My Word for the New Year

The first day of the new school year, Rosh Hashanah, my birthday, New Years Day. All of these are new beginnings, fresh starts. I love fresh starts. I love a good excuse to evaluate and set new goals – makes me feel productive and refreshes my hope in the future.

This year, my RSS feed has been full of new years resolutions, goals, and focuses for this coming year.  I wanted to write something myself, but I was finding myself stuck. I had lots of ideas, but I didn’t know if they were from God, or from my own self.  So instead of blasting full-strength ahead, I’ve spent this week meditating on different things, and I believe now have some direction for 2014.

First of all, I wanted to have an anchor word for 2014.  Something to hold to when my world gets topsy-turvy and I’m losing my focus again.  My anchor word is Intentional.

Intentional.

It’s not all that unique or creative of a word, but it’s where I believe God wants me to focus this year.  In life, we have many seasons.  2013 was a year filled with pregnancy and caring for a newborn.  It was a year of gripping on tightly to the roller-coaster and trusting God to see me through.  And of course, He was faithful as He always is.  When barely holding on, counting the hours of sleep on one hand, it’s hard to live with much intention.  I’m okay with that, though.  I know that the wild ride is part of the season of newborns and new beginnings.  I enjoyed the ride and have so many sweet memories from those months!  I learned a lot about prioritizing my life and letting go of things that don’t truly matter.

Now we’ve begun 2014, and I am thankful for that year of prioritizing and letting go, and it has opened the door for me to live with more intention in this new year.

There are a few areas of my life in which I want to be more intentional.

1. My Walk with God – I desperately need to get back to my daily (pre-kids-waking) quiet time.  I did well on this until Micah was born, and since then it has slipped away.  Must get it back.  Must pursue my God with reckless abandon.   Must hide His Word in my heart. I’ve been a reader of Ann Voskamp’s blog for a few years now, and every year she puts out a Scripture memory challenge.  This year I’m going to do her challenge from 2012, which is to memorize the Sermon on the Mount.

2. My Relationship with Mark – When you introduce a new baby into a family (even if it’s baby #5!), it changes the dynamic of the marriage.  It’s hard to find time for each other when you are constantly caring for the needs of a baby completely dependent on you. Mark and I agreed early on that in those early months, establishing security and trust in our new baby was highest priority, so there have been many times that our own needs have gone on the back burner.  And that’s okay for a season – but it’s SO important to make up that deficit as soon as you can!  And that’s the season that we’re in now – time to make up the deficit.  I was inspired and challenged by Sarah Mae this week to be more intentional in my relationship with my beloved.  I am going to commit to praying for him daily, continuing our bi-weekly dates (and being more creative in planning some fun activities for us this year!), and pursuing him in the bedroom as well. 🙂

3. My Relationship with my Kids – Having 5 kids is hard work.  Hard.  It’s amazingly wonderful, and the blessings far outweigh the work – but it’s still SO hard.  The hardest thing for me is knowing how much I want to pour into each of my children individually, but feeling inadequate in doing so.  There is just only so much time in the day, and there are so many nights when I put my kids to bed and realize that we never really had a chance to connect during the day.  This year, I want to be more intentional about connecting with my kids. I want to listen better and laugh more. I am going to aim to spend one-on-one time with each of them every day (even if it’s just a few minutes).  I am also going to commit to praying for them daily (oh, how many days do I forget that?).

4. Everyday Life – Life gets so filled up with so many things.  Laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, errands, doctors appointments, the list goes on and on.  This past year I was able to purge my life of a few things that didn’t belong in it anymore, but it’s still so full.  Part of being intentional for me will be learning to be more efficient.  Also, I need to cut down my internet time in a big way.  I need to use the internet with intention – not just as a mindless way to disengage from the craziness.  Anyone else there with me?

2014.  Here’s to a year of intentional life!

– Judy

Anchor Points

Life has been rather chaotic around here lately.  I would love to say that things are smooth and I have adjusted to life with five children, but the reality is that life with a newborn is rarely ever smooth!  There are constant bumps in the road, and every time you start to get into a groove, something major changes and you have to readjust all over again!

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, with the holiday season upon us in full-force.  With everything that has happened in our life in the past 6 months, I have had a tendency to allow the busyness to derail us from truly living. At the same time, I have had an almost panic desperation about cherishing every moment, knowing how fast this stage of life will be all over.

I need to find a way to cherish all the important moments, but also keep the laundry and dishes clean – know what I mean?  The mundane and the priceless collide everyday in these parts, and I feel a bit lost as to making the most of it all.

The other day I was remembering reading about the value of “anchor points” – places in your day, week, month, and year that “anchor” your family.  Essentially, the idea is that no matter how crazy your day, week, or month becomes, if you stick to your anchor points, it will bring rhythm to your days and help calm the chaos.

So I’ve been thinking about what these “anchor points” are in our family, and I thought I’d write them down here – share them with you – and maybe it will help you in your journey of mothering!

Daily Anchor Points

1. Breakfast Devotions: I lead a short devotional every morning as we eat breakfast together.  This usually centers around character development, and right now we are going through “Our 24 Family Ways: Family Devotional Guide,” by Clay Clarkson.

2. School Time: I’m working to make school time a more anchoring time for us, and not a point of struggle.  I am trying to achieve this by focusing on connecting with my kids instead of focusing on educating.  Relationship is primary, education is secondary.  🙂

3. Tea Time: My kids are so much like me in that they can’t get enough quality time.  I also have a love affair with good tea and coffee!  I enjoy my morning cup solo, but in the afternoon, we are working on establishing a “tea time” together while the younger two nap.  They LOVE it, and it helps everyone stay in good spirits, which of course helps school go well too!

4. Daddy’s Return Home & Dinner: I’m working on also remembering a daily clean-up time right before Mark gets home so that the house is inviting and all put together before dinner. I try to play fun music to help motivate them, but sometimes this is still a challenge!  Still working on it though.

5. Bedtime: We are pretty involved in bedtime.  For the 3 older kids, bedtime includes lullabies (really worship songs) and backrubs with a “lullaby rub” I made with coconut oil and a blend of Young Living Essential Oils.  It smells amazing and knocks my kiddos out.  😉  The younger two both nurse and rock.  I usually lay my toddler-girl down and hold her hand while she falls asleep, and I rock my baby to sleep and transition him to the co-sleeper.

I also have my own “anchor points” in the day that are strictly for me – my morning quiet time (which has been rough-going lately due to way too many nights of teething and little sleep) and my evening time.  After the kids go to bed, I try to get some reading in, enjoy a cup of tea with my hubby, and maybe get a fix of Downton Abbey or another show we’re currently addicted to.  😉

Weekly Anchor Points

1. The Sabbath: The Sabbath is by far, the most powerful anchor point our family has.  Given to us by God, the Sabbath offers a reprieve from the world’s demands and influence – a day to rest our bodies and invigorate our souls.  We keep a Biblical seventh-day Sabbath in the traditional way, from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, but the principle of resting applies if you rest on a Sunday too.  God gave us the Sabbath because He in His divine wisdom knew that we needed that day to rest and focus ourselves back on Him.

Practically speaking, for our family this means we only do work that is necessary for our family to function in peace (I have to still feed my family, make sure we have washed dishes, strip peed in beds, etc.).  We keep the TV and computer off as much as possible (although we still stream live feed from our Seattle congregation).  We enjoy relaxing pursuits such as drawing (kids), crochet (me), playing music, or playing games together. And most importantly, we worship together as a family and study the Word together, as a family and with other believers.

2. Wednesday nights: Wednesday nights are an anchor point, mostly for me.  Every other Wednesday we alternate between our date night, and my ladies’ Bible study.  So I know that Wednesday nights are always a night for me to be refreshed – a very important thing for a busy mama!

3. Sunday morning church: We’ve recently begun attending church on Sunday mornings again.  We’ve found a community where we can serve and grow, and are looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us there.  After church we resume our normal Sunday to-do’s and such, but Sunday mornings are now another anchor point.

Annual Anchor Points

1. Holidays: Keeping the Biblical holidays has always given our family a full calendar of anchor points throughout the year, but I will admit that there have been many times that a holiday has passed us by without getting the full weight that it deserves.  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to bring more meaning and memory into our holiday celebrations.  I am working on a family devotional for the Biblical holidays from a Christian/Messianic perspective that I hope to share with you all as I complete it. I’ve also been taking advantage of Pinterest to find ideas that we can use (sometimes changing slightly) to add to our celebrations.

2. Seasons: I really want to do more to embrace the seasons that God has given us.  I’d like to work to develop seasonal traditions, learning to appreciate the year in a more cyclical way.  I’m thinking I’m going to get this book: The Rhythm of Family for some inspiration in this area.

3. Birthdays: Having a family of 7 people, we celebrate a lot of birthdays around here!  All of our birthdays fit almost exactly into 6 months of the year, and I have been thinking about also doing little celebration for the 1/2 birthdays during the other 6 months.  I have heard some really neat ways to do this, and I really love the idea of honoring my kids individually again during the year.  We are also working on developing more birthday traditions as the kids get older, but right now we keep it simple with the birthday child choosing the 3 meals of the day, and cake/presents after dinner.  We also take off of school for birthdays.  🙂

 

So, what about you?  Have you ever thought about establishing “anchor points” in your family’s life?  What anchor points to you already enjoy?

Blessings!
– Judy

Why Choose Motherhood?

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As a young woman, I never personally questioned whether or not I wanted children. I looked forward to marriage and motherhood with an excited longing, even in my teen years. Thankfully, this desire was balanced with a pretty high standard for what I was looking for in a husband, so I didn’t rush into mothering just for the sake of it, but I digress…

Lately I’ve had a few interactions that have caused me to spend some time thinking about the choice of motherhood. In this culture we live in, children are often seen as a hindrance, as an expense, even as a lesser-quality life (one complete with diapers, spit-up, messes, quarreling, and so much work).

While I would expect this in a world apart from God, what pains me so much to see this attitude in the church! I know so many Christian couples who don’t want kids because of the lifestyle changes that children bring, or the expense associated with them. I know of parents encouraging their children not to have very many children because of similar reasons.

My friends, this post may be a bit more blunt, but I really believe this message is important. I hope it encourages you to stand strong in your commitment to parenting, or softens your heart to it if you’re not sure where you stand.

Reasons Why to Chose Motherhood:

1. Refusing to have children is not biblical. People can argue this, but the fact is that God calls married couples to have children. He commands us to multiply (meaning increasing in number through the generations), He calls children a blessing over and over throughout Scripture, and has created the family structure for a specific purpose.

2. Because God has designed parenting as the natural outcome of marriage, it is a major source of development and growth that you were designed to have. I may catch some flack on this, but I firmly believe that nothing in the world can develop your character the way that parenting does, and if you chose to live your married life without children, you will never know the fullness of maturity and development that God intended for you to have. (Although if you have been unable to have children, you have grown through a unique trial as well.)

3. As a Believer, I also believe that life begins at conception. I may catch flack for this too, but this is so important and many people tiptoe around this issue: Practically speaking, this means that most non-barrier forms of birth control (including the pill and iud’s) are off-limits. Why? Because they all function, either primarily or secondarily, as abortifacients. They make the uterine environment such that an embyro cannot implant and continue to grow, causing it to abort without the parents’ knowledge. Heaven is full of tiny souls whose parents don’t even know they exist! If you are trying to control your family’s growth, please, please be fully knowledge about your method of prevention!

4. By avoiding children, couples are allowing fear and/or selfishness to rule their lives instead of God’s truth. Fear can take many forms – it can be fear of change, fear of not having enough (money, time, etc.), fear of society’s judgments, fear of personal inadequacies. And I understand this! Honestly, I do. We have worked through every one of these fears. But the truth is that God promises to provide. He loves us so much more than the sparrow! If He creates a life, He will provide for that life. Does it mean sacrifice? Yes, it usually does. But like I said earlier,parenthood will grow you and develop you more than you can imagine. It is well worth it!

To close, I want to say that I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of never limiting your family size, and I understand that we all have our limits! (If you haven’t read about our journey with family size, just go back a few posts!) I’m not suggesting that you should feel guilty about not having any certain number of children.

But I believe that we need to foster a culture of life – one in which children are always considered a blessing and couples are encouraged to have families without fear!

Thoughts?

Priorities, Goals, and Passions

Earlier this week, I wrote a list of confessions I called, “10 Confessions of a Super Mom.”  I wrote it in response to a few comments I’ve received lately, as well as all the comments I get in passing from random strangers (“I could never do that!”).  Because the truth is, no one is Super Mom, and at the same time, we all are.  We are all doing the best we can with the support, knowledge, and well-being we have at that time.  But that post got me thinking.  How do we measure our success?  Do we measure ourselves by someone else’s measure?  Is it an arbitrary measure based on our feelings that day?  I think we can all agree that there are days that we really struggle with our own measure of success and feelings of failure.

So I wanted to write down a few thoughts I’ve had recently about measuring success.  Here’s the thing – my measure of success is not the same as yours!  Isn’t that a freeing thought?  Your success is going to look totally different than mine.  We will likely have some things in common, but certainly not everything.  And that is OKAY.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be!  God made us individuals – not made from a cookie-cutter mold!

I would like to propose that there we should measure our success by 3 things: our priorities, our goals, and our passions.

Our Priorities

We all have priorities.  Some of them may be well-thought-through, maybe some of them not so much.  I would strongly suggest that you take some time (with your spouse if you’re married) to figure out your true priorities and write them down.  You will have family priorities and individual priorities.

Here are mine:

1. Cultivating a heart that seeks God and finding my rest in Him.

2. Honoring my husband and passionate loving him.

3. Being an example of godliness for my children, demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit.

4. Cultivating deep, intimate friendships with my children.

5. Creating a home of peace where hospitality is practiced regularly and freely.

 

Our Goals

Taking our priorities to a more practical level is done by making goals.  We should have a variety of goals that cover our priorities – short-term and long-term.  Again, this is a great thing to take some time to pray about (with your spouse if possible) and write down.   It’s also very important to re-evaluate these regularly and make adjustments as much as you feel you need to.  And also?  It’s totally okay to let go of your goals if you decide that they no longer fit in your priorities!  There is so much freedom in letting go of a goal, especially because we can often hold guilt over these.

Our Passions

This is another important area of life that I feel sometimes gets overlooked!  We focus so much on the “big stuff” – like our relationship with God and our family.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, those things are most important.  But many of our passions have been given to us by God and they are a big part of what makes each of us unique!  If you don’t realize that and understand that there is much life to be had in enjoying what you’re passionate about, you’re going to end up living a very unfulfilled life.

Now, maybe this should go without saying, but I’m talking about healthy passions here, not harmful or sinful ones.  They should be things that complement your priorities, not pull away from them.  Things like knitting, cooking gourmet, running, crafting, writing, gardening, etc. are what I’m thinking of.  These are ways that we renew ourselves, refresh our souls, find beauty in the everyday.  And as such they are important also.

 

When I am pondering how I’ve been doing recently as a mother, wife, and individual, this is where I go.  I go to my priorities, goals, and passions.  Am I living my priorities?  Am I working toward my goals?  Am I enjoying my passions?  When I can see myself doing these things, I know that no matter what my emotions that day tell me, I am successful.

On the flip side, when I’m not feeling good about my life and I can’t seem to pin down why, this is also a great place to start!  By looking at these 3 areas, I can usually figure out what is being neglected and can either adjust it accordingly (let it go and release the guilt!) or make a game plan for making it better.

In addition, this is a great filter for deciding whether something belongs in your life.  Whether you’re thinking about spending money, time, or resources on something, you can compare it to your priorities, goals, and passions to decide if it’s worth the expense.  As you make a habit of doing this, you will find that your life is where you want it to be, because even when things don’t go the way you’d like, you know what’s important to you and you are making those things your focus.

 

Blessings,

– Judy

10 Confessions of a “Super Mom”!

Hahaha… I’m chuckling as I write this.  I’ve recently had a few people comment on how amazing it is that I can parent 5 kids and homeschool them, or have home births, or something like that.  So I wanted to take a lighter look at my life as a busy mom.  I give you 10 Confessions of a “Super Mom”…

 

10. I do NOT dust my house.  Like ever.  If I pull a book off a shelf and happen to notice it’s dusty, I *might* just wipe it off, but the rest of the shelves?  Not a chance.

9. I am a perfectionist.  Ugh.  Do you know how hard it is to be a perfectionist when you have 5 kids ages 7 and under?  I have really had to work hard at not getting stressed out over things not being “perfect.”

8. I have horrible handwriting.  Seriously, it’s just awful.  If I concentrate I can make it nicer, but…  It is so unfeminine and I’m totally embarrassed by it.

7. We are late for everything.  It’s almost funny, except not…  😉

6. I don’t exercise.  I really don’t.  Every time I have tried to get into working out, it lasts a couple weeks at best.  I just don’t enjoy it and have a horrible time motivating myself.

5. I yell at my kids.  This is one of those more serious confessions.  I really don’t “believe” that there’s any benefit to yelling, but anger has always been a challenge for me and sometimes it comes out.  It just does.  Ugh.

4. I struggle with cooking dinner, hate lunch, and have delegated our breakfast oatmeal to Eliza.  My former love for cooking has died a slow, painful death.  Or it’s at least in a coma…

3. I can’t remember the last time I deep-cleaned our house.  I keep it surface-cleaned to a moderate level because I enjoy having people over and a messy house stresses me out, but deep-cleaning?  I guess it happens at Passover…

2. I have a major tendency to put way too much on my plate.  Then I end up doing a halfway job at stuff.  I’m currently working on weeding my life a bit – pulling out things that shouldn’t be on my plate at all.  (More about this soon)

1. I struggle a lot with comparing myself to others.  Comments about my parenting often make me uncomfortable because while I believe that God has given me to my children, I have a hard time not just seeing my weak points and struggles.

 

Truthfully, I think we’re all “Super-Mom’s.”  God has given each of us to our children, and He knows exactly what He’s doing!

How are you doing today?  Are you seeing yourself as God’s gift to your kids?

More on this later…

– Judy

Introducing Our New Addition!

I’m currently laying in bed next to our beautiful little baby boy, Micah Jonathan. He was born last night, and now I’m going to write my final birth story.

**Warning, following is the birth story of our little Micah. There is some typical birth-style graphic content.**

Well, first of all, our birth journey – like all journeys – didn’t start here. It started 9 months ago when we discovered that we were expecting a surprise baby. That was the start of an emotional 9 months, filled with all sorts of trials and triumphs. (You can read more about it by clicking on the “About Me” link above)

These past few weeks were especially challenging, with a trip to Colorado, increasing pelvic pain, and sheer exhaustion from not getting very solid sleep. As my due date approached, I found myself thinking and praying often that the Lord would bring this baby close to his due date (May 22nd), and not 2 weeks late like his big sister was. When this day came and went, I decided that the weekend would be perfect – Mark already had an extra day off of work for Memorial Day. But alas, the weekend came and went too.

Once again, I found myself second-guessing things and grappling with trust. What if he was late like his sister? Would the birth go okay? Why was God “pushing the limits” of what I felt I could handle?  I lingered in the land of doubt and worry for most of the weekend. Monday evening, Mark and I took the kids to the aquarium, which was a good diversion – and even more, it was a lovely evening of focusing on enjoying the children I already have, which we all really needed.

In the middle of the night Monday, I awoke to contractions. They were eventually strong enough to get me out of bed, but then spaced back out and I went back to bed to awaken with nothing. Tuesday morning in my quiet time with the Lord, I took some time to try to realign my thoughts with His, remembering that He was watching over both Micah and I and would bring about labor in His time. That night, the same thing happened as the night before, only the contractions were stronger.

Wednesday morning I continued having contractions, but very far apart – every half hour or farther. I knew things were progressing, but figured it was going very slowly and started looking forward to my ladies Bible study that evening. But first, I decided to mow the lawn. 🙂 And we don’t have a power mower either – it’s a reel-style! I finished the lawn around 4pm and the contractions had picked up in frequency quite a bit. At that point, I figured it was probably just due to the exercise and waited to see if things continued. Around 5pm, I could tell that the contractions weren’t letting up, so I let Mark know how I was feeling (he was home) and started cleaning up around the house.

At 5:30, I began timing contractions and making last-minute preparations to our birthing space (master bathroom). They were around 5 minutes apart. Over the next hour, the contractions increased in intensity and became 2-3 minutes apart. I checked his heart tones, and they were good – around 140bpm. I filled the tub, and Mark got the kids settled with dinner and a movie, telling them baby Micah was on his way.

At 7:05pm, I got into the tub, which felt amazing. Seriously – water birth (or even labor) is so relaxing! After about 10 minutes, and a couple of longer breaks between contractions (which I desperately needed!), I started feeling a slight urge to push. I know that this is the final part of first stage, as the body is transitioning into the pushing stage, and I kept telling myself that I was almost done. It was hard though – the pain was intense and the anxious feelings of transition are near impossible to ignore.

I finally started pushing around 7:25, and it was a bit different than previous labors. I didn’t really have strong urges to push with defined contractions. It was more like a constant need to push, and I did as much as I felt I could without risking tearing. As I was pushing Mark noticed that his bag of waters was broken, but I had no idea when it had occurred. His head was born, then his body just a couple of pushes later, at 7:40pm. Mark supported my perineum as best as he could and caught Micah, lifting him immediately above the surface of the water (all while leaning over the edge of the tub because things went so fast he couldn’t get in!).

Both of us were immediately struck by how blue he was. Most water babies are a bit purple, or even blue in the extremities, but he was blue everywhere. We immediately set to work trying to get him to breathe, rubbing his back and soles of his feet, and warming him up. He had a very short cord, which made things especially tricky. After a couple of minutes, we decided to get him out of the water, so Mark helped me out and we resumed simulation. We sucked out his noise and mouth several times and kept rubbing his back. He was breathing, but not regularly, and slowly pinking up in his torso. I then delivered the placenta, which went smoothly with no hemorrhaging, praise the Lord!

About 20 minutes after he was born, he was almost entirely pink, and things were stable enough that we called the kids up to meet their new baby brother. What a sweet time that was! They were all so excited to meet their brother and see this little guy that we have been waiting on for so long!

Around 8:45pm, we cut our little guy’s cord and nursed for the first time, which he loved. His cord was short – only 17 inches or so, which might explain why it took so long to go into labor (that happened with Avigail too). Since then he’s been doing great! Loves to nurse and snuggle and had a few periods of wonderful alert time today.

We also chose Micah’s middle name today. Name meanings are very important to us, and this is what his name means:
Micah- “Who is like God”
Jonathan- “God has given”
We chose Micah because of the nature of our surprise pregnancy and it’s reminding us of the sovereignty of God, and we chose Jonathan because he is absolutely a gift to us!

I’m not exactly where to go from here. This journey of our 5th child has been such a road of growth for me, and I am so thankful for the grace of God in giving me another child! I’m thankful for the opportunity to have an unassisted birth, thankful that the Lord gave me the instinct to push him out quickly, thankful that he pinked up well despite his slow start. I’m thankful that I get a chance to tandem nurse, thankful for one more little boy, and thankful for the peace I have in closing this chapter in our lives.

But most of all, I’m thankful for the ongoing lesson of trust that He is teaching me, and pray I can pass this on to my children. Our God is so good, His love for us is never-ending, and He wants to give us good! But so often we don’t know ourselves what good really is, and that is where trust comes in.

Many blessings to you on whatever road the Lord has you on, and may you find trust and peace on the journey!

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Embracing Simplicity

The view from our friends’ home!

Last week I did something I never thought I’d do – I drove to Washington with my 4 kids, 34 weeks pregnant, without Mark. I was missing a good friend, and the time away sounded like exactly what I needed before this baby makes his appearance.

The trip was fantastic – the kids were content during the drive and I managed to stay awake with the help of my friend Red Bull. 😉

We spent the majority of our week at our friends’ home in the country. For 5 days, we had no internet, no cell phone, and no TV. But what we did have was priceless: the kids enjoyed being with friends they’ve known all their lives – with 5 acres to explore and play, the river to splash in, mud to muck around in, tepee-building, dog-chasing, and snake-holding. Inside, I was in heaven with the wood-burning fireplace in constant crackle, good food always cooking, yarn to crochet, books to read, and of course, wonderful conversations with my dear friend.

When we arrived home Sunday evening, I was unpacking the car, trying to hold my emotions in check. When I got to a pile of blankets that smelled strongly of wood smoke, I broke. I missed my friend, and I missed the peaceful, serene setting of their home. I missed the simplicity of our lives for that short week. My kids did too. They asked multiple times about moving there, wondering what it would take.

I spent yesterday unpacking our things and re-aclimating myself to our home. I spent a lot of time thinking about what made our friends’ home so special (other than the presence of our friends, of course!). The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the simplicity of their lives. There weren’t buckets of toys, but the toys they had encouraged creative play. No matter how hard I try, I feel like our home us taken over by toys! The kids were outside a lot, and dirt was embraced. That’s something I need to work on! Food was simple, but healthy and full of flavor! Mmm… I will dream about that steamed artichoke with roasted garlic goat cheese for weeks to come, I’m sure! And the flow of their days allowed so much freedom to be together and truly enjoy each other.

So, my goal these next few weeks is to harness my nesting urge that’s kicking in, and use it to simplify our lives a bit. How can I declutter our things and our time? How can I rearrange our home life a bit to make my priorities the priority again?

What about you? Any plans for simplifying your life a bit this spring? What are you thinking of removing or rearranging?

Blessings!
~ Judy

 

Here are a few more pics from the trip!

Playing at the river!
Cozy reading in front of the fire
Getting muddy in the pond

The Closing of a Chapter

This week marks the closing of a chapter of my life. My husband is getting a vasectomy.

For the past 8 years, my life has been consumed by motherhood. And this has been one of the greatest blessings I have ever known! Through my children, I have learned so much about myself and grown in character more than I ever would have imagined possible.

For the past couple of years, the size of our family has been on my mind almost constantly. When we first got married, Mark wanted 2-3 kids and I wanted 4-6. A few years into our married life, I was introduced to the “quiverful” teaching- basically the idea that since children are a blessing from God, we should desire many and not do anything to prevent them from being given to us. I was enamored by the idea of a large family and started imagining myself as a mom of 8+ kids. Mark, on the other hand, agreed that children were a blessing, but couldn’t find Biblical support to mandate or even push never limiting your family size. For several years, this wasn’t an issue, because we were both happy with the growth of our family. After having our second daughter (giving us 2 boys and 2 girls), Mark decided he wanted to be finished having kids. I, on the other hand, wanted more. I worked to come to grips with the fact that I was going to be a mom of 4, all while hoping that Mark would “see the light.”

Last year, we received quite a shock to find out that despite our “best efforts,” we were expecting baby #5. (Read all about it here and here) It was a major adjustment all over again. And this time, we started really talking seriously about doing something permanent to close this chapter in our lives. I studied and decided that I could not agree with the idea that Scripture teaches against limiting your family size. So we agreed that Mark would have a vasectomy done. And I was mostly okay with that.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I had an emotional breakdown about the whole thing. I realized that I still had a deep desire for more children, and didn’t want that option taken away from me. I spent an evening sobbing, then the next day sat down with Mark and told him how I felt. I felt like I was completely torn in two: part of me wanted to respect my husband’s desires to move on in life, and the other part couldn’t bear the idea of never having more children. He listened and said that he would be happy to postpone things until we were on the same page.

For the next several days, I took a lot of time to sort through my thoughts and emotions, and to pray for direction and peace. I searched out wisdom online, and was disheartened to find that it was nearly impossible!  I found plenty of horror stories, reversal stories, and women who were excited that their husbands were having it done, but what I was looking for was like finding a needle in a haystack!  I finally found one story that spoke to my soul.  It was entitled, “Loving Him Means Letting Go” (and apparently it has since been removed from the host website it was on, or I would link to it).   The dear wife wrote about her struggles with giving this area to her husband, and how much peace the Lord gave her about doing so.  (One of the biggest reasons I’m sharing this here is that hopefully, someday, my story will touch someone else as hers has touched me.)  Anyway, I was relieved and honored that Mark was willing to postpone the vasectomy despite his feelings, but over several days I became convicted that I was only listening to my own emotions and desires and not giving full consideration to Mark’s.

So one day I asked him point blank, “Is there any chance that someday you’re going to want more kids?” His answer was pretty certain. “No, I’m very happy with the children I have and am ready to move on in life, out of this stage.” His concerns were valid: having young children is exhausting, and we want to maintain quality relationships with our children, not simply get by. He wanted to have enough time to invest in our kids’ lives and not be so overwhelmed that we have nothing left to give at the end of the day.

At that moment, I had peace. Peace that it was okay to be done. Peace that I was going to be happy and fulfilled with the family I have. Peace that honoring my husband was going to strengthen our relationship and ultimately our whole family. So I told him to move forward with his appointment, that I was okay with it.

I’m currently in my 35th week of pregnancy, and I’m trying to savor every moment of it. Every little baby movement is a gift, and most days I sit and spend a few minutes in thankfulness for this last chance to experience pregnancy and birth again. Each of my children are such a gift to me, and I’m excited about moving into this next phase of life – childrearing instead of childbearing. And I know that with my wonderful husband at my side, this next chapter will be just as life-changing and priceless as the last one!

~ Judy

Working on Being a Servant Mother

Over the past several years of parenting, no one has had a greater influence on my parenting heart than Sally Clarkson. Though I’ve never met her, I feel a kinship with her. Though she is a generation older than me, her past struggles are the ones I work through every day. I know, so mushy! But it’s totally true. I can’t tell you how many times her writing has brought me to tears because it’s like she’s reading my innermost thoughts- those ones I’d never voice on my own.

So as the new year kicks off, I’m rereading my favorite book by Sally, “The Mission Of Motherhood.” And since it blesses me so much every time I read it, I want to share a little bit of it with you. If this blesses you, please, please go get her book. It won’t let you down!

Chapter 4 – The Servant Mother | Mothering With The Heart Of Jesus

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

When I first opened this chapter, I realized that I’d never thought about this verse in the context of mothering before. But if it applies to friends, how much more should it apply to our children?! We are to disciple our children, right?  Yeshua served His disciples.  He gave of His life in a literal way. We will most likely not have to do this, but were can give our lives in service every day. Every time you have to set aside that cup of coffee you just poured, or trade a moms night out for a child-date, you are sacrificing of your own life. You are demonstrating the greatest kind of love.

A few powerful thoughts from Sally:

“Choosing to be a servant mother means willingly giving up myself, my expectations, and my time to the task of mothering – and choosing to believe that doing so is the best use of time at that moment.” (page 66)

“I made a decision in my heart years ago, as I began to understand this principle, that God did not want me to resent my children for taking up my time. Neither did he want me to make them feel guilty for the sacrifices on had made on their behalf. I was called to give up my rights simply out of my love for Jesus. If I had struggles and complaints over the years for these issues in my own life, they have been between me and the Lord, not between me and my children.” (page 69)

“My children didn’t need me to be on top of all my chores or even to be perfect in taking care of all their need. What they need was for me to be content and patient with life. They needed me, as a mature Christian, to walk by faith that God was in control, allowing His Spirit to give me peace and joy in the midst of life’s inevitable ups and downs.” (page 72)

This is one of those areas that I’m constantly trying to find balance on. I have a habit of not taking time for myself to be refreshed- giving until I crack. So I’ve been working on finding time for myself again- daily quiet time, reading encouraging blogs while I put Avigail to bed, cups of tea throughout the day, etc. I’m working on going for quality over quantity in those set aside times. And it’s working pretty well. Most days. But what about those days when I feel like I’m losing my mind? Those days that I melt down to a teary, depressed mess?

I think this chapter comes at a perfect time for me. It gives balance on the other side of the equation. Yes, time for refreshing is critical. But when that time is found interrupted by the myriad needs of my little ones, the messes, dirty diapers, and arguments, what happens then? I don’t have the right to throw a pity party or become resentful of my responsibilities. I just don’t. Because, ultimately, I’m serving my Lord.

So, this week I’m trying to remember this elemental fact: I am serving the Lord by serving my children. My attitude to them is ultimately to God. And I want to be the kind of mother who really does demonstrate the servant heart of our Master to my children.

~Judy

I’m working on compiling a list of practical ideas for serving my kids! Will you take a moment and comment with something you do for your children to serve them?

The Great Priority Challenge

Priorities.

Seems like a common thread running through so many of my thoughts over the past several months. So often I come to the end of the day or week and find myself unsettled about the way my priorities have been stacked those past days. I realize that the bulk of my time had been spent doing things with no eternal value- surfing Facebook, Pinterest, or a favorite forum, researching random things online, you know the drill. These “smart” phones aren’t really so smart for us when its all said and done, are they? Then there’s the things that do have value but become entirely too important. Planning homeschool curriculum, learning how to make new, healthy meals, organizing family photos. Valuable, but in balance.

Anyway, since the new year began, I’ve been working on reassessing my day-to-day life – trying to make my actions line up with my priorities. This is my first blog in a month, and I’ve been mostly quiet on Facebook as well. It’s not been easy, and it’s still a work in progress. But I’m figuring some important things out. We’ve established a good school routine that is working well for everyone so far. I’m trying to nurture my kids more and fight with them less. I’m really enjoying my relationship with my husband again and feel like I have more ability to meet his needs than I used to. I’m keeping up on housework (mostly). And I’m figuring out how to fit “me time” into my life again. I feel good. I feel capable- not perfect- but capable.

And here’s the thing. God has given me this life. He didn’t give me your life or you mine. He knows us inside and out. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. And He promises that He has given us all we need for the life that He has given to us. But we still have to do our part. We have to be proactive about keeping ourselves in check. We have to foster our relationship with Him so that we are living in the fullness of His Spirit. And we have to keep trying- keep making baby steps, and trust Him to help us up when we fall. Because we will fall. I will fall. I will react again out of anger instead of responding in love. And I will do it again. Because that is the nature of being human.

So I want to encourage you today. I want to challenge you to take a look at your priorities, and then take a look at your life. Do they complement each other? Is there something taking up too much of your life that shouldn’t be? Can you let something go in order to experience more of the life that God has for you- the life you ultimately want?

May the strength of the Lord be with you. This journey we’re on is hard, but eternally rewarding!

~Judy