Tag Archives: love

3 Ways to Create Space for Your Family

This article originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I listened to a podcast the other day where the guest was asked how she fostered such closeness within her family unit. I absolutely loved her answer, and pray for what she said to be true about my family. She said that all the did was create space for her family. She created space for them to get to know each other on a deeper level, for fellowship, for fun, and even for having hard conversations. It’s only one thing to do, but it’s huge. How do we do it?

One way for a family to create space for conversations and fun all together is to break bread together. In my home, our mealtimes are sacred as often as we can make them so. Yes, breakfast tends to be rushed (or finished on the way to school) some days, but on Saturdays, we can enjoy a slower (and bigger!) breakfast together. Lunch might just be with the preschoolers, but we can sit down at the table together most days. Dinners happen on the go once a week, and with friends at our table with us sometimes, but the rest of the time, dinner is a special time for all five of us to get to know each other by talking about our individual days, how we feel, what’s going on the next day, or just silly stuff. For us, eating in front of the TV or in shifts isn’t a nice as being together without distractions. Creating the space for fellowship around the table can make a big difference.

Another place to try building some space is into the bedtime routine. Of course, sometimes it’s impossible. But if you’re able to create even a few minutes of unhurried, one-on-one time with your child, you never know what they’ll open up to you about. Bedtime is one of the first things that gets rushed through at our house some evenings, but my husband and I love to spend a few minutes laying with each kid, asking how I can pray for them, and hearing what’s on their minds. My oldest is in kindergarten this year, and she often has things she wants to talk about during those minutes.

Lastly, I try to protect our unscheduled family time. My husband and I both work sporadic hours for our jobs, and so we don’t have a specific time of day, or day of the week, that’s always protected. Therefore, when we can squeeze in a family trip to the park, a trip out of town for the weekend, or just a night at home snuggling and watching a movie, we do it. We love to have friends over, so much of our time at home is spent hosting – which we truly enjoy! But when we’re home in the evenings without an agenda, it’s nice to get extra snuggles and more dance parties, art projects, or games in together.

Creating space in your home for building relationships within your family unit is important. Having conversations about their friendships, hard situations, and relying on Jesus can help them be healthier and more balanced kids and teens. And, the closeness you foster early in your children’s lives is likely to continue throughout their lives! There’s just no downside to spending intentional time together with the people you love most.

A Letter to My Third Child 

This is a post I wrote a few weeks before D was born. It was up on Mom Babble for a while, and I only just remembered I hadn’t ever published it here. It’s such a sweet memory for me, especially now that he’s 16 months old, running around, beginning to talk, and generally being more self-sufficient than my other two were at this point in their lives. It’s sweet to think of the anticipation I was feeling when he wasn’t quite here yet. I hope you enjoy it.

My sweet little D,

I’m getting really excited for you to get here. There are just nine weeks left until you’re due to arrive, and I already wish I could just see you next week. Mostly, I’m excited to meet you, see what you look like, and introduce you to your crazy siblings. Also I’m getting uncomfortable, peeing all the time, and sleeping less than ever. But mostly I want to meet you.

I know you’ve been in my womb, hearing the squeals and shouts and cries and songs of your family. We may be a loud bunch, but we’re a good one, too. We love big, and we show it often. When you get out here, you’re going to feel the love from all the kisses and hugs you get from all of us. You might also get a love tap or seven from J, but it’s just because he can’t wait for you to be big enough to wrestle him. EK will probably want to choose your outfits and give you bottles and push you in the stroller. I promise to help you look like the boy that you are instead of a princess, and only let her push you fast once you can handle it.

You gave us a scare, when you were just the size of a lime. I took some tests that made us think you weren’t healthy, that you might not make it. Well, you sure showed us! We should have had faith in you and in God, and known that you would be fine. But we had a couple of hard, sad weeks, praying for your safety. You were loved, prayed for, and longed for, even then. We can’t describe how much more you are right now, and how much more you will be once you’re in our arms.

I am sure you will be every bit as amazing as your dad and your siblings. Strong, smart, handsome, musical, hilarious, snuggly, and compassionate… those are things you’ve got going for you. I know it must seem like a tall order to such a little dude, but you’ve got a little while to grow into it.

I hope you don’t mind sharing all those things (and all the other things ever) with your siblings. You’ve got quite a bit of third-hand clothing and toys, in various stages of worn-in. But you know what? There is one thing that you get brand new, just for you, that you never have to share with anyone:

My love.

You see, I have a lot of love. There is plenty to go around. I’ve got a special love for your Dad, that only he knows about. I’ve got a love for EK that’s just for her, shared between this Mommy and her daughter. I’ve got a love for J that will also be different than my love for you; he is a special guy. The love that I have for you will be a special thing that you and I will share. The love I have for exactly you will be special between us, and it will never run out or grow weary. I get all my love from the most inexhaustible source imaginable; I get all my love from Jesus. One day, you will know Him too. You can already have His love – everyone has it. He loves us all with a big, awesome love that we can hardly understand.

Always remember: you’re brave, smart and kind, you can do anything you set your mind to, and I will always love you.

Love,
Mama

When they go low, we go high.

Michelle Obama rocked us with these words in her speech at the DNC, and they should still be true now that the election is over.

I’ve seen more hate today on my newsfeed than anything else. People firing at one another, or just firing aimlessly – ammunition for arguments, for hurt feelings, for America to take a giant step backward. I’m not writing today to make any political statements. I told you yesterday that I voted for Hillary, and I would do it again today. But there is something more important right now than who voted for who, or why they did. What’s more important is that we do not let things divide us even further. An election is divisive by nature, but we need to unite under a cause we should all be able to get behind.

Let’s unite to spread love, to be welcoming and hospitable, to be helpful and kind. There is no excuse to spew hatred. I cried myself to sleep last night, and woke crying again this morning. But I refuse to be brought to the level of pointing fingers, blaming anyone and everyone who disagrees with you. Our country is only as scary, ugly, and bigoted as we allow it to be. The way to combat the hate, bigotry, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, or any other forms of intolerance is to BE THE LOVE. Be the tolerance, be the acceptance, be the encouragement, be the grace for each and every person you come in contact with. Get to know and love people who are different from you. Support them. Love them. Even if it’s tough for you – it’s good exercise.

So as you go about your day tomorrow, the rest of the week, through the end of the year, and prepare for Mr. Trump to be sworn in this coming January, decide how to go high, even if those around you are going low. Those words won’t ever lose their relevancy. Choose the high road, the tolerant road, the road of love.

This post is a part of my NaBloPoMo, where I publish a piece each day in November. Often, I’m exercising my writing muscle and writing something that’s out of the box for me. Thank you for bearing with me and following along.

Overcome

I wrote this some months ago, thinking of submitting it here or there. It never seemed fully cohesive, but I’ve come to a stand-still on how to improve it. So here it is, unfinished, but meaningful to me. It’s time I let it go.

I was overcome.

In an instant, I was overcome with thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams, and overwhelmed by the flood of emotions.

I saw my little ones for what they would become… Independent. Whole. Grown. I saw them that moment not needing me anymore. Not wanting to hold my hand, or worse, preferring to hold someone else’s instead.

The tears came then, even as I strapped my baby into his car seat. His brother was dancing around the room, chanting the name of the cousin we were off to see. That dancing boy wasn’t as clumsy, and he spoke more clearly. What had happened to my barely toddling, nonsense-jabbering baby? He is still there, the same chubby smile beneath the same blue eyes. But so many things are different. The mixed emotions of pride in his growth and sadness in his disappearing babyhood flooded me at the same time. Excitement mingled with nostalgia is the feeling that replaced the months of tiredness mingled with nausea.

I know that when I have a baby, he won’t stay that way. I’m not surprised by the growth and the change. It’s actually the fun part, discovering alongside them, helping them learn and talk and walk and become a little more self-sufficient each day. But there’s a sadness, too, and sometimes, some days, I’m overcome by it. I need to shed a few tears for the baby they’ve left behind, because all I’ll have is memories of that little round face, bald head, or chubby hand. But I will have gained a runner, a cook, a hugger, and a singer. I’ll have a new friend, a hilarious joker, a brave and athletic boy, a smart and sensitive girl. I am glad for the shift. I am glad for the change. But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss the past.

This post is part of my NaBloPoMo, where I publish a  piece each day in November.

The Beauty of the Balance of Parenting

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus.

This weekend, our pastor kicked off a series about the beauty of balance (you can listen to it here if you’d like). He spoke of how Christ is balanced not by being mediocre, or lukewarm, but having strong feelings in both directions. When he loves, he loves fully, fiercely, and sacrificially. When he is angry, he is filled with righteous anger. Jesus was altogether human, and is fully God. He is full of grace, yet spoke only truth. Some might say He is a contradiction, but He simply embodies the beauty of balance.

As I listened to the metaphors of balance, it seemed even more apparent to me than usual that life is more about a balance of extremes than pulling ourselves into the middle, and letting go of what’s on either side – and especially better to have a balance than leaning on one side too heavily.

Even more than that, as it often happens with me nowadays, the pastor’s message spoke to me particularly through the lens of motherhood. It is important to have balance in every aspect of parenting children. You need lots of elements to raise well your tiny humans, and to emotionally and physically survive parenting. You need silliness and discipline. You need exercise (or at least getting out some energy) and rest. You need community and time to be alone. You need a balance of all these things. Parenting consists of small moments of a single feeling or a lesson learned, all of which are built up together to grow up your little people. Yes, there are moments where your children learn security from love and affection that you show them. There are moments where they will learn about integrity, because you went through with a consequence, even when you didn’t want to. There are joyous times for being silly and making faces, and growing imagination through pretending. There are hard conversations about right and wrong, and mistakes made and how to fix them.

But each of these things, on their own, don’t create and nurture a life. It takes all of them together, interspersed through the long days and short years of being a parent and loving a child. The beauty of balance in parenthood is what grows up our helpless babes into Jesus-loving men and women who can impact the world in a positive way. The seasons of sleepless nights (cue any “mombie” jokes you’ve ever heard), potty training (when it’s often easier to leave them in the diaper), driver’s ed (where you might be literally fearing for their lives) and college tuition (where you’re sacrificing your current comforts for their futures) all matter. The beauty is in the balance of your love for them, your willingness to make sacrifices for them, and your desire for them to be independent, well-meaning and compassionate people.

Fathers’ Day

I’m privileged to be married to the kindest, most patient father there’s ever been. He’s selfless, fun, giving, and loving with our kids, and I couldn’t be prouder to call him ours.


He routinely works late at night, but never complains about being woken up early to give snuggles, read books, or play trains. 

 
He teaches them about life and love and anything they come across. 
He disciplines them when they need it, it strength and love. He cuddles and sings and cooks and reads. He provides for them emotionally and in the physical realm, too. 

In short, I admire him as a dad and as a person. He is ultimate compliment to my crazy, my hard, my mad, and my difficult. He’s the perfect other side to all my personality, my parenting style, and my ever-fluctuating emotions. He is a rock, an encourager, a comedian (and sometimes jester), and a comforter. Happy Father’s Day, Hubby. I love you. 

Freedom from My Mommy Guilt

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

Everyone tells you that the third baby is easy. He will be flexible! He will sleep anywhere! He will be calm! He will go with the flow! With my youngest, that’s often true. The sweet little guy loves his siblings, and he never woke up every two hours like newborns often do. He was an easy delivery, and slept through the raucous noises of two toddler siblings from early on.

He is also a mama’s boy. I don’t mean a “sissy”; that’s not a way we have used or will ever use that term in our house. What I mean is that he prefers me above basically any other human. He needs me every few moments. He is happier when he’s close to me. This could be the result of several things. I wear him a lot, mostly because it’s easier and sometimes necessary for survival. He’s also the only baby that I never “went back to work” after. I started my part time jobs back, of course, but he hasn’t experienced me working away from him full time. I’m home with him usually, and we’ve built our life and schedule around me not being away from him more than a few hours. I’ve taken a weekend away from him, and while he was totally fine, he missed me pretty terribly.

Every time we have a day that I don’t see him much (which with our schedule is about once a week), we are bonkers for a few days. It throws off our entire schedule for way longer than just the day I’m gone. He’s extra clingy, sometimes wakes up in the night (when he’s past that stage) and follows me around the house. It’s cute, of course, until I need to get things done and I can’t put him down. And then the Mommy Guilt sets in.

Maybe I shouldn’t stay away from him that long. I should just not take that job. I shouldn’t go on that trip. What if I’m causing him stress? What if he ends up with scarring from my abandonment?!

Hold it right there. What am I doing?! Im not abandoning him! But that’s where the spiraling mommy guilt just led me to think. I’m just placing undue blame on myself. I’m getting worked up, worrying myself to death, and taking responsibility for things that I can’t control. I do my best, but extenuating circumstances are always a possibility. I can’t help when my big kids will need me more in that moment, or when his nap was too short for me to accomplish everything while he was asleep, or when I’m exhausted or sick or stressed. He knows that I love him. No matter the crazy days or time spent away from him,Che is well taken care of, and I’ve made it abundantly clear to him that he is my baby and I’d do anything for him, just like his brother and sister. 

All you do when you give yourself all that blame is distance yourself from the person you can be, the person you already are. Guilt doesn’t become us; there is no need for it. It wastes time and energy, both of which I could be spending on and with my family. My guilt has been ultimately taken care of, and my debts have been paid- even the ones I have yet to owe. Jesus came to release me from guilt and shame, and free me to be exactly who I’m created to be, no strings attached. It is His sacrifice and love that has allowed me to be a woman, wife, mother, friend and follow Him daily. He continues to free me from sin, and free me from myself when I just can’t get out of my own head.  This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to make mistakes, or feel a little guilty sometimes. But with the strength of my Jesus, His guidance and His love, I can get on past that mommy guilt and move on to being the best mommy I can, no matter the circumstances.