a mother’s prayer on Ash Wednesday

ash wednesdayFather God,

It is not even noon yet, and I am aware of how much I need the grace of repentance that Lent invites me into on today’s Ash Wednesday. I have lost my patience with the children you have entrusted me with – the souls I am to be nurturing into faith and repentance. What a high calling! And an impossible one.

Could it be that my greatest Lenten fast will start with admitting I have no strength to parent?

Could it be that the deepest Lenten repentance will happen as I lead my children into it by example (and necessity)?

Could it be that engaging in mercy and justice for me, in this season of parenting littles, will mean that I show mercy first to these two who are entirely dependent upon me for all of their needs?

Could it be that promoting justice begins with repentance of the entitlement I feel about the sacrifices I make on their behalf?

I turn away from such a prayer, but you invariably call me back. You show me a love that has loved me in my low estate, and a love that fights on my behalf for justice, and a love that grows to match (and overcome) the strength of my rebellious will. Lord Jesus, teach me to love this Lenten season. Lord Jesus, teach me how you have first loved me (and how you always FIRST love me … this love is what shapes and propels my love for my children).

In the name of the Father of all compassion and the God of all mercy, I beg you for Lenten grace this Ash Wednesday.


A Father’s Reflections on Discipline (guest post from my brother, Dr. Jonathan Davis)

image from soulcare.org

image from soulcare.org

Featuring guest posts on my blog this year is a wonderful way for me to take some time off AND to feature a couple writers that I think you would enjoy. The first one by my daughter Lucia on Christmas Eve was a big hit. This second one is authored by one of my two younger brothers, Jonathan. In family gatherings this week, I was reminded again of how much I love both of my brothers and their wives for their laughter, deep faith, and genuine love for others. Jonathan’s heartfelt words on parenting are so needed at this time of year as my kids crash after being over-sugared and over-gifted at Christmas. I saw he and his wife live these words in many small moments with their three children (now ages 5, 3, and 1) over the past few days of celebrating Christmas together. Without further ado, I introduce to you my brother Dr. Jonathan Davis, who recently finished medical school and now is in practice at a medical clinic for the underserved using his training in MED/PEDs (internal medicine/pediatrics)

 A father’s reflections on discipline (originally written early spring 2014)

In spending much more of my time this past month in our home, I have had the amazing privilege of being more involved with our children. Living at a slower pace of life, I have greatly enjoyed being able to spend more time reflecting on my relationship with my God, my children, and my wife. Since my wife and I are currently in what we like to call a fairly “discipline heavy” stage of our parenting careers (3 kids under the age of 4), much of my reflection has involved the topic of discipline. Here are a few of my thoughts.

on the benefits of consistent discipline:

I see how it is often such a delight to play with my 4-year-old now and how our relationship can be so open, honest, respectful, loving, and deep. And much of this, I think, is possible precisely because we disciplined him diligently as a younger child, and he now enjoys the benefits of having a fundamental respect for authority in his life—namely his parents. I have worried that discipline may result in children that are tense, anxious, lacking in confidence, or simply don’t want to be around me. Yet what I am coming to realize is that precisely the opposite is true. Of course, I am not speaking of discipline done in an abusive way; however, when done in a controlled, consistent fashion by parents who love their children, discipline opens the door wide for the deepest joys of a parent-child relationship later in life. Effective discipline helps clear away the disrespect, anger, and rebellion that are the biggest barriers to a healthy relationship between parents and their children. So take heart! Yes, it is hard to consistently (and repeatedly) discipline my two-year-old, but how powerfully will this loving discipline help to guide him into the path of God’s blessing in his life! This is what I want for my children—I am happy to take on my often difficult, but God-given responsibility to discipline my children because I know this is God’s way, and leads to His blessing.

on authority:

I teach my children to live under authority not because I am power-hungry and must have obedient ‘subjects’, but because I know that as the adults they are becoming, they will always have to live under authority—ultimately I pray under God’s authority, but certainly under the authority of a boss, policeman, or simply laws of the land in which they live.

on reactionary parenting v. downstream parenting:

In reading Raising Resilient Children and another book I’ve recently been studying entitled The Effective Father, I have been thinking on this idea of “reactionary parenting” vs. “downstream parenting.” Reactionary parenting, which all of us as parents are most tempted to do, involves responding or “reacting” in the moment only. For example, my four-year-old often cries in frustration when he works on Legos by himself, and I typically rush in to help him so that he feels better. This is reactionary. I hear his cry, see the situation, and provide the remedy—helping my son myself. Certainly this approach has its merits, but I would argue I am missing significant parenting opportunities if I approach parenting situations in this way only. Consider the “downstream parenting approach:” I hear my son crying again while playing with a new Lego set. I don’t ignore him, but rather than immediately intervening I squat down beside him and say something like this, “Son, I know this is hard for you isn’t it? Most of these Lego sets have gone together pretty quickly for you, but this one is pretty tough. You know, I often face things that are hard for me to do, too. I think that often the best way to learn is to calm down, relax and stick with it for a while. So I’m going to leave you alone again for a bit and let you try this. I’ll set the timer for 10 minutes and then come back and check on you. If you’re still having trouble and would like some help, I’d be glad to jump in there with you.”

In the first approach (reactionary), I am providing loving support and help for my son. He feels loved by me, possibly trusts me more. But I have neglected to teach him any skills for handling this or similar problems in the future--or ultimately when I am not around. In the second approach (downstream), however, I would be pushing my son to develop patience, endurance, or “resilience” (and I don’t think he would feel any less love or support). It is probably easier and quicker to fix the Legos myself, but my son will be better able to face the next bigger challenge next week, next year, or in 10 years if I consistently parent in this way, looking “downstream” for the challenges that I know he will face in the coming years.

on the time commitment required to effectively parent:

I have also begun to realize how much time effective parenting requires. In the examples above for instance, “downstream parenting” probably takes more time and effort, yet those efforts are more apt to “pay off” in the long run. If I am busily scurrying through my day that is filled with work, school, after-school activities, T.V. shows, etc., then I will not have time for consistent, in-depth parenting encounters with my children. It is worth it to simplify and free up “margins” in my life for my children. I will reap the harvest in years to come.

on my own legacy as a parent:

As I think about my parenting and discipline for my children I wonder what legacy, what lasting impressions I will leave in their minds. Will they remember me as a moralist, a strict and authoritative disciplinarian? Or will they ultimately come away with a deep sense of how much I loved them? Even as I pose these questions to myself, I realize that I am setting up a dichotomy that I’m not sure exists. Is authoritative parenting and frequent discipline incompatible with love? I actually think these do not have to be incompatible. If I am authoritative in my parenting style and committed to regular, consistent discipline of my children when needed (even if one or more children has a temperament that results in frequent discipline), the matter of utmost importance remains the manner in which I carry out that discipline. If my discipline were harsh, mechanical, or angry, then concern for the ill-effects of its frequent application would seem justified. Or likewise, if I disciplined out of irritation or annoyance with problem behavior the same would be true. But what if I see discipline as “rescue” and “restoration”? What if my discipline is thoughtful, filled with calm, purposeful discussion, and physical displays which affirm my love and affection? In this case, I would argue that the child who receives more of this kind of parental interaction would indeed know my love more deeply.

I see this reflected in my own relationship with God. As I go through trying circumstances when I know his hand of discipline is heavy upon me, I feel pain and discomfort in the moment, yet nothing can compare with the simultaneous displays of his intimate love and provision of strength for me. I reach the end of such “disciplining” times from His hand and find my walk with Him much deeper and my love more fervent. If God, as my loving heavenly Father, deals in this way with me, should I not strive to emulate His ways as I love and parent my own children?


EDITORIAL NOTE by Heather: Discipline is a loaded topic, and what Jonathan calls “discipline” here is not referring to nor condoning any type of so-called “discipline” done in a heavy-handed way at the expense of children. It excludes any such action which misuses a parent’s position of authority/power for the ill of the child. This is nothing less than child abuse, defined as: “when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse.” If you wonder whether you’re being abusive in your “discipline,” stop immediately and seek professional help. See this website for more information and for further resources: childhelp.org

white space, children’s edition

photo from hamptonroads.com

photo from hamptonroads.com

I have a difficult time with white space – those pauses between activities and stress to simply “be” – and this spills over to the way I parent, too. One of my twins constantly asks me for a plan for the day, and usually for the next day, too. “So what are we doing after that?” she will continue to ask even when I don’t give her an answer. It annoys me, if I’m honest, but I’ve also created the conditions that cause her to expect constant activity. I am a mom who enjoys taking my girls with me to fun places and to do enjoyable activities. They absolutely loved our trip to New York City last December at Christmastime. They often seem to be happiest when we’re out – whether it’s flipping through their favorite “Frozen” books at Barnes & Noble, or selecting a new round of library books, or the rare treat of getting donuts or frozen yogurt together, or going to a friend’s house for a playdate.

But in all things, moderation. There is a dark side to my overplanning of our lives, and it looks like stressed out kids who forget how to play by themselves creatively on a rainy afternoon. Or it might be the constant need to have to have something to do (and so they do not enjoy the moment, nor do I).

Enter the current book I’m reading, Simplicity Parenting, on loan from my dear friend and fellow blogger Mary and recommended by her, Maria, and BFF Katherine. It is a powerful corrective to our culture of “too much, too early, and too fast” as author Kim John Payne, M.Ed., terms the overscheduling of childhood. I love, love, love the way he describes the essence of this chapter:

“Activity without downtime is ultimately – like a plant without roots – unsustainable.”

Consider a few suggestions Payne presents of how to make “fallow” time for your child within your family’s daily and weekly rhythm:

  1. It begins with awareness: “We’ve worshiped at the altar of scheduled activities so dutifully that some parents only think of play in terms of playdates. … If we begin to recognize the value of leisure time and creative time, we’ll make space for them.”
  2. View boredom as a gift, and refuse to fill the space for them with parent-directed entertainment. Payne suggests to “outbore their boredom with a single, flat response: ‘Something to do is right around the corner!'”
  3. Build in a balance of days. If there is a highly active, stimulating day (like their school Christmas program or a birthday party), balance this with a few calm stay-at-home days to allow them to regain their equilibrium.
  4. Practice Sabbath. This harkens back to the way God created a rhythm for humanity of six days of work, one day of rest. Payne (who is not writing from a Christian framework) acknowledges the value of Sabbath, defining it as “distraction-free zones.” Perhaps it is a day when you decide you cannot be reached on your mobile device, and you won’t check email. Maybe it is a Saturday afternoon or evening devoted exclusively to an all-family activity – like making pizza together, going for a hike or a walk in the park, building a Lego village in the play room. “If life is a run-on sentence, then these ‘moments of Sabbath’ are the pauses, the punctuation.”
  5. Limit organized sports for young kids. “When I speak of the problems with early sport, I’m referring to children younger than ten or eleven years old who are playing formal team sports more than twice a week….When kids younger than ten or eleven become occupied with organized sports, especially to the exclusion of time for free, unstructured play, that involvement can cut crudely across their progression through a variety of play stages that are vitally important to their development.” This is hard, isn’t it? We achievement-oriented parents want our children to likewise be achieving, successful sports and dance stars. It seems like waiting and wading in slowly are key to allow their natural interest to develop at its own pace, and to provide space for much of the “normal” play in life.

What will be the result of more “white space” for our children? They will learn to appreciate the ordinary days (and life exists in the ordinary much more so than the extraordinary). Free(er) schedules foster an ability for them to reach “deep play,” in which their natural imagination and creativity can thrive. We may even uproot potential “seeds for addiction.”

“So much activity can create a reliance on outer stimulation, a culture of compulsion and instant gratification. What also grows in such a culture? Addictive behaviors….[Overscheduling] can establish a reliance, a favoring of external stimulation over emotional or inner activity.”

Most interestingly in Payne’s book, he discusses how a more simple schedule can deepen the gift of anticipation for our children. (What an appropriate time to focus on this as every kid counts down to Christmas!) I close with his words on the value of anticipation, words that echo timeless truth of Scripture on the value of waiting (Advent means waiting):

“Anticipating gratification, rather than expecting or demanding it, strengthens a child’s will. Impulsivity, wanting everything now, leaves the will weak, flaccid. As a child lives with anticipation, as it strengthens over time, so too does their sense of themselves…Unchecked, our wills are like weeds, threatening to take over our whole spirits; invasive vines of desire for what we want (everything) when we want it (now). Anticipation holds back the will; it counters instant gratification. It informs a child’s development and growth and builds their inner life.”

So what are you waiting for? Time to go create some white space with your children and for your children, so that you and they will thrive.

a tale of twins: the first year

She leaned over the white porcelain coffee mug and asked me, “So what is it like to have twins?” It’s a question I’ve heard a million times since finding out we were expecting TWO over four years ago. I never know exactly how to answer it. “I’ve never known anything different,” is true but is rarely a satisfactory reply.

It began with two heartbeats blinking on the black and white screen. Two tiny fetal poles, two placentas, and two embryonic sacs. A belly that expanded at twice the rate, causing most to assume that I was months further along than I was. Two lives to nurture, meaning I was twice as hungry and twice as worried. We quickly began to think in two’s. Two cribs, two coming-home-from-the-hospital pink gowns, two deliveries to consider, two of everything (except for the double stroller). The expenses doubled, but so did friends’ and family’s generosity. The gifts piled up and filled up the walls painted pale pink with brown and pink polka-dotted curtains handsewn by Gigi.

As I crossed the threshold into my third trimester at 25 weeks, twin pregnancy expanded to include the dreaded diagnosis of “early preterm labor,” to be treated with “strict bed rest.” One trip daily up and down our stairs; no getting out of the recliner that molded to the shape of my very pregnant body for anything except bathroom trips. The waiting and the waiting and the waiting, anxiously monitoring each movement and cramp and ache and pain. Is this it? Would they wait for another day? Another week? Another 10 weeks? They did. At thirty-five weeks, I pushed for two hours for my firstborn; and seven minutes for my second child. Lucia’s newborn cries were the background and motivation for Alethia’s delivery. A proud Daddy cradling two pink bundles of fresh baby. Surprisingly healthy, they were. Until they weren’t four days later. It was back to the hospital for both of them. When two newborns are being pushed, prodded, poked with needles and screaming in tiny terror, which room do you choose? Which one needs me more? Which one can I handle better? When I’m with one baby, I’m wondering how her sister is doing in the room next door because I can hear her screams and I want to be there but I can’t leave where I am. And then we are both told to wait outside the dual rooms as they do spinal taps, and tears are streaming down my face and the orderlies are bringing me tissues and candy and soda as vending machine offerings. As if anything could possibly help the mom overwhelmed with hormones and questions and emotions and fear. Times two. The undercurrent of feeling inadequate magnified twice over.

We make it; they get to share a room for the next five days as their weight and temperature stabilizes. Alethia is ready to be released before Lucia; but the pediatrician agrees to wait until both can leave together. For how could I possibly split time between hospital and home when both need their mama?

We bring them home (again). Sobered; relieved; and then the real work of parenting twins begins. I nurse Lucia for 45 minutes, and then she gets a bottle of formula to supplement. Nursing feels impossible, and she can’t quite get used to drinking from a bottle – plus there is the question of is she getting enough and how to know? I hand her to a waiting helper, my mom or Seth, and then it’s time to do it again with Alethia. One-and-a-half hours, and they’re both fed, swaddled, and sleeping. In barely an hour, the routine begins again. The days and nights roll on, one big blur of feeding and burping and swaddling and crying and a little bit of sleep between it all. We make it to one month, then two, and before we know it they’re six months old and smiling and cooing at one another and at us. It feels worth it, and it begins to feel easier. A year passes, and it’s a double birthday. One song and cake smash, and then the other one. We breathe a collective sigh of relief: we have brought two babies to their first birthday simultaneously!


what keeps me from creativity

In reading through Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, her chapter on creativity was particularly thought-provoking and inspiring. [The mark of a great author is to do both, and Brown does this so well!] I began last week with my thoughts on “why a non-crafty mom needs creativity” and wrote it as “part 1” of my creativity thoughts. Here is part two.

First, my experiments with creativity over the past week:

a “thankful” banner for this Thanksgiving season20131030-142731.jpg

I ventured into the mess; bought craft paint for my girls to paint a pumpkin with; and let them go to it. We all had fun, and the mess was less than I thought it would be.

I also bought glue sticks for them. (yes, small step – but really a big leap forward for me) They are the look purple-dry clear type. Which meant my girls used them as paint. And while I sipped my morning coffee on Sunday, I looked up to find purple glue everywhere. On the tile floor, on the refrigerator … you get the picture. I was reminded why I often don’t venture into the arts and crafts realm with twin three-year-olds. The good thing is that they’re old enough now to consider it fun to clean up their mess. Which they did.

And then perhaps a less conventional expression of creativity happened when I stuffed the dirty pots and pans into the kitchen cabinets because I had 12 dinner guests from my neighborhood bunco group arriving in 2 minutes. When I texted my mom this picture, she said – “See, look! You are creative, Heather!”20131030-142809.jpg

But back to my original question – of what keeps me from creativity? Fear of mess is an obvious one, but that really isn’t the main obstacle. Brown speaks about creativity’s opposite as depression. And quite frankly, I think that depression can cause lack of creativity just as much as lack of creativity can cause depression. One is a symptom of the other. The motherhood season between 18-month-old and two-and-a-half year old twin girls was not my favorite. Along with living what felt like a depressed version of myself, there was an accompanying lack of creativity. Survival seemed to be all I could do day-in and day-out, trying to muster up enough energy to make it till naptime was my daily goal. Creativity? Forget it! I couldn’t even “creatively” choose anything besides the same exact lunch every day.

Yet slowly, surely, quietly, step-by-step, God brought me out of that hard season. And as depression dissipated, I noticed the resurgence of creativity. In small ways, like being spontaneous instead of needing to plan every minute of every day, and in returning to life-giving creative pursuits. For me, highest on that list is writing. And so I began to blog regularly, starting with my personal June challenge of daily blogging inspired by Grethen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. As I wrote more, I began to notice and savor life and those I love more. And then I had more to write about, and on and on it goes …

The one thing that still can threaten my creativity is what Brown identifies as the trap of comparison. When we begin comparing to others, we cease creating. I feel either false pride in being “better than” or (way more often) paralyzed by my perception of another’s creativity as much more inspired/better/talented than mine. Take this small example of doing a group craft project at a friend’s house a few weeks ago. We were painting wooden spoons, using painting tape to make stripes/etc. Overall, I had a great time. Making art is fun; getting to chat with other friends while doing so – even better. But then the insidious lie of comparison crept into my head. I looked at the other spoons and concluded that theirs were better – more creative – more beautiful. Mine just seemed so … plain. 

How ironic that is was the day after, in my “post-comparison hangover,” that I first read these words that Brown wrote in reflecting on how creativity slowly dissipated in her home as her parents shifted focus from living to acquiring:

My parents were launched on the accomplishments and acquisitions track, and creativity gave way to that stifling combination of fitting in and being better than, also known as comparison.

I’ll close here for today, as a poignant reminder to us that begs the question: am I focused more on fitting in with others or creating as an outflow of who I am, where I am?

an open letter to my daughters: reflections on three-years-old

To my favorite girls ever,

It’s hard to believe that our lives together began three years ago (yesterday) in a hospital room where you were delivered remarkably fast after 10 weeks of bed rest and waiting and hoping you wouldn’t arrive too early. You came right on time, 35 weeks and the day after I said to a friend, “I just don’t think I can wait much longer. I’m big,uncomfortable, and bored.” Well, now. That was certainly the last time I said I was bored (no comment on the other two). The past three years have been anything but boring. Four days after you were born, when we were nicely settled at home, you girls had to head back to the hospital for a week to gain weight and stabilize. It ripped out my mommy’s heart to watch you being poked and prodded, and to only be able to touch you through the holes of an isolette. Even the word itself is so isolating. You both rallied under the watchful, kind care of the nurses and doctors at CHKD, and that week allowed me to get a little bit of rest (a whole 5 hours each night) and to manage my post-partum pre-eclampsia that had caused me swelling, fatigue, and increased blood pressure. My mom and OB/midwife took care of me while I tried to take care of you, and Daddy tried to take care of all of us. And finally we were all home (again).

Then begins the happy-yet-exhausting blur of the next six months of feedings, pumpings, diaper changes, middle-of-the-night smiles, little laughs, gazing into each other’s faces, learning each other. Lots of help from grandparents, aunts and uncles, our church community, and faraway friends who showered us with prayers and welcome gifts. And then you were six-months-old, and it was time to teach you to sleep through the night (ugh) and for you to be baptized (beautiful).

The next six months were a bit calmer; and I blinked and you were turning one with a ladybug party; and I blinked again and you were walking and talking and throwing tantrums and getting into trouble and I felt overwhelmed. The period of time between 18-months-old and 2 ½ years old was not my favorite, I’ll have to admit. I felt quite out of my element; baffled by all of the advice from different approaches on all of the variousmajor transitions you were experiencing (together): transitioning out of a crib, dropping the morning nap, potty training, solid food, becoming independent thinkers, developing wills of your own that were tested in opposition to mine. And I felt all of this more intensely because I tried to do too much. I was missing “life before kids” and the time when I felt “sidelined” during pregnancy and the first year, and I tried to jump back in too quickly. That didn’t help my dilemmas and my exhaustion and my anger in response. I needed space and quiet and rest. Soul rest. Heart refreshment, but I wasn’t sure how to get it in the 60-90 minutes you might simultaneously nap in a day.

And so God rescued me, a long and slow process during the past year or so.* You have been very patient with me, often much more so than I’ve been with you. You have been quick to forgive me when I’ve blown it yet again. You have accepted the times when “Mommy needed a break” and I escaped into a coffee shop or my room or a friend’s house for a chat, to write, to read, to breathe and exhale and make sense of me as a mom and you as my daughters. I began saying “no” to things outside of my main calling to be your mommy and Daddy’s wife. I had to remember. To bring life into focus again. To say “yes” cautiously to what God was leading me to instead of jumping in toescape what felt difficult at home. And I learned to say “yes” to what I needed from God to be refreshed so that I could say “yes” to being the mommy you needed. A mommy who wasn’t angry all the time and frustrated constantly. A mommy who, instead, sought to lean in to this stage of unpredictability, to trust God as the one controlling my time, to listen to God and to you and to friends, to go slower and be more intentional. A mommy who’s learning that writing helps me process and savor these days with you, days that do go by fast when glanced at retrospectively in terms of years but which sometimes seem to creep along immovably when experienced as minutes on a sick homebound winter day. For both the fast and the slow moments, there is grace. Amen, Hallelujah, and Cheers. Here’s to the next 30 years together …


*posts that describe this process more fully:

Confessions of an Angry Mom, part 1, 2, & 3
A Prayer for Potty Training
Tears and Transitions
For the love of poetry
Identity lessons from “Angelina Ballerina”
The one voice that matters most
Mind the gap

on the eve of preschool

Tomorrow. Tomorrow it begins. Enter the song from “Annie,”

Tomorrow, tomorrow,
I love you, tomorrow;
you’re only a day away!

Tomorrow my almost-3-year-old twins will enter preschool. This DAY I’ve longed for, that felt too far ahead into that distant Future which I couldn’t see through the hazy, sleep-deprived gaze of newborn days and toddler tantrums. Friends who’d journeyed there said the oft-repeated and often-frustrating-when-you’re-in-the-midst-of-it cliche of, “the days are long, but the years are short.” I find myself repeating that phrase myself to friends with weeks-old newborns, who are struggling with finding their way through the maze of feedings, advice, sleep(lessness), diapers, and colic. I’ve said it to friends who are still a few months away from welcoming their first babe into their hearts, and who feel alternately daunted and excited by such a venture.

As I thought about this post, I wasn’t sure whether to camp out in nostalgic-how-did-my-babies-get-so-big, or to join Glennon in the ranks of “hallelujah! Free at last!” I offer my story, which is a combination of both. Only this morning, I have felt both extremes. When my blue-eyed blonde beauties look up at me and say, “I love you, Mommy!” followed by a melt-my-heart hug; when one says, “Daddy is my best Daddy ever!”; when I see them creatively playing and sweetly cooperating with one another, I think that I am going to miss this. Granted, I will still have plenty of it (they’re only going two mornings a week), yet I know this is sort of the beginning of School. We are probably not going to go the homeschool route personally (and I have great respect for those of you who are), so School will likely mean that the next 15 years will include fostering their academic pursuits outside of the home. That’s terrifying when I realize that I am giving over the reigns of control to someone else, even for six hours a week. Will they be ok? What will I miss in terms of small moments you can’t capture? What if they are holy terrors for their teachers or their fellow students? [disclamor: I have no reason to believe that they will be since they are always MUCH better behaved with those other than us … but you never know …] Who will help her if she can’t figure out how to get her lunchbox open or if she skins her knee? Can I bear the thought that it will be someone besides me?

Well, yes. I can if I remember the part of me that can’t wait for tomorrow. I am looking forward to preschool because I want them to learn to play with other kids, to do wildly messy and creative art projects that I won’t have to clean up, to learn to be under another authority besides me, to be guided in their curiosity about this world by teachers trained to do so. This sounds quite noble, and I wish I could stop there. But I won’t. Because I bet there are others out there who, like me, also cannot WAIT for the break. The break from being a referee/personal chef/activities director for two seemingly impossible to please toddlers. Parenting has been as much my journey of finding out who God’s made me as it has been nurturing my children into who God’s making them. And a few things I’ve learned about myself these parenting years set me up for preschool being a lovely break at precisely the right time:

  • I don’t enjoy arts and crafts. In theory, yes, but the actuality feels too messy and frustrating most of the time.
  • I’m not naturally a playful mom, meaning that getting on the floor and doing lego towers for hours (or even 10 minutes) can feel tiring. I do it still because I love the girls who love legos, but it’s just hard for me. Same reason that I don’t really like playgrounds either.
  • I am most refreshed by time alone or with a few friends with whom I can connect on a deep level. To say that’s been a scarcity in these first three years as a mom is an understatement.
  • I am passionate about what God’s called me to outside of my home, too. I enjoy teaching women the beauty of the gospel found in God’s Word; mentoring younger women in their faith journeys; counseling those in difficult places; and writing. The freedom of two mornings a week without my children will free me up to pursue these a tiny bit more than I’ve been able to before now.
  • I am a better mom when I have a regular break to anticipate and in which to find refreshment. I’m not saying that God has not met me in the midst of the trenches of these past few years, but I am saying that I’ve found that I am able to love my husband and children better with regular breaks. This may not be your story, but this has been mine. And I suspect there are many of you in the church especially who have not felt free to admit this. Admit it; ask for grace in the midst of each day; don’t demand breaks in order to be a better mom but DO take breaks as you can, for spiritual and emotional refreshment. Take a break in order to re-engage those God’s called you to in self-sacrificial love.

Will I be a tearful mom tomorrow as I send off my big girls with their tiny backpacks? Of course. Will I be a joyful mom who will feel like three hours is a blissful luxury not to be squandered lightly? Equally so. I expect crying and rejoicing to each be present in this mom’s heart. And for both aspects, I am thankful for a God who weeps with me and rejoices with me and who goes with me and with my daughters as we’ll part for three hours. I imagine that I’ll blink and be writing a similar post about college. Oh my. That may really get the tears going, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

why completion is harder to write about than the struggle

When Sammy the plumber made his last visit to our newly renovated bathroom yesterday, I breathed a sigh of relief. First of all, please note that we know our plumber by name. We should. He has become a household name to my daughters over the past 4.5 months that we [Seth] has been working on renovating our master bathroom. This is because we live in a house built in the early 1900s and one that was remodeled by someone proud of their DIY mentality yet with little skill. Or maybe they just became lazy along the way. This “master bathroom” was one of their projects, and each stage of remodeling uncovered another layer of poor workmanship and shoddy structure. Such as the clothesline that held a few of the bathroom pipes together. Or the prefab shower that wasn’t actually attached to any structural part of the house – simply nailed up to the drywall. And the icing on the cake was the fact that they had actually cut through a load-bearing supporting beam of the house in this “remodeling” project.

All of this added up to what should have been a relatively quick and easy “re-do” becoming a long and arduous process. Thank goodness I am married to a man who is a perfectionist about these things, committed to persevering through details and behind-the-scenes-structure in order for it to be done right. At one point, he asked a structural engineer friend from church to consult with him as he worked on rebuilding the floor joists. After their brainstorming session, this friend graciously volunteered to come help Seth with that foundational work – which included building a temporary wall in our kitchen to support the floor above while they reinforced it. Wow.

I could go on and on about Seth’s work; my frustrations; interrupted naptimes; living in a construction zone. Etc. Etc. In fact, it would be easier to talk to you about the struggle of this process of rebuilding our 4′ by 8′ bathroom. It’s easier to describe the process with its highs (choosing a good paint color; finding a picture that perfectly complemented this bathroom; how the glass doors came in just in time) and lows (see paragraph above) than to wax eloquent about what it’s like now that it’s completed.

Isn’t that true about life too? It is in the process of parenting that we are prolific; in the waiting of pregnancy we hope and dream and speak – the birth comes and we are speechless. I find that when I am walking through a trial, words come more easily than when that trial is done. Or if I speak about a trial in the past tense, my words sound a bit empty – a little too “tie-a-ribbon-on-it” perfect.

As a “J” personality, I am always longing for closure. (Referring to the Myers-Briggs personality test – J or P – which are you? Also closely related to type A or type B.) And yet. When closure comes, there is a sense of emptiness in it. The home project, as beautiful as it is, is never quite as fulfilling as I imagined it would be. The successfully potty trained twins don’t make life 150% easier as I had pictured it. [Enter comic relief: we now do potty RUNS wherever we go, like the Virginia Aquarium this morning when I grabbed my two-year-old by the hand after she announced she needed to go potty; and we fought crowds like it was an emergency.] I think this is life this side of heaven. The completion feels great, for a moment, but never quite all it should be. For we are still longing for a Day of Completion to come.

Meanwhile, we’re in the struggle. And let’s write about it together, giving words and hope and meaning to the waiting.

a mom’s life

I wrote this poem a few months ago, but I could have penned it yesterday. (Or today.) There is always that pull as a mom between the lives we are nurturing and our own life. Thankfully we have a God who nurtures us and them and gives grace for the days when the Legos and unfinished tasks seem to be taking over any quiet or peace.

My life
scattered in a million
Lego pieces and a necklace
draping over the handle of
the coffee table drawer
books, blocks, a pink dollhouse

and the stacks of plates
from lunch await me around the corner
hidden now from view

but I know they are there
just waiting.

These moments feel
stolen and precious and few
those of the naptimes
that never seem long enough
for all of the cleaning up
and creative tasks and keeping up
that is the other part of my life –
the part I can’t do when
they, my two little lives, are awake.

Old Navy, Romans, and Potty Training


What do all of these have in common, you ask? Quite simply it’s the fact that all were topics of our dinner conversation since I found a *steal* at Old Navy today in some great summer shorts; Seth’s working on preparing the Romans training for women’s Bible study leaders next week; and we commence potty training, round 2, tomorrow.

Here’s another way they all tie together. The shorts I bought were a “pre-treat” for a mom who quite honestly is dreading potty training 33-month-old twins. My husband and I discussed all the various options of potty training to come up with the plan that we are willing to try tomorrow. And these verses in Romans 5:3-5 is going to get us through the next few days! Thanks to my friend Suzanne who reminded me of this gem today as we were discussing many of the typical trials of raising babies and toddlers.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We may all be suffering together, but the hope is that the short-term “suffering” of potty training twins will yield (eventually) to the independence these girls will need to carry them through preschool and really the rest of their lives. It’s one of the most important skills that we all take for granted that someone had to teach us at some point. Let’s all take a moment to thank our moms or dads or grandparents or nannies or daycare workers right now for helping us gain our freedom. [It’s no coincidence that we’re initiating round 2 on “Independence Day” – insert laughter here.]

And here’s the other thing. God cares about Old Navy, Romans, and potty training, because I’m his girl. His daughter. The God who cares about each sparrow who falls and numbers each hair of my head likewise is connected with me about the highs, lows, and conundrums of my day. Nothing’s too small (shorts from Old Navy); nothing’s irrelevant (potty training); and nothing’s too complex (Romans). That’s a God to celebrate – that we are free in Christ to call him Father … what a gift!