Mommy Mantra

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I’ve been a mother for almost 15 years and for most of that time I have often felt the need to sort of validate what I do as a mom.  I find myself telling people – random people – that I have five kids just in everyday conversation as if it makes a difference in whatever it is we are doing at the time.  At the doctor’s office, at the grocery store – randomly I’ll mention that I have ‘however many’ kids because somehow I feel somewhere inside of me that it makes me better, stronger, more impressive.  Or maybe I think it will somehow excuse the messy hair and mismatched socks.  Why do I do that?!  Every single time that I randomly mention my motherly plight to the worker in the Chick-fil-A drive-thru (or some other unknown person) I feel immediate regret.  I know how ridiculous it is to feel the need to compulsively bring up my mommying in casual conversation for no good reason at all, yet I still do it almost daily.

I think, as moms, we have this innate need to compete with each other in order to prove we know what we’re doing.  We’re okay.  We’re gonna make it.  We’re a good momma.  We have good kids.  I’m sure that the biggest reason we do this is because none of us actually feels that we are any good at this mothering thing after all.  It’s a hard gig.  With little to no encouragement along the way – other than the sweet little macaroni necklaces we get every month or so from well meaning Sunday School teachers – I mean from our sweet babies – that are covered in paint and glue (all still wet).  But glue, paint and macaroni can only keep a momma going for so long and then we need to tell everyone – again – how hard it all is and how we seem to somehow manage it (cue the wonder woman theme song).

I don’t know about you but I’m really weary of this unhealthy little dance we do.  I read a quote on Facebook the other day and I think it should be our new “Mommy Mantra”:

“I am not interested in competing with anyone.  I hope we all make it.” – Erica Cook

What if we started feeling that way toward other moms?  Would that change the way we talked when we’re around them?  Or better yet, what if we actually believed that this is how other moms feel too!?  Would our need to compete start to fade away?  Would we stop acting like motherhood is some sort of game where we spend all our time pushing each other down, changing the rules, setting up booby traps and hoping that we’re left standing at the end?  Mommying is so hard – even without the competition.  Add in Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and we’re all feeling like failures pretty much all of the time.

Can we all just declare a truce?  A mommy truce?  Let’s take the time to encourage each other.  Let’s spend more time worrying about what our kids think of us and less time worrying about what the stranger in the Target check out lane is thinking about the twelve boxes of lucky charms in our shopping cart.  I won’t judge you … you don’t judge me.

Let’s all say this Mommy Mantra together:

Mommying is hard work.

You’re doing a good job.  

I’m doing a good job.  

Let’s not compete with each other.  

I hope we all make it!

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Bittersweet Endings

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I’m officially done nursing babies.

I have nursed five babies.  The first one was only for about 6 weeks – but it totally counts because breastfeeding is hard work!  The next 3 nursed for about 8 months each and then decided they were done.  No idea why.  It was always very abrupt.  They would nurse just fine and then one day they didn’t want to nurse anymore.  Every single time I was both happy and sad.  Breastfeeding is both wonderful and hard.  My babies were so attached to me during the time that they were nursing.  So much so that they would rarely take anyone else for any extended period of time.  It was exhausting.  All of my babies nursed through the night and none of them slept through the night until at least 8 months old.  Again, exhausting.  Totally, totally wonderful and worth it – but exhausting nonetheless.  My fifth baby (who happens to be my only boy) nursed until about three days ago.  This is well past the eight month record set by the previous babies.  He turned one in mid-March, so he actually nursed past his first birthday, which felt like an enormous accomplishment for me.  At the same time, I knew it was about time to wean him (because of the attachment issues).  Many, many moms nurse well past the first birthday and I think that’s wonderful.  We just knew that for our family, it was coming time to make a change.

This baby is my last baby.  He’s the last one.  I’m very comfortable with our decision to not have anymore babies (for many reasons), but it is still very bittersweet to know that he is that last baby I will ever nurse.  So, I have been determined to really enjoy this time with him.  I’ve been very sentimental about nursing my last baby.  We made the decision to wean him in a couple of weeks.  I was mentally and emotionally preparing myself to be done.  I have been both excited (goodbye ugly nursing bra) and a bit sad.  A few days ago I ended up with a massive ear infection that required medicine that I couldn’t take while nursing.  So, I stopped nursing.  Just like that I’m done.  No warning, no preparation, no last time…done.

In my parenting journey, there have been so many of these bittersweet endings.  Last time the pregnancy test will read positive.  Last time I’ll go to the hospital to have a baby.  Last time I’ll buy little baby onesies.  Last first bath and last first steps.  Last time nursing my last baby.  Each time I felt the same emotions.  It’s all bittersweet.  But it’s all so wonderful too.

A very wise woman once told me that the purpose of parenting is to “teach and train your kids to leave”.  Every time I hit one of these bittersweet endings I remind myself of this purpose.  I want to raise amazing babies that turn into amazing kids and then amazing teens and eventually amazing adults.  I want to teach them and train them to be world changers.  I want to celebrate every step they take on their journey toward independence.  I want to treasure all of these lasts so that I will remember the role that I have played in each of the firsts.  How beautiful it is to be a mother.  How incredibly blessed I am that God would allow me to share in the lives of such amazing little people.  I am so grateful for each of these bittersweet endings and I pray that God will prepare me for the even more difficult endings to come.

The Fullness of His Love

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“An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children.  He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others…   His love has not changed.  It hasn’t cooled off, and it needs no increase because He has already loved us with infinite love and there is no way that infinitude can be increased…

He is the same yesterday, today and forever!”

– A. W. Tozer

As a mom of five, I find this quote to be so very beautiful.  I very much desire to give each of my children all of myself every single day of their lives so that they will never want for motherly affection, understanding or attention.  I also know how incredibly difficult it is to feel that there is enough of me to go around sometimes.  As a parent, I have to prioritize the needs of my children in order to make sure everyone gets taken care of.  I have to actually spend time figuring out how to “fit it all in” every single day.  I don’t want any of my children to ever feel neglected, ignored or less important than anyone else – although I’m sure that from time to time they do.  Although I LOVE being a mother and having a large family, I have to admit that I often feel ill-equipped for the task.

Thankfully, the same is not true of God.  He does not have to split His attention between His children. He never has to sacrifice time with one child in order to spend time with another one.  He does not ever feel stretched, spent, tired, weary or unable to “fit it all in”.  Tozer said, “…to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.”

Ephesians 3:14-19 says:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

That we may be filled with ALL the fullness of God!  What a beautiful thought!

There is a song by John Legend that I cannot seem to stop singing lately.  I love the lyrics of this song.  It, of course, was written for his wife but the words of the chorus are such a beautiful picture of love with a whole heart – love to the fullest.  I wonder if this is at least a small glimpse of the way that God loves each one of us – deeply, unconditionally, fully as if there were no others.

“Cause all of me loves all of you

Love your curves and all your edges – all your perfect imperfections

Give your all to me, I’ll give my all to you

You’re my end and my beginning – even when I lose I’m winning

Cause I give you all of me – and you give me all of you.”

I hope you’ll take a moment today to reflect on the way that God loves you – the fullness and sufficiency of His love.

Rest in His infinite love today – He is more than enough for you!

A Swift Blow to the Head

For about a week I’ve been feeling like I recently got the wind knocked out of me.  Then yesterday I literally had a bucket of cleaning supplies fall on my head.  I just stood there trying not to lose my lunch and trying hard not to cry – although I could not keep the tears from filling my eyes.  I wasn’t sure what to do – should I lay down? Should I sit?  Should I call someone in case I pass out so the girls won’t be left alone with their mom laying limp on the floor – I know, I know – I’m terribly dramatic.  I had no idea what to do.  I knew what I wanted to do – I wanted to be held by my big, strong husband and told that it was going to be okay and then I wanted to eat a bunch of cheesecake.  Exactly how I have been feeling all week.  In fact, today I made a pan of cheesecake only to accidentaly spill a cup of lemonade all over it ruining it.  Sad.
I wish I could tell you that I have some profound new understanding of my situation and what I’m supposed to learn through all of it – but I don’t.  I am still sitting here feeling exactly the same way I did at the beginning of this week – windless. 

I have been reading the book of Ruth for the last few weeks – little by little.  I believe that Naomi, and Ruth too for that matter, must have felt something similar although probably on a much larger scale.  I’m sure they felt, when they lost their loved ones, that they just had the wind knocked out of them.  They had left Judah because of a famine and went to Moab. While there, Naomi’s husband died and eventually also her two sons died.  They had left their home, the only place they had ever known and had ended up somewhere entirely new.  After some time there, the new place became a place of sorrow – a place of great loss.  Naomi had a moment, I am sure, where she didn’t know what to do next.  She must have been scared, confused, angry, sad – and a hundred other emotions to be sure. 

I feel that way right now.  I recently left a place that felt like home to me and ended up in another place where I knew no one.  Although I am still certain that I was following God’s leading in leaving my comfortable place and going to the place He called me, I am now fighting with the feeling that it might’ve been easier if I hadn’t gone there at all.  It would’ve hurt less if I had stayed where I was comfortable.  It would have saved myself and my family a lot of hurt if I had just ignored God’s call.  I wonder if Abraham ever felt like that?  Or if David ever thought it would’ve been easier if he had remained a shepherd boy instead of becoming the King that God desired.  Or if Peter, while sinking in the Sea of Galilee, thought maybe he should’ve stayed in the boat?  I know it’s not necessarily the right thing for me to be wondering right now – but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. 

I know that God’s purpose for me remains, and I know that He is as loving as He has always been.  I also know that I am a different person than I was three months ago and that God will work it all out for His glory.
He is, after all, still God.  He is just.  He is good.  Although I don’t understand the why of it all, or what I’m supposed to learn from it all – and maybe I never will – I DO know that I would follow Him there all over again.  A hundred times again – I would.  I love the Lord, Jesus Christ, with all my heart and soul and am committed to living wholeheartedly for him and to following wherever He leads.

There’s a song that I have recently fallen in love with that seems appropriate right now for me.  It’s called What Grace is Mine, written by Keith & Kristyn Getty and is on their album, “Awaken the Dawn“.  Here are some of the lyrics:

So I will go wherever He is calling me. 
I’ll lose my life to find my life in Him.
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies. 
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him.

My little lost sheep

Last night as we were getting ready to go to church for rehearsal, at some point Maya went missing.  I thought she was in the play room with the other two girls and I slipped away to go brush my teeth and hair while Ricky loaded the carseats in the car.  I came back a few minutes later to get them cleaned up and dressed.  I called for Maya but she didn’t come.  So I started searching (not worried, just in a bit of a hurry).  Couldn’t find her anywhere.  I called to Ricky to help me find her – still thinking that she must be hiding behind a chair or table somewhere.  My house isn’t that big so when I didn’t find her in about five minutes I started to panic.  I called to Syd and Elisa to help us look.  We looked in bathtubs, closets, cabimets, in laundry baskets, in the back yard and the front yard all while calling out her name.  After about ten or fifteen minutes of searching high and low I called 911. 
He started asking me questions about how much she weighed or how tall she was, her date of birth, what she was wearing – most of which I couldn’t remember because of the state of mind that I was in.
About a hundred scenarios rushed through my mind as I was running up and down my street calling her little name terrified that she wouldn’t be found.
As the police were less than a minute away (I heard sirens), Elisa came out the front door yelling that they found her!  At first I didn’t believe it – I said “What do you mean you found her?” confused at how she could just suddenly show back up.  Apparently she was hiding in the very back of my closet behind the low hanging clothes.  What’s crazy is that I looked in that closet twice – and even looked behind that rack of clothes!  I called to her when I was looking in there and she didn’t answer.  I still am very curious about what was going through her little mind as she hid for 30 minutes without a peep while we were frantically calling for her to come out.
I can’t even put to words how I felt when I thought she was lost – and how I felt after she had been found.

I wonder if that’s how God feels about us.  I wonder if He feels that same kind of pain when we’re trying to hide from Him and refusing to be found.  I know that He knows where we are and so doesn’t experience fear.  I wonder, though, if the pain He feels for His lost sheep is anything like the pain I felt last night about my little lost sheep.  I wonder if, when His lost sheep return if He feels anything like I did last night when mine showed back up.

I think the part of all of it that still amazes me is that when we found Maya she had no idea anything was happening.  I couldn’t control my sobbing when I was finally holding her again – and she just kept looking at me trying to figure out what in the heck was wrong with her crazy mommy.  She had no idea that she was the one that caused the pain.

I have a feeling that there’s a lesson there for us.  I’m still a little too weary and shaken up to explore it fully.  But I know this.  If God loves me more than I love Maya (and I know He does b/c He’s the source of the love in the first place), then I know He must feel so much more deeply than I ever could for His lost sheep.  It makes me want to pray so much harder for those lost sheep who mean everything to Him.  It makes me want to look at people differently when I know how deeply the Father cares for them.

Last night was the hardest night of my life so far (and I’ve had really hard ones!).  I pray that God will use what I’ve learned for His glory.

Wait, Wait, Wait your turn…

I had a bit of a revelation today during Bible study class.  We were talking about waiting on God and how hard it is to trust in His timing. 

Ever since my oldest daughter was little, I wanted her to be good at waiting.  I think it’s hugely important for us to teach our kids that waiting is important and that they can’t always have what they want immediately when they want it.  It’s so annoying to see a child chanting over and over again what they want and how they want it NOW!  I really, really didn’t want my child to be like that.  So, when Elisa was about 2 or so, I taught her a ‘waiting’ song to make it more fun while she had to wait for something – her turn when playing with friends, for her food to be ready to eat – you get the idea.  The song went like this (to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat)…

Wait, wait, wait your turn – waiting can be fun.
Patience, Patience, Patience everyone.

We sang it over and over and over again.  We would sing it on long car rides when she wanted to be home already, or when she wanted so badly to go play at the park but I had some chores to do first.  It was actually really effective with her.  She had fun with the song.  I think it helped me to teach her that waiting can be fun and how to deal with things that aren’t happening as quickly as she would like.  Even now when she has trouble with waiting, I remind her of the song and she’ll sing it by herself (sidenote: I have the best kid ever 🙂

I wonder if I need my own grown up version of the ‘waiting’ song. 

I have such a hard time waiting on God’s timing in just about every area of my life.  I wonder if sometimes He is using my circumstances to teach me about the importance of learning to wait on Him.  I wonder if I will ever learn the lesson.  You would think that each time would get a little easier, or that I would at least be a little less impatient than the last time.  Sadly, I’m not sure that’s the case.  I hope that today I’ve made progress – and that tomorrow I’ll be more patient.

I can almost hear Him inviting me to sing along with Him –
“Wait, wait, wait your turn…waiting can be fun. 
Patience, patience, patience everyone.”