The adjustment to seven children is real. Resuming school after adding a newborn to our family has not been easy in any sense of the word. I am continuing to brainstorm routines and class formats that will assist in creating and maintaining a peaceful home environment. There have been many tears along the way: from mom and children.

In addition to home management, we are facing many unknowns in the days, weeks and months ahead. There are times when I feel angry about the circumstances that put us into this season of uncertainty; sometimes I feel anxious about the challenges ahead and the discomforts we will have to navigate. Change can be exciting but when it’s not predicted or planned it can be fearsome.

With the chilly weather we are having and the hard week we completed, we decided to make this weekend fun and cozy. Yesterday, after 4 hours of planning out a new daily routine, the month of February and next week, I made homemade hot chocolate along with freshly baked sourdough bread and crispy popcorn and we introduced the Christy series to the children. This morning we all slept in and then began the day with cartoons and muffins for breakfast. Arden burst out with, “This is the best holiday!” From there we tackled some home projects and had music playing; as GH passed me in the kitchen he reflected, “I’d really love to have something warm and baked right now.” I laughed inside because the children all know I don’t tolerate “I’m huuunngrry” whining. He found a creative way to tell me the status of his stomach.

As the day progressed it got colder and colder, so after naps everyone bundled up and piled into the little boys’ room to play a game. We have story cards: I hold up a picture card and we take turns telling a part of the story based on the picture. It is a favorite game of ours. From there we moved to the living room for hot tea and some winter treats with more Christy. Since we kept mentioning the temperature of the day, Arden inquired, “Mom, what is the fever of the cold?” I just love how children interpret language!

As the keeper of my home, I take note of weekends like this one. What made it peaceful? Was it the balance of work and play? Was it the intentionality in absorbing the little moments, the innocent conversations, the silly antics? or perhaps it was the gratitude I felt at coming out of a grueling week and seeing God’s faithfulness in all of it. For truly, God is faithful. As we struggle and weep and toil and fall and fail and despair, we cling to Jesus. Every trial I endure reminds me to recall the trials He has brought me through. “If I can make it through that, then I can make it through this” and with that acknowledgment I am flooded with thankfulness for every chapter in my story.

The reality of Jesus is even more apparent in the experiences we would never choose to include if we were writing our story. I believe that when times are easy for too long we become swept up in how good we feel, whereas the difficulties confront us with the impossible and we remember God. In His faithfulness He provides us with a mixture of both: the need to pray and the chance to praise.

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I rejoice because the days are short and I am ready to be still and rest. But sometimes I grieve because the days are short and there is not enough time to savor the depth of life.

I am overwhelmed by the chaos in my existence: the unfolded laundry, the clutter quickly becoming decor because it’s always there, the noise in all timbres. But sometimes I love all of it because it is home and it is my life and it is temporary.

I weep over the memories of precious time with beloved friends and family because they are now memories and I think I could have been more present or made more of them. But sometimes I hold those memories close to my heart because they are mine and they are permanent and they happened.

I shrink from what lies ahead because it is unknown and it could be painful or scary or change everything. But sometimes I want all that life has to offer because it could be far better than I could ever imagine.

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Joy! Joy! Joy!

As I sit down to pen this birthday reflection, images of our newest five-year old float through my mind. Each one brings a smile: a little girl with eyes that literally twinkle and a laugh that sweeps over her from head to toe; a little girl that ponders big thoughts and earnestly shares them; a little girl with a big reputation of being staunchly herself.

Just like her name, Arden is fervent in all she does. She works hard to articulate her thoughts and when the words are slow to come she uses every emotion in her body to show how she feels. It is intense but also meaningful. I appreciate that she isn’t afraid to express herself no matter what. I also love the words she chooses. To her brother: “Can you help me? I have to clean the whole world! I mean, my whole room.” About waiting for her turn in the bathroom: “It’s going to take forever!” And when we were having a picnic outside: “Look! The trees are breathing when the wind blows.”

She is fascinating to observe with her sideways glance and impish grin when she is up to something or how she floats away from a task that holds no interest to her and all of a sudden you’re asking, “where’s Arden?” And then you find her lounging somewhere- thumb in mouth, twirling her hair. She diligently comforts the ill and tirelessly entertains her baby siblings. She fervently loves what she loves and dislikes what she dislikes.

She has grown in height and heart so much between four and five but the greatest growth has been in her desire to do what is right. Whenever she is corrected for misbehaving, she quickly apologizes on her own initiative. She sidles up to me, hugs me and then sincerely names what she did wrong and asks to be forgiven. And after looking at her birth album before bed last night she said, “Thank you for looking at my baby book with me.” In Arden, any small change is a big one.

Happy birthday to a most precious little girl who brings intense joy and exuberant life to this planet. May Jesus be your reason to sing!

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What I’m Reading in December

It’s been a busy month so I haven’t gotten to read as much as I would like to (a renewed new year’s resolution here), but I do have bookmarks in a few new books.

Parenting With Love and Logic is presenting some interesting thoughts and discussion topics for me and my husband. I try to always have an educational book going and I enjoy reading some fresh perspectives into the child’s mind. This book focuses on raising responsible confident adults.

No Holly For Miss Quinn is a cozy little book about a little village in England and some of the interesting characters there. It’s a book that relaxes the mind and gives the reader an appreciation for their own community.

I am also challenging myself to worship God with a disciplined mind. This is inspired by Loving God With Your Mind. A common misconception in the Christian community is that faith doesn’t require reasoning skills; however, God is glorified when we are able to engage in thoughtful discussion with others. It’s an appropriate book to read in preparation for a new year.

I am also getting some history through the audiobook THE BOYS IN THE BOAT. While it takes a little while to get into, the story of this Olympic rowing team that went to Berlin is incredible!

What’s on your reading table this month? Did you get any new books for Christmas?

Hop over to my Bookshelf page for my book reviews.

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A Dishwasher and a Manger

Not long ago I commented aloud about how grateful I am for our dishwasher. With all the demands on my time and energy it’s wonderful to get dishes cleaned with minimal effort. And then it broke- from one day to the next- just like that-even the dishwasher repair guy said there was no hope for it. Ohhhh the emotions I felt!

The pioneer in me wanted to rise to the challenge and smoothly integrate dishwashing 5 times a day into my housekeeping routine; the frazzled mom in me wanted to cry at the thought of fitting one more thing into my schedule. Suffice it to say, both options have had their time on center stage. It’s been hard at this time of year, with all the baking and festive cooking, to see those piles of dishes asking to be scrubbed, rinsed and put away. They vie with the mountains of laundry and teething toddlers for my attention. This is not how the Christmas season is supposed to be, I wail. Isn’t it a time of peaceful evenings sipping egg nog and gazing at twinkling lights?

It seems foolish to bemoan housekeeping troubles when inflation is the highest it’s been in nearly half a century, nations are locking down their citizens, and job loss is imminent for those unwilling to compromise their convictions. Humanity across the globe is suffering. And yet those major concerns and many more somehow magnify the minor ones under my roof. And somehow in my desire to make this season memorable for my family it becomes more chaotic than ever. I work so hard to make the meaning of Christmas the focal point of our activities and yet it seems to vanish in the effort. What am I missing, I wonder.

But then the Christmas story nudged my brain- the full story- the story that told of light and darkness, of hope and despair, of immense gain and tragic loss, of belief and doubt. Jesus was born into a country that didn’t govern itself, into an impoverished village to a teen mom. He was welcomed by both shepherds and kings, heralded by angels and hunted by a murderous ruler. Christmas is a time of contrasts; it doesn’t wait for the perfect Hallmark setting; it arrives in the midst of the stress as a beacon of serenity and promise. If I wait for perfect peace and harmony in order to celebrate this holy season, I will wait in vain. Jesus came into this chaos-ridden, storm-rocked, love-starved world to restore, to calm, to fulfill.

Ezra 3: 12-13 reminds us of the contrasts in those significant moments: “Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, because the people were shouting with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.”
I really believe that this season can have both tears and laughter and still be beautiful. We can still acknowledge the darkness and celebrate the light. We can keep things simple while being reverent. We can celebrate a King who understands humanity.

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A Poem About Us

One- we have just begun

Two- it’s really too few

Three – Yippee!!!

Four- we need some more

Five- our house is alive!

Six – come join the mix!

Seven- a little bit of heaven.

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If We Didn’t Have Jesus…

As much as I like to portray an idyllic life through my photos and posts, we live real life over here. Often it’s a happy chaos but not always. And yesterday was one of those exceptions.

This is my first week back to a normal routine postpartum. It’s not the newborn who makes life challenging (other than giving me late nights and early mornings); it’s everyone else! There are messes to clean up; meals to make; squabbles to resolve; laundry, laundry, and more laundry; and appointments to navigate. Everything went haywire yesterday (and all before lunchtime) and it was rough. I wish I could say I grinned and bore it gracefully but I can’t. In fact, I was at my whit’s end when I called my husband and asked him to come home if he possibly could.

Bedtime is usually the perfect time to reflect on and bring resolution to the day. As I was tucking in our oldest, with utmost sincerity he asked me to forgive him for his part in making the day stressful. I asked for his forgiveness also and told him that I would be repenting to Jesus for the things I had done wrong during the day. He reflected on that and said, “if we didn’t have Jesus, we would be pretty bad.”

I concluded my day with peace in my heart. That bedside chat was a calming reminder that daily living is a blending of highs and lows, ups and downs, smiles and tears. There is no question that my children know I’m flawed; they also know I cherish them and will keep trying to do better every single day. Perfection doesn’t provide peace; forgiveness does.

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The Peace Which Surpasses

Everything was chaos. There was nothing peaceful about it. My emotions were swirling; tempers were flaring; there was mess in each room. It was not what I had envisioned for the first day of Advent. I wanted the Rockwell musical ambience flickering on our TV screen at that very moment (which, my husband informed me, was complete CGI).

And then our three-year old’s lines for our living nativity slipped into my mind and one phrase in particular echoed loudly: “Prince of Peace.” That led me down a path of reflection on the concept of peace. Peace is a treasured guest in our home while I would like to have as a permanent resident. It is my goal and primary focus I am ever tweaking routines and tones to make things run smoothly and keep feathers from getting too ruffled. But in my effort to clench peace tightly in my grasp it often slips right through my fingers.

I think often about Peter’s walking on water turning into treading on water. I ask myself, “How could someone face to face with the Creator of the waves begin to sink under them?” Perhaps it was because in his humanity he was easily distracted by temporary reality; he was swayed by the intensity of circumstances and his redirected focus lost sight of the One Who calms the storms.

I think Peter learned some heart-changing truths in his 3 years of journeying with Jesus. His letters speak to that. That comforts me as well; each time I begin to sink under the waves of my circumstances and am pulled up for air by my Savior, I learn that He is more real than the storm. Hallelujah! The Prince of Peace doesn’t always deliver calm to the situation but He does speak into my heart. Lasting peace comes from knowing Him and His sovereignty, knowing He is immovable by what devastates my world, knowing that He created me and called me to this day and will equip and provide for its demands.

Don’t get me wrong. I may know these truths but that doesn’t me I am serenely smiling through these upside down days. Each situation tests me anew. But each time I learn a little more and my heart returns to a peaceful state a little bit sooner than the last time. And truth be told, when I’m peaceful on the inside it usually transfers to the outside: my home, my family ( and maybe even the pets and plants too).

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I am busy about my day: preparing meals (I often feel like I live in the kitchen), doing kitchen clean up (which barely gets done before another meal is in the works), climbing my Mt. Everest of laundry (didn’t I just do laundry two days ago?) and teaching school (which often feels like wrangling a coach and six). And then someone comes up and hugs my leg.

It’s not the first time I’ve had a child hanging on my leg. In fact, it’s quite the norm for me. I am frequently admonishing little ones to not pull on my clothes or lift up my skirt or steal my shoes or cause me to fall because they are grabbing on to my limbs in some way. But this time, well, this time was different. This time I was interrupted by life. It dawned on me that this desperately clinging child wasn’t an interference but was, in fact, one of the main reasons I get up in the morning. This little person had a need and I could meet it. But this wasn’t the first time life interrupted me.

At dinner, in the midst of the clamor of a busy table and the screeches of a hungry toddler, I suddenly heard the older children chatting about the food they helped prepare: “What ingredients did you put in?” “What is in yours? I put in…” and as I smiled I realized I had been interrupted by life.

One night as I tucked a little guy in bed he suddenly said, “bad guys killed God but he fixed hisself. That’s how I know he is strong cuz he fixed hisself.” We chatted more about his thoughts which lengthened our bedtime routine but it was another one of those life interruptions.

The other day one of our girls was dancing with her baby brother and sister. Dinner prep could wait; I had to join them. It was an important life interruption.

We try to make bedtime a connection time but often my mind is racing ahead to all the things I need to still do before I can close my own eyes and rest. As I hugged our oldest goodnight my ear just happened to press against his chest and life interrupted my thoughts when I heard his heart beating. I immediately recalled the very first time I heard that heartbeat- long before I held him in my arms; I was filled with so much gratitude for all that his beating heart implies.

With all that is happening in our own life and the world outside our cozy four walls (broken dishwasher, daily mishaps from 7 children and 5 pets, facing possible unemployment, worldwide pandemic frenzy, just to name a few things) it’s easy to have thoughts filled by other things and to simply go through the motions with the mundane. But I read something once about being present while doing all the daily rituals and thus turning them into worship.

I’m going to do my best to be present this Christmas season so that life doesn’t have to interrupt me quite as often.

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What I’m Reading in November

I like updating my readers on what books I have my nose in each month. Each book feels like a portal and takes my thoughts in many directions. What I read truly influences my thinking. So here is where my bookmarks are presently:

Spurgeon’s Sorrows has been a balm to my soul and has provided me with instruments I need to turn my burden of depression into a song of praise. The writing is poetic and the information insightful as the author describes Charles Spurgeon and his lifelong ordeal with darkness. I think anyone who has depression or cares for someone who does should read this book.

Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions is a fun look into creating daily family traditions to make home a place of inspiration and consistency. I’ve been taking more note of what we are doing each day that will be remembered fondly by our children. It also speaks to my heart that wants our home to be a peaceful place. I’m eager to read more of this rich book with gorgeous illustrations.

My husband and I are traveling together through Africa as we read my friend’s book, All Things Strange and Wonderful. It’s better than a movie and is hard to put down. His adventures as a Peace Corps veterinarian are hilarious and incredible.

And I’m getting ready to dive into Lila by Marilynn Robinson. It’s an award-winning novel that I can’t wait to read since I just finished Dear Jane Austen. I also am listening to a couple of audiobooks, including Boys in a Boat.

Before I leave you to eat my Thanksgiving dinner, I wanted to mention that I’m still writing book reviews on my page titled THE BOOKSHELF. Be sure to check that out too.

What’s on your shelf?

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I Pledge Allegiance

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Each school day we begin our lessons with a recitation of this pledge and the pledge to the Bible. The other day I was struck with the realization that these are more than just words I am repeating; this is a promise I am making and teaching my children to make. What exactly does this promise mean?

Pledging allegiance means promising loyalty. In this case I am promising loyalty to all the flag of our country represents. It represents a republic where the citizens govern. It represents a nation under God, which means that religious liberty is foundational to who we are and how we live as a people. It flies over a union, declaring that we the people must work together and communicate through our differences in order to prosper. Our flag is a symbol of liberty and justice for all: every beating heart and living soul in this country. This is to what I am promising loyalty. How do I keep this promise?

In light of current events both personally and nationally, I feel more sorrow than pride when I gaze upon the Stars and Stripes. I am struck with all that once was good and great about our land and how much honor has been discarded. It is difficult to be patriotic when injustice and shame fill the headlines on a daily basis. Or is it? Perhaps this a time when, more than ever before, patriotism is needed.

Perhaps a time such as this is exactly why we pledge allegiance. It’s not merely for the times of prosperity and national pride; it is for the times when evil appears to have the upper hand. In this tick mark on the timeline, we who love our country must exercise our constitutional rights, speak up for the voiceless, and be vibrant citizens. How?

  • Build friendships with our neighbors
  • Care about our communities by keeping them clean and assisting those in need.
  • Teach our children about our history, both the honorable and shameful aspects, so they can form their own thoughts about the future.
  • Speak up in local politics
  • Be informed about what’s happening in our government but don’t depend on mainstream media. Find news sources that strive to be objective.
  • Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many things that claim to be law are not. Many who claim to have power do not.
  • Be bold no matter what. A conviction isn’t worth having unless you are ready to sacrifice for it.
  • Fly the flag

Pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America means that when everyone else is trampling upon this symbol of freedom, I will pick it up and wave it high. Will you?

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The Best Things

I’ve been thinking about all of the things that make a day richer and am surprised by how difficult they are to accomplish! Things like:

  • Belly laughing
  • Dancing with the music
  • Baking cookies
  • Standing still outside and listening
  • Painting with watercolors
  • Sitting on the floor and playing with my children
  • Reading a book of my own choosing for 15 minutes each day
  • Bear hugs
  • Memorizing a Bible verse
  • Singing at the top of my lungs
  • Long walks
  • Stretching like a cat when I wake up
  • Taking a power nap

I think I’m going to make an old year resolution to try to do at least one of these every day. Someone once said that life is happening now so we shouldn’t put off doing the things that are meaningful to us. What old year resolution do you want to make?

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A Closer Gaze

It’s wonderful having a newborn around again. We have had a newborn in the house every year for the past 7 years and it never gets old. Newborns have traits that are unique to their stage of human development and those traits are endearing: the long process of waking up which is so exhausting that they fall back asleep not long after becoming awake; their squishiness; their ability to snuggle in close for hours at a time; the adorable curling of toes; the tight grasp of the tiniest fingers in the world.

And of course, there is the thousand yard stare. In these first weeks, our littlest girl gazes intently into space, apparently at nothing. She knows something is out there but can’t quite see it clearly. But I’ve noticed that if I pull her close to me and look right into her eyes, she is able to focus on my face. Immediately her eyes will light up and every so often a smile of recognition will spread across her tiny face.

The first time this happened I felt a nudge in my heart; this was something from which I could learn. I can feel very small in the midst of my daily challenges and all of the world’s problems; gazing into space may seem like the only way to manage my sanity. But it’s not the only way. The true solution is in drawing closer to Jesus. How do I do that when I blink and the day is already over?

Life with 7 children ranging in age from 7 years old to a month old has shown me that drawing close to Jesus needs to be woven into my day.

Rocket prayers are a necessity: throughout the day I am firing up little prayers for wisdom, patience, gentleness, kindness and grace- sometimes aloud and sometimes silently. When I read the Bible to the children, I soak it in for myself too. And when I help them memorize verses and hymns, I’m also memorizing them. But most of all, when I’m admonishing them to remember Jesus, I am admonishing myself.

The beautiful thing about it is that God wastes nothing! While I shepherd these little ones, He shepherds me. As a mom, I have neither arrived nor completely failed in the stewardship of these souls. I am still prone to gazing far into space at the start of a new day but I’m also looking into His face more intently and finding rest there.

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Just Who You Are

There are days when I think to myself, “I would like to be more like Quinley.” It’s usually after you have, yet again, cheerfully shown initiative to serve a family member or patiently helped your younger brothers in some way or offered an uplifting word to me when I’m sad or shown sincere concern to someone hurting. While these are good things that most people do occasionally, for you they seem to come as naturally as breathing.

From toddlerhood, I noticed that you were uniquely aware of other people’s emotional experiences. As soon as you could talk, you commented on loneliness and sadness, even in strangers. This gift of empathy has only matured now that you are six years old. You step out of your comfort zone in order to alleviate the discomfort of others- like making cards for people who are sad or ill or offering to do extra chores around the house so that I don’t have to or picking up after younger siblings so they don’t get in trouble. At times I have to stop you from helping in order to give others a chance to serve. What an unusual problem for me to have!

I delight in the conversations we have together. You take such pains to be grown up in your word choice. You have asked if I could save all of our baby clothes so you can have them for your children. You plan to be a babysitter when you grow up so that moms can have some time to themselves or some help around the house. You ponder everything from the passing away of loved ones to marriage and motherhood to what meals you hope to prepare one day. But your youthfulness still shines through in the most adorable fashion- like when you mentioned that the kitten curled up next to you was “pearling” (instead of purring) or that your clothes and shoes are “outgrowing you.”

Your work ethic is also inspiring. Not only are you diligent with your daily chores and the extras you beg to do, you are equally faithful in your academics. This became apparent when I heard you practicing your sight words on your own time and saw you perfecting your handwriting just because you wanted to. Once I had introduced you to the basics of reading you taught yourself the rest and practiced until you had mastered it. You are equally faithful in memorizing Bible verses, our family songs and poems.

As soon as you woke up this morning you asked, “Am I six yet?” When I said yes, you looked a little wistful. I asked if you felt like you were six and you replied, “I still feel like I’m five” and I think that was comforting to you. I share your wistfulness; I treasure these little girl years with you and want them to last forever but it’s beautiful watching your life blossom. Since we can’t freeze time let’s dance today; let’s write letters and read and do all our favorite things- today and every day. And most of all, continue being just who you are.

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Grace in Those Moments

“For when we judge the actions of others solely by their effects upon ourselves, we frequently have a false or incomplete understanding of the circumstances.”

During my postpartum convalescence, I am soaking in many good words and ideas from various authors and allowing them to marinate in my soul for future application. The quote above from Dear Jane Austen resonated with me for I recognized that I do this very thing. Whether my children are having irrational emotional outbursts or something someone said rubbed me the wrong way or my husband and I have differing opinions, my negative reactions are usually triggered by how these people are making my life difficult; I’m not taking in the bigger picture, including the experiences of the other people.

This is especially evident in parenting. On those mornings when I get a late start on the day or those nights when delay after delay pushes back dinner and makes bedtime even later, my frayed nerves threaten to snap. Other times there’s constant squabbling or I’ve introduced a special activity that falls into disarray. These situations quickly turn into stressors and again I can’t see past how they are making me feel rather than stepping back and assessing the small crisis objectively. All I can think about is how stressed I am and the tasks ahead feel like Mts. Everest and Kilimanjaro combined. The focus is on me and not them- why are they falling apart? What could I do to diffuse their tension and beckon peace back into the home?

With that said, recognizing the bigger picture of my own life: current events, health trials, exhaustion, etc. is also important. Just as I need to be aware of the roads other people are traversing, I need to do the same for myself. Extending grace to all is a key aspect in leading a peaceful life. The quote above continues on to say, “Rather, give others the benefit of the doubt and assume their motives are innocent unless and until good sense directs you to do otherwise.” Most likely my children aren’t scheming to make my life miserable; my friends aren’t trying to offend; my husband has valid justification for his own opinions. And neither do I have ill motives towards others.

But how do we extend grace to ourselves and others? These are a few steps I want to make into habits:

  • Step away: pause, pray, and breathe in order to get a proper perspective on the situation. This can be done in the midst of the situation or in a quiet place away from it.
  • Step forward: return to the situation with a peaceful demeanor and a quiet tone. Look in the faces of those around you and smile at them.
  • Step in: resume the activity or the conversation. Maybe try a different approach and talk to the others about how they are feeling.

In striving to help my children overcome the challenges presented by their sin natures, I am confronted with my own sin nature. I have to submit to the sanctification process that comes through my children and every other human being I interact with each day. Yes, I feel miserable when I lose my cool. Yes, I regret when I’ve wasted time criticizing people rather than speaking well of them. Yes, I wish I set a more consistent example of Christlikeness for my children than I do. But how encouraging it is when I catch glimpses of progress- like those chaotic times when I stay peaceful!

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A Tale of Two Births

Just under 5 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. It was my first birth sans epidural and I was stunned by the force and pain that came with transition and delivery. When I cried out to the OB, “What is happening to me?” The cold reply was, “This is what you asked for.”

Flash forward to 6 days ago. I was laboring with my seventh child and preparing to have my fourth home birth. After nearly two months of health issues and unique stress in our family, I wondered how this labor was going to go. I battled anxiety, concerned that my body simply wouldn’t relax enough to deliver or that I would have the energy to do so. But i combatted the anxiety with hope and confidence from having done it before: I could do it again!

Labor began around 5:30 am and by 7:00 my birth team had arrived. I was eager for a 5 hour labor and smooth delivery just like the one last year. But as the hours ticked by and contractions progressed but oh! So slowly! I began to feel discouraged and bewildered. What was I doing wrong? Was there really going to be a baby today? I felt bad about taking people away from home for what seemed to me like a false alarm. Perhaps I had made the call prematurely.

Throughout the day, no matter how disheartened I felt, my birth team cheered me on. Jared strummed the ukulele and sang to me. He prayed over me and whispered affirmations into my ear. The ladies surrounding me continually encouraged me and pointed out the progress being made. As the morning turned into the afternoon, I could feel my energy flagging. At this point, genuine fear begin to creep in. What would happen if I couldn’t push the baby out? My midwives saw the fear and immediately stepped in. They told me what needed to be done, positioned me to best facilitate the baby and then left the room so my body could finish the job. Within 10 minutes a baby was being born.

Pushing that baby out was the most exhilarating and liberating experience! I welcomed that pain because I knew what it meant: the finish line was within reach. This baby I had nurtured inside for ten and one-half months would be in my arms within moments. I delivered that child with a reserve of energy I didn’t even know I had. Truthfully, it wasn’t my energy or strength that brought Tehillah into this world; it was God’s. He promised me all along that He would carry me through. I had myopically assumed that meant He would make it easy, pain free even, so that I could do it. That was the farthest thing from the truth; I felt every nanosecond of that birth and difficult hardly begins to describe what happened. He brought me to the end of myself so I could experience His sustenance and faithfulness.

In those last moments of labor I had flashbacks to the traumatic birth of our second daughter and I pondered how this one was different. The major difference was that nearly five years ago I was blamed for my pain and told that my agony was a bad thing. This time, those providing my care were celebrating my strength and assuring me that I could do this. Pain wasn’t viewed as bad in any way; it was viewed as a channel of empowerment. My choices for this birth gave me an opportunity to see what my body could do. What a difference it makes how people interpret our pain!

There is no question that our birth stories become a part of who we are. I, for one, place great weight on my births and what they reveal about me. But this one in particular taught me that hard doesn’t always mean bad; perfect doesn’t always mean things go as planned; and beautiful doesn’t always mean easy. Life, babies, and births are unpredictable and embracing that fact makes me a stronger, more resilient person.

As I hold my miraculous new daughter and reflect back on my freshest birth story, the dominating emotion which colors it is gratitude.

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Random and Exceptional

In a 9/11 commemorative speech I watched, a statement was made that will probably become one of those oft-repeated historical quotes: “The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people.” I have repeated that quote over and over to myself since hearing it and pondered on how our country has changed in the past two decades.

As a nation we vowed “never again!” Never again would we be attacked on our own soil. Never again would we allow ourselves to be so vulnerable. Never again would we be caught with our guard down. We vowed to remain united in fighting this war on terrorism, a unique war because our enemy was usually unseen until the blood was spilled. Have we kept our vow?

After 9/11 life began to change, especially with travel. Bit by bit we agreed to lose some of our autonomy for the sake of security. We exchanged some of our human dignity for safety. So what if we have to walk barefoot or have our bodies groped? as long as our plane doesn’t explode, that’s what matters, right? We soon settled into this new normal and life moved on. Flash forward 20 years and our country is now paralyzed with fear. This is hardly the same place that recovered so boldly from the carnage of 9/11. What happened?

From its founding, America has been developed and protected by its citizens. Expansion and progress, as controversial as some of them may have been, were based on the ideals of freedom and personal liberty. Civil rights and liberty banners have been waved throughout the course of our short national history- why? Because it’s common knowledge that America is the land of the free: here we are free to live, free to grow, free to worship, free to speak our minds, free to make our dreams reality. Opportunity beckons because we are free. But a subtle change has been happening and the mindset of independence has begun to fade.

As a society, we have entrusted our well-being to federal government. We have abandoned the resilience and courage of our ancestors: the ones who crossed oceans, fled brutal regimes, settled new territory, braved the Underground Railroad. We have minimized the sacrifices of the noble hearts of those who came before us, the ones who left the safety of our borders in order to fight for the freedom and liberty of those oppressed. As a people we have agreed that the government must not only protect us abroad but at home as well; we have become so comfortable that we now value comfort and convenience over integrity and strength of character.

Presently, our personal autonomy is being threatened in the name of “the greater good” and “safety.” Our indivisibility is disappearing as we are separated into groups: the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are vanishing as we are required to jump through vaccine hoops in order to enjoy to what we are rightfully entitled. When we glance over our shoulder and see the astounding strength of our ancestors who stand behind us, can we stand taller and hold our heads higher? Or are we confronted with our weakened stature because we have believed empty promises and swallowed flimsy arguments about safety at all costs?

The more we acquiesce to government overreach, the more we lose ourselves. We forget how to be and do and think on our own; we forget how good it is to be free! Heroes don’t have to be a thing of the past. Let’s remember September 11, 2001 and embrace that phrase made famous by Todd Beamer: “Let’s Roll!” Yes, heroism cost him his life but he recognized that there are things worse than dying with integrity. Living as a shadow of one’s self is much worse.

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What I’m Reading…

I enjoy writing book reviews on what I’m reading these days and had planned to write one today. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a finished book for today so instead I’ll give you a glimpse into what I’m currently reading.

I did finish To Kill a Mockingbird a few weeks ago but I didn’t write about it since it was a re-read and I figured pretty much all of us are familiar with the story. It is such a rich narrative with layers of meaning and symbolism from start to finish. I will read it many more times for life’s experiences have a way of drawing out the depth in a story.

I did a revisit of my HypnoBirthing book and am also reading the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding from La Leche League. I know I’ve been doing this for seven years but there’s always something new to learn. It’s good to add to my mental resources so I can review them later on. Both books are gently written and inspire me to live slowly with my children.

Teaching From Rest is also on my nightstand. I am reading it years after I purchased it. Now seemed like the right time to pick it up since school is getting more demanding and I want to maintain a consistently peaceful atmosphere in our home. The author’s personality sounds similar to mine when it comes to needing to balance task productivity and investing in people. I’ve already been able to be more restful thanks to what I’ve read so far.

I have 3 chapters left in Mama Bear Apologetics in addition to the study guide I’m doing with it. This is well worth the read and is clarifying much of the chaos and confusion happening in our country right now. I want to be able to break down the philosophies surrounding us into Chile-sized explanations. This book helps me do it.

Finally, I’m reading Adorned for spiritual enrichment. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth works through Titus 2 and breaks it down sentence by sentence for practical living. It’s wonderful! The chapters are lengthy but inspiring and convicting. They pair well with devotional time.

That’s all, Folks! I try to rotate old book friends with new ones so when I wrap these up I begin a new blending of personal enrichment and leisure books. Some will be old friends and some new. What’s on your book shelf?

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Happy Birthday, Son!

On the eve of your 7th birthday you snuggled between your Poppa and I to look at your birth book. We reminisced about your arduous birth and the exhilaration of hearing, seeing and holding you for the very first time. With you, our parenting journey began- not just at the moment of your birth but when we realized you were on your way to joining us.

You came into our lives before our marriage was a year old. Your pregnancy tested our mettle in ways we didn’t expect- my sickness, fatigue, mood swings and overall discomfort the entire time. It all culminated with your birth, making it one of the most uplifting experiences we have had. And suddenly we were holding someone who would continue to change our lives forever. That was seven years ago! And now look at you!

When I first held you, I thought you would always fit in my arms; I would also be dressing you and helping you to walk; I would always be reading to you and scooping you up when you fell down. You would always need me to help you eat and reach things for you and put lids on your sippy cups. The sweetly naive thoughts of a brand new mom! Of course I knew you would grow up…one day…but not this fast!

Here you are! Your head comes to my arm. You’re able to do just about everything for yourself and you read like a pro! I rely on your muscles when Poppa isn’t home and you’re capable of doing almost any new task I suggest to you. You do everything you can to help me when you know I’m tired or hurting. It’s astounding to watch and I wonder when it all happened. But what amazes me the most about you is your inquisitive, insightful mind.

For you, thoughts, dreams, ideas and questions are constantly spinning through: “Mom, i would like to live underwater.” “Mom, what would happen if you stepped on to Mercury?” “What does iniquity mean?” “Poppa, how often do we need to repent?” “When I’m grown up I want to travel the world!” “I would like to grow all the vegetables!” “In my dreams, I always defeat the bad guys and I can fly too!” “I know everything about wolves because I read about them in a book.” “Mom, was this general a bad guy? I didn’t like what he said to Abraham Lincoln. That’s what I think he was a bad guy.” “Mom, I really need my oatmeal for breakfast today.”

Yes, you are very much a young man, but there are still adorable freckles all across your little face. You still have tooth gaps in your smile. You still want to hold my hand when we walk together and snuggle up close to me to read a book. You still fight dragons and bad guys in all of your explorations and anticipate what the tooth fairy will leave under your pillow. And you still need me to tuck you in at night. These precious moments take me back to when I first met you.

I like you just the way you are, respect who you are becoming, and love knowing you are my son,

With all my heart, Mama

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When COVID Stopped By

Early this month we had an unwelcome guest in our home: the dreaded C-virus. When we realized what was causing the chills and the cold symptoms, our minds had to battle fear and anxiety. It seemed like all we heard were the tragedies and potential tragedies. And in those nights of uncontrollable coughing or the moments with shortness of breath, we wondered if we were indeed dealing with something dreadful. But deeper insight always returned with the morning light.

I disciplined myself to seek out how God was using this illness for His glory and my good. It wasn’t always easy but here are a few of the things I noted:

  • It can be freeing to face my fears. This virus has been haunting us for over a year. The lives it’s taken have dominated the headlines. In many ways I was relieved to finally face it for myself and experience what all the talk was about. It was terrible but it was also survivable. And now I have natural immunity.
  • The body is AMAZING! I didn’t any medication except for Tylenol and Mucinex; other than those, everything else I did and took were natural remedies. It took time but my body fought back and kicked the virus. Even my energy is fully restored and I have no inhibitions in my breathing. It was a reminder to me that our bodies are designed to fight illnesses and can do so quite well if they are supported by healthy living.
  • I can be flexible! We got sick at the beginning of the new school year. Initially, I panicked. I didn’t want us to get a late start or fall behind. I pondered and prayed and decided we could do have half days of school until my energy and health returned. So we did. We didn’t miss a day of school and we are right on track. It’s good to experience a need for flexibility.
  • Hardship brings blessing. During our quarantine and convalescence, we were flooded with kindness from others: dog sitting, groceries delivered, meals dropped off, activities sent for the children, and abundant prayers. We were humbled to experience community rallying around is. It was also a time to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses for a fresh start when I recovered. Not being able to care for my family for nearly two weeks made me appreciate it when I could do so once again.

The coronavirus is very real; it does bring loss of life and heartbreaking stories. But recovery from this virus is also very real. This was my experience and I’m thankful that I was able to have it. I believe I am stronger and more resilient because of it.

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So Far So Fast

A year ago I had spent the two weeks prior to this day focused inwardly and feeling miserable. I was beyond ready to have my baby in my arms and be rid of all the discomfort that comes with being two weeks post due date. A year later I have spent nearly the past two weeks before this day focused inwardly and feeling miserable as I recover from COVID and ponder all that’s going on in this world. Is it just me or does the world seem to get more perplexing every year?

Much to my relief Rowan did come and his birth was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. I still think back on it and can remember every detail- bright sunlight shining on us being one of the most prominent memories and the bag of waters bursting all over everyone within range just before he was born.

From day one Rowan has shown situational awareness and emotional acuity. Within days of birth he smiled and hasn’t stopped. He makes intense eye contact and anyone who responds is greeted with a four teeth grin. Once Rowan figured out that legs are for standing, he practices standing without holding on multiple times a day and he cheers himself on with baby claps.

His personal motto is, “ah da!” And it suffices for every scenario in which he finds himself; that, and kissing sounds. Those always get his family’s attention too. Music gets little be-bops out of him and he enjoys carefully looking at old book friends and reflecting to himself about each page. I remember so clearly those first weeks of bonding and snuggling with him. I studied every inch of him and was just in wonder about his freshness. And somehow he went from a tiny brand new person to someone who holds his own in the family. He went from swaddling to crawling in how many short months? Milk to solids? Gazing at the ceiling to driving toy cars with his brothers?

The world does feel like a more perplexing place each year but celebrating this one-year old today reminds me that the things of value last: the security of home where babies are safe to be themselves; the consistency of family to annoy and celebrate each other; the repetition of those book friends that stay the same no matter how often they are read; and the confidence that God creates life even while knowing what lies ahead.

Happy birthday dear Rowan Micaiah! Remember your name!

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Thank You Vanessa

A few years back an unmarried brother in Christ blogged about the importance of people in different seasons of life sharing their lives with one another. He shared about how he enjoyed time in the homes of families just as much as he enjoyed hanging out with his single friends. I’ve pondered this through the years because it’s easy for me to think that people without children might find time with us a drag; or perhaps our single friends might find our marriage as irritating as salt in a wound; or maybe couples with one or two children will find our family dynamics chaotic; or….maybe I’m overthinking it.

A few months ago God did something He is so good at doing: intersecting lives. On my first night volunteering at my favorite pregnancy resource center, after a year’s absence, I met Vanessa. She was a recent college graduate and was clearly in a holding pattern with life. She wasn’t being idle, however; she was ministering and serving and studying and kneeling at the Throne of Grace with every spare moment she had. Conversation flowed well between us and as the weeks rolled by we became friends.

Then she asked me something that blew me away! She wanted to start coming over a couple times a week just to be a part of our family life. She had been praying for a chance to witness a large family in action and she viewed my family as that answer. I welcomed her in and since that first Monday visit the children refer to her as “our Ms. Vanessa.” She became my teacher assistant during school, prepping crafts, sharpening pencils, supervising little fingers; she helped me in the kitchen; she read and sang and danced with the children and soothed the baby; she even babysat a couple of times.

But what blessed me more than anything was that Vanessa found value in my life, enough value to open up and share her life with me. She shared her bucket list with me; her hopes and dreams and fears and big decisions. In sharing with me, she helped me remember my experiences and thoughts I had recorded in journals and then forgotten. And she soaked in all of the details about our daily life but didn’t find them mundane in the least. Even our lunch menu intrigued her! Looking back on our time together I can see such beauty in what God did. He brought two of His daughters together, in very different seasons of life, to help them see the necessity of being exactly where they are in life. Each step we take is necessary for the next step to be taken.

I wish our chapter with Vanessa could have been much, much longer but I am humbled that we were able to open our doors and share our life with her for any length of time at all. And going forward I’ll try to overthink things a little less: may we always be ready to share the season we are in.

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In the Midst of the Fray

For some reason, this resonated with me: “…and they withdrew by themselves…but the crowds learned about it and followed…”

This is at the beginning of Luke’s account of the feeding of the five thousand. The apostles were eager to tell Jesus all about their missionary adventures so they sought a quiet place to fellowship and unwind. Jesus was consistent in the discipline of quietness and I think He was seeking to instill that trait in His disciples as well. However, the multitudes weren’t interested in that; they wanted more audience with Jesus and so they followed Him.

I long for a consistent routine of quietness in my day and my week. I would like time to be still, to be alone, to think and pray and reflect and read and write, to hear my own thoughts, to breathe in deeply without being touched or pulled on or having screams ringing in my ears. So, I wake up early only to have the dog whining to go out followed by my quiet reverie disturbed by a child wailing outside my door. Later on, I attempt to linger in the bathroom only to hear crashes and bangs and come out to find a huge mess all over the floor. In the afternoon, I settle down on the couch with a book or writing project and am followed by the dog nudging my arm and nap-fighters popping out of bed. And all throughout my day, there’s a constant mediating, question-answering, boundary-setting regimen happening.

But the story doesn’t continue with Jesus throwing up His hands in exasperation and shouting, “Go away! All of you! Can’t you see I’m trying to rest?!” (His disciples were more than willing to do this for Him and I would have agreed with them). Instead, He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed them. And after that, one of the most well-known miracles happened- all of them were fed their fill with a meager 5 loaves and 2 fish. Whoa!!!!!

What can a mama (or anyone else who interacts with people every day) glean from this? There are no regrets in responding with kindness and wisdom. Calm the clamor with instruction about God and His word; touch the hurting; and fill the hungry with God’s provision. And the amazing thing is that the provision will come from my meager stores of energy, time, patience and love because I’m not in the fray alone. Jesus is ready to welcome, teach, heal and fill when I am not. When I want to say, “Go away!” He will help me embrace instead.

And the reprieves will come in time.

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Looking for God

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” ~Hebrews 11:1-2

We live in a world where the apparently impossible has become possible. How do you think Columbus would have responded to a GPS or Davy Crockett to an IPhone? We have ultrasounds and MRIs and microwaves and frozen lasagna and programmable wash machines and robots that clean our floors and cars with AC…pioneers in covered wagons teleported into the future would stand with mouths agape at the conveniences we now feel entitled to have.

But they had something we struggle to grasp: faith in an unseen God. I think that in spite of our vast knowledge and our ability to seemingly create miracles through science, we find it difficult to fathom that there is Someone who is still in control of everything. The ancients (and the pioneers) had the skill of self-sufficiency along with the ability to acknowledge God. This certainly does not mean they were all genuine believers, repentant and saved by grace alone, but there was an openness to faith in those centuries that we are lacking in ours.

I don’t know about you, but when I read about Gladys Aylward and other heroes of the faith, I stand in awe! “Wow! Such faith!” I often think. “I would like God to work mightily in my life like that.” Instead, I can only see the questions I wrestle with as the tragedy and evil and every day frustrations threaten to consume me. But “faith is being sure of what we hope for.” Jesus said ask and it will be given, seek and we will shall find, knock and the door will be opened.

Even in an age of gadgets, instant answers and medical wonders, we can still have faith. Faith to believe that God is in control when we are jolted by the realization that we are not; faith to knock on unopened doors; and faith to seek God when people say He doesn’t exist.

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I was chatting with a friend last night about the necessity of putting away the phone for a spell. She and I had both done so in some form this past week and we remarked on what a relief it was to our brains to simply be present and to be quiet.

In Luke 6:12, Jesus went out alone to pray to His Father. He prayed all night. Now, I’m assuming that most of us do not have the fortitude to pray all night, but I think we can find ways to be mentally still and reflective for an extended length of time- either for a day or throughout a week.

Prior to phones and the Internet quiet was woven into our day. Radios would have to be intentionally turned on; phone calls could wait; people had to stop by; errands could be run in silence. Think back even further to the farm days or the pioneer days- silence unless you were working with family or listening to the sounds of nature around you: the wind across the prairie, birds chatting, bugs buzzing… imagine the communication with God that could happen then!

Now we are bombarded with the demands of instant communication; reams of information is hurled at us from social media, the Internet, podcasts and YouTube; conversations can happen around the clock no matter where we are and we feel obligated to read, respond and repeat to all of it right away. It becomes a burden.

As summer vibes trickle into the atmosphere, I’m going to remember the old days, the pioneer days and Jesus’s mountainside retreat and seek quiet whenever I can. My children need me present; my husband and I need time for conversation; and my spirit needs to hear Jesus.

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Just Himself

One of the first things I heard the midwife say as she lifted up our newest boy was , “hey Cheeks!” And that hasn’t really changed about our little midget man. He is plump from head to toe and struts around like Napoleon. His short, bowled legs do not prevent him from climbing to the height he desires nor does his pigeon-toed walk deter him from tailing his four older siblings. As long as he has his boots on his feet and his snuggle blanket in his hand, he considers himself invincible.

Recently we have begun to catch glimpses of what his busy brain is thinking through his growing vocabulary. He likes to be asked questions about himself to which he either answers with a vigorous head shake and an emphatic “no!” or a grin with a lilting, “noooo.” We are drilling him in all those important polite words like “please” and “thank you,” and every. so. often. he gives that impish grin of his and says one without prompting, waiting for all the cheers that will come in response. He sings silly songs of his own composing and then laughs hysterically when he is finished. It’s a riot and soon he has all of us laughing right along with him. But my favorite word routine of his comes when I tuck him into bed at night. I always say, “I love you more, Simi” and he replies, “I love you more-ee, Mama.”

The last few months and weeks leading up to his birthday have been trying. He is pushing all of the boundaries and testing every limit. He takes pleasure in chasing Shilo around with a stick in hand; he bites anyone who offends him; he throws the food he doesn’t want; he screams when the boundaries don’t move; he vents his big feelings by raging through the house and tearing down whatever stands in his way. At the end of the hardest days with him, I like to tiptoe into his room and peek at him sleeping sweetly in his bed. I need to see him in his calmest state and feel my heart swell with love for him without any prompting. One of the greatest responsibilities of parenting is to grip onto love when anyone else would let go.

Year two is a milestone year for little people. In our home, potty-training begins (and lasts all year) and about halfway through little chores are assigned. When school begins in the fall, Simeon will have more activities to do including recognizing his letters. But most of all, his personality his personality will blossom even more. I can’t wait to hear his thoughts about life as his vocabulary explodes, watch him play with his baby brother as they both grow and mature, and see him gain more self-control over his very big emotions.

My heartfelt prayer for this roly-poly boy is that he will “grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

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The Assault on Motherhood (Part 2)

My first taste of the grueling demands of motherhood came with a puppy. This wasn’t your typical adopt-a-puppy situation. I helped deliver this one at the vet clinic where I worked and since she was an orphan, I took her home to raise her. That first night was a bit of a reality check for my college-student self as I set my alarm for every two hours and groggily prepared bottle after bottle. I had to change bedding and make sure the temperature was just right for her in her little bed. I had to manage work and classes in a sleep-deprived state and arrange my social life around her feeding schedule. If I couldn’t bring her with me, I needed to find puppy-care. It was a much different experience from all of my other pet adoptions.

The cost was worth it when she began her “firsts”: her ears opening and then her eyes; her first wobbly steps; her first attempts to play and bark and try solid food. What really got my attention, though, was when I was shopping one day and heard a newborn baby cry. My heart skipped a beat and I immediately thought of my “baby” at home. “Wow!” I pondered. “This must be what it feels like to be a mom!” Motherhood changes a person: to invest so much into a life and forever be connected to that life no matter where you are or how many years go by. Obviously, raising a puppy is one thing; raising a baby is another. But I think we often fail to laud the rewards of motherhood and instead become bogged down by the costs.

While they are usually not a party, pregnancy and childbirth are often bemoaned as reasons for not becoming a mother. Women avoid motherhood because they don’t want their bodies or lives to change. Because they are difficult, society allows the beginning steps of motherhood to set the tone of the mother-child relationship and paint it negatively. What would happen in our world if we collectively began to celebrate the conception and birth of mothers? Would mothers find themselves more connected to their children from day one? Would they stand more in awe of their of bodies and feel empowered to advocate for themselves in their role as mothers? Would mothers feel more invested in their homes and families as they recognize how integral they are to the foundation of society?

This distorted view of the motherhood journey carries over into mainstream medical practice. Pregnancy is generally treated as a condition and childbirth as a medical procedure. Mothers have to search hard to find a medical provider who will view them as a participant rather than a patient; in the birth process and not merely at the birth. I cannot tell you how many birth stories I have read or heard firsthand that began with the mother’s hopes for her birth and concluded with her being at the mercy of her OB. It shouldn’t be this way. Mothers need to be encouraged to trust their bodies and supported as they learn about the strength they never knew they had. The strength and knowledge that is cultivated during pregnancy and childbirth will translate into the years of mothering ahead.

The ranks of motherhood are filled with diverse descriptions: teens and adults, single and married and widowed, surprised and planned, longed for and unwanted, scared and excited…what connects them all is that, whether or not their pregnancy was desired, their bodies have given everything to sustain the life within. Maybe, just maybe, if there is a cultural shift in our view of pregnancy and childbirth, every mother will feel ready to embrace who she is and who she is becoming. This transformation continues well after the birth.

In part 3, I will explore the fourth trimester and its significance on the motherhood journey. I hope to share ideas on how it can be an enriching time for mothers- something to be anticipated rather than dreaded- and how our society can be supportive of it.

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The Assault on Motherhood (Part 1)

Ever since I could toddle and talk, I wanted to be a mommy. I wanted to hold babies even if they were nearly as big as me. I was infatuated with feeding them and changing them and wrapping them up in blankets; as I grew from tot to little girl I loved all the baby gear- the strollers and beds and infant seats and clothes and bottles and all those amazing things that come with babies.

Once I was old enough to babysit, I learned that caring for babies and children is much more involved than snuggling them with a bottle. I became somewhat adept at entertaining them and even teaching them simple lessons which, years later, blossomed into a teaching career. Looking back I see that my entire life centered on caring for children in varying avenues: from playmate to babysitter to youth leader to teacher. But was I prepared for motherhood?

As a little girl playing with baby dolls with my friend, I never pondered the nuances of motherhood. To me, being a mom meant having all the babies I could possibly want and getting to enjoy all the fun things needed to take care of those babies. Of course, maturity tempered my naïveté about the responsibilities of child rearing, but it wasn’t until I began having children of my own that I began recognizing the gravity of having souls so closely connected to mine.

In six years, I have birthed six babies and now my oldest is an avid reader and pondering thoughts of a spiritual nature. During my pregnancy with him and during his very early years, I was much like that naive little girl, thinking motherhood consisted primarily of baby schedules and baby care and finally having all the baby gear I could want. But as toddler transitioned into preschooler and preschooler into a vivacious young boy with many younger siblings the complexities of mothering unveiled before me. And now I see how much I didn’t know when I first became a mom, beginning with childbirth (or maybe even before that).

To date I have had 3 traditional hospital births and 3 home births. Our first home birth ignited my passion to learn all I could about pregnancy and childbirth. It felt like I was encountering all of it for the first time even though I had already delivered 3 babies! It was as if my body and I were only then beginning our acquaintance; after the first home birth I couldn’t stop reading and learning and continued through the second and third births (and am still reading). And with each book I read I’m able to connect my own birthing experiences. My experiences and the discoveries I have made throughout them have altered my opinion about our society’s attitude towards motherhood.

There has been a recurring theme in all of the books I’ve read, a theme which, I believe, is not isolated to childbirth alone. All of the authors have agreed in their writings that the mother’s role in motherhood is being trivialized through our society’s approach to childbirth. “Surely not!” you might say. “Look at the hospital’s elaborate birth centers and all the insistence on prenatal care.” It’s true that the trivializing is subtle; it is there just the same. In part II of this blog, I will explain how our society undermines mothers by:

  • Portraying pregnancy and childbirth as conditions that must be treated and overcome.
  • Making her a bystander at her own birth
  • Ignoring the fourth trimester

It is my developing belief that our attitude towards pregnancy and childbirth, where the mother herself is conceived and birthed, greatly impacts the motherhood journey itself. When it is esteemed, celebrated and explored, the mother flourishes and is able to strive for her greatest potential. When it is trivialized, she questions her abilities as someone who can deliver and nurture the future.

I look forward to continuing this discussion in my next post.

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My Blogging Schedule

Hi Everyone!

I want to thank all of you for subscribing to my blog and faithfully following along.

I have made some changes to my blog which include 3 new pages: my Thirty-One shop page, my Thriftshop page, and one dedicated to pictures and those little moments in life that beg to be shared.

Since I am expanding my blog, I have created a weekly routine for when it will be updated. I want to share this routine with you so that you can mark your planners, set phone reminders or check your email to ensure you don’t miss anything. 🙂 Here it is:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: the shops will be updated with either new inventory, new activities or new announcements.
  • Wednesday: my standard blog post will go up
  • Weekly: a photo post or a book review (these will be surprises so be sure to check those pages for updates.

Of course, a blog isn’t quite as fun if there’s no interaction so please comment on my posts, text me with your orders and participate in any of the activities I post on my pages. I’ll be sure to reply back!

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Lessons From Wildflowers

I have some raggedy wildflower plants in my yard. They are raggedy by no fault of their own, really. I’ve moved them from pots to the ground; they’ve been buffeted by storms, chilled by sudden temperature drops and then shocked with blistering heat- all in a matter of days. They get bumped by the dog and yanked on by the children. As raggedy as they might be, it’s surprising they’re still in my yard. So why are they? They have the most stunning blooms!

Some of these plants are half brown and green, a testimony to all they have been through. But they keep blooming and blooming and blooming. Their flowers are brilliant and multicolored. I eagerly look for more each new day. And I take to heart the lessons these hardy little plants, easily mistaken for weeds, teach me: when to keep blooming.

Life can be rough, volatile and seemingly unfair. We can be moved from one location to another only to settle in and be moved again. Circumstances can beat us up; people can treat us harshly. We may not always feel like we are getting the treatment we deserve or the tending we think we need. But our responsibility as human beings with a divine Creator is to keep fulfilling our calling. What that looks like for each of us may be different, but the calling we have in common is to live joyfully, gratefully and with kindness to all mankind. When we do that, the world will be a much more beautiful place.

You and I may not look like much or feel like much on some days; in those moments, remember the wildflowers and keep blooming in whatever way you can. It will be beautiful.

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A Lesson in Sourdough

I was kneading bread dough the other day and a sentence from the recipe kept repeating in my head: “keep kneading, it’s good for you.” Kneading involves pounding, turning over, folding, squeezing, pounding, turning it over again. More flour is added as needed and the process continues. It’s rigorous on the hands, fingers and forearms- but most of all it takes time.

Time is a running theme with sourdough. The longer the rises, the better the bread. And it takes practice. I’m just now learning how to make sourdough bread so I try to make 4 loaves a week. Each time the loaf rises a little higher and the bread is a little more to my liking. But it takes time and effort.

So back to the kneading. The bread maker must keep kneading her dough until it’s just the right texture. That final texture is what will make the last rise a success and present you with an excellent loaf of bread. I’d like to think of my life as dough in the Creator’s hands. Since He is the Bread of Life, He knows what bread perfection looks and feels like. He allows the circumstances of life to knead the rough edges out of my character in order to present me perfect before His throne one day. But kneading isn’t just for smoothing out the dough. It also mixes all of the ingredients together for excellence. The kneading that occurs in my life is a mixing of all of my experiences and lessons in a way that helps me integrate them into understanding.

A lot can be learned over the bread bowl with fingers busily kneading away! I wonder what is to be learned next!

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Boundaries…Are They Really Necessary?

With six children ages six and under, my husband and I have put certain boundaries in place. Some are for safety: don’t cross the street without permission; don’t go outside without an adult supervising; don’t play with knives or run with scissors, etc. Some are for a peaceful home: stay in your own room until Poppa and Mama get up in the morning; knock on a closed door- don’t just barge in; don’t disturb someone who has requested to be alone. And some are for our own mental health: no one comes into Poppa and Mama’s bedroom without invitation. These boundaries are a reminder for children and parents alike that there is a responsible authority in the home.

There are times when the children press against the boundaries. They fuss about them and test them; they remind each other about them while personally ignoring them. My husband and I often wonder if maintaining the boundaries is worth the effort. But when we do maintain them and the children do respect them, the health, safety and peace for all is absolutely worth it- and we keep going. In the long run, we know that our children will need to be able to respect boundaries all their lives.

I have noticed a growing conversation about putting in place personal boundaries. This can be in relationships (marriage, parent-child, friends, relatives), in use of time (a balance of work and leisure), or in thought processes (putting a stop to toxic thinking, for example). People are accepting that boundaries are necessary and even good, for they help maintain healthy distance between what is destructive and what helps us thrive. Yet at the very same time there is a major shift away from the boundaries that have guarded the conscience of our land: those moral boundaries instituted by God.

Have you noticed as I have, how those boundaries that have governed our society for centuries are disappearing? Gender is one example. Suddenly, we are being told that there really is no such thing as male or female; we are told it’s all just a mindset and people can be whatever they feel. Sexual orientation is another. As long as there is love, we are told, it’s ok: adults with children, with multiple shared partners, with partners of the same sex, it is all acceptable. The sanctity of life is yet another boundary that has been eroded for decades but in recent years has made a more rapid decline. Ending life in the womb was once nonexistent in common speech, but now it’s ok to leave a baby to die in a hospital linen closet if it survives an abortion. As long as the head is the last thing to be born, a mother can choose to end her baby’s life even while birthing him.

Knowing that we are made in the image of the Almighty God, is it any wonder that the boundaries He has instated for our wellbeing would be under attack by those who wish to forget Him? Gender, marriage, and life itself are just a few of the tangible reminders of mankind’s connection to the Creator. When we are secure in our biological identity, have stable families and count sacred the essence of life, we flourish in who we are meant to be- as individuals and as a society. When we are told that our gender is fluid, sex is permissible with anyone at any time, and the value of life at any stage is conditional, we wander into dangerous territory.

It is time for us to begin fortifying once more the boundaries that safeguard our moral conscience. Our nation, our future and our very lives depend upon it. There are some boundaries that are simply non-negotiable and those are the ones that remind us that our ultimate authority is the Almighty God. One day we will all answer to Him.

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Be Like Christ

In last week’s sermon, the pastor drew attention to the often overlooked detail of Christ’s sinlessness. He pointed out how we humans are skilled at excusing, even justifying, our sin: “I lost my cool with the kids- but I’ve had 3 nights of interrupted sleep!” “I stubbed my toe! Of course some choice words would slip out.” “If you had had the day I had you would understand why I couldn’t take anymore.” I’m sure we could all add our own quotes to that list. And then the pastor drew our attention to what Jesus endured during His earthly journey.

Let’s take a closer look at a few examples. He went 40 days and 40 nights without food or water and then was tempted. He had the perfect “out” for capitulating to the tempter. But did He? No. He was almost continually surrounded by bumbling, annoying, accusing, devious, demanding, selfish, dense human beings. He could easily have yelled at them and said, “Enough! Don’t you know who I am? And yet you treat me as if I’m nothing more than a genie in a bottle. Stop touching me!” But did He? No.

And then there was the Cross and the torture leading up to it. The betrayal. The mocking. The spitting and scourging and crown of thorns. Who would have blamed Him for cursing everyone involved and moving on with His life? But did He? No.

The Bible tells us that Jesus understands our sinful condition. He was tempted in every way that we are but He did not sin. Sinful thoughts did not even enter His heart or mind; and that is the standard to which we are held. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” 1Thessalonians 4:7. For those who are Christ-followers, we are to not only follow Him but to be like Him.

This is not meant to discourage but to inspire. Why? Because what is impossible for man is possible for God. It was Christ’s sacrifice that now enables us to live a holy life. He knows we are but dust and He equips us to resist temptation and bring glory to His name. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23

I think the hardest part of very hard days is feeling like I could have handled them so much better. But then I pause: did I want to do better so that I could feel better about myself? Or did I want Jesus to be glorified in my day? I truly think that my proverbial stubbed toes, skinned knees and bruised ego are to serve as daily reminders that I really cannot do holy on my own strength. For holiness to be holy it must remain untainted by human fingerprints; it is imperative that it comes from God and God alone.

As we approach the holy days of Passion Week, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, let us put aside our own meager attempts to be like Christ and surrender instead to the sanctification process He promises to His own.

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No One Quite Like Shilo

Has it already been three years since this adorable boy entered the world? Everything about him has felt like an anomaly- from how big my stomach grew during his pregnancy to the 41 weeks and 5 days I had to wait before going into labor to his being my first home birth to how rapidly he grew.

One reason why I like to do birthday blogs for the children is because it allows me to think about that one child and his/her inner workings. What makes this child unique? How does this child influence our family? Why do we smile when this particular little one enters the room? So all day long I’ve been pondering about Shilo.

Everything about him is truly unique. His hair can’t make up its mind about the way it wants to grow. He likes to comb it himself and say, “I’m making my handsome, Mama”. His smile is gentle and soft when he is drawn into a hug with Poppa or Mama. He explores new items with his fingertips and then smells them next. He brings me flowers every day (usually with the roots attached). And as much as he desires to be “braver” and “stronger,” he dotes on his baby brother like no one else can. He can’t help but figure out how everything works even though his curiosity frequently gets him into trouble. Somehow he balances strength and gentleness, exploration and mental prowess, without even trying: loving on babies yet being able to fight bad guys; singing worship songs and lifting things for Mama; mastering complicated puzzles and wrestling with his big brother.

Something about Shilo brings comfort to his siblings. They can’t play “family” without him and usually want to know where he is if he isn’t around. On the occasions when he gets to go on an outing alone with Poppa or Mama, he is showered with hugs and kisses upon leaving and returning. He is skilled at annoying his siblings and instigating squabbles with his tongue, but he is also ready to show concern and help his sisters whenever he can.

As his mama, this little boy tries my patience beyond measure. I would love for Jesus to give me a sneak peek into his future so that I can get an idea of how his curiosity and stubbornness will work for God’s glory. Simultaneously, I am overwhelmed by how much I adore him and am awed by how he draws our family together. We are who we are as a family because he is in it. It’s a pleasure to chat with him, read stories to him, teach him, and walk with him. No one views the world quite like Shilo does- scanning for details that others would normally miss. I am a more flexible, more patient, gentler person because he is in my world.

Happy third birthday, handsome Shilo! Continue being braver and stronger every day and keep seeing the wonder in the life God has entrusted to you. You are a miracle!

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Learning From My Responses

There have been instances when I have told someone about my businesses and the feedback was sharp and abrupt. I’ve pondered my reactions to these replies, dissecting them and analyzing why they left me feeling affronted. My thought process went something like this:

  1. I know I do not want people to show false interest in my businesses so I know that ⬇️
  2. I do not feel affronted when people respectfully decline, therefore ⬇️
  3. It must be the tactless word choice that has left me feeling minimized and ashamed for sharing my businesses with them.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m blogging about my thought processes and my ruffled feathers. I’m sharing because my reflecting didn’t stop there; my train of thought began exploring how these experiences can cause me to be a better communicator in an era when miscommunication happens all too easily and frequently.

As a whole, America is a polite society. Save for the outliers and bullies amongst us, we want everyone to feel included and we don’t make it our goal to offend. In fact, I think it’s safe to say we will go out of our way to make sure we don’t hurt another person’s feelings even to the point where we are the ones whose feelings are inconvenienced.

The events of the past year have magnified this politeness. Many of us are now afraid to speak without qualifying and clarifying and pre-apologizing for any unintended offense our speaking may cause. And to make social matters even more strenuous, we have been removed from most routine social engagements so we are out of practice with regular verbal communication. It is easy to worry that our rusty speaking skills may leave a trail of stepped on toes or feelings rubbed the wrong way.

At the end of the day, I just want to be myself and share my thoughts: not with malicious intent but with sincerity; not to critique but to generate conversation; not to make others feel small but to show camaraderie on this journey called life. I don’t want to have to scrutinize each word as with a magnifying glass before I say it; I would like to speak out of the integrity of my heart and the experience of my life. How is that done in such a sensitive world?

I believe the key is taking note of my responses to others. Am I left feeling minimized? Ashamed? Torn down? Discouraged? Exasperated? Hurt? Betrayed? Abandoned? Or do I feel understood? Heard? Bolstered? Befriended? Soothed? Hopeful? Renewed? Refreshed? In my communication with others, my reactions, feedback, tones, body language and words should reflect a genuine interest in the other person’s perspective and experiences. As tempting as it might be to return harshness with harshness or cutting remark with a biting retort, this will not make me feel more secure in my personal identity. Instead, it is better for me to cultivate a habit of communicating that I can fall back on in every situation: positive or negative. And when I initiate conversation with those around me I want to structure my comments to bring out the best in others.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

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The Memory Weaver

It seems appropriate that I would finish reading another Jane KirkPatrick title on my birthday. Kirkpatrick is skilled in historical fiction, primarily in the history of the settling of the Pacific Northwest and the convergence of the white settlers with the Native American tribes in those states. The Memory Weaver is no exception.

Eliza Spalding was a child survivor of the massacre at the Whitman mission in Oregon. She and many others were taken hostage and held for 39 days. As the sole interpreter between the hostages, Indians and negotiators she was put into many impossible situations that scarred her memories and made living her future life painful. Yet as life unfolded she was able to make peace with her past, travel old roads and create new memories.

Kirkpatrick has the wonderful ability to make history relevant to the present and to enable the reader to relate to the figures of the past. While I am not a pioneer, will never cross The Dalles, travel on horseback across state lines or build a log cabin with my own hands, my heart beats with the same desires as the protagonist, Eliza Spalding. She reflected,

These moments when I did not try to “make” my husband do this or that, didn’t interfere with my children learning in their ways different from my own, were kindling for the warming fires I built each day.

In that quote, I felt the kindred in our spirits. The desire to partner in our lives with the ones journeying the closest on our paths. In all the twists and turns, tragedy and victory of the years she had traveled, this heroine had learned the simplest, but most important of lessons: to support her family in becoming who they were meant to be and not to force them to be who she thought they needed to be.

A few pages later, she mused:

Maybe each of us needs to feel a little extraordinary, to believe we’ve used well the talents we were given to live meaningful lives.

Yes! I thought. Exactly! We humans crave the extraordinary, wanting so much to know that there is something about us that makes us more than just one among billions. We want to know that we have made a mark on history, even in the smallest way. Finally she concludes:

I am the mother raising children to be resilient, trustworthy, able to keep going when they want to quit, kind and generous. What greater meaning can one life have?

I read the author’s notes about her research and in them she revealed how much information she had gotten from the descendants of Eliza Spalding. I think we take for granted the impact of one life upon generations and subsequently, the world. As I savor the second half of my birthday, I realize that I have gotten swept up in the daily drudgery of raising small children. I have allowed the fatigue, the daunting mountains of laundry and dirty dishes, the taunting tumbleweeds of pet hair and the Groundhog Day issues of whining and squabbling and toddler food tossing to make me feel pointless.

But I’m not pointless. In the midst of all that mess, lies the patient spirit, the consistent instruction, and the determined love that can be cultivated in my heart and passed on to future generations. Just as Eliza Spalding didn’t see it all clearly until she was in her twilight years, I will be a work in progress until then too. But it’s encouraging to know that as long as I keep journeying, I’ll eventually reach my destination too. And oh the memories I’ll be able to weave together when I get there.

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The Tired Mama

If there’s a tired mama in your circle of acquaintances, be gentle with her.

It’s very possible she considers two consecutive hours of sleep a decent night’s rest.

She may get her words mixed up or lose her train of thought in the middle of a sentence.

She might have 80 text messages to answer, forget to check her voicemails, and rarely return a phone call.

Her children might eat boxed mac and cheese two lunches in a row and frozen pizza two dinners in a row.

It’s possible you don’t agree with how she disciplines: too loud one day and too lenient the next.

Likely she will cry at the drop of a hat or at the fifth spill in a row.

There’s a chance she compares herself to all the women she thinks aren’t tired and sees how they do it all: perfect self-care routine, immaculate houses, balanced personal and spiritual life…and…well…everything she just isn’t able to do right now.

I’m certain she wonders about how God views her: does He see a harried, frazzled mess or does He see a daughter trying to do her best?

Some might say she’s too easily overwhelmed or she’s bitten off more than she can chew. But she probably is the way she is because she is simply a tired mama.

When days roll into nights that roll into days again and there’s no pause or break or chance to breathe, a mama gets tired. I really don’t think it means she doesn’t love what she does or adore who she’s all about every single day. It probably just means she’s genuinely tired- physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Don’t ask her lots of questions or try to solve her problems. Don’t tell her what she needs to do to get rest. Try to not be miffed if her answers are brief.

Instead, listen. Acknowledge her exhaustion. Assure her you’re there if she needs anything. Surprise her. Let her know that it will all work out and one day she will sleep again. Speak kindly. Go gently with her.

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An Open Letter To My Sons

Dear Sons,

In the midst of keeping you alive each day, it’s easy for me to forget that one day you will be men. Right now my days are filled with teaching you your letters and numbers, emphasizing basic hygiene and the importance of wearing clothes, and keeping you from playing with sharp and pointed objects to which you all gravitate. There are days when I have to laugh or I most certainly would cry at your destructive, albeit completely boyish antics: climbing on anything above ground, taking things apart, dumping things out, bringing dirt wherever you can, and being LOUD. Loud seems to be the only volume you know.

Yet I see clearly that being a mom of sons is a high calling and even greater blessing. I see your need to test boundaries and climb to great heights. This is how you learn your strength and grow stronger; this is how you gain the courage to lead and the confidence to go where no man has gone before. You have an innate desire to fight and protect and do what is difficult. You want to know how things work and why they work that way. Home is the training ground for becoming the men God designed you to be. I pray for the wisdom to let you test those limits and make those discoveries without being lawless and savage in the process. I pray for the patience to accept the accidents and messes and broken things that just come with the territory.

My sons, I am all too aware of the dangers awaiting you in the great, wide world you are so eager to conquer. But of all the dangers out there, I most want to prepare you for those who will seek to mock your integrity, deride your godliness and despise your manhood. Our world has become hostile to true men: those who seek to fulfill their God-ordained roles as provider, protector and leader. They will undermine your leadership, defile your reputation and urge you to compromise your moral convictions. They are threatened by who you are and what you represent; that is, your stature points to God and is a reminder that He is the ultimate authority.

How does a mother prepare her sons for such a toxic world? Some would say I should raise you to be docile, ready to say and do whatever society demands. Others would say I should tame you and make you shoulder-shruggers in the face of moral compromise. Some would recommend I frown on your fighting spirit and others would advise me to temper your explorations. All of these recommendations are designed to make you fit in rather than stand out; to condition you to be followers instead of leaders. But that is not what God is calling me to do.

His Word admonishes me to raise you to be bold, to be brave, to speak, to stand up, to bow the knee to no one but God, to pursue justice, to love mercy, to desire clean hands and a pure heart. A man who holds these standards will not be loved by the world, may in fact be hated and harassed, but he will be in favor with God. You, my sons, are not seeking to love the world, but to reach the world with Christ’s love. It will take strength to be the men God has designed you to be.

Tonight I heard one of you singing bedtime songs to your baby brother. And yesterday I saw one of you bowing your head, squeezing your eyes as tightly closed as they could go and your busy little hands were folded and still. You are always presenting me with flowers, impressing me with your muscles, and quick to show concern when you can tell I’m not feeling well. In these moments I see the perfect blending of tenderness and strength, energy and restraint, compassion and determination.

Sons, this world does not deserve you but God has placed you here for such a time as this. My mother’s heart will ache when you are beaten down; my mother bear will roar when you encounter injustice; but my faith in God will not waver nor my prayers diminish as you rise up and keep going.

I respect each one of you as you already endeavor to be the best men your little boy hearts can be,


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Observations of a mom

I was looking through home videos with our youngest daughter and was struck with how much of our way of life has changed in such a brief amount of time. Shortly after that the children and I were reading Curious George together; the inquisitive little monkey was on his way to his town’s centennial celebration. I realized that our children may never experience a gathering of citizens mutually celebrating together. I suddenly realized that in the space of less than 12 months the fabric of our nation has changed.

Mardi Gras, not something I celebrate but I do recognize it as an iconic event, will not occur this year. We have accepted lonely Thanksgivings, cancelled Christmases, empty concert halls, abandoned elderly, depressed teenagers, anxious children, ruined small businesses, fearful citizens, and isolated neighbors as our new normal. It’s a refreshing change to see someone’s full face or to hug a friend without hesitation. Shaking hands, once considered proper social etiquette is frowned upon, as is friends gathering together in a home.

What saddens me about these changes is that our nation’s children won’t remember anything else. We will have to tell them about Fourth of July celebrations and Christmas concerts and county fairs. They won’t know how to interact with people in close proximity to them and will assume that virtual is how everything is done. They won’t know about play groups or going with a big church group to get ice cream together or field trips with friends to the museum. Large families will be isolated from seeing grandparents and family reunions will be a thing of the past.

I got together with some other moms today and it was SO GOOD and SO NEEDED for all of us. For a little while we could forget about the chaos and division and confusion in our land and just be moms sharing about life. As I headed home I thought, “THIS is what we need more of. We need to get back to community and discussion. We need to get back to living.”

I don’t have the answers. I’m simply a mom processing the rapid flow of events over the past year. I see division, despair, and resignation all around me. I see what made America unique: the traditions, the camaraderie, the icons, becoming history. I see our youngest generation growing up isolated, fearful and disconnected. Have we really thought this through? Are we really going about this the right way? I miss our way of life; I miss liberty.

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What Makes A Baby…A Baby?

There is something so special about a baby; the face of just about every adult who encounters a baby softens a little. Babies can get us to do the silliest things: our voices go higher. We repeat the same sound or antic over and over and over again. We forget the topic of conversation as we watch those little eyes following us.

But what is it about a baby that has this planet-wide effect? Is it the wonder of knowing their bodies have all the organs and systems working and in place that we have, just in miniature: their hearts are beating; their intestines produce waste (very routinely); their livers produce bile; their thyroid glands release hormones? Is it their active little faces practicing our expressions: frowning, smiling, grimacing, puckering? Is it their busy arms and legs kicking and reaching or their tiny hands and feet grabbing, curling and stretching?

I don’t quite know what it is about a baby that is mesmerizing, intoxicating and wonderful. I do know that I’ll do anything to get one more smile from him. Nothing hurts worse than knowing he is hurting. There’s no cozier place than snuggling up with that sleeping baby in my arms. Don’t we all share that sentiment?

Today I learned of a 14-week old baby who was killed. He had everything I just described above: an active face; limbs constantly wriggling; a fully intact, fully functioning body- just in miniature. He felt every torturous moment of his dismemberment because his nervous system was fully developed, and he fought desperately to move away from the instruments of his murder as adrenaline coursed through his tiny body.

Fellow citizens, we are members of a society that condones, even justifies murder. We have redefined it as choice; accepted it as healthcare; lauded it as empowerment; and profited from it for research. But desensitizing our collective conscience only serves to unravel the moral fabric of our society. We have qualified the value of a human life and have agreed that human rights are not endowed and are no longer inalienable. The ripping away of what was given to us by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God has begun at the beginning of life and it will not stop until there is nothing left to safeguard.

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Are We Sitting On Our Hands?

I recently learned of a woman without a home. A close friend of mine met her and listened to her story. It’s a heart-wrenching one; almost more so because all of the avenues for assistance are closed to her. Why? Because she has too much money in savings. You see, unfortunate circumstances have placed her in her current situation in spite of her living well and being responsible. She simply can’t afford $1,000 a month to rent a room.

This situation caused me to revisit my thoughts on the role of the church in the community. The Bible makes it clear that the Body of Christ should be His hands and feet in the world. Yes, it means we should be declaring the gospel wherever we are, but I also think it means sharing His love in a way that meets physical and emotional needs and not only spiritual ones; in fact, in the process of meeting those tangible needs, we are often able to address the ones less visible.

I am afraid that the western church has become too comfortable. The state has been more than willing to take over our God-entrusted responsibilities and we have allowed it. We hide behind “separation of church and state” or we tout legalities as reasons for not getting our hands dirty. We assume someone else will take care of it when we don’t want to or assuage our unsettled consciences by saying we would do something if God told us directly to do it. We have become very good at sitting in our pew and nodding our heads and going home to our routines.

I was thinking about the number of churches in an average American city and considered the potential within them. What would happen if ALL Christians helped the homeless in their communities? Took in children in need? Provided shelter for those fleeing abuse? Cleaned up our streets? Offered tutoring programs? Created job opportunities? Offered counseling services? Established pregnancy resource centers? Imagine if those churches that are already doing some of these things mentored the ones who are not! Consider the resources, gifts and skills that are idling and the impact they would have if they were kicked into gear!

James tells us that faith without works is dead. This does not mean we can earn our salvation; salvation is by God’s grace alone; it is impossible to earn salvation. What it does mean is that if we have faith nothing can stop us from declaring it by doing all the good we can; in doing so our faith is bolstered. I want to challenge you to start praying today about what God wants YOU to do in YOUR community. Don’t let COVID stop you; don’t let the state stop you; don’t let naysayers stop you. If God is prompting you to reach out and make a difference, do it! and then see what happens!

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Some Thoughts and Some Changes

Have you seen 1917? I do advise caution before watching it since there is strong language and graphic images. However, it does offer a reminder that history has happened; what we have was purchased at a steep price- a price I’m not so sure we would be willing to pay today.

I’m attempting to keep a finger on the pulse of our nation and it is irregular at best. It would seem that there are those who laud the ideals of the past and there are those who prefer contemporary ones. We are engaged in a tug-of-war of values: tolerance versus morality; cancel culture versus freedom of speech; equality versus liberty. It is as if there are two different Americas within our borders; two different languages; two different ways of thinking. And to uphold what we hold most close to heart requires standing up, not to a foreign empire, not to a terrorist, but to our fellow citizens. And this presents a quandary: do we stand up and risk further division or do we remain quiet and risk losing our liberties or silencing our conscience?

Reflecting on history also makes me wonder if we have made comfort an idol. I think our society is willing to sacrifice ethics on the altar of entertainment while choosing to worship convenience at the price of principles. We don’t want to believe that wrong is happening- unless it interferes with our state of ease. We don’t want to investigate unless our routines are interrupted. Learning about the London Plague of 1665 I realized that the annals of the past have more heartache, devastation and injustice written in them than they have victory and success and justice.

I think that we are in the process of writing a grim chapter in America’s history book. Will tomorrow’s students wonder about how a virus with a 99% recovery rate brought us to our knees in fear, how we grumbled about our sports’ seasons being delayed and our favorite shows being cancelled, how we were frustrated that we couldn’t get same-day deliveries from Amazon and take-out and drive-thru became the only restaurant options? And all the while our range of motion became gradually smaller: what we could say, what we could do, where we could go, who we could see, what we could research, what we could think, what we could believe…all became determined by those in government?

I’m not about to tell you what to do, but here’s what I plan to do as things change all around me:

I plan to pray. I will plead with God for the hearts of my countrymen to be surrendered to Him. I will ask Him to keep my heart sensitive to His prompting for He knows what my next steps need to be.

I plan to memorize Scripture so that Christ’s words will be the first on my lips.

I plan to read. I want my thinking to be shaped by the wisdom of old, the imagination of geniuses and the experiences of my books friends- not by popular opinion and mainstream media. Current events are just happening and are our contemporaries; history has already happened and makes the best teacher.

I plan to share. As I pray and read and learn I am going to share my thoughts.

I plan to reach out to my community. Nothing can replace the tangible connection between individuals. Social media is not an equivalent substitute for face-to-face conversations, heartfelt discussions about ideas, warm hugs, surprise meals left at a neighbor’s door, spontaneous visits for tea and talks, waves and smiles as we go about our day.

We are at a point where we have to choose if we are going to be forever distanced from one another or if we are going to salvage what matters most to us. I am not ready to slip into a coma of apathy; I plan to live freely and breathe deeply of the oxygen of liberty. So here’s to writing letters, reading books, making phone calls and front porch chats with neighbors. People have done it in the past why can’t we do it now?

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Parallels With Middle Earth

Every holiday season my husband and I watch one of the Tolkien movies. We used to make it our goal to watch the entire LOTR trilogy before January first, but alas! reality has adjusted that goal to simply one of the three. This season was no different and the one we completed was The Two Towers. While watching it I considered how much the human experience resembles a journey through Middle Earth.

I think many of us admire the elves, the Riders of Rohan, Aragorn and perhaps even the strength and ax-prowess of Gimli the Dwarf. But I have a feeling that the ones we identify with are the hobbits. We would like to be known for our gifts and talents and to be able to react accurately under intense pressure, but we are all too aware of our small stature in this great, wide world, our bumbling ways and just our every day-ness, if you will. These factors can deter us from leaving our comfortable corners and stepping out the front door.

But it’s really in our routine that we can gain our strength- strength of heart and mind. The routines and comforts of home grounded them and allowed them to take on the adventure while still holding on to their sense of self. They were on speaking terms with warriors, rubbed shoulders with elves, defied the vilest of evil and never stopped being hobbits who loved a good book and a warm hearth. Ironically, it was by being themselves that they had the greatest impact on those around them.

What stands out about the hobbits was that they pushed themselves, not to be who they weren’t, but to become who they were supposed to be. It was on the journey that the hobbits discovered their resilience, their courage and their fidelity, not only to their comrades, but to the cause. Yes, they liked second breakfasts and enjoyed a good riddle and the delicious tobacco leaf only the Shire could produce; those things never changed. However, they also realized that they did care about more than just their hobbit holes and that they wanted to make a difference for all who called Middle Earth home. The hobbits desired victory over evil more than the comforts of home; the comforts of home gave them the courage to participate in the war that threatened what they loved.

What about us? We might not have the bow prowess of an elf or be able to lead an outnumbered army into battle, but can we actually identify with the hobbits? I believe I can. There are days when I find the world a daunting place. I don’t see how my little corner of the world is having any impact anywhere; I’m not fighting legal battles in court or pounding the pavement in prayer or raising thousands of dollars for a cause. I just cook and clean and teach and do it all over again day after day after day.

Yet I think that is important too. It’s in the day after day after day that my mind has time to resolve what it believes; my heart can develop resilience; and my body can get ready. I don’t know when an opportunity will arise when I will be called to open the door and take that first step on a very long journey. I don’t know when I will have an impact on someone who is already on their journey. I don’t know when the shadows of darkness will start to cross my threshold and I’ll have to fight.

We are on the cusp of a new year and the unknown looms over us. Let’s be encouraged to be who we are and excited about who we will become.

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Why 2020?

A childhood friend of mine is walking the road of cancer with her young son. She openly admits that this is not what she would have chosen for her family; she says it’s hard and painful and bewildering at times. But she smiles and speaks with confident joy about the work that she knows God is accomplishing for His glory. I am both convicted and inspired by her testimony.

Had I been allowed to select the events for the year, I would not have chosen lockdowns or masks or a nation in turmoil; I would not have selected natural disasters or the death of a loved one or depression; I would not have asked for my church to close or for illness and injury to strike my family. Instead, I would have reached for flowers and rainbows, smiles and laughs, cozy family time, babies and heaps of ice cream. I would have added business success and a smooth routine in my home, and most certainly amiable children who are eager to do whatever I ask them. And I would have included ample time for me to sit and read and write to my heart’s content.

As the prophet of old wrote in Lamentations: “…My groans are many and my heart is faint.” I could give you a list of personal reasons why this year “stinks, stank, stunk.” I vividly remember welcoming it in and most of me won’t be grieving when I bid it farewell. But I wonder if this is the attitude Jesus wants me to have; after all, if He is Lord of my life then doesn’t that mean He has allowed the events of each day to happen for my good? I can understand why the world at large is fed up with 2020 but does that mean I must respond in like manner? Perhaps I should take a different approach.

Perhaps I should make a list of all the ways I have been blessed this year; perhaps I should take note of how I am leaning into God as I am confronted with my weaknesses; perhaps I should ponder how I can only witness God move mountains if they are in front of me; perhaps I should admit that coming through hardship does make me stronger; perhaps I should acknowledge that I only want to accept good from God and not trouble, yet the most growth happens during the trouble.

And so, with these reflections in mind, as I pull out my 2021 planner and reach for my pen, I want to humbly thank the Lord for the year 2020. In the throes of its unique chaos, He proved Himself faithful; He didn’t shield me from pain or confrontation with my wretchedness but He proved that He loves me in the midst of it; when I felt overwhelmed, lost and confused He reminded me of His constancy.

Why 2020? I needed to experience God in the intensity of life. I needed to despair and be rescued by Him. I needed to be afraid and be soothed by Him. I needed to mourn and be comforted by Him. I needed to fall and be picked up by Him. I needed to think I had nothing left and discover that I still have everything.

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Finding the Familiar

Everything has changed. The world we lived in at the beginning of 2020 is not the world we live in today. It’s not just COVID; it’s racial tension; it’s natural disasters; it’s election chaos; it’s personal loss; it’s disorientation from the tidal wave of change. I don’t know about you but I’ve experienced new levels of anxiety, anger and depression which turn into a vicious cycle of anxiety, anger and depression.

Recognizing that I have not been coping well with these “big feelings,” as we refer to them in our home, I decided we needed an unplanned Thanksgiving break. The first two days of it were spent in beautiful parks, absorbing the pristine weather. As my eyes soaked in the vibrant palate of colors and my skin absorbed the sun absorbed the sunlight and breeze, I could feel a reconnection with myself. I think it’s because my senses were able to focus on a calm, familiar distraction outside of myself and my emotions.

This leads me to recommend that in this time of upheaval we need to find what’s familiar and focus on that.

  • The familiar of family and friends: it’s true that it’s difficult to spend time with our loved ones in the ways we used to, but we can still be there for one another. Sending mail and packages back and forth, snapping random photos from the day for each other or starting a group text thread can rebuild the sense of community we all long for. I know it can be hard to manage home life and screen time but children can be included in the communication. I’ll tell my children who I’m taking pictures for or who I’m texting so they feel a sense of connection with long distance loved ones too.
  • The familiar of routine: our family has had to create routines and then new routines as the year progressed. It takes about two weeks of consistent practice for a routine to become habit. In those days when everything seems out of whack it is essential to have a daily routine to fall back on. Children (and adults) simply know what comes next and doing it doesn’t require too much additional effort. Even cycling through the same monthly menu can be comforting.
  • The familiar of a safe space: special things that are in the same location wherever you live; soothing music; favorite aromas; natural light streaming through windows; plants that rest the eye; these are all necessities for creating a place where you can be you- no matter what is happening. It’s a haven, a respite, an oasis for the soul.
  • The familiar of trial: this year has held a lot of difficulty. But trials, while unique in their own way, are not new to the human experience. I’m sure we can all look back and recount trial after painful trial after exhausting trial. Some might be repeats and others might be fresh; but the commonality is that we have made it through and learned something each time. Fall back on that knowledge and know that once again there will be a way through. Which leads me to my final point.
  • The familiar of God: In the midst of uncertainty God might feel very far away. When things don’t make sense, it is easy to think that God must not know what’s going on either or that maybe He doesn’t care or maybe He is out to get us. I have been telling myself that I need to look for evidence of His promises because His Word doesn’t lie. If He says those who mourn will be comforted, then they will. If He says the wicked will perish, then they will. If He says He knows the way of the righteous, then He does. Dive into God’s Word and wait for it to take root; it will.

Whether you’re parenting through a pandemic or prepping to move or mourning the loss of a loved one or dealing with family turmoil or finding your way in a foreign land, there is always something familiar that can help you stay grounded. I think we are all being confronted with the impermanence of this life and it can shake us up a bit; but there is eternity waiting for us and glimpses of the eternal can be found in what’s familiar.

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The Election Doesn’t Change Everything

If my fellow citizens are anything like me, our nerves are probably on edge and are stomachs jittery as we await the election results. I don’t know about you, but I don’t so much mind my candidate losing as I do blatant fraud and manipulation winning. Winning and losing are part of the election thrill; criminality should not be.

As I try to come to terms with the struggle and the anticipation, I know that what I hold most dear to my heart do not have to be lost if my candidate does. The values we laud can still be passed on to our children; our home can still be a respite in a wearied world; marriage and family can still be first; and yes, patriotism can still be taught. Why?

Because Jesus lives and He is sovereign. America is as much a vessel for His glory as Israel was (and still is). History declares His plan and His movement within mankind’s proceedings. Whatever the outcome, disappointing or not, He remains unhindered in accomplishing His perfect will.

I will cling to that now and four years from now.

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I Am a Woman

I shared a post about abortion yesterday. I hesitated to do so because the image disrupted the stream of cheery home life I prefer to post. I was also concerned it would appear too political; I’m trying to avoid politics these days. I held an internal dialogue with myself and it went something like this:

“People might not be prepared for the disturbing image after seeing all of the happy posts on my timeline.” “But the contrast might be good. It will be a startling reminder of what’s going on.”

“But it might be offensive.” “Just because we are not seeing it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. We need to be offended at times in order to be motivated to act.”

“I don’t want to get into politics.” “Murder isn’t a political issue. It’s a moral one.”

“I suppose if I post anything controversial it needs to be about this topic.” “Yes! The babies are counting on me to speak up for them!”

Today’s woman is demanding equality and justice and empowerment for women. I am here to say that I am a woman and I desire equality, believe in justice and appreciate empowerment, but not at the expense of the preborn individual.

I am a woman and it is my body until another body is within mine. I am a woman and I will value that life above my own.

I am a woman and I don’t believe it is justice for the person who is able to speak to take the life of one who cannot.

I am a woman and I believe true empowerment is found in choosing to keep life even when it is difficult. Empowerment is giving my life for yours when no one else will.

I believe that a beating heart is proof of life and I am still a woman.

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I Remember when I was Five.

I learned to ride a bike when I was five. I got my very own pet, a little bunny I named Strawberry Plum Curious Banana, when I was five. I learned how to swim and how to read; and when I was five I got my beloved baby doll, Cookie Brenda (I named her too). Five was a special age for me and now you are five years old too.

You have grown from a baby with elf ears and Marshwiggle feet into a graceful little girl who can comfortably hold her baby brother, confidently make a cucumber and tomato salad in the kitchen and tidy up the house with gusto. You can write your name beautifully, are a beloved pen pal to several people and are developing a flair for photography and drawing.

While the melodramatic streak that you debuted at birth is far from absent, you also have an uncanny ability to read people’s emotions and show empathy beyond your mere five years. We have shared conversations that almost had me forgetting I was chatting with a child until you were quickly diverted by a thought about food or a new smell (you enjoy new scents, by the way). You want to be all grown up until you don’t- desiring to be my essential helper and my little girl at the same time. You want to be a support, a big sister and an engaged listener but also nurtured and snuggled and entertained.

What will your memories of this year be? Will you remember learning to read and write? Will you remember your fervent prayers at breakfast or being tucked in tight at bedtime? Will you remember me braiding your hair or playing Elenor with you? Will you fondly recall being Child of the Day or our monthly dates? Will you connect our conversations with the values you will one day claim as your own? I wonder what memories you will cherish that I was unaware of while they were being made.

May your fifth year be the year you determine to love Jesus more than life itself. And may you always know that I will never cease to thank Jesus for gifting me with you as my daughter.

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