Raising Children During Chaos

Raising children in the midst of chaos can seem like a task of responsibility and accountability because our hearts are filled with thoughts of logistics, plans, & overwhelmed by circumstances. 
Pressing into Jesus while I admonish our children has made me the most aware and humbled by the gift of the Holy Spirit. 
While their behavior is filled with selfishness, tantrums, questions, and the need for training, it isn’t abnormal. It can feel like the greatest inconvenience, though, when my heart is reeling and my thoughts aren’t captive to Christ. 
I’m overwhelmed by the grace and wisdom the Spirit speaks into me and through me when I’m gently talking through life with my children. When a directive, a calm answer, or wise training comes from the depths of my innermost heart. I’m overwhelmed because Jesus speaks to me even more than whatever I’m speaking to my children. 
When I’m speaking hope and understanding to them (through the Spirit’s leadership), it’s actually me He’s speaking to…filling up my heart and mind to prompt me towards steadfastness. I’ll never stop growing, and the inconveniences of nurturing and training my children insure this and though I don’t always thank God for it, I am today. 
So today when my heart is very aware of the circumstances today holds, as we travel to another town to meet with an oncologist to hear pet scan results and chemo treatment plans, I’m asking the Lord to calm my anxious heart with moments of truth shared with my children that are ultimately for us all. 
Grace so free, washes over me. 

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today’s demands teach tomorrow’s grace

the day is nearing the end. the pressure to meet the demands is over. did you meet them? what is success?

define success for yourself so you know your own expectations for yourself. evaluate them. make yourself some benchmarks. no one hits their success of huge goals immediately. it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

in fact, that’s what usually keeps me from making goals. or making attempts at my own expectations. i have failed before. i have hit the evening (it seems every day) with a miserable gut check that i accomplished NOTHING i set out to complete that day.

the reality? i didn’t set out to complete anything. i had a mental to do list. and a child woke up too early. he demanded specific items for breakfast. said items ended up all over my sheets. youngest child wakes up screaming, too. they both have pungent diapers and soaked clothes. now to more food and bottles and cups full of milk. toys spread everywhere. fingers touching dangerous things. tiny bodies climbing to high places that cause immediate danger and panic. they’re quiet now……interrupt productivity to find the children. toys everywhere. one wants to paint. can i watch a show? let’s have a snack! momma we miss dadda. why are you screaming? snack? milk? diaper? align the cosmos?!?! oh it’s lunch. what are we having (that would have been on my mental to do list—meal planning, maybe at naptime). oh you don’t want to eat anything on your plate? out of the 7 options i put on there? hm. time for nap. no one wants to take a nap? momma does! can we trade?! WHEW. youngest is down without a hitch. spanking. screaming. gnashing of teeth. compromise. promise. spanking. screaming. gnashing of teeth. no sleep today. no nap=nothing accomplished for momma. every one up. snacks. milk. more milk. they drink milk all day. could i be a dairy farmer? nope. i’d never make it. thought detour. clean up kitchen. get ready to start dinner. MASS HYSTERIA AND EVERYONE LOSES THEIR MINDS. momma is going to cook dinner? act like a crazed maniac! because….she doesn’t cook dinner ALMOST every night??! i mean, what a shock! cooking to the music of screaming, yelling, fit throwing, ……. DADDA IS HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we’re the happiest boys alive! oh? that screaming? we just wanted to see how many decibels she could take! and dinner. bath. clean up rooms. bed.

the end of the day. i survived. but i did i thrive? was there joy emitted? today’s demands have made me aware that it’s night’s end and i must accept the grace for the moments that were not beautiful and walk into tomorrow with grace for the moments that will be challenging.

for where i felt like a failure today, i can only make a goal for how to approach that situation again and what it would look like to be a success. i was never a failure. feelings are NOT Truth.

progress, not perfection is the strategy with which i’ll run this marathon.

i want my husband and children to see grace. lived and offered. not the cranky, i’m short tempered with the world because of my own shortcomings, attitude i’ve exhibited lately. they don’t need to be effected with emotions for where i THINK i’ve failed, they need to have me fully present in my calling as a wife and a mom and the TRUTH of what that calling is—that’s where i am seeking my identity. not the 10 absolute best aspects of 10 people that i expect myself to be all wrapped up in one individual.

marathon. not sprint.

lightning fast

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Everyone tells you “it goes by fast” as if fear will motivate moms of littles to cherish every moment. We do cherish it. Those of us who work outside of the home and those of us who stay home. We cherish it just like everyone cherishes their own lives. You know? You know how we have all have to be reminded to “live each day like the last”? Or how every time something tragic happens it jolts us back into the reality of how precious and short life is? Those are humbling moments that bring perspective. If a mom of littles is feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, frustrated, etc. I can guarantee we already feel guilty that we aren’t “just loving every moment”. I know everyone means well by trying to encourage moms of littles with “cherish it now” “it goes by fast” “tomorrow they’ll be driving”. I definitely get it. When someone says this and I feel guilty for having a hard time, I remind myself they’re trying to encourage me. They’re trying to love on me. No matter how much those comments push me to condemn myself and cause me to resolve myself to “never complain again” (however, sometimes I receive these encouragements just because my boys are acting in a way that requires some extra love). I’ve even tried to find my own slant to encourage myself. My husband helps me remember everyday that this is only a season. My oldest was just where my youngest is….yesterday. And before I know it, they’ll both be self-sufficient and momma kisses will be scarce. I would never trade my time at home with my boys. Whether I stayed home or worked and my time was different with them. Just because I know something is my calling and the best for my family doesn’t always make it easy.

My husband and I have gone through some hard stuff recently. That’s where we have no choice but to lean on the Lord and trust Him. We can’t change some of these circumstances. So we roll with it and talk to the Lord and each other about it and how it can penetrate and change our hearts.  I take the same approach with hard days at home with my boys. I can’t change them and I don’t want to but I am here to train and mold them. That takes a lot of discipline and consistency for parents. Sometimes the most encouraging thing someone says to me is “you’re doing a great job.” I know it’s not hardest thing in the world to parent my children and that I’m very blessed to have them and to stay home with them. Just because something is the greatest thing in the world doesn’t mean it isn’t hard sometimes. I’ve had my dream job before (before staying home became my dream job) and it was still really hard! I needed help and I needed admonishment.

This post was brought on by a “lightning fast” milestone for Holt. He stayed up past 6:30 last night because we were at church and did surprisingly well! It caused him to sleep until 8:30 this morning (we’re going to have a GREAT DAY 🙂 I’m not a morning person. The biggest milestone, though, …… no bottle this morning. He ate breakfast and had a cup of milk. Drake pretty well weaned himself off the bottle and I didn’t have to think twice about it. He never held his own bottle so transitioning to cup made sense and worked. Holt can hold his own bottle and when he sees it, he says “nigh nigh” because it’s so comforting to him. He didn’t flinch with no bottle and I know we’ll be fine. My momma heart can’t believe my youngest is almost done with all things that resemble infancy (except those expensive diapers!).

It does go by so fast. As hard as I try to cherish every moment, some of them go by all too quickly. We can’t hold onto these moments. They just vanish. I posted once with Drake that I wish I could have one of him at every stage. It’s so true. The heart strings rip as we want to hold onto the now but also long to see them grow and flourish. Baby gear and items are flying out of his room and getting packed up and all I see are little boy clothes and toddler toys. This year I have a preschooler and a toddler. This year we continue to teach and guide and mold and train.

It’s a sweet honor that He called us to be stewards. Forgive me Lord, when it seems too much. Thank you for the grace to take it day by day and thank you for the grace to know the magnitude of this honor.

on call wife and mom

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uttering those words “i’m JUST a stay at home mom” or feeling the guilt of a few bemoaning thoughts towards switching hats from your career to mom and wife when you get home are heavy loads we carry as married women with children.

right now, it seems less than glamorous to be a stay at home mom. i’m wearing shorts and a tshirt and got dirty and sweaty playing outside this morning. i didn’t have anyone writing me a memo that said “wow, that lesson was awesome” or “your class was so well behaved today” or “great presentation in that meeting today” or over hear someone say “that Melissa sure can ____________”.

two things to remember here::

1. no one gets these sorts of accolades and praises on a regular basis.

2. my accolades and praises will come in the form of healthy, sought-after relationship with my children and husband. (i am growing alongside my children in what it means to relate to and with them. i still have a long way to go with my husband. i didn’t get him until i was 26).

as a stay at home mom, my days are what i make them. i count the cost to leave the house with my children (will it be worth it if everyone loses their mind and we are a huge mess out in public?) you know those thought processes. some days i know before we even start that day that i am personally not operating on a full tank of patience and wisdom and probably shouldn’t venture into new territory (whether that be an activity at home or leaving the house). but some days i feel confident with my boys to conquer the world (whether that’s going to the grocery store or to a grandparents’ house).

as a stay at home mom, sometimes it feels like days happen to me. spilled milk, meals refused, constant fussing and disobedience, and skipped naps are all ripe ingredients for a momma melt down. add to that feeling like a failure if there are millions of messes that got left because clean up was interrupted by a hungry baby or runaway two year old. add to that feelings of inadequacy if i’m still in my sweatpants and tshirt when my husband comes home from work and i haven’t put on any make-up or cooked dinner.

i can never seem to accomplish all of these things in one day::a play date, all meals at home, clean up from all meals, at least one activity with Drake and/Holt, a sufficient nap time/s for all, daily cleaning, bath/shower for everyone, and daily cleaning. but i read over those expectations, that’s more than i felt like i accomplished when i was at work.

are my children observing/judging what gets done? no, but they are learning. so my efforts to teach them must focus more on what my decisions and priorities are rather than my task list. they aren’t a task list. they are hungry for relationship and interaction. that is my priority. when my 7 month old cries because i leave, he needs something. (he doesn’t ALWAYS cry, so this isn’t just spoiled…he’s usually hungry, has a diaper need, is bored, etc) or when my 2 year old says “come play with me momma!” he needs me. i remember very specific moments and occasions from my childhood-positive and negative. i want my children to have positive, healthy memories of their time with me at home. it’s so short. 1 year a few months ago we started teaching my 2 1/2 year old. now he knows his abc’s (recognition and some spelling), can spell his name and recognize his name, count, colors, shapes (he’s known octagon since 15 months), has spoken in complete sentences since 15 months, has a creative and imaginative mind, has better manners than some adults, can sort and make patterns, i could go on (as i already have). my point….in just a few months he has grown and learned so much. he’s only 2 1/2 and i feel him slipping into curiosity and comfort where relationship with others is concerned. he wants to know others and relate to others. i was his world for a short time and it’s already time to share him.

i’m on call. being a mother means taking care of the sick (even if you’re sick). it means taking care of all in the middle of the night and all day (even if you’re tired). it means having all the answers (the constant “why” and the expectation that you really do know everything). it means bringing comfort and healing (medicines, kisses for ouchies, ice bags, “you’re okay”s for when it’s not that bad).

it means selflessness. but as we’re stripped of ourselves for our husband and children, we’re filled with so much more of Him. we become so much more like Christ. we give of ourselves. we consider others. we want the best for others. we become sensitive and tender and need-meeters. we are stripped of ourselves because our flesh is what has driven us and motivated us. when we lean and rely on the Spirit for our relationship with our husband and children, we bring holiness and wholeness to those relationships. we are on call to live by the moment in the Spirit.

we can’t plan every moment if we’re on call. we can be focused on our vision/purpose statement for our family and run everything that approaches our family through that filter. do we have some illness? do we have some trial? do we have some conflict? do we have some disappointment? what do we say our family is to be about and how can we manage that through the filter of our vision/purpose statement for our family? that’s how we live on call.

that’s not “JUST” a stay at home mom. that’s a mom taking advantage of the largest responsibility and accountability in my sphere of existence (save that of my relationship with Christ and my husband). that’s a mom leading and mothering her children to one day have vision and purpose.

For better or worse

Post from my blog sharpexpressions that was written September 6, 2011. Drake would have been 10 months (almost 🙂

I posted a status on Facebook this weekend that said “I wish I could record Drake all day. His facial expressions are priceless & his mumblings in an effort to talk are going to be sweet memories once he’s talking all the time! He’s so much fun. So thankful we get to be stewards of him for now. What a perfect gift.”

I soon realized how far my understanding of this concept of stewardship has come. It has developed by way of difficult circumstances, joyous blessings, and moments of struggle.  I have come to a place of understanding this life is temporal and we are preparing for the eternal. Jesus healed many while He was on earth, but His healings were the the precursor to the ultimate, eternal Healing He was to bring.

I was 26 when I married by husband, who was 28 at the time.

We were by no means old, but we hadn’t just graduated college either. My singleness was a season. For better or for worse. The enjoyable times were the better and the lonely times were the worse. Let it be known that loneliness doesn’t disappear on the wedding day. The enjoyable times were filled with sporadic meetings with college girls, encouraging them, discipling them, challenging them, and all the while growing in my knowledge leaps and bounds. I was able to go where I wanted when I wanted. I was free to make decisions on a whim, change my budget (or not have one), I only had myself to contend with (with household tangibles…I’m not referring to huge matters of influence such as irresponsible, unstable, untrustworthy behavior, etc.) My schedule was my own. The lonely times were complete with silence in my bedroom. Moments of weeping to the Lord of my great desire to have someone in this life to care for and help (I had no real understanding of the magnitude of responsibility and accountability that desire held). There were days filled with question after question for God. **If you’re in this season, how are you treasuring, coveting, and utilizing this time? Are you a good steward of this season, for better and for worse? In the enjoyable times are pouring your time into whatever the Lord has for you now? (School, family, friendships, discipling, serving?) Are you using the lonely times to be sifted and refined for the Eternal purpose you are here to serve? The Lord quickly broke me with the reality that He doesn’t promise us marriage, children, friends, home, etc. He has a lot for us and we are to walk in this lot with grand thankfulness and resourcefulness.  He walks with you through these seasons to sanctify and purify you. Are you letting Him? He uses the seasons to make you look more like His Son..are you drawing nearer to Him?

These seasons are a grand picture that tie together little hills and valleys in our lives. He calls us to walk gracefully through EACH season and within that time frame we are to be good stewards of all that is in our sphere of existence. Wherever you are now, there are other people  in your life who benefit by watching (or should benefit) how you rest in Him and pursue Him.

Are you a good steward of your friendships? Some friends stay and some friends go. Is your time spent with them in such a way, that whether they stay or leave, you have no regrets?

  • Be graciously honest with them.
  • Meet conflict directly and concisely.
  • Apologize immediately where you must.
  • Forgive immediately where you must.
  • Go out of your way to meet their needs. It will return to you. (Don’t meet their needs with expectations or pay back in mind…Jesus doesn’t handle us in that regard.)

Are you a good steward of your relationship with your family?

  • Forgive them.
  • Honor your father and mother. It might cost so be prepared, but remember it is commanded for a reason and He will bless you and keep you in this area if you are obedient.
  • Get Christian counseling if your past necessitates it.
  • Make time for them.
  • Find ways to encourage them.
  • Bless them.
  • I am not naive to the fact there are some families where these actions are not possible. If you know the Lord and are surrounded by godly counselors, you know how to walk in this area. If you need help, ask a seasoned believer who is walking faithfully with the Lord. They will help you be accountable where you can be with your family and discern where you are not responsible.

Are you a good steward of your marriage?

  • Pray for your spouse.
  • Discuss Truth and theology
  • Be tender. Be aware.
  • Be affectionate.
  • Ask for forgiveness. Be forgiving.
  • Tell them good things about themselves first and then do it in public. Build your spouse up–it’s you and your spouse against the world at all times. If you’re in a battle with one another, you’ve lost your ally.

Are you a good steward of your children’s affections and their hearts? You only get a very short time with them.

  • Pray for them.
  • Pray with them.
  • Teach them Scripture.
  • Teach them obedience and faith.
  • Spend time with them above everyone else (except your spouse).
  • Model a healthy, godly marriage for them.
  • Be affectionate towards them and value their affection for you.
  • Tell them good things about themselves and then tell everyone else.

Are you a good steward of your time? Not a selfish time keeper.

  • Spend time first with your spouse, children, & family (quality time)
  • If you are single and without children, first spend time with your family, then your closest circles of friends.
  • Let your time be spend in prayer, reading the Word, Scripture memory, music, etc. Whatever stirs your affections for Christ and causes you to look more like Him.
  • Plan your time well. A calendar of your regular days’ commitments, monthly commitments, regular meetings & events, and other planned/scheduled happenings. Then fit other things into that frame. Be prepared for interruptions. The Lord will interrupt you and it’s an opportunity to be a good steward in another area (helping a friend, having faith when He allows inconvenience of a car break down, etc) of your life if you’re already a good steward of your time.

Are you a good steward of your finances? All that you’ve been given…is just that…GIVEN.

  • Recognize your WHOLE lot as being given.
  • Decide how to use what you’ve been given to honor Him.
  • Tithe.
  • Save.
  • Don’t overspend.
  • Pay off what you’ve already overspent, if you have.
  • Don’t make rationalizations for your wants. If you can afford it, be wise, if you can’t, be wise.

Are you a good steward of your possessions? Again, you’ve been given all that you have.

Take inventory of your possession.

  • Evaluate how it can be used to bless others. (A house can be a safe place for children from families who don’t know Christ, it can be a home away from home for a college student, etc. A car can be used to carpool for someone without a vehicle, to help families save money, or to give a child a ride with your family for a few minutes and be exposed to Christians if he/she is from an unchurched home.)
  • Don’t waste your possessions.
  • Take care of what you’ve got. It’s been given to you, cherish it.

The Lord blesses us with such enjoyable moments. However, there are seasons of hurting and struggling, too. How you respond to each is a reflection of your faith.

33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (see Matthew 6:33 to know what “these things” are) will be added to you.