By the Grace of God


There is so much I want to say. For weeks now I've been compiling blog posts in my head. Letting the words come while I work, nurse, clean, and play. I think about them when I'm driving, when I'm waiting, and when I'm just trying to go to sleep.

I have so many words. I just don't have time to write them.

So here I am, furiously typing this right here, right now (pausing every few minutes to put someone's paci back in), knowing that my time is short and I'd better get to the point. Quickly.

We've been a family of 5 now for four months, and they have been nothing short of wonderful. 

I wish you could just come over and be with us for a day. You would have so much fun! My kids are so smart and creative and funny. Just today I found Cupcake with an empty lotion bottle pretending to wash her hair. I watched her squirt the imaginary soap into her hand, rub it in her hair, and then rinse it out by shaking her head and mimicking the sound of running water.

It was adorable! Until I realized that the lotion bottle wasn't empty. And she wasn't exactly pretending.

It's those little messes that take up so much of my day. I feel like nothing else gets laundry...and blog posts.

I bounce from one thing to another all day, and I often have to remind myself to just stop and be still. It's amazing how if I just sit on the floor, they will come, arms open, faces smiling, and hands ready to play. They love to be next to me, on top of me, and all around me. They just can't get enough of me.

It's smothering sometimes, but all in all it's a really good thing because I love them.

Actually, I adore them. Like I just want to wrap them up and kiss them all over and just soak in their laughter. Their joy brings me such happiness!

If they would just laugh and play all the time, I think my life would be perfect.

But they don't. They also cry and whine and hit one another and pull my hair and rip the cover off of my favorite books.

It's in those moments that all the joy and sunshine disappears, and I just can't wait to get out of here. I stick my headphones in and do my best to ignore the trail of tears following me everywhere I go. I lock myself in my room and pout just as if I were the unruly toddler.

For every time out and gentle correction I give my children, I am reminded that God is correcting me too. I'm so much like my kids. I throw a fit when I don't get what I want. I cry when I'm really tired or hungry. And I get so absorbed in my life that I forget that the world doesn't actually revolve around me.

In fact, some mornings I wake up and all I want to do is complain. They won't stop crying. They got up t0o early. They threw their cereal on the floor because the bowl wasn't the right color.

They can be very, very frustrating.

But they aren't the problem. I am the problem. It's that part of me that rebels against the refining work of God. It's my sin nature thinking and saying and doing the things I don't want to do.

It's humbling to go through your day with your sin ever before you. To see yourself in the wants and whims of your children. It makes me all the more grateful for God's grace.

I love going places with my children. Even in the few short months we've all been together, I've gotten several comments and questions from strangers, but they all really boils down to this: How do you do it?

If I was being honest I probably would have said something to the affect of, "I'm hanging on by the skin of my teeth and praying that bedtime comes quickly." But that's not exactly something you tell a stranger.

So instead I just smile and say the same thing every time, "By the grace of God." 

The first time I said it, I was half joking, but as my words met my ears I knew them to be true. Every smile, every tear, every lesson, every gentle correction. All of them are God's unmerited favor. 

As I was rocking Little Bear to sleep a few days ago I started to sing an old hymn that brought tears to my eyes.
"What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God is prayer! Oh what needs we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God is prayer."
I started to think over the needless pain I carry in my heart: the discontentment and frustration when things don't go exactly like I planned. I get upset with myself, fearing I'll never be good enough. I find myself chasing after my kids, unable to keep up and falling short in the process. 

It's enough to run any mother ragged, but God never intended for me to do motherhood on my own strength. He never meant for me to carry the burden of sin any farther than the cross. He invites me to lay down my burden and to yoke together with him. To let him pull and let him lead. 

And even when I'm tired and life is full of chaos, God's favor never changes. He doesn't love me because of what I do or even who I am. He loves me because of Jesus.

That's how I parent my children. Not on my own merit or my own strength, but simply resting in the free gift of grace. I'll never be a perfect parent. I'll never get it all right, but because of grace I don't have to. 

Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus!

A Little Bite of Cupcake {18 Months}


My sweet Cupcake turned 18 months old this week, and she is all girl.

Except for all those bumps and bruises, of course. She's a very rough and tumble kind of girl. She's been beat-up and banged around by a very active older brother and of course, her own toddling clumsiness. But underneath those bruises and black eyes, she is all girl.

She loves to dance and sing. She spins around like a princess and loves to grin at herself in the mirror. She can scale my kitchen table in an instant, and devour whole pieces of chalk at once. She is wonderful. 

She is also talking quite a lot. In fact, in the past two weeks her vocabulary has exploded. Rooster was such a late talker that honestly I'm amazed when that toddling "baby" comes to me and says, "my bow!" with a sense of dramatic urgency. She may be stark naked out of the bath, but the one thing she's got to have is a bow! (Of course, she won't leave it in longer than two minutes at a time! Silly girl.)

She also says, "Mama" just like her brother. They both will be prattling away their {almost} complete gibberish, and I'll be half-halfheartedly ignoring them until I hear, "MAMA." They will both look at me in silence as if to say, "are you listening?" I am now!

Cupcake loves her brothers to pieces. Literally. She is known for randomly tackling her big brother when he's not looking, or kissing Little Bear to the point of smothering him. I'm often called to rescue one of my boys from the over eager "love" of their sister. 

"Come give mommy a kiss instead." I'll tell her. And she obediently comes and places her lips on my cheek, pulls away, and smacks them. "Mmmmahh". It's absolutely perfect. 

Of course, she has a few bad habits as well, and most of them stem from doing everything her big brother does. Everything. I spend most of my day repeating myself. 

Rooster/Cupcake stops hitting your spoon on the table. 
Rooster/Cupcake sit down on the couch. 

Rooster, go sit in time out. 
Cupcake...oh well you go sit in time out too. 

She stomps off to the corner opposite her brother and fake pouts for some wrong she didn't really commit, but if he's doing it, she must do it too. 

However, when I can get her alone, just me and her, she is completely her own person. She loves books, and will sit in your lap for ages, but don't even think about actually trying to read. She doesn't have time for that! She'd much rather flip through the pages at her own speed, often going backwards and forwards again and sometimes upside down. 

She loves playing peek-a-boo and wearing hats. She will sing "deep and wide" over and over, and  is absolutely loves jumping off of things...or at least her version of jumping! She bends her knees, then stands up straight again. Puts one leg out in front of her and promptly falls on her face! 

She puts herself to bed most nights at just a suggestion. "Cupcake are you ready for bed?" "Pappy! Pappy?" "Where is your paci?" "I na-no!" She crawls around her room eager to find her pacifier and hop into bed. 

Keeping her in bed is kind of tricky. She is tall enough to open her door and it's not uncommon for me to find her standing in the hall and grinning at me long after I thought she was asleep. We take her back to bed, and she curls up with her old crib bumper (her comfort object), sticks her bottom in the air, and buries her face in her pillow. "Niiiiight, night" she says in such a sweet voice, I can hardly be mad that it's the 17th time I've had to put her in bed. 

She also loves to count. We often point to things on the page and count aloud with Rooster, and of course, she's picked up on that. She takes her finger and points at nothing in particular and makes the counting sounds, "uh, ooh, ee". It doesn't matter what she's counting, or if she's counted it already, or if there is nothing to count at all. The fun is in just pretending to be big. 

But the more she pretends, the faster she learns and I know one day soon I'll wake up to find that my sweet baby girl isn't so little anymore. I do look forward to the day when we can play princesses and dolls and bake cookies and color with crayons (instead of eating them), but for now I cherish those sweet baby cheeks that those chunky toddler legs. 

Even if they are climbing on the counter...

Advice to Young Mothers


The kids are finally sleeping, snuggled securely in their nice warm beds. It's been a long morning, full of toddlers tantrums and spilled milk, but on the whole it was one of our better days.

No one's diapers leaked, nothing was broken, and no one locked me out of the house.

And still, I'm glad the kids are quietly sleeping. Even our good days are often long and loud and slightly chaotic.

You know I'm often told by veteran moms whose kids are happily grown and gone that one day I'm going to miss this. They tell me that these little years are over too quickly, and that I need to savor them and enjoy every moment. 

I usually smile and appreciate the advice born from a heart of love. However, the beauty of hindsight is that we often see more clearly and forget most of the details.

No one enjoys every moment of motherhood. If you do, you're some sort of saint. A crazy-to-goodness saint. 

I highly doubt those veteran moms enjoyed 3 a.m. crying fits and middle of the night feedings. Who wants to remember the endless string of dirty diapers, spit up stained clothes, and gold fish ground into the carpet? 

They fondly remember reading to their little ones, but conveniently forgetting that "Mr. Brown Can Moo" is only cute the first 1,256 times.

They forget that plastic hammers make terrible toys, and plastic dinosaurs are most deadly when stumbled upon in the middle of the night. And what about that terrible sound toys make when their batteries have finally had enough? The cute songs turn into a funeral dirge, the sound of a slow, painful death by toddler.

Motherhood is full of long and boring days when everyone is crying and everything is sticky.

In truth, sometimes the only hope that a mother has is that her children will eventually grow out of this, whatever annoying, difficulty this happens to be today. 

We do young mothers a disservice when we smile at their lives and gloss over the those hard moments and real frustrations with platitudes that amount to "just be happy, your kids are so cute, your life is beautiful!"

And yet, we all know there is some truth to this sage advice. One day I will miss this, at least parts of it. Life with little ones is completely fun and wonderful while it is demanding and sometimes overwhelming. For every sweet moment there is a smelly one, and that's just part of the job. As moms we just have to learn to find joy in those sweet, happy moments, and persevere through the unpleasant ones. 

So one day when I'm that mom giving advice to a young mother, this is what I'll say (more or less):

I know there are days when you wonder how in the world you will ever survive the mess. You love your kids to the moon and back, but sometimes it's hard to remember when your toddler is screaming at the top of their lungs or your newborn just wont go to sleep. But just keep going. Keep laughing, keep playing, keep dancing around the living room and making fun memories. One day you are going to look back on this time in your life and laugh because you made it! And you'll be glad for each one of those sweet moments you treasured in your heart. The baby giggles and toddler kisses and that little voice asking for "one more book", those are the precious gifts of these little years. Enjoy the good things and press on through the bad. Your kids are growing up before your eyes, and this won't last forever. I promise.  


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