A Letter To The New Mom…

Momma and baby 2

(This is a revision of a letter I recently wrote to a new mom.  I decided to post it as I am sure that there are many new moms that are feeling overwhelmed and may need this encouragement today.)

Dear New Mommy,

I remember those early days with three little boys, ages 3 and under. I tried so hard to put on a brave front, to be cheerful, patient with my boys, and hopeful, but I remember at times, I was screaming on the inside.

How could I meet all of their needs — when they needed me all at the same time?  They were too young to understand the need to be patient and to wait.

I didn’t know motherhood could be so incredibly difficult! I didn’t know it would bring me to the “end of myself” and would make me wonder if I would ever find myself again — whoever that might be.

BUT GOD…

God was not immune to my struggles…

Later, I asked God about those dark days. I asked Him with trembling and tearful words, “God, where were you when I felt so alone?” God answered me with this picture of me sitting in the rocking chair, holding my two babies (a time I remember very well when I felt so alone and overwhelmed). I was not sitting there alone though because what I didn’t realize at the time was that He was there, right there with me, and holding me. My little boys and I were cradled in His arms.

I asked God about this picture He was giving me: “Lord, I have a great imagination. How can I be sure this is You and not me?” God then brought these words to my mind, “As a mother comforts her children so I will comfort you.” I looked it up, and sure enough, there is a verse in the Bible that mentions this.

Isaiah 66:13: “As one whom his mother comforts,
So I will comfort you…”

These days are overwhelming, but as a mother who has been through a lot of the same struggles, may I tell, “You can survive.”  

Why?  Because you have courage, a heart of love for your kids, and you have a God who does see, care, and hear. He doesn’t ask you to walk this alone. His grace truly is grace for the moment…

Someday, you will look back on these days, and you will remember the lisping voices of your toddler, the toothless baby grins that melt your heart, and the inquisitive questions of a child that believes you know all the answers to the universe.  Someday, you will truly know that it was all worth it.  Yes, even the most soul-wrenching and physically-draining day was worth those moments when you had the privilege of being someone’s mother… to hold the heart of a child within the embrace of your arms.

Hugs, dear one…

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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!

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!

A Day In The Life Of A Mommy Of A Newborn

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(FreeImages.com/MarcoOjeda)

I’ll be honest.  Yesterday was tough!  It was the first time since giving birth to my 19-day-old that I cried.

Up until two days ago, I had been feeling good.  Tired but not extreme exhaustion.  Holding a contented newborn.  Maintaining a decently clean house.  Keeping abreast of business stuff.  Generally doing well with recovery and life.

Yesterday it came crashing around me.  It’s not that anything was horribly major — like someone dying or a terminal illness or a house burning down.  It was all those “little” things that add up and when you are exhausted, make you feel like nothing is going right.

I get about 5 1/2 hours of sleep at most per night.  I know some can survive with that few hours of sleep, but I start to feel like a zombie or overly emotional after awhile if I am not getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night.  We know how it goes with a newborn, sleep just doesn’t happen much — especially when you have four other children too.

With three of them in school, I have to awaken them at 6:30 a.m. and help them madly scramble to dress, eat, pack their lunch boxes in the backpacks, find gloves and hats (always by their back packs), take vitamins, pray with them, and then send them on their way with hugs and kisses by 7:00 a.m.  In the mad scramble, the boys often are too noisy and to my horror — yes horror, manage to awaken their 2-year-old sister at 6:30 a.m. also.  That means that Mommy’s day has begun — whether ready or not.  Of course, there is a newborn to be fed every two hours in there, and the feeding takes 30-45 minutes total.  This also involves a partial outfit change as the poor little guy spits up a lot.

So, I begin my day with sleep deprivation which means everything is “amplified” — the stresses and hopefully the joys too.

Did I also mention that my two-year-old has decided that naps are a thing of the past?

On top of that, I had to spend my day talking with banks, auto mechanics, sales’ representatives, the hospital where I gave birth, the Social Security office, health insurance representatives, doctors, etc…  Why all of this?

Because… our van is in the shop — thanks to a bad repair job that should have cost us around $100 but is now going to cost us at least $2000!  As a result, I’ve been without a vehicle for a week, and it will be another half a week ’til I have a vehicle again.

My husband and I had lots of decisions, research, and phone calls to make to decide on whether or not we wanted to invest more money into a high mileage vehicle or take our losses.  We had to consider what type of vehicle we would buy in its place and how we would pay for it.  So many decisions and many phone calls and research!

No vehicle means I am house-bound and have been for weeks.  Thankfully, my sister and mom have been available to pick my Kindergartner from school, or we would be in trouble.

Then, there are all the insurance issues.  My husband changed jobs — a good thing — less than a month from Baby’s due date.  The new insurance plan offered would have meant we would have had to pay completely for the cost of the birth so we elected to go with Cobra, our only other option available at the time.  I did more research and found that once Baby was born, we could then switch to a cheaper plan.  I’ll spare you the details, but to get the best deal, it meant we had to go with Cobra for October, my  husband’s new insurance plan for November, and then I needed to apply for a third plan for December, that we hope to keep ’til the following December.  All these insurance changes meant time — time with a capital “T”!  I had to call doctor’s offices to get information.  I had to keep reentering information on our online application as it wouldn’t save prior information.  Lots of time involved!  I had to submit applications for Cobra and make more phone calls.  I haven’t even gotten to resubmitting bills yet.  That will come.

Then, there is the issue with our newborn’s birth certificate and social security card.  They have the wrong name.  So, I had to call the hospital, fill out paperwork, resubmit the form for a corrected birth certificate, try to reach the Social Security office to no avail, and now we have to wait for the new certificate before applying for a new social security card.

Of course, Christmas is fast approaching.  This is a season and holiday I love, but it means more work.  I have Christmas gifts to make and order, letters to write, and shopping to do.  This is not meant to be a burden, but add it with everything else, and I started to feel overwhelmed.

Boring you yet?  Probably an under-statement…

Yesterday when I started to cry, it wasn’t because of all of the previously mentioned challenges.  It was because my baby wasn’t acting like his usually contented self.  He would cry from hunger, I would attempt to nurse him, and he would turn up his nose at me.  There is nothing like holding her own crying and unhappy baby that will more quickly reduce a mother to tears.  I couldn’t satisfy him at the moment and help him, and that was “ripping my heart out.”

Thankfully, in the midst of my exhaustion and emotional stress, I remembered the necessity of prayer and began to pray for God to help my baby and I.  I attempted to nurse him again, and that time, he began to suck.  I still held him with tears rolling down my cheeks, but I didn’t feel like such a huge failure afterallThere is something about when you breastfeed your baby that makes you particularly vulnerable to a sense of success or failure, based on how your child takes to breastfeeding.  This, of course, isn’t true; but somehow, it feels like it. 

That evening, I also needed/wanted to finish the week’s Bible study on the life of David, directed by the Beth Moore devotionals.  I didn’t know if I would be able to meet with the other ladies the following day, but I wanted to stay on schedule.  As I began to read more of the lessons, I began to “hear” what God was trying to teach me through His Word.  It’s amazing how the Lord always brings exactly into our lives what we need to hear and when we need to hear it!  His timing is perfect!

I began to be reminded by reading David’s life story how God had time and time again shown a desire to be loved, to reveal the immeasurable greatness of His own love, and to have a close, intimate friendship with David.  I was then reminded of the many ways that God has worked in my own life and the truth of Who He is.  I was reminded to praise God for Who He is and what He is doing!  This was such a good reminder for me — something I needed to read that very day.  I was feeling so tired, so completely worn out, and overwhelmed.  God reminded me of how much He loves me and of how He has and is working on my behalf!

I may be a sleep-deprived Mommy of five.  My house may not be perfect.  My vehicle may not be running and may empty a good portion of our savings to fix it.  Christmas gifts may not be timely this year.  One thing I do know is that I am loved, protected, and desired by a God Who is Merciful, Gracious, Just, and Loving!  I can and will survive, and I can do it even victoriously!

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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.

Embracing Womanhood

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(Picture By Laura Patrick Photography.)

Today as I watched my kids play happily in the warm sunshine, digging in the dirt, and chasing balls, I couldn’t help but think what the miracle of their lives represent — the miracle of motherhood, the miracle of womanhood.

We live in a day when staying home and being a mom seems mediocre or insignificant.  When asked what we do as women, the expected response is often for something of worth or significance — something beyond being a homemaker.  The proper response of our worth or measure being that of some noteworthy career, where we can demonstrate our equal or superior intelligence, status, and capabilities with that of men.

There is nothing wrong with a woman having a good career and being educated.  The point is a good career and several degrees are not necessary to prove the worth of a woman.

Why do we as women feel that we have to compete with everything a man does to demonstrate our own worth?  Why do we feel that we must do and be everything a man is to prove that we are equal or superior to men?

What is at the root/heart of this competition?  Could it be insecurity?  Could it be a reaction to past history?

Women are of equal value, equal intelligence, and have gifts that equal men in significance!  Yet, in all our striving to prove something are we actually proving the opposite and degrading our own species and value?

If our value is in the variety, diversity, and distinctions of our particular genders, why do we strive to be like a gender we are not?  By trying to prove that we are like the other gender, do we not reinforce the image that our own gender is weaker, less significant, less valuable than the other?  If our gender has distinctive value in its differences, why do we try to operate as if we are the same as the other gender?

Motherhood, the demonstration of the uniqueness of our gender as a woman, is one of our greatest gifts to society.  Yet, it is often scorned, ridiculed, or viewed as subservient.  What enlightened/educated woman wants to be viewed in this modern culture as “merely” a homemaker?  “What honor is there in that?”

Motherhood is a distinct gift to society — perhaps the greatest contribution we can give to this world!  It is the gift of life, the continuation of the species, the formation of a character and life, the extension of the life cycle, the hope of our future, the potential for benefits to all of society through ingenuity, creativity, and new inventions produced by the next generation.

No other gender can create, bear, and nurture life!  No other gender can protect and bear life within its own body.  Motherhood is a unique opportunity — distinct from the other gender!

Distinct differences with women are their unique gifts to perceive, feel, nurture emotionally — not just physically, create, and color the world with passion, creativity, and a unique perspective.

The femininity of women is not a weakness!  Yet, modern society portrays attractive, sexy women as being as strong or stronger physically then men, aggressive, tough (emotionally and physically), and sporting clothing that decries hints at femininity.  The only hints of femininity is to continue to portray the wrong view of women: as objects of sexual gratification and lust.  Thus, these modern women are portrayed in sexy clothing, that is as raw in its design as in its message: women are meant to lust after, to be a sex object.

This view might illicit strong reactions.   Modern women will react to the idea of men lusting after them, which they rightfully should.  Yet, women have bought into the error — continuing to dress with raw, provocative clothing as if their only value is in being a sex object.  Why else would we put so much undue attention on sexual attention?  Is it to feel powerful?  Do we think by dangling this hold over men and then yanking it away, we control them?  Does controlling men somehow make us strong or stronger?  Does control ever demonstrate true strength?

Does control ever demonstrate true strength?

Does avoiding being a sex object mean we reject any intimation of our femininity or womanhood?  Does it mean we wear unattractive clothing that cover any hint of our feminine form or any hint of our distinct attraction to the creative, colorful, softer, more nurturing sides to our nature?  Would that also not be a disavowal of our womanhood, a perfidy of our distinctions as women?

To be a woman means you must be strong — a strength with its own distinctions and uniqueness!  The singular differences of our own gender requires a strength of character, strength of purpose, strength of physical endurance, strength of emotion.  As women, we expressly create, nurture, sustain, and contribute to life like none other! 

Not many men would readily volunteer to undergo the challenges that women must in order to preserve, nurture, and sustain life.  Most women would rather endure the challenges of pregnancy, child-birth, and raising young children rather than hear their husbands whine and suffer through it.  (Not that all men would be whiners.)  The point is that our womanhood proves our value because of our unique contributions!

Women are not valuable because they can be just like a man or be superior to men.  Women are valuable because of who they are!  The essence of womanhood is the very distinction that gives value to women.

If we want to be respected as women, then perhaps we should stop trying to prove we are the same as men — as if the distinctions of manhood are the only specifications of worth and value — and start walking with confidence in our own dignity as women.  We are not mere sex objects.  Our strength is not in our ability to manipulate or control another, including the opposite gender.  Our strength is in our singularity as women — not as women who haven’t recognized their own worth and thus are in the awkward state of trying to function as a man when they are a woman.

The diversity of the two genders is what makes them both uniquely special and independent from each other. 

As women, let’s embrace our womanhood and femininity, stop believing the lies, and walk with dignity because we are distinctly women!

What You Didn’t Know You Signed Up For When You Became A Mother

 

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(FreeImages.com/BorisLitvak)

I knew becoming a mother would be a challenge, but I didn’t know what I had all signed up for when I became a mother.

Nope.  Not even half of it.

Women imagine the pain of labor, but not many have heard of the recovery.  Then, there’s the soreness of first adjusting to nursing.  There are the sleepless nights, when you stand rocking and bouncing a screaming baby for hours when your groggy mind can hardly think of anything beyond your extreme weariness.

There are the days when your greatest wish is only a few more hours of uninterrupted sleep and when you daydream of putting your head down on a soft, downy pillow.  You glamorize the elusive activity called “sleep.”

You hear the stories about motherhood, but you can’t fully imagine it until you have experienced it.

But then, no one call tell you the indescribable joy when you feel your body give the final push and a precious new life enters the world!  No one can describe the euphoria when you hold that warm little body in your arms!  No one can explain that even when your body screams for more sleep, you manage to still jump out of bed to feed a hungry baby.  No one can explain the moment when you first fall in love with the babe in your arms — the moment when that unique bond between a mother and her baby forms.

You don’t fully understand a love that would be willing to die for another until you hold your own child in your arms.

Dreams of becoming a mother don’t normally include the temper tantrums, the potty-training nightmares and messes, the melt-downs at the grocery store, the broken furniture or marker writing on walls.

Prior to motherhood, one doesn’t comprehend the heart-break, the tears, the fears, the bravery, the selflessness, the sacrifices, the exhaustion, and all the prayers that go into mothering.

Prior to motherhood, one can’t experience the laughter and shared giggles over tickles, cuddles, books, and picking buttercups with your child.  One can’t imagine the contentment in holding a Wooly Bear Caterpillar so your toddle can feel the soft “wool”.  One can’t imagine the laughter that bubbles up when you see the berry stains on your child’s face from snacking while berry-picking together.

One can’t imagine the sadness when your little one comes running to you with tears making streaks down a muddy face while blood runs down a cut knee.  One can’t imagine the pain of holding your screaming child while the doctor gives a shot or sews stitches into a gash.

One can’t imagine the joys and fears of the first time you send your child off on the school bus or the anger you feel when your child comes home in tears because of the cruelty of other children.

Parenting books can’t totally prepare you for the difficult questions, the perplexing personality conflicts, and the discipline infractions.   There are no easy formulas for parenting.  There are no “cookie-cutter” children.  There are no perfect parents.

Photo albums don’t fully capture the joy and the wonder of watching your baby grow from toddler to pre-schooler to middle school age.  Not even graduation and wedding photos capture the significance of watching that same child who once screamed in a grocery store aisle and wrote on your best furniture with markers standing tall and strong and beautiful while reciting forever vows to their beloved.

Parenting is an oxymoron of pleasurable and painful moments.  It stretches you physically and emotionally and spiritually.  Parenting reveals the limits of your own abilities and the weaknesses of your own personality.  Parenting takes you to the heights of joy and plunges you to its depths.  Parenting tests your willingness to grow and to be challenged.  Parenting challenges the depth of your convictions and the height of your faith.

When you first watch the ligaments and skin stretch around the growing life within you, you never knew that the very essence of who you are would be stretched as well.  You didn’t know that the pain while bearing down to deliver a baby and the euphoria afterwards would be just a foretaste of the pain and joy you would feel as you watched your child enter each new stage of growth in his/her world.

When you imagine parenting, you can’t imagine the exquisite beauty of it nor the pain that prostrates you to the floor.  Becoming a mother means you not only surrender your body to stretch and grow in ways formerly unchallenged but you surrender your heart to be stretched beyond what you could have imagined.

Becoming a mother means you “sign up” for more than you envisioned, but it means you have the potential to grow beyond what you can foresee.

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A Letter To Oldest Son

 

Family letter in 1920 2

(FreeImages.com/ascom)

 

Dear Eldest Son,

You and Daddy are away this weekend.  I promised you that while you are gone, I would work on a blog just for you.

When I think of writing a blog to you, I wonder how I can summarize all that you mean to me and these past eight years we have shared as mother and son.  I don’t know if I am skilled enough for the challenge, but I know that all you care about is knowing how much you are loved and how special we see you as.  So, here it goes…

Precious Son, you have changed my life unequivocally.  A little over eight years ago, you redefined me by adding a new synonym to my list: that of “Mom,” “Mommy,” or “Mother.”  Before becoming a mom, I could only dream and imagine what it would be like to be a mother.  I always loved babies so I anticipated having one of my own.  I also had always enjoyed and worked well with children so I had dreams of having that same close relationship with my children.

Then, you came.  No dream could compare to the reality of holding my very own child for the first time in my arms.  I imagined crying when I would see you for the first time.  (I cry when I watch other new moms hold their babies for the first time.)  Your Daddy cried when he saw you for the first time.  Me?  I didn’t cry.  I didn’t cry at your Daddy’s and my wedding either — even though our wedding and your birth and the births of your siblings were my most precious earthly moments.  I think my emotions ran too deep to even express themselves in tears.  I think I was simply too overwhelmed and overjoyed.  The tears would come later…

Tears or no tears, I was amazed, overwhelmed, in awe!  There I held within my arms my very own baby, my very own flesh and blood!  You were so perfect, so beautiful!  Your Daddy and I just wanted to hold you and hold you.  We didn’t want you out of our sight for even a few minutes.

Within a few weeks, you were smiling and laughing.  That made it even more special!  You and I developed a very close bond.  I could tell that there was a special connection that you sensed too.  I remember dancing with you in the kitchen while special music was playing (a lullaby with your name in it) and looking into your eyes and seeing this look of recognition, this look of contentment and joy in your eyes.  You knew you were lovedI remember feeling so completely in love with you and thinking that I couldn’t imagine being happier.

The months passed, and you grew.  We played together, read together, cuddled together, and just simply adored being together.  Life as a mother was simply amazing!  I don’t remember you being unpleasant or me feeling remotely annoyed at you.

Life has a way of “shaking things up a bit,” and it did with the birth of your brother.  At first, you didn’t think you liked him much.  You liked him a little, except when Mommy had to feed him and you wanted Mommy’s attention.  Then, there was a lot of frustration and tears on both of our parts.  I didn’t know how to nurse your brother and keep you happy at the same time.  That was a difficult time for both of us.  Thankfully, it passed — especially once your brother started to crawl.  Once he started to crawl, you saw him as a play-mate.  You loved racing him around the dining room table (you would crawl with him).  We fit into a groove then, and I once again felt that life was absolutely wonderful and ideal.  I loved having two sons, and you guys mostly loved each other too.

At a young age, we began to see your personality emerge.  As a newborn, you were demanding.  I remember how you would get so angry when you were hungry that you couldn’t nurse at first.  I would have to calm you down, and then you could nurse.  Your personality seemed to mellow though, and you became a very pleasant and happy baby.

Those who knew you as a toddler would describe you as very personable, lively, and with natural leadership skills.  You were thought of as athletic also.  At two, you could kick the soccer ball quite well.  You were very confident as a little guy.  In the nursery, you could send everyone into fits of laughter by the funny things you would do.  You knew how to entertain.  You were also very conscious of what people thought of you — even as just a 12 1/2-month-old.  I remember how I had you dressed in this adorable outfit for Christmas (bow-tie and golfer hat with dress shirt and pants).  Two teen boys sat behind us and were laughing at you; they thought you were cute and funny.  You thought they were making fun of you so you glared at them and then slid down in the pew so they couldn’t see you.

You talked well but then regressed when your brother came.  Finally at 2 1/2 years of age, your vocabulary really took off.  All of a sudden, you were talking 5 and 6-word sentences.

You were also very tall and still are.  You have been in the 96th percentile in height for several years now.  The doctors predict you’ll be at least 6+ feet tall once you are an adult.

You are now the big brother of two brothers and one sister.  Daddy and Mommy have more demands on our time, but we still try to make time for each of you and to let you know how special you are to us.

You love to draw, write stories, play outside, read books or to be read too.  You love to build with Legos, play make-believe games, play Wii, watch movies, be chased, play sword-fight, build things, and play soccer.  You are an active boy, but you can also be calm when you are doing a quieter activity.  You understand spiritual matters and can converse on deep subjects.  You do your best in school and get good grades.  You try to please your teachers and care about what others think of you.  You can be tough but also sensitive.  You dislike change but like adventures.  You love scary rides but still love to be hugged.

These eight years haven’t been easy for you or us.  It’s hard learning to obey and to do what is right.  It’s hard learning to be selfless and patient.  When you live in a larger family, our true natures come out more.  That can be good as it can cause those rough edges to hopefully be worn off sooner than they would be otherwise.  It does create more challenges within the home environment though.

Your Daddy and I aren’t perfect, and we have let you down at times.  We thank you for your patience in working with us as we learn how to become better parents and as we learn to grow in our obedience to God and in doing what is right.  You see, Will, life is all about learning and growing.  It’s all about learning that the best way is in obeying God.  It’s also seeing that God loves each of us individually.  He loves you personally and intimately.  He desires for you to have only the very best.  He wants you to experience the fullest measure of life, liberty, and love — found only in and through Him.

W1, we are so thankful that you made a profession of faith!  Your Daddy and I continue to pray for you to grow as a Child of God.

W1, if the one thing you learn (now that you are saved) is how much God loves you and you love Him in return, your Daddy and I are completely at peace and content.  We don’t need to worry about anything else.  Those two things will sustain you and preserve you through anything.  So, Will, that is what we pray for you — that you would know God and His love for you and that you would love him intimately in return.

W1, there are so many challenges in this life.  So much suffering!  I wish I could protect you from it all.  From my Mommy stand-point, I would choose a peaceable, pleasant, prosperous life for you.  I also recognize that an easy life can often produce an “easy” faith.  In other words, our faith grows, our character develops when we do have to suffer some difficulties.  Challenges work our “spiritual muscles.”  I know how much you love the story of Eric Liddell.  He was quite an amazing runner, but it was his faith that “ran” even better.

Precious Son of my heart, can I remind you that you win, when you choose to do the right thing and to do it wellYou are in a race — the race of lifeAny race that has a valuable reward at the end requires dedication, sacrifice, focus, perseverance, endurance.  No one wins a race by sitting on the side-lines.  No one wins a race by watching the other runners.  No one wins a race by giving up as soon as they break into a sweat.  No one wins a race by dropping out when their muscles begin to tire.  No one wins a race by living a life of comfort and ease.  No one wins a race by quitting when they lose their first practice.

W1, I have heard of a simple but profound speech by Winston Churchill.  He said, “Never give up.  Never give up.  Never give up!  Never give up!  NEVER GIVE UP!”  Son, life is going to be challenging.  You’ll produce tears and sweat by the buckets in this life.  You will feel your physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental muscles strain and cry out for relief.  You will feel yourself falling, and you won’t want to get back up.  Others will mock or criticize you.  You will be tempted to believe the lies that you are a failure and not special.  The truth is you are — not just because you are my son (and that makes you very special) — because you are God’s child and He has incredibly special plans for your life.

Precious Son, lift that head of yours, throw back those shoulders, open those beautiful eyes of yours and see what God has planned for you.  Breathe the life God has given to you.  Take hold of His plan for your life, and run, Son!  Run well.  When you fall, get up again.  When you fall again, get up again.  Son, don’t give up!  Never give up!  Never give up!  NEVER GIVE UP!  You have a legacy, a heritage that no one can take from you.  So, run your race, Son.  Run it well, and in the end, you will hear, “Well done thou, good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of the Lord!”

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She Melts My Heart

(Photo taken by Becca Davis Photography.)

I absolutely adore all my children!  Okay, some days I don’t feel like I like them as much.  If anyone or anything would threaten my children with harm though — even at their worst moments — I would gladly risk my own life to rescue them.  My “mother-bear” claws would unfurl, and watch out!

I was so excited when each of our boys entered our lives!  I treasured every minute of holding their sweet little bodies in my arms as babies.  I loved watching them do their funny things and say their cute stuff!  As we jokingly would say to one another, “You’re so sweet I could eat you for dinner!”  I thought life was absolutely wonderful with three little boys.  And it was!  I loved building train track configurations, Lego contraptions, throwing balls, pushing them on riding toys, curling up to read books, and cuddle time before bed.

In my heart of hearts though I always wondered what it would be like to have a daughter also — to share those moments that only mothers and daughters can do best: the tea parties, boy talks, shopping, painting nails, fixing long hair, cooking meals together, etc…  I had enjoyed a close relationship with my sisters and mom growing up, and I wanted to experience that too with my daughter — the comradery of women.

When I found out I was having a girl, well I was just a little excited, to say the least.  Even the boys got in on the excitement, talking about how she was going to be their princess and wear princess dresses.

Then, the princess entered our lives!  We dressed her in the prettiest outfits, fixed her hair with bows and flowers, and saw pink and purple for the first time in our house.  After three boys, I was ready for a little pink and purple.

The little princess is now 17 months old.  She has warmed her way into all of our hearts, melted them really.  Well, her brothers might disagree at times when she knocks over their train track configurations and Lego houses.  We all laugh though when she tries to dance to music and uses a flashlight with the wide part underneath her mouth to pretend to sing on a mic.  We smile when she sees a brother crying and immediately walks over to rub their heads and pat their backs.  We clap when she helps Mommy unload the dishwasher and puts some silverware on the table.  We all hold our noses when she needs a diaper change and plops down on our laps.  We laugh as she giggles when we swing her in the air and twirl her in our arms — that is when Mommy and Daddy do that.

Our little girl has warmed her way into our hearts.  She is a ray of sunshine, pure delight!  What a gift God gave to us in her!

The Mommy Identity

Five Minute Friday: Identity

May 11, 2012

On Fridays over here a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

Your words. This shared feast.

If you have five minutes, we have a writing challenge <—click to tweet this!

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Please visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments.

http://thegypsymama.com/2012/05/five-minute-friday-identity/

 

 

[I wrote an entire post on this topic.  WordPress decided to have some quirks in their system and lost my post.  I am quite disappointed.  I will attempt to write it again, but you can never quite write the same thing.  Here’s my second attempt:]

I always wanted to be a mommy.  I played with dolls until I was 11.  Yes, I was a “girlie-girl.”  In spite of the stigma that seems to be with that term, being a “girlie-girl” doesn’t equal weakness.  But that’s another subject…

I used to keep a diary that had my favorite names that I hoped to name my children.  I wanted kids — a lot of them!  I dreamed about being a mommy.  My dreams were full of a smiling mom with happy and obedient children.  There were giggling babies with chubby cheeks.  I couldn’t imagine anything better than being a mommy.  My dreams were of perfection — the perfect mommy and the perfect kids.

Life happened.  I married and then 1 1/2 years into my marriage had a miscarriage.  I was devastated!  Miscarriages are never in our dreams.  Neither is infertility or still-births.  Neither is cancer or other diseases.  Neither are job losses.  For some women, neither is singleness.  What happens when life happens, and our dreams don’t?

A little later, I conceived again.  Nine months later, a healthy baby boy was born.  My dream was happening, right?!  Yes, except in my dreams, I didn’t have a rough post-partem recovery due to a severe tear and then developing Thrush.  Eight weeks later, my dream seemed to be happening.  The months passed.

Into my baby’s eighth month, changes and surprises came.  My husband switched jobs, we moved to a different state, and I found out I was pregnant again.  I had two babies 16 months apart, and life was busy!

The delivery of my second child was challenging.  My babies come with large heads.  More brains, right?!  Except, large heads make for painful deliveries, and pain is never in our dreams — only nightmares.  I remember saying that I didn’t want to think of having another baby after that.

With two babies demanding my attention, I found myself exhausted, struggling to change out of my pajamas before the afternoon was gone, and definitely not the mom in my dreams.  Who was I, without the perfect Mommy dream?  I thought I was a failure.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a thyroid disorder which contributed to my extreme fatigue and feelings of inadequacy.  What kind of a mom am I, if I don’t match my dream image of motherhood?  I struggled with that a lot, for years really.  I wanted my dreams of perfection to be reality.  Reality was very different.  Reality has its joys, but it also has its struggles.

Six years later, I now have four children plus one in Heaven!  Seems like a dream, doesn’t it?!! It is in many ways.  I have four, healthy children.  We do laugh and play a lot.  I also have a baby with chubby cheeks that I love to kiss a lot.  Yet, I have experienced that life is full of challenges.  Children aren’t perfect.  Moms aren’t perfect.  We have lots of messy days.  If my identity as a mom is all about perfection, then who am I?  I am a failure.  If my identity as a mom relies on how my children perform, and they have to perform perfectly, then my kids are failures.

Seven years and a few months into my parenting, I am learning that my identity as a mom is not based on a perfect performance.  Nor, does God require that of me.  Rather, it is based on God’s grace.  God allowed me to experience brokenness so that I might see His grace.  I thought that I was relying on Him to be a godly mother, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant.  We can’t fully know it until we know what it means to be broken.

Brokenness is not in our dreams, but it is through brokenness that real joy occurs. 

It is through brokenness that God’s grace is revealed. 

I experience His grace as I allow God into the vulnerability of my weakness. 

God’s grace has been poured out upon this life!  As I open the “cracked and parched lips” of my heart to His grace, my thirst for identity is quenched.  My Mommy identity is found in grace rather than perfection.

I am a Mommy through grace!  I am a Mommy of grace!

 

 

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