When Children and Big Families Become Idols In Our Lives

When Children and Big Families Become Idols In Our Lives

Sitting around the picnic table at my in-laws’ cabin, my mother in law laughed and said, “Could we get any more people around this table?” I looked at the nine of us sitting there and said, “Well, we tried.” There was a little bit of uncomfortable laughter, because of course, we lost our last baby. Later, this conversation caused me to reflect on the idea of having lots of kids.

How we got to our number of kids is an entirely different post. However, I remember when we decided that our home was not complete after having the “perfect” one girl and one boy…I began to think about large families. I read the “large family” message boards on Baby Center. There was a lot of complaining on those boards about comments people made about numbers of children or how people would stare and count heads as a mama and her many ducklings walked by.

large family

I remember being slightly nervous when we announced baby number four. How would people react? Would we get the stares and weird comments? It turns out, we did. I was accosted by a grandmother in a grocery store who lectured me on being more responsible to the planet as my 6, 4, 2, year olds and newborns sat blinking wide eyed at her. This was the first of a long line of comments we received. I had joined the offended group of mothers of many.

There is another side of this club however. Once you have a “larger than most” family…you begin to meet large families. Homeschoolers often have large families (again, the reason for this could be another entire post). When you are surrounded by people who don’t judge you for having children…another problem sometimes occurs. You are judged because you don’t have enough of them.

I’ve talked to SO MANY women who feel the number of children they have is inadequate. They feel sorrow for having ended their fertility because their family just didn’t fit the mold. Some women feel they have to explain repeatedly that they longed for another child(ren) but their biology or their spouse or some other reason stood in the way. Other women have felt left out of conversations or belittled because they possibly had one less child than the other women in the room. Believe me when I say, I’ve been on both sides of this equation.

When we lost our last baby, I was sorrowful for the loss. I was also sad because I wanted to have another baby so much. As some time went by and I was processing my feelings, my good friend asked me a question, “Are you idolizing the idea of having another child?” The question shocked me. Was this possible? Children are a blessing! I quickly realized however, that many blessings in life can become an idol. I stopped and took stock.

Had I ever thought I was “better than” someone else because of the number of children I have been given? Ouch, that hurt. I was guilty.
Was I trusting that God had a plan or was I trying to force my plan on Him? Uh-oh, guilty again.
The reality is that, while large families can often be insulted by others…there are also many comments made to us that puff us up. I can’t tell you how often I’m lauded and praised simply because of the number of children I’ve given birth to. I’m sure I’m not the only mom who has let a few of these comments go to her head.
Having brought a certain number of children in the world doesn’t make you an amazing mom. Raising them well, caring for them diligently, and giving them every opportunity to know Jesus Christ…that’s much more impressive.

One day my kids were watching the Bate’s family reality show and one of the adult children was asked the question, “How many kids do you want to have?” This young mom of three had had difficulty conceiving and suffered several miscarriages and answered the question like this, “Well, that’s kind of a silly question isn’t it? It’s not really about the number of children I want, but what God wants.” If you really have a heart submitted to God’s plan, than you can be satisfied with fewer children if that is what God provides as well, right?

I remember standing in the kitchen hearing this woman answer with faith about her number of babies, and I realized that I may have had a subtle picture of children not simply as blessings from God, but as trophies to show off. I felt a familiar feeling of conviction. Pride.

I thanked God for rebuking my heart and I completely surrendered my family size into His hands. You see, surrendering to Him doesn’t always mean having 19 kids. It can also mean, you will have five (or whatever number He has blessed you with). Jesus knew in His wisdom that this time of adding babies into our family had come to a close and I thanked Jesus for the beautiful blessings He has given our family.

I am not “more” than a woman who has zero, one, two, three, or four children. I am not “less” than a woman who has six or more children. My “quiver” size has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else’s. The amount of “blessing” that children are, aren’t in the number of them we receive. They are in living out God’s beautiful plan for each of our families. You are not defined by the size of your family. If you are in Christ, you are defined by who God says you are, and that alone.

Dear moms of many…I encourage you to untangle yourself from any subtle lies that you may be believing. Your children are a sweet blessing, but they don’t define you. Be free from numbers, competition and letting your family size go to your head. Enjoy each blessing He gives you but do so with humility as you interact with other moms around you.

Dear mama friends…especially homeschool mama friends who feel the burden of being left out of the “moms of many club,” please be free. Delight in the gifts He’s given you…not the number, but the individuals in your home. Let go of the pressures around you that say you aren’t good enough because of your family size. Embrace the unique, beautiful plan God has laid before you.

Beauty from Pain and God’s Perfect Plan

Beauty from Pain and God’s Perfect Plan

Through an unfortunate turn of events, I was brought back to a painful time from my young adulthood. Thrust into a room full of people with whom I shared a mixed past, I wasn’t ready for the onslaught of emotion it carried. We were gathered together to say goodbye to a young life, tragically taken too soon. I wept for the dear friend who was experiencing the loss of his son. As time went on, I found myself weeping for other reasons as well.

Sixteen years ago, I left a job I enjoyed, to take a position at a new church. The beautiful time I spent working with people I loved in this new position, has been overshadowed by the devastating blow I experienced when that job came to a close. In one fell swoop, I lost my ministry, my title, my income, my community, my identity, and over the months and years that followed, some of my closest friends. The words used to expel me from my position stung to my very core…and as time spun out, I realized I had lost even more; my drive, ambition, passion, and self-image were challenged at a frightening level. It took me years to cultivate a new picture of who I was when my world fell apart.

Walking into the funeral, seeing faces from one of the most challenging times in my life, I felt nearly frozen inside. All the work I had done to forgive, seek repentance, find closure, release bitterness…it was like, it vanished. Insecurities rose up into my chest like a hormone charged hot flash. To top it off, I found myself sinking into a shame spiral for letting thoughts of self, mix into the grief I felt for my friend and his family.

However, as the day wore on…I began to see beauty once again, rising from ashes. Slowly, God began to work out a mantle of praise, to replace my spirit of fainting. Levity found a path to healing, when a friend who saw my suffering leaned over to tell an off color joke. The warmth of companionship and encouragement met me through a phone call from a sojourner who understood some of my suffering. That phone call brought the grace, and healing words I needed when my friend reminded me, “God’s grace is bigger than what you thought you needed from the past.” When I thanked this friend for not judging me in my selfishness on this day, he assured me that God was nudging me toward healing in deeper places than I had yet explored from these past events.

Isaiah 61

I felt myself rising up, like an “oak of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

The suffering that took place in my past was a deep wound. Tonight, I thanked God for those wounds inflicted on me. For some reason, He found it so good to take that pain and “rebuild the ancient ruins, raising up the former devastations.” In the midst of the turmoil, he spoke rivers of grace and has been “repairing the ruined cities” in my life. “Instead of shame, I have been given a double portion, instead of humiliation I am shouting joy over my portion. Everlasting joy is mine.”

I may have been removed out of ministry, and been robbed of relationships by the enemy of my soul. However, since that time, the Lord God has given me five children to minister over every day. He has given me the calling to homeschool. Jesus has given me a deep richness of friendships and community with some of the most amazing people He’s ever created. God has knit together my heart to my husband’s and given us a new ministry; encouraging parents to lead the way toward a gentle, biblical foundation of parenting children, in order to equip parents to disciple children in their homes.

“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.”

Thank you Jesus for restoring to me the years that the locust has eaten and given me more than I had before. You are good. Even in the pain, I praise you.

Homeschool room 2018-2019

Homeschool room 2018-2019

Instead of tulips popping up this April, we had a massive snow storm. Shut in due to weather, I decided to re-organize our school room and prepare it for the next year. I thought I would share our space with a picture tour. Enjoy!

school room

These are the big four’s desks.

school room

Looking from the other side of the homeschool room.

school room My desk. The white storage cart at the end is where they turn in finished work. I correct it, slap some Michael’s stickers on it (stickers are in the white bin hanging off the homework hand in cart) and hand it back.

school room

The top shelf of the Expedit shelf holds school supplies and things I might need at my desk but don’t want sitting out in the open.

 

school room

The 3-ring binder row. The box on the left holds our discipleship folders we use in a class we call, “What’s Up?” The next box over holds our “Picture Smart” Bible pages. The third box has my kid’s color coded binders. I put all of the finished work I want to keep in those binders. It’s really nice to have them accessible. I put in their papers, paintings and drawings, and anything cute the smaller kids create during their days.

school room

These are my leveled reader shelves. Most of the kids are finished or nearly finished with these shelves, but the concept worked really well, so I’m going to keep them there for Cupcake when Catty finishes up. I altered the organization just a wee bit from my original post.

school room  This is Mommy’s shelf. I placed my favorite parenting/homeschool books here, just to feel like I have some adult friends with me, holding me accountable during the day.

school room

Sticky notes, head phones for computer use, and smelly markers. A bit eclectic, but we needed a spot for these much used items.

school room

The clear bins hold puzzles, special “school time” learning toys and activities for Cupcake. The canvas bins on the bottom shelves hold our Heart of Dakota curriculum years which are not in use at the moment.

https://www.heartofdakota.com/

The book shelf on the left of this photo holds our Shutterfly year books and most beloved book sets. Cupcake’s desk is full of notebooks and coloring books and sticker projects and whatever she wants to keep there.

https://www.shutterfly.com/

Moving on to the cupboards! The top to shelves hold glue/gluesticks, extra crayons and markers, mod podge, gel pens, duct tape, trays and smocks for painting, etc. The bottom shelf holds all of my pre school materials: Before Five in a Row, Pre-AAR, and several beginning readers.

https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/

I didn’t do anything to this messy cupboard. It holds batteries, a laminator, more gel pens, old crayons, notecards, and a label maker. It’s a small out of the way cupboard and I fill it with things we need only occasionally.

school room

Here we have Bible and devotional books, art books, poetry and sensory supplies. If I need an activity for a bored kid, this is my go-to spot.

school room

This shelf holds Ancient History, a little bit of Geography, Early American History (currently in use), and several science texts and books. The bottom shelf has a smattering of modern history and an open spot for my big plans to continue adding Sassafras Science to our work load.

school room

This cupboard holds our Math and early reading and spelling curriculum. We use CLE math for grades K and 1, and switch to Teaching Textbooks as soon as we pass into level 3. I’m not using All About Reading or Spelling at the moment, but hanging onto it, just in case I need to use it for Cupcake. My guess is we will use the readers, but I don’t know if I will be needing that rigorous of a program for her. The bottom shelf holds my oldest son’s work he needs to finish for grade 6.

school room

The last hanging cabinet is reserved for English and Spanish. It holds a few more spelling pieces, Rod and Staff grammar, Analytical Grammar for future use (of which I am a BIG fan…but that’s another post), Logic of English (which I probably won’t use anymore, does anyone want it?), and Spanish text books and plans. The bottom shelf holds most of the 9th grade work my oldest will be starting soon, along with a couple of books she will be finishing up in the next week or so.

school room

Just thought I’d share my daughter’s master piece “cheat sheet” for sentence diagramming. Seriously, I BARELY understand this stuff. She’s a whiz.

school room

We don’t have much in this room that isn’t directly related to schooling choices. But we do have a cupboard full of some favorite games.

school room school room

These last two pictures are “bonus pics” :). The top one is a shelf in my kitchen I use for our “morning time” together. It also houses the group work I do with the middle kids. It’s just too noisy to do much group work in the actual schooling area. We reserve the “school room” for a quiet study space and one on one instruction with mom. Group work is done at the kitchen table, in the play room, or on a couch somewhere. The bottom picture is our music area. That Hobby Lobby locker stores their music books, and I think it is just the cutest.

I hope you enjoyed my picture tour! It was fun sharing it with you. It really helps to have a “home” for all of the supplies we use in our homeschool. Of course, you don’t NEED this kind of space, but I find it a huge blessing. One of my favorite things is to look at pictures and videos of other homeschoolers schooling spaces. If you have a space you’d like to share, link it up in the comments. I’d love to join your tour!

 

 

When Our Pre-schoolers Won’t Stay In Bed at Christmas Time

When Our Pre-schoolers Won’t Stay In Bed at Christmas Time

bed

The usual bedtime routine with my four year old looks something like this: Daddy helps her work through her evening list of tooth-brushing and pajama wearing. She then hides under the covers and giggles waiting for me to find her. I pretend I don’t know where she is and call through the house. When we throw back the covers for the big reveal, we laugh and snuggle. I sing to her, read her a book, say prayers with her, and we chat a bit. She asks me to stay with her awhile, and I do…until she is asleep.

Tonight, I left before she fell asleep. Earlier in the evening, I heard one of the big kids say they hoped to play Apples to Apples as a family. When I got downstairs the game had begun, and I joined in. Minutes later, little Cupcake walked down, saw us playing and with a pathetically sad voice said, “You KNOW how I feel about you being with me at bed time…PLEASE, come back.”

I DO know how she feels. I also know she is the little caboose in our five car train. The four “train-cars” sitting in front of me were proof that this little girl bed-time sabotage doesn’t last forever. I could have chosen tonight as a night to help her grow a little in this area. That wouldn’t have been a horrible idea. However, my heart flooded with a love and understanding for a little mommy-loving girl, who really loves to be by my side. 

I called her to me, asked her to climb up on my lap. I wrapped my shawl around her like a blanket and sweetly suggested she close her eyes. As she snuggled in, she looked up and said, “I know this isn’t really the time for talking, but could you just pretend that I’m a baby and you’re the mommy and you’re rocking me to sleep?”

Right now I can picture sighs from wise Grandmas who know I got a gift tonight. I am aware there may be some people reading this who think I’m a fool, letting my baby have power over me.

I’m all too aware that these sweet babies in my home are meant to grow up…and my job is to help shape them into adults. I also have the gift of perspective…being an older mom, who realizes four year olds don’t stay four.

My first four babies came approximately every two years. I didn’t have the option of making the choices I make with our little Cupcake. It wasn’t realistic to sit with each one until they drifted off to sleep. Honestly, if I remember correctly, I probably would have sat with my girlfriends, discussing how hard it was to get the older ones to bed, thinking this stage would never end.

The stage did, however, end. Not because I struggled with them to stay in their beds or did anything to teach them to self regulate. It ended because developmentally, kids don’t stay four. They grow up. I wish I would have known this back then. Isn’t that life? Experience is our best teacher…and rose-colored glasses are a good friend.

I’m thankful tonight for the sweet gift of being an older mommy. What a sweetness God has granted in the five souls He designed to grow up in our home. If  you’ve been given sweet babies to raise up into men and women, please remember them as a gift. Hold them tight. Sing them “Silent Night,” by the tree while you rub their backs and re-tell the greatest story ever told—of the God-man who became flesh.

Holding my little one while playing Apples to Apples with my big kids and David isn’t something that will go in our photo album. It was such a forgetful, ordinary night. An ordinary night transformed into a tender, Christmas gift, I intend to cherish awhile.

Merry Christmas from Swannie House friends!

~Let every heart, prepare Him room~

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

There is so much bad news. Hurricanes, earthquakes, mass murders, terror attacks, droughts, disease. Our newsfeeds are full of inexplicable horror stories and tragedies on a daily basis.

In the aftermath of the Vegas attack, I began to hear personal stories. People I knew that were at the concert. Friends who knew people who had senselessly lost their lives in this unexplainable horror. I fought inside with how to properly share of yet another shooting with my children. How do we raise our kids in such a scary world?

Politicians and keyboard warriors began their verbal sparring which is the typical response to tragedy today. We are angry with each other because of our beliefs about climate change, gun control, and who really is or isn’t pro life. Instead of coming together in our heart ache, we rip one another apart and cause even more sorrow around us.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream: My family was sitting together around the kitchen table, when I suddenly felt my body floating up into the air. David was next to me, and I turned around, reaching my hand to one of my children, joyfully saying, “Come! The Lord Jesus is calling us home!” I realized there were two shadowy faces, still sitting at my table, while David, three of the children and myself were all rising up into the clouds. My face turned toward Jesus, and I wasn’t able to think anymore about who had been left behind, I was only filled with joy and marvel at being taken up to the one who has loved me and called me His own.

I woke up from the dream. When awake, I was able to remember there were people I loved who weren’t taken up to the Lord. It was a miserable beginning to my day. But, it brought me straight to my knees in prayer.

I really don’t believe my dream had a direct correlation to the rapture of the church or the eternal destination of my children. I do believe that God spoke to me in that dream.

tragedy

Picture source

My friend Tammie and I were texting about the Vegas tragedy, the worries of nuclear war, and the plight of some specific orphans with whom we had become aware. (You know, just your normal, run-of-the-mill texting conversation.) One thing I shared with Tammie that day, I’d like to share with you: “there is not much time left, no matter how we slice it. It’s time to live for better things.” I often hear people say, “Oh, there have always been signs of the end times.” Why do we do that? Do we want to convince ourselves this isn’t the end?

The truth is this: whether Jesus returns in our lifetime or not, our days are limited in number. Time is running short for all of us. Our life is but a vapor. When we see earthquakes, and famines, wars and rumors of wars, mass murders and horrible disease…let’s stop deflecting these signs in fear. Let’s face them as signs of His return as He said and realize that we have MORE to live for.

What gets us out of bed in the morning? For what do we strive after each day? Are our hearts set on our jobs, school, our possessions, finding ways to fulfill ourselves? When tragedy happens, do we hit our keyboards to rail into the opposition’s belief system? Let’s begin to respond differently! With an eternal perspective that remembers that there are only two things that last: people and God’s word.

I want to set my heart on things above and store up treasures in heaven. It’s the only way I can respond to all the heartache and loss set before me. Living for Jesus is the only thing that can make sense out of this messy world. Living my life in submission, obedience, prayer, and service to the God who is and will make all things new, is the only answer.

How is He calling you to live for Him?

For me, it is a simple, but clear calling. I need to pray. I’m praying for salvation for the lost. Praying for my kids, my church, my friends, missionaries, and for God’s will and voice to be clear in my life. Worship and thanksgiving needs to be central in my day. I need to shout out that Jesus is the only answer to the problem of sin in the world. Homeschool curriculum needs to take a back seat to God’s agenda for our days and being intentional to live out God’s word needs to get me out of bed:

“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you.”

Friends, God is giving us a wake up call. Are you listening? Have you heard His voice? If you are able to read this, then you still have the ability to respond to Him calling you today. Turn your heart to Him. If you have not experienced salvation in Christ, stop waiting and let today be the day! If you know Him but are living for yourself, repent! Live for Him! There is still time to turn away from our sin, our self-centered lives, and turn to Jesus to give us the abundant life He promises.

We were recently talking with some friends, and I confessed that I am tired. I have a lot of kids and we are together nearly all of the time. I’m not getting any younger, and their needs are increasing. But, this really isn’t my time to sit back and say, “I’m just too exhausted.” Yes, I need to take care of myself. However, I need to keep asking God for strength to fulfill the purposes He has for me. It’s not my time to enter into His rest yet. That day will come, when He has ordained it. For now, He still has important, eternal work for me to do.

The heart ache around the globe isn’t going to end. But the response of God’s people can change. Join me? Let’s live for Jesus together, while today is still called today.

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

One morning the kids and I discussed Festo Kivengere’s book, “I Love Idi Amin.” Festo had been persecuted and treated horribly, yet chose in the power of God’s love to forgive his evil enemy. I gave a writing assignment for each of the kids to share a time when they had been hurt by someone else’s actions. They could choose to share a time when they responded in love, or a time they didn’t respond in love and how they could learn from their response.

Jules gave me permission to share her paper with you (slightly altered to protect a sibling’s identity).

My sibling broke a gift I got from Hailey. It was a magnet sand dollar with a painting of dolphins jumping out of the water. The background of orange, yellow and red made it look like a sunset over the ocean.
I was so excited about the sand dollar. It was the first gift I had ever received from a penpal. I put the magnet on the fridge next to a friendship magnet I had gotten from another friend awhile ago.
One day, my sibling was reaching for something above the refrigerator and knocked the dolphin magnet. A large piece of the sand dollar broke off. As I watched it happen, I had a pang in me that wanted to yell out at my sibling, exclaiming how much that magnet meant to me.
Instead, I was able by the power of the Holy Spirit, to calm down inside and pleasantly say, “It’s OK. It’s just stuff. Stuff that will eventually burn. It won’t last.”
I kept that broken magnet as a reminder to me to be patient and loving, even when I feel like exploding. I kept it to remember it is just stuff that will burn.

sand dollar

How about you? Has someone broken your sand dollar? Your trust? Your heart? Are you living in the bondage and bitterness of an unforgiving spirit? I have stand out times in my life history when I’ve suffered the wounds of beloved friends. I carried onto my wounds and tended to them with great care. Over time, my bitterness hurt more than the memory of the offense. When God re-awoke my heart to His grace, I was able to pray for my enemies. I lifted them up to Jesus and He gave me the power to forgive. I became free.

So here is my encouragement to you today: be free! Don’t wait any longer. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the kind of power to love with His love so that you can look at your “sand dollar” as a reminder that the only thing that lasts are the eternal souls that God has set in His people. Let’s help each other value those souls and love…even when it hurts.

When You Lose Your Baby and Your Fertility At the Same Time

Two years ago, I was pregnant. We found a creative way to announce it to the kids. All of us were thrilled. Our house was already buzzing with five sweet kids and we knew that many people in our life wouldn’t understand. But, we still felt there was one more little Swannie missing from our table.

loss

Morning sickness had kicked in. Around 7 weeks I couldn’t hide my growing bump. The weeks were going by quickly. It was an exciting and scary time, thinking of what it would be to transition to a family of eight.

One night at dinner, we decided to discuss baby names with the kids. After lots and lots of suggestions, our little Cupcake suggested we call the baby “Happy.” We decided we would go with the name Happy, until we were able to find out if we were Team Pink or Team Blue.

Team Happy

The very next day my doctor could not find a heartbeat. I drove home devastated. We gathered the kids and told them their baby Happy was gone. I remember the pathetic little huddle we made on the basement floor. Tears streaming down each of our faces, we told God how hurt we were, entrusting our pain to His care. And then, I don’t remember who it was, maybe it was me, it may have been one of the boys, but we started thanking God. We know that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Each of us thanked Him for knowing better than we did. It wasn’t an easy prayer. It was a prayer of faith. That prayer of faith turned into a time of sorrow filled worship on that cement floor.

A week or so later, on October 1, David and I walked into a hospital, knowing our baby’s body would leave mine. We faced it bravely. We cried when it was over. My doctor held me and cried at my bed side. We went home that night with empty arms. And for me, an empty womb.

loss

We ached for our baby, but life went forward.

As the days slipped into weeks and then months, I started noticing my body doing strange things. My doctors didn’t seem very worried. But six months after our loss I began to bleed, profusely. And it didn’t stop. For an entire month, I just bled and bled. I was sick and miserable. I either called or went to the doctor nearly every single day. The doctors told me it was “normal” for a woman my age and tried to manage the bleeding with medication.

When I began to hemorrhage, we sat down and prayed. As we prayed, both David and I were convinced God was leading us to do something we thought was outrageous. At 6:00 AM, we drove to a closed doctor’s office, 50 minutes from our house, where I was not an established patient. Miraculously, the doctor came in early that morning and though the clinic was closed, he saw me anyway. After an exam, he scheduled emergency surgery. He asked us about our marriage, wrote down each of our kid’s names, and asked about our faith life. Our appointment wrapped up as he prayed for each one of us by name, prayed for my healing, for wisdom for himself as my surgeon, and off to the hospital we went.

After surgery, the next six months followed with the total absence of bleeding…and the presence of one gigantic cyst. Almost a year since we lost our baby, I was back in the hospital, this time having surgery on my remaining ovary. The cyst removed easily, but other complications kept me in the hospital for several days.

Instead of having a baby, we had a year of suffering

The year we thought would end in a full term pregnancy and the care of a newborn looked quite different. We took on over a year of physical suffering. And in the midst of it, lost our fertility. We were going to end our years of reproduction with loss.

In other loses, I always thought, “We can try again soon!” This time it was, “It’s over. My baby is gone and our family is now complete.”

It’s hard for some to understand that losing your fertility after having five kids is a struggle. For me, it was. It was appropriate to mourn both losses for a season. And then there was a time for my grief to come to a close. Here are some things that helped me move toward peace when I had to say goodbye to my baby and my dreams for my family size:

  1. Choosing a thankful heart. I thanked God for the eight pregnancies He has given me. The five children I am blessed to raise are an amazing blessing and gift. There are three children I will get to meet in heaven, who I didn’t get to meet on earth. What a joy it will be to see precious Anna, Sam, and Happy!
  2. Examining my heart. Were pregnancy and childbirth becoming idols in my life? Was I lacking faith that God’s ways were best? It helped to ask some probing questions to come to a place of acceptance of God’s will for my life and our family. Asking God to cleanse me from any sin and give me faith was helpful and good.
  3. If I felt something was missing in our lives, was there something else God wanted to birth in our family? What new focus could I have with my kids that I couldn’t have had our other baby lived, or our fertility had been restored? What new ministry might God want to give us to use our gifts for His glory? How could I move into this new stage of life as a family with joy and purpose?

I sometimes still look at the empty spot at our table. While I no longer envision a baby there…I do see it as symbolic for our family. That empty chair is there to remind us that Christ is always welcome in our home. Our door is open in hospitality to those who need to be loved. It’s a symbol of work to be done. There are plans laid out for us that God has already prepared in advance. When I think of the one who I thought would sit with my little girls, I’m reminded of the future glory which awaits me; where I will worship Jesus with my three little ones who got to rest in His presence before me. Finally, it’s a reminder that God’s ways are not like my ways; but I can trust His ways, for they are best.

Loss is a difficult part of life. If you’ve suffered miscarriage or infant loss, my heart goes out to you. If you are struggling with infertility or the loss of fertility, I’m so sorry. So many questions go unanswered. I do know however, God is good, you can trust Him, and you are loved.

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

It’s hard to write a post like the one I’m about to share without including a few stipulations. Yes, there are crazy people in the world who treat women and girls like property. It’s true that many women are called into important, wage earning, professions. Certainly, some women are called to single life. Let’s operate under the assumption that I’m NOT functioning as a voice for the dogmatic stay at home daughter movement. And many, if not most of our daughters will one day marry and have children. Fair enough?

I grew up watching Laura Ingalls, of Little House on the Prairie, dissatisfaction with “just” being at home as a wife and mother. Maggie Seaver of Growing Pains, grabbed her brief case and coffee while kissing her children goodbye as they got themselves ready for school. Claire Huxtable practiced law and brought her skills home to navigate the waters of a large family. I was told repeatedly I could be anything I wanted to be. My list of possibilities was long; teacher, broadcast journalist, advertisement, musician, pastor, missionary, writer, etc.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother. I have no memory discussing this as an option. I remember dreaming of success and goals achieved. Of course marriage and having children was part of the plan, but almost like a side bonus, not, THE DREAM.

What kind of messages have you received about motherhood? Recently, talking to older teens and young adults about their dreams I often hear, “I want to be a teacher, a nurse, a missionary, etc.”

I’ve been gently asking, “Have you ever considered becoming a homemaker?” These young ladies don’t know how to answer a question which has never been posed to them before.

Have the young ladies in your life considered homemaking as a career?

I love the idea of my daughters receiving a solid education, a foundation on which to support themselves, and general development and growth as human beings. There is something I know however, which they do not. I know what it feels like to hold your very own baby in your arms for the first time. I’ve experienced what it is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would give your life’s breath for that baby the instant you lock eyes. I’ve wept the tears of a woman who nursed her baby, not wanting to hand her over to a childcare provider at 12 weeks of age. And I’ve walked the path with numerous women, shedding tears over wanting to stay home with their babies, but set up their lives in such a way that it was financially impossible.

What messages are we giving our sons and daughters about homemaking?

homemaker

Why don’t our girls dream about the passionate pursuit of raising children as a profession? Do we not present it as a glorious option? Is the pull on the world, requiring two incomes to live like those around us, so strong? Do we send our children (boys and girls) into higher education, accumulating unthinkable debt so that staying at home with children is an impossibility? Do those of us who live out the roles of homemaker do so joylessly, making the job unattractive? Is the church building up and valuing the glorious job of mothers raising their babies and children at home?

Sisters in Christ, if you have been called to marriage, motherhood, and homemaking, you have received a high and holy call.

We receive no paycheck or glory and few accolades from the world. Managing our homes however, brings us to a glorious place of storing up treasures in heaven. As we change diapers, scrub toilets, instruct toddlers in the kindness and gentleness of the Lord, organize our cupboards and prepare meals; we have the ability to perform every task as worship unto the Lord. When we creatively prepare a menu on a budget and joyfully serve our family, we are serving Jesus himself.

Teaching our little ones the gospel in our day-to-day interactions, growing them in godliness and discipline is a certain way of doing our part in fulfilling the Great Commission we’ve received from the Lord Jesus. Impossible questions need to be answered, world-views need to be shaped. Boo-boo’s need to be tended to with great wisdom. And our husbands need our love and attention as well. All of this takes great skill, devotion, and selflessness.

I don’t know that we will turn the tide, making the High Call of Motherhood and Homemaking, into a longed for profession in our culture. But we can do an amazing job of showing the beauty of it in our homes. We can do our job with excellence. Join me in challenging our daughters with our devotion to the home and the Lord.

Let’s challenge them with our words as well.

We can speak highly of our job as homemaker. When we talk about our daughter’s futures, when we talk about Jesus command to “store up treasure in heaven,” include the career of motherhood as a path for them to consider as a worthy call. I don’t have my daughter’s lives mapped out for them. That is between my daughters and the Lord. I do desire, when they think of the future, to realize that jobs with titles, advancement, and paychecks aren’t the only career paths to consider. Homemaking doesn’t need to be an after thought. It’s a worthy, lovely, worthwhile career they can be proud in wanting to pursue. Let’s give our girls the dream of raising a family for Jesus.

The Messy Mom~You Were Made for More Mamas

The Messy Mom~You Were Made for More Mamas

There is a trend today in social media Mom blogging, the “Messy Mom.” The Messy Mom says she’s imperfect and fumbling and stumbling through life. She doesn’t have it all together. She presents her parenting challenges, flaunting her children’s struggles and her reactions. She says her reactions aren’t perfect. However, I wonder if she might be a little bit proud of how she handles things in her flesh. She loathes pinterest, yet presents a pristine, perfect looking blog. She sets high standards for her children, but excuses her harsh, unloving responses to them.

 

messy mom

Moms…don’t buy it! Don’t buy into the messy. If you are a Christian you are NOT called to imperfect, messy, sin-excusing lives. You are called to growth, love, self-sacrifice, holiness, and grace. Will you be perfect in this? NO! Should you flaunt your imperfection? NO! Should you flaunt God’s glorious grace in your life as it changes you? A billion times, YES!

John 15:16 “…I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will remain…”

I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 

Romans 6:6 “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. 

Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” 

Dear, dear sisters in Christ…God has called you to a high standard. Don’t miss HIS call for you as you watch moms, “glorify in the messy.” Love unconditionally. Make your home a place of peace and safety. Grow responsible adults. Teach your kids God’s word. Don’t compromise. Our culture wants you. Don’t give in. Be set apart. Be holy, because He is holy.

Love Your Kids Challenge

Love Your Kids Challenge

Think back to the pre-parenting days when you wanted to be a mom or dad. Remember when you looked at the positive pregnancy test or heard/saw your baby’s heartbeat the first time? Do you recall the day you got the call from your adoption agency or social worker? Your child was ready to come home? What did you feel like the first time your saw your child’s face, tiny hands and feet, smelled their skin? Can you still feel the warmth, the longing to protect, soothe, and sacrifice for this new life in your home?

love challenge

Love challenge

Those first moments with our children are some of the sweetest moments in our lives. As time wears on, the feelings fade a bit. We sin against our children in our selfishness at times. Our children sin against us in their willfulness. At some point we have to stop the continual gazing at our child and go on with life. Our joyful zeal diminishes and our ideals take a back seat to sleepless nights, feedings, crying, diapers, toddler messes, homework, activities, sibling rivalry, teenage heartaches and mistakes.

Have you stopped smiling at your kids?

Do you feel disillusioned and disappointed? Tired and complacent? Are you lacking peace, contentment? Do you feel angry? Have you stopped gazing at your children and smiling?

Some of you have children home for the Summer months. (Or in our case, a loose schedule as we are not “formally” educating our children and taking a homeschool break.) My heart breaks a little bit every time I see a mom post on social media how she needs a wine break by 10 am. I hurt when I see the looks on little faces when moms talk about how they can’t wait for Summer to end so mom can get her freedom back. Let’s do better moms and dads!

If you are familiar with Connected Families, then you may know their Family Framework to help you grow in God’s grace and truth: 1. You are safe with me. 2. You are loved no matter what! 3. You are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing. 4. You are responsible for your actions. I want to issue a challenge from the second point:

How can I communicate love in all circumstances?

What does it look like to love your kids when things are going well?
Will you show love to your children for no particular reason?
How can you love your children even in misbehavior?

Love challenge

How can you fill your Summer with messages of love and acceptance toward your children?

Here are a few ways you can practice communicating love this Summer:
~SMILE! Don’t underestimate how much our children need to see warmth in our face.

~Listen to your tone of voice. Are you harsh and disinterested? Be intentional to speak with gentleness and sweetness. Show interest in what your kids are saying and sharing. Laugh.

~When you children fight, stop yourself from sighing and feeling exasperated. Look at their fights as opportunities to help them learn about the world and relationships.

~Do you have a child stuck in disobedience or rebellion? Hug them! Find an activity you can both enjoy together and do it. Don’t wait until they “clean up their act” to show them tenderness and interest in being with them. Love them now in the midst of their sin! (Remember God’s lavish love for you.)

~If you have a day with nothing planned and everything is going swell…surprise them! Take them to Sonic happy hour for a candy slushie. Go to a library event or puppet show. Find a free kid movie and go together. Hit an amusement park or go shopping. It doesn’t have to be glamorous or expensive. Just play together and enjoy it without distraction!

~Is it hard to like one of your children, much less love them right now? It is up to YOU to bridge the gap and mend the relationship. Take the lead. Encourage your child in this difficult time and show love even when you may not feel it. Take a walk together. Read a book aloud. Ride bikes. Listen to your child’s favorite music. Watch their favorite YouTube channel together.

~Set down your phones and walk away from your computers and devices. Enough said.

Love Challenge
Join me in this challenge to Love Your Kids No Matter What.

Think back to those first moments of tenderness and the thankfulness you felt for each of your kids. God has given you a great blessing and gift to parent the child(ren) in your home. Don’t forget it. Remember the joy. The days are fleeting and you won’t regret loving your children with a deep, sacrificial, unconditional love.

Let me know if you are with me!
~Swannie Mom