Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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Mentor Monday: My Friend Gina

Never underestimate the power of friendship in the life of someone else!

At age 17 I had just been through the one of the most painful and difficult times of my life as my family had left a legalistic, spiritually abusive religious organization.

Not only that, but I was at an awkward stage, without any direction for my future.  I didn’t have a job (long story), wasn’t going to college at that point (another long story), and was basically at loose ends.  I was depressed.  Life felt meaningless.  I had no confidence that I could do anything.

That’s when I met Gina.

We started attending the tiny church in our equally tiny East Texas community.  Gina was our pastor’s wife.  A few years older than me, she was pregnant and on bed rest with her fourth baby.  I jumped at the opportunity to give her a hand.

Like my friend Natasia, Gina mentored me just by being who she was: a faithful follower of Jesus, a loving wife and mom, and a kind friend.

She reached out to me and believed in me.  I remember her suggestion that I apply to substitute teach at the local public school.  It was beyond my comprehension that anyone would think I was capable of doing such a job.  That one small comment boosted my confidence a thousand fold.

I noticed how she interacted with her children—loving them, caring for them teaching them.

One small statement she made changed the way I viewed children altogether.  She mentioned in passing that her goal was to help her children become independent.  I came from a narrow subculture where the goal was actually to keep children dependent on their parents as long as possible (strange as that may sound), and it was revolutionary to me that independence was a worthy goal.

We became good friends.

The best part is that after Gina and her husband moved away, they introduced my husband and me.  If our friendship wasn’t set in stone before, it certainly was then!

She also recommended the Bible study Search for Significance to me, which completely turned my life upside down in the best way, and helped me grow from fearful and insecure to strong and confident in my identity in Christ.

And after coming from a religious background that eschewed makeup, she gave me my first Mary Kay samples and showed me how to apply it.  (I owe her!)

She’s still one of my very dearest friends.  I go to her with questions about everything from teaching my kids to read to how to talk to my children about sensitive subjects.

Not only that, but four of her nine children are the same ages as four of mine—and they are close friends too.

What a joy to continue that legacy of friendship!

So you see, Gina didn’t necessarily set out to mentor me in any kind of rigid, planned fashion.

She was just my friend.  And because she was my friend, she changed my life.

Who has mentored you just through their friendship?  Who can you befriend today?

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Linking:

Better Mom Monday

Miscellany Monday

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Learn to Love Getting Older

As my birthday approaches in a few days, I remember that I love getting older—really.

I even have a “Naturally Gray” Pinterest board.

I think youth is overrated. 

Way overrated.

I don’t really like the person I was 10 or 15 years ago.

Not to say there’s not still plenty of room for growth now—there is.  I look back at the fearful, judgmental, immature, socially inept girl that was me and I thank God that he didn’t leave me stuck in that state.  My body might have been better but my soul was a mess.

My dream has always been to be a wise older woman.  Every year I grow a little closer to that goal.

What I didn’t count on is that growing wiser means regular attendance at the school of hard knocks.

Years ago when I set about to grow, I realized this truth: Growth means pain.

When you have a lot of dead wood that needs to be lopped off by pruner’s shears, just look forward to some pretty cutting circumstances.

That knowledge helped carry me through tough times though.  Even now when I’m going through difficulty I sometimes whisper to myself, “Growth means pain.”

There are a couple parenting-related things in particular that have been bitterly hard.  I begged God for years to remove them from my life.  They stayed.  I got mad.

(It’s OK, read Psalms, David got mad at God too.  He said something along the lines of “Just shoot me now!”  So raw, honest feelings are OK with God.  Really.)

I was pretty mad for a few years.

Then I realized something.

Those brutal, painful circumstances had forced me to grow in grace as a mom.

In fact, they revolutionized the way I mother. 

Not only that, but without that particular grueling situation, it’s unlikely that I would have grown in that area at all.  It took something dramatic to unseat me from my ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior.

The situation was hard, still is in a lot of ways.  It involved other people.  I’m not saying God caused the pain.  But he sure as heck used it.

Another year older, another year wiser.

God is slowly changing the circumstance that has been so hard, but mostly he is still changing me.

He’s making a new, improved version.

Seriously?  I wouldn’t trade all the youth in the world for that.

Why do you like or dislike growing older?  How have you  matured with age?

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

On Your Heart

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Heart +Home Gathering

Titus 2sday


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Mentor Monday: My Friend Natasia

Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of your influence, even in a short amount of time.

I only knew Natasia for a few months before we lost touch.

She was a young pastor’s wife at a local church we attended very briefly during an insanely difficult time in my early teens.

She was my mom’s friend, really.  I mean, I was there.  But I was a kid.

She was classy and beautiful, but that is not how she impacted me most.

She always spoke to me with interest and respect.

She didn’t treat me like I was little or silly.  She took a genuine interest in me.

She was even my pen-pal for a little while after we moved away.

She’ll never know what an impact she had on my life.

(Well, maybe she will.  I’ve gotten back in touch with her family through Facebook.  Have I mentioned that I LOVE Facebook?)

She was an example of faith and grace.  She loved her husband and her future children.  She had a great story about her commitment to wait for the guy God had for her.  During a time when it was easy to feel disillusioned with Christianity, I remembered her kindness, her love for Jesus, and her authentic life.  She inspired me to want to be like her.

Later, as a young pastor’s wife myself, I often remembered of the kind of pastor’s wife she was.  I knew she was the kind I wanted to be.

She mentored me just by being who she was.

Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of your influence, even in a short amount of time.

 

Have you ever had someone who mentored you just by their example?  What about someone who influenced you through just a brief friendship or contact?  Share in the comments!

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

Better Mom Monday

Miscellany Monday

Hear it, Use It


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3 Ways for a Mom to be Mentored

 

Training is available for just about any career in America, from burger flipper to top executive.  But many of us are thrown into our most important job, mothering, without any guidance at all—and when we want it, it can be hard to find.

Maybe you live far from family.  Or your relationship with your mother is tense.  Or she’s no longer living.  Or you are a Christian and she’s not.  Do you sometimes feel like you are walking alone?  How do you find women who can advise you on this amazing, exhilarating, crazy, hard, even (at times) painful path of motherhood?

Remember What Your Mom Did Right

My husband and I agreed when we married that our goal was to take the best things our parents did and build on them to make something even better.  (I hope my kids do the same, for the record.)  Your relationship with your mom may not be perfect, but focus on what she did right and emulate those good things.  If she really didn’t do anything right, use it as reverse mentoring: consider her an example of how not to be and determine to break the pattern and change your family tree.

Look to God, the Best Parent 

Read the Bible and notice: How does God parent us?   How can you apply those principles to the way you raise your babies?  The older I get, the more I notice the grace God extends to me.  I ask myself how I can extend that grace to my kids.  What does the Bible say specifically about parenting?  Learn from the best!

Seek Out Moms You Admire

Maybe you notice a wise older woman who has done a great job with her kids.  Or someone closer to your age who seems to know what she is doing.  In our culture, there is a shortage of those women the Apostle Paul mentions in Titus 2 who should teach us young chickadees how to love our husbands and children, but we can still cultivate relationships with women who are willing to tell us what they know.  It doesn’t have to be a formal mentoring relationship, just seek these women out, befriend them, and ask them questions!  Be assertive!  I’m so thankful for those women in my life who are willing to put up with my questions and share their wisdom!

What about you?  Do you find it easy or hard to find mom mentors?  How do you find ways to be mentored?  


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Dear Young Mom of the Future: My Promise to You

Dear Young Mom of the Future,

I may not know you yet.  Right now you might be five years old, dressing your baby dolls and pretending you are a mommy.

It’s such a good thing for little girls to dream of.  Being a mom is the most wonderful thing in the world.  It’s also hard.  I’m in the trenches now and I love my kids more than life itself.  But I want to remember what it’s like.  Dear, sweet, overwhelmed young mom of sixteen or twenty or twenty-seven years from now, here is my promise to you.

I will be your friend.  I will come to your house uninvited with a nourishing meal and dark chocolate in hand, and I will clean that house for you.  I will fold the laundry and wash the crusty piled-up dishes.  I will rock your fussy baby so you can take a shower and a nap.  I will blow bubbles and color with your preschooler and help your third grader with his homework.  I will take your kids to my house for the afternoon, if you wish, so you can go to the gym or have a lunch date with your husband or have a Bible study or read a novel or take your grandmother to the doctor or go grocery shopping or buy lingerie without a vocal 3 year old in the fitting room.

I will not judge you, inwardly or outwardly.  If your floors are sticky, your bathrooms are dirty, your closets are disastrous, and you haven’t found time to shower today, I will not look down on you.  I get it.  Some of us are naturally organized and driven and manage to get most of it done, and some of us are just plain overwhelmed.  I will not put on a plastic smile and then secretly tell my best friend what a slob you are, I will not make snide “helpful” comments, and I will not self-righteously imagine that I would never have let this or that go like you have.  I will extend grace to you, just like God has extended grace to me.

I will pray for and with you.  I will lift you up to God, who loves you and your husband and your kids more than you can imagine, the One Who can aid you far more than I can with my paltry suppers and babysitting.  I will pray His blessings over you, spiritually, physically, and in every other way.  He is the best Helper of all.

I will understand how passionately you love your children and how much you want the very best for them, and yet how it sometimes seems like too much.  I understand that you really think you should be like that softspoken mom at the park who obviously has unlimited patience and guides her children with grace every moment (which is a fallacy, by the way—no one is that perfect).  You can confide in me.  When you yell at your toddler who just WILL NOT STOP WHINING, and you are eaten up with guilt and shame and the fear that you have completely failed as a mother and that if anyone knew they would agree that you are a bad mom and that you have ruined your child forever…I will come alongside you without judgment, I will listen and reassure you, and I will help you learn tools to handle that frustration.  And hopefully a bit of assistance from me will be the safety valve that keeps you cool in the meantime.

I will be glad to share the bits and nuggets of wisdom I have learned in the trenches, but I will understand if you choose not to always put my advice into practice.  Sometimes it is just too much, and maybe you are so exhausted that you can’t remember what day of the week it is…or postpartum depression has a hold on you and you have spent the morning on the bathroom floor crying while your toddler watches one TV show after another…or my suggestion just feels like one more guilt-inducing obligation you should fulfill to be a good mom…or there is a generational divide I don’t understand…or it’s simply not the right choice for your family—that is OK.  I am not the Holy Spirit and I don’t want you to feel pressured to follow my ideas.

Young mom of the future, maybe right now I am where you are.  I am tucking these memories away for you.  The good memories, yes.  Sticky hugs and kisses, sweet nursing babies, snuggles and books on the couch, “You are my favorite mom ever,” trips to the zoo.  Memories of the most precious parts of being a young mom.  And I am also saving the other memories: the exhaustion, the messy house, the not enough time, the sticky floors and piles of laundry, the feeling overwhelmed and wondering sometimes just how I am going to get through the day.

Don’t worry, dear young mom.  Help is on the way!

With Love,

Stephanie

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What to do When You Don’t Have a Valentine

Another one for my younger and single friends…

I didn’t date as a teen, so I know what it is like to have one Valentine’s Day after another without—well—a valentine.

Actually, Valentine’s Day has become one of my favorite holidays, but not because of the romance.  To tell you the truth, that is not the best part of the holiday for me.  Couples put each other under so much pressure to create that amazing romantic experience on Valentine’s Day and it is just too much.  Billy and I usually keep it simple.  I like it better that way.

But the colors…hearts…cards…flowers…I love those things about Valentine’s Day.  Oh, and chocolate!

There is so much to enjoy about this holiday even if you don’t have a sweetheart in your life right now!  Here are a few little ways to give yourself a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Remember, Jesus loves you.  He is the one who will never leave you or forsake you for any reason, and who loves you without conditions of any kind!  How is that for a great Valentine!

Treat yourself.  Who needs a boyfriend to enjoy decadent chocolate, jewelry, or flowers?  Buy it for yourself!  I am not into the whole “love yourself” movement too much, but at risk of sounding cliché, you are worth it!  God adores you, he created you to be a unique, wonderful person, so act like it and enjoy some of his good gifts!

Pray for your future husband.  What could possibly be more important as you prepare for your future?

Write a love letter to your future husband.  God has someone planned for you.  Write a letter to him.

Go out for a nice dinner with unattached friends.  Find other friends who don’t have a date and have a wonderful time together!  You might do this on the day before or after Valentine’s Day to avoid the horrific restaurant crowds.

Throw a Valentine party!  Valentine parties don’t have to just be for elementary school people!

Send Valentines to elderly widows and widowers.  They can use some extra love too.

Spend Valentine’s Day doing random acts of kindness.  Spread the love!  Valentine’s Day is about love, right?

Pamper yourself.  This is not to be confused with treating yourself.  A bubble bath, candles, music, and a good book sounds nice!  What about fluffy pajamas, ice cream, and a great movie?  A pedicure or massage?  Not just an ordinary experience, but something extra special.

Take a younger girl under your wing.  Do something fun with a younger girl, especially if she is a little bummed about not having a valentine either.  Show her that you don’t have to have a valentine to have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!  HAVE A GREAT ONE!!!


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What to Do When You Are Bored (To the Younger Ladies…But Ideas for Everyone!)


OK, ladies, I’m not trying to be mean here but it just is amazing to me when people complain about being bored.  We live in such an interesting world and there is no way on earth I can possibly do all the wonderful things I would like to do.  So here is a list of possible things to do when you are bored, just for inspiration.  This is especially for those of you who aren’t married, and even for you who don’t yet have children.  Don’t waste this time in your life!  Use it for God!

  • Volunteer at a church.  Call your church office.  They probably have plenty of volunteer opportunities.
  • Volunteer at a charity.
  • Learn a second language.
  • Learn to cook.
  • Learn a craft, such as sewing, jewelry making, or painting.
  • (There are so many free online resources for learning things like these!)
  • Spend time with a housebound person.  They become very lonely.
  • Visit a nursing home.  Nursing homes can be intimidating, but they can be black holes of loneliness for the elderly.  Ask the staff to connect you with someone who has no visits from family or friends.  There are plenty of them.  Elderly people can tell fascinating stories and are often full of wisdom.  Sometimes their minds or ability to communicate are gone and there is no reward except for knowing that you have loved them and provided companionship.
  • Adopt an elderly person who is not necessarily housebound.  Rake their leaves, change light bulbs, and do other tasks they are no longer able to do for themselves.
  • Get a job. If you have a job, get a second job.  Save your money or give it to a worthy cause.
  • Go on a short term mission trip.
  • Enroll in college, trade school, or seminary/Bible school.
  • Spend time with God.  Don’t underestimate the opportunity you have at this stage of your life to spend uninterrupted time with Jesus!  It will lay the foundation for the rest of your life.
  • Volunteer to babysit for your pastor’s family or another young couple who may not be able to hire a sitter regularly.  Don’t be offended if they don’t take you up on your offer, they will appreciate your heart all the same.
  • Offer to help an overwhelmed young mom (or even one that doesn’t seem overwhelmed—heh!).  Maybe she needs someone to give her a hand with organizing, cleaning, or running errands.
  • Write encouraging notes to those who might need them.
  • Pray.
  • Grow a garden, even a collection of potted plants.
  • Travel.
  • Read biographies of great Christians and world-changers.  These can be lifechanging!
  • Keep a journal.
  • Try your hand at writing fiction or poetry.
  • Seek out a mentor, an older Christian woman you admire.  Ask her to meet with you for discipleship, or just to be available to answer questions and chat.

Basically, it boils down to two things.  Love Jesus.  Seek to become all that He wants you to be.  And love people.  Pour yourself into them.  You can’t lose!  And you won’t be bored either!


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Advice I’m Glad I Took as a New Mom

I started having babies young; I was just 21 when I got pregnant with my oldest.  I’d never given any thought to a philosophy of mothering.  I had taken care of younger siblings and I had babysat a lot, I knew I would breastfeed and be a stay-at-home mom, but beyond that I was pretty clueless about pregnancy, birth, and mothering.

Early in my pregnancy I was surprised by a call from an old family friend, a mom of 8.  She had simply called to encourage me, and she probably still doesn’t know how that simple call changed the course of my mothering career, simply because she had brought things up that I had never thought about.

She showed me that I needed to be intentional in how I handled pregnancy and birth.  She encouraged me to be nurturing and responsive to my new little baby.  Here are a few things she shared that I’m so glad I put into practice as a new mom:

Eat healthfully and exercise during pregnancy.  Now I know that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and clean proteins with limited sugar is best.

Prepare for birth by practicing conscious relaxation.  Go limp, like a rag doll.  Practice this till you can maintain this state of relaxation for a long period of time.  She sent me a book on the Bradley method of childbirth, which in my opinion is the best way to approach natural birth—or any birth, for that matter.

Shoot for as little intervention in birth as possible.  My friend had all home births.  I was having a hospital birth, and she reminded me that Jesus was in the hospital too.  I needed to have a clear idea of what I did and did not want and be willing to stand up for those things, within reason.  I wrote a birth plan to clarify these wishes to my doctor and hospital staff.

Breastfeed right away.  Follow baby’s cues and feed her as often as she wanted to eat.  Don’t use a pacifier.  Breastfeed for at least 2 years, while baby’s brain was growing the most.

Hold and snuggle baby and respond to her cries.  This is a baby’s only method of communication.  Cuddle and comfort her.  Holding and loving on her would not spoil her!  God designed babies to need many hours of touch and snuggles each day, and he designed mamas to meet that need!

Sleep with baby.  Co-sleeping did not work for us, but it was a relief to know that it was OK to bring baby to bed if I needed to.

These principles helped me establish a solid, nurturing relationship with my baby that carried us through some tough times later.  I’m so thankful for an older mom who was willing to pass her wisdom on to me!  It saved me untold grief!

Did you have an older woman who guided you through pregnancy and the days of new motherhood?  What did you learn from your mentor?


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Kisses from Katie, Inspiration for Unmarried Women and All of Us.

Here’s some encouragement from all of us who follow Christ, but particularly those of you who are still unmarried.  This is exactly what I was talking about in the previous post!  Katie is young, to be sure.  I’m confident that she will grow, mature, and change.  But the point is this:  She is obedient and surrendered to God, and she is not missing the adventure.  She is not wasting this time in her life.

Here’s her blog.


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To My Younger Sisters: About Singleness and Guys

photo: pinterest


I’m not an experienced enough or old enough mom to be the kind of Titus 2 women who can hand out advice about how to raise great kids.  Yet.  That’s why I primarily talk about things I am learning along the way or things I have learned from older women.  But I do have a few years behind me and I’d like to share a bit with you younger ladies every now and then if that is OK.  Here are a few thoughts on men, finding a guy, and waiting for marriage.

I married young, so I’m not going to give you platitudes about how great it is to be unmarried long into adulthood.  I’ll leave that speech for someone who has been there.  I do know that even if you don’t marry young, life can be rich and fulfilling, though, because have friends who lead such lives.  They inspire me.  I wish that I had spent the few single years I had doing more living and less wishing, more action and less passivity.

Paul talks about this in I Corinthians 7.  Here are verses 32-35 paraphrased in The Message:

I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. I’m trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.

He knew what he was talking about.  When I was single, I had so much time for prayer and Bible study.  I miss that.  Don’t underestimate the preciousness of this time in building your relationship with God.  Enjoy life, have fun, but don’t waste it on meaningless activities when you can use these years to focus on growth and God.  Go on mission trips, minister to the needy, pour your life into others, because once you marry it won’t be so easy, and you’ll have a husband to consider.  Is that bad?  Nope.  Just different.  And that’s what Paul is pointing out.  Living for God can be an amazing adventure if you let it be.  Don’t miss the adventure!

I’ve heard it said, “Become the kind of person you want to marry.”  If you want to marry a kind guy, become a kind girl.  If you want to marry a spiritually mature guy, become a spiritually mature girl.  If you want to marry a family man, be a family woman.  If you want a man who loves kids, spend time with kids and learn about being a mom.  If you want someone with a heart for ministry, be involved in ministry. (This does not mean you have to have an official position, it just means that you take every opportunity to express the heart of Jesus to others with words and actions.  Obey God when He tells you what to be involved in, at home or far away.)  Like attracts like.  A godly young man will notice those genuine things in you and he will be drawn to it.  Your friends will also notice and may introduce you to someone with similar values.  That’s not the goal, but it’s often the outcome.  Follow hard after God, stay in fellowship with his people, and the right guy will come in the right time.

What kind of guy should you look for?  Obviously if you are a Christian, you should be interested in guys who are growing in Christ too.  I don’t mean they have to be perfect, just growing.  A guy who has wandered from God will break your heart.  A guy who doesn’t know Christ will break your heart.

In my opinion, the greatest quality you can look for in a Christian guy is surrender.  Surrender simply means that you have given yourself wholly to God, and you are willing to do anything and go anywhere in obedience to Him.  A surrendered person is quick to repent and fall in line with God when He senses God’s conviction and direction.  A surrendered person does not let the opinions of friends or family override what God is saying. The Holy Spirit is a much better “changer” than a wife.  If you and the guy you end up with are wholly surrendered to God, I believe you will be on the same page 99% of the time.  I believe this is more important than physical attraction, similar backgrounds and lifestyles, where you live, interests, and even “compatibility.”  There is no greater compatibility than being surrendered to God together!

I love you, sisters.  Wait for God’s best.  It’s so worth it!

{I feel like this particular post is filled with “Christianese” verbage, which I try to avoid in my writing.  Forgive me.  I’m writing primarily to a Christian audience here, and I’m afraid my default setting is taking over.  It’s late and I don’t have time to rephrase.  I hope as I write more, I will break the Christian ghetto talk habit and learn to phrase things in a fresher way.  In the meantime, I hope this helps those of you who are younger and still unmarried. }

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