Jun 112014

I walked into the laundry room carrying an armful of sheets just as he entered the adjoining bathroom. He was laughing to himself over something he’d just said, and he giggled out a, “Mommy, aren’t I funny?”

“Nah,” I kidded with a grin on my face…only he couldn’t see my face.

The bathroom door shut about the time I stuffed the first sheet into the washer. Faintly, over the running water, I heard him burst into tears. He wouldn’t have asked me if he was funny if he already knew for sure that he was. The sobs were quiet; they’re always quiet when he’s broken. I dropped the sheets onto the floor and I ran into the bathroom to find him sitting atop the toilet lid with his feet up on seat. Knees to chest he sat whimpering softly; I swept him into the air and quickly into my arms. I cradled him like he was much younger, because broken hearts need to be held.

“You’re hilarious, Baby! Do you hear me? Mommy thinks you are so funny. I was only playing with you. It was my joke that wasn’t funny!”

The incident was over quickly for him, but it lasted all day in my mind. How could I have made a joke that had the potential to break his heart?! I’ve tried to teach my children that a joke only counts as funny if it’s funny to everyone in the room. And this rule does not apply if you’ve controlled the room’s population: i.e. racists jokes at a White Power meeting are still not in the least bit funny.

I’m not attempting to rid the world of sarcasm (I don’t even plan to rid my own life entirely of sarcasm), but it’s important to remember that most jokes make their way into the heart of the recipient–at least to a small degree. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us have fallen asleep wondering, “Were they really kidding?” And many of us have cried quiet tears because someone’s joke touched a raw place in our hearts.


What’s “not funny” to you? If you were brave enough, what things would you ask your friends and family to please not joke about?

 June 11, 2014  Mommyhood Comments Off
May 232014

Today I ate a long, leisurely lunch. Yes, I feel this is blog-worthy. I have no photo evidence of this lunch, or of my lovely, adult-luncheoning friend, because I ditched my cell-phone again about two years ago. I rarely take “the real camera” out unless I’m expecting some big-photo moments. When big-photo moments actually happen, I rarely think to snap a picture. It’s a conundrum I’m hoping to solve rather quickly, as I fear my head is running out of hard drive space–or however that works with brains. But my camera is rarely present for the big smiles, anyway. The big smiles come like an unexpected rain. And unexpected rains cause the big smiles, too.

Sometimes we get lucky and catch them.

Sometimes we get lucky and catch them.

When the sixteen chicks that I’ve raised for eight weeks indoors have to spend their first rainy night outside, I don’t think to grab an umbrella…I just gasp and run. When the downpour turns torrential as I’m coaxing chicks from under the stairs and into their shed-turned-chicken-coop, I smile. When I lean out of the coop, head directly in the runoff, to scoop frightened chicks and toss them into the hay, that’s when the big smile comes. And when I return to my front door, dripping from cold rain, my children’s wide eyes turn to big smiles, too.

When my nine-year-old princess-turned-farm-girl runs toward me with a frog in her outstretched hands, my big smile mimics hers. When she says, “Mom, now I’m awesome like my twin!” and I grab her face and smoosh her nose with mine and scold, “You’ve never been anything but awesome!” we’re both smiling ear-to-ear.

When I cuddle and rock my nine-year-old sunshine right out of a sullen mood, and she looks up at me and squeezes my neck with a “Mom, I really want to stay little!” Well, tears hide behind the big smile with that one.

When my seven-year-old daughter peddles her first two-wheel bike with the excitement of an Olympic event, my heart might burst from all the smiling.

When my seven-year-old son conquers math and ninja kicks his way through Bible drills, there are big smiles and high-fives for all.

When my daughters set up chairs outside and invite us to their moonlit performance…

When my sons sit side-by-side being brothers when no one is watching…

When I wake up in the morning and see new little sprouts in the garden…

When I pull up in the driveway after my long, leisurely lunch, and my five year old gets his first glimpse of me as he looks up from playing with caterpillars on the porch, his big smile answers all of the questions of my life in one sweeping, joy-filled blow. And there aren’t any cameras around to catch it…but somehow I don’t think I’ll forget.



 May 23, 2014  Family Life, Mommyhood Comments Off
May 152014

{Originally posted on July 10, 2009. Still true today.}

While Cuddle Bug and I were discussing her smart mouth, she blurted, “I’m Cuddle Bug. I hate things.”

Now, as her mother, I know how untrue that is. She is one of the sweetest, most grateful, most loving children I have ever had the privilege of meeting. But it’s interesting, because we (my Bible study group) have just been discussing the fact that Satan doesn’t come at us saying:

You’re stupid.

You’re fat.

You’re lazy.

You’re a failure.

No, he says:

I’m stupid.

I’m fat.

I’m lazy.

I’m a failure.

He’s trying to convince my Cuddle Bug, at four years old, that she hates.

And that makes me mad.

“Noooo!” I said. “You are Cuddle Bug. You are a child of God! You love the things that God loves and you hate the things that God hates! Is Satan telling you that you hate everything?”

“No,” she quietly shook her head.

“Is Satan telling you, ‘I am Cuddle Bug. I hate everything.’”?

Her eyes widened and she nodded “yes”.

“Oh, Sweetheart,” I said as I pulled her close, “You’ve been listening to the Devil!”

“I’m a friend of the Devil?!”

“No, but the Devil wants to keep you from being a friend of God,” I said.

“But I love God and my family so much,” she replied.

“I know you do, Sweetie. But if we really love God, we have to obey Him.”

“But I hate the Devil, right Mama?”

“Yeah, that’s right Baby.”

 May 15, 2014  Christianity, Mommyhood Comments Off
May 132014

{Originally posted on December 9th, 2008}

I’ve been reading post after post lately about the pangs of LBS (Last Baby Syndrome). And I’ve been doing my share of pining too. With one still in the womb, I feel silly even thinking about being sad. And this might not even be our last baby. But then again, it might be. What if this is the last time I am 25 weeks pregnant?

One way or another, whether she has one or eleven, every mother will have a “last baby”. Someone will be last. Sometimes she’ll know it at the time of conception, sometimes she won’t grasp the reality until years later. But the sadness will most likely come. It’s really just a matter of time.

For the past week or so I’ve been consciously trying to identify the source of the last baby sadness. Is it wrong? Should we fight it? Shouldn’t we just be so grateful that they are alive, healthy, and growing that we cherish each new stage?

Well, yeah, I think we should feel that way. But we also have the right to be a little sad.

“And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

God, in His complete perfection, really just wants us to stay little too! Now that’s a vast oversimplification of the passage, but I do think it’s relevant. Of course He wants us to grow and change. He desires us to move past milk to solid food. But there is something in us, as babes, that He wants to protect. And I think that thing is very much at the root of our last baby sorrow.

He wants us to be totally dependant on, and completely loyal to, Him. He wants us to need Him with every fiber of our being.

Today I was sitting with the Lil’ Prince, cuddling in a chair. He started to get down to play, and I laughed, “Oh, where are you going?” He laughed, too, and he and settled back down beside me.

“Come play!” His sisters coaxed.

“No, I’m cud-ling mama,” he replied contentedly.

My heart leapt. “He wants to spend time with me!”

And really, isn’t that the whole point?

 May 13, 2014  Christianity, Mommyhood Comments Off
Apr 062014

It’s Saturday, and Saturday is my night. It’s a short night because we don’t get home from church until pretty late. But it’s my night, and I love it.

Each of my children get a night, every week, where they stay up later than the others so we can talk about their lives. As a homeschool mom who has just survived a long winter inside with my children, you’d think I’d know all about their lives without any extra effort…but you’d be wrong. I mean, I know the visible stuff. What I don’t know is the invisible stuff. And the invisible stuff is infinitely more important. On each of these talking nights I learn things I would never know if I didn’t take the time to pry…if I didn’t ask the questions they were dying to answer. I shudder to think of the doors left cracked for the enemy if some small secrets remained hidden to quietly grow and grow. Every night I am shocked, amazed, stunned, and proud to get to know the warriors I am raising. I ask them…


“How was your week? What was the best/worst thing about this week?”

“How is your thought life?”

“Have you had any good/bad dreams this week?”

“What are your sin struggles? How can I pray for you?”

“How are you working to improve _____ (something that was mentioned the week before)?”


Saturday is my night. It’s the night I take special care to approach the Father as His daughter…and to tell Him about my week. He already knows the invisible things, but He likes to hear from my heart. I know, because He’s a parent, too.



Jan 312014

Though it’s the oddest question one might pose to a single woman, women want to know how to get their husbands to lead.

“When is my husband going to become the head of our home? When is he going to study Scripture? When is he going to teach us? Time is passing…the kids are growing up! Is this ever going to happen?!”

This is my answer to that.

Godly women are constantly reminded by well-meaning preachers that children need godly fathers. Of course, this is a very real need. Satan works tirelessly to take out male leaders not despite but because of their strength. Their wives are belting out Sanctus Real at every possible opportunity. The problem is, to their husbands, “Lead me, please lead me! Please bless me and bless our children! Please be a godly man!” sounds an awful lot like nagging.

Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife. [Proverbs 21:19 NIV]

I’ve heard it said that mothers [alone] are not equipped to raise up and send out sons and daughters as men and women—that it’s impossible for them to do so. Well, we don’t believe in impossible around here. We do believe in ideal, and we know full-well we’re not living it yet. Ideal is a mother and a father functioning together in the same home; and where you have two spiritual parents, the father will and should lead. No, our family isn’t the model, but we’ve asked God to shine brightly through us and to work through willing vessels. He has. I’m not a father (my children already have two—one heavenly and one earthly), but I am a willing mother. And I sing a quiet song with Deborah [Judges 5:7-9 NIV].

Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.
God chose new leaders
when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.
My heart is with Israel’s princes,
with the willing volunteers among the people.
Praise the Lord!

I believe we live in a society much like Deborah’s was. There are godly men and fathers, but there aren’t enough of them. Satan has stolen our men by way of addiction, pornography, pride… Even two-parent, church-going families often lack a husband who leads. Praise the Lord this isn’t always the case! But where it is, there is hope for us as mothers–more than hope, there is purpose and joy. Because He molds us in our weakness (because He promises us wisdom for trials [James 1]), God equips us to be everything our family needs in the exact moments our family needs us (whether we are married or not). God sees us. He honors us, and He works through us (despite of if not because of our gender). We don’t have to try and be something we’re not. Mothers are leaders; He made us to lead…and in leading to shape generations.

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I love reading through the accounts of kings in the books of Kings and Chronicles. Many of the genealogies in Scripture give little or no reference to the mothers, but this is not true with the kings. Most of their mothers are named. First we learn the king’s name and at what age he inherited the throne; then we learn his mother’s name. Lastly we learn whether he was righteous or wicked and whether he walked as his father had walked.

Joash was seven years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest. [2 Chronicles 24:1-2 NIV]

Kings rule countries and fight wars, they do not have the time to raise kings. We are told the names of these mothers (who were, for the most part, eventually widowed) because, for better or for worse, they can be credited with the deeds of their sons. This does not discount the importance of godly fathers, but it does make a case for strong, empowering, life-giving mothers who are not waiting for their husbands to father (or pleading with them to do so). A trustworthy queen does not usurp her king nor take any authority from him. But as his wife, she has authority. She is not weak; neither does she wait for him to do those things that could be easily done by her. He can trust her; he puts his faith in her, and that faith is well-placed.

 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. [Proverbs 31:11 KJV]

I am reminded of the Shunammite woman. If you don’t know her story, you can read it in Second Kings chapter four. The short version is that she spotted the prophet Elisha, she could tell he was a man of God, and she begged him to eat at her house. He did. Whenever he passed through town, he had an open invitation. Out of a desire to bless the work of the Lord that was so visible in Elisha, she talked her husband into adding a room onto their house just so Elisha and his servant would have a place to stay when passing through. All of this was her idea, but her husband didn’t seem to mind. I believe he trusted her.

After a time, Elisha asked the woman what he could do for her. Shunem must be south of somewhere, because she blessed his heart and told him she didn’t need a thing. Because his servant noticed the lack of children, however, Elisha promised her a child. This is a dream she had long since buried, and she was overwhelmed with emotion. But just as Elisha had said, the Shunammite woman had a son.

When her son was five years old, and outside with his father, he developed a terrible headache. The father sent him inside to his mother, and the boy died in his mother’s arms. The Shunammite carried her son up to Elisha’s bed, and then she asked her husband to fetch a donkey so she could go and visit Elisha. Her husband briefly questioned her reasons, to which she answered, “Everything’s fine.” In fact, “Everything’s fine” became her mantra until she was face-to-face with the prophet.

Elisha returned with the woman, and God raised her son from the dead. There is no further mention of her husband (who may have missed the entire ordeal while he was working in the field). One thing is clear, she did not tell him their son had died! Was he spiritually weak? Would he have lacked the faith needed for resurrection? Would telling her husband have simply been more than she was ready to bear? Scripture is not clear on this point. Whatever the reason, this earth-shattering need was a matter between the woman and God. The Shunammite woman did not throw herself at the feet of her husband; she did not beg him to lead or to do his job. She knew her role as a wife, and she knew her role as a mother.

While we should pray that God will raise up our husbands and empower and inspire them to lead, these prayers cannot be based in fear or in strife. We should be too busy raising up kings and queens without any doubt in our ability (or in His to work through us). He promises to Husband and Father where we have need or lack, but we have a job to do. It’s time to do it.

“I am a woman, but I am also the mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you, yet in your long absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my charge as a talent committed to me under a trust. I am not a man nor a minister, yet as a mother and a mistress I felt I ought to do more than I had yet done. I resolved to begin with my own children;”

– Susanna Wesley to her husband during a time of separation



 January 31, 2014  Mommyhood 6 Responses »
Jan 222014

What’s the hardest number of children? Have you seen this topic, lately? After watching it run across my Facebook newsfeed a few times in as many months, I’ve started to ponder the question. What is the most difficult number of children? And, more importantly, why would someone even think to ask that?

The short answer, I think, is: “However many you think it is–that’s the most difficult number.” I chortle a bit at those bloggers who have estimated the lucky (or unlucky) number at three. Because, of course, all those estimating three to be the hardest number actually have three children. But what do I know?! I never had three kids. To be honest, though, I do not imagine five to be the hardest number. I think five might be just enough to let me in on a simple fact of addition and multiplication: the more children you have, the harder it’ll be (especially until they are old enough to take over the farm or take care of each other). One could  add a dozen children to my home (to babysit), and I wouldn’t find it all that difficult. This mother of five has learned to coral kids, cook in bulk, play drill sergeant, etc. with the best of them. But what I’m really asking myself is: What’s the hardest number of children to mother (pray over, study, discipline, talk to, raise)? I believe that each individual child requires intentional, individual time (even if you can’t give them as much as you’d like to). So hats off to you and your sixty-nine kids, Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev. Oh, and hats off to Mr. Vassilyev as well. 

The reason that three is perceived to be harder than one or two and harder than four or more is not baseless, though. It actually makes a lot of sense. From my experience watching friends and quizzing readers, mothers of less than four often have very high expectations. Their children are regularly dressed to the nines, and they participate in everything. Wow, it wears me out just to type that. Now, I know that any generalization is going to miss the mark quite often, but I think mothers of four are at least a little more likely to say to their children, “OK, pick one extra-curricular thing you want to do. This year.” This likelihood increases exponentially with the number of children (of course the need for outside activities exponentially decreases, because there are sports teams forming in the backyard).


It’s not true for everyone, but I think the average mom these days was at least slightly prepared for the number of children she would be raising before ever having her first. Many moms of “more” dreamed of a full-house long before filling theirs up; because of this, they’ve probably structured their lives to accommodate the lack of perfection, money, and time. Ummm…or is that just me? Motherhood is chock-full of opportunities for failure; where and how a mother surrenders to and accepts her own failure goes a long way toward embracing her joy. Mothers of more might seem less stressed simply because they envisioned parenting in organic simplicity. They weren’t planning on perfection (or they’ve long since abandoned their ideals). Often times, they weren’t planning on doing anything but parenting with their twenties and thirties (and forties?). This might sound like a terrible dunk in an icy tank of drudgery, but this mom of “many” might feel the same way about trading lives with anyone else.

For those who have hypothesized that smaller families are harder to raise than bigger families (based on watching the Michelle Duggars of this world and imagining that grace comes with the territory), here is my response to that: Here are the things that multiply with the addition of children:



I don’t know if any mom relishes the job of laundry. It’s never ending, and the washing is the easiest part. Once it’s clean and dry?! Fuhgettaboutit! So, I refuse to wash my children’s clothes until they are dirty. And many days I just order them into new underwear, cause the clothes (or pjs) from the previous day look and smell just fine. This is one of the many perks of homeschooling (nobody is gonna pick on them for wearing the same thing two days in a row). And, yeah, I take full advantage. If I were to wash my children’s clothes after every wearing, I’d be washing at least 70 articles of clothing (not counting socks and underwear) every week. That’s compared to the minimum of 42 articles required to clothe 3 kids. That’s the power of multiplication!



See laundry. Except, the dishes are all cleaned after use.



This year I bought my kids Hanukkah presents (Hanukkah doesn’t require gifts, but who doesn’t like buying their kids things!). That’s forty presents just to do something minimally! Shoes, clothes, groceries, mommy dates…this same multiplication is true (and terrifying) with everything.



Same as above.


There are some things that decrease with the addition of children, though, and it’s these decreases that might cause moms of a few to guess that moms of four or more have it easier. Come to think of it, maybe we do–though this secret is available to all moms. (Come on, friend, hand over the piping bag and the Pinterest list. It’s going to be okay.)

Of all the things that have increased in my life since having children: noise, love, stress, joy…the thing that has decreased is my expectations (see my rules for washing laundry). But oh, they started so high. Sometimes I shudder to think of the maddening run my life would be if I’d had few enough children to make my dreams remotely possible. Instead, God placed four babies into my lap within sixteen months. Then He chuckled and hid for a bit. I had to look to find Him.

Find Him I did, and I found Him in quiet moments with children who require little more than food, clothing, and shelter (both physically and spiritually). I still find Him while lying in the darkness and praying over each soul placed in my care. Time has decreased and each moment has become so precious. Standards have fallen, and grace has filled in the gaps.

Each day of parenting young children is like digging a swimming pool (the same one again and again). I wake up and begin to dig through the same ground I broke the day before. My shovel clanks against the same rocks. As the sun rises on my back, I begin to sweat. The frustration over repeated digging is almost too much to bear. “I just did this yesterday!” I sometimes moan. But by late afternoon, the water begins to run and the pool begins to fill. I can hear it gushing, but it’s not time to swim. Not yet. As the sun rides a cloud to the underside of the world, I dip my feet into the water. And as darkness comes, I float. How I love to float with my children. Of course, the morning sun will rise to reveal the same unbroken, thirsty ground…the same shovel for my blistered hands. One day, not too long from now, I’ll wake to indented ground; it’s already beautifully tilled and scarred. And someday in the future, I’ll blink sleepy eyes at a pool filled with sparkling water. Someday all my effort will show–it will stick. But not today; today it’s still time to dig.

I believe that the number of children one has does not determine the ease they’ll find in parenting them. That ease, that grace, comes only through surrender to something so hard it will break you, and something so beautiful once it finally does.

 January 22, 2014  Mommyhood 8 Responses »
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