Raegan the Nabi tablet when she was just under 2. I  use it only for small spurts of time on road trips so as to reduce screen time/turning her into the kid that’s always asking for somebody’s phone to play games.
  • Let your kids out of the car once in a while! I let her stretch her legs when I stopped for gas.
  • Consider your child’s disposition! I generally didn’t experience screaming and hollering and all of that. The only time Raegan was fussy was if she had ear infection. Other than that, Raegan wasn’t really a crier–when she cried it was for a purpose. I really believed God blessed me with a child that just went with the flow. Her presence really confirmed the calling on my life–it was as if God saw that I would be in school far from home and thus blessed me with a child that could handle long car rides. That being said, again, think about your child’s disposition. If your child tends to get fussy in the car, don’t do it.

Safety Considerations

  • Pack your car in the morning while your kids sleep. That way,  you stuff is not in the car overnight and thus an attractive target for theft.
  • If possible, choose driving in the day versus the night. For me, it was often inevitable for me to drive at night if I left after classes on a given day. But, trying to drive overnight means you are tired and puts you at risk. If you have car troubles over night, you are now stranded at night on the side of the road somewhere with your child.
  • Stop at exits that have more than one gas station, with many gas stations close to the highway. I do not stop at exits that have gas stations that are too far from the highway. I want as many people to see me and my child as possible. Being near people is good.
  • Keep a pack of water and blankets in your trunk, along with a spare tire.
  • Get good car insurance!  This cannot be stressed  enough. DON’T SKIMP ON THIS. I do not cut corners on my car insurance– I want roadside assistance, towing, you name it.
  • Inclement weather happens so use wisdom!

Potty Training

  • Potty training and traveling is TOUGH. I brought her little potty with us in the car for her to use. I would pull over and let her use it, as I didn’t like to use the seat you buy for public restrooms (DISGUSTING). 
  • They sell pads for covering the car seat in case your child has an accident while potty training. I haven’t tried it but wanted to!
  • Pull-ups are your friend during this time.
  • Don’t go so long that you have them sitting in a diaper. Think rashes and the like.
  • Sometimes blow outs happen! Be prepared with extra clothes, paper towels, and cleaners and towels!

Work Trips

  • For moms who work outside the house (like moi!), this can be tough, but it’s not insurmountable. My job will require me to travel and other times it’s a good idea to do so. I just moved to a new state, so I’m in the process of establishing good community. In the meantime, I needed to go out of town for a work trip but my family is 11 hours away.
  • So, I asked folks up in our firm’s Nashville office to see if they knew of drop-in care. I researched the recommended places HEAVILY! Google earth map them. Search to see if they ever had eviction or landlord tenant issues (indicating financial issues, which means they may not have the resources that I like). Keep in mind that I did this because of good recommendations from other attorneys I trusted. More importantly, I prayed and felt peace. All in all, it was a good opportunity for Rae to experience a new city, and I treated like a mini vacation even though I was working.
  • If you are near family and friends, then you know the drill–ask family or a trusted friend to come with you or to keep your child.

 

Roadtripping is a great bonding experience when it is  viewed as an adventure rather than a chore or a “necessary evil.” For me, there was nothing evil about it–me and my kid were down to ride out across the country together.We have driven to about 17 states or so together between necessary road trips to see family and just traveling to see friends. It’s His grace, and experience along the way, that carried us through.

Hope this helps!

Love,

Melonie

How My Relationship Prepared Me for the 2016 Election: A Call for Unity

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“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

John 17: 20-23

Believers,

Here we are, a week after one of the most divisive elections in our nation’s history. The election truly broke my heart and really challenged me to the core of my spirit. After several days of feeling completely crushed by the weight of the burden I felt, I finally feel released from the grips of anguish through the peace of God.

This peace washed over me after God showed me that He prepared me for the elections for more than a year through my relationship with my boyfriend Joshua.

This lesson was specially tailored for me, but I hope it encourages you, as members of the Body of Christ, as we transition into new political leadership.

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As many of you know through my Instagram page, I’ve been courting/dating a wonderful man named Joshua for over a year. Joshua and I are opposites in almost every way imaginable, aside from our Christian beliefs concerning God. Joshua is  slow, steady, calculated. I move quick, passionately, no holds barred. Joshua was born and raised in the same town in northern Louisiana. I have lived all over the country, west coast to east coast. Joshua was raised in a Christian home in a close-knit Christian community, and thus came to Christ at a young age. I came to Christ at eighteen years old while away at college. Joshua loves the tried and true. I love adventure and newness.

Believe it or not, pride was a great source of conflict for us for much of our relationship.

We are both headstrong in our own way, and very much accustomed to doing things our  own way.

Thus, we allowed our differences to guide our interactions, which created a lot of unnecessary strife between us.

One (silly) conflict concerned time management. I could not understand why he wanted to sit and plan a whole day, every day, start to finish–we spent half our day planning our day instead of just going out and living it. He could not understand why I did not appreciate how intentional he was with his time and how he desired to maximize the little time we had together.

Another (major) conflict for us concerned teachings: I am more of a “surrender all to God, seeking His will above all” kind of woman, while Joshua is more of “power, sign, wonders, prosperous in all things” kind of man. We both knew God embodied both perspectives, but in our actions we held tightly to specific teachers and pastors we favored, viewing each other with suspicion and accusations of being “watered down.” Obviously I am simplifying both of our stances for the sake of this post, but it was tearing us apart.We were literally living out these verses:

“My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

1 Corinthians 1:11-13

For some reason, the truth in these verses were lost on us. We held tight to our favorite preachers and differing perspectives. At one point we came to a stalemate–we both contemplated ending our relationship because we did not think we could work out our theological differences.

We had no respect for each other’s differences. We saw difference as a sign that we just were not meant to be together.

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In the last few months, God dealt with our prideful attitudes and our views of Him.

You see, we were so focused on our lack of uniformity that we missed the value that came with differing perspectives. 

God really showed us that he was not just a God of justice, authority, and judgment. He was not just a God of love, power, signs, and wonders. He brings both. He is both just and graceful. To hold tight to these unilateral perspectives meant that we ignored other facets of God’s character–we each understood God from a different perspective, but neither of us was wrong.

God revealed to us that there is power in our different perspectives. Each view was needed, and even our different personality types balanced each other. We needed difference. We needed that diversity in personality and perspective to help bring about a more complete understanding of God and personal growth for one another.

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I need to be more calm, steady, and intentional. Joshua needs to relax and live less controlled. Our differences ended up being the very thing each other needed, spiritually and personaltiy-wise.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-20 (emphasis added)

So, how did this prepare me for Election Night 2016?

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Election Night was a call for unity for all believers. My heart is broken because of the divisive spirit invading our Church.

In the months leading up to the election, I saw leaders of the Church say Christians “should not get involved in worldly affairs.” I’ve seen social media posts about praying and not getting entangled in social justice initiatives.

As Election Night progressed, I personally saw leaders point to one candidate/group as “more representative” of Christian beliefs. I saw posts on social media about “voting for the platform.” I saw posts about how “God is very clear about the sanctity of marriage and life, so vote accordingly.” I saw posts that said “I will vote according to righteous principles becoming law of the land.” In the end, 80% of voting evangelical Christians voted for Trump, with many pointing to pro-life and marriage as the reason for doing so.

My heart was burdened in learning this, and it really showed me just how much we need to be unified by the sound Gospel of Jesus Christ. We became divided over different issues, with calls to cling tighter to one perspective over another.

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“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

1 Corinthians 1:10

My Bible’s commentary puts this beautifully: “Differences of opinion are inevitable among human personalities and can actually be helpful, if handled well. But spiritual unity is essential–loyalty, commitment, and love for God and his Word. Without spiritual unity, the church could not survive.” Differences can add value.

Yes, the Gospel is very clear about life from the very start of it. It is also clear about caring for that life if they are poor or widowed or sick. The Gospel is very clear about marriage beginning with the man and woman becoming one flesh. The Gospel is also very clear about infidelity, divorce, serving one another in marriage, and the marriage being a representation of Christ’s relationship with the Church. By sticking with these two issues as the end-all, be-all, we send a message to the world that God, and thus his Church, is only concerned about those issues. But…

God is not a partisan God.

He does not just address marriage and life in His Word. He also deals with greed, lust, jealousy, rage, discord, paying taxes, faithfulness, truth, and the list goes on. One specific platform, or party, does not adequately represent the Gospel. Just so we’re clear: both Democrats and Republicans miss the Biblical mark. To vote based on marriage and life alone sent a message that those two issues were “more important” and that all other sinful traits were “not as important.” We sent a message that we could deal with everything else–all other sins were negotiable.

The Gospel, and likewise Christians, should not be treated in a piecemeal manner. 

God cares about all of the above issues, and then some. God does not rank sins from worst to least. Whether we lie or kill, cheat or lust, sinful behavior separates us from God. Thus, we thank God that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross and made a way for us to draw near to our Father.

We must represent His message in its entirety to the best of our human ability. We cannot be divided over “abortion/marriage” versus “racism/classism/sexism.” Our God surely cares about it all, and one group is not necessarily wrong or right.

Thus, we need both perspectives and understandings of the Gospel. We cannot send a divided message about our God to this world. Just as Joshua and I only had an incomplete understanding of Christ by ourselves, and thus needed each other, we as Christians need each other’s perspectives to have a more informed understanding of God’s complex character.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

1 Corinthians 12:21-30

The above verses illustrate my point: we as Christians cannot cling so tightly to some teachings of the Bible and ignore others. Our differing perspectives are needed, and we should have equal concern for each other.

I do not write this to condemn Trump or Clinton voters. I do not write this to say that 80% of voting evangelical Christians should have voted for Clinton. Rather, I desire that we have the same attitude of that of the early Church in the Book of Acts:

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Acts 4: 32

God taught me, through my relationship with Joshua, that both perspectives were needed for a more informed understanding of the character of God.

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We can do this, by the grace of God.

Love,

Melonie

HELP! How Can I Be “Content” as a Struggling Single Mom?

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“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:13

Hi Mamas!

It’s been on my heart to share how I survived when I had literal CENTS (and often a negative balance) in my account and a baby to feed. I want to share how I navigated my “desert/wilderness” season- a time period that lasted for about two years and pretty much came to a head in the summer of 2014. I recognize that season for what it was- my time for pruning- and now I can affectionately reflect on that time period and call Summer 2014 my “Faith Summer.” My Faith Summer was filled with low balances in my bank accounts, car troubles that pushed me to ride the bus, no money for the bus half the time, decreased public assistance for some reason, and late bills. You may ask, “How in the world can you remember such a time “affectionately?

I really did learn how to be content, that kind of content described above in Philippians 4:13- I was content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether we lived in plenty or in want. I did all this through Jesus who gave me strength. You see, I learned firsthand that God really had our backs. My daughter and I never missed a meal, we had fun, and I saw God perform miracles in my life. Literally, He provided for me through family members, bus drivers, teaching me lessons, and just plain providing when there was no other explanation!

I think it is so easy to talk about contentment today- we know why we should be content, but no one really mentions the how.

How can you be content when you don’t have any cash to speak of, you feel alone, you can’t take your kids to do cool things, you barely have food on the table, your kids barely have clothes, and you just wish you could spruce up your house?

First, be thankful for what you do have (Ephesians 5:20). Second, don’t worry about what you don’t have (Matthew 6:31). Third, learn to love where you are and what you have and get creative with what you’ve got! Below are my suggestions about each area I learned to be content in!

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How Can I Be Content When I Don’t Have Food on the Table?

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This was taken while waiting on the porch of the Toco Hills Community Alliance in the summer of 2014.

  1. Food Pantry– Whether at a church, a local organization such as the one I went to (Toco Hills Community Alliance), United Way, Salvation Army, you name it- you can find food!  These organizations may also offer rent assistance, utility assistance, or even fare for public transportation!
  2. Public Assistance– Sis, you have to suck up that pride and go ask for help! This season will not last forever, but in the midst of it you need to get help. Visit your local welfare office. In Georgia, the offices are called Department of Family and Children Services. Be sure to bring the appropriate paperwork with you upfront so that way you will not be delayed in getting help. Don’t look down your nose or scoff at assistance- erase the stereotypes from your mind and go do the right thing.

How Can I Be Content When My Kids Don’t Have Clothes on Their Back?

1. Shop smart– You can get good quality clothing for dollar store prices (I’m talking $10 or less). I will say that again: You can get good quality clothing for dollar store prices. Let that truth sink in. You don’t have to be a coupon maven (although I’m sure that is helpful)- all you need is a little patience. I shop at J.Crew, Zara, Baby Gap, Old Navy, Carter’s, OshKosh B’Gosh, H&M and lots of other places for my daughter and pay dollar store prices by waiting for their sales! I’m talking the sales that happen when the seasons change, sales where they give you huge percentages off from already marked-down items, etc. So, you could have paid for a J.Crew top for $50 but you can get it for maybe $7 or so if you wait it out long enough! Not that labels matter, but I like the quality that comes with it because I know they will last a long time.

2. Dress smart– I want Raegan’s clothes to last a long time because I am going to use them for years. Yes, years, even at this age when they are growing fast. For example, I bought an over-sized cardigan for Rae when she was about 4 months old and she wore it until she was 2. When I see a good priced item (again, to me that’s $10 or less) I really brainstorm to see if I can use it in some way. I bought a shirt sized 3t for my daughter when she was about 7 months old and used it as a dress. When she grows out of her dresses, I slap some shorts or jeans under them and now the dress is a shirt! You see the red “shirt above” with black leggings on in the collage below? That was her first Christmas dress and I turned it into a shirt. When her pants become too short for her, BOOM they are now capris. If something is a little too large, I will roll the sleeves up and make it work! You can see the rolls in almost all her clothes in the collage above.

3. Have no shame- You guys, we have got to be set free from chasing labels, especially for children who will tear it up or stain it in a matter of minutes. With that being said, there is NO SHAME in my game when I waltz right up into Walmart, Target, or wherever else and find some really cute items! For example, I either make or buy Rae’s hairbows (see the white one above in her hair) from Walmart (they’re exactly $1 for the large ones I like). The little red flats in the picture collage above? I bought those for no more than $5 from a hair store. The cheetah print cardigan she’s wearing in the collage above was from Walmart. The little black “Chanel” purse she has in her hands in the top left photo of both collages above? On sale at Target for $5. She’s wearing a black-grey scarf in the first photo collage- I got that from the dollar rack at Target for $3.

You can also shop at consignment/resale shops like Once Upon a Child. You can sell your kids’ old clothes and you can buy gently used clothes as well. Sometimes they are a little bit overpriced to me for stuff that is used, but I do like how much I can sell her clothes for. I have paid BILLS with the money I got from Once Upon a Child. I once heard someone say that “it’s not what you wear, but how you wear it.” While I don’t agree with that statement in all contexts, it’s definitely helpful here.

4. DIY anything– Literally, you can DIY a bunch of stuff if you have the spare time. I am very particular about what kinds of clothes I like- this applies to both Raegan and myself. With that being said, if I want a certain look and I can’t find it, I will most likely make it. Thus, I will make her hairbows out of spare ribbon. If we receive a gift and it has ribbon wrapped on it, chances are you will see that ribbon again in her hair or in her clothes. Raegan was invited to a birthday party that was kind of Kentucky derby styled, so I made her a fascinator (the small little white hat on her head in the collage above) using fake flowers and a glue gun. I like to make her jewelry as well!  If you like to be creative and like crafts, I encourage you to try to this out!

How Can I Be Content When I Live in a One-Bedroom Apartment with My Kid and I Haven’t Bought New Furniture in YEARS?

Ok, so you may not have any money to run out and just buy new stuff when you are tired of your furniture! You may have to keep sacrificing until you are in a different place. In the meantime, we can spruce up what we have! I encourage you to head over to Pinterest and see if there are any DIY kind of projects you can do at home! I rented my apartment throughout law school, so I couldn’t just throw some paint on the wall or do other kind of drastic changes. BUT, I did learn about electrical tape! I used it to make stripes and dots on the walls in our bedroom (Rae and I shared a room)! I also used electrical tape and gold duct tape on my washer and dryer to make them a little more attractive! Both kinds of tape didn’t leave any residue on the wall or the appliances, so I was pleased with that (but make sure your appliances and walls can handle it!).

I also developed a liking for painting! I bought some cheap paint, converted my daughter’s crib to a daybed, and make it a pretty pink and gold color for her. I painted her easel and play kitchen the same. Lastly, I really liked an idea where you made silhouettes of each state you have lived in- it came from one of my favorite blogs (can you tell she’s my soul sister- she’s a lawyer lol). I made Ohio, Virginia, and Georgia for the states Raegan and I have lived together (although I have lived in 10 states and traveled in nearly all states). See if any of these ideas resonate with you- they helped me to see that what I had was already good.

How Can I Be Content When I Can’t Take My Kid to Do Fun Things?

  1. Free Mommy and Me Classes– I started researching different activities and classes to do with Raegan when she was a little over a year old. I could not afford a lot of activities, but that just meant I would stalk out the “free” activities. So, for example, Atlanta Ballet offered an open house featuring a free class, so I took Raegan there to participate.  Although we haven’t gone yet, I know that Gymboree offers their first class free. I also looked into classes at the local library!
  2. Free Outdoor Movie Nights-A lot of cities play free movies for the public during the summer! They will set up huge movie screens and play films, and oftentimes they will serve free snacks like popcorn and cotton candy! I used to go to the showings at Atlantic Station and over at Emory Point. Bring a blanket or a towel and have a fun movie night with your family!
  3. Splash pads/Parks– These really grew in popularity back when Rae was a wee one and I still see quite a bit of them. Guess what? They are all free. I took Raegan to the Fountain of Rings at Centennial Olympic Park and it was very fun for us both! She enjoyed the water and I enjoyed the water show they put on four times a day! We also went to the splash pad in historic Old Fourth Ward and they had a really nice park. Parks are getting cooler and cooler looking, and safer too, so head out and have free fun!
  4. Chalk– This seems so old school, but really it was fun with her since everything was so new and exciting to her one and a half year old mind at the time! She really liked the crown I drew her.
  5. Indoor camping/forts– The bottom right photo is of us camping out in our living room. I put up sheets and Christmas lights and we just watched DVDs and made s’mores on the stove. This can be done at any time of the year!
  6. Picnics– Pack up some sandwiches, waters, chips in a little plastic bag and grab an old town or blanket! We picnicked in Piedmont Park very often for dinner- it was a great time to just sit and talk with her. I really believe her little mind was soaking up everything and learning so much just be observing the nature and people around us anytime during the year.
  7. Christmastime fun–  I never had enough money to do much during Christmastime- the end of the semester meant low morale and low account balances. BUT, that didn’t stop us from getting out and walking around shopping centers that were decorated so nicely for Christmas. A huge Christmas tree is hung up every year in Atlantic Station, so we head there and take photos in front of the tree. And, you know what? It saves me time and money spent taking photos elsewhere. We visited a Christmas tree farm in Buckhead and we also watched people ice skate at Atlantic Station.
  8. Board games & puzzles– Board games and puzzles were always a fun activity my parents did with me when I was young, so I continue that tradition with my daughter.  I got the board games above when she was about 18 or 19 months old because she understood how to play them at the time. Try age-appropriate or development-appropriate games for your kids!
  9. No cable? No Netflix? No problem! – DVDs. They are about $5 at Walmart, so you can pick up one or two and have entertainment at home with no worries!  This is also a good option because you can control what they see- sometimes the cartoons on major cable networks can be inappropriate.
  10. Trips to PetSmart in place of the zoo and aquarium– Don’t laugh! Listen, the zoo and the aquarium can be really expensive. So, I would take Raegan over to PetSmart and we would look at all of the pets  there. It’s just like the zoo to an 18 month old and she still marveled at all of the animals there.
  11. Trips to the Library– You can’t go wrong here: official story-times done by library staff, learning how to find books, or just sitting quiet and reading tons of books to your little one are all good things!
  12. Museums– Many museums offer free admission on certain days or all the time! Do a little research and see where you can go!
  13. Farmers Market– This is more recent, but I really like to take Raegan to the DeKalb Farmers Market just to look around! They have so many amazing foods there from all over the world. Raegan really liked looking at all of the fishes and different fruits! What’s even better is that they accept SNAP/EBT cards!
  14. Going for a run– I invested in a jogging stroller and used it for a really long time. I did quite a bit of research before I found one that fit my budget and my fitness goal- I wanted to run several miles at a quick pace. Thankfully, Raegan loved when we would go on runs! She would even yell “Faster, mommy!” and it really pushed me to go faster! Oftentimes, she would fall asleep and nap while I would log a few miles. You are killing two birds with one stone- quality time with your munchkin while taking care of yourself!

I know it’s hard. I really do. But, trust me, you can and you WILL get through this time period. That’s not even a question. The real question is-

Will you look around you and say “Man, I don’t have this, or that, we can’t do this, or go there,” or will you say, “You know what, I’m going to buckle down and enjoy what I have. It’ll take some humility, creativity, and patience, but I will be content with my portion”?

God met my needs in many ways, and other times He showed me that I needed to be humbled- I wasn’t lacking in many areas and I should have been thankful for everything. It was in this time that my faith really grew and I pray that yours will grow too if you’re in the wilderness.

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Raegan and I walked around and just enjoyed Centennial Olympic Park without spending a dime during Summer 2014. Go check it out!

If I could learn to be content in my rough season, you can, too, by His grace.

Love,

Melonie

Jealousy and Envy- Heart Conditions That Destroy Community

“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come- sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All of these evils come from inside and defile a person.” 

Mark 7:21-22

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Hi Everyone!

I hope your summer is going beautifully! I have spent this summer studying for the bar exam, which I took last week! I don’t find out the results until late September. In the midst of studying this summer I got a serious tug on spirit about something that is harming the body of Christ: green eyes of envy. My spirit has seriously been burdened by the green eyes of envy that plague the body of Christ. I saw it rear its ugly head this summer, the season of graduations, engagements, weddings, and traveling. This is a heart condition, and a sin that God takes very seriously, as seen in Scripture.

I mentioned this briefly before, but jealousy kills community. It kills sisterhood in the body of Christ, and I am calling it out in the hopes that we all take a stand against it!

What Does it Mean to Be Jealous and Envious?

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I really want to drive home the point that jealousy and envy are big problems, and not just because they break up friendships. It is a real attack on the body of Christ and it is divisive.

When we think of the term “jealousy” we often think of coveting. After all, the Tenth Commandment tells us not to covet anything that belongs to our neighbors. The term “covet”mentioned in the Tenth Commandment in Exodus 20:17 is closely related to, but not the exact Greek word as, “covet” in Colossians 3:5.  Colossians 3:5  (NIV) tells us to “Put to death, therefore, belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.” The King James version of this verse instructs us to “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Notice that covetnousness stands in for greed. The Greek word for covetnousness is “pleonexia,” which literally means “a desire to have more,” i.e., a lusting for a greater number of temporal things that go beyond what God determines is eternally best. Ephesians 4:19 noted that the Gentiles, “having lost all sensitivity,” gave into “sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.” Greed, that old pleonexia popping up again. In the context of these Scriptures, that greed, that desire to have more, is idolatry. That means sin.

That’s right, jealousy is a sin and condition of your heart.

Strong’s Concordance states that this idolatry implies bold and aggressive methods of getting more; it frequently refers to behavior that is as divisive and reckless as it is eager to get out and get more. Basically, a jealous person can be just as cruel as they are “ambitious.”  Mark 7:21-22, the verse above, says that jealousy comes from within, from the heart. It resides in the heart, as evidenced in James 3:14-15 (” But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”).

Envy: Jealousy’s Close Relative

Envy is just as big of a problem as jealousy. The Greek word for envy is phthonos, the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others, and an evil sense always attaches to this word. It is evil and disorderly, as stated in James 3:16 (“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”). Taken together, you are either desiring more than what you have or you are upset that someone else is being blessed. Either way, the Bible calls it evil

What’s The Proper Response to Jealousy and Envy?

Body of Christ

How should we respond to a person who is jealous and envious of us? What do we do when we are jealous and envious of someone else? There’s several approaches below.

I’m Jealous of Her

Realize that your peace is at stake.

Sis, “a heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30). You see that? A heart at peace gives life to the body, not a heart full of jealousy. Realize what’s going on here: you are rotting yourself out with your jealousy. Your peace is on the line here- let Christ come in and push that out.

Love your sister genuinely. 

1 Corinthians 13:4 tells us that love does not envy. Love, sis. Agape love. That kind of love that is the attitude of God toward His Son, love that is a deliberate choice made without any kind of deserving. I love this statement: “Christian love is the fruit of His Spirit in the Christian.” There’s no evil feelings towards your sister when there is love abiding in you.

Realize your value as a member of the body of Christ. 

The image of the body with different labels above is my representation of 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. Go read those verses sis! There’s nothing but truth: every person has a part to play in the body of Christ, just as each of your body parts makes up your entire body. If your foot was gone, you would sure miss it. If your hand or eye was gone, you would miss it. Be focused on your part in the body of Christ and realize that you are just as needed as anyone else. I encourage you to meditate on the following Scriptures and let them get down in you:

  • “The fullness of Christ is in me.” Colossians 2: 9-10
  • “I am the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14
  • “Your will for my life is perfect.” Romans 12:2
  • “You have plans to prosper me and not harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Pray over that sister and speak God’s blessings for her. 

That’s right. Pray blessings over her. Mary and Elizabeth come to mind. Elizabeth could have very well been jealous of Mary. They were both pregnant at the same time, but Mary’s baby would be far greater than Elizabeth’s baby. Elizabeth did not get jealous and envious of Mary, but instead Elizabeth proclaimed loudly “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear…Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:41-45). You see that? Nothing but love and blessings spoken when Elizabeth could have let envy take root in her heart.

She’s Jealous of Me

You pray for her.

That friend you thought would celebrate with you is just sick and upset that “it happened” to you and not her. Maybe she just decides to not be your friend out of the blue and you cannot figure out why she is so upset out of nowhere. Perhaps she is more honest and says right out that she is jealous. You may want to cut her off and refrain from talking to your friend after seeing such an unflattering side of her. A real friend would not be jealous, right?

Maybe so, but a bout of jealousy may  be best handled by loving her in spite of her heart condition. Our best response is to love on her and pray for her. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Jesus experienced jealousy and enviousness firsthand. Jesus was handed over to Pilate to be crucified because of the envy felt by the chief priests and elders of the people (see Matthew 27:18 KJV). Jesus responded to these envious people not by cutting them off, but by praying that God would forgive them in Luke 23:34.

Keep the bigger picture in mind. 

Now, this specifically concerns those who act out their envy or covetousness in their ministry. I want to encourage you to think of Philippians 1:15-18. Paul acknowledges that yes, “it is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” So, whether people set out to copy your ministry because they want what you have, or because they are upset that your ministry is flourishing…all that matters is that Christ is being preached. Someone will have to give an account for their motives, but realize the bigger picture- Christ.

Is Jealousy THAT Serious?

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Yes, it’s THAT serious. It goes beyond broken friendships- it affects the body of Christ. As mentioned above, the Tenth Commandment tells us not to covet anything that belongs to our neighbors. The Greek work for covet in this specific context is chamad, meaning “to delight in or desire.” You are desiring what others have. It is a sin to covet and it destroys community. 

Think about it. Remember James 3:16? The King James version says “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” Look at that- strife and envy hanging out together. No unity whatsoever. Unity is super important to Jesus. He prayed over future believers like you and me in John 17:23 when He stated that He wanted us all brought to “complete unity.” The purpose here is not for us to sing Kumbaya but so that the world will know that Jesus was sent by God and that He loved the world (see John 17:23). Paul shared the same sentiments by appealing to the church in Corinth to “agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

If we keep up with this jealousy and envying, the world will look at us and see no difference in our actions. They will look at us and say “I don’t see why I would be a Christian when they still carry on with being envious, jealous, and petty.” We represent Christ, y’all. Christ’s reputation is on the line- do we want to shock the world with the way we love or the way we fight and compete with each other over jealousies?

I pray we are healed from that heart condition by His grace.

Love,

Melonie

 

“What Will Be Your Journey?”

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

Romans 12: 6

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Hello Everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I am so excited to be back! A lot has happened in my life these last three months, with the most awesome event being that I graduated law school last Monday!  It’s been a whirlwind of events and activities, so I didn’t truly process it all until yesterday. It’s hit me- I graduated with my little girl right by my side! When I tell you my daughter and I went THROUGH some things…man. I once saw a quote on Pinterest (one of my favorite social media platforms!) that said “The days are long but the years are short.” What a perfect way to sum up these last three years! God truly brought me and my daughter through so much to graduation day on May 9, 2016. Many people have felt encouraged by my journey,  and for that I am so thankful. I am absolutely astounded by God- He took a single mother who was nothing extraordinary, redeemed me, and then showed off His amazing love and grace on me. Not only that, but I have a loving and supportive family and a good community here in Atlanta. Many people have a lot of questions, as well. The number one question I have gotten so far is:

How did you get through law school as a single mother?

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My response is nearly always this:

He graced me.

His grace. It leaves me speechless every time I stop and meditate on it. Grace is God’s free and undeserved favor for us- sinful, imperfect, messy us. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible explains that grace indicates favor on the part of the giver and thanks on the part of the receiver. So, it’s safe to say that grace is a two-way flow between you and God: He gives you unmerited favor and does this amazing work in your heart, and that work and favor is reflected in the life of the believer, leaving them thankful. Romans 12:4-6 states “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have all the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all others.We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us.” Ephesians 4:7 says “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Romans and Ephesians teaches us that every believer in Christ should be working together as one body, and we all have our special part to play in that body. You have a special God-given gift that is essential to the body of Christ. He has a calling, a purpose, for your life, and He will grace you and equip you for whatever it is he has called you to do. The key phrase there is “called you to do.” This means God told you to do something. So…

What did God tell you to do?

Whatever it is, do it. Be obedient unto Him. This isn’t about what mama and them said, what your friends think, or what your neighbors did. We cannot be so wrapped up in what people think  or held hostage by our own doubts and fears that we become disobedient to God. And let’s dispel a myth real quick:

You cannot take a degree to heaven, but a degree may be the thing God is telling you to pursue while here on earth.

I have seen people throw shade on college graduates by saying, “A degree don’t make you nobody!” You guys, stop it. Yes, I agree, we cannot take a degree to Heaven and no, our worth does not come from getting a college education or, in my case, a law degree. Let’s not use our jealousies to discourage others from doing something God told them to do. Getting a degree doesn’t make you worldly, an unrepentant heart does. God may very well want someone to be a counselor- that requires schooling in a lot of instances. God may very well want someone to be a doctor- that certainly requires schooling. The thing is this: don’t go chasing a degree because it’s the thing to do, because you think you’ll make more money, because of status, or whatever else. Take whatever picture you have in your head of your perfect life and lay it down at God’s feet. Ask Him what is your will for my life? What will my journey be to bring YOU glory, not me?

If God says go to school, you better go to school.

So, what will your journey be? As my friend Heather always says, “What’s on the other side of your obedience is more than you can imagine.” Law school was my journey to get closer to God. He called me to do this, and when I took Him at His word and decided to follow him wholeheartedly, God delivered.Going to law school provided more than a law degree, but it was journey that caused me to trust God with my whole life. He has shown Himself trustworthy. He brought peace. He gave me joy in spite of the bills, the issues with my child’s father, the grades, you name it. It was experiencing God firsthand by hearing Him speak. It was experiencing true love, which is God’s love. In terms of non-eternal things it was a J.D., a sweet little girl, and a good man. God took me and counted me as righteous even after I messed up so bad. He redeemed me not by a degree or a boyfriend, but by Jesus’s amazing act of love on the Cross.

He then took my mess and made something beautiful out of it.

So what’s on the other side of your obedience? What has God called you to do? If it’s in your own strength, you will have no grace and God is not in it. But if God said do it, then do it. Don’t worry about the fact that you have a baby/babies. Don’t worry about the fact that you are older and haven’t been in school in years. Don’t worry about this issue or that.

If God said do it, then do it. 

And what’s on the other side of your obedience is better than anything you can imagine- not only peace in your life right now but to be with our King for eternity.

This walk is not easy, but it is worth it. Even if I didn’t get to be a lawyer (after the passing the bar, I am not licensed yet!) or have a boyfriend, I would still say the Christian walk is so worth it.

Law school was part of His plan for me, so what is His plan for you? Walk in your purpose.

I am 69 days out from the bar exam as of today, so I ask that you pray for me- that I may not grow weary, anxious, or doubtful.

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He has graced you, and me, for this.

Love,

Melonie

Holy Spirit Parenting

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Hello mamas!

What is your idea of good parenting?

What does the world generally say about parenting? As a young mother I frequently see the standard for parenting set as the following: you put your children first. They come before everything and everyone, even your spouse. Even before yourself.  You make your children homemade organic food all the time in your Baby Bullet. You love to cook well-rounded meals, every meal. You enroll your kids in the best schools ever and put your children in as many extracurricular activities as early as possible, and only the ones that will enhance their cognitive control, aid in information retention, and assist in behavior regulation. Or, maybe you dress your children in the best labels. You give your last for your children. Your children want for nothing. That’s what being a good parent is all about, right? At least that’s what I thought it was, and what I aspired to be: the perfect mom who can do it all with my daughter right by my side.

I remember when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I was so scared, scared I would mess up. I downloaded every parenting app. I read so many books. I enrolled in every (free) birthing and parenting class I could. I pinned so many parenting articles on Pinterest. After I gave birth, I had a group of mom friends. Some days I would feel so inadequate because I couldn’t do what they could. I would feel frowned upon when I did less-than-perfect things, like “Oh gosh, I gave Raegan juice. I did not dilute it with water like the other moms.” Or, “I am so tired, too tired from school to make a meal. So I gave her chicken nuggets. I must be failing in the mom department.” I read parenting magazines and would freak out when one expert said something that contradicted another expert. I just wanted to be the best mom I could be. I wanted to be a good parent. This is good parenting, right? ……No it’s not. At least, not entirely. 

We are not bound by the world’s confusing, incoherent, and incomplete standard of parenting. The Bible is our golden  standard.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we have the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in all things, including raising our children. As Christians, we must view children the way that God does. This is no different than any other area of our life: we look at it through our “God lens,” meaning His Word. By taking a step back from the apps, magazines, mom groups, or even our own upbringing, we can adjust our perspective.

1. Recognize Children for What They are: Gifts 

The Bible tells us that “children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Psalm 127:3-5. Other translations of the Bible state that children are a gift from the Lord. This is a running theme in the Bible. For example, Abraham and Sarah were in their old age and had no children. But, in Genesis 17:15-16 God said He would make Sarah a mother after all those years. God said He would bless her by making her a mother. Don’t miss that: we are blessed to be mothers, children are a blessing and gift from God. 

James 1:17 describes every good and perfect gift as coming from above, as coming from our unchanging and reliable God. Thus, I can trust in God’s selection of me as Raegan’s mother. God is constant and makes no mistakes, so when He gave me my gift called Raegan Elyse, I could trust that He selected me for a good reason. This means I will not mess up my mothering.

Now we must address the opposing view: “children get on my nerves. They should be seen but not heard.” That’s a lie. I fully agree with my Life Application NIV Study Bible when it analyzes Psalm 127:3-5 by stating that children are not liabilities- they are assets. They are not a nuisance, a disruption, or a distraction (although children can get on your nerves, for sure). They are not an inconvenience but a gift, our heritage from the Lord. How dare we treat them in any other way than the gift they are?

2. How do we respond to God trusting us as mothers of our children?

Do we try to be super mom? Perfect mom? Glam mom? The mom who has it all together. No, sis. Get out of your own strength and get on your knees before God. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide. Our standard is NOT this world; it is the Word.

This is our standard: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6. This is done by the Holy Spirit.

I call this Holy Spirit parenting. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit deposited inside of us and He will lead us. See John 14:26-27. We also have the Word. Holy Spirit parenting means you have the responsibility to lead your children in the admonition of the Lord.

3. How does Holy Spirit parenting play out on the ground?

Below are some of the things the Holy Spirit has led me to do with my daughter:

-Show mercy or show justice as the Spirit leads. I recognize that my child will act up here and there. Proverbs 22:15 is forever right when it says that folly is bound up in the heart of a child. Folly is surely within my daughter, and I must discipline her. There’s no getting around that. In the moments when Raegan acts up, sometimes the Holy Spirit leads me to show her love and mercy. This may be because there is a deeper reason for her behavior- is she not used to the environment? Is she exhausted? Is she hyper from something I gave her? Other times I am led to show my daughter justice (meaning discipline). This may not happen when other people would like me to do this. You know what I mean if your child has ever had a moment in the grocery store. If you go off, some people will think you’re crazy and a bad parent. If you try to speak sweetly, some people think you let your kids run crazy and you’re a bad parent. The good thing is that other people’s opinions don’t dictate what I do with my daughter- the Holy Spirit dictates me. This means not even me, or my own emotions at the moment, should lead me. I try not to react in anger or frustration. Being led by the Spirit means your parenting decisions won’t always make sense to your friends, your mama, your daddy, or the people at the grocery store.

-Guard my child’s heart and our home by watching the influences around her.

This comes from Proverbs 4:23. This responsibility falls on our shoulders as single mothers. Children are susceptible to a lot of influences, and I want to make sure God is the winning influence in our home. This means I do NOT play about the following: TV shows, movies, books, babysitters, and how we spend our time together. How we spend our times shows what we prioritize. Thus, it’s a priority to teach her about His Word, who God is, the importance of prayer, and family Bible study time.

We can try to fuss about how it’s not that serious or not that deep, but it is folks. Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? Do you want a song that does nothing to glorify God, full of cussing, fussing, degrading women, basically filth…stuck in your child’s head?! How are you teaching your kids to follow Philippians 4:8 (thinking about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable,  excellent, and praiseworthy)  when the songs talk about pills, lean, molly, twerkin’, sexual positions, adultery, being Yeezus, and folks calling themselves God, you name it?! I used to be in the world, heavy. I know what they are singing about, and I used to jam to it in the car. Now, I wonder why I was ever listening to some of the stuff I was listening to when it was blatant filth?  I will guard my daughter’s heart, and I will not allow our home to do anything but glorify God.

-Guard YOUR heart.

Sis, you have got  to be careful about who you let speak into your life and tell you how to parent. Again, this goes back to Proverbs 4:23. You can’t let just anyone give you advice and speak into your life. This means you cannot have toxic groups of people in your life giving advice and putting down your parenting choices. You cannot compare your motherhood journey to others or allow others to compare theirs to yours. This is called competition, and it kills a good community (more on this later in another post). This means you cannot consult the parenting apps, parenting magazines, the books, etc. before you run to the Holy Spirit first. This means you cannot take parenting advice from well-meaning friends who are not parents. It’s just like taking advice from a single girl about marriage.

Nor can you allow people to dictate what you will do with your child when you have no peace about that. This is a simple example, but if one more person tells me to teach my daughter to whip or Nae-Nae or any other dance, I will scream! That is not my priority. My priority is for her to learn how to pray. I even have to hold off of family member’s advice sometimes. For me, guarding my heart means keeping good influences around me. I want a good community for me, that pours into me and encourages me as a mother. This does not mean you avoid criticism, but we cannot get caught up in competing for mom of the year.

-Spend time with my daughter.

As mentioned above, it’s a priority to teach her about His Word, who God is, the importance of prayer, and family Bible study time. It’s also a priority to spend good quality family time together, even if we don’t have a lot of money. You don’t have to have money to have fun. The Holy Spirit will tug on my heart to go and spend uninterrupted time with my daughter. This is very hard to do sometimes because I am in law school and very involved at my school. Now that I am in a relationship, it can be tough balancing school, my boyfriend, and my daughter. But, it’s a priority and something God does not play with me about. Spending time together can be done in a lot of creative ways. I will make a more detailed post about having fun when you have literally no money to spare. 🙂

I encourage you to lay down your desire to be that perfect mom at God’s feet. Ask Him to free you from the thoughts that you want to have it all together, that you are on point and you don’t miss a beat. You are not super mom that can do everything, no one is. But, you are a Spirit-filled Mama. Be free from the crushing and confusing standards, and walk in the freedom the Spirit provides. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17.

He has graced you for this.

Love,

Melonie

You are NOT alone

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Hello mamas!

The Lord really pressed it on my heart to create a blog to encourage single mothers and women in general everywhere! My sincere hope is that you come to realize how beautiful, matchless, boundless, wide, and deep God’s love and grace is for us. Yes, us, as single mothers. I wasted years of my life feeling depressed that I am a single mother, young, and just starting out in life. I felt largely alone in raising my daughter Raegan. It is my heart’s desire that if you are a single mother, don’t buy the lies that your life is over, that you’re just another “baby mama,” that you will have to put your God-given hopes and dreams on the shelves and live in desolation. That is a lie from the depths of hell.

The biggest lie that I want to call out is the following: I’m doing this by myself, on my own, all alone. Why is this a lie?

You are NOT alone.

That’s right. You may be a single mother, but you are not alone in your parenting. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit that will lead and guide you in all things. So the big disclaimer to this post is that you must have given yourself completely over to God. He cannot lead someone who does not even believe He is there for them.

God really began to deal with me about my habit of bemoaning my situation back in 2014. I remember I was carrying like ten bags of groceries, my daughter Raegan, my purse that had my casebooks and laptops, and my keys to my apartment door. I was so mad that I had to do little things like carrying everything in the house by myself. That Raegan was in the middle of crying , and my keys kept getting caught in the plastic bags. That I was sweating. That my bag strap kept slipping off of my shoulder.  I dropped a bag and literally roared in frustration! I cried out to God and said, “God!! I am so SICK of doing this by myself!! I am TIRED, God!” God responded, “You are not alone. I have given you my Holy Spirit.”

As always, God was totally right. Although my marital status spoke is single, I am never alone. Scripture tells us that God has given us an Advocate to help us, one that will be with us forever- the Holy Spirit of truth (John 14: 15-17).  Jesus himself reassures us when he said “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27). It is by this Spirit that we can raise our babies because He will show us what it is we are supposed to do.

The Holy Spirit does more than convict us when we are sinning. The Holy Spirit teaches us what to do and empowers us. Acts 1:8 tells us that we will receive power when the Holy Spirits comes on us.

You are empowered to mother your child.

My Life Application NIV Study Bible has some great footnotes that expound on Scripture. The footnote to Acts 1:8 states that the “power” believers receive from the Holy Spirit includes courage, boldness, confidence, insight, ability, and authority. This is definitely something I have seen in my own parenting journey with Raegan, where the Holy Spirit has literally led to do things with her that I would not have thought to do on my own. It is in this way I have seen 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 play out in my relationship with Raegan. God will reveal to you what to do by His Spirit, and He will endow you with true wisdom to handle your kids. Basically, we will have the mind of Christ.

Recognize that God is for you, He will not leave you, and His Spirit will lead and guide you. You need only to trust in Him. God has a beautiful plan for you and your babies.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

What I love the absolute most about Jeremiah 29:11-14 is the story that behind that promise. The kingdom of Judah was invaded by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar twice in an eight year period. When King Nebby came through, they took people like Daniel and Ezekiel. Jeremiah sent a letter to the surviving Jewish elders among the exiles in Babylon. These exiles were in a bad place that they essentially put themselves in. They had refused to turn away from evil and instead chose to do their own thing, so God told them he would send King Nebs to get them (Jeremiah 25:1-11). They did this to themselves, and yet God still had good plans for them. He didn’t write them off. He didn’t say “See, that’s what y’all get.” He told the exiled Jews, through Jeremiah, to move on. Go ahead and build houses, settle down, plant gardens, and marry. He even told them to pray for the very people who took them captive. (Jeremiah 29:4-7). God told them, yes you messed up, but move forward with your lives, begin trusting in Me and praying to Me, and know that I till want the best for you in spite of your mistakes.

The same goes for you, dear mama. Maybe you messed up, like I did. I professed that I believed in God, and yet I continued to do the things that He told me not to do. I became pregnant, and I felt so guilty about that. Maybe you are divorced and a newly single mother. Maybe you never knew your child’s father, or you knew him just for a moment. But Jeremiah 29 provides a shining example to both you and me that even though we may not have made wise decisions in the past, it is time to move on.

Repent, accept God’s forgiveness, and forgive yourself.

Begin your life again. It is not over. It’s NEVER over with God as long as you have breath in your body. Begin praying for those who said they would be there, and they aren’t. Those who left you when they said they wouldn’t. Begin trusting God again for healing and that He will show how to do this thing called mommyhood. And know that He has good plans for you and your babies. The Holy Spirit will lead you and guide you.

He has graced you for this.

Love,

Melonie