Help a Mother Out: the How-to

Biblical and practical tips for keeping the mom in your life from going INSANE

I hope that Saturday’s blog post about helping the moms in your life impacted you, and I’m excited today to move on to the more practical aspects of how to make that happen. But first, I have a tiny little story to tell…

My fourth child is about to have his first birthday, and just recently, I have found myself rising above the funk that I have been in since his birth. For ten long months, I’ve been in a haze, heavily sleep-deprived and unable to conquer the realm that I have been charged to keep. In fact, the only area of my life where I wasn’t failing was my ability to make egg-in-the-hole for our supper every. single. night.

Two months ago, however, I realized with a start that I had signed up to host our church’s monthly ladies fellowship at my house. Talk about kicking me into gear! For a concentrated week, I cleaned and polished and organized and before I knew it, I was on top of things again. My house was sparkling and so was my heart. It was perfect timing to match the clearing postpartum fog in my brain and, with this completely fresh slate, I have kept my house comfortably tidy for weeks, even managing to keep laundry cleaned and put away.

Until two weeks ago. A busy schedule interrupted my new mojo and, day by day, the house slipped, and with it, my attitude.

I was cranky.

I was frustrated.

I felt ten steps behind and I felt like a failure. And in the midst of all that gloom, I lost site once more of my purpose: to glorify God in my home and to share the gospel with my family.

 Until last Thursday.

When we were in the city for our kids’ music classes, my mom snuck in and cleaned my house for me.

Just like that, in the span of one afternoon, with clean floors under my feet and an uncluttered backdrop in my periphery, I am on top of the world again, and I tell you this story for this specific reason: in a couple of hours of unmerited and unsolicited service, my mom not only cleaned my house, she gave me freedom.

The next morning when the children came downstairs, I was able to greet them with a happier heart than I’ve had for days. I made my bed, I did a load of laundry, I started on the dishes and I made my family a good breakfast, simple things that, in my previously frustrated state, felt almost impossible to accomplish.

My point is this: when you give up your time and energy to “help a mother out”, you are not just giving her a good surprise or making her feel loved. You are not spoiling her. You are contributing to her ability to mother her children well, to love her husband well and to commune with God, and in so doing, you are helping your local church body and you are living the gospel message out for her family to see.

Helping the moms in your church is, without a doubt, powerful and life-saving Kingdom work and it spans generations.

 ~

 So, we’ve established that moms need help.

 How are we going to help them?

 #1. Love.

 Because it is obviously impossible to address every possible situation in one blog post, I want to start with this, the one act that will never fail and that will work for any mom: love. Love the fire out of the moms in your church. I assure you, they need every ounce of it they can get, regardless of how “together” they seem to have it. Pray for a heart that is full of love toward this group and see how the Spirit moves you.

#2. Compassion.

Many young moms are not just facing the most physically hectic and draining years of their life, they are learning to spiritually die to themselves for the first time. At least, that’s how it was for me. I needed practical help, but I also needed patience as I found my footing in a world that I was completely unacquainted with and slowly learned how to work hard and live for others. If you can manage to help the young Mrs. Gore’s in your life without being put off by their seeming lack of vision, purpose and get-up-and-go-ness, you’ll really be doing them a favor. Hang in there with them, teach them by example, instruct them gently and someday, they’ll be writing super-long blog posts about how you helped them through their metamorphosis.

 #3. Use your giftedness.

I am learning great things about how God crafts the church. Our gifts are chosen by Him to be used by Him for the benefit of the church He has placed in our life. So what are you good at? It is no mistake that you’re good at that thing you just thought of. It is also no mistake that you attend church with that frazzled mama two pews behind you. How might you turn your gift toward her?

#4. Use your season.

I remember when some of our friends were in a season of life where discontentment could have become an issue for them. They were ready to have kids, but circumstances were preventing it and so what did they do? They POURED themselves out for us and invested in our kids. This was just downright beautiful! I have also learned so much by watching my mama, at a time in her life when she could be traveling and doing whatever she wants to do, invest countless hours and funds into giving us the help that she remembers needing as a mom with young kids. This is how the body of Christ looks so different from the world, choosing to die, even when they don’t have to. God has you where He has you for a reason and that reason is to help me. ;) I kid. But, seriously. Bloom where you’ve been planted and watch as God unifies your church and causes it to flourish.

 #5. Service with a smile.

If you took a survey and asked moms where they most need help, I am almost 15% positive that their answers would fall in the category of housekeeping. There is just so much to do and, when the children are little, there is no one to help. I would daresay my life is easier with four children (aged 7, 5, 3 and 1) than it was when I had a 3- and 1-year old! And if it weren’t for the support of those around me, I don’t know that I would have graciously survived it. Here is a short list of things that have been done for me that knocked my threadbare socks right off my feet.

  • Laundry. Laundry is a great way to start helping moms out, because it is something you can pick up and take back to them. At least once a week, my own mom drops by and demands that I send a couple of loads home with her. The next day, she brings them back and, being very comfortable in my home, puts them away. Sometimes she helps me with the ironing. Sometimes she helps me fold the five loads I have stacked up in the laundry room. All of it is immeasurably helpful. Like, to the moon and back.
  • Cleaning. Being served in the area of cleaning has been life-giving. I’m talking, LIFE-GIVING. My husband, my mom, and my friend, Chrissy, have each routinely surprised me with a completely cleaned house while I was away, and I almost die of happiness, every time. It NEVER gets old. Also, as often as she can, my mom drops by and spends the day helping me clean my house. When you add a helper, a filthy house goes from completely overwhelming to totally doable. I don’t know how I’d make it without these boosts. I’m not exaggerating. I also once heard of a church member hiring a professional deep-clean for her pastor’s wife who had small children. I can’t think of a better or more useful gift!
  • Cooking. I’ve mentioned this before, but when we came home from the hospital with Baby Shep, our church ladies prepared healthy, delicious meals for us for an entire month. It was heavenly. And, occasionally, even if we don’t have a newborn in the house, a friend will drop off food for no reason at all. Sometimes it is a half a lasagna that their family couldn’t eat alone. Sometimes a basket of fruit. Sometimes garden-fresh produce. Sometimes a dessert, fresh out of the oven. ALL of it is a gift that deeply blesses me and lightens the load.
  • Miscellany. During particularly difficult seasons, we’ve had neighbors and friends drop by and mow our yard. We’ve had friends surprise us by cleaning out our van. And here’s something kind of awesome: I have loved observing one of our older church ladies who is gifted at gardening use her time and energy to plant a garden for a friend with young kids who showed interest in planting one. She faithfully checks in and helps them tend it, as well. Be creative and remember that there is probably no area of the mom’s life that couldn’t use some “tlc”. Personally, our life is chaotic from our cars, to our sidewalk, to our porch and to every last inch of our house. Pick a spot, any spot.
  • Childcare. I’ve come down on “me time” in past writings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it is important for young moms to have some time to themselves. Just today, my husband took all four kids for an hour so I could clean without interruptions. It was so nice and helped me to be refreshed for the second part of the day. There are so many options for helping in this area. Sometimes my mom and dad take all four kids overnight, giving us two whole days to rest and reorient our house and schedule. Sometimes they take one kid overnight or for the afternoon (don’t underestimate how taking even one child off a mom’s hands will help her!). You could get with some other ladies and offer to keep the kids from several families at the church for the afternoon. You could offer to baby-sit one evening. But if those ideas cause you to shiver, how about acting as a mother’s helper? It would be so helpful to have someone come to the house and play with the older kids in the yard while the babies were napping. Or come for an hour and read books to the little ones if mom is homeschooling older kids. I also know of a lady in our church who accompanies one of my friends to her doctor’s appointments, keeping the siblings in the waiting room. Whether your goal is to give mom some me-time or to help her juggle the chaos of her life, the possibilities are extensive.
  • Church nursery. Again, moms are first and foremost responsible for their own kids and should be happy and willing to help in the nursery at church; that said, I cannot express what a HUGE blessing it is to get to go to church and not go straight into a room to do what you’ve been doing 24/7 for the past week. Getting out the door with little ones in tow is a herculean effort, and some weeks, I am exhausted before we’ve even walked in the church doors. And remember, the more people who participate in a nursery rotation, the less any one person in particular will have to keep it. Spread the word, get people excited and do whatever you can to ensure no one is routinely stuck in the nursery (something we’ve all probably experienced!)

 #6. Teamwork.

This is for all the husbands out there. Your wife needs help! It took a lot of communication, a lot of trial-and-error, and a handful of years to get there, but my husband and I are getting into a routine that helps our marriage to thrive under the stress of this season of our life. For instance, here is our recent bedtime routine: he puts the big kids to bed upstairs while I put the baby to bed downstairs and tidy up the living room. We sit down and relax and watch a television show. We get up, clean the kitchen together and start the dishwasher. We go to bed. And then, in the morning before he leaves for work, he unloads the dishwasher and makes the coffee. This gives me such a headstart on the day! We also take turns keeping the kids so the other can go out with friends. We’re a team, and it makes all the difference in our home life and in our marriage – when everyone is working hard together, it makes resentment a true rarity. It takes time to learn these things, but if you’re new at all this and have ever harbored the notion that your wife “just stays home all day” while you’re at work, I humbly invite you to get a new worldview, and godspeed.

#7. Sisterhood.

We need to return to the world where it took “a village to raise a child”. Us moms are so busy being either paranoid or prideful that we try to do everything by ourselves. Posh! It is such a blessing to me when our church ladies grab one of my kids and help them fill up their plate at potlucks. It helps me when they tell my kids to slow down when they’re barreling down the aisles at church. It helps me to be in a room with my friends who also have little kids and tag-team holding babies and wiping noses and breaking up arguments over toys. We’re on the same team, you know, and today would be a good time to start acting like it.

#8. Encouragement.

And lastly, encourage the moms in your church. Every so often, someone will say something out of the blue that just knocks me over…

“Your children are really well behaved. You’re doing a great job.”

“You’re a natural mama.”

“The gospel is so evident in your home.”

Who? ME?! Are you talking about MY kids? It is always a shock to my unsure heart to hear that I’m doing okay. Kind words bring refreshing to the soul and do wonders to calm the inner storms that we try so very hard to keep quiet. Gifts of encouragement can be as varied as the giver, a hand-written note, a quick Facebook message, a token of love and appreciation, a short prayer in the hallways of the church, and you’d be surprised at how big of a boost a simple Facebook “like” or comment can give. You “like” the 25th picture I’ve posted of my kids this week? Lady, you just made my day.

It always pays to remember that every single person we pass – even on the internet – is fighting personal battles and could use a pat on the back.

~

And there you have it. In just under three thousand words, I’ve managed to write a book on the one thing I wanted to say today…

When you help a mama, you have helped the Church, both present and future.

~

And now I invite you to share. My original intent was to ask only those of you with moms in your life to share this on their behalf, but I also want to challenge YOU, little mama. Do you need help? Are you drowning? Tell your church family. Tell your pastor. Ask for help. Let people into your messy house and your disorganized life. Break down the walls of pride and perfection and begin a transparent conversation about your REAL life. Your help may not come overnight and it may not come ever – and if it doesn’t, you must not point fingers - but do your part and entrust the rest to God.

And thank you to ALL of you for hanging in there and reading this lengthy post. I am passionate about the church and long to see it strengthened and purified! I hope these thoughts help us along just a tiny bit.

As ever, you can follow Mrs. Gore’s Diary by signing up at the top of this page to receive e-mail notifications or by ‘liking’ us on Facebook.

Help a Mother Out: A Cry for Help. A Call to Arms.

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Over the past year, I have shared a couple of posts that directly relate to the heart of a mom; personal responsibility is a big deal to me, and if I’ve learned one thing in the last decade, it is that most of my problems begin and end with sweet little ol’ me.

I truly believe that the Spirit’s work, paired with a believer who is eager to mortify sin and grow in godliness, can overcome the most overwhelming odds.

(I speak, of course, of dishes).

In that regard, we moms are without excuse and should flee from entitlement and bitterness.

We’ve established these thoughts.

Been there.

Done that.

Roger, over and out.

Today, however, I humbly want to grab the ear of, well, basically everyone else.

The friend of a mom. The mom with bigger, more independent kids. The single. The newlywed. The grandmother. The widow. The married couple who haven’t had children. The aunt. The uncle. The neighbor.

I need to let you in on a little secret…

the mom in your life with young kids needs help.

It’s an emergency!!!

Because, as responsible as we each are for our own actions and territory, we were also created for community. We’re supposed to be there for each other. We’re supposed to bear one another’s burdens.

Er…not that little children are burdens.

That totally came out wrong.

Anyhow, to flesh out my point, I’ve been looking at it this way…

imagine that one of your church sisters is taking in her ailing mother.

Imagine that her mother needs round the clock care and can’t do anything for herself, that she frequently needs to be spoon-fed, to be cleaned up, and to be changed. Imagine that she cried uncontrollably for long periods of time as her daughter tried to find ways soothe her. Imagine that she woke her daughter up several times a night, night after night after night, sometimes for weeks or maybe even months in a row.

That would be enough, I suppose, but let’s keep going for a little bit.

Now imagine that the woman also had an ailing father, one that was a little easier to care for but that still needed constant care. He could pick up food and eat it, but all of his meals had to be prepared for him. He needed help getting dressed. He had to be bathed. He would have random meltdowns, especially when he was sleepy. He would make giant messes when his daughter was focused on taking care of her mother.

And then imagine that this woman had other typical responsibilities to shoulder. A house to clean. Classes to teach. A yard to care for. Groceries to buy. Laundry to wash. Relationships to nurture. Etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

Now…

please.

Pretty, pretty please, tell me her church would rally behind her to help?

Would not a sister or a brother come alongside her and help her carry the load?

Or would they cross their arms and say “she made her bed, now she can lie in it.”

Would they roll their eyes at her when she grew weak and wonder why she’s being so dramatic?

Would they smirk and say “I paid my dues when I took care of my own parents. Now it’s her turn.”

Oh, dear. I sincerely hope not.

I think you know where this is going…

Our churches are full of such women who have found themselves in a season of life that is routinely exhausting and overwhelming, caring for one, sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes…FOUR!! (haha)…and sometimes even MORE little human beings who are wholly dependent upon them.

And, in many churches, I’m afraid this group of women are suffering alone. I think the reasons for this are manifold:

1. Many young mothers put on a brave face. Pride keeps them from asking for help because they don’t want to look weak or needy or imperfect. Thus, they show up to church, paste on a smile, and save their tears and honesty for the privacy of their homes. No one knows they need help because they never ask.

2. Motherhood is such a normal part of life. Sure, we’d rally behind the lady who was caring for her parents, because that just doesn’t happen everyday. But the lady with the toddler and the infant? That’s normal. Comical, even. It’s so cute to see her plop down in a heap of exhaustion while her two-year old climbs on her back and her baby crawls under the church pews (really…it IS cute).

3. We fail to recognize how drastically society has shifted. Where once local communities thrived and neighbors could be called upon to watch over the kids so mom could run down to the grocery store, or grandmothers were close at hand to help however they could, many moms now live on an island of sorts.

As a result, many of the young moms in our congregations are drowning in housework, fatigue and loneliness and feeling completely cut off and alone.

Now, before I move on, I know what you’re thinking…

“Presumptious, much?”

Should a lady who has little children REALLY be writing a blog post about how women with little children need help with their little children? Isn’t that like announcing your birthday on Facebook with a link to your Amazon wishlist?

You’d think. But what you may not know is that I have been approved to write this article, because of the following factoid alone: I have a LOT of help in my life. My husband works flexible hours right down the street, my mom lives 10 miles away and I have a church full of wonderful people I could call upon should the need arise.

In fact, the helpful and thoughtful people in my life are actually the ones who INSPIRED this blog post, giving me experience to draw from and a success story to tell of how moms can thrive under the care of a loving support system.

As such, I feel very comfortable today initiating this conversation and speaking on behalf of the demographic that I represent; for their sake, I will shout from the internet rooftops what they’ve been hiding. Listen closely and you can hear the cries of their heart…

HELP!!! I’m sinking, I’m drowning, I’m dying, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.

~

I hope I’ve caught your ear and your heart. Stay tuned for Part Two, full of practical ideas for helping the moms in your life. Coming up Monday!

The Most Important Article You’ll Ever Read on Child Safety

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Sorry about that title.

This article probably won’t help you much when it comes to child safety.

Because, frankly, for the past seven years, I have learned one important lesson from the internet and the news: children die out there.

There are the obvious fears that we face as parents: cancer, drowning, strangulation, suffocation, choking, car accidents, being ran over, accidental shootings, targeted shootings…

but in case we weren’t scared enough already, there’s also all of the obscure stuff out there that makes the rounds on Facebook and 24-hour news channels like wildfire: secondary drowning, sandhole collapsesbrain-eating amoebas in pond water, etc., etc., etc.

Every possible way in which a child was harmed or has died is cataloged and published and shared and you’re sitting there zoned out in front of your computer reading about it like a slumped-over toad (because isn’t that what we all look like while we’re on the computer?), but on the inside this scream of hysteria is building in your throatal regions because your greatest fear – losing this little piece of you that you love so fiercely – is being described in another harrowing tale, and even worse, in a new horrible way that you never even dreamed of!!!

Seriously?

A sandhole collapse on the beach?

The water and the sharks weren’t scary enough?

Or the pedophiles?

Now we’re dealing with sand, too?!

Please, please, PLEASE don’t get me wrong: I love the idea of being prepared, and I am so grateful to the brave mothers who shared their stories to inform us of potential dangers that might threaten our children.

But you know what I don’t love?

Adding fear to my fear.

Adding worry to my worry.

Adding terrifying tableaux to my suitcase of worst-case scenarios.

I had so many of those already.

And now, I’m not only a wreck as I watch my kids swim, paranoid that I won’t see the nearly undetectable signs of drowning

now I’m watching them for hours afterward to make sure they are not secondarily drowning… 

and my mama-sized panic is compounding and I’m thinking crazy little somethings like this...

You know, Rebekah got some water in her nose and choked for a while. I read that the symptoms of secondary drowning are lethargy and sluggishness. But…my kids just swam for seven hours and now they’re all sacked out like corpses in the living room…what if she is drowning right now??? Should I wake her up? I know I’m being crazy. But…what if I’m wrong and its too late?!..

Sometimes, when I’m not panicking in the midst of all these potential dangers, toils and snares, I can’t help but reminisce about my carefree childhood in Oklahoma where my best friend and I could go meandering down our remote gravel road, sticking our feet in the creek, playing alone in the barn, going swimming in the pond…

you know what?

My kids don’t know that life.

Because, six years ago, two girls were shot and killed while meandering down an Oklahoma country road very similar to the one that I used to frequent.

Gravel roads haven’t looked safe since.

And there are snakes in the creek.

And there could be deadly amoebas in the pond.

And there could be sex offenders near the barn.

And that’s just the beginning.

They can’t drink out of the waterhose. That’s toxic.

If the baby falls asleep in his carseat, we should wake him up after we bring him inside because nine babies died from sleeping in carseats this year (by the way, why is this article all over Facebook right now when it was written in 2006?!).

Oh! And speaking of Baby Shepherd, OH MY GOSH, there is a balloon next to him and it must be popped and discarded of because if a baby even touches a balloon, they could inhale it and choke to death!!!

And sorry, this is off the subject a bit, but did you know that having a child blow out the candles on a birthday cake is a great carrier for germs?

(not to mention their hair could catch on fire).

God?

I’m freaking out here.

Again, I sincerely don’t want to be misunderstood: my point is not that it is bad to be informed.

Information is good.

Warnings are great.

Education is a gift.

And you’d better believe that if something tragic happened to my child that I could help others to avoid, I would do everything I could to get the word out.

My point has nothing to do with the information, really…

and everything to do with what we DO with the information.

How do we respond when we read these warnings?

Do they make us paranoid?

Do they chew up our bellies with fear?

Do they cause us to imagine the worst?

Do they make us feel helpless?

These kinds of responses are red flags, and they are scarier than pond water, because they belie a problem that is deeply rooted within us, a problem that is as old as time and feels impossible to shake…

We don’t trust God.

We want to BE God.

And, deep down, we hope that if we do this and avoid that and plan for this that nothing bad will happen to our children, ever.

All of which point to a most unbiblical conclusion…

we think that the only hope for our children is us.

And that is how the simple act of reading internet articles can be a diving board that catapults us into very dangerous waters; cataloging every possible death trap and fearing every single worst-case scenario, we subconsciously trample upon every word the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, about His goodness, about His will, and about His calling.

Through our fear and helplessness, we discard the scriptures that we so vocally uphold, saying aloud “Yes, Lord! You are so good and ‘I surrender all’ and ‘have thine own way’ and all those Christiany things I’m supposed to say” while our hearts are kind of screaming “YOU AREN’T BIG ENOUGH, GOD, AND YOU DON’T CARE ENOUGH”.

If you think that sounds like an exaggeration, consider how the article about secondary drowning receives our rapt attention while God-breathed texts like Romans 8 gather dust on our bedside table…

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Did you hear that?

This is just one tiny excerpt from a book that is TEEMING with hope.

Hope for me.

Hope for my kids.

And while those ancient words may not contain step-by-step instructions for keeping my kids alive, they provide so much more, a bountiful feast of peace and truth for my fearful soul…

a wellspring of beautiful principles that my starving and terrified heart devours.

God is in control.

God is good.

God does everything for my good.

God created my kids.

God loves my kids more than I do.

God has a plan for me that will bring Him glory.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God.

I am in Christ, and my children can be trusted to Him.

There are greater things to fear than death.

Granted, the Bible makes no promise that all of my safety- and wellness-centered prayers for my children will be answered; in fact, most passages of comfort in the Word were written to a people who were enduring suffering like many of us have never seen.

It is inevitable: every person dies and no one is exempt from pain and sadness.

But when I read the Word, it helps me to breathe.

It realigns my heart with a truth that I cannot inwardly deny.

It stamps a purpose and a hope upon even my worst-case scenarios.

And it reminds me that this life isn’t even the one I’m supposed to be living for, anyway, and that, if God would be so gracious, I have eternity to spend with each of my most-beloved children.

Eternity!

So yes, let’s read and share all the articles and take the precautions as we slather on the suncreen and zip up the sleepsacks and fasten the safety helmets and cut up the grapes and mince the hot dogs and AVOID ALL WATER, PERIOD…

but let’s also stop living as if there is no God.

After all, there is really nothing more toxic, hazardous, poisonous or dangerous than that.

 ~

Want to keep up with Mrs. Gore’s Diary? Find us on facebook! I promise not to share scary articles there. :)

Refusing to Blink: savoring the season of childhood

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If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

“Enjoy every minute.”

“They’ll be grown before you know it.”

“It goes by so fast.”

In my pre-motherhood days, I thought these were just the sentimental musings of people who were either being dramatic or who couldn’t think of anything else to say and so they just made the token grandparent statements they’d heard other people make.

At one time, it even frustrated me. After being encouraged yet again not to get in a tizzy about dishes and housekeeping because I’d have plenty of time for those things when the kids grew up, I thought to myself “Lady, I am cherishing my children, okay, but I can’t just sit and look at them all day long! At some point, I HAVE to do the dishes…”

But that was just my hormones talking; if I was being more honest with myself and less prideful, I knew what she meant and that her intentions were only to help me.

And now?

Well…now, I’m the one making these statements.

Because, while I’m far from being a grandparent, I totally “get” it.

Babies don’t keep” isn’t some figurative thought that sounds good in a poem.

It is literal.

Childhood is literally short.

A year used to be the amount of time it took me to get from one Christmas to the next.

Now, it means that my infant has gone through at least three sizes of clothing and has grown teeth, a personality and the ability to communicate.

It means that my toddler has gone from eating markers to making works of art with them.

It means that my preschooler has gone from talking super cute to talking super normal, perfectly pronouncing “r’s” and “l’s” and correctly using pronouns.

It means that my 1st grader has gone from sincerely asking if we could go to Little Bear’s house for a visit to requesting anything other than “Little Bear” when we turn on the television.

A year in a child’s life might be 365 days, but those 365 days are crammed full of growing and shifting and changing.

And what about four years?

Four years used to measure the amount of time it took to get through high school.

Now, four years means I can go from a world completely immersed in “all things baby” to a world completely devoid of cribs, playpens, highchairs, bottles, diapers, onesies, and strollers.

If that thought is one part wonderful, it is three parts terrible!

So you see what I mean?

The cliches make perfect sense…

blink, and you really might miss it.

And that’s why I am feeling this urgency in my spirit, one that is reorienting my goals to cradle this season of my life like it will be over tomorrow, because…

it will.

I can see it everytime I look at Gideon’s big-kid front teeth…

everytime Rebekah laughs at a joke that I thought would be over her head…

everytime Betsie sings a song and gets the lyrics right…

everytime Shepherd eats a more solid food than he ate the day before…

everytime I look at a picture from last year and feel the floor drop out from under my feet because they’ve changed SO much and I didn’t even see it happen.

Motherhood, itself, is so full of change and growth and bewilderment, and it can be exceedingly difficult to grasp these things in the moment; young pups like us are sadly gifted at getting everything flipped upside down.

We have to shuttle the kids around like this because we have to get “this” done because “this” is so important.

We have to feel the burden of the mess and the clutter and we can’t rest until it is cleaned up!

We need to get this project – that we voluntarily invented – completed NOW. Today. Without delay. Before we run out of time!

But I’m looking around at my life, and the only thing that truly has a deadline around here are these four little humans that are getting taller every minute.

If childhood is literally short, there comes with it an expiration date.

A ticking clock.

And I have lots of stuff to squeeze in before the buzzer goes off…

Nursery rhymes. I want to read them every day until we can recite them in our sleep.

Silly songs and lullabies. I used to dream of the day when I could enjoy my favorite vintage kid songs with my children, but now that I’m in the midst of the perfect season, I’m too busy sometimes to even pull up the playlists.

Looking at the stars. Night after night, the sun goes down and a masterpiece lights up the sky, and all I want to do is put them to bed and watch a stupid TV show.

Cuddles. I want to curl up to them as often as they want me to, and then for ten minutes more.

Flower picking.

Flower smelling.

Rainy puddles.

Forts and flashlights.

Cookie baking.

Dress-up.

Puzzles.

Swings and slides.

Jokes and riddles.

Toys.

Coloring.

Painting.

Creating.

Playing catch.

Playing chase.

Teaching.

Pretending.

Tucking them in.

I want to feast on ALL of it while my table is brimming with childhood.

And I want to read to them every day until my throat hurts.

My house…my plans…my dreams…my projects…my money-making endeavors…

Lord willing, they’ll all still be here when the “blink” is over, and I can pursue them until my face is rosy.

But for now, I have some advice to heed.

“Don’t blink or you’ll miss it”?

I refuse to blink.

~

I am so honored to be among the “freshly pressed” with this blog post! Thank you for all of the kind words, reblogs and likes. As I am “refusing to blink” and can spare no extra time with my back to these precious kids of mine, I am unable to respond to comments during this season of my life. But your words are dear to me. Thank you so much!

 

Spirit-led Parenting

"The challenge isn't so much in knowing the right and wrong things to do, but in learning to listen to the Spirit in my heart in each moment, and to obey the various pulls and tugs, even when I don't want to."

While it has obviously tied up my writing time, nursing a baby for the past 6 months has not only given me lots of time to play Candy Crush, it has given me lots of time to think, about lots and lots and LOTS of stuff.

But the thing I’ve been ruminating over the most has been so freeing and so life-changing, it sort of begged me to sit down for a bit this afternoon and share the wealth.

Spirit-led parenting.

It is changing everything for me.

Question: how many parenting blogs have you read in the last two months?

Me? Probably 15 or 20.

Make that 25.

At least.

Articles are great. They are easy to read, they address one specific topic, and they give these great daily boosts of encouragement and motivation. I love a good article.

But articles can also be dangerous.

Here’s why…

What you are essentially reading in most articles and blog posts is an author’s personal conviction. Something has come up in that person’s life that has bothered them, and they are turning over a new leaf. Or, like me, they’ve been ruminating on some “stuff” and they sit down to hash it out on their blog.

It is a gift to be let in on these glimpses of personal growth and conviction, and they can be greatly used by the Spirit to promote change and conviction in our own hearts.

But what we, as readers, can sometimes do, is stand up from our daily dose of internet consumption in a fog of guilt-by-comparison.

What?…This lady doesn’t spend time on the internet? I must be a bad mom for loving Facebook so much.

This lady doesn’t tell her kids to ‘hurry up’? I’ve said that at least five times this week! I’m the worst!!

This lady doesn’t buy paper plates anymore? I’m never going to use a paper plate again without feeling like a failure…

And in this rush to heap guilt upon our heads, we make a major mistake, failing to recognize that what we are reading is one snippet from one person’s life that is very specific to their situation.

Let me explain.

I threw in the part about the paper plates because, GASP, I am the lady who doesn’t buy them anymore. After deciding to give them up a couple of years ago, I haven’t bought one. single. package.

I know. I’m incredible.

Now. Imagine if I shared that information in a blog post highlighting tips for cutting down on waste or ideas for improving your monthly budget.

And then imagine that you got that guilty feeling in your stomach because you can’t imagine giving up paper plates. “How is she able to do that?” you ask yourself, “I’m such a loser!!”

But what you wouldn’t realize in that 1000-word blog post (what?! sometimes I keep it to 1000 words) is that, yes, I gave up paper plates, but there is no way in a hundred years that I could give up disposable diapers. Or wet wipes. Or paper towels. Or Hostess donut gems.

It didn’t hurt me much to give up paper plates.

And my real motivation for chucking them in the first place? I wanted extra spending money for fresh flowers.

Because fresh flowers make me happy, and in comparison, paper plates, in my opinion, are kind of…meh.

SO. Obviously, you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself when you read about my paper plate fast.

Now, that was just one example, and a silly one at that, of the misguided comparisons we can make as readers. But now let’s take it to the next level.

What do you do when you read blogs that focus on the very essence of who you are, a wife, a mama, a daughter of God?

Do you unobjectively compare yourself?

And even worse, do you immediately make unfair judgements about yourself followed by sweeping resolutions to make improvements, thinking that if you “do” or “don’t do” these things, you will be more pleasing to God?

The possibilities are clearly endless…

Give up screens for a month.

De-activate your Facebook account indefinitely.

Pull the plug on television. Forever!

Decide that Santa is the worst.

Decide that Santa is okay so long as he is portrayed as St. Nicolas.

Decide that Santa is the BEST.

Do Elf on the Shelf.

Don’t do Elf on the Shelf and think that people who do Elf on the Shelf are ridiculous.

Orchestrate precious birthday parties for your kids.

DON’T orchestrate precious birthday parties because parties are the stupidest, most indulgent thing ever.

I could go on forever, but if we are not careful in our blog perusal, we can tie man-made nooses around our necks, so that the only way we feel successful in the parenting department is if we adhere to this ever-growing list of goals, ideas, resolutions, wars, stances, boycotts, philosophies and even menus.

Our days are spent in guilt because we aren’t sitting in front of our kids, watching every minute of their growth, and because we said this one phrase to this child, and we didn’t throw the party like this one Mom did, and we don’t eat anything organic or we have too much stuff in our house or WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH STUFF or we….

whew. Can I stop now? I’m exhausted.

The internet (and even this blog!) is RICH in help and advice…

but sometimes our little tummies just can’t handle that level of decadence.

We are one person.

With one story.

And this is why I’ve been so encouraged lately, not only to be a better reader, but to realize that there is a huge difference between listening to another believer’s journey and gleaning wisdom from their story and unjustly comparing myself to them.

There are things that we, as parents, MUST do.

Bible things.

Deutoronomy 6:1-9, I Corinthians 13, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, 2 Timothy 3:15 (and many more).

And then…

well, then there are the other things.

The nonessentials.

The opinions.

The personal convictions.

The things that we’ll find alllllllll over the internet.

And while the advice and journaling from other believers might just change our life for the better, sometimes we are so busy trying to be 100 other people, we forget to listen to the most important voice in our lives…

the voice of the Spirit.

The Helper.

The Comforter.

And here’s what it all comes down to.

I know when I’ve been sitting at the computer too long with my back to the kids. I can feel it in my heart and I can see it on their faces.

(But then, if I’m being honest, I can also recognize those free moments when I can spend some time with my friends and family on Facebook).

I know when I need to put down Candy Crush and just watch my baby nurse and marvel at God’s miraculous provision.

(But then sometimes I feel perfectly allowed to zone out with some chocolate candy balls and stripy candies and exploding candies. Key word: candy. p.s. I will CRUSH you).

I know when I need to allow my daughter to bake with me and learn alongside me.

(But sometimes, after gauging the situation and her countenance, I can send her on her way because I need to hurry so we won’t be late to church).

The challenge isn’t so much in knowing the right and wrong things to do, but in learning to listen to the Spirit in my heart in each moment, and to obey the various pulls and tugs, even when I don’t want to.

All of the above was the most roundabout way ever to say this…

Let’s stop comparing ourselves to every mom and wife and lady on the internet. We don’t know their situations any better than we do Martha Stewart’s or Michelle Obama’s.

But then again, let’s also be very honest about our own situations and focus more on pleasing God with our innermost thoughts and motivations than we are on fulfilling this pipe dream of perfect parenting.

Are you spending too much time on the internet? Only you know that. (but you know you know it).

Do you need to give up something to be financially faithful? (may I suggest paper plates? Just kidding).

Have you assumed that by doing what everyone else is doing that all is well between you and God? You’ll know the answer to that if you simply ask, and it is a really important question.

Are you fulfilling lots of 10-step programs to better housekeeping and homeschooling and parenting but failing to live the gospel out for your kids to see?

It would just be really unnecessary to lose ourselves in a sea of helpful voices only to forget that God Himself is in our homes. Right here. Beside us. In us. Everywhere.

He knows what is best for our family.

He knows how to parent the quirky individuals He crafted for us to bring up.

He knows what we need to add, what we need to give up, where we are excelling and where we are lacking.

He knows our schedule. He knows our hearts.

And He even knows when we should have a big ol’ birthday party or scale things back a bit…

which leads me to my next post, “Mother Hen’s Seventh Birthday”, coming up next week!

~

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you snuffed out the voice of God in your preoccupation with looking like the perfect mom?

How is He teaching you and convicting you in your specific situation?

Do tell!

 

 

 

When “I Signed Up For This” Doesn’t Work

My New Year’s resolution of “I Signed Up For This” has done me a lot of good, for several reasons:

1. It has connected me with many new enthusiastic readers, all of whom I love and appreciate dearly. Hi, you’s guys! Welcome to our online community of randomness.

2. It resulted in my first ever magazine article (Yippee!).

3. It has actually worked.

Most days, I feel like a new woman on the motherhood, homemaking and homeschooling front.

Like, you know, a grown-up or somethin’.

And I can’t TELL you the last time I sighed when I loaded the kids up in the car. January 1, at the latest. (Two months may not seem very long for some of you, but for a perpetual sigher, it is like a millennia!)

As far as resolutions go, this one (by the grace and help of God) has seemingly reformed me, through and through.

Oh…

except for that frustrating day last month.

And that horrid afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

And last night, for a spell. 

And, um…all day today.

Even though a “mantra” or a resolution might pull a sinful woman like myself out of habitual and mindless complaining, there are days – lots of them – where I need something more.

Something deeper.

Something higher.

Today was definitely “one of those days”…

A random foot injury caused me to acutely feel every step I took, and in a two-story house with four little ones underfoot (pun intended), that’s too many to count.

Another covering of snow outside our windows was causing me to feel hemmed in and blahhhhhhh.

The children were rabid with cabin fever. I actually think they had foam coming out of their mouths.

I couldn’t think of anything to fix for lunch OR supper.

Rebekah’s hair was a tangled mess and I couldn’t find the hairbrush anywhere.

There were about two thousand tiny pieces of Play-Doh under the kitchen table.

And the list went on and on and on and on…

By 3:00 p.m., I wasn’t only sighing, I was hissing.

What had begun that morning with just a hurt foot continually climaxed to the point that a typical littering of Play-doh in the kitchen made me want to lay in the floor and cry like a baby; my despair had stacked up so high that I was being buried underneath it, and I felt like I was drowning!

I really knew that things were beyond my reach when I told myself “remember, you signed up for this…” and myself responded by saying “shut up, Mrs. Gore!”

Yikes.

Touchy.

On any other day, none of the things I mentioned above would necessarily cause me to want to throw in the dish towel.

Which is my point, exactly.

Rarely are the toughest days circumstantial, usually having more to do with how we are feeling on the inside than what is actually taking place around us.

As this kind of sinkhole frustration can be very common in the “trenches” of motherhood, I thought it would be a good idea to pen my thoughts on a day when I needed more than a New Year’s resolution, in case it might be a help to someone else.

Without further ado…

What do we do when “I Signed Up For This” doesn’t work?

1. The first thing I always try to do when I want to implode is to take a moment to pray.

This doesn’t have to happen in the quiet privacy of my room or in the church sanctuary. In fact, on this day, it took place in our schoolroom with kids running all over the place. I sank down onto the antique steamer trunk that holds all of our curriculum, I put my elbows on my knees, I propped my chin up with my hands, and squishing my cheeks up and down with my fingers, I began to talk to God.

“What is UP with me today?…”

What followed was a good moment of introspection coupled with many minutes of wordless pleas for help, in which I identified that my problem, as usual, had little to do with what I had been handed that day, and more to do with my lack of purpose, discipline and contentment.

Seriously.

I’m not being hard on myself and I’m not heaping unnecessary guilt upon my head; this is just pure, unadulterated truth, that I have a gloriously sweet and blessed life, yet, when left to myself, I will always, always find something to complain about.

Dang.

Talk about sobering.

But while this sort of “digging in” is always painful, I really believe that if I skip this step, I will miss something huge.

Here’s what I mean: imagine if life was composed entirely of comfortable moments. For instance, a morning at the spa followed by a shopping spree followed by a deliciously catered lunch followed by a nap followed by an idyllic walk through the countryside, day after day after day…

Or even in less grandiose terms, imagine if my life as it is was frustration-free. My foot would not be throbbing, my menu would be planned, my children would be so thirsty for knowledge that they would sit on the edge of their seats and drink in my every word, I’d know where the hairbrush was hiding, and I would be constantly aware and accepting of the fact that what I’m doing here is important and eternal.

Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

But that’s exactly what it is: a dream.

And while a hiccup-less life is what I sometimes (always) long for, without the hiccups…

I would never grow.

I would never conform into something that looks less like me and more like Christ.

And so, while it might seem like the spilled milk and the beyond-energy-filled 1st grader are random happenstances in the day, they are so much more than that.

Or, rather, they can be.

Being at the end of our rope reminds us of how tiny we are. How fallen. How needy.

They remind us that there is a Care-taker on whom to cast our burdens.

And, as a result, they allow us to pursue holiness when we probably wouldn’t be otherwise motivated to do so.

This is why it is a good thing that “I signed up for this” doesn’t always work.

And this is also why, although I truly adore “me-time”, I never want to run to it first, because doing so would be like applying a band-aid to a mortally gaping wound.

My wounds need antibiotics, not bandaids.

And so I run to my Father, where healing and change are found.

2. After I have asked for help from God and confessed my sin, I feel very free, happy and wise to look for help from outside sources.

In the vein of “I Signed Up For This”, yes, our children and our homes are completely and 100% our own responsibility, and we are not entitled to outside help or relief. We shouldn’t whine about it. We shouldn’t expect it.

But on the other hand, we are not meant to walk this life alone.

Do you feel overwhelmed at the mountain of tasks that lie before you? That’s because there is a mountain of tasks lying before you. You can’t tackle that by yourself.

Do you feel like you just can’t do it all? That’s because you can’t. If you can find me a woman who can cook three meals a day, spend time with the Lord, bathe and groom all of her kids, teach them all their different lessons for the day, bathe and groom herself, nurse a baby every three hours, clean the entire house, buy all the needed groceries and school supplies, do all the laundry, read aloud to each child, and still be sane by 3:00 p.m., I so desperately want to meet her and learn all her secrets.

In my house? It’s just impossible. I need help.

And help can look a thousand different ways…

Sometimes it is enough to simply put a movie on for the kids so I can retreat to my room for some alone time. Television, when used wisely and in moderation, can be a great friend in times of need!

Sometimes my husband takes the big kids to the church in the afternoon while the little ones sleep, giving me a chance to clean or write or nap or simply to cry without an audience.

Sometimes I call my mom and ask if she has a day she can help me deep-clean the house.

Sometimes we all just load up in the van and drive around town counting animals.

Sometimes we retreat to mom’s house for afternoon coffee and snacks.

Sometimes I ask my husband if we can get a pizza for supper.

Sometimes we do a joint supper with friends to brighten up our routine and pull us out of the doldrums.

I could go on and on, but it is less about the particulars, really, and more about the principle: after engaging in combat with the “old woman” that still hangs out in my heart, and after diligently chipping away at the root of sin that my despair has illuminated, I seek to start afresh and give myself a break…

no guilt…

no shame.

Because it is just an incontestable fact that sometimes mommy is broken and needs to depend upon her support system, whether that can be found in a husband, a church family, a mama, a sister, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or, yes, a 30-minute show on Nick Jr.

~

There is no formula, really, to any of this, and being a mama is no different than any other calling: there are easy moments, there are joyful moments, there are average moments, there are very sad moments, and there are excruciatingly difficult ones…

such is the rhythm of life and sanctification.

But every moment counts, and can be used for God’s glory and for our good.

I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m sitting on a trunk in the schoolroom squishing my cheeks and trying really, really hard to hold it together. I hope you will, too!

I Signed Up For This, Too

I Signed Up For This, Too: receiving the joys (and the triumphs) of motherhood

Last week, I shared a post on the common complaints I’ve been guilty of indulging in as a mom, along with my resolution to (try to) abstain from all the sighing and moaning and groaning that so easily accompanies this life with little ones…

but, thankfully, not every day calls for such resolved action, and, as a lady who truly loves being a stay-at-home wife/mom/homeschooler, I would be remiss to mention all the things I struggle with in the mommyhood department without mentioning the things that bless my slippers off.

Because, thankfully, when you “sign up” for the daily grind that comes with being a parent, you are also the natural beneficiary of a good that far, far, FAR outweighs any bad that might occasionally (daily) weigh you down.

Thus, the next time I find myself being a Debbie Downer about the seeming drudgery of my life, after I read through my handy dandy list of what I signed up for…and then after I thank God that I don’t have to attend two weeks of VBS and then go home to do the canning…I’m going to pop right over and read this list…

a list that will remind me of the beautiful gift I’ve been given, a gift that is better than much fine gold and more sparklier than diamonds.

Let us begin.

1. Children are a heritage and a blessing from the Lord.

This I know because the Bible tells me so (Psalm 127:3). And because I feel it in me bones, to the very depths of my soul.

(I feel like you should know that I just wrote that entire paragraph with a Scottish accent).

Holding my two boys, arms full of blessing…

blessing and heritage

2. Children are forgiving.

Thanks to godly examples who have shared wisdom with me, I have made it a habit to easily apologize to my kids since I became a hormonal and emotional psychopath a mom.

And you know what? The minute I say “I’m sorry” or “I need to do a better job”, I am immediately met with kindness and reassurances from my little people.

“It’s okay, you didn’t mean to.”

Or “You don’t need to do a better job. You’re the best!”

Or “I didn’t think you were being grouchy. And I was being mean, anyway.”

It astounds me every time. Kids don’t even have to think twice about offering their heartfelt forgiveness.

I’m mad at you…

mad

Okay, I forgive you.

forgive

3. Likewise, children don’t hold a grudge.

In my almost 7 years as a parent, I have never once heard one of my kids bring up a fault from my past.

(Scratch that…my son has sort of held it against me for 5 years that I sold some of his toys at a garage sale when he was a toddler…).

But, for the most part, on the important stuff, they not only forgive, they forget. Each day is a new day with them, and yesterday’s hurts and failures are literally forgotten.

Grudge? What’s a grudge?…

grudge

4. Children are funny.

I am a huge fan of humor, and I used to think nothing was more fun than going to see the latest comedy at the movieplex…

until my first niece was born. Since that day almost 10 years ago, our family has been introduced to comedian after comedian; each one is unique, but each one has brought new waves of joy and laughter to us, whether it is in their facial expressions, the way they talk, their mannerisms…

And in my own home, not a day goes by that every single one of my kids doesn’t give me something to get tickled about.

Like this guy and his mustaches…

Gid stache

Or this gal right here…

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Or this little freakshow…

kids on glass

5. Children are little ministers.

This one actually really surprised me. I’ll never forget the first time it happened. My then 3- and 1-year old were sitting with me on the couch watching cartoons and I was mulling over some intense inner turmoil that had been eating me up for days when, out of nowhere, I felt a little hand on my shoulder.

I can’t aptly describe the peace that washed over me from that childish touch, one that had no idea my heart was so heavy, and I couldn’t get over how soothing it was to be sitting there quietly with them, feeling their love. Unbeknownst to my babies, they helped me through that day.

Since then, I have repeatedly been ministered to by my children. Whether I am sick and in need of a nurse, or crying from pregnancy hormones, or feeling overwhelmed or ugly or sad, they treat me gently, running to get me tissues, asking if I’m okay, smothering me with hugs and kisses…

yes, children drain you and they make messes and they test you to your limit, but they also give.

And I’m pretty sure it’s much more than they take.

We take lots of staged pictures around here, but this one was real. Rebekah and her Papa…

children are little ministers

5. Children are easy to please.

Oh my goodness. Give a kid a muffin tin and a pile of coins (or just the coins!) and they can stay occupied for an hour. Put a slice of cold cheese in a bun and they think you’re the best “cooker” ever. Wear a pair of sparkly earrings and they think you look like a princess…

I know now why people are constantly saying that “it doesn’t take much” when it comes to children: because it’s true!

You know what my two-year old nephew, Brett, told the mall Santa he wanted for Christmas? “Some candy”.

In a world that never stops wanting and buying and consuming, the simplicity of childhood is like a beautiful city on a hill.

2-year old Gid, playing with some coins…

easy to please 2

easy to please

6. Children are accepting.

Little ones are just sweet. They don’t notice skin color. They don’t see clothing quality. They don’t care too much if someone is different from them. And if you nurture them in it, they will make friends of all ages.

Yes, they notice blemishes and facial hair and that your belly jiggles when you laugh, but they don’t hold it against you. And even when you are rolling around like a narwhal on the slip n’ slide, they just think you’re fun.

Gideon and our friend, Yoyo, who pushed him all over our church in one of the spare wheelchairs…

Gid and Yoyo

Rebekah and our friend, Kenneth, blowing out his 90th birthday candles in Sunday School…

accepting

7. Children are honest.

Sometimes their honesty is of the brutal variety (“why do you have a beard on your face, Mom?”), but it is so refreshing to daily be among a group of people who tell you what they’re thinking. If my kids are upset, they tell me. If they have a question, they ask it. If they have a compliment, they share it.

There aren’t many hidden thoughts and motives with children (unless they’re trying to pick their nose on the sly), and that is a lovely thing.

And sometimes even their nose-picking is honest…

honest 2

8. Children are loving.

I can’t count the number of unsolicited hugs and kisses I’ve received since becoming a mom.

And even though I find myself scorning the gift sometimes and longing for that elusive “me-time”, the fact of the matter is this: my kids love me and would spend every second of every day with me. And then they want to sleep in my bed at night. And stand by me when I take my bath. And hand me toilet paper when I go to the bathroom. And bump into me when I stop walking.

My gosh, we spend half our lives yearning for someone to love us and want to spend all their time with us…

voila!

Children.

Where I go, they go (and when I’m away from them, I miss the little boogers)…

loving

9. Children make the world seem new.

This has been a surprise for me, as well. I had no idea what joy I would glean, not just from watching my kids experience great things, but from reliving childhood from a different perch.

It is like having the opportunity to start life all over again. The stories and fables, the nursery rhymes, the songs, the holidays, the wonder, the smell of crayons…

it is all back in your life again, and it is so much stinkin’ fun.

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10. Children make you holy.

I don’t think there is one single aspect of parenthood that has not brought me closer to the heart of God.

Whether it includes being at my wit’s end and crying out for grace…

or being so crippled by fear for my children’s salvation, safety, and general well-being that I find myself pleading at His feet and entrusting them to His care…

or being overwhelmed by a love that is so big and pure that it leads me straight to worship…

or digging deep for biblical answers to questions that lead to more questions like “who is God?” and “who made God?” and “why do people sin?” and “why did God create all these animals and not give me any?”…

And that’s just off the top of my head! Parenthood = sanctification. And even though sanctification hurts like the dickens sometimes, it is even more precious than children.

holy

11. Children are wonderful teachers.

And in all of the above, children teach us.

To forgive. To make grudges nonexistent. To laugh. To minister. To live simply. To accept others and withhold petty judgments. To share what’s on our mind. To love someone so much that we are happy just to sit by them and hold their hand. To live. To think about God…

and a lot of times, they can teach us all of this and more without even opening their mouths.

lots of kids

~

Sisters and brothers, may we never lose sight of the treasures that pitter-patter through our houses.

And may we shed our complaints quickly, freeing our hearts to marvel at the joys, bask in the innocence and laugh at the antics that are only in our lives for a painfully short season…

world seem new

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.”

Psalm 127:3-4

~

special thanks to Amy Jackson and Benjamin Grey Photography for photo contributions!

~

Do you have anything to add to this list? How have children (whether your own, your grandchildren, your nephews and nieces, or the children in your church) blessed you?  Share and celebrate with us!

I Signed Up For This

"I Signed Up For This: accepting the call (and the chaos) of motherhood"

It struck me a year or two back that I was getting into a habit of making big deals out of the things that my life was entirely comprised of.

There was lots of sighing and moaning and groaning, to the point where I was beginning to get on my own nerves.

Which is saying a lot, because when it comes to myself…I’m kind of a fan.

And once the annoyance set in, I began to notice a stark difference between myself and those ladies I look up to the most…

ladies who had worked hard their entire lives and didn’t make a big fuss about it….

ladies who weren’t forever groaning about all the stuff they either had done or needed to get done…

ladies who didn’t constantly talk about “me time”…

ladies who didn’t see homemaking and/or motherhood as a giant sacrifice, but a natural progression of life…

I’ll never forget the day in our church kitchen when I was bemoaning the fact that we had made it through “another week of Vacation Bible School”.

By the way, our VBS lasts for 3 hours a day.

5 days.

Oh, and a delicious daily meal is provided for us by our good-cookin’ kitchen committee.

The older ladies around me shared knowing glances before one spoke up. “Girl, this is nothing!” she said. “We used to do VBS for two weeks, and then go home with our kids to do the canning”.

My mouth dropped to the floor.

“You did?!” I gasped, horrified at the very idea.

And here I thought it was hard getting the kids in the car and down the hill to where our hot supper was waiting for us every night…

It was an eye-opener, for sure.

And I knew it was time for a change.

From that day forward, I adopted a homemade mantra of sorts, and I repeat it to myself all the time

I SIGNED UP FOR THIS.

Everything that I was whining about was something I had plunged into with my eyes wide…okay, mostly-wide…open.

I chose to pursue motherhood. I chose to forego a career and become a stay-at-home wife and mom. I chose to homeschool….

So why in the world was I acting surprised everytime my kids ate and the kitchen table was covered with food and sticky fingerprints? Why did I sigh every time we decided to go somewhere and I had to pack diaper bags and load carseats? When was I going to stop talking about how many (or how few) hours of sleep I had received the night before? How long was I planning on exclaiming over how many times a day I had to sweep the kitchen floor?

It is no secret that I was painfully naïve when I said my “I do’s” to Mr. Gore. My picture of marriage and motherhood was anything but realistic, and I somehow really and truly believed that we would be wealthy and have househelp and a guest cottage out back; whether that was going to take place before or after I took on the nannying job for $10/hour, I don’t know, but I was reaching for that rainbow.

But 7 years of marriage and a bunch of kids later, it was time to grow up and move on. Accept my duties and find joy in them. Train myself to love hard work. Say buh-bye to the guest cottage.

And guess what? I’m getting there!

But if I’m being honest, I still struggle, and old habits die hard; for this reason, and in hopes of helping anyone who shares a boat with me, I thought it would be helpful to make a list of the things I signed up for and should therefore no longer complain about.

Even though I didn’t really know I was signing up for them when I did.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Let us begin.

1. Children are messy.

Dirty shoes. Stained clothes. Sticky fingers. Matted hair. Crumbs everywhere. Toybox explosions. Bathtub debris. Poop. Spills. Unidentifiable grossness. Paper scraps. The upstairs stuff is downstairs and the downstairs stuff is upstairs.

I signed up for this and I will deal with it. No more sighing. No more being surprised by it.

(And no more sitting down).

2. Children are expensive.

When our first child was born, we couldn’t believe that a two-night stay at the hospital cost more than both of our cars combined. And that was just the beginning.

Diapers. Clothing. Food. Education. Recreation. Birthday parties. Holidays. Dentists. Doctors. Etc, etc, etc. Most of us simply aren’t going to live like kings and queens during these years, so I’ve decided to buckle down and stop whining about all the things I “can’t afford” (which is another post, entirely).

Why? Because I signed up for this.

3. Children must be taught…everything.

Manners. Hygiene. Theology. Rules. How many quarters are in a dollar. What’s a president? What’s America? 

I’ve decided to stop being shocked that they are impolite when I’m the one who forgot to equip them beforehand. And I’m not going to sigh when they ask me again what “tomorrow” means.

Because teaching them and answering them is my job, and it is one I willingly signed up for.

4. Children don’t sleep.

Okay. So really, I didn’t sign up for this because I had NO IDEA that this was a thing. When I was a kid, I slept like a log, one you could carry from the living room to the bed without ever waking up. But apparently, other less obliging children exist out there (say, like, on the second floor of my house), and no matter how late they go to bed at night, they still wake up at dawn’s early light. And sometimes before then to come and tap you on the shoulder and ask where their green-dinosaur-is-but-not-the-green-and-brown-one-just-the-green-one.

But even though I didn’t necessarily know about this when I asked for children, I know now, and I sign up for it. I guess.

5. Carseats.

It’s the law. And I’m a law-abiding citizen. And if I sign up for America, I’ve got to sign up for carseats, as well. No more moaning and groaning when I have to move those ridiculously heavy pieces of furniture from one car to the other.

6. Children are slow.

It is a well-known fact that if you’re going to go somewhere with kids in tow, you have to start getting ready 2 hours ahead of time. That game where I wake up an hour before go-time and then act all surprised and flustered when it is time to leave and no one can find their shoes and the dry shampoo in my hair is showing?…

no more. I signed up for this gig and I run it like a boss.

(Except for when I don’t. But I’m going to try).

7. Children have to have grown-ups for parents.

For years I tried to figure out how we could have people over like we used to and talk and laugh uninterrupted until 2 a.m. every weekend. I wanted to go to every antique show in the state, every movie that looked entertaining, every conference, every church activity…

but guess what? I have little kids. And little kids have bedtimes. And even before bedtime, they need you to wipe them and stuff. These aren’t the party-like-it’s-Y2K years. These are the you’ve-got-babies-and-you-need-to-raise-them-years.

I signed up for those.

8. Children get sick a lot.

When I used to hear a sniffle or a cough in the church nursery, I would go into panic mode and do everything I could to get my kid out of the door before they caught something; likewise, when one of my children would come down with a fever on a Sunday night, I would berate myself for not seeing the signs, putting everyone in the church nursery at risk.

But then I started noticing something: there was no pattern to this stuff. Sometimes my kids do get sick when their friends are sick…but sometimes they don’t. You never know. I will do my best to be wise, but I will also be brave and kind, knowing that kid vomit, diarrhea, full-body rashes and sore throats are just another’s day work.

Work that I chose to do when I signed up for this job.

9. Children have their own personalities.

There is a fine line between shepherding and controlling, and I’ve been very guilty of attempting to do the latter. But it doesn’t matter how much I love that yellow-and-white checked button-up shirt that hangs in my son’s closet. He doesn’t. And just because the rest of the family loves “Andy Griffith” doesn’t mean our youngest daughter ever will (she used to plant her face on the ground and start bawling every time she heard the theme song).

I will learn to listen. I will let them be people. I will give them room to breathe. I will nurture their weirdness, even if it doesn’t match up to mine.

10. Children are unpredictable.

I can make all manner of plans, whether it is to go on a day-long shopping excursion, deep-clean the house, make a big meal, plant some flowers, or simply watch a TV show after they are tucked in at night; but neither the needs nor the foibles of children are scheduled, and while I must teach them that the world does not revolve around them, I can’t do so while acting like it revolves around me.

Someone has to be the grown-up in these situations. Challenge accepted.

11. “Me-time” is not a right.

Yes. It would be wonderful to take a bath without a toddler coming in and dropping toys into the water. It would be dreamy to leisurely sip my way through two entire cups of coffee without having to reheat it in the microwave. It would be nice to have Friday’s off. Or a guaranteed lunch break. Or a daily siesta.

But guess what? The only job description to being a stay-at-home mom is this: crapshoot. There is rarely a “daily” anything. But I’ve learned one thing…

there will be grace for each moment, even when I feel like I want to beat my head against the wall. And sometimes that grace will include a surprise (or even scheduled!) gift of me-time. I will take it when I can get it, but I won’t act like an entitled brat if I don’t get it.

~

Oh, my. I suspect that this list could go on for days, but the heart of it is this: I don’t want to spend my life frowning over the inevitable.

Motherhood is HARD, yes, but it doesn’t have to be dreary and droopy. Chin up, buttercup. Shoulders back. Turn that frown upside down. Swallow those sorrowful sighs. Choose joy, because even on the hardest days, it is still exactly that: a choice. Laugh at today and all the days to come!

And on those occasions when we are at our gloomiest and least grateful, we can always remember this: we’re not going home to do the canning after TWO WEEKS of Vacation Bible School…

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Find this list a little too realistic? Read a fun (and  more optimistic) follow-up to this post here: I Signed Up For This, Too

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Dear Beautiful

Dear Beautiful, a letter to my daughters about being pretty

To my beloved daughters, aged 4 and 2,

I remember when I was quite young and my Mama would tell me what made a girl pretty…

her smile. She said a happy smile was the prettiest thing in the world.

And she always told me that it was what was on the inside that counted.

“Inner beauty”.

I listened.

I tried to take it in.

But I didn’t really believe her.

Because I had seen what beautiful was…

She-Ra. She had long, blonde, flowing hair and a white mini dress. (and a unicorn with rainbow wings).

Miss America. The ballgowns, the swimsuits, the sparkly crowns, the perfect smiles.

Barbie. Big boobies. Big, big boobies.

Paula Abdul. I don’t know. I just loved her. Did you know she used to be a Laker Girl? I did, because I read her biography. In the 3rd grade.

As a little girl, I looked, wide-eyed, upon the outward features that made something beautiful to me – a certain type of hair, a beguiling turn of the eye, a fancy schmancy body – and I dreamed of attaining that level of pretty.

And the more I admired what was beautiful to me, the more my mom’s definition of “pretty” seem kind of hokey and like something people said to make sure that every girl at least felt pretty, whether she was or not; inner beauty was a good thing, and I wanted it, but it seemed to have little bearing on whether I was perceived as a beautiful person or not. And I wanted to be jaw-droppingly beautiful.

I spent years, even my outwardly-prettiest years, shrugging off her compliments. “You’re my Mom,” I would say, “of course you think my hair looks good like this.”

“You’re my Mom,” I’d laugh, “only you would think this dress looked nice on me.”

“You’re my Mom. You have to say that.”

But, little girl, then I had you.

They placed you on my chest, squalling and crying and covered in birthing stuff, and everything she ever taught me about beauty made perfect sense.

You were alive and breathing and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

And every morning when you walk down the stairs and I see that you are still alive and still breathing…beautiful.

I finally get it now: the prettiest thing about a girl, any girl, is that she is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. She is alive. She is a person. She has a soul.

Do you understand how fantastic that is? God made you! I know He did, because you weren’t there, and then you were there.

I didn’t make you (minus that one night with your Papa, wink wink, nudge nudge).

Fate didn’t.

A coincidental twist in an evolutionary cycle didn’t.

God did.

I like to think about Him crafting you, weaving all of your different features together into a unique and breath-taking work of art.

Your hair? It’s so amazing. It was made by God.

For you, Rebekah, He chose golden hair, with a natural side part that suits your face just right. It is straight and silky, with a slight bend at the end; sunlight runs to dance among your strands, crowning you like a glowing halo. God gave you a gift when He crafted your locks.

And Betsie Fair, yours is light brown and wild, a perfect match to your carefree and joyful childhood. When you wake up in the morning, your mane is as big as your eyes, ready to take on the world, ready to catch syrup and dirt, ready to make a most fitting frame to your precious, ornery little face.

Your hair is beautiful.

Your bodies? They were made by God, so different, but equally lovely.

Rebekah, my love, your body is like your spirit: strong, sturdy, and precious to behold. When I hold you in my arms, my heart is full and soothed.

And Betsie, your slinky, skinny body is so fun to watch. You run and hop and leap and dance uninhibited, and I marvel at the way you move, like an instrument that proclaims with every step that God is singing over us.

Your bodies are beautiful.

Your eyes? God made them, giving me windows into your sweet, sweet souls.

Your cornflower blue eyes burn holes into my heart, Rebekah Sunday…

and Betsie, your naïve glances cause me to melt.

Your eyes are beautiful.

Your hands? God made them. They’re beautiful.

Your feet? Your toes?

Made by God.

Beautiful.

Your nose? Your mouth? Your lips? Your teeth?

God, God, God, God.

So beautiful.

And oh, those smiles.

Your Grandmother was right. When you smile and your eyes perk up with twinkles of happiness, you are the essence of beauty. And when you throw back your head and laugh, the trees tip their hats and the mountains bow in reverence to this pinnacle of God’s creation.

Yes. Your smiles are beautiful.

So, please, my darling daughters…

Don’t spend a day feeling miserable and fat.

Don’t look with covetous eyes at the hair that was given to another girl.

Don’t wish for blue eyes when yours are green.

This world is not your mirror, a reflection of what you are lacking or what you should look like.

It is your playground.

Live here, freely, happily, and unhindered by the chains and lies of a worldview that says some people have beauty and some don’t, that some have perfect bodies and some don’t, that some are made for magazines and the big-screen and some are not…

because that’s about the stupidest and most shallow thing a girl can believe.

You were created for richer feasts.

When you gaze at your reflection, do your Mama a favor and admire the handiwork of God. And then…

walk away.

Run and play.

Sing.

Laugh.

Dance.

Love.

Tell your friends how beautiful they are.

And, through the grace of the God who made you, work every day to purify your soul and mortify your sin, leaving a beauty inside of you that will dazzle this sad and captive world with the light of Jesus Christ.

They will never know what hit them.

I Haven’t Gotten a Thing Done!

“I haven’t gotten a thing done!” I sighed to myself as my 5-week old baby began to cry again.

I scooped him out of his chair and walked past my unmade bed, lightly bouncing him and patting his bottom as I went.

We walked through the laundry room where four separated loads of clothes awaited my next spare minute.

We skirted around the kitchen island where dirty dishes and leftover ingredients from that morning’s monkey bread remained scattered on the countertops.

We passed the empty sunroom where the puppy sleeps, bits of grass all over the floor and a very puppy-like smell permeating the air.

We went by the schoolroom where crayons littered the table and puzzle pieces dominated the ground.

We padded through the quiet living room where slipcovers needed straightening and stacks of movie cases needed to be reunited with their discs.

We mozied onto the front porch that needed to be swept and took a seat in the rocking chair that needed to be wiped down.

I looked down at the baby who had interrupted my work…

he was asleep. His brow was clear and at rest, his eyes were shut tight, his tears were wiped away, his countenance was sweet and peaceful, his body was snug and warm in my embrace…

Well, looky thar. I got somethin’ done.

"I Haven't Gotten a Thing Done!" by Mrs. Gore.