A Summer of Savings

I’m doing something different this summer, and I wanted to include you in my challenge. With rising costs in every aspect of life, I am feeling the urgency of saving money even more. This summer I am going to look for ways to spend less and save more. Here are some ideas (some are my own and some I have gleaned from others):

  • See what I can sell and put that money in the bank.
  • Conserve wherever possible: water, electricity, food, school supplies, gas, etc.
  • Avoid new purchases: only buy what absolutely must be bought new.

And here are some strategies I plan to implement in order to stick with the ideas ☝🏻:

  • Shop from my own house before rushing to buy something: I have a lot of extras that I’m not even aware I have. I’d like to practice being resourceful.
  • If I don’t have it at home, then I want to wait and see if I can find it at a thrift store or garage sale. The waiting period may prove I don’t need the item.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle (of course!)
  • Make a memory instead of making a purchase
  • Set a monthly savings goal and celebrate when we reach it.

At the end of each month I’m going to write about how close I got to my goal and what I did that helped accomplish that. Hopefully this will become a habit and last all year. Do you want to join in on the savings fun? Share your ideas!

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The One in the Middle

The other day Simeon and I were hanging out together and I said, “Simeon! Your birthday is on Sunday!” His little face exploded into a smile and he said, “It is?!” And then he shouted to everyone, “My burstday is on Sunday!” In that moment I realized just how adorably young this brand new four-year old is. We have been talking about his birthday all month as a family but he didn’t know it was so close. The concept of time is still developing in this tiny man and there’s something sweet about that. There are many things about this guy that I adore.

His speaking style is second to none in our family. We have talked about making a dictionary just for him because his pronunciation of some words is just so unique and he comes up with creative alternatives too. Here are a few:

  • Youse = your
  • Diarrhea = quesadilla
  • Hurricane = candy cane
  • Fouryee = four
  • Shoryts = shorts

I’m sure one day he will outgrow his style of speaking but I hope it’s not too soon. It just fits him perfectly and I could listen to him talk all day.

His swagger is distinct. He walks with chest out and shoulders back as if to dare anyone to stand in his way. He is always ready to stand his ground, snuggle blanket faithfully by his side. He is a powder keg- a wrong look can result in an explosive outburst. He wastes no time in yelling, “I am so mad right now!” Perhaps being in the middle causes him to feel like he needs to make his presence felt and feelings heard in a way that is stronger than most.

But he is not all bristles. He melts into our arms just as easily as he takes on a fight. He has been known to walk around the house teary-eyed simply because he wants some extra cuddles from Mama or Poppa. The other day I was just sitting and watching him play with his cars and dragons and blocks. He was narrating the plot of his playtime to himself when all of a sudden he said, “I love you, Mom.” In that moment he taught me that he feels loved when I’m just there, focused on him- something almost effortless on my part.

And then there is his mischievous side. His eyes start dancing and a half smile (his dimpled side) appears and we just know a prank is percolating. Before too long, chaos erupts somewhere in the house and a blond head shows up looking as innocent as ever. I try to laugh most of the time but there are days when I do wish he was as innocent as he looks.

We could have stopped at two boys and two girls but I sure am glad that God blessed us with this little man in the middle. He keeps us laughing and cuddling and praying for patience, just what we need to be the parents he needs.

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In Training…Always

Today is Mother’s Day. Since it isn’t my first one, I kept my expectations very low and only requested a picture with all 8 and time to write. The photo shoot was a circus and I’m writing this blog in the midst of nap-less toddlers roaming the house. I’ve shed a few tears of frustration but only a few. You see, I’m in training and they are too and that’s life in a nutshell. Is it a bad thing? I don’t think so. We grow in the process.

Our golden retriever was about 6 months old when I bought a harness for him that said: IN TRAINING. He was large for his young age; when we took him out and about I wanted people to know he was still a puppy and needed a little extra patience from them. It was also a reminder for me too- when he pulled too hard on the leash or couldn’t control his bladder when he got excited or chewed something up. If I remembered he was still in training, it was easier for me to be patient with him.

This imagery came to my mind recently on a particularly trying day. Rarely does a day go by without one person being a challenge and my feeling like I could have handled the challenge with a calmer, more thoughtful approach. But if I remember that my children are still new to this earth and learning how to regulate their emotions and interact with their environment, patience and compassion assist in restraining my emotional reactions.

Following this thought I noticed that memories made and lessons learned from my own childhood were more frequently visiting my thoughts. I can honestly say I have not thought about my childhood training as much as I have now- just a few years shy of 40. It makes the proverb ring true: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old [grown], he will not depart from it.” Not only are my children in the training years for now and years to come, I am too. Parenthood is not something you can study for ahead of time; it is on-the-job training in every sense of the term. Each day I am a little more practiced in some respects and a novice in others. Embracing these training years can help me laugh at the mishaps and be peaceful in the tumult.

I am comforted by the knowledge that I may not see fruit or even buds from my efforts with my children for years to come. What matters is that I am consistent in doing what I know is right and surrendering to the training process in my own life. Being a mother isn’t just about pointing my children to Jesus; it’s about following Him myself. And that’s a humbling thought.

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Like Sand

The first week of March I celebrated another year of life. The next day I birthed a new life. Two days later I had a brush with death and spent several days in the hospital, including three days in the ICU. Those days away from my family and the following weeks altered my perspective on being alive.

I was keenly aware of being separated from my children, especially my newborn. Separation was the farthest thing from my mind when I was planning my postpartum recovery. A sterile hospital room was a far cry from my cozy home and cuddling with my baby in his first days of life. By the time I could cuddle with him he was nearly a week old and that hurt so much. When I did get home, everyone seemed taller and more capable; I wrestle with those lost days.

On a daily basis we hear of tragedy: lives gone in a heartbeat or calamity leaving devastation in its wake. Tragic news has become so commonplace that I had almost become desensitized to it; my sympathy almost rote. But as the ER team worked to save my life, I encountered my vulnerability and in an instant felt the fragility of my existence. I was one missed heartbeat away from death and there was nothing I could do about it. And if I was that fragile, my existence that temporary, what does that mean for my husband? My children? My siblings? My parents? Everyone I hold close and who they hold close?

There’s a juxtaposition in my mind consisting of my newest son’s birth and the tenuous thread upon which life hangs. There is such power in the transition from unborn to born; in terms of distance , it is a relatively short journey but the process is complex. And yet everything in the process is designed to bring that life into the world. It’s powerful and miraculous and intricate. It is this complexity that builds within me a yearning to value each moment of existence.

At times it hurts to think of the days we won’t get back. For instance, I can’t get back those days when my baby was two, three, and four days old and I wasn’t able to see him because I was in the ICU. My littlest girl matured so much while I was in the hospital and I missed that process too. I worry about my parents getting older and they live so far away; all of those days apart between annual visits are days forever gone and not shared. As sand slips through our hands only leaving a few grains on our fingertips, so time moves on with only a few moments fully developed into lasting memories.

A friend reminded me that as finite human beings we will never be able to be as present in each moment as we want to be and that requires some acceptance. However, intentional living can be accomplished to some extent: take mental pictures of those ordinary moments that have become so dear. Today I took one of my mom’s profile as she sat by me in church; I took another one of my newborn’s toes pressed against the palm of my hand; and I took several mental photos of my baby girl practicing her toddling steps. I am tuning into my toddlers’ darling ways of talking and our older children’s silly jokes; I am appreciating that I can soothe a sick child’s worries and can tuck everyone into bed at night.

Sand might be slipping through my fingers but I am making sandcastles along the way.

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A Rainy Easter

Most Easters in my memory are filled with sunny skies, the scent of lilies, and brunches surrounded by spring breezes. I always thought it was fitting to have sunshine pouring down on a day symbolizing hope and new life; just as an overcast day would sober the spirit on Good Friday.

But this Easter we drove to church under cloudy skies, chill winds and rain spattering our windshield. We had planned to pour out of the van singing songs and ringing bells but instead we had to hurry inside after unloading by the church entrance. It was different and somewhat unsettling for my spirit; I struggled to focus on the main point of the day as I wondered if everyone was prepared for the change in weather. But isn’t that how it is?

This Easter I know of several friends carrying heavy heart loads. I have some burdens of my own. And truth be told, rarely is there an ideal time to enter into our faith. Just today I spent the bulk of the service out in the lobby soothing the baby to sleep and I wasn’t the only mom out there. The fact is that our faith is user friendly. It can withstand every day wear and tear as well as the unexpected: the trials and tragedies of a sin-marred world.

The rain today didn’t rewrite history: the cross is still empty and the tomb barren. We can rejoice in life-giving hope even as we mourn or fall in a crumpled, exhausted heap at our Savior’s feet. Ours is a living joy on rainy Easters and sunny ones.

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Like Sacrifices

I’ve been wrestling with this blog for some time. The concept of sacrificial living has been pressing heavier on my heart and I would like to share what I am discovering: not because I’m perfectly applying it but because it is important and I want to get better at it. Over the past two months we have been abundantly blessed by people willing to sacrifice their time and resources for our benefit, and our pastor’s sermons have had the theme of sacrifice woven throughout. Let’s take a deeper look.

In one sermon our pastor mentioned that we have all been given time, talents and treasure. As Christians submitted to the lordship of Christ, these all belong to Him. Upon hearing this I adamantly agreed, but then I wondered how that fleshes out for someone like me- I’m pretty much at home during the week; I don’t have any sparkling talents to speak of; and my hobby businesses aren’t lucrative enough to save a starving child in Africa. In other words, am I really a living sacrifice candidate? I’ve been considering what sacrifice looks like in my life.

1. Sacrifice can involve seeing others. During my hospitalization in March, and the following weeks of anxiety, pain, and depression, my thoughts frequently drifted to others who were suffering or who had suffered and I found a unique empathy for them that I previously had not felt. I realized that sometimes the stony path needs to be felt beneath my feet for me to grasp a little more of what it’s like in someone else’s shoes. It’s easy to make sweeping judgments about someone else’s experiences and how I think I would handle things if I was in their place; it’s easy to be consumed by my own hardships and tune out the pain in my neighbor’s life; it’s hard to discipline my emotions and thoughts enough to make room for the struggles of the people next to me. That’s sacrifice.

2. Sacrifice means choosing joy. I won’t lie. I like to wallow: in self-pity; in fatigue; in pessimism; in a negative mindset. But when I wallow I bring everyone in my home down with me. Basically, I rob them of a good day. There are days when I have to grit my teeth and get moving, doing the right thing and speaking with the right tones. It’s a choice that involves sacrifice because it is often the last thing my flesh wants to do.

3. Sacrifice puts “self” in the appropriate perspective. I have value; however, I am quick to assume that putting others first equates to devaluing my life. But my life does have value because Christ claims me as His own. Playing the martyr every day does not bring glory to God or promote a joyful atmosphere but living in the knowledge of my eternal value does. When I set my mind on praising God for His sacrifice, it brings joy to follow in His steps for those around me. And that is sustainable sacrificial living.

After ironing out my thoughts in this blog, I think that there is ample opportunity for me to live a sacrificial life. My prayer is that Christ will equip me to do just that every day.

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Live It Up!

It’s my 38th birthday. I always reflect deeper on my birthday and even more so as I prepare for the imminent arrival of my 8th child. I find that birthdays and BIRTH days automatically cause me to evaluate where I’ve been, who I am, and what’s next.

Motherhood is currently my primary occupation. It’s not a glamorous one: my days are usually filled with cleaning up spills, repeating instructions, breaking up fights, washing smelly laundry, scraping dirty dishes, wiping running noses, changing stinky diapers, unclogging toilets…well, you get the idea. It’s a far cry from a decade and more ago.

Back in my previous life I traveled frequently, even to Europe multiple times. I worked with fascinating people on a beautiful tropical island. I focused completely on my higher education, earned multiple degrees, received accolades as a teacher, had a career plus side jobs, and poured myself into ministry. It was a rich, amazing life that revolved around my interests and passions. At times I wonder if I shouldn’t have seized even more opportunities when I had the chance to do so. Now I’m focused on juggling: juggling household tasks with newborn schedules with teaching my children with my own hobbies when I have a spare second.

This morning over a yummy birthday breakfast I intentionally absorbed the chance to study each face around the table. I listened to my husband singing to me and strumming on the ukulele. All of our people were smiling and clapping and celebrating with me; each one unique and a story unfolding. He and I have given up so much time together because we are parents. We don’t go out much or have the chance to indulge our whims and fancies. We frequently feel like we are parents first and marriage partners second. Should we have done more before this life began?

Society tells young people to live it up when they have the chance. Before the babies and the burdens of family life begin they should play all they can and enjoy the freedom of no responsibility. Maybe that’s all true. But to me that portrays the fun as the real living. You see, in the midst of my single life I was really just killing time as I waited for my heart’s desire to begin: a handsome husband with whom to raise a family.

Flipping back through the pages of the past we see that pivotal history wasn’t made by people living for fun; what was significant in positive ways came from those living with intention. Self-sacrifice is a requirement when raising a family but that is true of any investment worth making. One day I will catch a glimpse of each of these children leaving their mark in our world and I’ll know that these years were the ones when I was truly living it up.

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Every Day Grace

We have behavioral regressions happening in our home. Issues we thought had been resolved are cropping up again and are dominating our days. They affect everyone; no man is an island and the misbehavior of one truly does impact everyone around them.

I’m not immune to the parenting posts and blogs and books and the impression they give that if I follow a few certain steps my children will immediately respond favorably. And if they’re not responding? Well, that must mean there’s an error in my parenting strategies somewhere. But when my mind slips on that mental slide, I have to quickly rein it in and face the facts: my children are human and humans are sinners and sinners need a Savior. At this point, the majority of them have no inclination to curb those carnal impulses. If they want something, they yank it away from someone else. If they’re angry, they scream or throw something. If someone hurts them, they hurt back. Self dominates in those adorable little bodies and we all know it. The parents’ responsibility is to create the boundaries of behavior and consistently enforce them.

And there are days when that goes well. I see progress in myself and them as I accept the training process and respond to their struggles with compassion and gentleness. And then there are days when I’m back to the beginning and it seems like all of the old habits have returned: in them and me. Their misconduct is met with frustration and impatience on my part and we face off with determined glares and rigid posture. After a flurry of warnings and consequences, no one feels peaceful inside.

It’s following times like that when I’m reminded of how much I’m included in the first paragraph of this blog post. The flesh versus spirit battle that I see so vividly in my offspring is a daily constant for me as well; I just tend to mostly gloss over it with creative excuses. The fact is that this daily battle with sin is opportunity for daily doses of grace- for them and me. This doesn’t mean that sinful behavior is excused or given room to flourish; it does mean that steps off the path are met with compassion and grudges aren’t held.

Romans 8 has a long list of things that won’t separate us from the love of God once we are His. I think I need to make a similar list for my children. Nothing can separate them from my love: neither temper tantrums nor broken treasures, neither thrown objects or screaming, neither neglected chores or routine late night wake-ups, neither sibling squabbles or endless complaining. This isn’t so much a reminder for them as it is for me. Just as God doesn’t hold my hourly failures against me because of His great love for me, I need to show continual grace towards my children because of my unconditional love for them.

Romans 8 also holds that beautiful reminder of all things working together for good- and every day there is some good to hold on to. Perhaps it’s belly laughing together or genuine interest in family worship or children playing amiably together, or a hilarious story being shared or a moment of quiet in the house. The good is there and is just as valid and real as the things that are less than favorable. Remembering the good when I engage with my children is another form of grace upon grace.

I cannot hold my children to a standard of perfection; neither can I hold myself to that standard either. But every day I need to encourage each of us to keep moving forward because God’s grace allows us to not call it quits.

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And Then There Was You

Our precious second daughter,

Here you are on your sixth birthday. In some ways, six is still such a little girl. And you are such a little girl: you love bright, shiny things; you enjoy dressing up and getting new shoes; you take such wonderful care of your baby dolls and stuffed animal friends; you set up wonderful tea parties with your big sister.

But when I reflect on you as a baby and then a toddler, six seems like such a mature age. And you have matured in extraordinary ways! You have gone from the immobility of infancy to riding your bike, swimming like a dolphin, dancing, climbing and swinging. You have gone from the dramatics of a toddler to being a dependable helper. You no longer use your voice to scream your emotions; instead, you sing during your devotions, eagerly read to us from the Bible, and ask many questions. You have an irreplaceable spot in our family and have coined many terms and phrases that only work when you say them.

While I do wistfully recall your months of babyhood and regret how quickly they passed, I find this stage of your girlhood a sweet one. I soak in your spontaneity and treasure your tight embraces, especially when they’re paired with those timeless words: “I love you SO much, Mama.” I hope you never stop dancing or helping or singing or giggling or dressing up or offering your sweet words of encouragement.

I’m thankful you will be six for an entire year,


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Wrapping Up the Old Year

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever…to Him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.”

It’s that time of year when we look ahead and reflect on what’s to come. A new year is the ideal opportunity for a fresh start, a do-over in certain areas, a blank slate, a calendar of unlimited potential, a goal-maker’s dream. But what do we do with the old year?

It hardly seems fair to toss it in the trash heap of worn out years or to kick it aside as 12-months of failed tries or to forget about it as we jump into something new. It’s part of the history that makes us who we are; we can’t change it and, while some aspects might be nice to forget, I’m sure there are things about it worth remembering. I have a suggestion.

Let’s wrap up our old year as a gift to the new. Psalm 136 is a recounting of God’s wondrous deeds for His people. Each attribute and action listed is followed up with the fact that His love endures forever. But I like to remember the “behind the scenes” of these magnificent deeds: desperate situations, messy moments, failed promises and broken people. In spite of all the havoc of humanity on history, God’s love endures forever.

As I prepare for the bright, shiny, promising year that’s only days away, I want to gift myself the hope that flows from one year to the next. When remembering 2022, my mind immediately jumps to all the mishaps and mistakes but I do want to push beyond them to see how God came through for me. Mercy, forgiveness, inexplicable joy, unexpectedly good outcomes abound- all testimonies of His love enduring forever. What a memorable Christmas gift!

When you are tucking your gifts under the tree, will you add your old year too?

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The Value of Tradition

Simplifying the holidays is trending these days. My newsfeed is filled with moms talking about how they are de-stressing the season by nixing many familiar traditions. Some are finding alternatives to gifts; others are not mailing out cards; and a few aren’t even bringing out the tree and decorations. As I’m prone to do, I start comparing my thoughts and opinions and lifestyle with what I see on social media so I’ve been thinking more about our holiday traditions.

It sounds appealing to not be stressed- this time of year or ever. But is tossing out tradition truly the remedy for stress? I remember when, in my early adult years, my family decided to not do Christmas gifts anymore. I felt very sad about it because seeing the surprise and delight when my loved ones opened up their gifts from me was one of my favorites dimensions of Christmas. This year my mom sent a video of my childhood home all decorated and a flood of pleasant memories filled my mind as I recalled the stories associated with those familiar decorations and helping her decorate as a child. I think traditions anchor our lives in a changing world.

During Communion at church this morning, I reflected on all the traditions God has instituted for His people: the festivals and feasts and celebrations and daily reminders. The annual repetition of these events refreshes in our minds what is significant in this life. This is crucial in a time when anything traditional is considered a hindrance, a robber of self-fulfillment. On the contrary, however, traditions link us to our past and connect us with our faith, family and friends. Traditions add meaning to our existence as we carry on what was done by our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so forth.

This does not mean that every Christmas we have to do it all: mail 500 cards, make 20 cookie recipes, give presents to every person we have ever known, put up Pinterest-worthy decorations, and attend all the parties. But I think with careful evaluation and discussion we can find a way to curate traditions that will cultivate a heritage of tradition for the next generations to carry on. Here are some suggestions for how to do that:

  • Before cutting a tradition, talk to family members about it. Consider their love languages. Different traditions speak differently to each individual and you don’t want to nix something that holds deep meaning to someone else.
  • Write down priorities. Are nightly Advent readings a must-do? What about time with friends? Staying connected with long distance loved ones? After you have made your list, start jotting down ways you can touch on each priority without being overloaded. Maybe bake 4 recipes instead of 10? Or attend one social event instead of 5? Set a price cap on what you’ll spend on each child, for example.
  • Put a pause on regular routines. You can put on hold the things you do all the rest of the year in order to make room for your festive plans.
  • Linger over some things. We have decided to do 3 days of Christmas so we aren’t trying to cram all the special things into one day.
  • Start early. I set a goal to get our cards going in November and to have all the shopping done by the first week of December. This gives me a chance to work on mailing and wrapping at a less frantic pace.

Ultimately, each family needs to determine what works the best for them. A few things done very well can be more memorable than a packed schedule easily forgotten in years to come. But more than anything: make traditions and keep them. There is more value in repetition than we may ever realize.

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In But Not Of

I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase. It’s one thing to apply it to myself; it’s another to apply it to a household. Two key events brought this more recently to my mind: Disney’s defiance against traditional values was one and the other was Halloween.

This year Disney has openly declared its support of the LGBTQ+ agenda and that not only do they support it, they will also be promoting it in their upcoming films. Suddenly I started to notice Disney’s influence everywhere I turned: music, toys, bumper stickers, food labels, clothing, people’s vacation plans. Disney is iconic and has woven itself into the fabric of our society. It is truly a household name; so many of our fond childhood memories involve something Disney; whether it be Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore or Mickey Mouse or all those classic friends such as Lady and the Tramp, Dumbo, or Copper and Todd. I’m sure you can add to that list of memories. And don’t we all want to pass them on to our children? But does including some Disney in our life mean that we are celebrating them?

When Halloween rolled around this fall, our children were more aware of it than ever before. They couldn’t help but be intrigued with something that even friends at church participate in. There’s a thrill that comes with candy and dressing up and being a little scared. But they also don’t like the horror and gore that lines store shelves and neighborhoods. This time I did a bit of research and discovered the original religious roots of this holiday. It turns out that All Hallow’s Eve (Oct. 31st) is a time to remember the eternity of our souls and the certainty of death so each child held a lit candle and we read in Revelation about the White Throne of Judgment:

November first is All Saint’s Day and we made soul cakes with holes in the middle. We remembered the martyrs and missionaries who dedicated their lives to telling others about the gospel. We discussed how every person is empty until we surrender our lives to Jesus and He fills us.

The third day of observation is All Souls Day. The children drew pictures about people who impact their lives and also drew about the people with whom they want to share Jesus:

I hope that we can build on this new fall tradition and I am also thinking that I can apply what I learned from my efforts to other aspects of this world. Perhaps I can take the evil of this society we live in and use it as opportunity for teaching our children about what we truly believe. Maybe there are ways to enjoy the nostalgia of Disney without supporting them financially or endorsing their messages; maybe there are ways for our family to be familiar with what is trending so that we can engage our neighbors in discussions that take us all a little deeper in thought. Maybe.

I’m starting to conclude that the key to being in and not of is being the salt and the light within the world. Just as salt brings flavor and light provides contrast, in a world that has nothing but emptiness to give our presence can offer comfort and hope because we are not of it. We are certain of what is not seen.

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Wasn’t it just yesterday that I met you for the very first time?

Wasn’t it just last night that I dressed you in my doll’s pajamas?

Wasn’t it just this morning that I peeked into your bassinet and felt such awe that you were mine?

Wasn’t it just this afternoon when we sat in the shade and you cooed a story to the fluffy clouds floating by?

Wasn’t it just yesterday when you decided to walk?

Wasn’t it just last night when you moved from your crib to your big girl bed?

Wasn’t it just this morning when you showed me you could read from your Bible?

Wasn’t it just this afternoon that you learned to ride your bike?

Seven years of yesterdays have charmed me with your graceful, loving presence in my life.

Tomorrow will present us with an elegant young woman who is skilled in caring for a home, loving on children, immersing herself in a good book and pursuing Jesus. I’m so thankful we have today to get there.

I love you, my little girl. Happy birthday!

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A Lantern in her Hand:

A reflection on the novel written by Bess Streeter Aldrich

I met a kindred spirit last month. We have nothing in common: she lived in the 1800’s, was a pioneer living in a sod house, helped build a state, lived through 3 wars, and is a fictional character. But somehow my heart understood hers completely.

Throughout the passing weeks I’ve mused about how often Abbie Deal comes to mind. What did I learn from her? Why did she impact me so much? How can I emulate her? To answer those questions, I need to share an important detail about Abbie: she had dreams. Since she was a small child she wanted to be famous and beautiful and talented. She adored singing, valued refinement, and cared about her appearance. For love’s sake, she turned down one marriage proposal that could have given her all of her dreams almost instantly and accepted another marriage proposal that gave her a soddy house on a prairie and five children to birth and raise in it. Without complaint, she embraced her life and tucked away her dreams for a more opportune time.

But she never forgot her dreams and as they hid in her heart they became a part of all she did without her even realizing it. Each one shaped her perspective of the staggering trials she endured and influenced how she cultivated her home and children. She found poetry on the prairie, taught her children to value the arts and found a way to make even the soddy house pretty. And her dreams were fleshed out in her children. Each time she intentionally brought her dreams to mind and reflected on her longing to experience them, tears would come to my eyes for those moments revealed her humanity.

Abbie Deal taught me something. She taught me that our dreams make us who we are; not by relentlessly pursuing them but by simply not letting them go. Contemporary society tells us that we must live out our dreams no matter the cost to our family or our souls; we might not realize how high a price we paid for those dreams until it is too late. What contemporary society doesn’t teach us, is that our dreams can come alive in intangible ways. They can influence our approach to living: how we walk and talk, work and play, think and decide. Dreams become a part of our identity and influence how we interact with our world and how it interacts with us.

Ironically, this staunchly pioneer woman wasn’t real in the sense that I could find her gravestone in Nebraska. But she was real in every other sense of the word. I ached in her pain, joined in her joy, struggled in her exhaustion and felt her despair in the core of my being. When she was on the cusp of womanhood, Abbie Deal didn’t realize her dreams would never be realized as she imagined they would; as life unfolded, they inspired her to keep going. It wasn’t until the end that she saw the completed picture and reflected:

“You can’t describe love…and you can’t define it. Only it goes with you all your life. I think that love is more like a light that you carry. At first childish happiness keeps it lighted, and after that romance. Then motherhood lights it and then duty, and maybe after that sorrow. You wouldn’t think that sorrow could be a light…But it can. And then after that, service lights it. Yes…I think that is what love is to a woman: a lantern in her hand.”

It was her dreams that enabled her to love and that love was what made all the difference. It enabled her to sacrifice, to be loyal, to create, to persevere, and to be uniquely herself. All things I want to be and do in my world, nearly two centuries later. I want to be understanding of the young dreamers living with stars in their eyes and I want to be compassionate towards the elders among us, with that distant look in their eyes as they relive the past over and over again. I want to hold that lantern in my hand so that when I am on my deathbed I can smile and slip away, enfolded in the memories of a life well lived.

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Baby Girl

All week long your siblings have been anticipating your birthday and this morning one of your brothers woke up saying, “Mom! Today Tehillah is one!” This is just one tiny reflection of the adoration that is felt for you by every member of this household.

The 10.5 months leading up to your birth were a roller coaster. There were many health concerns ranging from me getting hit in the stomach with a swing to having COVID just a month and half before you were born. And your birth itself was not easy and took some time for me to process before moving on. All of this drifts through my mind as I look at you today on your birthday. And then I remember even more.

Gazing at you for the very first time and instantly knowing you were a girl; discovering you were born en caul (what a miracle for me!); relishing how we could already communicate with you during those first hours and days after birth because you studied our faces so closely; taking those days, weeks and months slowly because I finally grasped how rapidly they pass; not feeling guilty for snuggling with you in bed during those late night and early morning hours – right up until…well…I haven’t stopped, actually.

And then there’s that timeless process of growing acquainted with a brand new soul: observing you as you observe the world. I have savored everything from your first time seeing bubbles to the development of your unique interactions with each older sibling to learning that you don’t like to sit in grass to finding out that you prefer food with spice over bland food. You explore your surroundings with your fingertips and the tip of your tongue; so much so that your hands’ resting position is pointer fingertip touching thumb fingertip. Your presence has proven to me that no baby is a rote experience- even the seventh one in seven years.

Every time you snuggle your head into Poppa’s shoulder in your special way or shine your brightest smile at me and lift your arms to be picked up or sing and babble while you play with your little basket of toys or I am still able to slip your tiny feet into size 3-6 months shoes, I give God the highest praise for keeping His plan for our family filled with His wise surprises. These past 365 days with you in our family have been lovely.

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Under the Influence

I started on Facebook about 20 years ago. A friend introduced me to it and helped me navigate the set up. I was excited because it felt like my entry into the popular world. I was always a little on the wallflower side growing up- clueless to what was trending. I found it fun to be able to connect and share my life with others and get instant feedback. Gradually I branched out from scrolling and posting to playing FarmVille, making and joining groups, using it as a business platform, making purchases, sharing and affirming beliefs and values, and then finally making the jump to Instagram about 5 years ago.

Instagram appealed to me because of its artistic side. It was fun to see what was trending in women’s fashions, home decor and baby products. I discovered small shops I liked and wanted to support. I developed a knack for turning photo posts into mini narratives about our life. I appreciated that Instagram was more informative and less political than Facebook had become.

Recently, however, a new thought crept into my mind: how much of my mind is my own? Unbeknownst to me I have begun to incorporate so much of what I see on social media into how I live; of course, everything aligns with our family values and convictions but it’s still been absorbed by me from social media. And so I pondered further. Is this what is happening to our society? Have we become “click happy” and “scroll addicted”? Can we think for ourselves or generate our own ideas without first viewing it on a screen?

I’ve begun to wonder if the present generation thinks life only happens if it’s been Facebook approved or influencer promoted. Meals are captioned; events are shared; products are modeled; current events are evaluated; parenting is taught; advice is given. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that unless we can no longer live our lives without doing it or worse, no longer think for ourselves. Social media users must be cognizant of the fact that much of what is on social media is propaganda and opinion but it is being embraced as gospel: it’s what everyone is doing…thinking…believing and so it must be right.

I see many productive uses for social media. I don’t plan to remove it from my life entirely. I think I am going to exercise restraint on how much I consume of it and balance my usage of it with reading books, listening to podcasts, and being quiet. My brain needs a chance to think critically, evaluate objectively and create its own perspectives. I want to know that I’m decorating my home according to my own taste and style; parenting according to my own intuition; living according to my personality- not because it’s trending on social media.

We are influenced every day by someone or something. Let’s be more aware of the influencers in our lives. Let’s practice thinking for ourselves and articulating fresh ideas.

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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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Joy! Joy! Joy!

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

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

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

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

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

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What I’m Reading in December

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hop over to my Bookshelf page for my book reviews.

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A Dishwasher and a Manger

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

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

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

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

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

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A Poem About Us

One- we have just begun

Two- it’s really too few

Three – Yippee!!!

Four- we need some more

Five- our house is alive!

Six – come join the mix!

Seven- a little bit of heaven.

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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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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 a Side Note

Hello Readership,

I am working on a blog post that has been simmering in my mind for a few weeks; I am taking a little rabbit trail to share my hobby shops with you. At a time like this when everyone is trying to conserve and spend less or find creative ways to cover or reduce their expenses, I don’t like to push my businesses on anyone. But I do like to spread the word that I have them so you can check them out if you’re interested.

The first business is my book shop. I’m a consultant with PaperPie (formally Usborne Books). Their books and learning tools are outstanding! Adults and children alike can enjoy them as they make learning a favorite pastime. I have a book group on Facebook and also offer a subscription book club as well as a book review team starting up in May. You can view my website here: https://j13868.paperpie.com

The second business has been a part of my family for nearly a decade. When I was expecting our first child, I joined DoTERRA as a wellness advocate because I wanted cleaner alternatives for supporting my family’s health. The items from this company are now woven into almost everything aspect of our life. We use them for health support, sanitizing, cleaning, hygiene, and ambience. If you’d like to peruse my website, visit here: https://www.doterra.com/US/en/site//liverealpruitt

My funnest shop is my thrift boutique. This is on Facebook at Unique Finds Pop-Up Boutique. On a monthly basis I update my inventory with, well, unique finds from thrift stores and garage sales and other random places. I also welcome vendors to come and sell their unique inventory. If you would like to know more about this shop or any of my businesses, email me at shelbysuniquefinds@gmail.com

Thanks for reading! More blogs to come!

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I Love You and I Like You

Here we are again: another birthday and you’re one year older than I can believe. This birthday seems extra poignant to me because you’re now only two birthdays away from being a decade in age. And two isn’t very much. My thoughts have frequently been drifting to the drama of your birth, remembering what was going on during each of the 3 days leading up to your appearance.

And now here we are…eight…YEARS…later. You have seven younger siblings who consider you their king (a lot of the time; other times they’re in rebellion); your nights are usually booked as you squirrel away with your favorite reading material (I find your books tucked into the most random places in your room); you can ride your bike with no hands, practice holding your breath under water, and enjoy archery; and you ask Jesus to help you have the right attitude in school.

I am proud of your physical stature and accomplishments but I’m most in awe of your inquisitive mind. You crave knowing- not just about the world around you but about the God who created it all. Your mind doesn’t rest on this planet either. Nope. You’re already exploring the planets we know about and the ones we don’t and pondering the complexities of the sun. And while you’re in the heavens, you’re also drifting in thought to the new heaven and the new earth we are eagerly anticipating together.

From the moment I met you eight years ago, I knew you were one of my favorite people in the world. Each day only confirms that fact. I love you not simply because you’re my flesh and blood but because you are uniquely yourself. You are content to be yourself while still knowing there are areas where you need to grow in skill and good character. But my affection doesn’t stop with loving you; I really, really like you too. I think your jokes are hilarious, your ideas are brilliant, and your verve for life inspirational.

I would go through the drama of your birth all over again in order to be your,


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I Like Five

Today we have a brand new five-year old in the house. Our Shilo has been a part of the family for half a decade. This boy is a little bit of an enigma to me. Sometimes I feel like I know him very well; other times he seems so mysterious to me. At times, I think he is just as baffled about himself. I decided to sit down and have an interview with my little fellow.

Question: What do you like about yourself?

Answer: I like when I obey Poppa and Mama. I’m good at doing puzzles.

Question: What is the best story?

Answer: Curious George books. I like how he does funny and curious stuff- like how he tried to clean up the juice he spilled but he couldn’t.

Question: Is there something you want to do better when you are 5?

Answer: Read!

Question: If you could only do one thing all day, what would it be?

Answer: Open my birthday stocking.

Question: Tell me about your family.

Answer: I like doing special things with my family like open presents, do puzzles with them, play games.

The entire time I was conducting the interview he was climbing the side of his bunk bed and jumping sideways onto a mattress on the floor. His sister was whispering her answers to the questions into my ear. But his responses were heartfelt and I enjoyed that focused time with him.

When I look at him, I see a little boy who really wants to do the right thing but whose body just gravitates to the thrill of disobedience. I see a little boy who truly values pampering his mama with flowers and foot rubs but sometimes just needs to destroy something. When I see Shilo, I see a little boy who wants to know how everything works but sometimes forgets that not everything is meant to be taken apart. I see a little boy who knows how to gently cuddle his newborn brother but sometimes forgets his own strength when he is playing rough with his other siblings. When I look at this brand new five-year old boy, I see a miraculously complex human being who is helping me grow in wisdom, patience and love.

Shilo reminds me of the reality of the human experience. Both sides of him are equally real and throughout his day he needs a mama who loves and praises and forgives him consistently: just like I need that from Christ as I live out my own human experience.

I am so very thankful to be the mama of this fantastic boy.

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