One True Love Story

Valentine’s Day is this coming weekend. The kids have been talking about their parties and we’ve been buying classroom Valentines. The kids’ memory verse this week is actually 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us”. This week has found me thinking about the word “love” a lot.

Someone once told me that “love” is a gift that God gives to all people, as in all people can experience true love. I didn’t find reason to question this theory at first. It’s a nice thought, actually. I want to think (and we often do think) that love is limitless.

A few years ago, however; I found myself questioning the theology pertaining to this thought. 1 John 4 also tells us that “God is love”. I don’t believe you can experience love as it’s truly meant to be, apart from knowing God’s love.

Love while here on this earth is still a flawed love. Every thing on this earth is tainted by sin. Knowing God, we know the one true example of a completely self-less, living-for-others kind of love. Without that example guiding us, we will fail to understand the full capacity of what love is capable of.

I have many people in my life that I love and will do most anything for, but I know at times that love can even be selfish, proud, and feeble. There has only been one perfect example of love- and I am happy to celebrate that love every day of the year. But I don’t mind a special day to accept extra chocolates and roses. 😉

Thoughts Running

Tonight’s run was therapy and it did it’s job. It’s funny that I love my body more now (even though it’s not what it once was) than I did when I was younger. I exercise because I am (was) an athlete. I don’t feel good when I’m not moving. It’s no longer a punishment, I’m not stressing to fit in a certain amount of exercises into a week, no longer checking my abs in the mirror every time I finish a workout. (Stop judging me, okay?)

I think this mindset has changed because I’ve learned to hold more loosely to things in this world: including my body/body image. Matthew 6:19-21 discusses laying up treasures where they can’t be destroyed (heaven). Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be.

We generally read that and think money or material items, but God is not something we are supposed to compartmentalize. His truths and wisdom effect every area of our lives. I want to steward my body well, while knowing that it doesn’t guarantee I won’t ever face any health crisis or that my body won’t change. (Gravity, y’all).

We need to stop expecting of our bodies what they were never made to do: remain ageless.

Make Time for Stillness

I do not like being bombarded with noise all the time. I feel overwhelmed if I don’t have times to pause in complete silence throughout the day. It legitimately makes me anxious if there is noise, running around, and mess all the time.

Seems kind of funny considering the fact that I have 4 kids, right? I will agree that 4 kids is hectic on it’s own. But there are things I do to help offset the busyness of this season with 4 littles. I do a quick pick up halfway through the day, usually right before nap time. I don’t have TVs on for just white noise during the day. I make time for rest during the day (usually while the little is napping), so I have energy to carry it on until bedtime.

This was something that did not come naturally to me. I had to teach myself to learn to sit in quiet. At the time, it was because I wanted to learn to sit in my thoughts, not busy myself in order to them. I was surprised at how hard it was at first. But as such goes with new habits, consistently won.

This is a great example of how we should live in relation of God. I’ve heard a quote (I can’t remember who said it) that God does his best work with empty. We can’t constantly be filling with things other than God. We must carve out time to be filled with His Word. If we aren’t filled with Him, we will be filled with something else.

Jen Wilkin has said “the heart can’t love what the mind doesn’t know”. I learned early in my parenting role what I needed to do to give what I can in my role as a mother. It’s much more important that we realize what is necessary to make sure we are filled with the most important person in life.

I Can’t Protect Them From It All

I am 10 years or so in to parenting. I have spent most of my years trying to protect them from anything that will hinder their true personality or cause unnecessary pain. I have recently realized that their are going to be outside circumstances that will inevitably effect their growing into their own person, regardless of how much I want to stop it.

My 8 year old daughter has began changing a lot of things we thought were “part of who she is” of late. She has always loved sparkles, pink, frills, and anything girly. In the past few months, this has become a complete about face. She wants a completely new wardrobe of nothing girly. She wants to cut her hair shorter; whereas before she’s always loved her long, blonde locks.

I know she is also my child who wants to fit in with those around her. I am 98% certain that the change in appearance is linked to the fact that she doesn’t see many other friends into the girly things she was into. I can’t even tell you the number of times I have asked her why the change, her responses always being “I just don’t like it anymore”.

On the other side of that, I know my kids don’t care about a lot of things their friends do, and for that I feel to blame. Because of the makeup of our family, we have experienced more loss and heartbreak than most. Etched into my memory is my 4 and 6 year olds crying as we said goodbye to our almost adopted baby girl. I can see a clear image in my mind of us walking out of the State Foster Care Visitation building as we said goodbye to the little man we loved on for several months.

Now, don’t get me wrong-the brokenness that comes with fostering and adoption is minuscule compared to the beauty that has come from it in our family. We have 2 beautiful babies who are thriving in our home. We are able to, daily show our kids that looks and appearance alone do not make a family. We are able to show how easy it can be to be grafted in, what it means to “be adopted as sons”.

I want to protect them from everything, but I also know this life was given its thorns and thistles for a reason. Every area of this life is marked with sin and unrest. So in the meantime, I will be here for my kids, knowing none of our lives (including theirs) will be perfect or without suffering. Together we will look forward to a time where all things will be made new. One day we won’t be crying over good byes. There will be a time we don’t live to please anyone but the only One who matters. This is our hope.

Girl Power…or something like that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “girl power” and what I think that entails. I am an accidental girl mom. I say that because I truly thought I’d never be a girl mom. I always felt I was going to have a house full of boys. I now have 2 boys and 2 girls. I love having each, but I do still struggle more with girl emotions and drama.

I think a lot about the things I want to impart upon my girls as they grow. “Girl power” or “I’m a girl I can do everything on my own” is a pretty popular philosophy nowadays. I am 100% for girl power, but I find the characteristics I consider girl power aren’t often what others consider it to be, and vice versa.

Tonight I was watching my 8 year old daughter at her basketball practice. I noticed when she was running sprints that she was looking at the girls around her. After practice, I told her looking at other people while running just slows her down. I told her to pay attention to her running and her race, then she would run better. (I also feel like that could be used for many different areas of life as well).

I want to write a list of things I want my daughters to know as they grow, as they grow in to their “girl power”:

  1. Never be afraid to stand alone.
  2. Be confident enough in who you are to know you don’t have to explain yourself to others.
  3. Don’t pretend to be less smart than you are. Even if you’re made fun of, you’ll come out ahead.
  4. Know that you don’t have to have your makeup and hair done all the time-a little real-ness can be very welcoming.
  5. Know your worth isn’t dependent upon anyone else.
  6. Be friendly with many types of people. I mean truly friendly, not the “friendly to your face, talk behind your back” kind of friendly. Many viewpoints lead to a better understanding of the world.
  7. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
  8. Where I hope you’ll be friendly with many persons, I want you to also know it’s okay if you don’t want to be friends with everyone. Some people will only drag you down, you are free to say no to friendships like that.
  9. Know and own your weaknesses. Ask for help when you need it.
  10. Believe you can do much more than you think you can: athletically, academically, etc.
  11. Enjoy life. Do not fear anything that cannot kill the soul.

Now, these main points don’t sound controversial to the main stream girl power we hear, do they? But here’s where I see a big difference: the women that come to my mind when I think about “girl power” don’t ever have to discuss it. They are able to do hard things, and they have peace with themselves when they aren’t doing those hard things.

They realize being a woman is an empowering thing in itself. The women I think of also aren’t afraid (or feel like less of a woman) to ask for a man’s help. Because they know we each bring our own gifts to the table. Men having value does not curtail the value of women. We compliment each other, which makes us even stronger.

I raise my girls exactly like my boys, but I know each will have their own different strengths and weaknesses. I raise my boys to encourage my girls, and my girls to encourage my boys. But I feel like when you raise a child (boy or girl) with the values above, you don’t need to tell them “speak up when a guy makes you uncomfortable” or “you aren’t less of a woman because you don’t like girly things” or “you have to bring down guys to appear strong”. When you raise them to know these truths, they become aware of themselves and grow confident in who they were made to be. I don’t want my girls to scream “girl power”, I want them to live it.

Unapologetic About Your Occupation

I still remember the reprimand I received from my public speaking professor while I was in college. We were all discussing something and I made the comment “she’s just a stay at home mom”. My professor then proceeded to tell me she spent 12 years at home while her kids were younger and it was the hardest job she’s ever had. Even with this revelation, I still wasn’t entirely convinced.

Fast forward a few more years, and I found myself pregnant during my Senior year of college. I was able to graduate before my first born made his appearance, but I suddenly faced a dilemma. Do I continue to pursue teaching jobs, as I had already started turning in resumes, or do I stay home with the baby once I graduate college. To say this was an easy decision would be the biggest lie of the century.

I looked forward to teaching. I found great pride in the fact that I was the first one in my family to graduate college straight after high school. I did, however; have many mentors who told me they either a) loved staying home when their kids were little or b) wish they could go back and do it again to stay home with their children when they had been younger. It should be noted that my husband and I also talked about this as well and his opinions do factor into my thought process.

So, I decided to stay home with our baby. I am so grateful to have been home with all our children thus far. I have to admit though, that it wasn’t easy in the beginning. I felt shame for saying I was a stay at home mom when asked by others what I was currently doing. Usually the question that directly followed my stay at home mom revelation was “so when will you start teaching?” I have also received the occasional comments about my college education going to waste because I stay home. These conversations used to leave me embarrassed and ashamed.

That began to change when I changed my viewpoint on staying home. I wasn’t doing “lesser work”. Every occupation or position you occupy in life is to be fulfilled to the glory of God. Yes, there are days that feel absolutely mundane. But that is true of any job. In any occupation, you will have tasks that seem mundane and tedious.

We are told “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. We don’t compartmentalize our relationship with God. I don’t live parts of my life to give Him glory, and live other parts of my for my own or others glory. If homemaking is my current calling, then this is where I am to glorify God. And any task that is aimed at God’s glory can never be a lesser task.

Another thing that has helped me to change my outlook is the realization that my children are all I will (God willing) leave in this world. Any job occupation I will ever have will be filled in my absence, but there is no one else who will ever be my kids mother. That burden and blessing takes this calling to new levels of importance.

Don’t ever feel your tasks are unimportant, whether it be that of a SAHM or a job occupation you are ashamed of. Anything done with eternal significance simply cannot be unimportant. You decide what is important with how you decide to live your life. We all live most of our lives in the little moments. I’ll leave you with a quote from Paul David Tripp: “Our lives are comprised of 10,000 little moments and maybe only 3 or 4 dramatic ones”.

Guys, be confident in your little moments as well as the big.

Faithfulness in School Days

My kids went back to school in person today. Our district offered different modes of learning at the beginning of the year. We had elected to do school remotely to start out the year because child #3 had horrible asthma. We wanted to see how it was going to look before we sent them back.

Then I received an email from the school asking if I’d be okay with them going in person the 2nd 9 weeks. I discussed it with the hubs and we decided we were comfortable enough to send them back. The house is awfully quiet today with just the 1 year old at home.

It’s funny though, looking back on the first 9 weeks, I don’t remember wishing I had more time to myself. I don’t remember feeling resentful that they were home with me. Yes, things were more hectic, messy, and loud. Yes, we were some times short tempered. Yes, I did raise my voice some days (most every day). I just don’t remember focusing on it during that time.

I don’t say this to make it sound like I’m a super mom for teaching my kids the first 9 weeks. I don’t want to sound like I think I’m more of a loving momma because I didn’t get sick of them or that I didn’t struggle with the idea of them being home.

I’m also not saying God’s Will is that all children be remote or homeschooled during this time. Any situation you find yourself in (even a bad one) can be used for the glory of God. We simply did it because of health issues for our daughter. Since we haven’t had huge outbreaks in our district, we felt comfortable when asked about returning early.

I’m also not going to say that I’m completely worry free with my kids being in school. My heart broke not being able to walk them in for their first day. I do still worry about sicknesses with my third. But our reason for keeping them home currently isn’t the issue we thought it would be. However, I know where to take any worries I may have. (Yeah, I may have been up last night at 3 am praying about them). There is only One who is never changing and completely dependable.

I look back and it simply amazes me that God gives us the grace when we need it. Oftentimes, we don’t realize we needed it until the moment has passed us as well. I enjoyed not rushing around all morning trying to teach all 3 of them this morning, even though it didn’t bother me at the time.

It’s not my strength that carries me but His. I’m not saying God’s Will would be that all teach their kids remotely and that’s why He carried me. Rather, in whatever situation we find ourselves led to, God will sustain us if we are looking to him as our source of hope, strength, and joy. Just like God sustained me through the first 9 weeks, I know He will sustain me (and them) through the uncertainties of going back to school as well.

I’m going to share a quote by Elisabeth Elliot that I think best sums up my feelings. She is referring to motherhood in this specific quote, although I think you’ll find it applies to any calling that you find yourself in: “This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness”.

Break Pride to Pieces

This past weekend, I had a moment of dread when I thought I had been doing something wrong to my daughter’s hair the past 5 years. For those that don’t know, child #3 is adopted and is a different race than me. I’ve spent hours and hours reading, watching, practicing, and talking with others in order to better learn how to do her hair.

I initially learned how to do it because I do not ever want my daughter to feel like she HAS to go outside the home to have her needs taken care of. Yes, it will look better when it’s done at a salon as she gets older. Mine looks better when I go to a salon as well. So, it’s never bothered me that some day we may end up at the salon.

The other night revealed a less desirable trait in me as well. The first thing I felt when I thought I was wrong, was embarrassment. Embarrassment because I was worried what people would think if they found out I had been doing her hair wrong? Would it confirm the idea that multi-racial families are just too complicated? Would people think I’m not the best fit mom for my girl?

After this brief moment of doubt, I was reminded that I felt embarrassed because I had put too much pride in myself and my own abilities. Pride has no place in the heart of a believer, when placed in anything other than God. Can I have pride during my lifetime? Absolutely-but I put my pride in the right context when I realize any and every ability I have is given to me by God.

I’ve been reading a Puritan prayer a week from the book The Valley of the Vision by Arthur Bennett. My prayer this week is called “The Great God”. There is a section that goes like this: “Annihilate each clinging shred of self-righteousness, Implant in me true lowliness of spirit,… break me, then bind me up;…Thus will my heart be a prepared dwelling for my God;”. To annihilate means to utterly destroy. To implant means to establish. We should ask God for the grace to utterly destroy every shred of our own self-righteousness. (Because we cannot do it on our own). We should then constantly ask for lowliness of spirit to be established in us. (Because it’s not easy to not feel full of ourselves).

I get that the Christian life is often a topsy-turvy, upside down kind of life. What we are told to do often doesn’t make sense to the masses. But remember there is freedom in learning to die to self and live for God-in all aspects of life.

What reinforces this belief? The fact that when I realized doing my daughter’s hair correctly or incorrectly is not about me. It’s about her, because I want it to be done correctly. It’s mostly about God though, because in all areas of my life I want to glorify Him. There are times that only way we can glorify Him is correcting our mistakes and trying to do different. We try to do different by reminding our selves of the truths of the only person who truly can bind and heal our hearts.

I mean that as this story relates to where my mind goes when I do make a mistake, and how I handle the mistake. Long story short-I reached out to a friend who told me I was doing it correctly. I didn’t have anything I did need to correct. If I did, guess what? I would have corrected it next time and life would still continue.

If I wouldn’t have been focused on self, I wouldn’t have questioned whether or not I was the right mom for my girl, because I know God has given me this child on purpose. I don’t have to care about what others think of my mothering, because only one opinion truly matters. I wouldn’t focus on the difficulties of multi-racial families because I would recall the truth that no life is without difficulties.

Moments like this are bound to reappear all throughout life. Thankfully God’s truths are still here and they apply to all facets of life, even hair.

The Most Important Relationships

I stayed home tonight from my oldest son’s football practice to clean my house. I know I have 4 kids but my house will not be a disaster regardless. Yes, throughout the day there are many toys and other items strewn throughout the house, but I know those will easily be picked up at the end of the day. I do not like messy bathrooms, kitchens, dust on furniture, etc.

When my 8 year old daughter heard I was staying home, however; she decided it was a perfect night for some mommy and me time. We went on a walk. While on the walk, we stopped and watched the Monarch butterflies fluttering about the empty land around our area. She pointed them out to me. She stopped and took pictures. She was elated. I offered up a silent prayer of thanksgiving because I knew these are the moments.

Our kids long for relationship with us. More than any other thing in their life, they long for connection and acceptance at home. They want to know we’re a safe place for them. Kids want to (and need to) know that no matter what happens, we are there for them.

A lot of times this looks like us giving up our time, or talking about things we don’t want to talk about. (No, I don’t know Patrick Mahome’s favorite color). (No, I can’t dance like that). How many times have I done girls hair while secretly wishing I could relax? How many times have I laid with them for a couple minutes to tickle their arms? I read a quote somewhere listening to the little things so they will learn to trust you with the big things.

Some of you are thinking “that’s not how I want to spend my life”, “what about me?” The people in my home are the closest proximity to share my witness and testimony with. It is my life’s joy to walk side by side with these little people, not because it’s easy. It’s my joy because I’m not nurturing to be my little people forever. I’m nurturing them to be adults. Who I am around them matters. So many of us save our best selves for those outside our home, but friends, it ought not be this way. Yes, we may apologize more to them (because they’re more likely to see our flaws), but even in our faults-relationship happens.

What makes it easier to want to live a life of flexibility with my time in order to build connections? In Philippians 2:6-7 in reference to Christ it says “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”

We know according to John 10:30 that Jesus states He and His Father are one. So by that verse, we know Jesus doesn’t think he’s anything he’s not. We also know that Jesus didn’t come to the earth in the form of a King. He came as a servant to men, even until His death on the cross. So I know if I am to be like Christ, I am to live a life after His example. We should bear a resemblance of His life, if we expect the benefit of His death.

On our walk, my girl asked me what she would do if an anything ever happened to me and she was with me. Of course, we had to play out several scenarios. Then she said “I just don’t think I’d be able to do anything”. I told her “Yes, you will because you don’t walk alone. You have the strength of God with you as well”.

How am I able to have conversations like that with my daughter? Because of my relationship with God. Relationship is what He wants from us as well. More than any other thing in my life, I have connection and acceptance with Him. I know He is my safe place. I know that no matter what happens, He is there for me. It’s because of my relationship with God that I can attempt to emulate relationships with my kids. God doesn’t leave me as I was when I first went to Him. I don’t plan to let my kids leave me without trying to show them the truth, where I can, in whatever ways I’m allowed to. If we would do it for others, we should be more than willing for the ones we’re entrusted with.

Don’t worry, my bathrooms got cleaned as well. 😉

Rest for Struggle

For my entire life (that I can remember) I remember yearning for the normal, consistent, boring family. I remember watching TV shows thinking “I’m going to have that life some day”.

Welp, here I am: a house full of kids, blessed to be able to (mostly) stay home, a husband who adores me (there must be something wrong right?) and that I adore equally in return. I legit go to bed every night thanking God for giving me so much more than I deserve. These gifts are not lost on me.

I also recognized something else in my life though. There is no normal. We have been through many transitions in our 11 years of marriage. We married young, had babies young, adopted, had a failed adoption, and gone into foster care. That’s just in our immediate family! I’m not even including anything else coming from outside my house.

I started to get pretty confident that I’m a cool cucumber (is that a thing?) now. We’ve handled it all, there’s nothing new to stress about anymore. Then Covid happened. Then school enrollment happened. Who knew signing your kids up for school could lead to eye twitches? (Thanks stress).

But then I remembered something: this is my gift. This life. This family. This struggle. Guys-in this life I’m marching with my eyes set on something much bigger, better even. It doesn’t end with today’s problems, or even today’s blessings.

Every transition or change in life should be approached with one goal in mind- to glorify Christ. Am I trusting in Him? Not just with my decisions, but to sustain me after those choices are made. Do I believe that if I made a choice I regretted, that God will use it for His good regardless, if I’m looking to Him?

Because that’s the truth friends: God is the end all. The decisions you and I are facing may seem huge, even overwhelming, right now. But they are still temporary problems. While Covid and it’s repercussions may last longer than we’d like, and it may effect more areas of life than we’d like, eventually it will end. When it gets to be too much, remember what you’re marching towards- Who you will meet at the finish line. In the meantime, let’s give grace and love each other.