Building Towers

October proved to be a busy month. On top of family responsibilities, I tried to keep up with this blog and continue my attempts to help my younger brother write a book (you can read a brief idea about that here: https://anticipatingadventure.com/2020/01/21/remembering/). I also worked on creating an award-worthy recipe for a Christmas cookie contest I entered online and wrote an essay in hopes of having it published in a magazine for moms.

In the midst of the busyness, my toddler son started to ask me to play with him more, and I have complied. With COVID-19 restrictions and no siblings of his own, I feel sorry for him. I’m the only playmate he has most times, so I’m trying to actively engage in the moments when he asks me to play.

Liam is especially fond of building trains with his Duplo Legos, and although I can enjoy this activity to a certain degree, we always face some contention when we play with them together. Liam wants to build tall towers for each train car, and when I suggest to him that we create a better foundation first, he gets upset with me.

“No! No! No!” he exclaims as he snatches the Legos out of my hands and then rebuilds according to his liking. Inevitably, the teetering train cars come tumbling down at some point, and Liam is left feeling upset. It’s the frustrating pattern we follow each time we play, no matter how much I try to reason with him in order to avoid the train’s demise.

After a few days of following this routine, I could sense God teaching me a greater lesson through it, and I began to feel convicted by my own hypocrisy. While I was urging Liam to build a better foundation, I had been ignoring my own. My quiet times had become shorter and were getting pushed later into the day, even to the extent that I skipped a few a couple of times. In my own attempts to build something impressive out of my life, I had neglected my own foundation, and the fruits of my labor were now threatening to come crashing down like my son’s Lego trains. It brought the following Bible verse to mind:

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchmen stays awake in vain.”

Psalms 127:1

Looking back on the month of October, I can see that I spent a good chunk of it laboring in vain. I didn’t tend to my foundation by spending time with God in the first hours of the morning, nor did I seek out His wisdom or guidance in how or what to “build” each day. Instead, I began the projects of October with my own agenda in mind.

I couldn’t help but think about the Tower of Babel as described in Genesis 11 when I considered all of this. The people set out to build a tower that would reach to the heavens in hopes of making a name for themselves. They wanted to seek their own glory and thought this tower would do the trick. God thwarted their plans, however, and the tower was left unfinished. He would not share His glory with another.

Much like the people from the Tower of Babel, I find myself seeking my own glory all too often, attempting to build tall towers of my own. It’s a struggle that I have to fight against daily, especially when it comes to writing. God has been gracious to me, however, in that He allows me to experience writer’s block quite a bit. I’m beginning to see it as a gift from Him because it’s the exact thing I have needed to recognize when my motives have become self-centered, and it’s precisely what makes me repent and ask God to help me write for His glory.

Nonetheless, I believe that I could avoid this pattern more if I were to earnestly begin my day in God’s Word and surrender my desires, thoughts, plans, and dreams to Him each morning. After all, any of my labor towards any of these things is only in vain if God is not in it, and He has not placed me or any of us on this earth to fulfill our own purposes.

God created us to glorify Him, and He has prepared good works in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), so we need to seek His face each day so that He can build up His kingdom through our lives. Because, unless He builds the house, all other labor is in vain. It is nothing more than teetering Lego train cars without a foundation set in Him.

Te Va a Amar Jesús

I no longer sing lullabies to my son before I put him to bed, and although I’m happy to have one less thing to do in our nightly routine, I’m also a little sad to have stopped. I would still be singing them, in fact, if it weren’t for Liam. He started complaining about the songs sometime this summer, and they seemed to become more of a hindrance than a help in getting him to bed, so they’re tucked away in my mind for now to perhaps reintroduce them to him some other day.

Two of the three songs that I used to sing to him were lullabies I composed. The first one, Te Va a Amar Jesús, came about in early November of 2018 after I began telling my baby boy that Mommy loved him but that Jesus loved him more. After several weeks of telling him this, God gave me this song. It is perhaps the simplest song I have ever composed because the music and lyrics were so evidently God’s doing. He put them in my mind all at once, like a beautiful gift.

The following day, I composed an English version of this song and a couple of word variations, and I began singing it to Liam each night. It was a part of our daily routine for over nineteen months.

I have recorded and shared this song with others before, but I decided to record it again recently. I wanted to post it here as a keepsake but also to give more parents a chance to hear it and sing it to their children, if they so choose.

After recording this song again, I noticed that I was halfway out of the frame most of the time. I also recognize that I do not have a stellar voice. It cracked at one point, and I’m sure my enunciation could have been better. Nonetheless, I’m sticking to this version, because the real impact of this song will not be in how I looked or sounded while making this recording. It will be in parents singing it to their children and the truth of its words taking root into their young hearts. So if you have young children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, or know any other person that you think might enjoy this, please feel free to share it and/or sing it to them. I hope it is a blessing to both you and them. May it ground us more firmly in the truth, that Jesus truly does love us more.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16
Lyrics/Letra
Te va a amar Jesús (2x)
Aún más que tus padres (tíos, primos, tía, maestros, gato, etc.) te ama/aman
[Mas que tus ______________ (hermanos, hermanas, amigos, etc.) te aman]
Te va a amar Jesús
Te ama tanto Jesús (2x)
Que con su sangre te ha comprado
Te ama tanto Jesús
Jesus will love you more (2x)
He’ll love you even more than your parents (siblings, cousins, grandma, grandpa, etc.) do/does
[He’ll love you more than your brother and sister (grandma and grandpa, etc.) do]
Jesus will love you more
Jesus loves you so much (2x)
So much that He gave His own blood to redeem you
Yes, Jesus loves you so much

Rock Collections

Liam and I sometimes play a game on our morning walks, unbeknownst to him. We generally play it when he takes rocks from his “rock collection” with us. When this happens, I try to leave as many rocks as I can alongside the pathway where Liam got them in the first place. Liam, on the contrary, tries to take even more rocks home with us. The winner is determined by how many rocks return with us in the end.

This game probably sounds simple, but I have discovered over time that it requires skill and an element of sneakiness if I am to have any success. In order to dispose of the rocks, I must do so without getting caught. Liam makes a big fuss about it otherwise (Apparently, he is already a sore loser! Haha!). He, on the other hand, gets to collects all the rocks he wants right under my nose! I honestly don’t have much choice in the matter unless I want to deal with an upset toddler. Thus, we play the game, and I try my best to be stealthy as we play.

So far, I have won a few games, but Liam has won quite a few too. I’m not too concerned by my losses, however. I know that I will have the final victory when all is said and done. It might take months or even years before this happens, but I will win in the end and claim the title of champion once and for all. It is only a matter of time.

Recently on one of our walks, I was thinking about how easy it is to still have collections as adults, and although they may seem more sophisticated than a pile of rocks, they can be equally as burdensome.

Anxiety. Worry. Fear. Insecurity. Guilt. Shame.

These are just a few that come to mind, but a person’s collection is certainly not limited to them. There are a number of things we can collect over time, and we don’t even need a walk around the park to find them. Life in general is enough to make these collections possible. Fortunately, God offers a solution to these burdens. It all comes down to casting our cares on Him.

Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22

And similarly, in the New Testament:

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (Italics mine)

1 Peter 5:6-8

I don’t remember talking to my parents much about my problems growing up. I’m sure I did from time to time, but I was the middle of five children, and with all the busyness of living within a big family, there wasn’t a lot of time for one-on-one moments with them.

I had a great best friend, however. We met when we were eight years old, and as we got to know each other better over the following months and years, she learned to recognize when something was wrong with me.

Although my natural tendency was to want to hide my problems or push them aside, she wouldn’t let me. She was very insistent that I tell her what was upsetting me each time an issue arose. It took a lot of patience and persistence on her part, but eventually I would tell her what was bothering me.

Over the years, it got easier to tell her what was on my mind. She had proven to me time and again that I could trust her with my problems. She was willing to listen, and she was kind and understanding toward me whenever I told her what was wrong.

When I think of casting my burdens on the LORD, I am reminded of how well my friend listened to me and cared for me in those times. What really amazes me, however, is to recognize that the kindness, compassion, and care she showed me is just a tiny fraction of the kindness, care, and compassion that God has for you and me.

He longs for us to bring our concerns to Him. He already knows them in the first place. He’s completely aware of all the items we are carrying around in our adult version of a rock collection, and when we bring each piece to Him, He can help us to deal with each issue and ultimately be set free.

Although the world, our enemy, and our own sinful flesh would cause us to try to collect more burdens over time, let’s remember that we have a very real Ally that is willing and ready for us to cast our burdens on Him. We don’t have to add to our collections anymore. We can, in fact, dispose of them, and we don’t even have to be sneaky about it! No matter how long it may take to deal with our issues, and no matter how often they may arise, we can take heart in the fact that, in Christ, we will have the final victory when all is said and done. In the end, we will truly see that we have won because we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). But while we wait for that day when we will never know any burden again, let’s continue to cast the ones we have on God. Let’s get rid of some rocks today.

Follow Up Questions:

Do you have a friend like the one I described? If so, what makes it easy to share your problems with that person? How are those traits a glimpse of who God is and how He cares for us? Let’s pray that God would help us to recognize all the more how willing He is to listen to us and that we would be quicker to bring our problems to Him.

Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Liam woke up before 6 a.m. for a good chunk of the summer, and it was rough! The first week was especially brutal. I felt groggy most days and had to go to bed early out of sheer exhaustion.

With new nap problems on top of this, I didn’t have any time to myself. I didn’t write at all that first week, and I couldn’t find the opportunity to relax and unwind at the end of the day either.

A few weeks into our new “routine”, as I was battling my strong-willed boy to get his socks and shoes on so that we could go outside before it got too hot out, I found myself telling him how I didn’t need him to have a bad attitude. As it was, he woke me up too early again, and I was still irritated about it, so he better behave!

Not even a minute later, a familiar phrase came to mind.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

It comes from the following passage in Scripture:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

I immediately felt convicted. But to be quite honest, I felt slightly annoyed too. The truth is, I didn’t want to be convicted. I had already sacrificed so much for my son. Did I have to sacrifice my sleep and have a good attitude about it too?

I called my mom to talk about these issues, and as I expressed my frustration to her, she lent me a sympathetic ear and promised to pray. She also stated something she has told me before—that she believes God would use motherhood to refine me.

I’ll admit it’s not something I’ve wanted to hear. Being refined through parenting is painful! Fortunately, a friend and I have been reading through a book about motherhood for several months now, and one of the chapters in particular has helped me to see the process of refinement in a different light. It has caused me to recognize that I was seeing refinement through motherhood as a punishment when I needed to see it as a promise of better things to come.

In all reality, we must be refined if we are to be ready for greater ministry opportunities, responsibilities, or positions of influence in the future.

Just as a baby has to grow into childhood and then adulthood to enjoy certain activities and opportunities, we also must grow to enjoy and experience all that God has in store for us, and a lot of that growth will take place through refinement. Because of that, we need to see this process as a blessing and gift as we look forward to what God may have in store for us as a result.

I can’t say that I became an expert on graciously accepting the way God was refining me this summer, but I did learn a few things about how to keep no record of wrongs in the process. They are as follows:

Confess your feelings of resentment as they arise.

It was so helpful for me to do this. As I confessed my sinful attitude to God and asked Him to change me, He did. I wasn’t all the sudden the gracious, godly woman I wanted to be, but I was on the right track, so I kept confessing and asking God to work in me.

Set boundaries.

Keeping no record of wrongs doesn’t mean we accept any sort of beahvior or action from others. All relationships need boundaries in order to be healthy and thrive. Even relationships with toddlers.

After that first week of waking up between 5:30 a.m. to 5:45 a.m., I bought Liam an alarm clock that my friend (the one I’m reading the book with) recommended. It looks like a traffic light and is set to red during the child’s bedtime. It then turns green at the time that the child can get out of bed the next morning.

Although this alarm clock hasn’t kept Liam from waking me up, he’s making progress. Now he takes me back to his room for us to both lie down until the light turns green. It’s a huge improvement in my mind, and I also have to admit that I kind of love watching Liam get so excited over the light turning green each morning. It never gets old!

Learn to see the process of refinement as a blessing and gift.

I have a ways to go before humbly accepting the trials and hardships of life and truly seeing the process of refinement as a blessing and gift, but I want to get there. It’s something I need to pray for—that God will shift my perspective to see the goodness of such a “gift” as He prepares me for better things to come.

The best thing to come, of course, is becoming more like Jesus in the process. May He really help me (and us) to believe and long for that! Nothing else can compare to such a promise.

Liam is no longer waking up before 6 a.m., and I haven’t been struggling with resentment as much as a result. I’m sure it will someday rear its ugly head again, however, and I want to be ready to deal with it when it does. I’ll continue to pray that God shifts my perspective regarding refinement and that He’ll help me to love my family and others a little more like He does.

Ultimately, resentment and other wrong attitudes do me no good. So may God help me to choose forgiveness and kindness instead as I continue to learn what it means to keep no record of wrongs. And in the midst of these hard life lessons, may I choose to really believe that refinement is a blessing and gift that always comes with a promise—that the best is yet to come!

Sweeping Up Pine Cones

I was probably on Facebook when it happened. I confess I have been escaping to it far too often nowadays. I finished looking at the image on my screen, then I set my phone down and turned around to investigate the mysterious rustling noise that was following the pitter patter of my toddler’s footsteps.

I already knew he had a plastic bag by the sound of things. I headed toward the living room, fully prepared to tear it out of his hands and withstand the temper tantrum that would likely ensue. What I wasn’t accounting for was the cluster of pine cones strewn across the tile floor as I made my way towards my son. I had forgotten about the pine cones altogether up until that moment. A friend of mine had given them to me months ago when she learned I was making a wreath. Since I finished the wreath before she could give them to me, however, I stuck the bag in a desk drawer to save for another day—a Christmassy, craft-making sort of day. Unfortunately, Liam had other ideas.

I let out a slow, audible sigh as the familiar feeling of hopelessness perched on my shoulders and pressed down on me. I already felt exhausted by current news events. An added chore left me feeling overwhelmed. The one true glimmer of hope at the moment was that Liam was due for a nap, so I got him down and grabbed a broom, all the while trying to muster up some energy for the task at hand.

After picking up the pine cones, I swept up the remaining pieces. As unhappy as I was about the additional chore that day, I was grateful for the decision it caused me to make, which was this: I’m not going to feel bad for having a hard time keeping up with the housework. At least, I’m going to try not to feel bad about it anymore.

The pine cone incident was the vivid reminder I needed for what I already knew—that my cute little boy is sabotaging my housekeeping efforts. He does so by making a number of messes daily. He also does so by slowing down any progress I make towards a clean home, squirming his way in between me and the kitchen counters when I’m trying to clean them or whining to be held when I’m in the middle of vacuuming. And let’s not even mention the countless number of times he asks for another snack when I’m trying to wash the dishes or sweep the kitchen floor! It’s no wonder household chores can be so daunting!

I’ve read enough to know that I’m just supposed to say by now that I’ll embrace the mess because my kid won’t be young forever, and memories made with him are far more important.

I certainly want to make memories with him and am, but I can’t bring myself to embrace the mess. Instead, I find myself thinking of how productive I was before I had a child. Although JJ doesn’t seem to mind that our loveseat has currently become a permanent spot for the latest load of clean laundry or that the sink nearly always has dirty dishes in it, I find myself reminding him of my past glory years as well, the years when I accomplished so much! He nods, unsure of what to say, and I silently wonder what became of the woman I once was.

Recently, I have realized how unfair it has been to compare myself to the woman I once was. No one would promote a woman to a new role within her company and give her new responsibilities only to expect her to do her former full-time job along with the new one. In essence, this is the expectation I have placed on myself.  Granted, I can’t just promote myself out of the tasks of cleaning and cooking now that I’m a mom. They have followed me into this new role and are a part of it for me. Nonetheless, I can’t assume I should be able to continue at the same pace I did before having a child when the responsibilities, distractions, and obstacles are greater now than they ever were before. This is something I need to keep in mind when I feel a sense of self-disappointment rising up within me. I also need to show myself grace. Perhaps I don’t have to embrace the mess, but I can be a little more accepting of it and patient with myself as I recognize the challenges I face at this stage of motherhood.

Something else I have recognized is that I do a lot more than I give myself credit for. I’m sure this is true of most moms. At the end of the day, it’s easy to look at our list of chores (or simply the laundry-laden love seat, in my case) and to recognize what we didn’t accomplish. But we fail to remember all the tiny chores we did throughout the day—the yogurt we cleaned off the table and chairs after breakfast, the couch cushions we put back on the sofa several times after our little munchkins kept using them as a trampoline, and the water we wiped off the floor when our toddler insisted on drinking from an open cup. These are all such simple tasks, and yet the house would be a complete disaster if we chose to ignore them.

 Then, of course, there are the tasks we do throughout the day that aren’t a part of the housework but are very much a chore—a chore caused by our children. Some of the more interesting ones involve fishing forks out of the trash, or, worse yet, toys out of the toilet. Or maybe it’s picking out food from a child’s hair. Or the minute task of re-rolling the toilet paper onto its tube. We’ve probably done a lot more than we realize (or can even remember) when the day comes to an end.

As we head to bed and see all the tasks that we didn’t finish on our way, let’s remember our own moments of sweeping up pine cones. Our days are full of them. As such, let’s give ourselves grace over a messy home and accomplishing less of what’s on our to-do list, because we’re accomplishing more than we even realize.

Furthermore, let’s also recognize what all we have become in our role as mothers. We are not a shadow of the women we once were. We have become more than what we realize, and we are acquiring new skills all the time on this journey of motherhood.

What new skills have you acquired as a mom?

Although my son is only two, I can already think of a small (albeit silly) list of abilities that I have mastered. I have become proficient in the fine art of cutting grapes into quarters, for instance. Moreover, I’ve become such a good tickler that I believe Liam would rate me a ten out of ten if he knew how to count.

The interesting thing about motherhood is that, just as we master one skill, it’s time to lay it aside and figure out how to master a new one. Our roles as mothers are dynamic, always changing and requiring something new as our children change and grow. But we adapt to those changes. We become what our children need us to be.

Nonetheless, we often fail to see the wonder of our role as mothers. The mundane and monotonous moments of life tell us a different story. But they don’t have to be the voice we listen to.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial things we could do for ourselves in this season of life is to ask God what He thinks of us in our role as moms. How does He specifically view you and me? And what does He want us to know about ourselves as we continue to take care of our children?

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Although we may not be getting any gifts from our children this year and perhaps have low expectations for the day, God can make it special for us. Whatever He reveals to us, in fact, could be the very best gift Mother’s Day gift that we could ever receive.

May God Grant You Sleep, My Child

Lyrics:
May God grant you sleep, my child
As you lie down in bed
May He remind you
He’s there right beside you
He’ll watch over you as you rest
He’s always near you
To comfort and shield you
May He grant you peace as you rest

Que Dios te guarde en paz
Al acostarte ya
Y que descanses en El tu refugio
El siempre contigo esta
El te protege y El te consuela
Descansa en toda su paz

I composed this song in December and started singing it to my son every night shortly after that. Little did I know how comforting it would be to me a few short months later. Liam is still too young to understand that we are facing a worldwide pandemic and that the widespread effects of this illness have reached every nook and cranny of society. I am thankful for that.

This song is for those parents whose children go to bed at night feeling afraid and anxious of an unknown future.

We have a Father who holds us in His hands and will never let go. Let’s rest in that tonight.

The Meaning Behind the Ornaments

The latest, still as a work in progress.

The year my husband JJ and I got married, I bought an ornament of two lovebirds painted on wood that depicted our first Christmas together as a married couple. The next year, a friend of mine made an ornament for me that said “Baby on the Way” since JJ and I were expecting. I also found an ornament that year portraying a pregnant woman, so I bought it. The following year, I bought an ornament which stated “Baby’s First Christmas” for our first Christmas with our son.

After so many Christmases of buying ornaments to represent each year, I can’t help but want to continue this tradition for years to come.

This year I wanted to buy an ornament in the shape of a heart but couldn’t find one, so I decided to make one instead. I have yet to finish it, but it’s a simple wooden heart that I painted red and will attach twine to so that I can hang it up. I’ll write the year on one side, and I’ll include the following verse on one side as well:

     “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalms 73:26

As I have mentioned in past posts, this year has been hard. Our son became ill toward the end of January and had to be admitted to the hospital for a couple of nights. Fortunately, he received treatment to counteract his illness and recovered quickly, but his health was affected nonetheless. As a result, he had to take medication daily and have follow up appointments with a specialist.

We have been very fortunate because Liam has lived a pretty normal life this year despite all of this. JJ and I have had to make some significant alterations in our activities, however, to ensure that Liam stays as healthy as he possibly can (if he were to come down with the flu while on his medicine, he could become seriously ill).

The biggest change of this year has been my attendance of a group for mothers with preschoolers and to church.

I had to stop attending the mothers of preschoolers group altogether because the group I was attending could not accommodate my son and me in our new set of circumstances. It was painful to have to leave that group since I had found so much support and encouragement in it as a new mom with a young child, but at the same time I saw how intentional God was in causing me to leave, so I have had to trust that He has a good purpose for it and that He has not been withholding goodness from me in taking that group away from me.

As far as church is concerned, JJ and I stopped attending for awhile. We would listen online as a couple, but it was hard to fully focus since Liam would be playing noisily beside us. By May, JJ and I agreed to start taking turns watching Liam every week so that the other could go to church.

In June, the flu season finally ended. Since my desire to go to church as a family was growing, I suggested to JJ that we pray about it. There was a measles outbreak by July, however, and since our son had not yet received his MMR vaccine (he would not be eligible to receive it until 11 months after the treatment he received at the hospital), going to church together as a family was no longer an option.

Needless to say, it has been a somewhat isolating year for me. There have been times when I have had to stay home for days on end so that I don’t expose Liam to germs. With no family in town and a husband who works long hours, this has made those days especially difficult. It has been easy to feel lonely and forgotten at different times throughout this year.

There have also been days of wondering why everything had to work out the way it was. Liam’s health seemed like a big knot that I couldn’t untie. The more I tried to “fix” things, the more I saw how God had ordained these events in our lives. Our circumstances and the complexity of them were just too precise for me to believe they were a coincidence. As much as I hated that at times and just wished that God would change things, I found a great amount of comfort in recognizing that God was in control of the situation and that He would bring us through it. This time in our lives was not in vain.

Last Wednesday, JJ and I took Liam to another doctor appointment. It was the first time this year in which I didn’t feel weepy the entire week before the appointment. I was kind of surprised by this but figured I was just getting used to our new reality. I imagined the results would be the same as Liam’s past appointments, but I was wrong. They were not the same.

Liam got sick when he was only 11 months old, and now 11 months later, we were hearing different results than what we had been told for the last 11 months. Liam was healed! God had healed him!

As soon as the doctor stepped out of the room, we hugged as a family and JJ kissed me and then Liam. Tears of joy were streaming down my face that afternoon, and it’s a moment I hope to never forget.

The doctor still wants Liam to continue taking his medicine as a precaution until his next (and perhaps final) appointment, so we will still need to take measures to protect Liam’s health for the time being. Nonetheless, God has brought us through the darkest moments of this ordeal, and we have hope for the future.

I am still unsure as to why these events were part of God’s plans for us this year. I can only imagine that the answers will unfold with time. I can say, however, that I believe more fully in God’s faithfulness today than I did a year ago. And I take less for granted than I did before as well.

Whatever God’s purposes have been for this past year, I pray I have learned and will continue to learn the things that God wants to teach me through it. God has given us such a beautiful Christmas gift this year in allowing us to see Liam restored to health. I know, however, that the lessons learned and the ways He has wanted to mature me this past year through these events are meant to be gifts as well, and I want to receive all the gifts God has in store for me.

The Three Trees

Photo by Roberto Nickson from Pexels

Liam and I recently worked on a craft project. My sister had given me two wooden blocks a long time ago, so I pulled them out and plopped  Liam up at the table with some non-toxic, green and red paint so that we could make some Christmas signs.

While Liam happily painted everything in sight (including his face), I was completely caught up in my own project, oblivious to the mess happening just to the side of me.

I started by painting my block green and had planned to paint “Merry Christmas” in red. Instead, I found myself using more of the green to make Christmas trees.

It didn’t take long to finish the project, and as I stared down at the three trees on my wood block, I couldn’t help but think of a children’s story I had read years earlier about three trees.

The full story is worth the read (and you can find it here:  https://bible.org/illustration/story-three-trees), but here’s a summary as well:

There were three young trees that had big dreams for when they grew up. One wanted to be made into a treasure chest to hold great treasure. Another wanted to be a big and powerful boat to take great kings across the sea. And the third simply wanted to stay put and grow tall, pointing up to heaven and reminding people of God.

The trees grew up and the first tree was chopped down and taken to a carpenter. But instead of becoming a treasure chest, she was transformed into a feeding box for animals, covered in dust and full of hay. But one day a couple came and laid their baby in this manger, and the tree knew in that moment that she was holding the greatest treasure of all.

The second tree got excited when he was taken to a shipyard. But instead of being made into a strong ship, he was converted into a small sailing boat. But one day, when the boat was caught in a bad storm, one of the weary travelers in the boat caused the storm to cease, and the boat then knew that he was carrying the King of kings.

The third tree felt confused when she was made into wooden beams and left in a lumberyard. After much time had passed, she was yanked out of the lumberyard and marched in front of a jeering crowd. A man was then nailed to her, and she felt even uglier and colder than before. But on the third day, the earth rejoiced, and she somehow knew that that man had changed everything and that ultimately people would think of God when they thought of her, which was better than any other dream.

Thinking about this story that day made me think about how much I could relate to the trees. Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreamed about becoming a wife and mother and how great it would be. But just as the second tree did not become the boat he thought he would be, I am not the mom (or wife) I thought I’d be. I have been the small sailboat who isn’t so sure she can handle the big storms of life.

In all honesty, I have faced disappointment in this role just like each tree did in theirs. I feel disappointed with myself in so many ways. I feel it when I think of how little time I’ve spent planning Liam’s meals for the day or when I let him watch another T.V. show because he’s whining and I’m busy getting lunch ready. I also feel disappointed by how messy the house generally is and how hard it is for me to keep up with chores. I feel disappointed by how unproductive I am as well when it seems like staying home should allow me to be all the more productive.

Not only am I disappointed by my own faults but also by my circumstances at times. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a mom to Liam and enjoy so many moments with him throughout the day (I can almost hear him giggling right now as I write this and think of all our tickle wars). Nonetheless, it’s hard to accept how monotonous and mundane life is right now, and how meaningless it feels.

But I know I don’t have to live in that disappointment. I know I can live my life in a meaningful way. The beauty of the story of the three trees is that, although they didn’t become what they had wanted to, their dreams were nonetheless fulfilled in different ways, and their lives had become meaningful because Jesus had been a part of them.

Although motherhood is proving to be a very different journey than what I had anticipated, I recognize today that something greater than my dreams is fulfilled in it and it is more meaningful than what I could have ever imagined it to be when I allow Jesus to be a part of it. And that, my friend, is better than any other dream.

Jesus Loves Me

I sang “Jesus Loves Me” to Liam a few evenings ago. It’s not a song I sing to him often because I sing other songs to him as part of our bedtime routine.

This night, however, I was praying once again that Liam would understand and accept the Gospel message at an early age, and I felt compelled to sing “Jesus Loves Me” to him after praying.

The simple refrain nearly brought tears to my eyes as I remembered a Christian radio program I had heard that explained the origins of the song. Anna Bartlett Warner was its composer, and she was a simple woman who didn’t think much about herself or feel like she had much to offer God. Nonetheless, she offered Him all that she had and was content to do menial and mundane tasks for Him.

In her mind, her older sister Susan was the talented one whom God would use mightily. She was writing an important novel, after all! Anna merely saw herself as a woman playing a supportive role to others making an eternal impact. She did this specifically with her sister by creating the words to a song that her sister could use in her novel—the song that we now know today as “Jesus Loves Me.”

Little did Anna know that, as the years went by, mothers around the world would be singing her song to their young children as they tucked them into bed at night. Little did she know that her song would create a foundation of faith in children, helping them to believe in God’s love for them even as they grew and became adults. And little did she know that her song would long outlive her, still so widespread, well known, and loved even more than a century after her passing.

Thinking of Anna’s story that night caused me to think about another one from more modern times. This story took place with a group of American college students that went to Chile on a mission trip during their summer break. Since they didn’t speak much Spanish, they were happy to run into a student that was studying English on the campus where they were ministering. This student, however, was disinterested in what they had to say and didn’t feel shy about letting them know it! The students gave this young woman a Gospel tract before leaving campus that day.

Although I can’t be certain how they felt, I imagine that particular day left them feeling discouraged and wondering if they were making any real impact. Little did they know how God was working in their midst!

Months later, that same young woman was cleaning out her sock drawer and found the Gospel tract the students had given her. She read it and came to faith in Jesus that day. Shortly afterwards, she joined staff with the same organization with which the American students had gone to Chile. And years later, she is still working in full-time ministry alongside her husband (my brother) and her sweet children.  That day in Chile had an impact. The small gesture of giving a Gospel tract to a disinterested English student had an impact. And that impact has made way for further impact of the Gospel to people of different nations. Many have been blessed as a result of my sister-in-law’s faith in Christ. My family and I have been too.

Stories like these touch me deeply, because in a time of life where I feel largely unseen and unknown, I wonder if I am making any real impact in the world myself. I believe that I am planting seeds into my young son’s heart, but what will become of those seeds? Will they bring forth fruit? Will there be a plentiful harvest as a result of all this planting?

Sometimes I wonder if Billy Graham’s mom had these same questions. When her son was a young boy, did she wonder if God was using her too? Did she go about her day completing her daily tasks and praying that God was somehow using her to make an eternal difference in the midst of it all?

The stories of Anna Bartlett Warner and the American college students help me to believe afresh that God is often working in ways far beyond what we can see and that He could be using me in ways that I do not yet comprehend, and that really encourages me.

These stories, however, also cause me to believe that perhaps my focus should not be so much on how I can make an impact on this world but how I can glorify God while I’m here. This seems to have been Anna’s focus, and she gained so much in living this way.

The truth is, I may never know the full impact of my life here on earth. But ultimately I don’t need to. What I need is to know that I am living each day to please God. In doing so, He could use me in ways far beyond my wildest dreams.

Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend

Wreaths we made earlier this year

A good friend of mine came over several days ago. It is becoming a custom for us to get together every week. She comes to my house so that my son (Liam) can roam around freely and do his thing, although we don’t always stay home the whole time. Sometimes we make Costco runs or go to Hobby Lobby. Other times we stay in and do crafts together or make some sort of treat. Our times together generally involve sharing a meal, and they are always characterized by deep, heartfelt conversation seeped in faith.

This last time was no different, although parts of our conversation were harder than usual. It started off when my friend told me that she thought I seemed pretty self-aware. I came across that way, at least, and she believed it must be the case. But if what she believed was true, then was I aware when I was getting irritated with my son?

I confessed to her that I was aware of it and that it was something I really struggled with. It was something I had even cried about at times and had asked my mom and younger sister to pray about on numerous occasions. And I prayed about it most nights myself, crying out to God to make me into the mom that my little boy needed. But it was still a struggle, and most days I found myself snapping at Liam at one point or another.

My friend gave me some advice and told me she’d be praying for me. I hated talking to her about this because it was humbling and made me feel more vulnerable than I wanted to. And yet this conversation made me appreciate her all the more. It showed me how much she cared about Liam and his well-being, and I felt cared for in that as well.

I was talking to my younger sister about this conversation later on that evening, and she said the very thing that I had been thinking not long after that original conversation—“Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).

The next morning I woke up wanting to make all sorts of justifications for my behavior toward my son. I knew other moms that would get angry at their kids and yell at them. Being a mom is stressful! Chances are that if you are reading this blog, you probably already know that and have been experiencing that truth far before I have (especially considering my son is not yet two). I knew these thoughts didn’t make my actions right though. I wanted to be a reflection of Christ to Liam. I wanted to point him to a perfect Father. So how was I going to do that when I was giving into my own sinful reactions?

As I’ve pondered my conversation with my friend these last few days and have thought about how I’ve been responding to Liam, I have recognized that I need a change in perspective.

So much of life right now with a toddler is a lot of work because nothing seems to come easy. The diaper changes (or trying to get him to sit on his potty), getting him dressed, going to the store, going to bed—all of it. But there are so many sweet moments sprinkled throughout the day that would refresh me if I would only let them.

Recently I’m finding that if I spend part of my morning reminding myself of those sweet moments to come, I am better able to respond to the hardships that day brings. I am able to see Liam as a blessing and joy when I do that, and it seeps into my interactions with him and in turn makes him feel special.

I am also finding that waking up before Liam does really helps as well. It is hard for me to do so as of late because I have to wake up when it is still dark and cold out thanks to the fact that Liam is an early riser. But as difficult as it is for me to get out of bed, I never regret doing so. The time I get to spend with the LORD before my little guy wakes up and the chance to get in some exercise or straighten up the house a little helps me to feel a little more ready for the day.

I have a long ways to go in becoming the mother I would like to be to my son, but I am comforted in knowing that God specifically chose me to be Liam’s mom, and I trust He is doing something good through that and will continue to help me to become more like Him in the process. In the meantime, I’m glad for faithful wounds from friends who care enough to give their input in love. That, in itself, is a gift from God.