Reasons Why I NEED a Master Bathroom

I found myself cold, wet, wrapped in a towel and crammed into the bathroom closet.

“I NEED a master bathroom!” I yelled out in desperation to God, the universe and anyone who would listen.

How did I end up here, sandwiched between the drawers full of toiletries and the rack of hanging clothes, wishing I could dry off and just GET DRESSED IN PEACE?!!  I made the fatal mistake that many moms make…I unlocked the door.

We live in a house built in 1924.  It is lovely and full of character.  We only have one full bathroom for the 11 of us as well as one half-bath.  The full bath is extremely large for an older home…but it is only ONE bathroom for the 11 of us.  The door only locks with a skeleton key just like all the other doors in the house.  When we moved into the house in 2007, we noticed an entire cabinet built just to hold all the skeleton keys, 55 hooks in all.  There were only a fraction of the keys left, maybe 15.  Now we only have 6, some of which are probably for doors that are no longer hanging.  That leaves 2 skeleton keys left to lock the bathroom, our bedroom, and the attic door.  Therefore the children no longer have access to said Keys.

That day I had taken the Key out of hiding and locked the door.

Ahhhhhh!  Peace!  I turned the worship music on high and enjoyed my alone time as I took a shower.  I was just drying off when my husband knocked on the door.

“Yes?” I asked, trying not to sound annoyed at the intrusion.

“Can I come in?” he asked.

I usually open the door for my husband, so against my better judgement I turned that key in the lock.  The door opened a crack.

“Quick, get into the closet!” my husband said with urgency.  “Calvin really has to go and someone is in the downstairs bathroom.”

“WHAT!”

“Come on!  It will just take him a minute.  Get in the closet,” Chris told me.  Calvin is seven and bathroom needs can be fairly urgent at that age.

So there I was in the closet – cold, wet, and crammed…and wondering what was taking so long.

“Oh, you don’t just have to go pee Calvin?” I heard Chris say.  “Come on, Calvin! Hurry!”

I began to feel panic rising in my throat.  I was stuck in there while Calvin was…you know!

“I should have never unlocked that door!” I yelled out to Chris and to myself and to all the mothers of the world –

“ DON’T UNLOCK THAT DOOR!”

I began that moment to compile a list of reasons why I NEED a master bathroom.

1. My husband and I could use the privacy!

2.I don’t want my toddlers and young children to have access to my rather expensive toiletries.

This is the reason for numbers 2, 3, and 4. Courage was trying to use my Miracle Skin Salve (it is the only thing that will help heal Ashlyn’s outbreaks of psoriasis and costs $30 for a small jar).  He dropped the entire thing in the toilet.  I have resorted to storing that replacement jar among other precious items in the “feminine drawer” in the bathroom closet.  So far, so good.  It remains unmolested.

3.I would like to maintain the integrity of  my medications.

I have a natural throat spray that is a life saver during a bad sore throat. I used it several times before I realized that the taste was really off.  I finally deduced that Courage had poured out most of the throat pray and then had added tap water.  Cadin told me later that Courage had also spit in it.  Why he didn’t think that information was important to tell me immediately, I do not know.  The new throat spray is now stored in the box of nursing pads.  So far so good.

4. I don’t want to “share” my hair products with a three-year-old.

My almost full bottle of Shine Serum  went missing. Weeks later Courage told me that he had poured it all out into the trash.  The new bottle in now being stored in the “feminine drawer”, fingers crossed.

5. I no longer want to unsuccessfully scour the entire house to find important items that should be right where I left them, such as the tweezers, fingernail clippers, hair accessories, and even toilet paper.

6. I don’t want to wonder what has touched my towel during the course of the day.

7. I could offer my children more bathroom time.

I noticed a water bottle in my teenage son’s room. It contained a yellow liquid I found very suspect.  When I asked Cole about it, he replied, “What do you expect me to do when you girls are in the bathroom?”

“Wait!” came my indignant reply.

“Sometimes there is someone in the downstairs bathroom, and I just can’t wait.”

“Well, you can at least empty the bottle!”

“Why?  It is not full yet,” Cole said matter-of-factly.

I would wager to say that Cole could benefit from me having a master bathroom, and I could stop becoming slightly nauseated whenever I pass his room.

  1. I could avoid stepping in a pee puddle when using the toilet in the middle of the night.

  2. I could save my daughter from the horror.

    I already told my sweet teenage daughter that if we got a master bathroom, she could use it and escape the jungle that is our current bathroom –the inevitable misses from six boys who like to pee all over the place and also don’t feel the need to flush down ANYTHING!

  3. Most importantly, I don’t ever want to be naked in the closet again while my son goes poop!

Chris has already come up with an ingenious plan to get us that master bathroom.  Our bedroom has a door that leads to an outside porch that already has a roof on it.  He just needs to enclose the porch and bring up the water from the laundry room below.  Of course there will be a million other details to consider and the expense of doing all of that.  So I have decided to start a Go Fund Me Account. If you would like to donate to our very worthy cause, just look up “Pooping in Peace for Every Brandenburg.”

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Found this lovely bathroom on Love of Family and Home , and look!  No pee puddles on the floor.  I am in love!

Just kidding! This article was written for the pure entertainment value….but if you should feel a burden for our family and want to give us a brand new master bathroom….we wouldn’t turn you down.

Why Did I Think We Needed a Puppy?

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I have always been anti-dog.  My house is already full of loud, messy, needy creatures.  What do I need a dog for?

“It would be so good for the children,” my husband would argue the pro-dog position.

“They are so cute!  And it would be fun,” the children would chime in.

“Don’t worry, we will get one…someday…when we have a lot of land and the dog can be an outside dog,” I would always answer.

I had no intention of sharing my home with a stinky, hairy animal that may or may not destroy the furniture and pee on the rug.  God, however, had different ideas.

I drive to a farm once a week to purchase raw milk and pastured eggs.  A few years ago, beagles began showing up on the farm until there were three beagles in three separate pens.  Soon there was a litter of the cutest little balls of fur in one of the pens.  The children would “ooohhhh” and “ahhhhh” over them and try to pet them through the chain link fence.  The puppies would trample over each other to get to the children, wild with excitement.

The children would come home with tales of the adorable puppies.

“Just call and find out how much they are,” Chris urged me.

“We don’t need a puppy right now.  I don’t WANT a puppy right now,” was my reply.

“Just call,” he said.

After I called and found out that each puppy would require a sum of $450, the talk of getting a puppy ceased.  The puppies grew up and were all adopted.  Then six months later another batch of puppies would appear wobbling out of their little dog house and into the penned-in yard.  I let the children have fun talking to them and petting them, but my heart was unmoved.  I never thought that beagles were that cute anyway.

This September, there was a new litter of seven puppies.  The farmer invited me and my children to peek into the dog house.  We saw the tiniest black bundles snuggled up to their mother. They seemed different somehow.  They were black and white.  Had any of the other beagle puppies been black and white?  I couldn’t exactly remember.

Soon they grew enough to venture into their yard.  I felt strangely drawn to these tiny creatures.  They were so adorable.  Areli took a pictures of them with her phone.  Cute, right?

The farmer let the children hold one, and they were in love.

“So how many of them are you going to take home?” the farmer asked.

I just laughed!

The next week there was a new sign at the farm that read, “Border Collie Beagle Puppies $100.”  I started thinking, “Hey, we could afford $100!  If all the children would pitch in, they could cover all the costs and help to take care of a puppy.”

Yet my thoughts scared me!  What was I thinking, even considering this?  We didn’t need a puppy!

I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.  The children would be overjoyed to have a puppy, and I would love to fulfill their heart’s desire.  I told Chris my thoughts and he said, “If YOU want to get a puppy that is all the confirmation I need!  Call them and ask if we can pick one out.  You better hurry before they sell them all!”

I called the owner, who was the wife of the farmer’s brother.  She told me the funny story about these $100 puppies.  She and the farmer’s brother were planning their wedding and decided not to breed the beagles this season since the puppies would arrive right around the wedding date, early September.  Well nature, the dogs, or God himself had different plans.  When the female beagle was in heat, the Border Collie who lives on the farm chewed into her cage.

I laughed about the unplanned pregnancy that had produced such adorable pups.  I set up a time to bring the entire family to the farm that Friday evening.

On Friday morning I was feeling very nervous about this rather impulsive, impractical, and life changing decision…to go PICK OUT A PUPPY!  What was I thinking?!  I asked God to give me a scripture to confirm that this was a good decision for our family.

He gave me Psalm 34.  I read the beloved verses such as:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him and be radiant so your faces shall never be ashamed.

The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Peace began to flood my soul and I thought, “A puppy must be a good thing that God wants to give to us.”

Later that day, all 11 of us crowded into a room in the barn.  The floor was wet since all the puppies had just been given a bath. They were so little and cute and active!  They would run around wagging their tails rapidly; licking, chewing, and jumping the entire time.  I had prayed that the Holy Spirit would highlight the perfect puppy for our family, yet I couldn’t even tell them apart!  I finally settled on one puppy that seemed to like Ashlyn. I always had thought that a dog would be good for Ashlyn since she loves animals. Cooper and Cadin picked another puppy with distinctive brown eye brows who was identified by the owner as the most active puppy of the bunch.  Areli and Cole had bonded with a shy little girl who had been so scared by the bath, she spent the first half of the visit in her owner’s arms.  Once she was let down to the floor, Cole scooped her up and she fell asleep. photo-10Areli took a turn cradling the sleeping pup.  Cole and Areli were in love.

After much discussion and debate, we finally settled on the sleeping pup.  A sweet and docile dog would be a good complement to our overactive boys.  She was the only puppy that the owner had already named because she was the favorite.  Her name was “Happy” due to her constantly wagging tail.

It was a good thing we went to the farm that night because the very next day, all six of Happy’s brothers and sisters were adopted!  We decided to keep her name “Happy” because we couldn’t all agree on a name.

Chris wanted to name her “Dog.”

Cadin wanted, “Gigi.”

Cooper thought something like, “Skullcrusher” would be more appropriate.

Areli and I preferred a sweet name like, “Ellie”.

Cole suggested, “Gonorrhea,” for the entertaining shock value.

Mercifully, the named had already been chosen!!  Now we just had to wait until Oct 8th when we could take Happy home.

After the exciting trip to the farm, I sat down to read through Psalm 34 again.  When I got to verse 8, it was like a revelation from God.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good;

HAPPY are those who take refuge in him.”

God knew that Happy was the puppy for us.  I felt that He knew it all along, and that He had planned all of us to bless us.

When October 8th came, we were all very excited!  The children held a rather apprehensive Happy on the van ride home.  She had already gotten bigger!photo-4  She seemed uncertain about her new home and finally found her happy place, snuggled in Ashlyn’s lap.

Neither Chris nor I had ever had a dog.  We knew very little about being dog owners.  I had gotten all kinds of books and DVDs from the library which the children and I had been studying.  I was preparing myself for a lot of work initially.  Areli said she would take Happy out during the night.  Cole said he would train her.  The other boys said they would take her out for walks and play time.

I had a vision in my head inspired by the many books and movies I had seen about dogs.  The children and the dog would be best friends, almost inseparable.  She would look up at them with adoration in her eyes, longing to please.  She would join them on their adventures in the woods.  They would become responsible pet owners and grow in maturity.

Three days after we brought her home we noticed something in her fur.  Fleas!!!  Just two of them, but I had never had fleas in my house before.  The internet said that one flea could turn into hundreds, maybe thousands in just a week.  My skin started to crawl and I was officially freaking out.  How do I naturally deal with fleas?  We gave her bathes in flea shampoo and vacuumed every day.

After a few weeks, we were all worn out and it seemed as though Happy hadn’t learned anything.  She hadn’t learned to sleep through the night and Areli was walking through her day like a zombie.  Cole hadn’t trained her to do anything.  Someone was assigned to watch her at every moment and take her outside every half an hour.  Still, dog pee and poop on the carpet was the new normal.

I thanked God that our carpet was so old that it really should be replaced anyway, but the smell and the extra cleaning was frustrating.  Just to make it interesting, Happy barfed and had diarrhea a few times as well.

I began to realize that I really knew nothing about dogs.  Is this all normal?  Is she ok, or is she sick?  What would I do if she got sick?  I know all about taking care of children and babies.  I know exactly how to treat all of the childhood maladies, but a dog I had no clue about.  How could we afford vet bills?  What vaccines does she need and which ones are unnecessary?  Should we get her spayed and how?

I reminded myself that Happy was a BLESSING from God and He would work all this out.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I would remind myself over and over again.  My happiness was not in the circumstances but in His unchanging love and goodness.

More weeks passed and Happy continued to chew on EVERYTHING!  We had to keep the floor cleaner than if we had a baby crawling around.  When she got something that could be dangerous, it became a game of, “who can catch the puppy and pry this thing out of her mouth.”

The most distressing reality to me was the fact that she like to chew on PEOPLE!  My people!  My little defenseless people!  Annalise was afraid of Happy because Happy could knock her down.  I would have to hold Annalise or put her in her highchair when Happy was around, and this was incredibly inconvenient.  Courage wasn’t much better, but at least he could run away and climb up on the furniture to escape her reach.

Courage took to hitting and kicking the puppy.  I thought he was just being naughty, until I realized that he was really angry at this new “baby” for hurting him and scaring him.  The truth was, I was angry too and couldn’t blame Courage for his emotions.  I tried to teach him how to play with her nicely, but it ended up more like refereeing a mixed martial arts fight.  Happy just thought they were her brother and sister and wanted to play.

Ashlyn, who loved to play with Happy, would mess with the puppy endlessly.  This resulted in many bites and scratches.  The saddest moments for me would be when one of the middle boys would be playing with the puppy.  Happy would get over excited and bite hard.  The boys would end up bleeding and crying.  My idyllic vision of pet ownership was crushed.

I became very upset over the entire situation.  My day was much more difficult and messy and sad and frustrating.  Why did I think we needed a puppy?  I began to wish that I never had this stupid idea!

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I tried to remind myself.

dsc_0093The children began to fight with me about taking Happy outside and cleaning up after her.  When I talked to Chris about all of these things at supper time, his response was very simple.

“This is just a dog.  All of you promised to help with her.  If you don’t help, or if you give Mama a hard time about it, I will get rid of the dog.  I have no problem posting on Facebook, ‘Free Puppy.’”

Chris was very serious.  I actually wanted to take him up on his offer!  What a load would be lifted!  Yet, I felt that God had brought us this specific puppy, and it wouldn’t be right to give her up.  I felt that eventually she would be a great blessing to our family, although in the moment I couldn’t quite imagine how.

Dealing with the inconveniences of a new puppy is a rather small trial.  Yet God was using this to teach me lessons I needed to navigate through the real trial in my life; the heartrending trial that is just too deep and personal to write about yet.  I was dealing with a situation that I had always hoped and earnestly prayed that I would NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH.  And now that I was in the middle of it, I just wanted to retreat.  To be done, to give up, to admit defeat.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I remind myself every time I look at our puppy. Just like this puppy, I know that God will use this horrible situation for my good and bring a blessing out of it.   I can’t imagine what the blessing will be, but I am trying to believe that there is ALWAYS a blessing to everything that God allows to enter our lives.

J.R. Miller expressed it perfectly when he wrote:

“Every difficult task that comes across your path – every one that you would rather not do, that will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle – brings a blessing with it.  And refusing to do it regardless of the personal cost is to miss the blessing…

“Every battle field you encounter, where you are required to draw your sword and fight the enemy, has the possibility of victory that will prove to be a rich blessing to your life.  And every heavy burden you are called upon to lift hides within itself a miraculous secret of strength.”

Now the puppy has become less of a trial.  The children had a real attitude adjustment and began helping more willingly.  They began to have fun playing outside with her and taking her to the park.  She began to sleep through the night!  She started to calm down with the chewing and biting.  She actually became very gentle with Annalise and better with the other children as well.  She started to obey some commands!

We take pleasure in petting her silky fur and scratching her belly as her tail thumps on the floor.  We love to snuggle with her on the sofa when she curls up to take a nap.

photo-12 She has stopped using our house as a toilet (most of the time) and her schedule has become more predictable.  The flea infestation that I had worried about never manifested.  Whenever I look at her I can’t help but think that she is the prettiest puppy in the entire world, and I am glad that she is ours!

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Happy is a constant reminder that Happy are those to take refuge in Him and every trial holds the promise of a blessing whether we can see it or not.

What is the Glory of Motherhood?

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?”

I keep hearing the Holy Spirit asking me that question.  And I have to answer with a question of my own.

“What is the glory of my calling?”

Honestly, I am having trouble seeing it in the midst of one big mess after another.  Courage’s birthday was a perfect example of this.

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It had been a pretty peaceful day.  I had time to get the house cleaned and ready for the party celebrating our fiery three-year old.  All of his presents were wrapped.  The supper was prepared in advance.  I had gathered the ingredients for Courage’s heart’s desire; a chocolate dirt cake with gummy bears.  I had also made two additional desserts with special ingredients to accommodate the more delicate members of our family.

I was sitting on the sofa, waiting for dinner time.  “This is an important part of motherhood right here,” I thought.  Celebrating my children and creating happy birthday memories for them.  I was hoping that Courage would feel loved and special and that the entire family would have fun.

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I started setting the table and getting the food ready when my perfectly planned birthday celebration began to unravel.

“Chai just threw up on the carpet!!!” I heard an excited child yell.  At first I tried to ignore it and continued the dinner preparations.  Maybe they were exaggerating as children are prone to do, or maybe someone else would take care of it.  No such luck.

I went from working with food in the kitchen to scraping stinky puke off the living room carpet.  Chai had suddenly gotten sick and ended up sleeping in his bed for the entire birthday party. The smell and the germs were not what I had planned.  Thank goodness my mom was the only guest, and we didn’t have a house full of people!

As I began scrubbing the carpet with cleanser, I heard the sound of some sort of ball hitting the side of the house.  This didn’t go on for long before I heard Chris yell out the window, “Cole, stop kicking the soccer ball against the house!”

Did Cole heed his father’s wise advice?  No, the banging continued once more, twice more, and then…the sickening sound of shattering glass!  Cole had just broken our living room window.  Thankfully, it was the storm window so none of the glass came into the house.  But there was glass all over the back patio.

“Oh well, I can’t worry about that right now,” I thought to myself.  “I have to throw in some laundry, get the boys to take out this trash, scrub my hands about fifty times in hot water, and then finish putting the food on the table.”

Back into the kitchen I went.  Then Areli came to me holding the cup used to measure the laundry detergent.

“Courage just handed this to me… filled with his pee!” she told me.

“Of course he did,” I thought. I was bracing myself for the next catastrophe that was sure to come.

Amazingly, the rest of the evening went just fine.  We all sang “Happy Birthday” very loudly.  Cake was eaten.  Presents were opened and played with.

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We made a big mess and cleaned up a big mess.  We put all the children to bed and prayed that no one else would throw up during the night.  We got into bed late to get up early and do it all over again.  Doesn’t seem very glorious, does it?

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?”

Rick Joyner heard a great Queen ask him this very question in a vision that he wrote about in The Torch and the Sword.  He said that she was astonishingly beautiful and seemed to be motherhood in all of its glory.  She explained that she was Jerusalem above, the mother of all who worship in Spirit and truth, the church as it was called to be.

She asked Rick, “Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?  Will you give my daughters swords and torches?  They are the ones who keep the torches alive, and they will wield the sword wisely.  My daughters will stop the death and bring back the life!”

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Perhaps to see a bit of the glory of my calling, I should find out what these swords and torches are all about.  Here are a few excerpts from the book and I hope it is encouraging to you!

The Lord handed Rick a torch and told him, “This is the light of My presence.  If I was not close to you, you could not hold it.  If you drift from My presence, it will become heavy.  If you drift very far from Me, you will have to lay it down…It is yours to carry for as long as you stay close to Me…No power on earth can put it out if the torchbearer walks with Me in this realm. Its brightness and power depend on the life of the torch-bearer, and on how close he stays to Me.”

Then Rick met Tomas a Kempis who told him, “You can set people, cities, and even nations free with the light of this torch…The torch you carry has been the source of every true movement of the Spirit.  The leaders of these movements were all torchbearers…If you are going to endure to the end, you must stay close to the Source of this light and fire.”

The Lord spoke about Thomas, “Men thought of Thomas as a humble laborer, one to cook, wash dishes, and weed gardens [sounds a lot like a mom’s job!], but he, too, carried this torch.  From his post of washing dishes, he became more powerful than kings or emperors.  He prophesied to millions over generations.  Even today My message goes forth from his writings to help prepare the coming ones.  You can be more powerful washing dishes and staying close to Me than you would be leading armies or nations but drifting from Me.”

I need to read that again!

“YOU CAN BE MORE POWERFUL WASHING DISHES AND STAYING CLOSE TO ME than you would be leading armies or nations but drifting from Me.”

To be torchbearers, to carry this fire that brings life rather than destroys, we must abide in Jesus.

Rick met Enoch who had so much of this life flowing through him that he never died.  Enoch said, “The Lord makes His messengers flames of fire.  You cannot walk with God, or fulfill His purpose for you on the earth, unless you keep this fire burning in your heart.  Lukewarmness is your deadly enemy.”

Lukewarmness can easily creep into the mind numbing daily grind of a mother.  It is the overwhelming hardships and challenges of motherhood that push us into his presence!  How I want to be one of the chosen torchbearers!

Jesus told Rick, “You will know these chosen ones by the fire that already burns in them.  They will never be content with religious practices, for they yearn for Me and the reality of this realm.  Because they seek Me, I will be found by them.  I will give them their heart’s desire – My fellowship.  I will be their inheritance.”

Later in the vision, Rick found himself preparing for a battle.  The only other warriors with him were a young girl and John Wesley.  Wesley told him, “The Lord called a dozen men.  He changed them and then they changed the world.  In your time He is going to do the same with the children.  It is also the time of the lioness.  Great are the company of women who will preach the gospel.  There will be many great men of God in your time – but the great marvel and great honor will be for the women and children who walk in the ways of the Lord.”

Later the Lord gave Rick a sword and said, “It will only become heavy if you wield it in your own strength.  This is my Word of redemption.  It cannot be destroyed, but will stand forever…No power on the earth is stronger than my redemption…This is the sword of the Spirit…You are holding my living Word…to receive my word into your heart must be your quest every day.  Then you will begin to see.  Then you will have understanding.

                “It was by my Word that the universe was created, and it is by My Word that it is held together.  My Word is the answer to every human problem…The sword that is being given to my messengers in the last days can break any yoke, and cut through any chain.”

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?  Will you give my daughters swords ad torches?  They are the ones who keep the torches alive, and they will wield the sword wisely.  My daughters will stop the death and bring back the life!”

                “I am a woman.  I am a mother.  I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth.  Heaven stands in honor of my mission.  No one else can carry my call.  I am the daughter of Eve.  Eve has been redeemed.  I am the opposition of death.  I am a woman.” – Christianna Reed Maas

The reality is, we can carry the living fire of His presence and the powerful Word of redemption into every part of our day – the fun celebrations and the puking parties, the playtime and the hard work.  That is glorious even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.  We don’t need any special skills or qualifications.  All that is required is that we seek Him first, abide in Him, and receive His words into our hearts every day.

An Answer for the Guilt of Motherhood

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I think most mothers feel some level of guilt every single day.  I know that I do.  I have heard it said that guilt is just part of the job description.  Should it be? Surely God doesn’t intend for us to carry this heavy load.  Wouldn’t we be much better mothers if we were free from guilt?

But I have so many opportunities to feel remorse!

When my third grader can’t read. (I am a horrible homeschool teacher!)

When my baby wakes up and I can’t calm him. (Surely I should understand a baby’s needs by this time!)

When I yell at my eight year old and he hides in the linen closet and cries. (I am so mean.)

When my teenager yells at ME for outlawing the indiscriminate consumption of sugar. (I am so unreasonable and extreme.)

When my oldest daughter is stressed out because of the amount of house work she has to do. (I should be doing more of the work myself.)

When my special needs girl is crying because I am forcing her to do therapy (what kind of monster am I?)

When my two year old screams so the entire grocery store can hear. (I have failed at disciplining him and instilling a sweet and joyful personality.)

I have realized that all moms have times like these.  So if we are all universally dealing with the guilt of our motherhood failures, THERE MUST BE AN ANSWER!!!!

Let me take you on a journey of extreme guilt and perhaps you will recognize your own journey.  I have a daughter who was born after a more difficult birth requiring Pitocin.  I wrote all about it in my article,  “Birth Story, Part 3.” She looked perfect and beautiful to me, but the hospital staff was convinced that there was something wrong with her.  She had unusual facial features and two toes on each foot were partially webbed.  They continued to “find” more and more abnormalities in her internal organs that could have had serious consequences.  Yet in just two days, she went home with me; a healthy, happy and totally normal baby!

Or so I thought…until I received a call when Ashlyn was 6 weeks old. The chromosome analyses revealed that she was missing a piece of her 6th chromosome.  No one had ever heard of such a thing and no one knew what this might mean.

Chris and I were convinced that our daughter would be just fine.  She could grow up without physical or mental handicaps because God would show us exactly what to do.  I read and researched and read and researched some more.  Other children like her had been able to maintain higher than average intelligence when put on an intensive therapy program developed by the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential.  I opted to enroll Ashlyn in a similar program at the Family Hope Center. 

It required taking Ashlyn to the center every six months for an evaluation and to learn the home treatment plan.  Each trip would cost $5,000.  We weren’t able to take her until she was three or four years old.  I felt terrible about losing those valuable first years, even though I tried to institute the therapies at home that I had taught myself by reading their books.  We were able to raise and save the money to go to the Family Hope Center a total of three times in the 12 years of her life.  Each time the Family Hope Center infused me with great ideas and many wonderful therapies.

But there was a problem.  How could I possibly accomplish 6 hours of therapy with Ashlyn each day?  I found it a struggle to devote even two hours to her with all the needs of my other children, the house, and my husband.  Many times Ashlyn would be very uncooperative or sick, and we got nothing accomplished at all.  I watched the years pass by and her developmental delays became more and more pronounced.  The gap between her actual age and her neurological age grew wider and wider.

I took some comfort in the fact that all the crawling around on the floor she was doing was organizing her brain, and that someday she would eventually walk.  When that day came, her intelligence would be much higher because of the abundance of cross pattern crawling she had done.

What I didn’t know was that she was developing a progressive club foot deformity.  Perhaps it was because of her chromosomes, perhaps it was because of the lack of weight bearing on her feet, perhaps it was because of the poor position of her legs and feet while crawling.  Her large shoes created a crawling form never taken by a normal baby.  The handicap crept up on me and all of her healthcare providers until…her muscles and bones formed abnormally.

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She became unable to stand up or walk normally and may never be able to.

I felt like this, along with all of her other physical and emotional issues, were my fault.  Whenever I looked at her twisted and painful feet, I would feel deep sorrow and crushing guilt.  God had given her to me, and surely he had given me the tools to help her, but I had failed.  Failed not just in a little thing but in something that will greatly impact the quality of her life…her entire life.

Everyone who saw Ashlyn would always comment on how well she was doing, how much progress she was making, and what an amazing job I was doing.

But I never believed them.

Chris was always saying that Ashlyn WAS doing so well because of all the time I spent with her and all the good things I have done with her.  Without my intervention, he said, she would still be lying like a blob on the floor.

But I never believed him.

I continued to blame myself for her every deficiency.  Therapy was a chore, and Ashlyn was very often unhappy.  How happy could you be when the sight of you reminded your mother of her guilt?

OK, this is an extreme case of guilt, but I am sure all of you mothers (and fathers) out there can relate to some degree.  Does my guilt sound reasonable and rational to you?  Have I been a horrible mother?  Does God want me to carry this burden?

Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!

And he doesn’t want you to carry it either!

So let’s clear up a few things, mothers and fathers out there.  I am going to tell you some truth, and I want to open up your ears and hearts and BELIEVE ME!

When something goes wrong…it is not your fault!

When your child is not perfect…it is not your fault!

When the world around you is not perfect…it is not your fault!

When you are not perfect…well, that may be your fault, but it is ok!

God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that you would not be perfect, yet he gave you that child anyway.  He knew that you were the very best parent for that child.

You cannot save your child from their sin, their bad habits, or their circumstances.

You cannot heal your child; not their bodies or their souls or their spirits.

You cannot mold them and shape them into the person you think they should be.

ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT!

Sometimes God does those things THROUGH you in his time and his way and you may be totally unaware that he is doing it.  The closer we are to God, the more our minds are filled with his wisdom, the more attuned we are to his voice, the more he can flow through us to our children.

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The vague feeling of failure that most of us moms carry around is not from God!  The thought that if we were better parents our children wouldn’t be so….whatever it is that they are…doesn’t come from God.  It comes from the Enemy of our souls.  He knows that we are the perfect parent for our child and that God is using us in amazing ways.  He wants to make us ineffective in this most important calling.

It is true that sometimes we do things wrong and we need to ask forgiveness from God and our children.  If we are listening to the Holy Spirit, he will show us when these times occur.  He will convict us in a very specific way and give us hope that there is forgiveness and healing through him.

Here is an example:

Condemnation from the Enemy: If you were smarter, more organized, and more loving, your daughter would have walked years ago.

Conviction from the Holy Spirit: When Ashlyn was crying during her walking therapy today, you continued to push her.  You should have slowed down, looked her in the eyes, and talked to her gently.  You could have showed her that you saw and acknowledged her pain.  You could have investigated the specific location of her pain and asked me for wisdom as to whether she was just whining out of childish self-pity, or whether she had a real injury.

Condemnation must be answered with the truth.  Conviction must be answered with saying you are sorry and changing your behavior.

What is the truth?  You can find it in the pages of your Bible.  You can find it in the eyes of your Savior.  You can find it in the voice of your Father.  In his presence there is fullness of joy.  Joy because in his presence he tells you how beloved you are.  He shows you how in control he is, and how your little mistakes can’t derail his plan.  I have found that conviction is a rather small part of what the Father does.  The large part is lavishing his praises and love and encouragement on us!  Being in his presence makes me a much better mother than guilt and self-criticism ever did.  I wrote about how I try to get into his presence during a hectic mommy day in my article, “Grumpy Mommy Morning.”

Have you ever had this experience in worship?  Your heart is bursting with love for God.  Your gratitude is so deep that you can’t express it in words.  You have so many things to thank God for that you are glad you have an eternity, because that is how long it will take! You wish you could do something worthy of your wonderful God; singing, dancing, painting a beautiful picture, writing a 300 page masterpiece…yet all you can do is just stand there and let the overwhelming joy wash over you.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to feel that way all the time?  To mother our children out of that kind of joy?  Someday, maybe we will.

Have you ever thought that maybe God feels that way about you?  That being with you brings him overflowing joy that will last forever.  That he is so thankful for you and your life!

Blows your mind!!!  That’s what happens when you start listening to God’s voice.  He blows your mind with a new perspective that sends the guilt and shame packing.

Once I was sitting on my sofa, miserable with morning sickness and feeling like an awful mom.  God broke into my despair and said to me, “Thank you!  Thank you for being available to carry this child.  Without you, I couldn’t have brought this child of destiny into the world.”

THAT is the truth.

You may feel very imperfect.  You may be sure that you are messing up your sweet innocent child, and that they will need inner healing as a result of your poor parenting techniques.  But without you, they would never have been born.  They would have never had the chance to experience life, love, laughter, and sorrow.  They would never get to see the sights of this earth or heard the sounds.  They would never have gotten the chance to choose right from wrong.  They would never have the opportunity to try and fail and try again.  They would have never had the opportunity to be messed up and then healed!

So thank you mom!  Let me say a big “thank you” to you from God, your child, and the world!  Thank you for giving your child life.  Thank you for doing your best.  Your best is a wondrous reality full of deeply textured experiences.  It is not all sunshine and roses, but even the chance to experience sadness and suffering is a gift.  Thank you mom for that gift.

Did you know that God uses motherhood as a picture of abundant prosperity?  Is 66:10-12 compares the prosperity of Jerusalem to nursing and being satisfied at a mother’s breast and drinking deeply in her overflowing abundance.  Then verses 12-13 says, “I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees.  As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”

God compares himself to a mother!  God is going to comfort us like a mother!  Ahhhh, what a wonderful, peaceful image that is.  Mothers – God is using you to show himself to your children.  Your nursing and cuddling and soothing is revealing to your child what God is like.  You may not do it 100% perfect all the time, but there you are, doing it and giving your child a frame of reference for the love of God!

This world is not perfect.  You may think you are doing a very poor job of protecting your child from the toxins in our food, the poisons on TV, and the bullies at school. Let me remind you that this world is not our home.  It is a hostile warzone, full of danger.  It is hard to see the warzone because it is disguised by the white picket fences and flower boxes of suburbia, but it is a warzone, nonetheless.  We are living here as missionaries, trying to show the love of God to those who will violently oppose us even as we love them.  We were created for a place much more beautiful and holy and perfect than this. But we are here because God has a wondrous plan.  To raise children in the muddy trenches of this harsh environment is difficult.

No, it is downright COUREGEOUS! 

Mother, you are a mighty and strong warrior!  If you and your family are splattered with grime, fight bravely on!  Your Champion has already won this war, and soon his victory will be evident to all.  He is able to keep your children safe.

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All of these pictures were taken on a trip to the Family Hope Center we took with Ashlyn in 2010. Here is an old cemetery seeming to encroach into the sacred boundary of a park for children. Yet joy and sorrow, life and death dwell together in surreal beauty. Joy that Ashlyn is alive and healthy. Sorrow because of the realization that all my best efforts cannot heal her.

And in the midst of this war zone, God gives us a little piece of heaven, our own paradise… if we can learn to abide in him and open our eyes to the beauty in the brokenness.

A few months ago I was talking with a woman whose sister was a teacher for 35 years.  She taught at an institution for severely handicapped and damaged children.  She told me that most of the children had been abandoned by their parents.  She would prepare classes for the children, because they were eligible for free education until the age of 21.  She would stand at the front of the class room and teach letters, numbers, days of the week, etc. to a room full of wheelchair bound children who couldn’t talk.  Some would never interact or show any evidence of learning anything at all.  She would try to organize fun activities and field trips for them since they rarely had visitors.  She would put on a parent’s nights to highlight what their children had been learning and usually, no parent came.

I marveled at the love and special grace this woman had to continually pour into these children and young adults with very little encouraging results.  It took me months of pondering this before I realized…this could have been Ashlyn.  If she had never had me as her mother or Chris as her father, if she had been taken care of by a collection of paid state workers, what would she be like right now?  Was Chris right in saying what he had said many times before?

“Without all that you have done for her, Anne, she would still be laying like a blob on the floor.”

Ashlyn is a unique treasure that God has given me.  And I am a gift to her; a loving mother who shows her how much God loves her.

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A new perspective sure does a lot.  In fact, that is the answer to the guilt of motherhood.  Get your eyes off of yourself and onto Jesus.

Why don’t you put on some worship music like David Leach Worship or Bethel Music and seek God for his perspective on your mothering career.  Let that guilt just walk out the door!

Special note to mothers who may have legitimate guilt over huge mistake that you have made in the past.  You may have killed your child, mistreated him badly, or abandoned him.  These are serious offenses, but not unforgivable.  Most of the major players in the Bible had grievous sins and were very bad parents!  Yet God forgave them and loved them and used them to bring untold numbers of people to himself.  Guilt is God’s mercy to bring you to him.  Seek God for that kind of forgiveness and transformation in your life.  Once you lay your guilt down at the cross, don’t ever let the Devil convince to pick it up again.  Jesus signed his name to your sin and died as the punishment for it.  It is finished!  You are loved and you have a future full of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

A Grumpy Mommy Morning

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We have all had them.  Grumpy mornings when we wish we were still under the covers.  Grumpy mornings when everything seems to be going wrong.

I used to have grumpy mornings on a regular basis, when I was rudely awakened way too early with the knowledge that I had a very long day of caring for little people ahead of me.

In recent years, however, I felt more confident, more capable.  With the help of my older children, I was able to face each morning with a level head and even some joy.  I became too confident and let my two most helpful children (Areli and Cadin) volunteer to help with Kidz Kamp at our church.  They were gone early in the morning, my husband was at work, and that left me…alone…with a three month baby, a loud and demanding two year old, a special needs girl who acts like a quirky three year old, three wild and crazy boys, and a teenager asleep in his bed.  This teenager who used to be an early riser and the instigator of most of my grumpy mommy mornings, now seemed to be able to sleep indefinitely.

I tried to take care of the needs of the younger children while enlisting the wild boys to help me prepare breakfast.  The younger children were all uncooperative and whiney, and the wild boys were…wild!  They seemed to ignore all that I said to them.  Instead of helping, they were tearing around the house creating messes and conflicts.

Before I knew it, I was in the midst of a Grumpy Mommy morning unlike I had experienced in years!  I ended up yelling and fuming, ranting and raving.  I didn’t understand why my children didn’t understand…I was doing all of this for them.  The diapering and nursing and dressing and cleaning and cooking!  All of this effort was for them!  Why couldn’t they help me just a little bit?

Later in the day I had the peace and quiet to think.  Why did I have such a horrible morning?  Was it really my children?  Were they really so awful?

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Or was it my attitude?  If I was really doing everything I did to serve them, why was I so angry with them?

I realized that the work I was doing and getting stressed out about was not really for them.  They didn’t really care if their faces were clean or that their clothes matched or that they had a super healthy breakfast.  I was doing all of those things to make myself feel better.  I was doing everything I thought a good mother should do, trying to get it all done so that I could feel accomplished and satisfied with my mothering.  Then I could get on to the things that I really wanted to do.

I was angry because their childish behavior was interfering with MY plans.  They were messing up MY schedule.  I hadn’t thought about the emotions or thoughts of each child that morning.  Maybe one child had woken up with a scary dream.  Maybe another child was so excited about Kidz Kamp that he couldn’t calm down.  Maybe the other child was so nervous about Kidz Kamp that he was trying to forget his worries. Perhaps another child was feeling overlooked and was just trying to get my attention.  I hadn’t even considered what was going on in their hearts.

I stopped to contemplate what each one of them might want most in the morning upon waking.  I concluded that their deepest heart’s desire, even if they couldn’t articulate it, would be to have a mommy who would greet them with joy.  A mommy who would listen and not just give orders.   A mommy who speaks kind words instead of yelling.

How could I possibly be that kind of mommy?  How could I even begin to meet each child’s unexpressed needs each morning?

All I could come up with was the fact that I definitely could not.  Only if I was abiding in Christ and had His love and thoughts towards my children could I be that kind of mommy.

How could abide in Christ when I got woken up before I could have a quiet time?  How could my mind be full of His thoughts when I couldn’t crack my Bible to read a single scripture?  How could I have His love for my children when I hadn’t even stopped to notice His love for me?

This has become the question that I MUST HAVE an answer to.

“LORD, just how do I seek you in the midst of this life that you have given me?”

I am not totally sure how to get time by myself on a daily basis.  I am not sure how to meet with other Christians and get to church meetings more often for encouragement.  But here is what I have come up with so far.

Whenever grumpy thoughts start to invade my mind, I make a huge effort to replace them with a thankful thought and find something to praise God for.

I write scriptures on notecards and post them on my bathroom mirror.   Whenever I see them, I read them and memorize them.  As I read them, I feel hope returning to my soul.   I try to meditate on them throughout the day.

I recite memorized scriptures while I am nursing.  I used to be able to read the Bible or other encouraging books while I nursed but now Annalise nurses too fast and is too active for that.  As I speak the truth out loud, I feel my heart taking courage.

I listen for His voice in the midst of the noise.  Sometimes I hear it in the voice of my six year old.  Sometimes I hear it in my baby’s cries.

Instead of begging Him to help me through this crazy day, I THANK Him for the help He most certainly IS giving me and WILL give me.

I listen to worship music while I am preparing meals and sing along.  I am caught up in His goodness as I chop vegetables.  I smile when my children tell me that I should have been a singer, and I try to be loving when they interrupt me for some silly reason.

I listen to the Bible on CD while I am driving.  It transforms the time I spend running errands into an encounter with truth and love.  I have noticed things about Jesus and the Bible I have never noticed before.  I have cried and repented and praised Him for His mercy while running to the grocery store.

When I get the chance, usually on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I write down what He has been speaking to me throughout the week.  Then I read my journal over and over again while I eat breakfast the next week. I am reminded of the earth-shaking revelations that have so easily slipped my mind.

I fall asleep recounting all the good things God did for me throughout the day.  I surrender all that I am, and all that I am not.  I rest in the arms of Jesus until some little person needs me.

Being a good mom is not made up of things that I do or the schedule that I keep, but who I am.  Only an active, growing relationship with Jesus will make me like Him and banish the Grumpy Mommy Mornings.  So let us all seek Him, no matter what.

 

I Grow People. What’s Your Superpower?

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t-shirts can be found at http://www.cafepress.com

When I am pregnant, I tend to feel useless. It is when I feel the most discouraged about what I can’t do and what I am not accomplishing.  Not feeling as well as usual, needing extra sleep, and facing physical limitations hinder my ability to do the things I think I should do.

My house isn’t very clean.

My boys grow shaggy manes of hair before I get around to giving haircuts.

I haven’t visited my neighbor since Christmas.  She has trouble getting out of the house, and I look across the street and pray for her and wish I had the time and energy to walk over there and chat.

I am not very involved at church.  It has been months since I’ve been to a prayer meeting.

I haven’t made a meal for a new mom in so long I can’t remember.  Has it been years?

I haven’t fed the homeless.

I haven’t been on a mission trip.  I haven’t shown my children the wonders and sorrows of a world beyond our borders.

I haven’t baked cupcakes for my children’s classes at school…ever.

I am not close to writing my first book.

I don’t take walks nor do Pilates.

What I have been doing is a lot of is eating and sleeping.  Just recently I was considering how my present life would stack up in the light of eternity.  All I could think about was what I hadn’t done –preached or healed or preformed miracles.

A friend at church was confiding in me how discouraged she had been lately.  Partly in an effort to make her feel better and show her that she wasn’t alone in this sentiment, I shared my thoughts on my lack of important, spiritual works.  Despite her own state of disappointment, she opened her mouth and out poured a beautiful stream of words from the Holy Spirit.  I say that it was the Holy Spirit because it hit me right in the heart, convicted me, and lifted me up out of my doldrums all at the same time.  She spoke so quickly and so beautifully that I couldn’t remember it all, but here is an awkward paraphrase.

“I am discouraged about what ministry we can’t do right now…but then I realize that I AM doing it RIGHT NOW, pouring into my family.  What else is there?  You bring life wherever you go…and THANK YOU! I wouldn’t have 5 children right now if it wasn’t for that conversation I had with you when you said that you didn’t want to miss anything; you wanted everything God had for you.  That is a powerful message of life.  You walk into a room and you bring double life without even doing anything.  You keep going and keep carrying new life even though it is hard and you’ve had struggles.  You live a message of life and that is so counter cultural and I LOVE IT!”

I was immediately convicted for despising the importance of where God has me right now – carrying new life!  I grow people!

Girl people and boy people.

Light haired people and brunette people.

Even red-haired people!

Blue eyed people and brown-eyed people.

People who are talented artists and people who are good at math.

People with undetermined potential and people with childlike faith!

Growing people is so amazing and miraculous, it is like a superpower!  It is hard work growing people.  It takes a lot of eating and a lot of sleeping.

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It takes giving up exclusive rights to my own body.  And it takes giving up many, many tasks.  It turns out that no task can be as important as a person.   God gives me all the time and energy for everything He wants me to do.  The things that I don’t have the time or energy for just don’t matter right now.

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I am just a mom who loves babies.  I am just a woman  whose heart’s cry to God is, “I want to accept every child you have for me!  I don’t want to turn a single one away!”

And my friend was telling me that I had changed her life!  She was telling me that I bring life every place I go, just by being me!

Perhaps growing people is not your superpower right now.  Perhaps your superpower is something more like:

Baking a beautiful cake

Smiling your lovely smile

Adopting the child that no one else loves

Writing encouraging notes

Taking care of the sick or dying

Shoveling sidewalks

Running a business

If you don’t think you have a superpower, think again.  God gives superpowers to everyone!  Just ask Him what yours is, and He will show you.  Most likely it is something that just comes naturally to you.  You don’t think much about it, but in a life given over to God, your superpower is changing atmospheres.  Use that superpower to love Him and love people, and there is no limit to the impact it could have.  Keep throwing out your little seeds.  Don’t worry about the condition of the soil it may find or the rain that may or may not come.  It is God who will make it grow!  It is God who takes the smallest of seeds and grows a huge Sequoia tree.

I look at all of my eight children; my toddler, my young ones, my pre-teens, and my teens.   I can’t believe that I grew all of them!  I feel my unborn baby kicking and flipping and I am in awe!  I can’t believe God has given me another person to grow!  It feels like a miracle!

So for now I am going to be eating A LOT and sleeping A LOT for the kingdom of God, because there is nothing more important I can do.  You keep practicing your superpower, and together we will change the world!

Mommy Brain

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Some people say there is a curious thing that happens to a woman’s brain when she becomes a mother.  Something to do with changing hormones that causes her brain to function differently.  She becomes a bit forgetful and confused, prone to illogical outbursts of emotions.  I don’t know if I believe that, but I sure have experienced “Mommy Brain.” For me it is a simple case of constant overstimulation.  At any given moment of any day, there are several children tearing through the house in different directions, bent on accomplishing some sort of important mission (all of which seem rather suspect to me, requiring my intervention). Many different conversations are being carried on simultaneously, and there is usually louder -than- I- would- like teen music playing and the abrasive sounds of disagreements occurring somewhere in the house.  All the while I am trying to stay on task to accomplish my to-do list for the day.  My job is very important and if it doesn’t get done, my children remain hungry, dirty, and uneducated.  Yet, I am always aware of my greatest responsibility to love and love and love some more.

All of this occurring at one time can jumble my thoughts quite a bit.  One morning I entered the kitchen to a cacophony of noise, many idle teens and preteens debating some” important” topic, and no breakfast being made.  Earlier I had asked Cadin to bring the oats up from the basement so Areli could make oatmeal.  This had not yet happened.  This distressed me quite a bit as I was going through the homeschool schedule in my mind while worrying about my children being too hungry to do any school that day.

Obviously irritated, I said to Cadin, “I told you to go down there and get the ice cream!”

All conversation stopped.  All eyes turned towards me.  Cadin’s mouth opened but he said nothing.  Shock and amazement crossed his face and I could read his thoughts.

“Has mom lost it?  She wants us to eat ice cream for breakfast?  She hardly even lets us eat dessert on the weekend.  What is she talking about?”

When I realized that I had inadvertently said “ice cream”  instead of “oats.”  I began to laugh and laugh and laugh.  Mommy brain!

 

Just a few weeks ago it was another crazy morning.  It was late and Courage was still in his pajamas.  I finally changed his diaper and took off his fuzzy sleeper.  Yet I didn’t want him running around the house without any pants in the middle of winter.  So I asked Cadin to put some pants on him.

I sat down on the couch to read to Ashlyn.  After what had seemed to be a very long time, Cadin returned holding a little pair of pants in his hands.  He held them out to me.

I said to him,”Cadin what have you been doing?  And where is Courage?  Why haven’t you put his pants on him yet?!”

Cadin gave me that shell shocked look again and said nothing.  Then I realized what the problem was.  I was holding Courage on my lap and he had been perched there the entire time!

I couldn’t contain my laughter at such a ridiculous scene!  The laughter broke the tension and cleared the air…and confirmed to all of my children that I had truly lost my mind!  But we were all having fun and that is what matters, right?

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I am thankful for these humorous brain lapses.  They remind me that often times mommies are very silly and irritable for no good reason.  Bless all the sweet little angels who have to put up with those mommies day in and day out!   And thank God for the laughter that brings back the joy!

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The More Children I have, the More Blessed I Become

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Babies are a blessing!  When they look up at you with the blue eyes they got from you and smile a dimply smile they got from their Dad, you think to yourself, “Surely there is nothing better in the entire universe than this precious little one!”

Yet babies can be a lot of work with all the crying, diapering, laundry, training, and worrying that is involved.  And toddlers!  Wow, the work just multiplies.  A huge amount of energy is spent just keeping them from death and injury as they begin to explore their world with abandon.

Young children need to learn all sorts of things such as: the alphabet, addition facts, what president is on the penny, what a president is, how to be polite, how to get rid of the monsters in their closet, and how to wipe their little butts.  This constant instruction can be frustrating and draining.

As they get older the training expands to chores, homework, and interpersonal relationships.  It becomes apparent at this point that these children have developed personality traits that are nothing like yours, and you wonder how this could have happened!  They have behavioral issues that you never expected and don’t quite know how to handle because frankly, you expected your children to be nearly perfect just like you.

Then you begin to relate to the parents who act as though their children are more of a burden than a blessing.  They make jokes about how their children drive them crazy, and how they definitely don’t want ANY MORE of those little monsters!!  They love them desperately…but they kind of dread the summer when they have to be with them day in and day out.  You understand…because sometimes you feel that way too!  Oh, for some alone time!  Oh, for peace and quite!  Oh, for some extra money to buy something for yourself!

The Bible says that children are a reward and a heritage from the Lord.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them! (Ps 127:3-5) God says that birth, pregnancy, and conception are our glory. (Hosea 9:11) Pregnancy, babies, fruitfulness, and many children were God’s blessing to his people when they were obedient to him. (Ex 23:26 and Lev 26:9)  To have a lot of children in your family is a sign of God’s favor and blessing on your life.

Let me tell you all the ways I have become more and more blessed with each child.

It is true that children are a lot of work, but all the work has taught me about how to be more organized, more efficient, and more time effective.  My time has become so precious to me, and I don’t spend it on any old thing.  I use it as wisely as I know how.  I have been so blessed by giving up stupid TV shows and filling my time with relationships, learning, reading, and drawing close to God.  I am a better and more knowledgeable person for all the hard work I have done.  Now I am able to train my children to be hard and efficient workers as well.  Some of them even enjoy an organized home and a job well done!  What a blessing!

It is true that children are so emotionally draining.  All the crying that is not comforted by my best mothering efforts could lead me to depression.  All the nightmares and fears I am called upon to calm, all the yelling and disagreements that I am required to negotiate, all the disobedience and disrespect I am expected to correct WITHOUT anger could drive me completely insane!  Instead, it highlights my weaknesses and drives me right into the arms of God.  I depend on Him for everything.  I look to Him for every answer.  I seek Him for everything my children need, because I know that I just don’t have it all within me.  I go to Him every time I fail and trust that He will cause my children to be just fine despite the fact that their mother is grossly inadequate.  I pray constantly and continually for their bodies, their souls, and their spirits.  He amazes me with His promises for them, and overwhelms me with His love for them.  Without all these children, I would never be so close to my heavenly Father who parents me perfectly.  I am so blessed to have such a close relationship with God, and I am so blessed to feel His precious grace increase every time He gives me another baby.

It is true that children cost a lot of money.   They are constantly growing and needing new everything!  Yet for every child that God gives, he gives the money and resources to go along with that child.  We have a big house because we have a lot of children.  We did not get the big house first and then decide that we could have more children.  We have resources constantly flowing to us because we had a lot of children.  We didn’t wait for the resources and extra money in the bank before we decide to have more children.

I have bought very few children’s clothes in the past 16 years.  Clothes just come to us through friends and relatives.  Nice Clothes!  Beautiful clothes!  Barely or never worn clothes!  I have bins and bins and bins of clothes in the attic just waiting for a child to grow out of their current wardrobe!  We have had people give us a refrigerator and another person gave us a huge chest freezer for free!  Then we have other friends who get us amazing prices on boxes and boxes of food to fill all of the refrigerators and freezers!

If one of our children needs something, we pray together for God to bring it to us…and He does.  It is so fun to witness the unusual and unexpected ways that He does it. When the time comes for bigger needs such a cars and college educations, I know that the miracles will be there.

I have heard many amazing testimonies from missionaries who go out on the mission field with very little resources.  They simply have a raw faith that they are doing God’s work and God will provide…and He does.  God loves my children just as much as he loves the heathen people in the jungles of the Amazon.  I can expect miracles in my own life just as the missionary does.  What an exciting life I get to live, a life of faith and miracles!  What a blessed life I have!

As I have more children, my workload actually lessens and my life becomes easier.  Why?  Children go from being liabilities to being assets.  They can work!  They can do chores and do laundry and cook and clean and take care of babies, and if you train them right, they can run the entire household without you even being there.  Oh, the glory of seeing a clean kitchen and knowing that you didn’t have to wash a single dish!  Oh, the wonder of a date night with your husband as the older children put the younger children to bed.  Oh, the beauty of returning home from a lovely evening out to find peace and order without handing out money to a babysitter.

Being pregnant is so much easier with lots of children and teenagers around.  I don’t have to hurt my back doing housework.  I don’t have to bend down to get anything with all those eager, little hands.  And everyone wants to hold the baby and learn how to change his diapers.  Blessings abound!

What could be better than fun and adventurous family times?  To experience new and different things together is awesome.  To go on trips and vacations with so many playmates around is loads of fun.  At home on a normal day, there is no lack of conversation!  The cooing and babbling of the baby keeps us delighted.  The hilarious comments of the younger children keep us laughing.  The constant questions of the curious ones keep us alert.  The unexpected and imaginative thoughts of all the children keep us in wonder and awe!  The adult conversations with the teenagers keep us company and enrich our lives.  The love exchanged between us all is what we live for.  And what a lovely, blessed life it is!

I can only guess at all the blessings that will be mine when each child becomes a mature, responsible adult.  How lovely it will be when I witness them becoming who God created them to be, when they are displaying their unique gifts and callings.  And when they become parents with children of their own, all those grandchildren will be one adorable blessing after another!

I can only imagine what it will be like someday when I stand before God and He pulls back the veil.  I will be able to see clearly the impact that my children had on the world and on eternity.  What inconceivable blessings will be mine, forever and forever!

family 4

When people see me out with all of my children, they seem a little shocked that there are so many of them.  When friends and strangers alike learn that I have eight children and one on the way, their reactions are all very similar.  At first they seem very surprised and confused (Like they are asking themselves, “Do people really have 9 children these days?”)  Then they give me a look that says, “You are absolutely crazy, you know that don’t you!”  But they usually don’t make that comment out loud.  What they do say, almost universally across the board is, “Wow, you have your hands full!” and “God bless you!”  I have been blessed more times that I can count!  Every time I meet someone new, they say to me,

God bless you!”

I know that words have power.  With words like those being spoken over me every time I go out, I feel like the most blessed woman in the world!

 

The Golden Days of Summer

Ah, those glorious days of summer, kissed by the golden sun!

flower 3

I was sitting on the back steps under the sunflowers.  My children were running barefoot in the green grass.  I wanted to drink it all in and not miss a thing.  Summer won’t be around much longer.  The sunflowers only last for a few weeks.

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We will never be exactly the same as we are right now.  My children are growing taller and getting smarter every minute.  Soon the toddler will be a little boy and the little boy will be a young man.  As I watch my children playing in the summer twilight, I think back to the summers gone by, memories now faded and misty with time.

The absolute glory of the end of school.  The days suddenly full of free time, balancing between excitement and boredom.

summer 3

Discovering new things.

summer 4

Riding bikes.

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Playing in the cool creek water.  Catching fireflies that turn the dark into a magical fairy land.

Picnics outside.

summer 2

 Birthday Parties.

picnic  Fun and laughter.

Kraley and CalvinGet-together with friends.

summer 1

Now I am grown, and my friends are grown, and we have children of our own.

summer 7

We still feel like we are teenagers.  Full of fun and adventure.  Youthful and energetic (at least during the first half of the day)!  Still trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up.

Yet we see that some of our babies have become teenagers.

summer 5

Mature and responsible.  Standing on tiptoe to peak out over the horizon to catch glimpses of adulthood.  We realize that we are teenagers no longer.  We are adults barreling down the road of life to middle age.

And look at the fruit our lives have produced!

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Nineteen children who play in the golden days of summer.

Soon these days, now crisp and sharp, will fade into memories.  School will start again.  The air will become cool.  The leaves will change.

But God’s goodness is unchanging, unwavering.  We can savor every drop of summer while we look forward to the glories of autumn.

The radiators turning on for the first time.  The nippy air, permeated with the smell of wood smoke.  Children romping in the leaves.  We can treasure the past, revel in the present, and joyfully anticipate the future. We are pursuing God and dwelling in His love, day in and day out.  We are going from glory to glory, going from good times to even better times.  We are confident in the promise that these golden days of summer will come around again.

Before we know it, a summer will come when children will go off to college.  Someday some of them will get married in the summer…perhaps to each other!  We may be gathering as childhood friends turned into family, watching our grandchildren playing barefoot in the grass.  And we will be different too.  Our hearts will be stretched and expanded to contain more love…more of the goodness of God…more golden days of summer.

 

Interior Decorating According to Children

I don’t think my children understand what “interior decorating” means.

I love to daydream about rooms in my house that I will remake into works of art.  I enjoy looking at pictures in magazines and collecting ideas from TV shows and friends houses.  I dream about getting yards and yards of inexpensive fabric at the PA Fabric Outlet for future curtains.  I create floor plans in my mind, full of colors and patterns.  When I think about decorating my bedroom, I think about fresh, light blue paint on the walls and a beautiful blue and white quilt for the bed.

I used to have daydreams for my children’s rooms as well.  Areli’s room was going have purple bedding and yellow walls featuring lovely framed photos of Anne Geddes baby butterflies.  Twelve years have passed since those dreams, and Areli no longer wants purple and butterflies.

Cooper and Calvin share a bright red bunk bed which matches nicely with their area rug of bright red, blues, and greens.  Their walls still sport the pastel yellow, mint, and pink colors that were painted by the previous owner for their little girl.  It doesn’t bother me too much because in my mind, their walls are the perfect shade of blue. At least we removed the sparkly chandelier.

Nine months ago we created a fifth bedroom in our home for the baby, and I have filled up a file cabinet in my brain with ideas for his room consisting of a many shades of orange and a lot of lions.  The walls of his room are still stark and messy white, all patched with putty, waiting to be sanded and painted a warm yellowish, orangey, brown/tan color.  The actual official color has yet to be researched and determined.  Something like Sherwin Williams’ “Delicious Melon.”

Will my interior decorating dreams ever come to pass?  I am still hopeful, although I have not yet been able to do any of the children’s rooms in my 15 years of being a mom.  Just for fun and so I could more accurately daydream about decorating their rooms, I posed the question to each child.

“What if you had your own room and you could decorate it any way you wanted to?”

The answers amazed and inspired me, but I realized that they don’t think about decorating in the same way I do.  Not by a long shot! The answers ranged from:

“Camouflage loft bed with green walls and a huge closet that locks so no one can touch my stuff.”

“A wall covered with books shelves and books, my own laptop with editing software, new and better cameras.”

“Entertainment center with flat screen TV and game system that flips around to become a dresser with all my clothes inside, blue walls, black ceiling with lights shaped like stars.”

I explained that none of their bedrooms would ever contain a TV or a game system as long as they lived with me, but that did not deter them.

“Flat screen TV, many game systems, and a slide that goes out my window.  It will be a water slide but I can shut the water off, and then it will just be a regular slide…Oh, and I want a pool in my room.”

“A bed that comes out of the wall by itself and a pool and a hot tub and a slide and…”  This answer was given by Calvin, my talkative 5-year old.

calvin

He continued to expound on the details of his dream room for the next 20 minutes. I must admit that my mind kept wandering in and out of the conversation.  I caught fragments of his chattering.

“…the toilet will flush by itself….the lava wont hurt me…there will be crazy glue but I wont die…there will be extra feet to put on if you want to be taller…” and on and on it went.

Although I could not make sense of it all, one thing became abundantly clear to me.  My definition of “interior decorating” had become much too narrow.  What had happened to my big, hairy, audacious dreams?  Children seem to be able to tell you exactly what they want, whether or not it is realistic …or even real.  And they are not deterred by restrictions and rules.  They think out of the box.  Or perhaps their boxes are much more vast and exciting than my box.  Those boxes become smaller and smaller as the child gets older, I have noticed.  But isn’t it impossible, child-like faith that has given birth to solutions and inventions never previously considered?

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I pray we can all grab onto that child-like hoping and imagining.  Even if it never comes to pass the way we envision it, it sure is a lot of fun!  And I pray that my children can hold on to their interior decorating dreams.  I would love a house with slides and toilets that flush by themselves!