Friday, October 21, 2011

Birthday Letter #6 to Jaycie October 2011

Dear Jaycie,

It has been so encouraging to watch you grow this last year of your life. To hear you excited to spend time with your friends at school makes me smile. While I love the moments you want to snuggle, I know God created you for more than just a relationship with me. I want others to know our fun, loving Jaycie the way we do. You’ve come such a long way from being attached to your Mama, Little Lama.

You thrive on making others laugh. I enjoy listening to your funny stories and witnessing your silly antics. You have a special way of brightening our lives.

The questions you come up with seem never ending. You are one smart cookie who desires answers to her inquiries. I pray your questions will drive you closer to God, that you will accept the fact that certain answers will not come this side of Heaven and remember we are saved by grace through faith. Sometimes, you will just have to embrace the answers God has given us and have faith for the rest.

I am so thankful that memorizing comes so easy for you. While we are working to get you to actually sound out words so you can learn to read rather than just memorize the stories, it does our hearts good to know memorizing Bible verses for AWANA is not a problem. It is so very important to know the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word to us and it allows us to know His voice.

One of my fondest memories of your sixth year of life is family prayer time. When it is your turn to pray, your eyes are open as you scan the room. You begin to pray and then continue on with one thing you see, moving on to the next thing your eyes catch and so on. You even thank God for yourself in your prayers. And that you should, because you are His masterpiece. Sometimes I wonder if your prayer will ever end and then I remember that my desire is for you to stay in constant communication with our Lord and Savior.

Dance was a highlight of your summer. While I screwed up and only taped the one dance instead of two, it was so fun to watch you in a comfortable element. As you practice tap or show me how you can balance on the tips of your toes, I find myself wishing we could dedicate more time and money to dance for you.

We love to watch the moments you and your sisters get along. I know it can be difficult for you sometimes with Andelise being so little still, but you are doing a good job of being her big sister. Probably because you have such a good example that you look up to.

I enjoy watching you play because it reveals so much about you. You seem to be an expert at puzzles and Legos. Daddy is so excited that you want to make creations out of Legos with him. When I see you swinging, there appears not to be a worry in the world. You get so excited to see Treasure and Loyal when Grams comes over. Although you don't want her grown puppies to jump all over you, you welcome being close to them when they calm down. Sitting down next to them, you pet their heads and talk sweetly to them (the same way you do when you give our Pup a kiss on the cheek and tell her you love her). This, as well as the moments I catch you playing with your baby dolls or Barbies, are especially endearing to witness.

I’m sorry that I cause your smiling face to crumble with my lofty expectations. I am working to learn what is truly important and to let go of the rest. My prayer is that you and your sisters will know how very much I love each one of you. I realize my faults and sins may cause you to question my love at times. I am imperfect and therefore, my love is far from perfection as well. If I can raise you and point your eyes and direct your heart to the only one who can love you perfectly, then, my dear daughter, I have mothered well.

I desire so much for you, Jaycie. For today, I want you to have friends that will bring out the best in you. Every day, I hope your family relationships will grow strong and be quality for a lifetime. It is my hope that the community we surround you with of friends and church family as well as our God-given family will allow you an earthly glimpse of God’s love for you. My hope for your future is that you will have a man love you the way your daddy loves me because God intended the marriage relationship to mirror our relationship with Him. Ultimately, Jaycie Mariah, my prayer is that you will live your life in grateful response to the love God demonstrated through Jesus’ death on the cross for you. For there is no greater love and this is what life is all about.

Please know how very much I love you and please forgive me for the times I mess up. I’m thankful God gave us you. My life is richer because you are in it and I am better because of my relationship with you. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for you this next year.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Daughter's Reflection of Me (October HAH Blog Hop)

I’m grateful that we are back to the monthly Hearts at Home Blog Hop today. For October: Tell us about that time at the playground when that thing happened.

It seems like it is so easy to get embarrassed or irritated with things my children do. Too often, I believe that their actions are a reflection on me. Sadly, the expectations I put on my children are too lofty and too much about myself.
The moment that keeps blaring in my mind when I think of my girls and outings with our friends was more of a disappointment than anything else. It was one of the first fits I recall my oldest daughter throwing. We were on a walk to the library with her first or second grade class. (My oldest is very compliant and fits are highly uncommon.)

Anytime we are in a group situation, I tend to talk to the adults and expect my children to play with their friends. At this outing, Nikelle was walking with her friends as I talked with their mom. The walk was so nice. The weather was beautiful. Everything went smoothly. Until the end of the scavenger hunt the librarian organized for the kids.

My daughter and her friends all found the books that were listed and turned in proof for their prize. (The prizes were the usual use-a-couple-times-and-throw-away kind of junk we so often acquire.) As my daughter chose her item I made sure it was what she wanted. Being that the prize was a whistle or something (I really don’t remember what the item was); I knew there would be no option of changing our minds later. Assuring me that this was her desired prize, we walked away.

As her friends met up with us to walk the forest preserve path back to our vehicles, Nikelle noticed their prize choices and inquired as to changing her mind. Informing her that we already had this discussion, my daughter began to throw a fit. It wasn’t a throw-myself-on-the-ground, kicking and screaming kind of fit but there was pouting and stomping involved. The part that disappointed me the most was the way she took it out on her friends. As we walked back to the car, I witnessed her friends attempting to catch up with her to walk together and make conversation. I was in disbelief as I watched my sweet little girl run from them to continue her pity party.

Getting into the van, I prayed for the right response with my daughter. The root of the matter was that she had an ungrateful heart. She didn’t appreciate the walk with her mom, with her friends, or the kind gesture by the library to offer prizes. This was an issue of character and one that saddened my mother’s heart.

Pulling away, I noticed some of God’s natural consequences for my daughter’s behavior and pointed them out to her. Her friends that she was running away from on the walk were now rolling down a hill, laughing and extending their time of fun. As she saw them, she made the request to join them. I informed her that because of her behavior, she would not be participating in their fun.

When we got home, I sent my daughter to her room to think about the situation. She was instructed to write a list of 10 or 20 things she was thankful for (I don’t recall the exact number). I then went to my husband and cried about our imperfect daughter. The concern was that we were raising ungrateful children. What I recall more than anything that day was the way my daughter came down with a list of thanksgiving exceeding the number required of her. This discipline was effective and I believe came because I asked God for wisdom in handling the situation.

I don’t recall if my heartbreak over the situation had anything to do with a fear of reflection of myself. However, I realize that every action in my children should draw my attention back to me. Not because my children are a reflection of me to others. Rather, my children are a reflection of my character. If I disapprove of their behavior, it is time to examine my own. What flaws do you witness your children reflecting back at you?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

5 things I wish I'd known

What are 5 things you wished you would have known BEFORE you became a mother?

Before I became a mother, I knew the very best way to raise children. It was easy for me to judge “those” moms who simply did not raise their children appropriately. Too often, I shook my head in disgust. If those parents would only invest the necessary time and implement the necessary rules, their children would not be behaving that way. Then I had kids.
I wish I knew how futile it would be to measure myself up to other moms. Every mom is different. That’s the bottom line. No two women mother exactly alike and there is so much freedom in knowing that. Too often, I succumb to the lies that other moms are better. It’s just not true. We are certainly different and they may have strengths I don’t but that just means I have strengths that they don’t. It’s time to quit the comparison game in mothering.

It’s time to quit the comparison game between our children as well. No matter how hard we try, we cannot hold to one set of rules for every child. We have to be flexible because our children our different. What works with one child may not work with another. It is important to modify our plan of action to best suit each child. I wish I knew that determining my list of rules before my first child was born would only lead to frustration. Circumstances will change. With each new scenario comes a need for flexibility.

I wish I knew the certain failure that came with parenting. The failure of living up to my own expectations as well as the expectations of my children and the expectations of others are inevitable. There is no possible way I can live up to my own expectations. They are always too lofty. Inevitably, my children will grow up with a list of the way I failed them as I did with my parents and they did with theirs. Children always know better than their parents (until they become parents anyway). Just as I judged others, they are judging me and it doesn’t matter. Until they walk in my shoes and know the life I live, they cannot judge accurately. There is only one Judge whose opinion matters and I will face Him on Judgment Day.
Pain in parenting is unavoidable. I certainly could not comprehend that fact before my first child came along. There is pain for our children the moment we dream about their existence. In bringing the child into the world, we endure pain. Once that child is here and has to experience pain for themselves, it is utterly heartbreaking. In those moments where I cannot take the hurt away, all pain is magnified. It saddens me deeply to watch my child endure the pain. In this pain, I am drawn closer to God. The love I have for my own children gives me a glimpse of His indescribable love.

There are a lot of things I wish I had known before I had children. Just like being a teenager who has to experience it before they’ll ever understand, however, I had to become a parent first. The pains of parenting are completely outweighed by the joys. I’m so grateful to be the mom to three little girls. More so, I’m grateful to have a Heavenly Father who is the only perfect parent I ever need to measure up to.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Searching for Peace Amidst the Chaos (2004)

(I came across this article I had written for my MOPS group back in 2004. Those were days where I had only one child. Funny... these days I'd be happy to find messes limited to the rooms they should be in. Two more kids and more than 7 years later, my search is still for peace amidst the chaos.)




It never fails that my daughter calls my name when I am washing dishes or preparing a meal. She’ll even go so far as to place herself between my body and the sink (or the stove) to push me away from my current task. I try to explain to my 1 ½ -year-old “Mommy has to wash the dishes so she can get dinner ready for Daddy to eat when he is done with work.” It’s a temporary solution that generally leads to her request, “Hold you.” “Hold you.” until I give in to the attention she longs for and feels the peace she needs. Needless to say, my kitchen on any given day is a disaster area.

My kitchen is not the only area that is in desperate need of help. Generally, it is impossible to walk in the family room without stepping on some kind of toy. Fed up with trying to find clean spots to place my feet, I will stop to organize the room. Pleased with my accomplishment, I head upstairs only to find that my daughter is emptying every single item out of her dresser! My body aches for rest and peace so I sit down hoping to close my eyes for five minutes. After only a few seconds, quietness alerts me that something isn’t right. Running, I meet my daughter’s smiling face. Smiling, because she has found a new game involving her black dress shoes and the dog’s completely filled water bowl (or at least it was full prior to her new game).

Chaos. That’s the way I would define my mornings, my days – my life. This continual disorder naturally leads to stress, which I so maturely handle by going on the warpath. I go through the day looking for that “release valve” to reduce the stress in my life. Until I find it, everyone in my path will, unfortunately, have to suffer. There are those moments where the weight is temporarily lifted off my shoulders (possibly because I have found the “release valve” in completely losing my temper). But just when I begin to sense a little peace in my life – make room for chaos! I fill that schedule jam-packed again. The result is continually the same. Day-in and day-out: Disorder. Chaos. Lack of peace.

So, I’m on a mission to replace the chaos in my life with peace. Some advice I’ve received has seemed very reasonable. “Make a daily schedule.” “Write out lists.” “Keep the counters clean.” “Budget.” “Invest in friendships.” “Rely on family.” Sadly, attempting these suggestions lead to more stress. Often, I feel that I should just resign myself to living in chaos. For many of the things filling my schedule, there is no option to remove them out of my life. There’s the grocery shopping; the meetings; the family gatherings and even the workouts and social gatherings. Not to mention the all-familiar saga of never-ending dirty laundry. All of these time consuming tasks leave me longing for peace.

My mission to replace the chaos in my life with peace has led me to the Bible. In reading God’s Word, I find in 1 Corinthians 14:33 that “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” This verse gives me some hope. Clearly, my search for peace needs to begin with God. He is the source of peace. In John 14:27, Christ tells His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” I have been learning that I will only find peace when I turn to the God of Peace. I must place my total dependence on Him and trust Him at His Word.

Trusting in God is something I have a very difficult time with. By nature, I am a control-freak. It is unnatural for me to be dependent on anyone. This is one area where I have had no choice but to grow this past year and it is an area, I’m learning, where there is always room for more growth.

One way God is teaching me how to grow is through my daughter’s example. She trusts me. Completely. Totally. She depends on me. The prophet, Isaiah, in Chapter 26 verse 3 writes “You [God] will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Peace will only be found when I admit my total dependence on God and trust that He will keep His promises to me.

My search for peace is an ever-continuing mission. For those moments; mornings; days; for my life – when chaos and disorder overwhelm me, I’ll cry out to the one who continually hears my prayers; to the only one who has earned my complete and total trust and dependence. In my search for peace, I can learn something from watching my daughter. By following her example, I know I can cry out to the only one I can trust completely and totally. “Father?” “Father?” “Father!” He will hear my cry and answer. “Hold me.” “Hold me.” will be my request. And I will find peace.

“I cried out to the Lord, and he heard me… Then I lay down and slept in peace…” (Psalm 3:4-5)