My Children Are Blessings…And I’m Not Quiverfull

IMG_9149-EditI was trying to quickly put on makeup when I heard the giggles.  I glanced over to my bed where my two children were laughing back and forth at each other.

“What are you two doing?” I teased.

Their beautiful, sparkling blue eyes both turned to me, their precious mouths turned up in wide, uninhibited smiles.  My heart began to ache as it usually does in such a moment…when my momma heart loves them so much that it feels about ready to burst.  I am so blessed, I thought.

My mind raced back to the day before, when the 10-month-old was fussy from teething and the 3-year-old had begun peppering me with his unending questions.  I had snapped at him, and then felt bad about it.  I remembered something I had read recently from another mom, whom I know to be “quiverfull“.  She had had a similar day, had yelled at one of her kids, and then had apologized to him later telling him that “he was a blessing and a gift”.

I found myself apologizing and telling my own son something similar.  The words seemed to sink down into his little soul and he threw his arms around my neck and whispered that he loved me.  In that moment, I couldn’t have loved my little son or his sister more if I’d tried.

My husband and I don’t feel convicted about preventing pregnancy being wrong, nor do we really want a 15-passenger van full of kids.  We take each baby as he or she comes, pray, and follow the Lord’s leading.  Right now in this moment, we have a lot of peace about our two.  I don’t honestly know what the years will bring.  I don’t know if more children will join our family through pregnancy or adoption, or if our two will be it.  What I do know is that, if we never feel led to have more children, it won’t because we don’t see our children as blessings.  In fact, it may just be because we already feel so blessed and our hearts are already so full and content with our two.  Our two children are our arrows in our “quiver”, and I pray every day that they will be straight, true arrows.  I pray that, if we only ever have the two children, that quality will make up for quantity.

There are days when the strain of motherhood clouds my vision and makes me forget that my children are blessings. There are days when they irritate me, strain me, and tire me.  It is on those days that I have to remember that my children are blessings.  It is on those days that I have to remind myself that I don’t have to have baby after baby to see children as gifts from the Lord.  Sometimes you just have to remember to love the ones you have, and to choose to see them for the blessings they are.       

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

wolvesI saw him out of the corner of my eye and my hand involuntarily tightened around that of my three-year-olds.  Part of me felt bad for my reaction.  Christians are supposed to love everybody, and by all accounts this was a good, upstanding man.  I had no “proof” that there was anything underhanded about him…only a few strange experiences and a weird vibe I get in my stomach every time I’m around him.

Next to me, my son prattled on, telling me one thing or another, completely oblivious and innocent.  It was then that I knew that I’d do anything to protect that innocence.  It was then that I knew that I’d rather be overly cautious then to stifle my misgivings at the cost of that innocence.

You see, I’ve seen too much of the world.  The people I know that are the most caught in darkness were once masquerading as good, upstanding citizens, from the “Christian” homeschool father and police detective who turned out to be molesting his own daughters, to the cult-like leader who preached strict morals all the while not following them himself, to the uncle raising his niece and secretly molesting her until the little girls’ plea for help from her friend fell on the ears of people who took a stand.  I could go on and on.  I’ve known too many wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I’ll never forget the day in college that we watched a video highlighting a few exemplary teachers from across the country.  I can guarantee that everyone in that room thought something was a little odd about the way the male English teacher rubbed the back of one of his male students.  I can also guarantee that every person in the room quickly pushed those thoughts aside, thinking they were just being overly sensitive.  It wasn’t until the end of the video that we learned that that same teacher had later been convicted of molesting a male student, and that 18+ more former students had come forward saying that he had molested them as well.  He was the Georgia teacher of the year and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and yet all the while…

Wolves in sheep’s clothing.  

Don’t for a second think that being a teacher, being involved in church, being “happily” married, or seeming like a nice person means anything.  Predators are smart.  They want you to believe that they are nice, upstanding citizens.  They want to gain your trust, so that you will let your guard down.  They know that trust gives opportunity.  

The struggle is real, though.  I want to love everybody.  I don’t want to be judgmental or unfair.  I’ve learned, however, that you can still love someone without trusting them.  You can still love unquestioningly without trusting undeservedly.

I hope and pray that someday when I get to heaven that God will say, “You were wrong about those people.”  Yet, I also know that I would rather be overly cautious and be wrong than to stifle down misgivings only to let one of my children or any other child be an opportunity.

Be on your guard, parents.  Educate your children, set boundaries, and do everything you can to prevent these wolves in sheep’s clothing from having access to hurt your children.  You can’t always keep them safe, but you can do everything in your power to protect the innocence of these precious children that God has entrusted you with.   

3 Things That Make Me More Productive

My firstborn was a really hard baby.  He was fussy, colicky, and clingy.  My house looked like a disaster for pretty much the first year and I hated it.  Surprisingly, 9 months into have two I actually feel way more productive and on-top of things.  Here are just 3 simple ways that have helped me come to this point:

1. The Motivated Moms app on my phone.  I’m a list maker.  So, it should come to no surprise to you that I’ve tried just about every home management tool out there, from creating my own lists on Evernote to Flylady.  The later just didn’t work for me.  There were elements I loved, but some of the main components just didn’t make sense in my life.  I don’t want to walk around the house with my shoes on, nor am I able to keep my sink clean constantly.  Then a Facebook friend suggested Motivated Moms…and I fell in love.  Even with being pregnant and working part-time, it worked for me.  Then Baby Girl came along and I quit for awhile, but that past few months I’ve been back at it.  I’ve customized it to work with my days and schedule, and I’m suddenly becoming way more productive…and my house is always in semi-decent shape.  Even with a 9-month-old who started crawling last week and is into EVERYTHING.

2. Updating the budget every. single. morning.  You already know how much I love YNAB.  The only problem is, you have to manually enter things, which takes some time.  Thankfully, however, I can update things quickly on my smartphone.  When I’m feeding the baby, I’m usually looking at my phone anyway…so why not use it for something productive?  Every morning I quickly pull up my various banking apps, as well as the YNAB app, and update and add things.  Sometimes I still need to look for a receipt or log onto the computer to actually update budget categories, but that work is a breeze when I’ve already got almost everything entered in.  It takes minutes, I stay on top of things, and I start every day knowing where our finances and budget stand.

3. Waiting to eat breakfast with Miles.  My children are typically early risers, but a couple of times a week I actually get up before them…or at least one of them.  ha!  My favorite way to spend that time used to be spending quiet time with God and then eating breakfast alone.  When my toddler got up, I’d feed him breakfast and try to get ready by myself.  Only, my son is one of the slowest eaters ever.  He gets every slower when nobody is sitting there eating with him.  So, I would find myself still sitting at the kitchen table in my bathrobe at 10 am with nothing to do.  Now, on those rare days, I do my quiet time and then take a shower or get ready.  On the really rare days that I still have extra time, I log onto the computer or do any number of tasks that are hard to do with my son around (read: trying to help and just making things harder!).  Whenever he gets up, I make breakfast for the both of us and we eat together.  My son eats faster, I’ve accomplished a lot more, and less time is wasted.  Problem solved!

What are some of your favorite productivity helpers?

Just A Mom

I used to think it would be enough for me to be merely a stay-at-home mom.  I had grown up watching my intelligent, PhD holding mother spend her days folding laundry, cooking food, and bandaging scraped up knees.  For her, gone were the days of helping troubled families in the a116d-2013-03-15_11-15-22_890court system and bringing in decent money from her highly-esteemed career.  But she never seemed to mind.  In fact, she thrived and found the most purpose in those quiet days full of simple tasks.  I knew unwaveringly that I wanted to be just a mom…just like her.

The years passed and I became just that.  Yet, I was surrounded by friends and women who were more than just moms.  Women I respected.  Women I enjoyed being around.  Suddenly my confidence and surety wavered.  I began to feel less able and less important than these other women.  I felt like I could never join in and complain about having a messy house or not having enough hours to get everything done because, after all, they did what I did plus some.  They went to work all day and then had to deal with the laundry and cooking and housework.  Some even worked on schoolwork after their children went to bed.  I used to think I was smart, hard working, and highly educated, but amongst these busy, capable women I started to doubt myself.

There were women who talked about how they could never just sit home all day…how they had to be doing something.  And so I questioned myself.  Am I really that much of a homebody?  Do I really do so little?  Am I bored?  Couldn’t I juggle all of those things too?

But God.  Always but God.

That Still Small Voice began speaking to my heart.  I could do all those things…juggle all those things.  I am an intelligent, educated, hard-working woman.  I am just as capable, but in this season of life, I choose something different.  I choose to not juggle all those things and do all those things. Right now, I choose to be just a mommy and just a homemaker.

Mamas who are just mamas: don’t doubt yourselves.  Don’t question your worth or value or abilities.  Remember that, like me, you chose this path.  You chose to find your purpose and fulfillment in this season not in being able to do it all or be all things to all people, but instead in the small little tasks that come along with being “just a mom”.  I know that one day when our kids are all grown up and gone, we will be glad that we sacrificed so much for those extra minutes with our babes.  We will be thankful that we got the chance to be just moms…and that we took it.  

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

“Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

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We Waited

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Hilary (my sister): Did you see what T___ wrote on her friend’s Facebook wall?

Me: Yeah, I guess she and her hubby actually waited to have sex?  It surprised me a bit.

H: Yeah, me too

Me: That’s sad that it’s so surprising when a Christian couple actually waits to have sex.

My youth group years were spent smack dab in the midst of the “True Love Waits” campaign.  I signed the pledge, bought the purity ring, and watched the Joshua Harris videos, along with countless numbers of my friends.  Sex, or at least the saving of it until marriage, was talked about almost every Wednesday night.

Some years have passed and those friends and I find ourselves in our mid-twenties.  Some still single.  Many more married.  Some with kids.  The sad reality, however, is that of all those friends, I could probably count on one hand the number that actually ended up waiting to have sex until they got married.  My otherhand could probably be added to include those that ended up having sex, and then later waiting (claiming their “secondary virginity” the term coined by former-Bachelor-now-married Sean Lowe).

In light of that saddening fact, trying to save sex for marriage would seem pretty hopeless and futile for those that are unmarried, whether they be weekly youth group attendees or thirty-something and not-yet-married .  But it’s not.  I know it’s not…because my husband and I waited.    

I’ve been dreading writing this post.  I’ve had it on my heart for a very long time, but I’ve been too afraid to actually share it.  I just know that someone, or perhaps many people, will be offended or take it the wrong way.  I worry that people will think I’m prideful or judgmental or haughty.  Please believe me when I say that that’s not at all how I want to come across or what I want to portray.  My purpose in sharing my heart is not to make anyone feel guilty, but instead to bring hope.

My husband and I waited to have sex not because we were saints or prudes or not attracted to each other.  We waited because we firmly believed that that was God’s best and, by His miraculous strength, we stuck to our commitment.

It’s been over five years since our virginal selves said “I Do”, and I can tell you without a doubt that it was so worth the wait.  Sex is a beautiful, unifying, transforming blessing within the safety and confines of marriage.  Yet, so often, waiting to have sex gets a bad rap.  People’s motives are questioned, the term “legalism” is brought into play, and those that did end up waiting, like myself, find themselves almost embarrassed to admit that they did.

Now, before we go any further, let me be very clear about something: In proclaiming the value of waiting, I am in no way saying that if you didn’t wait your marriage won’t be as good as it would be had you waited.  The good Lord knows that, while I may have saved sex for marriage, my own past is full of its own set of sin and regrets.  Do those things play into and effect my marriage and my future?  Of course they do.  That’s just life…but that doesn’t mean that my marriage or my future is destined to be any less glorious than the next person’s.  On the contrary, the depths of my past mistakes only serve to illuminate the glorious redemption of Christ’s sacrifice.  However, that doesn’t mean that I want my children to repeat my mistakes.  I know that someday they’ll look back with regret about their own set of mistakes, but my hope and prayer is that they won’t be repeats of my own.

So, please know that if you weren’t a virgin on your wedding day, I am in no way condemning you or trying to shame you.  I just want those coming behind me to know that waiting is possible…and that it is very much worth it.


Waiting Is Not a Punishment

My husband is currently building the coolest treehouse for our soon-to-be 3-year-old son.  It already has three towers, a tunnel, a tube slide, a swinging bridge, and a bomb crows nest.  And this thing keeps growing.  The other day my husband asked me if I thought our son was too small for a complete-with-a-harness zipline from the top of the crows nest down to our shop (100 yards away).

“Andy,” I said (probably in a less-than-excited way), “You do realize that every other dad is going to hate you for completely out doing them?”

“Yeah, so?” was his response.  “Miles is going to love it.  The Bible does say that a good father knows how to give good gifts to his children.”

Touché

He was totally right.  In our day and age waiting to have sex is often seen as an arbitrary rule made by a god who doesn’t want us to enjoy ourselves or have fun.  The truth is that that isn’t our God at all.  Our God loves us…and He knows how to give good gifts.  Sex happens to be one of them, but you cannot fully appreciate and accept that blessing unless you enjoy it solely within the confines of marriage.

Bringing it back to my children again,as a parent I really truly want them to be happy.  Sometimes, though, that desire comes across as me being mean.  For instance, my infant daughter may see her brother’s legos and want to play with them.  You better believe that she thinks that playing with those legos will make her happy.  And you know what?  Playing with legos would be really fun for her.  As her mom, though, I don’t let her play with legos.  Why?  Because she currently puts everything in her mouth and she could choke on them.  I know that the thing that she thinks will bring her happiness and joy could in fact hurt her.  If it hurts her, the happiness that it brought will quickly dissipate.

She doesn’t understand that.  She thinks I’m just being mean and don’t want her to be happy, but you know and I know that that’s the furthest thing from the truth.  A few years from now, when she’s not trying to eat everything in reach, I’ll gladly let her play with the legos and I will enjoy watching her enjoyment of them.  I will be confidant in the fact that her enjoyment of the legos won’t dissipate with one getting lodged in her throat.

It’s the same way with God.  He created sex as this beautiful blessing, but He knows that if that blessing is enjoyed before the right time or in the wrong setting, then the enjoyment and happiness we experience from it will be incomplete.  He knows that sometimes that thing that was meant to be a wonderful blessing could, in fact, hurt us.  He doesn’t create arbitrary rules to steal our fun and make our lives miserable.  He sets specific parameters for the blessings He has given us so that we may experience and enjoy them to their fullest.


Waiting Isn’t Antiquated

In the culture we live in, saving sex for marriage is seen as an old fashioned notion.  To forfeit pleasure until you’re married is seen as a ridiculous and near-impossible idea.  Everybody has sex before marriage these days.  It’s a normal and healthy way to get to know someone.  How else are you to know if you want to marry someone if you don’t know if you’re sexually compatible?  And if you know you’re going to marry your partner eventually, why deal with the stress and tension of waiting any longer?

Of course, all of these are selfish reasons born out of a self-centered culture.  In her book Passion and Purity the late Elisabeth Elliot writes:

What do women want today? What do men want? I mean, deep down. What do they really want? If ‘times’ have changed, have human longings changed, too? How about principles? Have Christian principles changed? I say no to the last three questions, an emphatic no. I am convinced that the human heart hungers for constancy. In forfeiting the sanctity of sex by casual, nondiscriminatory ‘making out’ and ‘sleeping around,’ we forfeit something we cannot well do without. There is dullness, monotony, sheer boredom in all of life when virginity and purity are no longer protected and prized. By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.

The sad fact of the matter is that we can’t actually find true fulfillment when our lives are so self-focused.  Momentary happiness, perhaps, but that soon fades.  You see, when we are so consumed with self-gratification, we actually miss out on true love.  True love is self-sacrificing.  True love wants what’s best for the other person.  If we really loved our partner, wouldn’t we a) recognize that God wants us to wait to have sex for our good and that b) if we really wanted our partner’s good, we would wait for their sake?

Waiting to have sex may be antiquated in our culture, but the reasons behind waiting are not.


Waiting Is Possible

To be honest, everyone who didn’t wait has an excuse.  Usually those excuses are completely understandable and relatable.  Things got out of hand.  We were hormonal teenagers.  We had a long engagement.  We knew we were going to get married.  All valid, but all overcome-able excuses…and I can say that from experience.

The truth is, my husband and I didn’t have chaperones or a short engagement to keep us from straying.  We were alone together a lot, and we were engaged for 13 long months.  Yet we were still able to wait.  You see, excuses may explain the temptation, but they don’t validate the sin.

And we are not alone.  They may be hard to find, but there are others that waited too.  You don’t have to be in a fundamental courtship to be able to save sex for marriage.


Waiting Is Worth It

Don’t get me wrong…saving sex for marriage isn’t easy.  Far from it.  When you love someone, are intensely attracted to them, and know you want to spend the rest of your life with them, withstanding the temptation may not seem worth it.  But I can tell you, it is.

My husband and I have a special bond because we have something that is sacred and special to our marriage.  We may have loved each other and enjoyed being with each other pre-marriage, but marriage knocks dating and being engaged out of the ball park.  Our wedding day brought to a close a very long time of waiting.  So, instead of the world’s view of marriage as a ball-and-chain that ties you down, our marriage has always symbolized freedom.

Furthermore, by waiting to have sex, we avoid a myriad of issues that come with having sex.  Birth control, unplanned pregnancies, regret…these were not problems that we had to worry about until our wedding day.

Finally, there’s also something incredibly unifying about knowing that you were tempted and overcame temptation together.  You enter into marriage without regret, and with an ability to persevere through adversity together that those who didn’t wait lack.  It really is a beautiful and peaceful thing to experience a blessing of God exactly as He intended it to be experienced.


Waiting Starts Now

But what if you’ve already had sex?

The point in all this is not to shame.  We “all have sinned and fall short” [Romans 3:23], remember?  But you know what the wonderful thing about that is?  Christ died for us and washed our slates clean.  If you’ve chosen to accept this gift, then you are a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17] and no longer a slave to the flesh [Romans 6:15-23].  This doesn’t mean that we will no longer be tempted, but that God will give us the strength to withstand temptations when they come [1 Corinthians 10:13].

We may not be able to erase our pasts, and that’s where God’s glorious grace comes in, but we do get to choose how we go forward.  We get to choose whether to let our flesh or Christ’s righteousness reign in us.  Just because you’ve already had sex outside of marriage doesn’t mean you have to again.  It’ll be hard and take some guts, but let me remind you that nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  Saving sex for marriage doesn’t have to be a one-time-and-you-blew-it thing.  It’s not something that you already lost the ability to do.  Waiting starts now.


Sometimes, I almost feel embarrassed to admit that we waited to have sex, because I feel like I will be singled-out…seen as a judgmental prude with above-average self-control.  That’s really, really sad.  If you and your spouse waited to have sex, whether your entire life or just for a time before marriage, I’d encourage you to join me in sharing that.  Share a picture of you and your spouse on Instagram with the hashtag #wewaited .  Let’s show our unmarried friends that waiting can be and has been done…and that it’s worth it. 

This is a touchy subject.  Feel free to comment and discuss…but please be respectful and kind.  

To the Mama Going from One to Two

IMG_6342bThe other day I ran into a friend who had just had her second child the month before.  In her eyes I saw the all-too-familiar stress and panic that adding a second child brings.  She spoke of the adjustment being hard, even though her second was a much easier baby.  She talked of going from being able to get out of the house in 15 minutes to it now taking an hour and a half…of trying to figure out how to be a mom to both kids.

Going from one kid to two kids isn’t easy.  I know I had the same look in my eyes those first few months.  No babywearing apparatus, freezer stocked full of meals, or Netflix subscription can really prepare you.  Getting out of the house alone with both children will most likely induce a stress-induced panic attack.  No matter how hard you plan, you will have those moments of chasing your toddler across the parking lot, forgetting to bring a change of clothes for both children, and having to drag both children out of somewhere because they are both crying (the baby because she’s had enough, the toddler because he wasn’t ready to go).  And don’t forget having to deal with your potty training toddler having an accident and your newborn having a blowout at the same exact time.

Staying at home isn’t much easier.  There will be nights where your children will literally just trade off which hour they wake you up with a need, and you’ll get up in the morning wondering if you ever actually fell asleep.  Your first child, whether accidentally or purposefully, will kick the baby in the head, try to feed the newborn a cracker, or eveIMG_5810n drag the baby 10 feet across the floor while you’re just trying to brush your teeth for once.  Your toddler will find the candy you have stashed in the cabinet when they know you are stuck nursing the baby.  There will be many, many times when you have to let one child cry while you tend to the other child’s needs…and picking which child to take care of first is never an easy choice.  You’ll be on the verge of a nervous breakdown and need to get out of the house…until you realize how stressful getting out of the house will be.

But, Mama, don’t lose hope.  The other day as I looked into my friends eyes it suddenly dawned on me that that look had begun to fade in my own eyes.  No, having two kids never really gets easier…just more normal.  Getting out of the house with my toddler and now eight-month-old no longer produces extreme anxiety.  I can even leave the house with both in under 20 minutes.  At home, I can actually clean up the house and make dinner most days.

It’s still hard.  I’m still constantly reminding my older child to be more gentle with the baby.  I still have mornings where I wonder if I actually got any sleep the night before, and now with the baby getting more mobile we’re entering into a basically constant lesson in sharing toys.  But trust me when I say that there are good times that will make all the hard times worth it.  There will be times that will fill your heart so full that you’ll feel like it just might burst.  There will come a time when you’ll hear your children blowing raspberries at each other and giggling in the back seat.  One morning you’ll awaken to hear your toddler over the baby monitor sweetly saying to his sister, “Did you wake up, Sister?  Did you wake up, Stinky Chunks?” You’ll watch your baby laugh and giggle because she thinks her big brother is the funniest, coolest person ever.  And your love for them will only grow and grow.

So, Mama, don’t worry.  Two will be hard…but it will be worth it.  

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When You Have a Sweet One

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My son is one of those uncommonly sweet people.  Every time I pick him up from Sunday school I hear, “Miles is so sweet!”.  And then almost every night I hear our doorknob rattle and turn, followed by tiny little tiptoes across our floor.  My almost-three-year-old then silently climbs into bed on my side and neatly tucks himself in next to me before drifting back to sleep.  It’s hard to say no to something so heart-melting.

He’s the type of little boy who tells his mama often that she looks pretty, and you know he means it.  When I was sick recently, he voluntarily would softly rub my back and say, “I’m sorry you’re not feeling good, Mommy.”

His sweetness goes beyond just loving his Mama, though.  He notices peoples emotions, and it bothers him when others are upset.  When we took him to see Big Hero 6 in theaters, we thought that the movie would mostly go over his head.  However, by the time the credits rolled we were left with a sobbing little boy quaveringly telling us that “Baymax fell into the water!”.  He may not have understood everything, but he understood that Baymax was gone (or had been), and was absolutely torn up about it.

As his mommy, I both cherish and fear his tender heart.  I cherish it because it is a gift, rare in this world, especially among males.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s all boy, from his ability to turn anything into a weapon to his obsession with sticks and rocks (especially the throwing of them).  Yet, he has a sensitive streak in him that not every boy has.

I fear his tender heart because I am his mom and I don’t ever want to see him hurt, and yet I know the heartache that this world holds for those sweet ones.  Often in the world we live in, the ability to emote and empathize is degraded and made fun of.  I know that there will be times that my precious boy won’t fit in because of it.  I know that there will be times that he will be misunderstood because of it.  I know that watching the suffering of others will just about break him apart.

I also know that God has gifted him with this heart for a reason.  

I may not know yet what that reason is, but I pray every day that God will give me the strength and wisdom to nurture this precious little heart that He has entrusted me with.  I can’t wait to see the man he becomes.