Monday, May 30, 2011

What You Hear a Lot When You're the Mom in a "Big Family"

Several times I have sat down to write an entry about how much I love my big family and of all the good it does for me to be the mother of a large brood, and I have saved the drafts but not published because I get concerned about how it sounds. I don't anyone to be offended by what I write. Here is an article I read this week from a fellow blogger that covers some of the comments people make concerning large families. I enjoyed the comments people left but kept getting kicked off every time I tried to leave one, so Cheryl (the author of the other blog), I hope you can see my thoughts here!

My husband and I had our four children in just less than a five year span. We didn't plan it that way, though we did always say, even when we were dating, that we wanted four children. While other girls dreamed of having "the perfect" one boy, one girl family scenario, I dreamed of two boys and two girls. God has thus far given me three girls and one boy, and I love it! My response to "Is this the last one?" is "I dunno." Some people who ask this question believe me to be crazy. Others, particularly those who are younger with fewer children, I think are asking in awe, wondering how I do it (the guidance of the Holy Spirit), and possibly dreaming of having a big family themselves. I take no offense from these younger women. I am thankful to have known other women who mothered four or five children myself, and that those women showed me how to do it well. Maybe I can do the same.

As far as the comment, "You sure have your hands full," goes...I don't think it relates to behavior at all. Strangers often say this to me within minutes of seeing me with my children. Let's face it - it is an oddity today to see a woman push a stroller with two children in it and two more holding onto the sides, being generally obedient and content at that. My husband and I typically respond to this comment with, "The Bible tells us that children are an heritage from the Lord, so we sure are blessed."

We get the "You finally got a boy," a lot! It's true. We did pray very earnestly, in fact my husband fasted, that God might give us a son. I have no shame that I desired to pass on the family name and that our family might have a savior should anything ever happen to my husband. Nothing has changed since biblical times that a firstborn son should care for his family. That said, we would have rejoiced in the birth of a daughter, another woman I could train to be a life-giver and nurturer. Both sexes bring their own unique joys and challenges. We didn't "try" for any baby except the first, which is what I think most strangers think when they make the "you finally..." comment. Having all of one sex, boy or girl, isn't a reason to stop having children, by the way.

"Don't have more than you can raise for the Lord." Do what? My children learn a number of godly characteristics because they are each one of many. They have to learn to die to self (completely necessary for the Christian life), to look out of for the interests of others, and patience in ways that singletons do not experience.

Finally, as to the question, "Don't you know what causes it?"...Yep. We do. In the book Table for Eight, the author recommends the response, "I do, and I must be getting a lot more of it than you!" I'd NEVER say that to anyone, but I have to admit that I think it's funny. My experience is that baby-making sex is the best! It makes sense because God created women's libidos to kick into gear when they ovulate. I'm just sayin' is all! :)

Whatever the number of children other couples have, we need to be careful to not judge. Be sensible, y'all. We don't know others' life situations that led to the number of children they have or don't have. For some, one or two are great miracles. If it was difficult for a couple to conceive two, it is understandable that they may not want to put themselves through the strain of "trying" again. If a couple has ten, we need to not think they're being irresponsible and aren't aware of how they can put a stop to more babies. Godly people with lots of children are usually making more disciples in their own homes than most Christians do in or out of their homes. The way I see it, we are more likely able to train and raise disciples through childrearing than through any other means (thus my willingness to have a large family), and often the only reasons we have for not having more children come from the flesh, so we need to always be careful to examine our motives if we decide to stop.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Titus 2 Little Women

Do you remember as a little girl being in awe of some bigger girl? Maybe she was a babysitter or a friend's big sister. Maybe she was an older cousin. My selection for Wednesday's Woman this week is my oldest niece. She has been on my mind because this week, my little girls helped me sing a song they first heard her sing at a family get-together a while back. I don't put my kids names on here, so I'm not putting hers either. I hope it won't be hard to follow. We'll just call her E.

E is three years older than my oldest daughter. She is a smart, beautiful little girl who has been witnessing to her friends since she was very little. I think she was not quite three when she drew a cross on a piece of paper and told her friend about its importance. Before we had children ourselves, my husband and I marveled at her spiritual sensitivity. She has since accepted Christ and been baptized, and we are proud of her. I am glad that my girls look up to her because she has always been good at sharing with them and playing nicely, and she is a well-behaved girl. Proverbs 20:11 tells us that "Even a child is known by his deeds." When my girls look to her, I can trust that they are following a good example, though I know she's a child and will make mistakes.

I also looked up to older girls when I was growing up. I became a Christian not only because of the influence of my parents, but also because of a girl just a year older than me who told me of her salvation. The night she shared with me is the night that I knew in my heart I needed to make a decision to follow Christ too.

Never doubt the weight of the influences of older children in your own little one's life. Help him or her to choose role models carefully. Pray that those little women will point them to the One who leads them to make righteous decisions.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Pendergraph Women's Ministry is a fellowship for the community of women connected to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I loved it from the first event I attended and never missed one during the time my husband was a student. There could be anywhere from sixty to over two hundred women that attended each month. It was so much fun to spend time with those women! After my first year, I was priviliged to serve on the PWM board. Our fearless leader at the time was Paula Hyche.

Paula is married to Greg, and together they have five children! Everyone on campus knew the Hyche family, and I believe most of us were in awe of what a great mom Paula was and how she seemed to keep so organized. Paula is one of the women that made me believe that a big family can be a really great blessing rather than a burden. When I first met Paula, I didn't have my first child, so this was great to see. Even now, I'm sure that I could ask her parenting questions, and she'd be glad to answer.

Paula prayed faithfully for the prayer requests that we received through the events we held once a month. She planned events so well and made sure she thought through every detail, though she was good about spreading the workload and motivating all of us to take our part. She was down-to-earth and friendly, easy to talk to should you sit at her table. I have felt better prepared to do hold women's events because of the time I had to work with this Wednesday's Woman. Thank you, Paula!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't You Feel Like Crying?

Again, a song title popped to mind as I begin to write. Simon Burke's voice usually makes me think romantically of my husband, but at the moment, I am having to listen to my son cry as he hopefully settles down to sleep. To keep my sanity, I try to focus on something else for a few minutes. Of course writing about it is thinking about it, but maybe it can be of use to someone else to read these thoughts.

I thought I had a great afternoon ahead of me. I was supposed to meet with someone, but our plans changed, which was perfect for me because my nearly 11-month-old son slept a little later this morning, shifting the schedule to what actually should make for my ideal afternoon. It would look a little something like this: the three kids not yet in school down for naps at 1:30, have my quiet time with the Lord, enjoy a run on a cooler than average day (I run laps next door with a baby monitor in tow), write a blog entry, water my flowers without little helpers, greet the oldest as she comes home from school, and cheerfully answer the nappers as they wake. Instead, the four-year-old and two-year-old went to sleep as they were trained to do long ago, but baby boy thinks he got his nap out this morning. He has cried, I have rubbed Orajel on his gums, he has cried, I have done my quiet time while he has cried, I have swaddled and rocked, I have laid him down after seemingly forever rocking him, he has cried, and now here I am. Oh, wait! It is quiet! Baby boy is out! Praise God!

I think I feel a stationary bike ride coming on. Slight change in plans, no biggie. And I didn't write what I'd originally intended, but it has been nice anyway. Tomorrow will have it's own naptime.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thoughts from Stepping Heavenward

I LOVE to read! Before middle school age, I remember several Sunday afternoons in which I devoured entire chapter books at once. I came home with unusual books, one specifically was on backpacking. My family never went backpacking, so I remember my dad saying to me, "You'll read anything, won't you?" He was right.

As a mom, I've come to enjoy reading while breastfeeding. I discovered it was a good activity to do to keep me awake in the middle of the night. Those hormones released that calm mom and baby also tend to put me to sleep. Falling asleep meant baby didn't get a full feeding and would therefore wake me right back up quickly after laying her down. Books, magazines, anything I could find was laid down next to my Boppy before I went to bed at night to avoid that situation! During the day, I would read out loud to my oldest child whatever I was reading while she nursed. Her vocabulary has always been extraordinary. Maybe it had to do with the fact that as I ran out of my own reading material, I read her Daddy's seminary textbooks.

Sadly, I'll begin weaning my baby boy in just a couple of weeks. I don't know when I'll find time to read without having that time to sit down with him several times a day! Knowing the time was coming close, I ordered a few books I'd been eager to read for a long while. It was a happy day when I chose to look on Amazon and make my selections. It was an even happier day when they all came in!

I began by reading Instructing a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. This is a follow-up to Shepherding a Child's Heart, one I've gleaned much from and recommend to all new parents. It was the textbook for the biblical parenting class I took while my husband was in seminary. Instructing is good, but not necessarily a must-read. If you've read Shepherding, you've got the gist of what Tripp is trying to teach.

Even though I had several new books sitting on my desk, I then had to go get a book from the library. When I looked on Amazon to order Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss, I couldn't find a copy for less than $20! That's a bit steep, and I'm not yet an owner of a Nook or a Kindle (and I'm not sure how I feel about contributing to a paperless society...), so I thought I'd check the library. I had to get it sent from somewhere on the other side of the state. It came to my local branch in the midst of reading the above book. I am so glad I got this one! I will be hunting for it at a reasonable price for our church library because it is SO GOOD!

The author, Elizabeth Prentiss, lived from 1818-1878, and also wrote the lyrics to the hymn "More Love to Thee". Stepping Heavenward was first published in 1869. I'm not usually much of one to read novels since I've been an adult, but this is in fact a novel. I was thinking I was getting a biography before holding it in my hands, but it is completely fiction. It is written as a woman's journal, so it could be any woman, and I believe some of the truth expressed comes from lessons learned through the life of the author. I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes here:

“Every day that a husband and wife walk hand in hand together upon this earth makes them more and more one flesh. The selfish element that at first formed so large a part of their attraction to each other disappears, and the union becomes so pure and beautiful as to form a fitting type of the union of Christ and His church. There is nothing else on earth like it.”

“Yes, I am in earnest. I want to see little children adorning every home as flowers adorn every meadow and every wayside. I want to see them welcomed to the homes they enter, to see their parents grow less and less selfish and more and more loving because they have come. I want to see God’s precious gifts accepted, not frowned upon and refused.”

“It is not always so easy to practice as it is to preach. I can see in my wisdom forty reasons for having four children and no more. The comfort of sleeping in peace, of having a little time to read, and to keep on with my music; strength with which to look after Ernest’s poor people when they are sick; and, to tell the truth, strength to be bright and fresh and lovable to him – all these little joys have been growing very precious to me, and now I must give them up. I want to do it cheerfully and without a frown. But I find I love to have my own way, and that at that very moment I was asking God to appoint my work for me, I was secretly marking it out for myself. It is mortifying to find my will less in harmony with His than I thought it was and that I want to prescribe to Him how I shall spend the time, and the health, and the strength that are His, not mine. But I will not rest till this struggle is over, till I can say with a smile, ‘Not my will! Not my will! But Thine!’” Edward was her husband, he was a doctor, and she did go on to have another child, and was completely in love with him and happy to have him upon his arrival. I personally can relate to this quote and the one above.

“People ask me how it happens that my children are all so promptly obedient and so happy. As if it chanced that some parents have such children or chanced that some have not! I am afraid it is only too true, as someone has remarked, that ‘this is the age of obedient parents!’ What then will be the future of their children? How can they yield to God who have never been taught to yield to human authority? And how well fitted will they be to rule their own households who have never learned to rule themselves?”

Ok, here's where my lack of computer knowledge shows up. I can't end the block quote. I'm sure if you've read this much, you can bear with me.

Aren't those great?! If I had time, I'd gush on about the book I'm currently reading, Sacred Parenting. It's been a great one too, and it's not about how we parent so much as about how parenting acts as God's work of sanctification in our lives. Good stuff!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lowest Moments

Almost three years ago, our family went on a vacation that ended with my husband preaching a trial sermon for the church we currently serve. That weekend, we met the whole church at a potluck dinner. I don't remember too many details about it, like who I sat with or the things we talked about. I was two weeks away or so from giving birth to our third daughter, so I was focusing on staying really still in order to not go into labor before we got home, three hours away from where I was supposed to give birth. My husband, however, remembers a lot of details. One such detail is that he was hit really hard by an elderly man named Elvin.

As it turned out, Mr. Elvin had once been a boxer in his younger days. He built a successful business to support his family, and he really loved his wife Dorothy. Now, in his eighties, he was suffering from Alzheimer's. Mr. Elvin was what I've heard described as "happily confused". If he couldn't spot Mrs. Dorothy, he would most likely ask people if they had seen his girlfriend. How precious is that? My girls fell in love with him. Every Sunday, he would tease them, calling them boys, and they would giggle.

Last May, Mr. Elvin drove off into the sunset alone. In the days following his disappearance, my husband spent a good deal of time with Mrs. Dorothy and her family. When appropriate, we try to involve our children in ministry, to train them to be little ministers. Children can bring joy in ways we can't as adults. Our girls had been praying for Mr. Elvin to be found, so we decided to go see Mrs. Dorothy and pray with her.

We arrived at Mrs. Dorothy and Mr. Elvin's home while a news crew was there to do an interview with their son-in-law. My game plan changed a little with them there because I needed to keep my then four-year-old, three-year-old, and not-quite-two-year-old from becoming too loud for the taping taking place in the next room. My husband spoke with Mrs. Dorothy at her kitchen table, and then she called me from my work to create a Titus 2 Moment. At her lowest time, Mrs. Dorothy wanted to show me, a younger woman, the scripture that was calming her heart and giving her peace in the midst of chaos. After we prayed with our children also holding our hands and bowing their heads, Mrs. Dorothy said the news crews were missing the real story, that in her kitchen is where the real story was taking place. She was glorifying God in her trial.

In a few days, Mr. Elvin was found. God had called him to Glory. Even in the midst of her grief, Mrs. Dorothy continued to look for opportunities to share the ways that God had taught her and of the love story God had created for her and Mr. Elvin. I know that I've been able to share the lessons I've learned from difficult situations, but I hope that as I face trials that will undoubtedly come my way in the future, that I will look for others God may want me to teach in the midst of my trial as this Wednesday's Woman did for me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

While I'm Waiting (I'm just liking song titles here lately.)

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him..." Psalm 37:7a

Here lately, it has really struck me how impatient we (most Christians) are with God. It's not sensible, ladies. We want very often to get onto the next part of life, whatever it may be. For example, a single woman longs to finally get married, a young mom just wants her baby to get old enough to sleep through the night regularly, a seminary student wants to get done with classes and get to the stuff "that really matters"...etc. WAIT! God has joys, blessings, and lessons for us to learn in every season He places us.

Once, my husband and I found ourselves in a very tiring, trying situation. We knew ways we could get ourselves out of it, but any time we began to do those things, the Lord would stop my husband. He wasn't through teaching us where we were just yet. After a couple of years, God threw us a life preserver and moved us on to the next phase of life. We felt a deep appreciation, breathed the fresh air God was giving us, and felt perfect contentment in a way we wouldn't have if we hadn't walked through the burdensome time. In hindsight, we could see the blessings and had learned the lessons well that God had taught us in the hard time. It wouldn't have been possible without trial.

"Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:30-31

So be sensible. Look at what God's got in store for you right now where He has placed you. Single ladies, spend time with God like you wouldn't have with your energies spread around to a husband and children. Young moms, enjoy your babies. They grow quickly - yes, you've heard it before but look, the baby who needs you now at all hours, won't need you so much in a few years and you will be sad about it. Seminary student, hunker down. Never again will you find yourself so surrounded with people like yourself. If you're the wife of a student, let your husband bring some professors home for dinner; soak in all they will teach you. Wait, wait, wait...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Story of a Special Friendship

Everywhere we've ever lived, my husband has prayed for me to have a friend. The first year we were married, Elaine was someone I could have fun with after moving out of my college dorm and help me adjust to the real world. While he was in seminary, my husband's prayers were answered through friendships with many women, Jolie and Ashleigh to name a few. After leaving that safe environ, our third home provided a bit more of a challenge. My husband had to pray for me to have a special friendship for a long time.

Eventually, a story time was offered at our local library. I was so excited to take our two little girls! It was here that I met this Wednesday's Woman, Amy. Amy had two children nearly exactly the same ages as my girls. Chit-chatting, I came to realize that Amy was a pediatrician in the same office where we carried our girls, but that we had never met because we always went on the days that Amy had off. Amy worked part-time in order to be a full-time mom, something I really appreciate! As the weeks went by, we talked about some topics that revealed that we had the same convictions, we read the same books, etc. Finally, a friend at a time that I really needed one!

God blessed the few months we had together, with play dates for our children and mom only time to celebrate our birthdays. He called my husband to another church less than a year after Amy and I met, but I am so thankful for the time that God gave me with her. Amy loved her husband and her children in such different ways than me. In the areas where I am so weak, she is so strong, and when I struggle in those areas, I think of her. For example, Amy had a special knack of being able to instruct her children quietly. Rather than yelling at them when their behavior was not what it should be, Amy would whisper to her children whatever it was that they needed to hear, and they would comply. If not, she would remove them from the situation for whatever discipline was needed. So cool, so calm - everything I aspire to be.

Amy was selfless. She was all about blessing others, and she was gifted at gifting! She had a way of putting together gifts that were perfect for the recipients. It amazed me the thought that she put into gifts, even buying up 10 cent copies of used books at the library because her dad liked a particular author. It didn't necessarily cost her a lot to get the gifts, but she was just so thoughtful, and it made me feel so special to open something she gave.

I say all this in the past tense, not because she's no longer like this, but because unfortunately, distance between us makes it harder to talk very often. Even so, Amy has made an impact in my life and continues to do so. I wasn't looking for someone to be a Titus 2 woman to me at the time, just a friend for me and playmates for my girls. I think God does provide many relationships like the one that Amy and I shared. Look to see what kind of moms your children's friends have. Someone just a few years older than you but with children your own age may provide a Titus 2 woman for you!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Can You Come Outside to Play?

You may remember that I was participating in a thirty day challenge throughout the month of April to play outside with my children every day for at least thirty minutes. Here were some of the highlights in no particular order:

Wet boat ride (picture taken by my friend, Amanda)

My son's eyes are under there somewhere!

Planting sunflower seeds

Not an unusal sight - clothes on the line, sandbox open, ball in the yard

I enjoyed particpating in this challenge. It's been a fun way of making sure I was loving my children in the fresh air, getting the exercise that we all need! And because I've finally figured out how to add a button (I know it's not rocket science, but I'm no techie), you can click below to see all the fun everyone else had too!