why i write about the good stuff

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**The following is not a plea for pity.  The note I received from a reader was kindly written and received without offense.  I’m sharing a snippet of it here, with permission, because I believe it’s worth addressing.**

Here is what she said:

“While I believe you have a knack for writing, I’m bothered that your stories always have a happy ending.  What about those of us who don’t get to the happy part for any number of reasons?  What you mean for encouragement is somehow discouraging to me since life in my home rarely looks like what it seems to in yours.”

Herein lies the danger of the internet.  We only see what we’re shown.  You only read what I write.

You can’t possibly know how very real my life is.  You couldn’t begin to imagine how different it probably is in my home than it appears in my feed.  You can’t know because I don’t come here to saddle you with my burdens but to encourage you in yours.

Because, yes, real life is filled with failures.  It’s full of falling downs and not wanting to get back ups.  It’s all part of the revised plan and has been since sin was first introduced.

We’re all wading through the same mud.  It’s deep and it’s slippery and it doesn’t even have to be raining for us to suddenly realize we’re knee-deep in a heap of it.

If you took an honest peek in my home you’d find toddlers having meltdowns, girls spouting tears for no conceivable reason, boys with way too much testosterone, teens with mood swings to rival any PMS out there, and a baby who clearly believes it’s child abuse if he’s not being held.  Every single day carries its own struggles and trials and moments where I want to throw in the towel.  Some days even find me melting in my own tears as I lament to my husband how we’re ruining our children.

Graceful mothering at its best, right?  Obviously, no.  But there’s more to the story.  And if we stop reading we’ll never get to the good stuff.

Sadly, we’re so much better at wallowing in the bad stuff.

I use this space to write largely of the victories because that is where my heart thrives and grows.  When I slow down enough to take notice of how God is at work, my faith sprouts and begins to blossom.  Enduring the rough patches is simply the process of weeding out snares before they can take root.  And if I’m faithful to weed, dirty and sweaty as the job may be, I can count on Him to water and provide the light necessary for good growth.

But if I’m so busy moaning about the weeds they’ll never get weeded.

Not long ago my daughter wrote me a note that said…I’m becoming a jerk and I don’t know what to do. I’m no different than any other mother in that I don’t want to hear my little girl is becoming a jerk.   But the Lord was giving her a glimpse of her own soiled character and injecting her with a desire for change.  That, my friends, is a victory.  And it’s the kind of victory that opens the door to more victories.

I can choose to stew over the fact that my little girl is hyper-sensitive or too quick to cry or a bit hard on her younger sister.  Or I can choose to celebrate the fact that she is seeking after change.  That her heart yearns for cleansing.  That she’s reaching the age at which she has begun to be responsible for her own spiritual condition.

Totally worth celebrating and absolutely counts as a victory.

We all smell suspiciously of mud on occasion.  Whether it’s the art of parenting or marrying or working or resting, we tend to make a mess of it on our own.  Because it was never, ever meant to be done on our own anyway.  Keep reading your story looking for the good stuff and He’ll keep writing it until you find your happy ending, at last!

And please don’t ever be discouraged by anything I write.  Take heart knowing it takes a whole lot of yuck to get to the yum in this house, too.

 

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when nursing your baby is just hard

It’s supposed to be such a beautiful thing, this whole nursing experience.  And it can be.

But sometimes it’s not and for me, that sometimes is now.

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He’s my 8th child which also means he’s the 8th child I ‘ve breastfed.  You’d think I’d have it all down by now.  And maybe I do but my little guy sure doesn’t.  It’s been a rough go from the start when my milk refused to come in.  A normal lactating experience for me is that my little nursling has ample amounts of colostrum in those first few days followed by ridiculously-more-than-ample amounts of milk about 4 days in.  Only this time the only thing I had in ample supply was stress because the milk part just wasn’t happening.

Determined not to supplement with formula I scrambled to find ways to stimulate production.  My darling husband drove far and wide in his new-dad haze of exhaustion gathering supplies I had deemed necessary.  On my list were the following: Fenugreek, Brewer’s Yeast, Oatmeal, Mother’s Milk Tea and copious amounts of bottled water because I am the biggest water snob you’ll ever hope to meet.  He also threw nearly $200 into the hands of a retail shop carrying the pump we were both sure would save the day.  Maybe it has but most of the time I just want to toss it down and stomp on it.

Sorry, but I feel you should know the truth.  Even about my fits of irrational rage directed at inanimate objects.

Anyway, equipped with my arsenal of milk-inducing ammunition I commenced on my journey.  And while my milk did indeed come in, this whole nursing thing is is still just hard.  So hard, in fact, that I recently saw a magazine advertisement with a mother serenely nursing her peaceful baby in a quiet room amidst perfect order and I got teary eyed.  Like tears flowing down my cheeks while I gulped back the frustration of my failure kind of teary eyed.  If only my body would produce milk the way my eyes can produce tears, we’d be in business.

But unlike that glossy ad, my home is not serene or quiet.  It’s bustling and busy and energetic and chaotic and loud.  (Yes, it’s fine to use different words to say the same thing 5 times in a single sentence…but only if you really, really mean it.  And I really, really do.)  And my tiny baby is not a champion nurser by any stretch.  I mean, unless by champion you mean one who thrashes and cries when you attempt to feed him.  Because in that case he’d be top dog.

And therein lies why I hate my pump.  Because if I express the milk after he won’t nurse he’ll gobble down the bottle like nobody’s business and the next nursing session is even harder because he then wants the rapid flow of the imposter.  But lest you’ve begun to think my baby simply hates nursing let me assure you that many, many times it’s his happy place.  His sweet spot.  His comfort.

Which translated means he gets so cozy he goes right off to sleep and cannot be roused.  Little scamp is determined to thwart my efforts from every angle.

He’s been checked by the doctor multiple times and he’s very healthy.  He’s on the skinny side but still on the skinny side of healthy.  We’ve gotten lactation help and tried pretty much every trick in the book.  Nothing.  We’re basically help-resistant, it seems.

So here’s what I know.  It is God who created the nursing relationship between a mother and her babe.  And He alone has the ability to provide me with adequate milk and my tiny one with sufficient patience to accept it.  So while I continue to do everything within my power to stimulate supply and encourage healthy feeding habits, I am at the place where all I can do is trust that He’ll give us both just enough…one feeding at a time.  I don’t love the hard times.  I detest trying to sit down to nurse only to feel like I’m scrapping with a 3 month old who is otherwise probably the happiest baby I’ve ever known.    I hate that I am the starkest contrast to those perfect breastfeeding mom photos.  I’m the bumbling middle-ager with worn out nursing pads, sour shirts and a plethora of lofty aspirations that rarely materialize.

But I am his mom.  With his milk.  And so long as God continues to allow just enough to get us by, I’ll praise Him and be thankful for it.  Because sometimes just enough is exactly what we need so we remember who’s providing it.

 

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Note:  It seems seemly to add that nobody should be concerned.  If we ever thought, for even a moment, that our baby was suffering from lack of nutrition or dehydration, we would supplement without hesitation.  This is not a matter of stubborn pride but rather a matter of humble acceptance.  His diapers are carefully monitored as is his growth.  And we have the kindest doctor who understands our desires and is collaborating with us to see to it that our little guy continues to thrive under our very best efforts and the unfailing grace of God.

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because fear

becausefear

 

I’ll be honest.  My human nature–my natural tendency–is to worry.  And if I run out of things to worry about (as if!) just give me a minute…I’ll dream something up.  Yet I know it’s not only a waste of time but it’s also flat wrong.

Because you see, it truly is a human tendency to worry over that which we feel bound by responsibility to control.  By the grace of God, we’ve been equipped with a desire to provide for the basic needs of ourselves and our families.  And that’s a good thing.  A very, very good thing–but under one condition:  We must never lose sight of the fact that we can only protect and provide for those things He enables us to.  Anything and everything we accomplish is purely and simply because He allowed us to.

It’s a collaboration of our human will being willing to persevere with His infinite wisdom tempering our efforts for our very best good.  We certainly play a part but only because that’s how He designed it.

The wrongness of worry isn’t with the fear itself but what we do with that fear when faced with it.  Our response makes all the difference.  Take a quick drive through the sludge of current events and you’ll find yourself tempted to park where your thoughts are constantly feeding the meter of anxiety.

Consider it, instead, a no parking zone.  You have no business hanging out there and neither do I.

 

Ebola can’t take anything from me that He can’t redeem.

The enterovirus has no power of its own.  The body can become sick even while the spirit is gaining in strength.

The president–even of the United States–cannot take down a people or a nation unless it’s all part of the greater plan.

Terrorists cannot force us to succumb to terror unless we open the door and allow them in.  They can destroy buildings and shorten the days of our temporal lives but they cannot keep us from Jesus.

 

I’m inclined to believe satan (am I the only one who has trouble capitalizing the first letter of his name?) is in panic mode.  If we can sense and urgency and shortness of time, surely he can.  He seems to be working furiously to abduct as many souls as possible and his greatest and most effective weapon is fear.  If he can immobilize us and paralyze us and confuse us, he can control our minds and distract our hearts.

Our defense is simple:  Don’t be still long enough for him to capture you.

Matthew 6:25-34 tells us exactly where our focus should be and it isn’t on the preservation of this life.  It’s all about the next life.  The better life.  The life that will make all the trials, temptations and tears we face here fade away.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.         {Matt. 6:33-34 KJV}

Our focus should be on Him.  On eternity.  As we move through this life, we can and should do what we’re capable of to maintain health and well-being.  We’re to use the wisdom He imparts to us as we care for our families.  We ought to be taking measures to safeguard against illness and disease but even more so against moral and spiritual decay.  It’s insanity to battle a virus or bacteria with fear and trembling while giving little thought to what is going into our minds or those of our children.  THAT should have us shaking in our boots.

One of my very favorite quotations I’ve ever come across was one I found just this week.

“He gives most who gives with joy.  If in your work (for me, that’s motherhood) you have difficulties accept them with joy, with a big smile.  The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy.”

You know what I love about it so much?  That it gives me something practical to do.  Give with joy.  Accept with joy.  Show gratitude with joy.  Because a life well-lived is one lived with Jesus and with joy.

Purpose to show your children joy today.  Dig deep until you find it.  Hit your knees and ask Him for it.  Seek it out and share it well.  Do not live with a spirit of fear.  You’re only stealing your own joy and that of your family while denying God entrance to your heart.  Embrace each moment.  Savor the beautiful people you’ve been given.  Do not sit over them in fear you may lose them…determine to extract the joy from every moment you’re granted with them.

No more excuses.  No more validating your anxiety by saying it’s just your genetic makeup.  No more wasting today by worrying over tomorrow.

Smile–and seek Jesus with me.

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let me tell you a story about a very stubborn woman (that would be me!)

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I haven’t had much to say around here lately.  I’d like to claim it’s because I’ve been otherwise occupied, but it would be a lie.  Actually, maybe it wouldn’t.  I have been fully occupied by bitterness.

I’ll start at the beginning.  Don’t worry, I’ll edit so it doesn’t get too long.

We moved about 3 1/2 months ago into a house just a town over from the Walton’s Mountain home.  The house wasn’t aesthetically pleasing but it was on a well, could be heated by wood and sat on 15 acres.  This added up to a huge savings in utility expense and a great outdoor space for our active kiddos.

Only we quickly learned the well water was a wreck.  It stunk (let me be clear, it still stinks!!), tasted horrible and discolored our belongings.  It was a dream come true.  I know, I know.  Sarcasm-liness is not next to godliness.  It’s something I’ve been begging the Lord to help me work on.

We asked the landlord if something might be done about the water situation.  We were (and still are) having to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes.  And apparently our children are a very rare, pale and skinny breed of water buffalo.  Who knew?  The expense was adding up.

The landlord came by with a sandwich baggie and collected a sample from the sink.  She assured me while she was there, that she believed the water to be just fine and that all it likely needed was bleach poured into the well.  This is called a shock.  Believe me, I was shocked.

After two weeks and no word on the sample, we called and asked about it.  She wouldn’t disclose the findings but instructed that we needed to shock the well.  We have our flaws but we’re generally obedient and so we did.

The stink changed to a different kind of stink and our belongings weren’t being as badly discolored.  However, our kids started getting a rash when exposed to the water for more than a few minutes.  This, by the way, is an excellent excuse for a child looking to get out of doing kitchen duty or looking to avoid bathing. We have children of both kinds.

However, being slow to connect the dots between the bleach and the rashes, we shocked the well again two weeks later after being instructed to do so, since the effects of the first had worn off.  I believe I failed to mention that each shock process leaves us without water for 24 hours or more.  I don’t have to tell you how much fun that is with 9 people living here.

Anyway, after the second time we finally made the connection to the bleach being added to the well causing the rashes.  I’m not even going to lie…I was pretty much livid.  I’d struggled through 3 months of dealing with gross water that we weren’t warned about and now this?

Skipping over some details that would bring no glory to God, I’ll just say we received a very unfavorable response to our written request for something to be done about the undisclosed water situation or for our rent to be adjusted to make provision for the additional expense and hardship of dealing with it .  Things swiftly spun out of control as the landlord became more volatile by the day and within little more than a week we were informed we were being evicted

We were being evicted for asking for clean, usable water in our rental house.  Unbelievable.

After our attempts to talk through our differences was met with flat denial, we finally contracted legal counsel in order to protect ourselves from an unjust lawsuit.  That meeting was on Monday of this week.  We’d been beaten (figuratively speaking), badgered, bullied and threatened.  We were exhausted, stressed and angry.

Did I mention we were angry?  Because we were.  But that brings me to this morning.

I woke around 4 am, just before my husband had to leave for his shift at the station.  We’d been dealt another blow last night and we’d had enough.  After talking briefly and saying goodbye, I sat down to my Bible study.  Comfortable with the knowledge that in just a few hours we were contacting our attorney to let her know we would not be caving to the landlord’s demands and that we’d be filing a countersuit if she chose to pursue it, I opened my Bible.

As God would have it, though it wasn’t in the study plan for today, I read 1 Peter 3:9.

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. (KJV)

I began to waver.  Was it possible we were wrong?

We weren’t wrong about the water, of that I was certain.  Whether it was considered a health hazard or not, it was not clean or usable and that is a basic right of a tenant.  At the very least we had the right to be warned of those conditions before being bound by a lease.  What could we be wrong about?

Determined to assure myself of our rightness, I dared to type into the google search bar the following:  is it ever right for a Christian to sue?

And up popped good ol’ John Piper with a video, not just on lawsuits, but offering an example of people who had bought a house with undisclosed issues.  I’m not even terribly familiar with Piper but I nearly cried watching the video because it was so very much like God was speaking directly to me.  Wait a minute, let me rephrase that.  God was speaking to me as He lead my morning study into areas I hadn’t intended.  And I felt Him asking, “Why aren’t you willing to be wronged?”

My husband called when he reached work and we talked about it. He agreed that we needed to proceed as Christ would have us rather than as our emotions were beginning to lead.

We will not be having this go through the courts.  We will pack our belongings and move all 9 plus 1 of us out of here.  We will leave the house in excellent, better than we found it condition.  We won’t stand and fight for a home that can’t meet our needs anyway.  We surrender.  We’re over here waving the white flag.  Not because we’re weak but because He is strong.

He’s strong enough to find us a new home and provide us with the money we need to secure it.  He’s strong enough to help us through a separation as the children and I likely head to another state to stay with family as my husband remains here for work.  He’s strong enough to get me through the rest of this pregnancy even under such circumstances.

But mostly, He’s strong enough to use this situation to work for good in the life of a woman who may not know Him.  And He’s strong enough to help us walk away, pride in check and heads held high as we extend forgiveness and trust that He has a plan.  A really, really good one.

This is the prayer I wrote in my journal this morning.  I share in case any of you are needing to be emptied of pride or bitterness.

Dear Lord,

I am a prideful, sinful woman.  I am filled with a bitterness I don’t even recognize.  I anger easily and want my way.  Subdue me.  Save me from myself.  Give me a desire to be more, better.  Equip me with a heart for that which is right and empty me of this darkness that has me chasing down my rights.  Help me learn to be willing to be wronged and teach me to be able to return evil with kindness.  Thank you for not discarding me, as I do others when I can’t find the good in them.  Amen.

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lessons from my ‘ugly’ house

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The day was sunny and bright.  Just the thing after a long, snow-filled winter and a disastrous move from one home to another.  I stretched myself out in the hammock my husband had taken the time to so carefully string between two trees for me.  Closing my eyes I found my mind filled with the past few months.

And even more than the warm sunshine on my face, I felt shame.

I had met with trials in the previous weeks and, lying there under that blue sky, I realized just how miserably I had failed.  Shame and remorse coursed through me.

I shifted in the hammock so I could see the place from which the happy voices of my children floated in the air as they played in the field.  The field adjacent to the house I didn’t want to be living in.  The house with wood floors that needed to be refinished, the dining room that had once been a carport and the great room that just never managed to feel great to me.  And don’t even get me started on the iron-laced water.  Truly, you don’t want to get me started on that.  The rental house we had moved into in an effort to save money was draining us in more ways than could be counted in dollars and cents.

Oh, how I’ve hated this house.  And oh, how that hatred has seeped into every corner of my life without my realizing it.

I felt hot tears sting my eyes and roll down my cheeks as the full impact of my attitude hit me.

A house is just walls. Bricks and mortar erected to offer shelter from the seasons.  Houses don’t define us and we do ourselves an injustice to allow them to dictate our joy.  Ask me how I know.

I looked around me again and saw some of the kids playing ball while a few others jumped on the trampoline.  I had watched just the day before as my littlest boys chattered excitedly to each other as they explored the edge of the woods lining the 15 acre property.  I saw happiness in those sweet faces.  I saw an eagerness to accept this new adventure with wide open arms rather than a critic’s eye.

I saw Jesus walking through that field waiting for me to realize He’s right here.  Not in that house or those woods, but in this moment.  Every moment.  Even the ones we wish away.

I didn’t leave my swinging oasis that day in love with my house.  But I did leave in love with my life.  Again.

I don’t know what season of life you are in.  I don’t know what you’re struggling with or how difficult it is to capture the contentment He is calling you to.  What I do know is this:  Jesus is there.  Right there with you.  And that, my friends, is the only thing that really matters!

 

Note:  I am fully aware that my battle with contentment in regards to my new home sounds ridiculous compared to the struggles many face daily.  I am not trying to compare my situation to one that is truly serious.  But no matter what, or where we find ourselves, the answer is the same.  Jesus.

 

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Raising Daughters Who Are Worthy of a Good Man

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I’m raising five boys.  Three of them are already journeying through the teen years, but that part doesn’t scare me.  You know what does, though?

The fact that we’re inching ever nearer to the day they will be ready to consider marriage.

I’m not afraid of them marrying, exactly, but it’s a bit concerning when I look around and see a world full of young women who are terrifyingly bold and assertive.  Even more so, however, is the fact that girls are no longer being taught to respect themselves as the treasures they were created to be but are being encouraged to seek full and complete liberation from Biblical roles.

And this is not simply a “worldly” epidemic.  It is totally infiltrating the church from every corner.

I’m not impressed by the flesh-baring, egocentric, selfie-obsessed society I find myself raising children in.  Not impressed, yet it is my reality and it does me no good to sit and complain about what is or pining for what isn’t.  My time is much better spent helping my children navigate their way carefully toward what will be.

My hope and my prayer is that each of their will be’s include Jesus every step of the way.  Even the step that leads toward marriage, if one is in His respective plan for them.  But what kind of girl will be suited to walk beside my guys as they continue on in their faith experience?  As the mother of boys who is also raising girls, this is something I have thought about often.  Here are some critical components to their “princess” training we are striving for…

 

Join me over at Raising Homemakers for the rest of the article.

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