Moms That Change the World

I glanced at the women around me.  All moms—all here for the MOPs conference.  I felt strangely out of place, like a young kid just pretending to be a grownup mom.  Wasn’t I still that young woman in her early-twenties attending Passion conferences and feeling young and alive and free?  Yet here I was amidst 3000 other moms who spent more time wiping boogers out of noses than being spontaneous and free.

There were moms of all ages and backgrounds.  Moms with six kids and moms with one.  Moms dressed like hipsters and moms rocking ”mom jeans”.  They were all different, but they were all moms.  All of them, even the youngest, had little ones who depended on them.  Their lives were no longer about them.  They couldn’t pretend that they weren’t adults. 

Part of me felt hesitant to even want to fit in.  Being a grownup adult mom isn’t easy.  The life of a mom is lived in the little things.  Instead of leading prayer walks, organizing big fundraisers to end slavery, or living in Africa for a year, they are busy taking out poopy diapers, cutting crusts off of sandwiches, and discipling little hearts.  They are not free to do what many consider the “big” works for the Lord.  The feeling of insignificance or fruitlessness is quick to creep in.

And yet, as I watched these women worship and learn together, I realized how wrong that thinking really was.  After all, the “biggest” and best work we can do for the Lord is the work that He has set before us to do. 

Moms certainly have an amazing job.  They mold and lead the next generation of world changers.  Yet, as I sat amongst all these other women I suddenly realized that our calling was even more than that. 

It was halfway through Beth Moore’s talk when this revelation occurred to me.  Beth was telling the story of her eldest daughter’s birth.  When she finally arrived, she was blotchy, cone-headed, and covered in blood and gunk.  Yet when they placed her in her arms, Beth said she looked into the face of the most beautiful, perfect baby that she had ever seen.

As she talked, mommy hormones swelled and tears formed in my eyes.  I looked around and realized that I was not alone.  That feeling was something that every mom, and only moms, could relate to.  We had all had the very same thought when we held our children, whether through birth or adoption, in our arms for the first time.  Every single mom has a connection to every other mom…simply because we are all moms.

Therein lies our calling.  As moms, we have the unique opportunity to connect with other women of different backgrounds.  We moms have the same feelings and experiences, and we can reach the moms who are hurting or lost or just looking for a friend.  We can reach out to them that they might see Christ in us.

I’m proud to be a mom.  I may not have the freedom and opportunities of many women my age, but I know God has put me where I am and has given me a good work to do.  College students aren’t the only one with the chance to make a difference—we moms can be world changers too.      

Thankful

Tonight my little one played in his bath, jabbering away about something I couldn’t understand.  He reached out his hands toward me and I wrapped him up in his froggy towel, which will soon be too small.  As I put it over his head he giggled and showed his four bottom teeth, coming in slightly crooked.  I reach for my phone to record a video, knowing full well I can never truly capture every precious detail of that moment.

I soak it all in, and my heart hurts.  Suddenly he’s five, and doesn’t want to snuggle.  And twelve and I can’t make the boys like him.  And sixteen telling me he hates me.  And eighteen driving away.  And thirty with a little crooked-toothed little one of his own.  And—oh—my heart feels squeezed and I just want him to stay this way forever.

And yet, I know that can’t be…and I don’t want it to be.  I want to see him grow and develop into the man God created him to be.  I want to see him dream and learn and achieve.  I want to see him fail and persevere and grow.

But—oh—how I wish I could just bottle this moment up and keep it forever.  But I can’t, and the moment passes, and he’s already a minute older.

I get my little one a fresh diaper and put on his cozy pajamas.  I brush his fuzzy, uneven hair—so much like his father’s was at that age.  I kiss him and hug him and his daddy rocks him to sleep.  And I am thankful.

Thankful for the way he sleeps with his arms above his head—like his daddy again.  Thankful for the way he says “uh-oh”.  Thankful for the way he pushes things around constantly.  Thankful that he loves giving the dog a treat.  Thankful for the way he crinkles his nose and snorts.  Thankful for the way he loves the little man in his Duplo tractor.  Thankful for his little head-butts.  Thankful for extra snuggles when he wakes early with sore gums.  Thankful for the way he smears his food in his hair.  Thankful for the way he loves his Daddy, whom he calls “Ah-nah”.  Thankful for this way he falls asleep with his hand down my shirt.  Thankful for the way he loves to bring me books to read to him.  Thankful that he likes to cuddle. 

Yes, I am thankful indeed.

Joy and Poopy Diapers

“I can’t wait to change a poopy diaper again.”

We all laughed as she said it, her swelling belly revealing that that time would indeed be soon.  I let her words, and the meaning behind them, sink into my soul. 

I’d never heard any other expecting mother express eagerness to change a poopy diaper.  Yet, not every mother has experienced the loss of three precious babies.  This beautiful child that grows in her womb has been so prayed for, so desired…so wanted.  This miracle life within her abdomen was planned for…and fought for. 

To this sweet mama, poopy diapers represented a healthy, thriving baby in her arms.  She “can’t wait” to change this precious child’s dirty diapers because she aches every day for the sweet babes she never got to hold in her arms…the diapers she never got to change.  She has learned that every smelly, nasty diaper is a gift.

So many times in life we miss out on the little gifts that God has given.  We complain about dirty socks lying around, unexpected bills at the auto repair shop, and muddy footprints on our fresh-mopped floor.  We fail to recognize them as gifts because we fail to see what they stand for.  We forget that they represent a man to love, a car to drive, and sweet babes to snuggle.  We see the negative instead of the good.

My sweet friend’s words were an encouragement to me.  They spurred me on to dig deeper and look for those gifts that God has given us.  He has sent these gifts that we might have joy…but first we have to find them.        

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…”

~James 1:17~

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Some excerpts from my thankfulness journal:

16. Dogwoods in Spring.

38. For the smell of the Ozarks.

76. The sweet smell of my Miles.

78. Watching my son with his daddy.

118. Earthworms in my garden.

140. Diapers peeking out of onesies.

157. What hardback books look like under their jackets.

181. Dirty toes from the garden.

205. Reconciliation.

217. Wild roses popping up in my backyard.

240. Chubby little knees.

264. Laughter with friends.

276. Sleepy eyes glazing over.

315. Trees arching over roads.

364. New beginnings. 

Papa

It’s 7:30 in the morning on Father’s Day.  We were hoping to catch a few extra minutes of sleep, but Miles has decided it’s time to get up.  He spots Andy, who has been gone for a few days, and reaches for him.  He climbs over me, smiling and giggling, trying desperately to reach his daddy and poke him in the face.  There is no doubt about it…he loves his Papa.

Despite being exhausted, Andy is happy to wake up and see his boy.  He gets dressed and asks Miles if he wants to get some donuts.  So off my boys go, leaving me to get ready alone.  No sleeping in.  No breakfast in bed.  To my husband, Father’s Day means just that…being a father.

It’s hard to believe that a year ago Miles was still just a baby in my tummy, growing and kicking, but not yet fully invading our lives.  Now he’s a happy, active ten-month old who enjoys splashing in the toilet, climbing on everything, and munching on avocado.  Andy and I can’t remember what we did with our time before Miles was born.  Yes, Miles has completely invaded our lives and turned them upside down.

Surprisingly enough, however, my man has not only taken all this changing in stride…he embraces it and loves every minute.  Andy adores his little man, despite the giant poops, frequent night wakings, and never getting a moment’s peace.  He loves showing Miles things and taking him places.  He loves watching him grow and learn.  And Miles?  Well, he just adores his Papa too. 

Sometimes I like to just sit in the other room, listening to my boys giggle as Andy reads Miles his Elmo book.  Or watch them play “Don’t Wake the Grizzly Bear (aka, Papa)”.  Or watch as Miles reaches for his daddy, then lays his head on his big, strong chest.  Miles knows that he is always safe with Papa.  Always loved, always protected, always cared for. 

I’m so thankful for this man of mine, who doesn’t see fatherhood as the end of his life.  Instead, he sees it as a wonderful gift and blessing, to cherish and treasure.  Miles doesn’t know it, but he is a very lucky little boy.

Happy belated Father’s Day, Andy!!!

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Where Three Years Go

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It’s hard to believe we’ve been married three years.  It seems like just yesterday that we were saying our vows in sight of Mt. Elden on a sunny, May day.  And yet, here we are…three years later.

My husband commented recently that it seemed like we were newlyweds forever, and then suddenly we were old married people with a baby.  It certainly seems like that some days!  Here’s a recap of our three years together:

We were married May 22, 2010.  After a wonderful, dream honeymoon in Maine and Prince Edward Island, and an epic trip cross-country with my car literally loaded to the brim, we began our new life together in the hills of Northern Arkansas.

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The first three months were wonderful.  I wasn’t working.  We were renting a tiny little house nestled in the trees.  Andy got off work by 3 pm.  Adventures abounded.

The first few months of married life are funny.  They are wonderful and glorious (especially after 13 long months in a long distance engagement).  Yet, they are full of surprises.  We learned the craziest things about each other.

Like, neither of us really likes baked potatoes, despite eating them often in our growing up years.  Somehow we didn’t realize this fact (that shows we’re a match made in heaven), until after we were married.  Don’t ask me how.  You can guess who’s kid will be the freak who doesn’t know what a baked potato is. 😛

Then there were the simple, little surprises.  Like having different ways of doing everything, from which side of the sink the dirty dishes go on, to what goes in a salad, to how laundry should be done.

It’s also quite shocking when your husband tells you he doesn’t like certain items of your clothing because they look like a granny.  Dear homeschooled girls, don’t be fooled.  Nice homeschooled guys don’t want you to cover up every square inch of your body.  Trust me!

Anyway, those first few months passed.  We got a puppy (after a miscommunication about a patio set), my man pulled me out under the gutters in the pouring rain one time when I was being a grouch, and life was new and wonderful.  In August we trekked back across the country to a furniture show in Las Vegas.  Not exactly my cup of tea, but fun nevertheless.   

At the end of August we entered a new phase when I began student teaching.  I went from being home all the time to gone all of the time.  It was an adjustment, but I loved the challenge and I loved the experience. 

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The plan after I graduated in December was to substitute teach until I got a teaching job, meanwhile saving up money for a house.  A baby would come a few years later.

Instead, the day after I finished student teaching I began working at my husband’s company.  I did accounting, administrative assistant things, customer service, shipping…you name it and I did it.  Thus began the next year and a half of me working a mix of part-time and full-time at the Ironworks, substitute teaching whenever I could, and working online doing freelance writing.  It was a growing time and a changing time.  I learned so much and don’t regret a moment!

That spring we began looking into buying a house.  At first we looked for land, with the intention of building.  That didn’t seem too feasible at the moment, so we began looking at houses instead.  Every day during student teaching I passed this rock house nestled under a giant oak tree.  We weren’t looking for houses at the time, but I had always been curious.  Well, guess who ended up buying that rock house in June?  Yep, us!  Thus, we moved out of our sweet little rent house with the drafty door and the mouse problem, and into our much bigger fixer-upper, with an even bigger mouse problem. 

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In the midst of all the craziness surrounding buying this house we celebrated our first anniversary with a wonderful cruise to Key West and Cozumel.  Talk about fun!  In Cozumel we went on a speed boat excursion.  I had to sign a waver saying I wasn’t pregnant.  It made me think about how thankful I was for our year with just the two of us.  Yet, I had to admit that the longing for a baby was there.  But I waited and prayed and enjoyed speedboats in Cozumel.  Just the two of us.

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But back to the rock house.  Our fixer upper became our obsession.  We ripped things out, I learned a ton about home remodeling, and painting became my hobby.  We had fights about how we wanted to do things.  Mostly, though, we grew closer together working on our hodge-podge rock house. 

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Then came August.  My man came to me and told me he felt like God wanted us to move our “trying to having a baby” timeline up.  Like, way up.  We prayed about it.  Peace flooded over us.  It just seemed right.  So we decided to start trying in three months time.  And, yes, our kitchen in our new home was still a shambles. 

We began prepping and saving and getting ready.  We finished the kitchen.  And what would be the baby’s room.  And then we started trying.  I was pretty much instantly pregnant. 

We had nine more months together of just the two of us.  And my ever-growing belly.  We drove out to North Carolina for the High Point Furniture Market (which had become a twice-a-year thing for us).  We celebrated our second anniversary in Branson.  We flew out to Arizona when I was 30 weeks pregnant for my sister’s high school graduation, as well as to see my other sister and her two precious little girls.  We spent a lot of time that summer riding in Andy’s jeep and swimming at the creek.  We savored every minute. 

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And then my due date came.  We ate dinner at Tommy’s Pizza with some friends (who were also expecting their first baby!), watched a movie with them, and then went to bed.  A few hours later I woke up Andy and told him it was time.  Six hours later our sweet Miles Patrick entered the world, healthy and beautiful and life-changing. 

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And here we are, at our three year anniversary.  Our sweet Miles in nine months old.  We don’t even remember how we spent our time before he came.  Our marriage experienced some testing when he first came, but it has come out so much stronger and richer and deeper. 

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I am so thankful for these past three years, and all that they have brought.  Marriage is a wonderful, beautiful, crazy, hard, amazing adventure.  And I love every minute.        

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I’ve Been the Judger, I’ve Been the Other Son

For as long as I can remember, I’ve read the story of the prodigal son and related most to the other brother.  You know, the good one who stayed at home and worked for his father.  The one that was upset and jealous when his prodigal brother returns home and his father rejoices and kills the fatted calf. 

I know a lot of people that were raised in the world, but I was raised in the church.  I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t know Christ as my Savior.  I always went to church, and I was a good kid.  I never got trouble in school.  As a teenager, I never once broke curfew (I didn’t even have one…my parents always knew where I was).  I didn’t experiment with drugs and alcohol.  I didn’t have sex until I got married.  I tried to live life as Christ wanted me to live. 

Yet, somewhere along the way I missed out on the whole essence of who Christ was.  Somewhere along the way, I missed out on the love.

It’s easy to see how it happened.  In general, churches today are so void of Christ’s love.  I was one of the many masses in them going about with a critical eye.  I had secret sins of my own, but I did my best to appear exactly as a Christian was “supposed” to. I judged others for their sins because, in my heart of hearts, judging them made me feel good and clean and right. 

Paul says that “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angles, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging symbol.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, emphasis added)

I was so lacking in love.  I did what was “right”, but my days revolved around me.  My eyes were blind to the suffering, the hurt, and the needs of those I daily came in contact with.  I tithed and gave money to those less fortunate, while in actuality keeping my hands clean from the real work. 

And I have been the other brother in much harder ways.  I’ve watched those closest to me, those I love, turn away from Christ and from me. I was angry with them, condemned them, and turned my back on them.  I withheld my love, thinking that somehow that would save them…somehow that would make them see the foolishness of their choices and turn back.  I prayed that they would come back to Jesus, while I so poorly portrayed Him myself. 

Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” 

I was so unlike my Jesus.  He showed me love and mercy, and all I showed was judgment and downcast eyes.  I thought that, in doing so, I was walking in His path.  How wrong I was!  How many opportunities I have missed!  The very thought sickens me. 

He has been speaking to my heart so clearly.  He has been showing me how far astray the church, especially in America, has gone.  He has been revealing to me how far from his path I’ve gone.  He has been bringing me back. 

Christlikeness is not about being perfect, or even appearing so on the outside.  Far be it from me that I ever become such a white washed tomb again!  Christlikeness is about becoming like Him: good and right and truthful, but ever overflowing with love and mercy and grace.

Lord, transform me from the inside out.  May Your love overflow out of me.  May my life be not my own because it contains so little of selfish me…and is instead so full of You. 

Judgement and condemnation profit nothing.  They change no one.  But love…love can change the world.     

Cutest Nephew Award…and They Grow So Fast

Last Wednesday, exactly at midnight, my new nephew and Miles’ newest cousin was born.  James Michael is the cutest little man, and has already stolen my heart.  Have I mentioned that I love being an aunt?

Miles was fascinated by his new little buddy/partner-in-crime.  What was amazing to me was how big Miles looked next to James.  How they grow!  And in ten short weeks!

Watching the proud new parents, I was reminded of Miles’ first days.  How much we’ve learned since then!  I remember being completely overwhelmed then.  Actually, I still feel that way.  Yet, things are finally starting to “work”.  Miles sleeps better at night, the colic is behind us, nursing troubles are long past, and, most of all, we have learned how to meet the unique needs of our little boy.  We have learned that good parents learn how to meet their child’s needs instead of trying to conform him/her to their preconceived notions.  

Oh, how I love watching him change and grow!  I love looking down to see his sweet little smile and that twinkle in his bright blue eyes!  Somehow, when you relax and let your baby become the little person they are meant to be, parenthood becomes a lot more enjoyable.