Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hey Jealousy

As a parent who continues to grieve the loss of two sweet children, I often wonder if certain aspects will ever get easier. Lately, it seems that EVERYONE is announcing a pregnancy. My heart leaps with joy for each of these new families. Raising a child is one of the most amazing gifts the Lord bestows upon us. Children are a gift from Him and they are remarkable. Somewhere beneath that joy though is a hint of jealousy lurking just below the surface. And somewhere below the jealousy lurks jaded pessimism.

As I hear of each new announcement, I grieve the fact that of five pregnancies, I still hold three children. Two I held only momentarily and my arms will forever ache to hold Isaac and Asher. Fifteen months...that is the longest amount of time that I have gone without being pregnant since having Luke. I am there. It seems odd not to be making any announcements of our own. I love pregnancy and I love all that having a newborn brings. I miss it.

I also struggle with the loss of innocence that came with losing my boys. I know that a positive pregnancy test does not equal a healthy baby in nine months. When I was pregnant with Luke, I just assumed the positive test always led to a positive experience. Not all babies are healthy, I find myself struggling not to warn every pregnant mother of that fact. I bite my tongue every time someone refers to the excitement leading up to their "gender" sonogram. I want to tell them what it is like to sit in that dark room, clinging to the hope of a beating heart and a growing brain. Gender being the least of the worries.

Then I am reminded that I get to raise three sweet healthy children, one of whom has beaten so many odds already. I get to snuggle them and hold them daily. I got to carry FIVE babies in my womb to full term (Asher was a bit premature). Some mothers NEVER even get that. Some women out there long to feel life within their womb and they never do. Some mothers will never have babies. I have had five. Five of the most amazing babies on the planet. I get to mother two boys who reside in Heaven, but their presence in our hearts changes everything. They have brought people to Jesus and have made us some of the most blessed, proud parents in the world.

I am quite certain that my pregnancy days are over, but remain open to whatever the Lord has in store. Each time those ugly feelings of jealousy or jadedness (is that a word) sneak in, I lay them at His feet, often only to pick them up again.

A friend sent a text earlier this week wondering if these feelings were normal or if they ever go away. Will we be sixty years old still yearning to give birth once more? These feelings make us feel ugly and horrible. We want to rejoice and feel only joy and yet these other emotions sneak their way in. I am praying tonight for the Lord to take these human emotions and fill the voids in our hearts with more of Him. Would you join me in prayer for hurting and grieving parents everywhere? Those with children, those who have lost children, and those who have yet to hold a child of their own.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Plentiful Perilous Parenting

I have been overwhelmed and honored by the amount of responses I received from my last parenting post. I heard from many of you via comments but I heard from even more privately via email and I want you to know that even if I haven't had a minute to get back to you, I have prayed for each of you one by one. I get it, and I am right there in the trenches with you.

This is tough stuff, this parenting stuff. My biggest struggle lately has been balancing, being too hard on myself and over-reacting and making sure I am not giving myself a free pass. I mean, I know that I cannot be perfect, and that I am on the whole a good mom, but I also want to always strive to be better. I am so honored that God chose me to pour into the lives of these precious ones and I long to hear him say "Well done, good and faithful servant" one day.

I am still spending time daily in prayer for those of you who contacted me and for parents all over. The World needs our kids. This is a truth and also close to the title of a book sent to me today by a sweet blog reader. I am LOVING this book so far and hope to do a post on it at a later date. I urge you to check it out if you are looking for a resource like this! :) Remember we are ALL in this together. Thank you to the many of you who have shared with me. I am praying for you and cheering for you. We can do this! It takes a village right? Even a cyber village! :) If you have any additional prayer requests please do feel free to email me or leave a comment!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Perilous Parenting

I hate to admit, but lately, I am pretty sure my parenting skills are NOT something the Lord would be proud of. I mean, I do a good job of putting on a great show, I like to "look like" super mom, but if you were inside my home, you might think differently. When no one is watching, I have gotten lazy, I have put housework above heartwork, and allowed the excuse of "I'm a type A kind of gal" to rule the roost.

It had gotten to the point that all the children did was fight and bicker and then I would just holler over them begging them to quit. I was so consumed with trying to get my house in order and do all of the "homemaker" type things that I let parenting fall to the way side.

I tell you all of this because I feel like the Lord wanted me to. I feel like as moms we all tend to want to look like we have it all together, we get pretty high and mighty at the grocery store when we see another mom struggling with the tantruming child while ours sit quietly in the cart. When the truth is, that as moms we should be a little, okay, a lot more compassionate. It happens to ALL of us. We are parenting in the trenches and instead of delighting in another mom's moment of battle, maybe we should react a little differently.

A few weeks ago our kids begged for mohawks, we were not crazy about the idea, but decided that it was just hair and that we wanted our kids to know that God doesn't care at all what we look like, he loves us the same. Let me tell you though, if you EVER want criticism in the Christian community, give your kid a mohawk. I was ASTOUNDED. Suddenly, my cute kids who typically are very well behaved and mild mannered, got stares, looks, and snarky remarks made even by family members who love them. They were the SAME kids, just looked different and suddenly they must be heathens. Literally...they were called heathens because of their hair.

Luke got a pretty hurtful comment from a family member and came home broken-hearted and wanting to cut his hair. I asked why he wanted to cut it. His response, broke my heart. He said he loved his haircut, but he didn't like that other people didn't like it and thought he was a bad kid because of it. Seriously.

We were suddenly on the other side of the judging table and I didn't like it one bit. I hate to admit but I have had more prideful moments than I can count out in public as I watch another mom struggle with her kids misbehavior. "MY kids would never act like that".

Then all of the sudden Ben grew an attitude. He began to get mouthy and hateful and the fighting in our home was unbearable. I spent weeks, beside myself, not knowing what to do next. You know those moments where you are quite sure you are ruining your kids for life, and that you have missed the opportunity to save them from a life sentence in federal prison. Yeah...that is where I resided. He was hitting, kicking, spitting, yelling...the WHOLE deal. Like...was not even the kid I knew.

In a moment where I felt like I had nothing left to give, that I was surely the biggest parenting failure in the history of the universe, I cried out to God. (Why is it that we often ONLY resort to taking it to Him once we have reached the end of ourselves?) In that moment, I felt a peace come over me and I just started praying for that boy's heart.

I had had a conversation with another mom a week earlier and was talking about how I didn't know how to reach his heart...that I knew something was up, but that I wasn't sure what to do. I told her that I didn't want him to quit hitting, kicking, yelling etc, just out of fear of punishment, I wanted to see a change in his heart. Her response was "Oh, so you want him to be a twenty one year old in a four year old body". No...that wasn't it. I went to college to be a teacher, I get child development. I know that all kids his age are impulsive and act out. I know that. I also know that sin is sin, and my boy had sin in his heart and was struggling. I wanted to guide him in examining his heart and dealing with the sin. Yet in talking with most of my parent friends, I could not find someone who understood my plight.

After a quick Internet exchange with a friend half way across the country, she got it. She recommended "Wise Words For Moms" and "Don't Make Me Count to Three" by Ginger Plowman. I hopped on Amazon, redeemed my Swagbucks, and wondered what I would do without these resources for the next week or so until they arrived.

I sat down and had a heart to heart with Howard about my struggles. I felt like my fuse was short with everyone, I had lost my joy and that I was just a constant referee. He agreed and apologized for lack of leadership. We sat and prayed together for our family and committed to making things different and following the Lord. We have spent lots of time since praying for our kids, for our family, for our parenting. I have spent time combing through the best parenting book ever...The Bible, yet felt kind of overwhelmed still. We were definitely seeing progress, but I felt like I still was not reaching the hearts of my kids.

I sat down and wrote out some verses that I wanted to use in my parenting on index cards and hung them where we would all see them.

Here are some of the verses I used:

"God gives joy to those who promote peace." Proverbs 12:20

"Whatever you do, work heartily as for the lord and not for men" Colossians 3:23

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

"Walk in humility, consider others better than yourself." Philippians 2:3

"Do everything without complaining and arguing" Philippians 2:14

I began praying like crazy for the hearts of my kids and for my own heart. I have often prayed for their hearts but mostly forgot to pray for my own and I was not in a place myself where I was being very effective.

Since this funk, the books have come from Amazon, and I will say they are more than worth their purchase. I was reading the Bible and finding verses, but these resources helped me to further unpack what the Bible says and the way we need to instruct our kids so that they can examine their hearts.

Our home still has squabbles and moments of selfishness for sure, but my kids are REALLY getting it. For example...whenever we go anywhere to eat, the boys always fight over who gets to sit next to mom. As we entered a restaurant over the is the scenario that played out.

Boys: I want to sit by mom, no I want to sit by mom, NO I WANT TO SIT BY MOM.

Luke: Ben, I want you to sit next to mom this time, because I love you and want you to be happy and I need to think of you before thinking of myself.

SERIOUSLY? SERIOUSLY! That is not to say that every incident plays out like is a small victory, and I will take is sinking in.

Just a month ago I was in such a yucky place, I felt like a huge failure and was so beaten down. Today I see progress...ONLY GOD...ONLY GOD. I am still the same hugely flawed person. God put me in my place and reminded me of my immense responsibility to train the hearts of these precious ones. I have recently really felt called to pray for parents everywhere. If you are in that place...that rut...that funk...and would like me to specifically pray for you, I would be happy to. Please just leave a comment or jot me an email to Keep on fighting the good fight...He has it all under control...follow Him and take Him at his word.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bittersweet School Days

Everyone ready to see Luke off on his BIG first day of FIRST grade.

A bouquet of flowers for the teacher.

The light just isn't right...

could you guys turn the other way?
Swallowed up by the big yellow monster. (though I might add...this is the WRONG bus!) Let your light shine buddy...let your light shine.

Luke is actually in his third week of school. I have just been having a hard time adjusting to life with Howard and Luke back in school, I think we have a schedule down now and life is feeling a bit more normal.

Luke is LOVING first grade. He has the very same teacher that Howard and I both had and we are beyond thankful for the little school in our community. It feels like a family and if not for that school, I am quite certain I would have kept Luke home and homeschooled him. I know however that at this school he is loved, cared for and is learning. He adores his teacher and is quite excited about all that first grade entails. He has been trusted with the responsibility of "bathroom monitor" and we have been told he makes good choices, is quiet and is a WONDERFUL reader. :)

I feel a little like life is moving in FAST forward. My once five pound preemie is now in first grade and my four year old is seriously four going on forty, and my baby girl is walking, talking and growing by leaps and bounds. Where does the time go? I swear, I blinked and this is where we were. I am scared to blink again.

The Lord has been really working on me lately on being more intentional with my time with Him and more intentional with my time with my kids. We spent a good portion of the summer cleaning out and purging our home. We have gotten rid of all baby and maternity stuff and seriously, I thought I was going to have to be committed. I am a lady who LOVES pregnancy and newborns and all that entails (in case the having five babies in six years didn't clue you in). I'd love to continue growing our family, but as of now, the Lord doesn't seem to be steering us in that direction. Pregnancy at this point could be dangerous for me, and as a kid who lost her mom at a young age, I am not willing to do that to my kids knowingly. I feel God has really been walking me along this road, showing me that I need to be wise and also reminding me that there is more than one way to grow a family.

We came to the conclusion that IF God chooses to grow our family through foster care (which is an avenue we intend to explore) then He will surely provide whatever "stuff" we need at that time. So we decided to let go and bless others with all of our baby stuff. It has been so hard, yet so freeing. All of that boy stuff that I had hoped that Isaac and Asher had used too was even harder. (But I found exceptionally good homes for those things) :)

As I move into this next phase of life I am a little sad to be leaving the newborn stage behind but am so excited for what is ahead. Watching my kids grow and learn has been just amazing and the more intentional I am with them the more exciting things I see.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Letting Go

I have blogged before about my struggle with letting go of "things" that have memories attached to them. I know full well that those things do not hold the memory, and yet I found myself this summer in a basement flooded with water forced to begin to do the hard work of sorting and purging.

It has been a long process. I am still struggling. It wasn't until I took a very careful look at our finances that I decided that it was in fact time to do some really hard work and get us out of our debt. We accumulated a lot of credit card debt after having Isaac and Asher, for expenses related to their medical care and funerals and just for travel expenses, meals out because I was too exhausted to cook, and from just making stupid decisions when chest deep in grief.

I have had a stirring in my heart for a while now about eliminating this debt so that our money is truly God's and not tied down to our debts.

I decided it was time to consign and Craigslist EVERYTHING. We had a huge yardsale and made several hundred dollars. I struggled especially letting go of the baby things, but at the same time it was a relief.

I am not certain if God will grow our family any further or if our family is complete. I am however certain that when He makes that decision, He will also take care of the details. At this point I do not feel at all at peace about birthing any more children, but foster care has always been on our hearts.

Last night I went through the remainder of the baby clothes and separated them into boxes for friends who have recently had babies. It was hard, but also sweet to know their wee ones will wear my precious babes' clothing. The boy's clothes are much harder for me. I can't shake the heaviness of the thoughts that two more of MY boys should have worn those clothes. Six LARGE boxes of clothes were taken today.

It all became a little much tonight when a woman called because she was interested in the boys' crib bedding I had posted on Craigslist. I had posted it TWO months ago. NOW I get a bite! She was crunched for time and wanted to come see it immediately. My heart sunk. That sweet bedding was the very thing I agonized over for Luke. I wanted it to be perfect. It took months of searching before we found the perfect set. I had a huge shower and received ALL of the pieces for Luke's nursery. I remember painting his tiny room in our tiny mobile home seven years ago. I was thrilled with the outcome and enjoyed using the set in a different way in our new home when Ben came home.

Tonight, a Subaru pulled up to my home, a woman got out, came in, took one look and said "I'll take it". She handed me the money and I boxed up the whole set for her. It wasn't until she pulled out of the driveway that the tears began to fall. Oh how I wish that bedding had nestled four boys instead of two. My heart was torn. I am a mess. I know that it was just a bedding set. I know that another little guy will now get his start snuggled into the soft jersey sheets that my boys snuggled in. It really was doing no one any good in a Rubbermaid bin in my basement, so WHY DOES IT STILL HURT?

I am pretty much a mess tonight. It seems I cannot find balance. I feel like a crazy clown juggling a million balls, among them, God, Marriage, Children, Family, Debt, Housekeeping, Gardening, Canning, Reading, Showering, Sleeping, and right now I feel like I can't keep them all in the air. Everything is struggling, I can't juggle it all, I just spent the past hour in a dented minivan (a vehicle who knows extreme emotion well) just sitting and crying out to God. I just am not sure what it is I am supposed to be doing right now. I feel pretty much like a failure at everything. I am broken, sad and alone. The good news is, that I know that in this state, God will use me. He must be working on something. Right?