Thursday, October 31, 2013

Remember Your Second Love - Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Three)

This is Part Three of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the Introduction, Part One, and Part Two for context and disclaimers.

3. Remember your second love -- You know that birthing class I referenced before? As I remember it, David and I were the worst students there. We were young (but far from the youngest in the class), in love, and eager to goof off and have fun before our little one made an appearance and changed our lives forever. We joked around with each other and often cracked up at completely inappropriate times.

In particular, I remember the doula scowling at me as she suggested we come up with a calming mantra to help get us through contractions. I quickly looked at David and started chanting, "It's all your fault. It's all your fault."

I was joking, and David took it in that light, but I've discovered that in this journey of parenting that often, it is easy for us as wives to look at our husbands and think that they are the enemy.

We don't start off thinking that way, but it can come out as our emotions progress. We're tired after several nights of interrupted sleep. We've gotten through a day of caffeine-fed survival techniques. We're hungry and trying to pull together a meal. One part of the meal is burning and the other part is refusing to cook in a timely fashion. Our house is in disorder and our kids are taking turns coming to us, asking us what we are making for dinner, and then telling us what a horrible choice we made. And our husbands? They are "hiding" in the bathroom. Again.

All of a sudden our frustrations and irritations, fueled by our fatigue and hunger (a bad combination for sure) start to boil over. And the source of all our worldly problems? This man that God gave us. And it is our God-given duty to enlighten him about all the ways that he is currently failing!!

But before we fly off the handle, this is a really good time to take a step back and get our thoughts and emotions in control. Eat something. Even if it'll ruin your appetite for the dinner that still isn't ready to be put on the table. Go hide in the other bathroom for a minute. Take your thoughts captive and remember your first love. And then remember your second love.

God gave you an ally in this battle. He's your husband. You love him. God gave you exactly the right person to help stretch you and grow you and encourage you. He's here for you and you're here for him. You've got each other's backs.

But he's not perfect. He's not going to always know intuitively what you need. Sometimes you are going to need to ask. And sometimes he's going to think that you've got it wrong. Sometimes he'll be right and sometimes he won't be. But he's not the enemy. He's on your side. He loves God, he loves you, and he loves your kids. He wants what is very best for your family. Just like you. And what's even better, both of you have an Advocate who goes before the Father on your behalf.

You both are growing and learning together. Sometimes those growth patterns are painful, but they are also beautiful.

So when you start to aim the fiery darts at your husband, stop yourself and remind yourself who he is. And replace your thoughts and emotions with truth.

Feed your relationship with your husband -- it's not only what you will have once your kids are long grown, it's also what will help you in the process of growing your kids.

Enjoy your husband -- he's a blessing from God. Be thankful for him. God is good and He gives good gifts.

Communicate with your husband -- share your burdens with him and ask him for help. Humble yourself and admit your weaknesses and struggles with him. Ask him to pray for you. Pray with him. Let him be a means of grace that you see evidenced in your life.

Love your husband well -- your relationship with your husband is a picture of Christianity that God has given this world so they can better see God. Remember to pray for your husband and to encourage him and to care for him. You might start to look at him and think: "He's grown up! Can't he take care of himself? My kids need me -- he doesn't."

But one of the very best ways you can love your children is by loving your husband well. Again, the relationship between your husband and you is a picture of Christ and His love for His people. We want our children to see that in all of the beauty it entails. You can't do this perfectly, but you can pray that God will enable you to do this well. And He is faithful and generous to answer such prayers.


As I'm writing this series, I can see how God has taught me so much in this process of parenting, but also how very much I have to grow. I'm thankful for God's promise to me that He will complete the good work that He's started. Let's be praying for each other, sisters, that God will continue His good work and that we will quickly and eagerly submit to His good plans for us. And come back soon for Part Four!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Be Anxious for Nothing - Thoughts on Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Two)

This is Part Two in the series, “Three in Diapers: Thoughts on Parenting Through the Little Years.” If you’re tuning in now, please see the Introduction and Part One for context and foundation.

2. Be anxious for nothing -- As women, as moms, it’s easy for us to let our anxiety rule the day. I remember being in a birthing class when I was pregnant with our first. The doula teaching the class was giving helpful advice for managing pain during labor. She said one thing that has stuck with me through each labor and delivery since. She said something like, “Don’t think about what might happen or how much longer it might take to get through labor. Just focus on getting through the contraction that you are in. Most women usually only get in a bind when they start asking themselves, ‘How much longer is this going to take? What if it gets worse? I don’t think I can handle this much longer…’ They get overwhelmed by their imagination of the future instead of their present reality.”

I’ve always felt that that doula gave sound, even biblical, advice in what she said. The Bible exhorts us in many places not to worry, to be anxious for nothing, to trust God for our care and provision. And yet so many of our life decisions are based on the “what ifs” that we can imagine with dread.

I remember one book I read several years ago that asserted something to the effect of “God’s grace is not sufficient for our imagination; it’s sufficient for our reality.” In other words, we can so often look at other people’s circumstances, combine them with other possibilities, superimpose them on our future, and then cower, paralyzed by what we've conjured up for ourselves.

In doing this, we neglect the very real truth that God’s grace is sufficient for today and that He is glorified and strong in our weakness. Life is not easy. There are many unforeseeable events that wait around the corner of our futures. Yet we can trust that God not only foresees these events, but He is sovereign and capable to walk us through whatever path He has laid in front of us. We might stumble along the way (we probably will), but His grace is sufficient, and we are just called to be faithful right now.

And when you do feel overwhelmed and your anxious thoughts seem to be coming to life in front of you, remember Part One. My pastor has a phrase, “Look at your circumstances through the lens of the cross instead of looking at the cross through the lens of your circumstance.”

And for good measure, here is one of my favorite Spurgeon quotes: “Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.”

These two first points might be the very hardest for me to practically apply each day. It's easy to just get into life and to forget to take my thoughts captive and surrender them to God's governance. But thankfully, His mercies are new every morning and it really is quite simple truths that can calm and strengthen out hearts when we approach despair. We just have to pray for help and practice returning to these truths in our hearts and minds.

Stay tuned for Part Three!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Remember Your First Love - Parenting Through the Little Years (Part One)

Today I begin my series, “Three in Diapers: Thoughts on Parenting Through the Little Years.” If you missed my introduction yesterday, please see that for explanation and disclaimers.

I often hear from moms, “I don’t know how you do it. I can barely manage my life with two kids.” My typical response is, “Two is hard!! I remember that. Very much. And my second child wasn’t a particularly hard baby, either. I imagine that one kid is God’s way of saying, ‘You’re not in control.’ And two kids is His way of saying, ‘No, really. You aren’t in control.’”

Some of us take a long time to learn that lesson. But really, grasping the truth that God is God, God is good, and we are not in control goes a long way in this life, and specifically for this post series, in parenting.

To my friend who asked for my thoughts and advice, here are some ways that God has helped me to learn to focus on this truth while parenting.

1. Remember your first love –  God has given you enormous blessing and responsibility by making you both a wife and a mom. You are to help your husband in his endeavors to love, protect, and provide for your family and to raise them to know His love and truth. You are to care for your home and to love your neighbors and others. You are to train up your children in the way they should go, recognizing that they, as all people, are born with sinful rebellious hearts against God and that He has lovingly, graciously given His Son to bear the cost of their sin and to cleanse them from unrighteousness.

You nurture your babes through pregnancy and infancy, care for their every need, sacrificially give of your time (and sleep) and hopes and plans and goals for the purpose of being the mom that God has called you to be.

But don’t forget in the midst of doing these good and right things that first and foremost, you are a child of God. He is your first love. God is God; He is good; He loves you, and He has called you from darkness and covered you in the blood of His Son.

God is for you. He has given His Son as a ransom for your sins and has given His Spirit to strengthen you and aid you in the process of you growing in Christ-likeness. He loves you. When He looks at you, He sees His precious Son and the price He paid to redeem you. He withholds no good thing from you. And He works all things for good for you, in conforming you to the image of His Son.

Remember His goodness. Remember His grace. Remember the way He drew you to Himself and forgave you of all your sins: past, present, and future. Dwell on these things when your heart wanders to anxiety, frustration, fear, or discouragement. Love Him. Praise Him. Enjoy Him. Be strengthened and renewed by Him.

Preach the gospel to yourself and ask Him for the strength and grace to show His love to your children, your husband, and those around you.

This point is pivotal and critical in life, and foundational for any other thoughts or points. Parenting has a way of stretching you to the depths of your ugliness. Stare it straight in the face and then dump it at the foot of the cross, and bathe in the love of God that is found there.


Continue to Part Two

Monday, October 28, 2013

Three in Diapers: Thoughts on Parenting Through the Little Years (Introduction)

I recently was asked by a friend and sister in Christ for any thoughts or advice I could pass her way. She is about to make the jump from having one very young man toddler to THREE little ones in diapers, as she is expecting twin girls soon.

When I saw her message to me, my first thoughts (aside from the quick moment of envy at the idea of her having twins. TWINS!! Yes, I know I’m crazy. But if you’re reading this, you should know that before you get too involved in my writing) were that I didn’t really know what I could say to her as far as advice goes. I mean, I could come up with some quick response to specific questions, but I’ve never had TWINS (at least not yet. I’ll keep praying). And my friend’s situation is unique to her. Everyone’s situation is unique to them. So what can I really say other than “take one day at a time and remember God’s grace along the way?"

Well, the second thing you should know about me before you get too involved in my writing is that I can say a lot. (Really. About just about anything. Be warned.) The night after my friend sent me a message asking for my thoughts, while caring for a nursing infant in the middle of the night, I started to think about many of the lessons God has taught me and highlighted to me during my past nine years of active parenting.

And then I started wondering if I should write a book. Then I remembered that I have seven kids nine and under and decided that I don’t have time to write a book. But maybe a blog post… series. (This will help me avoid my husband telling me that I need to write less in a blog post). Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep after that point.

Before I get started, I’d like to make a few qualifications since I will be posting this on the world wide web and just about anybody might read it.

One, my thoughts are aimed mostly at a sister in Christ – someone who is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for her salvation. Some of my thoughts are universal to everyone, but some of them won’t make sense unless you, too, are believing in Christ for your salvation and for the grace and strength to grow to be more like Him during this time you have on earth.

And some of my thoughts may not be relevant to you at all. If they’re not relevant, feel free to disregard them. I’m not assuming that what has been an issue for me is an issue for anyone or everyone else. And God has different plans and stages for each of us. Though these overlap in many ways, if they don’t, please don’t feel offended or hurt by my statements. Just realize that for that part, I’m not writing to you. God has you in a different spot for His good reasons.

Finally, I have not yet arrived. Anywhere. Many of these lessons I’m still preaching to myself every day, some of these lessons I’m learning right now, and there’s not a single point that I have down perfectly. I’m in a process. So please forgive my imperfections and pray for God’s grace for ME as I continue in the path entrusted to me.

So, with all that ado, please come back soon for PART ONE of “Three in Diapers: Thoughts on Parenting Through the Little Years.”

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy happy birthday, Danny!

You're SEVEN!! YAY!!! =)

Danny, you're a delightful child. You have more energy than a chipmunk with a caffeine patch, and you can talk laps around me, but this often points to the joy that regularly overflows your character. You love to tell jokes and you often have unique views on life about which we love to hear.

You pour your heart into whatever you're doing (especially if whatever you are doing involves the Wii, ahem), and we love that you are so exuberant about life.

I'm excited to see how this next year goes for you, my sweet, affectionate child, and I hope that as life continues to speed along, you take the time to revel in the love that God has poured out for you.

Press on, my caffeinated chipmunk! We love you and hope you have a very, very happy birthday!!