Life & Love With Little Children

Jeremiah and I never used to frequent cafeterias until we had kids. At the cafeteria we ate at a few nights ago, balloons strung from the wooden highchairs, the food selection and presentation was outstanding, and an old lady played the piano in the background.

When we got settled into our table, John and Rebekah were fidgety. When they got their food, it took a while for them to really crave it. But with much prodding, they eventually started to eat. Within ten minutes, Rebekah was screaming to get out of her highchair and she fussed and fussed and fussed.

The old man eating with his wife at the table behind us kept turning his head around to see our little family. He smiled at us and I imagined that he raised toddlers once too. I tried to quiet my baby girl down and make her happy.

The old man kept smiling so I figured he was okay with the noise. Jeremiah sat with his work scrubs on. He had strokes of white paint all over him from working on our new house. He almost didn’t want to come in because he felt so filthy, but I persuaded him that we had to eat and he needed a break from all our house work.

We gobbled up the rest of our food before any big meltdowns occurred. I held John’s hand out the door- his little finger was wrapped up in the balloon string. Jeremiah put Rebekah on his shoulders and we headed to our van.

This is life as we know it, I thought.

I was with my best friend, lover, and husband of 6 1/2 years along with my 17 month old daughter and 3 1/2 year old son. And in just over 2 months, we would welcome the latest addition to our family.

I thought about how life has changed dramatically since the day we said “I do.” Having children has changed our world in so many ways. Life is busy, chaotic, messy, surprising, beautiful, humorous, joyful, difficult, demanding, exciting, exhausting, rewarding and abundant. Such a paradox.

And well… life has never actually been what it once was. But it’s so good.

God has used our children to change us for the better and to help us see the worse areas that need refining. We realize that there is something bigger we must invest in beyond “just us” and that makes our relationship deeper. We acknowledge that our marriage is the priority and must be cultivated everyday.

“Are we growing old together?” Jeremiah asked while we drove down the road, trying to talk over the two busy bodies giggling in the back seat.

I thought about his question earnestly. My mind raced back to our “single” days- married without kids.

“Yep, we are. We’re living out our dreams, babe,” I smiled.

A beautiful peace and contentment swept over my heart, erasing any doubts, fears, or worries. We were right where God created us to be.


Depending on Grace in Motherhood

My kids and I had just settled in at the park. The sky was bright blue. The breeze was gentle. I picked up my 17 month old daughter and inched her little legs into the holes of the swing. My three year old son was off doing his own thing on the slides.

The mom next to me was pushing her little boy in his swing. She looked a few years older than me and had long blonde hair and a nice smile.

“I can’t believe you’re going to have another one!” she said to initiate conversation.

Oh, here we go again, I thought.

I had heard this a few times before from other people (who I didn’t know. in the public setting). It agitated me but I tried my best to be nice.

“Yep, it will be a lot as they are all close in age,” I replied.

I talked a little bit about the challenges I knew I would face as a mom of three young children. And that yes, it seems crazy. Then I switched the subject and asked her questions. She was happy to tell me about her kids and how she could never have them so close in age. And I understood her completely.

But what that mom didn’t know about me was that I have huge fears and worries when it comes to welcoming our third baby in June. I had a rough transition from 1 to 2 kids and being that this baby will only be 20 months apart from my youngest, brings a lot of what if’s in my head. I’m scared of what the “balance” will look like.

How will I handle three meltdowns? Three whines for Mommy? Three hands pulling on my legs? Three bedtimes? And going out in public with three all at once? Do I even know what I am getting myself into?

In the past few months, God has really been working on me in this area of my life. If you can’t already tell! I adore my children. I love investing in them and wouldn’t want anything else in the world. God has entrusted them to me and I consider that a huge honor and great responsibility.

But I also have my days. I’m not the most patient person. I struggle with anger. I’m not a good multi-tasker. And being a stay-at-home mom around the clock has been exhausting at times. Much harder than I could imagine.

And then the same word that came to mind when I was at the park, as if to write itself across that blue sky, came yet again.

GRACE. God has brought me this far in motherhood, how could He leave me now? He has been my sustainer on the days I couldn’t go on anymore. Those days where sleep deprivation gets the best of you and you feel like you’re going crazy.

Somehow and some way, He has always carried me through even when I didn’t deserve it. His grace has helped me live in the Spirit and love my children well, reminding me that what I do in the daily, messy grind isn’t in vain. And that being at home is the greatest gift I can give them. His grace reminds me that I simply can’t do anything in my own strength.

Will His grace continue on, and on, and on? It always has. And it always will.

My prayer is that I will lean into grace all the more as I approach delivery and the days and months after. My prayer is that I will stop worrying so much about the opinions of others and trust in God’s plan for my life and my family, being confident that His grace is always available to hold onto.

Finding Gratitude in Motherhood

Last night, my friend Ashleigh’s status update read: “Being a stay at home mom is exhausting. I’m tired, annoyed, and irritable.” 

Shortly after she posted those words, her friends chimed in with their advice and experience. It had really been a rough day for her and I could relate. I’ve had more difficult days lately than easy. I appreciated her honesty about being at home. It’s really no joke!

Ann Voskamp said in a recent blog post, “Love is not passion. It is the pulse of sacrifice.” While she was relating such words to marriage, I couldn’t help but think of my children too.

Every day seems like a sacrifice raising a three and one year old (and the one baking in my belly!) I told Jeremiah the other night before bed how I often have anxiety at the start of each day when it comes to the needs I will have to fulfill and the demands required of me.

Today, we went to the mall for lunch with my parents before they were about to catch a flight. And we must have counted five or so nanny’s taking care of little ones. It’s pretty common to see nanny’s since we live close to one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the country. Typically, they are middle-aged hispanic women and do an incredible job with the families.

As I sat feeding Rebekah her chicken and cheese taco, my heart filled with gratitude. She had rice all over her clothes and on the floor. I loved spending the time with her and was so glad she was with me. My mom helped John with his taco, but he is such a big boy now that he doesn’t need much help. I thought about how it felt like yesterday I was nursing him.

I thought about the baby inside of me. How excited I was, but overwhelmed too at the thought of having three come late June. Most people would think I’m crazy.

But it didn’t really matter. I’ve been given one of the best gifts in the world- the ability to be at home with my children. The gift of having a husband who works like crazy so I can be at home.

The ability to raise them. Nurture them. Love them. And discipline them. The incredible gift of watching all their firsts and most of all, trying with all my might to show them God’s love so that they will in turn love the world around them.

Hard work and sacrifice? More than ever. God is sanctifying me through motherhood. And it’s a painful sanctification, but there is nothing else in the world I’d rather do than make an impact in the lives of my children.

After I got home from lunch and put the kids down for naps, I went on Facebook and read the recent comments from Ashleigh’s update. She was encouraged and wrote: “Today is a new day. Thankful to Jesus for new beginnings.”

She couldn’t have said it better. And I’m so thankful God has a way of showing us moms so much in the midst of great sacrifice.

Why I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom: The Short Story

John- 3 yrs.

From last week’s blog post You Write the Title, I Write the Post, I decided to tackle Grace Graieg’s title: Why I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom. Thank you for the great topic/title Grace and for everyone who participated!

My desire to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) came from an early age. My mom was a SAHM to my sister and I for as long as I can remember. She made our lunches every night for school the next day and she was always available if we were sick and needed to come home. She drove me to school and picked me up. When I started riding the bus, she had a snack ready for me when I came home and drove me to swim practice. When I got my license, well, nothing really changed except that I drove myself everywhere!

The impact my mom’s presence in our home had on me from an early age was significant. It was not only her physical presence but her emotional and spiritual one too. Her genuine interest in my day, her prayers, and sweet conversation assured me that I was loved and cared for. And I never doubted her love. She also made a significant impact outside the home among our neighbors and friends. She was always baking something to bring to someone and I remember her sharing the gospel regularly.

John- 3 Rebekah- 1

So I guess you could say I always assumed I would wear the same shoes as my Mom. I wanted to make a difference like she had in my life.

After Jeremiah and I found out we were expecting our first child, we decided that after our son was born that we would trade roles and I would work part-time while he took care of John. You can read about my experience transitioning out of my career and into the home in this article I wrote for Ungrind.

Once our second child was on the way, I knew that it was time for me to be full-time at home. From the books I read in my child psychology classes in college, I knew that the formative years (birth- 5 years) were critical to a child’s development and growth and if the proper nurturing, discipline, and love were absent in those years, it could have a far-reaching effect in the future.

Other friends and moms who were further along in the journey than I was encouraged me to be fully engaged in the home as well. I knew in my heart that’s what I wanted so Jeremiah and I made the necessary changes. In August 2010 a few months before my daughter’s birth, I dove right in!

Now about a year and a half into it, I’ve learned that being a SAHM isn’t particularly glorious. In fact, most days it’s not. And I struggle many days with my anger and impatience. My kids can be demanding, needy, whiny, fussy, difficult, and more. Dirty diapers are yucky, having to schedule your world around naps can be annoying, and sometimes you just wonder if the sacrifice is worth it and if you’re really making a difference in this little one’s life.

But regardless of how hard it is raising my kids on a day in and day out basis, I still believe the sacrifice is worth it. And I believe the hard work of being fully present in our home will pay dividends in their life on down the road.

Of course, this is my prayer.

Before I know it, my oldest, John, will be in school and I know I will miss him greatly and will look forward to seeing his handsome smile when he comes home. These formative years will fly by, and I want to be the first one to see all the milestones my children cross. And I believe it’s my role and responsibility to do so.

I want to be the one to give them all my love. I want to build into their self-esteem and teach them how to respect and love all people. By God’s grace and with his help, I want to teach them right from wrong and discipline when it’s needed. I don’t want to look back with any regrets in that I “should” have been there but other commitments took precedence over them. I want to be all there for my children and for them to never doubt my commitment to raising them.

Of course, this all can only be done by God’s grace.

Everyone has their own story and convictions when it comes to being in the home. For me personally, the only way for me to be fully present and to be the best Mom I can be is to be right where my #1 mission field exists.

And of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t regularly schedule girl night outs, date nights with my husband, babysitters, weekend getaways, time to write, to be resourceful and make money, and time to have fun. All the more, I make time for “me” (and sanity) because I need it badly!

Well I just heard a cry. My time to write is up. Until next time…

Daring to Risk a Little More

“I want to go up there!” my son John shouted pointing to the white monkey bars off in the distance. They were really high and obviously not suited for his age, but we wanted to let him try. Besides, great determination was in his eyes.

We ran over to the monkey bars and my husband lifted him up. His little fingers latched on to the first bar and he made it to the next. He tried to hold on, but he lost his grip.

“All done!” he cried.

Daddy pulled him down and after a few minutes, even though it was a little scary, you could tell he was satisfied with the attempt.

John’s zeal to go just a little further taught me a lot about my own faith. Often, I’m content and comfortable to stay “elementary” in my faith instead of maturing and growing up towards godliness.

Pursuing more in my faith requires discipline and discipline is hard work. I think that’s why I’m quick to remain put and not take risks that seem difficult or even impossible by human standards.

But God has called me to something so much greater. He calls me to step out of comfort and into living on mission for Him, meaning that I must give MORE.

  • Giving more in the way I serve others for no other reason but love.
  • Giving more in the way I raise my children and love and respect my husband.
  • Giving more in the way I use my gifts and abilities so that others will be edified and equipped.
  • Giving more in the way I share the resources and money God has entrusted to me.
  • Giving more in the way I proclaim the gospel to whoever God puts on my path.

Failure, disappointment, and conflict are all risks that come with this kind of giving and it is radical. But the joy and fullness and blessing of knowing God through giving more away is irreplaceable—bringing me just a little bit closer to complete maturity and Christ-likeness.

John was craving more when he saw those big kid monkey bars. While he was innocent of the dangers, he trusted in his daddy to help him reach each challenge.

So it is with God.

What areas in your life do you need to give more? What are you risking?

They Just Keep Growing…

As much as I want time to stand still at times, I’m thankful for the process of spiritual, emotional, and physical growth similar to the growth and development I see in my children on a daily basis.

Growth is necessary so that we can become all that God wants us to be and so that we can refresh the lives of others.

Growth requires us to take the next step, no matter how painful or difficult so that we can become mature and perfect in Christ.

Growth isn’t a comparison game. It’s individual as God is the One who grows all things. Growth happens at different times and in different ways for different people.

And the best part about growth is that we have all we could ever need to live a life of godliness and continued growth until our time is finished on earth.

Are you growing?

Making Your Home a Haven

a fun little wreath we ordered off Etsy. Click the image to see the shop.

Since we moved into a bigger apartment in seminary housing a few weeks ago, John has loved all the space. Often, when we’re out and about, he says to me:

“I wanna go home, Momma.”

And this desire for him to go home has got me thinking a lot about the duty and delight I have as a wife and momma to make my home all that it can be.

I’ve been a stay-at-home Mom for almost a full year now and I’m just now getting the hang of it. I’m not naturally well organized and I have to work hard at cleaning. I’ve had to find a good balance with being in the home and going out so I don’t go crazy.

But what I’m finding that has been so key is that my home should be a place of refuge and rest. It should be a place my husband and children want to come home to, where they find safety and comfort away from the world.

Rebekah- 7 mos. John- 2 yrs.

Practically for me it has come down to creating a warm atmosphere with color schemes and decor, keeping it clean and clutter-free as best I can each day (of course some days it just doesn’t happen!), and putting toys and other things in there proper place. But most of all, it has come down to the attitude and heart I want to create in my home.

And that starts with me.

I kept my friend’s two girls last week and it made my day when the oldest one looked at me while we were walking down the hall and said, “I like you.” Her comment made me smile and it was a big deal to me that she liked coming over and spending her time with us.

I want the attitude in my home to be that my husband, children, and our guests feel welcomed, loved, and taken care of. I want those who walk through our door to be refreshed with good food and drinks and conversation, but also refreshed spiritually and emotionally.

our new view of downtown Dallas

The best example I have of this is my mom who growing up, opened our door to our neighbors, watched their children, shared Christ’s love, listened to life stories, and nourished bellies with her amazing cooking. Her gift was hospitality at the highest level and still is today.

While I don’t consider my #1 gift hospitality, I know as a Christ follower that I’m called to be hospitable to all those who walk through my door and to do my best at it even on the really tough days.

I also realize that my behavior and actions in the home will have huge implications on my marriage and my children’s security and emotional stability in the future. And this is a great responsibility.

Creating a home that is a haven and a place of refuge is hard work because well, I’m imperfect and I have a sinful nature to battle every day. I had to work through some of my own issues this morning with my husband. And sometimes (a lot of times) I’m just so stinkin’ selfish.

But with God’s help and His abundant grace, He gives me the ability to create an atmosphere in the home that is everything I long for it to be so that ultimately, He is glorified and His name is made famous first in my family and then throughout the world.

What do you love about your role in the home?

Mama, Let Your Light Shine

How is changing diapers, cleaning up messes, and doing it all over again the next day making a difference? Can I be influential, even when I struggle? How can God use me to be on mission with my children? What does God expect from me as a mom?

These were a few questions my husband Jeremiah helped answer in his sermon this past Sunday called “Mama, Let Your Light Shine.”

And let me just tell you…

This message was one of my favorite mother’s day sermons I’ve ever heard! And I promise you I’m not biased. I’ve heard a lot of great messages from some really great pastors.

In November, we started interning at a church plant in a Dallas suburb and the pastor has been kind to give Jeremiah several opportunities to teach God’s word. This was Jeremiah’s first official sermon preached in front of a congregation (not a classroom) since being a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. After he delivered the message, several mothers went up to him saying how much they loved it. One mom asked me, “Why didn’t your husband tell us to bring our kleenex?”

Jeremiah works as an R.N. and one of his patients, who happens to be a famous female actress (I wish I could tell you who!), wanted to listen to it while in her hospital bed and she loved it.

Okay, so enough of me bragging on my husband. I wanted to post the link here for you to download and be encouraged in your mission as a mother. Even if you’re not a mother, I think you’ll be encouraged in your faith.

Download: “Mama, Let Your Light Shine” (38 min., mp3 file)

Life in the Formative Years

John

The formative years. I’ve been told they are the most critical years in a child’s life and I’m quickly learning that they are tough.

Time-outs, spankings, constantly on the go, changing diapers, saying “no”, reading books, cuddling throughout the day, praying for friends at bed-time, learning numbers and the alphabet, potty training, playing trains and trucks, filling up sippy cups, making meals right on the clock, learning new words, encouraging his right choices, watching Veggie Tales and Thomas together, helping him learn from wrong choices, steering him away from danger, playing horsy, singing songs about Jesus, playing with friends, wiping off mud and cleaning up crumbs…

This is a little glimpse of life with my two year old.

Teething, cooing, smiling, laughing, playing peek-a-boo, picking up toys, crawling attempts, feedings, napping, crying, changing more diapers, rolling on her back, cleaning up spit-up and blow-outs, talking and smiling into her big blue eyes, holding her tightly, kissing her cheeks all day long, letting her know I am there, taking naps in the big bed together, telling her how gorgeous and sweet she is, watching her admire Daddy and Mommy and her big brother…

This is a little glimpse of life with my 5 month old.

I confess that I am no super mom. In fact, I’ve learned even more about my depravity as a sinful human being. But on the days that have been so hard, I often go to sleep realizing how desperate I am for God’s help. Motherhood has shown me this dependance. And on the days I wish the two’s would just be done, I remember that it all happens in a blink.

That is the wisdom I’ve been told. And it really is flying by.

God gives me each day to glorify Him by investing in my children. I won’t get these days back and I will most likely look back on them one day and miss them tremendously.

The great investment that’s being poured into their lives is worth more than money can buy. They are the future. They will lead us one day and their eternal destiny has much to do with how I will choose to invest right now.

God, I pray for continued strength in these formative years and that the hard work now will be seen in years to come. Forgive me when I have failed. I pray I will cherish my children to the fullest, remembering that when I am weak, I can rest in You.


Rebekah

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