Motherhood

A Word to Moms of Fewer Children

I am coming to the conclusion that there is a line between having five kids and six kids. At five, you are considered to still have a normal number of children. At six, well…that is over the line and out of normal range. At five, people have plenty to say about having your hands full. At six, they stop to count twice because they can’t believe their eyes. Well, for now they’re counting the kids and the bump. It amuses me a little, if I’m honest.

Really though, one might be astonished to hear any number of the comments I hear on a regular basis about our family size or something related to it. Some are kind, others are not at all kind. Not many of them bother me too much. People are curious. It’s ok. Don’t we all feel a little uncomfortable when we encounter something far outside our personal experience?

There is one comment that comes up innocently, and rather often, so I wanted to write about it…largely because it is a comment I have heard at different times from friends who have one, two, three, or four kids of their own.

It usually goes something like this:

So and so is telling about one of their parenting challenges…vulnerably (beautifully) sharing about a hill they’ve been climbing or a struggle they’ve been going through, and then in an instant, its like they suddenly remember I have twice or three times as many children in my care, and they back-pedal with a statement like, “Oh, but I only have X number of kids, so I can’t imagine how much harder it is for you.” See, a totally innocent comment. And well-meaning. But I cringe a little every time I hear it. Especially when it includes the word “only”.

Sure, it is different to have many children vs. few children. There are basic logistical differences, and there are different challenges, different dynamics, and different needs…but I really want to say out loud that parenting is challenging from day one, whether you have one child or ten children. My heart is to encourage all parents of littles, regardless of how many they have, that what you are doing every day to raise your little ones are all really hard things. You’re doing them! The hard things! You are living with less sleep, less money, less “free” time, less personal flexibility to do whatever you might like to be doing. You are learning-as-you-go how to solve the various problems you run into at every stage of development. You are doing the important, holy, hard work of meeting all of your child’s needs that you possibly can in a day, even when you yourself are scraping the bottom of your nearly-empty barrel to give what you can to them until you collapse on the couch minutes after they fall off to sleep. I’ve been there. I am there. I just can’t stomach the idea that mamas look in on my life and feel like they’re not measuring up because they feel like they can’t gracefully handle their X number of children while they happen to catch a few graceful moments of me handling mine.

It’s all messy, every step of the journey. Messy and beautiful and so hard at times. I will say, for as odd as it sounds, I think it may be more difficult to have fewer children…especially if you’re at two or three under the age of 5. Oh man, I remember those days, and I can tell you with certainty that life will not always look the same! Life with infants, and toddlers, and preschoolers is NO JOKE. You’re pretty much up to your neck in the deep water of parenting at all hours of the day and night. It takes all you’ve got, and it is totally important to be able to share your struggles, heartaches, troubles, and challenges without discrediting the incredible amount of love you’re pouring out every day to your children because you “only” have X number of children.

A mother is not more heroic or more admirable because she has more children vs. less children…All moms are heroes of the greatest kind–heroes that give selflessly, serve faithfully, and love their own children in a way that no other person could. You’re doing beautiful, hard things, and have no reason to compare your victories or failures to other moms. As your children grow, you grow as well…learning skills and techniques you may not have had in your pocket during the earlier years. If you happen to have a few more children, you will learn the skills and techniques you need at that time to handle those new challenges and dynamics.

I guess I’m just saying, hang in there, and don’t downplay the difficulties of your particular stage of parenthood. We are all fumbling through the best way we know how, and it is important that we stick together in this, whether that be to share our struggles, compare notes on particular stages, or just to cheer each other on in the marathon of motherhood.

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.…” Psalm 127:3

 

12 Days of Christmas

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 48/52

Short and sweet tonight because I haven’t found the bandwidth to do any writing this week. I’ve been in the kitchen a lot, making a variety of delicious things, and I think all my creative energy is going there. We have also been full-steam ahead with homeschool tasks, knowing that around the time of our baby’s arrival, we will slow down for a time, so for now, we need to keep moving forward. There is a lot of Christmas music happening, and earlier today the middle child in this week’s photo was singing (a more rare occurrence for him) and trying to remember the words to the 12 days of Christmas. He has a lot of them down, but every time he gets to the end of a cycle, you hear, “And a present in a bear (bare?) tree…” I haven’t the heart to correct him.

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Update on run/walk goal for week 48 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 9 Run/Walk miles traveled, 570mi in 2015

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“Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Mark 10:14-15

1141. safe travel to and from leavenworth despite challenging conditions, 1142. new ornaments for the tree, 1143. christmas party, 1144. generous gift of little boy baby clothes from a friend, 1145. successful advent calendar activities, 1146. better-than-average monday (in terms of peace and productivity), 1147. new books from the library for mama, 1148.  mini-cupcakes, 1149. super-cheese grins, 1150. santa in the weekly photo

 

Tenderness

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 39/52

It’s so easy to excuse ourselves for the snippy words that we blurt out when we’re short on sleep, short on time, and ultimately short on patience. It is understandable, in that one can totally understand why the short temper leaps into control at a moment’s notice on occasion. I am guilty. Very guilty.

The clock mocks me, while I race around the house, locating shoes and gathering lunch items while kids stand at the door, fighting about who gets to go out of it first. The baby toddles around, stuffing her hands into a left-out cereal box, leaving a rain shower of cereal bits all about her. Others walk by and crunch the cereal under their shoes and I cringe with every crunch, unable to do one thing about it in that moment while my arms are full. One person has two shoes that don’t match in their hands with a helpless look on their face, and another is wearing pants that definitely do not fit them in the ankle-zone, but assessing our destination and the level of grace others will offer me when we arrive there, I decide it isn’t worth it to be any later than we are to make him change the pants. The shoes get rectified, since that just has to happen.

Inevitably, squabbles will break out over something entirely trivial, and I will lose my cool. Don’t they understand how incredibly challenging it is to get everyone properly dressed, fed, (possibly) groomed, and prepared with whatever supplies they need before we get out the door? Maybe close to on time? No, they definitely don’t understand. I breathe in through my nose and somehow I can smell the temptation to blurt out something else that is less than gentle and I forcefully blow it out through my mouth without voicing it. At least, I attempt to. Sometimes it escapes, and every time it does, I wish I could have a do-over.

It is so very easy to let tenderness get shoved to the back of the closet while I’m herding them out the door.

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Years ago, I remember waking up in the night to a crying baby and feeling angry that the sleep I desperately needed was being interrupted. I would respond, of course, but not without muttering under my breath and stomping my feet every bit of the 20 feet to her bedroom. I would gruffly whisk her out of bed and settle in to nurse her on autopilot, struggling to stay awake, and struggling to deal with the resentment I felt at how spent, how poured out, how exhausted I felt. I didn’t want to be nice. I didn’t want to be tender. And I didn’t want to be awake any longer than I had to be.

With time and more babies and countless experiences of God’s faithfulness and tenderness toward me in many different circumstances, I have changed my tune about the night hours, and the role I wish for tenderness to play in my mothering. It still eludes me at times, when I am feeling the stress or exhaustion, but I try to recognize when the danger zone is coming, and take steps to bring myself low and quiet where I might find the tenderness I’ve dropped so I can pick it back up again.

Tenderness is something I’ve come to hold as a central value in my heart toward my children. I fight hard for it, and I do fail, but I will keep fighting hard for it, because I see that it is the tenderness that wins them, and grows them, and builds the trust between us I hope to always have. I strive to look them in the eyes and give gentle correction with a tender voice, even as I must hold firm to the expectations I put forward. When we are racing out the door and the stress is boiling up, I get us to the car and own it. I say out loud, “Will someone please say a prayer for me? I am feeling stressed and grumpy, and I don’t want our whole morning to be like this. I am sorry for being short with all of you.” Every time, one of them will speak out a tender, honest prayer for me and tell me how much they love me. I am humbled again by the grace they freely give.

When the babies wake in the night, I try to go with a light and willing heart, believing that I have been summoned not only to comfort, but also to pray in the night hours, and that this time is sacred; a quiet invitation into surrender and service that does not go unnoticed by the Lord. I draw the baby near and stroke her hair while I rock in rhythm and soothe her, taking care to communicate the magnanimous love I have for her by the gentleness of my touch, as that is after all, what God has done for me time and again.

Every new season of motherhood humbles me, and tenderizes me, and it is so completely good for my soul (though increasingly challenging as I journey) that I keep signing up for more of it. I guess if I could give one thought to the young mother, it would be to fight hard for tenderness toward your babies, especially in the moments that you’re undone, and you’re poured out. It doesn’t come naturally at first for some. It didn’t for me. But we learn as we go, that we can do hard things, and we can do them with a gentle spirit if we want to. You cannot spoil a child with kindness, only with inconsistency, so let us be consistently kind while we guide them through their early years, teaching them without words that they are important, valuable, irreplaceable treasures to be cherished.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

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Update on run/walk goal for week 39 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 13.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 462.5mi in 2015

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1031. stunning fall colors, 1032. 20 weeks in the books, 1033. fruitful brainstorming session, 1034. clean kitchen (a giant gift from a friend), 1035. a name picked, 1036. successful chemistry experiments with 6 & 7 year olds, 1037. trader joes ‘easy’ foods, 1038. opportunities to do things I love to do, 1039. returning library books on time, 1040. the boy’s first totally solo soccer goal this season

It’s a…..

Perfectly formed, magnificently created, dearly loved boy that will be joining our family in February 2016. The whole crew is excited, even the reserved one in the photo, who is only reserved because his balloon popped moments before I clicked. In reality, he’s just as psyched as the other brother who had himself a little victory dance around the yard. Girls no longer out-number the boys!

In other news, and not to be overshadowed: someone lost their first tooth last night and is rather excited about it.

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 38/52

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with Whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

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Update on run/walk goal for week 38 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 13 Run/Walk miles traveled, 449mi in 2015

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1021. news of a boy, 1022. seeing our perfectly formed unborn son, 1023. lost tooth of a bigger boy, 1024. victory dance of that same boy, 1025. little welcome-home party, 1026. hugs and supportive friends, 1027. ‘awesome-boy allen’, 1028. guest speaker at homeschool co-op (daddy), 1029. clear friday night, 1030. kid-made lunch on a low day

Beautiful Chaos

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 37/52

Everything can be pristine one minute, and then they all crash through the door. Coats and shoes flying, bags dropped, (sometimes) clothes dropped also (for the boy-folk), and within only a few minutes home, there are things out in every room, tossed aside in every corner of the house. Favorite current activities include making paper dragons with wire skeletons, recycle-bin creatures, cutting, drawing, taping, and gluing anything that seems like it might go well on a hodgepodge creation…so naturally there are remnants of all the projects also left about, even if they promised to clean it all up. There are water-bottles and snack bowls and library books and school books and legos and horses and yarn bits and randomly discarded colored pencils.

To add to the mayhem, a certain little miss has become very skilled at finding something (anything) that might be neatly put-away and tearing it apart to mine for treasures untold. So far we’ve hit under the bathroom sink, mama’s carry-bag, any of several “catch all the little annoying things mama has picked up from around the house” ziplock bags, bookshelves, bins, kitchen drawers, cans in the pantry, cereal boxes left out on the table, and at least half of all neatly-folded laundry piles. She’s the sweetest mischief-maker, but she does make me have to hustle to stay ahead. Who am I kidding? I’m rarely ahead, but I am working overtime to help the other kids recognize when something needs to be put away “before the little one gets into it”. If its not a bin to mine, its a package of wipes to extract one-by-one, or another child’s paper creation to tear apart into little pieces.

We have had to eliminate markers and glue sticks from the house for the time being, as those are the favorite finds, and both go straight in her mouth, caps off. I haven’t brought myself to taste one, but she really thinks those crayola markers are something delicious. Just when I think there are no more markers anywhere, she comes around the corner with one hanging out of her mouth, while clutching the cap in the other hand. Sigh.

There is a lot of dancing and shouting and laughing and a fair amount of whining until I start doling out chores for the whiners. Then whining subsides for a bit, both because they’re busy doing something, and they’ve also recognized for a short time that there isn’t all that much to whine about if its choosing between a frowny attitude and a chore-free morning. There are so. Many. Dishes. If we don’t get the dishwasher started at least twice a day, you can bet I will be up to my eyeballs in dishes when I venture in the kitchen.

Also, we are literally at the max capacity of our fridge. It’s not a full-size…maybe like a 3/4 size, and we’ve already transitioned to shopping at Costco and other places once a week in smaller quantities to make sure everything we bring home can fit in it. Inevitably, by the next shopping day, the space that was full to the brim is nearly empty, and the cycle starts over.

It’s busy, full, chaotic, and really, really beautiful. They have so much love for each other, and we laugh so much about so many weird things. They have all been very interested in the new baby on the way and what we will name him/her. Each one has suggested names for our consideration including: Marshawn (or Lynch if Marshawn doesn’t make the cut), Susie Sunshine, John (for a girl), and Judah #2, among others.

I am spent and full at the same time, grateful for each one and the time we have together.

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Update on run/walk goal for week 37 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 15.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 436mi in 2015

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“Jesus said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to Him, ‘Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.” Mark 10:51

1011. kid name suggestions, 1012. our team, 1013. blossoming readers, 1014. random comments about atoms, 1015. quiet affirmations from my kids, 1016. superseded a personal business goal, 1017. graces, 1018. cbs study, 1019. cuddle times, 1020. anticipation

Perspective

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 29/52

I could tell you many stories about times in life that I felt inadequate, weary, unable to overcome obstacles, incapable of repairing circumstances, and like my cup was totally empty. I could tell you stories from last week about every one of those things. It is no secret that life is hard. It is hard in different ways for different people, but every one of us is up against challenges…physical, financial, personal, societal, spiritual. Some people spend a lot of effort downplaying their challenges because they see that others’ struggles seem far bigger than their own, while others downplay because they want to look put together, like they’ve got a handle on every last thing. Others magnify their challenges, dismissing the hardships of others because they believe that no one could possibly be struggling more than they are, which is most-likely not true.

The truth is, anything we struggle with, big or small, is real to us. Sometimes things that are small, seem big. And some things that are big, seem small. It is not actually helpful at all to downplay or magnify our personal challenges. I think acknowledging them is the best place to start.

I struggle to want to do dishes. I stand at the sink and think about how unglamorous it is to scrape melted cheese from plates and scrub dried milk stains out of the bottom of cups. I want to kick myself when I fail to rinse out the blender carafe until hours after I’ve poured a smoothie, when all the strawberry seeds are stuck like glue to the sides. It’s annoying to toss half-eaten bits of things into the disposal and remember the pans I left out, unwashed, overnight with the remnants of last-night’s dinner. There are a million other things I would rather be doing than washing dishes. The hardest part for me is the sheer number of times per day that I have to load, start, and unload the dishwasher, just to have what we need for each meal. The struggle is real. For me.

Last week I watched a documentary clip about mothers in Haiti who make-by-hand and feed their children dirt-cakes that have been dried in the sun because they have no other source of food to offer them. Their poverty is so great, they cannot even afford the most basic staples to feed their families. My heart broke, and I had a moment that I felt really ashamed for my personal doing-dishes struggle, knowing that every one of those mothers would be overjoyed to be in my disheveled kitchen to gather even the melted cheese bits, an half-eaten lunch items and dinner remnants I am annoyed to be discarding, in order to nourish their babes. All of a sudden, I saw my struggle from a new perspective. Do I still struggle to want to do the dishes? Sure I do. But with a new perspective about the blessing it is to have a kitchen, and a whole set of dishes to use and wash, and a fridge to store healthy and delicious foods to feed my family, and a dishwasher to help with the cleanup job, I feel like its just a bit easier to stand at the sink over and over throughout the day, running clean water over dirty plates and giving thanks for each one and the mess that was on it.

 

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” Philippians 2:12-16

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Update on goals for week 29:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 29 ~ 16 Run/Walk miles traveled, 313mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 29 ~ 7,600 words completed, 87,900 words in 2015

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911. “crazy” swim suit conversation, 912. walking the lake with my oldest, 913. making progress on planning the chemistry unit I’m teaching this fall, 914. writing my faith story, 915. purple elephant unicorn painting, 916. some cooler days, 917. park day with co-op friends, 918. first photo session in a long while, 919. j’s bindi freckle and our laughs about it, 920. the Lord that goes before me in anything He calls me to, 921. colossians study with friends, 922. hobby lobby trip with gift card for the birthday girl, 923. seeing the kids work together, 924. afternoon naps, 925. the blessing of being received and challenged at the same time

Celebrating 10

On this day, ten years ago, we were joined together in holy matrimony. It was a humble and beautiful day that marked the beginning of our humble and beautiful life together as husband and wife. These have been, hands down, the best years of my life. Full of joy, full of love. Full of hardships and healing. Full of goodness and grace. I guess, in a single word: full.

I stood there in a giant white dress, trembling but trusting that life with him could be good. Believing that ten years down the road, I would still be laughing and that God would still be helping us live out love. Knowing that in whatever challenges we faced, we would cleave to each other no matter what.

And here we are. Still laughing, still loving.

I’ve been pondering this post for a few days now, wanting to have just the right words for this milestone we’ve reached, but really, I just look at pictures and wipe away happy tears because this man is, and has been, a tremendous gift to me. So much so, that words just don’t do it. He is a treasure of treasures, a true servant-heart, and as faithful a companion as I could have ever asked for.

Plus he is a super daddy, and that is a wonderful thing.

On this day, nine years ago, we sat at a restaurant celebrating our first married year, me with a remarkable belly and him with a nervous sparkle in his eye, ready for labor to start any minute so that he could meet his (first) baby girl. It did take another 2 days before she would make her appearance, but she wasn’t in his arms for two minutes before his daddy-heart bloomed in a glorious sunburst. If you ever have the privilege of seeing a daddy-heart bloom before your eyes, you’ll know what a tender and beautiful sight it is.

I find it a wild thought that this little sweetie with a smooshed nose at birth is turning nine years old on Friday (correction, Saturday! But the party is Friday and I was tired when I wrote this), and we’ve been blessed with a whole crew of little sweeties since. You can see more daddy/kid pictures from the father’s day post I made last year, if you like that sentimental sort of thing (you clearly know where I’m at with that).

To celebrate our 10 years, I really wanted to have some special photos taken of us all together. Photographer Brian David Casey came out to capture these for us, both to help us capture our family as it has grown, and also to help us announce that we’re still growing. Did you go back to re-read that sentence? Yes, you read it right! We are excited to announce that to kick off our next decade together, we’re expecting another little one in February.

“This journey that we’re on….how far we’ve come and I celebrate every moment. When you say you love me, that’s all you have to say.” ~ Josh Groban, When You Say You Love Me

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…But they delight in the law of the Lordmeditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Psalm 1:1-3

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Children are a gift from the Lordthey are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” Psalm 127:1-5

891. tater tots for lunch and afternoon naps on the couch, 892. diva batgirl, 893. when the kids work together cooperatively, 894. e-eye, e-yuh, 895. birthday gifts for the girl and her wide excited eyes when she opened them, 896. prayers answered, 897. how freely my kids ask me questions, 898. kettle chips, 899. family photos, 900. ten years with the most amazing man

For the Mamas

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 18/52

The women deserving of honor on this day come in all varieties. Some carry toddlers on the hip, and some wait for their children to come home for the holidays. Some struggle to know who they are anymore amidst cheerios and laundry piles and bleary-eyed exhaustion, while others worry that they are missing important times with their babies while they work to put food on the table. Some have losses that ache deep, and scars that stay long. They are each strong, courageous, brave women who have spent themselves to nurture, sacrificed their comforts to nourish. They are mothers (and grandmothers) to flesh and blood babies, to adoptive or foster children, to children lost, or to children that simply need love whether they’re related or not. They are mothers to children hoped-for, but not yet present. All deserve to be honored as champions of children, messengers of love, as heroes of the most humble kind.

If you are a woman who has ever lived out in any way a respect and value for life, and invested yourself in the life of a child with a selfless heart, from the depths of my heart I applaud you this mother’s day. Thank you for every sacrifice you have made to love well, the big ones and the small ones.

Thank you for showing me in my own mothering journey that brave looks different on different women. Thank you for showing me that sometimes strong and courageous looks like pressing on and facing fears, even while I tremble. Thank you for inspiring me, for teaching me, for caring for my heart, and for passing on to me the art of loving well, with hands and feet, in every season.

On this day, I honor you, mamas, for the dreams you have given up, for the hours of sleep you have lost, for the tears you’ve cried and the prayers you have prayed. I honor you for the meals you’ve made and the dishes you’ve done, for the booboo’s you’ve kissed and the great burdens you’ve carried. I honor you for standing up tall to give shade from the sun and for stretching out (even broken) wings to give shelter from the storm. Know that every small gesture you have done to help along the little ones is noticed by our Heavenly Father and will one day be rewarded in full.

They all shout together, “Happy Mother’s Day!”

“Whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

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Update on goals for week 18:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 18 ~ 11 Run/Walk miles traveled, 190mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 18 ~ 2,500 words completed, 61,525 words in 2015

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731. all the women in my life who have cared for me in every season…especially you, mama, 732. my children, 733. grace to grow, 734. solid words of truth from this morning’s service, 735. joy

Pure and Simple

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 17/52

The house is winding down and the kids get into their beds. In all physical ways, I am at the end of myself. Tired eyes and bones, and a strong desire to just throw everyone into bed as quickly as possible so I can clock out for the day and go numb my brain with something on a screen. Instead, a wind blows through me and I agree to sit and read to them while they settle themselves with blankets and loveys. It is an otherwise ordinary night, but I recognize that God has given me an extra measure of grace to handle bedtime with gentleness, instead of the grumpy exhaustion that often takes over. Spent, but not bankrupt. Weary, but not crushed. Somehow there is still more in the tank to give these little ones, like the supplier spotted me a wee bit of extra gusto to carry me over the threshold. Love digs deep and I’m learning how to do that in a gracious way without demanding a reward for it.

My son asks me questions about what I have read aloud, and somehow, answers are there. Answers that honor the mystery and also point to the truth. He’s always the one with the extra-deep questions. For years now, he has blessed me with his curiosity and desire to really understand the ideas that bounce around in his mind, and I try my best to journey with him, exploring and discovering as we go.

The same son takes a dip in the water to tell everyone around that he loves Jesus, pure and simple. I stand with him and squeeze his hand. I am always surprised by the turns of life, how his very presence in our family is not something I anticipated at the time, but I now cannot imagine life without his soft heart and goofy sense of humor. What a gift and a joy he is.

I long for him to find the life of peace and abundance. I pray for him to make choices purposefully, and with wisdom. I ask God to be near to him always, teaching him about who love is, what love does, and where love goes…to write it all so firm on his heart he can never escape it. I give thanks for the privilege it is to mother him in these years, seeing up close what the tender heart of a boy will become as he grows deeper and taller in the love of Jesus.

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Update on goals for week 17:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 17 ~ 12 Run/Walk miles traveled, 179mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 17 ~ 100 words completed, 59,025 words in 2015

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“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…so we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:5-9, 16-18 ESV

721. sweet boy, baptized, 722. beach day with 4 of ’em, 723. purging excess and rearranging, 724. celebratory brunch and the most amazing dutch baby, 725. jesus and all His upside-down thinking, 726. friends who journey with, 727. two books that I’m reading, 728. grace for myself in the midst of writing almost zero words last week, 729. safe, warm, and inviting home, 730. wiggle giggles

 

Have Courage and Be Kind: Thoughts on Parenting

Like many others have done in the past week, I took my girls to see the new live-action Cinderella movie. I am generally not much of a movie person, and I could personally take or leave the whole princess thing, but my husband suggested I take the girls (probably so he didn’t have to suffer through it himself…love you babe) so to the theater we went.

I didn’t have high any expectations, but by the end I had cried a number of times, and I found myself genuinely grateful for a movie that shared a beautiful message amidst all the fairytale fluff.

Have courage and be kind.

Do Not Copy

Birthday week! One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 11/52

It is a simple slogan, for sure, but one with a ring that resonates in the heart of this mama.

This line describes the style of parenting I’ve come to own as I’ve matured as a parent. Before I expand on that, let me tell you a little bit about my early days as a mother.

I have always loved my children. As soon as I learned of my first pregnancy, I wanted to be a mother, even though prior to that, I might have shared different feelings about the prospect. I was young (age 23 at her birth) and as eager as anyone to try my hand at this parenting thing. When she arrived, I was completely blindsided by how challenging it is to care for a newborn. When she started walking and her little brother arrived, I was still up to my ears in the learning curve of both parenting and of general out-of-college-adulthood. When my third-born arrived, I was full swing into the, “You-have-to-be-kidding-me-this-is-so-hard” dance.

I had very little confidence in myself or my parenting choices, so I spent a fair amount of time anxiously second-guessing myself or totally ignoring things I could have been tending to that might have made life a little more peaceful. I was also easily irritated by my children (hello, lack of sleep and the impossible juggling act of 3 kids under 4 years old), and I had not yet realized that my feeble attempts to orchestrate any kind of peace in our home were not working at all.

If I’m honest, I felt a lot of shame during those years. I was ashamed of how disastrous my house was on a daily basis. I was ashamed of how impatient I was with my toddlers and their very normal needs. I was overwhelmed, and lots of days, I was anything but kind to my kids and my husband. Our lives were out of order on many levels, and I tried to duck and hide from having to openly acknowledge my role in that reality. Avoiding the truth made it easier to avoid the terribly humbling realization that, as a mother, I have a tremendous amount of influence over the health and atmosphere of my home.

The arrival of my fourth child is somewhat of a sweet bend in the road of my motherhood journey. Her middle name is Grace, and it is truly in that season that I learned in a very personal way that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).  It is in that season that I started being more honest with myself about what I could do humble myself and serve my family without complaining about it…and that has ushered us into a sweet and beautiful season that I would not trade for anything.

Do Not Copy

So how does one have courage as a parent?

It might be different for you, but I’ll share a little list of what that looks like for me:

Having courage looks like taking responsibility for my own attitude and how it affects my family. The days that my head is in the game and I have a cheerful disposition about my role are the smoothest days.

Having courage looks like intentionally seeking to connect with each of my children and grow the trust between us by listening, spending time together, and communicating honestly.

Having courage looks like setting healthy boundaries for all of us. This has meant simplifying our lives in every way I am able to — reducing our commitments, reducing the amount of stuff that we own, clearly laying out (and following through on enforcing) expectations for behavior, and talking together about being content with what we have.

Having courage looks like seeking wise counsel when I need help. It is humbling to ask for help, but every single time I’ve reached out to someone I trust for advice on a particular issue, I walk away with valuable perspective, and usually, a lighter burden.

How does one be a kind parent? Again, you could take this a number of different directions.

I try to speak with my children, not at them. I’ve learned that my tone and delivery make all the difference. I can show kindness by simply choosing kind words, even with a saucy preschooler or a moody nearly pre-teen. This is not always easy for me.

I try to follow through on what I’ve said I will do, whether that’s a promise to do a certain activity, or following through with a consequence I’ve put forward in a disciplinary situation. Consistency grows trust between us, and helps my children know what the ‘rules’ are in our relationship. If the rules are always changing, or I don’t follow through with what I’ve said, they learn that it is only sometimes important to listen to my words, which causes lots of problems…from experience.

I try to encourage more than I correct. This is actually the hardest one for me, because it really takes a lot of effort to not spiral down a negative slope while correcting behaviors and attitudes that I have been repeatedly correcting. All day. Correction must happen, but I’ve learned that my children are much more responsive to correction when they do not feel defeated. In every situation, I want them to know what is expected of them, and I want them to know they are capable, intelligent, and worthy of respect regardless of the choices they have made that day. A child who feels loved and valued will naturally put more effort into whatever is asked of them.

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If you find yourself struggling in a season of parenting, I think its ok to take a few steps back and think about it might look like to Have Courage and Be Kind at your house. If you are in need of a friend to journey with you in that pursuit, I’m glad to be here for you. Feel free to send me a note!

Linking up with Mama Moments Monday.

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Update on goals for week 11:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 11 ~ 12 Run/Walk miles traveled, 117.5 cumulative in 2015 2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 11 ~ estimated 3,000 words completed, 39,200 cumulative in 2015

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“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

656. amazing message about the power of weakness, 657. “coffee” with a sweet friend, 658. birthday week and homemade doughnuts, 659. great anticipation, 660. generous birthday gifts and warm wishes, 661. slight updates to the blog, 662. a husband who helps in so many ways, 663. meeting new and interesting people, 664. cherry blossoms, 665. truth that heals