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A blog to support, encourage, and mentor at home moms in all aspects of home making and family life.

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Thursday
Feb282019

The Life Changing Value Of Finding A Mentor

 

Few people in your life will be able to guide you like the ones who’ve already been, where you are now.  Fewer still will be interested in trying.

Everyone is busy.  Everyone has their own commitments and concerns, their own priorities for their time and their energies.  So if you find someone, just a generation ahead of you, who you relate to, and they to you, grab ahold of them and don’t let go!

When I was a young mom, with a newborn and a 17 month old, as well as an ambitious self-employed husband, who left the house at 6am and got home somewhere between 10 - 11pm every night, I was about to lose my mind! 

 

"She listened, and understood, and cared.  She didn’t try to solve all my problems, although she easily could have!  Instead she walked alongside me, and pointed me in the right direction to solve them myself."  

I would pace our tiny house, crying babe in arms, while our toddler would wander around my feet happily chattering, “Dada, Dada, Dada.”  

“Ya!  Where the heck is Dada!!!  It’d be nice if he was around a bit!  It’d be nice if he was ever here to talk to me, and help out a bit!!!!”*  
(*Note: I’m not saying he was in the wrong, to go out and work himself to the bone to solely provide for our rapidly growing family.  But it sure felt like he was at the time!)

There were days that I quite literally thought I was losing it!  The girls who had been my close friends just a few years earlier, were backpacking through Europe, working on their degrees, the other Moms were 8-10 years older than me, and not interested in hanging out with the young mom.**  I was in the most damanding stage I had ever experienced, and I didn't have a single actual "peer" to rely on. 
(**Again, for the record I was in my 20’s, but it was the 90’s, no one seemed to be having babies before their 35th birthday!)  

There was no Facebook, no Instagram, no texting or email, there was no Pinterest. There wasn’t even Netflix to provide the diversion of Paw Patrol at whim. Just magazines and Sesame Street between the hours of 8am - 9am. 

But there was also…  my mother-in-law. 

Who, I, after getting up at 5:30 with the baby, and talking only to our toddler since 6:00, would call day after day, AT 7:30 IN THE MORNING, ‘Just to chat…’  And she never acted like she minded!  

She would listen, to my mind numbing stories about weaning, sleep training and household budgets.  About discipline issues and frustrations with her son. Yup, I told her when he was bugging me, and all the things I had decided he was doing wrong.  And you know what… not only did she never pick up the phone with a pointedly sleepy voice, so I might take the hint that it was too early to ‘chat.’  She never even rushed our conversations!!  She never ‘had to be somewhere.’ She would listen, and talk through each of my concerns, she would offer kind advice and tell me about when she was a young Mom.  That she remembered how lonely and isolating it could be. She just seemed to know and understand how learning to navigate a marriage while at the same time learning how to mother, was overwhelming.  

"...it took 8 years for me to realize that what I had been given was a once in a lifetime gift. Someone who was fully invested. Someone who actually knew all the answers and was willing to take the time, to help me find them."  

She would remind me that my husband was not my enemy, and that he was only trying to do his part in creating our life together.  She would ask if the kids and I wanted to ride along when she went to the mall, knowing I didn’t have a car at home once my husband had left for work.  She listened, and understood, and cared. She didn’t try to solve all my problems, although she easily could have! Instead she walked alongside me, and pointed me in the right direction to solve them myself.  She didn’t buy me fish, she taught me how to fish!!

She died in 2006.  At the age of 62. When I was just 37, and still needed her desperately.  She died from a horribly invasive and very long bout with breast cancer. And I mourned her.  Hard! I kept looking for her equal another. In other older women, just one generation above me.  I kept thinking if I could just find someone who I connected with in like mindedness on parenting, marriage, faith, homemaking…  that this new woman, could fill the agonizing gap losing my mother-in-law had left in my life.

I never did.   

And after about 8 years I stopped looking.  But it took 8 years for me to realize that what I had been given was a once in a lifetime gift.  And that it wasn't coming back.  A gift many of my friends never had. Someone who was fully invested. Someone who actually knew all the answers and was willing to take the time, to help me find them.  Who always had my best interests at heart. Who I admired, and was happy to emulate.

Looking back, at all she gave me, and all she taught me, I can see so much of her in who I am now.  And that’s what I want you, young Mom, to know.  To really hear.  That the good things in life, the really instructive, important, lessons, won’t always be there for you to learn.  That if you have someone in your life, who’s guiding you, take heed. Now! Listen and learn, emulate and ask the questions.  Now! While they’re still there to give you the answers. 

I would say, that looking back, from my 50 year old, 30 year marriage, vantage point, that I didn’t really grow up, until I finally realized that there was no one ahead of me steering the ship, and that there wasn’t anyone coming.  There were no lifeboats for me to cling to anymore, or climb into if the seas got rough.

When it finally dawned on me, that I had to figure things out for myself, was when I really began to learn from my mistakes, instead of looking for someone to tell me how to fix them.  I began to look hard at what I’d done wrong, and expressly purposed not to it do again. To plan ahead, to book in advance, because no one was going to make things right if I’d forgotten something.  To gather the family, cook the turkey, hide the eggs, if I wanted special memories for my children.  And to strive to understand what my husband was feeling, to listen better and to respond more kindly, if I wanted a peaceful, harmonious marriage.

Ya.  The benefits my mentor, my mother-in-law, gave me were two fold.  She gave to me during her life, and in her death. During her life, she taught me, comforted me, instructed me.  And in her death and through her absence, she forced me to become the woman I had been inching towards under her tutelage, but had never really had to become, until I lost her.

I’m very proud of the ‘mature woman’ I’ve become.  Recently on the morning of my 50th birthday, I sheepishly admitted to my husband, that ‘I like me.’  And that I was proud of myself.  Something only age and experience could have taught me to recognize and appreciate.

I’ve grown into the woman I followed, the woman I admired.  I’m not exactly like her.  I wasn’t trying to be. I proudly carry so much of the beautiful homemaker and mother, my own mother was to our family.  I’ve been influenced by the acceptance and security I’ve found in the 30+ year friendships I have with girlfriends, and the soul stirring love and belonging that my husband and daughters have given me.  

We’re all combinations of so many people’s influences in our lives.  But during a time, when I was drowning with new responsibilities, and no peers with whom to talk it through, she was my life line.  She kept my head above water.   She required more of me, simply through her elegant example.  And showed me, that I had to work through these necessary, hard, early years, to build something of strength.  To become someone the people I love can lean on, someone a family can be built around.

I love my roll as matriarch of our family, it suits me.  I see my grown daughters often and I’m ferociously proud of the marriages and families they’re creating, of the lovely and godly women they’ve grown to be.  I dote on my four grandchildren.  I love them so much I could bite them!!!  But it didn’t come easily, or quickly. It didn’t come without a price, and a whole lot of hard work.  And it most certainly didn’t come without the selfless investment of someone above me, older than me, who had already been where I was.  Who already steered through the choppy waters I was navigating.

This knowledge weighs on me.  It holds me to account. I’m very aware of what I was freely given.  And of my responsibility to freely give it, as well.

Motherhood is hard.  It can kick the crap out of you, bring out the worst in you and make you feel like a failure.  It can give you the sweetest, most tender moments, as you learn selflessness, forgiveness and to respond with tenderness even through exhaustion, and somehow find the physical strength to continue caring for these precious little souls God has entrusted you with.  Who look at you as the beginning and end of their whole, little world.

Motherhood is an astounding honour.  One that requires much support, and much advice to maneuver well.  My prayer for you, is that you will find someone who’s been where you are now, and can guide you, from a place of wisdom and understanding.  And my commission for you, if you are that  person, is to give of yourself.  To invest in those younger than you.  Who are struggling. Who are still learning.  And who sometimes feel they will drown under the weight of it.  It’s so much harder than we remember through hindsight. The exhaustion, the relentless demands, and the terrible guilt when you get it wrong.  Be the hand, be the voice that comes along and makes it a little easier. They won’t always need you. But hopefully, one day, when they no longer do, they will have become, just a little bit of you.

 

Sunday
Jan272019

Just Because Your Husband Is Driving You Crazy, Doesn't Mean He's Doing Anything Wrong

There’s an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry’s wife, Cheryl, wants to separate, and he is pleading his case to stay.  She tells him, something along the lines of;

“When you were working on Seinfeld, you got up everyday and left, when you came home you had things to tell me.  Now you’re just…”

Larry, “Always around.”

Cheryl, “Ya...”

Larry, “It’s too much Larry!”

Cheryl, brightening that he understands, “Yes!  Yes! It’s too much Larry! I mean I like you and everything, but you’re…”

“Always around!”

“Yes!”

“We can do less Larry, I can do less Larry!”  He concedes, happy to have understood the problem.  “I can go out, I can do things.”

My husband and I howled when we watched this!  “Too much Larry,” has become a shorthand expression within our marriage, for - ‘I like you, I just don’t need to be around you quite this much…’

 

"I’d try to figure out why he was driving me crazy, what he was doing.  I’d pick something, and start an argument based on that."


After the Christmas holidays this year, I was getting snarky with my husband.  He wasn’t doing anything in particular, it has just been a lot of togetherness.  I was ready to get back to my regular schedule and routine, without him being there…  all the time… in my kitchen… wanting to ‘hang out.’ I was done hanging out. I was ready to get back to work, and just because the home is our home, it’s also my office.  It’s my place of work. I would no more lean up against my husband’s desk while he’s working, or lounge in his office chair wanting to ‘hang out,’ than I want him under foot when I’m in work mode at home.

The funny thing is, he doesn’t find the Too Much Larry concept anymore offensive than Larry did on the show!  In fact as soon as New Years was over he was up and out of the house first thing, off to his office and out of my hair.  I hadn’t even said anything, he just understood that I’d had Too Much Larry.

We were laughing about this, and realizing that a lot of the arguments we had earlier on in our marriage - we’ll hit 30 years this June - were probably, more about Too Much Larry, than any real problem or situation.  When the younger me was bugged by him, I’d think to myself, ‘Augh! You’re driving me crazy!’ And then I’d try to figure out why he was driving me crazy, what he was doing.  I’d pick something, and start an argument based on that, when really, if we’d come to this understand earlier on, we could have simply admitted we’d come to a Too Much Larry stage, and given each other some room.

In an effort to promote a more peaceful relationship in your home, I’d encourage you to think about this next time your husband is bugging you.  Is he really doing something that needs a big conversation, or argument, or have you just had Too Much Larry? Or maybe he’s had too much time with you, and doesn’t know how to express it, maybe he’s the one creating conflicts out of a frustration that he can’t quite place.  Either way. Introducing the concept of Too Much Larry into your marriage, might be as helpful for you as it’s been for us.

It’s worth a try!


 

Thursday
Dec132018

Shouldn't The Scandal Surrounding Christmas Be That A Virgin Gave Birth To The Son of God?

 

My mother will start to worry, beautiful, what's your hurry?

Father will be pacing the floor, listen to the fireplace roar

So really I'd better scurry, beautiful, please don't hurry

Maybe just a half a drink more, put some records on while I pour”

Lyrics, ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside,’ Frank Loesser, 1949

 

“...God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God...”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”

Luke 1:26-38, Holy Bible, New International Version

 

A man making somewhat aggressive suggestions that a woman stay when she’s saying she should go.  

A teenage virgin being spoken to by an angel, telling her she will conceive and bear the Son of God.

I don’t know about you, but shouldn’t the scandal surrounding Christmas be the latter?

Have we really allowed the real message of Christmas to become so watered down that no one even worries about the fact that, for six weeks each Winter, the majority of the western world celebrates the central tenant of the Christian faith - a virgin birth?

I’ve heard and seen countless, protests and counter protests regarding the boycott of a trite, trivial Christmas jingle.  How ridiculous and touchy our culture has become, how terrified men are becoming of women, how the song was written for the composer’s wife.  What I haven’t seen, is one person posting about how ridiculous it is that we all celebrate a baby, born two thousand years ago to a scared teenage virgin.  Not a single meme going around Facebook, not one article quoting doctors or scientists testifying to the impossibilities of a virgin giving birth, outside of a laboratory.  Not a peep. Why? I think I know.

 

"Let this be the scandal.  Let this spark protests and boycotts and memes.  Tell me I’m crazy for agreeing with this, believing in this!  Not some jingle."  


Because as a Christian, who loves the Lord, and spends time most days reading the bible and in prayer - do you know how I’ve spent my December thus far?  Buying presents, decorating, planning outfits for parties. Yes, I’ve gone to church, yes, I’m going to help out wrapping presents for underprivileged children, but so?  There’s nothing, not one thing, about how I’m spending my Christmas season that would merit a protest from non-believers. Not one thing I’m doing that would offend someone or cause them to boycott or denounce any of my actions, because they’re not any different than what everyone else is doing.

Yes, if you asked me, I would tell you that Christmas, for me, isn’t just about a joyful season, but the celebration of the birth of my Redeemer, Christ the Messiah.  But no one asked, and so I haven’t said, so no scandal, no protests, no boycotts. No message, no meaning, no sharing of the hope that I’ve been given through that baby born two thousand years ago in a barn.

At first I was drawn into choosing a side in the ‘Cold Outside scandal,’ but today, this morning, as I read the Bible, I realized how easily I’m distracted, how easily I’m drawn into the noise, and away from the message.  How impotent I've become, and how embarrassed and ashamed I should be by that.

Should men respect women?  Yes. There, that’s the end of that discussion.

Was a teenage virgin visited by an angel, told she would bear the Son of God, conceive, give birth to a baby who would grow to manhood, be charged with blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah, be convicted, crucified, die and be raised back to life on the third day, and in the process conquer the claim sin and death had over the souls of mankind?  Yes. Can it change your life, give you peace and emotional rest, give purpose to your life when all the presents and parties and celebrating don’t? Yes.

Let this be the scandal.  Let this spark protests and boycotts and memes.  Tell me I’m crazy for agreeing with this, believing in this!  Not some jingle.  

Christmas is the remembrance and celebration of the birth of God made flesh.  Of the divine, coming to earth, quietly, and in the most humble of circumstances.  It’s God’s love letter to us. The Almighty reaching out, wanting us back. Not wanting our sins and sinful nature to separate us from Him and his holy nature any longer.  It is the ultimate act of love, the sacrificing of that most dear to Him, His only Son, to win back those who didn’t even care that they’d lost Him.

This is the joy and the scandal of Christmas, this is why ‘the soul felt its worth.’  This is the scandal I’m celebrating.




 

Wednesday
Dec202017

What You Ignore Is What You Allow

 

When it comes to kids, what you ignore is what you allow.

Same thing.  

At least as far as they're concerned.  

Because once you've ignored something, your child understands that she can get away with it.

It's definitely easier to pretend we didn't notice.  The sassy response, being 20 minutes late for curfew, little ones touching things they've repeatedly been told to leave alone or running away, giggling, when they've been told to come.  We can ignore these little things easily enough, they're small, relatively harmless, the world won't end.  

No.  But things will escalate.  Once behaviour has been ignored, your child has learned that it's acceptable.  

They've pushed and won.  Now they want to see how far they can go, how much rope, how much slack, you'll give.

Of course they know you don't approve, but they also now know you're not prepared to do anything about it.  That basically, you won't bother.

This is one of the toughest parts of parenting.  Consistency.  Actually bothering.  Even about the small stuff.  Even when you’re tired, or they’ve worn you down by pushing the envelope over and over and over again!  Following through and calling them out, time, after time, after time.  Until, instead of them wearing you down with persistent rebellion or disobedience, you've worn them down, with consistent follow through.

Because just like a toe over the line, if you give an inch, they'll take a mile.  They'll learn that you can be pushed.  But if the minute that toe stretches across the line you've drawn in the sand, you swat it back, they'll learn, (after they've tried it a dozen or so times), that it's just not worth it.  That you won't give in.  That you mean what you say.  And believe me, I promise you, this is a very valuable lesson to teach them.  Early!  This is the lesson that leads to you being able to trust them with the car, or leave them alone for a weekend, while you and your husband go away together.  Knowing that they know, that if they break the rules while you're gone, there will be consequences, and that it's just not worth it.  It also leads to their respect.

Now, here, like other times, I will interject and say, that the rules you defend need to be fair.  That they need to be about the safety of your child, the respect of your home or you as a parent, they are not about you lording your authority over them just because you can.  Those kinds of rules will only lead to frustration, rebellion and certainly the loss of, not only your child's respect, but also their affection.  Whereas if your child understands the reasons for your rules they can't really argue about you enforcing them.  Little ones need to be taught to simply obey what Mommy or Daddy says, older children and teenagers need reasons.

It's all too easy to turn a blind eye, especially when you’re tired - which I get, is most of the time.  But believe me, it will turn about and bite you in the butt later.  The exhaustion you endure now, will pay off in the future.  Be fair, be firm, and be consistent.  And if they continue to push there needs to be consequences.  Not idle threatens, not ranting and raving.  Consequences equal to their offence.

Don't pretend you didn't notice.  Don't pretend it's a game when they don't listen.  Don't beg or coddle or promise things if they will just do what you're asking.  They know you know what they did.  And they're waiting to see what you're going to do about it.


 

Saturday
Sep022017

Into The Eye Of A Hurricane

As I write this my children are preparing to fly into a hurricane.  Literally and figuratively.

Literally - Hurricane Harvey.  

Figuratively - What the US State Department has warned to be, "the risk of traveling to certain parts of Mexico due to the activities of criminal organizations in those areas." 

My daughter, her husband, their 3 1/2 year old little girl Poppy, and 7 1/2 month old baby boy, Skipper, are, as I write this, on a weather delay at LAX waiting to fly to a Mexican airport and then travel, (now, with the delay, at night), to a small village where they will live for the next 3 months. 

I am, in a word.  Sick.

In a few more words, anxious, worried for their safety, and on the verge of a panic attack - I know what they look like, I've had one before.

I am also convicted.

Convicted that they are stepping out in faith, to go and serve others, trusting God to meet all their needs and protect them, while I stay here, in my very comfortable home, and worry.

Knowing how I was struggling with their decision to go, last week my daughter gave me David Platt's book, 'Radical.'  She said "To help you understand our thoughts about this."

The thing that really ticks me off is the further I get into this book, the more I do understand their thoughts, I understand that they want to step into the eye of a hurricane, with their children and allow God to care for them.  Ticked off because I'd rather cling to not understanding.  I don't want to understand or condone anything that puts my loved ones in danger.

In his book, 'Radical,' Platt recounts a story of a English Pastor, George Muller (1805 - 1898);

"(Muller) pastored a church in Bristol, England, for more than sixty years, but he was best known for the orphan ministry he began.  During his life he cared for more than ten thousand orphans.  Remarkably, and intentionally he never asked for money or other resources to provide for these orphans.  Instead he simply prayed and trusted God to provide."

Platt continues;

"When I read Muller's biography, I was shocked to learn why he started the orphanage.  His primary purpose was not to care for orphans.  Instead, he wrote in his journal:

'If, I a poor man, simply by prayer and faith, obtained without asking any individual, the means for establishing and carrying on an Orphan-House, there would be something which with the Lord's blessing might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God, besides being a testimony to the consciences of the unconverted, of the reality of the things of God.  This, then, was the primary reason for establishing the Orphan House…  The first and primary object of the work was (and still is:) that God might be magnified by the fact, that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith without anyone being asked by me or any fellow-labourers whereby it may be seen, that God is faithful still, and hears prayer still.'"

Crap. 

Do I believe in God?

Yes, absolutely.

Do I believe He is all powerful?

Yes, without question. 

Do I believe he can keep my daughter and her family safe?  Build their faith, heal their emotional wounds, allow them time to rest and reassess their direction in life, serve others, all while they're in Mexico?

Wait.  I mean I know He can….  

Do I believe He loves them more than I do?  That he made each of them?  Knew them while He formed them in their mother's wombs?

Well ya, but… 

Father I believe, help my unbelief.

I do believe in God.  I do love Him, trust Him, believe He is the Creator of all things, believe he set the sun and moon on their courses.  I do.  I believe these things to my core, I am not having a crisis of faith, I'm having a crisis of trust.  Of letting go and feeling at peace about it.  It's my crisis, not God's.  He hasn't changed.  He hasn't moved.  His arm is not shortened.

When our daughter and her husband lost their second daughter, Goldie Bloom, who was born between Poppy and Skipper, who lived just 10 precious days, we turned to God and He carried us.  We weren't angry.  We didn't question Him.  The person I questioned was me.  My thoughts were rampant with self blame; Could I have done something, shouldn't I have seen the signs at the end of her pregnancy.  These thoughts tormented me for weeks.  Twisted my stomach with grief and regret, kept me from eating, caused me to sleep 18 - 19 hours a day just to escape my own recriminations.

And then one day I woke up a realized these accusations weren't coming from the Lord.  And I started telling myself what He tells me, that He loves me, died to reconcile me to Himself.  That He is in control, He decides when we're born and when we die.  I don't know the days numbered for me or anyone else.  Goldie's days were 10.  That was when I learned the importance of speaking to my heart and mind what God has told me to be true, not letting them speak to me

Left to my own devises I can fill my own head with all sorts of recriminations and in the case of Mexico, worst case scenarios.  Is it responsible to take off to Mexico in the midst of a drug war?  Probably not.  Is it radical?  Most certainly.  Does God know where they are?  Of course He does.  Am I okay with that?  I'm trying to be.  But what I am choosing to speak to my worried Mumma's heart and mind is not what I feel, but what I know to be true; 

 

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'"

Jeremiah 29:11