Our oldest, Zoë, has been talking our ears off lately. It’s both beautiful and exhausting. Sometimes all I want to do is nod and say “mmm-hmm” or just smile while I try and think through my Costco grocery list before the littlest one realizes he’s not buckled in the cart and tries some wild escapade.
This morning after our Bible reading,
Noble said, “But if you believe in Jesus you won’t die. Because heaven is our true home.”
Zoë: “Will we keep breathing in heaven?”
I responded, “Your body dies, but your soul never dies and lives forever in heaven with God. We get a new body, and every breath we breathe will be praising Jesus the King.”
Zoë: “I think that already happened to Nana.”
Later while strategically hitting up every snack sample in Costco, Zoë asked: “How do we gaze upon His beauty?”
After gathering my thoughts from such a breathtaking question, I answered, “It means that God is majestic and holy and too wonderful to comprehend and awesome and good and perfect. When we see Him as that we want to spend our lives knowing Him because there is no one else like Him.”
Zoë: “It is hard to understand why life passes through so quickly.”
My thoughts exactly, Sweet Pea. Only I was lamenting how fleeting these days are when all 3 of my babes can fit in the front of the cart, and they lean over for hugs and kisses or head butts. Alternatively, they rest their heads on my shoulder, and I feel their little arms around my neck while I try and push a heavy cart with a big ole pregnant belly.
And we’re having conversations like these.
And all three of them are talking in my ear at the same time. Or they are pestering each other by covering up the letters on the handlebar. Don’t ask. It’s maddening.
However, I was overwhelmed with gratitude this morning for this season. I love having all my babies close and the togetherness all day long (don’t hear perfect harmony) even in the midst of being at the end of my rope as Zoë so honestly and insightfully said about me on Mother’s Day: “You’re good at being slow to anger even though sometimes you’re fast to anger.”
Yup, because Mommy needs Jesus too.
You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way,
and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Isn’t this what Scripture means when it says to teach God’s words to your children when:
- you sit (in the car in rush hour traffic) and
- walk (up and down the grocery aisles) and
- lie down (but not in your own bed because your 5-year-old still has too much to say at the end of the day) and
- rise (before the sun because everyone in your house is staging a coup against sleep).
Even when you think they’re not listening and you feel every thought you’re trying to share is interrupted by some catastrophe, they catch little drips at a time that become impressed on their tender hearts and will one day overflow. That’s what I’m striving for anyway in all the ordinary, mundane rhythm of life.
So here’s to keeping those babies close and entrusting their hearts to God.
Noel McKenna is a wife and a mommy who blends a pile high stack of books on CD and outdoor play with a whole lot of Jesus into her journey through motherhood. She and her husband, Nathan, have been married for 8 years and juggle this leg of their lives with grace and humor. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more of her beautifully honest glimpses into this life she now lives.
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Tuck Them In - Audra’s Pick
We try to be intentional at night time when putting our kids to bed. We always make a point to tuck them in, talk through the day, pray as a family, and let them ask any questions they may have. This is a sweet time to be able to unpack what has happened in everyone’s day, since the school year is such a busy time!
Scripture Memory In the Car - Laura's Pick
I can’t take credit for this one, but my husband is so good at using the undivided attention during the car ride to school. He drops our daughter off at school every morning and they memorize a scripture each week during that 5-7 minute drive. Usually on Monday or Tuesday she tells me what verse they are memorizing and then by Friday she is reciting it to me.
Pray Out Loud For Them - Rebecca's Pick
When one of my children is facing a big day, I like to pray out loud for them as we are driving to school. I will ask the Lord to give them quick recall and clarity during their test. Or, I'll ask Him to take away their anxious spirit and replace it with a spirit of peace before presenting a project. As I pray, I try to ask for specific things (not just that they would "do well") so that they will be able to see the undeniable answers to that prayer and give thanks to the Lord. On days that I don't pray aloud, I always pray for them after everyone is dropped off.
Verse Flip Book - Tammy's Pick
One of my "Terrific Three" struggled greatly with anxiety. After praying for direction, the Lord gave me the idea to make her a verse flip book to help her learn to allow God's Word to comfort her heart.
1. I purchased a flimsy $1 photo book.
2. I looked up my favorite "God is with me" verses and printed them.
3. I inserted them into the photo book and gave it to her as a reminder that while I won't always be with her, God is!
My print and cut and stuff version is pictured below. You can make it as fancy or as simple as you want. This verse flip book is from a couple of years ago. She still carries it in her backpack to this day.
Teach them to be independent without nagging -
We have a white board on our fridge that lists what my boys need to do before school, after school, and what types of food can be packed in lunches. This allows them to check the list when they aren’t sure if they have everything ready and I’m not asking each child a million times if they filled their water bottle. On the first day of school this year, my boy that loves routine asked for the list to be re-written as it still had summer lists on it. You better believe I wrote it after drop off!
Back to School Time! As each new school year approaches, I find my wishes and dreams are sky high! Yet I often find myself deflated months later in the middle of crazy schedules, overcommitments, self-inflicted sleepless nights, and longing for the next blissful season. Am I the only mom that feels like I’m failing because my checklist of draining items outweighs the life-giving details? This year I resolve to be different.
This year I will be the peace.
As we roll into this new school year and have a clean slate to start fresh, I am challenging myself to be the “Peace” to my family. Not to be the peacemaker, or the person spouting about peace, but to actually be the peace and calming influence in my home.
This will look like me
- listening to my kids work things out rather than trying to problem solve for them.
- saying “no” to good things, to allow my family to get more rest or more time together.
- setting aside stuff I want to do for myself until a later time.
- having my kids plan a day of family fun that they want to do.
- planning school supply shopping earlier, or online, so I'm not all stressed out and yelling.
- stopping myself from spewing worry and frustration from my mouth because I am nervous about my kids starting school.
Here are the top 5 ways I will be the peace in my home at the start of this school year.
1. I will be excited about the endless possibilities of this new school year.
I will not allow my fears and worries transfer onto my children. Any concerns I have over the new school year, I will take to the Lord rather than speak them out loud for my children to hear.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
II Timothy 1:7 NKJV
2. I will speak words of life over my children
I will speak only life-giving words about the new school year. I will encourage my children to speak to God about their own back to school butterflies.
“Don’t worry about anything,
but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.”
Philippians 4:6 HCSB
3. I will Say “No” to excess.
I will say “No” to the things that add too much to my plate. “No” to the things that don’t give me life. “No” to the invites for good things that will have me forego great family times. I will let these last weeks and days before school starts be intentional and not chaotic.
“God’s curse blights the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
He gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder,
but if you’re down on your luck,
he’s right there to help.
Wise living gets rewarded with honor;
stupid living gets the booby prize.”
Proverbs 3:33-35 MSG
4. In the words of Elsa, I will “let it go!”
If I forgot to order the personalized backpack in the perfect color, I will let it go.
If I am almost done with summer and my bucket list hasn’t even been touched, I will let the guilt go.
If I am upset that my child didn’t get in a class with their best friend, I will let it go.
I will let go of the back to school clothes shopping. I will instead turn it into a fun September activity together rather than a knockdown, drag-out stress-ball of time for back to school. (Honestly, the weather is still as hot as anything, and they won’t wear the cute fall clothes for a few months anyway!)
This is an opportunity to choose peace over being frazzled.
“And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:17 HCSB
5. I will be there.
Once school starts, I will just be there for my child without overloading my schedule. Those first few weeks of school can be difficult for kids. They may not know anyone in their class, get a teacher they don’t like, struggle with remembering their new schedule, or are just plain tired.
I will not be on the phone at school pick up. I will hug them. I will sit down for family dinners. I will share about my day, inviting them to share about theirs. I know they will talk when they are ready, but I will make sure I am there for them to have the opportunity to talk.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB
My prayer is to find a way to let some things go and make a choice to be an influence of peace in my home this back to school season.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 NASB
Denise Slater - I’m a mom to 12 year old triplets and a wife to a college professor. We both have relocated to Tennessee by way of Michigan (Go Blue!), Missouri and Arkansas, which means we have lots of family to visit during the summer. We are blessed to travel quite often during the summer as my husband’s job during this time can be done anywhere with a modem.
'A car not my own sat in my driveway this morning. Two other cars were in its spot last night. This is the new phase of parenting we're in, one where my kids and their friends drive. Not only do they drive, but they now choose where they want to go and hang out.
As I was pondering the bittersweet beauty of this season, I reflected on a few of the recent comments made by my kiddos' friends:
"Thank you for always letting us crash here."
"I feel at home in your house."
"You always make us feel welcomed."
I share these comments not to brag on myself, because it's not me, it's Jesus. Yet since I gave birth to my firstborn, I wanted to be the house where my kids and their friends wanted to come. Making that a joyful reality is a daily feat in itself because there are
- Shoes and dirt and wrappers and pillows everywhere.
- Late night laughter and early morning pancake making guarantee a less than ideal 8 hours of sleep for this momma.
However, I wouldn't have it any other way.
It's not about a beautifully clean house or a pantry abounding with snacks. It's about loving and accepting my kiddos' friends as if they were my own. Noticing them, loving on them, feeding them (ha), and speaking life to them.
It's having the eyes and ears of Christ.
The command to "practice hospitality." (Romans 12:13) and "show hospitality to one another without complaining." (1 Peter 4:9) is not bound by age restriction or stage of life requirement. It's just a command to share your life with those who walk thru your door:
Open your home to young and old alike with a cheerful attitude.
And oh, my friend, the ministry opportunities I have as they are noisily eating salsa and dip at my table or quietly slipping in my door at 10:30 at night. These are the opportunities to speak life and truth and peace into my kiddos' friends, these friends they choose to hang with, listen to, and do life with. Priceless!
Hospitality. It certainly is not what I pictured 17 years ago as I was rocking my firstborn to sleep. It's much more beautiful. It's an always/anytime open door to my physical home, but more importantly, it's an open door to my heart and my time, regardless of age or season of life.
Come on, Mommas! Throw open the door! This generation needs us. Who better to speak truth and life into our kiddos' friends than us Jesus Girls!
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Hey! It's Laura and I am so excited to have Amberly on the blog today. She is actually our first Friend Friday Vlog (that means video, in case you're technologically challenged like me)! Amberly and I met over ten years ago through our husbands and we were actually pregnant with our daughters at the same time too! I have watched as the Lord has totally turned their world upside down for His glory! Today she shares about how the Lord has called them into foster care.
You only get a six minute video today, but you MUST go follow their family at Growing Up Houser because you will want to know more about them! The Houser's let you into their crazy life with laughter, tears and complete transparency...that's what I love about them the most!
I am a mother, wife, and self-proclaimed hot mess. My husband Matt and I began our journey as foster parents in 2017. We currently parent 6 kids: 3 biological, and 3 foster siblings that we love dearly. By day, I am an elementary school teacher. By night, I drive kids to and from practices in my big blue bus while blaring Jesus music. Donuts are the way to my heart, followed closely by witty t-shirts and Bible journaling. I constantly pray that God will show me the front of the puzzle box but He just keeps handing me one piece at a time. Someday's I am thankful for that and other days I'm bitter. Jesus loves me anyway. I believe I can accomplish anything in a day with a cup of coffee, dry shampoo and fake lashes. This is the story of my life and what it's like to Grow Up Houser.
I remember when my first baby was about two weeks old. I had been thrust into this terrifying world of trying desperately to keep a tiny human being alive. I fell into bed at night, exhausted, but I woke up at every slight noise coming from my fragile little charge. I constantly worried that she couldn’t breathe or that she was in some kind of distress that I was too ignorant to recognize. Night and day were all one big blur of feedings and diaper changes and rocking and swaying and bouncing, with no real clue what I was doing.
Yet, even in those days of my body and mind being completely invaded by this pint-sized little soul, I remember I turned to my mother one day, my eyes half closed, my shirt covered in spit up, and said, Being a mother suits me to a T. I honestly felt like I had been wandering through life up until that point, just waiting for God’s big purpose for my life to fall into my lap. I decided it was motherhood.
It’s easy to see how I could think so. After all, the soul-deep love that God puts in a mother’s heart is powerful. It is consuming in a way that we didn’t understand was possible before we were already eaten up with it. It can overshadow a lot of things in life, especially in the early years. Motherhood is hard. It’s all at once beautiful and devastating in a million different ways. It brings things out in us that we didn’t know were there, both good and bad. And, it teaches us so much about God’s love for us.
A few days ago, I was in the dollar store, searching for cool prizes for our Wednesday night program at church. I was alone, as I often am these days, getting lots of things accomplished while all three of my kids were at school. It’s a new phase for me, and I’m still learning how to deal with the quiet. Suddenly, from across the store I heard the happy voice of a baby. He had obviously just learned his first word or two, and his mother was playing peek-a-boo with him. I could hear the sheer delight in his mother’s voice as she said again and again, Where’s mama? Every time she dropped her hands and revealed the sweet face that her baby knows and loves, he squealed, Mama! as if he had just won the world’s greatest prize. And right there in the middle of the toy aisle, surrounded by plastic snakes and miniature harmonicas, I felt my heart bust wide open at those sweet sounds that felt so familiar. I understood the absolute thrill that the young mother was getting in the dollar store on an ordinary Tuesday, when her baby showed in the way that only babies can, that he adores her to no end. And it broke my heart into a million pieces.
That’s not my life anymore.
Those days are gone. I don’t have babies. Adelade has traded in sippy cups for lip gloss. Sawyer, pacifiers for braces. Emerald gave up her blankie for a backpack. If motherhood has taught me anything, it’s how quickly phases of life come and go.
The thing about hindsight is that it tends to gloss over the realities of past experiences. It doesn’t remind you about the long nights sitting up with a sick baby, frantic over a too-high temperature. It doesn’t recall how much time it took you to accomplish anything at all while a little one was clinging to you all day and night. It doesn’t bring up the fact that you felt frustrated over your lack of social life, your lack of sleep, your lack of time with your husband, your lack of personal space. No, that precious hindsight only brings to mind the sweetest moments, the epiphanies about how wonderful motherhood is, the secret, sweet times that only you remember, like peek-a-boo in the dollar store on an otherwise hectic, unproductive weekday. This rosy memory-vision is one reason that grandmothers are so quick to approach a frazzled young mother in the grocery store to tell her to appreciate every moment.
I wanted to go over to speak to the young mother, too. I wanted to say to her, somehow, that I understand the soul-crushing love that she feels for her child. I wanted her to know that the moment she was having there was as familiar to me as the little country road that leads to my childhood home. I wanted to tell her that the thrill of hearing that tiny voice holler Mama will feel just a fresh and real to her twenty years from now. I wanted her to know that she doesn’t have to dread and fear the growing up of her precious little boy because motherhood is NOT the purpose of her life. It is an indescribable blessing. It is the source of endless joy. It is one way that God shows us how much we need Him, and it is one way that we learn to lay our lives down for someone else.
But, what we call motherhood–training and raising and caring for children–is fleeting, just like everything else. It doesn’t last forever, this phase of life. Children grow and they change and you grow and you change, and then they begin a new life out in this great big world. If, as I once believed, motherhood is the reason God made me, then what use am I when this phase of life is over?
It doesn’t mean that our hearts won’t still creak and crack and melt just a little when we remember what we once had. It doesn’t mean that what we’re doing here, in the wilds of motherhood, doesn’t have eternal significance. But, God’s purposes are big. Much bigger than we can imagine. The purpose of our lives is to glorify Him in all that we do, whether we are mothers or not. Whether we are in the thick of chasing toddlers everywhere or simply remembering those days, a little misty-eyed. God’s purposes don’t have dates of expiration. They don’t apply to only one section of our lives. And they certainly aren’t wrapped up solely in the too-short phases of mothering children.
I wanted to tell her all of these things, but I knew it was too much. Instead, I just walked past and smiled at her baby. The sweet young mother watched me, and when our eyes met, I nodded. She nodded back, and then I walked out the door, my hands empty, heart filled with the truth of God’s goodness in all the phases of life.
"No, I don't want children!" I declared to my shocked newlywed husband. Even though I had played with dolls and pretended to be a mommy as a young child, time had drastically changed my wanting a quiver full of children to wanting zilch, zero, none.
Time and counseling (ha) were followed by one, then two babies. Yet, as a new mommy, the days and many nights were painfully long. I lived for nap-time and bedtime just trying to sanely make it thru each day with little ones needing my. every. waking. second.
I loved the title of “Mommy” but I didn’t love being a mommy.
Looking back, I discerned that I had bought into the lies the evil one had whispered into my heart. These lies, while different from Eve’s, were just as deadly:
- children are a hindrance,
- they’ll keep me from climbing the job ladder,
- they’ll steal my life, etc. etc. etc.
These lies were sucking the joy out of my mommying.
I came to a crossroads during my third (surprise!) pregnancy. God showed me I was just surviving rather than thriving as a Momma. I realized it was essential to flush out the lies, and fill myself with the truth. I would have to reinvent myself and there was no better place, then in God’s life-giving Word.
“He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children.” Psalm 113:9
“A joyful mother.” Webster’s dictionary defines joyful as: merry, glad, and showing joy. Ha! That didn’t describe me except at bedtime!
I was sleep-walking through one of the most amazing blessings God grants women: motherhood. This sleeper was tired of pushing the snooze button. It was time to wake up!
1. Choose Joyful Motherhood
“Rejoice in the Lord, always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
Even on the hard days, I chose to rejoice (be glad, be well, thrive) in the blessings of motherhood. My children needed me
2. Mimic Joyful Motherhood
Secondly, I looked around at those who were joyfully mothering. Proverbs 31:26 was my criteria, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Countless women were mommying well. So, I intentionally:
Takeaway: To thrive as a joyful mother, I changed my perception by watching, listening, and mimicking other joyful mothers.
3. Exemplify Joyful Motherhood.
I had to train my brain to fully immerse myself into each season my kiddos walked through.
- Thoroughly Enjoy - I found myself longing for different seasons, therefore I made myself choose to revel in my kiddos current season of life. I reminded myself on the hard days, “The days may be long but the years are truly short. Choose joy, Tammy!”
- Be Thankful - “In everything give thanks” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I remember crossing the floor from my bedroom to theirs for the tenth time one night, schooling myself, “Be thankful, Tammy. You are blessed to be their momma and to have to walk across this floor for the tenth time to tend to their needs.”
- Be Intentional - “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 This is my appointed time to be a momma. Therefore I told myself, “Be intentional, Tammy. Pour into them while there’s time. Put down your phone, look into their eyes, and just listen. The day is coming when they won’t be under your roof.”
Takeaway: To thrive as a joyful mother, I needed to “pay attention to my thoughts and purposefully focus my mind to lead to a great transformation!” (SOYB p. 67)
4. Champion Joyful Motherhood
Lastly, I now feel the call to champion joyful motherhood. Society bullies us to believe that the best mommies dress their kiddos in the latest trends, put them in the most activities, and take them on the best trips. But that’s just not true!
The world’s mommying standard is always changing, thoroughly exhausting, and a completely unattainable pursuit for mothering.
Rather, our hearts should allow the life-giving beauty of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Proverbs 31:10-31, & 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 be our mommying standard.
We need to believe:
My 180 = Joyful Motherhood
God, in all His kindness, has transformed me into a joyful mother. Are there hard days? Absolutely! But I now see those hard days as bumps, rather than roadblocks.
I now strive to laugh with and enjoy the little and the big with my kiddos. In a blink of an eye, they will be driving off to the new adventure of adulthood, and all I’ll be left with are fading memories. By faith, may those memories be warm and full of contentment, because I chose to believe that I was given one of the greatest titles this side of glory, Momma, and I lived out that title joyfully.
How about you? If you're blessed with physical children (or grandchildren, or nieces/nephews), would they describe you as joyful? If not, what changes can you make to become more joy filled during this season of life? Who around you exemplifies joyful mothering? If you are joyfully living out this season of life, who can you come alongside and mentor? A sweet momma is out there longing for you to reach out to her and breath life into her. Do it, my friend! You both will be blessed.