Sunday, March 16, 2014

10 Things SAHMs Need From Their Husbands

It's been said that marriage is 50/50.   The reality is that a great marriage is 100/100, both giving their all at all times. It's about mutual submission - serving each other.

There's no denying that adding children in to the mix can complicate things, yet it's so worth it.  It's a blessing and privilege far and above any other.

Then add into all of that being a stay at home mom (SAHM) and things can get a bit murky if you let it.  The more I think about things, the more I realize that there seem to be a few "givens" that SAHMs need from their husbands and, when done properly, it can drastically benefit everyone in the family.  And truth be told, I'm willing to bet the majority of these apply to marriages in general, not just those with SAHMs.

1. Be the Leader of the Family.  It's the husband's God-given responsibility to be the leader of his family.  Take this seriously.  Lead with compassion and understanding, dedication and commitment, and with a love like Christ's.  This can be as easy as leading discussions about what the kids learned at church on Sundays.  Pray with them. Never let there be a gap between what you say and what you live. Show them what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ.  Read them a nighttime Bible story or devotional.  And men, let me just say, this not only sets a standard and helps form a Biblical foundation for your children, but it's also one of the most attractive things a man can do.  Want to turn your wife on?  Read the Bible to your children. 

2.  Play with the kids, together and individually.  Fatherhood is more than bringing home a paycheck - it's being involved, it's putting your family above your wants, it's spending individual time with everyone, it's playing Legos instead of Candy Crush, dancing in the kitchen instead of reading the newspaper, it's rocking the baby instead of watching the game, and teaching your son about hunting, fishing and camping instead of hanging with the guys.  It's playing catch and shooting hoops, running along side a bike 100 times until they learn to do it on their own.  And you know what, when you're entertaining the kids, it gives your wife a much needed break (but we'll get to that one later).  :)

3. Support your wife.  She may not look it or overtly say it, but she more than likely is feeling worn down and weary.  And while this next statement may seem obvious, it's one worth remembering.  She made you a dad.  She sacrificed her body to carry and birth your children.  She's sacrificed a career outside the home, a career in which she might feel accomplished and useful and of more importance than being the go-to diaper changer and all important singer of the Itsy Bitsy Spider, snot wiper and middle of the night vomit cleaner (all of which are vitally important yet somehow fail to bring about a sense of accomplishment, perhaps this is just me...).  Realize that while you may be the one working and bringing home a paycheck that you're not the only one who makes sacrifices.  That while we've chosen to stay home, we've given up not only a career but the income that comes with that.  We sacrifice together because we believe and agree that it was in the best interests of our children to stay home with them.  Supporting your wife may mean you taking initiative.  Sometimes after spending all day telling the kids what to do (or not do) we don't want to have to tell you what needs to be done.  Sometimes we just want you to see and then do.

4. Encourage her.  This doesn't mean telling her what she could do better (I assure you, she already has a running mental list, if not a written one).  It means appreciating what she already does.  It means encouraging her and reminding her that in a world that urges women out the door and into the workforce, that it's okay that she's chosen not to participate.  It means letting her know that you're happy to fulfill your role as leader and provider and not ever making her feel as if her and the kids are an imposition on you.  It means if she wants to lose a few pounds that you don't make her feel like she needs to, but rather decide to join in with her because there's no better encouragement than to have your husband beside you in every aspect, even if it's jogging laps around a track.  It means letting her know she's doing a good job and on days that she feels like a failure of epic proportions that you remind her that there's no other job more important than hers.  It means you speak words of kindness and breathe fresh life into her weary soul and charge her to start afresh in doing the job that no one else can fulfill but her.  Be the one that with every breath speaks words of life into her.

5. Be the reinforcement.  After being the one who corrects, redirects, and disciplines all day long, your wife needs a break. When you come home, you should take up this role.  Not only should this responsibility not fall solely on her, it's also necessary for your children to know that obedience is required by both parents.  If one of them is being disrespectful, it's your job to step in and let them know it is unacceptable to speak to their mother like that.  It shows your love for her while also showing what is and isn't appropriate behavior.

6. Give her a break.  This has been mentioned previously, but it deserves a spot of its own.  I think it's worthwhile to say that being a mom really never renders a break.  Even once they start sleeping through the night, we're on call 24/7 and many nights are called to action by kids who wet the bed, threw up all the way to the bathroom, someone having a nightmare, or by the one who always seems to have a leg that just happens to start hurting at 2am.  And one of the hardest parts about our job?  It never ends.  There's always laundry, dishes, toilets to be cleaned and tubs to be scrubbed.  Groceries to be bought, kids to run to school and soccer practice, and 376 Legos that need picked up.  You have time off.  She should too.

7. Be considerate.  She's going to have bad days.  You do too.  Be understanding.  Have compassion.  Try to realize that while being a SAHM is a great privilege that we absolutely LOVE, it's also hard.  So very hard.  Consideration goes a long way.  And in return?  She just might snuggle up to you, letting you more and more into her world.  And what man doesn't want to know that he's who his wife turns to?  What man doesn't want his wife snuggled up next to him, falling asleep in his arms?  Be the one she runs to.  Being considerate is the path there.

8. Don't take her and what she does for granted, especially when it seems like everything she does is taken for granted.  There's a reason you have clean clothes and clean dishes.  A reason the house is clean (or clean'ish) and the kids' homework and reading has been done.  A reason the baby has been changed and fed and a reason you've slept all night while she's been up tending to one of the kids.  There's a reason you have clean sheets and that the toilets have been cleaned.  There's a reason the kids have made it to school on time, to OT and speech, to volleyball and soccer, and to sleepovers.  There's a reason that she's the unofficial mom to all your kids' friends.  There's a reason your kids know how to listen and obey, why they have bandaids and kisses for their boo boos, and why she knows everything that's going on with each of them.  That reason is your wife.  She needs to know that what she does is valued and that it doesn't go unnoticed.  Be the reason she wants to keep doing all these things.

9. Compliment her.  After bearing the scars of carrying your children, she wants to know that you still only have eyes for her.  She wants to know that you still find her attractive and beautiful.  Catch her off guard, swing her around, kiss her on the neck, and tell her you love her.  Tell her you like her new haircut.  Tell her she smells good.  Tell her.... whatever.  Just be genuine and then watch her smile and melt in your arms.

10. Help her.  We know you're tired.  We know you carry the burdens of being the leader and provider.  And you know what?  We love you for it.  We want you to come home and rest and relax.  Yet we also need help.  Working outside the home doesn't mean you never should help inside the home.  Our job never ends, remember?  Those dishes piled up?  The laundry running over the basket?  Someone has to do them and sometimes we just desperately want it to not be us.  And that little funny clip going around Facebook about there being no greater turn on than a man doing dishes?  It's mostly true (reading the Bible to your kids still trumps doing the dishes).  Want to instantly change your wife's mood?  Help her.  She'll thank you for it later.  ;)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Psycho Sunday


We've believed a lie.

Let me first build up to the lie by setting the stage.

Each Sunday typically goes about the same.  I get up in what I believe to be an ample amount of time to get everyone ready and out the door in a timely fashion.

Yet that time inevitably fails to be sufficient, even when I allot more time.

Just this morning, the cat puked in the dining room.  The kids are gagging at the table, interspersed with laughing and exclamations of "Eww gross!  Look Eli, he's licking it back up."  And I was fine to leave it until later when I wasn't trying to feed the baby, but no, him licking it back up was just too much.  So, there went a few minutes.

Eli was taking forever and a day to get dressed.  Anna's hair was a mess and she insisted she still doesn't know how to straighten it.  And despite my encouragement for her to try any way because that's the only way she'll learn, she somehow managed to make it look worse, therefore causing me to have to stop getting ready to fix her hair for her.  Emi was screaming because she was hungry (again) and time has now ebbed dangerously close to us being late.

I heard the Wii turn on and began feeling my face turn hot, because then I was just angry because we were running late and someone was playing the Wii.  The Wii!!!

Can they not help!?  Something.  Anything!  Is it too much to put burp rags in the diaper bag or better yet, to actually have your shoes on and a jacket in tow.  Is it?!

Where is the baby's headband?!  What do you mean you put it on her?  It's not on her.  It's not in the car seat.  Where is it!?  It's clear across the room, how can you say you put it on her!?!  Don't talk.  Just get in the van.

Why can I hear you clear across the yard?  Why aren't you buckled in yet?  Why are you calling your sister a "pea brain"?  Stop talking.  There's no talking allowed right now.

Why are you talking?  I said there's no talking!

And then we pull up in the church parking lot, put on a happy face, and walk inside.

This happens more often than I'd like to admit.  These Sundays where I've lost my cool and been impatient and inconsiderate.  Sundays where we're so rushed that I just want everyone in the van and we get to church only for me to notice that Eli is in jeans with a big gaping hole in the knee or that Anna didn't even brush her hair, much less try to fix it.

How?  How does this happen?

How do I lose it, slap a smile on my face and then walk on stage and sing:

Let them see You in me
Let them hear You when I speak
Let them feel You when I sing
Let them see You, Let them see You in me

How, when they've seen anything but Him in me?

That's when the lie creeps in.

You're a failure, Phoebe.  It would've been better for you to have just stayed home.  Then you wouldn't have had to be rushed.  You wouldn't have been impatient.  You wouldn't have yelled at those you love more than life itself.  Everyone wouldn't be in a bad mood because you were in a bad mood and snippy with them. You wouldn't be a hypocrite, getting up there on stage to sing after acting the way you have.  It'd be so much better, so much easier.  Just stay home.

Chances are you've believed this lie at some point or another - either because you've told it to yourself or because someone has said it to you.  For me, it's been both of those cases.  Well intentioned people but faulty, so very faulty thinking.

 I want you to know that this is a lie straight from the pits of hell.

Satan already has you upset, running ragged, yelling, impatient, and frustrated.  If he can get you to miss church on top of that... well, it's the icing on the cake.

Don't believe it, friends.  Don't do it.

It's not true.  Not even remotely close to the Truth.

The Bible instructs us:

"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."  Hebrews 10:25

"to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:21

God is given glory in and through His church.  And I can't help but think that He's given a little piece of glory each time we've had a rough morning and we walk through the church doors to worship any way, in spite of it all.  It's why either me or my singing partner will often start the service off by saying "Let's put everything behind us.... the tough week we've had, the rushed morning, all the stresses and worries, and let's just join together to worship Him."  Because how much more glory does He get when we choose to worship in spite of all of life's difficulties?  It's not hard to worship when everything is always going great.  But when we're struggling, the choosing is part of the glory.  And how glorious it can be!

And as for the sufficient amount of time somehow never being sufficient..... it's not a coincidence.  It's a ploy.  And it's intentional.

It's an attack from the enemy.  An attempt to keep us from worshipping.

And when I identify that, it makes it so much easier to ignore the lie.

Tonight Anna said "You've been grumpy today, Mom."  How true that statement is.  I have been.  I haven't felt well the past few days and combined with Psycho Sunday, I've just been pretty irritable.  I have a love/hate relationship with these moments.  I hate being called out, particularly when I've already beaten myself up about something.  But I also love these moments because it gives me the opportunity to sit down and be real.

Real, like saying "Yes, I have and I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have been grumpy or yelled this morning.  Mommy is tired and doesn't feel good but I still shouldn't have acted the way I did."

She's so forgiving.  How I pray she's always this way.

She then asked me to read Scripture to her.  I turned to Psalm 139 and began to read:

1O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!

7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!


My voice caught in my throat and tears pooled in my eyes.  Anna watched me closely, then Eli.  "Mom, are you about to cry?"  I kept reading, amazed that He knew every single one of my days before a single day had ever even passed.  He knew how wretched I would be.  He knew that I would be sitting here, typing about Psycho Sundays because I can't ever seem to get it together in a fashion worthy of Him.  He knew!

He knew, friends.  And yet He knit me together anyway.  And I love, love, love the word knit.  Because when I think of knitting, I think of all the intricate details, all the variety of things you can do, and the amount of time poured into it.  I pull up memories of watching my Grandma crochet and knit baby blankets, the hours passing and her just sitting there knitting away.

He knew and did it anyway.  He poured time into creating me.... you.... even knowing all the while every horrible thing we'd ever do.

It's why after reading Psalm 139 we turned to Romans 8: 38-39 and read:

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Nothing we ever do can separate us from His love.  No amount of impatience, grumpiness, yelling, or the multitude of Psycho Sundays.

Nothing.

And so I take refuge in knowing that He knew and knit any way.  In knowing that nothing can ever make Him unlove me.  And so I keep trying.  I keep going.  I keep singing.  I keep worshiping.

And in the meantime, maybe one day, the allotted amount of time will miraculously become enough.  :)

Good night, friends.

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Journey

Have you ever been right on the cusp of something you know will be life changing?

I'm there.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in the local Christian bookstore browsing through the book section for a gift for my friend.  I happened across the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and remembered reading a review of it and putting it on a mental list of books I'd like to read.

I bought 2.

Little did I know that this book would be a catalyst for change in me and around me and how I see the world.  I started this journey of counting gifts 24 days ago... blessings God has granted me.  I must admit that at first I was skeptical that doing such a thing would even be beneficial, much less produce joy unspeakable.

24 days in and I can say I was wrong.

I'm reading the book as I go through this journey - 100 days of listing 10 gifts per day.  Each time I pick it up I find myself more and more intrigued, skimming to get ahead, then going back to re-read so I can soak it all in.

I love how God orchestrates things.  Sometimes it takes days, months, even years to see.  Or in this instance, a day.

Last Saturday I sent a text to my best friend saying that I've been having a random thought.

Why would people tell me that losing our babies (#3 and #4) was God being merciful to us?  Why would they say that it may have been a blessing in disguise - that perhaps something was wrong with our babies and it's better this way?  It seems so cruel.  And literally years later, here I am wrestling with this question.  Why?  Was God being unmerciful when He blessed us with our sweet Eli?  Should he have been taken since he has Asperger's/Autism?  NO!  Lord, no!  What about when God grants someone a quick, painless death as opposed to the thousands upon thousands of children living out their days in hospital beds, bald heads all gloriously a glow?  What of His mercy then?  What say they now?

God knew I would be wrestling with those questions and that the very next day I would pick up this book and begin reading until my heart caught in my throat.

Can I just sidebar here for a moment?

Thanks.

I know that God is merciful.  I know that God is gracious and kind.  However, when someone loses a child, please realize that telling them that losing their baby was God being merciful to them is in no way helpful.  At all.  It's almost as if saying He doesn't love children with mental, physical, health, emotional, and/or learning disabilities the same.  And my friends, He does.  He so does love us all the same.  It's also like telling a mom with a child with a disability or health problem that God wasn't gracious to her by allowing her to carry her child to term or for something to have been 'wrong' (I use that term very lightly) in the first place.  And as a mom of one of those children, I can tell you I wouldn't have it any other way.  Ever.  My life is so blessed and enriched because of Eli, more than I could possibly ever come up with words to express to you.  Words have the power to heal and to aid.... to cut and tear down.  And while I know that those words were spoken out of the kindness of people's hearts trying to find something fitting to say during the most gut wrenching of times, they weren't helpful.  And in a time when moms all over are questioning and asking "why?!!?" to say things like that cuts to the core and only adds to the questions we already have.  When dealing with those grieving, choose your words wisely.  Come to think of it, that's a pretty good philosophy for all of life.  :)

Sidebar over.

So I picked up my book last Sunday morning and headed to the elliptical, as I often do, highlighter in hand, and I read.  I re-read.  I read some more.  I paused, soaking it in, leaning up against the wall to reflect, to highlight and highlight some more until my pages were a splash of yellow neon starring back at me.

There it was.


"A good God plans everything.  Everything.  So a good God can only.... make plans for good?  He only gives good gifts?  A thing of evil cannot be created by a good God?" pg.88
"All God makes is good. Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God?  That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows.  Above the clouds, light never stops shining." pg. 88
 "See that I am God.  See that I am in everything.  See that I do everything.  See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally.  See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it.  How can anything be amiss?" -Julian of Norwich as quoted in One Thousand Gifts pg. 89
"That which seems evil, is it a cloud to bring rain, to bring a greater good to the whole of the world?  Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perseverance, mercy, and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life? pg. 90
 "If Satan can keep my eyes from the Word, my eyesight is too poor to read light - to fill with light.  Bad eyes fill with darkness so heavy the soul aches because empty is never truly empty; empty is only a full, deepening darkness." pg. 90-91
"Who deserves any grace?" pg. 93
"Isn't even one grace enough?  Me with child alive, thinking of faces of mothers in cemeteries - my own mama - I want to yell, "NO!"  No, it is not!  I want to take both fists and splinter that door with an ungrateful demanding for more.  Why can't we be allowed days indefinitely?  How can God ever expect us to say good-bye to the eyes, ears, hands of those we cherish more than our own?
Is it because His heart awaits us at Home?  Because if we don't say good-bye here, when will we meet Him there?  Because these are the lens words for a life: Precious in His eyes is the homecoming of the saints (Psalm 115:15)". pg. 93
" When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His great debt, then doesn't all become gift?  For He might not have." pg. 94
""Lord... that I'd day after day after day greedily take what looks like it's good from Your hand - a child gloating over sweet candy....."  My voice catches hard.  I've been a thief, trying to hoard away all the good.  "...but that I'd thrash wild to escape when what You give from Your hand feels bad - like gravel in the mouth.  Oh Father, forgive.... Should I accept good from you, and not trouble?"  (Job 2:10)."" pg. 95
"What if that which feels like trouble, gravel in the mouth, is only that - feeling?  What if faith says all is.... I think it.  But do I really mean it? pg. 95
"...it's the Word of God that turns the rocks in the mouth to loaves on the tongue.  That fills our emptiness with the true and real good, that makes the eyes see..." pg. 96
"It is dark suffering's umbilical cord that alone can untether new life. It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace.  And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes that suffering." pg. 96-97
"Darkness transfigures into light, bad transfigures into good, grief transfigures into grace, empty transfigures into full.  God wastes nothing - "makes everything work out according to his plan" (Ephesians 1:11)." pg. 97
"The ugly can be beautiful.  The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace." pg. 99
"All is grace."
"God is always good and I am always loved." 
"All is grace only because all can transfigure." 
All is grace.

All can transfigure.  Grief can transfigure into grace.

Grace.  Perhaps that's the answer.

When I did a search of "what's the difference between grace and mercy?" it was often reported that people view them as the same.  Even dictionary.com lists them as synonyms.  However, if we're looking at it from a Biblical perspective, they are not the same.

Mercy is God not punishing us for our sins even though we deserve to be punished.  Mercy is deliverance from God's judgment.

Grace is God blessing us even though we don't deserve those blessings. Grace is Him being kind to us... those who are unworthy of such kindness.

In short: Mercy is not getting what you deserve.  Grace is getting what you do not deserve.
 
Maybe that's been the hang up - that those words are often interchangeable but don't mean the same thing.

To tell me that God was being merciful was in a way blaming losing them on something I did.  It was saying that God was choosing not to punish me even though I deserved it (and we all deserve punishment, I'm not saying I'm exempt).  And don't get me wrong, I know that God has chosen to take the lives of children as a result of sin.  King David is a prime example of this.

But I don't believe that to always be the case, particularly with 1 in 4 (some estimate 1 in 3) pregnancies to end in loss.  And so for the past 4 years I've carried those comments with me wondering why they didn't quite settle with me.

But more than anything, I read through those pages and realized that the bigger...nay, the whole of the problem has been me and the lenses in which I've been viewing life.

I have been the ingrate, hoarding up blessings and squawking at the trials... holding on to trivial comments instead of just seeing them for what they are - people's attempts at saying something comforting.

I have seen what God has granted as gravel in the mouth instead of stepping back to see how my grief has transfigured into grace.  And make no mistake, it has.

Every time I think of the circumstances of losing #4, I can see grace in it.  Grace that God actually granted my request that he/she have already passed so that I wouldn't have to make the choice to take medication that would end his/her life and pass him/her from my tube.  God granted me that request and as morbid as it may sound for me to have prayed that God already took our baby and had him/her in His arms, that seemed easier to me than me having to make the choice between our baby and my health.  I would not have made the choice.  I would not have taken any medications.  I would've just trusted that however God wanted it worked out is how it would be.  I had already told Mark that was my decision.  And if you've ever been in that situation and had to make that choice, my heart goes out to you.  It's an impossible situation.  And whether you had to make it or not, there's always grace in every circumstance if we choose to wear the right lenses.... choose to see things through the correct perspective.  And there was and is.  He was gracious during one of the hardest of times.  Gracious that unlike #3, I at least got to see our sweet #4 - the little bitty, tiny dot in my tube, already gone to Heaven, yet evidence that he/she had been with us for the short while I carried him/her.  That's grace.  Grace that I've for too long chosen not to see.

It's grace that when I got the call saying #3 was gone that my mom happened to be in town visiting.  Grace that I went to hear, fell into her arms crying, and that she was there to help pick up where I was physically and emotionally unable to.

Grace that when I was sitting in the JC Penney parking lot trying to compose myself enough to run in and find Mother's Day gifts instead of being able to share the news of them getting another grandchild that my phone lit up and I saw "Gramps and Grams".  Gramps and Grams.  Even after 14 months of Grandma being gone, I couldn't bring myself to edit my contacts list.  And there Grandpa was on the other end, being a comforter to me just months after losing his wife of 60+ years.  "You'll get through this, hun.  You're stronger than you think you are."

Grace.

Sweet manna on the tongue - not gravel.

But I've been blind.

I've held on to stupid, irrelevant comments for 4 years.  Four years of wasted sight.  Four years of choosing to think people would be so unkind as to say something hurtful when in reality they just didn't choose their words as wisely as they should have.  It doesn't make them evil or horrible people - just ones who in the moment of awkwardness of not knowing what to say, said the only thing they knew to say.

I've missed it.

Missed the grace in my best friend not judging me for saying "Everyone keeps saying God is merciful.  I don't want to hear that anymore!  I don't!" and then, head in hands, sobbing on her couch, she waited it out.  Waited for me to know that God is merciful but that those comments were just misplaced.

I've missed how many people God has placed in my pathway since losing them.  People in a very similar situation.  People that I now understand more than I could ever have possibly imagined.  People I have the opportunity to encourage and comfort.  And it's an honor.

But most of all, I've seen the transformation in how I appreciate the children I do have.  I've thought a lot about how much I took being pregnant for granted, carrying Anna and Eli to term with virtually no difficulties.  And despite all the fear, I tried to enjoy being pregnant with Emi.  I soaked it up.  I didn't take for granted that she'd always be there or that I didn't carry the risk of losing her too.  Truth is, after 2 miscarriages the risks actually increase.  And now that she's here, I often find myself asking would I love her and Anna and Eli so much if I hadn't lost #3 and #4.  I've always loved them.  I just love them with a deeper love now, one that acknowledges that at some point in time I will say goodbye to every person I love, either by them or myself passing.  Time is short and so I want to love fully and deeply.

I want to transform grief into grace.

I want to see the sweet manna instead of the gravel.

I want to see and know that my feelings can betray me and that God is always good.  And that from every circumstance, He is working in it and through it... that He wastes nothing.

Losing #3 and #4 was not wasted.  Their lives mattered.  And through losing them God is bringing about something glorious.

Because it's through counting blessings - all of them, be they good or bad - that we find true joy.  My babies are helping me to realize that there's joy in everything.

Everything, friends.

He wastes nothing.

I don't know what you're going through.  What trial you may be facing.  But know that it won't be wasted.  That He can turn grief into grace.

Then sit back and live a life of unabashed joy.

Joy... in Him.... through Him.... because of Him.

Because He wastes nothing.


Monday, January 20, 2014

MythBusters - the SAHM Edition

The longer I'm a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), the more I realize just how many myths there really are about us.  At times they're humorous, but mostly, they're just frustrating and discouraging.  As if anyone cares or actually reads my blog besides like 5 people (Hi Michele, Mom, Sarah), okay, so maybe it's only 3. Anyway, as if anyone cares, I'm going to attempt to debunk some of these myths.  And thanks to all my fellow SAHM's who voiced in to help me with this post.

Myth #1: That we believe we love our kids more than working moms.  This is so untrue.  There's so much competitiveness between moms these days.  That breastfeeding makes you a better mom.  That using cloth diapers gives you a one up on the disposable diaper using moms.  Organic versus not.  Make your own baby food versus buying it.  I hate this.  The truth of the matter is that while there could be a lot more SAHM's if people were willing to make the necessary sacrifices there are also some exceptional working moms out there - a lot of which happen to be some of my good friends.  Moms who are in a place in life that staying at home simply isn't an option for them and their family. There's no need for a competition.  We know you love your kids just as much as we do.  We know if circumstances were different that you might be staying at home too.  We know you want more hours in the day to spend with your kids.  And we know that us being at home doesn't make us any better of a mom.  Believe me when I say, there is no competition, at least not among me and the moms I've talked to.  There's actually a level of guilt we have - guilt that we're in a place in life where we can do this and there are so many others who aren't who would love to be.  We feel your pain.  There is no competition.

Myth #2: We come from money.  This is not Desperate Housewives or Real Housewives of NJ. Most SAHM's I know sacrifice substantially to be able to stay at home with their children. We live in normal houses and drive normal vehicles - you know, like mini vans.  We wear jeans and t-shirts and do normal everyday family stuff.... like clean our own homes, cook, take our kids to the doctor and dentist, and shuffle kids to soccer, speech, volleyball, you name it.  Someone actually told Mark one time that I must come from money since I stay at home with the kids.  I don't.  We've just chosen to live below our income, not acquire debt, and sacrifice so that I can do this.  Is it hard?  Yes.  But it's also well worth it.

Myth #3: That since we're at home we don't mind being asked to watch your kids too.  I'm sorry, we do.  *insert best friend and emergency clause here - Unless you're my bestie or there's an emergency, it's not okay to assume I will watch your kids*.  There have been times that one of my daughter's friends could not come over unless she brought her younger brother (and by younger, I mean like 2 or 3).  There was no need for him to be here, no one his age to play with, and when I said no, the mom wouldn't allow her daughter to come play with my daughter.  Not fair to either one of them and certainly not fair to expect me to watch her son too just so her daughter could play with mine.  I've had my son's friend's parents drive up, drop their son off, and be gone for 2 hours.... people I've never even spoken a word to.  And no, I'm not kidding.  I'll let you in on a little secret, by days end we're running on empty, people.  Empty.  On... the... red.  We've done good to make it until the kids' bedtime without some catastrophic event  or meltdown and you want to add your kid into the mix?  Make it a play date.  Call ahead.  Let's schedule it.  We're okay with that.  Truth be told, I've long said that I want my house full.  I'd much rather my kids' friends be in our home than my kids being in other people's homes.  At least here, I control what they see, watch, hear, do, etc.  I know they're safe.  And I know that's also why people feel comfortable leaving their kids here.  It's a compliment of sorts.  But if you can give us time to prepare, it really does help.  We truly don't mean to be rude or mean about it.  It's simply that we're busy working, and if I took my kids to your work and left them there.... well, see what I mean?

Myth #4: That being a SAHM isn't a real job.  This kinda goes with that last part of #3.  We really are working.  We're cooking and cleaning, changing diapers and feeding babies, paying bills, taking the trash out, folding laundry, and picking up 542 Legos for the 83rd time.  People don't typically come out and say it's not a real job, but it's always inherent in their questions.  Questions like "When your kids get in school are you going to get a job?"  Huh?  As if the one I have now isn't good enough to qualify as a real job?  I always find it amusing that when people drop their kids off at a daycare that everyone there suddenly is working at their job yet when I do the same thing at home, it's suddenly not a job.  Or when people hire a housekeeper or a cooking service.  All of those people have jobs, so then why when I do it is it not considered a job?  The only difference is that those people get to go home and be away from their work (admittedly to do more work of the same sort I'm talking about) and that they get paid to do it.  I'm at my job 24/7.  I'm on call 24/7.  I'm up in the middle of the night feeding the baby.  I'm up in the middle of the night cleaning up vomit and changing sheets.  I'm up early and to bed late.... working at my job.  My job that doesn't pay in monetary rewards.  It's the absolute most important job I could have and reaps dividends far exceeding any monetary compensation.  It's my job and I love it.

Myth #5: That we have all the time in the world.  This usually comes in the form of "Don't you get bored?  What do you do all day to stay busy?"  We rarely have down time.  Most of us get up before our kids do to start our day.  It's not uncommon for me to have dishes and laundry going before the kids are even off to school.  By the time I make lunches, fix hair, check folders, take the older 2 to school, and come home, it's time to feed the baby.  And by the time I'm done with that, then I'm cleaning up spit-up, or in my case, more like vomit every time we feed her.  Then I'm changing diapers.  There are mornings I don't even make it to go pee before 9:00.  We're trying to fit it time for our own breakfast while swapping out loads of laundry and unloading the dishwasher.  We're trying to teach toddlers shapes and numbers, their letters and colors.  We're sweeping the kitchen floor 3 times a day because of all the food that can't seem to stay on plates and highchairs.  We're feeding babies again and changing more diapers.  We're in the floor playing peek-a-boo and reading "I Love You This Much" for the 127th time.  We're cleaning up cat puke and vacuuming up all the mud that we let dry in the carpet so it'd be easier to just scrape off and vacuum.  We're spraying the carpet with cleaner to get out all the spit up spots.  We're cleaning toilets where little boys have bad aim and cleaning up a water trail from one end of the house to the other because someone thought it'd be a good idea to put the cat in the bathtub.  Ahem.  We're running to the grocery store, and to the pharmacy, and to wellness visits.  We're trying to make it in time to have lunch with the other 2 at school.  We're feeding the baby again and changing another diaper.  We're cooking with a baby on our hip.  We're rocking, walking, bouncing, singing to the baby to soothe her to sleep.  And then we're trying to catch up on emails and maybe sneak in 10 minutes of a good book, or you know, a shower.  We're busy because our job dictates that we must be.  Truth is we don't have enough hours in the day to do all we need to do and we're certainly never bored.

Myth #6: Our houses should be impeccably clean since we have all the time in the world to clean them.  See #5 above.  And we live in our houses 24/7.  Our houses do not get an 8-10 hr. break.  No further explanation needed.

Myth #7: That we have it all together and never need a break.  Let me just say, I never have it all together.  I might be coordinated enough to make it appear like that, but rarely ever is that genuinely the case.  As much as I love being a SAHM, it isn't without effect.  It gets hard to watch the same movie over and over.  It's exhausting to be on 5 1/2 months of broken sleep, particularly after the older 2 sleeping through the night at 10 and 8 weeks.  This one, not so much, but we're getting there.  It's hard to change diaper after diaper and be thrown up on virtually every single day, multiple times a day from a baby with severe acid reflux.  It's hard to get the kids to school on time, take care of the baby, remember appointments, work part time (yes, I'm a SAHM and have an incredibly part time job too), get one to speech and OT, the other to volleyball or soccer, have dinner on time, do reading and homework, work on spelling and sight words, and find time to actually talk to my husband.  It's not without effect.  It's hard to not be able to go to the bathroom in peace or take a shower without someone intruding or yelling from outside the door about some life ending emergency like "Eli got chocolate out of the pantry!  Can I have some too?!  Why??  He got some, why can't I have any?"  It's hard for one to want you to play Legos and the other Barbies - so we often build - wait for it - ..... Lego barbie houses or play Barbies and Tractors.  It's hard to hear "Mom" hundreds of times each day and to be so highly in demand.  It's hard to do it day in and day out, year after year.  We need breaks, yet have no vacation or sick days.  Some of us have husbands with odd work schedules, rendering even less help.... less breaks.  Are we blessed?  Absolutely.  But we need breaks just like everyone else, only we rarely get them.

We have the most valuable job of all (as do all moms, not just SAHMs) but often feel insignificant and undervalued.  We wonder if it'd just be better to send them to school and daycare than to keep feeling like we're drudging along day in and day out.  We've become great pretenders.  We're worn down, weary, and bone tired.  Yet we try to put a smile on our face and go through the day doing the best we can, at times sneaking away to cry in the closet or shower because we feel like we're failing.  We're afraid to say it's been a hard day because the truth is we know it's been a hard day for our husbands and friends too, yet we've been with our kids all day.... such a privilege and we know this.  Yet we feel there's often no outlet to just be, to rest, to not be needed for a moment and certainly not to say we have it hard.  Because there are so many who want to be where we are that uttering even the smallest complaint seems ungrateful and in some way wrong.  But why should we have to act like every day is gloriously grand?  We all know kids can be trying and testing, push our buttons and test their limits.  But because of this inward guilt and desire not to seem like we're not appreciative of getting to stay at home with our kids, we shrink back and keep it in, desperately hoping for a much needed break to come soon, or you know, like right now.  Seriously, like right now, pack our bags and head out in the morning, right now.  But that day rarely comes and we pull out our Bibles and dig deep searching for refreshment and the strength to make it through another day. 

And He always provides.  He is faithful, friends.

He's faithful to the stay at home moms.  He's faithful to all the moms out there working who wish they could be at home.  He's faithful to the husbands out there working to provide for their families.  Faithful friends.  He's so faithful.

I'll say it again.  This is not a competition.  Working or not, we all love our kids and want the best for them.  This is just the view from the inside of a SAHM.  It's not as easy as it looks.  I know I'm super fly like that and make it appear smooth as the icing on a cake, but it's really not.

Let's all just give each other a break.... try to be more understanding of where we're each coming from.  Because we're all just moms (maybe I should say parents, in the event a male other than my husband happens across my blog and bumps my tally to 4) doing the best we can.

And I'm outta here.  The 2am feeding will be upon me before I know it.

Good night, friends.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Redeemed

Yesterday was our sweet #3's due date. Every since we lost him/her in May of 2010, I've been on a mission.  A mission to not let his/her life to have been in vain.  A mission to never forget.  I remember due dates so much easier because it's one day, whereas I can't really pinpoint a day we lost #3 (or #4 for that matter), because it was over the course of a few days for both of them.  But a due date?  That I can remember.  I remember all of our kids' due dates - February 25th, June 28th, January 5th, November 5th, and August 14th.  Why?
 
Because a due date signals something - it represents the end of a time of waiting.  It represents anticipation and excitement... joy.  But for us, January 5th and November 5th have been days representing what was taken, what we lost.
 
God always has a plan and purpose in the trials we face
 
So, when one winter's night (12/23/13) after we had finished opening Christmas presents, our sweet Anna began asking questions about salvation, He was already mightily at work.  You see, she'd been asking questions for a long time - every since my best friend's 34 day old son, Jackson, passed away.  She's been asking questions every since her best friend, Kaitlyn (Jackson's big sister) got saved last Spring.  But God hadn't yet fully drawn her heart to His, revealing everything she needed to understand.  And there has to be a drawing, a conviction from the Holy Spirit.
 
Until that night conviction had never existed for her.  So when Mark ran to pick up some pizza for dinner and me and her sat in the floor painting her fingernails as Emi watched and Eli played with his new army set, she began asking questions.  It's amazing how God can use anything - anything like black nail polish and a lesson from Vacation Bible School 6 months ago.  I had bought her some black and gold nail polish - her school colors.  I don't like black by itself (this is not meant as an attack if you do, rather a personal preference for me), but I figured if it had gold glitter polish on top of it, I could handle it.  So, she wanted her nails painted and began asking me why I don't like black nail polish by itself.  I was honest - I told her it just seemed dark, gothic, that it reminded me of vampires (which I hate).  She was quiet for awhile and then said "Satan is dark.  He represents the darkness in the world.  I learned that at VBS when I went to Grandma's church."  I said "Yes." then waited, sensing there was more brewing in her little mind.  Tears began to flow.  And through her muffled voice, she said "I don't deserve to go to Heaven, mommy.  I'm so bad.  I should go to hell.  That's where I'm going."  And there it was.  The conviction that had been missing.  She had believed all along.  But trying to explain to her that believing isn't enough is hard.  Even the demons believe.  It requires faith.  It requires God calling you to Himself.  And as a parent, it's so incredibly hard to know they're on the cusp of getting it but not quite there.  But when you trust in His timing, He works everything out.
 
We talked some more and I answered all her questions but had her wait until Mark got home until we went any further.  What Dad doesn't want to be there when his little girl gets saved!?  So when he got home, she talked more with him and he answered some more questions.  It was obvious to both of us she finally got it, that God had revealed Himself to her in a mighty way.  And as I sat there in the living room floor, Anna in Mark's lap, I listened to her pray.  It was one of the most glorious prayers ever - because it was our daughter asking for forgiveness and for Jesus to save her.  It was Him moving in our lives.  And what a perfect Christmas present He gave us.
 
But He didn't stop there.
 
The date for the baby dedication had already been set - the first Sunday of each year.  We knew this and thought it'd be great if we did her baptism that day too - that way all of our family could make just one trip and be there for both her baptism and Emi's dedication.  That was confirmed too after she called our pastor and talked to him.
 
Then she began calling everyone from grandparents, to cousins, aunts and uncles, to friends to share her good news.
 
It was a great day.  And what made it even better, looking back in hindsight, is that I had not yet put 2 and 2 together.  I just knew things were set for that date and was happy everyone would only have to make one trip.
 
It took me 5 days for it to register.
 
January 5th.
 
We were traveling home from Christmas when it hit me.  The 5th.  Emi's being dedicated on the 5th.  Anna's being baptized on the 5th.  Our sweet #3's due date.  And so God began a great work in my heart.  The word "Redeemed" kept sticking out.  So I did a search for it's meaning.

re·deem

[ri-deem]
verb (used with object)
1. to buy or pay off; clear by payment: to redeem a mortgage.
2. to buy back, as after a tax sale or a mortgage foreclosure.
3. to recover (something pledged or mortgaged) by payment or other satisfaction: to redeem a pawned watch.
4. to exchange (bonds, trading stamps, etc.) for money or goods.
5. to convert (paper money) into specie.
6. to discharge or fulfill (a pledge, promise, etc.).
7. to make up for; make amends for; offset (some fault, shortcoming, etc.): His bravery redeemed his youthful idleness.
8. to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom.
9. Theology . to deliver from sin and its consequences by means of a sacrifice offered for the sinner.


Isn't it amazing that the word redeemed is a verb, meaning 'to reveal what is happening'?  God revealed Himself to Anna, He delivered and redeemed her from sin and its consequences (#9), He made up for (#7) and exchanged (#4) a day of earthly, temporary sadness for us by converting (#5) January 5th into a day representing Anna's eternal life in Him as well as making it a day we symbolically gave/give Emilee back to Him.  He took January 5th - a day of anticipated joy that never came for us and our #3 and turned it into something so beautiful, so eternal.

It gets even better.  Not only was January 5th the day we dedicated all the new babies in the church and the day we baptized Anna, but it was also the day we honored the life of Jackson Matheney.  Sweet, precious Jackson may have only been with us 34 days, but his life has impacted thousands.  And not only have thousands upon thousands around the globe (literally) heard the story of Jackson and his amazing parents, but through Jackson's life his big sister Kaitlyn got saved.  And through Jackson's life and death, and Kaitlyn being saved, Anna began to have questions and is now saved!

Could anyone but God have orchestrated something so miraculous!?  To have redeemed a day of sadness for us, to have redeemed the life of Jackson and brought even more meaning to it by others knowing Christ as a result of his brief life, for us to give Emi back to God on a day given to another child we've lost showing just how faithful He is to have blessed us with another daughter...

Marvelous!  Redeeming!  Faithful.

He is so faithful, friends.

I don't know where you are in life right now, what's struggles you may be facing, but know that He will redeem your situation, some way, somehow.  Maybe not in a way you will ever see this side of Heaven, but know that He always has a purpose and a plan for our trials.

I leave you with Selah's song, Unredeemed.

Life breaks and falls apart
But we know these are
Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
It may be unfulfilled, it may be unrestored
But when anything that's shattered
Is laid before the Lord
Just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed