I’m Sorry I’m a Stressed-Out Mom: An Open Letter to My Kids

Dear Children,

When your dad knocked on the door of the brown brick house on Karen Street nineteen years ago to ask your papa for my hand in marriage, your papa wisely told him, “Terry, she’ll need a strong leader.” He said this because he knew my stubborn, determined will better than anyone. One thing he forgot to tell him is that I also needed someone who could tell me to take a deep breath and calm down. Your dad learned the hard way that I get stressed-out easily.

Today, we completed our first day of the homeschooling co-op. It took me three years to build up the courage to commit to this. You have joked with me about how I have counted the number of water bottles too many times and agonized over the lunches you would take. You may not know that I printed out roughly seventeen pages of emails related to co-op. I filled out forms, wrote checks, planned our schedule, and asked more than a few questions of the co-op leaders. (Bless their hearts!)

Today, I worked in the class with the 3-5 year olds. One little girl became a fast friend. We talked about her doll and I encouraged her to keep her backpack unzipped because her doll needed some air. I was just trying to make conversation with her, but she took me quite literally. When her mom came in later, her daughter informed her that the her doll “needed air” so the backpack had to stay unzipped. Her mom smiled and said how cute her daughter was. I was worried, of course, that I might have caused trouble. But this little girl’s mom was relaxed…not like your mom. I went on to help the little girl glue beads onto a sick that had a number on it. I helped her count out the exact number and we got glue all over our hands. I, of course, brought out my hand wipes to clean both of us up and anyone else, too. One little girl had four items glued to a stick that had a “2” on it. I came very close to pulling off the superfluous items and helping her attach some of them to the “5” stick. Luckily, I realized it wasn’t that important. I actually let it go. It was such a paramount moment that I decided to write it down in this blog post. (I know you’re proud of me.)

Being in that class reminded me of when you all were that little. I wasn’t the relaxed mom at all. I helped you re-arrange objects to get them on right; I encouraged you to keep things in order, to stay in the lines when coloring. I had you erase whole rows of handwriting to put in that word you left out. I tried to be cheerful about it, but did my smile make the work any easier? No, it didn’t. I am afraid that sometimes I was more like a dictator than a loving mother and teacher.

I feel terrible about those days because I do love you, and I want my actions to say as much. As a young girl,  when I sat in my room, reading and daydreaming, I dreamed about you. Well, I didn’t know what you would look like, but I hoped that the Lord would let me have children. As I grew, I realized that not everyone is able to see this dream fulfilled. I was prepared for the worst. To my delight, the Lord gave me not one, but five of you! From the moment I held each one of you, I was filled with joy and a tinge of concern. I considered this a very special job, and I wanted to do it right. I wanted to teach you to take care of yourself, and others. I wanted you to learn to dream big, and work hard; to be kind, and to be tough. Most of all, I wanted to point you to the Lord. I now see that my actions probably did the opposite many times.

I’m sorry that I’m a stressed-out mom. I’m sorry I fret over silly things like if you’ll have enough water bottles to see you through the hot day, or that you have insect repellent and sunscreen on at soccer practice. I’m sorry I make you sit up straight at church and wear a jacket in 60 degree weather. I’m sorry I complain about how dirty you got your pants, or how much milk you drink – all the while making sure you wear clean pants and drink plenty of milk. I wish I could be the mom that I dreamed I would be, because you certainly have fulfilled all of my dreams about you.

It’s okay if one day you tell your children (or your friends) that your mom was kind of crazy –  you can even make the “loco” sign by your head. You can tell them all about my OCD tendencies and about all of my worrying and have a good laugh. I know it’s funny, and I hope you will always smile about it. I hope you’ll smile because you know that you had a stressed-out mom who loved you with every ounce of her being.

Forever yours,

Mother

Musings on Motherhood

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I’m often overwhelmed with life (laundry, homeschooling, cooking, planning, and so forth), but I’m also overwhelmed with the responsibility of molding young minds and pointing hearts to the Lord. We read the Bible to them, we help them memorize scripture, we pray, we listen, we try to answer their tough questions, but, somehow, I know it’s not enough. I cannot change attitudes or hearts.

I admit that I fret about my role as a mother. If there were a “formula” to raising good kids, I would gladly follow it! But I know there isn’t. Each parent must raise their children according to scripture, but that’s no guarantee. I’ve seen strict, loving parents raise rebellious, hateful children. I’ve seen parents who were lazy and unfaithful to Christ raise hard-working, Christian children. I know Bible college grads who got married only to divorce a few years later, while some secular college grads marry and stay strong in their love for the Lord and each other for a lifetime (my parents fall into this category). So what made the difference? Christ’s habitation of the individual! You can deny the irresistible grace of God, but you can’t resist it. He is in control.

Last summer, one of our children got separated from us at a museum. It was an older child, but in those minutes of not knowing just where they were, my mind leapt to a thousand possibilities! Were they lost? Kidnapped? Hurt? As I prayed about it, the Lord gave me peace that they were okay. I could only search and pray. Terry found the child, and they were weeping as they rejoiced at being with us again. They had just gotten lost. The interesting part of this story is that this particular child had had a terrible attitude when we entered the museum. They didn’t want to be there, or be with us, or see what we wanted to see. When they returned with their father after a half-hour of separation, they were suddenly so grateful to be with their family. God had changed this child’s attitude in a way that I never could! This sort of thing doesn’t happen every time one of the children gets a bad attitude, but it doesn’t have to. God can use anything to turn a child’s heart toward Himself. And my prayer is just that – that He will do that which I cannot do.

I was a stubborn child, and I know that I caused my parents far more worry than either of my siblings did. But their response was to pray and to let God work in my life. And He did. I see what a wretch I was (and am), and this makes me so very grateful to have been born again! I can identify with the woman in Luke 7:47, about whom Christ said,  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

When I share my fears with my husband, he often wisely reminds me, “Valerie, all you can do is pray. The Lord will do what is best.” What a comfort to rest upon the sovereign God of the ages! I don’t understand why so many people want to deny God His rightful place. They miss so much peace, comfort and joy.

I spend too much time worrying, and yes, I know that’s wrong. But it’s a blessing to know that regardless of how much I worry, God rules and reigns and “He hath done all things well” (Mark 7:37).

With love,

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Encouraging Words

I came across this image recently, and it certainly encouraged my heart. I enjoy reading Mr. Pink’s books, but I had never before read this quote. I hope it encourages other moms out there as well.

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I pray God will help me to keep a right spirit as I labor in my home today; and may He use my meager efforts to further His kingdom.

With love,

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Hanging On and Letting Go

I’m only five weeks (not counting this one!) from finishing up this school year. Yep. Just five short, long weeks to go. I’m doing all I can to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But, I am in a strait. I want to be done, and I don’t want to be done. If I am done, then that means I have completed another year of my children’s education – which is a good thing – but it also means another year has gone by. That’s kinda sad.

This past week, I was planning my 2nd grader’s reading assignments, when I came upon this story:

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It’s not a heart-rending story. It’s about the Indian boy who designed the Alaska state flag. I’ve never been to Alaska. I don’t even know anyone in Alaska. So why did this make me blue? Because as soon as I saw this picture in her Abeka reader, I remembered the first time I heard a young girl’s voice read to me about Benny and his design. I was suddenly back in the bright school room in our sprawling Texas parsonage. I could smell the pencil shavings. I could see the Berber carpet on the floor, and her small hands as they gripped the sides of the book. I could see the tiny newborn I was holding, too. This week, that tiny newborn will be reading to me about  Benny and his flag! When that thought hit me, I stopped writing out lesson plans and let my eyes fill up with tears. Then I sniffed and shook it off. I had to stay busy. I gave myself a pep talk: “I’m not letting myself spiral downward. I am thinking on that which is true – like Philippians 4:8 says. As much as I enjoyed having a sweet little girl named Lauren in second grade, the truth is that she is now in 10th grade. The truth is that I cannot go back.” I finished up my lesson plans and kept busy. But I know I will struggle with these emotions until I leave this world.

That little girl who first read to me about Benny so long ago, is taking Driver’s Ed. this week. She is thinking about what to major in in college. I am letting go, slowly but surely. She still needs me, even though she won’t readily admit it. But even that is part of letting go: she is becoming independent. That’s supposed to mean that I did my job right. Funny how it seems like a bad thing right now.

I had such a hard time learning to be a mother. I wanted to do things just right. Of course, I made many mistakes and still do, but I tried to heed all the (good) advice I was given. Everyone said, “Enjoy each day, because it flies by!” so I did. But even though I enjoyed each day, the days still passed. I had to hang on to them, and then let them go.

Life is hanging on and letting go, and giving God the glory in the process. And even though I struggle, I will never be alone in my struggle, for the Lord is with me.

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Romans 11:36

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Mother’s Day 2014

I had a wonderful and very busy Mother’s Day weekend! One week ago, my husband decided to attend his alma mater’s alumni banquet which was the Friday before Mother’s Day. The Bible school he attended is out of my home church, (Victory Baptist Church in Benton, Arkansas) so, it seemed logical to just stay the weekend and be with my mom on Mother’s Day. This hasn’t happened in many years. I not only got to be there on Sunday, but I was able to attend the mother/daughter banquet as well. Several ladies in the church spoke, including my own mom. It was a great encouragement to my heart.

Because I believe in keeping it real, I must say that I received a very hateful email message from someone I love dearly right before I left for this trip. It grieved me so much that it made it hard to enjoy the visit. The email I received stemmed from a conversation between two other people, so it hit me out of the blue! The words that were said can never be taken back. I am still burdened about this situation and am praying God will work on this person’s heart to turn it to Him. Salvation isn’t a fire escape, it’s becoming a new person in Christ. From what I can tell, this person is lost and that adds to the heavy burden I am carrying. Through it all, though, the Lord ministered to my heart through my Bible reading and through the wonderful people at my home church. I don’t remember ever feeling quite so loved as I was on this last visit. Boy, did I need their kindness! If anyone from Victory in Benton is reading this, thank you! 🙂

Because I was so distracted, I didn’t take as many photos as I normally would have, but here are a few:

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Me and the kids on Mother’s Day, in my mother’s Sunday school room.

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Mom, me and five of her grandchildren.

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Me and my wonderful mother.

I think my husband was really trying hard to cheer me up, because he bought me an amazing gift:

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 He bought me new bedding! He bought the comforter, bedskirt and all of the matching pillows! It’s also my favorite color! I had picked one out very similar to this one around my birthday, but didn’t buy it. He remembered!

On Sunday, I got to hold the sweetest little baby girl ever! Her name is Piper and her mommy and daddy have been my friends since I was in elementary school. (Both of their mothers, too!) They have been praying for a child for several years and in March, God answered their heart’s cry. What a joy to be in the presence of such a blessing! I also got to see my friend, Audri, and her children; my first choir director, Mrs. Marie & Bro. Stan; my friends, Amy, Jen, Bro. Jenceson and his wife, Donna;  a former co-worker, Mrs. Cox and of course, my former pastor and his wife, Ken and Pam Graham and many others.

The Lord has been so good to me. Through the trials of life, I see how weak I am and how strong He is. I see how desperately I need Him and how thankful I am to know the Savior. God’s Word was a great blessing to me this past week. There were several verses that helped me, but I’ll just share one…or two. 🙂

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. ~ Psalm 55:22

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. ~ Psalm 57:1

Thank YOU for reading! I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day! I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 🙂

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My Boy Who’s Three

I’m sitting in the living room next to Matthew on this lovely spring evening and thinking…probably too much! (Didn’t know that was possible with me didja? 😉 )Anyway, I thought I’d put my few meandering thoughts here. It’s supposed to be written in stanzas of two lines (couplet), but my blog doesn’t want to recognize the spaces. I apologize if it’s hard to read. And thanks for reading this at all.  I hope you all have a wonderful week!

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I have a little boy who’s three.

He is indeed a joy to me.

His little pj’s with the feet,

His tiny voice that’s oh-so-sweet.

At dawn’s first light he comes to me

And asks to sit upon my knee.

We  sit and rock in the big brown chair

I smile and smooth his cute bed hair.

He likes to sit and hear a book

And help me stir when I cook.

He loves to snuggle when it’s cold

He says he’ll love me when I’m old.

I love my little boy of three.

I guess he’ll be the last, you see.

Someday, as the years pass by

I’ll think of this and I’ll sigh.

I’ll wish I could bring back to me

My little boy who’s only three.

But I’ll just sit and rock a while,

And count my blessings with a smile.

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Convicted by a Cartoon

The Lord is with me each and every moment of my life. He is there when I speak, when I listen, when I sing, when I sleep, when I eat. He knows the number of hairs on my head and how many breaths I take. He knows my weaknesses and loves me anyway. Any strengths I have are because He has had mercy upon me and allowed me to use His treasure. I want to use it for Him, always. I want every breath to bring glory to Him. But, sadly, it’s not always that way.

Since He is constantly with me, He was also there when I snapped at the kids over some silly thing, when I huffed, puffed or sighed showing my own attitude problem, when I allowed fear to grip me instead of trusting Him, and on and on. He could destroy me with a thought, but instead He lets me live. He helps me to grow. Today, He used a cartoon to get my attention. But I wasn’t laughing.

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Cartoon taken from the Lawton Constitution, Sept. 15, 2013. For Better or For Worse

I could only think,”Guilty!” And I was reminded that God can use anything – even a cartoon in the Sunday paper – to help me get my priorities right.

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