A Letter to My Son (The Kindergarten Graduate)

IMG_7500I am pretty excited to be writing as a new contributor for Forthefamily.org. Especially as our family has grown in size over the last few years, I find myself having a lot of ideas for articles. Or rather, the struggle in raising children and keeping your marriage #1 is so real that I can’t not write about it! I wrote this letter a while back for my son and decided to edit it now that he is a kindergarten graduate. I read it to him recently and it was a sweet time between the two of us. I hope this brings you encouragement as you train, love, and disciple your own children and hopefully keep your hair in tact. 🙂

Dear Son,

You are growing into such a smart and sweet-spirited young boy. This past year you’ve gone from reading only a few words to reading chapter books and doing addition and subtraction. You recently graduated from Kindergarten and it feels like yesterday that your tiny fingers wrapped around mine and I couldn’t stop smelling your soft baby skin, over and over again.

I consider my role as your Momma a serious responsibility and privilege to which I will be held accountable to God. Every day I get to spend with you is a gift to invest in your precious life. I know that the time I have with you in these formative years is numbered. I still can’t believe you’ll be entering first grade in the fall. How can it be?

Read the rest over on FortheFamily.org

 

 

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.


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…

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)

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.

Becoming a Stay-at-home Mom

Recently, we made a pretty big decision in our family. I transitioned from working in the office 30 hrs. a week to becoming a stay-at-home Mom. After a lot of thought, prayer, and counsel, we felt this was the best situation for our family, our son John, and baby girl soon to come in October.

It’s been a whole new world for me because shortly after John was born, I went back to work part-time while Jeremiah kept John and did his studies. It was a great situation to help him get through seminary and to bond with John. It was just what we needed in that season. But I had never known “life” exactly being full-time at home.

It was a bittersweet transition for me especially because I love everything I do as a writer for Bluefish TV. I loved my comfy office. I love the people I work with. I love using my gifts day in and day out, going in every day on mission and with a purpose. I was afraid of losing that. I feared what it would be like to put my dreams and career on hold to serve my family. I even wondered if I would lose my identity, as weird as that might seem.

9-5 Job vs. Being at Home

My mom had even told me before the transition that it would be easier to work a 9-5 job, than be at home full-time raising babies, but that it was worth every bit of sacrifice. She had been a stay-at-home mom all my life.

So far, I couldn’t agree more with her wisdom. My feet ache as I write this. I never sit down except during nap time. I spend about 3 hrs. a day in the kitchen attempting to cook healthy and delicious meals. I’m always thinking of ways to entertain John and get him outside or playing with others so he isn’t bored in our little 700 square ft. apartment. I regularly connect with other mom friends for the support and encouragement that is so crucial.

My phone conversations last about 10 minutes until there’s whining, screaming or a tug on my pants. I change clothes often from milk and peanut butter stains. Vacuuming and cleaning is a regular part of the day. I can handle about one or two big events in a day and after that I’m done. I’ve learned that I’m horrible at multitasking. And most of all, I’ve learned how impatient and easily angered I can become- especially when John has his fits.

And all this has been learned in just a matter of a few weeks. I’m not even a seasoned stay-at home mom yet!

Hard work? Definitely. And some days, more like exhausting. Worth the sacrifice? Most definitely.

Mom’s are always right.

Joy in the Sacrifice

In the midst of it all, including a tighter budget, less time with my husband, or for “me” time, I’ve found no greater joy than watching my little boy say new words, interact with others, discover beauty in the world, say “Mommy please, or Love you.” I love being able to cuddle with him when he wakes up cranky after a nap. I love that I can devote my time to him and let him know I’m fully there. I love that I get to teach him about Jesus in the small details of the day. I love that I’m the most important person to him simply because I’m his momma. I love knowing that if I wasn’t there for him, he would know it.

On the occasional days where I wish I was in my office again or where I feel like I’ve done absolutely nothing, it’s often that someone, something, or my husband reminds me that I’m molding and shaping John’s life day in and day out. That is the greatest job anyone could ever have.

And I smile again with renewed strength.

Dividends in the Future

God did open the door for me to still work a few hours from home each day and be connected to my work at Bluefish and it’s been a huge blessing, one I don’t take for granted. He’s taught me that I can still use my gifts at home. It will just take hard work, time and planning so it doesn’t take away from the needs of my family. Their needs are number one.

Whatever the future holds for Jeremiah and I as we build our family and think about our dreams and goals, the decision to love and disciple our children by me choosing to be a stay-at-home mom, is one I know we will never regret.

What to do with Mom Exhaustion

This past weekend, Jeremiah and I agreed that we won’t do a garage sale again with a toddler.

Curious John was into everything and we should have known. The china cups, clothes hangers, picture frames. He was into opening and closing the screen door to our friend’s house, exploring the lawn, and to top it off, he darted out into the street to follow me as I was loading stuff into the car (marital miscommunication among who was watching him). I was frantic and felt like an awful mother for that to have even happened.

I should have never expected to do anything else with the sale but to keep my eyes on him and train him on what not to touch. Jeremiah already said he would organize everything.

At the end of the day, I left the sale frustrated, exhausted, impatient, and my feet were killing me being 21 weeks pregnant. I began to think, Is this life as it is? Cause I’m going to go crazy if it is!

Lately, I’ve had a hard time adjusting to the amount of energy required of a 20 month old toddler. At times, I feel there is nothing left to give at the end of the day. I don’t know where the strength comes to cook, clean, write, love my husband well, catch up with friends, or be on mission in serving others.

Yet often the real problem is me. I don’t go to the Source of all strength.

That evening as I sat in bed and John was sound a sleep, I came to my senses again. This season of life for him is so precious and before I know it, it will be gone. He will no longer be a toddler, but a big Kindergartener. This is his stage. His season of life. And it’s my job as his mommy to treasure that.

As mother’s, God understands the exhaustion we feel. He knows the ever-changing moods and emotions. He knows the pressure put on our marriages when not only raising children, but raising them well. He understands when we just need to vent and cry and hide in the closet. He has reminded me that his strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). His grace is always available.

I’m so thankful he understands, especially when I somehow think that no one else does. I’m thankful I can draw to Him through His word and prayer so that he can meet my spiritual, emotional and physical needs. When I’m listening and confessing my inadequacies, it’s then that I’m renewed to help meet the needs of my son. I’m more patient, loving, and understanding.

The garage sale was a good lesson for me and I know other hard days will come. But I also know that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. Thank goodness!

Do you ever experience Mom (or Dad) exhaustion?

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