Motherhood

Run YOUR Race!

Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Wow! November is getting away from us SO quickly. I’m usually much better about posting regularly, especially during Adoption Awareness Month, which is one of my favorite times of the year. This November, I have a confession to make. I get kind of envious when I see mothers with new babies, or who are expecting, or who have adopted children, or who are fostering to adopt. With my youngest having just turned four years old last week, I feel like that phase of life is just slipping away.

And the further away from it we get as a family, and the closer we get to our arbitrary self-imposed adoptive-parent age limit of 40 years old (I will be 38 in February, can you believe it?!), the less likely it seems that we will end up pursuing adoption after all. Granted, we always say we’re open to burning bush moments and clear direction from God to the contrary, but for now, it seems unlikely.

Still, I STRONGLY support adoption. I think it is one of the most amazing and miraculous things you can do, and I believe that it offers such an indescribable blessing to everyone it touches. So I may ask God, Why not us? But as I read Hebrews 12:1-2, I hear God instructing me, “Run with endurance the race that is set before YOU…” While we ultimately all run a race designed to glorify God and advance his kingdom, we do not all run the exact same race, or the exact same route.

And, at this moment, the race set before me is not one that necessarily includes adoption (as sad as it is to admit). Instead, it includes being a wife and mother within a family of FOUR. It includes mentoring young women as they transition into the next stages of their lives. It includes praying for others at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It includes befriending the elderly, who have too often been neglected in this fast-paced world of ours. It includes teaching college students not just about subject matter, but about responsibility and character. It includes writing research papers that draw attention to important social issues of our day. And so many more things.

Your race may look very little (if at all) like mine, or like anyone else’s for that matter. But whatever it does look like, I would encourage you to embrace it and pursue it with diligence, as unto the Lord. And if YOUR race involves the joy and blessing of adoption, know that while I will feel a twinge of envy, I will also cheer you on, champion your cause, and do whatever I can to help you to run that race, and to run it well. You have my prayers and my admiration.

Run YOUR race!

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Social Director

I wear a lot of hats throughout the day: Christ follower, wife, mother, professor, blogger, friend, and so many more. But this fall, I’ve been inducted into a new role—social director for one little girl who has, over the course of her nearly four years, grown accustomed to having a big brother around 24/7 for her entertainment. Well, big brother started all-day kindergarten this year, about two weeks before pre-school started for little sis. Even since her school started, she and I have had a lot of one-on-one time, both before and after school. On top of that, she had her tonsils out a couple of weeks ago, necessitating a week off from school. So, needless to say, we’ve spent a LOT of time together over the past couple of months.

And unlike her self-sufficient, independent older brother, Miss Laredo refuses to entertain herself. “What can we do?” is her common inquiry. She usually has some ideas, but they all require two of us (at least in her mind). So we have played a lot of games, read a lot of books, and painted a lot of pictures. While I cherish the quality time together, I confess that I have often felt guilty and stressed over the other duties that I’ve had to set aside, and anxious about when I might be able to catch up. And yet, I’m reminded (as I often am) of Psalm 39:5, which states, “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” James 4:14 further asks, “What is your life? It is just a vapor, appearing for a little while, and then vanishing.”

So these moments, when I sit with my little girl and make memories that will hopefully last a lifetime, I try to remember the truth about what matters most in this life, and the brevity of it all. And I try to choose her. After all, a day will likely come when she dreads the thought of hanging out with her mom. Still, though, I have to admit that I’m thankful for today—a Saturday—when Tijge is here to fill in as social director and give me a much needed break.

Here’s to you and to the memories YOU will make today with the loved ones who are longing to make those memories with you.

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Littler Minutes

Last night, just before a had fallen asleep—and only seconds after Chris had drifted off—came the familiar sound of one Laredo Jade, whimpering from her bedroom, “Mommy…Mommy.” I went to her and asked her what she needed. “I just need you to hold me,” she answered as she wrapped her arms tightly around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. Usually she demands that I hold her while I’m standing up, but last night, she agreed that we could lay on the couch together. After shifting around a bit, she got comfortable laying on my chest (and tummy and legs, because let’s face it, at her age she takes up quite a bit more space). Then she fell asleep, and then I fell asleep. But before I did, I thought back to a post I’d written in June of 2014, entitled, “Little Minutes.”

——

Psalm 39:4-5

“LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days;
Let me know how transient I am. Behold, you have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.”

As I was lying in the hotel bed with Tijge, he took my hand and held it as he drifted off to sleep. I was reminded of a habit that we had briefly gotten into a few weeks before. He would lay down and go to sleep, only to wake up at around midnight—at which point, he would sweetly ask, “You want to lay by me a little minutes?” Of course I do. Well, invariably, I would fall asleep and end up spending the rest of the night with him.

At one point, Chris expressed concern that this might get to be too much of a habit. Probably, I reasoned inwardly, but then I thought about the day that would no doubt come—sooner rather than later—when I would no longer be able to comfort him; when I wouldn’t be “cool” enough to be seen with, let alone to lay or snuggle with. And then I will miss these nights, and I won’t remember the midnight wake-up call, or his tossing and turning, or my stiff back and neck. I will only, and very fondly, remember those few extra minutes with him each night.

Little minutes, indeed.

——

Yep, that’s still about right. Different day. Different kid. Same stiff neck. Same little minutes…except they keep getting littler every day.

 

The Archer’s Aim

Psalm 127:3-5

 “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…”

Children are indeed a gift, a blessing, a heritage from the Lord—like arrows in a quiver. But this analogy raises an important point: an arrow’s aim is only as true as the archer’s. Sometimes I’m not sure that I’m getting it right. I don’t always know what footwear is going to be appropriate. I occasionally forget to brush the kids’ teeth in the morning. I don’t always know which battles are worth fighting, and which I should let go. There are a lot of responsibilities and decisions to juggle as a parent—just to keep the kids fed, clothed, rested and safe.

More importantly, we as parents are responsible for aiming our children in the direction of truth, righteousness, and love. Their spiritual development rests largely in our hands. It isn’t something that we can pawn off on others—grandparents, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, motivational speakers. And in order to point our children in toward the paths they ought to take, we must ourselves be moving in that same direction.

To be sure, none of us have—or will ever have—arrived at the destination of perfect holiness, godliness, or righteousness. The process of sanctification will end only on that day when we see the Father and are made whole in Him and in His presence. And until then, we will stumble and fall and fail. But our aim MUST be true. Our words and actions must reflect hearts tuned into God’s. Our kids need to see Jesus in us.

I pray that God would mold all of us into the kinds of parents, or archers, who will be able to aim our children toward a saving relationship with Jesus and a deep love for God and other people. In the meantime, I take comfort in this: There is a sinless archer, One who never misses His mark, and One who chose my kids (now and future) for me and me for them because He knows that we each need exactly what one another has to offer. And during this season of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for this truth.

Mothers’ Dreams and Wishes

With Mothers’ Day coming up on Sunday, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on motherhood and what it looks like in action. And one aspect of that is that we, as mothers, have a lot of dreams for our kids. If you’re a mom, I’ll bet you can relate. But I think that we also let ourselves get caught up in some wishes that we hold onto for our kids as well. You may be asking by now, what’s the difference between dreams and wishes? Well, at least from my perspective, the two are vastly different.

If I were to list some wishes that I had for my kids, that list might include things like comfort, happiness, pleasure—fuzzy, feel-good kinds of things. On the other hand, if I were asked to list some dreams I have for my kids, I would say that I want them to display godly character. I would say that I went them to be used mightily by God and to accomplish amazing things for His kingdom. And through it all, I would want them to show humility and grace.

These are two different perspectives—one more temporal, and one more eternal. And where our focus is will, to a large degree, affect how we act out our role as mothers. I think of several mothers in the Bible who sought God’s best for their children because they placed their dreams for them ahead of their wishes for them. Think of Moses’ mother, who—in order to save his life—placed him in a basket in a river in hopes that someone would find and raise him and that he would accomplish God’s will for his life. Then there was Hannah, who—barren for SO long—promised God that if He gave her a child, she would offer him right back. And when God granted her request, she honored her promise, allowing Eli the priest to raise her son, Samuel, in the service of the Lord. And of course, there was Elizabeth—mother of John the Baptist—who conceived her child while barren and in her old age. He also was dedicated to the Lord and committed to serving Him as a messenger sent to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. And of course, let’s don’t forget Mary, the mother of Jesus, who accepted not only a difficult calling for herself, but also a difficult row to hoe for her child.

These women shared their faith and their faithfulness in common. But they also shared something else. Each of their children, in pursuit of their God-given callings, faced challenges, trials, tribulations, and suffering. Each of those children also remained faithful in spite of everything they endured. I wouldn’t describe their lives as full of comfort, happiness, and pleasure. But I would say that each developed godly character, that each was used mightily by God, that each accomplished amazing things for His kingdom, and that each showed humility and grace.

As mothers, I think it’s difficult to consider that our dreams for our children may take them into difficult places. And I’ve sometimes wondered whether these biblical mothers would have made different choices, had they known what lied ahead for their sons. But I always come to the conclusion that, no, they wouldn’t have. I believe that they placed their trust wholly and completely in a known and knowing God to do what was best, and to go with their children wherever He would lead them. I think their focus remained on the dreams that they had for their children, rather than on fleeting wishes. I pray that when you and I are faced with these choices, we will choose wisely, just as these women did.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

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Seasons of Lent

Lenten Blossoms
The word Lent actually means springtime—a time when all things are being reborn and made new. And yet, you’ve probably observed how many believers have traditionally equated this season with sacrifice, and sometimes even pious asceticism. If you know me well (or at all), you know that I don’t share this view. Of course, “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). But the idea that those times and seasons must follow a liturgical calendar seems to put God in a box—and one that is frankly MUCH too small.

In all seasons, I try to embrace the freedom that I have in Christ, but God-ordained circumstances have at times interfered with that goal. Two seasons in particular come to mind. The first came when our son was about two months old. We discovered that he had a severe sensitivity to both dairy and soy products and learned that for me to continue feeding him, I had to eliminate both from my diet. Finding foods that met those requirements was extremely difficult. However, for me, making the commitment to do so was not difficult at all. And so, for the better part of a year—well, let’s just say I ate really healthfully.

That season of sacrifice ended just in time for another round of morning sickness to begin. And during pregnancy, you expect to spend a period of time eating nothing but SpaghettiOs and breakfast cereal, so I was okay with that. But when our daughter was born, she also suffered from digestive issues. This time, though, the identification process was less straightforward. There were long nights, eating experiments, and specialist visits, but no answers. At one point, we decided that her difficulties must be related to some allergy, the question was which one. So I spent about a month on an elimination diet—think “Whole 30” on steroids. I eliminated not just dairy and soy, but also eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, shellfish, caffeine, and artificial colors and flavors. By now you’re asking, “What’s left?” And the answer is, “Not much.”

But you know what? God used those two seasons powerfully in my life. He showed me the depth of love that an imperfect parent can have for a child, and the depth of sacrifice that such a parent would willingly (and joyfully) endure for that beloved child. And that gave me a new lens to peer through as I read Matthew 7:11:

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

How much more, indeed.

During these seasons of sacrifice, something inside of me was reborn and made new—something I wouldn’t trade for the world. So I guess, technically, you could call them seasons of Lent. And whether yours comes now or at some unexpected moment in the future, I pray that you will embrace all of the good gifts that your Heavenly Father longs to give you during that time.

Through Eyes of Compassion: Leah

The story of Jacob’s family represents the epitome of dysfunction. You almost have to read it for yourself (Genesis 29:31 – 30:24), but the gist of it is that Jacob’s wives—Leah and Rachel—along with the servants of each woman, are for years engaged in a fertility contest of sorts. They try to one up each other by any means possible or necessary. Why?

Well it all goes back to the fact that Leah was Jacob’s first wife, but not his first choice. And while Leah was fertile, she was not loved by her husband. She spent years trying to earn his favor and his love by bearing him one son after another—six sons in all. We might, at first glance, be tempted to judge Leah for attempting to manipulate Jacob into loving her. We might condemn her for foolishly attempting to secure Jacob’s affections through childbearing. But recently, God gave me fresh eyes to see this woman.

Interestingly, Leah means tired, or weary. What a fitting name for someone who has tried so hard and so long to be enough for her husband—to be good enough, beautiful enough, fruitful enough. Leah would never earn Jacob’s love. But truly, one must consider whether love that is “earned” is really love at all. Isn’t that what makes God’s love so profound, after all—that we could never earn it ourselves?

So now, when I see Leah, I see her heart—a heart that, very simply, is ever longing for love. Sadly, she kept looking for it in the wrong place. And I wondered, if I had been Leah’s friend, how would I have prayed for her? Seeing her in this new light, I think I would have prayed something like this:

Lord God,

Only you know the depth of your love for Leah.
Only you know how priceless she is to you—
so priceless that you would sacrifice your beloved son to ransom and redeem her soul.
She’s been looking for love in all the wrong places,
looking for significance outside of your will,
and trying so hard to be enough apart from you.
Help her to see that you are enough for her…and that, in you, she is enough.
No matter what the world tells her, she is loved by you.
Bring her peace and contentment in the knowledge of this
profound and inexplicable love.

In Christ’s name and for His sake,

Amen.

 If you recognize Leah in someone you know, feel free to pray these words over her (or him, as the case may be). If you recognize her in yourself, please accept them as my prayer for you. And be blessed.

Journey

I originally wrote this week’s entry back in February…yes, it’s another that I wrote before launching this blog. But I felt like it was appropriate for this time of year, with Christmas and New Year’s resolutions.

Jeremiah 29:11

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord,
‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

For probably 15 years, I’ve been holding onto an empty picture frame. It quotes Jeremiah 29:11. I guess I’ve been waiting to fill it because I was waiting for that promised “future” to arrive. Never mind that, over that time period, I’ve earned two advanced degrees, met and married the man of my dreams, and welcomed two beautiful children into the world. I’m not sure what future I’ve been waiting for. I suppose the future just doesn’t feel complete yet. But it occurred to me recently that the “plans” God has for me unfold along the way to the future He’s promised. They’re snapshots, moments in time—and they are all designed to prosper and not to harm, and to someday transpire into the ultimate future and hope. And the part of the plan I am experiencing now is not the part of the plan that I will be experiencing five years, or even five months, from now. But that’s the beauty of picture frames—you can change out the photos!

So today, I climbed up into our dusty attic, dug around through my box of picture frames, and pulled that frame out. It now holds a photo of our family enjoying our Christmas vacation in snowy Michigan.

 

Winter Family Photo-Journey

 

As God’s plans for us change, so will the photo. Perhaps the background and scenery will change; or perhaps our family will grow. We pray, just as Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10) did, that God would expand our territory, in whatever way He chooses. But we also pray that God would make us content in our current circumstances, knowing that His plans are being fulfilled in His time. And, of all the ironies, I realized that—in the largest print on the frame—it actually reads, “JOURNEY.” How did it take me 15 years to figure out what was there in front of me from the beginning?

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

For today’s post, I’m digging back into my files for a memory—one that I originally wrote about in February of this year. If you were reading my posts via Facebook before I officially launched my blog, you may have read this one. I was reminded of the post recently when Laredo joined me on the couch one night to reenact the scene. So I wanted to take a look back at what I’d written all those months ago. And I want to give you a glimpse into that same memory….

 Psalm 139:14

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

 At almost 15 months old, Laredo still seldom sleeps through the night. And often, when she gets up for her mid-night snack, she will lay on the couch with me for the next few hours (if not the rest of the night). I miss the extra sleep, but I cherish the time together.

The other night as Chris handed her to me, through the dark I saw her huge smile, and her arms outstretched toward me, eagerly and excitedly. It felt good to know that she wanted to be with me, near me. And then, as we were lying there, her on my chest, she did something she hasn’t ever done before. With her tiny and delicate little fingers, she started playing with some folds of skin on my neck that I had never realized were there. My first instinct was one of insecurity. Should I be adding this to my list of personal imperfections?

I quickly realized that this response could easily rob me of the joy and contentment brought by her presence with me in that moment. She wasn’t trying to point out ‘flaws.’ She doesn’t even understand that it’s a flaw. It reminds me of how, when I was young, I would sit on the laps of my parents and grandparents and use my fingers to trace the veins in their hands and arms—which became more pronounced as they got older. But they didn’t respond self-consciously; they embraced the time spent together.

And now, it’s my turn to set that example of self-acceptance for my little girl. Whether she becomes a young lady who despises, obsesses over, accepts, or embraces her physical features will depend largely on the example I set for her. In turn, I will greatly influence her confidence, as well as her actions and attitudes toward the imperfections of others. I confess, I have a long way to go, but on that night, I chose to embrace the moment, and the little girl in my arms.

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Before

Jeremiah 1:5a
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you…”

 Adoption Awareness Month is too quickly drawing to a close—at least for me. There’s so much more that I want to write and share with you. But many of those sentiments will have to wait until November of next year. But on this Thanksgiving Day of 2014, I want to take a few moments to pen my sentiments to Trey (as I affectionately refer to any future child we may be blessed with). But I hope you’ll keep reading, because I think that the words will apply to all of us…

Dear Trey,

As I write these words, you aren’t even a twinkle in your birth mother’s eye. But you’ve been a twinkle in mine for quite some time, and for that long you’ve held a place in my heart. Even better, though, is the place that you’ve held in God’s heart and in His plan since the beginning of time. Jeremiah 1:5 begins, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” God also promises, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I don’t know you yet, but there are some things I do know:

You were planned.
You are loved.
You are precious.
You are priceless.
You are celebrated.
You have a purpose.

And in case you should ever wonder just how much you matter to your Heavenly Father, Psalm 139:13-18 sums it up:

 13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

What stands out to me in all of this is the word before. And since God is already in the process of forming you, I am already in the process of praying for you. And, as is fitting for this Thanksgiving Day, I thank God in advance for who you will be and for all that He has planned for you. Never forget that you are dearly loved!