Category Archives: Motherhood

Sola Scriptura!

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child reading-bible

By Scripture alone. Through the working of the Holy Spirit.

My oldest son, who is very small for his age, also seems to be wise beyond his years. It certainly has nothing to do with me. I’ve given up on trying to take credit (or even joke about taking credit) for the good things that come out of him because he’s advancing beyond what I remember teaching him! While this may seem like I’m bragging about how great he is, I have to pause and acknowledge the same thing for him that I know is true in my life. There can be no other explanation for this except that God is working in his life.

A few weeks ago, as we were driving home, my son –out of nowhere, I might add– says, Mom, do you know what I did last night? You got me, son. What’d you do? Well, I was praying to God and I asked Him to forgive all my sins and for Him to be with me forever. So I’m going to heaven now! 

Come again? You did what?!

That’s wonderful, son! So God is your Savior now?

Yes, He is.

By Scripture alone. Through the working of the Holy Spirit.

Now, I can say that my husband and I have both shared with our kids what it means to know Jesus as our Savior. We never pushed any kind of formulaic prayer or super spiritual experience. In fact we have strayed from urging them to make any kind of “decision” because we have heard of people pressuring children to “be saved!” (and they end up “getting saved” every other week which doesn’t sound to me like good doctrine or practice). But in our home, we teach the Word of God. We take them to church. They have amazing Sunday school teachers who faithfully teach them the Word. We take them to a Protestant catechism class where those teachers help them learn the doctrine and the Word. I’d say they’re growing up in a culture of Sola Scriptura.

So it should come as no surprise to me that when my son is receiving the Word on a constant basis, it starts to get in him. The seed has been planted and lots of people are watering it. But God causes the growth!

This is why I can say that he is wise beyond his years, and he knows things I never taught him. God is teaching him. God is giving him spiritual wisdom.

Just this week he told me he began reading his Bible. It’s a children’s Bible called the Big Picture Bible, so when I say “reading” don’t think of paragraphs, think of a few lines on two pages. He would tell me each morning what he’d read that night. He had questions about words and about concepts. He would read out loud as we ate our breakfast and lunch. He read in the car as we drove to the store or the dentist. He was excited when he got all the way to the New Testament. Mom, look! I’m in the New Testament already!! Wow, son, where did you get the desire to read the Word?

By Scripture alone. Through the working of the Holy Spirit.

I used the phrase “Sola Scriptura” not to discuss Church history or to argue over all the details surrounding this Reformation cry, but to say that the Scripture is sufficient for making one wise to salvation. For knowing how to be saved and how to walk in that salvation.

He would point out the times where God’s people disobeyed God and he would say I’m at a sad part, Mommy. Yep, and one day we’ll be dealing with this in your life. I hope you’re as sad about sin in your life as you are about reading it in God’s Word.

Somehow I’m not as nervous about him growing up to truly know God. The same God who is at work in my life is visibly at work in my son’s life. Thank You, God, for Your Word!

 

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Drink Him Up!

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thirsty drinking

God bless my son.

It happens in the most unsuspecting of times. A conversation that winds its way to some deep, meaningful truth.

My oldest had been telling me about how afraid he was when he woke up one morning. He said he had “the shivers” and didn’t even feel up to getting himself some breakfast. Sweet little tender heart! I had to get to the bottom of this for sure!

He explained to me that since his grandma left (she had come to stay a few weeks with us this summer), he had woken up with this intense fear of falling. And this fear made him shake all over. He just couldn’t “shake off” that feeling.

At first I started to tell him that he had nothing to fear because his bed had rails and now that he was downstairs, he most certainly would not fall from any great height. But then I remembered how I feel every time I have a weird dream that is so terrifying it wakes me. I can never think rationally in those moments. Whatever it is that I fear is so real to me that not even Paul could set a convincing argument against it. In my wild-eyed terror, I cannot shake the fear for what seems like an eternity. I have to wake up completely and let my brain’s rational functioning kick in before I realize that snakes are not indeed all over my bed.

So, as I sit across from my son who is still shaken up in his fear, I grab his hand and we sit on the floor together. I place him on my lap and wrap my arms around him, and I begin to pray. Lord wrap Your strong arms around him so that He will know You are here. Take away his fears and replace them with Your presence. Help him to look to you when he is afraid. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I proceeded to get his bowl and cereal, and as we sat together, he began to eat and to drink. I’m now watching him like a stalker, furtively glancing his way to see if anything is happening, and as he takes a drink of his ice water, I see him shiver. uh oh. I suck in my breath and wait to see what he’ll say next.

Mommy, you know what’s weird? When I took a drink of this water, the shivers went away! It’s like this cup of water is God!

Bless his heart! I had to hold in a giggle and decided to just go with it! Yes, I guess so! We want to drink Him up! We want more of God. He takes away our fears. Thank you God!

I love his simple faith. When I have my fears released, it simply must be that God did it. Amen, brother!

I thought our little talk was over, but then my son says, What is it that they call Jesus? The Living…? Living Water! He is our Living Water!

Yes, He is son. You know, there’s a story about Jesus and a woman at a well. He tells her that He has living water and that when we receive it, we thirst no more! And the crazy thing about God is even though we can drink this Living Water and not thirst, we still want to go back and get more of God. It’s like we can’t get enough of Him. Almost like we thirst for Him. So drink Him up! 

Of course I had to explain the difference between physical water and spiritual water, and a list of other terms, but I believe the message stood strong. He is the Living Water that we must drink up! Whether I’m experiencing deep-seated fears or belly-laughing joy, He is the One that I need to draw from. And His well is endless which is why I can continually go back to Him for drink after drink after drink.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Taste with the spirit. See with the spiritual eyes. He is good.

When the Usual Parenting Technique Doesn’t Cut It

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children most important

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” C. S. Lewis

I wish I had written down all of the things that I used to believe about parenting so that after having 3 kids I could have something humorous to laugh about when things get a little crazy up in here. Isn’t it true that we believe some pretty ridiculous ideas concerning how to parent a child? Most of these ideas start with…

“I would never do _____.”

“I can’t believe anyone would _____.”

“I am certain I would _____.”

Like I said, ridiculous.

For one, it reeks of judgment. And secondly, these statements are spoken in ignorance.

I used to think that because I worked with children before I had kids, I would have an upper hand on what to do as a parent. Sorry, Charlie, it doesn’t work that way.

After having my first child, I learned quickly certain “techniques” worked well and others … not so much. I subscribed to the “do what you need to do to survive” theory for a LOT of my son’s first year. He was colicky, and he was THE FIRST CHILD. You know what I mean! We’re all a little crazy with the first one, but we learn and they survive, and we become a little less crazy after the second one is born. I did whatever worked for my son and for me, and he seems to be turning out okay. 😉

Now I knew that I had some ridiculous ideas about what parenting a child would look like, and I knew that every child would be different, but I wasn’t prepared for the reality that I may have to parent my two children in two separate ways. I’m still trying to figure this out, so if you’ve come to read some inspirational and new technique for parenting your kids, I must apologize. I do believe that knowing is half the battle! I know that my 3 sons all have different personalities, and one of them most definitely has a different personality from my own!

So here’s what has helped me:

 

  • Am I parenting from my own personality and trying to force my way onto a child with a different personality (when his way may be fine)? Is it worth the battle?
    • Example: I want you to clean your room. Here are the boxes. Cars go here. Trains go here. Dinosaurs go here. Clothes go here. (MY WAY)
    • (HIS WAY) I will clean but I don’t care about your boxes. At least I’m picking up, right?
  • Am I learning to appreciate my child’s differences from me rather than being frustrated that he’s different?
    • He is passionate and wears his emotions on his sleeve and this is good because he can learn to be passionate about something that truly matters.
  • Am I casting a vision for my child, seeing the positive side of his personality rather than being fixated on the negative?
    • Positive: knows what he wants, has a strong will thus a strong leadership capability, doesn’t back down easily
    • Negative: stubborn, strong-willed, argumentative
  • Am I intentionally speaking truth into his life rather than taking the easy road and ordering him to obey?
    • When he yells “no, I’m not going to listen to you!” for the 15th time while in line at Target, I may respond quietly and then let the teachable moment happen later when I talk to him about how God is going to do great things in his life but having that kind of attitude is not respectful to me or beneficial to him.
    • Or I might just threaten him with a spanking and argue back that he’s being rude and to stop interrupting me (which usually just escalates the yelling).
  • Have I realized that I can’t do everything perfectly and still need help? Am I praying for my child’s heart and not just his behavior? Could it be that there is a spiritual battle going on and what I really need to do is ask for God’s protection over him and for God to work in his life?

 

What I know for certain is that I am a different person than who I was before I had children. They are not setbacks or inconveniences in my life. God has used them to refine me more than I’d like to admit! They are a blessing from the Lord. A heritage.

And I’m going to keep reminding myself of this every time it feels less than peaceful in my home.

I’m sick. I think I have GMS – Guilty Mom Syndrome

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A classic picture that you may be able to relate to

A classic picture that you may be able to relate to

I write at the risk of everyone shaking their heads at me in disbelief and possibly judgment. Then again, I might find that some of you relate to what I’m about to say. So I’m going to write to those who may need the encouragement that I have been given in this one area. Being a mom.

We just celebrated Mother’s Day, and I can’t get this nagging thought out of my mind. It’s been there for about the last 2 weeks. Are my kids missing out on something because I’m their mom? 

Ugh. I said it, so now it’s out there. I hate to admit that the reason I ask myself this question is because of comparison to other moms. It’s true, as much as my little heart knows it’s dangerous, I can’t help but compare myself to this friend or that friend in how she parents her children. It doesn’t help that most of the Facebook posts and conversations are only part of the story, and usually the best part. And no matter how many times I hear someone say that I’m the mother that God has chosen for my children, I still worry that I’m not doing such a great job at being a mom.

Part of my difficulty has been that I’m a very serious person by nature. That sometimes equates to “I’m not fun” in my mind. And children are natural have-funners (or fun-havers?)! So you see how my thought process goes: I’m not fun. My children learn by having fun. Thus my children are not learning OR having fun. Someone slap me out of this mess! (not really though, I’m also not a very tough momma)

Another difficulty for me (as I’ve already mentioned in a previous post) is that I am not an “insta-mom”. You know those women! They’re the ones who dreamed of being a mom ever since they were little girls. And to top it off, when they become a mom, they’re just naturally good at being one (well what I think being “good” is anyway…and that is fun).

All I’m really getting at is that I can get so easily discouraged that I’m not doing the best thing for my kids. Sure I may be good at teaching math or reading. Maybe I am good at being consistent in discipline and in our schedule. But what about having fun? I can quickly resort to thinking that my kids will be somehow deficient because I’m not doing enough to make their childhood something really great.

Then I hear the whisper.

If any of you lacks wisdom…

Ahhh…yes. Thank you James (1:5). That’s much better thinking. If I’m feeling insecure or even inadequate, I need to ask God for whatever it is I think I lack. He richly supplies me with the things I need (Philippians 4:19).

The only other thing I have to ask myself is, honestly, not pleasant. Are there areas in my parenting that are lacking because I’m being lazy? Am I misplacing my priorities? Do I really need to check facebook every few hours or play candy crush when there’s a lull in activity (or whatever it is that you fill your day with)? Do I need to clean those dishes right now? Or do that laundry at this moment?

Please hear me when I say, this is not meant to guilt you. I’m not trying to shame myself either. Those are legitimate questions that we can ask ourselves to determine if we’re wasting away our days on things that don’t make an eternal difference. What did I do with the time I’ve been given? I just want to be sure that I’m not neglecting time spent with my kids because I’ve got a selfish agenda of my own.

On the other hand, if you do feel guilty in this area, it’s good to remember that every mom needs a break every now and then. Those little people can be what bring you the most joy at times, but you’ve got to be honest that they can also make you want to tear out your hair. I think the adage is true: distance can make the heart grow fonder. So take a break by going to a mom’s group or a bible study with childcare! Go on dates with your hubby! Go get a manicure. Hide in your closet with that chocolate bar while they’re occupied with their own game/activity. Just do something that helps you to feel like a normal human being so you can get back in the game with those little people without feeling your blood pressure rise too swiftly!

The other thing to keep in mind is that you’re not going to have picture perfect pinterest days every day. I have the hardest time with this! I would love for everything to go my way all the time, and when it doesn’t (which is often) I either get angry or really discouraged. There is redemption hidden in the ugly mess. It doesn’t hurt your kids to see you mess up because they’re going to mess up and need to see how to handle it well. The question is, are you handling it well? Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. I guess we ought to make it count though when we do get it right! I don’t know how many times I’ve heard my oldest say (at the most random times, I might add), “You know, sometimes bad things happen and that’s okay, we just move on” (or something to that effect). It also doesn’t hurt us to mess up! One of the biggest blessings in this life is to encounter trials because it means we become more aware of our need for God. This means refinement for my character. It means humility. Brokenness.

To be broken only to be made whole.

Laying down your life to gain it.

It seems so backwards.

You know what’s interesting? I am so afraid of how my kids will remember me. Will they remember all the times I raised my voice in frustration for the question asked one too many times? Will they remember the times I was busy and they had to play by themselves?

He whispers again.

Do not worry about your life…

This is what my son wrote for Mother’s Day:

mothersday

I guess he remembers that I’m fun. 🙂 And I guess this makes me realize I don’t need to be so hard on myself.

And neither do you.

Evangelism 101: Out of the Mouth of Babes

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{Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3}

Humbled is the only word to describe it.

I have shared before that I’m a very private person. I get into the store on my mission to get out as quickly as I can, and this usually involves the duck and run method (if I don’t make eye contact with people, I won’t have to talk to them and waste precious time). But then you throw 3 boys into the mix, and well, things just don’t go as planned…ever. My oldest in particular is very sociable. He will introduce himself to anyone! He has no problems striking up a conversation with anyone of any age. It’s one of the things I like most about him because I’m just not like that. At. All.

So you’ll understand my rising anxiety when we pull up to the park, and I see a van parked there already. Sure enough, there’s a lady with 3 boys and a baby plopped down at one of the picnic tables. I quickly correct my thought process of “oh no, I might have to talk to them” to “oh good, the boys will have some friends to play with.” Because, let’s face it, that first thought is ALWAYS what comes to my mind. Don’t get me wrong, once I’m in the inevitable situation, I can manage just fine and usually end up having a great time! I have come to realize that my boys can bring such joy to people in ways that I never knew was possible. I’m learning to seek out ways to serve and be a blessing to complete strangers because I’m so often the recipient of these kinds of blessings. It’s just that it means I have to raise my head up and see people, even look them in the eyes. It means I have to get out of my selfishness and intentionally speak truth over people. And let me tell you, that’s challenging!

Back in my car, I’ve given the older boys their food to go off and find a table for us while I get the baby and the rest of our things gathered. I watch as my oldest walks straight up to the lady at the table and introduces himself (not surprised) and proceeds to ask, “do you know Jesus Christ?” My eyes grow wide.

Excuse me. What just happened here?

Did my 6 year old just start sharing the gospel before I could even unbuckle my 1 year old?

Just like that?

I am in disbelief and yet a smile comes to my face, and I lean in to try to hear her answer and his response to it. But no, I couldn’t hear anything but her response which was, “I know who He is.” That kind of struck me funny. If she really knew Jesus, I would think the answer would be much different than that. My stomach does a flip. Does this mean I’m going to end up sharing about Jesus with this woman? My oldest son made it look so easy. And this is why I’m so humbled.

I didn’t teach him this. I swear it. I never once told him, when you’re at a park and you see someone, you should ask her if she knows Jesus. It was God using a 6 year old to speak truth into a complete stranger. And bless his heart, he simply did it! No questioning if it’s the right thing or wondering if it would be awkward or worrying that he might say the wrong things. It was as natural as him asking what they were having for lunch.

Later in the car he told me that he asked her if she knew Jesus Christ because if she didn’t it would mean she wasn’t going to heaven, “and we don’t want that, because if she died, she wouldn’t go to heaven.” Uh. yeah. That’s exactly right my dear one. And why do we lose sight of that?

I wrote a post on spiritual gifts, and I know that there are people who are gifted in evangelism. I for one am not gifted in this, but I am still called to tell the story. My oldest may just have this gift, and I’m going to find every way I can to cultivate it! Just because you’ve been given a gift doesn’t mean you should throw aside the other gifts as useless in your spiritual closet. Let them challenge you as you grow more well-rounded in your faith.

I realize that it’s not completely true that we have never taught our son to share Jesus with other people. We talk to our kids about Jesus and our need for Him because we are sinners and that Jesus is the Savior. We tell them that no one can go to heaven unless they know Jesus as their Savior. We’ve given them the gospel, and God has already allowed that seed to land in fertile soil and go forth to others. Humbled.

So I guess it is that simple sometimes. Who knew that those conversations in the car could turn out to be so fruitful? Momma, keep giving them the truth. Dad, keep giving them the gospel. It doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, it can be as simple as finding out what someone is having for lunch.

When the Tables Turn: Lessons from a Child

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Kid-Teaching

You gotta love it when your 6-year-old son nails you about something you’re doing wrong.

We try to teach our two oldest sons that obedience is important and that there are consequences when they disobey. We also try to teach them that life isn’t about following the rules so that people will love them (or, on the grander scale, that God will love them). It’s a tricky balance because on the one hand, they disobey a lot and encounter lots of consequences. On the other hand we don’t want to encourage a performance-based spirituality.

My simplest solution is to share out loud when I mess up and to ask for Jesus’ help in front of them (and sometimes apologize to them when said mess up involves yelling at them). It is the simplest yet hardest thing to do some days. That is exactly how it went down last week.

The day started out just like every other day, except for some reason I was completely irritated. Not a single person had talked to me that morning, so I couldn’t blame it on anyone. Shucks. But then my second oldest continually got himself into trouble. Grabbing an ornament here. Breaking apart a toy there. Spilling his cup on purpose. Disregarding what I’d just said FOR THE HUNDREDTH TIME. Ok, so I exaggerate. But it felt like that, I assure you. Plus, I’m already irritated for no reason, so it just makes my nerves prickle. As we’re getting in the car, I can feel the irritation rising as I’m waiting with little patience for the boys to get themselves buckled. So I say, “I am sorry for being grumpy today. I need Jesus to change my attitude. Lord, please change my heart and help me to calm down.” Whew. Baby steps.

We run our errands and get home (in one piece) and the second oldest starts in on the usual things that get him into trouble. After the 10th transgression (or something like that), I give up on saying anything nice or calm. If he’s not going to listen, maybe he’ll hear when I get louder. That’s how it works, right?

After I lecture my second oldest on this last defiant act, my 6-year-old whips his head around and says, “Mommy, you need to pray and ask Jesus to help you.”

Oh.

Really?

So I say what any spiritually mature mom would say. “Well, I think we should pray for him because he doesn’t know how to obey!”

Nice.

So then my oldest says, “But mommy, you are angry.” Ugh. He’s so right. I’ve been owned by a 6-year-old.

I retreat, realize how ridiculous I must sound, and swallow my pride. “Jesus, help me to be wise with my words and be patient with my children as I teach them about You.” Then I get to apologize to my child who has just received a nice, unnecessary tongue lashing from me.

I never knew that these teachable moments which were intended for my children would turn out to be more for me than for them.

I’m thinking a few verses may need to go up in my kitchen:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harshword stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Will I still mess up? Yes, you bet I will. This life is meant to be lived depending on the One who saved me and continues to save me. He made me holy and continues to make me holy. The sanctification process is just that. A process. It’s not a “try harder and maybe you’ll get better” spirituality. It’s not a “boot straps” religion that requires you to just be tough and get over it. It’s more about admitting when we’re wrong, asking Him to change our hearts, and walking in the truth that He speaks in that moment. Obedience. Grace. Intermingled in a beautiful dance. I hope I can keep in step and follow His lead.

Thank you, Dr. Dobson

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Family Portraits (Joseph) 145

I’m a mom of 3 boys. I’ve heard it said that a boy is noise with dirt on it. No truer words have ever been spoken.

I know a family who has 5 boys, so I know that 3 isn’t that spectacular.

However, I maintain that 3 boys is definitely more than I bargained for!

You see, as a mom, let me state the obvious. I’m a girl. GIRL. Totally girl. I may have had my bout with tomboyhood when I was young, but I’ve been over that for a long time.

I like my house clean. I like to be treated gently. I like getting my nails done, my hair done, and getting dressed up. I like having conversations that involve girly things like shopping, decorating, cooking, gardening, and occasionally I’ll go renegade and talk about tennis or camping (just to stay adventurous of course). I like my sleep. And yes, I like it to be quiet every now and then.

Yet most of these things DO NOT HAPPEN.

A clean house, no one can find. This is the proverb in our house anyway. Cars, trucks, superheros, blocks, Toy Story underwear, and any number of guns litter the floor at any given time (and you can always find at least one toy in each room, even closets). If there’s water to be spilled, it is, so watch your step in my kitchen. Oh, and we’re still potty training, so we get to find little brown nuggets sometimes. Delightful, you envy me, I know it.

As for being treated gently, fuh-get about it! We wrestle and smother and pretend to be ninjas (which means I have to be THE expert ninja just so my 1 month old has a fighting chance…pun intended). I couldn’t count high enough to record the amount of times that I’ve told my middle child to sit down on the couch rather than jump or tumble or slide or wrestle on it. So I stray from the couch, seriously, because I don’t want to be his target.

Every now and then I may break free to get my nails and hair done. That’s actually one of the strongest options I have of all the above. But it just doesn’t happen nearly often enough. I also “dress up” in my summer dresses even on laundry days just so I feel feminine. But then my dress often becomes a “toy” for the middle boy, so there goes that luxury.

Now the conversations. Those get interesting with boys. I just heard my oldest tell his grandma that his baby doll’s name is “Fart” (we use it for them to practice on a pretend baby so hopefully the real baby will survive them). Lovely. We talk about superheros and being strong and racing. We hear a lot of poop and fart jokes, and they’re only 5 and 3 years old, God help me! Half of what I say to them is “no, don’t jump on him”, “please don’t destroy that toy”, “clean up your mess”, “no, we don’t pee on the carpet…or tile…just the potty”, and any variants of these phrases. I read them books so that we can have somewhat intelligent conversations.

Sleep. I gave up on that. My oldest has always gotten up “early” and the middle one started getting up just as early once they started sharing a room. It’s like they have a radar that tells them they might be missing something daring or fun or mischievous so they obviously must get up early so as not to miss these appointments. Heaven help me, I just want them to sleep a little longer or at least stay in their rooms so I can get a shower. But then, the strawberry incident happened, and their wall has a smearing of strawberry on it…another story for another day filed under “Epic Messes That Happened in the Morning before Mom Came in the Room.”

I think you can already guess what I have to say about it being quiet around here. NO CHANCE buddy. Quiet time or nap time isn’t really quiet. It’s just not fair. I imagine all those families with only girls having the best quiet time complete with silence and everything. They probably even read their books quietly and get to paint their toenails. I’m just hoping my boys don’t FIND my nail polish.

I admit, all of what I’ve written sounds like I’m whining. I also admit that I’ve been mourning the fact that most of these things don’t happen for me. I would love to have some daughters. I just hope I don’t have to wait for daughter-in-laws to make that happen (although daughter-in-laws are pretty special…I would know because I happen to be one *wink*). I fully expected to have at least one daughter by now, but God has given us boys. So what’s a girl to do? Well, this GIRL bought Dr. Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys, because I apparently don’t know the first thing about boys (and quite frankly they drive me crazy because they’re just not like me and I have a NEED to understand them).

Thank God for Dr. Dobson!

As much as this girl would like to calm down these boys, she knows that they were meant to be men! They’re chock full of testosterone and that is how they were meant to be. All the danger, all the impulsiveness, all the spirit of exploration, and all the messes are just part of being a boy. Hallelujah, there’s a reason for it all! I have not been given these boys by accident, and so I want to do the best I can to raise them into men. We need men who are so full of energy and drive that sometimes they make messes as they press on toward their goals (but also know how to clean up those messes). We need men who will be strong yet know how to treat a lady with gentleness and respect. We need men who can talk about manly things and solve problems with their man logic (we all know a woman’s logic is questionable at times…and some would say it doesn’t exist…but I digress). Men need to be men, not women. Wish me luck and say a prayer for me. I want these boys to be strong, God fearing men one day, even if it means I have to (temporarily) say goodbye to some girly things (or at least save them for a girlfriend or my mom).

Meeting Spiderman

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I just wanted to get in and out of the store without talking to anyone, without melt downs from my kids, without being there for an hour (there HAS to be some kind of time vortex in grocery stores that suck your time, minimum of 1 hour…). Maybe this comes with the territory of being slightly introverted. Avoid eye contact. Smile when necessary. Just hunt down the items on your list and get to the check out.

Today was NOT that day. In fact, it’s not most of my shopping days. And it’s all because of those little people sitting in my cart that I affectionately call my sons.

This is how the scenario usually unfolds: My youngest waves and says “hi, I James” to everyone (but that’s not his name mind you, it’s his older brother’s name…). Then the older one corrects him to the stranger who has just received a toddler’s greeting and explains, “he’s not James, he’s Timothy. I’m James.” And I just laugh and smile and tell the stranger, “yep, he’s right. Silly boys” as I refrain from running away so the conversation doesn’t have to go anywhere else. I’ve got an agenda, ya know?

Well this time, my youngest changed things up on me. As we round the corner to aisle 5 (which means I still have at least 12 or more aisles to go people!), he shouts out, “pyer-man!” (For those of you who don’t speak toddlerese, that’s Spiderman.) Naturally he’s speaking of the man who is changing out the grocery store trash, because he OBVIOUSLY looks like Spiderman…black man, about 50 years old, bald, glasses, wearing a navy blue shirt. Right, son, that’s Spiderman.

So then I feel like I need to explain to the man what my 2-year-old just said just so he knows it wasn’t something bad (you never know how people translate little 2-year-old boy’s speech). Spiderman comes over to our cart and what happened could only be explained as a divine appointment. This man was so good with my two boys, and my two boys obviously thought his man was as cool as Spiderman (maybe that was what was going on in my 2 year old’s mind?? “He’s cool, just like…Spiderman” ?).

I’ll bet that people ignore this man all day long as he goes about his business of changing the trash in this gigantic store. I’m guessing he seems invisible to a lot of people, particularly those who are in the store just to get in and out (who is so busy to be that way??). But isn’t it interesting how children are so unlike us adults? In a good way, I mean. They’re so friendly to everyone, and what I’ve seen more often than not, is that the people my children greet respond in a very positive way. Their day is brightened or else they end up blessing me and my kids. It almost never fails. And I’m just trying to get out of there. Shame on me.

This introvert is learning some very important lessons from two little blessing-givers. The ironic part is that I have been trying to ingrain this message into my older son for a long time now. People are more important than ___ (toys, winning, getting my grocery list knocked out in record time to avoid the time vortex). Every time my oldest starts fighting with my youngest over a toy, I yell (yes, I do yell …sometimes) “your brother is more important than you having that toy, son!” Then I roll my eyes and wonder, sometimes aloud much to my shame, “why can’t he get that through his head?!” Um. Guilty as charged. I have a big plank in my eye on this one.

How is it that my 2 and 5-year-old see the value in the people around us better than I do? I have seen them brighten someone’s day way more than I can count. It’s a thing of beauty. Like I said earlier, it often ends up being a blessing to me. I end up beaming with joy to see my littles minister to people who are probably just trying to mind their own business as they tackle a list. I imagine this is much how Jesus viewed His time with the people He encountered.

He never seemed too busy to stop and talk or touch or teach.

He never seemed like one to hide or blend in just so He would go unnoticed to fulfill His list of things to do.

He took the time to let people know that He saw them. Really SAW them. Because He is the God who sees.

He sees the janitor changing the trash cans. He sees the single dad walking aimlessly down the aisles. He sees the cashier bagging the groceries. And He sees the mom with two little boys and invites them to see with Him.

I’m working on seeing with His eyes. I’m learning to be patient and let my kids greet every last patron in the store because you just never know who might need to experience a bit of Jesus through some little children. Hey, even Spiderman needs Jesus!

That’s my challenge I guess. Seeing people and not just trying to avoid them. Looking for opportunities to be a blessing and not just keeping to myself. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to meet Thor next time. 🙂 (and maybe he can do something about that time vortex!)

When Will You Learn Your Lesson?

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You’ve had those days. You start out well with a nice, refreshing Bible study, putting your mind and heart squarely on what God’s word says. Then you walk out of your room to go snuggle with your four-year-old son (whom you promised you’d snuggle with in the morning), only to find him no where in his room. You search the house. You call his name. No son. No answer. Then you go to his 2 year-old brother’s room. You open the door then quickly wished you hadn’t. For in that moment you beheld a disaster. Board books everywhere. Aquafor lotion open and half gone on the floor. Vicks vapor rub open and half gone next to the bed. Baby oil completely gone. Two travel size baby lotion bottles open. One tube of aquafor, one tube of lanolin, one tube of Neosporin all nearly gone. And then to top it off, sprinkles of baby powder everywhere.

I begin to cry because I remembered that instead of going crazy with anger, you should show your kid how sad you are that he has done this terrible thing. So I begin the lecture on how sad I am at what he’s done and at how much he’s wasted.

In all the rage and sadness I hadn’t even looked at my two boys yet. As I’m starting the clean up, I finally look at the culprits. There they stand, in my two-year-old son’s bed, naked (mind you the two year old is not potty trained…) and with every manner of lotion and oil slathered in their hair. The bed is also slathered with the aforesaid mentioned lotions and oils and powders. The books, the walls, the toys, the boys…everything is a complete mess. I couldn’t speak for at least 5 seconds (that’s a long time, right?).

That’s when I completely lost it. No more tears. No, it was time to yell. I quickly ordered my four year old out of the bed and told him to go get some clothes on. The two year old was innocent in my opinion but because of the mess I made him stay in the bed just so I could clean up the area and then start a bath. I look back at my 4 year old who is still standing there as if he didn’t just hear me bark my orders. Uh, did I stutter? You’re about to lose your life, child, you’d better get going. So I lift him out of the crib, and he runs to his room. I get madder as I begin wiping baby oil and aquafor off of books and toys and the bed. Most of the oil has soaked into the board books. I’m sure the oil and powder and lotion is also in the carpet. Lovely. As I clean, I just yell, “I can’t believe you’ve done this. Why didn’t you think. You know you’re not supposed to get these books down. Why would you get into these lotions? Did you know that you could have hurt yourself or your brother with these things? You have absolutely wasted my time this morning. I’m going to have to clean up this mess then give you both baths. You’re in so much trouble, mister.”

I finally separate the non-oily books from the oily ones and wipe down the bed frame with a blanket that’s already sprinkled with baby powder. Then as I am about to get my two year old out of his bed, I realize he’s peed all over his sheets and two blankets that were thrown into the mix. Even better. So I start a pile of laundry in his floor then get him out and start the bath. Remember, I’ve left my four year old in his room to get dressed. I peek in there to make sure he’s actually gotten dressed because so help me if he hasn’t…

Thankfully he was dressed and waiting. I tell him again that he’s in big trouble and slam his door, telling him to wait until I’m finished bathing his brother. I get the two year old clean (except his hair…I learned later that the shampoo did NOTHING to wash out all of the lotions and oils out of his hair) and get a diaper on him. I send him off with a small lecture telling him that what they’d done in his room was a “no no”.

I go get my four year old, and he’s sitting in his room playing. Playing. How could he be playing when he should be mourning the fact that he’s just disobeyed his mom, wrecked his brother’s room, wasted practically every bottle and tube in my son’s room, and given his brother these products to possibly ingest and to definitely make a mess? I lay out his behavior and he knows the consequences. Spanking. Three swats. He tells me I shouldn’t have hurt his bottom. Well, son, you shouldn’t have “x, y, z…”

His bath is done. He gets his clothes back on. We get our breakfast and then he does his school work. It’s all I can do to refrain from being in punishment mode all morning. The cold shoulder. The angry answer. The sarcastic remark. I don’t want to be THAT mom. So I push on through, fighting every feeling in me to explode at every infraction, be them intentional or not, important or not.

This is my chore day. I have to get laundry done and go get groceries. I make sure my four year old realizes again that he’s wasted my morning and has set us back in our schedule to get to the store (ugh…this makes me cringe reading back over it). And all day it goes like this. I get angry over and over based on his decisions from this morning. I keep re-hashing it. I realize I’m just so scared that this four year old is never going to learn to obey. If he can’t learn to obey me, how is he ever going to learn to obey God? I’ve written him off as a failure for all of his life because he can’t get this one lesson down… perfectly… right now (and keep in mind, this is my rule follower son!). I even tell him a few times during lunch, “son, you’ve got to learn your lesson or you’ll keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.” I remind him of how much I hate to spank him and that I’d rather him just obey. When I ask him to tell me what’s he’s learned, he shrugs his shoulders and gives me the “I don’t know” answer. Again, I’m scared he’s not going to learn so how can I force him to learn his lesson? Maybe if I lecture him a few more times, he’ll learn. Maybe if I add another consequence, he’ll learn. Or maybe not.

My bible study lesson this morning? Living in the truth of who God says you are. Believing Him when He says He’s made me courageous, adequate as His servant, and that I’m accepted not on my own merit but by the blood of His Son. How could my behavior today have taught my son anything about the truth of who he is? I was being fearful (not courageous) as I parented. I felt completely inadequate to deal with this situation properly, and I truly was, because I was trying to fix it in my own strength and through feeling my way around the situation. I was essentially punishing my son over and over with my words, making him feel like he couldn’t even gain my approval until he was perfect. Ouch. That one hurts the worst.

So I began to speak the truth to him about who God says he is. God has called you to be a man of integrity and honesty. To obey Him and love Him with all of your heart. To be courageous. That he is acceptable no matter what he does. And then I apologize for my crazy explosions. God help me.

What I wouldn’t give to have started out that way. I’m not really any different from my children when it comes to learning my lesson. The difference is I have a perfect Father who hasn’t written me off as a failure just because I can’t learn my lesson perfectly today. He gives grace, undeserved. And when we feel inadequate, He supplies the strength and the wisdom to make us adequate. Acceptable. Thank you, Father. I’ll take it all.

{P.S. This happened back in October of last year as we were packing up our home to move. Looking back at this, I just giggle because he was just doing what kids do…making messes and having fun doing it. It’s too bad I was too stressed out to see that. Lesson learned.}

They Call Me “Mom”

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I’ve been debating when I should write about this particular topic. It’s a bit of a touchy issue for a lot of people. But here I go anyway!

For anyone who knows me, you are aware that I value womanhood but not in a femi-nazi sort of way. I started a class at my old church (boo hoo, I miss you ladies) on the role of women as explained in the Bible. This sets off all kinds of red flags for a lot of women because many of you automatically assume I mean “you have to be a stay-at-home-mom, homeschool your children, cook gourmet meals every day, keep a spotless home, and serve your brains out by being completely hospitable all the time” (or any other combination of “that woman”). It’s just unfair! That could be several examples of different ways women express their God-given roles, but I seriously doubt that every woman could do all of those things (or should do them…). For this post, I’m only going to hone in on one particular role: mother.

I wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed of being a mom. I know, stone me now, what kind of a mother am I anyway?! Well, I’m one of those mothers who has grown into her role as a mom. And I’m still growing… But I definitely believe in the importance of being a mom and raising the children God has given me. I just don’t feel like I’m very good at it. Yet.

You see, I had lots of dreams about what I wanted to do with my life (I know, it sounds awfully selfish written out like that). I was going to get my master’s degree and start out in a great job then have children. I am a planner. This was my plan. But God had the real plan, and enter at stage right, my first child. All of the sudden my perspective changed. I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, so this new addition to our family meant I would be staying home. No master’s degree. No great job. No pats on the back for a job well done.

I began to learn very quickly that mothers, particularly those who don’t work outside of the home, get stuck in a vicious cycle known as “it’s never enough.” No matter what you do all day long, you feel like you don’t have anything to show for it. So what do you do to remedy this awful feeling? Enter stage left: works. Anything that makes you feel like you’re doing something that gets results. It could be ministry. It could be volunteering for a noble cause. It could be part-time work. Anything but parenting and taking care of the home (because who wants to work at something that doesn’t get immediate results??).

The world tricks you into thinking that what you do in the home is not “real” work. It gives you no warm fuzzies (only occasionally when that one child does the cutest dance you’ve ever seen or picks up his toys without you asking). It tells you that what you’re doing is not worthwhile because you can’t see immediate progress (and who decides what is actually progress anyway?). And let’s be honest, we believe it almost all the time. When you aren’t acknowledged for that brilliant way you handled a sibling tussle or how you prepared a meal that turned out perfectly, even according to Emeril’s standards, you get discouraged. You begin to question if you’re doing this whole mothering thing right. You wonder if it’s really worth it.

Now take away all those “works” and all those voices that whisper (or scream) that you’re wasting your time. That’s kind of what has happened to me in the last 2 months. When you move to a new place, all you have are each other. You have no church home (yet) where you can serve (cross off ministry). You don’t have a place to volunteer because frankly, you’re still trying to figure out how to get the grocery store to buy food for your family (cross off noble causes). You have no part-time work and no desire to try to look for any for that matter (cross off that job that you can measure your success at). But you do have your children and husband. Suddenly I’m getting better at being a mom because that’s all I have right now!

Those distractions (though they can be very good things to do, don’t get me wrong…it’s all in the motives and in the calling) have become less and less, and I’m able to see with more clarity what I can be doing with my boys right now. Does that mean I’ve got every minute filled with exciting science projects, fun new adventures around the neighborhood, educational field trips, creative snacks and games? No. I told you I’m a mom, not super woman (P.S. neither is anyone else in this world…she doesn’t exist). However I am taking the time to settle into this mom role. Those boys are worth it. One day they’ll be our leaders, and I don’t want anyone looking at me wondering what’s gone wrong with our society. I’m taking this thing seriously, and I hope you do too. After all, we’re not doing this for anyone on this earth. What God thinks is what really matters in the end. He is our standard and the One who determines real success.

So please, be encouraged today if you are a mother. What you do in the home is  important because God says it’s important. Remember that Abraham wasn’t running around the country speaking at men’s groups or volunteering at the soup kitchen to find his worth. He already found it in his God. And this God expected him to go to a new land in faith that God would bring about a promise that he could not even fathom. Later this same God speaks to the Israelites (Abraham’s legacy) about what they are to do – “teach these things to your children…” (Deut. 4:9). No big audiences. No pats on the back. I’m sure God expected Abraham to teach his children who his God was. He was to be found faithful with what God had given him, and I believe you’ll find that he did just that (see the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 and Genesis 12-23). May we be found in that last day as women of faith who did well with what He has given us.

P.S. I’m speaking from a stay-at-home-mom viewpoint. I am in no way downplaying a mother who also works outside of the home because I have a feeling she also deals with some of the same issues I face. My desire is to encourage all mothers to see the importance of what they do in the home whether or not they are there 24-7. Whew. I feel better now that I got that off my chest…