Saturday, April 28, 2012

Finding Joy in Motherhood, Part 3, Embrace Motherhood as Your Full-time Ministry

(If you're just jumping into this series, or you missed the first couple of posts, you should start with Part 1 and Part 2.)

How can we find true joy in motherhood?

2. Embrace motherhood as your full-time MINISTRY.

It’s always amazed me that if a woman wants to be a doctor, a teacher, a musician, or whatever other career you might think of, many long, dedicated years of schooling plus an internship are usually required. It is necessary that one be trained WELL by someone with more experience in the field of their choice before beginning their full-time career.

And yet, one of the most important jobs, if you will, in the world, is the responsibility of raising the next generation---and there is no required, or even available education for motherhood. In America, motherhood is something you do when you’ve finished doing everything you wanted to do for yourself FIRST.

I’d like to encourage you today to embrace motherhood, not only as your full-time job, but as your full-time ministry. We often think of ministry as something visible we do in a church setting, like sing in the choir, work in the nursery, come to church work day, or decorate for ladies meetings. 

Consider this, however. Jesus Christ never sang in a church choir. He never worked in a nursery, cleaned a church building or decorated for ladies’ meetings. And while the "spiritual" leaders of His day were busy criticizing Him for not perfectly living up to the law, we would all agree now that He was VERY busily involved in ministry.

Jesus primary ministry was MAKING DISCIPLES. While other ministries are good, our primary ministry as mothers should be MAKING DISCIPLES of our children.

For me personally, I enjoy public ministry as much as anyone. I’ll be honest and say that sometimes, playing the piano for a beautiful cantata, teaching a successful class,  or some such other “ministry” can seem more rewarding than changing a stinky diaper, training a little one for obedience, getting up 2 or 3 (or more!) times a night because some little one "needs Mommy" or picking up the toys You see, no one shakes our hand, pats our back, or says, “great job!” when we fulfill our at-home ministry.

 It goes unnoticed, unrecognized, and unpraised.

And yet, wasn't it the same for HIM?

Mothers, you ARE involved in full-time ministry. Embrace it and you WILL find so much more joy in motherhood.

There is much talk today about “me time”. Women are said to need a certain amount of “me time” in order to be fulfilled and have joy. I would argue that learning to selflessly embrace the ministry of motherhood will bring more joy than all the “me time” in the world could! Let go of the worlds' cry for more money, status, iced coffees and manicures. Reject the longing for a perfectly decorated home, perfectly in-shape body, and the accomplishments of all of your real-life or blog friends. (You know what I mean----SHE grinds her own wheat, SHE sews all her children's clothes, SHE coupons and save ridiculous amounts of money, SHE has 35 kids and is the perfect mother. SHE grows all her own food, wakes at dawn for 2 hours of devotions with the Lord and milks her own cow to make yogurt for her family. See? All of us struggle with these same thoughts!) Instead of dwelling on what you are NOT, embrace what you are---YOUR children's mother.

If we are true followers of Jesus, we can see that making disciples of our children IS ministry! It IS important, even vital to the cause of Christ and His church! You see, Jesus didn’t spend his time teaching in the fancy religious buildings and ministering to the religious crowd…..instead, He was found with the hungry, the dirty, the lonely, the sinful, the mistreated, the misunderstood, the forsaken, the lost. He wasn’t being praised in the city gates for His ministry----no! They wanted to kick Him out of the city and stone Him!

We would all agree NOW looking back at Jesus’ life that His ministry was important, regardless of what the religious leaders of the day thought of it. So it is with our ministry as mothers. Teaching, training and discipling our children to follow after Jesus Christ IS vitally important and we will find such joy when we embrace motherhood as our full-time ministry.

Don't forget to check back for Part 3, 4, and 5 in our series---"Love Your Children the Way GOD Loves YOU", "Parent Your Children With GRACE", and "Teach Them Diligently".......

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Finding Joy in Motherhood, Part 2, View Your Children the Way GOD Views Them

(If you're just jumping into this series, please consider starting HERE with Part 1 of Finding Joy in Motherhood.)

How can we find JOY in motherhood?

 1. View  your children the way God views them.

How does God view children?

Let’s turn to Psalm 127:3-5 to find out. God says children are an heritage, an inheritance, and a reward. If you found out you would be receiving a large monetary inheritance, would you answer people like this, “Well, it really wasn’t planned. I really didn’t want any more surprises like this. Yes, I certainly hope this is the LAST one!” How ridiculous would that sound? Yet how many times have you heard women answer this way over an “unplanned” pregnancy? You see, God sees the whole picture and HE says that children are your heritage, your legacy, your inheritance. Do you hear the positive sound to these words? God is saying that your children are not a bother, not a burden, not a trial to be endured----but a BLESSING!

We wouldn’t dream of criticizing a family who received a large monetary inheritance but think nothing of giving our opinion that a large family should “stop having kids!”. God is the creator of life and everything HE creates is GOOD!

 I Samuel 1: 5, speaking of Hannah and her husband Elkanah, says, “But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb”. I remember reading this verse for the first time during my period of infertility and I found such comfort in the words, “But the LORD had shut up her womb”. You see, dear sisters, if God SHUTS the wombs of women, that means He also OPENS them to create life. And if God is creating a new life through you, whether it’s your first or your 20th, whether it’s on your time-schedule or HIS, what a gift, what a blessing, what a HERITAGE!

Jesus, during His earthly ministry, was often approached by small children. I can so vividly picture one such event in my mind……Jesus had just came into Judaea after preaching and teaching in Galilee. The Bible tells us in Matthew 19 that “great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.” Can you imagine how tired Jesus might have been after literally spending all day teaching and healing the “multitudes”? The last of the multitude fades into the distance and the sneaky Pharisees snatch up their opportunity to plague Him with their “spiritual” doctrinal questions about divorce and such. At the end of the day, some parents tentatively bring their littlest ones to Jesus, asking for a blessing. The impatient disciples, who, by the way, didn’t turn the multitudes OR the Pharisees away from Jesus, REBUKE the parents. Can you imagine what they might have said? “Jesus is exhausted. He’s spent all day MINISTERING. He doesn’t have time or energy left for your little ones. Besides, they’re not that important in the Kingdom!”

But OH, then Jesus puts His hands up and says, “WAIT!” Matthew 19:18 tells us what Jesus said then, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Our Lord and Saviour, the God of the universe, knelt down, picked up these precious children, and held them in His arms. He took time for them, even when He was exhausted. He told all those who were near that it wasn’t the adults in the multitude, it wasn’t the wanna-be spiritual Pharisees, NO, it was these precious little CHILDREN that made up the kingdom of heaven.

God created your children, God calls them a blessing, and He says they’re important! Sharing God’s view of your children is the first step to finding true joy in motherhood.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finding Joy in Motherhood, Part 1, Introduction

Recently I was blessed to be one of the speakers at a Ladies Conference at a dear friend's church. The theme of the conference was "Singing in the Rain" (rejoicing through trials) and it was a delight to not only share my heart through speaking and help out with the music, but to soak in the teaching from other godly ladies. It was a balm to this busy mama's soul.

My topic was one that, if you know me very well (or read my blog much!) was near and dear to my heart: Finding Joy in Motherhood. I wanted to share with you, my dear reader/friends, what I shared with the ladies at the conference. I hope it is a blessing to your heart!

I'm going to split my speaking notes into 6 parts in order to not have one post be too ridiculously long. (And I won't tell you that I ended up with NINETEEN pages of notes needing to cut my notes down at 1 am the night before the conference!) This is the unedited version of my notes :)......

Finding Joy in Motherhood


Let me start out by saying that I have seven children. Now most people wouldn’t look at me and the bunch of children always accompanying me and question whether or not I’ve ever struggled with infertility. But believe it or not, there was a time in my life when doctors and modern medicine didn’t think I’d be able to have children. Today I’d like to share with you how God took me through a very painful time in my life, blessed me abundantly above that which I could EVER ask or think, and taught me how to find true joy in motherhood. 

I’d like to start with giving you a brief testimony. For the sake of time, I’ll try to be REALLY brief! I can describe my entire childhood in one sentence: I was raised in a conservative Christian home as the oldest of six children. (You know, my husband says I can’t say anything without giving a good dent in my 50,000 words a day, so don’t tell him that I just put 18 years of my life into one sentence!) I met the love of my life, Brent, at Bible College and after a whirlwind courtship, we were married. Both of us loved children and couldn’t wait to start working on a family, but God has a way of teaching us HIS will despite our well-laid plans and it ended up taking us three long years before we were blessed with our firstborn daughter. During that time of infertility, as we poured out our souls in longing before our Lord, He began the process of preparing our hearts for what we couldn’t yet see, but that HE knew was coming: our children. You see, much of the Americanized attitude had infiltrated our hearts already. You know the mentality: Wait as long as possible before having children, then have as few as possible, spend their childhood as busy as you can so you don’t get “tied down”, spend their youth wishing they were out of the house, then breathe a sigh of relief when they’re finally grown and you can get your life “back to normal”.  Have you heard the old saying, “Children should be seen and not heard”?  I think many people feel that children should not be seen OR heard. The spirit of abortion--that is, the prevailing thought that children are a commodity and not a blessing, is as prevalent in our churches today as it is in the rest of our society at large. During my infertility, after being told by two doctors and one specialist that I probably would never have a baby on my own without serious intervention, I was literally begging God for just one child, just one chance at hearing the word “Mommy”, just one opportunity to feel the delicate flutters of a baby kicking inside of my womb. And God had me in a place where I could be taught. He had my undivided attention. Month after month, when I would realize that once again I was not pregnant, as the tears would stream down my face, I would turn to the God who loved me and my Bible. God had not forgotten me---in reality, I think He had me exactly where He wanted me to be. I was listening, and He began to peel back the layers and show me, through His word, how He felt about children and motherhood. My husband and I promised God during this time that we would welcome any children He would give us and that we would never, ever forget the lessons He was teaching us.  

Just when I was at peace that I might never be a “Mommy” the traditional way, I found out I was expecting our precious Eliana. Three precious, rambunctious, busy little boys quickly followed her: Nathaniel, Noah, and Ethan. Our experience with infertility had burdened us for adoption, so when our Ethan was 9 months old, we applied to adopt for the first time from China. Over the next two years, God added a total of three Chinese girls to our family through adoption. Gabriella joined our family at 15 months old, Johanna at 14 years old, and our most recent adoption was in September with Alyssia. She turned two 2 days after arriving in the States.

I went from an empty womb to a joyful mother of SEVEN in 9 years. Our youngest three children are only 5 months apart, creating virtual triplets. For the past six months, I’ve had THREE 2 year olds, a 10 year old, a 7 year old, a 5 year old, and a newly adopted teenager who didn’t speak any English and had been in an orphanage for her entire 14 years. To say life has been an adventure would be an understatement! We’ve been dealing with special needs, attachment issues, language and communication barriers, THREE toddlers and the challenges that adopting a teenager out-of-birth-order brings. I’ve found the strength to passionately embrace each and every parenting challenge presented to me by remembering the lessons the Lord so sweetly taught me long ago during the first few years of our marriage.

I don’t know most of you. I don’t know your stories, your struggles and trials, nor the season of life you’re currently experiencing. But today, I specifically want to offer encouragement to young mothers with small children. Life can seem monotonous when your days exist of changing stinky diapers, scraping macaroni and cheese off the floor, attacking the laundry abyss, nursing babies or, in my case, trying to manage to keep three 2 year olds from destroying everything I own. Trust me, I know. Life can get boring when the major excitement of the day is when Daddy pulls in the driveway because you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you can finally talk to someone who knows how to start a sentence with something besides “Mommy!”  Life can get downright overwhelming when you desperately want to do a good job at motherhood but you feel like you’re swimming upstream against the influences of the world.

Join me tomorrow as I continue this series with point #1, "View Children the Way GOD Views Them"......

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Home Tour, Part 5

We're moving on to the GIRLS bedroom today. This room is pretty small, so we have to keep it VERY organized or the stuff overwhelms the cute little girls who sleep there. :)

I showed you in this post how I was inspired by a Pottery Barn Kids catalog to paint the "house" on the wall of the girls' room. I'm still loving PBK but living on a thrift store budget. :)

On their very first "conversation" as sisters, (via skype while we were in China), Eliana allowed Johanna to choose which bed she preferred. She chose the top bunk, so Eliana gets the bottom now.

The little porta-crib is technically Gabbey's bed, but she really doesn't use it. She has an EXTREME fear of being in a crib by herself. We worked through some of it, and she was doing pretty good last summer, but the trip to China really set her back. It seems like she was left in her crib WAY too much or perhaps there was something tramautic happening at night? In any case, she sleeps with Ellie or with Brent and me. And she is happy as a lark as long as she can feel the safety of someone else sleeping nearby.

ANYWAY, the porta-crib works great when the older girls want to "watch" the babies. They will invite a baby to play in the crib and give them special toys to play with. The little one gets to be with the older girls, but doesn't have complete access to the older girls' things. Works for now!

Johanna's bed:

.....and Eliana's bed:

My dad took Eliana to dinner and shopping on her 10th birthday. She picked out this adorable butterfly bedding. I have a feeling I know what Johanna is going to choose on her birthday date with Grandad. :)

Shellbert, Ellie's pet turtle, makes his home on her dresser.

Moving to the right, we get to the girls' closet. The little girls use the left side of the closet, while the big girls use the right. Games go on the left, craft supplies on the right.

The bookshelf (Target) gives Johanna and Eliana some "personal space". They each have their spot for their special things....books, photo albums, girl treasures. :)

The girls are responsible for keeping their room clean and most of the time, they do a fabulous job! Once we convinced Johanna that nobody was going to steal her things (took about 6 months), we were able to organize everything so there is "shared" space and "personal" space. (Up to that point, everything Johanna owned--that wasn't clothing---was ON HER BED, with her. There was barely room for her little body at night. Seriously, I think I could have put her on the hoarder's show. But she was SO happy to have so many of her own things, and SO scared that someone was going to TAKE them, that we allowed her to be a hoarder for awhile. Thankfully, she's more relaxed about things now that she's had ownership of them for some time, and we can keep the girls' room looking sweet again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Girls and Swimming

I received a question regarding this post and our girls' swimming attire. :)

We do believe in modesty in our home, and try to teach modesty in dress and attitude with our girls. There is so much to being a lady---clothing is just one part, that's for sure!

But as we're teaching our children to keep their bodies covered appropriately and to keep the focus on their countenances, the question will arise---what about swimming?

For our family, we do not change our modesty standards when our bodies go near a body of water. :)

We have been so happy with swim shirts and shorts on our little boys. Dressing the girls in comfortable water apparel can be a little harder, though! I know there are some wonderful websites that make modest swim clothing for girls (I actually own one from that works great and keeps me comfortable in and out of the water!) but they are pricey and it's just not practical for us to spend that much on growing girls. :)

So we usually purchase swim shirts (Ellie's pink one is actually just an "athletic" shirt from Target) and try to find long swim trunks in girly colors to wear with them. I was tickled to find both girls pink trunks at a consignment sale. I think they're both Land's End brand, but I didn't pay Land's End pricing. :)  Johanna's swim shirt was from a thrift store and doesn't match her swim trunks, but we haven't found an inexpensive alternative yet, and she didn't care anyway. :)

I usually don't get more than my ankles wet at the ocean, so I just wear my regular clothing. But my girls are growing girls who love to swim when they have the chance, so I'm thankful for modest clothing choices for them. :)

Aren't you impressed? TWO posts in one evening! :) Too bad I can't just plug a cord into my brain and automatically download the rest of the posts waiting there. LOL

There is singing in heaven.....

.....for another precious lost soul has become a child of the King of Kings.

This girl, who 9 short months ago didn't know ANYTHING about God and His infinite love for her:

was literally BEGGING her Daddy and me to show her how to become a Christian.

The Holy Spirit was so clearly evident in her heart, as the tears flowed and she became a daughter for the SECOND time in one year.

Oh, Lord, the joy is so big it almost hurts.

HE took a lost, lonely, abandoned little girl who needed Him desparately.....

and matched her with two parents who would so gladly show her His love.

Missions. In the rawest sense of the word.

"Going". We went!

 "Teaching". We're teaching!

And "making disciples". She's a disciple now!

Praise the Lord for His grace! That He would love us enough to send His son Jesus to take our place on the cross is difficult to comprehend, and even harder to explain to a girl who never knew unconditional love.

Until now.

Johanna sweetly said, "Now I have TWO adopted Daddies who love me!"

Heaven seems a little sweeter now. :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Because her life matters!

Please, please, take a second and GO HERE to read about a precious girl who is the same age as our Johanna, and just like Johanna, has spent her entire life in an orphanage.

UNLIKE our girl, "Faith" has spent her life confined to a crib, in an awful, awful place, mal-nutritioned and unstimulated.

Johanna, at 14 (and only 54 inches!) weighs about 90 pounds.

Faith, at 14, weighs FOURTEEN pounds. No, that's not a typo. She's THAT small.

There's a sweet, Christian family willing to adopt Faith. They need immediate help raising the necessary funds.

Let's do our part to donate and BRING FAITH HOME!


For those who are curious, here's the pattern information for the two dresses I referenced in the last post.

The dress pattern for the "little girls" is Simplicity Daisy Kingdom 2433 and comes in sizes 3 through 8. I made a size 4 in everything but length as I wanted them long. I could have made a 3 for Lyssie, though (32 pounds) and should have cut the pattern down a bit for Gabbey (20 pounds), but at least they'll get alot of wear out of them! :)

The dress pattern for the "big girls" is Simplicity 9497, the short sleeve variation, and I made both girls a size 12 (with a little extra room for Johanna in the bodice). The pattern comes in sizes 7-14. I added the contrast band and ruffle on the bottom, but otherwise the pattern is as-is. This is the same pattern I used for their winter dresses here.

During a 99-cent sale at Joann's last week I did pick up another REALLY cute pattern for the little girls. It's Simplicity 0351 and is a dress with the sweetest little cap sleeves and two tiers on the bottom. I'd love to whip up a couple of these for the girls!

What projects have YOU been working on lately? If you have pictures on your blog, please share in the comments below! I'd love to be inspired by your craftiness! :

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Many thoughts swirling in my head lately. So many that it is difficult to pull one or two out of the overflow and try to blog something coherent.

I've been busy sewing. Made matching dresses for the girls, and before you even BEGIN to think the supermom thoughts, let me tell you that my house FALLS APART when I sew. Seriously. I just push through, finish sewing, and get to work cleaning up the various messes. I suppose some Mommas-to-many-little-ones have figured out some secret to sewing productively while keeping a perfect house and happy children, but they sure haven't shared it with me. :) I do try to sew during naps, and I suppose I could sew at night when they're all in bed, but I'm afraid I'm useless at sewing past 9 pm. I spend most of my time ripping out the seams because I make mistakes in my exhaustion!

Anyway, here's the finished product, as seen in some family pictures from last weekend:

I included the picture of Brent and me because I just couldn't leave it out.....I'm pretty sure our wedding was the last picture we had taken of us alone together. (Technically we weren't alone in this picture either, as seven children were running around behind us :) )

Jesus has been working in my heart lately. Reminding me of all that HE has done for me and stirring within me a desire to do all for Him. From changing dirty diapers to ministering to the is all a gift back to Him who gave His all. Even when I lift my hands in thankfulness to my Saviour, my miniscule offering of love doesn't even begin to touch the debt I owe Him. Oh, how I long to be filled daily and to allow my life to be completely spent in serving my Lord!

I've had so many realizations in my parenting style and skills the past year or so. God pulled me out of my comfort zone when we brought home our first adopted daughter. You see, I had poured my life into what I thought was being a really successful Mommy. My children were sweet, obedient, loving to each other and pretty respectful to their Daddy and Mommy. (obviously, they weren't perfect, just well-behaved! :)) Then we started adopting our girls. One by one, they joined our family and brought along their own set of "baggage".....and each time our family dynamics changed. I've been stretched, molded, overwhelmed, changed, frustrated, inspired, and challenged like never before in my parenting journey.

And I am SO, SO thankful that God brought these precious girls into our lives.

Someday, I'm sure I will feel at liberty to share the changes we've made in our parenting since adopting our girls. But not yet. Certainly not before I finish the Home Tour. And maybe not even then. I struggle with wanting to shout from the rooftops the lessons I'm learning----and yet my story is their story and I must be careful to respect their privacy.

Sometimes teaching Johanna anything can leave me figuratively hitting my head against a brick wall.( Remember, I said figuratively! :)) And yet, just when I think for the last time that she'll NEVER "get it", she finally DOES get it! Or I learn to change my expectations. Or perhaps a mixture of both things occurs?? Goodness, I love that girl. I wish you could see the sparkly way she approaches life and all the new things she's experienced the past 8 months.

Our children go with us everywhere. That means that if I want to go somewhere during the week, they ALL come along. Whether it's the grocery store, the doctor, a fast-food restaurant, the park, the bank, or just running errands, I am learning the art of multi-tasking while taking care of many small children. :) We do draw attention wherever we go, get ALOT of stares and many people are bold enough to ask personal questions of us. Most of the time, I don't mind. :) Seven doesn't feel like alot to me, it just feels like my family, you know? But I guess the novelty is still just that: a novelty. I'm sure the multi-race aspect comes into play as well. What I'm getting at is this picture I took of Brent and the children a couple of Sunday afternoons I'm QUITE sure I know why people were staring during THIS particular Target shopping advernture. :)

Brent and I are in the planning stages of something really BIG for our family! We can't wait to share what the Lord has laid on our hearts. In the meantime, will you join us in praying that God will give us clear direction and great wisdom?

Last month, we took an impromtu trip to VA Beach for the weekend. (Impromptu as in, we didn't plan the trip until Brent walked in the door early from work on Friday. We left ONE HOUR later! Normally it takes us TWO hours to get our crew ready to go anywhere, so this was quite the accomplishment!)

The quality "away" time was amazing for our family, especially Johanna. We walked the beach and talked at length about many deep topics. She must've felt more comfortable than usual and shared much of her heart with me. Ethan, Alyssia, and Gabriella had never experienced the "beach" before and absolutely LOVED it! It was cloudy and cooler, so the crowds were minimal and we had a BLAST.

Just for fun, here's a glimpe of our family at a nice restaurant during our weekend "get-away"....we recieved a gift card for Christmas and finally put it to good use!

Table for nine. Two menus. Three highchairs, please. :)

If you're still with me after this much longer than normal post, thanks. Stick around, I've got some fun things planned soon---new blog design, wrapping up the Home Tour, continuing our Toddler Training Series, some straight talk about adoption and attachment, and more!