Weak

Weak…

This is not a word that we like to use when describing ourselves. It’s not a word that lifts me up and brings me encouragement. It’s not a word that propels me forward through the day. In fact, if you really reach down to the bottom of how I would prefer to associate that word, I would rather use it to label other things, situations or sometimes even people.

Using the word weak to describe something outside myself, well, it can give me a false sense of feeling stronger in the face of my own weakness.

Weak…  I’ve felt weak a lot in the past months. I mean don’t get me wrong I’ve been aware of so many of my struggles and weaknesses forever. But the past months have just taken a big fat, squeaky, bright highlighter to them. The glare is blinding. They cannot be ignored.

When I found out about having our 6thbaby I felt weak. How am I going to be enough for all these children? How am I going to do this?

When I found out about Ava’s diagnosis. After the shock abated a little bit, and the reality of the situation started to settle in, I wanted nothing more than to get off this train. Get back to where I planned on having a healthy baby in the spring. I wanted to stop sitting in the unknowns.

“Can I go back in time? Can I just start this whole thing over and hope for a different outcome?”

Of course, the answer to this is no.

This is my precious baby girl. This is where I am. With her. Our weaknesses exposed together. I can do nothing on my own to fix this.

I felt so weak.

I felt weak as fear would creep in at unexpected times during the day and then also at expected times like when I went to the doctor’s appointments.

I felt weak in the face of one of my biggest fears…losing a baby, a child. And in turn preparing and attending Ava’s memorial.

I felt weak when I didn’t want to get out of bed some mornings, some afternoons….some days.

I felt weak at the thought of having to go through my normal routines, when I felt like my world had stopped. I felt weak when I needed my world to stop…at least for a while.

The reality of facing my weaknesses at such a raw and real level has been hard… gut wrenchingly hard…

and Beautiful

Here in my utter weakness and brokenness there is Good News. Here, there is gospel that shines bright and lifts me up.

As the simple, elementary, yet oh so true, children’s song ‘Jesus loves me’ says:

“When I am weak, He is strong.”

I am weak, but my God is Strong!

When I felt fear and inadequacy at having a 6thchild. When I knew I couldn’t be enough, I was reminded that God is enough. He is strong. And He will give me what I need for the days ahead. And often this doesn’t mean it all falls on me. I have an amazing husband who parents alongside me. And other people in our family’s life that also love on my children, encourage me as a mom and a wife.

When I struggled with fear and wanting to give up after Ava’s diagnosis, God reminded me that she is His child first and foremost. And he has entrusted me to carry and take care of her. And through that truth He gave me peace, a peace that doesn’t make sense.

And He gave me joy. Joy that I do get to carry her right now. And joy in being reminded that He carries me. It’s hard to convey how it feels to be ‘carried’ by the Lord in a place of such deep hardship. All I can say about that right now is, it is true.

As I expressed in my last post(Ava Hope), God was with me every step of my terrifying and hard trip to the doctor’s office and hospital. He was with me through her delivery and goodbye.

When faced with the reality of losing a baby, the phrase “hurts like hell” is accurate. However, with the Lord I am not filled with suffocating despair.

I grieve with hope.

In facing one of my biggest fears God has never been absent. Some days I didn’t do much but grieve in my bed. And that’s ok, it was healthy and needed. I may still have some of those days. But God has given me new strength and mercies each morning, to face the day in the capacity that was needed. Some days the pain wasn’t so much, and some days it felt like more than I could bare. But God gave me what I needed for each of them. This is still ongoing and true.

Now let me add a “Life is real in the Stenberg house” story here:

I finally had enough courage to sit down and rip off whatever band aid I had plastered on. I was ready to write Ava a letter. Obviously she is gone, but I needed it.

So here I am, I’m writing, I’m crying,… I look like a mess. Facing this hurts in a healthy way, it feels good to do this. In the middle of writing the letter, I hear a knock on the door. It’s an older man and a young guy. I peek out the window and see their truck. These guys have been working on getting our furnace fixed. Not too long ago they ordered a part and told us it wouldn’t be showing up for a couple more weeks….It came early.

I open the door say hello, and let them in. Those poor guys. They couldn’t have been more uncomfortable after taking a look at my face. They sheepishly explained that the part to the furnace came in faster than expected and they were here to replace it. “We will be done quickly” they said.  And they were, they ducked out of my house so fast after they were done! I thought about giving them a simple explanation, but really, I couldn’t come up with anything that would make things less awkward! I am just left to laugh about it now.

OK back to the letter and memorial.

While getting ready for the memorial we had so much help and support. We are so thankful for all the people that made a very hard day, as easy as it could be. It takes a village and ours loved on us that day and the days surrounding. It was a good day and good day in our process of healing.

Daniel sang and played a special song at the memorial and he also gave the message. I shared the letter I wrote to Ava.

We did not know if we were going to be able to make it through what we had planned. In fact, we had a backup plan in the event of an emotional meltdown! I didn’t know how I was going to get up there and share my letter without falling apart. I felt so very weak and afraid of facing that day.

But when I am weak, He is strong.

God’s peace and strength carried us up there, God’s peace and strength transcended all the difficulties, fears and the tears that threatened to take over. Because there were tears, but they didn’t take over. God’s peace and strength carried us through the service through the day.

I wish I could explain to you the feeling of being upheld by God that day, sharing about my girl and the hope we have in the midst of sorrow because of our Lord and Savior. But there are really no words to convey what it feels like when God is carrying you.

God’s message of His love shined that day.

And God’s peace and strength are still carrying us through.

I am no “super Christian”.

I have no “super faith”.

This process has been so hard and messy.

But God is rich in His mercy, grace and provision for all of His children that have faith in Jesus.

This is good news for all of us! Because He desires all of us to be His children.

He desires to carry all of us, and to be a stronghold in times of hardship, hurt and fear.

Whatever the situation now or to come. Take heart because God is enough.

 When we are weak, He is Strong.

 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
 

 

Ava Hope

 

 

 

I’m finally ready to sit down and write, finally ready to walk through those days surrounding actually losing Ava. It’s one thing to walk through them over and over in your mind. It’s something very different to actually sit down and type them out.

To relive it.

About a week or so before I lost Ava, I was finally starting to feel her move. I had felt her earlier, but it’s hard to tell, when baby is so tiny, if those fluttering movements are baby, or just gas! But now I could actually tell that she was moving and kicking. It was a bitter sweet place to be at the time. Even though I loved feeling her move, it would often bring tears to my eyes knowing that I would most likely have to say goodbye. Yet, as I look back now, I really only remember the sweetness of feeling her alive like that, and those memories are ones I cherish.

That Friday before she was gone, I had “a bee in my bonnet”. I wanted to get some things in order that had been on my “to do” list but hadn’t taken priority. I saw that Ikea was having their winter sale, so Daniel, myself, and the two youngest boys headed off for the maze of Swedish furniture, with a side of temptation. We found what we were looking for and this enabled me to get our spare bedroom set up with an actual bed and good sheets, and comforter. There were also some other organizational items that I was able to set up as well. Anything to make life easier, right?

Then over the next few days we started getting our lives back in order after the craziness of Christmas. On Tuesday night Daniel and I finished getting the guest bedroom in order. Little did I know what a blessing it would be to have that done that night.

Now I knew for sure I had felt Ava move on Friday evening, but by the end of Saturday I wasn’t sure I had felt her move at all that day. And then Sunday came and went, again I wasn’t sure I had felt her move that day either. She was small, and smaller still due to her T18, so it was hard to tell if she had just shifted to a place where it was harder to feel her movement or if she was gone. I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that Wednesday, so I knew I would find out for sure by then. But at this point God was just instilling peace in my heart, and I was feeling fairly optimistic. On Monday night, I did tell Daniel I couldn’t be sure if I had felt her move since Friday. He made sure he could come with me to my doctor’s appointment.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into that day. I went over questions to ask the doctor, like: “should I transfer to a hospital that deals with high risk babies?” And so on… There are a lot of unknowns and questions to go over with T18.

At my doctor’s here in NJ, instead of just listening for the heartbeat they actually have a little ultrasound machine in the room. It’s not as detailed, or precise, as the ones at the hospital, but you can still see your little one on the screen.

Even going into it knowing she could be gone, nothing prepares you for the silence.

The doctor ran the wand over my belly and I looked at our little one and she was so still. She was probably my most active baby in my ultrasounds, more so than any of the boys. So, seeing her there so still, I knew she was gone. The doctor, I think tried to shield us from it for the minutes she was looking for baby’s heart.

But we knew.

She then ushered us into her office and we discussed, through tears “what now?” She told us she was sending us to the Maternal Fetal department at the hospital to have another ultrasound to confirm that our little one was gone.

That day we were planning to find out Ava’s gender regardless of the outcome. We had the doctor write it down in an envelope. Then made what felt like a long trip to the van, and Daniel and I opened it together…. ‘Female’ it read.

Ava Hope.

That’s when the flood of tears came for both of us. The ugly cry you just can’t stop even if you wanted too. But we didn’t want to. There was a wonderful and horrible release of emotions in that moment. Finally getting to truly mourn the child we loved, the little girl we had wanted and prayed for. The time of hoping we would meet her had past, and we could truly mourn her at last.

I think we both had felt in our hearts at some point during my pregnancy that she was a girl. But the full weight of everything hit so hard. How do you prepare for the freight train of loss?

We then drove to the hospital and went for the second ultrasound, where they confirmed that she was, indeed, gone and had been gone for a few days. The reality of “Yes, the last time I felt her move was that Friday.”

Now, I had to check in to the maternity area. I looked at my still baby on the screen while laying on that bed and just felt overwhelmed. I can’t do this, I can’t check in and go deliver my stillborn little girl.

But God’s presence is never absent.

When I despair, the Lord reminds me that He is indeed right there. He knew what we would be encountering that day, He knew the overwhelming emotions that would come, and the difficulty I was feeling at facing the next 24 hours, or even in the next 10 minutes.

That still small voice was whispering to me “One step at a time, literally just focus on one physical step at a time.” I am not alone, the Lord is my strength, the Lord is carrying me.

I delivered Her at 1:15 am on January 10, 2019.

She would have been 21 weeks that day. I won’t go into the details of the actual delivery. It was very much just like a normal vaginal delivery, that I’ve had with my other boys. Except it was easier.  In some ways, it was really nice that is was easier, and in other ways it will always break my heart that it was easier.

The nurses took her and cleaned her up then brought her to me in her blankets. It was beautiful to hold my, light as a feather, little girl in my arms. She was 8 ½ inches long and weighed 8 ounces. She was so light because she was only 20 weeks but also from the T18 she was small. I wasn’t sure what was heavier, my little girl, or the blankets she rested in.

We got to hold her, take some pictures, and talk to her even though it was obvious she was already whole with the Lord.

It was a blessing to say goodbye in a tangible way.

The newborn photographer does pictures for free for babies that are stillborn or that die shortly after birth. She came in and took some photos for us. The social worker came in and talked to us about funeral homes and the process of paperwork and our different options on what we would like to do with her body. Those are things you never want to have to go over for your baby. But I’m so thankful the social worker was so helpful and sensitive to our situation.

In fact, all the staff we encountered at the hospital was wonderful and caring. They even had a memory box for our little Ava. So many things I would have had put together at a later date, I didn’t have to worry about because the hospital had it covered.

I delivered Ava at a Catholic hospital, where they offer to have a pastor come and visit you in these hard situations. Pastoral care was not something we lacked. Pastor Warren visited us both days I was in the hospital, and brought some encouragement and Bible verses at the behest of President Larson. Pastor Aage also visited us, and we had offers from other pastor friends to stop by, but we just weren’t in the hospital long enough for everyone to visit us.

I remember the nurse asking “Well, I know your husbands a pastor and you have had two pastors come and visit you, but I have to let you know that we have a pastor here who can also come and see you…” I chuckled.  “Thank you, Um, I think I’m good.” I am surrounded by pastoral encouragement. And I state that in the most thankful way possible.

It’s been such a blessing to have so many wonderful people surround us with their encouragement, support and prayers during this time. We are so very thankful for God’s hand of encouragement through all of you.

I think the hardest thing I had to do through the whole thing was call the nurse to take Ava’s body, after we had said goodbye. I feel like I sat on the bed forever knowing it was time and working up the courage to really let go physically. Death takes over so quickly, it was time to let her body go.

I left the hospital that afternoon. It’s so hard to be at the hospital without a baby. So many things were reminding me of all the healthy children I had given birth to in rooms just like that one. So many things reminding of me of what would be like in a perfect world with Ava. But our world is not perfect, it’s broken from sin…and so I went home with no baby in my arms.

Though life may have long moments of sorrow, there is still joy.

I went home and got to hug my other “babies”( boys actually) that are still with us. Man does Elijah give the best hugs. Nothing starts mending a broken heart like a one year old squeezing your neck and slobbering your cheek.

Emily, Daniel’s sister, came to stay with us for about two weeks and help. The guest bedroom and house were ready since we had gotten things in order without even realizing how much it would help in the coming week. Emily was a huge help with everything, and it was so nice to have someone to love on the boys. Daniel and I didn’t have much left right after getting home. We didn’t have much left for weeks after getting home.

I’m glad Daniel got those weeks. Our church family was so supportive, letting him grieve at home without the having the burden of work. Pastor Aage was so gracious in covering the pulpit for those weeks. Andrew Little and the crew organizing Jr. High Winter Weekend were a blessing, in releasing Daniel from his speaking engagement on one of those weekends. We needed time to grieve as a family, and we were given it.

It takes a village, and our village took care of us so well. Between the food that was dropped off, the prayers that were felt, the flowers that were delivered, and the love that was poured all over us, we felt loved and cared for, and we are so appreciative of our friends and family across this continent, and our friends and family right here in Bergenfield.

There is so much still to write. But for now, I will leave it with just her delivery story.

As I said before I do not grieve without hope. Ava Hope is healed and whole now. We are the ones left to be healed.

And the Lord is healing us. We have good days and bad days. But God’s presence is here and carrying us through it all.

 

Psalm 30:11-12

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

 

 

Hope in the midst of Sorrow- News about our 6th Child

 

I am writing to share some hard and heavy news we received a couple of weeks ago now. It’s taken me a bit to even think about sitting down and writing this. Because my heart is grieving and sometimes it’s hard to get through even the simple daily tasks. 

 

Most of you know we are expecting our 6th child in May. And while it took some processing, “6 kids!!” We were excited. And as I entered the second trimester and started to feel better. That excitement just kept growing. 

 

But just as our excitement was growing, the wind has been knocked out of our sails. 

 

I went in some weeks ago now for my first ultra sound and blood test. And the results were that my little one has Trisomy 18. 

 

I had never heard of Trisomy 18 until now. Trisomy 18 is a genetic mutation, a chromosome abnormality, where a person has 3 chromosome 18s instead of only the two you’re supposed to have. And that slight imbalance, that one extra chromosomeaffects almost everything with the baby’s development. It causes extreme birth defects, including, but not limited to, key organslike the brain, heart and kidneys. 

 

It is very fatal. 

 

95% of babies that are born with this pass away within the 1styear of life. And most babies do not even make it full term, passing away in utero. A lot of babies that are conceived with this chromosome abnormality are often miscarried in the first trimester.

 

We’ve been informed it’s totally random. It’s not something that is hereditary. There is no one to blame. I didn’t eat bad romaine lettuce and Daniel didn’t eat too much raw cookie dough. Its super unlikely to have this happen.

 

It’s like winning the bad lottery. 

 

We hoped that this would be a mistake, a false positive. But when the blood test was compared to the ultrasound findings the diagnosis was confirmed. This past week we went in for a second ultrasound, and the doctor said they could see the cysts forming in the brain of our little baby.

 

Receiving the news that unless God starts knitting differently in my womb we are going to have to say goodbye to this little one has been heartbreaking. This is never a road I anticipated walking. The unknowns and the questions, mixed with the reality of the diagnosis can make the walk overwhelming, scary and debilitating.

 

How do you prepare for a birth and a funeral at the same time?

 

News like this clouds most thoughts through the day. And some moments I’m grieving, and some moments I am filled with God’s peace, and some moments I have no choice but to laugh at my boys and their silliness or funny comments, and then I’m back to crying. 

 

I am grieving, but I am not grieving without hope. 

 

Weather the Lord decides to make this little one whole and healed in heaven or decides to heal this one for life here on earth, I know with certainty that this little one is in the Lords hands. And for that matter so am I and my family. 

 

Processing through this has just highlighted so much to me the brokenness of the world we live in. This is not punishment for Daniel and I or this baby. This is not “fair” or how things are supposed to be. 

 

This happened because you and I live in a world that is broken. Broken by sin.

 

Ever since sin entered the world at the time of the fall with Adam and Eve, the world has had a sin condition which has resulted in separation from God, and things falling apart. God created the world, He said it was good, and then we got involved and corrupted the whole thing with our sin.

 

Sin is trisomy 18. Sin corrupts this world with defects, just as Trisomy 18 is corrupting my beautiful little baby with defects.

 

And so, this world is broken and filled with hurt and I am reeling from the consequences of that right now. 

 

However, as Christmas approaches and we think of this season that is, or should be, filled with joy, I can’t help but be reminded of why we are filled with joy. It’s not the food, or the presents or even spending time with family and friends. All of that is wonderful and joyful. But the real reason we can have joy in this season is because Christ came. 

 

Christ came and walked the hard road to the cross and took our sin, shame and brokenness so that we can have forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ. So that He can restore and make things new. 

 

Christ came to make things right, Christ came to restore our relationship with Him and the Heavenly Father. Christ came to heal our brokenness and hurts, and to make us whole. Christ came so that we don’t have to bear the weight of our burdens and sin. Christ came so that some day we will live with Him, where there is no more death and no more sorrow, no more trisomy 18, and He will wipe away the tears from our eyes. And things will be as they should be. 

 

Christ came and walked the hard road to the cross, so that I can walk this hard road now with hope and His peace. 

 

Because of the gospel I can praise the Lord in my grief. Because of the gospel I can say that God is good. Because of the gospel I have hope and assurance in my sorrow. Because of the gospel I can have peace in the storm. 

 

John 14
 
14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

 

We have shared with the kids about the baby and the situation. They are sad. Silas’s response to the news “But Mommy, I wanted to play with this baby!” Me too Silas, me too.  But they are doing well. And looking forward to Christmas. 

 

I will try to be open about this hard journey we are walking right now. I’m not sure how long or short it will be. 

 

When I feel like it and when I don’t feel like it, God is right here with me. 

 

We covet your prayers through this time. And are thankful for all your encouragement.

 

I Need a Nap!

It’s November now. I wrote this in August. Before we were expecting #6! It’s been a while now. Sorry!!! But here it is anyway!

~

It’s a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in August. And to be honest Daniel and I need a break. Maybe not necessarily a date night or a weekend away. But a brake from the schedule, a break from work, a break from the kids. I “need” a break from Elijah.

My little(one year old) Elijah has been sick. He requires so much physical attention. This past week, he needed day and night attention. He is also going through a shy phase, which means he is hardly going to anyone besides his daddy and of course me. While Elijah may be the most taxing, my other four also need plenty of attention.

I want a break.

So this afternoon I said no to the splash park, I said no to catching up on things in the house, I said no to making sure the boys are getting in their daily reading and I ditched the to do list this afternoon.

I am letting both of us(Daniel and I) take a break.

What does that mean??? Daniel is playing on his computer, Judah is on the old computer playing next to Daniel. Asher, Caleb and Silas are watching the Disney channel. And I took Elijah with me. We are sitting in the nursery at church where I have the AC blasting(it’s like 100 degrees outside),and Elijah is playing with “new” toys in a room he can’t escape. As for me, I am sitting with an iced coffee writing this blog post. Right now this is a break. I might even order some cheap Chinese take out for dinner. I need to breath today. And I am refusing to feel guilty about it!

Now when I say I said “no” to those different things. The only person I actually had to say “no” to, was myself. I love to go, go, go and I have a hard time remembering that it’s fine to let certain things “go”. Being a mom in this big family teaches me everyday that things can’t be perfect! Just last week at church the kids were totally squirrelly on me and numerous people encouraged me after the service that, it was just fine, that’s just kids. I train them the best I can but, they are little humans that have little personality’s. Sometimes without them knowing it, they gang up on me and it all falls to chaos! And you know what, it is ok. And I’m thankful to have people that remind me that it’s ok.

But I have an issue with saying “no” to myself and taking a rest.

I was putting Elijah down for a nap the other day. It was a little later than it should have been so he was over tired. He was just wailing and screaming because he didn’t want to take a nap.

He wants to be a part of everything. He doesn’t want to miss a thing! All of his brothers are still awake playing and I’m putting him in baby jail… his crib. I give him a kiss whisper good night and leave him all by himself. I am the worst! At least that’s what his screaming seems to communicate!

But the reality here is, He really needed to take that nap. He was not going to have fun playing with his brothers that tired and cranky. He most definitely did not need to be a part of everything, right then he needed a rest!

As I closed the door part of me felt relief “Yeah! It’s nap time!” Part of me felt a little bad because he was especially mad today.

But that got me thinking, how much I relate to my little guy.

I want to be a part of everything. I want to know what’s going on, and be on top of all the things. I want to make sure all the fun summer things happen with the kids, I want to make sure, they are caught up and ready to go when the school year starts, and I want to make sure I’m catching up on my summer reading or catching up on mundane paperwork. My time seems so limited right now, so I try to be productive with all that I have to spare.

But man the reality is, sometimes I need to be unproductive and restful. I need a nap!

Um what did I just say??? I need to stop the train of thought that taking a rest is unproductive!!! How productive can I be with anything while I’m running on empty?? And I also have an issue with realizing how low my tank is getting.

I don’t really, realize how much I have put off rest until it’s too late. At these times I am not a nice person. I’m like that grumpy baby I couldn’t wait to get a break from!

Usually the rest of the world doesn’t get to see that side of “Karen”. I save that side of me for my sweet unsuspecting family.

And then literally, Daniel will say, “Hey, Babe I can come home after lunch and you can take a nap..” And even then sometimes I argue with him, and he continues to assure me its ok if I don’t get it all done. It’s ok, Go take a rest.

When I’m sitting burdened in my struggle, the struggle not to let any of the “ball’s drop”. God’s word gently reminds me of what His expectation of me is.

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God doesn’t mean for me to keep going and going and going. He is not throwing on this big burden of stuff that I have to complete on my own. He’s not telling me that I just need to be stronger. He’s not telling me that if I was better at following Him then I wouldn’t be in this mess.

He’s showing me the gospel here.

God desires for me to rest physically and spiritually in His grace. To come to a greater dependence on Him. He desires to show me His grace in the form of rest and refreshment.

He designed us to need it!

In my need I am pointed to the cross, in my insufficiency I’m pointed to Jesus and what’s already been done. And He reminds me of what is actually important. If I could keep on top of it all, there is a good chance I would forget to bring these things to the cross. I would forget my utter need for being dependent in Christ.

Praise be to God that I can’t do it all! Praise God He keeps me turning to Him! Praise God He keeps me thirsting for the refreshment I will find in His word. Praise God He keeps me longing for prayerful dependence in my chaotic world!

Praise God He shows up there with me in my mess and my unfinished list.

Praise God for the rest in Gods’ grace that He has promised is mine.

When I turn to Jesus and seek rest and dependence in Him, He often surprises me with His literal provision and grace for the things I am worried about letting go of, this may come as a shock… but… my world does not fall apart. However, it does remind me that its not all about my ability, but Christ’s ability. Praise God!

Coast to Coast – Summer with the Stenbergs

It’s half way through summer, and I really can’t believe it. I have spent the past couple weeks catching up on being away from home during the whole month of June.

We had the opportunity to drive back to the West Coast this summer. That drive! I’m still recovering! Nothing reminds me of how big or diverse our country is like driving coast to coast…and then doing it all over again!

It was quite an experience, packing the seven of us, including our dog, into a minivan and driving for over 40 hours one way.

Looking back on our vacation adventures I realized that “It’s not a vacation with the Stenbergs without”:

– A ridiculously long road trip… Seriously Elijah started thinking the car was his baby prison. And Caleb still pipes up at gas stations “I have to use the bathroom!”. Come on man! We just left home 2 minutes ago!!!! You don’t have to use the bathroom at every stop anymore!

– All the energy drinks… Keeps Daniel driving and driving on the road.

– A noise complaint within the first 15 minutes of being in a hotel. I mean really people?! It’s before 8:00pm and my kids have been in a car for 13 hours. At least let us have a chance to get settled before phoning in the noise complaint!

– Being stopped in pretty much every public place by people who would like to talk with me about my family. My kids make me feel a little famous! Haha! Although the reactions range from, “Wow you have such a beautiful family!” To the gal at Walmart eyeing Daniel and kids with distaste and then, after seeing the Bible verse on Daniel’s shirt, commenting: “Well at least you’re going to the right place” … hmm I’m still not sure what to make of that…

– All the snacks… Ones that don’t melt or crumble into all the crevices of the van are best. But at some point, you just stop caring.

– Usually this is where I would mention someone puking…but we made it through the whole vacation this time without any of us getting sick! Woohoo!!

– Starbucks! (Ok, I do miss having a mom and pop coffee stand within 5 min of everywhere. In my opinion they usually have the best coffee for cheaper.) However now that I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, Starbucks totally hits the spot! And it’s just the best on vacation.

– Silas getting naked at parties… I mean really, using the bathroom while you are playing with friends or cousins is overrated.

– Being creative with eating out.  When you realize your boys are already getting bigger and eating more than you expect. I tried to have stuff for peanut butter and Jelly in the car. But somehow the bread kept getting squished and becoming inedible. So…eating out on a budget it is!

– Being told there is a bear and her cub that live very close to where you are hiking and to not let the kids or dog chase it or try to pet it. Yep… think we will make sure that doesn’t happen, and while we are at it, find a new place to hike!!

– Making use of peeing in a bottle. (Advantage to having only boys.)

– Your kids giving one of your best friends dating advice: “You just need to go on a date with all the single men in Seattle.” (Side note: My boys better not take their own advice!)

– Great Bible teaching! I’m so thankful for all of the people that volunteered to run the kids programs at camp. It really is the best when you can drop off your kids at someplace fun and just sit down and enjoy hearing the message from Gods Word without all the distractions.

– Awesome friends!

– Amazing family!

– All the laughter!!

The kids actually did great, I really can’t complain. Elijah was pretty frustrated at times. Seriously though, he’s one and a half and the whole “being strapped into something where he can’t move” is pretty much the worst form of torture to him right now. So, for that being the case he did really well.

We had a great trip, so good to see family and friends that live so far away, but after a month on the road, it was so nice to get back home to Jersey. Nothing beats sleeping in your own bed after being gone for weeks!

Our journeys, being separated from loved ones and thinking of all those who mean so much to us and are spread out all over this country I am reminded of Philippians 1:3-6.

Philippians 1:3-6

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Paul often starts his letters off thanking God and praying for the people and church he is writing to.

There is longing in his tone about his desire to see them again. And an excitement about how God is at work in their lives.

When our family travels to visit family and friends, I am reminded of how Paul feels as he starts off these letters.

There is such a thankfulness for them, a joy in their friendship. They have partnership in the gospel, and a longing to see each other again.

When we are together with friends we haven’t seen for a long time, or meeting family after a year of time passing. There are some great things that happen. We start sharing about how things are going, and how God has been at work. We hear about how God is at work in our friends and families lives and in their church’s. We joyfully reminisce about God’s faithfulness.

When I start sharing the stories of what God has been up to in my life, my family, and my church family, I am reminded and encouraged again, as I recall God’s faithfulness in those life events that have happened since I last talked to that person.

It leads me to think we should be recounting the faithfulness and blessings of our Lord more often than we do.

We also share about the struggles and hard things in our lives. When we are being real and honest about our hardships, praying over each other naturally follows. There is so much encouragement in praying over each other in our struggles.

All of this pushes me to praise God! He is at work. He is worthy of praise in the blessings. He is worthy of praise in the struggle.

I love, love, love having the family of God extend out so far. To be encouraged and to encourage as we travel the length and breadth of this country.

I love hearing about what God is up to all over the place.

Having all these conversations also reminds me to get excited and share about what God is up to with the people that I get to see all the time. It can be so easy to get distracted and not share what you are excited about or encouraged by to the people around you. But man, it is so important to cheer on and share with the people that you are living life with in the everyday struggle.

It was so sweet to get home. To pull in and smell the air and think: “It smells like Jersey. It smells like home.” I continue to be filled with hope and anticipation at what God is up to here.

God has filled my life with so many amazing people wherever we go.

What a blessing that month of travel was to me and my family. But what a greater blessing we have in what God is doing in our country, from sea to sea.

Let us be encouraged and let us encourage. Let us remember each other, take joy in the memory, and pray.

God is at work!

Chafing Against my Role

Motherhood! Oh! Motherhood. It is a glamorous calling isn’t it?

Said no woman ever….

At least in this current setting and culture.

Motherhood is messy, frustrating and often thankless. However, you can actually broaden this quite a bit. I think it’s safe to say many stages in life are messy, frustrating and often thankless. There are many times we find ourselves in the trenches, chafing against our calling or just the status quo of our current situation.

There was a time I felt like my sole purpose in life was to take care of my babies and support my husband in his ministry.

And if I’m being honest, it was a struggle. It was also a struggle I didn’t see coming.

In my younger years I would often look forward to the days when I would have my own baby’s and an amazing husband. When I would stay home and read books, take the kids to play dates and the zoo, make dinner and sit down around the table with the family.

I still love all of these things. But they were often serene pictures in my head. Seen through unknowing rose-colored glasses. Absent of the crying, discipline, inconsistency, exhaustion and yogurt melts fused to my hair.

When the time came that I had all of it, I was surprised to find out how different it felt with a front row seat.

(I talked a bit about it in my last blog post in particular with the struggle of little ones.) You are Not Alone.

Sometimes I would take stock at the end of the day and think about what I had been able to be accomplish. There were days I would get so much done! And at the end of those I would feel pretty good about myself! Then there are the days when we didn’t get out of our pajamas, and I ordered take out for dinner because I didn’t want to deal with the massive pile of dishes in the sink. And, at the end of those days, I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t “get it together”.

In doing this I started associating my work accomplishments, with my self-worth.

This method of estimating value is…..  A DISASTER!

Confession… I still struggle in this department…. I have to bring this one over and over again to the Lord.

Also, let’s just take a minute and talk about this whole ‘stay at home mom’ thing. What was once considered the ideal: supporting your husband by staying at home and taking care of the children, is no longer loved by society.

It’s all over the television, music, and the internet how, as a woman, I should have goals and dreams and all the people in my life, especially my husband, should support these dreams and goals at all costs.

Career is highly valued. And, hey, having a career is great, and should be valued. But am I ‘settling’ because I don’t have a career? Does it mean that I am worth less because I don’t currently bring home a paycheck? Or does it mean that I am worth less because I don’t have a career that is valued high in society? Or maybe just one that “I” don’t value?

Does it mean that my husband loves me less because my dreams or passions are on hold while he follows his calling?

My husband has often been involved in more “glamorous” callings than I have. When we met and were married he was in a band for 8 years. He was the “front man” in the band. (OK, so his work life was not glamorous.) But the whole band thing was pretty cool. Watching him play all the shows was fun. Their band had a bit of a following for some years, and eventually they were really good. Then we started having kids (that’s a longer story than I feel like getting into right now) and shortly after kids he went into ministry full time, and then to school full time. And now he is Pastoring full time. He gets the chance to preach the gospel into people’s lives from the pulpit every Sunday. Really, it’s an everyday type of thing, but Sundays are a big deal.

Honestly, I’m so proud of Him and all that God does through Him. He will be the first to tell you, it’s not about him, it’s never about Him. It’s all about Jesus and what he is doing through him in ministry. And using it to glorify God.

But God has called him into some roles throughout our marriage that sometimes take a lot of time and energy. Which means at times I have needed to put more time and energy into the kids or work. And there are times I have struggled with this…because it makes my life harder. (God loves to inconvenience me… haha!)

Not only does it make my life harder, but if I look at it from a worldly perspective (which I never do…right? Hah!) …his role is more exciting than mine.

Come on God? Can’t I glorify in a more glamorous way? I feel like you put me in the back seat! …. And there’s kids back here!?!

As I wrestle through evaluating my self-worth and my general purpose in life, God grabs hold of me and gently leads me back to the truth.

My confidence in myself, and my self-worth, can’t come from my accomplishments or big dreams, or a title. My self-worth can only come from who I am in Christ.

In truth, it’s really not about me at all. It’s about bringing Glory to God.

My role currently is just as important as my husbands. And I’m enabling Him to follow God’s call on his life. Really God’s call on our lives. We are very much in this together.

Daniel and I can both pursue passions and callings that God has put on our hearts, but we need to do them together, centered on Christ. Supporting one another and enabling one another.  Always talking through what is working and what isn’t. Making a point to be sensitive to the other person, and at times that means putting something on the back burner, for a season.

I want to be cheering each other on and not jockeying for position.

If I start looking for my worth in a more “glamorous” calling you can bet that is when I will start jockeying for my position and pushing my agenda through.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to support Daniel in this way.  He could not do the ministry that God has called him to if I didn’t. I’m thankful for the opportunity to raise all these awesome little men with an amazing husband. They are the biggest blessing and I am so grateful that I can teach them about the hope, security, love and grace found in our Lord and Savior. He is our shelter, He is their shelter, in this broken world. What is more important than that?

And later in life, if I have a more “glamorous” calling it can’t be about me. It must start in the humble submission to Christ, and glorifying God, it always must be about bringing glory to God.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Goals 2018???

Here we are. The beginning of January. I feel like I have a bit of a Christmas hangover. Not in the traditional sense of the word hangover. But the week between Christmas and New years, I usually designate to do nothing but “party” with my family. We play with the new toys(AKA put together legos.) Play games, eat cookies, go to movies, read books and just spend time together not worrying about the to do list. This year I made a Turkey dinner for Christmas eve so we could eat left overs for a few days and when I did cook, it was light easy meals.

I love that week, it’s one of my favorites of the whole year. But now I’m in recovery mode. There is lots to do as I catch up from the month of December. It’s a bit overwhelming.

Often the week between Christmas and New Years also brings about a time of reflection. And then expectation as we go into the new year. We set goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.

As I reflected on this past year, I can’t help but feel thankful and undeserving of all the blessing the Lord has placed in my life. There is also a part of me that feels sad, missing the close relationships and some of the fun activities I used to do with the boys in Fergus. Although, side note: I heard that the bakery there is closing. So sad! I used to take the boys there all the time.

As I sat down with my coffee in hand and my planner in my lap I started to think about my expectations and goals for this new year. And let me tell you, this is an issue for me! My expectations often exceed the reality!

Here are some things that I thought of for goals for myself for 2018.

First of all, my messy house drives me crazy, My messy house. If I go to someone else’s it doesn’t bother me. But when I am living in my families mess I can go a little nuts. One goal would be prioritizing cleaning up after myself, and teaching the boys likewise. Haha!

Here’s a video of my house for fun. This is often my normal! 🙂

Secondly I had a beautiful baby this year. My adorable Elijah. But as many of you know he came via c-section and, well, I had a baby. So my core is super weak. I never did anything to strengthen it this time. The biggest problem with my weak core, is my back. My back is hurting more with all the daily lifting of toddlers and sometimes waking up in the morning my back is already hurting. Strengthening my core, wold be another goal.

Thirdly, (this I mentioned a little bit in my video.) I need to potty train Silas. Its time. I will leave it at that.

Ok and let me just throw in a few more things I would love to start on this year.

Piano for Judah and Asher

Learn to cook some more meals.

Continue to find ways to get to know my neighbors and get into the community

Explore the area more, there is so much to do here!

Read more

Be more consistent with my blog, and continue to grow in my writing skill

Run again

Train the best dog 😉

And continue to make new friends

 

You can see how quickly my expectations get out of hand!!! I’m ridiculous.

So I Prayed about it. I thought about all of these things. All of them being good things.

And you know which ones God put on my heart to strive for in 2018?

 

NONE OF THEM!

 

“Seriously, I came up with a lot of good options God!”

But no, as I prayed and read Gods word over that week between Christmas and New Years I had a resounding thought over and over.

Prayer, make Prayer the foundation.

Sadly too, often when I’m striving to get all of “the things” done, I let those things trump prayer.

Prayer can seem unproductive and pointless because, it doesn’t make sense in our human minds. God is not here in the flesh for us to talk to, and often results are not what we expect or in our timing. Satan wants to undermine the importance of prayer in our hearts and minds. He wants us to keep thinking its pointless.

But prayer is the opposite of that. It’s our direct line to the maker of the universe. Who holds all things in His hands. He is capable of accomplishing so much more that we can imagine. We are so simple and small, and yet He cares for us and longs to hear us pray. In the big and the small.

God has put prayer on my heart so strongly as I look into the new year. When I think of my kids, my marriage, my church, my community, my writing. I want to start with prayer. To let that be the undercurrent of all my goals. To set right my priority’s and to forge a way where maybe there wasn’t one. To bring  Prayer and God’s word should be the guiding light as I walk through my life.

Prayer and the truth of the bible is exactly where God wants us to start as we live out our days.

It’s simple and yet so hard. But as I look at being immersed in ministry and the community here. I know it’s exactly what I need.

Prayer is powerful! How great is our God!

 

Ephesians 6:18

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Psalm 5:1-3

Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

You are Not Alone

A few days ago, I started paging through one of my journals from a few years back. This was a period in my life when all my kids were little. I know, I still have little ones now. But this specifically was a time when I had only babies and toddlers.

I was lonely.

I was reminded of how overwhelmed I felt with all my babies. At this specific time, I had 3 children 3 and under.

Looking through those pages brought back a flood of memories. And not the highlight real kind. These pages brought me back to the real hard parts.

I was reading through pages where my tears spilled out into words.

I’ll share with you a few of them.

The time when I stopped by Right Aid to pick up a pregnancy test that would be telling me I was pregnant with Caleb. Here I already have two “babies” in my cart and I’m buying a pregnancy test. The stare the checker gave me made me want to crawl into a hole.

All the times I would load the 3 up in the van and go grocery shopping. The physical exertion of going grocery shopping…. I can’t even…  I’m not even going to try to put it into words… I would make sure baby was fed, put them all in their snow suits, load them and strap them in their car seats. Then I would go to Superstore where I could put the two older ones sitting in the front of the cart and then they had an extra basket area (above the regular basket), that I set Caleb in, in his infant seat. After our cart was loaded and the grocery’s where bought. I remember so vividly pushing the cart through the snow to the van. Buckling the kids back up, loading the grocery’s, and driving home. Pulling in to the garage, and not wanting to get out of the car. I would just sit and soak in the break before starting the unloading process.

There were times I wanted to leave the house so badly. But knowing the work it would take to leave and come back. Asking myself the needed questions “Am I in a good mental place? Do I have enough energy to do this?”

This was a time when our kids were 3, 2 and a baby months old. In fact, Judah was 2 for a month after Caleb was born, so there was a brief period of time we had three 2 and under. No twins. Often, I felt anxious when people would ask me how old my kids were. I never knew if the response I would get would be positive or negative. I was so tired from my own struggle, I was afraid of having a negative response from someone else. Could I handle it? Would it be too much, heaped on top of the negative thoughts already going on in my own head that day?

During this time, we lived away from family. There were no Grandparents to drop the kids off at when it all got too much. When I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, when I just wanted to crawl into bed and come out next week. It was on me, and yes, Daniel as well. There were some people that I could have probably asked for help from. But I felt insecure in this, I didn’t want to burden others. After all, “we put ourselves in this position, now we get to deal with it” right? “You know how this works, you could have prevented it”, because life doesn’t have any nuance…

To sum up, I felt alone, I felt unimportant, I felt tired, and I felt like a weirdo.

Now it wasn’t that I felt like this all the time. But on some of the pages on some of those days I felt it all.

I still refer to this time as “When I was overwhelmed with babies.” It is beautiful and messy.

I’m not writing this to garner sympathy. I’m writing because I know I’m not the only one who has felt overwhelmed with babies, or baby…or life.

I’m not the only one who has felt alone and far from help when sanity is slipping.

 I’m not the only one who has struggled with #momguilt because I’m not enjoying all the moments.

 I’m not the only one who has felt trapped in their house.

 I’m not the only one who hides in their “insert here”(bedroom, closet, bathroom, pantry…)

 If you can identify with any of this, let me tell you!

 You are not alone

 Especially this time of year. Christmas. I love it. But it exposes hard things. Finances, as we buy gifts. Weariness as more things get added to the plate. Missing people at our celebrations, either because we live far away now, or because they are just gone. Long dark days. And let’s not forget, snow to push shopping carts through. (Although this is not something I am currently dealing with. Praise Jesus!)

I don’t want to be ashamed to write about the hard moments because they expose my weaknesses.

Even recently, in amongst my pretty Instagram moments with my beautiful babies and fun adventures, there are some very real hard moments. They look different now. I can’t capture them in a snapshot. But they are there none the less. I’m still human, so are my kids, and so is my husband, I’m reminded daily we are not home yet.

And let me tell you the best news of all here. In my weakness, Jesus is there.

All these hard times, they can either push me to anger, frustration, and the vicious cycle of guilt. Or they can push me to look at the cross. They can push me into Jesus.

God’s Word is living and active, it is still relevant to our situations today. Go there and dig in. See what He has for you there. And if you don’t know where to start, ask. Ask someone, ask someone in your church, ask your pastor, ask me.

Pray. God longs to hear your heart. He knows. You can lay yourself bear. He can take it. Let Him be a friend in the loneliness and hard places. Pray for situations. I know sometimes it can feel pointless. But believe me it’s not. I like to write things down that I’m praying for. That way I can look back and be reminded of so many answered prayers. It’s not always the case for everything, but it surprises me sometimes how many things I have prayed for that have been resolved over time. And gives me a chance to remember, thank and praise.

Go to church. Be a part of the Christian Family. Sometimes during all the extra Christmas services, it can seem like too much. But often its’ just what I need. My blood family is 3000 miles away, but my church family is right here. And I need to be intentional with making time to be a part of it. Some of these hard things I dealt with when my kids were so little could have been alleviated if I had reached out to my church family and let them know I needed some help.

This Christmas season let us draw close to the Savior. When we struggle with hurt, sadness, anger, and you name it. May it be a reminder to pray. To get into God’s word and to draw close to Him. To be reminded that His grace is enough to cover us, in every single aspect of our life. That His word is relevant today, it is relevant to us, it is relevant to me. To let Jesus shine bright in our weak places.

This morning I went to see what God had for me in His word. I was feeling burdened and lacking in places. Here’s what I read.

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“I will give you rest.” With Me you will find understanding, pardon, peace. In my presence, you may lay bare your heart. What has been shattered, I will repair. I will unravel the knots. I will relieve your burdens. What is painful I will help you forget. Here, in my arms you will find rest. Just come to Me!

~From Fredrik Wisloff, Rest a While, The last paragraph.

What If?

Over the past months I have often drifted back in thought to the day Elijah was born and the events that surrounded his birth.

(Daniel wrote a blog post talking about those events Here.)

I have played the “what if?” game. What if we had both died? What would that have meant for the family left behind?

The week leading up to his birth J-Term was going on. J-Term is a week where they bring in special speakers to the seminary and many of the Lutheran Brethren pastors, as well as some lay people and of course the students from the school attend, and receive further training. I was able to attend this past one because my mother and father-in-law were staying with us and my mother-in-law was able to watch the kids.

It was really nice to go and sit and just listen and soak up the training and speakers. Mostly it was wonderful to not have a child hanging on me begging for more gummies while I try and listen to the sermon. Ha!

At J-Term I had so many people come up to me and tell me that they would be praying for me and my baby and the delivery. In fact, so many people came up to me to tell me they were praying, I said “Daniel I’m starting to get worried that something is wrong or going to go wrong! Everyone is praying for me!” Then I proceeded to laugh my worry off and go about my day.

But God was at work long before Elijah’s delivery day.

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant I had a dream. And in my dream, I knew that something bad was going to happen to Silas so I was doing everything in my power to protect him. He still fell and got a nasty cut on his head. But I was relieved, I thought to myself. Ok that was it! I saved it from being worse. But then I realized that event was an illusion and what was actually happening was Silas was in the bathtub by himself and it was filling up with water. And I watched as if from a distance helpless to do anything about it. Then I saw Daniel go in pick him up out of the bath and “save him”.  When I thought on the dream the next day I knew God was just telling me to entrust my children to Him. He knows all, He loves them more than I possibly can and He is in control, not me.

Flash forward to Elijah’s birth. As I was bleeding and they were prepping me for surgery I knew something was very wrong. Before I knew it, I was on oxygen and they were running, literally running at points to the operating room. Panic was overtaking me. But there was nothing within my power that I could do about my situation. As I felt the blood leaving my body and the panic overtaking, it wasn’t an audible voice but it felt audible in my head. “Do not fear, I am with you.” And then there was an overwhelming peace that descended on me. Whether I lived or died I had nothing to fear. God has me. I am His child.

God reached down His hand of intervention and saved Elijah and I that day. There was nothing I could do to save me, or him.

Pondering these events this afternoon brought me to think about our state as human beings. We think we have it under control. We have the illusion that we can save ourselves. There are so many religions that say you can earn your spot in heaven. Or that the path to peace is through ourselves or that we simply just need to be good. As long as we are a decent human being we are in the clear. We think that our view of the world dictates how the world actually is. We think we got it. I have it under control.

But the fact is, we don’t have it under control and our view of who we are doesn’t change reality. The illusion is just that: an illusion, a mirage in the distance that never comes.

The reality is, I am a helpless human being that has no ability to save myself. I am bleeding out in my sin, and there is nothing I can do about it. I can try to staunch the blood, but that is not fixing my inner problem. I’m still dying.

But God in His ever-loving mercy reached down His hand of grace and divinely saved me. Jesus came and did what I could not do. He did only what He can do. He lived a perfect life, and then He died on that cross, He shed his blood on my behalf, He covered me in is grace so that God the Father no longer sees my black heart, but sees His Son. He healed my inner problem. It is finished.

Now I still deal with sin. I won’t be perfected until God actually does call me home.

But I am right before the Father. There is no longer sin that separates us. Because of my faith in Jesus I am now a child of God.

I can’t explain the inner spiritual workings of how God makes this all possible. Just like I can’t explain the inner workings God did to physically save me and my son. Elijah was the most physically healthy baby that I have ever delivered. The doctor pronounced him a 10 and said, “I can’t find anything wrong with this baby.”

God has made me whole and complete in Jesus.

But Jesus didn’t just die for me, He died for all of humanity. And He longs for all to come to Him.

God brought glory to Himself that day. God showed His mercy and love to us. Just like He showed the world when He sent His son.

I will just share one last thing.

A few days before Elijah was born we finally settled on his name.

Elijah – Meaning: My God is YAHWEH

God brings Glory to Himself throughout all of it.

Praise be to God.

John 3:16-17

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

In the Quiet

Having quiet time with Jesus.

I used to think “once I have kids and I am a stay at home mom I will have time. Then it will be easy….”

Then I had kids. Wow. Was I wrong! hahahahahah!!!

Oh kids. I mean, I am at home often, but the schedule… Ummm….. did I say schedule? Wait what is that again?? Wait… what was I just saying?… hold on I need to take care of the spilled milk and the screaming baby and the toddler eating the cereal off the floor.

Yep, quiet time with Jesus got even harder! How am I supposed to spend time with the Lord when everything changes and everybody needs me and “I’ll get to it later” turns into, well the day is over… I need to go to bed so I will have the energy to do this all over again.

Every day I’m bombarded with how important my children are. And don’t I know it! They mean the world to me. But between social media and well-intentioned comments, I start believing that I need to make every moment count. They’re only young once after all. Besides, they all need to grow up to be astronauts and if they aren’t it’s because I didn’t spend an hour with them each individually every day nurturing confidence and expelling fears, or they weren’t in every sport, or I looked at my phone one too many times during the day.

I can reach near panic mode when I feel like I’m missing the boat here or there with things I haven’t been living up to for my children.

Often, I felt that I needed to fill all of the moments in the day with meaningful experiences, and always put my kids first. Because after all, they will grow up and this time is precious. And when they are gone I will miss these years. All of this is the truth.

So, when they ask if I will read to them I say yes, I take them to the library, to the park, to play dates, to the bakery, we make cookies, we finger paint, I teach them their numbers and ABC’s, and chores. And then somewhere in there I need to find time to keep up the house, exercise, do my job and love my Husband.

But all these things, while they are well intentioned and good. And not at all bad on their own, pushed God to a lower rank in my life.

Sometimes they push my husband to a lower rank.

Putting my kids first was never on the forefront of my mind. It happens in all well-intentioned ways. It just creeps in and takes over without my knowledge.

It is very prevalent in our society today. We feel so much pressure to be everything to our kids. And being a mom can become my sole, or main, identity without my really even realizing it.

Even though all of the things I was doing, with and for my kids, are good on their own, they are not good when they come at the cost of not having time for my marriage.

And they become especially not good when they come at the cost of not having time for the Lord.

They are not good, when they become my idol.

Those first months in Fergus when Daniel started seminary were hard. The summer started out hard. (You can read about that in this blog post) And then there were other circumstances that made it really hard, and I wondered if things would work out, are we going to be able to make it here. We have no jobs, and 4 little kids.

Nothing like hardship to remind you how much you need Jesus.

At this point in time I knew I needed to spend some quality time in prayer and in the Word. But I was having trouble because I didn’t know when to spend time with the Lord. I didn’t know when or how I was going to pour out my heart to Him like I needed to and be fed by the Word. I tried getting up early in the mornings. I hear wonderful things about the dark quiet before your kids get up, you can get a bit of time before the crazy of the day starts. So, one morning I tried it. I set my alarm for the wee hours of the morning. When that puppy went off I was so tired (I also had a newborn at this point: Silas). But I did it! I actually succeeded in getting up early! My plan was working!!

And then you can guess what happened… My kids must have got the memo…It’s like their internal clocks were set to my body motion. They got up with me… yeah….

Then I tried again the next morning…. Yep… same thing….

So, the next morning after everyone was fed, changed and Daniel had left for school. I decided to try a new tactic.

I said “Boys, I need to spend some time with the Lord. You are going down stairs and play until this timer goes off. And I don’t want you to come up unless it’s a dire emergency!” They looked at me with their surprised little faces. “Ok, Mom.” Then they headed down stairs. Two minutes later, “Mom! Mom!” Me “Nope, timer isn’t done.” A few minutes later. “MOM!”  Me “Did you hear the timer? Go back downstairs.” This happened a few more times. And then they finally started playing. And I got my time with the Lord.

I started doing this somewhat regularly, maybe not every day, but often. And it became part of our routine for that time in my life. It was a wonderful time, where I wasn’t incredibly distracted and I could actually pray and read in some “quiet”. It breathed new life into my relationship with the Lord. It reminded me that He is my friend and my Father. That He is close to me and I am the one who wanders far.

It also reminded me that He comes first.

Taking time away from my kids, and spending that time with the Lord, told my children that He comes first and not them. It is not ignoring my children. It is modeling truth for them.

That alone time is something that I forget is so important to live out and be an example in. I want them to put God first in their lives. What we put first trickles down into the rest of our lives. When God is first they will have the courage to say “no” when they need to, to stand up for someone when its important, to put others before themselves, to shine in the dark places. Not every time. Not all the time. As humans, my children will struggle in this as well. But giving them a firm foundation will help them to recover from their mistakes, from their shame. As the Word trains their hearts and minds the understanding, reasoning, courage and forgiveness of the Lord will grow inside them.

I want them to know that God’s Word will feed their soul. I want them to know that prayer is a life line, and God really does meet you there. I want them to know that you need to plug into church, the body of Christ, even though you may be bored there, or feel disconnected, or even when they hurt you. I want them to know that the church is for them, that it is their community.

I want them to know that the most important thing is not ourselves, but glorifying God.

If God is first the other things will fall into place.

If I teach them to put themselves first, I am setting them up for failure. I am teaching them that they matter more than anything else or maybe even anyone else.

I am a firm believer that God should come first, then your husband/marriage and then the kids.

Ultimately when I am filled up from spending time with the Lord, it gives me what I need to pour out to the other incredibly important things in my life. My husband, and my children.

And when I’m putting my husband and my marriage first, when we are a team, we are able to love and pour into our children so much more. We have more fun, more patience, and ultimately more love all around.

Now it’s a few years since this time, and each year it has looked a little different, with boys starting school, work and schedule changes here and there. Believe me it’s always a work in progress. I don’t do it perfect, I slide back and still wrestle with my sin in this area. But I know that the Lord needs to come first. And being aware of that has made all the difference.

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God