What I Wish I Knew Then-Letter to Myself

What I Wish I Knew Then-Letter to Myself

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I have spent some time looking through old photos during this Christmas break. I am amazed at how quickly the time has gone by! This picture was taken nine years ago. My children are 6 years old, 4 years old, 2 years old and three months old in this picture. That was a crazy season of life! Going anywhere was a major production! It involved packing a super sized diaper bag, snacks, toys and buckling three little kids in carseats. Taking all four kids to the grocery store was a necessary act of insanity.  There were always stares and comments. “Are they all yours?” “You know how that happens, right?” Once two ladies actually stood behind me in the checkout line and had an intentionally loud conversation about birth control. They were quite rude, but I smiled because I knew something that they did not. None of my babies were “oops” babies. They were all longed for, prayed for and loved.

Back then, I was tired all the time! At that point in my life, I had not slept through the night in almost seven years. My life was given to caring for little people. We went from having two children to four in ten months time. When one kid got sick, they all got sick. One of the kids had significant developmental delays, so we had a slew of therapists in and out of the house everyday. There were social workers, pending adoptions, birth family visits, doctor’s appointments, and the rest of life, which included planting a new church and house hunting. My husband worked long hours and was on call every other weekend. He was also part owner of the clinic where he worked and there was a lot of stress involved. He was stressed, I was stressed. Marriage wasn’t turning out like the fairy tale that I thought it was going to be. It was one more thing that I had to give myself too, and it was hard. I was overwhelmed with the keeping of my home and laundry and homeschooling.  It was just a crazy, crazy time!

I am a little older now, and possibly a little wiser. (Although this raising teenagers thing comes with it’s own challenges and sets of wisdom that I haven’t quite acquired yet.) I was thinking about what I wish I knew back then. My daughter tells me that the trendy thing right now is to write letters to the past you or future you. (Having teenagers keeps me in the know!) So, here it is; A letter to that frazzled young mom, from slightly less frazzled me at present.

Dear mom of littles,

You love your babies. This is what you have always wanted, and while these days are wild, you wouldn’t trade them for anything.  But, you are realizing that this isn’t as easy as you thought it would be. Changing diapers, making bottles, teething, potty training, cleaning up messes and sleep deprivation are getting to you! You thought that you were going to flow through these days with grace and poise, but it’s not turning out quite like that.

I know these days are difficult, but please, please, please remember that they are also precious. Do not wish a single moment away, because they will be gone before you know it. Hold your babies longer. Sing to them even if you are out of key. Read to them and play with them far more than you do. Don’t be so consumed with doing things perfectly, that you don’t do them at all. Trace their hands and feet! Do more artwork and crafts! Write down the adorable things that they say and do. Someday you will wish you could remember how tiny their hands were, You will wrack your brain trying to remember which kid said that cute thing, and when.

Keep life simple! You are overwhelmed with “stuff”. You don’t need that many toys or clothes. Your life will be simpler, your house will be cleaner and you will be much calmer if you just eliminate the clutter. I know that you want your kids to have the latest and greatest toys, but they really just want to do what you are doing. Let them dig in the garden with you. I know that they make a mess when they are “helping”, but don’t get frustrated. Let them be with you.

Love your husband! I know that you are exhausted. I know that you feel completely spent at the end the end of the day. But, he is exhausted too. He has been taking care of sick people all day long. He is building a business. He works hard so that you and your children can have a beautiful home and everything that you need. Appreciate him! Clean up the house he works hard to provide. Change out of your frumpy clothes, brush your hair and kiss him when he walks in the door. If he is tired and grumpy, don’t take it personally. He has a lot on his plate! Be gracious and kind. Don’t make things more difficult for him by being moody and defensive. Your love for one another is what brought this family into existence. Don’t neglect it!

And, while we are on the topic of relationships, let me remind you that you can be honest with the Lord. He knows you, He loves you and knows exactly where you are at in life. You may not get many opportunities to sit in a quiet room and pray. (Quiet is dangerous unless they are all in bed!) Pray while you wash dishes or pick up toys. Pray as you drive. Go ahead and kneel by the couch while your children play. It’s good for them to see you pray. Read the Bible aloud to your kids. Listen to it in the car. I know you are busy, but make time for these things. This is the foundation and crust of your life. You need to spend time with your Heavenly Father.

Also, don’t worry so much about what people think of you! Aim to know God and please Him. Sometimes people simply won’t agree with the way that you do things. Sometimes you do need to adjust, but sometimes you also just have to stop worrying about how people perceive you or what they think of you.

Just so you know, your child is not the first to scream at the grocery store, and they certainly won’t be the last. You know that you are training your children. It’s a work in progress.  Be persistent. Choose your battles. You can’t conquer every issue all at once. Teach your children to obey you the first time. Teach them to have a happy heart. Teach them to be respectful. These lessons will make the teenage years easier. But, don’t get discouraged when they don’t learn the things you are teaching them in a day, or a month, or a year. It takes time and persistence. Don’t give up.

You will be amazed at the things these kids will remember. Their sweetest memories are going to be the ones that you didn’t try to create. You may try to do fancy and extravagant things which leave you exhausted and stressed out, but that isn’t necessary. They love simple things. They love time spent together as a family and with their friends. Don’t focus on big productions. Focus on being together and loving one another.

I know that you have hopes and dreams that have been moved to the back burner. There will be time for those things! For now, you are giving yourself to your babies, and just like all the sweet little ladies at the store tell you, enjoy these days. They will be gone before you know it. You won’t believe how quickly the time will pass.

Sincerely,

You (in nine years)

Eighteen Years and Counting

Eighteen Years and Counting

  Next week Joshua and I will celebrate our eighteenth wedding anniversary. That’s crazy! I don’t feel old enough to be married that long, and, honestly, the time has flown by. I’ll share a bit of our story.

I came to Kentucky for dog grooming school in the summer of 1990. There was a lot happening in my life, and I never actually became a dog groomer, but that is a story for another day. I will tell you that I was always on the prowl for the “love of my life”. I just knew that there would be bells ringing when I met him and it would be love at first sight. In fact, every time I met a handsome boy, I would pause to listen for the ringing of bells. However, at that point when I met Josh, I had given my heart to another love. Even though I had been a Christian since I was twelve years old, I was in a broken place and I was desperately seeking to know God more. Romance was the furthest thing from my mind.

It’s funny how Joshua and I met, because, as I said, I was a romantic person. I always knew it would be a romantic setting when I met “him”.  The part that’s funny is that it was romantic, and I didn’t even realize it. There were no bells and I had no idea that I had just met the boy, who would become the man, that I would spend the rest of my life with.

It was September 1990. A group of us from University Christian Fellowship (UCF) were on a moonlight canoe trip. We were all floating down the water together. It was peaceful, with the splashing of water as the paddles struck, crickets chirping and the bright moon shining above us. occasionally the quiet was interrupted  by squeals of laughter of friendly chatter from nearby boats. I was with my friend Laura, and we were slow rowers. Another boat started coming over to us. It was a boy with wispy blond hair and blue eyes, rowing an older lady. (I’ve always had a thing for boys with blond hair and blue eyes, but still, no bells rang!) We introduced ourselves. He was Josh. We made friendly conversation, and I was curious about him. I wondered why he had chosen to row an older lady around, instead of grouping up with the other young people. That was the extent of my curiosity. Strangely, I don’t remember a whole lot from that night, but meeting him is clear in my memory. As for rowing the lady, now I know that it’s just who he is. He loves people and seeks to help.

I went back to Pennsylvania for a few months before deciding to move permanently to Kentucky. Shortly after I moved here, into a house with another girl from UCF, three of the guys from UCF were out for a walk and stopped by to visit. One of them was Josh. The other two guys ran down the road for a minute and Josh and I were left sitting on the front porch.

From the very beginning, our conversations were always inquisitive. We would ask each other questions and have fairly deep chats. That day on the porch I realized that Josh and I were from two different worlds. He was a southern boy, through and through. he grew up in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood, with a mom and a dad. He was smart, well-educated and well-traveled. I was a yankee. I was raised by a single mom. We were poor. I had barely traveled outside of Pennsylvania. School was something I had to do, and I was by no means a scholar.

We also discovered that we had things in common. We both loved kids.We also both had hearts for kids with special needs. I had spent three years in highscool as a volunteer, working with handicapped children. One of my jobs while in school was taking care of a severely handicapped boy several evenings a week. He was a camp counselor, working with handicapped children. Right away that captured my attention. I could tell that behind this slightly cocky exterior, there was a big heart.

Less than a year after we met, We both committed to a summer long Christian discipleship program through the student organization and church that we were attending. (Christian Training School class of 91!) It was an amazing summer, full of growth in God, building lasting relationships and growing up.

I was a bit antagonistic towards Josh during the first few weeks of CTS. I was insecure and I had a chip on my shoulder. I saw myself as a street smart northern girl, and I wasn’t too fond of the preppy southern boy. I was mean to him, and I was extremely defensive. We even got in a shouting match after a meeting one night. (There have been several others since that night!)

However, something in my heart changed after we were all together in a room praying one night. He was praying out loud, and I was so touched by his love for God and his desire to serve God. I thought to myself, “I want to serve God with him, for the rest of my life.” The differences didn’t matter. I loved his heart. I wondered if he would ever be able to love me.

I went to an older friend and told her how I was feeling. She encouraged me to just wait and pray and see what would come of it. That’s what I did. I wasn’t always patient, and I don’t think my feelings for him were a secret, even though I tried to be discreet about them. This waiting went on for three years. We were great friends during that time, but I was anxiously waiting for him to realize that I was “the one”.

After three years of this, I decided that he was not interested. I was tired of the emotion that I spent waiting for him. I decided to just let it go. I had no idea that I could turn it off just like that, but I did.

Once that happened, our friendship became even stronger. He started showing up at my house to see if I wanted to go for a walk. He helped me frame tons of preschool artwork for an art show at the daycare where I worked. He would sometimes swing by my work to play with the little kids that I taught, or to drive me home. It seemed that he was always looking out for me. I was blessed by our deepening friendship, but had no romantic ideas whatsoever. It was honestly the furthest thing from my mind.

In the summer of 1994 a group of us went on a mission trip to Mexico. He was getting ready to start Medical school, so he was part of the medical team. He was also fluent in Spanish and did a lot of translating. I was part of the work team. I sanded iron fences, swept floors and tried to keep the children occupied. I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. or Mixteco, but I was expected to entertain a large amount of children. On our first trip to the mountains I gathered a large group of children. They were staring at me expectantly. I had no idea what to do with them! On a whim, I picked up a ball and started running. They all started running after me! We laughed and screamed and played made up games. The girls braided my hair and touched my white skin. The little boys flirted and tried to get me to chase them. I blew bubbles and passed out candy. It was one of the best days of my life! I was oblivious to anything else.

Joshua tells me that he and our pastor were standing on a balcony watching. Josh commented that it was amazing because I didn’t even speak their language. Our pastor said something like, “Yes she does. She speaks the language of love and they understand that.” Josh says that in that moment he knew that he loved me and wanted to marry me.

On that same trip I watched him interacting with people. He was so kind and genuine. This time I thought to myself, “I want to be a part of whatever he is a part of until I die.” I wasn’t thinking that it meant I had to marry him. I just knew that he was good man and I wanted to follow him.

The rest is pretty much history. It wasn’t hard to figure out that his feelings towards me had changed, and it wasn’t hard for me to open my heart to him again. We were gaga over each other and everyone knew it. Things were progressing quickly.

Things suddenly changed when Josh decided that we needed to take a “break”. He said we needed spend some time apart. I didn’t understand that at all.That was a difficult time for me, but now I am so glad that we had that time.

Josh needed that time to get past all of the emotion and prayerfully decide if he was ready for marriage. He didn’t want to destroy a precious friendship by rushing into something. He needed to be sure that once we started this thing, it would be to move towards marriage.

Here is a soapbox moment: Far too many people enter into a marriage because of how the other person makes them “feel”. The problem is that feelings change. You have to know who you are marrying, and sometimes feelings hinder truly getting to know someone. Also, far too many people enter into marriage lightly. I believe that marriage is a promise that you make to each other before God. That is a very serious matter! I am extremely thankful that my husband always has and always will value the covenant of marriage.

Anyway, back to the story: Once again, I was waiting for Josh and I wasn’t too happy about it. I spent lot of time in prayer and talking to a few trusted friends about the situation. One morning I woke up with a strong desire to spend the whole day with God. I lived in a house with several other girls and sometimes it was difficult to be alone. I went to a little room behind our garage and prayed and worshipped. I had a wonderful day and God met me there in that little room. I didn’t know if I was going to marry Josh or not, but I knew that God was my father, had a plan for my life and cared more about who I would marry than I ever could.

Once again, I moved on. I loved Jesus. He was my first love! I was no longer worried about what was going to happen between Josh and I. I still loved him and I hoped that he was the one, but I honestly put it in the Lord’s hands.

A few weeks after that back room encounter with God,in May of 1995, Josh showed up at my job and asked if he could drive me home. My first reaction was fear. No way was I going to put my heart out there again! I was done waiting for him to make up his mind, and I told him that. I wanted to know what his intentions were. He told me that he wanted to marry me. I still didn’t quite trust him, so the first place I made him take me was to a friend’s house. It was a friend who Josh had been talking through all of this with. I asked him if Josh was serious this time and he assured me that this time it was for real.

After a short courtship, we got engaged. On June 15, 1996 we were married, and we have been serving God together ever since.

I may be biased, but I think that we have an exceptional marriage. Our house has always been filled with laughter. We enjoy being together. After eighteen years, we still hold hands, snuggle on the couch and have long chats. We go on dates, we have coffee together, and we sit on the porch swing side by side. Even I am amazed that it never gets old!

We have had some hard times. Medical school and residency were hard! We have suffered losses and cried together. We’ve lost several babies, we’ve been through very high-risk pregnancies, adoptions, difficult parenting situations, job worries, financial difficulties and periods where living together was not fun. We are not perfect and we have both had issues to work though. It has caused strain on our marriage at times. I have had to forgive him for things, and he certainly has had to forgive me.

In spite of the hard times, We have had a wonderful life together. God has blessed us with five kids. We have the little farm that we always dreamed of. We are giving our life to good things and serving God together.

Somewhere in the midst of those hard times we have learned to turn to each other rather than away from each other. We have learned to be partners and work together. I love who we have become together and who our family is because of that. Yes, we still have to forgive each other. Yes, there are hard parts and stressful times. But at the end of the day, there is a sweetness and a preciousness that I never could have imagined.

I love my husband, He is sweet, kind and generous. He loves God. He loves me and our children. He loves people. He is a great man and a humble servant. He casts vision and he holds the line. He pushes himself and our family and the people he loves towards excellence. He sees the potential in people and he pushes them until they become who he knows they are meant to be. I love him more than ever and I am so thankful that I get to be the woman that he comes home to.

After being married for nearly eighteen years, I just want to say that saying yes to him was the second best decision that I ever made. (Saying yes to my Heavenly Father will always be the first!)I still want to serve God with him for the rest of my life. We’ve spent the last eighteen years working out all the kinks and learning to live and love together. The next eighteen years are going to be amazing!

The Standard

The Standard

First, a confession. My house is not up to standard right now. I could make excuses, but I won’t. However, I’m working hard to get it there today.

You may be asking, “What is the standard?” Well, several years ago my husband and I realized that we had different standards of how the house should look. My standards were at the basic sanitary, survival level.  His standards were very high (or so I thought). The house has been an area of contention for us since the beginning of our marriage. if we had a fight, there was a 90% chance that it was about the condition of the house.

I was not very receptive to his “input”. If he pointed out an area that needed improvement, I got defensive. If he tried to help, I became very angry. If he looked at the dirty floor funny, he was likely to get his head bit off. If he asked why he didn’t have matching socks, World War 3 was on the verge of starting!

During one of our heated discussions, we got friends involved. One friend suggested that we come up with a agreed upon “standard”. I needed to raise my standards, and, as it turned out, he didn’t need to lower his all that much. My perception of his standards was wrong.

Coming up with standard was easy, but it took a while (long while) for my heart to change. I simply did not want to be called up to his standards. I felt like I could not do it. I was too busy. I didn’t have enough “me” time. I was tired. I have five children. I homeschool. I was full of excuses. Things were actually better and my husband wasn’t complaining, but my heart was not in a good place.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend! It took a friend calling me out that really caused me to take a look at my heart. I got on my knees before God and begged him to reveal my heart to me and to change me. I decided that I was going to be like Jacob. I was going to wrestle with God until he touched me and made a permanent change in me. At the end of that process I realized something. I realized that I was lazy! If anyone would have told me that I was lazy before that moment, I probably would have punched them. But, I am so glad that God revealed that to me and I am a different person now. It was an issue that had permeated every area of my life!

As I said earlier, my house hasn’t been up to standard. I have to ask myself, is it laziness or something else? I think it is related to a very busy past few weeks. But, I always have to be aware of my tendencies.

Anyway, I have an idea. At our church building we have pictures in each room of what that room should look like. After each group uses that room, they look at the picture as a reference, to get the room back up to standard. I think it is very helpful! So I am not going to do that in my house. (Although, maybe I should.) I am going to put pictures of the up to standard rooms here on my blog. It’s for me to reference, and just maybe it will help you as well. There is only one room there right now! So, up first is the mudroom.

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Morning Date and a Birthday Girl

Morning Date and a Birthday Girl

I woke up at 5:30 this morning and decided to go ahead and get up. To my surprise, my husband joined me. I made coffee and he used up the last of our firewood to build us a fire. We had a blissfully quiet hour and a half to sit, talk and pray together. What a lovely start to the day.

On the agenda for today is school, laundry and cleaning. Tonight the girls and I are going to a  concert for Meredith’s birthday.

I still can’t believe that my  first baby is turning fifteen tomorrow! I can’t believe that this girl that started out at 5 pounds 11 ounces is now taller than me! I am so proud of her. She has a beautiful heart. She loves God and she loves people. She is strong and smart and passionate. Part of me wants to put the breaks on so that she can be my little girl forever. But, I am also so excited to see God’s plans for her life unfold.

Well, I am off to a late start, so I better get everyone up and get this day started. Here we go!

Sunday

Sunday

The brunch yesterday morning was so much fun! It was a time for the women from my church and few of our friends to be together and fellowship. The food was Uh-mazin (As my daughter would say.) The conversations were sweet. We absolutely need to do this on a more regular basis.

The most fun part came at the very end when we had to team together to push a minivan that was stuck in the mud. That was a memory maker for sure! I laugh every time I think about it. My husband didn’t laugh when he saw the yard, but it’ll grow back. Right?

Yesterday I also went and got my hair done. I’d take a picture, but I have bed head right now. I got there a little early, so I ran into Marshall’s. I was looking for a napkin holder for my table and I found a nice one. As I was leaving, I found some peacock stuff. I have a peacock bedspread and I have been wanting to work that motif into my room a little more. That is besides the point though, because this was kitchen stuff. However, my bedroom is right beside my kitchen, so I decided to expand the peacock kingdom. I needed something new for my buffet and it was perfect. I did not buy the dishes, but rather a few accent pieces. I came home and set it all up. Joshua was impressed. I told him that they had dishes that I didn’t buy, because we don’t need dishes. To this he replied, “I think we might need some.” We really don’t. I put away all of my breakable dishes a while back and invested in a ton of white corelle. Maybe he is bored with the white. Or, maybe he just likes to spoil me. He’s a sweet and generous man.

This morning we will be going to church. Afterwords my husband will take the two older kids to their “Young adult” meeting, and then he will take my son to orchestra. Meanwhile, my new friend Jeni is coming home with me for lunch and garden planning. We are going to have a big garden here on my farm. We have the space and she has the skill. It should be a lot of fun, and a very productive way to build a friendship.

After that, I am making Pioneer Woman’s baked ziti for our home fellowship tonight.We will stop in at home fellowship for a few minutes, and then we will be off to my son’s concert. Whew! Busy, busy, busy!

Well, that was a whole lot of rambling. Now it’s time to wake some kids up so that some Latin homework can be completed before church. As my friend Elizabeth always says, Onward and upward! Have a great day.