How Am I Still Standing?

God can open doors to new friendships when you least expect it. On the first day of Kindergarten, I was excited about the new friendships my children would make. I was pleasantly surprised when I made some new friendships of my own with their friend’s moms. One of my friends, Devon, and I have grown close over the last three years as our children have become quite the bosom buddies. She has held my hand and prayed for me during some of the most difficult times. I absolutely treasure her friendship.

This summer she encountered a crisis of her own that I was able to help pray through with her. She shared with me a blog that she wrote to help deal with her intense grief. I felt so blessed by her refreshing honesty and amazing faith. She bravely agreed to share her experience so that you too can be blessed.

Psalm 73:26  “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever.”

Life was going along swimmingly.  We had “survived” 3 surgeries in 2 months at the beginning of the school year, and we were coasting our way into summer. My husband, Tom, and I had been praying about putting our house on the market. Our prayer was quickly answered by a couple wanting to buy our house before it was even listed!

Excellent, prayer request answered!

We found a house to buy with all of our wish list items and were able to close and get some work done before we even moved in.

Fantastic, prayer request answered!  

As the school year came to a close, we prepared to move again (for the 7th time in our marriage!). I had no stress about it; we had moved so many times I felt like a pro!

You know, there is a list of “Top Stressors in Life.” Moving is #3.

Well that’s when life got interesting.  On top of moving, I was planning a big birthday celebration for Tom. We had family and friends coming in from out of town.  That by itself was not stressful.  However, add moving two weeks before said friends arrive….it becomes somewhat stressful.

On June 2nd, three days after moving in, my dear friend, Melissa, took my three kids for the morning. I desperately needed some uninterrupted time to tackle my to-do list!

Great, prayer request for time to get things done!  Answered!!!

Then the bottom dropped out of my little world that I felt so in control of.  I returned home to find my parents at my

Devon & Her Cousin

Devon & Her Cousin

house with awful news that my cousin, who was four years younger than me, had been murdered.  Yes, murdered.   I am thankful in hindsight that my kids were not home to see the reaction I had.

An instant shattering of ones heart is not a pleasant thing to witness.

Remember that list of “Top Stressors in Life??” Death of a loved one is #1 on that list.

Over the next two weeks I had to function like a normal person, unable to grieve freely.  I had three young kids at home, a party to plan, and boxes to unpack.   Through it all I would lay awake at night and I just kept thinking, how am I still standing?  How am I moving through each day in one piece?

And I heard this still small voice saying, “I am the One that sustains you.”

I knew this.  The funny thing was…I hadn’t asked for God’s strength.  In fact, I hadn’t been talking to God at all.  I tried, but I just didn’t have any words to say. He was the one keeping me upright, keeping my path straight, sustaining me, giving me grace for each day, and I didn’t even have to ask.   What an amazing thought!   God knows what we need even when we don’t know what we need.  His loving kindness never fails!

1 Peter 5:7  “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.”

Psalm 34:18  “God is near to the broken hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I don’t know if you are in a season of busyness, stress, or grieving. Or all three!

But I do know that if you are exhausted, Jesus gets it.

If you are overwhelmed, Jesus gets it. 

And if you are angry and life seems unfair, HE GETS IT!

Psalm 121: 1-2 “I lift my eyes up to the mountains; From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”

I also know that there are some things we experience in this life that we will NOT get answers to this side of heaven. That is a hard truth.

We can find hope and peace when we accept that our “whys” rest on the God who knows the beginning and the end.  And His way is perfect.

1 Corinthians 13:12  “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

How inspiring to be able to find solace in Jesus’ arms and to be reminded of His faithfulness in such a tragic situation.  If you would like to contact Devon, her email is dlh.cunningham@gmail.com.

Stuff Steph Loves – Kindergarten Toolkit

Kindergarten ToolkitIn my “Stuff Steph Loves” blog posts, I like to feature products or businesses that enrich my life. Whether it is because I love their product, what they stand for, or if they make my life easier, I like to spread the love to my readers. Gotta help Mamas out, right?

With Kindergarten Toolkit, I hit the trifecta because it hits all three. The Kindergarten Toolkit was developed by my good friend and a former Kindergarten teacher, Carrie.

I remember feeling a TON of pressure as my kids were approaching Kindergarten. Let’s be honest. Kindergarten today is nothing like my childhood Kindergarten. It is more like the 80s 1st grade…minus the Trapper Keeper and Roos! Kids today are expected to start Kindergarten knowing what we learned in our first year of elementary school. Yikes!

Before my kids started Kindergarten, I would stay up at night thinking… Are they ready? Do they know everything they need to know? What if they are behind? Oh my goodness. If they start behind, how will we ever catch up? Are going to be living in my basement at 30 years old?? I am not a teacher. How in the world can I help them learn everything they need to know?!?  

If you have ever thought any of those things too, the Kindergarten Toolkit is for you. Here are a few ways that the Kindergarten Toolkit can turn you, Mama, into the Teacher of the Year!

  • Designed specifically for preschoolers. You can start with your child at two and it will grow with them all the way through Kindergarten.
  • Builds a foundation of learning throughout the preschool years to promote Kindergarten readiness! Confident kids = happy Mamas.  It is perfect for those off days of preschool and summer vacation!
  • The Toolkit focuses on 10 main goals based on what kids will be assessed on to ensure your kids are confident and comfortable when they started Kindergarten.
  • Each of the 10 main goals has 3-4 mini lessons on how to teach that goal. There are also “Toolkit on the Go” ideas for when you are out and about. Follow Kindergarten Toolkit on Instagram and FB to get great ideas about how to use your Toolkit in a ton of creative ways! I am constantly amazed about how simple Carrie makes it and the kids are having FUN!
  • Designed so that anyone can work with the child and the tools in the Toolkit. No education degree required! Parent, Kindergarten Toolkit fun learningGrandparent, or babysitter…anyone can easily use the tools.
  • One stop shop….everything you will need in one box!! No more searching for random learning tools around the house…..flashcards, workbooks, lined paper etc.
  • Got 5 minutes to kill while you are waiting? Lessons can be that quick. Perfect for your preschooler’s short attention span! Have fun learning instead of trying to keep them from licking everything is sight 😉
  • Only one Toolkit per one family needed. Items included in the toolkit are:
    • The Toolkit booklet – 3-4 mini lessons for each of the 10 Kindergarten goals. There are also supplemental pages in the back that are designed to be copied for future assessments and lessons, so you can use it for multiple children!
    • Four sets of flashcards – Upper and lower case letters, Numbers 1-20, 25 Kindergarten sight words,10 colors and shapes
    • Whiteboard and pen
  • Last and certainly not least, the Kindergarten Toolkit was created to foster one-on-one learning time with your child.  Quality, special, sit down learning time…that isn’t at Preschool, from an iPad or the TV. Those can all play a very important part, but you are establishing yourself as a partner in their education.

To order your Kindergarten Toolkit, visit: www.kindergartentoolkit.com . Use coupon code: SLM15 thru 9/6 to receive 15% off!

Follow Kindergarten Toolkit on social media for lots of great learning ideas:

Instagram:https://instagram.com/kindergartentoolkit

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/KindergartenToolkit

Happy Learning, Mamas!!!

A Sad Farewell

A Sad FarewellWhen I joined Eric’s family, I knew immediately I became part of something special. His mom comes from a big family with four sisters and one brother and a whole mess of kids and grandkids between them. The entire family gets together every Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is always full of yummy food and laughter. The sisters are wonderful cooks and feed us well. Eric likes to kid his mom and aunts about being a bunch of cluckin and cacklin hens. There is always laughter until tears are streaming down our faces.

About the same time I became part of the family, Eric’s Uncle William married a sweet lady named Diana. Diana was always so kind and interested in our family…especially our crazy kids. We became Facebook friends and got to be a part of each other’s lives virtually. Say what you will about social media, but it is a great way for family to stay in touch and also to get to know each other when you don’t see each other often. Diana was probably one of the most supportive people about my book and my blog even though we only saw each other a couple of times a year. It has meant the world to me.

Sadly, Diana passed away suddenly and unexpectedly Friday morning. She was only 49. Just last week she was happy and healthy and today she is gone. It was a complete shock to all her friends and family. Yesterday Eric donned his black suit and I my black dress, to go say goodbye to Diana. It was a nice service but it is always hard to say goodbye. Especially when there was no time to prepare your heart and mind for the farewell forever.

With her sudden passing, we were all reminded of a few things…

Never take your todays or tomorrows for granted. Say I love you often. Forgive freely. Hug lots. Laugh until you cry. Pet a dog (or 3 🙂 ). And hold those you love near.

Goodbye Diana.  You will be greatly missed.

The Two Greatest Mama Directions

Mama Directions-2

Be kind. Say please and thank you. Look people in the eye when you speak to them. Say your prayers. Eat your fruit and vegetables. Read at least 20 minutes a day. Keep your hands to yourself. Wash behind your ears. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Please quit tooting.

These are the directions that I pepper my children with daily. At times, it can be overwhelming for them (and me!) but it is necessary. Raising children is tough work. There are some days when I lie in bed and think, “Well, I really blew it today!” Instead of talking about good choices with Ella, I made a bad choice and argued back with her. The kids fought all afternoon. I yelled. Their dinner plates did not have a single vegetable or fruit on it. My dinner plate was a bag of microwave popcorn. I didn’t read with Matthew today. I ran around all day and still didn’t accomplish everything I meant to. And I am pretty sure I nodded off during Ethan’s prayer. Mama. Of. The. Year.

Even though I fail sometimes, all of these lessons are necessary. I mean we want kids who can function in society with manners and no tooting, right? As I sat in Sunday School this week, I was reminded that of all the lessons I teach my kids, there are a couple that are the greatest.

Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 15: 37-39, NIV)

We have been singing Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me since they were in my belly. My babies know how much Jesus loves them, and they are growing to love Him more and more each day. What a comfort to me that they will grow up having Jesus in their heart and by their side.

The second commandment can be tough. When everyone is getting along and it is good times, it is easy to love your neighbor as yourself. But what about those times when thy neighbor isn’t being nice? What about when your neighbor can be down right un-neighborly?

Ella came home last week upset. “Mama, can we have some alone time?” She crawled in my lap and cried big, fat tears as she told me about how her feelings were hurt at school. My Mama bear side wanted to say, “Sissy, what would Taylor say?? Shake ‘em off, girl. Go swing with someone else! You don’t need friends like that!” What was that scripture?   Oh yeah. Love your neighbor as yourself. There was no condition like “Love your neighbor as yourself….so long as they are loving to you too!”

After some rocking, hair smoothing, and praying for the right words, I gave it my best shot. “Ella, sweet girl, I am so sorry your feelings got hurt. You can’t control how they act, but you can control how you act. Continue to be kind to them, and let’s pray for them to make better choices. Spend time with your friends that are being kind and don’t take your friendship for granted. When the other ones realize they made a bad choice (because you know they will because girls are fickle as all get out!), forgive them. Your best friends, however, need to be those friends that treat you the way you treat them…with kindness. Those are the best kinds of friends that you hold close to you.”

I may fail on a lot of my Mama Objectives. I can’t make my boys quit burping or tooting (and Lord knows I have tried!!). I don’t always succeed by having the perfect food pyramid in my kids’ diet. I may have to shoot “crazy eyes” before I get a please and thank you.  And I get frustrated and raise my voice more often than I care to admit.

But if I focus on the great commandments in my family’s life, it’s all gonna be alright.

18 Big, Honkin’ Windows

“I just want to make enough to buy new windows for my house.”

He smiled and gently told me, “Well, that probably isn’t going to happen.”

This was the conversation that I had almost a year ago when I met with a gentleman about the merits of self-publishing my book.

Gosh I was naïve on so many levels. First of all, our adorable 80s ranch has 18 floor to ceiling windows. Awesome for lighting and curb appeal. Not so awesome when you have to actually purchase 18 big, honkin’ windows. It was going to take a MINT to replace all of those windows. Second of all, you generally do not make a MINT when you self-publish a book. See my issue?

My heart was in the right place. I just wanted to do something to help out. When you buy a fixer upper, there is always something that needs to be done. We have been able to tackle several projects.   However, the windows were a big one on our list that taunted us. We just couldn’t afford to take on such a big expense. Every time I walked by a window in the winter and felt an Arctic blast, they sneered at me. When it was 100 degrees and I kept the blinds closed so it wouldn’t get too hot, they mocked me.

I didn’t just want to be able to check it off the list, I wanted to help make it happen financially. Since I am no longer working outside of the home, sometimes I feel guilty for not contributing in a monetary fashion. I feel like I am one of the kids holding out my hands saying, “Gimme this please!!” Instead of asking for baseball cards, I am asking for things like a washer, dryer or 18 big, honkin’ windows. $$$

18 big honkin windows

Today I had 18 big, honkin’ windows installed into my house. Yahoo!!! It is not because of anything that I, Stephanie Greer, did. God simply provided for us. God did not want me to write my book so that I can buy 18 big, honkin’ windows. He wanted me to write my book to answer His calling to minister to women. He wanted me to share His love with women who feel alone and misunderstood.

Now every time I look out my office window, I can rest in the peace that God simply wants me to follow my calling. And He will provide.

Even if it is 18 big, honkin’ windows.

My Chaotic Office

“Gee Steph, you haven’t had a blog post in almost a week!”
My chaotic office

That would be because this is my office. My dryer has been broken for almost a week (YUCK!!) and we are getting new windows tomorrow (YEA!!). So life is chaos and my office is littered with laundry room stuff and curtains. I have been running my dryer 7 times basically fluffing and air drying ONE single load a day.  I went to Target to buy washcloths today because I don’t EVEN want to think about how many times through the fluff cycle something that thick would take!  I am considering hanging undies and bras from the ceiling fans because I am too cheap to buy more of those 😉   The most I could be motivated to write would be “why I hate my over priced Samsung washer and dryer and will never buy again. ‪#‎FrontLoadersStink‬”.

And since I only want to blog when I think it will bless my readers, I am giving myself a break 😉

I do microblog on my FB page (here) almost daily.  I like to share short stories and inspirations I have throughout the week.  I love to make people laugh and smile.  FB is my happy medium between a full blog post and Twitter.  140 characters?  I can’t hardly say anything in 140 characters or less!  I am too “flowery” with my words as my first boss would say 😉

If you haven’t already, Like my FB page for more fun with the Southern Lady Mama!

Daily Prayers for My Children

“Thank you God for my Mama, my Mimi, my Pa Pa, my Daddy, my Nana, my Papa, for Ethan, and Ella…and for Lady. In Jesus name, Amen,” prays Matthew every night – in 5 seconds flat. Ella prays the identical prayer to mine and adds a sentence of her own. Ethan says a heartfelt prayer that lasts at least 10 minutes. He prays for everything that has been laid on his heart…and that is a lot.

I feel blessed to be part of my children’s growing and maturing prayer life. Goodness knows it has been an ongoing journey for me!

Sometimes the need for prayer in my life can be overwhelming. I could pray all dang day for all the hurt in this world. As a mom though, I try to really focus on praying for my children. They are my world. They are young (8 year old twins and a 6 year old) and have so much to look forward to.

Here are the ways I pray for my children daily:

Great list of ways I can pray for my kids every day with scripture too!

  1. His Words. The most powerful way to pray to God is to pray His words back to Him. I have some of my favorite scriptures for each prayer point.
  2. Their Protection. Although we have issues here and there, we are so fortunate to have pretty healthy children. I praise God for that blessing, and recognize that it may not always be that way. I ask for God’s wisdom to guide my maternal instincts about their care. Help me be their advocate when needed. I also prayer for a hedge of protection around them each day. After watching the news, some times I don’t even want them to walk out the front door!  (Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition and with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Also, Psalm 91, Job 1:10, Psalm 5:11)
  3. Their Faith. Ethan and Ella are new Christians and Matthew is continuing to seek. I pray for them to persevere in their faith. I want them to ask questions and for God to guide my answers as I lead them. I also recognize that being a Christian in today’s world is not as easy as it was when I was a child. I ask God to strengthen and help them stand tall in their faith.  (Ephesians 6:10 “ Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Also 2 Peter 3:18, Jeremiah 17:8)
  4. My parenting. I implore God to give me the discernment about how to parent each of my 3 children according to his or her individual needs. What works for one doesn’t work for them all! I also ask for guidance about skating that line of authority and friendship. I want them to respect my authority, but I always want to be approachable to my sweet babies. Also I beg for a lot of patience…every. dang. day. (Proverbs 22:6 “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. Also Isaiah 40: 30-31, Galatians 5:22-23)
  5. Their Behavior. I pray that their behavior is a good example of Christ’s love. They are kind, forgiving, brave, and loyal. I want them to be Jesus to someone in this world. (Romans 5:5 “God pours His perfect love into my imperfect heart.” Also Matthew 5:16, 2 Timothy 1:7, Ephesians 6:14, & again Galatians 5:22-23)
  6. Their Friends. I have impressed on my kids what I have learned in my life – it is not the quantity of friends you have, it is the quality. I don’t care if my children win any popularity contests. I care if my kids have a core group of really good friends. Friends that are kind, encouraging, loyal, and forgiving. (because they are gonna mess up sometimes!). (Proverbs 13:4 “He who walks with the wise grows wise.” Also 1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 27:17)
  7. Their Teachers. Since my kids are all in elementary school now, we have unfortunately, moved into the era of their lives where they spend most of their awake hours away from me. (Pardon me while I wail and beat my chest ;)) It is so important that their teachers are absolutely covered in my prayers. I pray that their families and administrators will be supportive and encouraging. And because they are with 20 kids all day – I pray for their patience. Every. Dang. Day. (Colossians 1:11 “May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” Also 1 Peter 4:10)
  8. Their Future Mr. or Mrs. A wise woman once told me to pray for my kids’ future spouses. I am not gonna lie. I wasn’t even ready to go there mentally… and I thought it was kind of weird. Now I am older (and slightly wiser) and I realize how important it is. This person is going to become my baby’s other half, why wouldn’t I pray fervently for that person? Not only that, he or she will become another one of my babies. How awesome is that? Oh yes, I desperately want to pray for them too! (Titus 2:4″ …encourage young women to love their husbands.”  I also pray for them to have the qualities in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)
  9. Their Future Career. I pray for my children to be in tune with God’s whispers in their heart about where He wants them to serve. I pray that I will be supportive and encouraging no matter where they are led to go. God has blessed them all with unique talents and personalities to do just what only they can do for Him. I want to do everything I can do to encourage His plan for them along the way. (Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Also Psalm 32:8, Psalm 188:6-7)

I know it seems like a lot. I don’t go through the list and pray each of these every day. That would take me forever, and I fear would turn too monotonous. I don’t want it to be a “form prayer.” However, I do try to hit each of these areas every few days.

Except for the patience. Every. Dang. Day. 🙂

Special Thanks to my Mama and my sister for their help with the scripture references!  xoxo