When the Days are Wearying

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Yesterday was an extremely discouraging day for me. I went to bed thinking about all that I did – or tried to do – and how much it all felt pointless.

The laundry that I worked so hard to get done that will just need to be washed again. Tomorrow.

The 12,000 things that I picked up off the floor every minute of the day so that the baby wouldn’t find them only to have him choke on a minuscule piece of dried, crusty food that he picked off the side of the chair leg.

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The long conversation that I had with my older two about kindness and the way we do and don’t treat people in our family that I felt like they finally really “got,” only to walk upstairs to nurse the baby and hear them start shouting at one another and hear the telltale SMACK as one hit the other in retaliation for whatever the perceived wrong was.

The food that burned to a crisp on the stove while I changed the baby’s diaper.

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Yesterday (or, let’s be honest here, a LOT of days), it feels like I work so hard, so long at so little. What I teach is forgotten, what I clean is messy again, what I try and prevent, 4 other things happen in their place. For someone who is very good at working towards a GOAL, it’s so incredibly frustrating sometimes.

And yesterday, I felt totally defeated.

Totally and utterly defeated.

But today I woke up with Galatians 6:9 on my mind – so much so that I’ve copied it down and posted it on the fridge next to the sink.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good. . . “

And as I let those words pour over me this morning as I scrubbed the breakfast dishes, I was reminded that I’m not in this for an end-of-day result. On some days, I may not see the “good” from what I’ve done. It may not feel like I’m accomplishing anything. For days. Or weeks. Or months. Or years. Sometimes it will, but sometimes it just won’t.

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But in this shepherding of little hearts, in these busy days with little ones, in this so important task that God has given to me called motherhood – and all that goes with it, I cannot grow weary. Even when I don’t see the good. Don’t see the results. Don’t see the reward.

The promise is that I WILL reap.

And I’m clinging to that today as I wring out my mop water. As I walk for hours with a teething, fussy baby who refuses to nap or be put down, bouncing him on my hip as I do schoolwork with my oldest. As I, for the four millionth time, help my older two learn how to resolve their differences, how to process their emotions. As I attempt to lead these little hearts – and my own – to the cross, to His grace. Over and over again. Day in and day out.

Today, instead of choosing to feel defeated, I’m clinging to the words echoing in my heart:

“Don’t be weary, mama. Don’t give up. You WILL reap.”

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The “Knee Step.”

It’s a simple thing. A simple request. But it’s bedtime. And there are a zillion requests.

We always do the same things at bedtime. We do jammies and teeth brushing and bedtime stories. Then we head to their room and sing songs (whatever is requested that night – usually anything from “I’m a little teapot” to “Edelweiss” or “Amazing Grace”). And then Sam and I each take a turn praying over the kids individually, listening to their prayers, and then tucking them in and kissing them goodnight.

Which all sounds sweet. And sometimes it goes off without a hitch. Sometimes it’s hilarious. Tonight, for instance, one of my children told God all about their boogers. And there were endless giggles when Daddy changed the words of “I’m a little teapot” to “I’m a little sneeze pot.”

But some nights, it’s so exhausting. And we’re just already so spent from the way the day has gone that we just want to check all our boxes and peace on out of there. I love my kids. But some nights by around 7:30 I am just at the end of what I have to give. The very end. And it always seems to be those nights that they woke up the baby on the way up the stairs and so one of us has gone in to calm him down and the other tries desperately to corral the older two who think jumping and running and shoving is suddenly necessary. Or they need drinks. Or they suddenly remember that they need chap stick or lotion or tissues, or that they left one of their beloved stuffed animals downstairs, or they’ve noticed that the pajamas that they’ve worn at least weekly for the past YEAR have a tag in them that’s now SO ITCHY they can’t possibly sleep in them!! . . . I’m telling you, I have heard it ALL. Bedtime is the great exposer of all sudden-emergency needs.

Someone please tell me this isn’t just at our house, right?!

Gah. Bedtime. Such sweetness and frustration all mixed together in an impossible jumble of “please, please just go to sleep. Please. I love you dearly. Please sleep. Please, please, please.”

And somewhere in the midst of it all, when we’re trying so hard to just be gracious and patient and yet we’re just so exhausted and want to get them tucked in so that we can, finally, for the first time since 6 am get just a few minutes of space from EVERYone and EVERYthing. . . Clara asks for a “knee step.”

She used to call it a “knee test.” Which made no sense at all. It has nothing to do with a test. And I have no idea where that even came from. But what she wants is for her daddy or me to kneel next to her bed with one knee on the ground and the other extended in front of us, foot flat on the ground to effectively make a 90 degree angle so that she can hold our hand and step on our leg/knee as she climbs her way into her bed.

She’s perfectly capable of climbing into her bed on her own. She does it to get her animals or her baby dolls in and out of there during the day, unassisted. I know she has the skill set required to do it. And yet, every night, without fail:

“Can I have a knee step?”

It is so very humbling to me, as a mom. This simple knee step.

“Mom, will you do this thing? Will you still, in all your tiredness and frustration, kneel down on the floor for me? Help me even though I don’t really NEED it? Am I important enough to you for this? Have I tried your patience too much tonight?”

I don’t really know why it’s THIS thing. Out of all the mommy-ing tasks that I do all day, it’s this one that strikes me every night. It’s this last request of the day. This thing that she wants when I’m at the end of myself, when I have no more to give. And yet, every time, every night for months now, the Holy Spirit tugs on my heart when I look at her eager face and hear those words:

“Can I have a knee step?”

And every night, kneeling there on my kids’ floor, amidst the toys and the shredded tissues and crumpled stickers suddenly feels like a holy moment. And I know, deep down, and for perhaps the first time in the midst of what has usually been an exhaustingly full day, that this is what serving the Lord looks like at this time in my life. At this full-time stay-at-home barely-showered, baby on my hip, dinner-cooking, band-aid giving, errand-running, crayon-coloring mommy stage.

I serve Him by serving them. In bending my knee for my daughter to climb on, I’m bending my knee to my creator. Submitting my will to His. And I may not get it all right. There are days when I’m distracted, days when I’m selfish, days when I’m just plain overwhelmed. Days where we’re sick and we watch Thomas the Train for a ridiculous number of hours. Days when I nail it and we do school and science projects and take a walk in the fresh air and eat freshly baked bread for snack and I feel like I’m rocking this mom thing. Days when I feel completely fulfilled and days when I feel like I’ve completely lost myself – or completely lost my mind.

But somehow the knee step, this simple, day’s end way of serving my daughter, shifts my perspective regardless of how the rest of the day has gone. And so, every night, I kneel down beside her bed and grab her hand – tuning my heart to His as I do.

“Sure, peanut. You can have a knee step.”

“I love you mommy.”

“I love you too.”

 

Lawrence Josiah (part II)

There’s this thing that happens when Sam and I sit down to choose names for our children. We make it about 4 minutes before the suggestions start to get a little ridiculous.

For instance, Sam kept insisting that we use “Annette” as Clara’s middle name (which, when said quickly together would make her sound like a wind instrument). I quickly ruled out anything star-wars related, and we laughed over the thought of using some obscure bible name. Ehud? Nebuchadnezzar?

The kids insisted, after seeing part of Cinderella, that we call the baby “GusGus.” (which we also decided against, haha).

All in all though, we tend to agree on names pretty quickly (or rule them out pretty quickly). Lawrence was one we thought of at the very beginning and it just stuck with us. We loved how it sounded with Oliver and Clara – it just seemed to fit.

Josiah, however, we picked not just because we liked it, but for it’s meaning: “Jehovah has healed.” As I went in for monthly blood draws to monitor the antigens in my blood, we prayed and believed for a miracle. Believed for healing. Believed that Lawrence would be unaffected.

And, the antigens that they had told me would ALWAYS be there did not show up on a single test. The name that we chose in faith all those months ago became such a testimony of God’s faithfulness in our lives.

And, what a beautiful testimony he is.

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I had my sister, Jen, snag a couple of family photos for us when she was here too.

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And of course my mom and dad jumped in some too:

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And then, while the big kids went bowling with grandpa and grandma, I snagged a few photos of just Lawrence.

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I’m hoping to maybe get a few more once I’m not so sore, but I knew I had to capture some early on before he changes too much!

Thank you, once again, to all of you who prayed and stood in faith with us – and for all of the congratulations and well-wishes this past week. I can still hardly believe he’s ours (except that he looks so much like his brother did as a baby that it’s uncanny!) and that we’re now a family of 5!

Lawrence Josiah (Part I of II)

I don’t think I’ve ever really written out our birth stories, though I have read many such posts from others. I suppose I’ve felt a little “out” of that club. My birth stories do not include tubs and exercise balls and my husband rubbing my back through contractions. Well, the first one did. For 30 hours. Followed by about three hours of pushing. Followed by my rings being cut off of my very swollen fingers as I signed surgery consent forms.

My birth stories include triage rooms and cold, sterile operating rooms with large lights. They include wall to wall cabinets of supplies, blue drapes, machines and computers, and teams of people in scrubs, hats, and surgical masks. They include sitting on the table, holding onto a nurse’s hands because my husband is not allowed in the room yet, while the anesthesiologist inserts a spinal block that numbs me from the ribs down.

It’s not what I had planned. Not what I had expected. Not what people usually write about.  But they’re our stories. And they’re still stories of God’s faithfulness to us, and graciousness to me.

This time around, I struggled with a lot of fear at first, laying on that table. But as they began their preparations and all the buzz of activity swirled around me and I waited for Sam to be allowed to come in, the verse that my mother in law had sent to me a couple weeks prior echoed in my heart in a continual loop:

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Perfect peace. What a promise while lying in an operating room.And yet, as Sam was allowed to come in the room, the oxygen tube was placed in my nose, and things began, that is where I found myself. Perfect peace.

I’m not usually an overly emotional person, but my tears started before our baby was actually born. Awash with peace and thinking about God’s incredible faithfulness during this pregnancy, I cried as they told me: “Not long now. He’s almost here.” The tears dripped onto my hospital gown as Sam squeezed my hand and we waited to hear that telltale baby cry.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with my surgical team at Strong. Every one of them. Having only had an experience at one prior hospital, I kept comparing it to what it had been before, and this time was just so, so different. The entire team joked in the room and took bets on how big he would be. The anesthesia team, sensing Sam’s and my nerves, struck up a conversation about kids shows and which ones are too annoying to actually let our kids watch. The pediatrician pulled up a stool by my head and chatted with us while the doctors worked, and I can remember laying there, holding Sam’s hand, laughing and joking with them. Until I got all emotional and switched to crying, that is…

But, really, I’m so grateful for the team we had. Not only that, but they used a clear drape this time so that they could peel back the blue drapery, the anesthesiologist could lift my head, and I could actually see the moment he was born. I was a little nervous about this option – not knowing exactly what I’d see and NOT being the nursing/doctoring/ok with blood type – but it was basically like a normal birth. I couldn’t see anything else besides that baby, and that first glimpse was incredible.

He screamed from the second they held his head, before the rest of him was even out of me, and everyone in the room laughed out loud.

“Check that out! He’s already shouting! He isn’t even fully out yet!”

“Where in the world have you been hiding this baby?”

“I bet I’m right! He looks over 10lbs!”

“Girl, I’m seeing this, but I can’t believe that baby fit in you.”

“He has knee rolls!”

“He’s perfect!”

“Gosh, just look at that face!”

“So, now he’s born…what’s his name?! It’s killing me! I won’t tell your parents what it is!”

Unlike at the previous hospital, where they took the baby out of the room immediately, the pediatrician brought him over to me to do skin-to-skin right away. And, not only that, he nursed right away too – while the doctors were still sewing me up. It was so much more peaceful, so much more settling to have him there with me than to have him leave with Sam while I stayed in the room alone as we had done in the past.

And, of course, I was in awe of him from the moment I met him.

In many ways, we still are. He’s SUCH a chill baby (unless he has to have his diaper changed in the middle of the night, then he can get worked up). But, he’ll just snooze next to me while the chaos of an older brother and sister and household noise goes on around him. He sleeps in the car. He’s been sleeping 3 hour stretches at night. He actually likes to be swaddled at night…which both of our other kids have fought and wiggled out of. He smiles as he’s falling asleep or waking up. And he just stares at his siblings with these bright, wide open eyes when he’s awake. He couldn’t be any more easy going. And he’s just so incredibly cute.

We’re completely smitten.

And feeling maybe a smidgen overwhelmed but also so very, very blessed as we settle into life as a family of 5.

Clara has been obsessed with him since the moment she met him at the hospital. She told me yesterday that “Lawrence is the best, most cutest baby I ever wanted.” And, I quite agree. 🙂

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I did a mini newborn photoshoot with him the other day – those pictures and the reason behind his name will be in part II, coming soon!!

September 2016 Rocket Launch

I knew going into this last unit for kindergarten, which focused on the sun and moon and all things space-related, that Sam just HAD to do a rocket launch with the kids. I mean, when that was daddy’s hobby in high school, why just make a rocket out of a card board box when you can build and launch the real thing? (It didn’t take a lot convincing for Sam to order a kit and some motors either).

So, last week, as we wrapped up our lessons, the kids got to help daddy put it all together in the evenings. To say they were excited is an understatement.

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The kids took a trip with us to the store for paint and decided on bright red, and the night before the launch they got to help put on the stickers and assemble the stand. They wanted their friend, James, from next door to come see the launch – so on Friday we all headed to a local park to set it off!

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What a crew! 🙂

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We had three separate motors, so each of the kids got a chance to push the trigger and then go running off to chase it down as it parachuted back. Oliver is already hooked, and keeps asking where we can get more motors and if we can launch a BIGGER one next time. Haha.

And it made for a welcome distraction as we count the days until our little one arrives!

To My 3: As We Approach D-day (delivery day)

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Oliver. You were our firstborn. The one who made me a mom. The one who broke all of the predictions and estimates and arrived, in dramatic fashion – after a 30 hour labor and ultimate c-section – at just shy of 11 lbs. “He’s huge!” were literally the first words our doctor said as you sucked in your first breath. And I thought you were perfect. From my first glimpse of you, tucked in your daddy’s arms, a perplexed sort of look on your face as you stared around you, blinking up at me, I knew a love so strong it overwhelmed me. I’ve loved watching you grow, well on your own growth curve as the pediatrician informed me at every appointment. From those early nursing days (when you’d eat more than I thought ANY baby could possibly pack away and STILL act hungry), to the butterball roll-and-scootch across the floor stage, to when you learned to pull up and climb and started to get into every. LAST. THING. And now? Don’t even get me started on how big you are now! Just looking at your “first day of kindergarten” pictures makes me teary. More than just your size, though, I’ve loved watching you take in the world around you. I’ve loved being there for so many of your firsts: Your first trip to the zoo. Your first steps. Your first time chewing bubble gum. Your first time going down a slide. And I’ve loved watching you learn. Seeing your pride as you “got” your colors and shapes. Your excitement over ANYTHING with numbers, your eagerness to learn your letters, and your pretend “cursive” that I find scribbled all over daddy’s dry erase board. I’ve loved seeing your faith grow; from the little boy who asked Jesus into his life at the dinner table and then immediately declared: “Amen! Can I have another pickle?” to the faith-filled almost-5 year old who explains matter-of-factly to the grocery store clerk that it’s raining because you prayed for rain, and God is helping the farmer’s food grow because you asked Him to. The boy who quickly rushes to pray for people who are sick or hurt. When we drove away from the hospital with you almost 5 years ago, I didn’t know what we had gotten ourselves into. I felt so overwhelmed by the fact that you were OURS. And, in some ways, I still am. I’m still amazed that God entrusted you to us – and I cannot imagine life without my garbage-truck loving, inquisitive, oh-so-smart little boy. And I love you to the moon and back again.

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Clara. Oh how I prayed for you. How many nights I spent lying awake, praying over you even as I felt you kicking inside of me. Praying that titres would stay low and you would be safe. Praying that we wouldn’t need drastic interventions. And I remember staring into your beautiful blue eyes, taking in every tiny detail – your perfect little toes, your tiny lips. . . And letting the tears drop onto my hospital gown as I, in awe of you, thanked God for his faithfulness. For his protection on your little life. As our second, I wondered what you would be like – would you be a pretty, girly version of your brother? But, from the moment you were born, you made it clear that you were very, very different people. For as much as your brother loved his space (and his sleep), you would have snuggled ALL. NIGHT. LONG. You didn’t sleep through the night for well over a year. And, once you did, you still woke up asking for “snug-o’s” with mommy. You, with your little ringlet curls that you push out of your eyes and refuse to let me clip or brush because they’re “SOOOO pretty,” who will also go splashing through the muddiest puddle, giggling and squealing in delight. You, who begs for toe polish and makeup, and will also throw on mix-matched clothing, tackle your brother to the ground, whoop and holler and get knocked over and come back up swinging. You’re a bundle of energy, a snuggly little spitfire with a huge personality packed in someone so dainty and petite. And, I never, ever know what you’re going to say next. Where your brother asks a million questions, you make up the answers on your own and spout them off as truth – usually with facial expressions to make everyone in the room laugh out loud. You’re an absolute joy, Clara Jane. I love watching the mothering, nurturing part of you that wants to help all the babies living around us reach their toys or take their tentative steps. The part of you that empathizes so strongly with those that are hurt or sad or left out. That will give up your own toy when there aren’t enough to go around. Who wants to give (and get) bandaids for every bump and scrape. You’re sugar and spice, sweet and spunky, giggly and girly and fierce all mixed in one and I adore you.

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And, to our son who is still on his way. . . Oh, how I long to meet you. To see you. To hold you in my arms instead of just feeling your constant kicking and rolling inside of me. To get to know YOUR personality, because I can bet it’s totally different too. We have just 4 weeks left until you’re on the OUTside, and I’m finding myself antsy to move things along. Get this show on the road. And it’s not just the constant heartburn and the fact that I miss coffee or being able to eat a full meal, or tie my own shoes. . . Though all of those things are true. I’ve spent sleepless nights sitting in your nursery, folding tiny little socks that your now huge brother used to wear, astonished anew that there’s another member of our family on his way. And, we’re just about ready for you. Your room is set up (mostly), your clothes and toys are all freshly washed and put away. I purchased a baby carrier in case you’re a snuggler and that’s the only way we’re able to get home school done. We have a swing and blankets and burp cloths in case you spit up a lot like your brother did. We don’t have diapers yet, but, I mean, we can pick those up on the way home from the hospital if we have to, really. I’m finding myself less overwhelmed by the idea of being responsible for another life this time around – and more so just filled with anticipation. Since the moment we knew you were on your way, our family of four has felt incomplete in a way. Like there was instantly someone missing at the dinner table. And though your kicks remind me that you’re here. . . I can’t wait for you to be in my arms. To show you to your big brother and sister. They’re going to adore you. They may feel a little jealous of you at first – when mommy’s attention gets split three ways instead of just two, but don’t you worry. You’ll love them. And they’ll love you. And I know you’ll be jumping right in on their wrestling pile with daddy before I hardly have a chance to blink. And while we eagerly await your arrival, I want you to know, God did a miracle for you. Those antigens that I had to be tested for regularly with Clara? The ones they told me would never go away? They don’t exist in my blood. Not even in trace amounts. They cannot affect you because they ARE. NOT. THERE. And so on days when you feel like the smallest of the bunch, if you ever feel insignificant, remember that the God of the universe protected you and sheltered you before you were even born. You are so incredibly loved. And we can’t wait to know you. To see your “firsts.” To watch you grow. To add another car seat to our car and another chair at our table. You’re a part of us – and we can’t wait for you to arrive.

Clara Turns 3

Clara’s actual birthday isn’t for another week or so, but my parents and sister were in town to celebrate my Grandpa Silver’s 90th birthday, so we celebrated this past weekend while everyone was here.

She wanted a Hello Kitty cake, but she never actually EATS cake, just licks the frosting off, so I decided to make her an icecream cake.

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Sam and I have been working for WEEKS on a special project for Clara for her birthday. I had wanted to get her an all-wood dollhouse since there was one at our local library that she LOVED to play with but they rotate their toys and she’s been asking the librarian when it will come back for months now. But when I started looking at them online, boy were they pricey! And, a lot were the wrong size (I didn’t want a barbie dollhouse) or the wrong style (I didn’t want something Victorian looking).

So, like the crazy people that we are, we opted to make one. I mean, how hard can it be – right?

Weeks. We’re talking weeks of planning, designing, cutting, gluing, nailing, sanding, and then modge-podge wallpapering, burning our fingers on little wooden shingles and hot glue, and then painting, oiling, finishing. . .

Lets just say it was more work than we had anticipated. EVERY nap time, evening after Clara went to bed, and even some Saturday or Sunday afternoons were spent working on it. If we hadn’t spent close to $50 on just materials (wood/paint/nails, etc), we might have scrapped the idea halfway through.

But we plodded on, and I’m SO glad we did! Seriously, SO glad. And her little giggle when she opened it at her party? Worth every minute. She’s done little else since she opened it yesterday – so far the rooms have all been re-arranged, the dolls have had a fire drill, the bunny has learned to use the potty… Haha. She’s enamored with it, and we’re pretty darn proud of it.

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A lot of our extended family helped fill it up, Aunts and Uncles and Grandmas and Grandpas purchased furniture for the rooms and the doll/pet sets – which filled it way more than we could have afforded to on our own.

Kids room:

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Nursery:

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Master Bedroom

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Bathroom:

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Kitchen:

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Living Room:

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Playground:

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And, how Clara feels about it:

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Eventually I’d like to maybe make different blankets, and put some pictures or windows on the walls – but just getting this finished in time was enough for now! Maybe one of these days I’ll get extra inspired to add some more teeny details. But for now, she loves it and I’m absolutely thrilled with how it turned out.

Happy Birthday to our fun-loving, 100% girly but still 100% rough-and-tumble tough little fireball of a three year old!

Mother’s Day Photos (in June). . .

Sometimes, Mother’s Day is celebrated with flowers and candy and homemade cards and breakfast in bed. Other times, it’s not really celebrated at all as your kids are too young to even know the holiday exists and your husband is in the midst of preliminary exams which will determine whether or not he’s an official PhD candidate and there’s like, a teensy-eensy bit of stress in your lives.

But, we crawled out of the black hole that was the month of May, celebrated missed events – including our anniversary – and determined to still take our annual Mother’s Day photos (in which I set everything up, pass the camera to Sam, and he takes pictures with ME in them instead of being the one behind the camera!).

And I’m totally obsessed with them. Oh, they don’t show everything that there is to show about being a mom. They don’t show the piles of laundry we left on our couch that day or the pb&j we ate for lunch because I didn’t have anything else when we got back home. They don’t show the fact that the day before, I had such an excruciatingly difficult day as a mom that when Sam walked in the door I walked right out – on the verge of tears – and power-walked off my frustration over my 4 and 2 year old apparently knowing WAY better than I did ALL. DAY. LONG.

But, I know that pictures like these are the memories I’ll hold onto for years to come. When the laundry and the frustrations and the potty accidents and the messes and the bazillion questions fade into the background and I’m left wondering what on earth happened to my babies and why they grew up so fast. At least, that’s what old ladies at the grocery store are always telling me as I say “no” to every single candy bar in the check-out aisle and attempt to maneuver my belly around my shopping cart to pay the cashier. . . (wait, that’s you too, right?)

Really, though, moms: get IN pictures with your kids. Don’t wait until you aren’t largely pregnant, or until you’re back at some idealized before-babies body shape. Ignore their skinned knees, grubby fingernails, and not-quite-even haircut. Ignore the bags under your eyes and the way your clothes seem to slouch in funny ways after being tugged and pulled on by little hands. Give yourself a way to remember these days (even in their imperfection). Give them a way to remember these days. Just get IN pictures. Seriously. (And, if you need someone to help you with that – I just *might* know someone…! haha).

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26 week baby bump

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And, I had to get some for Sam too while we were at it.

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Sam, thank you again for being game to do these each year. You did a fabulous job with these, and I love them SO much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith, Titres, Miracles and 17 weeks

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I have my 20 week ultrasound in less than three weeks. Part of me can’t wait to FINALLY know whether there’s a boy or a girl that I’ve been feeling kicking around in there, and part of me feels like I can’t possibly be that close to the halfway point already! I’ve been meaning to type a blog post for some time now with an update, but it mostly got lost in the midst of morning-sickness-that-was-really-more all-day sickness, kindergarten registration for a certain soon-to-be 5-year-old, a bunch of newborn photoshoots in recent weeks, and what has been an incredibly busy semester for Sam.

But, I’ve known since we first saw that faint “positive” on the test that this post, in some form or another, was going to come.

Shortly after we moved to New York, and feeling like we’d just made the biggest leap of faith EVER (Sam stepped down from a well-paying job to pursue a PhD out of state because we felt that’s what God was leading us to do), there was a guest speaker at our church on Sunday who spoke on: you guessed it. Faith.

Been there, done that, dude.

“Obedience oftentimes precedes understanding.”

Yep. We know. I mean, come on. Faith is basically our middle name now.

And yet, God wasn’t content to leave it there. As much as I tried to tie the message to the leap of faith we were already in the midst of, my heart kept coming back to something else.

A baby.

As many of you know, my last pregnancy was characterized as “high risk.” (You can read that story here and here and finally, here). Due to the potential complications we faced, Sam and I had decided that even though we really wanted another someday, it just seemed too risky. Too unknown. And we decided not to try for another unless we heard a direct word from God.

But, as “Christian” as that sounds, the reality was that it was a decision shrouded in fear. Fear that would keep me up into the wee hours of the morning if things weren’t exactly on time every month. Fear that would tinge my words when someone asked me if/when we’d have another.

“Well,” I’d say, “It’s a little complicated for us. . .”

And it was the week after this message on faith that I had that same exact conversation with a new friend – and though I’d said them before, this time, even as I heard the words coming out of my mouth, I hated them. Here’s a snippet from my journal that week:

What a way to portray my God!

The God of the universe.

The God that I’ve walked with since I was a child. Who’s power and provision and faithfulness in my life have been unmistakable. Unwavering. Astonishing.

El Shaddai, the LORD God Almighty.

The Lord our provider, the Lord our healer, the Lord our peace.

If I don’t believe He’s bigger than the situations in my life, if I can’t release to Him my fears, if I can’t trust in His plan, His purpose, His power – then why in the world would others want to meet my God?

When did I exchange my faith for fear?

When did I exchange trust in an all-knowing, all-powerful God for a carefully calculated risk assessment?

And, was I really, truly listening for his guidance in this area of my life? Or had I shelved the question of more kids and covered it in a Godly-sounding safety net of “waiting for his will” instead of opening my heart and my life to the plans and purposes of God, regardless of whether or not that meant a call to deeper waters?

I knew I wasn’t. And boy did Sam and I wrestle with that in the coming weeks. Could this really be our answer? Why now – when the timing seemed to make NO sense? When we’d almost decided that two was a good number and our little family of four was very nice and complete as it was.

I mean, we were already IN a leap of faith. Isn’t there some sort of a faith max-out level?

Sam is doing a PhD. People ALREADY think we’re crazy for doing this with TWO kids. Heck, I think we’re crazy sometimes.

And while it wasn’t a definite answer to my questions, I felt God challenging me that day to take a look at my hesitancy. He threw the door wide open and exposed my “wait on God” decision for what it really was. Fear.

And we felt Him asking us to consider what it would look like to walk in faith instead of fear. To give up the sleepless nights and the worrying and trust in a God who’s power knows no bounds.

Fast-forward a few months, and here we are. Three weeks from the halfway point in my pregnancy.

And the antigens? The titers? All the risks from last time?

They aren’t there.

Oh, I still do the monthly blood draws. But after the first couple showed up negative for ANY antigens at all, the doctor ordered a highly-sensitive, specific test to search for just the Anti-E and Anti-Cw, which we knew should already be there.

“I don’t know why,” she said “But even on a highly sensitive test, we aren’t finding even a trace of either one of them.”

Not. A. Trace.

They tell me there is still a chance that the levels could rise. That we still need to bank the right blood in case of an emergency and continue to monitor it through the monthly bloodwork.

But we’re believing in a miracle. That they’ll never find that trace.

This morning at church the words to the worship song on the screen blurred as I tearfully looked down at my rounding belly and could barely sing the words past the lump in my throat:

I will look back and see that you are faithful
I look ahead believing you are able
Jesus, Lord of all
Jesus, Lord of All

Prince of Peace
Perfect Healer
All my life, all my cares on you*

That’s the God I serve. 

 

-Bethany

*Elevation Worship: I Will Look Up.

I am NOT “on hold.”

God has set apart the home as his. Home is a place where his presence is to be felt and his purposes are to be pursued. He places parents in those homes as watchmen, pastors, priests, shepherds, teachers, and warriors who have been called and commissioned to pass on their faith to their children for the sake of the world. Motherhood is not an easy mission. But it is God’s. – Hoodwinked, By Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk.

Oh how easy it is to feel like “just a mom.” To hear stories of those doing remarkable things – both in their personal/business lives, as well as those who are on the front-lines in missions and ministry and feel somehow insignificant. Stories of people whose lives seem to scream purpose.

And, these thoughts always come at the most opportune time, too. Listening to a story on the news of some great entrepreneur who invented a life-changing medical device while I’m on my knees in my living room trying to scrub the snot, apple juice, and who-knows-what-else stains out of my couch. Sitting in church on Sunday and hearing about incredible missions exploits and listening to testimonies of lives changed, all while picking ground cheerios out of the carpet and scribbling stick figures on a hot-pink notepad in a mostly-futile attempt to keep my toddler quiet enough for me to stay IN the service for even 5 minutes before it’s back to wandering the halls.

It’s not that I don’t value what I do as a mom. I do. But, well, sometimes it seems insignificant. When I get to the end of the day and all I have to show for myself is a loaf of bread cooling on the counter, three loads of laundry all over my living room in various states of folding, and two children who I’ve managed to keep ALIVE for another day, it doesn’t seem like much. And, that’s on a good day. We won’t even talk about the not-so-good days.

And the thing is, I know deep down that what I’m doing is so incredibly, crucially, important. There are moments, oh there are moments, when I can sense eternity in my living room. When I can feel the life-defining weight of the lesson at hand – as I guide my toddler through something that seems too big for them to handle. Times when I can sense the presence and the power of God in my home so vividly. Times when I look into the eyes staring back at me and I know, deep in my soul, that mothering this life that has been entrusted to me is so, SO important.

But if you’re anything like me, some days eternity gets muddled in the mundane.

In the hours and hours spent cleaning messy diapers and messy floors and messy laundry and messy kitchens. . . In the chaos and noise and million bazillion questions that my toddler manages to ask every single moment of the day that sometimes make this introverted not-a-huge-talker sort of mama use the restroom in the dark because even the sound of the ceiling fan is JUST. TOO. MUCH. NOISE.

And it can be easy in the midst of those days to feel somehow wasted. As though the creative, organized, administrative, writing, and speaking parts of me have somehow been swallowed up by the vastness of motherhood, and are wilting away – along with the potted plants in my house that haven’t been watered in. . . Days? Weeks? Who knows. But they’re goners.

And that’s how I feel too some days. Like huge parts of who I was – (who I am?) – are just goners too.

“You can still do them!” people say. “Make time!” And while I understand that, and am coming to value the few precious moments I have to myself in the mornings or evenings, sometimes those extra things just seem too exhausting to do at this stage in the game. I LOVE to host people in my home. I love to cook and to bake and to help others. Someone needs a meal? SIGN. ME. UP. A poster needs to be designed? YES, please! Speaking?! I LOVE TO SPEAK. Give me a topic. Any topic. Write a paper? Oh heavens above, I thought you’d never ask.

And yet, I can barely cook enough meals for my family of 4, let alone make extras to just give away. With Sam at class in the evenings, dinner time becomes something to GET through some nights, not really something to invite someone TO. Meal planning, preschool, and my haphazard house cleaning schedule are about all the organization I can handle in a week. Writing? Speaking? Still love them. But I can barely even THINK in complete sentences anymore, let alone speak or write them. I can’t remember the last time I actually FINISHED a thought (this post has taken me 2 months to write. . . If that gives you any indication on how much I’m interrupted). Heck, even a phone call can’t contain complete thoughts without me stopping mid-sentence to shout ridiculous things like: “DON’T FLUSH THE KITTY DOWN THE TOILET!”

So I guess it’s not so much that I think those parts of me are completely gone – it’s just that, well, I’m too tired, and too worn out, and too distractedly busy to do much of anything with them. Which sometimes makes them feel as wilted and dead as my pathetic excuse for house plants.

Without realizing it, I had slipped into a mom-of-little-ones mindset that said something along the lines of: “I can’t do *such and such* now, but someday I’ll be able to.”

I mean, right? Maybe I can’t be a public speaker now. Maybe I don’t write much anymore. Maybe I can’t bring people meals as often as I’d hoped. Maybe my creativity burns out after planning a week’s worth of preschool activities. But it’s a season. I have little toddlers. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll feel like a human again someday.

But what on earth good does “someday” do TODAY?

I’ll tell you how much good it does me. About as much good as those brown, wilted, very-dead orchids sitting on my table are doing me.

Nada.

Zilch.

I can’t find purpose in what I do NOW by hoping for what I can do LATER. “Someday” just isn’t good enough!

The first summer that Sam and I were married, he was a commissioned officer in the US Air Force, but they hadn’t given him an assignment yet. We spent months living in a tiny apartment and doing part-time computer tech and nannying jobs just to get by while we waited for his active duty orders to come. Waited -in limbo – for “someday.”

But I am not in that place as a mom. I am not waiting for orders. The second our little (ok, huge. . .almost 11-lb), squirmy bundle was placed into my arms one November day a few years ago, I wasn’t placed in limbo, I received NEW ORDERS.

I saw a quote by Andy Stanley a while back that goes like this:

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”

Woah. You know those times when someone says something and you feel like you kind of really needed the reminder but also like they just punched you in the gut? Yeah. This was one of those times.

Did you catch that?

“Your GREATEST contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”

It’s not about the wilt. It’s not about putting the “real ME” on hold for a while to focus on my children so that I can get to such-and-such later.

I AM NOT “ON HOLD.”

I am not waiting for my turn to do great things.

I am not wilting away in a barren wasteland of messes and questions and bedtimes and diapers.

He’s called me here.

To do this.

Exactly this.

To bring my own unique skills into the raising of two precious little ones. And if I allow myself to be thrown into this task of joining with their creator in raising and shaping the lives of the little ones entrusted to me, then my focus changes from something that looks outward to the time when maybe I’ll do ___________, and instead chooses to SEE eternity in my every day.

This IS my contribution.

Maybe my GREATEST contribution.

And if that doesn’t breathe purpose into the hours spent doing tasks that could otherwise seem menial, I don’t know what does. My exploits might not seem as great on paper. And my loaf of bread doesn’t really compare to that medical device.

But I’m not called there. I’m called here.

Called to have my hands in the dough, my knees on the carpet, and my heart tuned to hear my Savior as I join with him in shepherding, guiding, teaching, and watching over the lives and hearts of the two (soon to be three) amazing little ones who call me mom.

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