Music to a Mama’s Ears

I’m a word person, no surprise there. But even if affirming words aren’t your “love language,” everyone can use an uplifting word now and then. And I’ve found that sometimes all it takes is a small piece of encouragement to refocus my perspective on how this whole motherhood thing is going.

So many times I feel ill-equipped for this huge task of raising a daughter, but thankfully this truth never changes: when I am weak, HE is strong in me. 

That’s some good news. 

So we can rest in the fact that we were perfectly chosen and have been perfectly positioned to raise our babies. Enough of this doubting and guilt and worrying. 

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So, two things I’d like for you to do:

  1. Find the phrase below that means the most to you. Write it somewhere you’ll see it today – your hand, your phone, your kid’s chalkboard…whatever works.
  2. Find a mom to pass them on to. Send out a quick text, comment on an Instagram photo, or tell them to your friend at the playdate today. Be the one singing the praises of moms in your circle, or the moms you pass in the grocery store. 

“You’re a good mom.”

“You are doing immeasurably better than you give yourself credit for.”

“You’re not in this alone.” (*Catch – you have to help them not be in this alone.)

“Motherhood looks good on you.”

“You were made to mother.”

“You inspire me.”

“You’re doing a great job.”

“Wanna make a Target run?…By yourself?” (*Must be prepared to catch baby mid air as mom makes a mad dash for the car)

“Hey, I could use some parenting advice… “

“Your babies are blessed to have you.”

“Tomorrow’s a new day!”

“___ year old’s are hard. But you’ve got this.”

“You are SUPERMOM.”

I sincerely pray some of these words put a smile on your face, hope in your heart, and buoy you up today as you walk confidently in your ability to mother well.

Moms: you are needed, cherished, loved, seen, and so so appreciated. Parenting is challenging, but no doubt – you can handle it.

So let this music of encouragement play in your ears over and over, until it sinks deep into your heart like a song you can’t stop singing. ❤

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S.

 

Dear Mama in the Making

Hi!

I just wanted to let you know I have a short piece published over on the Good Mother Project today! I love the encouraging and honest community they’ve built over there.

I would be honored for you to take a minute to read about a few things I’d like all soon-to-be and new moms to know:

“Dear Mama in the Making,

I want you to know that you’re my person. You’re my person, and I’m going to tell you why.”

….{ click here to keep reading }….

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Talk soon!
S

What’s new?

Hey friends!

Over the last week I’ve been working hard to get my new site up and running! My sweet techie husband migrated my blog to WordPress (if I could insert the praise hands emoji here, I would), which doesn’t mean anything for you except that my url has changed to shannaleighwrites.com instead of belovednest.blogspot.com.

The purpose of this blog hasn’t changed: I hope you always leave here feeling encouraged, freed up, knowing you’re not alone, and with a new glimpse into God’s Glory through my story and hopefully, your own. And sometimes, we just need to laugh together at the crazy shenanigans life brings to our doorstep. Yes?

Whether you are someone who reads my words on a regular basis, sporadically, or if this is you’re first visit, I am truly SO glad you’re here. So grateful.

Please reach out anytime – if I can give you a pep talk or say a prayer, anything – it would be my honor.

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Talk soon, friends!

 

 

The Motherhood Spectrum


It was around 1:00 a.m., and I had been called into work for an exam. Still trying to wake up, I grabbed my badge and my keys and headed to the hospital.
 
After asking the standard questions while I set up my ultrasound machine, I wasn’t especially concerned. But as soon as I put the probe down, everything changed. Even at first glance I knew it wasn’t good, and that night I had the unfortunate duty of confirming to a hopeful mama that yet another one of her babies wasn’t going to make it. 
 
It’s the worst. The absolute hardest part of my job.
 
I left her room quickly, wanting to give her some privacy, but not before hugging her. As I pushed my machine down the ER hallway, I could feel the tears stinging my eyes just thinking about her broken mama heart. 
 
Before becoming a mom myself, I may have thought or even told this woman, “you’ll make a great mother some day.” But now I recognize her spirit and know for certain, she already is one. I saw it in her eyes. She already knows the fierce love, the ache, and the yearning to protect – all familiar ground for a mother. She already has that uncanny maternal instinct of knowing something is wrong, despite prior reassurance from medical professionals. She might not have any babies on this side of heaven, but she is no less a mother than I am. 
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Rather than a binary system – you are or you’re not – I’m finding that motherhood is really more of a spectrum. 

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my journaling Bible + my first G I V E A W A Y !

Back in January I received my first journaling Bible for my birthday from my sweet friend Shelby. I fell in love immediately.

I have since learned that Bible journaling is a whole thing — who knew? You can use the margins for basic written notes, or you can get super creative with illustrations and pretty script inspired by what you’ve studied. It’s a new way to dive into truths you come across, and really commit them to memory. 

I definitely haven’t used my new Bible to it’s full potential yet, but I’m excited to see those margins fill up over the years.

And can you believe how pretty that outer cover is?? Just picture like 16 heart eye emojis here. 

 



I have two other Bibles that I’ve been using recently: the NIV Women’s Bible and the Beautiful Word Bible. 

The NIV Women’s Bible features devotions throughout from women like Shauna Niequist, a favorite author of mine. And since I love words, I’m all about getting extra insight as I read certain passages. This makes a great study Bible for digging a little deeper. 


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The Handprints On My Dishwasher

I used to imagine what my husband and I would be like when we had our first child.

We would be parents who didn’t act like “parents.” We would be COOL PARENTS.

We wouldn’t let our kid become the center of our universe. 

Our house wouldn’t be taken over with blocks and trains and dolls. We would relegate all of that “stuff” to a small, designated area. I would not be that parent who talks about their kid incessantly, or who’s social media is a gigantic, glaring spotlight on their kid, or who arranges their free time around their child’s schedule and activities.

Well.

The time has come and I’ve had to eat all of those words. Every. Last. Crumb. 
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Joy.


Two and half weeks ago, I posted this on Instagram, begging for prayer:
“Sometimes life sends a gentle nudge along to remind you to take it all in because it’s fleeting. Other times, that truth shoves you and knocks you down with its gravity, saying ‘TODAY IS ALL WE HAVE.'”


We had just received the news that my precious mother-in-law, Brandon’s step-mom, was diagnosed with AML, a type of leukemia. 

Our world stopped. Hard. 
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Aven’s party details {& party planning for the non-hostess}

Confession: I am not a “hostess” type.

The more people who RSVP with a “yes” the more I want to go hide in a corner until it’s over, no matter what type of event I’m planning. I cheer when people say they can’t make it. 

I’M NOT NORMAL.

Anyway.

 

During the planning of my daughter’s 2nd birthday party, my philosophy was “it doesn’t have to be fancy!

Y’all. This is a two year old’s party. She will relive it through photos one day, but she will not remember it. I tend to let myself get overwhelmed with the details of events rather than focusing on the ultimate purpose, and I was determined not to let that happen. At the end of the day, I just wanted Aven to have a good time with all the people she loves. 


{ Hey look! This was my own Minnie party, back in the day! Check out my mom’s cake decorating skills. Impressive! She definitely IS the hostess type. }


I started drafting this post the day after the party when we were still in recovery mode, because I know there are lots of people like me who feel that party planning is out of their comfort zone. But even for us non-hostess types, you can pull off a great party and have fun while planning it – I promise!

Here are some shots of the party and a list of things I found to be super helpful during the planning process. 

(her ears are actually pigtail clips from this Etsy shop)
 
keep it simple. here’s how:


1. stick with a narrow theme and color scheme. 
Because it’s her absolute favorite, we originally chose a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme, which would include a whole cast of characters. But since a ton of party planning is incorporating the colors of your chosen theme, and I wasn’t loving the use of so many bold primary colors for a little girl’s birthday party. I changed it up to a simpler theme of Minnie Mouse only, and stuck with the colors black+white, gold, and pale pink. SO glad I made this change. It really made it so much easier. If possible, stick to neutrals and one or two pops of color. (Also – buy paper products and utensils in neutral colors so you can reuse the excess later).

2. choose just a couple of “statement pieces”.
You could easily run around spending lots of money and time buying 200 different party decorations and supplies. OR you could choose just a couple of large-scale, key items that will be the focus of the party.

So, instead of a bunch of balloons, I used only FOUR. Yes – FOUR. I had one giant 30″ pink balloon, one huge number “2” Mylar balloon, and then two regular pink balloons for our mailbox. (balloons and paper straws purchased from this Etsy shop)

I also happened to find (really, it was fate) a black and white polka dot blanket with Minnie’s silhouette on it in the kid’s bedding section at Target. It couldn’t have been more perfect for the party and it became the primary inspiration for the rest of the decor. We used it as a focal point and backdrop on the day of the party. Bonus….we get to use it after the party! 

3. party basics: banners + signs.
There’s a reason why party banners show up at every party: they’re cute AND easy! I strung a three tiered one on the fireplace mantle. It was black so I just wrote “happy birthday Aven” with chalk and strung it with black and white baker’s twine. I traced out the word “TWO” on glitter scrapbook paper and then strung that on the Minnie blanket backdrop. DONE. (I meant to move the “TWO” banner to the front of the high chair as decoration when we did her cupcake and candles, but I forgot. Anytime decor can pull double duty – go for it!)

I also purchased a chalkboard easel (something I wanted anyway and will for sure use again) and placed it outside by the front door as a welcome sign.

4. favors that function as a party element.
I bought a set of 12 Mickey and Minnie ears and placed them by the front door with a sign that said “We’ve got Ears, say Cheers!” They doubled as both decor and party favors for the kiddos. Another idea I love is to use food as favors – some extra special little snack you’ve put together and pre-packaged.

5. food: pick a theme.
We decided to do a morning (10am) pajama party, so the food was a no-brainer. My awesome husband made Minnie-shaped pancakes (!), and we did other breakfast foods as well. Fruit, pigs in a blanket, hashbrown casserole, monkey bread – those types of things.

Also – let your food decorate for you. You can put your cupcakes in a pretty stand and make it the centerpiece on the table.

6. use decor you already own.
I raided Aven’s nursery, my kitchen, and my box of party supplies for accent pieces that matched the party. I also borrowed several things from generous family members, like kid tables (which we covered in polka dot craft paper), platters, and trays. 

7.  Pinterest is your party-planning friend. 
Chances are, your party theme has been done, documented, and Pinterest-ed, so you can borrow other people’s creative ideas when you come up short on your own. I even printed coloring sheets off a link I found on Pinterest, so the kids would have a little activity to occupy themselves with. 

8. some things just don’t matter – don’t waste time or brain power on them.
I am not the girl who’s going to bake a birthday cake. Just, no. Instead, I ordered Publix cupcakes and we stuck Oreo Thins in them as Minnie ears. Done. Work within your wheelhouse! Or have friends and family help you. You don’t have to do it all. 


So, which side are you on? Does party planning make you giddy or give you an anxiety attack? I’d love to hear any other tips you guys have!

easy babies: real or mythical creatures?

You’ve heard them/seen their Instagram posts:
“Oh, Aden is just such a chill little guy; always has been!”
“Jackson doesn’t really cry. Maybe when he’s hungry? Even then it’s more of a whimper.”
“Addie: happy baby alert!!! #Blessed.”


Okay. I’m going to go ahead and admit how obnoxious those phrases can be, only because for a long time I wished I could say the same. 

But maybe you have one and can vouch for their existence? Or maybe you’re more like me with no real concept of what “easy baby” even means. My brain just doesn’t compute those two words being in agreement with one another, so when I hear that description, I’m quite honestly perplexed and intrigued, daydreaming about what that looks like.
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