A message to younger mothers

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On Sunday during church I glanced over at my 14 year old daughter.  She was sitting on the pew, cross-legged and jeans-clad and barefoot, having abandoned her shoes under the bench.  On her left arm was a rather ornate flower drawn in ink and colored in with gel pen. A moment before she’d been singing her heart out to Jesus. As my eyes lingered admiringly on the gel pen art, it suddenly struck me how very much I have changed over the years.

ink-2With our first half dozen children or so, I was so very caught up in appearances.  Sunday clothes meant skirts for the girls, with pants allowed only now and then.  Boys wore nice pants, or maybe black jeans, but only if not too faded. Shoes, of course.  No going barefoot in church. Keep your feet on the floor. Hair was neat and tidy and slicked back. No writing on your arms, and especially not with colored ink.

I am not sure how I decided on all those rules, but I’m pretty sure I had unhappy moments with my older children over every single one of those rules.

So why on earth the other day was I simply admiring my daughter’s arm instead of coaxing her to put shoes back on, and sit up straight, and wipe off all that ink?

It’s simple.  When you’ve raised enough kids, chances are you’ve seen enough big stuff– the really important decisions that big kids make– to see that appearance means nothing.  Not one thing.

You also see more clearly how fast this parenting journey goes.

Plenty of times in my early parenting years I ruined good moments– moments that could have bound hearts together– making sure my kids looked good in public. I valued their appearance over their hearts.

Don’t get me wrong– I’ve always cared for their hearts too.  We spent many hours teaching them truth and sharing our values and praying with and for them. But I know there were times when my worry over how things looked to the world sidetracked me from the really important stuff that was going on in my kids’ hearts.  Times when the ‘appearance’ message made it hard for my kids to see how profoundly I do care about their hearts.  And probably harder for them to share those precious hearts with me.

If I could go back as a mom and redo the parenting of my older kids, I’d release my expectations about appearances. With little kids, expectations are often related to whether their clothes match or look nice enough for church.  With big kids these days, parents find themselves wrestling with questions about piercings and ink and what’s modest and what’s not.  These discussions are weighty indeed.  But when it comes down to it, none of those things truly affect my child’s salvation.

The real heart-and-soul questions have nothing to do with what my children wear or what they choose to write on their bodies, or whether their feet are on the pew or on the floor during the sermon. It all comes down to the heart. What’s going on inside those precious, priceless hearts of theirs? Do they love and trust in Jesus? Are they loving the people around them?  Do they know how much they are loved by God and by us?

We humans can fall into so many pits and traps.  We can be sidetracked in so very many ways.  But our only hope — our children’s only hope– in life and in eternity is faith in Jesus’ perfect atoning work on the cross.  Faith in the Saviour who passionately loves us.  Enough that He died for us right in the middle of all our mixed-up imperfection and brokenness.  That is the one thing this finally-getting-wiser momma wants each and every one of my precious ones to understand.

Where is your child’s hope?

Where is yours?

In Christ alone our hope is found.

That’s what really matters.

Nothing else.


1 Samuel 16:7–  “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”




Kids and gifts. And Jesus.

This is the time of year when my momma-heart wants to give my children the perfect gift. Well, truth be told, always I long to do that, but that longing is huge at Christmas. This year with all the busy-ness of moving, my Christmas gift-hunting feels hampered, what with budget constraints and time restraints and the need to focus on the huge task of moving from one home to another. But still, I think of each of my loved ones when I lie in bed at night.  I’d give them the sun and the moon and the stars, if I could, if that is what will bring them joy.

This time of year also, with all the busy-ness of Christmas, is a time when tempers can flare, when tired-kid tantrums can push a tired momma over the edge, leaving a momma feeling like the strain of all that rampant emotion is too much to bear. Don’t kids understand mom is tired? Busy? Stretched? Trying her darndest to make sure this Christmas will be memorable and special and beautiful?

I know it is completely illogical, but somehow I think if loved ones could just see past my to-do list to my heart, they’d save all their negativity til another month, just set it aside, give me a bit of breathing room.  Because, oh, drama.  I really don’t need it right now.  Let’s have joy and tranquility and understanding and patience instead.

Humans don’t work like that though, do they?  Stress just boils every bit of negativity to the surface, doesn’t it?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at an angry toddler, or a stubborn teen, and prayed desperately for wisdom great enough, words wise enough, to turn that heart around.   Oh, what a useful power that would be.

Yesterday in church the theme of the sermon was this simple longing: “We wish to see Jesus.”

Oh, yes. That.

But how can that longing guide my momma-heart?  Help meet my children’s needs? Direct their hearts?

I suspect in each situation, each heart is different.  Jesus demonstrated that Himself, in his different approaches to human drama. Sometimes he came to earth in baby humility.

Fisher Price nativity

Other times He threw the money-grubbers out of the temple.  Or healed their broken bodies.  Or fed their hungry tummies.  Or fed their hungry souls.  Or showed beautiful grace in the face of the ugliest of sin.

And then there was the bit where He spread out his arms in love and died, just so we could be in heaven with Him someday.

All love, all the time.  But evidenced in different ways.

I’m not ever going to do love as well as Jesus does.  But in the end it’s not my love, really, that I want my children to see.   I want the words out of my mouth, and the actions of my hands,  and even the gifts under the Christmas tree to show them Jesus.  To remind them of the great love He has for each and every one of them.

In this season of gift-giving, of scurrying, and hurrying to prepare just the right celebration for our loved ones, I pray that I will be able to point my loved ones to the truest, best Lover of their souls.

Whether they know it or not, they wish to see Jesus. May my words, and actions, and attitudes direct them to Him this Christmas.

And always.

We wish to see Jesus.

Fisher Price nativity

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. -Isaiah 61:1




96% efficient?

One of the features of my new fitbit is that it evaluates the efficiency of your sleep on any given night. This morning the fitbit informed me that in the 8.5 hours during which I was in bed, I woke TEN times, which sounds absolutely horrible.  Except I still slept a full 8 hours, which the fitbit rated as 96% efficient. Nevermind the whole ‘awake 10 times’ thing.

efficiency-expert-cartoonI’m not sure how the fitbit sleep algorithm works– how can a good night of sleep include so many wakenings?  But it got my mind wandering to my own ‘efficiency rating’ as a mother, and how so often I judge my effectiveness as a mother by the last time I was impatient, or didn’t really meet the needs of one of my kids.  If there was a gadget to rate me as a mom, I’m kind of afraid  my efficiency rating wouldn’t be in the 90’s.  Some days I’d probably be an outright failure.

Except it depends on where I’m focusing, doesn’t it?  What if, instead of noting every failure, I was noticing every time a child and I had a good moment together, a point of connection.  Times where I guessed someone’s feelings, or validated them, or gave them a hug or a cookie or a ride home when they needed it.  Times when I prayed for them, cheered them, loved them well.

Too often I am way too focused on the ‘wakenings’ — the bumps in the mothering road–the times where I don’t get it right— so much that I am not noticing the times I’m doing well.  I know I’m not perfect, and maybe not even 96% efficient most days.  But if I can remember to notice the times I’m getting things right– instead of mentally tallying every oops in my little black book of mothering– most likely I’m going to have more energy for the things that I want to do more of.  More energy for the things that really matter.

Come to think of it– that’s probably what my kids need more of, too.  More focus on what they’re doing right, and less on the moments of ‘oops’– the wrong turns and the mishaps and the bumps in the road that we all have.



Frugal Friday: 6 ways we save money on trips

Frugal vacationing

I’ve skipped Frugal Friday way too many times in a row but I thought this would be a good day for a quick post about ways to be frugal even when you’re on vacation.  I’m hoping you’ll also chime in below and tell me ways that you save money when you’re traveling.

1.  We camped for a lot of years and of course that is a super affordable way to sleep your family on vacation, especially when you also do a lot of the cooking yourself.  Here are a few fun camp-food ideas.

2. For a mob as big as ours, a vacation rental is also a good way to sleep a lot of people on a budget.  A house that can sleep a dozen or more can run $250-$400 a night, but divide that among 4 or more households and all of a sudden it starts looking more affordable, especially when you compare it to the cost of sleeping that number of people in a hotel.

3.  Whether camping or staying in a vacation home, a fabulous way to save money on a trip is to cook for yourself. In 9 days of vacation this past week  our group of 16+ people ate out exactly twice, and one of those times was on the way home. Also remember to use those coolers, and pack lunches and snacks for driving days.  If you feel too disorganized to pack a whole meal remember that even apples, cookies and juice boxes in a cooler will help ward off the hungries and save you money.

4.   When you do eat out– we all need a break from cooking sometimes!– choose your restaurants wisely. We tend to gravitate toward Mexican restaurants or pizza when we are on the road, since those types of restaurants tend to be more affordable.  Another bonus of Mexican restaurants– free chips while you wait for your meal!  That’s a big help when you’re traveling with hungry kiddos:)

Swimming5. If you’re hoteling it, stay in hotels with free breakfast. We also try to find hotels with sleeper couches and extra cots, to limit the number of rooms we’ll need.  And remember to read the reviews so you won’t be surprised by what you’re getting for your money.

6. Splurge a little. On trips even when we’re cooking at the house, I lean a bit heavier on convenience food and often serve snacks that I don’t buy any other time.  That keeps the trip feeling special, and makes life easier and more fun for everyone.

What about you?  How do you save money on vacation?



the muddled middle

A few months ago I was doing that thing when the weather is foul where you look around your house and it starts feeling like bear cave. Everybody’s been inside too long and you haven’t found a place for Christmas presents yet, and all you can see is the clutter built up around the edges. 

That particular day I’d already thrown away three bags of junk from my laundry room and two out of the linen closet and I was about to start in on the coats in the front closet. That may not have been a strategic move considering there was a foot of snow in the front yard—but I was done with coat-chaos in the entry way! Thankfully logic prevailed. Instead of throwing away coats completely, I decided what would really complete my life was a new coat rack on the wall by my front door. 

So I did what any smart woman with an idea does—I looked on Pinterest for the perfect heavenly vision of what was in my head. Then I went to Lowe’s and picked out wood and coat hooks, and had a buff young man in a Lowe’s apron cut the wood for me.

I went home and started pounding nails into my trim boards. The first couple went OK, except then I couldn’t find the studs in the wall, which meant my boards were just stuck in sheet rock, and if anything bigger than a Barbie coat ended up on that thing, it’d all come crashing down. I gotta mention here — I have a husband who is a woodworker—he does gorgeous work—but Pinterest had me convinced I could totally whip this out myself.

I prayed for studs and pounded more nails. And it turned out my wood was that fake stuff that’s basically glued-together sawdust. Which totally works for folks like my husband who actually hit the nail every time. But that’s not me. And when my hammer missed both nails—the actual nail AND my thumbnail, then the hammer would smash into my fake wood and make a nice divot. 

Partway through the project it was looking pretty scary. My fake wood was all dinged up. A couple of the nails – the ones that had actually HIT studs– would NOT go all the way in no matter how hard I pounded. And by now my husband was only an hour or two from coming home. My inner two year old was bound and determined to do this thing BY MYSELF without any male help (well, except that cute young man at Lowe’s, but my hubby didn’t have to know about him).

Every now and then one of my kids would come over, look at the wall doubtfully, open their mouth to say something– and then notice the steam coming out of my ears and retreat.

Finally I got most of my nails pounded in and the coat hooks screwed in and it even felt reasonably stable. I got out the putty and filled in my mistakes, and slapped a coat of white pain all over the whole project. DIY coat rack

While I was standing back looking at it with my head cocked over sideways trying to decide if it actually looked OK, or it that was just my hopeful imagining, my daughter came up and stood beside me. I’ve walked through fire trying to love this precious one well, and on that long journey, she has been the one God has used most often to show me my own flaws and imperfection. So that’s the kid who came alongside me companionably.

And she tipped her head sideways too and she squinted at my project and she said, “It looks pretty good.”

I told her I’d been really doubting for awhile that it’d be OK.

She looked me in the eye and said, “Yeah, lots of projects look kind of messy in the middle, but they usually work out OK in the end.”

Do you know what it meant to me to have that child—out of all my ten– speak those words to me? It was as if God himself whispered in my ear, “It’s going to be all right in the end.”

As Christians we know it’s going to be all right in the end, right?

Then why, so often, do we judge our success as mothers by looking at the muddled middle of our child’s story? The muddled middle of our own story?

And– another thing–how often do we try to do this project of motherhood ALL BY ourselves even though we’ve got the limitless power of God RIGHT there? Totally forgetting that our Father in heaven loves us and our precious kids more than we ever can. Forgetting He has every resource at His disposal, and He’s working powerfully in all of our lives this very minute.

He’s even preparing a place called Heaven for us some day.

Never forget: Our God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or hope or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.

Do not be weary in doing well, for in due time – after you get through the muddled middle – you WILL reap a reward if you do not faint along the way. I think it’s the King James version that talks about fainting along the way and I really, really appreciate that translation because so often as a momma I feel like today might be the day I faint along the way.

But let me say it again: Our God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or hope or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.

It’s all Him. It’s all Him.

Walk humble. Love deep. Be faithful. Don’t lose hope.

He is mighty to save and He loves you and your precious children with an everlasting love.

Don’t be afraid of the muddle in the middle.


(Excerpted from Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting)

Password, smashword

I had this post all ready to go the other day, but then my blog went toes up and now here it is a week since my last post.  The good news is that (obviously) the blog is fixed.  My computer is also fixed, finally.  Hooray!  And a final (also overdue) bit of good news is that I finally can announce the winner of my last week’s book giveaway Every Bitter Thing.  It is commenter #8 Suzanne Slagell.  Suzanne, email me your address and I will get this book headed your way.

Overall, work is going very well, but ohmygoodness– last week I was ready to scream from password frustration.  So.many. You see, charting on the OB labor unit  happens in two different computer programs, and nurses are also constantly moving back and forth between computers in patient rooms and  computers at the nurses’ station, with each separate program on each separate computer requiring a new login.


Some things have to be charted at the bedside, and other things can more conveniently be done at the desk, so it’s not like you can just use one computer.  You can also expect that any time you walk away from the computer for more than 5 minutes, you’ll be automatically logged out.  On top of that, labor and delivery nurses need to chart every 15-30 minutes. It is completely normal to have to type in your password three or four dozen times in 12 hours.

Three days of that, and last week I came home needing to pay bills, with the banking software logging out automatically every time I’m idle for 3 minutes, and John’s computer doing the same thing to me every time I went idle for 10 minutes.  And then came the grocery store and trying to remember the PIN # for my new debit card. This week I’ve come to a truce with the situation.  But last week– yikes= I was SO tired of passwords.

On the bright side, I got to help with TWO births last week, and another this week– an utter delight and privilege.  I really love helping laboring women. To make it even nicer, for all three of those births I got to work with the only two doctors who actually still know me from years ago when I worked.

Though lots of the workflow is still unfamiliar, I have the feeling that once I master the equipment and become familiar with all the various protocols, the stress level will go down markedly and I will be able to move through the day with less of the scatter-brain feeling and more efficiency.  Already the IV pumps that felt hard a couple weeks ago feel very doable.  I am feeling very encouraged overall.

Even better, the kids seem to be doing well at home.  We’ve been arranging fun activities a day or two a week for the younger girls, which they enjoy.  The kids are getting their school done.  It is fun to get texts from the teens now and then during the day, and the younger girls come snuggle with me on the couch in the evenings when I get home.  We’re making this work!

Good news in the mother of the groom dress department too.  I ordered the dress on the far right in this post, and ended up loving it.  I think it’d be a dab better if I lost 5 pounds or so, which I want to do anyway. (As infrequently as I’m managing to eat while at work, I’m thinking that’s going to be happening soon!) And I’m also trying to get back to running every couple days.  But my girls say it looks great just as it is, so I think it just may be the winner.

In other news, the new baby chicks that we got this spring are getting big.  I’l have to get a picture of them for you soon.  They are lots of pretty different colors.

I must head off to bed now, as I have one more early morning this week. Then Friday is a date with the grandbabies!  🙂  What fun!

Book giveaway: Every Bitter Thing

About three years ago at a blogger’s dinner for the Dot.Mom conference, I had the privilege of sitting next to Sara Hagerty with some time to talk for awhile. As a fellow adoptive momma, I felt an immediate kinship with her, and an understanding of some of her life. But the evening left me wishing I’d had time to visit longer, as I could tell that she is a beautiful person and I just knew there was a lot more to her story than we’d really had time to talk about. I had the sense there was lots more to know.

So when I heard a few months ago that her book had just been released, I was thrilled, and eager for this chance to know a little more about how God had been working in Sara’s family.  Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things  is a deeply thoughtful, sometimes heartbreaking, always truthful telling of Sara’s story through infertility toward adoption.  Whether or not you have experienced infertility or adoption, I think you’ll find her story to be compelling.

I have the privilege of giving away a copy of Sara’s book to one lucky reader this week.  I am planning on selecting a winner on Monday, and to enter the drawing, all you have to do is comment below.  Simply tell me you’re interested in the book, or if you’d like, share one sweet blessing in your life this week.

One thing I’m enjoying is my new co-workers at the hospital.  They’re smart and funny and energetic, and I’m looking forward to knowing them better.

If you would like an additional entry for this giveaway, share this post on facebook or twitter, and then come back to comment again and tell me you did so.  And as long as you’re in the giveaway mode, you may also want to go over to Copperlight Woods where Shannon is doing another adoption book giveaway, featuring her book Upside Down and my book Forever Mom!

My computer? Still broken.

It’s about time for an update from here, right? Here’s a quick shot of my new haircut– the light is funny but you get the idea.  It is a little harder to style than I’d like, but it is fun to have something different, and hopefully I’ll get quicker at it as I get more experienced.haircut

I’m still contemplating the whole wedding dress question.  Good thing I have awhile to decide.  I have a dress on the way to try– I’ll show it to you if it turns out to be a contender.

My computer is still out being repaired.  Between sharing a computer with my hubby and working full time this month, it is HARD to make time to write.  I do have a giveaway post planned for Wednesday, so stay tuned. But mostly when I sit down to write, I find myself wanting to reflect on all the life change related to my new job.

Part of it is just about the job itself.  Each work morning I wake up excited to go learn ALL THE THINGS– preferably yesterday- and get capable quickly. I even find myself practicing new skills in my sleep.  Last night I dreamed I had a really demanding patient who was frustrated with me, and demanding an IV even though I was sure she really didn’t need one. (Strange person, eh?)  My brain is definitely on OB overdrive.

But the rest of my mental energy of course is focused on my kids, and how they’re doing with all this.  I still want to be fully present and available. John and I have been watching a really good TV show called Blue Bloods–and in one episode the wise police commissioner/family patriarch said, “The hardest day at work is easier than any day parenting teens.”

Oh, that resonated with me. But it also made me wince,  and to wonder if part of the reason that this whole job thing felt okay to me at this point in life is BECAUSE teen parenting is so very challenging.  I don’t want to use the busy-ness of work– the importance of it, or even the whole getting-paid aspect–oh, the novelty– as an excuse to disengage from the home-drama.

I think a bit of occasional distance could be good, especially in the case of older teens.  Homeschooling doesn’t give you breaks from each other, and I think maybe (once this intense month of full-time work is done) my bits of time away could be a chance to regain perspective.  Maybe they will even appreciate me more?  (Or not…)

But just two weeks in, I can already feel the pull in many directions, the need to streamline.  John and I are talking about making the garden smaller this year.  I’m double-batch cooking every chance I get.  Leftovers are easy meals for the home folks.  I’m trying not to get to bent out of shape over cluttered corners and projects that aren’t getting done this month.  Major in the majors.

Sleep is important, and so is keeping laundry done and food in the fridge.  People are important– taking time to talk, to have the hard and the easy and the big and the little conversations.  Asking kids about school and finances and work and friends and the state of their hearts.

That’s a huge takeaway from this experience so far: I really, really need to be intentional about taking moments to talk.  When I’m here, I really need to be here.  Not on facebook or pinterest. My youngest two girls seek me out, and I naturally seek them out too. Our relationship is easy and fun and gratifying.  But I need to also continue to pursue these teens of ours.  Even the prickliest ones.  The ones who don’t think they need me.

Last evening I was up late, chatting with a bunch of the boys, about lip piercings and oddly-named Dutch Bros. drinks, and random other things. It was nice time. Then I was up early for a zoo date with three of my girls and some of the grandbabies.  I’m yawning today, and am considering a nap. But before I sneak in that nap, I’ll play a round of Phase 10 with my 10 year old and make a doctor’s appointment, and pay some bills. Dinner this evening is fried rice, with Costco pot-stickers on the side, so that should be pretty easy.

How are things with you?  I’d love to hear from you if you have a moment.  Be sure to check back in with me on Wednesday for a book giveaway from a fellow adoptive momma.  And thanks, as always, for reading.  I appreciate you stopping by.

A brand new week!

The winner of last week’s adoption book giveaway is commenter #30, is Rebekah of BekahCubed. Email me your address, Rebekah, and I’ll get your books headed your way!


Whew!  We made it through our first week of mom back at work!  My head is swimming with random factoids that I learned in orientation, to the extent that I found myself dreaming about computer charting last night.  In my dream it was going very well– let’s hope it goes that well in real life.

The kids did really well last week– checked off their check-boxes and seemed to have gotten a decent week of school in without me.  I’m glad this orientation month is happening at the tail end of the school year as subjects are winding down.  Two of the girls are already completely done with math as of this week, and most everyone is on track to be done by mid-May.  So that feels good.  Even if things don’t happen quite at full speed now, the majority of our school year is already successfully completed.

SaffronLast week Emily and Julianna spent 3 afternoons at their oldest sister Amanda’s house, which was nice for all involved.  Emily and Julianna got to do something unusual and fun, the teens had quiet time at home, and Amanda  (resting after the birth of brand new baby Saffron) had some good help as her little sisters played with the preschoolers and helped with dishes and cookie-baking.  (The essentials of life, right?)

I was assigned boatloads of online education to meet employment requirements. Among other things, I learned surgical fire prevention, fall prevention, and workplace violence prevention.  Most of the learning went well, but I totally bombed a test on the inner workings of FEMA– anyone else ever have to take that one?  My eyes glazed over in the middle of an involved 2 hour description of FEMA heirarchy and disaster management work flow, and my hope to get by on cuteness and good luck pretty much failed. 😉  Sadly I will need to retake that test.  The website didn’t even have the grace to tell me which questions I got wrong or how close I was to passing.  Bah.

However, I aced the first of three classes/tests on monitoring a baby’s heart rate in labor. (Whew!)  I was really pleased that I still remembered the vast majority of that information. Still to come: the next two fetal heart monitoring classes, an EKG class, adult and infant advanced life support, and a 16 hour breastfeeding class. (Apparently breastfeeding 7 kids does not give me an automatic pass. 🙂  ) It’s a good thing that (despite the FEMA failure) I’m generally a person who likes to learn.

This week I only work three days, which I’m hoping will feel fairly easy compared to last week’s five. In preparation for the week,  I made a big pot of soup to serve as a couple of easy lunches.  Julianna’s hair is freshly braided.  Meals are planned for the week.  The whiteboard is re-done to reflect the new week’s schedule, and I think we are just about ready to hit it again.

My computer will probably be in the shop this whole week, which means John and I are sharing one computer.  But I’ll try to check in with you a time or two more. What’s new with you?  Are you making plans for the summer?  What else are you looking forward to?  I’d love to hear from you if you happen to have the time….

Day 4

Just heading off for day 4 of orientation and wanted to check in with you all. I’m hanging in there with orientation– sometimes doing fine, and sometimes feeling like an utter dunce.  (So far it’s the equipment that is making me feel more foolish than the computer charting– go figure!)  But I am sure it will all come together.

Today after work I need to take my computer to be fixed– for weeks I have been coddling the spot where the power cord connects to the computer, and since the bad spot is actually IN the computer, not the power cord, it is unfortunately going to be a harder fix.  So off to the shop it goes.

I will check in with you on Monday and let you know who won the book giveaway– thanks for all your entries!  I also wanted to let you know that for the next week, my homeschooling ebook Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families is going on sale sometime in the next 24 hours and will be only $2.99!  So check it out if you haven’t had a chance to do so yet!

My computer power is down to 24%, so I’ll have to check back in with you later– have a great weekend!