Miracle of Motherhood! Miracle of Manhood!

As a woman, there are times we think we have it so hard.  There are so many physical discomforts and inconveniences we have to face.  There are all those emotional whirlwinds and roller-coasters.  So, we complain.  We forget about our men who quietly go to work every day without complaining.  I have a man like that; he goes to work every day, getting up in the dark and returning home to the dark, after a long commute.  He doesn’t complain.  He is greeted frequently by a messy house, a wife trying to get supper ready, a fussy baby, fighting kids, NOISE!  He doesn’t complain.  He takes the fussy baby and changes her.  “Dives” right into restoring peace between the boys, gives his wife a hug and kiss, and then finally changes from his dress clothes to comfortable wear.  That’s my man!  I know; I do have it so good!

As a woman though I can focus on the discomforts and inconveniences, or I can focus rather on all the blessings and miracles of motherhood.

How incredible it is to feel new life growing within.  Amazement!  A tender little life being shaped within my body, nurtured by my body.  Tenderness and awe feel my senses as I gently caress my belly and speak loving words to a child growing within yet unseen.  What a miracle this thing called life is!  A miracle to think that within my body can grow a new and separate life!

Then the day comes when labor pains hit.  Anguish and waves of pain roll over my body.  My body works to bring new life into the world.  Agony gives way to exhilaration.  I hold a new life within my arms.  I gaze in wonder at each perfect little finger and toe.  I run my finger gently over my baby’s downy head.  The wonder of motherhood!

There follow the sleepless nights and soreness.  Even in that, I am filled with delight as I hold someone so tiny and yet so amazingly “perfect” in my arms!  I am in love!

Soon my little one begins to reach her hands to touch my face.  She gazes in wonder at me — even if another is holding her.  She loves me too!

Each day as I repeatedly nurse her, I can only describe it as exquisite and precious.  What wonder it is to cradle my babe within my arms, to hear her suck  and know that my body is once again supporting her life!  What delight it is to watch a drop of milk roll down her cheek as she pulls off to look up at me and gives me a smile that can only be described as pure joy.  My heart melts as she cuddles against me and tries to hug me.  Laughter bubbles over as she giggles while I tickle her.  Gentle love warms me as I run my finger across her plump cheek.  Thankfulness fills my heart as I watch her look of complete delight as her daddy cups her face in the palm of his hand.  How she loves him!  How he loves her!

What a miracle it is to be a mother!  What a miracle it is to be a father!  Such tender gifts we have been given.

Boycott the Book?

I have read many parenting books.  I have learned many things from them.  Sometimes though, parenting books can be discouraging at best.  Sometimes, I feel like boycotting them altogether.  I wouldn’t because I know that a wise person does not close themselves off to truth.  Yet, these books are ideas — ideas from men.  Because of that, the reader must read with discernment.  People are also unique and with souls so formulas aren’t full-proof and normally don’t work.

This past week, I was reading a parenting book.  It was a good book — is a good book.  I put it down, unfinished with reading it.  I tried to implement many of its suggestions.  I came away frustrated.  Frustrated because the book stated that you can change your child’s tone, facial expression, and behavior.  Okay, maybe you can.  I was frustrated though because I couldn’t change my child’s heart.  Yeah, I know I can’t, but isn’t the heart what we all say we are working on changing?

As Christian parents, we have a responsibility to raise our children in godliness and towards godliness.  We read lots of books, hoping to find the secret ingredient or formula to guarantee that our children will be the perfect fruits of our training and labor.

We get so confused in this.  I get so confused in this — trying to produce outward godliness and trying to follow formulas.  Thinking that we can somehow control their hearts as well — that we are in charge of them.

I read a great little booklet that addresses so many of these fallacies.  It convicted me by a few great words of wisdom that especially stood out to me.  They’re in the following quotes:

“Fruitful Christianity comes from the inside out — from who we are — not from what we do.”

“As Christians we cannot ask, ‘What must I do?’  We must ask, ‘What must I be’?”

[As parents…] “It was not what they did.  It was what they were.”  [… that influenced their children.  Of course who we are does manifest itself in our actions.  If we focus on the outward too much, it speaks of a heart of pride and legalism.]

“If we are to have significant influence of our teenage children, we must have their hearts.  Having their hearts means gaining the opportunity to influence who they are, not just what they do.”

“Are we more concerned with protecting our kids from that which is bad or putting into them that which is good?”

“Our children learn what’s important to us not by what we verbally emphasize, but by what they see us passionate about.”

“Take them into the world on the offense not defense.”

“Cultivate a loving relationship with them, which will allow you to speak into their lives and influence their values.”

“Help them find security in their relationship with you.”

“Trust in formulas is really dependence upon ourselves.”

“It is critical to understand that God wants us to trust not in principles, methods, or formulas, no matter how ‘biblical’ they seem.  God wants us to trust in HIM!”

“Our success in raising children to be lovers of God and others, is not going to be contingent upon achieving perfect sheltering or using the best Bible curriculum.  It is going to be based on doing what we must as parents, but trusting God for the outcome.”

“God will not reduce Himself to being an ingredient in a formula or method.”

“It is critical that we realize our children are people whose hearts, as they mature, are influenced more by relationship that by external controls.  In all our intensity, we can sometimes treat them not as fellow humas but as dehumanized ingredients in a cake we are baking.”

“The more we focus on formulas or principles, the more children become ‘things.’  The more they become things, the less we have significant relationship.  The less we have relationship, the more we lose hearts.  Without their hearts, the less we are able to influence their values.  Without their hearts, the best we can do is control the outside (for a while).”

“A formulaic mentality is chiefly concerned with doing the right thing to produce the right result.  Our children need us to not merely act like Christians, but to be genuine Christians.”

“We cannot simply implement loving actions into our homes, we must truly love.”

“Loving Him isn’t about our children — it is about HIM!  God intends that the side effect of loving Jesus and enjoying the grace of the Gospel will be that all people, including our children, will be touched by the Savior in us.”

These quotes were taken from: http://www.familyministries.com/HS_Crisis.htm.  So much good food for thought!  I have been convicted each time I read it.  I am recognizing is that what my children need most of all from me is not for me to read one more parenting book and to try one more formula.  It is for me to grow in my relationship with the Lord — for me to love Him more.  That happens as I learn to recognize His love first of all for me.  If I focus on that Love, I will be transformed by it and loving my kids will come naturally as a fruit.

Note: This doesn’t negate all parenting books or negate trying to make practical changes or implementing wise ideas.  What it does do is focus our attention on the heart issue.  The heart issue of disciplining and training our children has always been the heart!

Stat. Queen

I guess I must be a bit of a statistic fanatic because I like keeping tract of everyone’s heights and weights.  Here are the latest comparisons:

Four Year Statistics:

Luke — Height: 42 inches; Weight: 39.4 pounds

Drew — Height: 39 1/2 inches; Weight: 37.3 pounds (This is when Drew started to really fall behind in measurements.  Up to this point, he was always above average in size.)

Will — Height: 44 inches; Weight: 43 pounds (Definitely the largest as always!)

Daddy — Height: 39 3/4 inches; Weight: 33 1/2 pounds (My guess is Luke will be Daddy’s height or taller when grown.  Will is supposed to be a bit taller.  My guess is Drew will be a little shorter.)

Shaking Things Up A Bit

Sometimes, as a parent it seems like you are constantly saying the exact same things to your kids.  Things like reminding the kids to chew with their mouths closed, to say “please” and “thank you,” to not burp at the table, stuff like that…  The kids and the parents get tired of the same reminders.  So one recent meal, I decided to “shake things up a bit” by “turning the tables”.  We allowed the boys to have a “piggy night.”  We defined the boundaries and then told them to have fun, but that they would then have weeks of good manners before they would earn another “piggy night.”  The boys loved it!  They had fun not saying “please” and “thank you” and not asking to be excused.  They loved talking with food hanging from their mouths.  They loved eating with their hands.  They loved burping.  They had a grand old time.  I think my husband had the hardest time with it.  I was happy to hear that another mom did the same thing with her boys when they were little — a mom that has done a great job raising her kids!  Glad I wasn’t the only one who comes up with creative solutions to common problems!  🙂

The result: the boys were much happier to have better manners normally!  Sometimes, we have to be creative, add some humor, and remember that it’s okay to “think outside the box” sometimes!

 

Moments of Olivia Grace

There are a plethora of moments of grace within each day. God tucks them within the pages of a book, the aroma of a body wash, the sip of coffee, the glow of a candle, the downy fuzz of a baby’s head, the notes of music, the colors of a rainbow, the scent of a flower, the kiss of a baby, the joy of laughter…  These moments of grace remind me of His love and the power of that love!

I had a moment like that when the other day, Jonathan said, “I love you” to Olivia and she replied, “I luh you.”  I am not exaggerating this.  Jonathan and I both distinctly heard this.  She also has been known to say, “Hiyah, Da!”  Precious words!  Such a reminder of grace!

There are also unexpected moments of grace.  Times when I can enjoy a good laugh and see humor in spite of less than attractive surroundings.  Today I had a moment like that.  Two boys seem to have diarrhea and all four children had to poop at once.  I know it’s not polite to talk of such things, but motherhood deals with such reality.

Grace can only be found in first acknowledging such realities.  Grace cannot be found in facades, masks, shallowness, and trite phrases.  Grace deals with the grim details, the hard lines, the pungent odors, the slop.  It takes these disgusting offerings and exchanges them for thoughts of love, words of kindness, unconditional love, acts of service.

So today, I had my moment of grace when I found myself laughing.  I was laughing at jokes Jonathan and I were making.  I said, “You can tell you have seen too much poop when you find yourself rhyming to poop. ”  Yes, I was really telling silly jokes that rhymed with poop.  Jonathan then said, “You can tell you are all ‘pooped-out’ when you are sitting on the floor winding up toilet paper.”  He also said some other word, but I can’t remember.  It was funny.  Yes, I was winding up toilet paper that a son had unwound in the process of trying to wipe himself.  Yeah, it was ridiculous, but grace is finding humor in moments like these — when I have to keep smelling and looking and cleaning up after poop.  It doesn’t get more basic than that!

Dirt, Defeat, Death, Darkness or Light, Life, Love, & Laughter!

There are so many days in the life of a mom where I get “lost” or buried under my piles of negative thoughts, feelings, and even actions at times.  Times when I allow myself to wallow in feelings of pity and irritation because mud was just tracked across my clean floor again!  My dishwasher broke down so now I have piles of dishes — either clean or dirty sitting on my counters. Because my wash machine broke, and I am going to run out of clean underwear within a day.  My boys’ wild energy is driving me crazy.  The boys have diarrhea and keep leaving and making disgusting messes.  My husband is working late and helping an elderly lady so I don’t have his help with putting the boys to bed.  I should be thankful — thankful that my husband works so hard and is thoughtful like that.  Why do I choose the ways of darkness at times: choosing anger, whining, irritation, impatience rather than the paths of light: gratefulness, compassion, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love?

Why do I see the “earthiness” of motherhood?  The poopy underwear, muddy floors, dirty diapers, dirty windows, broken appliances, inconveniences of life?  Why do I choose such ways of defeat and darkness?  Why do I focus on the past — that which is dead?  Instead, I should focus on the gift of the present: God’s grace to overcome defeat, darkness, and death!

Motherhood is “heavenly”, “eternal”, “supernatural” in its ramifications!  Why do I not see that in wiping dirty bottoms, cleaning refuse and mud, I am meeting a more eternal purpose?  The end result is not a clean child and house!  It is not even having a happy child!  It is not having a happy, fulfilled, or stress-less life!

Instead of focusing on the physical mud and dirt, I need to clean the “mud” from my heart and thoughts — the parts of me that I have not allowed God’s grace to “clean.”  Instead of looking through the cloudy/finger-smudged windows, I need to realize that it is really my spiritual “sight” that is dimmed.

This life is physical, but it is also so much more!  There is a spiritual life being lived at the same time — with far greater impact; for it is eternal!

Lord, clean the dirty “panes” of my soul, clean the refuse of old sinful habits and attitudes from my heart.  It is your grace I need to flood this heart of mine and to make it what it ought to be.