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Here’s to the Woman Inside the Mom

I love this blog for many honorable reasons.  But I also love it for one selfish reason.  It’s mine.  All mine.  I never realized what a commodity that could be until I became a mom.  In the beginning, I was only asked to give up little things–time, sleep, my waistline.  And then they started crawling and I surrendered a little more–tidiness, order, all of the keys on my laptop (which, FYI, can actually be popped right off.)  Then one day I blinked and there they were–chattering away a mile a minute, going to pre-school, making friends, getting their feelings hurt, asking big questions, challenging my authority, drawing me pictures, jumping in bed to kiss my very pregnant belly and perhaps ride it like a cowgirl…  And I realized there wasn’t a square inch of my personhood they hadn’t entirely and eternally invaded.

I love them with these dry, un-manicured hands that wash their dishes and scrub their faces and brush their hair and tie their shoes.  I love them with these swollen ankles that race around town taking them places.  I love them with this horrifyingly out-of-tune voice that sings them to sleep, and lays down the law, and tells them stories about when I was a little girl.  I love them with this face that will probably wrinkle up like a prune by the time I’m 45 because it’s so used to smooching small cheeks and making silly faces.  I love them with the eyes that always know where they are, the ears that hear their cries even when daddy is snoring, and the mind that remembers Tuesday is Johnny Appleseed day and we must wear red to school.  I love them with the soul that begs God for their salvation, and I love them with the heart I have lifted out of my chest and tucked away in theirs.

Truly, I love this lot of mine.  And yet, at the very same time, there are days when I go to a coffee shop and see college girls writing papers and giggling about boys, and I remember what it was like to have a mind that was completely my own.  To be consumed with nobody else’s problems.  To think about nobody else’s needs.  To dream dreams just for me, and pursue ambitions just because I could.  I remember what it was like to have things that were mine.

This blog is one tiny corner of my world that’s all mine.  It’s the place where I remember that there’s more to me than grocery lists and Windex spray.  And for one or two hours, when I sit down in this virtual world, I don’t think about the crusty broccoli under the table or the mismatched socks in the hamper.  Instead of looking outward, I look inward.  I think about the woman who picks up the broccoli and sorts through the socks.  I think about how she feels, what she needs, who she is.  It would be so easy for me to lose her.  In the mayhem of everyday life, it would be easy to go through the motions and then collapse in front of the TV.  To grow completely out of touch with the woman inside the mom.  To shush her, ignore her, numb her…until one day she bursts into tears at the dinner table and everybody wonders why.

That’s one of the reasons I write.  Because I need to stay in touch with that woman.  I need to know how she’s doing.  I need to speak the gospel over her heart and life.  Otherwise, she won’t make it.  Sure, she’ll still flip pancakes and drive carpools, but underneath it all her heart will grow hard and her spirit cynical.

With all that being said, I’m posting today because in the next few weeks my life is going to get crazy.  In the midst of holiday hoopla and an exciting new job for my husband (hooray!), we are going to meet our third little daughter in just two weeks!  Yes, yes (to the kind onlookers in the grocery store), my hands are going to be very full…but so is my heart.  And as my home gets louder, this blog is going to get quieter.  For the next few months I will miss you, and the way the woman inside of this mom gets to connect with the woman inside of you.

But believe me, even in this crazy season, whenever I get the chance I will still slip away and find time to check up on the woman underneath the nursing tops and smudged mascara.  I will find the time to speak gospel truth over her.  And I hope that sometime this Christmas, you too will be able to slip away, mix up some hot chocolate, and spend time with the woman inside of you, and with the God who loves her so very much.
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Merry Christmas!

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Why the Vaccination Debate is So Nasty (And Why It Ought Not Be)

vaccine-diplomacyOf all the Mommy-War debates, I can think of few that are as emotionally charged as the war over vaccines.  Does that make me want to avoid the topic?  Like a nuclear missile!  But (like a nuclear missile) that also makes it so important.  My goal is not to re-hash the hundreds of arguments for or against vaccines.  Rather, my goal is to answer a simple question: As Christian mothers, how should we approach this sensitive and volatile topic personally, among friends and strangers, and in our social media testimony?

When I set out to answer this question, I started by asking myself why the vaccination debate is so heated.  I think there are three predominant factors.  First, it involves personal heartache.  Many (if not the majority of) mothers who choose not to vaccinate have what they would call a “vaccine-injured child.”  They truly believe vaccinations have had adverse effects on their child.  In some cases, the conditions their children face are extreme, lifelong, and even deadly.  Whether or not vaccines are to blame for these conditions, the point is these moms (who are not stupid, nor short on research) truly believe they are.  My children are vaccinated, and I have not experienced adverse side effects.  However, I can imagine how outraged, confused, and afraid I would feel if I thought my kids were suffering because a doctor told me to do something that I believed hurt them.

But unfortunately, this issue is also emotionally charged because it has communal implications.  Whether or not you believe in “herd immunity,” our society still functions in support of it.  In other words, our government and medical professionals believe immunizations are in the best interest of society at large.  That’s why you’re still asked to present an immunization record at kindergarten Open House.  It’s why doctors talk about mutations of previously eradicated diseases emerging as the anti-vaccination movement grows.  Whether or not you agree, you can understand why vaccinating parents find this scary.  Ironically, it’s the exact same fear non-vaccinating parents feel–the fear that something poses a threat to our children.

The final reason I think the debate is so heated is because it’s a high stakes issue.  I’ve seen articles and videos that claim infants have died from adverse reactions to vaccinations.  On the flip side, I’ve talked to doctors who claim they’ve seen infants and children die from vaccine-preventable diseases.  Any way you look at it, fear, suffering, and the desire to protect our children are the primary emotions driving the war over vaccines.  Our fleshly instinct is to respond to these emotions with all manner of ungodliness.  Both sides are guilty.  For brevity sake, let me summarize some of the sentiments I’ve heard and/or read:

Anti-Vaccines Pro-Vaccines
Pride / Condescension “I love my babies too much to put such-and-such chemicals into them.” “I love my babies too much to put them at risk for preventable diseases.”
Hatred “I hope your kids end up injured by a vaccine so you change your tune!” “I hope your kids catch a disease and die!”
Judgment “Parents who vaccinate are un-researched, blind followers.” “Parents who don’t vaccinate ought to be jailed for child abuse.”
Selfishness “This isn’t about your children.  I’m not thinking about your children at all!  This is about my children.” “I don’t care what your story is, if your kid isn’t vaccinated, keep him away from my kid!”

The problem isn’t that we have an opinion on this issue.  It’s not even that our opinion is bound to differ with someone else’s.  The problem lies in how much we value our opinion.  Biblically, I believe Christian moms are free to stand on either side of the debate.  I don’t believe there is anything inherently sinful about vaccinating or not vaccinating your children, so long as you are submitted to God and motivated by love for Him and your kids.  But, it is sinful to elevate this issue above Christ.

Before you assume you’re not guilty of this, here are some hard questions I’ve had to ask myself:  Does thinking (or reading) about this issue ever evoke feelings of hatred or judgment within me?  Has it ever made me wish suffering on someone else?  Do my words and lifestyle reflect that I’m more passionate about this topic than I am about the gospel?  Does it consume my thoughts and/or control my emotions?  When others think of me, is this issue one of the first things they think of?  

Yes, this is a high stakes issue.  But when it comes to how we interact with it, there is something even greater at stake: our testimony to a watching world.  Vaccinations impact this life, but our testimony for Christ impacts eternity.  How foolish we would be to sacrifice something of eternal value for the sake of an earthly cause!  Am I saying it’s wrong to share your opinion on vaccinations?  Of course not.  But if you value your opinion to the point that it causes you to sin against others (in thought, word, or action), then for you this issue has become an idol.  In essence, you are more devoted to it than you are to the mandates of Christ.

Let me be the first to admit, I’m on the guilty side of this reality.  This issue has stirred arrogance, judgment, and anxiety in my heart and mind.  The only way I’m “de-throning” it in my life, is by fighting fear with the true, biblical antidote.  The fact is, the solution for fear and suffering has never been found in “winning” the external war.  You can’t get rid of the turmoil in your heart by converting the world, one tweet at a time, toward or against vaccinations.  The only true antidote is faith.  If we truly believe that all the days ordained for our children are written in God’s book (Psalm 139:16), that He alone is the author of their lives, wiser than any parent and stronger than any threat, I believe it would change the way we approach this debate.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the mom who hopes other kids suffer because their mother doesn’t agree with me.  I don’t want to be the mom who turns unbelievers off to the gospel because of my testimony over a spiritually gray issue.  Like the Psalmist, I want to be the kind of mom who says, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom (or what) shall I be afraid?”  The kind of mom whose heart, passion, and legacy cries out: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:1, 4).  Only then, will I be able to take a stance on this issue with love, humility, freedom, and peace.

Photo Credit

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Counter-Cultural Parenting

After giving up a career as a TV reporter for motherhood, Jenny went on to found and host Channelmom.

After giving up a career as a TV reporter for motherhood, Jenny went on to found and host Channelmom.

Yesterday I got to chat with Jenny Schmidt of Channelmom about making special occasions more Christ-centered for our kids.  If you’re not familiar with Channelmom, it’s a radio show broadcasted out of Denver that tackles a wide variety of “Mommy issues” from a Christian perspective.  If you’re free TODAY around 6:30pm (Eastern Time), click on the link below to listen to the interview live!

http://channelmom.com/listen-live/ 

10 Indoor Activities for Pre-Schoolers

1. Free Printable Postcards for Kids
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I LOVE my friend Gina’s new blog homepage, Listening in the Litany.  She makes this postcard idea so simple by offering a free  template.  Keep a stash on hand and pull one out on a cold, indoor day.  The recipients will love it!

Supplies: colored pencils, postcards

2. DIY Magnetic Play Set
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The blogger used a book of pre-cut paper dolls, but I’m going to attempt drawing the dolls myself on card stock so I can make them look like my daughters and their friends.  Yee!

Supplies: Adhesive Magnetic Sheets, a book of pre-cut paper dolls OR card stock and markers, scissors, cookie sheet

3. Rainbow Rice Sensory Play 
rainbowrice_thumb[1]While this seems a little tedious on the front-end, once you’ve made the play box, the kids can enjoy it over and over again.  Plus you could swap out the toys you put in it to give your play box different “themes”–fairies, ponies, dump trucks…etc.

Supplies: white rice, Ziploc bags, food coloring, rubbing alcohol, plastic container, toys

4. Balloon Rocket Launch
36b8734885de92f363bb32b381f12a8fThis just looks cool.  It’s easy and entirely mess-free.  The only downside is if your kids are really young, like mine, you’ll be the only one blowing up the balloon over and over for the launch.  Hmmm…maybe this is one activity Daddy would like to do with them?

Supplies: balloon, straw, paper, rubber band

5. Fizzy Vinegar Fun
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This is the sort of thing I’d never think of myself, but could easily do with the kids on a boring afternoon.  It has the feel of a cooking/baking project, but with a little bit of art and science thrown in.

Supplies: baking soda, vinegar, food dye, dropper, casserole dish

6. Threading Beads Alphabet Activity
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I love this idea from the Imagination Tree.  My 4 year old has been working on writing her name and struggling with two tricky letters.  What a great way for her to form the letters with her hands before she learns to form them with a pencil.  Not to mention anything to do with beads is fun for a preschool girl!

Supplies: variety of beads, pipe cleaners

7. Bottle Top Count & Match Game
playing+with+bottle+top+gameWant to help your preschooler learn to recognize numbers?  This game is cute, colorful and easy enough for a toddler to play along too.

Supplies: variety of bottle tops, box lid, markers, 2 sets of stickers with numbers on them 

8. DIY Face Paint 
homemade face paint 30You can let your kids paint their own faces, or try your hand at turning them into fanciful creatures.  Plus, making the paints at home ensures they’re non-toxic.

Supplies: cornstarch, lotion, food coloring or washable watercolors

9. Create a Reading Log
bookdiary41Here’s a revolutionary idea for cold, indoor days–reading!  This is a really cute idea for organizing and recording your favorite seasonal stories.  And once again, Gina’s done the hard work for us by offering a free printable!  To check out some of her favorite winter picture books, click here.

Supplies: library books, free reading log printable

10. Upcycled Artwork Lanterns 
Childrens-art-lanterns-680x453Finally, with all the indoor artwork that’s bound to come out of this cold front, this is a fun and easy idea for turning it into something extra special.  I think I’ll string them up in my kids’ rooms once we’ve made several.  Oh boy!

Supplies: several sheets of kids’ artwork, scissors, glue

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2014 Book List

books

I’m really excited about my line-up this year.  Some of these books come highly recommended by friends, others deal with topics I want to grow in, or subjects that simply interest me.  As usual I will keep the fiction section small because it tends to mushroom throughout the year.  Feel free to make recommendations.  As I cross books off the list, I’ll write a brief review here.  Happy reading this year!

Non-Fiction

1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp  This book has been recommended to me numerous times by people who think I will not only love the content, but the author’s unique writing style.  Having visited her blog, I think I will agree.

Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss  If there’s one thing I want stamped upon my heart this year, it’s gratitude.  Deep, whole-hearted, God-exalting gratitude.

Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner  This suggestion came via Challies’ top books of 2013.  In his words, “She writes about the beauty of fierceness, the beauty of strong women who use their strength to honor the Lord by honoring their husbands.”  Sounds good to me!

Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson  A carry-over from my 2013 list… The husband has agreed to read this one with me, so hopefully that will be accountability to cross it off the list this year!  From what I hear, it’s well worth it.

Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman  “Sometimes life feels a lot like a burden—day-in and day-out its the same chores and tasks, challenges and discouragements, anxieties and responsibilities.  So where is God in all of this? Does he care about the way we unload the dishwasher or balance the budget? Do the little things like changing diapers or cooking meals make a difference? And how can we use our spheres of influence for God’s glory and our joy?”  My husband recommended this one…I wonder why he thought of it for me?  :)

Heaven by Randy Alcorn  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, but I’m part of a wonderful little book club.  One of the members, a beautiful friend of mine, lost her father in a biking accident this year.  The tragedy has prompted us to pick up this book and explore our many unanswered questions about heaven.

Radical by David Platt  I have long feared this book…which is exactly why I think I need to read it.  True confession–I’ve already dug in, and let me just say, yowzers.  It is powerful, inspiring, and painfully spot-on.  For every chapter I read, I need about a week to pray and process.  And I think that’s a good thing.

Resisting Gossip by Matthew Mitchell  This is one of the books I’m most eager to read.  I think the subject matter, as well as its importance, is self-explanatory.

Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore  I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Moore speak a few times, and cannot wait to read his book about temptation, the triumph of Christ, and how it applies to us today.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey  While my family is probably a little bit young to put all the principles of this book into effect, I figure it can’t hurt to hear what Covey has to say.

What is the Meaning of Sex? by Denny Burk  This is my final non-fiction choice, also highly recommended by Challies.  Here’s what’s being said about it:  “This book clearly explains the truth about sex and winsomely responds to society’s evolving views on human sexuality and gender.  From marriage to birth control, homosexuality to singleness, What is the Meaning of Sex? sets forth a distinctly Christian perspective, equipping you to engage our confused culture with a God-glorifying vision of human sexuality.”

Fiction

11/22/63 by Stephen King Ever since reading King’s book On Writing, I’ve wanted to read one of his novels…but been too afraid to do it!  My sister recommended this one since it’s not horror.  It’s the story of Jake Epping, a 35-year-old English teacher who discovers a portal into 1958.  Thus begins his life as George Amberson.  His mission?  Kill Lee Harvey Oswald and prevent JFK’s assassination.

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell A New York Times Bestselling Christian fiction novel about a girl from Depression-era Mississippi who joins a band of Gypsies to escape her family.

Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt I loved Schoenewaldt’s first novel, When We Were Strangers, so I thought I’d give her second a try.  It’s the story of a mother and daughter in 1905 Italy who immigrate to Cleveland.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom A friend recommended this New York Times Bestseller about a white servant girl from Ireland who is sent to live with the slaves of the kitchen house.  Despite the color of her skin, she becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family.  Later when she is accepted into the big house, she must choose between two very different worlds, with risky consequences.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey “Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees…”

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7 Reasons There’s No Reason to Worry

From Matthew 6:25-34

1. Because if God has given me big, substantial gifts (such as my life & body), I can trust Him to provide for smaller, less substantial needs.  (v25)

2. Because God is so sovereign He cares about even the insignificant details of nature.  (v26, 28-29)

3. Because I am of great value to God.  (v26b, 30)

4. Because anxiety does zippo to fix my problems or extend my life.  (v27)

5. Because God knows what I need.  (v32)

6. Because God’s kingdom and righteousness are more important than anything I could ever need or want.  (v33)

7. Because tomorrow will bring new troubles I didn’t even see coming, so I might as well live one day at a time.  (v34)

Am I the only big, fat worry wart who finds this incredibly uplifting?  Thank You God, for Your Word!  Empower me to believe and live it. 

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