Blue Eyes and a Smile

Today is my fourth-born child’s birthday. I don’t highlight all of My People’s birthdays each year because if I did I wouldn’t have enough weeks to blog about anything else. But last night I was unable to fall asleep and found my thoughts turning to my Joey.

Always smiling

Always smiling

Sandwiched between three siblings on each side, Joey was the consummate middle-child peacemaker. Well, except for the day at age three when ruckus in his and 4-year-old Jesse’s room found me calling Benny on the phone to tell him his sons were in a fist fight…with Joey on top pounding on his much bigger brother.

Joey’s peacemaking made him the natural choice for his siblings designating him as the “ask Mom” delegate…especially when the other kids thought I would say no to them but not to the adorable little guy with big blue eyes who did have me pretty tightly wrapped around his finger. It was one of those things I didn’t realize was going on — and didn’t find out until they were grown. (Those of you with adult kids know those “Ummm…we didn’t tell you that?” conversations around the dinner table when confessions are flowing so conveniently late.)

Everyone loved Joey’s smile. Sometimes I would catch him smiling pretty much for no reason. Life just seemed to be fun for him, no matter what was going on.Until he was 8 years old he smiled all the time, but then he started

Joey (bottom right) loved playing with the other boys, especially big brother Jesse (middle, second to right).

Joey (bottom right) loved playing with the older boys, especially big brother Jesse (middle, second from right).

playing basketball. Nope, no smiles there. Who tells little boys not to smile while they’re playing sports? Actually, all my sons suddenly developed a “game face” when they got a basketball in their hands. They learned to love and proudly display that face. And to this day, years after the only games they play are followed by complaints about how old and slow they are, I almost always have to tell them to smile in pictures. I don’t get it.

They insisted on a game face pic even at Jake's wedding!

They insisted on a game face pic even at Jake’s wedding last month.

After our move from Virginia to Florida when Joey was fifteen this mother and son became closer than ever. We were both homesick and would check in on how each other were doing. Just before the 3-year mark we were in the car during one of our many treks back and forth to the community college and I asked Joey how things were going.

“Mom, this is starting to feel like home,” he said. I agreed. God had moved in both our hearts. I didn’t mind that Joey wasn’t too interested in getting his license until he graduated high school because it gave me lots of time to chat with a budding young man who I increasingly respected and who was okay about sharing his heart with his mom.

Post Wales :-)

Those eyes and smile captured Lauren’s heart, too.

Then came the day when his heart was turning toward a cute brunette in our church. I won’t forget the night he made a customary stop into our bedroom to kiss me goodnight and sometimes chat with his dad and me about his day. That chat turned into a lengthy talk about Lauren. It seems an upcoming missions trip to Wales had him looking forward to spending some leisurely time with her to see if the stirrings in his heart would find their home in hers. They did. My son’s wise choice of a delightful, godly and fun wife resulted in Amelia Grace Phillips who may have Daddy’s coloring but certainly has Mommy’s love for dancing anywhere and everywhere, especially at Disney.

Several years ago Joey surprised us all with a new “gift.” It came seemingly out of nowhere and we don’t really know what to call it; a sense of humor is too weak so maybe the “gift of wit” as one guy called it will suffice. During his years of coaching high school basketball at our former church Joey started writing kinda true but humorously embellished recaps of the year to read at the annual sports banquets. While the room crescendoed with laughter as he read, Joey’s deadpan face remained unchanged. Those banquets produced requests to do his “thing” at birthday and engagement parties and for wedding toasts — and I’ve already told him his funeral debut will be for me. If you ever want a really good laugh that usually ends with heartfelt warmth let me know.  I promise you don’t even have to know the people.

Amelia's 3rd Birthday last week

Amelia’s 3rd Birthday last week

My favorite memory of Joey so far is one that made me realize my boy had become a man. Benny and I had just learned some painful news about someone we love and needed to confide in someone trustworthy. I reached out to a couple of my kids, including Joey. Looking back, it was the first time Mom went to the kid for help and advice rather than it being the other way around. Sitting in McDonald’s that night I was wisely and compassionately cared for by someone whose tender blue eyes searched my own to see how I was processing the news. Those same eyes had looked into mine hundreds of times over the years when he sat on my lap. Ran to greet me with outstretched arms when Benny and I returned from a trip. Silently begged me not to leave him in Sunday School before he compliantly turned to join his friends. Twinkled with joy when he made the select basketball team and later fell in love. And brimmed with tears the day we packed up his room (including a bunch of basketball memorabilia) to move into the first home he was about to share with his bride.

That night the peacemaker reminded me that I could trust the One who promised a suffering, hurting mom-turned-counselee peace that passes understanding. And since then I have found timely hope in those tender eyes again and again even when no words are exchanged.

Happy Birthday, Joey. Twenty-nine years ago today God gave me a baby son who is now I man I deeply respect. Your eyes and your smile still melt my heart. I love you — even though you lied to me about never leaving me and promised to live next door when you got big.

(But Lauren and Amelia — and maybe little Wiley someday? — are more than worth it.)

Last fall celebrating their 5th Anniversary…at Disney, of course.

Last fall celebrating their 5th Anniversary…at Disney, of course.

Two Babies and a Wedding

It’s been quite awhile since I posted a blog. Thanks to those who have reached out to ask where I am.

I haven’t been anywhere. But lots of stuff has been happening in my life. I know some of you are understandably disinterested in the personal details, but for those who are….

Silas Christmas

Now three months old

In early October we welcomed our 12th little person. Silas Joshua’s entrance into the world was all too slow for Janelle, but the room full of family and friends who weathered his leisurely arrival fell in love immediately. I spent two weeks hanging out with my new grandson and seeking to spoil my Missy. Watching her embrace motherhood with such passion warmed my heart. It’s a powerful experience to watch your child have a child, especially for the first time. And seeing Eric enjoy being a first-time Dad reminded me of how much I miss my own daddy who left for heaven nearly 40 years ago.  (How can that be?) For some reason this fall was a sad time for me as I thought about how much Mom and Dad would have loved knowing and welcoming all their great-grandchildren.

The fall was filled with anticipation and preparations for my youngest son Jake’s December 28th marriage to Sarah. What a joy it was to watch them (umm…Sarah, that is) turn yard sale finds into lovely pieces for their apartment and to experience their growing excitement for sharing life together as husband and wife. As any of you who have watched a son marry can attest, the convergence of the joy of my sons’ upcoming wedding and the melancholic sweetness of his years as “my boy” coming to an official end resulted in a strange roller coaster of familiar but nuanced emotions. Jake is the sixth of seven of my kids to marry so I’m pretty accustomed to the ride. But him being my last son to marry during the same year I will turn 60 made me feel…old. More on that another time.

Caroline Christmas

Merry Christmas to Granma!

Three days before the wedding brought a surprise for our family. Our oldest daughter Jaime, who typically gives birth a week or so late, called me the morning of December 23rd, about ten days before her due date. “Mom, I think something must be happening.  Can you come over?” Gratefully Jaime and PJ live just minutes away. Her biggest concern was the wedding. How could she be a bridesmaid with a 72-hour-old baby??? When I arrived it was clear that Caroline Rae was going to be the best Christmas gift a Granma could ever receive. In just a couple of hours she whisked into a room full of eager observers (yes, my girls actually like giving birth in a crowd!) and by early afternoon everyone was off to enjoy their Christmas Eve plans. Benny and I left asking ourselves if we really did just watch number 13 enter the world with just enough time to get ready for our 26 People to show up the next morning for Christmas breakfast?

Sarah and Jake

Jake and his beautiful bride

Jake and Sarah’s wedding was a wonderful celebration of God’s faithfulness. Benny enjoyed the privilege of performing our 6th child’s wedding and PJ worked hard the night before to “hem” one of the layers of Jaime’s dress (with scotch tape) so it would keep his no-longer-nine-months-prengant wife from tripping down the aisle. As I stood in the back waiting to be seated by my handsome and beaming son I realized afresh how forever blessed I have been. The doctor who told my parents when I was a teen that I could never have children didn’t know God had other plans. And that day I witnessed my youngest biological child say “I Do” to the godly woman for whom I’ve prayed for over twenty years.

Me and my beautiful daughters (and Jaime has a three day old baby!)

Me and my girls…yes, that’s Jaime 2nd from the left with her husband-hemmed dress.

After the whirlwind of two babies and a wedding the reality of life with a daughter still in college, getting caught up on some needed items with my part time job working for my son, ongoing adjustments to having Benny’s mom living with us and the joy of helping two daughters with newborns has left little time for writing.

Plus, God has been moving around in my heart about things I will likely write about at some point. In the midst of all the wonderful new things that have been happening in my life there have also been challenges. Isn’t He kind to wisely and lovingly govern both the joys and sorrows we face? Puritan Thomas Watson wrote about pharmacists of the time who skillfully measured just the right amount of ingredients to cure a patients’ specific need. And mixed in with the medicinal items was usually a bit of arsenic.

There’s a lesson there: sometimes poison can actually be added to life’s vicissitudes to heal what ails. And over these months I’ve seen that principle at work in my life. Through good times and hard; laughter and tears; joy and sorrow; bursts of faith and bouts with unbelief He has been near. My times of solitude with Him are among the most prized moments in recent months, even though they often happened through tears of joy one moment and sadness the next.

A few of you have asked how often I plan to post. I still don’t know. But there are some things stirring in my heart that I want to share. I think the time is right for some of them is soon.

I’m sure God has been busy in your life, too. What has He been up to? More on that in the next day or two.

Wednesday’s Child

She was five and we were sitting on the bed together. I was passively watching the evening news while editing one of her brother’s homeschool writing papers while she played with a couple of stuffed animals.

“Will you give me away?” she asked, jolting my attention away from correcting Joey’s common overuse of commas.

The news channel that was on did a weekly spot called Wednesday’s Child which showed children who needed foster families. I had noticed the children were always black or hispanic. That day, my little bi-racial daughter seemed to notice this for the first time. As I asked questions, I realized she was wondering why these children didn’t have parents and understood they had been “given away” by them.

That was our first “real” conversation about her adoption. I explained to her that God brought her to our family…forever. The children she saw on TV needed a family but she would never need a family. She had one and we would never let her go.

“Honey, no one will ever take you away and Daddy and Mommy will never give you away. No matter what happens, you’re ours.” A faint smile appeared on her adorable round face and I squeezed her tight. It was a holy moment for me that I hope to never forget; a moment where I asked the Lord to seal in her little heart that having a Mommy and Daddy who loved her was super important and could help her through whatever the future brought.

Over the years since then we’ve had other conversations. Each time the content deepens and each time she learns a little more about the circumstances surrounding her adoption.

In a recent conversation with a friend I was lamenting that I wished I had known years ago some of the things I understand about God and His ways now. I surmised that if I had been more attentive to His word or sought to know and understand Him more deeply I may have been able to avoid some trials along the way — like a few through which I am currently walking.

Her response resulted in me doing what my friend Ginny calls “processing.” She explained that because we are God’s children He can’t divulge all of who He is at once. As we mature He is able to disclose more of Himself to us. My daughter is able to grasp more about the complex issues of adoption now than when we had our first conversation fifteen years ago. Likewise, as we Christians grow spiritually,God is able to entrust us with more about who He is and how we have gotten to where we are today.

Honestly, I don’t always like what providence brings. Sometimes I wish for days gone by when simple answers like “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so” satisfied me. Dealing with aging, living in a fallen world full of my and others sin, and too frequently battling anxiety about what the future holds for me and those I love forces me to run to God for help. Feeding on milk was way easier than the solid food required of me now.

But when I run for help I still don’t typically get what I want. You see, what I too often want is either for someone or something to change when God’s agenda is a change in me. Will I trust Him when I’m completely out of control of my circumstances? Can His plan actually be better than mine? Is He powerful enough to sustain and strengthen me when I want to give up? Are the difficulties through which I’m walking building rather than tearing down my confidence that He is in control and everything He does is good (thanks, Mom)?

Yes, growing up in Christ means having to wrestle with aspects of who I am and who He is in a different way than I could handle when I was younger. Living in a broken, fallen world is just plain hard way more often than I anticipated. Somehow I got the idea that growing in godliness and knowing Christ better would mean an “abundant life” that meant less hard stuff.

But when it’s time for Him to go a little deeper in His communication with me I find something amazing every time: I find that I am His. Forever. Even when nothing changes but my perspective, there is comfort simply in having a loving Father.

The truth is I was Wednesday’s Child before He adopted me. Knowing that He will never give me away helps me to navigate the complex issues Christian maturity requires. After all, knowing I’m loved is super important and can help me through whatever the future brings.



Yesterday I spent part of my day at a Monday homeschool support program my daughter Jaime started last year, enjoyed by a few dozen children and some spunky mom/teachers. I walked up to the building to a greeting of a voice I recognized as my friend, Vicki, who waved from the playground where she was supervising a couple of kids. Inside, I walked by classrooms of giggling children, a teacher reminding students to stop chatting and pay attention, and a child asking how big a stomach is.

I observed my daughter Janelle’s writing and history classes in preparation for being her substitute teacher when little Silas is born in a couple of weeks; watched moms pull toddlers onto their lap to help them with lunch; observed a pregnant mother rubbing her expanding belly; was introduced to a delightful single woman with a reputation for being an awesome kindergarten teacher; and overheard Jaime saying she was headed off to clean up a poopy “whoops” in the bathroom.

As the morning progressed I became sad. I was thrilled to be there and am really looking forward to subbing for my daughter. Yet on the way home tears filled my eyes as a strange blanket of grief crept through my heart.

I miss my babies.

At ages 35, 34, 30, 27, 24 and 19 my littles are now all big. They are terrific, productive, delightful, busy, handsome/beautiful…adults.  They have given me eleven adorable Little People, with numbers twelve and thirteen on the way. And just two nights ago I had the opportunity to listen to them mock and honor and express their love to the three whose September birthdays we were celebrating. Sometimes I pinch myself as I wonder how in the world this “infertile” woman has been so lavishly loved by God.

But today I miss them.

I miss all those little blondes and the dark-haired cutie God gave us last through adoption. I miss wondering if it was dog or toddler pee on the hallway floor and realizing at 4:30 PM that chili dogs would have to do because I forgot to thaw the chicken…again. I miss dandelion bouquets. Feeding the ducks at Burke Lake. Overhearing Benny praying from room to room at night that each would “love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Snuggling on the couch to teach another first grader to read. The smell of a just-bathed newborn. Having my frig covered with pictures of Mommy and Daddy whose skinny arms stretched out of our fat heads. Picking up coloring books and popsicles and a Blockbuster movie for the one who had a fever. Nags Head vacations with a house full of kids and friends.

I miss my littles. It may sound strange but today I feel like I’m grieving. Why? They’re all well and I still get to make their favorite birthday dinners. They love to mock me for lovingly comparing a friend to a hobbit and remind me that the every single accent I try always sounds asian. Laughter still fills my home when they are around and the piano in the living room gets played a lot, usually with Jesse’s newest awesome arrangement of something familiar. When Jake, Joey and Janelle get into the kitchen to help clean up, Disney songs are still belted uproariously out and Josh thinks even today’s video games are “unrealistic.” And once in awhile I even hear Jaime slightly mispronouncing her r’s.

So what am I grieving?

I’m mourning the loss of years I thought would never end. But they did.

They ended before I made enough pbnj’s; played enough CandyLand; read enough “Fox and the Hound”‘s; kissed enough boo-boos; graded enough spelling tests; cheered at enough basketball games; swept up enough Cheerios; wiped enough tears; kissed enough soft cheeks; returned enough morning grins; clapped at enough piano recitals; celebrated enough lost teeth; and combed or trimmed or curled or cut gum about of enough hair.

Maybe it was  yesterday’s gloomy, rainy day that caused me to mirror the melancholy because it’s been awhile since I’ve grieved like this. I mostly love my still-busy but different life when I can actually go to the bathroom alone and enjoy leisurely time reading my Bible or editing family photos or blogging in my room with no interruptions (well, except when Benny’s elderly mother wants to know if I can help her find a NCIS rerun on her tv or asks again if I’m sure she took all her pills that morning). But yesterday I was mourning the loss of a life that was more exhausting but wonderful than I could have ever dreamed.

If you’re a mom of young children, please try to remember that before you know it you will be me. The very things that tempt you to feel unappreciated, cause you to fall into bed exhausted (knowing it’s only a matter of time before someone cries to be fed or falls out of bed or rushes in frightened by a bad dream), and make you crazy are those things that may find you driving in a few decades with tears streaming. Of course you get tired and overwhelmed. What you’re doing with your life requires more courage and strength than you ever anticipated. And, yes, you get as low on patience as you do sleep.

But sooner than you think you might be sitting in your quiet room alone thinking about how happy you are that your pregnant daughter and her husband are coming for dinner. In fact (shhh…don’t tell anyone) you might even experience a tinge of jealousy that she is the one about to bring home a newborn and not you.

Then you’ll come to your senses and realize that there is something precious and sweet about remembering things that used to feel they would always be…but aren’t. The grief will pass but the memories won’t.

Kiss your babies while their cheeks remain soft and their little bottoms can still fit into your lap. And tonight when you fall exhausted into bed, remember there’s now one less day before you will celebrate their last birthday at home before they get married to start the crazy, wonderful years they, too, think will creep by before they get old (right, Jake?). The tears you shed now over another day of doing chores that will only have to be redone tomorrow will become tears of sentimental regret that one one is in the house to mess it up.

I know you probably don’t believe me. But trust me. It’s all true.

Me and my "babies"

Me and my “babies”

Raising My Kids to Hunger for God

This is the final post (for now) in the series on sibling relationships. Joey is pictured here with his wife, Lauren, and our number eleven, Amelia. I’ve been sensitive to the kids putting Benny and me in only a good light out of a desire to honor us. So i’ve edited their posts accordingly. But Joey told me I couldn’t edit his post. I admit it; it brought tears to my eyes. I’m grateful to God for His grace in the lives of two young people who started having kids in the 70’s and had no clue what we were doing…He’s been faithful. 

Family worship time in early ’88. I want my kids to grow up worshiping together, too.

When Mom asked us if we would want to contribute to her series on fostering sibling relationships, there were a few things that naturally sprang to mind. Homeschooling came first, then sports. Mom and Dad drove around most of Virginia, DC, and Maryland watching each of us play basketball; but they also put a court in our back yard to help make our house the place all our friends wanted to be. Then there was football, street hockey and 6 on 6 soccer with the neighborhood kids. 6 on 6 soccer in a yard about 15 yards long and 10 yards wide. Oh, and epic games of baseball, played with a tennis ball; the kind of game where if you got a couple men on base you had to go back to bat again, so there were “ghost” runners.

Jaime (far left) coached her sister (Janelle is in front of her) to a basketball championship. Now Jaime coaches her daughter, Kayla.

A few other things came to mind, most of which have already been touched on. The more I thought about it, though, the more clear it became to me that there was actually one particular thing about the way that mom and dad parented us kids that contributed to our relationships to this day.

They parented with a mission and we always knew what the mission was. Mom and Dad trained us to be respectful, obey them and others in charge, write thank you notes for birthday presents and clean up after dinner. But their primary mission wasn’t obedient and polite kids. Their mission was to bring glory to God. Since the church is the means God chose to display His glory, we knew that glorifying God meant giving our lives to the church. This fostered a sense of teamwork and loyalty that goes beyond sharing the same name and simply growing up together.

Proximity and a shared mission are probably the two biggest ways people grow close relationally. Siblings most always have the former, at least initially, but they should also have the latter. We did, and it permeated everything about our lives…and I think that fact is the greatest reason why we grew and remain so close. Let me give some examples of what this looked like growing up.

One of many street hockey games on our street. That’s Josh in goal.

In 1992 Fairfax Covenant Church, now Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax, was fund raising in an attempt to purchase property to build a facility. It was called Challenge ’92. Even though I was only 7 years old I can remember the feeling of camaraderie, not just with my siblings, but the entire church.  I remember going to the church-wide garage sale that took up an entire parking lot at a school. I remember doing lemonade stands, selling baseball and basketball cards to neighborhood kids, and finding whatever way I could to fill my huge, pink, plastic piggy bank. I remember getting progressively more nervous as the deadline approached for “Miracle Sunday.” I’ll remember that day until I die.

When dad walked onto the stage to announce the offering amount my heart was in my throat. When the room erupted I ran around in little circles yelling. It was awesome. I won’t go into the specifics here of the amount needed, and why it was such a miracle that the money was raised in time, but it was amazing.

Jesse and I played a lot of basketball together. When we moved to Florida we played for a private school and won some games together. Fun memories.

That experience helped grow my love for the church. It helped build a bond with my siblings because we were teaming up on something bigger than ourselves — something even more important than basketball. This is easy to see in an example that dramatic. But what Mom and Dad were so good at was teaching us that we were on the mission 24/7.

I’ve told the story to folks before of being at a birthday sleepover when I was 11 and didn’t stand up for a kid who we all thought had fallen asleep while guys mocked him. Turns out he did hear the mean comments and was understandably devastated. Mom and Dad heard learned about what happened. I was disciplined pretty good (yes, my parents spanked us) and grounded from a basketball game (the most horrifying punishment). Some might say their response to my cowardice was harsh. That it was not showing “grace.” But I knew otherwise.

I understood that discipline is a means of grace. I knew that what I had done was wrong, not just because it was an act of cowardice but because I had allowed another believer to be slandered and maligned, which creates discord and rivalry, which hinders the mission of the church bringing glory to God. And yes, my parents articulated that to me at 11 and I understood and agreed. I still agree to this day.

As we grew older, this sense of mission and a desire to serve the church has remained and informs our relationships. It’s why we all decided to participate with them in a new church plant in Lake Nona last January. Not that we couldn’t have participated in the mission while staying at our former church, or that we all have to be at the same church forever (Josh and Jesse both have been members of other churches at various times.) But this was something new; a way we hadn’t been able to serve together before. It was going to force us to work harder, give up more time, spend a lot more gas money, and serve in areas we never had before. Who would I rather do that with than the mom and dad who taught trained me to love God’s church, and siblings who I’ve been on a mission with for as long as I can remember?

Leading our church in worship is one of my favorite things to do with my siblings. Being at Redeemer Church now means I can also do this with my wife, Lauren (singing). That’s Jake leading on keys with me on bass.

My daughter is almost two, and we are hoping for 6 or 7 more (just kidding Baby Love…just 5.) I want Amelia to have a close relationship with any siblings she ends up with. I want her to have what I have. But mainly I want her to love God, know Christ, and love the things that He loves. As kids, we always knew Mom and Dad cared more about our spiritual state than anything. We knew they cared about us loving the same things they loved because they loved the same things God loves. We bought into the mission because we saw them living it. That mission is the reason we are close.

So with my daughter that’s where it starts, too. It doesn’t start with teaching her that family comes first or that blood is thicker than water. It isn’t about raising a daughter that loves her parents and siblings.

It’s about raising a kid who hungers for God.

Hey, mom and dad you should…oh wait.

Those Who Stayed With Me

You can barely see Jaime in this pic…how could she not love a cute little girl like this? 🙂

Today’s post is from Janelle, our fifth, who is married to Eric and is an orthopedic nurse.

So far, you have heard from my younger brother, Jake, on the importance of forgiveness and repentance in sibling relationships.  Even though he dissed me and said my laugh is loud and annoying (ok… maybe it is) I wholeheartedly agree with him.  You also heard from my older sister, Jaime. I felt good when I read her post because I don’t ever remember us biting or pulling each other’s hair like her girls do – so there is definitely hope for Annie and Danae.

This post has less about what you can do to foster close sibling relationships in your own kids and more about how God uses bad circumstances to do good things between siblings. The pictures on this page are a testimony to God’s faithfulness…more on that later.

Let’s face it, when we are going through a great season where everything is going our way, everyone is being nice to us, the Lord is blessing, and our kids are being kind to each other (or in my case, my husband is being kind to me) it’s easy to cruise along and be happy.

But when I think back to the seasons of my life I felt closest to my siblings I remember the aftermath of difficulties and trials.  As a kid I was less aware of this than I am now.  However, after reaching adulthood, some of my sweetest memories with my siblings were during times of intense heartache.  Two of these memories stand out more than any others.

Oldest brother Josh. The tears started with him.

I was eleven when my eighteen-year-old sister Jaime got married. I didn’t think much about it. All I knew was that PJ was nice to me and that I liked him, and that Jaime and I weren’t close because she didn’t like me.  (Of course, it had nothing to do with me be an annoying little sister!) As time when on, however, I began to better understand what happened. You see, Jaime and PJ were keeping their relationship secret from our family because they knew Dad and Mom wouldn’t approve. This was the hardest thing our family had walked through. The months that followed were difficult as my parents, sister and new brother-in-law carefully walked through the repercussions of this decision. I remember Mom crying a lot and Dad being unusually quiet. I was fearful and anxious about the future. Our normally happy, loud house was sad and quiet.

Soon after the marriage Jaime wanted to take me to the mall.  I was surprised since she had never done this before. We laughed and hung out. I had the time of my life with a sister I secretly adored but had never been close to.  As we were walking she suddenly stopped, looked at me intently and said, “Missy, you have to promise me something.”  I had no idea what to expect.  “You have to promise that when you like a boy, even just a little bit, you will tell Mom and Dad and trust them.”  She was so serious and passionate I had no choice but to agree.

Tall brother Jesse. He always makes me smile.

I never forgot that promise to my sister.  I can point back to that moment as the moment we became friends.   In fact, she helped Mom plan my wedding and in May 2010 she was my matron of honor. Few were as supportive and happy as Jaime to see me marry the love of my life. Because she made me promise to trust my parents, Eric was the first serious relationship I had….and Mom and Dad were the first to hear that I had my eye on him.

The other memory finds me at my grandmother’s gravesite.  Nanny’s funeral had been both somber and joyous as we celebrated the fact that she was now in heaven with her Savior, her husband and her son — free from the cancer that had been diagnosed only weeks before. The previous months had been draining on our whole family.  Just two weeks earlier, and within days of Nanny’s diagnosis, we had moved to Orlando from the only home we had known; a home we shared with Nanny. Now one of my favorite people in the world was suddenly gone. After watching her coffin laid to rest, I wanted to escape all of it.  I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I moved away from everyone and broke down crying.  I had been crying all day but these were different tears; tears of despair and anger.  I didn’t notice him walking up but then felt Joey’s arm go around me.  He wasn’t one to show affection easily, especially to me, but he saw me crying and wanted to comfort me.  He didn’t say a word.

Sweet brother Joey. (With Jaime looking on.) I’ll remain forever grateful for his hugs.

What Joey didn’t know was that memory would stick with me through the extremely difficult time of going back to Orlando to no friends and the grief of losing Nanny. Mom and Dad were still trying to process and deal with her death, as well as the circumstances that led to our move in the first place. God used my providential loneliness to force me to the Scriptures for solace and comfort.  I don’t know what would have happened if Joey hadn’t silently comforted me.  Maybe I would have trusted God with my grief, but perhaps I would have turned into a bitter teenager who thought that God was cruel and unloving.  What I do know, however, is that moment brought me closer to a brother who put aside his personality to comfort his little sister.

These memories are only two out of probably hundreds.  Now that we’re all adults, my siblings and I continue to walk through trials and hardships.  I know without a doubt that we all have each other’s backs.  I know they sincerely want what is best for me.  And I know that the prayers of my parents are being answered through the good times, but mostly through trials.

My nearest brother Jake. We fought. We bickered. We became friends. And here we cried.

So please take heart.  God can forge a bond between your own children. He will use your prayers that will tested and tried through the flames of hardship, loss and grief. One my wedding day I experienced the love of my siblings in a profound way. My sisters were my attendants and my brothers surprised me with a reception dance where they each cut in to dance with me one by one. I will never forget their expression of love for me that day.

In Luke 22 we find Jesus reclining at the Last Supper with his disciples.  After breaking bread and drinking wine Jesus tells them one of them will betray him.  What did they do? Say things like, “Oh Jesus, thank you for being willing to die for us!” or “How hard this must be for you, to suffer and die!”  Yeah, no.

“A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.”

My newest brother PJ. He always liked me.

It reminds me of when all of my family is together at a birthday party and Mom initiates our normal tradition of honoring me – the birthday kid. But somehow the conversations turns to my brothers arguing about whose basketball career was the most impressive.  They all claim personal rights;  Joey because of his last second three pointer in the playoffs; Josh because he scored 1,000 points by his junior year; Jake because he….just because he’s the best at everything; and Jesse because he dominated the paint.  Okay, not a perfect analogy.

In His moment of greatest need Jesus could have said, “Guys!  I am about do DIE!  I am the greatest, you nimrods! How can you be thinking of yourselves at a time like this?!?”  Rather, He gently reminds them that the greatest would also be the one who serves.  But the most surprising thing to me that he says is right after.

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials.”

That echoes in my heart.

Mom and Dad, you are those who have exemplified what it means to pray for your children through trials.

Josh, Jaime, Jesse, Joey, Jake, Julia…you are those who have stayed with me in my trials.

P.S. The rest of the story: Jaime and PJ will celebrate their 15th anniversary in March, and Dad and Mom love him. Well…mostly because he helped give them Kayla, Wyatt, Annie and Danae.

Bites and Hair Pulls Now: Friends Later

This is my oldest daughter, Jaime, with PJ and their adorable kids. Jaime is guest posting today as I continue a series on sibling relationships.

I have always said I should have been born first.  Instead, I was the second of seven. This meant that once I got old enough to babysit I did the cooking and cleaning; bathed the little ones; and was the one who reported to Mom and Dad when they got home, but Josh was still “in charge”.  He loved bossing me around until I was an early teen – that’s when I grew taller, stronger, and more athletic than him. (All of which he’ll probably comment on at some point, but believe me instead.)

Hey, we’re only 9 and 10 here…so certainly I out grew him soon after this! I’ve always loved my big brother!

But I am not here to talk about Josh’s past nightmares and bitterness but about how my parents did their part to help us kids to love each other.

I used to hear my mom introduce us as her “liter” at times.   She would laugh about how we all had to do everything together and never wanted to be alone.  I thought she was crazy since, at that time, all I wanted was to be alone. I idolized my neighbor friend, Christina, who was an only child who had her own room; daydreamed about what it would be like to not have Janelle tagging along and breaking everything I owned; wished I didn’t have to worry about Jesse saying something strange and embarrassing me in front of friends or total strangers; and resented Josh being the boss when I did all the work.

The reality is, Mom was right.  (She loves it when we say that!) Regardless of the moments when I craved solitude or sinless siblings, I wanted them around. This became most clear to me when I got married.  I found myself still going to pick up a kid or two to go to a movie, the playground or the grocery store.

The age gap lessened and now they really are my friends.

How did this happen?

First, we were homeschooled.  (Disclaimer:  I do not believe that you have to be homeschooled to have good sibling relationships or that homeschooling is for everyone. I am only sharing ways my parents instilled a love for each other in our particular family.)

Back when my parents started homeschooling there no homeschool co-ops and they knew only one other family in our entire county who was homeschooling. (No, we didn’t live in the hills of West Virginia but in suburban Washington, DC.)  Our “socialization” come from each other.  We were the basketball, front-yard soccer and street hockey teams; study partners; tutors; field trip partners and debate team competitors.  This created an environment where we had to rely on each other for friendship that other kids could easily find elsewhere.  Although annoying at times, and something I sometimes greatly disliked, I am grateful to be one of those rare people who is still best friends with those I went to school with.

Second, like Jake said on Friday, mom forced us to pursue reconciliation and and to ask each other’s forgiveness. That’s right, she literally forced us to apologize to each other. And she didn’t just make us apologize but also had us look at each other’s eyes and hug one another! Although that may sound like it was “fake” or wrong because it was mere outward behavior, it created in us the habit of righting wrongs.  Yes, at 14, when I had to apologize to 8-year-old Janelle (again) for yelling at her, my heart was not all there.  I may have been faking my regret, but I was developing a habit of going back and admitting I was wrong.  And Missy was developing a habit of practicing forgiveness. Regardless of what was going on my heart at 14, or 10, or 4, that habit turned into a conviction. Now I pretty routinely go back and ask for forgiveness when I have wronged somebody – even if I still don’t feel like it. In the process of asking my siblings for forgiveness hundreds of times, we  learned that having a tender conscience resulted in realizing we really did love one another enough to “get right” with one another. Over the years I learned my siblings not only know me best but were the first to genuinely forgive me – even and especially when my weakness and sin hurt them badly.

I may not have had the full regret and remorse of my actions at 14, but at 18 my actions rocked my sibling’s world; yet they were eagerly waiting to forgive me.  That heart continues. Last week I reacted impatiently and harshly to my brother, Joey. When I called to work things out with him he responded with,“I know you and knew we were already fine before this call.”  We may not have been so quickly “fine” as young children, but the practice of having to humble ourselves and be reconciled (at least on the outside) — instilled in us by my parents as young children – means now that we’re adults an apology isn’t even always required to forgive one another.

Through the many trials through which our family as walked, many people came and went. I’ve learned (the hard way at times) to rely on God, my parents, and my siblings…no matter what.  The trials were small when we were young (like having to share a room with my little sister) but as the trials have grown we now run to each other to reconcile.

Finally, and what might sound a little strange, is this: my parents told us to be and act like friends.  I can’t count the number of times we had conversations about the importance of friendship with our brothers and sisters.  As Mom has mentioned, she learned this from my Nannie and her siblings.  I hated the “I dream that someday you and Missy will be friends so you need to start treating her like one now” comments. I listened politely but argued in my heart. Yet, it had an affect.  I was a mean sister to her. But even when I thought I had damaged my relationship with Janelle too much, I had a glimmer of hope because Mom said it could happen.

Biting and hair pulling? These two cuties? Yep! But they do love each other.

After a recent fight between my two youngest girls (ages 4 and 6) I sat them down to talk. One had bit her sister, and the other retaliated by pulling her sister’s hair.  They were both crying and giving each other mean stares.  I asked them if their Aunt Nelly and Mommy were friends.  6-year-old Anniston said, “Yes, like best friends or something.”  “Yes, we are. But when I was your age I didn’t like Nelly. She drove Mama crazy and I wanted to bite her and pull her hair.”  They both stared at me with wide-eyed shock. I explained to them that they could be best friends when they grew up, were going to love each other so much and needed to treat each other kindly now because of that.  Afterwards, I “forced” them to ask forgiveness.  🙂

She loves to hear him come into her house...

Recently he surprised me by driving back from law school late one night…I love it when I hear him come through the door.

Days later I heard Danae tell someone that Annie would be her best friend. I smiled. I smile when I hear Kayla say the same unkind things to Annie that I did to Janelle or treat Wyatt the same way I treated Jesse.  Why does this make me smile?  Because I know that they are getting to know each other. They will know each other’s shortcomings more than anyone else. I smile more when I see them playing basketball out front together, or watch Kayla help Wyatt with math, or listen to one of them try to convince everyone to get in to pool because it’s more fun to all be together. I hear Mom in my own voice when I explain to Kayla that Wyatt is way younger than her now — but someday she will probably get really excited when she hears the front door open and realize it’s him coming over to talk about politics or sports or to watch a show with her. Yeah. Like when our hearts jump because Uncle Jakey just walked in.

My husband, an only child, now benefits from the relationship with my brothers and sisters as well.  They are his brothers and sisters and his best friends, too. I’m thankful that Mom and Dad homeschooled us, forced us to forgive (and love each other at times), and told us to be friends. Although it was certainly annoying as a child, I am now annoying my own children with faith that one day the first person they call when something annoying, happy, sad, devastating, or just random and funny happens is one of their siblings.

What Are Your Children Catching These Days?

I’m the blessed mom of both sons and daughters. There are priceless blessings about having both but when you have seven you’re bound to get at least one of each.

That happened to me with our first two.

Jaime was well known for her smiles!

When Joshua was sixteen months old a baby girl came into our lives. Back then you only had sonograms when there was a potential problem so we didn’t know who was coming that Saturday in the fall of 1979. As Benny drove me to the hospital I cried. First because I was overwhelmed that I was having a baby two weeks early on the very day people were coming to help us load a moving van with boxes I had been s-l-o-w-l-y packing for weeks. But my tears were mostly because my baby would be born on the anniversary of my older brother’s death at age 27 just four years earlier. A very sad day was about to become a happy one and I was especially thrilled for my mom. As we left the house she said, “My mourning is about to be turned to joy.” Wow.

If we had a girl Benny wanted her to share my name so we were both hoping for Jaime Sheree. Because of my longstanding battle with infertility (which we didn’t want to presume were over just because God brought us two children in just over a year) I knew this baby could be my last. A boy and a girl would be just perfect.

You seldom had to wonder what Jaime was thinking — her face usually showed it!

When my daughter was put into my arms I overwhelmed. Dolls. Toenail polish. Earrings. Ruffled socks. Dresses. This mini-me with light hair and slate blue eyes filled me with wonder. I had a little girl to raise; to teach; to train to be a wife and mother herself; to watch Disney movies with. The mixture of responsibility and fun squeezed my heart.

God wasn’t finished giving me babies and Jaime welcomed each with joy. At 3 1/2 she eagerly welcomed baby brother Jesse and by the time Joey came less than two years later she had become an experienced big sister. When another little surprise was coming soon after, God answered her prayers for a baby sister. By the time Jake and Julia came I had to sometimes remind her that I, not she, was the Mom.

If you have a daughter you know the feeling of wanting to do a good job of being mommy to a little girl. As the mother of boys I loved the fun, laughter, antics, rough housing and boy stuff.  I loved how different the boys were from me — and how they competed about everything. But I have to admit that mothering daughters has been more weighty to me. I’ve felt a level of responsibility that has a different “flavor” than raising boys — an awareness that a part of me was being duplicated in my girls for good or not-so-good.

The first of five siblings comes home to a delighted big sister (and brother).

One day I was enjoying what had become a favorite part of my day — eavesdropping on Josh and Jaime playing together. I especially loved it when they were playing Benny and Sheree, so whenever I caught wind of this I dropped what I was doing to listen. “Benny and Sheree” were sitting at a kid’s table (that their children now use at Granma’s) having dinner at a restaurant.

“Benny we need to go now cuz the baby needs to go to bed,” Jaime said. “Okay,” agreed Josh, “but wait! I forgot my wallet! Do you have any money?” “No!” Jaime snapped, cramming her hands onto her hips. “You NEVER leave me any money!”

I had to cover my mouth to silence the chuckles from blowing my cover. They had just role-played an interaction between Benny and me at a family dinner out just days earlier! I got to see and hear myself through my little girl’s eyes and ears. While there was some comic exaggeration in their exchange, it wasn’t that far from what really happened!

Yep, back in the day kids got “dressed up” every Sunday. I loved having an excuse to buy dresses!

That day I learned the next important truth I want to pass along to young moms: when it comes to parenting, more is caught than taught. (That phrase isn’t original; it’s one I heard years ago from a source I can’t remember.) We moms talk a lot to our kids. We correct; warn; instruct; remind; encourage; comfort. But nothing we say will affect our children as much as how we live

During her teen years my awareness of the importance of my motherly example deepened. While I tried to resist the pressure of thinking her maturity was directly related to my effectiveness, I found myself fretful at times. Was I doing a good job raising her in the throes of mothering her five younger siblings? Was I expecting too much help and service from her as the oldest girl in a large family? How affected was she by my struggles and sin patterns? What kind of young woman was she becoming? How would she reflect on our relationship when she looks back as an adult woman? Was she “catching” my preferences or my values?

I have some really good news for moms of daughters. How you live your life day in and day out is making a difference in your little girl’s life. You are weak and flawed. You don’t always set the kind of example you want for her. But you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t value motherhood and strive to be a really good mom.

I still see this face in my grown up daughter. Now she has a daughter this age!

Jaime and I went through our share of hard times. I didn’t make it easy for her to share her struggles and temptations. In fact, I assumed that how we were raising our kids meant they probably wouldn’t have the same kinds of struggles we did as teens. (What were we thinking??? If you have thought that, too, please reconsider. Temptations are common from one generation to the next, no matter how you are raised.) I didn’t ask enough gentle, compassionate and probing questions…then ask them again as the Holy Spirit led next week or the week after and the month after!…that would have helped our relationship and provided her with a come-alongside-me Mom to empathize with her struggles.

But God has been faithful.

In spite of my mothering weaknesses Jaime not only survived but flourished. She is the mother of four adorable children who are a joy to have around. She and her husband, PJ, are raising their children to love God and His church — and to enjoy their relationships as a family. My “I don’t wanna homeschool” teenaged daughter has become a vibrant homeschooling mom who is being used to serve and help other homeschooling families in our area. How wonderful it is to me to have a daughter who humbly acknowledges her temptations and struggles. I get to empathize with her, remind her of my own struggles and point her to the God who redeemed my own flawed motherhood for good in her life.

And He will do the same for her.

Jaime and the soldier boy who won her heart.

Please don’t interpret my homeschooling example wrongly. The point isn’t that I homeschooled and now she does. She and her husband could have chosen another educational route for their children that was best for their family. The point is this: more really is caught than taught. My little girl caught that being a wife, mother and homemaker is valuable even in a culture that salutes achievement outside the home over the daily grind of rearing children. What that looks like in her life isn’t exactly the same as it did in mine — but there are enough similarities for me to regularly stop and thank God for the incredible woman she is and that she did catch some good stuff from the mom who sarcastically chastised her daddy for never leaving me any money.

My daughter studying the beautiful face of her own just-born daughter. What a moment.

With God’s supernatural help, keep doing what you’re doing with your kids. Through countless baths, peanut butter sandwiches, reminders to be kind, requests for forgiveness for being harsh, diaper changes, bedtime prayers and corrections for doing wrong you are modeling for your daughter what godly womanhood is all about. And if you have boys, you are teaching them what to look for in a wife someday as your example creates in them an appetite to love someone that’s kinda like Mom.

Think about it. It’s likely that the little girl you’re reminding not to take the clothes off her dolly because you know she’ll lose them will have a real baby of her own someday. Until then, day by day you are demonstrating for her how to love and care for that little one she will someday hold in her arms. Oh, what a day that will be.

My Jaime Sheree has a Kayla Sheree with three younger siblings who are being raised by a mom whose mom is watching. You see, I’m still kind of eavesdropping on her. What I’m seeing and hearing still makes me chuckle at times — but it mostly makes me grateful to God for giving my grandchildren such an incredible mother.

Jaime and I are different in many ways. I don’t have a tattoo, never played basketball when I was 8 months pregnant, didn’t birth any of my kids in the tub at home and didn’t allow her to watch Star Wars movies till she was 14. Yet I’m grateful for what we have in common: saving faith in God; love for our husbands and children; affection for and involvement in a wonderful church; joy in our family; and a life of often exhausting and sin-tainted service to others. Only God could do that.

Happy Birthday, sweetie! The day you were born changed me — and watching you become the incredible, godly woman you are today reminds me that in the midst of the ups and downs of motherhood God makes sure that more is caught than taught.

PJ and Jaime with Kayla, Wyatt, Anniston and Danae. (Photo by Megan Kauflin)

Looking Up Soon

It was a cold winter day in early 1989 when I surprised Benny with a question. We were on a couples retreat with the pastors and wives we served alongside at our church in Virginia. Our dinner interaction to begin the retreat involved picking marriage and family-related questions out of a basket to read aloud and answer: some funny, others serious. I made sure the basket was passed to insure Benny went last. I secretly removed the remaining question in the basket and replaced it with one I had prepared especially for him.

Jake at 1 year. Love those blue eyes!

Jake at 1 year. Love those blue eyes!

He opened the folded paper and read, “How do you feel about being the father of six?” Puzzled, he glanced at me. “Six? Huh?” I saw the wheels turning. My girlfriends got it before he did but they waited….

“Yes, six,” I responded. “I’m pregnant.”

Eight months later another little blonde, blue-eyed baby was born — our sixth in eleven years. His five siblings were waiting in a nearby room at the hospital, eager to meet their baby brother. An already full house was now fuller. More laundry; delayed sleep; no-longer-hot food; pacing with a fussy baby. And more teary conversations with Benny about being tired and overwhelmed.

Keep reading. This post isn’t just about me. If you’re a mom or plan to be a mom, it’s about you, too.

Yesterday number six turned 23 and I didn’t see him because he’s away at law school. After 22 birthday cakes and singing “Happy Birthday” with his sibs and clapping when he blew out his candles and watching his eyes light up with each gift, I had to settle for a phone exchange.

I really don’t know where the years went. Even the nights that crawled by when every tick of the clock reminded me that he and I were the only ones still awake now seem so short.

Age 2…and recently he told his dad he’s still trying to fill his shoes.

On Thursday I said “you’re gonna miss this” and today I want to encourage you to get ready — sooner than you think you’ll be looking up to them.

Right now they fit in your lap. Tug on your pants. Stain your clothes with their spit up or sticky faces. Interrupt your phone calls and mess up your folded laundry. Miss the toilet. And maybe refuse to respond to other’s outstretched arms because they want to be with you. But soon — very soon — they’ll be too big to carry or hold in your lap and will want to spend time with others more often than you’ll probably desire.

it happens so gradually that it actually sneaks up on you. But one day you’ll notice it…and it will seem like it happened overnight. His voice starts to deepen and dad says it’s time to show the same kid you use to quickly grab the razor from how to use it. Her little stick legs take shape and you notice she’s being unusually giggly around a two-inches-shorter-than-her boy. You find yourself holding your hand up against your shoulder to show friends how tall they’re getting and just as you get used to looking eye to eye they walk away and…wait… did you just have to tilt your eyes upward?

What happened?

Age 17 (long after he passed Mom AND Dad up in height).

Your baby became a toddler became a teen. Days that crawled along suddenly seem like they whizzed by. Remember the six-week appointment when you were relieved to hear he had gained weight? What about that first Christmas she didn’t ask for a baby doll — but you bought one anyway just to prove she was still your little girl? Suddenly they start adding opposite sex names to birthday invite lists when just yesterday they adhered to the unspoken, universal rule in Sunday School that girls and boys don’t even sit at the same table!

Please live today for tomorrow. You are building a relationship with your little ones. Don’t be so consumed in mothering tasks (which are many!) that you miss enjoying and getting to know your child. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that patterns of anger and frustration with them won’t affect whether they’ll want to be around when they’re 16. When my kids were little I regularly reminded myself that I was building a foundation on which much would be carried during their adolescent and young adult years. With God’s strength, I could build something frail and selfish that could be easily destroyed — or something solid and lasting that could endure the common parent/teen challenges to come. I made mistakes I now regret and am enjoying the fruit of God-energized sacrifice. Yes, the regrets sometimes haunt me but the fruit is sweeter than I anticipated.

Your baby will soon lose the tooth you just celebrated. Before you know what hit you, the child who just learned to read will be studying a driver’s manual for an upcoming test. And without much warning the kid who willingly held your hand in public stiffens slightly or pulls away — and you know you won’t be walking hand in hand again.

Age 23 — I’m looking up to him in more ways than I can count. Happy Birthday, Son.

So enjoy every hug when people are around and when they’re not. When they interrupt after you’ve tried to train them not to, make sure they don’t feel like an inconvenience in your otherwise important life as you gently remind them…again. Stoop down or pick them up to get as much eye to eye contact as possible. And even when punishment is warranted, work hard to make it easy for them to confess their wrongs so when their temptations become more serious they’ll know it’s okay to tell Mom anything because of how often she reminded them that she, too, messes up.

With each inch they grow, be there. Be there to read a story when you’re having a hard time keeping your eyes open. To listen when you desperately need someone to talk to. To cheer and rejoice and congratulate their little accomplishments when you long for someone to look you straight in the eyes  to say you’re doing a good job.

I’m looking up to seven now. Yesterday Jake posted kind and humbling words on my Facebook that reminded me of why young, tired, distracted moms keep giving and loving and serving year after year.

I’m looking forward to Friday afternoon when a tall young man will walk into the house (probably singing). Yesterday he told me he’s looking forward to his double chocolate birthday cake. We’ll sing “Happy Birthday” and clap when he blows out the candles.  We may even be able to “do something” on Saturday — just the two of us. And that was his idea.

Yes, I tilt my head up to him now. No longer a baby, toddler or teen. He’s a man. Our relationship is different and there’s another woman in his life who made the trip to celebrate his birthday. She’s delightful — and if she’s the woman Benny and I have been preparing him for all these years I will gladly step aside and make sure she becomes his go-to lady.

But he’s still and will always be my son.

Keep building that relationship with your little ones. And get ready to look up.

You’re Gonna Miss This

I was sitting at the kitchen table of a older friend pouring out my heart about how tired I was. Having five children in less than eight years had taken a toll on me. With tears brimming, I asked her to tell me everything would be okay and I wouldn’t die from sheer exhaustion.

“Honey, you’re gonna miss this,” she replied.

Miss this? Never going to the bathroom alone? Remembering at 2 PM that I haven’t eaten all day and having to settle for a half eaten hotdog lying on a now-hard roll on the kitchen counter? Waking up numerous times a night to nurse a baby or comfort a nightmarish toddler? Leaving malls or grocery stores with nothing I intended to purchase because someone decided to throw a temper tantrum for all to see? Falling into bed exhausted but not being able to fall quickly to sleep because I’m already dreading the undone tasks I’m now mentally adding to tomorrow’s already-full day? Reminding and disciplining kids who then keep interrupting, bickering and whining as if they’ve never been taught otherwise?

“You’re gonna miss this” wasn’t what I wanted to hear that day. I wanted to hear that a magic day was coming (soon!) when tantrums and whining and messes and undone task lists would end! I wanted to hear that now that my youngest was three I could at least start sleeping….

A few weeks later I found out number six was coming.

Now I’m that older woman — and let’s pretend you’re sitting at my kitchen table. I know you’re tired. I remember how hard it was to train and discipline and teach kids who seemed to have either hearing deficits or serious memory issues. When I see the newly pregnant look on a mom’s face I can actually feel the nausea churning in my stomach. As Granma to eleven, I’m back to bathroom breaks being interrupted with “I’m thirsty!” or “Why is the door locked? Can I come in?” And I know how long those nights are when your newborn decides it’s finally time to be awake….and your love of sleep is temporarily suspended because you’re captivated by staring into little eyes that seem to be saying, “Wow, my Mommy is really pretty.”

You are gonna miss it. All of it. Even the hard times and the days when all you can think about is bedtime and the weeks when the laundry pile never shrinks.

Why? Because you’re Mom. You live for them. Hurt with them. And, yes, sometimes yell at them. You planned them…or learned to except God’s plan when they weren’t on your radar screen. You couldn’t wait for them to say your name — and even though you now sometimes wish you didn’t hear “MOM!” so often during the day, they will someday leave and you’ll eagerly anticipate hearing “Hey, Mom!” on the other end of the phone or when the door opens and they’re back home. You fight through your fatigue and anger and selfishness because being Mom means more to you than not having little people in your life that demand more of you than you have the strength to give.

The reason you will miss this is because your life is making more of a difference than you ever thought possible.  In spite of the fatigue and bouts with anger you are being used by God in more ways than you know. Who would have thought you would be shaping the lives of such adorable little sinners and have the breathtaking joy of pointing them to their need for a Savior? Do you see how often you are showing them Mommy also needs her Savior to give her strength and to forgive her when she sins…against them? How is it possible that you have been entrusted the amazing privilege of molding, shaping, teaching, and nurturing future adults who will take what they’re learning from you and pass all those things along to one generation after another as your legacy of godliness makes it’s way to those you will never know?

You are doing what God has called you to do. He is using you — a flawed, weak, sinful, tired vessel — to pour out to them what has been poured into you by the One who says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

You won’t start sleeping again soon. It may be a long time before you see real fruit from your training and discipline. Tired days will continue because whether you’re a stay-at-home-mom or are juggling work and motherhood, being Mom is the hardest thing a woman can do with her life. And even when they get older they will yell “MOM!” when they can’t find their homework or basketball shorts or the car keys they know they left hanging on the peg by the door.

But one day you’ll be sitting alone in your quiet house. No toys strewn about. No fingerprints on the sliding door. No school books sprawled on the kitchen counter. No lost keys or clothes. For awhile the quiet will be sweet and comforting. You’ll be able to have leisurely times with God and actually have time to think about what needs to be done today — and get most of it done! You’ll get through the grocery store in less than 30 minutes because you’re alone and you don’t need to buy as much stuff anymore. But then you decide to walk down the cookie and candy aisle because your son is coming home this weekend from college or you want to stock up on goodies in case the new little people in your life come by this week.

You’re happy to put gummy bears and goldfish crackers and Fruit Loops on the conveyer belt…oh, and Windex!…because soon there will be finger prints on the sliding doors again.  And you’ll look forward to Friday night when a grandson will be spending the night and maybe, just maybe, he’ll have a nightmare so Granma can hold and comfort him or he’ll get a boo boo that needs kissing.

You’re gonna miss this, young mom. That doesn’t mean today won’t still be hard. But try to remember to think about the older lady who gave you some advice that perhaps you don’t wanna hear…but that you’ll be sharing with your daughter or other young mom someday because you found it was true.

P.S. This post is dedicated to Jaime, Rachel, Rebekah, Lauren and Canada. Thanks for the fingerprints on my doors.