Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Serving Him, Serving Them, Serving Where I Am

A fellow blogger had a wonderful post on her blog yesterday that really spoke to my heart. It was about serving where we are. As I read her post and then contemplated its meaning and significance in my life, I was convicted of its message. No matter what season we are in in our lives, how many children we have, or what our daily list of duties entails, we are to serve Him whenever and however we can.

I often have anxiety about doing what I feel God wants me to do as His servant. It's like I'm always running uphill in order to get to where I think He wants me to be. I feel bogged down by my daily life sometimes; chasing after four children, trying to keep some semblance of order and structure in our household, really dedicating my very being to loving my children unconditionally, and teaching and disciplining them in that love. I am often impatient, anxious, exhausted. I don't usually get relief from these feelings unless I make time to actually sit in the quiet with God and mediate on His love for me and the boundless grace He bestows upon me each day.

The thing is that in my relinquishing to Him the aspect of child-rearing, in my total commitment to raising these children to be His servants as well, in my complete devotion to loving them the way He designed love to be, and in my willingness to abide by His rules for our life as a family, I am serving Him. I find it difficult to remember this sometimes. When I desire to be writing for a bigger audience, possibly getting published, when I want to be helping other people, volunteering my time, and when I wish to be talking with friends who need to find Him in their lives, I lose sight of the idea that at this time, in this season in my life, I just need to trust that what I am doing at home is what is important and that if there is a "bigger picture" that needs to be addressed, He will bestow upon me the time, the space, the energy for me to do so.

But for now, serving Him where I am means serving my children and my husband: nursing my baby, making meals, cleaning my house, changing diapers, doing laundry, and maybe even writing on this blog when I get a chance. I need to be content in the notion that He has me where He wants me to be, no matter which moment of my life I am existing in.

Thanks, Judy for such wonderful insight to a topic I am in constant battle with!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Laying Hurt at His Feet

You know you’re getting over something hurtful when the emotional vehicle driving your pain loses its steam and the desire to talk about it to anyone who will listen has dulled. I recently was victim of a hurtful event and at first, I was so much more devastated than I really was ready for. I hadn’t anticipated said event at all and the way it affected me was debilitating, at least for the first day. The second day, after I had talked with numerous people about it, I was left to continue to wallow in my sorrow. As I mulled over the whole thing in my mind, I felt a tiny bit of relief breaking through the surface but only for a moment. Still, I was weighed down by my sadness and my inability to truly process everything I felt about the situation and I went into the third day feeling sick to my stomach. I needed some relief and I was still grasping at straws, trying to figure out where it would come from.

It’s times like these that I really don’t know what to do with how I feel. Praying about it doesn’t always heal it, not immediately. I often try to sort through things on my own, picking up certain ideas or thoughts, sifting through their meaning and matter, wondering how I could allow them to continue to hurt me. Talking about things doesn’t always help either. In this case, I kept searching for the right person, the one who would make it all better, the one who would say the magic words to erase the loss that I felt, the utter despair I was feeling over my inability to just get over it. But there was no such person. Not one. Several expressed their sympathy, not knowing much else to say. Some gave me some insight on why a person would do such a thing. Some just sat and listened, letting me vent, and then took their leave. I am grateful to all of those people, for I know in their ways they have loved me while I deal with this. In their ways, they showed me that love by allowing me to move through the process at my own pace without making me feel like a child, or like I was being ridiculous, or that my feelings didn’t matter.

But they were not the magicians; they held no magic hat to pull the secret answer from. I sought to enlist as many ears as I could, not really digging for anything but the ability to give voice to how I feel, to have it heard and be validated.

And then I realized, in the quiet of my heart, in the secret thoughts I did not share, in the silence that rang loudly in my mind at times, He was there. He knew everything I felt and everything I thought before I could form the words on my lips. He knew my heart and He knew my hurt, and I had only to lay it all at His feet and allow Him to heal me from it. It wasn’t about praying. It was about trusting. It was about turning to Him knowing that I could collapse anywhere within His arms and He’d hold me as I faced my feelings and pieced them back together. He reminded me that I don’t always have to understand things in order to move on from them; I don’t always have to have reasoning to dictate my ability to heal. But I do always have Him to guide and sustain me.

Tonight, my emotional vehicle has lost much steam and I don’t feel like talking about it a lot anymore. I guess that means I am moving on. I still feel a lot of hurt. I already passed through the short period of anger and I am just contemplating where to go from here. It’s always a challenge to figure out whether there needs to be something said to someone who has hurt you (especially when they have no idea), or if you should just leave it alone. I am now facing that decision. But I know now, as I’ve always known but had just forgotten, that I have His hand to guide me and to hold me no matter what else happens.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Guiding My Childrens' Paths

Yesterday marked my sixth Mother's Day. My first one was when I was newly-pregnant with my daughter, Angelina. I look back on the person that I was then, and I feel as though I've grown in so many ways, slowly but surely becoming the mother God wants me to be for my children. But I also see that I had no clue what motherhood would mean, what it looks like, how I could grasp in a tangible way what God's intention for it truly is. I had little knowledge that motherhood would mean more than just feeding, clothing, and sheltering these little babes. But as the years passed, I became more and more convicted of the depths I am to extend to, the difficult paths I am to travel, and the ways I am to spread and stretch in order to bring them up as not my children, but His.

As my children grow with each passing year, I am more aware of the fact that their time with me is short. It seems like only yesterday that I was chasing my oldest through our tiny condo in Maryland as she toddled away from me squealing with glee. Now she's almost 6 and I can't believe how time has flown. I look at these past 6 years and I wonder how many times I've thought about the person that Angelina will be, how I can lead her into God's hands, what I can do or say to help her grow up with a heart for the Lord and a passion for serving Him and others. While I feel like it is a lot, it probably isn't enough. In the busyness of life and the chaos that sometimes consumes my mind, I often forget that I am to be in constant prayer for her, and for all of my children, and that I am supposed to not just sit and watch them grow up, but help them grow up to be the type of person God wants them to be, the type at which today's world looks down and scoffs.

My job as their mother does go beyond making sure their basic needs are met. I am to teach my daughters how to respect themselves, how to be strong but not head-strong, to respect other girls and women, to be patient and kind, to be sensitive and loving. I am to also teach them how to relate to males the way God intended females to in each different stage of their life. I am to teach my son about all of these things and relating to females the way God intended males to, respecting them and cherishing their identities as daughters of a King.

If I had known how difficult the path of a mother truly is, I might have given up before I even became one. I don't think very many people actually contemplate what it means to be a mother, or father, until they're in the throes of parenting. Even if we have an inkling of our path, there is no complete understanding until we get there. And then some even choose a different path, the path that seems a lot easier, the path that still gets their children through to the other side but with not nearly enough understanding or training for life the way God intended it to be. With the world teaching all the things I know are wrong with bull-horns in the various forms of the media, it is horribly difficult to be heard. But starting now, when they are young, speaking quietly to their hearts, is where I lay the foundation for them to hear me, to hear God, above all that is shoved and spewed and screamed at them, drawing their attention in the opposite direction.

Life isn't about 'whatever happens, happens..' It is making our own futures, and the futures of our children, into what we want them to be, according to God's perfect will. I want to start out my seventh year of motherhood immersed in finding ways to rear my children how the Lord wants me to. That means taking them by the hand and leading them down that difficult path until the day comes when He's the one holding them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Healthy Eating

Ok, I admit it. I'm not the most healthy momma out there, especially lately. As I fly through the whirlwind of each day, I am definitely over-stressed and under-nourished. I sometimes forget breakfast, often don't eat lunch and then my dinners consist of wolfing down in 5 seconds flat whatever I made for the fam., as I balance a baby on my knee and jump to fulfill the myriad of requests my other 3 children and/or husband make. When the two extra girls I am currently caring for are here for dinner, I don't even sit down to eat until long after all the kids have eaten, but I'm still left feeling like I didn't taste one bite. As I write this, my microwave is beeping every minute to remind me that I have food in there - last night's dinner reheated. But I hesitate to get it. Not because it's disgusting - quite the contrary, it's delicious - but because what makes it delicious is not all that great for my already exhausted and out-of-shape body.

While I'm confessing here, let me add a sub-confession of the fact that I am a junk-food junkie. Or sugar addict, if you must give it that sort of label. I love sweet stuff and I love thick, stick-to-your-ribs food. My favorites are pasta, cheese, potatoes, bread...yeah, all the carbs. I do have to say, though, that when I can, I buy whole wheat pasta and I always eat whole wheat bread. However, give me a big heaping bowl of home-made macaroni and cheese made with elbow or mini bow-tie pasta and I'm a very happy camper. (Incidentally, that is what last night's dinner was, complete with small pieces of chicken and some spinach thrown in for at least the effect of healthy eating!)

I do have to say that I also very much LOVE fresh veggies and fruit, salads and all the good, really pure stuff. I actually prefer that over the much loved/much hated cheesy pasta potato dishes I often crave. And this is the part of me I try to pass on to my kids. Growing up, green beans were my favorite vegetable. Cooked or raw, it didn't matter, I'd eat 'em! Do my kids like green beans? Not really....yet. Aidan likes to peel them apart and eat the tiny peas out of them, leaving their pods crumpled and mushed in the middle of his plate. Angel eats one or two but only after she's promised dessert as a reward. Bella...well...forget Bella altogether right now. She doesn't seem to like much of anything, sporting a very picky 'no-I-won't-try-that-for-a-dollar' attitude, which I'm sure she gets from her father. We often have those "show Mommy how the piggies eat" scenes at the dinner table.

I think about the fact that I do not like giving my children much sugar, but being the sugar addict that I am, I will sit and eat chocolate right in front of them. Most of the time, it's like 70% cacao dark chocolate which has very little to no sugar in it.....but still. They don't know that. All they see is that Mommy is eating "candy" and they can't have any! So then I really have to wonder if my example is not a very good one. Okay, I don't wonder. I know. And to prove it, I think I am the way I am because I can remember my parents being the same way! Of course, they gave us tons of fruits and vegetables while growing up, that is how I acquired my love of green beans... But there was also always the never-ending supply of Doritos, that box of Cheez-Its or bag of Chips Ahoy....and nothing ever said (or taught by example) about moderation.

In their (and my) defense, however, I look at the way the world is today and the parenting techniques of most when it comes to the eating habits of their children and I see a lot worse. Just the other evening, I was at the grocery store and in the check-out line was a mom with her teen-aged daughter. Most of the food in their cart was pre-packaged, preservative-laden junk, soda and maybe a bag of carrots. Her daughter ran to get a box of some sort of crazy amped-up caffeine drink and her mom said "no," but with just a tiny bit of protest from her daughter, she bought it anyway. In front of her was another mother with a boy of about 10 or 12 and he was guzzling a Pepsi Max. (It was 8:00 on a Wednesday night. But maybe if they have that sort of crap every day, the sugar and caffeine don't bother them anymore.) By the way, both children, while not obscenely obese, were definitely over-weight.

In a world that teaches us little about self-control and a lot about doing whatever makes us happy, I'm quite concerned for my children. And that goes on so many levels but we'll stick with the food habits just for today. There has been an explosion of seemingly-positive opinions advertised about how one should look healthy, etc.. but these are often driven mostly by the agenda of sex appeal, not health. Why do I want my children to be privy to that sort of influence? The answer is, I don't. So it's up to me to be the one that teaches them about health and nutrition and being good stewards of our bodies. That means leading by example. I guess that means I need to make sure I eat every meal of the day and cut back on the fatty, carb-amped dishes and sweets. And I guess that also means last nights' dinner in the microwave might just sit there while I find a better-suited lunch to fuel my tired bod!