Prayers For My First Grader

It was supposed to be rest time in our home at 1:30 this afternoon. I put my baby down in her crib, closed the door and walked down the stairs to call the boys in for rest time just the way I normally do.

I sing to the tune of Mary Had A Little Lamb: ” It’s time to find your resting place, resting place, resting place, time to find your resting place, it is time to rest.”

But as I went to open the door and sing my song I saw three boys laughing and playing and I just could not make them stop.

So I watched them play from the bay window. The older two were on the swings and the younger was whacking them with a pool noodle. They were all laughing hysterically but I started to cry as I watched them.

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Today was the last day that all three of them will run around in the backyard after lunch time most days of the week. Tomorrow our biggest boy goes off to first grade and seventy one percent of his lunches and after lunch play times will now be spent outside of our home. (Mathematicians don’t hate on me here… I did not configure school and summer vacations into that one.)

So as I watched them I prayed. As I have gotten in the habit of praying for my kids when I spy on their play times.

I prayed for my son’s first days in his new classroom.

Lord, you are faithful and good. Please give my son good relationships with his new teachers and help him make new and long lasting friendships with his classmates. 

Lord, help him find others to run around on the playground with the same way he runs around our backyard at home. 

Lord, give him friends to sit at the lunch table with and joke and laugh… but also in the appropriate ratio of socializing and food eating. 

Lord, help me remember your faithfulness to us last year. Give me hope and trust for a school year which will grow us and stretch us in ways we weren’t expecting. 

Lord, give my son confidence in his work. Help him know in his heart that he is always loved by The Most High God. Help my son remember that he is kind, smart and important, uniquely knit together, wonderfully made. 

Lord, help my son stand up for himself and others. Help him be strong and courageous because You are with him wherever he goes. 

And Lord, help me be strong and courageous too because You have written that You are with my son wherever he goes and You are faithful. 

And as I watch these boys play, help the youngers left behind miss their brother well. Help them miss him enough to long to play around him but not enough to forget the fun they have when they are all together. 

Lord, we need you in transition and the unknowns. Help us trust You more and love one another better in the days to come.

Amen. 

And now the hardest thing to do is to leave my prayers and trust. To walk in the faith that calls us to believe in God’s faithfulness, even when we can’t see His faithfulness coming. To let the tears come with peace. The peace of God which transcends all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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First grade, here we come.

You can pray for me too.

The WORST Mom Ever

I am the WORST mom ever.

Sometimes I say this phrase to my kids when they are experiencing a disappointing circumstance. Truly. I can be fun but I am also tough. This combination leads to many disappointing circumstances.

When I say that I am the WORST mom ever to my kids I am only joking to add to the drama of their disappointed hearts. (When all my children are in counseling as adults they will talk to note taking men and women about how I used this phrase against them to feel guilty.)

I know I am causing damage when I joke with them about being the worst mother ever but I do find myself saying things like:

Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t get ice cream on the way home tonight but that is because I am the WORST mom ever.

Lately my oldest son has been saying something back to me and the more he responds to me the more I am taking his words seriously.

When I call myself the WORST mom ever he always says,

“Mom, why do you say you are the WORST mom ever when you are actually the BEST?”

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The first time he said this I took his response lightly because this is the reaction I wanted to get out of my children. (The children crying while leaving Kings Island because I only treated them to Chick Fil A and a day filled with amusement park fun and I did not add ice cream on top of it all.)

These words from my oldest son have continued to stick with me even though it was the response I was expecting.

Even though I was expecting my son to respond in this way, I never expected his words to affect me the way they have.

How often do we all speak these words of untruth to all of our hearts when we find ourselves not measuring up to the moms whom we encounter at church, on the playground, in our schools and on social media.

How often are we speaking to our own hearts that we aren’t doing this mom thing as well as someone else?

I do this all the time.

Every time I fail throughout the day. Whether it comes down to feeling guilty over what I put on the table, the amount of activities I did or did not plan, the hours I spent away from them on a trip or on a run, the amount of minutes I fell short on a reading log or the homework folder.

However I fail, I sometimes and in someway speak this poisonous phrase to myself.

The WORST mom ever. 

I think it and I really feel this phrase I speak jokingly to my children at times.

And the words of my oldest son are such a sweet gift to me:

“Mom, why do you always say you are the worst when you really are the best.”

I may not feel like I am always measuring up. But to the four kids who I feel like I am failing, currently I am the best mom ever to them. Currently, my kids see me doing this job of mom and through their lens they see me doing my best.

Why do I always say I am the worst? I don’t know. I wish I could see myself though the lenses of my children.

Maybe I wouldn’t be so hard on myself.

Maybe I would see myself the way they see me.

To our young children, we are the best. They can’t see what everyone else on social media is doing. They just see their moms waking up each day and loving them the best they can. Our kids don’t have the ability to measure us up against everyone else. They only measure us up against the happiness they find within the walls of their happy homes.

We may feel like the WORST but to the little people who matter, we are THE BEST.

I’m actually may be doing a decent job at this mom thing.

Those are the words I need to speak more kindly to my own heart.

The Things I Said I’d Never Do: An Unraveled Parent

There was a moment the weekend right before Christmas where I found myself cheering in a dark deserted parking lot on a chilly December night. I was cheering because my three year old was peeing in the bushes, outside and in the cold.

Really. I was rejoicing. This is something I’d never thought I’d be doing. Six years ago in my early parenting days, when my first son was about nine months old, my husband shared a story with me about a little boy peeing in the church parking lot and I said,

“I WILL NEVER let my son pee in a parking lot.” And I really believed myself. I was even reluctant to let my first son pee in the yard while we were potty training at two.

And there in December, I found myself applauding my three year old in the dark. I was so proud of him. This was same kind of pride I feel when one of my children take their first steps. Peeing outdoors has actually become an important milestone for me and after three sons, this “will never” along with many others has given me the opportunity to see myself unravel my wound up strings, breathe and let go of all those things I thought I’d never do as a parent.

A dear friend told me once, “parenting is actually for the parents” and I could not agree more. I can see how these little humans that I’ve carried, nursed, fed and cleaned up after are actually changing me more than I ever thought they would back at the beginning of the all the “will nevers”.

Parenting is for us. The parents. It’s funny how such tiny people have helped me grow and change. How these tiny people have helped me conquer fears, push the boundaries of who I thought I was and help me learn to love in ways I never thought I could.

I also said I will never let my kids watch Spongebob but when your stuck in a hotel room at 4pm on a rainy day with no Disney Junior you learn to let go on the tiny things that you think will corrupt your children’s tiny hearts and minds and you trust that God is bigger than Spongebob.

I said I will never own a toy gun back in those early days of being a new mom. My intentions were to raise boys that were not violent miscreants shooting everything and everyone they see. But looking back now I can see those intentions were ruled by fear and not trust. We now have multiple storage containers for weapons and nerf darts lodged into every couch cushion in our home. And so far- no violent miscreants.

I believe I may have uttered the words…

I will never let my children jump on the beds or the couch. Clearly I did not understand boys or children when this sentence came out of my mouth. This was also tangled up with the fear of my children getting hurt. I now actually sometimes encourage jumping on the couch and the beds, rejoicing when I hear them jumping and laughing and playing together the same way I was rejoicing when that little three year old was brave enough to pee outside in the cold.

I will never let my kids have formula. I am pretty sure I cried like a madwoman when the pediatrician told me my first son had lost too much weight and we had to supplement formula. The doctor’s eyes even bulged out a little at my overreaction. He wasn’t suggesting poison. Just formula. For supplemental purposes. And I was hyperventilating in my hospital bed uttering words of defeat, fear and remorse. When my fourth child was born I actually asked the nurse to give her formula our last two nights in the hospital so I could rest after having my fourth c-section. For supplemental and sanity purposes.  All my kids have been nursed and given formula and despite my fears none of them has grown a third eye or eleventh toe… yet.

I will never teach my children the word MINE. I found myself correcting a friend a few years back when he was playing keep away with my infant son and using the four letter word, mine. “I don’t want him to know what that word is” is what I think I said. I felt like the word mine was the root of all selfishness. The word that in four letters can turn a sweet child into a monster. My desire was to teach my son that everything was given by a Great Giver and therefore help him learn to not use words which represented a heart of selfishness. But again, my good intentions were tangled up in fear and the unknown that a word does not produce a heart of selfishness. A heart of selfishness is naturally in all of us and selfishness will work it’s way into a home with or without the word mine.

I will never be able to survive parenting four young children, who happen to be within four years of one another. Look. It is true. Having little humans is tough. Tears on the floor, will I make it to nap time tough. I do not like to live in the unexpected. But having four kids so close together has taught me to learn to swim in unexpected waters. I am slowly learning to survive in the unexpected and learning to be comfortable when I can’t control every little thing happening around me. So far I am surviving. I haven’t lost anyone yet and everyone is still all in one piece. Things almost never go the way I planned them to go but I am learning to trust that God’s plans are greater than my plans. God is growing me and changing me, unraveling threads of fear and weaving new stronger threads of trusting in Him.

I am thankful when I find myself doing things I thought I said I would never do. It is there where I see growth. It is there where I see God making me into a better version of myself. 

I never thought about parenting being for the parents. But it is. It changes you.You may even find yourself cheering for your children when they are peeing outside in the dark.

 

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Hi, I’m Rachel. I became a follower of Christ one year before I found myself married to a man pursuing a seminary degree and on the road to become a pastor. That was nine years ago. We now have four kids, he is the head pastor of a PCA church in Mason, Ohio and I am figuring out how to be a mom, how to love my husband and how to trust God in the every day, one day at a time. I write stuff here and I try to keep it honest and encouraging as I have accomplishments and set backs. Follow this page on Facebook or add your email to the follow box on the right so we can stay in touch. 

You May Remember When Your Shoes Felt A Little Too Big

I see you in the back of our minivan. You are strapped into your carseat and you are trying so hard to crank your neck over the high back to join in on the conversation your two big brothers are having behind you. All the cranking and trying is frustrating for you because you are strapped in too tight and those big boys in the third row can’t seem to hear you anyway.

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I see you there. The third brother but not the baby. The baby sister you hold dear is sitting on your right.

I see you sitting there with those light up Spiderman sandals. The ones I pulled out for you just a week ago. I know those sandals have seen two spring and summers before they have graced your feet. I know they are a whole size too big. But for now, you don’t seem to mind. I think of the pants you wear that are almost always worn down to their last threads around the knees. The pants that have reprised for the third time. The shirts that have been stained from years past. The hand-me-downs that are worn with grass stains and stories from previous summers.

I wondered today if you’ll ever grow up and think about why you almost never had a new pair of shoes or a new pair of pants. I wondered if you will remember when your shoes felt a little too big.

I was sad for you for a minute because I know how this kind of thing can develop in the story of a child and get tangled up in hurt and pain. I was sad because I know you never get first pick when it comes to Halloween Costumes or which movies we watch.

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Being the third brother, I know, is tough. It is tough now and it will be tough as you grow into a boy and a man.

I think about you and those light up shoes that are one size too big, your pants with holes and your shirts with stains.

I hope when think of those shoes you will remember the hand-me-downs, you love those light up shoes. But I hope you won’t stop there. I hope that you will not measure your worth on the things you had that were brand new with stickers and tags versus the things that you had that came up from storage and were a reprise of you big brother’s last summer.

I want you to always know the big love that we all have for you. Even brand new shoes and pants off the rack could never express how much big love we have for the third brother with those light up shoes that feel just a little too big.

I want to give you the world. I want you to feel important and unique and worthy. I just don’t go about it by buying you new shoes or new clothes every season.

My love for you is deeper and richer than things.

My love is more deeper than shoes that are one size too big.

My love is richer than reprised pants.

My love sees you. My love sits with you when you are sad and laughs with you when you are happy. My love holds you when you are sick and carries you up the stairs every night.

My love will stay with you and never leave, even when your feet grow up and out of those little light up shoes and you move on to more new-to-you shoes and new-to-you seasons.

As you grow you will learn that these things are worth so much more than clothes with new tags or shoes fresh out of the box.

I’m not a third child so I don’t know what it is like to be stuck somewhere in the middle or towards the end with the shoes that are a little too big and the reprised pants. But I wondered today. I saw you today.

I saw that perfectly unique and special boy who sits right behind the passenger seat of my minivan. That special boy who gets to give new adventures to those shoes that are too big, new stains to the old shirts, and the one who gets to tear the hole all the way through on those reprised pants.

I see you. And you are deeply and richly loved. Much more than shiny new shoes or a fresh pair of pants.

What Having Kids Really Does To Your Marriage

Six years and four months ago my husband and I became parents for the very first time. We had no idea what we were doing when we brought our son home to our two bedroom townhouse with nothing but a bili-bed, some blankets and formula supplements from the hospital. There was no manual and very little instructions. We were both in disbelief that someone would send two twenty-five year old kids with no experience home with a human life to care for and keep alive. We felt like goldfish being tossed into a cold water tank just praying that the quick transition from the cozy comfortable waters of not being a parent to the cold, unnavigated and unchartered waters of being a parent wouldn’t lead us to become lifeless floaters.

Or at least leave our marriage lifeless and floating at the top of the surface.

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I’ve heard it said that “having children can ruin a marriage” and I know this may be true for some but having kids has actually done many positive things in our marriage. Having kids has given us, those two young goldfish kids, the perspective that even though there were times we felt like goldfish years ago we were never destined to be floaters in that small pond. Together, my husband and I have been able to lead one another to deeper waters, experience deep challenges and actually find ourselves growing and thriving, especially in our marriage.

We brought four babies home from the hospital. Between the twenty-fifth year of my life and my thirtieth we brought home four babies from the hospital. Three sons and a daughter. Each time feeling the shock of the cold water as we were thrown into managing two children, then three and then four.

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There were days and seasons where we felt like our marriage was on the edge of this ruin we had heard about before. There were seasons where I sometimes could see the life in our marriage beginning to slowly die and watch it begin to float to the surface.

We were so tired.

So overwhelmed.

My husband expressed jealousy over how much attention I paid to the children and I sometimes resented being at home all day.

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We were barely able to manage the little lives that were graciously given to us and sometimes we found ourselves sacrificing us for them. Those were the times when I slowly started to see our marriage begin to float (lifeless) to the surface of our little pond. This has been part of the journey and it has not come without hard lessons and tough waters.

It was a hard lesson for us to learn to choose each other and bring life back into us and our marriage. There were many fights and many tears until we faced the truth that before we were graciously given these little lives to care for we were graciously given one another. We were graciously given the gift of marriage first and it was our job to learn how to put us and our marriage before them.

I can see how having kids could ruin marriage if you forget to choose one another first. I could see it in those moments when we failed to choose one another first and I began to see those lifeless seasons of our marriage. When we were so busy tending to them we forgot about caring for us.

So, two years ago we decided that we would fight to choose one another. That was always our intention going into this whole parenting thing but somehow we lost that good intention in the exhaustion, the diapers and the cheerios and we found ourselves desperately digging and turning over every crumb to get it back.

Now our kids are six, four, three and almost a year and a half and it is a relief to say we are through those challenging years of having new babies and all that exhaustion. And our marriage made it though. Four times. It is a miracle and a gift.

It is a miracle and a gift to come out on the other side of that hard stage in our marriage and see my husband with a new lens. It’s like the Michael I once knew was just a boy back then before the kids and now I find myself looking at a man.

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A man who kneels beside the beside and prays with my children every night.

A man who gets lost in children’s literature with my kindergartener and keeps him up past bedtime reading just one more chapter.

A man who takes the kids to the doctor for their vaccinations when I am too afraid to do it myself because I can’t stand the sight of my sweet baby crying or being stuck by a needle.

A man who has taught my sons to love God, love fishing and who digs for bugs with them.

A man who sings to my daughter when he pulls the blinds up in her room in the morning.

A man who will come home if he has an hour between his daytime hours and nighttime meetings just so he can push kids on the swings and give me forty five minutes of quiet.

Having kids has given me a lens of tenderness, love and care to see my husband through and that lens has made my love grow more deeply for him.

Choosing to see him as the man he has grown into because of being a father has given me a stronger and deeper connection to him and a heart that is more tender for him.

"My heart is full every morning to see my family wall snuggled up like this."

Having kids has also given us the firm foundation of finding ourselves on a team. It has to be us against them. There are only two of us and four of them so we have to stick together. We find ourselves laughing on our team when our kids do crazy things like walk into the same bathroom stall as another kid and pee in the toilet with them, at the same time, all while casually sharing our plans for our family vacation to Florida. Even if this other child was a complete stranger. (That is only a glimpse into the crazy).

We find ourselves supporting one another when a parenting situation is hard. We need each other. I sometimes need to tag him in for awhile when I feel the wind in my sails fading over discipline or even homework.

Having kids has given us deeper unity together. Something that I hope and pray grows as we approach having four teenagers all at the same time.

Having kids has given us a common interest to invest our heart and souls into and it has also given us something to grow in and get better at together. We exchange helpful phrases and prayers as we fight to grow.

Having kids has given me a better friend in my husband than I ever could have dreamed of having when we were those two young goldfish in that two bedroom apartment with that newborn baby.

I never expected having kids to bring trials into our marriage and I never expected those trials to deepen my love for my husband. I know we have many more years of choosing one another and fighting to be us against them.  But these early trials have brought us together and made us stronger which make me think if we can survive the little years maybe there is hope for the rest of our parenting days.

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Having kids really can (and has for us) deepen the relationship between a husband and a wife. It has given us an unbreakable bond. Look at that husband, he is such a gift to me. 

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Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

(James 1:2-3 NLT)