Gazing Upward
  • Motherhood and Parenting
  • August18th

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    It’s been a week since my youngest of four kids started kindergarten, and I’ve found myself a bit sentimental and nostalgic.  A quiet house can do that to you.  So I spent some time reading old blog posts to revisit the season of life when my kids were home all day long.  I reasoned that reminders of terrible twos and temper tantrums would make me especially grateful for the hours of silence and freedom I now have to myself.

    When I stumbled upon the post below from 2010, I not only melted when I saw the baby faces of Carter and Grace, I also felt encouraged by the reminders to embrace the daily grind. Even with my freed-up schedule, I can still get grumpy with the mundane rituals, especially when they become maddening with carpool delays, rushed dinner prep, endless chores, and bedtime-routines-gone-askew.   No matter our age or the season of life we’re in, the daily repetition of ordinary tasks can drain our joy, if we let it.

    But I love what author Richard Foster writes: “If we fail to sanctify the ordinary, we will be leaving God out of a large part of who we are and what we do.” For the mom struggling to hold onto her sense of purpose as she labors to get through the day, I especially hope the truths and insights below will be sweet to your soul.

    P.S. I’ve quickly adjusted to the calm and quiet hours by myself, and they’re glorious! No more tears from this momma!

    May 3, 2010
    (This was a few weeks after we adopted and brought home Grace from China.)

    On our flight home from China, I told Scott I was craving normalcy and routine. After weeks of anticipation (and anxiety) before our trip, and a long 17-day adventure across the world and back, I was ready to become a family of four and embrace the daily grind. Simple tasks like laundry, driving Carter to Mother’s Day Out, and grocery shopping seemed refreshingly simple.

    It didn’t take very long after arriving home before I began dreading the chore of folding clean clothes. And resenting the number of times I have to scrub our kitchen table and booster seats in one day. And feeling drained trying to create new ideas for fun and entertainment for two toddlers.

    Words of Wisdom

    The other day, I suddenly recalled a series of devotions I read in one of my seminary classes. I pulled out Devotional Classics edited by Richard J. Foster, and found the highlighted wise words penned by Kathleen Norris. Here are some tidbits I’ve pulled from her portion in the book:

    • “And it always seems that just when daily life seems most unbearable, stretching out before me like a prison sentence, when I seem most dead inside, reduced to mindlessness, bitter tears or both, that what is inmost breaks forth, and I realize that what had seemed ‘dead time’ was actually a period of gestation. It is a quotidian mystery that dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation.”
    • “The contemplative in me recognizes the sacred potential in the mundane task.”
    • “Repetition is both as ordinary and necessary as bread, and the very stuff of ecstasy.”

    God gives us work to do. And whether it’s at home, in an office, or even on the mission field, the work often involves repetition. Sometimes He’s inviting us to play. Other times, the mindlessness of the task frees us to worship Him in the midst of our busyness. There are moments in the day when I long for leisure time that is all to myself. Freedom to curl up and read a book. Or catch up on blogs. Or watch Tivo’d episodes of my favorite shows. And then I am reminded that motherhood is my job right now. That’s not to make it sound technical. Being a mother, and staying home with my kids, is a joy and fulfilled dream. But there are duties that come with the package…changing diapers, disciplining, cleaning up toys, preparing food for hungry mouths. Not to mention the sacrifice of self-denial. You can’t always sleep, eat, or play when you want to.

    When you want to escape from your responsibilities and mundane tasks for something more exciting or fulfilling, remind yourself that this work is just as important. When you feel like you must be missing your calling, that you can’t possibly be impacting the world for Christ while scrubbing dishes in the kitchen sink, let His Word remind you that He created this assignment just for you! Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

    As I reread the thoughts of Kathleen Norris, I was encouraged to embrace the mundane this week and find Him in those moments. In this season of my life, God has called me to be a stay-at-home mom of two toddlers. The days can be long. The work can be exhausting. The chores can seem endless. The time not my own. But when surrendered to Him, the rewards can be big. We don’t have to search in a church service, in a Bible study, through a praise song, or at a big spiritual retreat to find Him. He can be found in every simple and common thing we do.

    **If you have particular habits or ways you find God in the mundane, please share in the comments!  I’d love to hear and try your ideas!

    Copyright: tomertu / 123RF Stock Photo
  • August11th

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    This morning, I tearfully watched my youngest child pull the straps of her multi-colored, zebra-print backpack onto her shoulders and walk into the elementary school as a kindergartener.  Leading up to this big day, she and I read many books together to prepare her heart and mind for this big step.

    The one story she wanted to hear repeatedly was I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas.  It’s a sweet, reassuring tale about how the momma pig’s love is with her piglet all day long, whether they’re together or apart.  She loves him even when he accidentally makes a mess, or trips over his shoelaces, or makes a mistake.  For my nervous, 5-year-old perfectionist, these were comforting thoughts.

    I’ve spent the last few hours cleaning my kitchen and doing laundry.  Don’t be impressed….this is much more an issue of me being a control freak than a diligent housewife.  If I can’t do anything about how my child is doing at school, I’ll find something I can control. It’s my way of bringing chaos into order. Plus an orderly room makes me feel more peaceful.

    As I pushed my Swiffer back and forth across the kitchen floors, I prayed that all four of my kids would remember throughout the day how loved they are.  I prayed that if they felt lonely, intimidated, insecure, or imperfect, that they would pull confidence from the truths and lessons we’ve tried to instill in them.  And just maybe, the little tale of a momma’s love would give them the quiet assurance they need to overcome their hesitations or fears.

    The Lord used this same book as a sweet reminder to me this morning that He loves me all day long as well.

    Even when I’m trying to control circumstances.

    Or when I make a mess out of a situation.

    Or in those moments that I doubt the goodness of His plans for me.

    His constant and unconditional love settles my restless spirit and aching heart. And I’m reminded that just as He has equipped me for every good work, He has given my children everything they need for today.

    I just looked up at my bulletin board and saw the verse Deuteronomy  31:8…. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  We don’t have to spend a moment apart from our Father! Regardless of where we’re headed or where we’ve come from.

    I’m praying for you fellow mommas who sent your babies off to big school today!  We have loved our children well, and Jesus loves them greater still.  Let Him be your source of comfort and love today.

     

     

  • May23rd

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    I love that three of my four kids can read. It’s like revisiting my childhood when I share with them books that left such strong impressions on me as a kid.  It’s also nice when I can encourage (enforce) reading time which oh so quietly occupies them.  Then I can escape to my room to decompress and bury my nose in my own book.  For this introvert, that’s my happy place!

    With long summer days ahead, and all the free time that I (naively) envision having, I’m excited to delve into an ARMFUL of books I’ve had sitting on my nightstand for months.  Here are some of the ones I’ve pulled to read….

    The Whole-Brain Child
    12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind
    by Siegel and Bryson

    I started this book a year ago but got caught up in end-of-the-year festivities before I finished it. So I’m picking it back up.  The authors are a neuropsychiatrist and a parenting expert who put their heads together to create a guide for helping children develop emotional intelligence.  It’s an informative yet entertaining read. They give a clear explanation of how the brain is wired, and then they provide practical ideas to help kids balance their emotions with logic.  For a mom of a child who can spiral downward in rage or anxiety, this book is an incredible tool!  My favorite tip – if your child is nervous before a big game, performance, audition, or interview, tell them to add simple equations in their head. 1+1=2     2+2=4      4+4=8.   By employing the logical left side of the brain, you balance out the emotional flood of anxiety from the right side and become calmer.  Caroline swears this helped her with dance tryouts!  The authors give an example of swimming….you can’t swim well with just one arm; it’s imperative to use both!

    How to Really Love Your Child 
    by D. Ross Campbell

    Now I did borrow this one, so I’ll just have to take notes.  Campbell co-authored The Five Love Languages of Children with Gary Chapman. This book similarly helps parents understand the emotional needs of children and how they perceive and receive love.  Having made some recent observations, I’m suspecting that my 8-year-old, Grace, is not feeling fully loved and accepted, despite my all the words of affirmation, hugs, kisses, etc.  A friend found this book to be very insightful for her family, so I’m looking forward to implementing some of the ideas and skills to ensure that my daughter feels unconditionally loved.  There’s definitely a parenting trend among our generation to avoid strict discipline or else harm your child’s psyche. But that’s not what this book is advocating.  This is more about how you connect with and engage your child in everyday life, not just when they act out.

    Are My Kids on Track?
    by Goff, Thomas, and Trevathan

    Can you tell I’m on a parenting-revamp kick?  Ironically, these books just happened to appear on my radar this past week. I certainly wasn’t searching for books on the emotional health of kids. In fact, it all sounds very hokey. But I had already been thinking about how to better teach empathy. And when I heard the authors on an episode of “The God-Centered Mom” podcast, I knew this book would point me in the right direction. There are various milestones for emotional, social, and spiritual development. And it’s our job as parents to help our kids grow in these areas at the appropriate pace so they can flourish.  For Caroline, who was adopted at age 12, these milestones have come much later because she didn’t have a typical or loving upbringing.  While I was initially more attracted to this book for the sake of my littles, I’m predicting that it will be very applicable to my oldest.

    Giddy Up, Eunice
    Because Women Need Each Other
    by Sophie Hudson

    Sophie Hudson is well-known as the author of the Boo Mama blog. She ‘s also located right here in  Birmingham, Alabama!  I fully expect this book to have me in side stitches from tearful laughing fits. And I also expect to be inspired to step outside my circle of friends and pursue relationships with women across generations.  There are several older women who live on my street who have countless stories I’m eager to hear.  Time to put the kettle on for tea!

    Uninvited
    Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely
    by Lysa TerKeurst

    I’ve actually already finished this book, but it so deeply resonated with me that I have to share.  This book is for anyone who has ever felt rejected, insecure, inadequate, or overlooked.  I would venture to say that every single person falls into this category.  With wit, vulnerability, and Scriptural references, Lysa teaches how to process hurt in a healthy way so you can handle future rejection with more confidence, and most importantly, recognize the unwavering love of Christ that steadies the soul and heals the heart.

    Nothing to Prove
    Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard
    by Jennie Allen

    I am a huge fan of Jennie Allen. She appears to be one of the most grounded, theologically-sound, humble, and genuine women doing ministry today. In her latest book, she speaks to those who feel like they’ll never be enough or measure up.   I can’t help but feel that way some days as I scroll through Instagram pics.  Pointing the reader to Jesus, Jennie illustrates the freedom and power that come when you admit your weaknesses and needs, and then allow God to meet them.

    Steadfast Love
    by Lauren Chandler

    Lauren is the wife of Matt Chandler, the lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas. If you’re looking for some great sermons, check him out!  Seven years ago, Matt was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.  Lauren writes of the journey of faith God took them on during such a terrifying and uncertain time.   It’s hard to worship when you’re stuck in the hard places, but Lauren reminds us that we can experience the steadfast love of God during those seasons.  And we will come out of those valleys stronger and victorious when we allow Him, and nothing else, to be the anchor of our souls.

    The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House
    by Kate Andersen Brower

    I find a lot of great ideas and encouragement from parenting and Christian living books. But I also love a good page-turner, from suspenseful mysteries to coming-of-age novels to biographies and memoirs!  I’m particularly fascinated by true life accounts and personal stories.  Recommended by a fellow bookworm, The Residence is like the Downton Abbey of the White House.  Amazon describes the book as “an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.”  And it’s a fun companion to my current TV binge-watching show, Designated Survivor.

     I’m always looking for more recommendations! Especially in fiction.
    What’s on your summer reading list?

  • November5th

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    Sweet Maryn,

    It’s been a month full of milestones and discoveries! You now look up when you hear your name. You love blowing razzies and cooing, especially when you first wake up.  You had your first laugh on October 8th, and we can’t get enough of it! You are a pretty quiet baby…lots of smiles but not much noise. So we really have to work to get your giggles.

    When you do decide to make some noise, you can let out some loud squeals!

    Everyone loves to comment on your chubby little cheeks.  The most common remark we get from strangers is that you look like a living doll with your fair skin and chubby rosy cheeks.

    We stood before our church on November 4th, dedicated you to the Lord, and made some very important promises that we’ll explain to you one day.

    You don’t mind your carseat so much anymore. But after a while of hanging out in it for carpools and such, you like to move around. You’ve started rolling over, mostly from back to front. Although the first time you rolled, it was from front to back.

    We bundled you up for a few of Carter and Grace’s soccer games, but the evenings became a little too chilly for such a little baby. We’ll try out your cheerleading skills next year.

    Your favorite toys are Sophie the Giraffe and the colorful toy below.

    And you’ve also discovered the entertainment of the exersaucer!

    This month, we discovered that you have milk and soy allergies, so I’ve cut those ingredients out of my diet since I’m nursing you. But you’re worth the sacrifices little one. You bring so much joy to our family. Happy 5 months! We love you Ryn Ryn!

    Love, Mommy

  • August9th

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    We’re moving full speed ahead into the school year! Caroline had registration and preview day at the middle school last week.  The 6th graders all got their lockers and were able to decorate them.  And whoa, how locker “decor” has changed since I was in middle school! Many of the students had wallpaper and mini shag rugs for make their little space their own. And did you know you can now buy battery-operated chandeliers and pendant lamps for your locker?? Yes, I’m serious. Just check out PBTeen.

    Caroline won’t actually start school until the 20th, and Grace’s first day is after Labor Day. But my big boy started 4k at his new school this past Tuesday!

    We had gone to meet his teacher the day before, and Carter was so nervous and shy. It was so hard and emotional for me to see him so vulnerable because I was a shy kid as well and still vividly remember the anxiety of new places and experiences without my mom by my side.  However, he had the best first day of school! And he was so disappointed yesterday to find out that he wouldn’t go back to school untli Monday. (He goes MTW.)

    This month is a little overwhelming to me, mainly because each child’s school and activities start at different times. If I don’t consult my planner, I have no clue where we’re supposed to be or what we’re supposed to be doing!  I do much better with a routine, so I predict I’ll be in a better frame of mind once the dust settles and the daily schedule is set.

    I am sure there are a lot of moms out there who will agree with me that it’s TIME for school to start back.  Everyone is bored, camps are completed for the summer, and the bickering and whining are nonstop in my household.  The changes of a new baby have finally hit home (pun intended) with Carter and Grace, and the resulting behavior has left me exhausted and drained of patience. From regression in potty training to holes in walls and drapes being pulled down, the kids are making sure they’re getting my attention. Grace seems to be having a tough time. I know she needs more reassurance and attention from me, but I also can’t completely disregard her disobedience and disrepect.  It’s a challenging line to walk. I wish I weren’t so irritable and impatient with them.  I’m hopeful that all of our dispositions will improve soon!