Strength and Dignity

In Proverbs 31 we are told that “strength and dignity” should clothe a woman. I wonder what that looks like. Is it marching, clenched fist in the air, while spewing hatred and vulgarity towards those sacred, life-giving parts of our body? is it the denial of what sets us apart as a unique sex or the acceptance of propaganda that says anyone can be us? Is it hating who we are, trampling our femininity and mocking motherhood?

Or is it the embracing of life’s unexpected, unplanned and even impossible situations and making them our own?

Givers of the future

Some of my heroes are the pioneer women of Kansas. The hardships they endured could coin the term “Kansas strong.” For some reason, all things about my life that I thought were hard kind of evaporated as I read about them in PIONEER WOMEN: Voices from the Kansas Frontier. This pioneer daughter’s description of them sums it up well:

[they] gave their youth, health, courage and the very best of their lives…at a cost no one will ever be able to reckon. There were no words of complaint; just a slow but steady advancement in the face of difficulties and obstacles that stagger one who considers them now. Surely not a star in Heaven will be too bright for the crowns of those brave women who, with lonely hearts and the dismal music of coyote calls, often watched the stars from humble homes, ‘out where the West begins.’

What got the pioneer woman through when most people gave up and went home? A fierce determination to succeed and a sense of ownership. This wasn’t simply her husband’s dream she was living. It had become hers too and every hardship was seen as something that would only make her stronger. Some would say that this is exactly what women are fighting for today: bodily autonomy, ownership of their future, and equal opportunity in every situation. Yet as a woman myself, I don’t feel pride or camaraderie in these causes. In fact, I feel ashamed when I read the slogans and see female reproductive organs on public display. Womanhood has a sacred role in society but in this era it’s up for auction to the highest bidder and the loudest voice.

Life-giving

Sometimes I wonder what the women of history would think of our current events. Women like:

  • Esther~confronted with a life she did not choose and yet she saved her people from being massacred
  • Mary~a young girl faced with an unexpected pregnancy and yet she loved her Son even at the foot of His Cross.
  • Grandma Moses~risked her life and lost so much for the sake of freedom. Even after she made it to safety she went back over and over again to rescue more people.
  • Irena Sendler~risked her life and suffered torture and yet she didn’t stop saving hundreds, if not thousands, of Jewish children from certain death.
  • Mother Theresa~who left everything comfortable and everyone she loved to minister to the most destitute, most unlovely people imaginable.

And then there are my heroes of today. Women like:

  • My mom~who suffered atrocious abuse as a child but shunned being a victim and chose to own her story and live victoriously.
  • My sister~ who fought and beat breast cancer. And even though it changed the course of her life in a way she wouldn’t have chosen, she has embraced her story and shares it with life-giving results.
  • The ladies I serve with at our pregnancy resource center ~ who have abortions in their past and seek to lovingly show moms in similar situations that there are other options. They have turned their guilt and shame into instruments of life.
  • My friends~ who have suffered abuse and are now moms living with joy and ensuring their children are happy and thriving. They are overcomers.
  • My mom friends ~ who have large families. Exhaustion and little time alone are routine aspects of the day and yet they keep choosing joy. Their families get their best and one day will rise up and call them “blessed among women.”
  • Those close to me~who routinely battle anxiety and depression and yet they refuse to be defined by these cruel afflictions. Every day they seek to live well and offer hope to those around them.

These are women who have been empowered by hardship. That is strength. These are women who have owned their story and share it with confidence and joy. That is dignity.

Listening to rants, seeing the rage, reading the propaganda and feeling the erosion, I often feel like I’m spinning in place trying to hold on long enough to make sense of anything. It’s the second part of that proverb that makes sense: “she laughs at the future.” The woman strong in her identity and dignified even in the throes of trial can look confidently ahead. She doesn’t have to change herself or find love in new places or slaughter new life or mock men to get ahead or be more. She embraces her story, hardship and all, makes it her own and becomes an anchor upon which future generations are built. That is empowered womanhood.

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One Day

Yesterday evening we had some wonderful people join us for a summer bbq. This social event was crafted with our parents in mind; they routinely indulge our conversation topics or entertain the children. This particular evening was a unique change of pace and I enjoyed listening in on conversations that were filled with more than half of century of memories and life experiences.

These beautiful people swapped narratives of how they met, travels they embarked on, adventures in parenting, and conversations they’ve had with their grandchildren. They have reams of lessons learned to reflect upon and many health trials for which they’re making adjustments; they shared farewell accounts with their own parents and were able to rejoice together about the work God continues to do in making them more like Him. And it all got me to thinking…

One day I was born.

One day I was a child: playing, exploring, dreaming of being a big person.

One day I was a teenager: learning, working, becoming my own person, dreaming of being an adult.

One day I was an adult: working, socializing, dreaming of being a wife and mother.

One day I was a wife and mother: cooking, cleaning, teaching, raising, breathing, dreaming of quiet moments and slower days.

One day the quieter moments and slower days will come, along with the final good byes: as children leave the home, as parents end their journey on earth, as we take our turn in that concluding chapter of the human experience.

As stories of the past swirled around me, I was reminded me that time is sand slipping through our fingers. Children at the beach build every barrier their fingers can construct to trap the ocean on the shore, yet it always gets away. And so it is with life: we try desperately to construct the perfect day so that time will stand still, our loved ones will be with us forever and our favorite memories won’t fade. But then we look up and realize time waited for no one.

I suppose, then, the best way to live is one day at a time.

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A Modern Conversation

Recently I was scrolling my newsfeed and was swept up in a post about teaching children openness and tolerance. The main point was that children need to understand that love is love and there is no place for judgement (unless someone is being unkind). It was an interesting discussion and I’ve been pondering it ever since; we are surrounded by trending lifestyle choices and I want our children to be well-adjusted, loving, kind human beings. Where do we go from here?

“Love is love.” “You do you.” These catch phrases sound so…well..catchy! Doesn’t it make us feel warm inside to know that we, as parents, are affirming of our children and encouraging them to be their truest selves? Don’t we want to model for them how to practice acceptance of everyone’s self-expression? Don’t we? What a free society we would have if everyone did this! I pondered these thoughts as I observed my youngsters living life.

They are each so unique in how they experience life: always ready to imagine and play. It’s a favorite pastime of mine to observe them play a cooperative game of their own design; the little ones just as involved as the older ones. Yes, I want them to be themselves, each with their individual perspective on living. But then the squabbling begins. Someone looked at someone else in a way they didn’t like; someone yanked a toy out of another one’s hand; two want to ride on the same bike at the same time; someone bumped someone else and they’re convinced it was on purpose. And then the yelling and biting and hair pulling and screeching and name-calling begins. Hmmm…you do you, huh? Which side of my children is the “you do you” I want them to do?

Obviously we want to cultivate kindness and courtesy within our young ones. This is often defined as loving our neighbors as ourselves and putting the interests of others before our own. Unless one of us is a second Mary, there isn’t a single child who desires to be selfless around the clock; in a nutshell, our society is telling parents to say “you do you until it makes someone else unhappy.” If we know anything about children, it is that they revolt against mixed messages and thrive with consistency. Which brings me to the second mantra of our time: love is love.

For this discussion I propose that an aspect of love is establishing and maintaining boundaries; definitions in their very nature are boundaries. Let’s take a moment to define love. Is it romance? Making someone happy? All the warm fuzzies? Not giving offense or stepping on toes? Or is it being willing to say no, to speak truth, to take risks? I think we would all agree that love would be preventing a child from running into oncoming traffic or grabbing someone from falling to certain death. We wouldn’t hesitate to stand between our child and a bully or track down a child predator stalking our young ones. Does the same loving vigilance step up to the plate when it’s parents versus trending ideologies?

Wokeness. Cancel culture. Gender. Disney agendas. These topics are dominating headlines and are targeting families everywhere. They are so extreme that it almost feels bizarre to legitimately discuss them. And yet we must. For love’s sake we must identify the boundaries they are determined to remove. Boundaries provide direction and protection. When there is a wild fire, burn lines are made to keep the fire from devouring everything in sight; sand bags can prevent rivers from overflowing their banks during a storm; fences distinguish one person’s property line from another. Proverbs 22:28 declares, “Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set,” yet in our land boundaries of old are being removed: definitions of marriage, biological sex, and personhood are being erased and rewritten.

Boundaries are only relevant if they hold firm against assault; they are pointless if they disintegrate under the slightest pressure. If ever the ancient boundary stone is being attacked, it is now. Will our love for our children be strong enough to repair, rebuild and restore what has previously stood the test of time and yet now is crumbling? In his eloquently probing book Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund asks, “What’s the meaning of everything? What’s the aim…for our small, ordinary lives?” He goes on to describe the fulfillment that comes from living to glorify God and observes “[h]ow exhausting is the misery of self. How energizing are the joys of living for another.” Perhaps the best way to affirm and advise our young ones is to point them to their higher purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. May they live Christ and love with His heart forever.

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Mothers, Arise!

I am sure we are all aware of the most recent tragedy that claimed so many lives. My mind, like my fellow citizens’, spun with questions: “Why?” “How?” “What’s next?” “Who?” “Could this have been stopped?” “What can we do to prevent this?” And there are no easy answers. My heart is filled with sorrow, rage and disgust over the senseless brutality in our world. I want to do something about it.

And we can! Each of us has a part to play in preserving our society but today I write to mothers. By doing just a few simple things we can bring hope and security to our community. Here are things we can do:

Be mothers who think: I just finished reading a book by J.P Moreland about cultivating a thinking mind through reading, writing and intentional discussion. Mama Bear Apologetics and their resources are a good place to start for mothers wanting to be informed about the worldviews active in our present age. To effect change, we must know what we believe, why we believe it and how to talk about our beliefs in a calm, coherent way. Our children are listening.

Be mothers who are present: the to-do lists don’t ever get done; the calendar is never empty; the distractions don’t go away; we can always be busy. But our children need mamas who can be deliberately undistracted. It doesn’t mean sitting and staring at our children all day (trust me, I wrestle with this one!); it does mean being able to push pause on the list, carve out still times on the calendar, and put away the phone so that we can be all ears, eyes and heart for our family. Our children are watching.

Be mothers who can be at home: I believe that home is where community begins. Home is a place where people can feel safe, be welcomed, experience traditions and be themselves. It’s the window with the light on in a dark world; it’s the smell of baking bread and peppermint tea on a stormy night; it’s the sound of lullabies as little children drift to sleep. There’s always a need to be on the road but in all of the hurry, take time to make home a place you want to be. Our children need rest.

Be mothers who love our neighbors: Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves. While we all know He meant everybody, I think this principle can apply to the people who live next door to us or across the street. Some of our family’s closest friends have been our neighbors and it all started from my mom teaching me the importance of getting to know the people who kind of live life right along with us. Community begins on our very own street so, if you can, wave, bring over cookies, throw that Fourth of July party and work out those differences with your neighbors. Our children will model us.

Be mothers who laugh: life is hard. In fact, it’s more dependably hard than it is fun or easy. But if we can learn to laugh even when it’s difficult, our lives will be much lighter. Find the good, hold on to the joy, and delight in your family. Your children will laugh with you.

Be mothers who fight: there is too much going wrong in this world for us to continue as we are. It’s time for us to make a determined and drastic change; we need to be a presence, a force worth reckoning with, in communities. When we see evil building a stronghold, let’s tear it down! When we see our children being preyed upon, let’s rescue them! When we see our men being belittled, let’s stand beside them! When we fight for what we love, it’s a noble fight. Our children will thank us.

Mothers, we are representatives of life. Home and community begin with us. It is time for us to remember that it is no small thing to be a mother: it is not a hobby or a trial run or a side gig. If the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, we must make sure it is a mother’s hand. Mothers, arise!

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Three for the Fifth Time

I am wondering if you are the most celebrated little boy so far. This entire month your birthday has been mentioned and I really think your siblings are more excited than you are about your special day. The attention and enthusiasm are not wasted on you; you fit perfectly into your spot in the family.

There is something about you that causes people to gravitate to you. Maybe it’s your small stature topped with a head that is proportionally larger than your stout body; maybe it’s your expressive eyes that speak before your mouth does; it might be the way you move that fascinates: wisps of hair bouncing as you run, the efficient way you climb, the delight you have in spinning till you fall down. When you move, all of you moves simultaneously because you’re so compact. Remember when we went to the ranch for Shilo’s birthday and the riding instructor wouldn’t put you down? Haha! Like I said, there’s just something about you.

As much as I love watching you, I love chatting with you as well. Your two top teeth pucker just enough to give you a little lisp. There’s a little whistle that enhances any “sh” words you say. And your style of speaking has been adopted by some of us because it’s priceless. We like to “snell” roses and count from “2-5-8-9” just like you do. We put on our “sim soups” [swim suit] and ask if you want to wear your “puu pup” [pull up] or underwear today. And we never tire of hearing you ask, “Can I sleep in yours room?” Yet for being so small and adorable, you definitely have a fiery side.

Your most recent cognitive growth spurt brought astounding verbal skills. The sentences which flow from your tongue keep all of us on our toes; no one dares exclude you from any plan or activity for fear of encountering your wrath. An upset Simeon is a Simeon to behold!! But just as fiery as you can be, you are equally gentle, cuddly and endearing. Quinley is your favorite sibling, someone for whom you would fetch the moon. And when you sense that Mama is upset you turn on the best Simeon charm: “Mama, youze usset wis me? Are you happy to me? I love you, Mom.” And this is followed by the best hugs.

Your mind is filled with big thoughts and big ideas. You are a speed demon on the little blue balance bike passed down from your biggest brother. When you are on that bike it becomes an extension of you. “Grayjuns” [dragons], “sharyks” [sharks], lions, and horses are some of your favorite animals. Jumping and climbing and running with the big boys are simply part of your day. You are as diligent as you can be in school- putting together puzzles, “writing” as small as you can (you’re our only leftie so far), and “reading” books. Teaching you is a precious time for me.

Last night, you and I snuggled together- chatting and reading books. Since the birthday child gets to sleep in Poppa and Mama’s room on the eve of their birthday, that’s where you are as I pen this- snoozing in the very spot of your birth. It feels like I held you for the first time, breathed deeply, and now you are three years old. I’d be lying if I said that fact didn’t make my eyes misty just thinking about it. In all honesty, it makes me afraid to breathe.

I love you more, Little Man!

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Weaving

It’s funny the things I remember about my childhood: the color and texture of the tile on the kitchen floor because we played marbles on it; the sound of dial-up Internet; the magnetic stand to hold my speed-typing lists; the crevices in our moss rock wall where I hunted for gecko eggs; the huge caterpillars I peeled off the oleander leaves for pocket money; running through sprinklers on freshly mown grass. These memories, and others, will randomly pop into my day, reminding me that what is woven into our childhood stays with us forever.

Tonight I pulled out my third tooth as a mama. For some reason, this particular tooth turned me into mush. Just seeing my son’s innocent freckled face staring up at me, more courageous than me in that moment, I had flashbacks of those little teeth coming in just…yesterday, right? His sisters had the privilege of being audience and they did plenty of commenting the entire time and gave the pulled out tooth all the adoring attention it could have wanted. The younger sister realized, “GH! You won’t be able to brush your teeth anymore! He will just have to use those tooth wipes, right Mom?” After we had said goodnight, I watched him walk to his room. Tears welled as I saw him so grown up and yet such a little boy. So quickly he will be a man. Which begs the question: what am I weaving into the childhoods happening right now?

My tendency is to have a list and plow through it or to have a goal and drive straight for it- regardless of anyone or anything else. This can cause quite the mayhem since little people don’t understand to-do lists. At the end of the day I want to reflect not just on what was accomplished but also on what happened. Did the stories get read? Did we play together? My memories have shown me that living occurs when we least expect it; therefore it is necessary to weave in the work with the play, the discipline with the instruction, the pauses with the academics, the spontaneous with the routine. Tonight’s tooth-pulling event was such an extraordinary normal childhood moment: siblings, dental floss, standing in the kitchen. And yet now it’s woven into my heart along with all the flashbacks of my firstborn’s infancy and toddling steps. On a daily basis I need to freeze time for just a second or two and show my family that I love them and enjoy them.

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Is Life Actually Good?

“Life is good,” we like to say as our toes stretch out over sparkling pool water or we lounge in the sun with an ice cold drink in hand. I tend to think that statement when all my ducks (or should we say ducklings 😉) are in a row, the house is tidy and the bread turned out well this time. Sometimes I think it when we are taking a family day trip and everyone is chatting cheerfully with our favorite music playing in the background. I always define life as good when I’m feeling good. But is it?

What about the fact that at the very same time I’m snuggling with my babies, someone else is grieving about her empty arms? And when I’ve had a delightful chat with my parents someone else is laying flowers on the grave of her mom? And when I’m cleaning my house and baking bread someone else is battling with depression that threatens to keep her in bed all day? And when I’m laughing with my husband someone else is cowering in fear of hers? And when my children devour books someone else is setting up yet another IEP meeting with her child’s teacher? And when I step out my front door to enjoy a walk someone else is hiding from bombs? Do we call this a good life?

Does this juxtaposition of life situations mean that one isn’t true? I was pondering this and went a little deeper: when things are not going my way can I still say life is good? These questions can only be answered by defining good. If good means everything is going my way and I’m thriving, then life is rarely good. In fact, it’s uncertain, unpredictable and unfair. But if good means that I am encountering the sovereignty of God and living out His purpose for my life, then yes, life is good. But doesn’t it seem callous to compare my level of circumstantial difficulties with someone whose daily objective is survival in the literal sense; my hardest moments might even seem good to them.

For those who are members of the household of faith, we can immerse ourselves in Hebrews 11-12. In these passages we are reminded that hardship can be viewed as discipline (not punishment), preparing us for greater joy and peace. The trials strengthen our faith and allow us deeper fellowship with those who have gone before. For those who do not yet know Christ, hardship beckons their eyes heavenward; it serves as a reminder that there must be something more when rock bottom is hit; only God can rescue, redeem and restore.

I am sure this might sound trite at best, cruel at worst. How self-righteous is it for me in western comfort to tell someone in a refugee camp that God is sovereign and their suffering is bringing Him glory or to tell a grieving mom that her loss is meant to teach her more about God? These statements might very well be true in a basic sense but they do not convey Christ’s heart- a heart whose essence is compassion. Jesus describes Himself as gentle and lowly; He longs to comfort the broken-hearted and set the captive free. In our lowest moments, He is there; on our mountaintop victories, He is there.

The concept that we are designed to glorify God and enjoy Him forever is the best definition of good. It provides meaning in the worst of times and exhilaration in the best of times. My goal is to declare that “Life is good because God is good” regardless of the situation.

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Little Boys

We have 3 little boys right in a row. I’m tempted to just stop right there and allow your imaginations to fill in the rest: all of the sounds, smells, catastrophes, and injuries that come with 3 little boys in a row.

It is hard for a mama to remain a step ahead of them to preempt what they’re going to think of next because they usually think of it first. I don’t think of using my head as a battering ram as something fun to do. Jumping from the highest point in the house seems, well, risky to me. I don’t have the same magnetic draw to sharp objects as they do. I think being clean and tidy is VERY nice. Bugs are cool to watch but touching them isn’t my first (or even fourth) instinct and I would NEVER dream of scooping up a cockroach and letting it crawl up my shoulder. I like to preserve my new things so they look new a dozen years later rather than finding out how much force they can withstand before crumbling. I prefer to think about eating yummy items while they like to gross themselves out by naming awful items they won’t eat (think poop). I find quiet a pleasant sound; to them, louder is better!

These three little guys are so different from our first son that I’m still getting over the shock and awe they’ve brought into our home. I catch myself saying, “but GH never did that!” I’m having to learn all new parenting tactics and strategies with these guys and have brand new callouses on my proverbial knees with their names on them. And with those tear-streaked prayers have come some fresh thoughts:

  • Little boys need mamas. When I’m done counting the bruises on my own body at the end of a day wrestling with my strong toddlers, I wonder why God gave boys to mamas. My husband can carry two of them at once and throw them over his shoulder with one arm. They tackle him with all their might (which would topple me) and he is unfazed. It’s soooooooo easy to see they need him but do they really need me?? They do. There are times when I have to bellow at them but I’m trying to make that my last resort; instead, I’m seeking to be their contrast: calm, quiet, tender, clean. I’m not trying to make them feminine (I’m actually quite proud of their strength and fearlessness); I do see the necessity in bringing culture to the savage and showing the brute how to be a gentleman. Society expects danger and destruction from men; I believe moms can bring out the noble tenderness in their sons.
  • Little boys need to know their mamas like them. Much of my day is spent in doing damage control. More than once a little man has asked, “you usset, Mama?” Or sensed trouble ahead and rushed to hug me with an “I love you, Mama.” While I’m all about these little men respecting us and living within the boundaries we have set, I want them to know that I think they are the coolest people alive. I must discern between blatant disobedience and mishaps that occur simply because they are inquisitive little boys. I’ve observed that nothing lights up their darling faces more than when they’re able to make me laugh till I cry. And there is a certain swag in their step when I speak with awe about the things they do that I certainly cannot- like pick up live roaches with my bare fingers or rescue geckos from drowning. At bedtime I make sure to say, “I love you and I like you”- not because they’re finally clean, sweet-smelling and still but because they are themselves and they are my little boys.
  • Little boys need mamas to be their advocates. As I mentioned above, society doesn’t look too kindly upon men and therefore boys are often written off as troublemakers and future problems. Mamas can unintentionally speak the same message through sighs of exasperation and speaking about the low expectations they have for their sons. I speak from experience; at times it is very challenging to find something to praise at the end of a long day of messes, fighting, and repeated instructions. But praying instead of pulling out my hair is helping me break the code for mothering these little boys. I see now that they need me to advocate for them- even to themselves. I need to speak to them about the good they can do and the great men I see them becoming. And I need to build them up when we are in the company of others.

Practically speaking, how is this building up accomplished? Time with them: playing, teaching, snuggling, talking. It’s in doing these things that I see deeper into the essence of who they are and what makes their hearts beat boldly. And one of our favorite things to do as mama and sons is to recount memories of them as babies. It reminds all of us of those precious moments we have shared together from the very beginning. As I persevere through the difficulties of mothering boys, I see the privilege of and adventure that comes with raising men. I have always liked the thought of being a mama bear and how I am ever ready to take on anyone and anything that threatens my young ones; now I see that I need the resilience and strength of a mama bear to handle all that these young boys bring into my day. And there’s so much good that comes with them: the flowers, the fervor, the crazy stories and that priceless loyalty that sons hold for their mama.

Just a handful of nights ago, I slipped into their room and gazed upon their sleeping faces. Unexpectedly I got glimpses of those faces at 15, then 40, then 80 years old. Tears filled my eyes at the thought that one day they won’t be little boys anymore and how I raise them now will have a strong influence on who they will be then.

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Books We Are Reading

I’m a day late with my monthly reading recap but I needed some time to think about this one. I decided I wanted to share what the children are reading but that’s trickier since so many pages are turned by them!

Our oldest has a tower of books on his dresser but he isn’t only reading from them. He often still grabs from the bookshelves too. He just finished reading: Sequoyah: A Cherokee Indian. One of his favorites is Adventure in the Big Thicket and not long ago he completed The Secret Garden (that might have been in March, actually). He is also liking Beverly Cleary’s books and The Rats of Nimh; he is nearly finished with a compilation of Nancy Drew stories as well. And that’s off the top of my head. This 7-year old has books stashed everywhere! He and I are reading The Wind in the Willows together.

Our second born is savoring Pollyanna. She also read Mountain Born and wants to read A Place for Peter next. She spends a lot of time reading picture books and her Bible. She and I are reading Hitty together.

Our second daughter and I are reading Charlotte’s Web together. She looks for words she knows in the picture books she looks at. All of us are reading Heidi together and have almost finished The Chronicles of Narnia on audiobook. We like sampling poetry from A Rocket in my Pocket and are reading a Nate Saint biography in history.

Again, those are the regulars during our week. We also read dozens of picture books and listen to portions of other audiobooks when we are eating lunch or driving. What books did your family read in April?

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Life in Layers

I plan. I like to see my life neatly outlined in those boxes- every line filled in tidy handwriting with different colors of ink. If my planner has extra space I use it to make lists of things I hope to do daily or within the week or for sure that month. I do hourly planning, daily planning, weekly planning, monthly planning, lesson planning and menu planning. I guess you could say I’m a macro and micro planner. It’s not that I’m afraid of the unexpected; it’s just that I am afraid of wasting time or missing opportunities because I didn’t plan well enough.

The irony is that it’s just short of a miracle for life to go as planned in my home. We have such a mixture of ages and stages, not to mention personalities (and pets and plants), and few of them consult my careful planning before throwing their wrenches. Just the other evening, after serenely mapping out how I would orchestrate bedtime to allow for some quiet personal time for me, I was confronted with a plant knocked over and potting soil scattered all across the room, then someone peed on the kitchen floor and then I discovered soiled bedsheets on two beds. In all the hustle and bustle, fluster and frenzy, and all the Plan C’s stepping aside for Plans M-Z, I often wonder if I’m getting anywhere. In an effort to meticulously steward my time, am I actually wasting it?

I am grounded by the concept of layers. I don’t remember exactly when it came to me- perhaps when I was a focused college student or a more grounded teacher or maybe as a mom figuring things out- but it has become a calming mantra in my ever-active brain. And here it is: a little at a time for a long time makes the difference. I have seen it at work with the children. As much as I want to do all the good things with them all the time it’s simply impossible. But if we do one or two things throughout the day or the week, we are still doing good things.

One thing we have started is bedtime memory verses. Every Sunday the children all pick verses to learn that week. We practice them when I’m tucking them into bed at night. It provides a little more individual time and they have God’s word on their mind as they fall asleep. But sometimes we don’t get to the verses because it was a late night or a harried night- and I remind myself: “Layers. We are still doing a little at a time for a long time.”

Something we have been doing for the past 5 years is Family Song. Every month we learn a new hymn together and we sing it every day. Sometimes we don’t get to it or sometimes some don’t want to sing. Rather than get too frustrated I remind myself: “Layers. We are still doing a little at time for a long time.” And that’s how it goes- whether it’s popcorn by candlelight or making a magic cupboard together or birthday stockings or quiet reading times- the traditions, the memories, the relationships are built in layers.

That is also how it is for me as a person and a maturing Christian. I’ll have an epiphany or the proverbial lightbulb will turn on and I’ll start to think I’ve finally arrived in at least one area of my life. And then reality reminds me I still have a long way to go. Of course I’ll first shed some tears but then I wrap myself up in that comforting thought: “Layers. I’m still doing a little at a time for a long time.”

My dear readers, whether you’re an exhausted parent or an overwhelmed college student or a struggling Christian, or simply a human living day to day, I hope you can find encouragement in knowing that life happens in layers.

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Gloss

One of the stickier parts of parenting small children is discerning when to tell them about the darker side of life. Sometimes the harsh realities do the teaching: the smashed opossum in the middle of the road, for instance, or the passing of a dear friend and neighbor. Other things happen organically- they overhear conversations about current events, read books or encounter difficult passages in the Bible. But sometimes we have to do a sit down conversation in order to prepare them for the awful things we hope will never happen: a fire in the house, or a robbery, or a kidnapping. Having to tell them that things like that are possibilities feels like a wrongdoing in and of itself. It’s marring their serene existence and robbing them of some of their innocence. Yet it must be done in a fallen world.

I think that our western society is trying to live in a fantasy world. It’s human nature to desire comfort but we have taken it to the extreme. We can have all apparent needs met by the mere touch of a screen; we can build our own virtual worlds; and we can customize everything to our own unique preferences. We rarely have to say no to ourselves. The problem with this amazing system is that it allows us to pretend that evil doesn’t exist even though it is on a rampage just outside our door. We use big, sterile words that mask what really happens or we assume someone else will take care of it; we see lives fit into an Insta-square or summed up in a 10 second story and we tell ourselves they’re ok; we click on the angry emoji for the bad news that’s shared and feel like we have done our part. But have we REALLY. DONE. SOMETHING?

I understand how overwhelming it is to see evil for what it is. It is much easier to quickly acknowledge it’s there and then resume living in our happy places. Besides, what can we really do anyway? Our own daily problems demand every ounce of energy we have; we don’t have surplus to spare on world problems, right? Perhaps if we listed some of those big, sterile words and then defined them we would see things a bit differently. Read this list and force yourself to see the actions summed up in the word:

  • Abortion
  • Trafficking
  • Betrayal
  • Lies
  • Abuse
  • Exploitation
  • Scheming
  • Slander
  • Rape
  • Murder

All of these and more fall under that neat little word called sin. It’s the perfect gloss for the depravity of human nature. We can nod and admit we have sin in our life and then resume our merry way. But is that what we are supposed to do? With today being Good Friday, this is the ideal time to consider the example of Jesus. He had no sin but during His earthly journey He confronted sin in its most raw form and in the end became sin for our sakes. Let us live as He did: let us remove the gloss, confront the vileness in and around our lives, love our neighbor to the point of sacrifice and, with Christ’s help, change the world- one rescued soul at a time.

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Focus

Very recently I was driving in a rain storm. My wipers were working as hard as they could and every other second I had a clear view of the car’s lights in front of me. The other second it was all a blur mixed with mini waterfalls streaming down my windshield. I sat up as straight as I could with my entire focus on the lights ahead. It was disconcerting whenever I couldn’t see clearly.

Life is that way. Forever swirling through my mind are the must-do’s, should-do’s, and wish-I-could-do’s. I am aware of social expectations and societal pressures. I observe my good motives turn sour as selfishness creeps in or my acts of service become tainted with pride. In the midst of the driving intensity of life, it is easy to panic.

But then I see Christ. At times the clarity of His closeness is second to none- the only thing between us is my humanity. But those moments are fleeting. Most of the time I have faith that He is there because memories of His faithfulness testify to that fact. I see flashes of His goodness like taillights in a storm: indistinct in the swirling rain but guiding lights just the same.

Ironically, as we mature in our faith we will become more adept at recalling His goodness; in doing so His presence becomes more tangible and our faith less shaken in the intensity of uncertainty. And that is my prayer for this season: that when everything in me wants to slow down and only move forward in inches, I will fix my focus on Jesus and allow Him to guide me deftly through the rain.

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Exceptional

Dear Son,

It seems like everything about you has been off the charts since your birth. Yours was my first pregnancy to go to nearly 42 weeks; yours was our first home birth; and you grew and grew and grew until at one point you were in size 7 diapers (I had to search hard for those)! Now, as a brand new 4 year old you wear a size 11 shoe, are wearing 5T clothing and come to your brother’s shoulder (and he is 3 years older than you)!

But it’s not simply your rapid growth rate that astounds us. There’s something about your mind that intrigues us. Your fingers are never still as you explore the textures of anything within your reach. You want to know what the buttons and switches do; and no screw anywhere is safe- sooner or later we will find it somewhere else. The same is true for my kitchen gadgets and Poppa’s tools- under your pillow is often where we can find missing items. While this can be exasperating we know it’s a sign of a sharp mind at work.

I have also witnessed your unique thought process in how you show initiative. You will jump up from the table mid-meal to put something away or to grab something you think we need for the meal that I hadn’t planned on setting out. My reflex is to scold you for leaving the table without permission or to get irritated by the extra items on an already loaded table; but I’m learning to swallow the scoldings and ask questions to find out what you were thinking. It often makes a lot of sense when I see it from your perspective.

I’m seeing that you are an intentional person. Very little is done on a whim. You have usually thought it through and in your mind it’s a purposeful action. You ponder words and soak in the words I use, such as ‘gorgeous,’ ‘beautiful,’ and ‘frustrated’. One such moment stands out to me in particular. I had taken the time to explain to you that you are an important part of our family: when you are kind and obedient our home is a peaceful, happy place but when you are mean or disobedient our home becomes upset and sad. Not too long afterwards you repeated that thought and told me that you are important and when you obey our home is a happy place.

Recently, after praying for wisdom on how to best parent you I was inspired by the thought that investing in you is a worthy investment. One day you are going to be an incredible man; the sweat and tears and the moments that leave me speechless that come with being your mama are all counting towards the stature of your character as a man. Even now I catch glimpses of that when I invite you to help me with something, knowing that it will take two or three times as long to complete because of all the reminders to not touch or fiddle with something without permission. There is a light in your eyes and profuse joy in your soul when we work together. For example, last night you helped with Baby Sister’s bath and were in the process of putting away the shampoo before I had even used it. I reminded you I still needed it and as you brought it back you said, “I love you, Mama!”

Being your Mama is absolutely worth it. There is no one quite like you, Son. You’re exceptional.

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Touching the Sky

It was a Mary Poppins kind of windy day. The wind wrestled with me and my umbrella and tossed down a carpet of leaves on our road. When we saw our neighbors headed to the nearby grassy field with their kite, we were inspired to follow with ours.

Kite-flying was new to me and I assumed that, just like in Mary Poppins, you toss the kite into the air and it soars. Haha! In the midst of tangled string and ribbons, I realized that kite-flying is a negotiating process with the wind. You let your kite go once the wind agrees to play and then you are continuously steering by winding and unwinding the string until it soars.

Just before we had to go in to tend to hungry bellies, we got our kite to soar. Wow! What a thrill! I really felt like I was touching the sky as I guided from earth something in the air. Gazing at that butterfly kite soaring above my head, I recalled an earlier discussion I had had with my husband. We noted the instant age we live in and how it influences our reasoning. We try something and if there isn’t an immediate result we try something else and so on and so forth.

I’ve noticed this tendency in my parenting: I try a new method or strategy and if I don’t immediately get the response I want, I go back to the books and try a new strategy. I’ve noticed this in how I relate to my own person: if I have a breakthrough in understanding a tendency in my character I assume I’ll immediately improve and never have to deal with that issue again; but if I repeat old habits I get frustrated and am quick to throw in the towel. Ha! I even found myself checking to see if our seeds had sprouted 3 days after we had planted them.

Before the microwave era, humans knew that life takes time. Farmers rolled with the seasons; hunters took days to track their prey; mothers made clothes by hand, washed them by hand, and made all their food from scratch. Instant wasn’t an option. Now? Now it feels like if it’s not instant then something is wrong. But I’m trying to shift my perspective these days.

There are times when I discipline calmly; the children all get along; memory verses are shared and songs are sung; we have the perfect balance of work and play. And then there are times when I’m impatient; there’s continual bickering; we can’t stay on track if it’s the last thing we do and no one wants to sit still for Bible time or meals. Does one type of day negate the other? No, both are real and both will be repeated. We must persevere because that’s how life is truly experienced. You see, there are times when the string is all tangled and there are times when you touch the sky.

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For One Moment

It’s about 3:34pm. I have my timer set for 30 minutes of stillness. The three littlest boys are finally asleep while the oldest 3 children are playing relatively amiably outside. The baby was asleep but her tiny eyelids flew open when I attempted to slip out my door to remind the outside explorers to stay outside rather than running in and out to fetch all those last minute things they forgot. Thankfully she is occupying herself with her hands and I am hoping for just one moment of quiet.

It’s been a day…or week, rather. We all know that you can’t trust social media for accurate assessments of a person’s life, nor can you really take an “it’s all good” statement literally. Dig a little deeper and I’m sure you’ll learn that a mom has spent some moments drying lots of tears, many of them her own. That’s been true for me.

Life is good but it’s also hard. Take a look at today: our 3 youngest have been hit hard with pink eye and they feel miserable. It’s been raining for a few days and I want them to play outside but that involves extra mess. Mess=clean up=more time. And my dishes and laundry and general clutter are all piling up as I devote more time to making sure the sick ones get the extra TLC they need and that school gets done. Since my routine is a little different it’s harder for the children to stick with theirs and I wonder if I should be insistent on them getting their tasks done or roll with it and let them play (I actually ponder this every day). But work delayed doubles tomorrow’s tasks and while I know that, they’re still learning that principe which means more energy I’ll need to expend in teaching that lesson. And so my mind spins with all the weighing of possible outcomes of every single decision that must be made each day; there’s rarely any decision that’s easy to make since there are so many moving parts in a family our size.

Well, my timer has rung and after sharing a peek of my stream of consciousness with you, I feel a little more revived. The baby went back to sleep and the house is quiet. A friend is dropping off dinner soon (I’m thankful!!) and…the dog just barked…and the baby is crying…my one moment is over. But before I leave you to begin the next part of my day I want to say that, upon further pondering, it really is all good for oh! the stories I could tell!

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I Don’t Have It All Together…

Birthdays draw me into deeper reflection about the past and the present. This past year something in me changed- or perhaps it was a gradual change that I only noticed this past year. But the timing doesn’t matter; what does matter is that I’m more aware of how time is passing.

On the eve of my birthday I met my face in the mirror and glimpses my 13-year old self. In an instant memories flashed through my brain from that year- memories of thoughts, memories of emotions and memories of experiences. “I still remember you,” I said to my 13-year old self. “And now here you are: a wife, a mom of 7, a friend to many lovely people…well, what do you think? Do you like who you are?” How is it possible to so clearly remember being more than two decades younger? When did those years happen?

And then I look at the people around me and I see that time has not overlooked them either. They are no longer the memories I have of them- they are older or taller or more accomplished or more fragile. And I realize that I cannot spend this life dwelling on mistakes, mine or theirs. There are a myriad of instances from yesterday and over the past decades that I regret. And there are almost as many of which I am satisfied. Of the two options, I want to focus on the latter.

The birthday conclusion I’ve come to is that the nuances of living are happening outside of my line of vision. I might think I know the bigger picture but really, I don’t; after all, I can’t begin to tell you how I spent each minute of the past 8,760 days. And because of this I am thankful that while I don’t have it all together, God does. He faithfully works in the moments between the moments: molding, shaping, guiding, nudging, protecting. He takes my misspoken words, my fumbling fingers, my stumbling toes and my countless face plants and shines His glory through them. He knows exactly how the finished product of my existence will look like and He will accomplish it.

I’m not saying I am going to live flippantly in my new year, not at all. But I am going to live more gently by understanding that every day we each learn a little more about ourselves that we didn’t know before. And I’m going to live less fearfully by remembering that God made me to be me and my place in this world is important and unique.

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Read and Then Read Some More

With February being such a short month, I haven’t begun any new books. I plan to start two new ones and you’ll find out more about them in March. Therefore, for my (slightly belated) nnbnmonthly reading post, I want to share the significance of reading for the human mind and how I have seen that at work in me and my children.

We all know that books take us places and introduce us to worlds we can never physically visit. We also know that they introduce us to concepts and ideas we might not have considered on our own initiative. But have we recognized that reading can add depth and dimension to our ordinary days and, for lack of better terms, multiply our time?

The other day we were driving and the children had brought stacks of books with them for the ride. I heard some giggling coming from the very back of the van and one sibling asked, “what happened?” The giggler proceeded to share a funny antic of Jemima Puddleduck and the inquirer joined in the laughter: “oh yeah!! Jemima!” I continued my listening and then heard my oldest say, “ok, I’m done with this one. Here A, pass it to Shi when you’re done with it. Shi, pass it to Q after that.” “Ok!” Was the answer as books started floating back and forth over heads in the van. I smiled to myself; these stories had come to life to them.

Throughout our day the children will come up and start talking to me about the plots, characters and crises in the books they are reading. They will re-enact the adventures and model their own after the literary ones. And best of all, they are introduced to experiences and worlds that would otherwise be untouched by them. Where else could they become well acquainted with hundreds of unique personalities and be presented with countless situations where their reasoning skills must be challenged? And when we read together we share in these literary memories and adventures together and reflect on them together- all in the course of one day!

Personally, I would live in school if I could. I thrive in the academic environment and I’ve been known to say, “if I could get another degree it would be in…” But that’s for another season of life so I read instead. I long to time travel and since that’s not feasible I read instead. There are places in the world where I still want to visit and until I do I read. And all of this can happen through one book or in one day, depending on how many books in which I read in one day.

If you are reading this blog, you’re probably already a reader- fantastic! If you’re not so much of a reader- grab a book and dive in. If you are a parent, let your children see you reading even if they are not reading yet themselves. Talk about when they do begin to read and set books out for them to look during reading time. Point to words while you read to them and ask them what they think the word says. These things will make reading more natural to them. In our busy world, let’s set aside time to read.

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Toddlers and Human Nature

We have been blessed with toddlers in our home for 6 years in a row. Yes, it is all the loud and messy and unpredictable that you imagine it to be when you hear the word, ‘toddler.’ We have had the toys dropped in the toilet, the cat litter sampled, the poop painting, the tantrums in public, the biting, the nap strikes, and the 24/7 teething terrors. I think by this time we qualify for a “we survived” medal of some sort.

One thing that makes these years quite fascinating to me is how this stage is truly human nature in its rawest form. Toddlers don’t have filters. They are impulse driven and egocentric: it’s all about what feels good in the moment. You’re in my way? No worries- I’ll just shove, bite or hit my way through. I didn’t get what I wanted? No worries- I’ll just scream and throw things and kick my legs to show I feel. You have what I want? No worries- I’ll just yank it out of your hands. Toddlers don’t ask; they take. Toddlers don’t recognize personal space; they climb on you, pull on you, trip you up by clinging to your legs. Toddlers don’t preserve things; they figure out the most efficient way to destroy them. Toddlers don’t listen; they try to be the loudest being in the room.

We all have that inner toddler, don’t we? Any semblance of virtue isn’t there naturally. It’s not our virtuous tendencies we worry about, is it? It’s the toddler ones. We never say, “oops! I just spoke without thinking and said too many kind words” or “I just hugged that person without thinking. My bad.” It’s the opposite: “my temper got the better of me again” or “I shouldn’t have slammed the door in anger” or “I was a little too harsh when I shared my feelings.” It might sound funny to read, but we all know the mayhem that we leave in the wake of our toddler rampages.

So, just like toddlers need consistent training and boundaries, we do too. We need to keep coming back to the Bible, seeking out stillness and faithfully surrendering our will to God’s. Amazingly, He never stops loving us in the midst of our tantrums and mess and mishaps. Huh? That sounds familiar. I can’t help but keep adoring my toddlers, hugging them tight, laughing at their craziness and finding them the most beautiful and fascinating little beings in the world- especially when they’re asleep.

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If Valentine’s Day is About Love…

We had a little party planned for today, the children and I. Over the weekend we baked treats and outlined what we were going to do once school and chores were finished. But then things went awry.

There were misunderstandings and grumpiness and some meanness added to the fray. It was a domino effect and hopes for a party were fading fast. I found some quiet spots to pray and calm my frazzled nerves because I could tell my self-control was fading fast. And during that time I saw that my little ones were struggling just as I was. This was a time to show love through forgiveness and persevering in spite of the fatigue and the splitting headache and the ringing ears.

With a deep breath I reentered the tumult. I taped the torn game board and had a good talk with the most upset child. We began our party games and had so much fun. Eventually, the upset child joined in with a more settled spirit. We ate our treats outside and one of the little boys couldn’t find a place to sit. Our oldest spoke up: “If Valentine’s Day is about love, then I’m going to give him my seat.” And he did.

This Valentine’s Day may not have been all chocolates and hearts and warm, fuzzy feelings but I do think we all experienced a deeper definition of love. We saw firsthand that true love sticks it out when it’s hard, forgives and then has fun together again.

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Enough

“That’s enough. Go to bed! All of you!” I declared in a firm tone. I had a throbbing headache and the bickering and complaining that began when nap time ended had morphed into further chaos. As I clamped my mouth shut so as not to allow my frustration and fatigue to prompt me to say what cannot be unsaid (I’m slowly learning in this area) that word, ‘enough’, floated around my mind.

Enough. I’ve had enough of the quarreling and mean-spirited words being thrown back and forth between my children.

Enough. I’m just not good enough at being a wife and mom. My efforts often face plant in spite of my best efforts.

Enough. There’s just never enough time in a day to accomplish all that I want to do.

Enough. My body can’t seem to keep up with the demands of the day. I just don’t have enough strength or energy or….patience.

But then the word began to change its tune:

Enough. I simply can’t get enough time with my children. Their adorable antics and cute way of articulating their thoughts and their unique interpretation of life- childhood is passing all too quickly.

Enough. Don’t worry about tomorrow for today has enough trouble if it’s own. There is always enough time in a day to accomplish God’s will for those 24 hours. And somehow slowing down enough to laugh or read or play or sing maximizes those hours.

Enough. A gentle answer and a soft touch can be enough to diffuse a lot of anger and frustration. A peaceful home has a way of covering a multitude of wrongs.

Enough. God’s grace is sufficient for me; His power perfected in my weaknesses. There is freedom in this verse for it’s an acknowledgment that I am not enough but He is. I will be inadequate; I will mess up; I will have emotions that are less than peaceful. But He will equip me to be enough, to show my children His love, to enable them to see the power of God overcoming my human weakness.

Enough is truly enough when it comes from Jesus.

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One Day a Memory

There are only 46 weeks left of 2022 (give or take a few days). I’ve been contemplating the passage of time. On those crazy days when naps don’t happen and we just can’t seem to follow our schedule, I remind myself that 18 years from I won’t remember this particularly difficult day. But what do I remember?

I remember the first cry of our first baby…and now he is 7 years old.

I remember the first time, 9 years ago, when I saw my husband.

I remember a conversation I had with my grandma and visits with my great-grandma.

I remember seeing Sami Claus in the village square in Switzerland when I was a young girl.

I remember the taste of Swiss Mac and cheese at the cheese making factory in Appenzell.

I remember how my room was arranged when I was growing up.

I remember the things I played by myself when the neighbor kids didn’t want to play with me.

I remember dreams and nightmares I had when I was small.

I remember the names of all the kittens and bunnies and guinea pigs I had as a child.

I remember the sounds of the ocean.

I remember the rushing wind through the branches as I sat in my favorite tree at the park

I remember journal entries I wrote a decade ago.

And so it goes…layer upon layer of memories. And I wonder: what will I remember about right now? What will my children remember? For one day it will all be a memory.

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Record-Keeper

He gets up early in the morning, sometimes, so he can open up his keepsake chest and pull out our old dog’s collar and leash and remember.

She went through her keepsake bench looking for a journal and found cards from her baby dedication.

They spend hours looking at our photo books and talking about the memories.

An important part of being a homemaker is record-keeping: not just the medical records or the school records or the important certificates, but also those little moments you think you’ll always remember but often forget as one memory builds on another. Some of these might be the funny things said as language is being grasped (“When I’m a parent, I’m going to get a special mop like this one”) or those tiny gestures of compassion (someone did everyone else’s table chores this morning) or daily routines that will suddenly not happen anymore and you kind of miss them.

I write down as much as I can in baby books for those 5 and younger and then I start journals for them. I write in each one once a month. I also write special memories in my journal and make photo books once or twice a year. I make keepsake bins for each child and when they’re old enough they are allowed to add to them and look through them. I also have bins for family keepsakes including special mail. Yes, it’s a lot to keep up with but the investment is worth the effort.

My mom taught me how to journal as soon as I could write and i have journaled ever since. During my college years I did a self-study and read through all my journals in chronological order; I then took note of the patterns and themes in my life and was intrigued to see how my own story had unfolded. As humans we are drawn to keeping a record of our journey. We need to remember what we’ve come through so we can look ahead; we need to chart our progress so we know how much we have grown; we need to recall who we were so we can understand who we are.

If you’re a person, a mom or not, I would encourage you to find a way to keep a record of your life. In a life filled with so many uncertainties, security can be found in noting your milestones. Somehow, record-keeping adds significance to your life and makes your little corner of the world important. Find your story!

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Faithful

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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Sometimes…

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 every.single.day. 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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Interrupted

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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Reflection

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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