A Letter to My Belly Baby

I wrote this just two weeks before Luke was born, and it will be the first one in his scrapbook. Working on Bennett’s birthday letter reminded me that I never published Luke’s pre-birth-day letter!

My Luke Bryant,

Here I sit, mere days from finally getting to see your precious face, and I’m filled with hopeful expectation, both for that wonderful moment, and for all the moments the Lord has planned for you. I wonder who you’ll look like, what you’ll love, where you’ll find your joy. As I wonder and imagine the possibilities, my greatest prayer for you is that the ultimate answer for all these things in your life will be Jesus. Whether you have brown eyes or blue, light hair or dark, I want more than anything for people to see the Lord shining through your heart. Whether you love baseball or books, whether you take joy in music or mathematics, may you discover that our King holds the only true key to your heart’s desires. I am so excited to learn about you every day for the rest of my life, and I count it among my greatest privileges to show you how uniquely God created you — every little detail of who you are — to shine for His glory.

May you find Him and love Him and serve Him, so that you bring light to all who know you. That is what your name means. Luke means “light,” so I pray that you find THE Light and shine for Him. Bryant means “strong,” and so I pray that you learn what true strength is and from Whom it comes. He is your Light and your Strength. Look to Him in all things, and He will never forsake you.

As we learn and grow together through the years ahead, this will always be my prayer for you. Please forgive the ways I will fail you — because I know I will, every day — and remember instead what my heart’s desire is for you. Shine your light, and remember that Jesus will give you the strength to do it.

Love,
Mommy

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
-Matthew 5:14-16

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
-Joshua 1:9

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Reflecting on Year Three of Homemaking

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been three years already! Today marks my third anniversary of becoming a full-time homemaker. Around my 2-year anniversary last June, I posted four goals for the upcoming year:

  1. Homeschooling
  2. Potty Training
  3. Balance
  4. Vegetables

Whelp! Let’s start off with total transparency: I completely forgot that there were four goals until just right now, when I looked up my old post. I thought there were three. Oops! And to make it worse, even though I thought there were three, I couldn’t remember what #3 was! You might think this means I didn’t take my goals very seriously, but that’s actually not the case.

Homeschooling and potty training were the two I remembered, and they were definitely my two “biggies” this year. While I didn’t remember that balance and vegetables were also on the “official” list, I was still actively working on them! God is so gracious. So, here’s how it went:

Homeschooling…
is difficult. BUT! Worth it! I predicted last summer that this would be my biggest undertaking of the year, and I was right. It was a major change, but it taught me so much about my boy. We had a lot of struggles, because our curriculum ended up not being the best fit, which made me THROW a fit, because I did not want to do heavy lesson planning! Once I got over that, though, and just buckled down and did what I already know how to do — since I was a school teacher in a past life — it got crazy awesome. Turns out, Bennett L-O-V-E-S school! He doesn’t care if we’re learning about the letter y or about ankylosauruses, about AABB patterns or Scripture, he just LOVES it. Every day, he asks if we’re going to “learn about school” today. It’s just about the only thing he will drop everything for, besides ice cream or Daddy coming home. Once I pressed in and found some supplementary things that worked for us, it just got beautiful. My kid memorizes entire passages of Scripture, and loves it! What an eternal work we’re doing here, sowing seeds for the future, planting truth deep in his heart. This is the best, and I might just homeschool forever. Except I totally don’t want to, except that I totally do. I’ll keep you posted on what God wants, since that’s a bit more important.

Potty Training…
was just about the worst time in my life. It’s worse than having a newborn. BUT! We’re through it. He’s potty trained. Still in pull-ups at night, but that’s an awfully long time for a little bladder. He makes it through naps, but not through the night yet. That will come. I’m choosing not to stress about it. I’m choosing to call this a victory!!! Potty training is a battlefield, and I may have scars, but I am victorious. Poop and pee are defeated and banished to the potty!

Balance…
is elusive. I’m learning. My word this calendar year is Simplicity. I have to let some things go, and choose to focus on the right things — The Things God points out.

THIS is important.
THIS is eternal.
THIS will be remembered.
THIS is the Lord’s work.

THAT is nice, but it is lesser.
THAT is temporal.
THAT, despite all your hard work, will be forgotten in a week.
THAT is just busy work.

♥ I’m working on it. ♥

Vegetables…
are becoming my friends! I didn’t actually keep a log of vegetable-serving frequency, but it *feels* like more. So, I can’t really quantify that and call it a victory. I can, however, say that my attitude has changed. Instead of, “Oh, I guess there should be a vegetable,” I’m all, “We need to have a salad night,” and, “I feel gross if I haven’t had any vegetables in a day or two.” MAJOR victory for me! Major. Still working on this one, too, but I can only go up from here. Even more telling is that my child loves carrots, green beans, broccoli, and peas! Like, he will eat them before anything else on his plate. I’ve made it a normal part of eating since he started solids, and so it’s normal to him. Let’s pray his taste buds don’t rebel in the next few years!

In conclusion: It’s been a year of much learning, growing, and victory! Stay tuned for my new goals for year four, which I’ll hopefully post soonish. Since I have no idea what these goals will be, I don’t know how long it will be before I post about them. But I *would* like to hear about *your* last year or so. How are things going for you? Have you had any victories and/or learning experiences in homemaking/parenting/life? I’d love to know, and be encouraged with you.

Homemaking: Goals for Year Three

Now that you know how I did on last year’s goals, it’s time to share my objectives for this new year!

Homeschooling
While I am not currently planning to homeschool long-term, I do want to be more intentional with instructional opportunities now. Bennett is at a really sponge-y and eager age, and I want to make sure I don’t miss this window! A dear friend shared with me a preschool curriculum called ABC Jesus Loves Me, and it has a tw2 Imageo-year-old curriculum! I plan to do it just a few days a week, and we will be learning about God, listening to Bible stories, and memorizing simple verses in addition to academic work. We will be beginning in August when all the other kids start school. (Whoa. What a big boy!) This is going to be a BIG change. I have a great schedule going right now that I love, with library visits, exercise, parks, play dates, etc., on various days of the week. I’ll have to do some shifting around to make this happen, while still prioritizing outside play and peer interaction. Homeschooling is probably my biggest undertaking for this year, but I’m very excited about it!

Potty Training
Okay, so those of you ahead of me on this journey might say that THIS will be my biggest undertaking for this year! I certainly don’t have a specific timeline on this as far as when to start, because my boy is definitely not currently ready. However, he is beginning to show some signs, and so I’m hoping that by this time next year, he will be all Superman underoos and no diapers! Woo!

Balance
This past year, and really just specifically in the past few months, I have definitely felt God leading me in certain areas of service that utilize my spiritual gifts. It has been a really amazing journey full of confirmations through Scripture, prayer, sermons, friends, books… and I don’t even remember what else, but it has been really encouraging and empowering to receive the same message from multiple, unrelated sources. That being said, I definitely still need to grow in balancing what I believe to be this calling on my life with the more immediate and higher calling to be a godly, intentional, and very present wife and mother. In trying to figure out this journey, I have struggled with how to continue prioritizing homemaking and how not to put unfair stress on my family because “I just need some time to finish this!” Basically, I need to be creative with finding time, and I need to learn when to say no for the good of my family. I’m already growing in this area, but I still have a lot to learn!

Vegetables
I need to eat more of them and feed my family more of them. I’ve made great strides; really, I have. If you knew what I ate on a regular basis even just a few years ago, you would be amazed at how far I’ve come! I’m far from being an organic, whole-foods guru — and I doubt I ever will be — but I am fairly regularly serving green beans, broccoli, sweet potato wedges (okay, fries — but they’re baked!), peas, corn, or beans at dinner. This is a major accomplishment, but I definitely need to prioritize expanding my culinary skills and my palate’s tolerance level for vegetables. Recipes, anyone? (Easy ones?)

I’m sure if I kept thinking, I could easily come up with more things I need to improve. However, I found success last year with a list of four things, so I’m going with that same approach this time around! Thoughts and ideas are welcome! Also, I’d love to hear about any goals you have for this next year! (Thinking in academic years can work well for many of us with kids, so I feel comfortable asking you even though it’s not January! 🙂 )

Reflecting on Year Two of Homemaking

On June 4, I “celebrated” (okay, acknowledged) my two-year anniversary as a full-time homemaker! I realized it was a little late to get a post out on time, which I regret, but, you know, who cares? I’m just glad that I have the date marked down to observe! I got over the regret quickly and resolved to think about what I shared on my one-year anniversary, and what goals I should make now.

A quick list of my goals a year ago:checkbox checked

  • Exercising
  • Limiting computer use
  • Getting out of the house
  • Serving

[If you want more details about these goals (or what I actually termed “a few things that I still really suck at”), check out that post at the link above. ]

Okay I’m going to get real here. I completely forgot about this post listing things I suck(ed) at. Completely. Yet I’ve met or at least made progress on all of them! God is so good, and this is why everyone should journal! If I hadn’t had this post from a year ago to reference, I would have completely missed God’s specific answers to my prayers. Consequently, I would have failed to praise Him for His sovereignty, wisdom, and tenderness in leading me through these areas of growth!

A year ago, I called myself the pillsbury doughmom. I couldn’t figure out a workable plan for exercise with so much other stuff going on (namely, my son not napping well). Today, I ran more miles than I would have ever thought possible at one time (for me) — my personal best! My right hip is aching, and I am pretty sure I’ve developed arthritis in my left knee because of all this running, but I have probably never been this healthy in my life. Although I only run 2-3 times a week, it’s part of my routine that I’ve come to crave. I don’t exactly enjoy it, but I need it. I feel the difference in my body and in my general emotional well-being.

A year ago, I struggled with getting sucked in to Facebook and blog-reading. Today, I still struggle with that a bit here and there, but tremendously less so than a year ago. I simply don’t have time. (You may have noticed that I almost never blog; this is also because I don’t have time!) My son, now nearly two years old, is so busy that it’s impossible to be on the computer like I used to be. This is a great thing! How much more important and rewarding is it to invest in exploring outside, or singing and dancing together to extremely loud music, or reading THE truck book again (“Mamma! Read it!”), or wrestling, or tickling, or chasing, or spinning, or running, or hiding-and-seeking, or ______. Infinitely. Infinitely more important and rewarding.

A year ago, I was a slave to my baby’s schedule and never wanted to deal with all the packing up and planning that went into leaving the house. Today, there is rarely a day when we DON’T go somewhere! Granted, hauling a two-year-old is easier than hauling an infant, in my opinion, but this is definitely somewhere I’ve intentionally grown. I found story times, and we go twice a week. I joined a gym that has an AWESOME kids’ club, and we go two or three times a week. We go to the park (a lot) and to the zoo and to play dates. Today, I find this section from last year’s post a little prophetic:

I have a feeling that my little boy might be all critters and baseball and dirt like his daddy, so I need to do my part in not confining him to the house. How boring for a little boy anyway! We need to get out into the wide world, meeting people and getting our toes dirty.

That he is, and that we have! This introverted reader/writer is way out of her comfort zone with all this activity, but she has to admit that it is pretty fun.

And a year ago, I recognized how I wasn’t serving others outside of my immediate family. Today, serving my church is a major part of my life. I’ve grown in teaching and discipleship, and I’m very active in serving the women’s ministry and in the nursery. I’ve participated once in a neighborhood outreach where we brought food and hope to those in need, and it was a profound experience for me. I hope to go again. As I connect with people through the gym and the library, I’m praying for ways to encourage new friends and show them Whom I serve and why. Recently, we purchased a zoo pass that allows us to bring a guest for free. The idea was both to save money and to use it as a ministry. I’ve gone a few times and invited mom-friends, and I hope to be able to use this to reach out to new mom-friends I don’t know that well. As a result of reading a really amazing book called Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, I am getting bolder in simply being a Jesus-follower publicly. To know what I mean by that, read the book. 🙂 Although I’m far from having “arrived” in the area of service, I’m undoubtedly growing.

Year Two? A success! Praise God for His faithfulness! Come back soon to read about my goals for Year Three.

Embarking on Year Two of Homemaking

Yesterday, I shared with you lessons I learned in my first year of homemaking. Lest you run the risk of thinking that I’m Holly Homemaker, with everything figured out and wearing high heels and pearls as I chase my 10-month-old, I wanted to share with you just a few things that I still really suck at (sorry that’s not kid-friendly language, but I doubt any toddlers are reading this…). So, this is that list. And I suppose it’s a goal-setting post as well, because no one wants to keep sucking at things, right? Here we go:

Exercise
This is a biggie, so that’s why it’s first. Shortly after I was cleared for exercise following my C-section recovery, I started P90x. It was awesome and really, really hard. But I lost weight FAST (nursing helped a lot with this, too), and was gaining muscle tone and endurance. I was so happy with how things were going, but then everything just derailed. As my little one got more mobile and also started sleeping less during the day, and as I started prioritizing Bible study, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, and keeping my house clean, it just became impossible to continue P90x. I have to figure something out, though. I’m turning into the pillsbury doughmom.

Limiting computer use
This seems silly in light of my lament above, but let me explain. I use the computer mostly while I’m nursing my son to sleep in the afternoon, and at times when he is really just into playing on his own and rejects me as a playmate! Sadly, I am too easily sucked into Facebook. I love looking at people’s pictures, following links to blogs and articles that interest, inspire, or infuriate me, and just generally seeing what people are up to. And everyone loves notifications, be honest. So what is a somewhat limited approach to computer use becomes a more frequent check-in just to see if I have notifications, and then, oh, let me scroll down just a bit and see what people are up to, and now I’m on the computer again when I didn’t plan to be. I really like the blogs Hands Free Mama and The Unplugged Family, and ironically, reading them has really kicked my butt back into being more strict with computer use for about a week now. If you see me on Facebook, please treat me with grace — I’m working on it! I’m trying to find ways to use my time wisely while still being able to keep a close eye on my little one, and I’m also keeping in mind that I don’t want him to be obsessed with the computer. I need to model the behavior I desire to see in him; that’s Teaching 101!! I’ve got this!

Getting out of the house
Yesterday, I emphasized having a routine. There are two caveats: First, if you have a newborn, forgetaboutit. Just sleep as much as you can and try to squeeze in showers every other day! Second, the schedule is there to serve you, and not the other way around! I have to remind myself of that. Whenever I want or need to get out of the house, I’m already thinking ahead to when the baby will be sleepy or hungry, which is obviously good and responsible. It’s not the best idea to leave 20 minutes before he’s supposed to take a nap. However, there is always something coming up in the schedule. If it’s not nap time, it’s snack time. If it’s not snack time, it’s lunch time. If it’s not lunch time, it’s time to nurse. (My baby is kind of a bottomless pit.) Since something’s always coming up within the next 30 minutes, I often don’t want to mess with packing up snacks or whatever, so we just stay in. Well, I have a feeling that my little boy might be all critters and baseball and dirt like his daddy, so I need to do my part in not confining him to the house. How boring for a little boy anyway! We need to get out into the wide world, meeting people and getting our toes dirty. (Personally, I’m not usually itching to get out of the house, because I like it. It’s homey. It has all my stuff. But I’d like for my kid to learn to be friendlier than I am, and I need to get out there and be friendlier, too!)

Serving
This goes along with the previous point. My church participates monthly at a food pantry during the day, but I’ve never gone. Part of this is because nap time is in the middle of it, and part of it is because I wonder how much serving I can actually get done with an almost-toddler on my hip. So I’ve never gone. Also, my church has periodic movie nights in a nearby neighborhood to reach out to young families. They usually start around dinner time, and it’s pretty close to the time we start winding the baby down for bed. So I’ve never gone to that, either. I believe very strongly that my primary ministry is to my family, and I know that discipling my son and loving and encouraging my husband is a very worthy calling. As a homemaker, pretty much my entire life is serving. Somehow, though, I just feel like I should be serving others outside my family as well, and outside of my church family. The poor. The unsaved. The least of these, as it were. Right now, I’m doing zero. Well, that’s not true. I’m praying a lot, which is the very best thing I can do. And now I’ve encouraged myself! But still, food for thought.

That’s what I’ve got for now, and it is by far not everything I suck at. These are just my top things. Prayers appreciated. 😉

Tips for the Beginning Homemaker

It’s been exactly one year since my official career change from full-time public school teacher to full-time homemaker. While I still VERY MUCH consider myself a beginning homemaker, I do want to share a few things that I’ve learned over the past year. These are not new ideas at all, and I probably could have easily come up with them if I’d sat down to make a list of guidelines on day one. However, it’s taken a year of really digging into the daily business of homemaking — especially after having my first baby — to really begin to understand how foundational these things are to my mental and spiritual health, as well as to my general success in homemaking.

This list is not exhaustive, and just because it’s on my list doesn’t mean I’m an expert at it. It just means that these are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned and am still learning. I mess up in some way every day, and it usually relates to one of these. And then the beauty of it is that, so far, God has given me another day to try again. Here is my “Top Ten List”:

Know your job title.
Isn’t it awkward when someone asks you, “What do you do?” and you’re like, “Oh, I just stay at home.” Why are we denigrating our worth and propagating the myth that we “just” remain in our houses? Oh my goodness! If I “just” stayed at home, a whole lot of things would go awry. So forget the “just.” Also forget the “stay at home.” Look at that verb! What is it that you do? You stay? Is that really an adequate description of the main business of your day? Not leaving your house? Pooh! As an extension of this idea, I have abandoned the term “stay-at-home-mom.” In its place, I have adopted the title of “Homemaker”! Now that’s a job with quite a description behind it, and a whole lot of worth attached to it. Although both terms are typically treated as synonymous, I just have a totally different image in my mind for each. While the “SAHM” watches TV, plays on the internet, and slowly loses muscle mass in her yoga pants that are really never used for yoga, the Homemaker is hard at work! In addition to the daily upkeep of her house, she’s looking for ways to make it a home. She’s raising children (That’s a tough job, by the way. Why else would daycare be expensive? Ever think about that? It’s physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually taxing. Don’t downplay that.). She’s learning how to be a better cook. Maybe she has a garden. Maybe she cans preserves. Maybe she sews. Maybe she homeschools. But the idea here is that she is busy with an important, lasting, and impactful work. She does not “just” stay at home. For me, calling myself a homemaker gives me something to live up to. It’s a difficult and meaningful job that I am constantly growing into. I do not have to learn how to stay in my house, nor is much skill or effort required to do so.

Have a schedule for your day.
Those who fail to plan, plan to fail, and they end up on the internet all day watching YouTube videos and clicking “refresh” on Facebook. Don’t do that. If you do, then call yourself a SAHM. Ha! Just kidding. But whether it’s a written and detailed schedule you follow, or general outlines in your mind for what you need to do in the morning and in the afternoon, have a plan. It’s like setting goals. You won’t reach them if you don’t set them. Also, establishing routines for my baby has been a lifesaver. He knows what to expect, his little body gets sleepy and hungry at exactly the right times, and it just makes life easier for both of us. I know when we can go out and when we can’t, which almost eliminates public meltdowns — mine or his!

Make Bible study and prayer a top priority. Like brushing your teeth.
Seriously. No matter what is happening, barring a natural disaster, there is never a day that I don’t brush my teeth. Ever. Isn’t spending time with God more important? (Don’t ask your dentist that question.) Seek the Lord every day with a whole heart. Maybe right before you brush your teeth.

Get up early.
This is not difficult if you have young kids, because they will probably wake you up. But if you’re in a situation where sleeping in is possible, don’t make it a practice. It may feel nice to get those extra hours of rest, but generally sleeping in is a recipe for a non-productive day.

Go to bed at the same time as your husband (assuming he has a regular daytime work schedule).
Some people may object to the previous point, saying that sometimes they’re up super-late doing whatever important thing it is that needed doing. My advice to you on that one is to go to bed. If something is undone, leave it that way. If you order your day so that the non-negotiable things get done, while the lesser things are left for free time, then you’re unlikely to be facing late nights with things you “have” to get done. And it’s better for your marriage if you go to bed at the same time. You know what I’m talking about.

Do laundry and dishes every day.
I used to get SO MAD at laundry and dishes, and consequently, at the people who dirtied them. What the heck? Why is ____ wearing 72 articles of clothing in a day? Why did ____ use three different glasses today for water? I JUST washed the darks. I JUST emptied the sink. AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH! Okay, and so I was in a constant state of frustration and resentment over people simply living life. Clothes get dirty. Dishes get used. Every day. Multiple times a day. Treat laundry and dishes like showering. It’s fairly non-negotiable. You can skip a day, sure. But skip two… oh man. Now it’s smelly. Just stay on top of it and do laundry and dishes every day. Only the size of your family will determine how many loads per day are necessary to stay on top of it; start with one or two and see how it goes. And skip Sundays. No one should do laundry on Sundays. It’s in the Bible.

Start thinking about dinner around lunch time.
Many, many nights in my house have gone down like this:

Him: (around 6 p.m.) Hey, honey, what’s for dinner?
Me: (responding defensively, wondering why everyone always looks at me asking for food) I don’t know. Do you have a plan?
Him: (responding carefully) Well, do we have anything to cook? Do you want to order pizza? Chinese?

I’m left feeling lousy for not having my act together and shifting the responsibility onto my unsuspecting husband, and he’s left frustrated that the responsibility has been shifted to him at the last minute, but trying to figure out how to balance that frustration with being an understanding and helpful husband. No one wins, and we end up overpaying for delivery and eating too much grease. Ugh. Solution? Make a decision about what dinner is going to be while you’re eating lunch. That gives you time to run to the store for an ingredient, if necessary, or to defrost the chicken, or to do some prep-work during nap time so you’re not so rushed and flustered come early evening. It just keeps everybody sane, and a bit healthier. (As an extension to this idea, it REALLY helps to meal plan for the week and go shopping all at once. Saves gas and time, too.)

Have a schedule for household chores.
So you may have gathered by now that I’m a schedule person. Why yes, I am; nice to meet you! I have lists and charts and calendars, and I love it! Otherwise, I feel like I’m just ambling along, letting circumstances dictate my day, and I end up getting nothing that is very important done. To help with this, and to aid in learning hospitality, I developed a schedule for always keeping my home at an acceptable level of cleanliness. I am not a clean freak, but I am when I have people coming over. So, my early years of marriage were spent in a messy apartment, with a husband who wanted to invite people over, but with me refusing because it was so stressful to clean the whole place at once AND figure out food. Forget it! Let’s meet them at Chili’s! Now, I’ve learned to keep my house generally (but certainly not perfectly) clean all the time by keeping a schedule. Then if we want to invite people over, it’s only a few minutes of extra tidying that needs doing. And besides, we’re just all more comfortable in a clean space.

Be frugal.
Only purchase things you need, and evaluate your definition of “need.” Shop the ads for your groceries — you don’t have to go all over town; Walmart price-matches all local ads — and clip coupons. Look on the discount racks first at department stores, and seriously consider thrift stores and garage sales when you need clothes or household goods. For most of us, the choice to give up a paying job to be a full-time homemaker is a sacrifice, so keep that in mind. No matter how united you and your husband are on the idea that the money he makes is “our” money, he’s human. If you are not making money, but you’re spending the money he makes like nobody’s business on things you don’t need and/or can’t afford, it will be very difficult for him to not resent you. His resentment is his issue, sure, but your wastefulness and disrespect is yours.

Accept that this season of life will be different.
I am a writer. I thought, when I was pregnant and wearing rose-colored glasses, that I would be able to finish my novels while my baby slept. I mean, babies sleep a lot, right?! Ha! I was nuts. What a completely unrealistic plan I had. Maybe if I had a maid, and a nanny… Alas, this is life with little ones. Life will change; babies will grow up, (oh I have a lump in my throat at the thought!), and there will be new opportunities to more fully pursue personal dreams. Right now, my highest calling is to pour into my little one and constantly whisper the love of Jesus to him. And to talk sweetly to him when he accidentally leaks poop down his leg. What better job is there? Oh, but it’s just for a season.

Those are the biggest lessons that I’ve learned, and that I have to remind myself to keep learning very frequently. Tomorrow, I’ll share some of the things that I really still suck at, but I wanted today — my one-year homemaking anniversary — to be positive! What are some lessons you’ve learned as a homemaker?