Mama Meditations book giveaway

I’m excited to share with my readers and blog followers the opportunity to win a signed copy of my devotional book & gratitude journal for moms, Mama Meditations. If you enter the giveaway which ends March 26, you’ll also win a Starbucks gift card.

Mama Meditations book by Bethany Wallace

Mama Meditations: Volume I is a devotional book and gratitude journal designed for moms determined to grow closer to God while becoming whole, healthy Christian parents. The 200-page book contains 60 spiritual reflections and life lessons written in story format about how to become not only better moms but also joyful, light-bearing individuals God created us to be. Readers seeking encouragement and support in Twelve-Step recovery programs will especially benefit from hearing about my experience in recovery and incorporation of recovery principles throughout the book. All entries are accompanied by brief prayer prompts, Scripture excerpts, and journal prompts with space for creating gratitude lists specific to your experience.

I know the lessons God has taught me through being a mom will inspire, strengthen, and encourage you as a reader and blog follower, too, on your own spiritual journey.

Be sure to click HERE to register for the GIVEAWAY before March 26 to win a signed copy of my book and a Starbucks gift card.

If you don’t want to wait to see if you win a copy, just order a copy today.

Bullies & BFFs

I picked Maggie up from school, and she hopped in the car with the same vigor she’d expressed every other day that week. She immediately asked me for a snack and settled into her seat, humming a tune. I had no reason to suspect she’d had anything but a completely pleasant day, right?

“Maggie, how was your day?”

“Fine.”

Great. We kept driving. But after 10 minutes on the road, I said something benign, and she snapped. Tears cascaded down her sweatshirt, and snot oozed down her face. Oh geez. Apparently “fine” was a very loaded word today.

“Maggie, what HAPPENED at school today? Because you aren’t fine.”

She explained an incident which I would categorize as mild bullying involving a few classmates. The teacher, thankfully, caught the other kids in the act and immediately cut the whole thing off. But not before the damage was done emotionally. Words slice into us, and when we’re told we’re not wanted, and we’re ostracized, we feel it to the core… sometimes for a very long time.

I felt really, really sorry for her (of course–I’m her mom). At the same time, I knew this would not be the first time this would happen. It’s public school. Kids who are insecure, hurting because they’re living in unstable home environments, or simply mean-hearted will always take out their frustrations, disappointments, and insecurities on other kids. Sometimes, these kids will bully others without even meaning to–other times it’s very intentional. I explained all this to Maggie, but I knew it wouldn’t make her FEEL better. So I also got her ice cream and cuddled her :).

Lastly, when I was no longer driving home, and we were settled in at home, I did the most important thing I could do in the entire world. The mom thing I must do daily, which we all must do as moms. I prayed for her, aloud, with her. I asked God to be there with her at school. I prayed for the kids who were mean to her (and explained to her why we must forgive those who hurt us, and that forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person). I prayed for God to send good-hearted girls to befriend her the very next day.

Guess what happened? A girl she’d been getting to know came up to her the next day at recess and told her she wanted to be her BFF. Tell me that’s not God! He’s always come through for me and redeemed the worst situations, and He’s doing the same thing for my little girl. I can’t wait to see how gigantic her faith becomes.

For more stories like these, check out my new devotional book & gratitude journal for moms, Mama Meditations, Volume I.

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Mama Meditations book signing February 6

If you’re a local reader and Gratitude Cup blog follower, please make plans to attend the Mama Meditations book signing event February 6 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Bread of Life Bookstore in Batesville, Arkansas. I will be there with several paperback copies of my book for sale (ready to sign!). In addition, The Tea Crate, owned by my friend Shaelyn, will be on hand with free samples of delicious hot tea in multiple flavors. What better way to spend the Saturday before Valentine’s Day than shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts, sipping hot tea, and chatting with your favorite author (that’s me!)?

If you’ve already purchased a book on Amazon, bring it with you, and I’ll be happy to sign it for you. And while you’re there, don’t forget to register for two great drawings. The Bread of Life Bookstore is giving away a women’s devotional book, and I have collaborated with The Tea Crate to create a gift basset full of goodies (including a copy of both of my books), so we will give that basket away to one lucky winner, too. All who register will receive my e-newsletter (unless they opt out–so fair warning).

If you cannot attend the event but want to purchase a signed copy of my book, you’re in luck! You can do that through this website. Please note: I order copies of my book and then mail them to you so you won’t receive a signed copy as quickly as you receive an unsigned copy from Amazon.

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Gratitude Cup podcast

For years, GratitudeCup blog followers/readers have told me I should start a podcast.

I resisted. Writing is my thing, I insisted. Not talking.

Well, sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. It was today after a Zoom-based interview with one of my long-time friends and former colleagues went awry thanks to a faulty internet connection. I had hoped to upload the video recording of our interview to my YouTube channel, sharing an important announcement about my new book, Mama Meditations.

However, the video file was sluggish. Thankfully, though, the audio file held together quite well. I decided to pursue creating a podcast hastily… without giving it a second thought, honestly, so here we are!

Mama Meditations coming in January 2021

I am so excited to announce to all GratitudeCup readers and followers that my new devotional book and gratitude journal for moms, Mama Meditations: Volume I, will be published in January 2021.

Mama Meditations contains 60 entries, each followed by a brief prayer and Bible verse, as well as space prompting readers to reflect and journal about their own journeys through motherhood, building a gratitude habit along the way.

2020 has certainly proven a challenge for all of us in multiple ways, especially as parents. I chose to homeschool my daughter–that was new and different for us. Even though I believed it was best at the time, that doesn’t mean it was easy, and that doesn’t mean either of us liked it all the time either. I learned how to extend more grace and mercy than ever before. And you know what? I learned how to have more fun than ever before! We played outside more often, brought our basset hound/beagle indoors more often, and cuddled more often than ever before. This semester reminded me of a maxim I knew to be true but often have difficulty implementing: Time enjoyed is not time wasted.

I hope you’ll move into 2021 with me, with a copy of my new book in hand as soon as it becomes available for purchase, determined to pursue greater joy, deepen your habit of gratitude, and extend compassion and mercy to others–including your children.

May God bless you this Christmas season.

Time enjoyed
is not time wasted.

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Is it too hard to find bright spots in 2020?

Have you noticed that this year, fewer people are sharing gratitude lists on social media? Normally, our feeds are swamped this time of year, right? Everyone participates in 30-day gratitude challenges. People post photos of things they’re most thankful for. We know the hubbub will not last, but the November rush is nice.

Not this year.

Why?

Is 2020 so hard, so tough we can’t see the good anymore? Perhaps. I have never seen so many jokes, memes, parodies, and sarcastic comments about how horrible this year has been. I get it. Lots of natural disasters all over the world. A horrid pandemic that’s far from over. Parents trying to figure out how to manage work while often teaching kids at home for the first time. Kids missing friends and normal social life. BLM protests gone wild. Police officers who were once seen as noble heroes now spat upon and demonized. An election that tore us apart.

We’re just ready to fast forward to Christmas. We want a party. We want joy. Or we want stuff! Or we want to give and forget about what we’ve lost this year. Bypassing pain and discomfort is a common desire. But it doesn’t work. The pain, discomfort, and misery are still there; it’s best if we deal head on.

Whatever the reason for bypassing the practice of pausing and finding time to be thankful, I would encourage you to pause. Consider the value of practicing gratitude. If you give it a chance for a few weeks, you will notice its benefits in your life. Others will, too.

Facing the fear of missing out

Today’s guest contributor is author Kennan Buckner. Check out her bio and the link to her book at the end of the post!

I grew up with limited access to the internet, back when you had to use dial-up. In junior high and high school, I wasn’t allowed to have a MySpace account, but I did share an email account with my Dad.  

I am sure those messages were fascinating. What would a preteen have to say to friends she’d  seen a few hours before at school?   

When I was in college, friends introduced me to a relatively new thing called Facebook. My  roommate Jessica and our friend Sarah showed me how to set up my profile, and off we were  to the land of stalking fellow University of Mary Hardin-Baylor singles.  

Social media became a part of my daily life, a sort of living journal and scrapbook. Then nine  years later, in December 2016, I did something pretty radical for me. I limited my access to  social media. I removed the apps from my phone. After having a baby, choosing to stay home, leaving a job I loved, and losing my circle of work friends, social media was not a healthy  outlet.  

I did something crazy. Not only did I take social media apps off my phone, but I had my  husband Marcus block them from the Safari app (because I would look up their websites). So  for a whole year, my one source for social media was on a desktop computer in our home  office, which meant I had to plan to be on the internet. I had to plan to go to Facebook. It was  ridiculously hard to post pictures of my son because I had to send them from my phone to my  email on my computer and upload them! So much work!   

But that year, God used the mental space to break unhealthy habits in me.   

FINDING THE LIVING WATER  

Social media led to a battle with a strong case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Comparison  told me, “You are missing out on life” and “You are missing out on all these adventures.”    

Being stuck at home was not my demise. The blessing of being at home with my son was my  calling. When I finally embraced the space where I was physically present, I saw God. I was not  missing out. The truth was God called me to a different place in my life in that season. Different  from my former coworkers and many of my social media connections and friends. Constant  social-media scrolling stirred in me a discontent with the place and space I was given to  occupy. I needed to put my phone down.  

In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah, known as the “weeping prophet,” was given a  special message which finds its application in our everyday lives, too. In Jeremiah 2, he’s given  the proclamation from the Lord to remind the Israelites, God’s chosen people, what they had  with Him is what would truly satisfy them.   

In biblical times, people often built their cities around rivers or lakes because water is  necessary for survival. When a city would outgrow its water source, the people would make  massive caverns to collect rainwater. Sounds smart, right? Spiritually, the Israelites had done  the same thing. They decided their invisible God was too small. They traded authentic worship  of YHWH as prescribed to them by Moses for the false gods of the people and cultures around  them.  

These false gods were like man-made cisterns. They looked good on the outside but had no  real power to satisfy or hold water. In building their water wells, the Israelites forgot God. At its  root, the fear of missing out occurs when we forget God. 

Jeremiah 2:13 says, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the  fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold  no water.” 

To forsake is to leave, desert, or neglect. Jeremiah says they forgot God, the source of Living  Water, then replaced Him with cisterns unable to hold water.  

Imagine their disappointment after a big rainstorm when they realized not one cistern was able  to hold water. There were leaks and unseen problems below the surface. Now, there was no  water and no provision for the future.   

ENJOY WHAT HE HAS GRACIOUSLY PROVIDED  

Did you know the only place you can be with God right now is in the present? While He is  omnipresent, able to be everywhere simultaneously, we – as finite humans – are not. Friend,  you can experience precious joy right here. Right where you are.  

The fear of missing out says:  

WHAT I AM DOING NOW…  

WHO I AM WITH NOW…  

WHERE I AM NOW…  

IS NOT IMPORTANT.  

And that’s exactly the mistake the Israelites made in their quest to satisfy a vertical need from  horizontal sources. Because the people were not satisfied by the Living Water, they were not  able to enjoy what God had graciously provided for them.   

Jeremiah 2:7 says, “And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good  things…” 

You do the same thing when you miss what’s right in front of you. Not enjoying what God has  given to you is a failure to fulfill His purpose. Like the Israelites, He brings you to plentiful land  to enjoy its fruits and its good things. When comparison blinds you or social media leads you  to envy others’ possessions or experiences, you are not enjoying what He has given you!  

Comparison leads to unfair assumptions. It lays your everyday mundane moments next to  others’ highlight reels. Comparison tells you that if life were fair, things would be equal, or if you  are honest, your situation would be a little better than someone else’s.   

Much like space and time are limited to the present, you can only please God in the present.  Right where you are, you can choose to enjoy the tasks He has given you, who you are with,  and where you are. Right now, you can please God by enjoying what He has graciously provided. 

This blog post is an excerpt from Kennan’s first book, Chin Up, about how putting down our phones can open our eyes and ready our feet to walk in God’s purpose. Available now on Amazon. Need community? Join the conversation on the Chin Up the Book Facebook  group.  

Kennan Buckner is a former editor of Katy Magazine turned stay-at-home mom and business  owner. She holds a mass communication/journalism degree from the University of Mary  Hardin-Baylor. She is an active member of the Mothers of Preschoolers group at FBC San Antonio. Kennan and her husband, Marcus, run Marken Media Co. and reside in Texas with their three children.  

Redeeming time

I made the decision to homeschool Maggie months ago. I know this doesn’t match the experience of most parents this year, during this odd pandemic. Most parents waited on pins and needles for schools to announce their plans, reacting to the alignment with CDC guidelines, or something like that. Not me. Maybe it’s because I am remarkably stubborn. Or maybe it’s because I have worked in higher education for 12 years and understand how the whole public education system works just enough to know that whether they say so or not, it’s going to be pandemonium, I opted to make my own plan with or without any announcements from the school system. I am so glad I did.

I wholeheartedly felt convinced God wanted me to do this. My daughter’s first grade experience left her lacking strong literacy skills even though she finished kindergarten ahead of her peers.

The good news is she’s a super smart kid; she’ll be fine. However, I knew she needed help to regain academic confidence and skill, not to mention a love for learning. This, coupled with the COVID pandemic and the weirdness it would inevitably bring to the realm of public education, weighed on me as a mom. Did I want to send her back to the classroom? Nope, although I honestly did not look forward to having her around the house while I tried to work on a daily basis either.

Do I look forward to homeschooling her? Yes and no. We’re two weeks into the school year. And I can still say… yes and no! No, I don’t look forward to trying to find time to clean the house, run errands, and manage my own business… all with my child underfoot. No, I don’t anticipate 100% sheer joy while trying to play mom and teacher to a child who already questions my decisions because she’s coming into her own very independent personality. And no, I don’t think it will be easy to practice great self-care or carve out time as a writer, much less a woman, while still distancing ourselves in the midst of a pandemic.

But the redemptive part is this: I asked God for this. When I quit working full-time over four years ago and started my business to spend more time with my daughter, I felt great sorrow. When I had worked full-time, I knew I had made a big difference in others’ lives. But I had done that at the expense of missing out on my daughter’s life. There were days when I’d come home and not had the chance to play with her while it was light outside. And I don’t mean like one day or so here and there. It was like that for months at a time–for seasons. Maybe that’s okay for some moms, for some parents. That was not okay for me. I could not live with myself that way. It wasn’t just the “mom guilt” we hear about. It was a spiritual conviction, a knowing in my soul that I was not aligned with what God would have me do.

It had nothing to do with what I wanted to do. It had everything to do with me choosing to do what was the best and right thing for my kid. As a follower of Christ, it was time to live like one.

Since then, I’d always hoped for an opportunity for redemption, to get back the years when I had not been with her. And here it was—a full year of mom and Maggie time.

Every time I find myself whining about how hard it might be, or how I’ll never get any work done during the day without coordinating my schedule with my husband’s, or how she might hate me because I will be helping her learn to write cursive, I remember this. I asked for restoration. And I am getting it.

That is something to be grateful for.

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10 things I’m grateful I learned before COVID hit

10 things I am glad I learned years before COVID-19 changed the landscape of our lives… because some lessons are harder learned in the midst of a crisis.

1. Working from home while simultaneously caring for a child does not work well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI choose one or the other. I can alternate between the two throughout the day. But I cannot do both unless I am satisfied with doing them both half a**.

It took me trying with all my might to do both 100% (and failing, and crying about it) for at least one year. Sometimes I need to prove myself wrong before giving up on an idea.

I finally succumbed, accepting reality. Once I acknowledged that I had to strike a balance and have “Mama work time” and “Mama and Maggie time,” things went more smoothly, both in our home and in my head.

2. Don’t attempt to do more than 3 things daily when caring for kids full time.

When I fill my list with more than 3 items, I almost always fail and feel like a loser. I compare myself to others. I compare myself to MYSELF on better days.

My mentor gave me the assignment years ago of limiting my list to 3 or fewer items. That felt challenging at first as a former long-list maker. But lowering standards of perfection really helped me enjoy life, live in the moment, and appreciate time with my child.

3. Living way, way below my means has endless benefits and has given me limitless freedom.

bw.3 (1)You cannot dangle a carrot attractive enough in front of me to convince me to stay (in a relationship or at a job) if I am miserable, feel conflicted, or know what I am being asked to do is unethical. Huge freedom man. Huge. 

One of those benefits: starting my own business in 2016. With no money set aside. On ZERO budget. And I celebrate four years as a business owner this month, thanks to God’s control of outcomes and wonderful friends, clients, colleagues, and business partners.

 

4. Buying basics in bulk and maintaining a pantry is more cost effective and efficient than shopping frequently.

This is part of one of my favorite principles for living: prevention vs. damage control.

The more we plan ahead and think big picture, the less likely we are to run out of steam, react rather than respond, and find ourselves in sticky situations in life.

Before I joined a recovery program, many parts of my life could be characterized as “a mess.” My finances were falling apart and had been slowly spiraling in that direction for years. I had just ended one marriage and was in the middle of a horrible dating relationship with someone I never should have dated at all (but couldn’t see any red flags at the time). I quit a toxic job the same day I attended my first 12-Step meeting. My life was a wreck!

Learning to pause, ask for help, and take direction from others with more experience (practice prevention rather than damage control) changed my life.

And no–buying four cans of beans versus one is NOT the same as a major life crisis like going through a divorce… but I think you get what I’m saying here :).

5. Maintaining strong relationships with medical providers, business owners, and community leaders can really come in handy in a pinch.

Networking. It’s a long term investment in people’s lives. And it benefits everyone.

During this crazy time, I have needed some assistance in various areas of life. Because I have maintained good relationships with people who are experts in different fields, these people have come through for me. And I’m grateful.

Burning bridges with people is just never a bad idea. Maintaining solid relationships is always a good idea. Period.

6. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me why I wanted to live in the country, or why I got divorced, or why I don’t attend church at this place or that, or why we owned land, or why we owned chickens… so many people wanting to know so many things about my life they’re not living :).

80971955_713251566842_5915953228423364608_oMy lifestyle choices are my business. Yours are yours. Life is definitely more serene when I care less what anyone else thinks (as long as me and God are okay, everything is okay).

I have thankfully been able to maintain this perspective during this pandemic.

I know others have not. I see their posts. I read their rants. Then I snooze them on social media because while I love them, I do not want to see their posts or read their rants. I want to let them simmer first.

Judging other people and the way they handle any crisis is simply a bad idea. It won’t help anyone. And it’s going to burn bridges (see #5).

 

7. God goes before me. God is always right on time. God loves my people more than I do.

I can trust God.

God has come through for me EVERY SINGLE TIME and in every situation in my life. Through sexual assaults, through divorces, through bankruptcy. You name it. Why would I doubt God’s ability to take care of me and the people I love right now?

I do not.

8. I AM NOT GOD.

In reference to #6, I do not know how to best handle the world’s problems. I do my part to take care of myself and my child, and I leave the rest in God’s hands.

I do not have to instruct others on how to care for themselves either. Because–I am not God.

9. Even when bad, terrible, traumatic things happen, God ALWAYS converts those tragedies into opportunities for redemption and light. If I let Him.

The beauty of this truth is that God requires nothing of me except willingness to sit with open palms and watch Him convert ashes to beauty and darkness to light. If I just keep my eyes open and my mind open, I will see miracles around me. And I do.

10. It’s okay to wear pajama pants with a dressy shirt on a Zoom session, but it is not a good idea to forego the pants altogether.

Just had to throw that one in there because although I learned that years ago as a small business owner working remotely, I know some of you are just joining the Zoom scene. I’m trying to help you out.

 

Which life lessons are you thankful you learned–even tough lessons–years ago, long before this healthcare crisis? How have you applied lessons you learned then to the situations you’re faced with today? 

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Fortunately found

My former student, Debjanee Protyasha Nandy, wrote this beautiful short essay recalling her gratitude for a moment when a person extended kindness to her. May we all treat others with the same generosity, concern, and selflessness.

Human beings are not self-sufficient. We need other people in society in order to
survive. Kindness is one of the most important virtues for humankind.

rickshaw gratitudecup

I remember one time when someone helped me out of a situation selflessly. I was a student of the third grade. I was coming home by a rickshaw after school. Suddenly, I felt dizzy and fell off the rickshaw. I was bleeding. The rickshaw puller didn’t want to waste his time helping me.

So, he left. I was completely alone lying on the road bleeding. A man from the nearby construction area came to help me. He took me to the hospital and stayed there with me. He called my mom.

Unfortunately, my mom was two hours away from me. He fed me and took me home. After a while, my mom came and thanked him. She was so mad at me. She scolded me for not being careful enough. I had five stitches. I could not go to school for a week. I was in complete bed-rest.

After a few days, I started to feel better. Although my mom was a working woman,
she took her day off to meet the person who saved her daughter’s life. Unfortunately, I didn’t have his contact information. So, we went to the construction site. We found him working there. My mother expressed her gratitude to him. We invited him for a dinner at our home.

Yet, to this day, I still have flashbacks to my accident. I am thankful for being alive. I
am thankful to him.

 

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