Legacy Living: Really? Now?

Legacy Living: Really? Now?

A Mom to Mom leader recently asked the question: “Our group will be doing the lesson on ‘Beginning at the End: Legacy Living from Day One.’ (Session One from Inside Out Parenting curriculum) It’s been a few years since you filmed that. Anything to add from ‘on up the road apiece?’ ”

Great question! Good enough even to make me do the unthinkable: sit down and watch my own DVD teaching. Tough. If you don’t think so, just imagine watching a 30-minute video of yourself!

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Planet Nana . . . and Back

Planet Nana . . . and Back

Oh, the joys of "Planet Nana." We had all our family under one roof for a few fleeting hours (actually, it was a couple of days, but they flew like hours). All 18 (!) of us crammed in our little condo. Ten grandkids aged 3 months through 10 years, four of them in diapers. Four in Pack’n Plays, six sleeping on our bedroom floor in sleeping bags. Glorious chaos.

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Got Mushrooms?

Got Mushrooms?

I’ve got a lot of mushrooms lately. I’d like to say it’s all Sarah Young’s fault. But since her beloved devotional Jesus Calling is written so thoroughly from Scripture, I need to rethink that. She always seems to have been hiding behind my couch (or more accurately, in the recesses of my foggy brain), knowing exactly what I’m thinking about and what I need to hear from God.

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Happy Mother's Day -- No Matter What!

Mother and Child

Mother’s Day always launches me on a roller coaster of emotions.  Memories sweep over me like wind in my face—and there’s lots of speed and power in that little roller coaster car.

There were the many painful Mother’s Days of infertility. Then—eventually—the ecstatic joy of celebrating Mother’s Day holding a new (or relatively new) baby in my arms. The babies grew up and “helped” Woody serve me breakfast in bed.  A great diet plan, as they were mostly interested in eating whatever was on my tray. The helpful eaters grew into teens, and then, just when they were becoming truly wonderful, went off to college and beyond that into their own lives. Poignant years of missing having them at home became celebrations of joy for the Godly mothers my daughter and daughter-in-laws were becoming.  Mother’s Day = A day of joy and gratitude.

Another burst of wind in my face: memories of my mother.  She was, next to my husband, my best friend. When she died  7 ½ years ago, she left a huge hole in my heart that no one else can fill.  I had the great blessing of having her for far more years than many of my friends have had their mothers.  And I had the privilege of having her—one very special, Godly, praying mother—as my mother.  I am grateful.  But I still wish I could send her a note.  Or better yet, give her a call.  Or, best of all, a quick visit.

But this Mother’s Day I’m feeling extra emotions on behalf of many mothers I know.  Mothers who have recently buried children.  Is there anything more heart-wrenching?  Mothers with new babies or “too many toddlers—or teens!” or life circumstances that leave them so depleted they barely know it’s Mother’s Day.  Isn’t every day Mother’s Day?  That is, “Mothers on Duty 24/7” Day?  Women who long to be mothers, for whom Mother’s Day can be excruciating.  Women who mourn the loss of their mothers—or even of the mother they never had but always wished for.

The roller coaster.  The swirling wind in my face.  That’s why I’m so glad we have assurance from God that we can celebrate mothers no matter what.  No matter what mother you had—or didn’t.  No matter what mother you are—or aren’t.  God promises to be like a Mother to us. We’re all familiar with the many wonderful references to God loving us with a perfect Fatherly love.  But in a few cases He also compares His love to that of mothers.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  (Isaiah 49:15)

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you . . . (Isaiah 66:13)

But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. (Psalm 131:2)

 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings . . .”   (Jesus weeping over His people and longing to gather them with maternal love and protection—Matthew 23:37)

God assures us that, whatever else we may not have, we have HIM.  Because of this powerful, sustaining love of our God, I feel confident in wishing you a joyful Mother’s Day—no matter what!

Gratitude, Grace, and Giving

I love learning from kids—and their moms.  Yesterday I heard and saw a “mom-talk” in action.  And I just can’t get the picture out of my mind.

Recently when I spoke at a local Mom to Mom group, I mentioned that we are excitedly awaiting the arrival of our daughter Erika and her family (including her husband, Richie, and their children, 3-year-old Gabriella and 9-month-old Judah).  They will soon be flying here from Dublin, Ireland, and spending over 6 weeks with us this summer.  YAY!!!   We can’t wait!!!

I also mentioned that I was looking to buy or borrow a few things for their use while they are here: things like a small bike with training wheels or a wagon or other outdoor/indoor toys.  One sweet mom came up to me afterwards and said she might have some things for us.  She followed up via email with a very generous offer.

So yesterday, Woody and I went over to her house.  There we had the privilege of meeting her three charming children: Taylor, 8;  Max, 6; and Samuel, 5 months.  We began to discuss some of the things she had put aside to offer us.  Such generosity!  She had all kind of “indoor toys” as well as a couple of small bikes to choose from, and a great wagon.   These were all available for loan, she explained, because of the age gap between her 6-year-old and her baby.

Every mom knows how hard it is for kids to part with treasured toys—often even those they’ve grown beyond.  One of the kids—naturally the in-between one who had most recently used some of these things—began to protest mildly.  Some of these things had been his favorites.   Even though he wasn’t currently using them, obviously he had good memories and wondered if they’d be returned for his brother—and be well taken care of.

Then came the moment of not only mama grace and mama-modeling, but also of mama-teaching.  Gently this mom reminded her kids of all they had and of how great it is to give and to share.  And I remembered the email she had sent me.  She had written of how God had been teaching her lessons in gratitude, and in giving, and how He had been working in her life to encourage her to be more giving and less grasping of blessings she was able to provide for her kids that many kids don’t have.

And so as I stood in her yard watching this mom teach her kids lessons of grace and gratitude, I saw her attitude become contagious.  Isn’t that how it often works?

It made my heart grateful—not only for the generous loans, but even more for the picture I saw before me: As He teaches us, the lessons overflow to our children.

Thank you, Heather—and Taylor and Max and Samuel.  And thank you, God!

What lessons is God currently teaching you that you can pass along to your kids?

Hope - and Humor - from the Trenches

"Loving the Little Years" by Rachel Jankovic A few months back, a publisher kindly sent me a little tiny book which could be a great big gift to moms.  I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while.  But now it occurs to me that it might just be a good book to put on a Christmas list: for you, or for a mom-in-the-trenches friend—or both!

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, by Rachel Jankovic, first got my attention by being the right size for busy moms.  It’s a slim paperback with barely over 100 pages.  Good start!

As I began to leaf through the pages, I quickly took a liking to the grace, humility, and humor with which it is written.  An example: “At the time of writing this, I have three children in diapers, and I can recognize the sound of hundreds of toothpicks being dumped out in the hall. . . . I didn’t write this book because mothering little ones is easy for me.  I wrote it because it isn’t.  I know that this is a hard job, because I am right in the middle of it. I know you need encouragement very day, because I do, too” (p. 12).

Fact check: the author is, indeed, in the thick of it: she had, at the time of writing, five kids five-years-old and under (yes, including one set of twins).  Now I know this raises an obvious second question in your mind: How on earth did she manage to write a book?  My question, too!  I’m guessing that part of the answer lies in having a mother nearby.  (Her mother, Nancy Wilson, writes the foreword and alludes to her babysitting availability.)  Beyond that, I imagine it happened just as described in the foreword—“squeezing her writing into the nooks and tight crannies of her days.”

At any rate, we can be glad she wrote it.  In a way, the book reminds me of Mom to Mom.  It’s a great big dose of encouragement for moms, combined with some very practical parenting tips and a wonderful emphasis on the basic things that matter most.  A little bit like a morning (or evening) at Mom to Mom. :)

As you read, you may find that there are parenting challenges you personally approach differently.  Isn’t that always the case? But at the core, this author gets it right.  A few examples:

  • “There is only one thing in my entire life that must be organized . . . my attitude” (p. 11)
  • “It is no abstract thing: The state of your heart is the state of your home” (p. 14)
  • “Now try to think of discipline as . . . a sweet means of grace to your children” (p. 19)
  • “Christian childrearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational challenge . . . Be a pastor to your children” (p. 50)

These loftier principles are blended together with a variety of helpful tips  (e.g., helping little girls manage their emotions), a refreshingly realistic perspective on real life with a houseful of little kids, and huge and wonderful doses of humor (you’ll love the story of the frantic husband pacing the floor with a phantom baby).

Thank you, Rachel Jankovic, for writing.  And happy reading to any of you who find your way to this book.  I hope it is the encouragement to you the author meant it to be.

Mommies: Heroes and Best Friends

Mamas are everywhere in my world. They always are. That’s just the way I like it.  But especially this time of year.  I spent a weekend recently with some 1400 mommies at LifeWay's .Mom conference in Birmingham.  Then I came home to a season of speaking to Mom to Mom groups every few days.  I love it! One of the things I love most about being with moms is hearing their stories.  You already know this, but let me remind you: moms are heroes.  Their stories stay with me.  Stories of traumatic births, difficult pregnancies, unexpected pregnancies, long periods of infertility, miracle adoptions, foster-mom God-moments.  And stories of life with 8 kids (or more!) as well as magnificent testimonies to single-mom survival—even joy.

One of my favorite moments at the .Mom conference was meeting the recipients of our blog give-away—Lauren and Carrie.  Lauren, I’m sorry we didn’t get a picture.  But I got to spend a few precious moments with Carrie as she shared about her life as a single mom.  Moms as heroes—yes.  God’s grace poured out on these heroes—you bet!

Recently I’ve been reminded of  heroic everyday mom lives in my own family.  One daughter-in-law spends hours each day in the car to get her son to a good school.  Another daughter-in-law recently took on painting a room in the basement after the kids went to bed each night during a weekend with Daddy gone for three days—only to have the tape rip off the paint when the project was done.  Yikes!

Then there’s my sleep-deprived daughter Erika with 6-week-old Judah.   He is adorable (you knew I’d say that!)—and gifted, of course . :-)   The problem is that his gifts seem to be eating and growing—but not sleeping!  His parents are working on that.  He has a ways to go.  In the meantime, you all know the drill:  Mama’s gift becomes surviving—somehow—amidst the kind of sleep deprivation that would make most terrorists spill their guts!  You remember these days—yes?

Baby days

But then there are other moments: mom-moments that make all the difference.  Moments that keep mom-heroes going even in the toughest places.  Erika had one of those moments recently.  One afternoon, on a very long day, Judah’s big sister, Gabriella, came down from her “rest time,” rushed into the living room, threw her arms around Erika, and said “Mommy, you’re my very best friend!”

You're my very best friend!

Just a reminder for all of you in case your kids haven’t told you lately: not only are you a hero, but you are building precious relationships with these kids even amidst the toughest times.

What keeps you going amidst long days and short nights?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Life as a Real Mom: How Do You Do It?

A couple of weeks ago my husband Woody and I had the great joy of taking care of our two grandsons, Soren (4 ½) and Nils (14 mos) for a week while their parents were taking kids to Young Life camp.  It was a great refresher course in parenting.  We had a blast.  Really—it was so much fun!

I wish I could tell you more, but I have to be honest here: I had anticipated coming home with a notebook full (or at least a head full) of hilarious comments and antics and incidents with which I could entertain blog readers.  I thought this to be a realistic expectation.  Soren frequently says absolutely hilarious things.  He has a vivid imagination, a memory that is positively scary, and he is very verbal.  Nils is a clown.  He loves to get you laughing, and he mimics everything he sees his big brother do, which leads to some pretty funny entertainment.

But here’s the glitch.  Life moved too fast for me that entire week.  I never got to write anything down.  Not even a list for each day (my usual practice)—and certainly not witty sayings or doings in the small journal I had (how hilarious!) brought.  Both my daytimer and my journal are completely blank for that week.  Most of the time I think my mind was, too!

We did all kinds of fun things: we went to playgrounds; visited a children’s museum;  played pirates in the basement (Woody and Soren did, anyway—I was a little worried about Nils around the pirate sword); went out to lunch one day and out on another day for ice cream; even had a visit from a friend who surprised the boys with a new scooter for Soren and a push-trike for Nils.  And yes—we made a visit or two to the pediatrician.  I told you this was a refresher course on real-life parenting.  How could it not involve middle-of-the-night fevers and unexplained crying?

But here’s the thing: I had expected a break in the action now and then.  A time to reflect a bit.  Take a deep breath.  Write down a few of the wonderful things my grandsons did—and there were many!  But all I did was take a nap when they napped—and collapse on the couch after they went to bed.  Even though we were two-on-two (two adults there full-time, two kids), Woody and I pretty much just sat side by side and stared into space every evening.

So here’s my question for the week.  How do you keep your life balanced during these busy busy years?  Do you find time to do anything—anything at all—beyond the absolute necessities of each day?  If so, what’s your secret?

Don’t get me wrong: What you’re doing each day for and with your kids is huge—the best job in the world.  Feeding, rocking, changing, bathing, and playing with your kids is a huge accomplishment in itself.  In fact, if you wrote it all down on a “To Do” list, you’d be pretty impressed. (As recommended on my friend Jill Savage’s blog post the other day—great idea!)  I loved getting to do all that again.

But I seem to remember that when I had three pre-schoolers, I did manage—at least now and then—to read a book, complete my Bible Study lesson (some weeks), and find a few words left for my husband (on a good day) when he came home late at night.  I’m trying to remember: How did I do it?

Can you remind me?  I know many of your days feel like sheer survival.  But I also know some of you actually do read books, find time for personal devotions, blog, facebook with friends—at least now and then.  I even know some of you who are crafty and actually make things after your kids go to bed (quite beyond me even now, I must admit)!

So I’d love to hear from you.  What tips can you share about how you find time to create balance even in the midst of your mom-life?  Or maybe how you come to peace about not doing that right now!

Don’t forget: We’ll have a giveaway for two tickets to the .MOM conference in September from all of those who comment here by Thursday noon, July 28.  We look forward to hearing from you!

A Gift for Mother’s Day—and Every Day

One Thousannd GIfts book cover image

It’s my gift to my daughters this Mother’s Day: My new favorite book, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.  And, in case you don’t yet know about it, I’d like it to be my gift to each of you.

A lover of many books, I rarely read a book twice.  There are so many still waiting to be read!  But this one—this one I just finished reading the second time.  And not the last, I suspect.  This one—this one is life-changing.

The title and subtitle name the theme: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Where You Are.  A friend challenges Ann to list a thousand things she loves.  So begins the list, a list which launches the author—and us—on a wild and wonderful journey.  A journey which throws open the door of hope to receive wondrous winds of grace.

We come to understand the Greek word eucharisteo in a new way.  Eucharisteo.  When Jesus took the bread, in the original language the word is eucharisteo: “He gave thanks.”   The root word is charis: “grace.” As we begin to list the everyday gifts of grace in our lives, it changes everything.  It opens our blind eyes to a new way of seeing.

But this book is far more than a list, far more than one more reminder to “count your blessings.”  It takes us deep.  Deep into the dark, cold world of unthinkable tragedy and unspeakable loss.  It begins at the beginning for the author: ”The day when blood pooled and my sister died and I, all of us, snapped shut to grace . . . the moment when the cosmos shifted, shattering my cupping of hands” (p. 10). No wonder, then, that she begins one chapter: “God and I, we’ve long had trust issues” (p. 141). How can wounded hearts and clenched fists ever learn to open to grace?

And how to live out eucharisteo in a very real mom-life?  A world of laundry overflowing and kids fighting and appointments looming and exhaustion eternal (or so it seems)?  Ann Voskamp writes from a real-life mom perspective.  Very real.  Homeschooling mother of six, Ann and her husband are hog farmers in southwestern Ontario.  The book jacket tells us they are “raising a half dozen kids, crops of corn, and the roof in praise.”

Amidst all this, Ann is a poet.  Her words sing.  From the first pages, they take your breath away.  And leave you gasping for air throughout this wild, wonderful ride.  I made the mistake of picking up the book for the first time early one morning when deadlines loomed.  I was so captivated that I literally had to walk it out to my car and lock it there until my work was done and I could go back to it.

Best of all, Ann is a God-pointer.  Her words are powerful not only because she is so extraordinarily  gifted,  but because they are grounded in the Words of God.  “Without God’s Word as a lens, the world warps” (p. 91).  This book will help remove your spiritual cataracts so you can see both Him and the world around you—yes, the dishes and diapers, the runny noses and nonstop neediness, the meals and messes and real kids and real husband—with new eyes.  Not just Ann Voskamp’s.  His.

Isn’t That SO Funny?

“Isn’t that so funny?” is one of Gabriella’s favorite new expressions.  Gigi, as we call her, loves to laugh.  And sing.  And dance.  On our recent visit to Ireland to see her and her mommy (our daughter Erika) and daddy (our son-in-law Richie), I was reminded how very important it is to laugh.  To actually have fun with your kids.

Every time we go to Ireland—and really, every time I travel—I am reminded of the universality of mom-feelings.  On this past visit, we spent a lot of time at playgrounds—another thing Gigi loves.  I loved playing with her there, and I also loved watching the other moms and kids at the playground.

One day we had the great good fortune of a long time on the swing.  There was no line of people waiting, as there often is, for the toddler swings.  As I pushed Gigi, a young mom pushed her son, a little boy who seemed about Gigi’s age (2 ½).  His mom looked as if she had been pushing him on that swing for a very long time.  In fact, she’d become almost robotic.  Back and forth, back and forth.

Then she looked over at me, sighed, and said: “Ohhh, it feels like forever.  The days feel like forever. “  As I nodded in instant recognition of those feelings, she went on to tell me how early her little boy gets up, how he doesn’t nap much if at all, how hard it is to get him in bed at his usual time now that the days are light so much longer, and . . .  You all know the rest of the story well.

A few moments later I noticed a very energetic grandmother playing with several of her grandchildren.  They were having a ball.  The kids had set up a “store” under one of the climbing structures and she was “buying” all kinds of things from them (including ice cream—which definitely got Gigi’s attention!)  Soon the kids tired of that game and ran on to another, and this very engaged grandmother looked over at me with both a big smile and a sigh and said, as she ran after them,” I am absolutely exhausted!”

Sounds familiar, yes?  Days that feel like forever.  Chronic exhaustion. It comes with the mom-job, with keeping up with these little energizer bunnies.  Which is why I love watching my daughter and her daughter have so much fun together.

Yes, Erika’s days often feel like forever.  And yes, she is most always exhausted (especially now that she is pregnant with Gigi’s little brother or sister).  But even amidst it all, they do have fun.  I wish I had a video of Gigi dancing with her mama in front of the mirror, traipsing around in her mama’s shoes (what little girl doesn’t love that?), or waking up in the morning carrying on conversations with herself interspersed with “Isn’t that just so funny!”  (Not caught on video!)  But we did have fun with her new scooter, new sunglasses, and glasses for Corduroy—and how about tutus for headdresses?  I suspect it’s the having fun part that gets many moms through the not-so-fun parts of the mom-job.

I’m not sure I was that much fun as a mother.  But I hope you are!