Wednesday, November 26, 2014

All the Days of Her Life

The Christian life is very exciting when you are spending time with God and trying to serve Him. One of my favorite things is how alive the Bible is! You can read the same passage over and over and get something totally different from it every single time. 

I love Proverbs 31. I've studied it, memorized it, and I'm attempting to apply the principles to my life. (Side note: I don't think you have to do all of those things in one day and I'll probably  never make a girdle.) It's one of my favorite passages to go to when I'm studying womanhood

Verse twelve has some interesting marriage advice. It says, "She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life." Before I had only considered that verse in the context of a lifetime commitment. ALL the days of her life or until someone dies. But this time I saw it in the context of all the days. Each and every day: today, tomorrow, the next day. It's not enough to say that I'm committed to my husband for life; I want to do him good today. 

Something over a lifetime isn't always very practical. What's practical is the nitty-gritty, "this is what I'm doing today" work that's really pretty routine. Routine work done consistently adds up to a lifetime of accomplishment in that area. Consistently doing my husband good every day will add up to all the day of my life. 

It's easy to get caught up in teaching the boys because it's such a big job. It's easy to focus on getting the rest of my work done because it's more urgent and noticeable. You try not cooking dinner and see if you can slip that by. (If it works let me know how you did it!) But focusing on my marriage can seem less necessary. After all, we're both adults, right? That may be true but our marriage is worth the effort and needs the effort to stay the wonderful thing that it is. So what can I do today to do my husband good? 

I plan on asking myself this question every day "all the days of my life." 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Center Your Day Around Jesus

Some days just don't go the way we would like for them too. Things (like our attitudes) can seem wrong from the moment we wake up and our feet hit the floor. I know I have spent some of those days flailing and grasping for anything that could help me redeem the day and refocus my heart. Most of the time I take a few minutes to review all the things I have to be thankful for. The below picture is a collage that I made a few years ago when I was having one such day. (Note the cute baby adorableness. Children growing up is fun but so bittersweet.)

But an important principle I have been studying helped me even more. I am supposed to center my day around Jesus. Not around what I wish my reality were or what I want my day to look like. Not around naptime or my husband coming home or drinking Dr. Pepper or anything else I might look forward to. Not around checking everything off my list or my perfect vision of home. 

So many different frustrations can throw off our day. A lack of sleep caused by a new baby (or a toddler!), a late start to the morning, potty-training accidents, unexpected news, or scheduling changes can often change what we planned for our day. But I remember. 
...and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;       Hebrews 12:1b-2a
It's about Jesus. It's not about me or what I want. It's not about my expectations for the day; the race is already set before me. Jesus has mapped out my day. I need to look to Him for strength and grace for my race. It can be a race today because all today needs is today's energy. I don't have to worry about tomorrow. I don't have to worry about getting up and doing this same stuff over time after time.  I just need to be faithful today. 

Our preacher has taught us that patience is "cheerful and hopeful enduring." God's working in me. God's working in my kids. I am not to run impatiently or in frustration. I don't have to finish today. I won't finish until I go home with Jesus. 

I read somewhere that I shouldn't complain about the service God has called me to until I have done as much as Jesus did on the cross. That really stuck with me. I'm not to compare myself to what my husband or my neighbor or anybody else is doing, just what Jesus did.  That means I should never complain. I will never give as much of myself or give up as many of my own desires as Jesus did when He died for me.  

So how can I center my day around Jesus? Here are a few things that help me. 

1. Start your day with Jesus. Read your Bible and pray. Ask God for His help. And yes, this is frequently interrupted by small children. Relax your expectations. Do as much as you can and carry a verse with you. God knows your heart. 

2. Know what's most important. We've recently narrowed our parenting goals down to two concepts. Can you pinpoint exactly what you are supposed to be doing right now? Knowing that relieves some of the pressure because you can shrug off the things that can easily wait until tomorrow. 

3. Release control. This is a mental effort. Actually all of these are. So many of the battles in our lives are mental. That's why we are to bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) This is Jesus' day. His plans matter, not yours. Give it to Him.

4. Give yourself grace. A lot of times the things that stress me out are expectations I've imposed on myself. I must read x number of books with the boys to be a good mom. I must complete x amount of work around the house to be a good homemaker. I can't give you a verse for those things and while they are good occasionally I need to throw them all out the window.  God's plans for my day may not involve any of my checklist! 

5. Repeat. I have to constantly remind myself to stay focused on Jesus. Everyday is about Jesus.  

Jesus can help me to walk through each part of my day with His grace.  Through the expected, the unexpected, the unpleasant, and the exciting. I don't have to wait for some thing to happen for me to have a good day and then be disturbed or upset if it doesn't happen.  Jesus is enough.  (But a Dr. Pepper never hurts either!)
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11 (emphasis mine)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 Benefits of Being a Third-Time New Mom

When I took Caleb to his first doctor's appointment two weeks ago a nurse commented on how comfortable I seemed with motherhood. I gave my only honest answer, "It's a lot easier with the third than the first."

New mommyhood has its difficult parts regardless of how many times you've done it. Even if it's an easier delivery than your first, you still have some major recovering to do. And the hormones- oh my- let's just settle those down as quickly as we can, ok? I'm really cold, unless I'm hot; which means I'm taken my sweatshirt on and off about fifty times every day the past three weeks! 

But there are some major benefits to having done this twice before.

1. Babies aren't quite as mysterious. It still leaves me in awe that suddenly there's another little person who is dependent on our family and we are taking him home. But I've had a baby before so it's not the same learning curve. I know how to wash a baby, change a baby's diaper, not freak out when they cry, nurse a baby, swing the diaper bag into the car seat and carry it on one arm and the baby with the other. It's second nature instead of a foreign language you never learned and suddenly have to use to communicate. 

2. It all comes to pass and you know it. The baby will eventually sleep more. The hormones die down. Your hair even stops falling out. You find a new normal. And you can remind yourself of that in the hectic moments because you've done it before. 

3. You don't need as much stuff. The baby needs some clothes, diaper and wipes, a place to sleep, a car seat, and some blankets. I also love a baby wrap. But beyond that a little baby doesn't need much more besides love and cuddles. Oh, and food. They definitely eat frequently. 

4. You have built-in little helpers. Now sometimes this can be more of a curse than a blessing but I would rather my older boys were too enthusiastic about the baby than resenting him. Thankfully both my boys have been very excited about their little brother and are eager to help. I enjoy the different ages of my kids and find it to be mentally engaging. (Did I mean exhausting?)

5. Going anywhere with just one child seems amazingly easy. When I took Caleb to his doctor's appointment it was a breeze to leave the house with just myself and the baby. Now when I only had Micah I felt overwhelmed to imagine going anywhere with both of us. Look how far we've come. 

6. You do things with the third you would never have dreamed of doing with your first. We took the boys to the park when Caleb was just 11 days old because it appeared to be the last pretty day of the year. I held Caleb on one arm while he slept and pushed Micah on the swings with the other arm. I would never have done something like that with my first. 

7. You enjoy the baby more. You know how quickly the baby is going to grow up. I'm enjoying newborn snuggles and squeaks and even those middle of the night feedings are more precious because I can sit and hold him and not need to care for anyone else right then. 

8. You see the importance of self-care. With my other two babies, it was easy to write off my needs to take care of the children. Now of course I'm caring for the children, but I've learned that I'm still a person and I need to respect that.  I respect it so much that I'm getting a (free!) postpartum massage that our hospital offers. Doesn't that sound amazing? Take the time to care for your physical and emotional needs. Spend time with adults, squeeze in a nap, care for your recovering body. If you wear yourself out you can't properly care for anyone else. 

9. You have an increased appreciation for marriage. I realize that not everybody is in my ideal situation when they see that positive pregnancy test. Justin and I have been thrilled to welcome each of our sons to our family. The shared experiences of pregnancy, birth, and adjusting our family have only caused us to grow closer. This is not always the case. I appreciate our marriage more as I see the reactions and attitudes toward pregnancy and babies that some people chose to have. 

And perhaps my favorite part of a new baby?

10.  You get a renewed vision for motherhood. Something about holding that tiny infant reminds you of the awesome responsibility that loving and training a little one is. And not just that little one but the others already in your home. It softens my mama heart and I often need that. 

I did have a difficult entry into motherhood the first time. Almost anything is easier than NICU's, helicopter rides, and a rare disorder. This has probably colored my viewpoint of first time motherhood since I now almost feel sorry for people who are having their first baby. I would assume that some people adjust well to first-time motherhood. 

With all that, I don't feel any more overwhelmed with three children than I did with just one. There are some times, even entire weeks, when I want to pull out my hair and go on a vacation. I had days like that with just one child. Matter of fact, I had days like that before I had children. Maybe I'm the common denominator in those situations and not my boys. 

Motherhood is much more comfortable now than it was before and I enjoy it a lot more too. How about you? Did you adjust well to motherhood the first time or was it a learning curve you didn't expect? 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Work and Knowledge

When I was in high school I participated in Bible Quizzing. For those of you who don't know it's a competition where you score points by answering questions about certain passages of Scripture, quoting Scripture, and generally being the first to jump off your buzzer to answer the question. Colossians was one of my books my junior year and I had memorized almost the whole book then. You would think that I know it inside and out. But there is a big difference between knowing what it says and applying it to your life. And God reveals certain truths at certain times in your life. What I learned in these verses fits in perfectly with my theme for 2014 (which will probably continue to be my life theme): a woman of the Word and a woman of my work.
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;     Colossians 1:10

Let's note two things and then talk about the second one. 

1. The primary objective is to live in a way that pleases God. 

2. There is an important balance between learning and work. 

We are to be "increasing in the knowledge of God." We need to be learning about Jesus and how He did things. We need to learn how He wants us to do things and how He loves us. But that's not all. We are also to be "fruitful in every good work." That means we pursue excellence in the work that God has given us. We're not just learning but we're using what we've learned in our lives. We are to be fruitful-effective- in every good work. 

The knowledge part- the learning- is my favorite part. I've always loved school and I love learning. I like to read and study my Bible. I like to read what others have written about the Bible. I like to write what I'm learning so that I can share it with others. I feel spiritual when I'm reading and studying. 

But the verse doesn't just say to be "increasing in the knowledge of God." It also says to be "fruitful in every good work." Being fruitful in good works pleases God just as much as my time increasing in the knowledge of God. Fruitful means "productive, plenteous, abundance." My good works should be growing and growing each day! 

For me that means dinner needs to be cooked, laundry needs to be folded, preschool needs to be taught, games need to be played in the yard, floors need mopped. We have to go to the grocery story and go out soul-winning. These are not second-class activities. They aren't works that I have to do but God rolls His eyes because they take up so much of my time. God designed them as part of my eternal work as a wife and mother. 

That changes my perspective so much! Instead of seeing the work of my life as a necessary evil that removes me from studying the Bible I can see my work as pleasing God. I can see my work as part of that vital balance that should characterize all believers. Why? Because what we learn in the Bible should affect our lives or it's not real.

Maybe the works part is easy for you. Maybe for you that's the part that feel spiritual because you are doing it for Christ. But do you push aside your time with God to do that work? Is your to-do list more important than your prayer list? We have to have both learning and work in balance to live that life that is pleasing to God. 

Everything in its appropriate place. God would not be happy with me if I replaced my time studying and learning His Word with work. But neither would He be happy if I neglected the great work He has given me to simply store knowledge in my head. And it would only be in my head because if it affected my heart, it would affect my life! So let what you are learning affect how you live! Grow in those good works knowing that God is smiling as you do!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Weekend Reading

I read a lot of blogs and my favorite ones are the ones that put up links on the weekend. Or even post on the weekend so there's something new to read. (Feeding a baby in the middle of the night is much more enjoyable with something new to read. Even if you doze off a few times while you're reading!) I don't intend to do this every week but I've read several great things this week and wanted to share them with you!

What You Should Tell Your Teen (and yourself) about Kim Kardashian by Annie F. Downs.

And in light of the whole Jennifer Lawrence ordeal, here's Lisa Jo Baker with some thoughts.

And since we've been connecting our favorite musicals with life thoughts, this is a great post on remembering who we are.

This is a longer article but worth the read: Reflections Following My Conversation with an Abortion Provider.  My favorite part? The ending where he quotes a doctor who wishes for a society "where abortion... is not merely illegal... but unthinkable."

And here's a song that made me cry. Of course.

And some adorableness for your weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Today's Energy

Much to my husband's dismay, "The Sound of Music" is one of my favorite movies. (I'm not cruel; I don't ask him to watch it with me.) The music is incredible; I play it around the house while we're cleaning sometimes. I'm sure the boys will thank me for that when they are grown.

In one part of the movie Maria is exhorted- in stirring song, of course- to find "A dream that will need all the love you can give- Every day of your life- For as long as you live!" (Didn't you just sing that in your head??) 

No one writes a movie about the person who just slouched through life on the couch putting forth little effort. It might be comfortable but it's a lot of other words too: boring, mediocre, lame, pointless. When I'm striving to serve God in my life I've noticed that at the end of the day, I'm tired. A good tired that says I tried to give it my best but still tired. I used to think this was a bad thing. "Why am I so tired? Always tired." But then one day I questioned my reasoning, "What on earth am I saving today's energy for?"
I have one desire now- to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it. -Elisabeth Elliot
This work- being a wife, a mom, a homemaker- is worth all my energy, my effort, and my time. If I am in God's will and if you are in God's will we should each bring our best to the table each day asking God to work through us. So often I am guilty of trying to conserve, as if my goal is to not be tired at the end of the day. Why am I trying to keep today's energy? I don't need it tomorrow! When I remind myself that my goal is to give my all to God's work today I find I can smile and go on when I wanted to quit. 

Yes, I said God's work. This work that I am doing is God-ordained. He made me to help my man. He gave me His children to train and love. He assigned me this home to care for. I am on personal assignment from God to these people! How that thought changes my attitude and my approach. If I am on personal assignment from God I want to do my best! I want to be tired at the end of the day because I spent the day living and serving. 
The greatest error is not in trying and failing but that in trying we do not give our best effort.
Every single day I live is worth that day's energy. I may not have enough energy when I look at the week, or month, or year. I may not have the time when I consider all that I must do in the next ten years. But I do have the energy for God's work today. I do have the strength to put into God's work today. I do have my best to give in service today. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Days I Don't Feel Pretty

When I went into labor with Kevin my water broke at two in the morning. So I did the next logical thing. I put on some makeup and semi-fixed my hair. My husband wasn't quite following my logic. He kept following me around telling me we had to go (we weren't going anywhere until our pastor's wife arrived to stay with Micah). When I was trying to decide if it was time to go to the hospital when I was in labor with Caleb, I was fixing my hair. So you could say that I try to pay attention to my appearance.

In spite of my best efforts, there are plenty of times when I don't feel pretty. It's frustrating to put the time into fixing my hair and still think it looks bad, especially since I don't particularly like fixing my hair. But I've observed from female interactions that we are all this way (well, I think some people enjoy fixing their hair). We don't feel pretty.

I'm not here to tell you how to feel pretty but I can give some suggestions that have helped me on days that I really don't feel pretty.

1. Continue the routine. I still fix my hair and put on some makeup. I'm not saying you have to be fancy but continue what you typically do on the days or weeks you are struggling with your physical appearance. Don't just give up. Your care for your appearance says something about what you think about yourself and affects how you view yourself.

2. Forget about it. Seriously, do the best you can to fix up and then leave it behind you. Smile and go about your work. What's most important is in your heart and you can have a lovely heart even if you don't feel like your exterior matches. Even pretty people can look very unattractive when they are grumpy. Don't look at yourself in every mirror. Train yourself to move your thoughts to something else when you think about how bad you look.

3. Focus on others. Part of that training your thoughts means giving yourself something else to think about. Focus on the others that God has placed in your life for you to bless. Love your husband; be kind to him and care about his burdens. Train and love your children. Involve them in your life and work. Reach out to those around you instead of focusing on yourself. This is actually excellent advice even on days when you do feel like a million bucks. Forget yourself and think about others.

Something I've learned is that no one else knows what I wanted to look like. They don't know how I wanted my hair to look or what I wanted to look like in that outfit. And secondly, most people are internally preoccupied with themselves and not paying that much attention to me. Sure you'll meet some critics but they will criticize regardless. Let them.

Now of course there are other things you could do. Get a new haircut. Overgrown layers are a killer on my hair. Spend two more minutes on your makeup. Work out and save some money for some new clothes. But sometimes none of those things are really the problem. The problem is often within us and all the external changes in the world won't fix that. Serve with your heart. Oh, and enjoy the days when you do feel pretty!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Faithful Cheerful Service

I once had someone tell me that I should stay home with our children for as long as I could so that I could "get out of working." Now I must admit that it was all I could do not to laugh in their face but I refrained. That is common thinking though. I'm not sure if there are stay-at-home moms that are that lazy or people just have these ideas about how nice it would be but I know that I do a lot of work. And that's my goal; it's not a complaint.

But in an effort to be recognized as working it's easy to complain about all we have to do and how much harder it is to do with children. Both of those statements are true but no one is blessed by whining or complaining. And I certainly don't want my children to grow up thinking I resent the work load of our family. There are a few reasons for the complaining of young mothers.

1. We're insecure in what God called us to do. We want to be sure others realize that being a wife and mom is a full-time job too. And aren't people supposed to complain about their jobs?

2. We're trying to impress people. (Twisted thinking: who's impressed by whining?) People-pleasing never gets you where God wants you to go. We are to be working for God's smile, not man's approval.

3. We've fallen into worldly thinking that says we must be miserable if life is not all about us and what we want. Newsflash: life is never about us and what we want.

Last time I checked nobody liked a complainer, especially God! (1 Cor. 10:10, Phil. 2:14-15) So I decided to shut up. (Or at least try to.) And you know what I found? I'm the one that benefits. Yes, in an attempt to please God and stop discouraging my husband by constantly reminding him how hard my life is, I have found more joy. (And yes, it does discourage my husband. His goal is to have a happy wife.)

"A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken." Proverbs 15:13. The last half of verse 15 also states, "but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast." What's in my heart? I've been studying a lot about how my heart affects my words and it's scary to think how much I reveal about myself with what I say! Do I have a heart for God and the work He has given me?

So what is my new goal? Faithful, cheerful service! Here's some steps I'm taking to work on this.

1. Don't complain. Don't complain about the broken sleep, the potty-training, the constant discipline, the cleaning-up, the time constraints. Tell Jesus everything and then move on to thanking Him for the baby smile, the toddler feet running down the hallway, and the light in your preschooler's eyes as he learns something new.

2. Express your thanks out loud. Thank your husband for all he does for you family (even if you think you do more!). Tell him how much you appreciate getting to stay home with your kids (if you do stay home). Tell your children that you are thankful to be their mama.

3. Ask God to give you His love for your family and home. Your love is not enough. It won't sustain you through trying times or the day-to-day work that can be exhausting. God can do a miraculous work in your heart!

4. Commit to the work. Be there and do it. Read about it to help you do it better. Read about the work to help you understand its importance. Then do it. Do the next thing even if you don't feel like it. And do it to honor God.

5. Pursue excellence. Don't wait for someone important to show up to do your work well. Do you know who is in your home with your family? Jesus. You are working for Jesus. Change each diaper for Jesus. Kiss each boo-boo, discipline for wrong-doing, teach each letter, cook every meal for Jesus.

Yes, there is a lot of work for mothers of small children (and everybody who is doing anything with her life) but the attitude makes all the difference. Embrace the work that God has given you with a heart to please Him and you might find you even enjoy it most of the time.  Aim to "make your work look easy, even when it's not." (Beverly Hyles)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween Baby

Caleb Andrew arrived (15 days early!) on October 31, 2014 at 12:57 p.m. He was 7 lbs, 7 oz. and 21 inches long! 

He looks just like Justin and the other boys when they were born. 

(This might be my favorite picture ever!)

The big boys are in love with him and we are home resting and enjoying our family now! We even found out three days before he was born that he does not have IVA. That's some close timing! God has greatly blessed our family and we are thankful for all He's done for us. 

We'll be back to regular posts (that I've pre-prepared) on Thursday but for now, you know what we're doing!