I am fearfully and wonderfully made

birdbath1Photo credit Michael and Diane Porter

I must have been five or six, visiting my nana, I don’t remember much but I know she lived in a small two story house somewhere in the Northeast. I don’t recall going there often or even having been there before that time. It was winter, or maybe spring. I know it was wet. We had been stuck in the house for sometime and so when the sunshine made its appearance I hurried outside to play. I was quickly greeted by a neighbor girl who took no time in becoming my best friend. We laughed and giggled as we chased each other around a large white birdbath.

After a few minutes of us running, we stopped to catch our breath and she turned to me and asked me why my skin was so brown.

I believe it was one of those defining moments in my life. I remember looking down at my tanned colored arms as if looking at them for the first time, and not knowing the answer to this question, I shrugged.

I can’t tell you how the rest of our play time went, or if there was any more discussion of the matter, but my next memory is of my little body pressed up against a white pedestal sink in my nana’s little bathroom with my arms stretched out in the water and a bar of white ivory soap. With childlike faith I believed that if I lathered up enough white soapy foam onto my arms, my skin would turn the same color as this little neighbor girls.

This isn’t a painful memory, although it’s an uncomfortable one. It used to bring many questions about who I am, and I used to wonder if my skin was all anyone ever saw. Did others too have questions?

Often when I look at my oldest daughter, that memory presents itself. I see her beautiful brown eyes and the same tanned skin and I wonder, will she too encounter a little girl that will unknowingly ask her a question that will forever haunt her? Will she too feel imperfect? Suffer from the same insecurities?

 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139

It’s a verse we talk about often. It’s the one, once I knew Christ, that I found comfort in. I love the diversity of God’s creation; I love the rich history that comes from our differences. I love that God knew before we were even formed in our mother’s womb that we would be all that we are. He paid special attention to our every attribute and chose our personalities and the Bible even tells us he took the time to place us exactly where he wants us in history!

I can only pray that these truths would be steeped deep in her heart. And if/when she is asked the question she can say with confidence; I am who I am because this is who God created me to be. And she can know in her heart that God doesn’t make mistakes.

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You before me

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We have a selfishness problem. It has slowly been creeping in and taking over our lives. It’s been left unaddressed for too long. I’m not talking about the overt kind of selfishness. The one where you don’t share your toys, or your snacks. The kind I’m talking about goes deeper. It begins in the heart.

It rears it’s ugly head when we least expect it. During family game time, while eating dinner, at church, while shopping, hanging out with friends, even during prayer. 

It’s often so obscure it can be brushed off as irrelevant. But I know it’s there.

I struggle with it too.

It’s the idea that my needs are more important than yours at any given time. That what I have to say is more important, more interesting and needing your complete attention- right now.  It’s believing that I’m better than you or that I can do something better than you can. It’s wondering what you can do for me. Feeling the need to be first. Worried that there won’t be enough. Excluding others for my benefit. It’s thanklessness.

It’s a heart issue.

We are on a mission to change. To be intentional with our words and actions. We are looking to God’s word for help.

Proverbs 4:11 says I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.

James MacDonald in his bible study Lord Change My Attitude shares how having a selfless love is a giving love. He says “To often when people use the word love, what they’re really saying is, “I feel something.” Tragically, what people often mean when they say, I Love you, is not I’ve made a commitment to place your needs above my own, but instead, I love what you do for me. You make me feel good. You are working right now for the person I love most –Me. That isn’t love; that’s selfishness.”

We have taken this to heart. It’s written on our kitchen pantry door.

You before Me

It’s become a place to dialogue for us. A reference point. Right there next to our memory verses.

God’s word changes us. Love changes us. I’m ready.

Angela

Our little birthday girl

This week our little Olivia turned 4!

She fills our life with laughter, love and all things girly.

She is strong willed, smart, funny, decisive, caring, precocious, silly, a tad bit whiney (we’re working on it) , and loving. I couldn’t imagine our lives without her!

She is our little princess. She loves to wear dresses, nail polish, lip gloss and hair accessories.

 Join me and take a trip down memory lane as I relive this past 4 years that have come and gone in a flash.

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Can you believe it’s been 4 years already!

We try to have a special day with each of our children on their birthdays. After dropping the big kids off at day camp we went to our favorite cupcake shop. {ok, it’s the only one I have ever been to and it’s owned by a friend of mine, so I’m a little biased }

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We then went home to play a few games and wait for daddy, who was coming home early for the big day!

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Olivia LOVES games!!! and me…not so much. But I happily obliged this sweet girl, because after all…it was her birthday 😉

 

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Steven surprised Olivia with flowers!

 

Once daddy arrived home off to the mall we went. We let her choose where she wanted to have lunch… and the mall it was {???} but it worked out for us because we were headed to Build a Bear anyway.

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This was her first time ever in the store, and thanks to a generous gift card from Grandma and Papa she had a blast picking out her bear and going through all the steps.

We ended the day with a trip to the toy store where we let her pick out a toy cash register that she has had her eye on.

It was fun to spend some alone time with her. It isn’t often when we get to do this and I realized that I need to make an effort to set aside alone time with her and each of them more often. After all, it won’t be long before they are all grown up…look at how fast 4 years has gone! 

 

 

Lessons in Nursing

The other day my friend Sara and I were chatting and discussing all things baby, she was sharing some sweet thoughts about nursing and I asked her if she would be willing to write them down and let me share them with you here. I’m sure her thoughts will resonate with anyone who has ever nursed their baby.

As I sit here and nurse my third baby, my precious bundle, my littlest, I ponder on the lessons that nursing have taught me- those precious pearls of wisdom God bestows on us through the beauty and bounty of motherhood. I’ve gotten to see how my father, my comforter has created me in his image to do the same for my young. I have learned while nourishing my infant with God’s amazing baby formula called mother’s milk I am also teaching her to be a loving mother and calling her to her privilege of being wife and mother. I also learn that being still is not only a gift but a practice that should be mastered.

“For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.” Isaiah 66:11

When I nurse my beautiful baby God is personified through me. As I am created in God’s image I see this illustrated through nursing. I am God’s bosom to my child as He is to me. He takes me and comforts me, I can drink deeply and he fills me abundantly. I feel an intimate closeness to my Master for He has created me to be like Him, to comfort like Him. I comfort my Little as I hold her close, bring her to my breast, she stares at me with those big beautiful eyes. She lets me know she feels safe, I can see she is delighted. She coos and smiles with her mouth full. What a lesson I need to hold dear for there will be a time when she will be too old to nurse, I will have to point her to the True Comforter, the one whose bosom never runs dry.

Rest…what an art, an art I am not good at perfecting yet I long for it so and when I sit with my infant I realize it is now that I need it the most and it is now that God offers it mercifully, He beckons me saying, “Be still and know that I am God.” I say, “Yes Sir.” I look into the eyes of this brown-eyed beauty, this wondrous creation and I know this could only be the handiwork of a skilled potter who knows his clay. He knows me too. I need rest and I get it here, on my couch. I sit, I nurse, I stare at her, she stares back, she grunts and coos, I grunt and coo, I copy her and add an intonation of a question. She smiles and gets it. We are talking, I am resting. Now is not the time to teach not to talk with her mouthful, this is way too deep. I can not stop chatting with her. I love resting, I love admiring God’s beauty, His idea of my husband and I mixed into one.

Then my first born walks in and she wants in on the love. She gently snuggles with Little’s head, kisses her forehead and grins at me. She asks, “Did you do that with me too, as she stares at my breast. I say, “Yes.” She smiles. She loves knowing that I love her like I love her sister- and that she and I bonded like this too.

She watches me nurse and she is learning to love her children. She sits and rests with me and we watch God’s little miracle stare right back at both of us.

My oldest leaves and goes back to playing and to prove that I have just taught her to love her children without my knowing it, without words, this biblical wonder; I peek in on her while she plays with her dolls. She mothers 5 all together-she is a better manager of children than I am-she is nursing one, feeding another with a spoon and speaking kindly to the rest of the bushel of perpetual infants. I have inspired her to love.

One day when my infant is grown she will not remember these days that we sit together grunting and cooing at one another but I will make sure she hears the memoirs and she too will be become a woman who loves her children, comforts them, finds rest in it and passes down the legacy of holy motherhood.

Sara E.

Why family time is important

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According to Nielsen Co. the average parent spends 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.

Can you imagine… I did the math, that is equal to a total of 33.3 hours a year!  Out of 8760 hours a year only 33 hours of meaningful conversation is being had between a parent and a child.

Considering that as parents we are our children’s biggest influences, that is a very scary statistic!  Because if we are not investing in our children’s lives…who is? There comes a time in their lives where who they are influenced by shifts from parents to peers. Which only makes sense if you have a child attending school outside of the home, the majority of their time will be spent with peers and other adults that are not you and who may or may not hold to the same standards you have worked hard to instill in your children.  This doesn’t necessarily let homeschoolers off the hook either. Although homeschooling parents have more control of the peer influences in their children’s lives, they can easily be deceived into thinking they are immune to such problems forgetting that our children are just as easily influenced through media, music, and certain books, oh and don’t forget the neighborhood kids and maybe even a few homeschooling friends as well {gasp}.

So how do we prevent this disconnect and continue to be our children’s number one influence? Well obviously it starts with spending more than 38 minutes a week with our children. It’s about being intentional in most every interaction with our kids. It’s letting them know what and why we believe what we do- every opportunity we get. Being accessible to them and sincere in our words.

In hoping to be more accountable and intentional in our family time I pulled together a list of things that we can do as a family, maybe it can give you a few ideas too.

 

Pray together, pray for family needs, fears, friends, missionaries, give praise reports

Eat a meal together, any meal.

Play card and board games

Build something, Legos, Lincoln logs, blocks, boxes, etc.

Have date nights with each child separately. Dads show your girls how they should be treated on a date, moms do the same with your boys.

Read a good chapter book together– one that will make you laugh and cry and allow for great discussion

Bake something, or prepare a meal together

Serve together. There are so many small things you can do together. Take a meal to someone who needs it, babysit for a couple who needs time alone, clean a sick friends house, serve at a soup kitchen, mow a yard for a neighbor etc.

Have a picnic at a park

Go Camping, or camp out in your living room

Snuggle with your child at bedtime, they will tell you all kinds of things as you lay there together.

Turn off the music, or put down the phone in the car and talk! Ask open ended questions. Ask what if… questions.

Color together or do any art project together.

Do a science project together, build a volcano, grow crystals, watch tadpoles, etc.

Go for a drive…just get in the car and go someplace new.

Go for a hike

Go for a bike ride together

Look through picture albums or watch home videos

Learn something new together, an instrument, how to draw, sew, cook, a sport, sign language, etc.

Begin a new hobby together, scrapbooking, bird watching, rock climbing, etc.

Put a puzzle together

I’m sure there are as many more ideas as there are people to do them, but the goal is to spend time together and make memories, to be the ones that our children want to spend time with.

A season of Thankfulness

Weary, exhausted, irritable, apathetic, depressed, humbled, thankful, blessed, joyful, peaceful. Just a few of the many emotions that have traveled through my life these past few months. I am a mother of a baby once again. Life is different with a baby. Not bad different, just different. Changed but still the same. We are starting to come out of that newborn haze that traps all parents of new babies for what seems like eternity but is but for a season, and for that I’m thankful. I have been thankful for those mornings where I have had to lean into my Savior just a little bit more for the strength and grace to get me through the day, for the reminder that this is indeed the child that I prayed for and the knowledge that my God is good. All the time. I am grateful for the opportunity once again to fellowship with other new moms as we pass encouragement on to one another, as well as relive the details of this stage with more seasoned mothers. I believe there is nothing that draws women closer outside of Christ than our connection through children. I feel blessed that God has given me yet another arrow for His kingdom, although at the same time the responsibility weighs heavily on me. I am working my way into this new season with another child, trying to find my place- my new rhythm, working on letting go of the unimportant and holding on to the lasting.

In the Trenches

Miss Madelyn is almost 6 weeks old. I can’t even believe that it’s been that long. Although she has already grown so much! I have been asked often if having 4 children is harder than 3. I always answer no, but having a newborn is. We tend to forget that in between all those sweet cuddly times there is a baby who’s only way to express themselves is through loud, high pitched screams. And then of course there is the lack of sleep. Ohhhh, the lack of sleep. If only she would sleep. Do I sound desperate? I am.

Someone reminded me this past week, that we always think that whatever trials we are going through (aka, having a newborn) are going to last forever, but in the big scheme of things, they are but a tiny piece of our life story. I am working on reminding myself of this when I’m living on so little sleep and trying to comfort an inconsolable baby. It does make me appreciate the sweet quite moments with her all the more.

I use those quiet times, usually while nursing, to thank God for in-trusting me with yet another one of His children. I am often overwhelmed when I look at her, when I look at all my children, I can’tbelieve that I can be so blessed. How can we not look at our children and just thank God over and over? Although it’s hard right now, I want to enjoy this journey even down here in the trenches.