Olivia, I Noticed…

KnightFamilyShoot(62of180)(Picture taken by Laura Patrick Photography.)

Dear Olivia,

I noticed the first time I held you and marveled that I had a daughter!!!  That was so surprising after having three sons.  I had to change your diaper extra times, just to make sure you were “still” a girl.

I noticed what a beautiful little girl you were, even as an infant.

I noticed how in awe your “big” brothers were of you.

I noticed how you love princesses, dresses, fancy shoes, and jewelry but also love to collect bugs with your brothers.

I noticed how you love to try on my shoes and parade across the bedroom in them.

I noticed how delighted you were to wear my necklace to preschool one day.

I noticed how you are not afraid to jump on top of a pile of wrestling brothers.

I noticed how you love to pick dandelions and to hand them to me to put in a vase.

I noticed how you love when Daddy takes you on dates.

I noticed how you loved when I painted your nails for the first time.

I noticed how you lovingly say, “my boys.”

I noticed how protective and nurturing you are of your little brother.

I noticed how independent and yet sensitive you are.

I noticed how you love Jesus and talk about Him.

I noticed how spiritually-sensitive and aware you are.

I noticed how you love to help me cook and clean.

I noticed how you love to have me rock you and how perfectly you fit on my lap still.

I noticed how tall you are getting and how I want to treasure these moments as much as possible.

I noticed how accomplished you are at helping me put together puzzles and how you won “Candyland” and “Chutes and Ladders” when we played last.

I noticed how your preschool teacher said you would be a great mother because you were protective and nurturing of everyone in your class.

I noticed how your preschool teacher said that when you grow up, you want to be a princess and marry the king — not just the prince.

I noticed how you have a great sense of fashion and color-coordination.

I noticed how you are quick to apologize when you do wrong and to give hugs.

Precious daughter, I treasure these times when I can watch you enjoy the sweetness of princesses, dolls, and tumbling with your brothers.  I love the fact that you are my daughter — in all of your femininity and strength!  I love your courage and your kindness!  You are and always will be, a princess to Daddy and me!  I love you.

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W-2, I Noticed…

Dear Son,

I noticed the first time I “fell in love” with you.  It was the day you were born, and the first time I held you in my arms.

I noticed what a contented baby you were and so calm.

I noticed how you loved people and began to “knowingly” smile at people at only two weeks old.

I noticed how you loved to laugh and to make others laugh at a very young age.

I noticed your long eyelashes and knew you were going to be a “heart-stopper.”

I noticed your determination to finally conquer the skill of walking, after months of challenges.

I noticed how you love our neighbor’s dog that is three-times-your-size and how he loves you.

I noticed how you have a great imagination and love to make your animals kiss each other and talk to each other.

I noticed how affectionate you are with your kisses.

I noticed how you love to greet strangers and to make them smile.

I noticed how you brought tears to a young man’s eyes due to your friendly greeting.

I noticed how you like to help clean up your toys and then dump them out again.

I noticed how you have learned to sit at the top of the stairs and wait for someone to get you.

I noticed how you have a quick temper but also an eager willingness to love people.

I noticed how loved you are by everyone in this family, and how they all love to play with you and to hold you.

I noticed how you love to look at books.

I noticed how you absolutely love music, to dance to it, and have great rhythm.

I noticed how you call me, “Momma,” and I absolutely love it!

I noticed the time you sang to me, “I love you,” and it melted my heart.

Son, I noticed that you were an unexpected but absolutely wonderful blessing from God, for which I am completely and unashamedly thankful!

I love you.

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!

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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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!

Why You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Raise Godly Children

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Have you ever blamed yourself for the wrong choices of your children?

Have you ever felt discouraged because you sinned in your parenting (by an angry word or expression or tone of voice) and feared that your kids might forever be scarred or have issues as a result?

Have you ever thought that you had to try harder, be better … in other words be more perfect?

Have you placed an unattainable standard before yourself in your parenting: that your kids won’t turn out “perfectly” or godly if you aren’t perfect in how you raise them?

Have you ever questioned how your kids are going to turn out to live productive and more importantly, godly lives if you are not the flawless example to them?

Have you ever felt and acted as if God’s love and in turn your love to your children is dependent upon the measure to which obedience or dare I say “perfection” is achieved?

Most of us know that God’s love is not dependent upon our obedience.  Yet, we live that way.  We walk in fear or timidity, enacting man-made laws and rituals and tradition to placate our images and ideas of what we believe God expects from us.  The reason?  Not because we always want to obey but sometimes more because we feel and live as if His love is dependent upon us — our behaviors, the measure of our “godliness.”

Why do we think and feel and live this way sometimes?  Has God ever chosen only “perfect” people to accomplish His work, ways, and will?  The Bible gives multiple examples of God choosing people that did sin and sin big time.   Some of these people are in the very line from which Christ’s earthly lineage can be traced: Tamara, Judah, Bathsheba, David, Solomon, Rahab, etc…

The Bible also gives clear guidelines and commands that define what is sin and what it isn’t.  He also clearly judges those who sin.  So what does it all mean?

Do we ignore God’s justice, or do we ignore His love?  Are they mutually agreeable and cohesive with each other?   Can both His love and His justice be singularly achieved?

God calls David a “man after His own heart.”  Yet, David was an adulterer, proud at times, irresponsible in his parenting, a murderer, etc…  As a result, the Bible does speak of judgment.  David’s house was divided in so many ways — brother against brother.  The entire nation of Israel even suffered judgment when David chose to number the armies of Israel.  David’s newborn son, the child born as a result of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, died.  At one point, David’s son Absalom tried to wrest the kingdom from his father and David had to flee for his life.   So why did God call this man “a man after His own heart”?  Scripture also makes it clear that David had a tender and repentant heart.  He grieved over his sin and truly repented.  David submitted to authority (as in example of King Saul) and never rebelliously questioned God’s punishment.  David also had a heart of worship.  The Book of Psalms speaks time and time again of how in the midst of every circumstance, David had learned to yet praise God.

Each person that God chose to use in the genealogy of Christ’s earthly lineage (lineages of Mary and Joseph) were sinners but sinners who at some point repented and experienced redemption as a result.  The key here is their repentance and the changes in their lives that occurred.

God doesn’t choose perfect people to accomplish His will.  He uses forgiven people — people who have been forgiven because they repented.

The truth is we all sinThat isn’t an excuse to continue in our sins.  What it should be is an admission that we are sinners — you and I.  Knowing we have sinned much and have been forgiven much should result in a spirit of thankfulness and worship of One Who is Holy and Righteous Altogether! 

God doesn’t ask us to be perfect.  He asks us to be repentant and useable as a result of our submission. 

God’s grace is perhaps best shown when it is extended to the sinner — not the “perfect.”  His grace is best shown in the chaos and messiness of life.  God’s grace is all about a Savior who offers redemption to an undeserving but repentant sinner.  God’s grace is all about His perfection being extended to imperfect people. 

As mothers, this means that His grace is best demonstrated when imperfect mothers accept His forgiveness and receive His redemption in order to live lives that are forgiven and transformed through Him!  This means that the greatest work of parenting we do is not our own feeble attempts at living a “good” life but is when we learn to walk in His grace and the freedom that comes as a result.

When we sin, God’s love is not affected.  What is affected is our relationship with Him.  When we sin, we put “distance” between our hearts and God’s.

As mothers/parents, the best thing we can do for our children is to teach them what God’s grace means and to live it out before them: that Grace is God extending His forgiveness to us and offering us redemption when we accept it.  It’s learning to walk in His Grace, meaning we walk obediently, humbly, and joyfully before Him. It’s understanding that it’s not about us; it’s all about Him — His work and ways!  It’s understanding that not only was Grace a past work: the work on the cross (salvation), but it is also a present work: the daily renewing and transforming of our lives through His power!

It means, we have been forgiven much so we can forgive much!