From mother to daughter

My 35th birthday is quickly approaching and I’ve been reflecting on the woman I am and the woman I hope Faith becomes. I try to imagine the woman she will grow up to be. Then I remember, I’m the one who will teach her to be that woman. I’m not even sure I know how to be the woman I want to be yet.

Having a daughter is an awesome responsibility. And I’m not just talking “hey, that’s pretty cool,” though it definitely is. I’m talking about an overwhelming sense responsibility that leaves me in awe. It’s actually kind of scary. There are probably just as many things I want to pass on to her as there are things that I don’t. I hope she inherits my confidence in my intelligence, but I hope she doesn’t inherit my struggles with self-esteem and body image. I hope she gets my passion for orderliness, but not my inability to adapt when things don’t go exactly as planned.

There are so many things I want to teach Faith. But at the same time, I know there are some things she’ll have to learn through her own experiences. And as much as I want to protect her from every hurt or bad experience, I’m reminded by the scrape on her forehead that I can’t always shield her–though I will certainly try. Though I can’t always protect her, I can hope to teach her to be completely and utterly dependent on God. If she can successfully learn that, I know that no matter who she becomes, I’ll be proud.

“I’m being nice to people!”

Journey is very friendly. He’s always saying “hi” to people and I’ve seen him, on more than one occasion, brighten someone’s otherwise dreary day. I won’t even mention the free stuff we’ve gotten because he’s so sweet.

But a few months ago, he went through a phase where he wasn’t so nice to people. He was downright rude. When someone would say “hi” to him, he would respond by covering his face and throwing a mini tantrum. It wasn’t at all his normal sweet and cordial demeanor. So we started encouraging him to be kind to people. Now when someone says “hi,” he’ll say it back, then in a whispered tone to me or his father he’ll say “I’m being nice to people.” That usually gives us a little chuckle.

But I was thinking the other day about how I’m not always the friendliest. I’m not mean or nasty. I’m always polite and considerate, but not necessarily friendly. Having kids, especially one like Journey, forces me to push beyond my comfort zone and engage with those around me. Not only do I need to be aware of who is talking to my kids, but I have to be example to them, especially Faith, who I have a feeling will be more like me.

I’ve learned a lot from Journey and his interest in others, like the other day at the park. For some reason, there weren’t any other kids or parents at the park when we were there. But there was a groundskeeper. Journey kept asking about her, wanting to know who she was and what she was doing. Finally I asked him if he wanted to talk to her. So on our way out of the park, we stopped to say “hi” and thank her for keeping the park nice. I could tell it made her feel good, which made me feel good. Before having kids, I would have never taken the time to do anything like that. I’m not even sure I would have taken notice of her.

But Journey is doing exactly what I should be doing as a Christian–reaching out to those around him. When he went through his little phase, we kept reminding him that one of the ways we show the love of God to others is by being kind. “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 NLT).

I have to be honest, when I’m out without my children, I slip into old habits. I usually avoid eye contact with people, too busy with my stuff to make connections with those around me. The people around me are the least of my concern, unless they’re causing me some sort of inconvenience. I forget to be “nice to people.” But I’m reminded of something my father always said growing up. Whenever he would drop us off somewhere that he and my mother weren’t going to be he would say “Do what you know to be right!” It was just a friendly reminder that even though they weren’t there to watch us, we still needed to do the right thing. That’s just as true now as it was then, except, it’s not my father watching, or not watching, it’s my children. So now I’m challenging myself to “do what I know to be right” with or without my children present.

The things I love

I’ve already written about the one thing I hate about being a mom. But there are so many things I love. So since Mother’s Day is approaching, I thought I would make a  simple list of some of those things.

I love:

  • When Faith toddles across the room just to sit in my lap for a few seconds before she’s off exploring the world again.
  • When Journey gives one of his concerts. What he lacks in pitch he makes up for in enthusiasm and gusto.
  • When Faith twirls around to music. It may not be the most graceful, but it’s so cute.
  • When the kids learn something new or master a skill. I especially love when I have played a part in the learning process.
  • When the kids come running to the door to welcome me home whether I’ve been gone five minutes or five hours.
  • When only my kisses and hugs will make it all better. Don’t tell my husband that this is one of my favorites.
  • When the kids play together and the house is filled with their joy and laughter.
  • Saturday mornings when the kids invade our bed.
  • When Faith grabs onto my chin as I settle her for the night.
  • Baking with Journey. I call him my little sous chef.
  • And a million other little things!

Despite the numerous challenges that motherhood can bring, the joys far out weigh the stresses.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Someday…

It took my husband and me a while before we had children. And in those years of waiting, I spent a lot of time day-dreaming about the life we would have with our kids. I would imagine all the fun things we would do and wonderful memories we would make. After our kids came, I continued to dream about all the stuff I wanted to do. My thoughts would always start, “I can’t wait until the kids are old enough so we can…”

Recently, I’ve been really looking forward to Journey starting school so that I can have one-on-one time with Faith. I can just see all the fun, enriching activities she and I will get to do. Time can’t pass quickly enough so that I can be there. A few days ago, my husband took Journey for some special daddy-son time, leaving me and Faith together for some mommy-daughter time. At first, I was content to let Faith play by herself, while I caught up on Food Network. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for independent play. But I almost missed an opportunity to give Faith my undivided attention–something she rarely gets as the second child.

I’m realizing that I’ve spent so much time looking forward to the future that I’m missing all the special times we have now. So I’m trying to value those times together as a family, like sitting in the kids room, laughing and playing together. Simple moments like that I don’t want to take for granted anymore. And I’m not waiting for “someday” to have great adventures with my family. Don’t brashly announce what you’re going to do tomorrow; you don’t know the first thing about tomorrow” (Proverbs 27:1 MSG). I’m being intentional about making memories now. Even if the kids won’t remember every detail as they age, we’ll have great pictures to tell and retell the stories.

FROG (I need to die all over again today)

Do you remember those WWJD bracelets that were popular in the nineties? Several years ago, a friend of mine gave me a FROG bracelet. It was a joke because I loved frogs so much. But FROG stood for “Fully Relying on God.” I had forgotten about this silly little bracelet until recently. I was praying one morning and asking for God to help me with the day ahead and FROG came to my mind. But the thought that immediately followed was “I don’t think I know how to fully rely on God.

I consider myself a pretty smart person. I can problem-solve with the best of them. I’m pretty self-reliant and I think that gets in the way of “fully relying on God.” I tend to go to God as a last resort. If I can’t figure it out on my own, then I consult God. Typing it out here, it sounds like a really stupid way to do things. But it’s my usual pattern. Guess I’m not as smart as I think I am. However, lately, I’ve been running into more and more challenges that have left me feeling completely out of my depth. I’ve shared my many challenges with potty training Journey. But beyond that, there are things that crop up daily that leave me scratching my head.

I need to die all over again today (Courtesy of @JimmyNeedham via Twitter). “Dying to self” has come up a lot recently “…I die daily [I face death every day and die to self]” 1 Corinthians 15:31 AMP. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Dying to myself, my rights, my way is not something that comes naturally. I like things my way. But for me to “fully rely on God” I need to let go of my way of doing things so that I can be open to God’s way. So my prayer recently has been: “Less of me, Lord. More of You!” It hasn’t been easy to break the pattern of self-reliance. I have to constantly “die all over again.” But I’m finding that the more that I rely less on me and more on God, the challenges are getting easier the manage.

The ugly truth

Recently, I came face-to-face with an unsettling fact about myself–I’m proud of my kids. I’m talking “My kids are better than your kids” kind of proud. I’ve always been a pretty competitive person, but I’ve never actually been better at something than others. But my kids…they’re smarter than their peers, they’re cuter than all the other babies, and frankly, have better personalities and are more well behaved. Ugly, right?! But I’m discovering that my kids don’t do everything better than the other kids around them. And I don’t like it…not even a little bit!

What brought me to this revelation was our untold frustrations with potty training. We started potty training Journey early by some standards–a fact that I have been very proud of. But it has been anything but easy. When I tried to commiserate with a friend whose son is one of Journey’s playmates, I realized I was in this battle alone and it bothered me–a lot! I didn’t like the idea that her son had accomplished something that seemed like such a struggle for mine.

I’ve had this sneaking suspicion, for a while now, that my smug little attitude isn’t as well hidden as I’d like to think. And this just felt like being put in my place (not by my friend, she’s far too sweet to ever do that). But I was most definitely humbled in that moment, and rightly so. Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall (Proverbs 16:18 NLT).

I still don’t like the idea that my children aren’t always going to be the best at everything. And I’m aware that my pride for them is teetering on the unhealthy side. Yet, I’m unsure how to rein it in. Journey will be starting preschool soon. So I know that I will probably be faced with the reality that he isn’t the best at everything. I guess the best I can do is continue to love and be proud of my children, whether or not they really are smarter, cuter and more fun to be around.

The thing I hate about being a mom

I love being a mom, much more than I ever thought I would. But there is one thing that I hate. No, it’s not the poopy diapers, although I could do with a few less of those. And it’s not the so-called “terrible twos,” after all that does pass (or so I’ve been told). It’s not even the late-night feedings that feel interminable in those early months. What I hate the most is the constant worry that comes with being responsible for another human life.

I wouldn’t have considered myself a worrier before children. Sure, there were things that nagged at me from time-to-time. But generally, I didn’t worry. But once I had children, I became this person I didn’t recognize. I suppose it’s pretty common for a first-time-mom to worry over every little thing. But I felt frantic. I think what gets me the most is the feeling of being out of control. There are so many things, when it comes to kids, that are completely out of my control.

When Journey was nine-months-old, we discovered that he was losing weight. That was a frightening time for me. I felt so helpless! I was doing my best and, once again, it wasn’t enough. I constantly had to prop myself up and say all the right things: “I trust God with my child”; “God is in control, even when I’m not;” etc. I sort of adopted a “fake-it-till-you-make-it” mentality (1 Samuel 30:6 Amplified).

I’ve grown a lot since those early days. But one thing remains–I still worry, a lot, about my kids. I try to keep it together on the outside. But deep down, I’m biting my nails and wringing my hands at the slightest abnormality. But even though I’m freaking out on the inside, I still keep saying the “right things.” And I remind myself of all the worries of the past and how each issue has resolved itself. When I’m in the middle of a challenge, it feels so overwhelming. But when I step back, I remember the last thing that kept me up at night and how that too felt so overwhelming. Then I also remember how we made it through. “Even when I walk through the darkest valley I will not be afraid for you are close beside me…” Psalm 23:4 (NLT).

I doubt the worry will ever truly go away. And I’ll probably still have my secret freak-out moments. But I know that regardless of what I face with my kids, God will always see us through.

One of these things is not like the others…

My husband and I are fairly quiet, reserved people. Faith, though she’s still pretty young, seems to be a lot like us. Then there is Journey.

As I often say, “he’s his own special person.” He’s kind of loud and very outgoing–he’ll go around a room full of strangers and say hi to every person. And he has a TON of energy.

I love that he’s different from me. But sometimes I struggle with those differences. He’s much more emotive than I am, which can lead to some frustrating moments–I won’t even mention the breakdowns over the simplest things. But it can also lead to wonderful moments, like when he laughs so heartily it becomes contagious. But sometimes I wish he’d be more like me and relish the quiet moments of life. I can sit quietly with Faith and just enjoy the peace. Journey has never been like that. Even as a newborn, he was loud. We’d bring him into our bed in the early morning, hoping to get a few more minutes of rest. And he would just babble away. So much for peace and quiet.

I remember one Saturday morning when we were all relaxing in our bed. Well, all but Journey. He lay there for about five minutes before he wanted to get up and jump on the bed and sing as loudly as he could. I was ready to get after him for disturbing our peaceful morning, when I felt a caution in my heart–“don’t try to tame him.” Yes, he needs to learn when and where to be silly and loud. But in that moment, I felt like I needed to be careful not to make him feel like who God created him to be was somehow wrong because it didn’t “fit” with our family.

The reality is, we would be one pretty bland family without Journey to liven things up a bit. God clearly knew what he was doing when he placed Journey in our family: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart…” (Jeremiah 1:5 NLT). And although he’s different from the rest of us, he very much fits with us.

Remembering who I am

I’m a pretty typical introvert. It’s not that I don’t like or enjoy being around people; I just require time to myself to recharge. I know this about myself. I’ve known this for a while. But when it comes to my children, I seem to forget this aspect of my personality. So I give and give and give some more. Then I wonder why I’m short-tempered and frayed around edges.

I never wanted to be that mom. You know, the one who sacrifices herself on the altar of her children. But sometimes I feel like that’s who I’ve become. My mom was not that mom. And I never felt less cared for or valued because she cared for and valued herself.

Recently, I’ve been doing little things to “reclaim” myself, like finally losing the baby weight and making an effort with my appearance before leaving the house. It’s amazing what you have the energy to do once you start sleeping again. And although those are wonderful, even necessary things, I can’t help feeling that they are superficial. Those things are not going to refill me when I’m empty.

We are often defined by the roles we play. It’s true, I am a wife and a mother. But is that my true identity? Is it what defines me and who I am? Until I know that, I will always get lost in my roles. It’s not about wanting more out of life. I’m fulfilled as a wife and mother–I’m where I’m supposed to be. But I can’t let it be what defines me.

There is only one place I can find my true identity. Who I am has to be rooted in Christ: “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes” (Galatians 3:26-27 NLT).

But I need to be constantly reminded of who I am in Christ, otherwise I’ll get bogged down in the minutiae of my everyday life. For me, spending time reading the Bible and in prayer not only remind me of who I am, they recharge and restore me. But I’m not very good at carving out that time. So I’m going to make it a priority. That may mean that sometimes Faith and Journey will have to play in their room, while I take time to refuel and remember who I am. In the end, my prayer is that as I take time to fill up again, I will fulfill my role as wife and mother with more purpose and focus.

First-time obedience and other things I don’t do

I’m very big on first-time obedience when it comes to my kids. It’s kind of my thing. “Delayed obedience is disobedience!” (That’s a quote from my dad.)

But if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t exactly practice what I preach. I have a list of things God has told me to do that I still haven’t gotten around to yet–all for various and often well-thought-out reasons. But how is that any different from my children? When I tell Journey to clean up his toys, in his mind, continuing to play with his car is far more important than doing what mommy says. Or if I call Faith to come to me, going in the opposite direction not only seems like a better idea, it’s more fun–especially when mommy chases after her.

So why do I expect things of my kids that I don’t do myself? And why do I get so frustrated when they don’t do it? I wonder if God feels that same frustration with me.

This topic has been a particular source of frustration recently. And I’m beginning to wonder if God is trying to show me something in my children’s obedience–or lack of it, in this case.

I think he’s teaching me about perseverance. Galatians 6:9 says, “So let us not grow tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (NLT). I was reading to Journey earlier today–after a particularly challenging morning–and in his little innocent book on colors, there was this scripture. I knew right then that God was answering my earlier plea for guidance. No, it’ wasn’t “do this and this will happen.” But it was telling me to continue to do what I’m doing with Journey (and Faith)…because I will see a “harvest of blessing” if I don’t give up.

I also believe God is trying to get me out of my own complacency with delayed obedience. When Journey doesn’t obey right away, he misses opportunities–No, we’re not going to the park today, because you didn’t obey mommy. I think it’s the same with God–though he’s much more gracious to me than I am to Journey. It reminds me of the children of Israel. Because of their disobedience, they wandered the wilderness for 40 years and many of them missed the opportunity to see the land God had promised (Numbers 14). I don’t want to miss God’s promises and opportunities anymore. So now I’m going through my “list.”

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