Will’s Home – Just in Time for Mother’s Day!

Will’s back home from his first year at college. He had a wonderful year at Wheaton College Conservatory and made the Dean’s List. We are thrilled to have him home again, but he’s working hard this summer with a landscape company, so we’ll catch him when we can.  Here’s Will playing Toccata Festiva by Purvis which expresses the feeling of having our son home again. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

Night Watch

childsleepingredondoWhen I can’t sleep at night I make my way to my favorite seat in the house, Emmy’s rocking chair. Tom bought it for me before she was born. When trying out upholstered rockers, I knew instantly that this was the one. The back is wonderfully soft and comes up high enough that you can lay your head back. Also, the arms are low enough to be comfortable, a rare thing to find in rockers. It’s a glider with a footstool, and often the rocking is so smooth that I can doze off in that wonderful chair.

The other night I tucked Em in bed, and she took my hand. “I know that sometimes you come in here and rock in my chair,” she said. “It makes me happy.”

I hadn’t realized that she was aware of my presence in the dead hours of night, but she was. Children without close siblings or any siblings don’t know the comfort of having someone near at hand when there are shadows on the wall or when bad dreams frighten. When I was little, I had my little sister close by. When we were small, we had a double bed, and there was absolutely nothing more comforting than to feel my warm little sister by my back at night. We shared our secret plans for playing the next day and all our sisterly secrets. When she was near, all was well.

Charlie and Sammy were the same way. When they were small, I moved to a duplex with three bedrooms, the third being a perfectly-sized little room for my three-year-old, Sammy. I bought a twin bed and set it up for him with a cowboy bedspread, thinking he’d like having his own little place. But every morning, I kept finding either Charlie curled up on Sammy’s bed or Sammy curled up on Charlie’s bed. They didn’t care about having their own space. They wanted the comfort of having each other nearby at night. So I got a double bed for Charlie’s room, and they were pleased as punch to be back in the same cozy bedroom.

I read an article once about a movie celebrity who had two young children. She had a huge house in New England, and there was an accompanying photo spread of the luxury bedrooms fitted out by a famous designer. But one line in particular in the story caught my eye. It was beneath a photo of a tiny bedroom at the top of the house with twin beds in it, a very simple place. “For some reason, they only want to sleep up here in this small room,” said the star. “They like it here.”

No amount of money can buy the sense of cozy, of having someone nearby at night. I can’t provide a little sister for Emmy, but she seems comforted to know that occasionally, her mother is there in the dark, rocking quietly, watching over her.

“Remember, Mama,” she often says to me. “If you can’t sleep, you can always rock in my chair…”

With Mother’s Day approaching, I think that’s what I want all six of my children to remember most: That I am there for them always, even if I’m out of sight, that I am loving them, concerned for them, always wanting the best for them. Nothing matters to me more than that as a mom. Whatever else I do in life, it’s nothing if my children don’t know they have my forever love. It’s unconditional. I have had children  hurt me,  make decisions that I don’t agree with.  It doesn’t matter. They are not clones of me. All but one is a legal adult now.  One thing will not change: As long as I live, I will be there in that metaphorical rocker in the dark, loving them.

I saw an old poem recently. This is the last stanza in honor of Mother’s Day.

…Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—      
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

~ Elizabeth Akers Allen

A Little Angel Brings Sunshine

Doctors told the parents of this little girl five times that they should abort her. Fortunately, her parents didn’t see her disabilities as a reason to take her life. Now, despite her difficulties, she brings sunshine into the lives of others. Listen to her sing “You Are My Sunshine” and let her bless you today.

All children are precious gifts. Here’s the story from LifeNews.com and the video.

 

The Knitting by Valerie Archer

A friend named Valerie Archer from Northern Ireland wrote this when she was a young mother years ago, and I wanted to share it on the Hope Blog.

The Knitting

My mother taught me how to knit.
I loved the cosiness of it !
I loved the needles , the bright yarn,
And it didn’t seem too hard to learn.
My mouth showed firm determination,
My puckered brow fierce concentration.
My needles clicked quite skilfully,
( My mother always guiding me.)

And then she left me on my own.
” There now ,”said she, ” Just carry on! ”
In half an hour or even less
The knitting was in such a mess!
There was a hole where light shone through.
I’d dropped some stitches ,made some too !
I struggled on and fussed and fussed,
Then threw it down in great disgust.

My mother came back in a while,
Looked at the knitting with a smile
And said,” I know it’s hard to do.
Give it to me.I’ll fix it for you. ”
I saw her nimble fingers race.
The stitches all fell into place
And soon I quite forgot to pout,
Watching my mother sort it out.

Today I’ve harder things to do.
Encouragements are very few.
I say : ” I don’t have what it takes.
I keep on making these mistakes.
Just see, Lord, how I’ve got it muddled.
My powers are weak, my mind befuddled.
So now I give the mess to You
To sort it out and help me through. ”

” I think you’ll smile as Mother did,
Not punish nor me upbraid.
You know that I have much to learn.
To glorify Your name I yearn.
My failures, Lord, and my distress
Call forth Your love and tenderness.
To You my work I’m now committing.
Fix it as Mother fixed the knitting

From day to day help me progress.
In me develop skilfulness.
From time to time remind me too
That I do better close to You
May every stitch and every row
Be done for You , Your glory show
And when it’s finished may it still
Accomplish Your eternal will.

~ Valerie Archer

 

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In a Perfect World…

perfecthousewifeThere used to be a magazine called Ideals. It was filled with poems and articles and photos that were really lovely. The photos were all idyllic representations of nature, home and family. (That’s why they called it Ideals.)

It isn’t being published anymore. The closest thing would be Reminisce Magazine which provides warm retrospectives of home and family. Reminisce tends to be a little more realistic, but equally wonderful in its depictions of life in the past.

There is nothing wrong with having ideals. If you don’t shoot for something, you’ll end up with nothing. But what do you do as a Christian when your life doesn’t measure up to the ideal? When blogs and all other manner of media are holding up something you never quite are able to achieve?

Christian women’s blogs, particularly those regarding home and family, sometimes set out an ideal that leaves you feeling, deep down, that you will never measure up. Ever. I saw such a post yesterday about keeping a binder with household cleaning chores for every room in the house. The purpose was to achieve the perfect, clean home. Nice, if you can do it.

But let’s get honest here. How many of us as women can really achieve that binder/checklist level of clean? With children, that pristine bath or kitchen that you just disinfected is undone within hours (minutes?) of your intensive labors. Sometimes life does not afford the time or energy to achieve an ideal, at least for long. Like all those gorgeous ideas on Pinterest, your ideals sort of sit there on your shoulder, mocking you.

Mother’s Day just went by. How many of us feel like we really deserved the accolades from our families? We all have moments where we feel we are getting close to what we’d like to be. Then there are the other times when exhaustion, stress and just plain self get in the way. In a perfect world, our families would never eat a frozen pizza. Our children would have the perfect educational experiences, personally tailored to their learning styles, our homes would look like Southern Living photo spreads and never a cross word would be heard.

Today, I saw a pastor write something about the superiority of the “local church.” The pastor writing felt that people shouldn’t be commuting to other churches far away and that local churches were more “biblical” and should be attended. Nice ideal. In a perfect world, we could all walk to our excellent “local church” that would have exactly what we were looking for. Good luck with that today where there are churches all over, but altars to Isis or Elvis impersonators on Sunday morning maybe just aren’t what you’re looking for. Nice thought, pastor. This is an imperfect world, and people go where they have to for church. And no, driving a lot of miles isn’t ideal.

The glossy “Women of Faith” Conference ideal of the perfectly highlighted, beautifully slim, perfectly together woman is also not the whole story. Some of these women are spending most of their time on personal maintenance, flying from speaking gig to speaking gig, slogging through airports and hotel rooms, to tell all of us how to live. For a fee, of course. (Conferences like these are money makers for the publishers that run them. Note the book tables laden with “how-to” books and DVD’s…) They are holding up impossible standards for the rest of us. Ka-ching! (This slick conference imaging for speakers has now hit the next generation of homeschooler leaders at conferences. It isn’t enough to be schooling multiple kids at home, (while having the perfectly organized cleaning schedule, well-behaved children and perfect record-keeping), now you have to look chic as well. Sigh.)

I’m not calling for an end to ideals. Far from it. We have to continue to strive to do our best in this fallen world. Goals are good. We all need them, and giving up and wallowing in sloth and squalor isn’t what I’m advocating here.

What we do need to do as Christian women is accept that we don’t need to measure up to somebody’s else’s ideal. The photo-shopped, airbrushed images we see in Christian media aren’t reality. No, they’re really not.

Life today is complex, and if you don’t think so, you haven’t lived very long. The “ideal” of one breadwinner and mothers who can spend all their time on binders and cleaning checklists is long gone. I didn’t say that this is a good thing, I said that those days are gone for many families. Sometimes it isn’t about affording luxury items, often now, it’s about not losing the roof over your head.

Nothing is perfect in this world. Every Christian family I know has had to make tough choices in the last few years in a lot of areas. Many are not in churches they “ideally” would like to be in. Many have their kids in educational settings that are far from their ideal. Many have economic realities that require a mom to work as well as the dad. We do the best we can with what God has provided. We can be grateful for what we have, accept that nothing in this life is perfect. Character is making the best of a situation and finding contentment. And we can stop beating ourselves up because we aren’t glossy Supermoms. At least I can say I’m not! I raise a coffee mug to fellow moms in the trenches, and then I will head off to wage war on laundry.

On Mothers – A Few Quotes

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, here are a few quotes I have enjoyed on the subject of motherhood. Both as a mother of six children, three of which are grown, two of which are nearly grown, and a preschooler (!), and as a grandmother of two (the second one is to arrive, Lord willing, in September), and also as a daughter, I have many thoughts on the topic of motherhood that are touched on by these quotes.

 

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One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.  – George Herbert

I long to put the experience of fifty years at once into your young lives, to give you at once the key of that treasure chamber every gem of which has cost me tears and struggles and prayers, but you must work for these inward treasures yourselves.  – Harriet Beecher Stowe

My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.” ― Jodi Picoult

I know enough to know that no woman should ever marry a man who hated his mother. ― Martha Gellhorn

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. ― Abraham Lincoln

A daughter without her mother is a woman broken. It is a loss that turns to arthritis and settles deep into her bones.  ― Kristin Hannah

Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest. ― Debra Ginsberg

Mother, I love you so, said the child. I love you more than I know. She laid her head on her mother’s arm, and the love between them kept them warm. – Stevie Smith

Sweater, n. Garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.” ― Ambrose Bierce

Mothers can forgive anything! Tell me all, and be sure that I will never let you go, though the whole world should turn from you. ― Louisa May Alcott, Jo’s Boys

Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved. ― Kate Samperi

 

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Gilbert put his arm about them. ‘Oh, you mothers!’ he said. ‘You mothers! God knew what He was about when He made you. ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

This is what we do, my mother’s life said. We find ourselves in the sacrifices we make. ― Cammie McGovern

The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlet here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter. ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom. – Henry Ward Beecher

Most all other beautiful things in life come come by twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, rainbows, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins, but only one mother in the whole world. – Kate Douglas Wiggin

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. – Honore de Blazac

 

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A man never sees all that his mother has been to him until it’s too late to let her know he sees it. – William Dean Howells

No matter how old a mother is, she still watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement. – Florida Scott Maxwell

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces that she never did care for pie. – Tenneva Jordan

A mom holds the hands of her children for a little while but holds their hearts forever. – Author unknown  

 

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Tarry a While

baby-shoesOnce in a while, Tom and I stop off at antique malls to just look around. Looking at the bits and pieces of living from the past tends to put time in perspective. Most poignant to me are baby things. Baby shoes, in particular, hold an attraction. Many times I have held up an old, worn pair and wondered about the baby who once wore them. Running a finger on the little scuff marks on the bottom made by feet long gone, I wonder, who was the child? What did they become? Who was the mother who once loved that baby?

The other day, Emmy was not able to sleep during nap time. She has never been a napper, but I make her stay quiet for an hour in the afternoons to give me a break and to see if she might fall off to sleep for a little while. She was restless on my bed, so I scooped her up (not easy these days as she is so big.) “I just want to rock you for a little while,” I told her. So she buried her head in my neck like the old days when she was smaller, and I stroked her hair, and we just rocked for a time while the world went by. I glanced over at my bookshelf next to the chair and saw the title of an old book I have called, Tarry a While. How fitting, I thought.

Babyhood becomes a distant memory so quickly. Emily will be four soon. Baby days are gone. The tighter you try to hang on to those days, it seems the faster they flee. Every season I pack away little clothes that will never be worn again, shoes that will never fit her feet. Wasn’t it yesterday I held her miniature feet in the NICU and wondered if they would ever be large enough to walk on?

Wasn’t it yesterday I held my first baby’s feet and marveled at how small they were? That was 26 years ago on April 14.

I get stressed out meeting the need of the moment, feeling exasperated at this or that with a preschooler’s constant chatter. But then I remember that it’s all over so quickly.

Sometimes we moms get so busy with the demands of life that we fail to notice how fast all our children are growing. Now I’m watching it happen with my little grandson who is growing so fast, getting ready to walk before we know it. This fall, we will have a second grandbaby!

Don’t rush growing up, Emmy. I’m not young, I’m not wishing you to the next phase. It will come fast enough. Today is precious. This hour is precious. Tarry a while, little girl.

Response to a Feminist Author

There’s yet another book out for women with the provocative title, Why Have Kids: The Truth About Parenting and Happiness. The feminist author’s title pretty much says it all. I quote from the Daily Mail article yesterday:

In an interview with UK newspaper The Times, Valenti says woman are bombarded with so much conflicting advice about child-rearing, much of which involves kids being the ‘centre of your universe,’ that the result is a state of near constant anxiety. (This is) the understandable outcome of expecting smart, driven women to find satisfaction in spit-up,’ she says.

It gets worse.

Co-founder of the Feminising.com blog, she also lists the on-paper drain kids place on their parents’ lives, including the long-term economic cost of having children and the inevitable effect a baby has on even happy marriages.

And then this:

Valenti says that she loves her daughter, Layla, very much but adds ‘I don’t see raising her as my life’s mission. I don’t believe that it should involve some kind of suffering or self-sacrifice.’

It’s difficult to know where to begin addressing this viewpoint. I don’t disagree for a moment that parenting, the way the secular world sees it, is problematic. Many mothers are motivated by the culture’s values and half kill themselves in giving their child everything that kids are supposed to get now, whether it’s umpteen extracurricular activities, the latest technology, the best clothes, etc. In addition, mothers are supposed to be successful in outside careers, keep a beautiful home, and on top of that, look “hot” at whatever age they are. No exceptions allowed. It’s a recipe for insanity. I agree.

But the real problem here is not devotion to your children! The problem is not the little ones! The problem in this scenario is the worldview of the mothers. Feminism is a joke. If the feminist philosophy was about liberation and freedom, how do you explain millions of  mothers who chronically feel trapped and that they are failing everyone because they are trying to have it all? The answer to the problem is not embracing selfishness and refusing to sacrifice for your children. The answer lies in giving some things up, because those children are most important to you. But authors like Jessica Valenti don’t believe they should be. In her view, children are the problem.

I have been a mother for 25 years. I am 46, and have learned some things along the way—a few insights I have gleaned. The most important lesson is this: You find yourself as a mother by losing yourself. This creed will elicit gasps of horror from authors like the one above, but it is the truth.

Years ago, my son Samuel had a terrible time with out-of-control asthma. He was a highly allergic baby who tested as sensitive to nearly everything in the environment, which meant that when he had a cold, it immediately triggered asthma, because his bronchial tubes were already inflamed from other allergies.

In the first 5 years of his life, he was hospitalized over 30 times, once in the ICU. Every cold, not some, every cold, meant he ended up in the hospital. We watched the seasons change at Children’s Hospital on 7th floor back then. We knew all the nurses. We’d spend hours in the ER, and then they would admit him eventually anyway.

I used to wonder why this endless cycle had befallen my son, and frankly, me. Watching Sam scream through endless IV’s on a papoose board, endure countless pricks for blood tests, and go through endless breathing treatments, knowing full well we’d be back at the hospital in another month with the next cold, was extremely hard on both of us. I was 21 when Sam was first admitted at 6 months old. I slept at the hospital holding him on my chest many, many times.

But in those years I learned an important truth.  I knew, even at that young age, that there was no more important job than what I was doing. I knew I was Sammy’s entire world of security and comfort. I would not and could not have been anywhere else but there. The world went roaring by on the roads outside the hospital, but we were locked in with each other in a little hospital room. Nothing else mattered to me but Sammy’s well-being and happiness.  In the haze of exhaustion and worry of those years, I found out who I really was: Mother. Nurturer. Comforter. Weaver of the fabric of lives.

When my children stand at my grave, I will have done my job if they know, without a doubt, that they were deeply, wholly loved. That however imperfect I was, that I did not hold back to save myself. That I gave all I could. That I spent the love I had lavishly on them.

There are no guarantees that our children will be grateful for our sacrifices, take full advantage of the opportunities we give them or “turn out right.” But as a Christian mother,  I have an ally in the fight. I have the help of a mighty God who hears my prayers and who may use my  humble mother efforts years down the road in the souls and lives of my children.

The meaning in life is found in pouring out our lives on behalf of others, just like our Savior did. We won’t gain applause from the world with its tragically warped value system, but we will have had a life well spent in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. And our children someday will bless our memory.

Her children rise up and bless her.  ~ Proverbs 31:28

 

 

When Four-Year-Olds Become ‘Spa Divas’

The birthday party ad was featured in the back of the parents’ magazine in our area.

It promoted both spa birthday parties for “little Divas” and also Spa Diva Day Camp for little girls, beginning at age 4. For the price of $350, eight little girls could have fake champagne, pedicures, manicures, sparkly make-up and their own “show-off, runway walk.”

The other option was Rock Star Day Camp where “girls just wanna have fun.” It was a small ad with a big and tragic message about American girlhood: It’s been ruined.

It is ironic that at a time when sex crimes against children are rampant, tarting up little girls is now an industry fueled by TV shows. The thinking processes of a mother hand delivering her little preschool-aged daughter to be trained in how to be a “spa diva” are incomprehensible. It is a grotesque moral failing with consequences for all of society.

The consequences of sexing up little girls are everywhere. Anyone with access to a news site will read about even late elementary girls sending nude photos of themselves via their phones. “Hooking up” and oral sex are commonplace subjects for middle-schoolers now. STD’s are at an all time high for young girls. Clothing becomes ever more raunchy at younger and younger ages. Girls just wanna have fun, see? They were made to be eye-candy for guys. (And pedophile bait, apparently.) Yet Mommy and Daddy sit in the audience at the end of Spa Diva Day Camp and applaud their little girls writhing their way down the runways for the pleasure of adults.

I don’t think a society can return from the brink once it reaches this stage. The challenge is protecting and raising our own daughters as Christians in a way counter to this filthy culture. It is no easy task. The more prevalent this sexing up of little girls becomes, the more difficult it is to present a different vision of girlhood to our own girls. Even Christian schools are filled with this carnal mindset, because so many professing evangelical mothers have bought the world’s lies about womanhood and what it should be.

I don’t believe in social isolation for children, but I do believe that the values and beliefs of tender young girls should be shaped by mothers and fathers, not by Hollywood and the little girls at school, fresh from their latest airhead and sleaze training at the Day Spa.

Commitment to providing a different vision of girlhood takes a great deal of energy and prayer. Only God can root a girl’s heart in what is lovely, true and worthwhile. But as mothers and fathers, we will give an account for the influences we allow in our daughter’s lives. If our daughters make bad choices, let it not be because we were too busy to teach them the bedrock truths of God’s Word and model them in our homes.