Monday night, for example, the light came in handy when my daughter woke us up in the middle of the night sick with the same stomach virus her brother had just gotten over days before. She was a miserable little girl. Once we took care of cleaning needs and got her through the first part of it, I sent my husband back to bed (one of us needed sleep and he still had work to do even from his home office the next day). Lexiana and I settled into the living room. I spread a blanket on the floor, set her up with her pillow, a blanket and a bucket. I had turned on the light over the kitchen sink. It gave us just enough light to see by in the living room but not so much that we couldn’t sleep. It gave us just enough light to see by when we made numerous trips down the hall to the bathroom and back.
As I stretched out on the couch for a 20-minute snooze between times of having to get up with her, I thought about that light. And I thought about the day ahead. And I thought about how tired I was. And I wondered how I’d get through the day. Because one thing I knew for sure is that this sick day wasn’t about me. It couldn’t be. No kid wants her mom moaning and groaning and griping when she’s the one who is sick. So I prayed. I prayed for strength through the night. I prayed for energy to keep getting up and to keep dealing with laundry and all that comes with such an icky virus. I prayed to stay well to take care of my family. If I somehow beat the odds and missed the germs from my son, I feel like beating the odds and missing the germs the second time around is almost impossible. But I need to first take care of my family. And so I prayed. I wanted to be like that light. I want to shine light into the darkness and stay steady and true even when everything around me is dark.
I know it sounds profound for a 5 a.m. thought process in the midst of a stomach virus, but evidently I wax poetic at these times. And evidently God doesn’t sleep through them either. (Of course!) I felt Him gently reminding me that He can keep me shining and give me the strength to keep going when I need it most to take care of my family. And I needed His strength. My beautiful daughter was horribly miserable and she has quite a low tolerance for misery. She doesn’t take well to not feeling. (Who does really?) There are lots of tears and whining and moaning. I most certainly need help to continue being loving sometimes in the midst of that. I know she doesn’t feel well. I know she truly is miserable and that helps. But divine help also reminds me that love is patient. Love is patient. And I love her more than life itself, so I am patient.
As for my girl, she’s over the worst of the virus and working to regain her strength through some much loathed naps. She had her first sips of Sprite and was sorely unimpressed. She was quite anxious for water. As for the kitchen light, it still shines steady and true and lights our house just enough at just the right times. Evidently it will now also serve as a reminder to me to remain steady and true through the grace of God.]]>
A couple of years ago, I shared with you how my mom has passed her love of reading to me and now it has passed on to my daughter as well. Now that my son is getting older, he also really enjoys being read to. We’re a family of readers. However, also in these last couple of years, reading has been a challenge for me because there just wasn’t time or energy. I’ve read books slowly in bits and pieces. I’ve read magazines. I’ve read articles online. I’ve read my Bible and daily devotions. But to just sit and read book after book, it’s been a while. Before children, I would sometimes spend entire days reading. As a child, I have many memories of sprawling across my bed with my nose in a book. In fact, when I was in maybe 6th grade, my mom and I had to switch to a different library in our city because we had pretty much read everything on the shelves in our respective age groups and tastes that was at the smaller branch we went to.
I’ve missed reading. It’s a hobby just for me. And it’s something I didn’t realize how much I was missing until I started doing it again. It started on vacation this summer. For years I have been involved with R.A. Salvatore’s “The Legend of Drizzt” series. It’s 26 books in, so there have been plenty for me to read. I finished the one I was reading then finished the final three that have been released. I’m waiting for the next book to come out next March. I hate that I caught up in the series and now have to wait, but I knew that was inevitable. However, it’s taken me two years to read two books of his. I started one while I was in labor with my son until I was too distracted to read. So it took me a while to catch up.
In between the most recent two Drizzt books, I was left feeling antsy. I was just getting back into reading and enjoying myself. I was remembering what it felt like to really lose myself in a book in the couple of hours I stay awake after the kids are in bed or the hour I sometimes have in the morning before they’re awake. So I decided to move on to some other books for now. There are plenty of other R.A. Salvatore books, but after spending five or six years reading only his books, I was looking forward to trying something new.
I went for the “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth. We saw the first “Divergent” movie a few months ago and I really liked it. I checked the first one out on my Kindle from the library. Within four days I had finished the entire trilogy thanks to having some extra downtime. It was divine to have such a chance to read. I stuck with the book series in spite of the fact that I don’t like reading books written in present tense. I’m a bit picky that way. I’m also picky in that I want good writing. It doesn’t have to be grand literature, but it does have to be good writing.
Again, I was feeling antsy when I finished the final book. I know there’s at least one other book that’s related to the series, but again I was ready to move on. I just didn’t know to what. I thought about “The Lord of the Rings” books, “The Chronicles of Narnia” books and “The Hunger Games” books. But I just wasn’t sure. In fact, before I started reading “The Legend of Drizzt” series I had never read fantasy books. I kind of felt ready to take a small break from fantasy books as well. And so I did what people do in this day and age, I turned to my friends on Facebook and asked for suggestions. I got some aplenty and even was able to download and start reading a recommended author through my library before I went to bed.
It is with all of this in mind that I introduce the Written Creations Book Club. It’s nothing fancy and I have no disillusions of it being comparable to Oprah’s book club, but I like the idea of sharing what I’ve read and liked and getting ideas of good reads from you. And I also am excited to talk about what I’m reading with other people.
This is my first list. Some of them I’ve read and some of them I haven’t, yet. I can’t vouch for all of them, so don’t get mad at me if you try one and find it lacking. I’ve included links to author pages when I could. If you do read any that I’ve read, I’m always happy to talk about them, though. And I’m also looking for additional suggestions. I’ll continue to touch base and read some of your suggestions and list some of my own periodically. I’m interested in books that don’t have smut, graphic violence or lots of curse words.
Books I’ve read recently and enjoyed:
The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth — As I mentioned above, I picked up this trilogy after seeing and liking the first movie based on the series. It sucked me in and I couldn’t put it down until I finished all three books.
“Rise of the King” by R.A. Salvatore — This is the newest Drizzt book that released this fall. As I expected, it was awesome. I took my time reading it because I knew once it was over, I’d again have to go into a holding pattern. I’m looking forward to the next book due out next March.
Books by Lis Wiehl — A friend recommended her writing to me and I read all four of the Triple Threat books and then all three of the East Salem books. I highly recommend them. They are Christian based books with suspense and mystery as well.
The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner — My husband and I thought this movie looked good when we saw the previews, but I wanted to read the book first. I read the first one and was hooked so that I finished all three books and am now on the waiting list for the e-book version of the prequel through my local library. The books have lots of suspense and mystery without foul language or gore.
The Sisterchicks series by Robin Jones Gunn — These books are quick and easy reads for me. They involve two female friends (once two sisters) who find adventure and spiritual renewal. That sounds more boring than the books actually are. They have been some of my favorite books lately.
“While We’re Far Apart” by Lynn N. Austin — A friend recommended this author. While the subject matter involves a family who has suffered great loss during World War II and how they survive, it’s actually much more uplifting than it sounds.
The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry — I have just started this series and read only the first book. I’m saving the final three for a couple more weeks when I know I will have more time to read. Waiting to proceed on to the second book and find out what happened is a bit challenging for me, so that tells you that the story draws you in for sure. It’s the kind of book that makes you think without realizing that it’s doing so.
“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett — I read this book without realizing there was a movie and all that jazz. However, it was another book that got me thinking and kept me interested. In fact, I spent a couple of nights staying up later than I meant to because I didn’t want to stop reading. And that is always a sign of a good book!
Books friends have recommended that I haven’t gotten to read, yet:
The Xanth series by Peirce Anthony
Books by Stephen Lawhead
“The Rift War Saga” by Raymond E. Fiest
The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
The Physician of the Cole Trilogy by Noah Gordon
“In Between” by Jennie B. Jones
“The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins (In all fairness, I did start to read the first book of this series and then stopped because I was too familiar with the story line from the movie to get that into the book; I don’t like knowing much of anything about a book before I begin reading it.)
“God’s Secretaries” by Adam Nicolson
The Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass
“On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” by Andrew Peterson — I have a contemporary Christian music CD from Peterson that is more than a decade old and I still enjoy it; I’m anxious to give his books a try and see if I enjoy them as much.
What are you reading? What do you like? What have you read? Let’s talk books!]]>
It was a bit like wrangling greased pigs to get …]]>
It was a bit like wrangling greased pigs to get us out the door and to church mostly on time. I do not like to be late, but we almost were. My husband was at home sick. My son was going back to the nursery for the first time in months. And this was the first time I was taking both kids to church on my own. I talked to my daughter on the way and explained that we were later than usual and needed to cooperate and not dilly dally on the way in. She understood. Then I asked her if she would pray with me that her brother would not cry in the nursery. I drove and prayed out loud. She added her own prayer. We whizzed into the parking lot and were off.
As a complete answer to prayer, my son didn’t even whimper when I handed him over to the nursery worker. He just watched me go and was completely fine. I slid into a back pew feeling a bit shell-shocked. How had that just happened? I remembered our prayer from 10 minutes earlier and realized that God had answered my prayer.
Today was one of those days when my mama heart was just fragile and achy for a wide array of reasons. I couldn’t exactly put a finger on what was off and making me sad, but something was. I slowly began to revel in the fact that God had heard me and answered my prayer as we began singing worship songs. And almost as surely as if He’d been sitting in the pew beside me, God spoke to me.
“You have not been forgotten.”
“You have not been forgotten.”
My heart was filled. Tears sprung to my eyes. Forgotten. That’s what I had been feeling for the last couple of weeks. Forgotten. I am in a season where my life revolves around other people pretty much all of the time. Just this morning as I was eating my breakfast, I thought about how 90 percent of the time, I was fine that life wasn’t about me, but 10 percent of the time, it stung. I didn’t quite know how to best manage that. Sometimes I wanted to do something for me. Sometimes I wanted it to be about me. Sometimes I wanted to feel seen for who I was and heard for what was in my heart.
What happens when we become moms is that we disappear a bit. I’ve written about this many times. Our lives are so consumed with this small person and later small people to care for that we disappear. Heck, even just interacting with other people showcases that fact. Have you walked into a room with a baby in your arms and had someone stop and sincerely ask you how you’re doing? Neither have I. The baby gets the attention. And that’s OK. But, over time, we mamas really can feel a bit forgotten, whether we recognize it or not. Add in that we forget about ourselves (when was the last time I got my hair cut or decided what I wanted to eat simply because it sounded good to ME?) and we are left a bit adrift.
But, I have good news. I have good news that just arrived as a fresh balm to my aching heart this morning: You are not forgotten, mama. I am not forgotten. No matter how little the rest of the world sees of us, no matter how little we see of ourselves, God sees us. He sees us. HE sees US! We have not been forgotten.
And that includes that prayers that we’ve been praying for years and waiting for answers to. That includes the desires of our hearts that sometimes seem so far from obtainable that we cry in despair. That includes the pieces of ourselves we chip away in order to take care of our families. That includes all the sacrifices we make. That includes the hurts He continues to let us endure to remind us how much we need Him. We’re not flailing around down here without Someone noticing. He notices. He hasn’t forgotten us. He loves us. He sees us. He doesn’t overlook us. We are the desire of His heart even more than our children are the desire of our hearts. He has not forgotten you, mama. He loves you.
Dwell on that today. Remember that today as you tend to everyone else except yourself. Remember that today when you feel like no one is listening to your heart, even if that’s only because you’re too tired to express your heart to someone who cares. Remember that today when you start to feel like nothing more than a cook, maid and bottom-wiper. Remember that God sees you. God loves you. God encourages you. And He has not forgotten you. He wants to meet you where you are.
You are not forgotten!]]>
I was reheating homemade potato soup for the kids’ dinner last week before we left for the evening to do some work with my brother-in-law. The kids were in the living room playing contently with my husband — a fact for which I was grateful. My toddler is very impatient when it comes to food and likes to orbit around me wailing while I prepare most meals. It’s delightful. I had on my favorite Christian station. I’m more a fan of music and less a fan of talk on the radio, but in between songs when my hands were too busy to change the station, the DJ came on. He read a story from “Guideposts” about a man who had worked on Mt. Rushmore who shared how tedious the job was and how he learned that even tedious tasks are important to the big picture. The woman interviewing him then related that to her own life and the tedious tasks of raising her sons and all that entailed. However, her sons are now grown and the tediousness is gone and she sits and looks at the grown men she has raised and is proud. The tedious tasks she did for them helped create a wonderful finished product.
The story hit my heart. It brought tears to my eyes immediately as I realized I am most definitely in the tedious phase of motherhood. I finished cutting some grapes and buttering some bread and called the kids to the table. As we ate our dinner and chatted, my toddler son was having a rough evening. He’s cutting a tooth and he can be quite grumpy about it. He’s also obsessed with raisins and wants them all the time for every meal and really only raisins would be just fine by him. I don’t agree that he can survive solely on raisins, so mealtimes are often a battlefield right now. During a very short respite in our dinnertime battles, I sent up a fervent prayer while the message from the radio lingered in my heart, “Lord, please let this all be worth it. Let my children grow up to be awesome people.”
It’s tedious. It’s hard. It’s all-consuming. I know. I’ve said these things already, but I feel the need to say them again because they are so very true. I’d like to think that it will all be worth it. I don’t think I’d mind a small peek at the future to see my children living their lives as thriving, intelligent, caring and loving adults who I somehow didn’t manage to completely mess up. That look at the future isn’t possible, though. So I will just have to keep trusting that every day, every small task I do repeatedly and in the midst of chaos is worth it. I have to remind myself that the more goodness from me and from God that I pour into them, the more goodness they’ll pour back out into the world. And this world can always use more goodness.
I see glimpses of what the future might look like for my children as they grow up. I’m not sure what their occupations will be. Right now my daughter wants to be a doctor, a paleontologist or an art teacher. Right now what I see in her is a sweet spirit full of encouragement for others. I see in her a great compassion and willingness to love with a big heart. That will serve her well in the future. She will excel at making friends and making people feel valued. She already does.
My son is younger, so I’ve not had as much time to get to know him and he can’t yet communicate to me what he wants to be when he grows up, but I see a tenacity in him. He is determined and won’t give up on something he wants. While that’s frustrating to me while he’s a toddler and what he wants is something that isn’t safe for him, this character trait will serve him well in the future as he pursues his dreams and goals. I see in him an ease to laugh and love. He laughs more easily than any child I’ve been around. I adore it. I hope he always retains that inner joy.
Where are you today? Are you with me stuck in the tedious tasks of motherhood that sometimes seem to drain your very life force? Are you wondering if all the hard work will be worth it in the end? Will we one day forget this tedious phase just like we have (mostly) forgotten the pain of childbirth? I think so. Of course I don’t have all the answers. My journey is far from complete with my children. We have a long way to go, but I am going to keep pressing forward, putting one foot in front of the other, completely one tedious task after the next because that’s what a long line of moms has done before me and it worked out for them. I will also keep moving forward and doing everything I can for my children simply because they need me and I love them in an all-consuming way that keeps me moving even when I’d much rather lie down and sleep for two weeks. Tedious? Yes. Worth it? I think so. Yes.]]>
I’ve been thinking about the concept of a day of rest lately. The Sabbath day keeps coming up to me in various ways. And every time it has lately, I’ve …]]>
I’ve been thinking about the concept of a day of rest lately. The Sabbath day keeps coming up to me in various ways. And every time it has lately, I’ve sort of wanted to smack someone. I’m not a violent person, but I’m a frustrated person. How am I supposed to figure out a day of rest when I’ve got two small children? How am I supposed to figure out a day of rest when I’d like just to take a shower without rushing before everyone wakes up and needs me? How am I supposed to figure out a day of rest when I have food to prepare eight times a day? How am I supposed to figure out a day of rest when they need me all the time? How?
So I’ve been thinking about it and praying about it. It is a command from God to have a Sabbath and keep it holy. It is His command to rest. A quick search of the NIV Bible translation over on BibleGateway found the word Sabbath is used 154 times. That’s a huge amount. That tells me God was serious about it and that I need to be serious about it, too. I realized that while I’m bemoaning my life as a mom with two small children and how busy and hectic that is that God has a whole lot more people to take care of. Millions and millions. He had a whole planet to make, which certainly trumps the slew of granola bars, PB&Js and cups of crackers that I’ll make today. And yet He still needed a day of rest. And He’s God!
I know that I need rest. I can tell you how I get when I get overworked and overtired and overwhelmed. I end up over-cranky. It’s not pretty. I turn into someone I don’t like. I get grumpy with my husband and children. I retreat into myself. I get miserable. Obviously I need a break sometimes. We all do. We were designed that way. God knows it, too. Just like I don’t ask my children to do things just for the fun of it, so He doesn’t ask us to do things just for the fun of it. He knows that we need rest.
I’ve come up with a few ideas about this whole Sabbath and rest thing while still being a mom to two small children. I’m challenging myself as much as anyone else to somehow follow this advice as well.
First, I need to define what rest is to me. In my head, rest means sitting in my recliner with my feet up reading a book and taking naps with no one bothering me. (I should also mention that I’m an introvert and the best way for me to recharge my batteries is through alone time.) While that scenario isn’t unholy or wrong, it also isn’t very feasible. I remember days when I was a teenager and young adult that I could every so often just spend a whole day lazing around reading a book. Nowadays that could possibly be an option maybe once every two years. So, I need to redefine rest.
Second, I need to define the time of rest. A whole day of rest is nice, but having a whole day to devote to anything besides my children is quite a challenge. However, I do have five minutes here and there. I can sometimes even eek out an entire hour or two. Those smaller chunks of time are the key for me. They refuel me throughout the day when I need it most. Maybe as a full-time mom I can’t take an entire day off for a Sabbath, but I can take the moments I get and use them productively, which sometimes means just to rest. Because I need it and because it is as important as doing laundry and cleaning the house. It needs to be scheduled and OK. I need to give myself permission to rest not only because I need it but also because God directed me to do so.
I’ve found rest in God during early morning hours. I’m a morning person, so this works for me. I like getting up early and starting my day off with quiet devotions and prayer time. I am a much happier person when I do this. Even just 10 or 15 minutes of rest in God while my family continues to sleep makes me feel more ready to conquer the day.
I’ve found rest in God when I’m driving my daughter to PreK and am listening to my favorite Christian music station. In fact, that’s pretty much all I listen to, because it helps me and inspires me and reminds me of God throughout my day. I especially enjoy the times in the car because everyone is strapped in and not climbing on me or needing constant supervision. I really love the times I’m alone in the car driving to pick the big kiddo up from school while her brother finishes his nap (my husband works from home most of the time; I don’t leave the toddler home alone!). Sometimes one song can refresh me and my perspective on the day. Seriously.
I’ve found rest in reading for fun. I have discovered that logging onto my laptop and perusing Facebook and Pinterest are fun, but they aren’t truly restful to me. Reading, however, leaves me feeling more refreshed and, quite frankly, more like myself since it’s been a lifelong favorite hobby of mine. I enjoy the R.A. Salvatore series on Drizzt but I also rediscovered the inspirational fiction section of my local library and continue to be blessed in many ways with those books.
I’ve also found rest quite literally. By the grace of God (and I don’t say that as merely an expression, I fully mean it), my son’s nap and my daughter’s preschool times overlap. So for two hours, four days a week I have child-free times. There are definitely times I use that time to eat lunch and nap. I count that as productive because I know that rest will make me a happier mama who can enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening with her family.
While I may not have a traditional Sabbath, I know that I’m not alone. Moms and busy people everywhere struggle with downtime. We struggle with quiet time to reconnect with God and with ourselves. And yet we need it. We were created to have limitations. We were created to find our strength in God. We can’t do that if we never stop doing things. How do you find your Sabbath?]]>
Bowling with a 5-year-old has its perks. The first of which is bowling with the bumpers up. My husband and I hadn’t been bowling ourselves in years. We were saved a few times from gutterballs thanks to those bumpers. It was nice. Another perk was watching my children have fun. Lexiana loved trying her hand at bowling. We learned a few frames in that the ramp really did make her experience more fun and never once did her ball stop halfway down the lane while using the ramp as it hand when she was bowling without it. Drake had a great time watching the other people, us and oh-so-many colorful balls rolling around and disappearing.
The biggest perk, however, was the cheerleading that took place. I have bowled many, many times in my life. In fact, I almost forgot how much I used to go bowling until I went again. We used to go every Saturday morning. I was in a league thing. We went as a family and with our extended family. I have never, though, been cheered on and encouraged as much as I was last week. That’s not to say that my parents weren’t supportive or encouraging. That’s to say that my daughter was our own personal bowling cheerleader. ”Go, Mommy! You can do it!” ”Go, daddy! You’re doing great!” And that happened each and every time. We cheered back for her. We didn’t try explaining that serious bowlers like it a bit more quiet for concentration, because it was too precious and sweet to put a stop to it (and nobody was close enough to us to be bothered by our noise).
You know what? Having someone cheer for you with complete sincerity feels really good! I got to thinking about how everyone needs a little cheering on sometimes for reasons not as celebrated or as obvious. This is especially true for moms in the trenches. So, I’ve put together just a few of the shout-outs I have in my head right now.
To the mom who is struggling to stay awake today because she was up most of the night with a sick child or a baby needing to be fed or both, woo hoo! You go! You can do it! You’re awesome!
To the mom who feels like she can’t wrangle her toddler for one more battle on the changing table at the dinner table at the grocery store or anywhere else, rock on! You’ve got this! Keep going! You’re fabulous!
To the mom who is worn to the bone and doesn’t know how she’ll manage getting the kids fed, clothed, packed off to school and then survive a work day, you’re on it! Press on! You’re going to make it!
To the mom who’s battles with her teenager are reaching epic proportion with no end in sight, woo hoo! You’ll get through this! You’re doing a fantastic job! Hang in there!
To the mom-to-be who is wondering how she’s going to survive this miserable pregnancy and figure out the whole motherhood thing, yay! You’re going to make it! You rock!
To the mom who is looking at a messy house, piles of laundry, hungry kids and a stack of bills needing to be paid and feeling overwhelmed and tired, you’ve got this! One thing at a time! You’re on your way!
To the mom who has forgotten what she even likes to do in her spare time because there never is any, hang in there! It won’t be this way forever! You are going to make it and you can do it!
To the mom-at-heart who is suffering another broken heart as yet another month passes without a positive pregnancy test, hold tight! You’re going to make it! You will survive this heartbreak even when it doesn’t seem like it!
To the mom who is working hard and losing energy on getting help for her child with challenges, you’re on it! You’re an awesome mama bear! Keep fighting!
And like any good cheerleader, I’d be remiss to not offer some defensive cheers:
Defense! against discouragement. Don’t beat yourself up! You’re working hard; keep pressing on!
Defense! against loneliness. You’re not alone! Other mamas feel your pain. God feels your pain and sees you. Keep going!
Defense! against weariness. It’s OK to take any kind of break you can get. Rest well!
Know today that wherever you are, whatever battles you’re fighting, whatever stage of motherhood you find yourself in that you have this. Let me be your cheerleader today. Hold fast to your course. Stay strong and you will make it. YOU CAN DO IT!!! Go, mama, go!]]>
Let me give you some background. My daughter has been praying at bedtime since she was around 2. We started with praying on her behalf and she has taken over to saying her own prayers. But much like the prayers of adults can do, her prayers have gotten sort of stagnant and every night we were hearing her thank God for the good day she had and not usually a whole lot else. Sometimes she’d pray for other people, too. Her prayers have always been precious, but we’ve been trying to teach her about the joy and responsibility of praying for others as well.
A few years ago, I saw a prayer bucket on Pinterest that held popsicle sticks decorated with different names of people to pray for. It was cute. But, I don’t have a cute bucket and I loathe wooden sticks. They give me the heebie jeebies. And I could just see her baby brother pulling out the sticks, taking off and ending with a splinter in his tongue. So I decided we’d try it our way. I talked to my daughter about making a list of people to pray for and she was happily one board. We sat down together and came up with a list of 33 family and friends (including two pets!) that we’d like to pray for. I typed it up on my computer. We printed them out. I cut them out with our paper cutter so they’d all be about the same size. I gave my daughter two envelopes to decorate. On one I wrote: “To pray for.” On the other: “Have prayed for.”
Last Sunday we got started using the envelopes. She pulls out a name and says her usual prayers then prays extra for the person who’s name she drew. That name goes into the “Have prayed for” envelope to then get recycled back through once we get through everyone. If I was super crafty, I’d have used photos of each person since my daughter can only read a few of the names. But I can easily tell her which name she pulled out and it works. It’s been going well. The three nights we’ve done this so far, she’s been excited to pull out a name and get to praying. The first night was a friend of ours. The second night was one of her second cousins. The third night was me. We talked about how if we know specific problems someone is dealing with then we’ll pray for those. If we don’t, then we’ll just pray for God to bless and protect them.
My daughter is growing in her prayers already. I love how her mind works and I love hearing her heart. Her heart. Her prayer for me left me in tears. I was blessed beyond measure. She is so wise and so perceptive and so pure. As she prayed for me, I offered up my own thanks to God for blessing me with her in my life. I honestly didn’t think about how helping my daughter with her prayer life would touch my heart.
I don’t think she’ll always have a prayer list of names in an envelope to draw out. I don’t do that as a grown-up, but I most definitely have a prayer list of people I love and care about and pray for all the time. They don’t even know and that’s OK. Prayer is not all about recognition. It’s about honoring God. It’s about blessing others. It’s about getting outside of ourselves and remembering that God is there with us, loving us, yearning to talk with us if only we take the time. I also know my daughter has many lessons to learn and much growth in her relationship with God. She will get there, but she already has a good start with her pure heart and sweet spirit. She has a desire to know God and learn about Him. She has an in-born love for Him. She blesses her mama so much.
This has been one craft I’m incredibly thankful we took the time to do. Something that took maybe 15 minutes total has already been blessing us in ways I hadn’t even imagined. I don’t know why I’m surprised. That’s how God works!]]>
When her first birthday rolled around, I knew that I was losing my baby. In fact the weekly e-mails I got about parenting switched immediately from referring to “your baby” to “your toddler.” I cried some more. I wasn’t ready to let go of my baby being a baby. Looking back on that now, I smile. And when my son turned 1, I didn’t shed a tear, because I knew the secret: toddlers are way more fun than babies. You still get the baby snuggliness and cuteness but you also get to see their personality come through even more. You get to hear more of their thoughts as they start verbalizing things. You get to really play with them. It gets good. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think toddlerhood is bliss. I’d say it’s about 60 percent fun and 40 percent frustration, but the fun is FUN. The good is so very good. I didn’t know all of that, though, when my daughter turned 1. I didn’t know how good it was going to get. Something happens between the first and second birthday that your child really becomes his or her own person and it’s awesome.
But, 5 has caught me off guard. It signifies that kindergarten is soon on its way (almost a year away, but I know it’s coming!). After this year, she will no longer be able to hold up fingers on only one hand to show her age. My little girl is growing into a big girl. She’s getting more mature. She’s getting more independent and I don’t know if I am ready for that. While she spends three hours, four days a week in PreK now, I know that next year she’ll start school and I’ll lose my days with her. Never again will we be consistently, happily home together most of the time she’s awake. And that makes me sad. That makes me sad even on days when I’d give my left arm to remember what it feels like to do something just for me and get a break. I am not ready for my little girl to grow up.
At the same time, I cannot stop it. I’m sure I have lamented about this before on my blog. It’s not new information and it most certainly isn’t unique to me. Generations of moms before me have dealt with the same feelings. I almost feel like I need to apologize to my own parents for growing up, but at the same time if I hadn’t grown up, they wouldn’t have had these beautiful grandbabies. It’s how life is meant to be lived. It’s the cycle that has been continuing from the very beginning of time.
Maybe in 3-1/2 years when my son turns 5, I won’t feel it quite as keenly. Maybe I’ll approach his 5th birthday as I did his 1st, knowing that what is to come is so very good. For now, my daughter has a week out of school on fall break. I won’t say that every waking moment I’ll be by her side, playing and having fun. In fact, as I type this I’m in another room from her while she’s watching a show on Netflix as her baby brother naps in his room. But, I will have fun with her. I will laugh with her. I will enjoy her for who she is today as a 5-year-old because I have a very good feeling that before I know it, she’ll be a 15-year-old and I’ll be yet again asking myself where the time has gone.]]>
When I’m out with my children, I like to be able to have my eyes on them pretty much all the time. You might say it’s a control issue, but mostly it’s a mom instinct that has me wanting to watch them like a hawk and keep them safe. I don’t necessarily think kidnappers are lurking at every corner. But I know they’re out there. I also want to be aware if they get hurt. I have tripped and hurt myself in so many places and in so many ways that I sometimes project that onto my children — both justly and unjustly so. Somehow I think that if I can see them nothing bad will happen to them. I’m pretty sure I’ll get over that a bit as they get older, though I make no promises.
As they were running through the flags, however, there were times I couldn’t see them. At 19 months, my son couldn’t be trusted to not wander out of the flag area and into the road or parking lot or over the edge of the garden wall down onto the walking path below. My mom and I made sure that one of us was with him and often holding onto his hand at all times. My daughter, at almost 5, was more advantageous and more trustworthy. I knew if I told her not to climb on the stone wall or leave the area then she wouldn’t. I still wanted to keep an eye on her, though.
A few times she was completely out of my sight thanks to the flags whipping through the breeze. In such a large space, she could also get out of the range of my hearing. I had a few moments when my mom and I were together with my son and I couldn’t get eyes or ears on my daughter in any way. Though she faced no real danger, my heart still skipped a beat and my stomach knotted. Within 30 seconds, I’d spot or hear her again.
She was having a grand time. I knew the issue was mine alone and she needed no admonishment. I began reflecting a bit then and continued to later on when I wasn’t chasing children about. I realized a few things. First, it was a lesson in trust. I like to think that if I can see my children at all times I can keep them safe. That’s 100 percent false. I don’t have that kind of power. Yes, I can do everything I can to keep them safe, but at the end of the day my best efforts are only that — efforts. There are no guarantees. I felt God reminding me gently the importance of entrusting my children to Him, the only One who can actually protect them. I am blessed and immensely grateful that I’ve only had one other time when I had to completely trust Him with my child’s safety when my son was born not breathing. However, I know that in many ways every single day He is protecting them in ways I cannot see or fathom and I’m thankful for that. I’m beyond thankful for that. I need to always remember that. He is in control. Any sense of control I think I have is really nothing. There is not much I can truly control. When my daughter disappeared a few times on me, I had to trust that He was watching out for her as well. When she is out of my sight at preschool or children’s church or with her grandparents, I have to trust in others taking care of her and in God watching over her. While I think I am learning to let go in little ways many times over, I’m really just slowly learning how little control I truly have anyway.
The other thing I’ve been pondering is the symbol of the American flag itself. The timing coinciding with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks was no coincidence. My son was clueless as the flags that were flapping around him and what they stood for. He just liked to watch them moving in the breeze and feel them gently caressing his skin as he ran by. My daughter has a small understanding of the flag. She knows it represents her country and she can recite the pledge of allegiance, but she doesn’t know much more than that just yet. She doesn’t know, as my mother did walking through those same rows of flags with us, what it is like to send a new husband to war in a jungle on the other side of the globe and pray every minute for his protection after he was drafted to represent that flag. She doesn’t know what happened 13 years ago in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., when our feelings of safety and power came grinding to a halt. She wasn’t born. She won’t remember that firsthand.
I am thankful for my country. I am thankful for all the sacrifices those flags represent. I am thankful that while God is ultimately the protector of my children and me that there are also men and women who have and continue to sacrifice so very much to protect us as well so that my children can run carefree through a grassy field of flags and not have to worry about being attacked or stepping on a landmine. I am thankful that my mom and I can take them on our own and enjoy them without having to have a male escort or be weighted down with clothes we must cover ourselves from head to toe with.
I must say I didn’t expect a field of flags to have that many lessons for me. I expected that we’d go and have a good time and let the kids play. Who knew what insight awaited me? All I can do is give thanks to my God and to my country. I am blessed.]]>
As I’ve watched him cart that doll all through our house and into the car and weep for her when we take her away at bedtime or mealtime, I’ve smiled. He’s just so cute the way he hugs her and pats her. He’s learning to be gentle. He’s learning to take care of her. He’s mimicking some of the things my husband and I do to take care of him. And I’m not going to put a stop to it.
I have no issue with my son playing with a doll and one that is so very feminine at that. I’m not a raging feminist myself. I see the differences between men and women, boys and girls. I appreciate those differences and try to celebrate them. My husband and I have different strengths and different ways of thinking. Together it works quite nicely for our family. I think to be gentle with our children; he thinks to turn them upside down and tickle them. (He’s also gentle and loving with them as well.) We’re different and it works. The kids love both. I love both kissing their heads as we snuggle and hearing their laughter as they play with dad. I celebrate that my son already works differently than my daughter, both because of his personality and because of his gender. He is more physical; she is more verbal.
When it comes to toys, I don’t have much preference in what they want to play with. My daughter plays with superheroes, Ninja Turtles and cars. She also plays with princesses, baby dolls and Barbies. It’s up to her what she picks. I feel the same with my son. He loves helping his sister cook in the play kitchen (though he’s not super great at following her instructions, yet, much to her chagrin). And he loves playing with baby dolls. He carries them, he pats their backs and he is gentle with them like he isn’t with other toys. This one baby doll in particular has become his favorite. He also plays with cars, balls and blocks.
Toys are just toys, but they are also something more. They are what my children first use to develop and learn about the world around them. I make sure they have appropriate toys (as in their toys are safe), but otherwise, I’m hands off. I want them to be free to explore and to learn. I want my son to have a chance to explore his more gentle side in taking care of a baby doll as well as explore his more aggressive side in splashing the water in the bathtub as hard as he can.
I very much want and plan to raise a strong, confident man. I also want to raise a man with a good heart who has compassion. He won’t learn that if I only let him play with “boy” toys. He can’t explore gentle play if I forbid him from playing with his sister’s dolls. Neither can my daughter learn to assert herself if I teach her only to be gentle. I want her to be gentle and caring, but I also want her to be confident in herself and be aggressive when she needs to in order to fulfill her life’s purpose. She can’t explore those aspects by only playing with dolls.
I’m not a fan of labeling toys as gender specific. I’ve long balked at that idea. I don’t think my son will be less of a man because he spent a few weeks as a toddler lugging around a pink baby doll. In fact, I think he’ll be a better man for having had the opportunity to do so. He’ll be a better father one of these days if he knows how to be gentle and loving.]]>