Christmas Perspective

I wanted to share a beautiful poem this Christmas Day that was shared with me via our MOPS winter newsletter. In this particular season of motherhood this poem touched a chord that I think will also resonate with many other mothers I know. Read it. Print it. Frame it. Display it where you can reread daily and let’s start practicing love to our families this Christmas!

1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style

©By Sharon Jaynes

 If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another decorator.

 If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family – it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails.  Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust.  But giving the gift of love will endure.

Christmas 2013

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Merry Christmas friends and family!

May your day be merry and bright!

xoxo

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The Silent Advent

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Advent and Christmas time is notorious for being filled with busyness. We are all subject to it and it is hard to escape even if we wanted to.

The malls are decorated and ready and waiting for shoppers not even a day after Halloween. We skip right over Thanksgiving and learning to be content and rush right into a season of the gimmies.

Pinterest abounds with ideas, ideas and more ideas. Delectable ideas, to be sure, but so many that we are either paralyzed into doing nothing or we try to be super moms and take extra lengths to crowd into every day an activity that will spark creativity, grow the minds of our child, inspire character growth, bring home the “reason for the season”. We advent our kids to death in the hope that this year our child will get it and not be duped by this Santa fella.

And when we are not using Pinterest for this, we use it to wow those around us. Surely our neighbors will be envious over our lights, our tree, our decor, our china, our food, our community gift-giving efforts. We do this all in the name of family and Christ. We are sure that this year we did Advent right. This is the year we will wake up December 26th full of soul satisfaction at a job well done.

But I know us. I know me. And we won’t. Ever.

Not unless we slow down. Not unless we stop doing. Not unless we allow God to pull us into forced silent retreat.

This was my Advent this year. My lights still aren’t all the way up. Parts of my home do look beautiful but among that is the mess of moving rooms around, school not put up for vacation, and boxes of Christmas decor still sitting in my living room that I walk past daily completely in denial and convinced that the last few things will get put up even if tomorrow is already Christmas Eve. My advent calendar never got put up. I did not get to do the Christmas Story Advent countdown. We didn’t do the Jesse Tree. We barely made it most nights to carols and quiet advent time as a family. There was no special activity for each day. No marathon of special Christmas cookie baking to hand out to neighbors or take to family gatherings. We missed the hometown Christmas-y stuff. We missed sitting on Santa’s lap or making Christmas lists or writing letters to the North Pole. Our Netflix box sits full of Christmas movies that we haven’t watched.

But it’s okay. At least that is what He is whispering to me. God chose to equip me with something more beautiful this year. A forced silent retreat. {I sense a reoccurring theme here.} And I panicked at first. I wanted to be a part of all those special Christmas events. I wanted my children to carry those memories. Instead I was graced with being forced to socially retreat. And during it I was blessed to have found this Advent book to read during this time of silent night, holy night. The only Advent devotional book available for me to check out at the library. God’s Advent gift to me.

Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent.

And daily (mostly) I read and wept and prayed. The focus was not on Mary or Joseph or baby Jesus but instead on Elizabeth and Zachariah and their forced silent retreat. God needed them both to stop, listen, prepare and to do this they were taken out of the busyness of life. Okara’s take on how God used them is beautifully, breathtakingly simple. Every day I took something very powerful away to ponder. And while I encourage you to pin this book to your Advent board to remember for next year, I’d like to leave you absorbing a few of it’s treasured nuggets for yourself this Christmas week.

Part One – Surprised and Silenced By God

Traditionally when we think of Advent we immediately call to mind Mary, Joseph, and the angel Gabriel. But in the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah and Elizabeth are the first two people we meet in the Advent narrative. Much as John the Baptist was the forerunner to Christ, his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth seem to be the forerunners for the holy family. The angel Gabriel comes to them first to astound them with good news. Yet, Zechariah and Elizabeth teach us that receiving divine good news can be fraught with all kinds of tensions and questions. It is an understatement to say that Zechariah and Elizabeth are caught by surprise. Their shock dumbs them into silence and seclusion, affording them time to dwell with the news.”

Lamentations 3:26

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

Lamentations 3:28

Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him.”

Day 2 – Lament

In America, we live in a pain-avoidance culture that rarely sees any meaningful significance in sitting with discomfort. When something feels bad, society and corporations have conditioned us to self-medicate with media, food, or shopping. It may take discipline and practice to learn to appreciate the importance of lament for our soul’s and our community’s health”

Day 10 – Silence

What if the silence God bestowed on Zechariah was not fully punishment but also an odd blessing. What if God was offering Zechariah nine months to sit with the news, to ponder God’s words, and to process the stupefied awe in which he surely found himself. What if the time of formal silence was God granting Zechariah the gift of some necessary internal solitude in preparation to receive the miracle and to dwell in God’s faithfulness…”

Day 12 – Divine Preparation

Most of us would consider a silent retreat an unreasonable way to spend our time when our to-do lists seem unending. But carving out space for contemplation and solitude can invite God to speak into our lives and offer us an opportunity for us to sleep in the depth of what God is already doing and saying. Elizabeth has five uninterrupted months of quiet solitude to take in the reality of her growing miracle. Not even her husband’s voice can intrude on this time of reflection. Both Elizabeth and Zechariah are forced into holy retreat to dwell on what God is doing in their lives.”

Day 13 – Holy Retreat

The more we inhabit silence, the better our hearing becomes. When we step back into the noise of our world, our hearing is a bit more fine-tuned and more likely to hear God’s whispers.”

Psalm 37:7

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…”

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As you sit with these words of encouragement and wisdom, I urge you to revisit Luke 1:5 – 2:40 and sit with the Christmas Story for a while. Allow it to penetrate your hearts this Christmas.

If you are, like me, in that season of forced retreat (health, kids, stress, depression, life!), consider also reading some more encouraging Christmas Advent posts from myself and other mothers who have been there.

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A Heart of Thankfulness {A Blessings Photo Essay}

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This year season of my life has been hard…really hard. Since last August I’ve been struggling with various teeth and body issues that no doctor or dentist can figure out. I’m desperately trying to stave off new symptoms while trying to maintain life by masking current symptoms. Life has been hard. I’ve had to give things up that I didn’t want to in order to hang on to the most important stuff. (Do you hear the crickets chirping in this here blogosphere?) But despite that, I’m sitting here this Thanksgiving day looking around and knowing I’m blessed. I see His hand all around me and if I don’t look to the little things and count them then those blessings that fall like living rain can roll right off my back soaking into the ground, wasted.

So today I need to count because gratitude needs to be my lifeline during this time of not understanding.

Can I start with the beauty of the season? Just look at the simplicity of the pumpkin above. The shape and color, the contrast against my weathered porch, the complimentary fallish leaves strewn just so. Beautiful. Breathtaking. Perfect.

Then there’s the dying back of the garden that holds it’s own in beauty compared to it’s spring and summer counterparts. Sunlight bouncing off of maroons and mauves in the morning light. Tawny browns of seed heads contrasting against bronzed, dying leaves.

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And the mornings. Oh how I wish I could enjoy more of them but whatever is attacking my body seems worst then. The mornings that I do make it to my front porch are like an oasis to the chaos of my day.

Hot coffee.

Living words.

Feeding souls.

And this town…

I’m thankful for this small, midwest town. The community is strong here. The houses are mish-mashed and beautiful, ornate and simple. The business is small, local and cozy. The churches are reaching hearts and building family.

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I love that my children can walk to the library or to the drugstore. I love that they can bike to a friends house or walk up to the park. I love the memories they are making. I love the security that a small town affords us for our growing family.

And my heart swells with thankfulness for my children. They are growing faster than the weeds in my yard. I watch them stretching their minds. I listen in on their sibling conversations. I inwardly smile at the first awkward stirrings of teenage years quickly approaching. I treasure the conversations in my heart. I laugh at little hands and little feet stirring up trouble. And I breathe deep baby fat and double chins. These are my legacy…my stories…my beautiful mess.

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lilah 4

ivy 5

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And as Advent draws near, I am thankful for the Lord that provides. Our dollars are tight. They already have to stretch beyond our means to cover our chosen life-path. This month He provided a new couch set…well, new to us. Perfect in condition, color, and style to nestle into the space of our Victorian living room. A chance stop-in at the Goodwill. Under $100 for the whole trio. As Advent approaches and winter settles in, it means dark mornings, candlelight and the thankfulness of my heater as I curl up with His word and wait for the Christ-child.

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For to even open up the door these days invites in the too chilly air. Frost sparkles the world and for very brief moments I soak in the beauty of upcoming winter. My imagination runs wild with thoughts of silver fairies and legends of jack frost. And when I return to the warmth of the house, to the smells of fall cooking and fill my belly with the comfort of potatoes and pumpkin and squash, I am again reminded of how blessed I am compared to most. My house is old and I don’t know if I will ever find the money to make it whole and not broken, but even amidst it’s brokenness it brings me daily joy.

As does my husband whose very heart and commitment to our family sings of his sacrificial love of us. His talented hands feed us, sing to us, embrace us. He is father and still soul mate. I am lucky indeed.

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Let them give THANKS to the LORD

For His UNFAILING LOVE

And His wonderful deeds for men,

For He SATISFIES the thirsty

And fills the hungry with GOOD things.”

Psalm 107:8-9

happy thanksgiving

Narrations as Memories

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Lily’s Narration – January 9, 2009 

Age: 5

St. George and the Dragron (from The Children’s Hour)

I imagined that a dragon was fighting a knight and then he went under a cave and he got killed and Sabra saved him too cuz Sabra killed the giant pickle who was really a bad guy. And then a big fire-breathing dragon killed the giant pickle and the giant pickle was dead and Sabra, who was his wife, walked along with him. And then they got up on the horse and hoppity, hop, hoppity, hop, hop, hop and they rided through the castle and hided from the dragon. And the dragon went to the castle and then his wife and St. George went out and the dragon went out and they went in and they fighted the dragon and he was killed. And then they were safe and the pigeon and St. George and Sabra were all safe. The end.

This is the note I tagged onto her narration.

At the beginning of this telling I had told the children to close their eyes and imagine the story in their head. I guess Lily took this to mean free license to make up her own story. for anyone reading this narration, there was no giant pickle, Sabra and St. George were not married, Sabra did not save St. George, and they never fought in a castle or hid in a cave.


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Today as Lily was putting away her history narration of St. George and the Dragon into her book of centuries, she came across a narration she had done when she was five of this same story. She stood there amazed that she had even done this as a five year-old. Then she started cracking up while rereading it to herself prompting her older brother asking for it to be read out loud. I started reading it aloud and, I swear, I couldn’t even finish it as tears were streaming down my eyes. Not in the, “awwwhhhhh, wasn’t that so sweet” way but in that “laugh-out-loud-pee-your-pants” way. I think it took three tries to get it read between all the laughter.

I was reminded that looking back on our Book of Centuries not only helps us review what we learned from history but is a wonderful synopsis of where a child was at a particular age…a scrapbook of sorts. Rereading this particular narration brought me instantly back in time to that day of teaching. It made me realize that my children’s saved work is more than a portfolio for a school board but a treasure box of memories for me and the kids! I see myself as an old lady sitting around in a pile of binders, lovingly turning the pages and sighing over days of old.

Back to School {Weekly Wrap Up}

Back to school already?

Yes, we are doing school already. And, I admit, I wasn’t quite ready to get started this year. Norah Belle just showed up in our lives two months ago. I’m just starting to get my house back in order. But starting early does make sense for us. This will allow us the flexibility to take 2 weeks off in the fall, 3 weeks off at Christmas, and two weeks off in the spring while still getting in a full summer break next year as well as taking everyone’s birthday off and getting a few partial field trip weeks in the mix.

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Our Week

Getting back into routine is always hard. This year will be my biggest year teaching. I’m officially teaching four: sixth grade, fourth grade, second grade, and first grade. That said, technically I’m teaching six. Ivy, preschool, is already asking to read and is the most excited about doing school. She wants to be involved and she wants my undivided attention. This will prove tricky since I’m more apt to multi-task between students needing instruction and those needing help or clarification. And Eli is in full-on potty training mode. Then there’s the normal challenges of life like nursing Norah and dealing with Eli’s toddler energy and other learning challenges like attention spans and reading delays.

I knew the only way I could accomplish my homeschooling goals this year was to make a few changes.

One, get up early.

Two, meet with the Lord daily.

I can’t even begin to tell you how hard this has been. I am a night owl. I LOVE staying up late and talking with the hubby over coffee or getting lost in a new Netflix series together. But it was very clear to me that this year I needed to get up by 6:30 and have some quiet time before my other early birds arose. It has been very hard but very worth it. Just meeting with God first thing on the quiet of my front porch swing has allowed me to face each day’s chaotic challenges in much healthier ways. The bonus is savoring a cup of coffee and some first of the morning conversation with my oldest boy. He is just entering junior high and I am enjoying getting to know him as a friend, not just a son. He’s funny, quirky and we’ve had some good heart to hearts just swinging together or enjoying the flowers in the morning sun.

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Our week officially started with ART. Every year our schedule is so full and when unexpected life happens it always seems like the fun stuff gets pushed aside for the essentials. Well, this year I am determined to change that. I decided to make the fun stuff a priority for us. We are living life at home and while we do need to cover the essentials, I want the love of learning to stay passionately ignited in all of us. I want our home to ebb and flow with productivity and rest, creativity and logic.

We are starting with the basics of pencil drawing technique. This week we focused on seeing basic shapes in the world around us and translating that onto paper. We emphasized 3D shapes and practiced drawing cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones. This wonderful youtube tutuorial helped us. I was amazed at my 7 year old’s drawings. He was the only one to listen about how to hold the pencil and how to do the short, light sketching strokes. Maybe we have an artist in our midst! We used our geometric blocks as models which Eli thought was great fun to play with while the others worked.

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Reading, reading, and more reading. Reading has been both rewarding and frustrating this year. My oldest two are reading every chance they get including sneaking books to the lunch table. (Brings back memories for me!) And my oldest daughter, nine, has finally discovered Harry Potter.  She has read 3 of the books in the past two weeks and watched the first two movies.

Luc is seven. He is my struggling reader. I pray daily for how to work with Luc. He is completely apathetic about reading and bucks against learning. My gut is to keep pushing but there is a fine line between challenging your child and killing their joy of learning. Luc does love to play. He plays everything he learns. And he would much rather be playing then in “school”. So this year we’ve decided to go with Batman phonics books. He still struggles. He still resists. But after he wades through a page and then practices rereading it a few times, his whole demeanor changes. A smile lights up his face. He can read about one of his favorite super heros and is so proud of himself. I wish I could say that changes his attitude and inspires him to keep practicing. It doesn’t. The next day it is right back to the start of this push and pull reading relationship.

But I’m confident that with enough perseverance we will make some major breakthroughs this year. Just look at that smiling boy reading with his mamma on the porch swing. Beats sitting at a desk, right?

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Math for the older two is simple and easy. Teaching Textbooks have been our best friend. The kids LOVE doing their math on the computer. I love not having to teach it. I love that they love doing it and beg to do extra lessons in their free time. I love that it tutors them and grades them and tracks everything for me. The only drawback? It doesn’t start until third grade. That means Pre-K through second grade is still on me.

This year I will be doing all three. Ivy in Pre-K, Lilah in first grade, Luc in 2nd grade. We will be using a multi-level teaching style. I will focus on introducing a concept through a living book. All three will practice the concept through manipulatives at their own level. Each has a dry erase binder with practice sheets of concepts they need to practice. We will also be doing some fun picture mystery math pages. Emphasis will be on playing math to truly understand concepts and LOTS of living books that bring math to life without a textbook.

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math

I’m super excited about science this year and so are the kids. We are using the Max Axiom graphic novel science series as our jumping off point. This is no ordinary science book. Don’t let the comic book style fool you. Each book covers a specific science concept…electricity, magnestism, states of matter, etc…in an in-depth way.  We will follow that up with watching a Bill Nye the Science Guy video and supplement with a hands-on experiment and Magic School Bus books and videos. My kids fell in love with Bill Nye last year and most all of them can be found free on you tube. 

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This week we started off learning about the scientific method. We practiced using it with these wonderful printables from Crafty Classroom and used the same experiment they did in the Max Axiom book. In Bill Nye’s Do It Yourself Science we learned that science is repeatable and can be tested again even if you know the outcome. So we retested the experiment in the book of finding out what type of levee keeps more water from flooding a town: rocks, soil, or clay. We recorded our hypothesis and data. This upcoming week the older two will be learning how to share their findings through a science board display.

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This year for history we are covering the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Reformation. Adam, who has a passion for history, will be teaching the older two as well as covering philosophy, logic, and the Bible with them. I will be supplementing through a healthy diet of living books, notebooking/lapbooking, and map work. 

This week we started off the year recapping the Roman period and overviewing how the Roman Empire fell and how Christianity spread through Europe. We focused on Constantine and we rounded it out with the story of St. George and the Dragon. Even I learned something new this week. I had heard stories of St. George but, fantastical as they are, they don’t beat the real story of him being a follower of Christ and refusing to bow down to the Roman Gods. He was tortured and martyred by decapitation under Emperor Diocletian for standing up in his faith.

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And the best highlight of our week? 

This wonderful pencil sharpener that I bought used for $5 at a homeschool curriculum sale this summer. No more blisters. No more wasting time searching for a sharpened pencil when we should be working. No more pushing off art because the task of resharpening all those colored pencils just seems too daunting. I’m in love with this machine. It is not just an electrical pencil sharpener (had one of those…worked not at all) but an industrial pencil sharpener. My son laughed at me when I took a picture of this. But, to me, it is one of the most beautiful pictures of our week.

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Joining up with…

The Weeping of Motherhood

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Jeremiah 31: 8-9

See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father…”

Here is the Word of the Lord pressed upon me. These 2 verses have been ruminating over and over again in my head ever since I read them a few weeks ago.

The Lord is calling back His people. He longs for us to return to Him. He is forever calling our names and pursuing us. I know this. I grew up with this knowledge. I’ve responded to this knowledge. But what has been pulling at my heart is the who of this. We know He calls all of us. He wishes not one of us to perish. Yet this call in Jeremiah is a specific call. He names those He is calling. The blind. The lame. Expectant mothers. Women in labor. Of course He will restore the blind to see again and make the lame to walk again but what I find interesting is the call to mothers in particular.

They will come with weeping.

They will pray as I bring them back.

How many times as mothers have we been in this place? He knew. As newly conceived life flourished inside us, we embraced the weakness of ourselves allowing our bodies to change out of our control. We were the vessels of new life but to have this greatest honor means completely sacrificing ourselves to yield to another. That means pain, uncomfortableness, refining.

So many times during this season of motherhood we find ourselves sick, tired, praying, and weeping for things out of our control. Most of the time we are not coming to our Father with thought-out prayers of specific requests. Most of the time our prayers just bubble up out of the deep of us. Prayers that we can’t even put words to. Repeated utterances that sound more like desperate pleas than lofty words. But He hears. And these prayers are precious to Him as He knows SO specifically what this thing called motherhood has in store for us.

He has heard our weeping. He has heard our prayers. 

♥ The weeping of the expectant mother, head hung over the toilet as she calls out in guttural prayers for the sickness to subside.

♥ The weeping of the expectant mother as her bones shift to open up for the carrying of this child.

♥ The weeping of the expectant mother as her tired body that is not her own wakes again in the night for one more trip to the bathroom, acid reflux, shortness of breath, aching hips, insomnia that turns into overtired fears playing out in a brain loop.

♥ The weeping of the expectant mother as she hears doctors words spelling out her worst fears for this little one growing inside of her that she has come to love with a consuming love never having met yet.

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He has heard our weeping. He has heard our prayers.

♥ The weeping of the woman in labor as contractions move from bearable to a level of pain she wasn’t prepared to feel.

♥ The weeping of the woman in labor as she cries out, trying to push away this pain she can’t escape.

♥ The weeping of the woman in labor who enters that quiet place of surrender, breathing into the dying in order to bring forth the living.

♥ The weeping of the woman in labor, body opening up, splitting, cracking like fire as life pushes out harsh and real.

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He has heard our weeping. He has heard our prayers.

♥ The weeping of the new mother who lies exhausted, body broken, breathing in the sweet smell of new life.

♥ The weeping of the new mother who struggles to sustain life through breasts that hurt, helping a new one to latch when it seems impossible.

♥ The weeping of the new mother struggling to stay awake to hold and feed this precious being who won’t stop crying.

♥ The weeping of the new mother whose sleep-deprived body still has to function with daytime responsibilities that prevent her from “sleeping when the baby sleeps”.

♥ The weeping of a new mother holding the tiny newborn hand of her baby after surgery, heart desperately praying for no post-operative complications.

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He has heard our weeping. He has heard our prayers.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother as she yells, again, at her child and has to ask forgiveness.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother as she struggles to keep it together getting out the door in the morning, child wearing non-matching shoes, hair still not brushed,  already running 10 minutes late.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother whose sleep-deprived body stays up all night rocking and soothing sick children then getting up in the morning to still make breakfast and wash all the built-up laundry.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother whose heart breaks as her child struggles to make friends, or has just lost a friend, or is awkward socially, or is getting bullied at school.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother who realizes that her child sees through her own hypocrisy.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother who has to watch her children walk through the consequences of their own mistakes knowing she is powerless to save them.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother whose nest is empty and she feels the loss just as the weight of allowing these children to take on their own adult responsibilities settles upon her shoulders.

There is abundant JOY in motherhood but that joy comes from walking through the storms of life. My dear cousin quoted something very wise on facebook recently.

I’ve watched her walk the storm as a mother. She’s brave. She’s exhausted. She’s in love. She can’t imagine her life without this new person in it. And I’ve seen her strength. I see His hand in that as He calms her through this storm. And I weep with her.

We are asked, as mothers and flawed people, to push through the labor pains of life. This struggle refines us. We are made stronger…better…from it. And He uses these pains that cause us weeping to draw us in. To remind us that He is there if we just turn to Him. That He will lead us gently through it if we allow Him to pick up and carry our burdens.

I understand God more since becoming a mother. His saying no for our own good. His anger and jealousy and protectiveness. And His amazing grace that loves unconditionally no matter what I’ve done. I could never turn my back on one of my children no matter what they’ve done. And I see this in my Savior. In His gift of life for me. In His relentless pursuit of me even when I stubbornly walk away.

One of my favorite verses as a mother is Isaiah 40:11.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

He gently leads those that have young. Everyday as I struggle to stay awake, stay sane, not blow up at my kids I think on this. Everyday, if I allow it, He will gently lead me in this struggle of motherhood. He has a special soft spot for mothers. He called us out specifically as Jeremiah reminds us. He will never leave or forsake us.

I am comforted by this and physically reminded of it during those kairos moments when I lay staring at my beautiful, sleeping child. When I watch my oldest develop a love of coffee just like his dad. When I watch my daughter curling up with a good book. When I see my little one looking under rocks for rollie pollies. When my daughter smiles up at me from under her long lashes. When I am handed a bouquet of weeds wildflowers from the lawn. When I am rocking a sweet newborn and kissing that soft, velvet head and soaking in that sweet baby vanilla smell.

Our weeping and praying go hand in hand with motherhood. If we listen to His call He will be faithful to lead us through this season that will be more rewarding than anything we could ever hope to accomplish!

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♥ Dedicated to River and his beautiful new heart! ♥

Norah’s Birth Story {with Mini Photo Shoot}

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She’s here!

Norah Belle Payson

Born: May 23, 2013 at 4:42 PM

9.8 pounds, 20 inches long

I can’t believe how in love with her I am already! Her sweet baby fat cheeks, soft dark silky head, tiny wrinkled hands and feet…they all make my heart melt.

And while it’s all still fresh in my mind and I’m still on bedrest, I thought I’d write down her story…beautiful and messy! This I will one day transfer to her baby book in which I am woefully behind still working on baby #3’s! For now it can rest here in all it’s details waiting along with some beautiful pictures that we captured impromptu during a brief reprieve between late spring thunder showers.

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My pregnancy with Norah was much more complicated than my other pregnancies. I was now in the “high risk” category of pregnancy due to my age and the fact that she was baby #7 for me. At first it didn’t seem high risk to me. The pregnancy developed normally…severally nauseous, craving protein and salty foods, fatigued, etc. Everything appeared normal and beautiful at her 20 week ultrasound and we were thrilled to find her a sweet baby girl to shower with love. It wasn’t until 27 weeks drinking that awful orange syrupy sugar drink that things started to change. The doctor measured my tummy. “Uh oh,” is NOT what you ever want to hear come out of your doctor’s mouth. “Let me measure that again…oh no.” Ummmm…should I be scared?

She said our baby was measuring WAY too big for this stage of pregnancy. She said it could be due to any number of things but she wanted an ultrasound to check her out right away. She wanted to know how big the baby was and how much amniotic fluid I had. I went home in shock and told my husband. Then I did as any normal 21st century pregnant women does and googled it. Too big a baby probably meant gestational diabetes and too much amniotic fluid could mean complicated medical names that brought high risks of bleeding and brain damage to the baby. Panic set in. I prayed and then decided to get information instead of worry. I figured it would most likely be gestational diabetes so I researched like crazy and then went back a day later for my ultrasound.

Yes, I had failed my diabetes test. Yes, my baby was too big, but still within normal limits. Yes, I had too much amniotic fluid but, again, within normal limits. So I set up the big diabetes test and went home determined to change my diet. Went back a week later for the more extensive diabetes test, sure this was what it was. But, to everyone’s shock, my test came back completely negative for diabetes. So much so that I passed all 4 tests with flying colors. So no diabetes. I just assumed everything would resume normally.

Not the case. Norah seemed to be getting bigger despite not having diabetes and they didn’t know why. After another ultrasound the amniotic fluid was still high and the doctor was worried about this little girl being an over-10-pounder and having shoulder dystocia. I remember lying back on the table and trying to make a joke but my doctor just seemed worried and started talking C-sections. Her words started sinking in on the drive back home. Maybe this wouldn’t be an easy labor and delivery like all my other six. Tears started coming as I started praying. Adam and I talked, worried, then researched again. We looked up everything we could on shoulder dystocia, C-sections, and recovery of C-sections. We talked with as many women as we could about their birth stories. After that we both felt a solid peace about the decision to NOT have a C-section but to try natural measures of breaking my water (I would have to be induced a week early no matter what to compensate for her large birth weight) and see how it went. We weren’t against C-sections in general, more against the recovery of a C-section for me with having to still care for 6 kids right as Adam went into his summer camp schedule at work.

During the last month we also dealt with high blood pressure and excessive edema. The doctor was now worried about pre-eclampsia. I was tested often and put on strict bed rest. No protein in my urine equaled no pre-eclampsia but the swelling got worse. I felt like a tick ready to pop before I went to the hospital and my bones hurt, especially my hands, with an arthritic sort of pain from the pressure of the swelling. The high blood pressure was making it hard to sleep at night due to a racing heart and trouble breathing when laying down. Still, I felt a peace about her birth. I had given it to God and, especially due to the throbbing pain in my hip bones and odd angle they were at, felt He was doing His own magic in helping my body open in just the right way to help her come out unharmed.

Baby Norah 087

Baby Norah 086

We went in for an induction on a spring Thursday morning, May 23rd. The plan was to break my water at 8:30 and see where that took me. Unfortunately, my water was unable to be broken. I was still 3 centimeters, 60% effaced and she hadn’t moved down at all. The doctor could not get under my cervix to break the membranes. She tried and tried and after much pain on my part said we’d have to start pitocen in order to move her down so we could reach the cervix. I was disappointed. I’d done pitocen before and had a very bad experience with it. This was not my plan. Surprisingly, though, the pitocen wasn’t an issue. They started the drip at level 2 and by 12:30 I was up to level 20. I could handle the contractions just fine with breathing even though they showed them as pretty strong contractions on the monitor. My husband and the nurse were impressed. We had a leisurely morning of good conversation between contractions and the nurse even let me eat a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits, and milk.

When the doctor came back at 12:30 to break my water I thought we were in the home stretch. Unfortunately I had only dilated another centimeter and was still only 60% effaced with her blocking the cervix. The doctor worked on breaking my water about 6 times (OH the pain in this! Where oh where was my epidural now?) and only managed to get a tiny tear in the membranes with only a bit of fluid leaking out because her head was in the way. I was assured that this was enough to kick start active labor. And my doctor was right. Immediately the contractions came on strong and sure and painful. Due to my previous fast deliveries, we got anesthesia up there by 1 pm and by 1:30 I had a wonderful epidural that warmed me down to my feet in a blanket of coziness. I dozed on and off for a few hours while Adam read a book on the couch. Every once in a while I would glance over at the monitor and see those contractions getting closer and closer together and peak way off the charts. I would smile and doze off again allowing my body to labor while I rested.

Around 3:30 they checked me and I was 10 centimeters but still Norah had not dropped down where she needed to be. The doctor said she was stuck under my pelvic bone so we would allow me to labor another hour to help her move down so pushing wouldn’t be so complicated. At 4:30 I was checked and she STILL had not moved down even a little bit. The doctor was super worried about me pushing and the complications that would bring on but it was now or never. We set up everything and I pushed 2 times during one contraction and 3 times during the next contraction and she just slipped right out. It was amazing. I was so proud of my aching birthing hips that had turned so outward in order to easily allow my body to do it’s job. The doctor was amazed and everyone was excited to set this fat, white, gooey baby girl on a scale to find out her weight, which was exactly where the doctor predicted it would be. She was here, safe, beautiful and completely healthy!

Baby Norah 097

Recovery has been more painful than ever. Seven babies takes it’s toll. Trying to get to the bathroom in the hospital was excruciating and I remember the nurse saying as she helped me, “Oh honey, you need some medication.” It was then I received Percocet and within an hour my body sighed with relief. Painful still, but normal pain. Recovery was still more than I bargained for. I had horrible gas pains throughout my abdomen and chest that didn’t subside until a day or two after I was home. I thought maybe it was a side effect of the meds so I tried going without but the gas didn’t go away and I really needed those meds!

The excessive swelling and high blood pressure has also not subsided. The doctor warned it would get worse before it got better and she was right. The main thing I was suppose to keep checking was pain in my calves (sign of a DVT leg blood clot) and an excessive headache (signs of post-eclampsia). Imagine my surprise when just a week after giving birth I awoke at 1:00 in the morning with both of these symptoms. After my level-headed husband convinced me to get a bit more sleep before getting it checked out at the ER, he took off work the next morning to take me. I had blood tests done, urine samples studied, and an ultrasound on both legs. The good news was no blood clots in my legs, no post-eclampsia, no postpartum cardiomyopathy. The bad news…I will just have to deal with the swelling, which is causing both the pain and high blood pressure, until it goes away on it’s own which could take up to six weeks. In the meantime, more fluids and put my feet up. Easier said than done with six littles running around!

My family has been so great about helping out, though. The oldest two children stepped up their chores as well as helping out with breakfasts and lunches. Our house is a mess (you don’t even want to see the upstairs bedrooms since I’ve been on bedrest for over a month and am not suppose to be going upstairs – although I get the picture as I hear hubby’s roaring voice as he goes up for goodnight tuck-in’s!) and I want to rip our carpet out right now it is so full of stains. But that is okay. I’m trying to make peace with it as God continues to call me to rest in Him and physically rest and enjoy this new tiny presence that may be our last.

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Baby Norah 080

I can see what they say about spoiling your last baby. Since we are not planning for more (this one was more than my 38 year old body could handle),  Nora Belle will forever be the baby of the family. I find myself relishing the little moments more…breastfeeding, cuddling, kissing her soft velvet head, staring at her as she sleeps…because this will most likely be the last time I experience it. The thought makes me sad and happy all at the same time. The thought of being pregnant again is not appealing in the least. But these last 12 years have been a season in my life that compares to no other. I watch my oldest son getting bigger by the day (he’s eating like a trucker!) and I keep thinking how little time I have left with him before he’ll be gone from our house. It’s making me re-evaluate how I want this next school year to go. I want this year’s focus to be about building relationships. I want to look back on my time with my children and spend that time cherishing the memories, not wasting my time wallowing in regrets. I want to live by one of my favorite quotes!

Many people have said to me, “What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and short stories and the poems you never had time to write because of that.” And I looked at my children and I said, “These are my poems, These are my short stories.” ~Olga Masters