Tag Archives: Parenting

Image via FlickrI hear a lot of talk, and read a lot of blog posts and articles, about how hard it is to be a parent. Heck, every other blog post of mine is about that. But one thing I feel like isn’t mentioned often is how hard marriage gets when you have children.

Marriage before children is hard. There are bills to pay, houses to keep up, stressful jobs, in-laws, moves, financial hardships. My first couple years of marriage were spent a thousand miles from home in a foreign land (okay, it was Massachusetts, but it felt like another country) while one of us was in school and the other was working a job she hated and then getting pregnant (that was me). We had money issues from the beginning, and we’ve always been “fighters,” so it was never purely sunshine and roses for us. But still, we had our freedom, we could go on dates, take trips and sleep in.

Then we had a kid.

Everyone told us it would be hard, but so worth it because we would be so in love with this little new life that none of the hard stuff would matter. And that was true, about the parenting part.

The marriage part? Well, all of that crap we had brought into our marriage was still there. Wait, you’re telling me I have this baby to take care of around the clock, and I still have to find ways to be loving toward my spouse, to spend time with them, to get along with them and work through issues with them?

Issues. Let’s talk about issues. Remember how when you got married, all of these issues came up that you never even knew were issues? How you dealt with finances, how you related to family, how you handled emotions, how you arranged your pillows at night? Well, guess what. Bringing another life into the world brings up a whole new host of issues. Who gets up in the middle of the night? Who wakes up with the baby in the morning and who gets to sleep in? How late is too late to come home from work when the other spouse is drowning in diapers and baby food? WHOSE LIFE IS HARDER? (I’m convinced this is one of the great mysteries of life, one that will forever be disputed. “I have to come home from my job every day and go straight into my other job of being a parent!” “Well I never get to leave my job! Ever!” And so on and so forth).

I’m a firm believer in premarital counseling. But since having children I’ve decided that what we really needed was pre-parental counseling. No one ever sits you down and asks you if you’re really ready to add another life into your marriage relationship. In fact, from the second you get married, all anyone ever wants to know is when you’re going to start having kids. No one asked me if I felt like my relationship with Marshall was in a good place to start a family. People talk about being financially ready to have kids, and while that’s important, I think it’s much more important for your marriage to be strong enough to handle everything that comes along with becoming parents.

So if you’re thinking about having children, I’m not saying you need to go see a counselor (though I’m not saying you shouldn’t), but I do think it’s wise to take stock of your marital relationship and whether its ready for such a monumental change. If you have children, it’s never too late to start better tending to your marriage. It’s easy to say “We’ll deal with it later, I’m too tired right now.” Don’t do that. Talk to your spouse. Go on a date. Learn how to enjoy one another even when your children are going crazy. Let your spouse sleep in. One of the best gifts we can give our children is a happy home, which starts with a happy marriage. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

 W


You Aren't The OneA while back, I wrote about teaching my children about Jesus, and mentioned that I wanted to reach out to other mothers for advice. The first person I asked was, naturally, the leader of my new moms’ Bible study at church. I invited her to share with me and my readers some of her thoughts on teaching our children about Jesus, and what she returned to me was so much more beautiful than I ever imagined it would be. 

Susan has such a generous and humble spirit, and she is truly an encourager. I love that in this post she releases us from the burdens we may feel about our responsibility in our children’s faith journeys. As she reminds us, we are not THE ONE, God is THE ONE, and we can rest confidently in that truth. 

From Susan:

Our church has a lovely tradition of conducting baby dedications throughout the year during the worship service. It’s always a heartwarming moment – the proud parents standing with our pastor at the front of the church, holding their cherubic babe in their arms, usually with some or many family members standing alongside them. Sometimes the baby is a newborn and sometimes the baby is more of a toddler. Always always, the baby is dressed to the nines, which adds to the complete adorableness of the occasion.

The basis of this meaningful rite of passage is the parents’ wish to dedicate publically their precious baby, a new image bearer, unto the Lord. Pastor Jim will quote Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” He will also mention this is the first commandment that comes with a promise.

Photos are taken, prayers are given and hearty applause is offered as this freshly anointed family unit walks off the platform.

I often wonder if these new parents get into their cars, travel home and say to themselves, “Sighhhh…that was so nice…wasn’t that great…wait, what? Train up a child in the way he should go…and just how do we do that?!”

It is every believing mother and father’s desire to do just that. It’s at the top of their unwritten, lengthy job descriptions. And yet, in this age of modern parenting, we either feel completely ill-equipped from lack of knowledge or are over-burdened from an avalanche of instruction, advice, articles, books and the latest research. Too much noise, not enough wisdom.

As the mother of three school-age daughters with one entering middle school in the fall, I have been that wandering parent in the wilderness of “how.” I know where I want to get, I just don’t know how to get there. And, as a bible study leader of new moms, I am deeply compassionate of their burdens and concerns, and recognize the burning, innate hunger for practical wisdom that is grounded in timeless truth.

Here are some things I am both convinced of, and convicted by:

First, as a godly mother, there is no right way nor wrong way in teaching your children about Jesus.

Second, you don’t have be a theologian, have 100 scripture verses memorized and be able to quote C.S. Lewis before you can teach your children about Jesus.

Third, you don’t have to be perfect, do perfect, or sound perfect.

Fourth, it’s less about your ability and more about the faithfulness of God.

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be the peace of your children.” (Isaiah 54:13)

In the very early stages of pregnancy, my husband and I spent a lot of time becoming educated about pregnancy, delivery and early childcare, and of course, made herculean efforts in preparing for each little baby (well, less and less with each child). We had a vision and we had a plan.

I am a little embarrassed to realize and admit that we had zero plans for how we were going to raise our children for Christ. Plenty of cute dresses, stuffed animals and nursery décor. Zero thought or preparation for practical teaching about Jesus. You could officially say we were winging it.

Despite our ignorance, misplaced priorities and rookie attempts, the Lord was and is at work in the young, tender hearts of our children.

I saw it in their budding recognition that God made the sun, flowers, trees, rainbows, butterflies and themselves 

I saw it in their innocent awareness that God hears their prayers.

I saw it in the small, easily unnoticed ways they would attend to the hurts and needs of other friends.

I see it now, in the way God is using them already, to be a light in this world and be His hands and feet. Small, but mighty.

It’s in our nature to feel overwhelmed, confused and completely inadequate for the task set before us – we’re in charge of growing God’s Kingdom Builders, after all 

We’re not the first…

“Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? “Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)

And,

We’re not the One…

“Now may the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:21, abbreviated)

If we can take off the spiritual Superhero Parent cape and remember who is actually the true Victor, we can sigh with relief and offer empty, sticky, formerly clenched hands of faith to the One who is faithful to lead us, equip us and meet us in every moment of “training up our child.”

Thank you Susan for your wonderful words of encouragement for me and any parents reading this post!

W

 

 

 

 


Teaching Children About Jesus

Having a child comes with a bundle of worries that never even crossed my mind before I became a mother. Is my baby eating enough, when will he sleep through the night, why hasn’t he gotten his teeth yet, shouldn’t he be crawling? And that’s just in the first night months or so. In the two and a half years I’ve been a mother, none of these concerns have slowed down. In fact, they’ve multiplied.

I don’t know if it’s always been like this, but I get the feeling we are living in a culture that worries way too much, way too far into the future for our children. I find myself wondering how the food I’m feeding my seven month old will affect her health for the rest of her life. And I’m not giving her donuts. We’ve barely strayed outside the bounds of fruits and vegetables.

My son is two and a half and I catch myself deciding what sport he’s going to play in college because he seems to be athletic. I pore over his school reports and wonder whether he is on track with his peers. Should he have known his ABC’s when he was two? Do all the other children already count to 20? Will he even get into college?

It’s insane.

I’m bombarded from all sides—doctors, the Internet, other moms, well-meaning friends, the Today Show—about the things I should be concerned about for my children. Their development, their health, their education, how much money they make when they grow up, how to make them “successful” adults. And so far, I’ve drunk the cool-aid, ticking off these boxes in each new stage of their lives, to make sure I’ve set them on the right track. But is this really what should be my focus?

As a Christian, should these things matter? Yes, and no. Obviously I plan to care for my children in every way possible, to raise them to be healthy, happy, educated individuals. But above all else, I have been called as a mother to care for their hearts. It is my duty as a parent to teach them about Jesus, to teach them how to be like Jesus, and to prepare their hearts to know, love and follow Him.

If I do nothing else as my children’s mother, I want to teach them about Jesus. If they receive nothing in their lives, but receive Jesus into their hearts, I will have done my most important job in raising them. First and foremost, I want my children to be lovers and followers of Jesus, and if they succeed at nothing but serving Him, I will be satisfied.

It’s easy to let all of the outside noise drown out what I believe is important. Because let’s be honest, most of the noise that surrounds us is not telling us to focus on Jesus. In fact, most of the noise tells us to focus on things directly opposed to Jesus’ desires for our lives. Money, success, power, safety, security…we are not called as Christians to desire any of these things, nor are we promised to receive them. So we have to be intentional about keeping the noise out and directing our lives, and our homes, around Jesus.

I don’t know yet what this will look like for my family, except that I know it starts with Jesus being the center of my own life. I can teach my children about Jesus until my face turns blue, but if they don’t see that He is real in my life, those words will be empty. So right now, while my children are young, I’ll tell them about Jesus and sing about Jesus and read about Jesus, but most importantly, I’ll make sure that Jesus is the rock upon which I stand. 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

W


Missed going to the gym today (or every day since you had kids)? Don’t let that get you down, it’s never too late to start getting in shape. I can personally attest to the proven effectiveness of this workout, and the ease of staying consistent with it. Finally, a workout moms can stick to! 

Day 1:

Anytime between 5:00 and 7:00 am: Have one of your children wake you up. This can be done in a number of ways: screaming through the monitor, jumping on your bed, standing beside your bed and breathing/staring quietly until you sense them. This will create a sudden jolt of the stress hormone, cortisol, which will wake you up immediately and eliminate the need for a snooze button. It’s important that you don’t know when they will wake you up, as this heightens the fight or flight instinct that comes with the sudden awakening.

 Immediately begin lunge/squat/lift circuit. Any size child will do, so use whichever children happen to be at your house. Most likely these will be your own, but don’t hesitate to use friends’ children, children’s friends, even pets. You will begin by lifting the child who woke you up out of his or her crib or bed, and will continue this at various intervals throughout the day. Once you’ve mastered the one child lift, you may add more children as needed. Targets: core, glutes, calves, arms.

7:30 am: Begin breakfast circuit. This is a great way to get the heart pumping, especially with hungry children following you around asking you when breakfast will be ready, even though they probably already have a snack in their hands. Use this as motivation to move as quickly and efficiently as possible. Benefits: balance, dexterity, self-control. You will want to brew coffee either before or during this process. The coffee will come in handy for later circuits.

9:00 am: Vacuum circuit. Start by picking up all toys and moving all furniture out of its usual position. This is a great lower body exercise, and by now your third cup of coffee should supply a great baseline heart rate to keep you going. Once all furniture is out of place, remove vacuum from the back of your closet and lift it. Vacuums are extremely heavy, not to mention clunky, so this will really work your arms and core. Vacuum entire house. You may want to carry an infant with you for extra resistance. Work up to screaming infant and/or unruly toddler. Also great for balance.

9:30 am: Mop circuit. You’ll want to make sure to bend as low as possible to get under and around all furniture, and push down on the mop with as much force as possible, since this is the only way to get the floor somewhat clean anyway. Repeat circuit as necessary when children, pets and husbands walk through the room you just mopped.

11:00 am: Lunch. No need to make lunch for yourself. Eating toddler food, particularly leftovers, is a great way to keep your calories in check. If you do fix your own lunch, your child(ren) will inevitably want to eat it. Resist eating leftovers when they don’t eat a bite of what you gave them off your plate.

12:00 pm: Nap circuit. This is a good opportunity to get some cardio in, especially if you have two kids. Purely attempting to get them both settled for nap should be a good start, but once they start asking for things is when you’ll really get some interval work in. When both children are asleep (if this ever happens), get some rest. Or clean up all the toys they left lying around, do the dishes you never got around to after lunch (or breakfast, for that matter), fold the laundry, prepare dinner, or work on your part-time job. Once all of these things are done, try and get some rest.

Immediately after sitting/lying down to get some rest: Be woken up by one (or all) of the children. Begin afternoon lunge/squat/lift circuit.

3:00 pm: Outing circuit. This can be anywhere: park, playground, mall, friend’s house, but let’s be honest, it will probably be the grocery store. Start by lifting all children into car seats and buckling them in. This is a fabulous upper body workout, especially with children who want to “help” with buckling, and/or extremely large babies. Depending on how you are feeling after your morning workout, you may place all children in the cart or have one walk beside you. The walking child adds a great interval opportunity when they run off, knock something over, or reach for things they can’t have. Encourage grocery baggers to grossly over-pack your bags (bonus: they usually do this anyway). This will work the biceps, triceps, neck, back and shoulders. Most likely you will end up carrying the walking child for the last half to three-quarters of the trip, which really works the core. Bringing children, car seats and groceries in from the car once you get home works to tone the trunk. If you have stairs leading up to your home, great. Extra calf work.

5:00 pm: Begin dinner circuit. This will be similar to lunch circuit, but children will be much crankier and more destructive. Great time to get some interval work in and improve that balance. Try to be mindful while you eat, taking at least two to three minutes to complete your meal. Immediately after shoveling the last bite into your mouth, begin final dish circuit.

6:00 pm: Begin bedtime circuit. Bath-time is essentially one big standing crunch, so really focus on those abs. Squeeze the glutes for extra toning. Final lunge/squat lift circuit will take place between bath and bedrooms, changing tables, cribs and beds. Children will most likely be exhausted but extremely resistant to sleep. Embrace this resistance, you’re burning your last calories of the day! 

7:00 pm-9:00 pm: Optional child wake time. Feel free to use this time to relax while your child yells your name repeatedly from the next room, or get some final intervals in by entering their room and responding to their every demand.

9:30 pm: Stretch. If you feel like you’ve earned it, have a tiny square of extra dark chocolate as a “decadent treat” to end your day. But be careful! The miniscule amount of caffeine it contains could keep you up for hours, even though you felt like passing out right when your children did.

Between 5:00 am and 7:00 am the following morning: Repeat. This can (and will) be repeated every day until your children are grown. 

W

 

 

 


This Christmas was all about Santa Claus for Shook. It was the first year we could explain it to him and have him somewhat understand the concept, and it was pretty exciting. We had a great time telling him about the presents Santa would bring, where he lived, how he would come down the chimney, how he would get lumps of coal if he was bad (just kidding, that comes later).

But you know what I realized in the midst of all of this Santa stuff? It was really easy to tell Shook about Santa. He was everywhere, and everyone wanted to make sure he knew all about him. It was not nearly as easy to tell him about Jesus.

Santa is easy. Hey buddy, do you like presents? Well, Santa is a big guy in a red suit who brings you lots of presents on Christmas. Do you want to meet Santa? Well, he’ll be at every event and shopping center we attend over the next month, so you’ll be seeing a lot of him. They talk about him at school, they talk about him on TV shows, he’s everywhere.

Not so easy with Jesus. He doesn’t bring you presents, he isn’t at the mall, they don’t talk about him at school, Daniel Tiger doesn’t mention him. Christmas, this holiday that was begun to celebrate Jesus, has started to overshadow Jesus himself. Even in Christian homes, it’s all too easy to focus on family and decorating the Christmas tree and getting and giving presents, adding in Jesus almost as an afterthought.

A couple of days before Christmas, I tried to explain Jesus to my two year old. We were sitting on the back porch, and I told Shook that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday, and that he was God’s son, and he was sent here to save us. But when I tried to explain to my toddler what Jesus came to save us from, I got stuck. He doesn’t know what sin is. I started to try to think of some analogy from his life that would make sense, but I was at a loss. So I kind of gave up.

Then my husband, the pastor, came outside, and I asked him to try to explain Jesus to our two year old. And HE got stuck too! He started trying to analogize it to getting in trouble and going to time out and Jesus taking away time out…he was close, closer than I was, but by that point my son was way more interested in his Thomas the Train than whatever his crazy parents were trying to explain to him.

And there it was. Jesus is hard to explain. And not just to two year olds. I can barely wrap my head around Him at times, so why would it be easy to explain Him to our children?

So what do I do? Well, I could keep trying, which I have been. The other day in the car he asked me “Where’s Jesus?” and after some hemming and hawing I finally said something along the lines of “Well, He’s everywhere…He’s with us all the time, He keeps us safe, and He loves us…” I later asked Marshall what he would have said and his response, in classic pastor form, was a (jokingly) self-righteous “Um…sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty? Obviously.” As you can see we still have some work to do.

But you know what else I’m going to do? I’m going to ask other mothers. I don’t think we were made to parent in a vacuum, and we certainly weren’t meant to teach the gospel in a vacuum. So I’m going to reach out. I’m a learner, I love gathering knowledge. This is what I did with pregnancy, childbirth, sleep training (the myth, the legend…), you name it, I’ve read about it, asked about it, read about it some more.

I don’t know yet what this will look like, but I hope to find some way to translate what I learn to you, through the blog.

Tell me what you think – is this something that is hard for you, teaching your children about Jesus? Something you are interested in learning more about? Something you have been successful at? What resources have you found about this subject? I would love to know your thoughts as I begin this little research project!

W


“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8 

I’m generally an anxious person. You might not know it looking at me, but I’ve struggled with anxiety basically my whole life. I’m all up in my head, I have crazy thoughts, I’m a doubter, I’m a worrier…I’m a bottle of emotions. 

One of the things I’ve always struggled with is sleep. Nighttime is when my anxiety hits. All of the stresses from the day that have been piling up are finally able to come crashing down, and my brain starts to freak out. Needless to say, it’s not very compatible with sleep.

I came across this verse around the time Shook was born, and I was immediately drawn to it. I wanted this for my son. I wanted him to know peaceful sleep, to be able to rest easy.

The thing I love about this verse is the reason behind the Psalmist’s peaceful sleep. It’s something I struggle with constantly, and probably one of the main reasons I am so anxious is that I have a hard time believing it. But I do everything in my power to believe this truth. That “You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  

Before I became a mother, I worried about safety. I’ve always had this irrational fear of catastrophes, particularly as it relates to my family. I remember when my parents would go out of town when I was little, imagining all sorts of scenarios where they didn’t make it back because something terrible happened to them. I was maybe a little bit crazy.

When I became a mother, oh gosh did those fears multiply. I don’t think I’ve made it through a whole day since I found out I was pregnant without fearing for my children’s lives. It’s a constant battle for me.

What I’ve had to remind myself continually is that no matter how much I worry, no matter how many times I check on my children while they are sleeping (we all do it), no matter how tight I buckle that car seat, none of it is truly in my control. I am not the keeper of my children’s souls, the protector of their lives. It is impossible for me to keep them from pain, from suffering, even from death.  

What a terrifying reality.  

Unless.

Unless God is in control. Unless He is in charge of my children’s lives. Unless He is the one who protects them, who makes them dwell in safety. How much better, in fact, for Him to be in control than me? I am so limited in my abilities to keep my children safe. God is not. He is not only in control of my children’s lives; He is in control of everything that happens in the world. And He is good. He is loving. He is powerful and mighty to save.

So how can I give my children the gift of peaceful sleep? By teaching them, and by believing in my own heart, that “You, alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” I want to instill in my children the belief, the knowledge, that God is with them.

As the ever-quoted Psalm reminds us,

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

 W

 


I had a bad parenting day a couple of days ago. My baby hadn’t slept the previous night, and my toddler woke up early and was in rare (or I should say not so rare) form. I woke up irritable, and I couldn’t shake the sensation all day.

I was mean to Shook. I was tired, he was whiny, all I wanted to do was get the house somewhat clean, and all he wanted to do was throw toys everywhere. I yelled at him, I put him in his room, I took toys from him, I refused to laugh at his antics. It was a bad day, and I was a bad mom.

Last week I talked about the “various trials” I face daily as a mother. This day definitely held trials of various kinds. And let me tell you, there was no joy involved in my response to it.

As I lay in bed that night, finally able to sleep but not capable of actually sleeping, I asked God for forgiveness. For being impatient, for being mean, for being a bad mom. I asked Him, as I do often these days, for grace. I asked that He would give me grace, and that I would be able to give my child grace. I prayed for patience for the following day. I prayed for sleep for all of us.

And you know what happened? We didn’t all sleep a solid twelve hours, but we slept pretty well. I woke up less than exhausted, and the kiddos slept until 7:30. There was nothing categorically different about the day, aside from fewer meltdowns and a decent nap. But I felt different. I was patient, the toys all over the place didn’t make my heart race, and I actually sat on the floor and played with my son.

I forget sometimes that prayer works. God’s not Santa or my Fairy Godmother, just sitting there waiting to grant me my every wish, but He’s listening. And He’s faithful. He’s capable of changing circumstances, but more importantly, He’s capable of changing hearts. And while He might have changed the circumstances the other day, He definitely changed my heart.

I wish my first instinct, before anything went wrong, were to pray. I wish I could start and end each day with prayer, and not just the kind where I ask for forgiveness and for my toddler to stop being a toddler. I wish I were more inclined to turn my heart toward Jesus, to spend time in His presence, no matter how my day went. I wish it didn’t take a wreck of a day to bring me to my knees in front of his throne. But maybe, after enough days like this one, I’ll be a little bit better at remembering how much I need prayer, and how much I need Jesus.

W