Grace for Young Mothers

I haven’t written lately.

I haven’t painted.

I haven’t sewn a book or printed on the handmade paper I recently made.

Yet I have been doing the very things for which I retired. I am spending time with our grandchildren.

I walked into my studio yesterday to check the tiles I made with 8 of our grandchildren. The calm, creative atmosphere of the studio hit me, along with the fact that I have several projects in the works waiting to be attended to. “I LOVE working in this studio,” I thought.

But there will be time later, I thought. Grace.

These thoughts took me back 36 years to the time our children were little. It seemed like I faced a never ending cycle of meals, laundry, cleaning. Oh…. forget the cleaning. I did.

I didn’t write – except a random letter once in a great while.

I didn’t paint – except for a stick horse, a wall mural, or doll furniture.

I did not make anything “creative.”

But wait!

I was doing exactly what I planned to do when I left teaching full time. I was spending time with our children. “There would be time later to “create”, I thought.

AND THERE IS! Grace.

When God births a desire in our hearts, He is faithful to fulfill it in His time. We must wait and trust. I realized this week that I could choose to lament the time I am not in my studio, or enjoy the fact that our grandchildren are here and that I can treasure this time with them.

I am so thankful I chose the latter. We are having a lovely time. (I am worn out!)

A friend, Lena Woods, told me this week that her favorite memories from childhood were spending time with her cousins at her grandmother’s house. I hope we are creating some very special memories for our grandchildren as well.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

This Scripture passage goes on to list many of life’s activities. Each thing has a time and a place. God’s time and God’s place.

So, I am going to go now and make lunches and we are going to ride bikes.

The studio will be there next month.

The grandchildren will not. Grace.

A Living Sacrifice

As pregnant women, we get a true picture of what it means for our bodies to not be our own. We feel that little life (or lives) moving inside and we realize it is no longer about us.

We may feel sick from certain smells that never bothered us before pregnancy, we also may crave certain foods for no apparent reason. We are no longer in charge and often don’t even understand the changes taking place in our own bodies. This is just the beginning.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice.

You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again. I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest.

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God!  Why did I see them as a hindrance? Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.

As we have contemplated this Easter weekend the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, let us embrace the sacrifices we make as mothers moment by moment, day by day.

Jesus is our example – He laid down His life. As His follower, I must do likewise and be a living sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Story

P1060665

Everyone loves a good story.

Be honest now, remember the last time you were at a baby shower (Sunday for me) with a bunch of women – many with a birthing story to tell. It is amazing! Anyone who has had a child has a story – some are funny, some painful, some are hard to believe, some can’t remember anything because they were drugged.

Some stories are sadly tragic. Yet each story ends with a birth. My friend Carol, a long time labor and delivery nurse, says that the saddest births are those that end in a still-born delivery. Dear friends of ours lost a baby soon after she was born and I remember what a painful time that was.  After nine months of anticipation and planning all the hopes and dreams of sharing that new life die with the death of that baby.

Sharing these stories, good and bad, happy and sad, keep alive the memories of these precious little lives however brief. Sharing the stories of those babies who did not live or had very short lives allows future children to acknowledge that their life is a gift – not a given.

Children love to hear stories about their birth and early years. The story gives each child a sense of belonging and family heritage that is important as they form their self image. This is important for adoptive children as well. The fact that they were chosen by the adoptive parents and the story of the effort that those parents made to include them in the family will help those adopted to feel every bit as loved and valued as biological children.

The shower Sunday was for a baby whose mother is 42 and the parents have been married 18 years. The testimony of that mother of accepting God’s will when they thought they would never have children is a lovely story of God’s grace and faithfulness.

And…YES! Surprise!

This is a time of the year when many of us celebrate the sanctity of human life. As we do so, we remember that each life is ordained by God and so precious in His sight. The following verses were written by the Psalmist before there were x-rays, ultrasounds, or CAT scans. Yet they acknowledge what we now can see through scientific technology – what grows inside the womb is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.

Psalm 139:13-16

13 For you created my inmost being; 
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from you 
   when I was made in the secret place, 
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
   before one of them came to be.

This is a story we must tell our children and grandchildren. Share with these children the story of their birth, celebrating together God’s faithfulness.

Each of them is made in the image of God and as their lives unfold, the story of their lives has been written in God’s book – planned by the God of the universe.

Late Bloomers

image

“Look at these blooms!”

I have just returned from a trip with my mother to see my brother and sister-in-law in Eugene, Oregon. I fully expected to see our flower beds in that dried out, dead leaf state that results from a freeze.

But it is October 31 and we have not had a freeze yet!

These late bloomers are especially beautiful to me because they are unexpected.

These flowers are showing off their beauty “out of season” and therefore are that much more enjoyable. This caused me to think about the seasons or phases in our lives and the fact that this delay can create a special appreciation….if we recognize it.

As parents and grandparents we are often looking for developmental milestones in our children. These can be as varied as –

  • talking
  • walking
  • hitting a baseball
  • riding a bike
  • reading
  • writing one’s name

When there is a delay in reaching one of these “milestones”, it can cause anxiety. Yet, often children develop at various rates because not everyone is on the same developmental time-table. Each human is an individual. There are so many variables in life that affect development.

Each stage of a child’s life becomes more precious if we enjoy it for what it is. a “season” or “stage” of life. Some mother’s lament the passing of the baby stage while others look forward to meaningful conversations with their teenagers.

Wait….are those meaningful conversations possible?

YES!

A well-known passage of scripture in Ecclesiastes  3 addresses the various seasons and times in life. We often read this in regard to major life events. I think several of these verses apply aptly to raising children.

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

God has a season and a time for everything. It may not be according to our timing, in fact many things probably WON’T be according to our timing.

Yet God in His infinite love and wisdom will carry out His plan in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

If they are precocious and do things “early”, enjoy that season.

If they progress at a “normal” pace (whatever that is), enjoy that as well.

If they are “late bloomers”, enjoy the surprise and joy of accomplishment with them. The wait can make it all the more sweet.

Above all else, remember – God is faithful.

An Act of True Worship

Adah and leaves

Our daughter shared a post yesterday from John Piper about worshipping with our children. It is excellent and if you want to read it, I have included the link below.

It reminded me of my personal story regarding worship and children. It is from the 2nd blog I ever posted – April 25, 2011. Here it is –

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice. You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again.

I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest!

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to authentic worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God! Why did I see them as a hindrance?

Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.”

Worshipping in church services with our children is one way to sacrifice – for a relatively short period of time – our own desire to focus on worship without distractions. As our children watch us worship, they will learn what worship is and learn to sense the Holy Spirit’s presence through the various parts of the service.

I believe once children are 5 years old, (some even before), most are able to learn what it means to sit quietly, participating as they are able. John Piper says – “Authentic, heartfelt worship is the most valuable thing in human experience.”   Yes! Amen!

If I believe that, why would I deprive my children of this experience? Add to that the joy of experiencing authentic worship together.

There will be challenging times, especially at first, but it is well worth the effort. This is true for grandparents as well. Grandparents need to support and encourage our grandchildren to worship, first by being examples of those who truly worship ourselves.

What a joy to experience the act of true worship together as families!

 

desiringgod.org  “Should Children Sit Through “Big Church”?

It’s Hot, Tempers Flare!

“Stop that!”

“You did it first!”

“When is it MY turn?”

“I’m always last!”

“These kids are driving me nuts!”

Don’t these whiny words seem all the more irritating when it is hot?

I remember riding in the car with my brothers when we were young. It was not air-conditioned, and all three of us were in the back seat with no dividers or arm rests. I didn’t want my brothers to touch me, or my stuffed dog, Spotty…..

or even LOOK at me!

I remember my father saying that if the whining didn’t stop, he was going to pull over.

We knew what that meant.

We stopped whining, but we glared at each other.

Well, Gregg and I did…. Garry was reading.

This scenario never happened in the winter. Why not? We rode in the same car on the same back seat….but it wasn’t hot!

As a parent, I remember facing the same situation when our children were young. We did have air conditioning, but usually just opened the windows and we had more room in our Volkswagen Vanagan. (We often had to push it off to get it to start, though.)

I still faced the whining when it was hot, and my patience seemed to melt away along with the higher temperatures.

As the temperature rose, so did the volume of my voice.

How can we face the heat and also the fact that we and our children must control our tempers?

The source of this kind of anger is often physical discomfort. We have no control over the weather, but we can control our response to it. In thinking about this, I remember some helpful suggestions that I have heard and tried over the years:

  • do chores first thing in the morning – it is usually cooler
  • have lots of water available at all times – hydration helps
  • plan for inside, quiet activities during the heat of the day – usually 11:00 to 2:00 or so
  • this is a good time for reading, a video, playing games
  • get in the water – a river, creek, pool, lake, ocean, if possible in the afternoon
  • if not  – turn on a hose or sprinkler
  • plan meals that don’t require a hot stove or oven – sandwiches, fruits and fresh veggies

If riding very far in the car, plan ahead to have enough books, coloring books, or games so there is less chance of squabbling between siblings. Our daughters often use stories on CD in the car and their children really enjoy them.

The Bible addresses the importance of controlling our anger. Ephesians 4:31-32 says –

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

We should admit to ourselves and our children that it is HOT and that we all feel the effects, BUT, we will still be kind to each other, avoiding harsh words and a mean tone of voice.

This does not mean that we don’t correct or discipline our children when they intentionally and willfully disobey. The heat does not justify bad behavior.

It does mean that we give grace to each other, just as God has shown His grace to us.

Little Ones – Valuable Ministry

“One thing missing when I began staying home with my children was the affirmation that the work I was doing was  good, or even valuable.”

My friend Cathy Fowler said this yesterday and I remember clearly (even though it was almost 40 years ago) that I felt the same way.

Our first child was born on the last day of school, the third year of my teaching career. Unless you have taught young children, you may not know the special way kindergarteners have of making you feel that you are special, loved, and just generally amazing!

  • “Mrs. Woody, you are SO pretty!” (this when I had gained 50, yes, 50 lbs. in pregnancy)
  • “Mrs. Woody, I want to be just like you when I grow up.”
  • “Mrs. Woody, you are so good at drawing!” (I had drawn a generic looking flower labeling the parts of a plant)
  • “Mrs. Woody, I like your shoes!” ( red Earth shoes, this was 1977)

I could go on and on….

Cathy and I agreed that being new mothers, alone most of the day with an infant who did NOT give us much affirmation, was a real adjustment.

Both of us were thrilled to be mothers.

At the same time, we did miss the social interaction and professional feedback.

A new baby does not appreciate our shoes, how good we are with numbers, how organized or creative we are, or anything else about us at first. (except for those two essential body parts, oh, and arms for holding)

Yet that time with small children is of utmost importance.

We often hear young women who stay at home with their children say things like, “I’m just a mom.” “I just stay home with my kids .”

Using the word “just” seems to minimize the value of the most important responsibility you will ever have. As women of God we desire to serve Him first and foremost. Sometimes we think that ministry is a ministry to “others”, like children in an orphanage in South America.

Are children in a foreign country more valuable in God’s eyes that those children right here where we are?

No, once He blesses us with children, God has entrusted us with those He loves with an everlasting love and He wants us to be faithful in our service as mothers.
If we ever doubt the absolute importance of our ministry as mothers we must read Matthew 19:14.

Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

If our Lord thought that children were so important, shouldn’t we?

In Matthew 18:2-4 we read

“He called a little child and had him stand among them. 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.”

I love this next part – it blessed me so much when my children were little – verse 5 ”

And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

Amazing!  Every time I welcome my child into my arms, snotty nose and all, I am welcoming Jesus!

Being a mother to your children is the GREATEST job you can have at this time in your life. It is more important than working on Capitol Hill, as an RN, teaching special needs children, or any other career.

May you embrace God’s calling for you at this time in your life and may He give you strength, wisdom, patience, and most of all – His Love.

God Bless You!