Strong God, Strong Mom

forthefamilyoctober

At the beginning of the year, my husband and I were asked to speak for my mother’s group on the topic of marriage. During our talk, I shared some stories on how our kids have impacted our relationship and how I struggle at times with anger and control in raising our four young children. Sharing the more raw details of life can be a scary risk that involves vulnerability but I always figure that if it can help someone else, being authentic is worth it.

Well after our talk, one of my mom friends who I respected and was a “super mom” in my eyes, came up to me and said how much she related to what I had to say.

“Really?” I asked her…

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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.


Yes, free indeed: Overcoming Our Deepest Fears

“Get dressed. We’re going to the lake,” my husband Jeremiah says on the other end of the line as he’s driving home from work on Monday. I was already dressed in my workout clothes and I was loving his spontaneity because it had been a hard day at home and I needed some fresh air.

We arrived at the lake an hour before sun set. My toddler John ran through the leaves and down the hills. I pushed Rebekah in the stroller and inhaled the cool breeze. We then walked on the paved trail that led to a long bridge where ducks swam underneath. We parked ourselves there for a while and watched our son in such delight. It was like the world stood still and all that existed was our little family.

Then out of nowhere… a cyclist comes riding across the bridge and before we could even think to hold his hand, John darts out in front of him. I scream: “John!” and the cyclist screams “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!” and slams on his breaks in a panic, coming to a screeching stop. Not quite understanding, John hurried back to our side and the cyclist rode off.

On our way home, I started crying. Jeremiah was still in shock too. That experience showed me that I have a whole new set of fears I didn’t know I had. God has told us in His Word that He’s not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. But now what? What does that mean? What does it mean to live by faith, this faith I’ve been called to?

Being responsible…When I was crying, the fears flooding through my mind made God’s word seem stale. Could I trust God to protect John in the future…and me and my family? I mean, shouldn’t I help God out and do what is responsible? My heart wrestled. What seems most responsible is to not return to the lake. It is too dangerous! My insides were being seized by fear, and I was doing everything that I could to muster up some sort of faith that would set me free. I felt compelled to act, but if I did, would I even know what was best? I needed to be free.

Yes, free. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! Monday taught me that nothing will deflate our spirit faster than fear. Faith in God’s promises gives us the confidence and courage to experience the freedom and joy of the fullness of life. We were created to go to the lake with our family. I was made to watch John sprint down the grassy knoll, laughing with joy as he kicked up the leaves in the air.

Yes, I want that joy that comes with such faith- the faith of a child. John’s life became to me a vivid picture of faith. He lives by faith. Questions about how his needs will be met don’t go through his head. He doesn’t wonder if he will be safe. John’s faith allows him to be free.  John had such delight because he ran freely without inhibitions and fears that would keep him from running. John’s faith doesn’t know such fear. That is why he could laugh and smile when he shuffled his feet through the leaves.

Today, God is helping me to run again. Monday’s experience was tough, but I’m looking forward to going back to the lake again with my family. I haven’t figured it all out, but I know that I’m a weak vessel and I must trust God. There is an “abundance of life” that we were created to enjoy. In fact, I’m learning to enjoy it in a whole new way that I did not know before. Jesus said, “If the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.” Our faith in Christ is our very freedom. I am free. Yes, I am free, indeed.

* This article was a team effort. Thank you, Jeremiah, for helping me write and edit the story.

Words that bring Life

On Tuesday morning, I crawled out of bed exhausted from a restless night of sleep and being up at 4Am with Rebekah. I sat on our living room chair trying to gain composure as I fed her once again. Then out of nowhere, my toddler John runs right up to us and pinches her face (a common thing these days). She starts crying and I yell out “No!” and for him to “Stop it right now!”

But what you might not see in writing is that my tone of voice was angry, impatient, and piercing. John started to cry because of the way I handled it and my heart ached because I had crushed his spirit.

One of my favorite writers, Ann Voskamp, wrote a blog post called, Why Your Words Matter Most, and in it she says: “All the words I had ever spoken, they are making my children who they are. What we speak into others, this is what they become.”

Growing up, my Dad and Mom told my sister and I that we could do anything we wanted in life. They spoke those words to us over and over again and I started believing them. Now being in my late twenties, I believe their words have really shaped how I view life. I also know of stories of friends whose parents spoke the opposite, and well you know the rest.

I think all of us, though, hold onto lies we’ve been told or lies we tell ourselves. We believe them so much that they leave us paralyzed from taking action and trusting in God. We might even need to let go of certain words (or the way words were said) in the past that remain etched on our hearts today.

This year, I want to make an intentional, disciplined effort to use my words to bring life to others– not death. And I want to lean more on the truth of God’s Word.

Well, after John’s pinching episode, I confessed my impatience to God and thought long about what I wanted to do differently next time. Even though he shouldn’t pinch his baby sister, my reaction should have been more patient and loving. I kissed his cheek several times and told him that Mommy was sorry and loved him very much.

Danielle on “The Radical Life”

Danielle wrote an article called “The Radical Life” that’s featured over on Ungrind and I’ve found great encouragement in it today. Maybe you’ve also struggled with how life can seem so mundane when it comes to nursing, caring for, and raising your own children when well, you could be on some great adventure somewhere else! Here are a few snippets from Danielle’s article:

I longed for more “productive” things I could be doing other than spending every few hours feeding my boys. My Type A personality could barely stand all the time I was “wasting” by sitting around all day on the couch nursing.

One day God spoke to my heart and showed me that although I’d longed to glorify God on the mission field, I wasn’t seeking to glorify Him at home. He impressed on me that caring for my babies’ daily needs was the specific way I could glorify Him in this season of life.

I now see God was gracious to show me how selfish I was and I know this was just the beginning of rooting out selfishness in the journey of motherhood.

Even though God hasn’t led me to the foreign mission field to start orphanages, He’s taught me how to glorify Him in my own home.

Check out the whole article on Ungrind.

Being on Mission with Your Children- Part 2

This is part two of the series, Being On Mission with Your Children. Part one consisted of Being a Mommy on Mission. This final part is about Being a Daddy on Mission. I encourage Mommy’s and Daddy’s (anyone) to read both.

In Being a Mommy on Mission, I addressed how the tiniest moments of slowing down will define the huge moments of how we meet our child’s physical and emotional needs. Slowing down is just one of the many ways that mommy’s can be on mission.

I appreciated Dan Browne’s comment from last week: “We made a decision to live each day with our child to the fullest. Even if that means Mickey Mouse Club House for a few hours because she wants to see the fish or dog or show us the flower on the screen, etc…”

Daddy’s don’t want to miss those moments either, and I’m convinced that Daddy’s role is equally important as Mommy’s, if not more important.

1 Corinthians 11:7 says that a man is the image and glory of God. I just love that. God has designed the man as the leader and head of the home. He has purposefully created men to cultivate and to build (Gen. 2:15), so I think the important issue with being a Daddy on Mission is that you have to fight in the Battle as you build.

God created Daddy’s to cultivate their children through discipline, love, encouragement, rebuke, and making sure there is steady progress in the family. But the reality is that since the fall where sin made its first ugly appearance, Daddy’s have to work hard at cultivating (Gen. 3:17-19). It doesn’t come natural and it doesn’t happen over night.

I sense the fight in our family. When my husband Jeremiah leads the three of us in prayer before bed time every night, searches out the deeper things in my heart, loves me and John well, and is being the spiritual leader he was created to be, there are all kinds of things that want to thwart that mission.

I can be a very difficult wife sometimes and an impatient mommy. John can be fussy, disobedient, and a handful. Jeremiah sometimes gives into his flesh and has a hard time leading. All of that coupled with the flesh, spiritual warfare, baggage, and Satan’s ultimate plan to destroy the family can’t be diminished.

But what I do see is that Jeremiah puts his armor on daily and is ready to fight back. He’s not perfect, but he works hard at loving us even when he doesn’t always get the response he wants. He strives to love me like Christ loved the church by being in the word, confessing sin, staying pure, and being held accountable to other guys. His love has encouraged me to be the person God created me to be. And honestly, I think he “gets” how to love much more than I do.

While he fights to cultivate well, I’m also learning that it’s my role to build him up and not tear him down when he has failed. I realize the implications of that are massive. Choosing to tear down could result in another casualty- a mere tragedy all together.

So why do you have to be in the war? How come it’s just so hard sometimes?

In our experience, we’re learning to expect the battle because we’re fallen. In our marriage and in raising John, we’re starting to appreciate the gospel even more. We treasure God’s constant grace on our failures and sin. We become more dependent on him to make it through each day because some days are just plain hard. We’re thankful he’s in the process of sanctifying us for his glory.

Daddy’s have such a high calling as cultivators of their marriage and their children and to love without conditions. And apart from the Holy Spirit’s transforming power in a man’s life, it’s impossible to be the cultivator God desires. But Daddy’s who are in Christ, have been given everything they need to stand strong and fight the battle against sin.

So build away, and continue to let God be your ultimate strength as you raise your family. We need you, Daddy, more than you could ever imagine!

Question: What challenges do you face in being on mission as a cultivator? What rewards? What do you want wives and mommy’s out there to know about “the fight”?

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