January 29, 2015

The Mommy Pep Talk I Just Gave Myself (Because I Have a Stubborn Child)


Mother of a Stubborn Child.

Woman who came pretty darn close to turning in her resignation papers this morning:

You got this.

I know, I know. Some days can be really hard.

Like those days when you have play dates, and the Mommies spend the entire time playing Police Officer because your child cannot for the life of her learn to share. And you wonder why you don't just stay home so Toddler can have all of the toys (and you) to herself.

Or like those other days when you actually feel kind of afraid to say “No” to Toddler, because you know the Tantrum-Storm that will immediately come your way. (Complete with throwing herself to the ground and what the Bible calls “Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth.”)

Or like those days when you tell Toddler to say “Please,” or to give Grandpa a hug, or to be nice to her Aunt, and she lifts up her arm like she is going to try to backhand you instead. (Complete with that Stink Face that makes your blood boil.)

But Self, it’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.

Because remember when Toddler was younger, and there were so many things you thought would never happen?

Like, remember how you thought she would never sleep through the night? And then many months and consistent bedtime routines later, she finally learned to sleep a full twelve hours?

And remember all of those times when you thought she would never stop slapping your face? But then many weeks, scoldings, and spankings later, she finally stopped doing that?

And Toddler is not the only one who has grown. You have grown up in a lot of  ways too:

Just think, it has been almost a year and a half since you cried for an hour with your child through her first major bowel movement.

It has been almost sixteen months since you hucked that musical seahorse as hard as you could against the wall in your frustration that Baby would not for the life of her take a nap.

It has been almost a year since you sat your screaming baby down in one room and then walked into the other room to scream obscenities at the top of your lungs in your anger that you could not for the life of you figure out how to soothe her.


Whether you realize it or not, there has been progress.

You and your child are making progress. And the same will be true for whatever stage of Motherhood and Childhood you are in right now.

Time flies. And this too shall pass.

So take heart, Self. Mother of a Stubborn Child. Woman who came pretty darn close to turning in her resignation papers this morning.

Your child refuses to wear clothes, but demands to wear a winter stocking cap? (I bet she won’t do that in Middle School.)

Your one-and-a-half-year-old already rips off all of the healthy crust from her morning toast, but then minutes later claims she is still hungry? (She will probably make up the next “I-Only-Eat-Grass” Health Movement when she’s an educated 22-year-old.)

Your stubborn Toddler has the will of a donkey and the strength of an ox? (Pray to the good Lord above that someday she will put that same stubborn will and strength into a life that is full of justice and mercy and humility and love.)

I know, Self. Some days you are tired.

But remember what Husband told you that one time when you asked him: “Why am I so tired all of the time?”

He said: “You are raising a child to become an adult.”

Indeed. You are raising a child to become an adult. And that takes energy. And sweat. And guts. You are in the trenches, my friend.

But remember this: there is nobody better equipped for this job than you are. You are her mother. 

In the group called “Humans That Live on Planet Earth,” nobody knows your child as well as you do.

No matter who she spends time with during her day, no matter how big of a village it takes to raise your child, this job of teaching her justice and mercy and humility and love, this job of discipline and consistency is primarily yours. (And Husband's, of course.)

More than School’s job. Even more than Church’s job.

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

And Self, you know.

You know that nobody in the group called “Humans That Live on Planet Earth” loves your child as much as you do either.

You love her so much.

And if you ever forget how much you love her, just remember those times you tip-toed into her room after she fell asleep at night. Remember how her face that was once contorted by a Tantrum-Storm now lays peacefully still.

And remember how when you looked at her sleeping peacefully you swore she is the best thing that has ever happened to you and Husband. The best.

So keep on keepin' on, Soldier.

Go to those play dates that I promise will eventually teach Toddler to share.

When necessary, say “No.”

Consistently discipline.

Pick the battles that teach her justice and mercy and humility and love.

And let the other battles go.

Show her through each mundane task that keeps your family alive and healthy – what love is.

And tell her with your words just how delighted you are that she is your child.

You got this.

Through the grace and mercy and love of God alone, you got this.

Grace and Peace,

January 22, 2015

Dear High Schooler Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

I wish we could sit down and have a chat. I wish I could share with you some of my experiences in dating and looking for love in all the wrong places.

And even more so, I wish I could introduce you to my sister. She has such a beautiful story to share.

It’s filled with heartache and pain and embarrassment and choosing the wrong path for awhile, but also filled with grace and love and maturity and true joy.

You see, my sister was seventeen when she had her first baby.

As you well know, that’s not usually the age girls think about having children. 

At that age, my sister was in high school with a life that revolved around sports and friends. She was one of those all-around stud athletes: playing basketball, volleyball, and softball. She had lots of great friends, and a fun social life.

But as with many high schoolers, she also struggled with insecurities – insecurities that led to making poor choices:

Am I pretty enough?

Am I good enough?

Am I worth loving?

The answers to these questions can be hard to find – when you look in all the wrong places.

You see, it’s natural for a human to desire love. But so often we forget that the love we actually need can’t be found in people, or activities, or things.

Dear High Schooler looking for love in all the wrong places, if you could sit down and chat with my sister, here are a few things she would tell you from her experiences:

Daughter of the King – stop looking for a kind of love that only Jesus can offer.

Stop trying to find lasting satisfaction in your friendships and dating relationships.

Stop being deceived. Giving everything (your time, your energy, your thoughts, your body) to someone will not make them love you unconditionally.

And after telling you to stop, she would say this:

To the One Whom God Delights in – begin again:

Begin to recognize that no human person can deliver the satisfaction that comes from a relationship with God. Only God can provide the unconditional love and affection that we strive for. Even someone in a relationship with the right person can still be looking for love in all the wrong places. Relationships built on the mentality of trying to find fulfillment are doomed to failure, and will leave you lonely. 

Begin to recognize the relationship with God you are missing out on. The Christian life is not simply about going to church, youth group, or Christian schools. It’s not just about having a supportive family. It’s about putting your whole heart into a relationship with Christ. Begin to recognize where you are just going through the motions, and where you lost the passion that is essential for your faith to be rock solid.

Dear High Schooler looking for love in all the wrong places,

You are not alone.

We all do this – we look for satisfaction in a new outfit, shoes, phones, TV’s, friends, dating relationships, you name it. The difference is that as you get older, you simply shift your focus to other things you think might satisfy – a good college, a new job, getting married, having kids. But the truth is, none of them can even compare to what God offers us when we submit ourselves to Him instead of worldly things that do not last.

When your insecurities lead to bad choices (like pre-marital sex), and your bad choices lead to huge life changes (like having a baby), suddenly the things you thought were so important (like sports or who you will hang out with Friday night) aren’t anymore.

My sister could tell you what it was like to be pregnant in high school, what it was like to have a baby during her senior year.

No more sports. Limited social life. No scholarships. Limited choices of where to go to college. Praise God I had supportive parents who were helpful in every way.

She could tell you about what life has been like beyond high school.

I got married on June 15, 2013. I graduate from Grand Valley’s nursing program in just a few months. And I am the youngest mom in my daughter’s kindergarten class, which brings its own insecurities.

But she could also tell you how God has demonstrated His unconditional grace and has created absolute beauty, even from her worst mistakes:

“In my daughter’s eyes I am a hero. I am strong and wise and I know no fear. But the truth is plain to see, she was sent to rescue me. I see who I want to be in my daughter’s eyes.” (song by Martina McBride)

Dear High Schooler looking for love in all the wrong places, I wish you could know how truly beautiful, smart, and talented you are. 

I wish you could know how even though adults look like they have it all together, that we struggle with some of the same insecurities too. I wish you could know how we haven’t always made the best choices in our relationships either, and that sex or “going too far” or giving too much away in a dating relationship is a temptation to many.

I think it’s important to remember that being pregnant is not against God’s will. It is the act of premarital sex. That is the sin. 

It is so important to not judge girls who are pregnant. If every girl and boy who had premarital sex became pregnant together, there would be a lot more pregnant people in this world.

Dear High Schooler looking for love in all the wrong places,

#1) It is so important to surround yourself with good people who will encourage you in the direction of God’s love and grace. Sometimes it just takes that one person to send you down the wrong path. And on the other hand, sometimes it only takes that one to get you back on track.

#2) Growing up, many of us find it difficult, uncomfortable, and even shameful to talk about sex. But remember that sex is a purely beautiful act when used how God designed it to be within a marriage.

#3) Understand WHY. We are told over and over as we grow up to “save ourselves for marriage.” But until you understand WHY God designed it this way, that statement doesn’t hold much value. When you forget the WHY, then it’s easy to toss your beliefs out the window when temptation arises.

#4) And finally, Sweet Child of God, know that it is never too late to make the right choices in your life and in your relationships. God wipes our sins as white as snow when we ask Him to.

Dear High Schooler looking for love in all the wrong places,

Are you pretty enough?

Are you good enough?

Are you worth loving?

A thousand times yes. Just remember that the answers to those questions are much easier to find when you look for Love in the right place.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra and Her Brave, Beautiful Sister, Mackenzy

January 14, 2015

When God Ruins Your Life

I am a planner. I own a planner. I like to make plans.

I have been this way for a long time: organized, thinking ahead, prepared. It’s one thing that made me an okay teacher. (And it’s one thing that makes me somewhat of a very boring person.)

Favorite part of my birthday? 
Probably sharing a greasy-faced breakfast with this weirdo.

But the unfortunate thing about being a planner is that sometimes my plans don’t go as planned. And that can be devastating.

I have had my entire life planned out on many occasions. And most of those plans have been ruined at one point or another. It started when I was in Kindergarten.

At my kindergarten graduation, where all six-year-olds declare to their entire world what they want to be when they grow up, I said I was going to be a gymnastics teacher. (And then God ruined those plans by reminding me that gymnastics is for cute, tiny, graceful girls, not the ones who awkwardly tower over everyone else.)

And then in 5th grade, the age when everyone starts talking about puberty, I planned for my budding breasts to pop and flower like all my friends’ seemed to. (But then God ruined those plans when I started getting impatient and finally asked my high school sister when she got hers. She flashed me her “Little Women” and said, “Are you kidding me? I never did!”)

Fast forward a few more years to high school, during junior year when every adult and their cousin expects you to have an idea of “what you will do with the rest of your life after high school,” and “which college you will study at to attain the job you plan to get for the rest of your life after high school.” I mean, of course I knew. I was going straight to the mission field after graduation. (Until God ruined those plans when I went to the CRWRC recruiter and he said, “No, you can’t go straight into the mission field. You have to get a real job first. What do you think about becoming a teacher?”)

Two weirdos.

And then during senior year of high school, I knew which college I was going to attend. (Until I did a college visit and God made it clear that those plans were also ruined.)

During high school and college, I knew a couple of different times exactly who I was going to marry. (Until Justin Timberlake broke my heart and decided to marry Jessica Biel instead. And probably more importantly, until God introduced me to the hunk of a man I now call "Husband.")

We most definitely planned to wait at least two years of being married before we would start trying to have babies. (And just over two years after we said “I do,” we were holding beautiful baby Jocelyn in our arms. Insert: sentimental tears caused by pregnancy hormones. Also Insert: discussion on how the only safe sex indeed is no sex.)

I also thought we would live overseas longer. (And after three short years in Guatemala God made it clear that He was redirecting our desires and plans back to our homeland.)

And if you would have asked me ten years ago, “How do you think you will celebrate your 26th birthday?,” I probably wouldn't have said, “In my sweatpants with greasy hair and no career and a butt-naked child sitting on my lap fighting another case of extreme diaper rash.”

But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. 

This is a legit Kodak moment. 
As in, I did not command her to give me kisses.
As in, my heart just melted a little bit.

With each of my ruined life plans, God always revealed something better.

(God: Breasts? You?! Please. Why not enjoy the luxury of being flat-chested for playing sports instead?)

(God: Straight to the mission field? You?! Please. Why not first go to this specific college, play four years of your favorite sport, and meet your Prince Charming who will love you just the way you are instead?)

(God: Gymnastics teacher? You?! Please. Why not try teaching a few Guatemalan children how to read and write instead?)

You get the picture.

I make life plans. God ruins them. And yet, like a cliché country song I sing, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

It’s not that I wasn’t sad or heartbroken when some of my life plans were “ruined.” It’s not that break-ups don’t hurt, or unreached goals aren't disappointing, or empty wombs aren't devastating, or the death of a loved one isn't the worst thing ever. 

It’s not that I wouldn’t have loved being a gymnastics teacher in Africa, married to Justin Timberlake, flaunting a nice set of “Dolly Partons.”

But I would still say I’m pretty grateful that the Lord has a way of “ruining” all of my genius plans.

Two extremely weird weirdos.

So young people – and by “young” I mean the world’s babies who think anyone over the age of 18 is old – continue to dream and make plans for your life. Then, give yourself permission to cry when some stuff doesn't work out like you hoped. And finally, hold tight and wait for those “aha!” moments when God reveals exactly what He was doing when He decided to "ruin" your plans and replace them with His better ones instead.

Old people – and by “old” I simply mean people who have more years of life experience than others – please continue to share stories of how your life plans were ruined. Please impart your wisdom of how God remained faithful to you through disappointment and brokenness and fear and impatience. Be examples of hope and encouragement as you pave the way for the world's babies.

God’s life plans are always greater, always better, and always more thought through than our own. He knows what He is doing, and if we are patient enough to wait and pray and sometimes cry along the way, we will someday know exactly what He was doing too.

God is faithful, and He promises His continued faithfulness.

His mercies are new every morning. Even when the night before didn't go exactly how we planned it to.

Grace and Peace,

January 9, 2015

We Are Going to Have Another Baby

Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious.

This is how I told Husband the news:

I sneakily changed the desktop background on his computer to this picture:

Husband may or may not have skimmed the photo, said “Oh that’s cute,” and then only after realizing my eyes were practically burning holes through his face, went back to read the whole picture and said, "Oh my! Are you serious?!"

Then, Science Teacher Husband went on to explain how “you should never put important details in the bottom, right-hand side of a page, because studies show that people lose interest and stop reading.” (Now I am informed.)

Another interesting tidbit is that the day I peed on a stick was the first day of Parent-Teacher Conferences at school. Science Teacher Husband was so busy he didn't open his computer for two whole days after I changed his desktop background. 

Two. Whole. Days.

This is how we told our families:

It is definitely different sharing news of Baby #2 compared to Baby #1. 

(“Everyone’s expecting it.” “It’s not as big of a deal this time.” “Are we making it too obvious that we already love our second child less than our first?” #kidding)

But. Our Baby who is not such a baby anymore is going to be a big sister. (Therefore, I shall now call Baby, “Toddler.”And therefore, we put her in a “Big Sister” t-shirt and just let her roam. 

Just in case you can't tell if she is laughing or crying:
She is crying. Definitely crying.

Toddler wants to battle. Parents win.

I would totally post the video we took of my parents and two of my sisters receiving the news, but instead I will give you the play-by-play: 

I ceremoniously walk in and put Toddler (wearing her “Big Sister” shirt) into the high chair. Everyone looks at Toddler. The light conversation continues with a mix of discussion on bi-polarism, Horrible Bosses 2, and some random Spanish words. (“Mira la princesa!”) Nobody notices Toddler’s shirt. We stop recording the video. We hold hands and say the Lord’s Prayer. Mother peeks at Toddler during prayer. Only then does she see Toddler's shirt. Mother stops praying and gasps. The rest of us awkwardly finish praying. Chaos erupts.

Instead of sharing that video, I will just share the one of when we told one of my other sisters the news in the same fashion - using the Big Sister t-shirt:

Let me end with a few Frequently Asked Questions:

1. When is your due date? (July 15. I am almost 13 weeks.)

2. Are you going to find out what it is? (It’s Husband's choice this time, as I chose to be surprised with Baby #1. And he hasn't decided yet.)

3. Are you going to move to a bigger apartment? (No. We are determined to teach our children the art called “Sharing a Room.” Even if it drives us crazy or kills us in the process.)

Toddler is already practicing to be Mommy's Little Helper.

4. What pregnancy symptoms are you feeling? (Am I hovering over the porcelain throne every morning, noon, and night? No. But I will say that out of the seven deadly sins, I have Sloth pretty down pat.)

5. Were you trying to get pregnant? (The only reason I will answer this question is because I made it quite obvious that Baby #1 was a surprise. Let me just say this: I did not cry over the hot dogs I was frying when I told Husband the news about Baby #2 like I did with Baby #1. In the words of SNL Surprise Party Sue: We are "just so freakin’ excited!")

6. Are you ready for the chaos of multiple children? A toddler and a newborn? Two kids in diapers? (Were the unicorns “ready” for the Flood?)

Big Sister has big shoes to fill.

7. I don’t get why you girls are so excited to get fat when you’re pregnant. (Um…I’m sorry…what was your question?)

8. Me: “Do you think I will be too fat for family pictures in the spring?”
    Husband: “No. You will be swelling with beauty.”

9. Are you going to lay Baby #2 on its stomach so it won’t have a flat head like Jocelyn? (Um...well...no comment.)

Grace and Peace, and Again: Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious!!!