W1 Son, I Noticed…

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W1, I noticed at just a few weeks of age how strong your will was.  I noticed that you would be determined to pursue your goals.

I knew then that God has special plans for your life!

W1, I saw how you held your little brother’s hand and patiently matched your steps to his to help him walk.

I noticed how you watched out for your sister when she played outside.

I noticed how you mopped my floors even when I didn’t ask.

I noticed how you wrote sweet notes of apology when you did wrong.

I noticed how you spent time, reading in your Bible.

I noticed how you said that you were proud of your faith.

I noticed how you practiced running and jumping so you could do well on Field Day at school.

I noticed how disappointed you were when you struggled with your grades this year.

I noticed how you studied for hours to try to learn your memory verses, states, math facts, and other school facts.

I noticed how you defended a friend on the playground who was being bullied.

I noticed how you cooked three suppers for me in a week so I could have a break.

I noticed how you mowed the grass on a hot, blistery day after a tiring day at school.

I noticed how you shoveled sidewalks for neighbors.

I noticed how you offered to help new neighbors move in and offered to mow their grass.

I noticed when you expressed interest in being baptized.

I noticed your look of embarrassment and disappointment for getting a merit award today because you had hoped instead to get the honor award for better grades.  No one else knew, but I did.  My heart broke just a bit when I knew how hard you had worked and how much you wanted to improve your grades.

I noticed when you hated yourself because you felt helpless to control your anger.  Oh, how I wanted to help you to see, precious one, that you are a winner.  And only the winners are those who learn that winning is when we get back up again and complete the race.

I noticed when tears spilled down your cheeks because of mean and hateful words that kids said to you on the bus, in the hallways, and on the playground at school.  How I ached to remove those lies from marring your soul.

Son, what you didn’t see, but what I noticed was how God is not finished with you.  How God uses those hurts and challenges in life to help you to look to Him as your Source of affirmation.

Son, I noticed that you are a winner!  God doesn’t make mistakes.  God doesn’t make weak men.  God doesn’t make inferior people.  God makes sons to reflect Himself.  He makes sons to run to Abba-Father (Daddy) so that they can become the men God created them to be.

Yes, son, I noticed that God is making you into a beautiful reflection of Himself.

I’m Sorry, Kids

To the precious five little people in my life,

I’m sorry, kids, for those times when I raised my voice and taught you that dirt and spilled milk was more important then showing you what grace and patience looks like.

I’m sorry, kids, for those times when I insisted that sitting perfectly still in church was more important than helping you to see that worshiping God is not for perfect people but for the redeemed.

I’m sorry, kids, for times when I didn’t demonstrate that it is possible to disagree with Daddy and still be completely respectful at the same time.

I’m sorry, kids, for times when I was more intentional with pursuing my own goals and worth then in listening to your own dreams and building your own sense of worth.

I’m sorry, kids, for times when I “cheated” you out of opportunities to see how great our God is by spending more time in the mediocre then in fellowshiping with our God.

I’m sorry, kids, for times when my words criticized and blamed you rather than showing you that the message of the Gospel is grace.  It’s grace in the home.  It’s grace in our words.  It’s grace in our actions. 

I’m sorry, kids, for times when instead of praising you for all the effort you did, I pressured you to keep performing better.

I’m sorry, kids, for times when I didn’t see past your anger to understand the thin guise it was for covering hurts and fears.

I’m sorry, kids, for the many times when I didn’t have the right answer, didn’t have enough strength and accepted defeat instead of teaching you that God is always enough.

I’m sorry, kids, I wasn’t the perfect mom.  Yet, maybe that will help you to understand that you don’t have to be the “perfect” kid to be used by God and loved by God.

God did give me, you kids, to raise.  He knew that I would learn through, you kids, what grace really looks like.  Grace is when I recognize the greatness of my God to be more than sufficient to help me raise you guys.

Grace is when I say I am sorry and mean it.

Grace is when I understand that God doesn’t call “perfect” people to be parents.  He calls redeemed people to remember that it’s only grace that brought us and only grace that will keep us.

Kids, I am not sorry that I have taught you that we have a God who is so much greater than us!

We have a God Who loves you perfectly and delights in you!  We have a God who will be faithful to keep you.  We have a God who has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you — to give you a hope and a future.”

So, kids, there is nothing I want to leave with you more than for you to know, really believe, how much God loves you and that it’s His grace that will keep you.

Blessings or Blesser?

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There was a time that I was unable to blog, as I mentioned in the blog: https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/still-alive-living-abundantly.

At first, I was annoyed, then disappointed, then resigned, then accepting.  I realized that when God takes something away, it’s always for a reason.

I realized the reason why I was so sad.  I recognized that I was still trying to find my worth by “being somebody.”  I was still trying to prove that I mattered — mattered because of what I did.  I longed for people’s affirmation.

I was not living in my “identity” as His daughter — completely at rest in the all-encompassing, unconditional love of my Heavenly Father.  (See my testimony regarding this: https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/the-second-part-of-my-testimony-the-second-most-incredible-experience-of-my-life.)

God took away something that had become an idol in my life.  Such is anything we pursue in order to find a sense of belonging and worth that is outside of God.

As a girl and young woman, my idol was getting married to a man who would make me feel like the most incredible gift ever.  I actually did marry a man who did that as much as any human can do.

But, you can suck a person and a relationship dry if you seek to pull from it what only God can give.

As a new mother, I hoped to get that sense of worth by being a godly mother.  I couldn’t wait to practice all of my teaching and ministry skills on my own kids.  Somehow, I had this “Cinderella” idea that I could make my kids into perfect little “robots” of perfection.  Silly, right?

When you idolize your kids, you tend to create unhealthy “soul ties” (heart connections) of co-dependency and attempt to control and unconsciously prevent your children from “flying” independently.  The opposite is also true, you resent and “reject” your kids because they become “symbols of your failure.” 

I struggled with resenting my kids at times because they had a way of demonstrating their worst moments in front of people.  Some of these people made me feel even more like a failure.  I responded to my own personal feelings of failure and to the outside negativity by exerting even more pressure on my kids to be little models of perfection.  It was a set-up for failure.

Poor little people!  I was expecting them to do the impossible, and I was perpetuating the lies of performance-based worth.

I love what the book, Glimpses of Grace, by Gloria Furman says about this.  She says:

When we immortalize the material and elevate it to the highest good, we set up idols to worship and pay homage to.  This can happen when we attach our reason for being to our current role in life — even roles like being a mother or housewife.

Do you serve your image of a good mother?

…When we’re tempted to either despise our everyday lives or worship our everyday lives, we need to remember what Paul said in Romans 12:1-2…”

God does want us to serve with gladness.  He wants us to enjoy the gifts He has given us: marriage, children, homes, talents, strengths, clothing, food, friends… They are all good gifts, for which we can and should be thankful.

Our worth and God’s love though is completely independent from our performance, possessions, and abilities. 

I like what Glimpses of Grace says in relationship to service within the home:

 “Living your everyday life for God’s sake is spiritual worship. …Seeing the brilliance of the cross and embracing its message are at the core of how God wants to work in our mundane to bring glory to Himself.

…When we are engaged in seeing and savoring the beauty of Jesus, the vain things that charm us most fade away into the distance.”

How do we keep from idolizing the blessings/the gifts from superseding the Blesser in our life?

Glimpses of Grace says,

“…when we say the ‘gift of God’, we are actually saying the gift is God Himself.  God is good.  And He said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name The Lord’He is the ultimate Good.

…rejoicing in the Lord’s faithfulness to His name.”

Let’s not forget that as wonderful as our blessings are, they are merely a “star” in the vast “universe” of Who God is!

It will take an eternity to be able to receive all the overflowing abundant goodness of His love towards us and of Who He is!

Love Is Simple

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I am going to keep this simple because a lot of times that’s all we have time and energy for — simple instructions and simple ideas. 

I wanted to share some quick ideas on how to show your kids that you love them.

What your kids care the most about is whether or not you love them.  So just love them!

Here are some simple ideas on how to demonstrate your love:

First, always tell them.

Second, demonstrate it by giving an appropriate hug and kiss.  For some kids, it might mean a back rub, tickle-time, or chasing them around like a dinosaur.

Discover your kids’ love languages, and use that knowledge to enhance their perceptions of your love. 

At the end of last week, I decided to do a simple but fun activity that also used my knowledge of their love languages.  I took a post-it-note and wrote a specific message on the note for each child.  I then attached the notes to the undersides of their dinner plates.

The kids loved finding their notes and then carrying out the instructions on the individual notes.  It was a simple but fun way to demonstrate to my kids that they are loved.  The activity also taught the kids practically how they could also express love to one another.  (I will post pictures of the notes so you get the idea…)

It’s important to let your kids know you love them, but expressing that doesn’t need to be complicated.  Keep it simple but love them!

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No Pinterest Or Glam Mom Here!

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I don’t take award-winning photographs of my gorgeous, athletic, brilliant kids; my ribbon-merit baking creations; award-winning artistic renditions; and Pinterest-worthy home.  In fact, if I was trying to take pictures of those accomplishments, I would probably be waiting a long time.  A very long time!

Oh, my kids are adorable, smart, active, creative!  Definitely to me!  I love them though not because of some trait or ability I feel they must possess to be accolade-worthy.  I love them because of who they are — not because of what they have or what they do.  I love them because they are themselves.  They are my children!  It’s that simple.  Yet, it’s not simple at all.  It’s really quite profound!

I gaze at my kids and every day think how amazing and miraculous they are!  How amazing and miraculous it is that I am their mom!  I am grateful.

As a mom, there is a part of me that really aches when others don’t see my kids through the same eyes as myself.  I “bleed” a little inside when my kid tells me that he is ugly, that he’s the last kid to be picked for football teams, that he never wins any of the creative days at school for dress.  I “bleed” not because those things are so important but because my son is so important to me, and he has so much worth and he doesn’t see it.  I try to tell him that his worth isn’t based on the fickle opinions of others.

In fact, I have reached out to a lot of his school buddies, invited them over.  It’s fun to hear them greet me when they see me.  My favorite line though I like to say is, “Hi, handsome!”  I am not trying to establish an over-emphasis on the outward appearance.  Yet, all kids need to know that they are something special!  I focus on everything about them: their God-given talents and abilities, their own special unique features, and the fact that they are precious to me!

Even more importantly, I like to focus on the inside person.  I call selfishness and sinful behavior as ugly but call good and loving behavior as lovely.  I tell them that you can be considered “pretty” or “handsome” on the outside but be selfish, mean, angry on the inside.  I told them that those things will make a person “ugly.”

When the boys and I have talks about girls, I encourage my boys to look for a woman who is beautiful on the inside to be their future wives.  I then encourage them to be the kind of man that that kind of woman will want to marry.

I am a simple mom.  I am not an amazing cook.  I don’t knit.  I don’t sew.  My house isn’t Pinterest-worthy, but it’s my home.  We are slowly fixing it up to where I really like the way it looks.  It’s comfortable, homey, warm, and even charming at times.  It’s basically clean and fairly organized.  It’s not magazine-worthy, but it’s my home.  It’s the place where my family and I make memories.  It’s where we love, work, create memories, and learn to forgive and be forgiven.  It’s real.  There’s no pretense in the home.  Some times, I am thankful that I know that I have God who is watching me that is pleased with an action I just took.  At other times, I wish that no one: not a child, spouse, or God had seen a certain attitude or heard unkind words I had uttered that day.

There are times, I bow my head with shame because I wasn’t the mom God created me to be.  I wasn’t the mom my kids deserve.  I wasn’t the mom I want to be.  It’s for these moments that I pray.  I pray over my children — that God would heal the areas in my kids hearts that hurt because of something unkind I said or did.  I pray that God would continue to work in me to help me to be more humble and more obedient to his voice.  I pray that God would “cover” my kids with His grace in areas that I can’t. 

I look at myself and see this average person.  I don’t have an Einstein I.Q.  I don’t excel in the arts or sports.  I don’t have model-looks.  I am not a mom that is everyone’s hero.  I am just me.

Yet, when I see myself as God sees me, I realize the rest of all of that doesn’t matter.  God loves me because I am His.  I am His daughter!  I am unique!  There is no one else on this planet and universe that will ever be identical to me — in the past, present, or future! 

You and I will leave our own stamps on this life that will never be completely repeated.  I wish we could just wrap our minds and our hearts around that incredible truth just a little more.

Because the more I understand the meaning of my life, the better I am able to appreciate the meanings of others!

The “Mommy Martyr” Vs. The “Sisterhood”

Copy of IMG_1660The last few days, life as a mommy of five children with a newborn was difficult.  Yet into the emotional vortex and challenges of my life, some beautiful people transformed my days into something lovely.  Help from the sisterhood arrived!

Wednesday evening, I had spent time finishing the last of this week’s Bible studies on the life of David.   Beth Moore made some important observations in the studies.  She mentioned that God orchestrated events in David’s life so that he was dependent on others at times in his life.  Dependency was to reveal his need for others in the plan of life, to bring humility, and to bring compassion towards his fellow mankind.  Beth Moore indicated that God never intended us to live life as solitary units.  We are most importantly meant to live in the delightful fellowship of a relationship with God, based on His grace towards us.  We are then secondly created to learn to walk this life with the rest of humanity.  This walk can involve lots of trials and suffering, but it can also help to purify us, bring about a greater humility, and hopefully create a greater sense of compassion and awareness of our fellow mankind.

I was reminded of those lessons as this week unfolded.  This week had presented me with quite a few challenges, and I was quickly feeling “submerged” by life.  It was then that God began to bring the “sisterhood” into my life that revealed to me that I am not alone in this event called life.  It reminded me again that I don’t have to become the “Mommy Martyr”.

Sometimes, it seems like as women, we feel that we have to be invincible — a combination of hero, warrior, and martyr.  We feel that we have to do everything and be everything for everybody.  Anything less than perfection, we feel is not good enough.  We walk around with feelings of failure and as a result have simmering frustration which can then lead to anger towards ourselves and those closest to us (our children and spouses).  We transfer our unrealistic expectations upon our children and our spouses and then react when they don’t measure up to our standards of perfection.  Perhaps this lack of reality and truth stem from a false perspective of God and His dealings towards us.

Perhaps it’s a lack of recognition or personal awareness of how God is constantly working in big and little ways to reveal the immeasurable greatness of His love towards us!  Perhaps, it’s not understanding that God desires a personal relationship with us — a close and intimate friendship with Him.  He wants us to personally know His heart for us and His plan and purpose for our lives.  God wants us to discover that His love for us is not circumstantial, limited, or performance-based.  His love is based on His own nature — not reliant on ourselves or who we are or aren’t.  Our relationship with Him changes only as we change — as we move closer to Him or further from Him, based on our own tolerance of sin in our lives.

When we correctly understand the merciful nature of God and His great love for us, we are able to more readily accept His grace and forgiveness into our lives and then extend that to others.  We are also able to more readily accept love and grace from others as well.

As humans, we are created to depend on God and even others to fully live this life.  This is where the “sisterhood” is meant to exist and serve.

This week, I personally experienced how the “sisterhood” beautifully serves and assists and how dependent I am at times on them.  I had dear “sisters” who brought me meals twice this week.  I had a mother, sister, and father who helped pick up my kindergartner from school since I didn’t have a vehicle.  I had a cousin drive a few hours to spend a day, watching my kids so I could get a much-needed nap and then to help me grocery-shop and get some Christmas-gift shopping done.  She also made supper for us and brought toys to share with my kids.

I had a newborn baby who smiled at me!

I had a two-year-old daughter who sang a delightful song to her baby brother.

I had a “sister” who volunteered to drive me to a ladies’ Bible study.

Each of these actions encouraged my heart and helped me to be able to live life more fully — not just surviving but thriving under the care and nurture of love.

As “sisters”, let us not forget that even the smallest actions can encourage a heart.  We are needed!  We are not meant to live as solitary units nor are we meant to become “Mommy Martyrs” in order to live life.

When It Is Okay To NOT “Protect” Your Child

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Last evening, two of my boys had soccer practice.  As usual, I loaded up the soccer balls, water bottles (boys brought their own), and folding lawn chairs.  I instructed each boy to dress warmly since it was cold outside.  I recommended long-sleeved shirts and jackets and even went so far as to find them both clothing items since we are still in the process of moving the seasonal clothing around in their drawers and closets.

My one son promptly dressed himself in the recommended clothing and was ready for practice without delay.  The other son ignored both mine and my husband’s instructions to dress warmer and to wear or at least bring a jacket.  He did neither.  Knowing how important natural consequences are, I took him the way he was to soccer practice.

As I thought would be the case, he immediately began to complain that he was cold.  I then gently reminded him that I had told him several times, as well as his father, to dress warmer but that he chose to disobey us and as a result was cold.  I encouraged him to listen to his parents next time, knowing that Daddy and Mommy give instructions that are for his good and well-being.

The compassionate Mommy side of me wanted to relieve him of his discomfort.  In fact, if his discomfort was a result of my negligence, then it would have been necessary and important for me to have immediately found a solution.  I would have probably removed my jacket and offered it to him and suffered as a result of my poor choices.

In this case, I knew that if I tried to relieve him of the discomfort that came as a consequence of his wrong choices, then he would continue to never learn the lesson.  As a Mom, this can be very tempting.  What we must ask ourselves though is, “How is this preparing him for when he must get his homework done in college, get himself out of bed for work, manage his checkbook, wash his dirty clothes as a single, pay his bills,” etc…?  In other words, if I always spare him from any discomfort, he will never be required to learn personal responsibility for his own actions.

I was grateful that I had just heard a radio program that morning, discussing something very similar to this situation.  It was a great reminder to me, going into this situation.

The responses of other parents to me in this situation were interesting.  One mom heard my son complaining he was cold and immediately offered her spare jacket to him.  In this situation, I did allow him to wear the jacket because I thought this was an opportunity for him to experience grace, which God so often demonstrates to us.  If God provided a solution, I wasn’t going to turn it down.  The mom though later said, “I always carry a spare jacket for when things like this happen.”  There wasn’t opportunity to properly respond to her comment so I let it go.  I couldn’t help but think though that if I had brought a spare jacket, my son would again have not learned the lesson.  In fact, I would have done him the injustice of teaching him that he doesn’t need to take responsibility for his wrong choices/actions because Mom will always “protect” him from the consequences of those very choices/actions.

A mom who is also a teacher was standing nearby so I asked for her input as to how to handle the situation.   She encouraged me to let him face the natural consequences of his actions, which I had determined to do.

The situation had escalated though.

My son went from complaining he was cold to then refusing to wear the jacket because it was too big, and he would be embarrassed.  I told him that he shouldn’t worry about what others thought but should do what is right for himself.  I also suggested rolling up the slightly too-long sleeves.  At this point, my son began to cry and refused to practice soccer.

Ugh! There I sat, trying to figure out what to do.  I tried to firmly but reasonably talk to him but to no avail.  I then led him back to our car.  There, I more firmly warned him of the further consequences of his choices/actions.  (We had paid a lot of money for the kids to be enrolled in soccer so his refusing to practice was a loss of our investment.)  I told him that he would not be allowed to watch movies (his favorite activity) for the rest of the week and that I would have to speak to his daddy about further consequences should he refuse to practice soccer.  I told him that we had invested a lot of money for him to play, and it was not okay for him to refuse when he was perfectly capable of practicing.

I then encouraged him to make the right choice and to practice with his friends.  I reminded him that movie time would not be removed should he obey.  My son refused.  When I tried to lead him to the soccer field, he dug in his heels.  Now, I was really in a predicament.

I didn’t want to leave my son, standing alone by the car and freezing without a jacket.  I also knew that I couldn’t carry him to the soccer field.  So, I firmly but calmly explained that I was not going to drag him kicking and screaming to the field, but that until he chose to do the right thing, he would be standing by himself in the cold.  I encouraged him to join me, where he would be safer and warmer.  I then walked away.  What a tough place!

I sat down and watched my other son practice soccer, while at the same time, trying to keep an eye on my child, standing by our car.  At one point, I saw another set of foot-prints near him and immediately walked over to check on him.  Another mom was trying to persuade him to come. I watched patiently while feeling like the father of the Prodigal Son, wanting so desperately to swing him up into my arms and to wrap warmth around him.  The other mom finally managed to get him to walk to me, which is when I mouthed, “Thank you!”.  I have no idea what she thought of me, but sometimes it does take another person removed from the situation to help positive progress to occur.  I was too close to the situation and had come to represent the person who wanted my son to do something he didn’t want to do so I was not as effective.

My poor son stood there shivering and blue with cold.  We did persuade him to put on the jacket.  He still refused though to practice soccer, complaining he was too cold.  I tried to encourage him that he would get warmer if he played and to point out that all his friends were playing and no one looked cold.  This was to no avail.

I didn’t yield to the temptation to coddle him or remove some of the consequences because other moms didn’t understand and thought I was “cruel” or something.  I did rub his hands for him to warm them and then gently reminded him that because he had still refused to practice, movie time was still removed for the rest of the week.

I share this with humility.  I know that there may be those who will pick apart what I did and think that they could have said or done something differently or better.  Perhaps, they could have.  What I am learning though is that God created me to be me and to be this child’s mother.  I need to obey God alone in the way I conduct myself — not discipline or parent in a way that pleases all the other parents watching.  I am also learning that being a good parent doesn’t prevent all problems from occurring.  Disciplining correctly doesn’t mean my child won’t ever embarrass me or misbehave in public. 

I also learned that being a good mom doesn’t mean that I “protect” my child from every discomfort, hardship, or pain in life.  By trying to relieve my child from feeling the discomforts of his wrong choices, I may be actually putting him at greater risk/harm’s way because he will not understand how our choices do carry consequences with them.  My son should make wiser choices that will protect him if he learns that consequences are a natural occurrence of our choices.

I want my son to develop into a mature, young man, who has learned how to make wise choices that result in positive results.  I want to help my son develop personal self-control.  I want my son to develop fortitude, courage, responsibility, and faithfulness.

Sometimes, the best choice — not the easiest — is to NOT “protect” your child but to give them the opportunity to develop their own strength of good and godly character.

For The Desperate Mom

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I finally finished reading the book, Desperate, by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson.  I found the book so beneficial that I bought two more copies and mailed them to friends.  My copy of the book has notes all over the margins.  There are so many paragraphs and sentences underlined.  Many stars and exclamation marks decorate the book as well.  I don’t normally mark up my books so this book definitely made an impression on me — a very good one.

I wanted to include some more quotes from the book, taken from the last two chapters I read.  If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it.

“Having little ones is a season … children, Lord-willing, do grow up.”

“A mama’s primary domain is her home. …your first and main purpose is to deeply invest in the souls He’s given you, and you will struggle immensely if you do not have resolve regarding your role as a mother.”

“…there is nothing more important or sacred than being an intentional mother whose time is focused in the home.”

“Give in to your season of life. … the more you allow yourself to be fully and completely invested in the discipling of your children, the less defeated you will feel.”

“…the forming of their souls is a hard, long-distance race.”

“The work of motherhood was the way He wanted me to serve and love Him.  I have always found my source for this inspiration in the way Jesus was willng to lay aside His life to serve and love His disciples and those around Him, and to invest in their lives.”

“…are you choosing in your life to cling to God’s goodness and instruction in righteousness?  Is your heart turned toward Him in a posture of trust and submission, as an earthly child to your heavenly parent?  Is your own soul being formed by His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit?  The call to train up a child is more than a one-time choice; it is a day-to-day, long-term commitment to shape your children, the greatest gift that God has given you stewardship over.  The attitudes and choices you practice now in your day-to-day walk will determine your ability to endure the distance in your ideals.”

“…develop a heart of contentment and trust in God’s faithfulness.”

“…turn your heart toward joy, and celebrate the goodness that God brings into all parts of your life.”

“…engage your heart in God’s grace.’

“….seek to love them and to see the potential in them, knowing that in whomever God begins a work, He will be faithful to complete it in His time.”

“…turn your heart toward being faithful to the end, knowing that God will never leave or forsake you in your journey.”

“…a mother … a warrior who will not give up or cease to keep fighting the battle for her children’s souls.”

“Your labor is not in vain.”

“…overcoming is always rewarded with great blessing.”

“…God wants us to be those who prevail, who are willing to engage in the fight and to hold fast, waiting for His blessing.”

“…don’t measure your worth to God by the times you fail.”

“He is committed to helping me grow.”

“…faith is the key element of the power behind my commitment to be a good mom.”

“He weaves the beautiful thread of redemption through the pattern of your life.”

“…to live within the limitations of your own family puzzle in such a way that cooperates with your personality and with the gifts God has given you.  There is no one ‘right way’ or formula to follow for every family, mother, or child.  Live in the freedom of faith and the abundant life Jesus came to provide.  Understand that children are a gift.”

“…seek to enjoy your children and love them and you will be happier…”

“Filling my mind with truth is the attitude adjustment I usually need.”

“God is the only who can meet your needs.”

“Begin and end your day with prayer.”

“Pray for your husband and children.”

“Cultivate a heart of gratitude.”

“Do not practice comparing your life or limitations to others.  What you water the most is what will grow, and the weeds of a whining spirit will choke your own joy.”

“Create a cheerful atmosphere.”

“There’s nothing like living day to day with children to show you exactly where your own soul still needs work!”

“When you see motherhood as your service of worship to Him and that how you treat your children is your obedience to Him, it gives more importance to treating your children as He would.”

“Remember, training and maturity take time.”

“…give them a foundation of security in their relationship with you…”

“…loving my children, and my husband, was more about my choosing to love them and to extend God’s grace every moment I could decide to do that, and not an issue of how I felt.”

“…failure does not ever have to define us.  Failure and pain become foundations for wisdom and understanding and strength to face life’s battles.”

“…discipline is an issue of training, little by little, year after year.”

“Children are more likely to respond to discipline if they feel loved and affirmed.”

“…many moms try to micromanage every single behavioral issue with their children and feel a need to win every battle, especially when they are young.”

“I should have enjoyed my kids instead of worrying whether I was always doing it right.”

“Do not expect it to be static [the home environment], and you will not be as impatient.  This is a home first, and homes have life and the swaying of days and growth and love.”

“…it is never too late for Christ to change things around in the lives of our children.”

“Choose words that heal, bring life, and empower those in your life.”

These were such excellent thoughts and advice!  They were so timely, following a stressful situation with a son at soccer practice.  It was so encouraging to know that I can kindly and firmly enact consequences, but that I can also remember that such challenging moments don’t define our children permanently nor our success as a parent.  Rather, it is those moments that give us opportunity to walk by faith, to walk in grace, and to walk with unconditional love towards our children.  May desperation no longer define us!

The “Mompetitor”

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How many of us know a mom who seems to always be talking about the latest achievements of her children?  Words.  Words. Words.  Brag.  Brag.  Brag.  Our response?  We often either pity her, condemn her, or compare ourselves to her.

I remember as a young mom with two toddlers and a baby, feeling very frustrated that my kids weren’t learning their colors, shapes, alphabet, and numbers like my friends’ kids.  I remember feeling like a bad mom or somehow that I must be not doing something correctly because my boys weren’t potty-trained or reading when my friends’ kids were.  Maybe, my kids had inherited a slow gene or maybe I just hadn’t pushed them hard enough.  Sigh.

I knew I read to my kids — read to my first-born when he was a wee babe and had no idea what mommy was doing with that object in her hands.  He liked reading — more because of the cuddle time with mommy and hearing his mommy’s voice.  I really don’t think that my reading made a huge educational impression at that point in his three months of life.  What did make an impression was the interaction I had with him, teaching him about security, love, kindness, and how love is an investment of time.

Then, I’ve found myself listening to other young moms talking about their kids and then wanting to chime right in with my own comparisons or not just wanting to but doing it.  I’ve walked away from those conversations, convicted by my own pride and selfishness.

I’ve then had to ask myself, “Why did I feel the need to compare or to do my own bragging?”  Suddenly, I understand the hearts behind the bragging moms or “Mompetitors.”  Insecurity.  Fear.  Depression.  Those fears stem from wondering if you are doing it right — if your kids will be failures because you didn’t give them everything at just the right moment and in the right proportions.  It’s the pressure of perfection.  The unending voices that we listen to that tell us we should be parenting this way or that way or another way.

The results?  Instability.  Insecurity.  Anger towards ourselves and even our children because they don’t measure up to our standards of perfection.

Exaggeration?  No!  I think one of the greatest dangers of motherhood are our unreasonable expectations and comparing ourselves and our kids to others.  It’s looking around us too much for our sense of well-being and affirmation as mothers and for help with raising our kids.  Oh, help can be great — true help!  The problem is we are too quick to follow the latest advice and trends on the social market.  We are too quick to compare our kids to Susie and Johnny “who do everything perfectly and are advanced in every area.”  We are too quick to try to fit ourselves into the personalities and gifts of others. 

We want to be Pinterest-perfect in our creativity, organization-skills, and decorating.  We want to be able to sew like an expert and cook like a chef with a Master’s degree.  We read the blogs, and every blogger seems to be much prettier, smarter, more articulate, and wiser than us.  Compare.  Compare.  Compare.

If we homeschool, we find a mom who is more organized than us.  Or we find one who is less so we can condemn her and somehow feel better about ourselves in the process.

I recently bought a book off Amazon — thanks to a B’day gift card I had received.  The book is called Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson.  The book has been amazing and just the book I so desperately (no pun intended) needed to read!  I have under-lined paragraphs, written exclamation marks, starred pages, and written “Amens” all over this book.

I think some of the thoughts that have stood out to me the most were the advice to give more grace to ourselves and our kids, to not compare, to accept how God uniquely created me and my kids, and to not follow everyone else’s advice.  This doesn’t mean we don’t listen to godly advice, but the key is godly — finding the right person to listen to — not just anyone and everyone.  There are so many voices — too many is the problem.  There is only One voice we really must heed: that of the Lord’s.  The beauty of it is that He created us and loves us unconditionally, in spite of our failures and imperfections.  He is not sitting up in Heaven with a great big paddle, waiting for us to mess up so he can take pleasure in exerting His God muscles in punishing us.  Sad how we get these twisted perspectives due to our own imperfect “lenses” from which we view everything and everyone, including God.

I recently experienced a situation at church where I felt condemnation.  I believe the individual thought that they had me, my husband, and our kids all figured out.  The problem is they don’t.  We aren’t like certain other families.  Church doesn’t give the full picture into our lives.  Oh, there are basic principles to parenting, but there are also so many variations — variations because we are uniquely designed individuals and families! 

I remember the smug feelings I had before becoming a mom.  I thought I knew all about parenting due to training, classes, experiences I had.  The problem with that is you don’t really know about parenting until you become a parent yourself and even then, that doesn’t make you an expert on other people’s lives. 

I know that a lot of people are simply trying to help and there is good advice out there.  The problem, young moms, is that there is too much — too much advice, too many voices.  We can become so concerned about pleasing everyone out there that we miss the whole point of our own calling.  Motherhood isn’t about pleasing everyone else.  In fact, you never will please everyone else so you might as well forget about it.  The point is motherhood is about finding what God’s plan is for your life first, then your family, and then for each individual child.  Motherhood is about serving the individual needs of your children — not the needs of those who wish to condemn or critique your parenting.

Motherhood is also about courage.  It means that sometimes you do what is not popular within your social networks.  It means being willing to meet the needs of your family and children because of who God uniquely created them to be.

Sometimes, it also means parenting “blindly” because you don’t know the end results.  Sometimes, it means we don’t have all the answers and neither do all those around us.  Sometimes, it means you walk by faith and press forward even when circumstances are very discouraging.  So long as you know that you are doing and walking how God called you to walk, then by faith you press forward, even when you don’t know the outcome.  This, my friends, can be agonizing to the heart of a mother who would like to see immediate results and grieves over a child whose heart is not right.  It means surrendering ourselves, our goals, our lives, our plans, our dreams, and our children into the merciful and loving arms of our Heavenly Father.

Dear friends, accept the gift of whom God created you to be.  Discover those gifts within yourself and your kids.  Walk in your calling.  Encourage your children to walk in theirs.  Embrace His plan for your life and your children’s.  And breathe.  Allow your children to breathe.

Enjoy the dance of life with those precious ones!  The dance of life is so brief really.  So dance and dance it well.

Seasons Changing

 

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My mornings are quieter these days, following the mad rush of getting three children up, dressed, fed, and lunch boxes in their backpacks for the start of another school day.  Today’s our boys’ third day of school.  So far, they are enjoying it and doing well.

Me?  I have mixed feelings.  I am glad they are doing well and learning a lot.  I am also enjoying more one-on-one time with Olivia.  Yet, I do miss my boys and miss those earlier years when school wasn’t a current concern and each day was about just playing and learning together.  Growing sometimes also means letting go.  That’s hard to do!

I am still amazed that our summer is really over — at least our summer schedule!  No more days spent playing for hours outside, collecting bugs.  No more mornings spent at parks or days of swimming.  And no more thinking of more fun events that have ended with summer, or I will be bringing out the tissues.

I do love fall — the weather that forces us to get cozy.  The colorful foliage, the apple cider, the blue skies, and crisp jacket days — so much to love about fall.  I don’t miss summer’s humidity, which is still with us.  I do though miss those care-free days of summer, when the kids can spend hours outside, doing nothing except imaginative child play. 

Seasons.  This life is about seasons.  Weather changes.  Children grow.  More gray hairs and wrinkles appear.  We feel the changes in our bodies, hinting that this “season” of life too shall change.  Suddenly, the advice to live in the present because these days of demanding little ones will soon pass seems very true. 

Little arms that used to beg to be held and little mouths with generous kisses soon will pass.  In another decade, more or less, we will soon be fighting the tears that threaten to spill as we wave good bye to college-bound youth.  There is beauty in each season, but the seasons of life, unlike the weather, don’t repeat themselves.  

A few lines from the song, “Cherish the Moment” come to mind.  We truly need to cherish these moments.  There is no rewind button to life.  

As I contemplate the closing of another season, may today bring no regrets.  May you and I live each day in the present, fully engaged with our little ones.