This Mama’s Easter Focus

I had the cutest outfits all picked out for the boys – colorful polo shirts and printed shorts.  Then, I had backup suits ready because this is the winter that just won’t quit and I was prepared for the egg hunting to take place in below-freezing temperatures.  It was warmer than I thought it would be, but we went with the suits anyway.

They looked adorable in their pastels, vests, and ties.  I had these great visions in mind of the Kodak moments of this Easter morning and I even had a teal framed picked out for a new picture to be placed on my office desk.

Cue reality.  The boys fussed, begged to eat more candy before church, and just couldn’t stand to be near one another.  I tried sitting them on the steps – one of them pushed the other and then the pushee tried to spit on the pusher.  I tried standing them by the wall.  One refused while the other one screamed for me to hold him.  I tried bribing them with more candy.  I tried to tell them that we would take their candy away.  I just couldn’t stop focusing on getting the perfect picture to commemorate this perfect Easter morning.

As you can tell, it wasn’t that perfect.

When we did get pictures, one was crying and the other one wasn’t looking at the camera.  Pictures of them with me involved toys over the face or solemn stares at the lens.  Pictures of them with their father captured one crying for me and one hiding behind his leg.  Pictures of the whole family together show one picking his nose and another one looking nowhere near the camera.

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Seriously, this was the best picture.

I know I will look back and laugh.  In some respects, it’s a little funny even now. But as I watch all the pictures of beautiful kids and lovely families clog up my Facebook news feed throughout the day, I’m wondering where I’m going wrong?  Look at all of those dresses and bow-ties!  Are my kids the only ones that won’t cooperate?  Are my kids the only ones who can’t sit still for longer than 0.35 seconds?  Is this a reflection of me?  Odds are, those families had 49,349 takes to get that one perfect picture.

I had the opportunity to teach Children’s Church this morning and we asked the kids about the true meaning of Easter.  Of course, my kid was one of the children who threw their hands up in response to the question.  He said that, “Easter is all about candy….and it’s the day Jesus was born!”  Face palm.  I laughed, but my frustration was growing because haven’t we discussed Christmas and Easter several hundred times!?  But, I cut him some slack because he did just turn four and to me, Easter is a little more complicated to understand than Christmas, especially for a kid who is just learning what it means when someone dies.

Anyway, one little girl raised her hand and said, “Easter is all about Jesus dying on the cross and then in three days – today – he rose from the grave and is alive!!  Easter is the day that Jesus punched death in the face and won!!!”  Without a doubt, that is the most awesome answer to that question I have ever heard.

But it brought me back to what was really important – what is always important.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus saved me for eternity from the sins that I commit today.  He made it possible for the two of us to have a direct, personal relationship because he died on the cross and rose again.

It’s no secret that I tend to be an independent control freak.  I like to do things by myself and on my own terms.  If I had kids who were always compliant and never gave me any grief, I can guarantee you that my relationship with Christ would fall by the wayside because I would probably feel like I was doing okay handling things on my own.   Also, I’m not sure those kids exist.  Instead, I have found that being a mother has made me long for a close relationship with my Savior more than anything else in my life.  Christ’s actions on the cross make it possible for me to simply talk to Him all of the time.  For example, when my kids refuse to take cooperative pictures and I spend Easter morning in a state of frustration, I can just pray.  And He hears me.

Trust me, I know that getting worked up over something like nice Easter pictures is ridiculous, but that was just on my radar this weekend.  Depending on the day and time, it could be any number of trivial things that steal my focus.  My focus should be and needs to be on the cross.  It doesn’t matter if it is Easter morning or not – when I turn to the cross, everything falls into place.

 

*side note:marker one of my kids found a permanent marker on Easter evening and drew on his face.  A permanent marker on his face.  The Easter morning pictures could have been worse.

 

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I Don’t Want to be in the Trenches Today

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It was early on Saturday morning and I was already in a foul mood.  I had been coughed, sneezed, and snotted on too many times to count by 8am.  There is just something about wiping someone else’s mucus off of your face that will cause you to get up on the wrong side of the bed.

Not today.  I don’t want to be in the trenches of motherhood today.  I don’t want to be so heavily needed.

It’s not that I didn’t want to spend the day with my kids – I did.  I just wanted them to wipe their own butts, blow their own noses, properly brush their own teeth, cook their own meals, clean up after themselves, and use their inside voices.  And for the love of organization, I wanted them to just pick one or two toys out at a time rather than dump four bins and decide that they have nothing to play with!  I didn’t want to become the broken record that I am by the end of each day by repeating, “Be gentle.  Be careful.  Be kind.”

After a long week of working mommy, today was stay-at-home-mommy day.  I was girding my loins for a full day in the trenches when I felt so ill-equipped to be leading my troops.  My husband had a ten hour shift and the kids and all of my neglected housework from the week lay before me.  I just didn’t want to do any of it.

Before my husband left for work he could already sense my poor attitude.  I had raised my voice to one of the kids over something that really didn’t necessitate a raised voice.  He called me out on it.  While I knew he was right, I was less-than-thrilled that my weaknesses were being pointed out right in the middle of me displaying said weakness.  I accepted the accountability, but I did give him an icy stare-down for about 30 seconds.

My husband also pointed out that this was my day off and I look forward to stay-at-home-mommy day all week.  That’s when my thoughts overtook me.  Shouldn’t I be thrilled?  Don’t I know how blessed I am?  Aren’t there so many couples who would trade places with me in a minute?  Am I a horrible mother?  The thing is, recognizing how blessed I am only made me feel worse because I couldn’t seem to legitimize my feelings.

Then, as if on cue, Satan made sure that guilt (who he always has on-call) came to keep me company.

I finished my coffee with guilt, grabbed some lunch with guilt (and I severely burnt my tongue), and started the laundry with guilt.

Then something happened.

My oldest son went to spend some time with his grandparents and it was just me and my youngest who was fighting a nasty cough.  My little one coughed so hard that he threw up all over the living room.  Then he just stood there looking at me with his big, blue eyes saying “Mommy, mommy, help me!”

I was the only one who could comfort him and clean him up and assure him that it was okay and he would be fine.  He needed me and in that moment I was so glad that I could meet those needs.

When I got him situated, I suddenly felt like I was walking around without one of my limbs.  I realized that I missed my oldest son terribly and he had only been gone for a whopping ten minutes.  It turns out that I wanted to be needed after all.

I stopped what I was doing and prayed.  I begged God for forgiveness and prayed that He would give me strength and a change in my attitude.  I can’t do this parenting thing on my own.  The trenches can be downright suffocating and I’m truly not equipped to deal with all of these responsibilities every day.  But He is – God is the only one who can give me the ability to deal with life.  Not only that, but my feelings are legitimate to God.  He wants me to pour out my heart to Him rather than keep everything so bottled up that I fantasize about running away (I would never do that, but you know what I mean…maybe just a few hours alone in a bookstore).

I had to continue praying to get through all of my duties for the remainder of the day.  That and the four peanut butter melt-away Easter eggs that I may or may not have eaten seemed to do the trick.  I had a renewed sense of energy to tackle my housework and care for my sick son.  By the end of the day, my precious toddler was feeling better and he asked me to dance with him when he heard his favorite song in a movie.  We danced and twirled ourselves into a fit of laughter and it was amazing.

Not every day ends on a high note and not every day feels like I am deep within the trenches.  But, at this time in my life there are enough of those brutal days that can leave me feeling pretty discouraged if I let them.  I’m just going to refuse to let the hard times get me down.  This is far from my last rough day as a mother, but because I have Christ by my side for eternity I know that I will never be left to handle it on my own.

 

 

When We Uplift a Man

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We had just settled into our booth and ordered our food when I looked over and saw the sign on the wall. As part of the restaurant’s decor was a sign that belittled a man. I wish I could remember exactly what it said but it was something along the lines of ‘I’m just a helpless man who can’t do anything without my wife.’ Meant as something humorous, I asked my husband what he thought of it. He explained that he sees stuff like that every day, but only about men.

This incident happened a while ago, but ever since then I have tried to be more attuned to advertisements and general things in the media that portray men as helpless. The amount of things I have noticed has been astounding. The popular TV show that has a leading man who can’t accomplish anything or be trusted to watch his kids without his wife swooping in to save the day. The commercials that show an overweight man stuffing his face on his recliner while binge watching TV all weekend. The greeting cards that poke fun at a man’s inability to share his feelings. The local morning radio show that has a segment entitled ‘Help me, I’m a husband.’

Conversely, there are many TV shows that portray strong and successful women – whether they work or stay at home. There are plenty of commercials that show all that moms accomplish. You would never see a Valentine’s card from a woman to her husband that said, “I know I’ve let myself go and I can barely keep the house clean, but thanks for loving me anyway.” The media – local or otherwise – would never dare to poke fun at a woman’s inability to do anything.

Yet, when we belittle a man it’s all in the name of good fun.  Why?

Not only does this bother me for my husband’s sake, but it bothers me for my sons, as well. This has been going on for years and I have become immune to it, which leads me to believe that others have, too.

There are plenty of good men out there. There are millions of wonderful husbands and fathers who don’t get nearly enough credit for all that they do. My husband is one of them.

When I think about the sacrifices that my husband has made for our family, it’s overwhelming. He has put his career on hold to stay home during the day with our children. Do I think this is easy for him? Not at all, but he does it willingly and lovingly.  He loads both kids up and takes them grocery shopping. He takes them to play dates even when he knows that he will be the only man there. Then after a long day at home, he heads out the door and goes to work to further support his family. He is an amazing dad and I tell my kids this every chance I get. I also tell my husband that he is amazing, but I’m sure that I don’t do it nearly enough.

The last thing I want is for my husband to be viewed as some fumbling, bumbling idiot who doesn’t know how to do anything. That image couldn’t be further from the truth. He can fix seemingly everything, he can cook, he can change diapers at warp speed, and he can wrap me up in the best hugs. He’s committed to raising our children in a godly manner and he treats me with nothing but love and respect. He deserves to be praised, not mocked.

I want to conscientiously uplift my husband. I want to build him up and encourage him. I want him to know that he is loved and needed. I want him to know that his work is not in vain and we recognize and appreciate all that he does.

Regardless of how our culture might portray men, I am so thankful that my sons have their Dad to show them the way. He is the best example of all that a husband and father can do.  No matter what life throws at him, he stays positive; he knows what it takes to get back up after being knocked down.

I am hoping that our societal perception of men can turn around. This recent Dove commercial tells me that someone gets it.  I wonder what kind of a difference it might make if we built up the wonderful men around us and encouraged them as husbands and fathers.  What if it enabled the next generation to step up to the plate and follow in their footsteps? Let’s see what positive things can happen in our culture when we uplift a man.

 

Linking with Equipping Godly Women

Dreams for the Strong-Willed Child

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From the moment we found out we were expecting you, your father and I began to dream. When we found out you were a boy, our dreams got just a little more specific. When I first held you in my arms, so many of my personal dreams were realized.

Do you remember that first night? Of course, you don’t. Long after everyone left the hospital on the day you were born, it was just you and me in the dark room getting to know one another. I held you skin-to-skin, showered you with kisses, and told you all of the dreams I had for you.

As I’ve had the joy of being your mother and watching you grow, those dreams really haven’t changed. Now that your personality is intact, there is no doubt in my mind that you are capable of great things. You, my child, are strong-willed. Or as I like to say, passionate. Everything you do is done with such intensity and purpose and I love this about you!

Many people talk about changing the strong-willed child, but the last thing I want to do is change this part of your personality. To squelch your strong-willed nature would be like forcing you to write with the opposite hand or wear your jeans inside-out and backwards. It might be doable, but it would be awkward, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.

My dreams for you now encourage the use of your strong-willed temperament. As your parent, it’s my job to make sure that you develop this part of your personality appropriately. I want to help you strike a balance that enables you to assert yourself while maintaining self-control.  While it is not okay to talk back and throw fits when you don’t get your way, it is okay to respectfully share your thoughts. While it’s not okay to try to take control over every situation, it is okay to be a leader.

My dreams for you and your strong will include the following:

  • Respect the thoughts and opinions of others, even if they differ from your own. This can be difficult because the strong-willed often feel the need to be ‘right’ or have the last word.
  • I see in you great potential to be a leader. Be the kind of leader that is worth following.
  • Treat everyone as if they matter, because they do. When everyone else walks past the not-so-popular kid in the cafeteria, I want you to sit down and have lunch with him.
  • Know what you stand for and don’t be afraid to stand alone because of it. Being strong-willed gives you an advantage in this area. I pray that peer pressure would be no match for you.
  • Let your work ethic speak for you regarding your skills and abilities. You are still too young for us to know where you excel, but odds are there will be something that you are great at or enjoy more than anything else. Work hard and be humble. Right now, you have a work ethic that I didn’t even know existed in kids your age. I will do everything I can to continue to encourage this in you.
  • Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. This includes the disabled, the unborn, the elderly – they all matter.
  • When others run from a problem or tough situation, I want you to run towards it and tackle it head-on.
  • Don’t let the real world steal your love of life.  You have so much energy and ‘zest’ for life – it would break my heart to see you lose that.
  • Come to your own faith in Christ and live your life to glorify Him.

Honestly, I have so many dreams for you that will keep growing and evolving the older you become. But, none of those dreams involve material things; they revolve around the character and integrity I want you to have.  I have never dreamt for you to be a doctor, high-powered business man, or professional athlete. I don’t care about those things and I don’t want you to think that is the measure for success. Actually, you have told me on more than one occasion that you would like to be a garbage man. If that’s your passion and you give it your all, then I would be so proud of you for being a garbage man.

There are days when we butt heads, you and me. I am strong-willed, too. I understand that you want to be right and I understand your intensity because I am the same way. We both have a bit of the perfectionist bug to us as well.  It has been and will continue to be a challenge to help you focus your strong will in a positive direction, to develop self-control. There are times when I am in tears because I don’t know if I am teaching you in the right way, or if I am even getting through to you at all. But there are more times when I see a glimpse of the man you will one day become and I know that the hard days are worth it.

While I am not much of a gambler, I’ll tell you this much – I’d bet my life on you.

Your strong-willed personality is a gift, not a hindrance. I can’t wait to see where life will take you and I pray each and every day that God would use you in mighty ways.

 

Because it’s Winter and I Don’t Enjoy Every Moment

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I had every intention of writing something uplifting and flowery and everything-is-so-wonderful, but that’s not what came out.  Because that’s not how I feel right now.  I am weary, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted.

Regardless of whether or not you are a parent, life is full of these stages – these hills and valleys.  Winter is always the hardest for me.  As silly as it sounds, things that I could brush off in the summer become big issues to me in the winter.  If we are having a hard day in the summer, we just go outside and literally run it off.  As I write, the thermometer reads zero – as in, zero degrees Fahrenheit.  Running it off is not an option, so we are stuck inside where we find ourselves keeping everything inside until the festering becomes too much and our behaviors show our true feelings.

On top of my winter weariness has been my disdain for the phrase ‘enjoy every moment.’  I just can’t stand to hear it because I don’t – I don’t enjoy every moment.  If I didn’t have kids I certainly wouldn’t enjoy every moment of my life.  So, why I am expected to enjoy every moment just because I am a parent?  This is what I am learning – I don’t need to enjoy every moment, I just need to be there through the moments.

What I’m saying is, I just have to be there to get us through to the times when we are less weary, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted.  I just have to keep showing up.  By saying we should enjoy every moment, we imply that these seasons in our lives shouldn’t exist and perhaps we are doing something wrong if they do.  That’s just not the case.

This is the reality:

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my son clogged the toilet today with a roll of toilet paper.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my other child ran through a store like a wild man when I needed to get some things (like the aforementioned toilet paper) and we couldn’t just leave due to his poor behavior.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when I worked and worked to cook dinner for my family only to have it met with rejection.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my kids ignored my request to clean up and instead made a bigger mess before throwing tantrums.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when I had plans with my husband and was asked to stay late at work.

It’s reality and it’s life and it’s okay.  I am reminding myself of this more than anyone.  I serve a God who has overcome so much more than a clogged toilet and a temper tantrum.  That doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to feel frustrated, it just means that He understands what frustration feels like.

Just like the promise of spring, I also know that there are so many rejuvenating and wonderful times when I more than enjoy the moment.

This is the reality:

I enjoyed the moment when my children ran up to me for no other reason than to hug me and tell me they loved me.

I enjoyed the moment when my kid used such great manners that other people noticed.

I enjoyed the moment when my family raved about a new recipe I tried (cooking is neither fun nor easy for me).

I enjoyed the moment when the kids cleaned up their toys without being asked.

I enjoyed the moment when my boss thanked me for my hard work.

I know I don’t have to tell you that the good times far outweigh the bad, but sometimes that hope and that reminder is what pushes us to keep showing up.

Spring is right around the corner.

 

Why I’m Dating My Sons

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There is something about one-on-one time that can make something ordinary feel extraordinary. If my husband and I get to go out to dinner by ourselves, it feels like a special occasion even if we just get fast food. The same concept applies to my children; they love to have one-on-one time with us. Whenever I get to spend that quality time with my boys, we call it a date. They get so excited and I do, too.

There are several reasons why I’m dating my sons:

Undivided attention

I try to give them each some one-on-one time with me each day, but it is usually not for an extended period of time due to naps, meals, etc. So, when we get to spend a few hours together and they have Mommy all to themselves, it’s a big deal. At this stage in their lives, this is probably the most beneficial reason we go on dates.

Someday, they are going to meet someone that they feel is special enough that they would like to spend time with them one-on-one. Of course, we are far from this stage in their lives, but it is never too early to prepare their minds and hearts.

Planning

I have many parenting goals – both short-term and long-term. In the short-term, the boys get to choose what they would like to do on our dates. They plan where we will eat and then the activity that we will enjoy. Usually, it involves a fast food restaurant and the park or the train station. That is what they love to do and I love sharing it with them.

My long-term focus is to teach them that when they go out on a date with a girl they are romantically interested in, they need to have a plan. While considering her likes and dislikes, as well as her interests, they need to carefully choose a place to eat and perhaps an activity that they can both enjoy. This will show her that they cared enough about the time they were about to spend together by thinking about it beforehand. Also, by having a plan, it is less likely that they will find themselves in situations that they might later come to regret.

On a personal note, I didn’t go on many dates, but it was always frustrating to me when someone would ask me on a date and then show up without a plan. Call me old-fashioned, but I have always felt that for the first few dates, the man should take the lead in the planning. After you get to know each other better, then feel free to plan together or let her plan the date.

Manners

I don’t have to wait until our date nights to teach my sons about manners, but our special time together gives us a chance to put manners into practice outside of our home. Of course, we say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘excuse me,’ and all of that good stuff. But, I also teach them to open doors, pull out chairs, and thank the wait staff. Granted, they are not always strong enough to open the doors and we sometimes sit in booths, but you get the picture. They also love to think that they are paying for our meal. My oldest son usually offers to pay. I will give him some money and let him think that it is his. He beams with pride when he can pay for our dinner.

Chivalry is not dead and I want my kids to prove it. Having good manners shows someone that you respect them and find them worthy of the best possible treatment. I will expect my sons to be chivalrous and respectful to their dates, just as I would expect their dates to be respectful in return. Another way I am old-fashioned, but I think the man should pay for the dates. If he is asking a woman to join him for the evening, he should be financially responsible. If he is making a plan and considering his budget while doing so, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Again, after a few dates, split the cost or she can pay every once in a while, but the man should take the lead in this area. It’s all a part of having good manners.

Purpose

My purpose in ‘dating’ my sons is to have fun with them. I love them both so much and I genuinely enjoy spending time with them. We are making memories that I hope will last a lifetime. I also want to prepare them for their future.

People have often said to me, “Oh, he’s going to be a heartbreaker!” or, “He’s going to break all the girls’ hearts when he gets older!” Now, obviously I know that these are just meant to be cute things that people say and they don’t mean much by them, but whenever I hear these sayings I think, “I hope not.” I hope and pray that my sons don’t take the feelings of others lightly. I hope and pray that they don’t string girls along and break their hearts. I hope and pray that they are thoughtful with their words and actions by not saying things they think their dates want to hear or doing things that they can’t take back.

I don’t want my sons to date a girl just to say that they are dating someone. Dating should be fun, but I want them to consider the ramifications of what it means to date someone. Yes, you are getting to know a person better, but ultimately, the purpose of dating is to see if that person is someone you could spend the rest of your life with. That’s heavy stuff and it’s why I believe the decision to date someone should not be taken lightly. I have my future daughters-in-law in mind and I want to give them a wonderful husband.

Right now, my sons are much too young to understand that our date nights are meant to prepare them for anything more than just a fun time with their Mom. On one such night out, I asked my oldest son what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without hesitation and with a lot of passion, he said, “I want to be a MAN!” I laughed and told his Dad when we got home that night. We are certainly going to do all we can to get him there.

Linking up with Equipping Godly Women

Chicken Nuggets vs. Sushi

Every now and then I have a quiet moment that lets my mind wander and leaves me feeling a little nostalgic. It’s been ten years since I transferred to Penn State University to focus on my education and ultimately my career. I’ve been thinking back to that time a lot lately and have been remembering the dreams I had during those years.

As a dreamer and a doer – or as I prefer to call myself, goal-oriented and focused – I had big plans. Upon graduation, I would move to a city (New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. were the ones I had my eye on) and begin to write health policy for a major firm or company. I would put in long hours but those long hours would translate to promotions which would lead to the opportunity to run board meetings and call the shots. After a long day at the office, I would meet friends at an upscale restaurant that required reservations and I would wear one of my many designer dresses. We would sip white wine and laugh over sushi and make plans to rent a beach house for the summer. Then I would go home to my pristine apartment with a killer view where everything was neat and clean. I would get to read the latest literary sensation before calling it a day and I would wake up feeling rested and refreshed.

None of this happened.

It’s laughable now, but that is actually what I thought would happen – what I thought my life would be like.  I believed my plans were the gold standard or the ideal for success, but the goal for my identity was all based on material things. I knew I wanted to get married and have a family, but I wasn’t dating anyone at the time and just assumed that I would focus on my career first and those things would come later for me.

This is what actually happened.

I met my husband at the beginning of our senior year of college. A year after graduation, we got married.   I was frustrated that my career plans weren’t working and after several years of waitressing and millions of resumes later, I finally let go and gave my frustrations to God.  Some time later, I landed a job at the local hospital; I was also pregnant with our first child. This was followed up by a promotion and another kid.

chicken nuggets vs. sushi

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be identified as a working mother, but God had a different plan for me. Now, I push myself at work to be the best for my family. Sure, I want those promotions, but they aren’t nearly as important as those I have waiting for me at home. I’ve never been to a restaurant that requires a reservation. In fact, the only time I’ve given my name in advance is when we were short on time and had to call ahead to the Olive Garden to put our name on the list. There is nothing designer about my life and the nicest dress I own was on sale at the Dress Barn. When I leave the office I go home to my kids where we sip from juice boxes and laugh over chicken nuggets while discussing the events of the day. As for renting a beach house, we piggy-back with my parents to the beach so we can afford to go and it’s probably going to be that way for a while longer. I get to read the latest adventures of Clifford the Big Red Dog before calling it a day and I can’t remember the last time I woke up feeling rested and refreshed.

And my life is so much better than I dreamed it would be.

Ten years ago, I couldn’t conceive of a life as full as mine is today. I look back on those dreams that I once thought were so glamorous and they feel empty. It would have been great to experience some of those things, but my actual life experiences have given me a drive like no other and have taught me that I am capable of more than I know – we all are.

Beyond that, the biggest realization has been that my identity isn’t found in my career or material things, just like my identity isn’t found in my family or how well I raise my children. My identity is found in Christ, in striving to be the woman he created me to be. By this definition, my identity would remain the same if I were that city-living, single, career woman as opposed to the working wife and mother I am today. I love that my identity is in Christ. You know why? I might lose my job, my kids are going to grow up, my financial situation won’t always be the same and if I hang my hat on these things, I’m going to be in for a rude awakening one day.  I can plan and dream all I want, but Christ is the one constant in my life. My husband, children, and job just give me a purpose with which to live out my identity in Christ and having a clearly defined purpose is incredibly fulfilling.

But when it comes down to chicken nuggets vs. sushi, I would choose chicken nuggets every time.

 

Linking up with Kelly Balarie & Friends, Equipping Godly Women

 

I Don’t Have a Baby Anymore

I watch you as you play and I can’t believe what I’m seeing. You are able to build train tracks and know what pieces go where when you work with puzzles. Your vocabulary is expanding by leaps and bounds. You now describe things as ‘cute’ or ‘so funny.’ You are quick to remember your manners as I often hear you say ‘thank you,’ ‘please,’ ‘you’re welcome,’ and ‘bless you’ unprompted.  You’re goofy and you love to make people laugh.

Suddenly, it hits me – I don’t have a baby anymore.

The change from baby to toddler comes so swiftly. It happened quickly with your brother, too, but I was pregnant with you so it didn’t bother me as much. Now as I watch you run and jump and play, I wonder where the time has gone.

baby

I had heard and read all the advice to savor the moments for they pass in the blink of an eye. I knew all of that and I tried to take it to heart. I had also heard that parents don’t pay as much attention to the small stuff with the second child, but that just isn’t true. I wrote all your milestones down and took pictures of every little thing. We celebrated your baby achievements just as much as your older brother’s. Yet, here we are getting rid of your onesies and preparing for your 2nd birthday. Your ‘babyhood’ is gone and I can’t get it back.

You are beginning to talk in full sentences and you amaze me every day with your intelligence. Out-of-nowhere you will come up to me, give me a hug, and say, “Love you so much, Mommy!” It feels as if my heart will actually explode when this happens. You are a sensitive soul and a snuggler. You are also a Mama’s Boy – my right-hand man, my shadow. You follow me into the bathroom just to be next to me. I kindly usher you out, but you still try.

While there is so much to look forward to as you grow – new things we can try and new places we can go – I can’t help but feel this pang of loss. In a few months, your crib will be packed up and you will get a big boy bed. Part of me wonders if we will ever use that crib again or if it will just collect dust for several years in the attic before we decide to sell it at a yard sale. Each time I pack up clothes that are now too small for you, tears form in my eyes because I wonder if there will ever be another baby to wear these again. I remember that you took your first steps in that shirt and wore that outfit home from the hospital.  I have the cutest picture of you and your gummy grin dressed up for church in these clothes.  That was the blanket that you spent the first months of your life wrapped up in and snuggled in my arms. It still holds your little baby smell.

I wonder if I will ever buy another pack of pacifiers or bibs. Will there ever be a bottle rack beside our sink again? How much longer will we keep the high chair beside our table? Am I ready to live in a world that doesn’t involve me pulling footie pajamas out of the dryer and getting my little one all cuddled for bed at night?

So much of motherhood is marked by firsts, but as you grow, I’m starting to notice the lasts. Is this the last box of diapers I will buy? Is this the last night you will want to sleep with your favorite blanket? That show that you love and want to watch over and over, the one that I think I can’t possibly watch one more time – is this the last time we will watch it together? The problem is we often don’t know a moment falls into the ‘last’ category until it’s just gone.

The firsts are thrilling and the lasts are heartbreaking. Motherhood is this big thing defined by all of these little moments that find me in a state of near-constant transition. I often don’t realize that I have moved on to the next stage of motherhood until I am knee-deep into it.  It is a struggle being content with where we are at rather than longing for where we have been or will be.

This time, I feel as if I am not ready to move to the next stage. But you are ready, so I must be ready for you. I see your desire to keep up with the big kids and how excited you are when you learn something new. I see your tender heart and the love you have for others, especially babies. Watching you has made me realize that I am open to the possibility that God might not be done growing our family. As I pray for wisdom and guidance in that area, I also thank God for you and your brother.

I love being your mother more than you will ever know. I am so proud of you, my sweet boy. It is the privilege of a lifetime to raise you and call you my own.

An Apology to My Kids for Our Sexualized Culture

The three of us were all snuggled on the couch.  I had one of you tucked under each arm and we were watching some Duke Blue Devils basketball before bedtime.  This almost never happens: a) you never sit still this long, b) I never get to watch my team play.  I was more than enjoying this moment, and then there was a commercial break.

Suddenly there was before our eyes a man and a woman kissing quite passionately.  Things were taken further and the man took the woman’s shirt off and we could see her naked back.  They were (and I hate this term) heavily petting.  I searched frantically for the remote and could not find it anywhere.  I considered doing jumping jacks in front of the TV to distract you, but it didn’t matter – you were both locked in and had seen all of it.  Why is it that you never pay attention when I want you to, but the exact moment I would like you to be otherwise occupied, you are zoned in?

The questions started.  “What were they doing? Why did he take her shirt off? Why were they doing that?”  The fact that the commercial was for cologne was lost on all of us.  I really didn’t know what to say and so I found myself saying this: “I’m sorry, boys.  I’m so sorry that you saw that.”

The fact of the matter is, I am sorry.  We were enjoying a basketball game – at 7:15 in the evening – and sex was right in our faces.  You boys are not quite 2 and 4-years-old.  I have read the statistics, I have seen the reports – the number of sexual images you are projected to see before you reach adulthood is staggering and scary.

God made you, as boys and one day men, to be very visual beings and that’s a good thing.  I am sorry that Satan takes the fact that you are visual and uses it against you every chance he gets.  I am sorry that sex sells and it will be sold everywhere.  I am sorry that you will experience more peer pressure when it comes to sex than any other issue.  I am so sorry that holding on to your purity will be one of the biggest fights of your life.

As your mother, I am committed to do everything I can to help you grow from boys to men.  I want you to be men after God’s own heart.  The Bible talks repeatedly about fleeing from sexual immorality and lust.  There is a reason for this.  When I tell you not to touch the stove while I’m cooking, I do so because I know that you will be burnt if you do.  Likewise, when you are lost in lust aconsequencesnd sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage, pornography, etc.) you will get burned.  But beware, the world will tell you that there is nothing wrong with lust, they will encourage sexual immorality.  Our culture will tell you that you are not a man until you have lost your virginity and will applaud you when you do.  I am here to say that the world is wrong.  God does not warn us over and over again about the dangers of sexual immorality just because He doesn’t want us to have fun.  He mentions it throughout the Bible because He wants what is best for us and he wants to protect us.  I would be a horrible mother if I let you lay your hand down on a hot stove burner.  Would you trust God if He didn’t warn you about things that could have major consequences your life?

While I am sorry that this is a battle that you will have to fight over and over again, I am not sorry for doing all that I can to shelter you and protect you while you are being raised in my home.  I am not sorry that devices will be password protected and certain shows will not be watched on our TV.  I am not sorry that we will have uncomfortable conversations about sex because I always want you to feel that we can talk about these things.  I am not sorry that I will not let you off the hook when it comes to pornography and I refuse to succumb to the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality in this regard.  I am not sorry that you will be angry with me at times for not being as lenient as other parents.  I know that I will receive flak for having unrealistic expectations and being ‘out-of-touch’ or old-fashioned, but I am willing to handle all of that.  I love you and it is my job as your parent to build the strongest foundation that I can for you so that you will one day be able to make positive decisions on your own behalf.

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here, guys.  There are two big things that I want you to know.  First, this is not a new phenomenon.  I’ve already said that these issues were mentioned many times in the Bible.  That means that people have been dealing with lust from the beginning.  While technology has made things much more accessible, the issues remain the same.  Not only that, but Christ came to help us overcome all of this.  You can win this battle, but it is not going to be easy.

Secondly, this is not just an issue that affects boys and men.  It may not affect girls in quite the same way, but our sexualized culture absolutely damages them as well.  You see, I am a girl.  I have been and continue to go through this.  Girls are faced with feelings of inadequacy and lack of self-worth.  They ask themselves why they can’t look like that woman, why they can’t measure up to that level of sexuality.  The fact is, it is all a myth.  These advertisements are a myth, pornography is a myth.  No one will ever measure up to those standards because they themselves don’t exist.

Those girls that are dealing with this issue, they have Moms and Dads that are just as concerned about them as we are of you.  They have parents who are bound and determined to raise them and shelter them from our sexualized culture, who work night and day to make sure that their daughters do not buy in to the fake ideals the world projects.  Their parents are praying that there will be good men left in this world to one day marry their daughters – be those menworthit

This is good news, boys!  I know many of these parents. Like me, they pray constantly that their children will grow up and cling to God’s Word. Their commitment to raising godly sons and daughters is unwavering. You will find friends who are committed to leading a life of faith and you will one day find a girl who will make you realize why it was all worth it.  I promise you when this day comes, you will be thankful that God warned you not to put your hand on the hot stove.

Let me leave you with this: you will not be fighting our sexualized culture on your own.  No matter what happens, your father and I love you very much.  If you stumble and fall, we will be right here to pick you up.  More importantly, your Heavenly Father is always ready and willing to wrap you up in His grace and forgiveness.

Stay strong, boys.  Stay strong.

Linking up with Holly Gerth, Serving Joyfully, and Equipping Godly Women

Tim Tebow is Hiding in My House

“Mommy, Mommy – come quick, I’m scared!”

I heard the tone in my son’s voice and turned the water off to the kitchen sink, dried my hands, and threw the dish towel over my shoulder.  As I rushed to see what was going on, I heard my youngest son chase after me.
“What’s going on!?  Is everything okay?” I asked.

“There’s something in my room.  It’s Tebow.”

What did he say?  “Did you just say Tebow?  As in ‘Tim Tebow’?”

“Yessss!  Tim Tebow is hiding in my room!  He’s so big and so scary!  First he was under my bed and now he is hiding in my closet.  Check, Mommy, check!”

Tim Tebow
Tebow’s been lying low since my beloved New York Jets botched his NFL career, but if he wanted to get away from it all, our humble home in the sticks would be the last place I would expect to find him.  I bit my lip to try to conceal my laughter and walked up the stairs to his room to assure him that there was nothing to be scared of; the boys followed closely behind.  Once in his room, I checked under my son’s bed and behind his curtains.  Nothing.  I went over to the closet and just as I was about to open the door my son said, “Watch out, Mom!  You’re in for a surprise – Tebow’s gonna get ya!”

I wanted to say, “If that happened, I would not be more surprised than if I woke up tomorrow morning with my head sewn to my pillow.”  I was channeling Clark Griswold, but my kids would not have been able to appreciate the reference.

I opened the closet door and, lo and behold, no one was in there.  Shocker.

I want my children to face their fears, but I don’t want them to be scared of things that are unnecessary – like Tim Tebow.  My son has certainly heard of Tebow.  We are an athletic family and ESPN is on heavy rotation in our house.  As an example, one other time my son saw an image of Tebow, pointed to it, and said “Daddy!”  His actual Dad accused me of laughing a little bit too hard at that one.  Plus as Christian athletes, it’s a borderline requirement that we are Tebow fans.  I have been following Tebow’s career since I saw the documentary ESPN did on him while he was playing football for Nease in Florida.  I remember thinking that I would have to see what would become of him.  Our beliefs seemed to line up and I wanted him to be successful; now he is a household name.

A few years ago, my husband and I were able to go and hear Tim speak at a local convention center.  He is an excellent speaker and can effortlessly weave his testimony into the conversation without it being forced or condescending.  Prior to this my husband was a Tebow skeptic, but even he admitted that he seemed genuine and did a wonderful job presenting the gospel.

After talking to my son, it came to light that he was afraid of the Silly Gilly Gumbo – a fictional character on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  Gumbo/Tebow…kind of a stretch there, buddy.  We talked about the fact that the Gumbo doesn’t exist, but his father and I are always there for him if he is afraid.  We also discussed that God is bigger than all of our fears and that whenever we are afraid, we can pray.

So, we ended our night with one last Tebow-check through the house and a mother and son prayer.  We prayed for strength to face our fears and that Tim Tebow – wherever he may be – would continue to be a great testimony and share God’s love with those he meets.