Get Up

Something happened the other night that doesn’t happen often: my three year old woke up to go to the bathroom.
This doesn’t happen often for two reasons. One, she sleeps like a rock, and usually only wakes up when she is sick. Two, she wears a pull-up to bed and therefore doesn’t wake up to use the toilet.
She did wake up though, and she DID use the toilet.
She was not sick, and was in fact happy to go back to bed, snuggle up with her blankie and roll over to sleep.

Except for the second thing that happened that doesn’t happen that often: my three year old didn’t sleep.
For whatever reason, she could not settle down, and she could not go back to sleep. Being a three year old, she did the only thing she could do. She cried for her Mama, for me.

The result was that I was up with her, getting in and out of my bed, and down to her little bed that nearly touches the floor. Every time I thought I had settled her down, I would get back in my own bed, and pray. I’d pray that God would settler her heart, mind, and body down, that his grace would extend to her, that his grace would keep her siblings (who share the room with her) asleep, that his grace would get us all back to sleep.
“God give her the grace to sleep” I sighed the fourth time I heaved myself out of bed, and went to wipe her tears and kiss her forehead.

Oh, did I mention that I’m currently seven months pregnant? Factor that into your mental image of me getting up and down in the middle of the night. I didn’t just want her to sleep. I wanted to sleep too!

Finally, I grabbed a pillow, and headed back to my daughter’s side. This time, I had given up, and do the thing I rarely do, actually lay down with her in her own bed, hoping against hope that Mama being with her would calm her down.
As I lay down, trying to get as comfortable as possible on her much thinner mattress, the very words of my own prayer came into my mind.
“I am the grace she needs to sleep.”

I smiled into the darkness, and kissed my little girl. She put her hand on my belly, rubbed it, then cuddled herself as close as she could get to me with that belly in the way.
I had been praying for God to be my magic sleep potion for my child, and myself. I had been praying for God to do the work that he was calling me to do as my child’s parent.
I prayed for the grace my child needed to sleep. And God answered my prayer, he gave her me.

How often does this happen and I’m too blind in my own selfishness to see it? How often do I just want my kids to be good, or be quiet, or get along for ten seconds without me doing anything?
How often do I want God to parent my kids, but I don’t want to do any parenting?

God blessed me and my husband with these kids. We purposely had all these kids. Yes, intentionally, on purpose, all four of them. We prayed with desperate tears for this fourth child still growing within me. This fourth child is our “rainbow baby”. This pregnancy has been difficult, and scary.
Yet, it’s a blessing. The pregnancy and the baby.

I’m thankful for that sleepless night. I’m thankful for the rough few days that followed because Mama was tired. I’m thankful for what those difficulties – self inflicted to an extent – exposed in me: selfishness.
Parenting has a way of breaking you down as a parent and exposing sin in you that you would have sworn up and down you didn’t have. Mine is selfishness, and anger. These few days of little sleep, on top of regular third trimester tiredness, and typical childhood folly have really shown that to me.

So, my prayers are changing.
I’m still praying that God would give my family grace, but specifically, I pray that he would give me grace. The grace to get up, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a podcast, in the middle of a sibling fight, in the middle of a really uncomfortable Braxton Hicks cramp. I need the grace to get up out of my comfort zone, to stop yelling from across the room, and to image God to them by being the grace my kids need.
God wants to give my kids grace, I can see that. More importantly, I see how he wants to give it to them, and it’s through me.

Fun fact. My name, Anna, means Grace.
🙂

Soli Deo Gloria

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full; Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms – Book Review

Gloria Furman does it again. In this little book Furman goes through the truth of the Gospel: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then she takes that truth and applies it to the everyday mess and busyness that is motherhood.

The subtitle for this book says “… for Busy Moms” but to be real, what mom isn’t busy. This is for all moms. That being said, I cannot recommend it enough. It is a short 160 pages, which includes all of the notes and back matter. Yes, it’s a quick little book, but man does it pack a punch.

If you’ve ever read Furman before, you know what I’m talking about. Her writing style seems, to my eyes, to be heavily influenced by her life as a wife to a disabled husband, a mother to multiple children, a woman in ministry struggling through all the demands that work entails, and lives in a challenging international city in the Middle East. She does not have time for the fluffy, round about way of saying things. “Get to the good part! Tell me the good news, now! I need it!” Her words seem to say. That’s exactly what she does in this book.

Yet, there is not a sense of urgency or chaos, as sometime is the case when this attitude of immediate need is applied to writing. She presents the message, or the “Treasures” as the title puts it, of this book gently. With the tenderness of a woman, and a parent. It is a breath of fresh air after a long slog type of feel she gives in her writing.

I think this is mainly due to the content of this book. It is difficult to come across as harsh, chaotic, prideful, or condescending when you are presenting a message that is not essentially your own. Gloria Furman in this short, sweet book presents Christ, the Message himself, to tired, busy women, with children in tow. Her books is life giving, because Christ is. Her words are comforting, confronting, and refreshing, because Christ is.

She does this through, not her own words, but through the scriptures. I type this with a smile, for it is difficult to read farther than a sentence or two without some scripture reference or quotation. Further proving that this treasure, this good news, this hope, is not her message, but God’s message, is Christ himself presented to the world, and through Furman, funneled at mothers.

Moms, pick up this book! Read it. Re-read it. It is that kind of book that you can read a few paragraphs, filled with scripture quotations, as your quiet time and dwell on truth all day long.

I read this in the carline while I waited to pick up my children from school, with my toddler in the backseat. Grab a paragraph or two while you nurse (actually you may be able to get a whole chapter while nursing). Read a little while your kiddos do their homework next to you. It’s small enough to fit in most purses! Take it to work and sneak a chapter in on your lunch break. It’s not dense, so even a few sentences before you collapse into bed is possible.

If you’re not a mom, read it! It’s the gospel. It applies to you too. Better yet, read it, and pass it on to a mom. Then, you can have discussions about what’s in the book! What a blessing! And you will get much more out of it talking about it, as usually when you talk about something, your mind and heart dig into it a little deeper.

Whatever you do, where ever you are in life. Read on, friends!

Soli Deo Gloria!

How to encourage your children

Spoiler alert: I’m not very good at this.

I’m am not a natural encourager.
It is not my spiritual gift, if you want to put it that way.
I have an analytical mind, which delights in ruminating on all things, actions, words, ideas, jokes, dreams, songs, pictures, movies, turns of phrases. Everything! You pick something I will sit for minutes, hours, days thinking over it, dissecting it, pulling it apart, rearranging it, finding different possible meanings or intentions or directions or… Well, you see what I mean.

But, God calls me to love my family sacrificially, to “consider others as more important than myself” to paraphrase Philippians 2:3, to get out of my head and my thoughts and put love into action.

Encouragement is, I think, the most basic way to “put on love”, as Colossians 3:14 commands us to do.

My ‘three steps’ for how to encourage your children, or really anyone in your life.

1. Get to know them

The first step in how to encourage anyone, but especially our children, is to get to know them. Each child is different, in case you haven’t noticed, so each one will be encouraged differently.

For example:

My son loves a quick hug and a sentence saying how much I love him. A simple “I know you can do this” when he’s frustrated is just what his little heart needs to hear.

My middle child on the other hand would dig in her stubborn heels and let loose the sass machine if I said “I know you can do this”. I’ve tried. Her response was: “I know I can’t!”
For her, I have to do something different, because she is different from her brother.

Get to know your child. What helps, what doesn’t, what haven’t you tried yet. And remember, they are not just different from each other, but also your children are different from you! What would never in a million years be something you would like, may bring joy to their souls.

2. It will be inconvenient, so be patient.

This is less of a step and more of a reminder for you.

These moments when your child needs you rarely come when you are ready for them.

Before launching into fixing your kid’s problem, take a deep breath, calm yourself (and the situation if necessary), and set your heart in an attitude of patience. Because the whole point of encouraging your children is to love them. “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4), not ‘love is busy’.

3. Repeat the encouragement. Say it again. Today, tomorrow, in a week, in a month

Point made, yet?

Seriously though, keep encouraging your child! Don’t just do it once and check off the box. That’s not how it works. It’s certainly not how it works for you, is it?

Remember, we as Christians are modeling Christ, God himself, to our children (and to the world!).
God repeats himself a lot. A major theme in the bible is how incredibly forgetful we humans are, and how often God is reminding us, his people of who he is and what he’s done. Your children are humans too! They forget, and just like they need repeated instructions to clean up the Legos all over the floor for the eightieth time, they will need repeated encouragement and love from you, too.

“I know you can do this.”

“I love you, even when…”

“Here, let’s do this together.”

“I understand, sometimes I feel that way, too.”

“I hear you, thank you for telling me!”

“I love watching you play, can I play too?”

“Big hug and kiss?”

Go encourage your children today. (Or whoever you happen to be around today, tomorrow, any day of your life: your spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, coworker, neighbor, friend, etc.)

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Relationship-ing

During a pandemic? During a second shut down?

Yes and yes.

Life does not stop because of crisis, or rules, or sickness, or personal issues, or job losses, or stir crazy children, or school closures, or whatever. Life still happens. Importantly, relationships still happen. Most importantly, the calling and commands of God do not change (or completely evaporate) because of circumstances.

I am a wife. I am called and commanded to honor my husband.
Nothing going on has changed that.
I am a mother. I am called and commanded to teach, train, instruct, discipline, love, and encourage my children.
Nothing going on has changed that.
The fact that I am a mother, has also not negated the fact that I am a wife, and that the calling and command to honor my husband came before and trumps that of the calling and commands in regards to my children.

My relationship with my husband is crucial in raising our children, and my relationship with my husband takes precedence over the relationships with my children.

So, I need to take the time to keep investing in my relationship with my husband. I need to keep dating him.

Every couple is different. So finding what works for each couple will look different.
Some couples like to go out, do something different, explore the outdoors, do something service oriented, cuddle with a movie, buy each other sentimentally significant gifts, and so many other things.
For us, its talking. Yes, this pair of introverts loves spending hours together just talking. Talking together it how we date. It’s how we dated (literally, so many hours of college were spent just sitting in the Chick-fil-a parking lot talking, letting our food get cold, and our sodas watery).

So, maybe in a pandemic, or under certain shut-down/stay-at-home orders, formal dates are challenging. We love good food, so that’s been a change for us, not looking forward to that one time every few months to try some yummy food at a restaurant.
But, we have tried making new things at home, and ordered out (thank you Door Dash!) a good bit.
We like to give each other “just because” gifts. We can’t do anything real fancy, but my husband came back from the store last night with cranberry juice, my absolute favorite! So, you know, it doesn’t have to be fancy to be special. 🙂

I will say that although talking is a favorite for us, communication is not key to every relationship. Communication is essential to any relationship. There are no exceptions here. The more significant and central the relationship, the more important communication is.

No matter what relationship you are in: married, dating, single, child, parent, co-worker, grandparent, grandchild, teacher, student, friend, boss, employee. Keep investing in it, keep pursuing it, keep talking, keep doing that thing that connects you, keep working through those hard things that you butt heads over, keep forgiving, keep saying sorry, keep learning, keep teaching, keep being kind, keep relationship-ing.

Soli Deo Gloria

Patience? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

During this season of mothering littles, I find my number one prayer request being “that I would be more patient with my children”.

Man, I love my kids, and they never stop. I think the constant motion is pretty standard for littles, but it’s exhausting!
My youngest is still in diapers, and doesn’t have all her teeth in yet.
My middle has colossal meltdowns where no one but Daddy can calm her. My oldest is turning five at the end of the summer and will start kindergarten in the fall. I have a whole new set of things to think about! Have I prepared him enough? Does he know enough to be independent at school? Will he be kind to others? Will he listen to and obey his teachers? Will he get teased? Will he get in trouble?

My worries for my oldest, have often turned normal parenting moments into this “do or die” test, to see if he is really ready for school. Many days, my patience is gone before I even wake up, because I’ve lost sleep worrying.

But, God calls me to be patient.
Actually, He calls all believers to be patient, not just the “extra holy ones”. Patience is a characteristic of God we are called to have ourselves as his children. It is one of the many ways we image our heavenly Father to a broken world. This world has no patience.

So what is it? What is biblical patience?

Well first, let me tell you what it is not: patience is the not the same as waiting.

I don’t know why we think just waiting this is “good enough”. When we think about it, the act of waiting cannot be the same as patience, it just doesn’t make sense. I mean, have you ever seen a someone wait impatiently? Therefor, waiting cannot be what patience is.

Biblical patience is this: a Godly attitude towards circumstances and people, which is founded in and completely resting in God.
It’s an attitude of trust.
Why do I struggle with being patient with my kids? Because I am not trusting God. How did I diagnose that? Because I am worried.
More often than not, my attitude of anxiety has replaced the God-trusting attitude of patience.

When I get off, I need more of God, I need his word.
God’s word is our living water, our primary cause for heart change, and our gauge for our lives.
Here are some passages I found to do a quick study on what practicing biblical patience looks like:

Psalm 37:7
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Practicing biblical patience means not worrying about circumstances or even about evil people, but focuses on the LORD, rests in God’s goodness, in God’s good promises. Therefore, we can be still before him, and wait patiently for him.

1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant

Practicing biblical patience shows up in how we love others. See all the “not”s that follow? All three are me-focused. Therefore, a love that is patient and kind is others centered, it is God’s-will centered.

2 Corinthians 1:6
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

Practicing biblical patience is playing a long game, an eternal game. It is seeing our world for what it is, temporary, not our true home, knowing that the relatively brief pains now pale in comparison to a joy-filled forever after.

1 Thessalonians 5:14
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

Practicing biblical patience is remembering that those around us have an eternity ahead of them too. Dealing with others with patience infused love, focused on their good, not your own desires, or schedule.

How can we possibly do this? (That’s what I’m thinking, I’m sure at least some of you are thinking the same thing!) I lose my patience with my family all the time.

Here’s the progression: our love is shaped by our attitude of patience, which is caused and motivated by our remembrance of who God is and what he’s done for us. It’s all about perspective, and our perspective needs to stay fixed on God or we will get off track. On our own, we could never do it, but because God was gracious, loving, and patient with us first, and continues to be everyday of our lives, we can refocus our perspective, readjust our attitude, and restart our actions in a way that glorifies him.

Soli Deo Gloria!