To My "1st Time Mom" Friends

So, oftentimes there's that thing at a Baby Shower where they pass around blank cards or a notebook and ask each person to write their thoughts, advice, or encouragements for the mom-to-be about motherhood. And they say, "Just a few brief thoughts for the mom so she can look through it from time-to-time and remember she's not alone and other moms have been there too!" And that's when I think, "What? Am I super-mom over here that they think I can compose my thoughts into a small paragraph that will suddenly help this woman when she is so desperate that she turns to a small book for answers or help from her close (and sometimes not too close) friends?" Seriously! I either spend the entire gift opening time thinking of what I should write when the notebook finally makes it's way over; or I monopolize what feels like the whole notebook and miss out on whatever is happening because I'm immersed in this Oh-so-important task of giving All.The.Words.

Now those who know me, know that I am rarely brief in what we'll call my "times of sharing." Especially when it comes to motherhood and encouraging new moms in this amazing calling that God has given us. Each day I have made it through this gig of mothering I am growing more and more passionate as to how I can bring encouragement to other moms. Partly because other moms have brought such encouragement to me. I believe wholeheartedly that we need community in our life to grow and change us more into the image of Christ. There is no way that this post or whatever I may write in a notebook can ever encompass all the advice and encouragement there is to give. However, I do believe that God gives us the words we need at the right time and for the right person.

Tomorrow I am attending a baby shower for my friend and her little baby, due this summer. I have no idea if they will have a "time to give all your knowledge and encouragement" but I know I always have so much to say and will not have time to say it. Yes, I know that sometimes I end up talking to hear myself talk. And something about not having little babies anymore and getting to relive the memories and excitement of a new baby just brings out all my words. Not to mention all the cool new gadgets and clothes and everything I didn't have when raising my babies. It's like, "What? If I had that when my babies were little, we would have...saved so much time, been super parents, had all the smart babies who can read at age 1." Now really, all the ridiculously cool looking things cannot make or break your parenting - and to me, that is a relief and not a burden. So the following advice will come in two sections: Spiritual encouragement and things/gadgets that you need or don't.

At baby showers, you often hear the question, "Are you ready?" No new mom can ever be "prepared" for what is to come. I am learning new things about myself, my children, husband, and God everyday. I do know that life before kids is not the same as life after. In all the ways, good and challenging. Two things I realized about myself as a mom: I need to be in God's Word. It helps me know who God is and how he uses his strength (not mine) for his glory and my good, because all is grace. Also, I need other writers and friends to speak into my life. I have never been good at "preaching the gospel to myself" as it is sometimes said. I need that reminder from other sources, maybe more than some people. Below are a few books or articles I read recently that have encouraged my soul.

  • This link to desiring God is for their book, Mom Enough, and it is a compilation of various articles/blog posts written by women about motherhood and the calling it truly is. There is also a brief video of John Piper speaking on the excitement he has for the book because of the amazing influence that moms have in the lives of those they encounter. You can order a paperback version or get a free download to your computer or mobile device.

  • I wrote a post recently about a book I read which I now think every parent should read. I am not sure when or how often they should read it but it is awesome and I loved it! Give Them Grace

  • Blog posts by Jen Hatmaker. Recently she wrote a few posts on motherhood and how it brings out "All. The. Feels." which is so true! Motherhood makes us feel everything MORE. More joy, more love, but also more anger, more frustration. It is part of a series on "what I wish I had known about motherhood" which was put together by the Today Show. I Wish Someone Would've Warned Me About These BIG FEELINGS She contributed this post too: What Would My Mom Do... which I find very freeing in this crazy parenting age of "making childhood magical" for our kids. 

Oh girl, I could go on and on about how I love the little reminders that we are enough and God is in control so don't stress or fret or guilt yourself. Guilt sneaks up faster than any other "mom issue" and we were not created to live that way. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1

As for all the "stuff" your baby "needs." I have my favorite things that I loved or hated, and so does every other mom on the planet! So I would say, listen to advice and tips and tricks but always remember: God gave your baby to you and you are the right mom for your baby! You may try a bedtime routine that your friend swears by and your baby (or you) hates it! That's okay, move on and find something that works for your family. There is often a "right" way to do things but the minor stuff is all up to you. Please don't hear this as "You are in charge of everything and if you screw it up then your kid is doomed for life!" You are the mom but no one "has it all together" So, here's my few favs (in no particular order and not an exhaustive list) that helped me in my situation and may or may not prove the same for you. 

  • Baby Swings! Buy one! Any kind will do but my babies loved the kind that not only moved front to back but had a side to side option. - I'm sure there are so many fancy kinds now. Here's the thing: Every mom may have an "I will never...." moment with their kids and if you want to "wear" your baby every second, that's okay and if you want to "only have your baby nap in their crib" then that's okay too. But you will need to be flexible at some point and a swing may be one way to get that baby to nap and let you do what you need to do. 

  • Lotions, soaps, what-have-you. My second kid had very sensitive skin and reacted poorly to almost every lotion and soap I was given at my baby showers. I gave it all away and bought various kinds until I found what worked. These three were my favorite: Shea Moisture Unscented Baby Lotion the link goes to target which is the cheapest place I've found this line of products. (I use their curly hair line of products for myself) They also have an unscented shampoo/soap that I love too - though I don't think it's "tear free" so be careful around the their little eyes.  

  • Diaper Cream is the next one. For my first baby, I could use any product and it worked and she was great. The second kid had a rash non-stop and most creams didn't help but often made it worse. I found a few creams that I love because of their gentle ingredients but they still helped heal the skin. Burt's Bees Multipurpose Ointment is petroleum free but still protects baby's bum like vaseline would. 

  • When I eventually had to switch to cloth diapers (he was actually allergic to something in the disposable diapers so his rash never really healed without the use of strong steroid ointments) The multipurpose ointment wasn't good for the cloth fibers and I found another product that was cloth diaper approved: Balmers Monkey Balm. It's pricey but lasts a long time. I still use it on my kids, and myself, for dry hands, and relief for sunburns ect... 

  • Lastly, I haven't read any books on sleep habits or happy moms. I didn't even finish what to expect when expecting or anything like that. But I had a friend who explained the premise of "baby wise" to me and I kept a little of that to help with my kids' sleep habits. Now, I do not agree with the baby wise theory nor do I think you should withhold food from your baby "until the set feeding time." So this is not an endorsement for that book. But I adopted the "EASY" plan as my own: E: Eat. When they wake, they eat. A: Activity. After eating you spend some awake time with baby. Usually tummy time is involved and maybe this portion lasts for 30min. S: Sleep. Baby is getting tired and it's time again for a nap (maybe this lasts 2 hours, maybe 45min. but it's sleep of some kind.) Y: Your time. During baby's nap time, you get your time. This is whatever you need it to be and often people say, "When baby is sleeping, you should be sleeping." I found that tough to do but I agree that at least one of baby's naps should be yours as well. - If a second baby ever joins your family then this luxury is harder to come by. Once baby wakes, it's probably time to feed again. Now obviously this is meant to be a flexible plan and often if my baby "woke before I was ready" I would try a diaper change and then back to bed but if baby wasn't having any of that, it was time to start again with "eat" and move through the steps. This helped me keep a "schedule" even though in reality the schedule can't really begin for about a month or two . I just needed something to guide my days at home with baby and this is what worked for me, especially the first 6 months. 

So mom, you are going to have a blast in this new chapter of life! No matter what comes in the life of you or the little one, you can trust God through it all and give up on being "the perfect mom" or having "the perfect child." We don't know how much time we will have with our children. It may be a whole lifetime, it may be one moment. But we can know that God has entrusted us with them to raise for His glory and purposes and not our own. 

I love you, and I'm excited to share this amazing life of Motherhood with you. 

First lost tooth

My little girl has lost her first tooth! We've been waiting for it to fall out for almost a week and it has been loose for maybe more than a month. We offered to help her pull it but she kept saying, "As long as it doesn't hurt!" So we let her figure it out on her own.

The day it fell out she came home on the school bus and immediately said, "Mom, I lost my tooth today, at school!" She had an extra exciting day because she was the helper/line leader that day too! She said "It was after I finished getting the hand sanitizer for snack. I wanted to wiggle my tooth and when I did it just came out!" I found out later that she was so surprised and nervous that her teacher had to walk her down the hall to the office because she didn't want to go alone. The "nice blonde lady in the office," as J called her, helped her wash the tooth and put it in a special tooth-shaped necklace to take home. I love that she was able to loose her first tooth at school - they really make a big deal of it. And even though I missed out on a "first" of hers, it's okay because it helps me remember that she is her own little person and learning to live her own life too. We are so proud of our little kindergartner and all the exciting "firsts" we've had this year. 

During lunch that day she said, "Hey, I can still eat like normal!" So cute. Then after dinner, she said, "The librarian asked me today what the tooth fairy will bring tonight? And I told her I didn't know!" That's when I remembered that I was the tooth fairy! So I looked at pinterest just to see what some other people out there were doing. Did you know people actually glue a tiny dollhouse door to the wall in their child's bedroom (for what, the 3-5 years that they are losing their teeth) as a "tooth fairy entrance!" Yep, it's a thing but it was a thing I wasn't going to do so I kept looking. People also have "tooth pillows" - a pillow shaped like a tooth with a little pocket for the tooth that also holds the money after the tooth fairy makes the trade. I found a "tooth box" I liked so we decided to go with a box and I found a free printable, mini letter to the tooth fairy and an envelope for putting the money too. It was all coming together without much work on the "tooth fairy's" part. So J wrote a note before bed: "I lost my first tooth tonight. You may have it if you want. Love, J. March 10, 2015" (yes I helped her think of what to say" but it was still in her cute handwriting. So all was ready and she went to bed. 

I printed one more printout that had a spot to tape money and said, "tooth #1." I remembered another pinterest idea of using hairspray and glitter to make "tooth fairy money" so I did that to the gold dollar and now it was ready! Before I went to bed, I went in her room, retrieved the letter and the tooth and left behind the envelope with the money inside. 

In the morning she came upstairs like usual and had forgotten all about the tooth fairy stuff the night before. So I had to ask, "Is your tooth still under your pillow?" With that reminder, she ran downstairs and found the money. She said, "It's a sparkly coin!" So I guess she liked the sparkles - though they did make more mess than I had hoped. I made sure to tell her "I wonder if you'll get the same thing for the next tooth or something different." Just in case this tooth fairy isn't up to the sparkles and things the next time. She told me the day before that she knows fairies aren't real and so the tooth fairy isn't real. But, I don't think she's made the connection yet that I am the one who sneaks in at night and puts the money under the pillow. I'm glad it's a fun tradition we can have that still has a bit of "magic." 

Let's be real

This pile of laundry has been sitting in my basement all week. I've moved it a couple times but not to the closet where it belongs. Even now as I type this, the pile still begs to be put away. I also haven't ridden that spin bike in a super long time and it's been too cold to run outside so I haven't exercised much this week either. I bring guilt on myself so easily but I've also been hit with so much conviction lately - and yes they're different things. I know God is pulling me, pushing me, almost yelling to get my attention and make me wake up to His glories all around! I know from the outside it's difficult to tell but on the inside, I'm fighting a war between God's will and my selfish desires.

This past week I've had so many choices to make on whether or not to do "this or that" and as a homemaker, my life is full of those choices and it's wonderful; yet, I still struggle fulfilling all that needs to be done and even doing the things that I want to get done. It's like I feel busy when really I'm not truly busy. Then I read an article that popped up in my Facebook news-feed (sometimes Facebook can be used for good.)

Here's a quote from the post:
"The most common species of slothfulness is “lazy busy” — a full schedule endured in a spiritual haze, begrudging interruptions, resenting needy people, driven by a craving for the next comfort. It is epidemic in our day."

So that basically cut me down to the core. I have been or thought all those things this week. yikes! My good intentions or even my true and honest desire to be who God has made me to be for His glory and my good is overrun by my desire for my "own time" my search for the next relaxing thing in my "hectic" life. So evening comes, after a day of what amounts to basically nothing getting done but I'm still so tired and we literally spend about 2 hours in front of the TV doing nothing. (yes, insert your comments on how hard parenting really is and "it's okay that you didn't do much - you were chasing your kids around and feeding them and isn't it amazing that you've kept them alive this long!" type of comment. Well I get it, but that's not my point here.)

My point is: how much do I long for the good that God has given and laid out before me yet I don't reach out and grab it. Do you? Sometimes I read three or more blog posts a day that are showing me Christ and His ways and how we should walk in them. Then I turn and yell at my children because "they interrupted MY reading time and can't they see that I'm trying to learn about God here!" Too much? Over-dramatic? I'm just being honest and sharing my heart and struggles so you too can be honest and know it happens to everyone (at least I'm pretending this happens to you too.)

If we as Christians are living in community together, I want to be honest and real and show our inadequacies and voice the struggle because that's one way we and others can see our need for Christ and his forgiveness and righteousness. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (go read Romans chapter 8, seriously) Isn't that great news?

No matter the guilt trip I've put on myself this week, I am free in Christ! He has paid for my sins and I am free! So, this next week, I'm going to live honestly but not in the pity of my sinful self; in the freedom that is given me through Christ and I will rejoice in that freedom and live as one who is free from sin and my own selfish desires. His power in me gives me the ability to say no to hours of mindless activity and say yes to a better life in him. A life with my family and friends that uplifts us and points our eyes to Jesus! Yes, I will still watch TV this week and yes, I'll fail at something for sure. But I will pray continually that Christ will keep the freedom He has provided in the forefront of my mind, that I won't focus on my failures but on His grace to help me begin again and to give Him the glory in it all. Pray with me this week that we will bring glory to Christ and show our community what a free life in Christ can be.

Desiring God post on the sin of sloth & lazybusy 

Grandpa Arlan Peters

We lost a beloved family member March 2, 2015. Pete's grandpa Arlan passed away a week before his 90th birthday. He was a great man who loved all of us so much. We love him and have great memories to remember him well. I found a few pictures to share, though most are from my phone so they are from this year.

Arlan and Marge at our wedding in 2004

Skiing at Snowbasin, 2013. They offered free adaptive rides to promote their program. He really enjoyed it. 
Anne with her parents at her 60th birthday party, 2014

Family picture August 3, 2014

Singing time with Great Papa, Christmas 2014
Kids in their Christmas pajamas with Great-Grammy and Great-Papa, 2014
Reading a book to Great-Papa at Great-Grammy's 86th birthday party. This year, Feb. 12th. 

We will miss him so Prayers for Pete's grandma are appreciated; they were married over 60 years. Please pray for Anne too. She was very close with her dad and it's going to be tough to be without him. 

IF :Gathering 2015

For two years now, I've participated in an event called IF:Gathering. It's like a conference, it's like a worship service, it's like a morning Bible study sitting on the couch talking with the gals about God and His goodness. So obviously, it's tough to explain but that's okay. My level of participation has been watching the live-stream, alone, from my home (and usually not live but catching up at night or during rest-time while the kids sleep.) I know of only two other women in my area who do the same but I'm hoping to change that for next year's gathering. This "thing" is so uplifting to my soul and so humbling at the same time. I mean, the first year I found myself crying in the middle of my kitchen while singing "Oceans" by myself yet with thousands of women around the world. This year I watched mostly in my bedroom with the iPad propped on top of an empty laundry basket - wish I had taken a picture - while my husband watched TV downstairs and the kids slept. I am so glad I took the time to listen and learn from the women God has called to "gather, equip, and unleash this generation for the good of the people and for God's glory." But now I realize I should be sharing this experience with others.

About two weeks before IF, I checked their website to see if there were any public IF:locals in Utah. NOT A ONE*! It was a map full of little grey place markers and and my empty state. Now there may have been groups who registered as a private group with only the people they chose to invite but the closest public IF:local was in Idaho or Colorado. I know Utah is usually 5-10 years behind the nation's big cities when it comes to well, most new things really. But I don't want IF:Gathering to be one of those things. So I am praying about it, but I think next year I would like to host an IF:local for Utah and our valley/church but also open to anyone who finds us. *looking back at the site - now almost a month later - there was a private IF:local at South Mountain Community Church in Draper, so that's great!

The teaching this year was convicting and raw and helped me understand more of who God made me to be and how we should be living in freedom and grace for His glory in what He has called us to do. All the "messages" were related to the story of Joshua and the promised land. Here are a few quotes that stood out to me:

Be strong and courageous!

We must let go of the past to lay hold of what God has for us in the future!

Service is what prepares you for the battle, not performance.

Faith doesn't demand that God explain himself!

Being faithful doesn't mean being fearless. It just means your faith is greater than your fear.

God is holding on to you tighter than you are holding onto him.

Walk it out, even when it's not working out. Just because your progress isn't obvious, it doesn't mean your faith isn't working.

Take the next step of obedience!

- strong words from women I have come to admire and learn from: Jennie Allen, Jen Hatmaker, Christine Caine, Angie SmithAnn Voskamp, Rebekah Lyons, Bianca Olthoff, Jo Saxton, and probably more that I'm forgetting right now.

My Bible study/grow group/community on Tuesday mornings - we call it "moms group" - has graciously allowed me and a friend to share our thoughts and experiences from this year's gathering. I am grateful for the good discussion it has started in our community. I desire for us to be women of God who are bold and honest, and loving with each other and our neighbors - just as Christ is and calls us to be.

Another aspect of IF, that continues beyond IF:gathering is IF:Equip. It is a daily Bible study, right now we are working through Hebrews, where women can connect and study God's word together. If you have an extra 5-10 minutes a day, or you don't have a clear direction in your study of the Bible right now, then you should check it out.

Do you have a community you grow with? You should. Seek it out, God meant for us to be in community with other believers. Heb 10:24-25 "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Find a church, find a small group, and seek community from outside too (organizations like IF) but the local church is how we can truly grow in relationship with others for God's glory. I'm so thankful for the people God has placed me with and I love them more each day.

May "the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." Colossians 3:15

I'm thankful today for the people God uses to speak His truth and grace into my life!

How about you, did you watch/attend IF:Gathering this year or last? Are there any other conferences or gatherings that you have loved?