Friday, July 22, 2016

Glimpses.

It has been four years...

Four years since my Matt and I covenanted with one another and became husband and wife. Four years filled with smiles, adventures, laughs, tears, two beautiful baby girls, four moves, many seminary classes, one graduation, and countless other memories.

This anniversary, for two weeks before and one week after, Matt and I have been apart as he has been studying in a Hebrew immersion program. We have spent time apart before, but this particular time has made me more aware of how much of "one flesh" we really have become since that sunny July day four summers ago. Whenever we are apart, it feels like part of me is missing, and when we are together, we complement one another so well it feels like God designed us specifically for one another. I am blessed beyond words to have been given a husband like Matt.

I was reflecting on our marriage as I was writing Matt a letter for our anniversary, and I was struck how being his wife has given me so many glimpses of my relationship with Christ, my heavenly Groom.

1. Safe. Matt stands over a foot and a half taller than me and is almost twice my size in weight. One of our friends in college told us we have a "very diverse height ratio." I just like to call him my tall, dark, and handsome :) He is so much stronger than me, and he could easily overpower me. Yet, the place I feel the most safe in this world is in his arms. Matt would never hurt me- he has never once even raised his voice to me. I know I can trust him with my whole heart. He is strong, yet gentle and kind- with me and with our sweet little girls. And I know these attributes in Matt are because of Jesus' work in his heart- and because of this, they give me glimpses of God- the Creator of the universe, Who commands the lightning and stirs the seas, Whose very words could turn us to dust, and Whose wrath is fierce over sin. Yet, because of Jesus, our omnipotent God chose to set His love on us! He leads us tenderly, and we are safe in His everlasting arms. What a comforting truth to think on.

2. Desired.  Matt and I have always loved spending time together. When we were separated during our engagement- while he was at seminary and I was student teaching, we would have what we called Skype "study dates"- in which we basically sat in silence and studied, looking up every so often to smile at each other or share something we were reading. It was nice to just be "together" however we could, even if we had to spend most of that time studying. And now, even after four years of marriage and two kids, we still love to spend time together- though now that time is often spent listening to Barney in the background, jingling a colorful baby toy in front of the baby, with a  few interruptions for diaper changes or potty breaks. But this is the season of life we are in now, and "doing life" with Matt has made the days a joy and not a drudgery. And even when I'm still in pjs at the end of the day, and feel like I haven't slept in days, and am on the verge of tears, Matt desires to spend time with me, and he takes the time to hold me and listen to me. What a picture to me this is of Christ's love to me! I am so sinful and have nothing God should desire in me- in fact, I deserve His wrath. Yet, because of Jesus, He sees in me nothing but Christ's beauty and righteousness and He is preparing a place for me to spend all of eternity with Him! This is completely breathtaking  to me!

3. Pursued. The world portrays marriage as dull and lifeless. You fall in love, then fall out of love, following your heart wherever it may take you. Yet, God says marriage is a picture of His love for His people. It is a sacred covenant, not to be taken lightly, and it is a gift. The world says "romance" fades after the "honeymoon phase," and it almost expects husbands and wives to fade from loving one another to merely tolerating one another. This makes me so sad. Yes, I believe there are seasons to marriage- being newly-married, welcoming children into the world, raising children, raising teens, taking care of elderly parents, enjoying grandchildren, and whatever else life may bring. Matt and I have only been through a few of these seasons so far- we have special memories of our first years of marriage, of learning to live with one another, and being able to spend countless hours together. And now we are in a season with littles- a season which brings tiredness and a season in which time together is scarce yet, when we are together, all we want to do is take a nap! Yet, Matt has shown Jesus to me by loving me through both the days filled with laughter and the days filled with tears and many opportunities for sanctification! He takes the time to ask me, "How is your heart today, my Ka?" And to write me letters because he knows they are my favorite, and to cook me eggs for my birthday and for Mother's Day and after church while I put the girls down for naps (I should probably teach him how to cook something else soon :) After four years together, he is still choosing to love me and to serve me. And he does this as a sinner- his love is still imperfect. How much more is Christ's love and pursuit of us! He set His love on us before time began, and He will love us not only today and tomorrow and ten years from now but into all of eternity!

Thank you, My Matt, for seeking to love me like Christ loves His Bride, the church.
I pray that God keeps growing us and using our marriage to show the world glimpses of the Gospel.
Happy 4th Anniversary!  

Thursday, May 5, 2016

I need Thee every hour.

There is nothing so conflicting as the emotions of motherhood.

Night after night, you dream of the night when you will not have to wake up to tiny cries, when you can tuck your precious littles into their beds and enjoy a night of restful, unhindered sleep. And yet that same night, when their soft, chubby fingers are curled around your thumb and you feel the soft whispers of their warm breath on your chest as they dream in your arms, your eyes fill with thankful tears. You close them and take in the moment in, hoping to imprint it on your mind forever.

Day after day, you struggle with frustration and impatience with a toddler who seems to choose disobedience at the most inconvenient times. You tire of saying "no" what seems like thousands of times a day, you wish you could have just a few minutes to be alone and to get away from the whining and the tantrums. And yet, when that same toddler lifts up her head to give you an open-mouth, wet, adorable kiss, your heart feels like it will burst because you love her so much! The  just-woke-up, warm snuggles she gives you in the morning when the house is quiet and still make you feel like you could hold her forever and ever.

As the laundry piles up, and the kitchen floor collects sticky spots, and the dinner needs stirring on the stove, you feel the pressures of daily tasks. And yet, besides the building list of items on your to-do list, there is another kind of pressure that comes and goes- the realization that you know your precious toddler and infant won't be little for long. Coloring flowers, finger-painting, and reading Goodnight Moon ten times in a row will soon be things of the past. She's starting to sing "Twinkle, twinkle, Little star" by herself. You're jumping up and down with her and cheering because she went potty like a big girl. Your toddler is growing up and soon her sister will too. Time will not stop. It keeps on going. Sometimes this brings you joy, sometimes sadness. That's the funny thing about being a Mommy- some days you want to fast-forward to a new stage, while at another moment you wish time would just stand still. These are the conflicts motherhood brings.

How can your heart feel such weariness and yet such joy? such impatience and yet such love? such a longing for this season of littles to pass and yet other times when you wish these precious moments would last forever? A longing to just "get through the day," and other times when you reverently soak it all in and enjoy every moment?

If there's one thing I know about motherhood, it is that it changes you. You begin to experience these conflicts. You also experience emotions you had never felt before. You continually feel like you are being stretched beyond what you can bear, and yet there is always more stretching to be done! You see your sin like never before. But you also get the chance to see Jesus like never before. For, if you are one of His children, He is there in the trenches of motherhood with you, molding you to become more like Him. This molding takes many forms- sleepless nights, faithfully and gently taking your toddlers hands in your own and talking with her about obedience while the baby is crying and dinner is about to boil over and you would rather ignore the disobedience and move on, singing Amazing Grace as you tuck her into bed, teaching her not to whine when your head is fighting back complaints about how weary you feel and everything in you wants to whine yourself. Motherhood regularly brings me to Jesus' feet, begging Him for help. My prayers are short- "Father, keep me from frustration." "Help me speak with kindness and gentleness." "Thank you for being patient with me over and over, God! Give me patience now!" "Father, please save her! Teach her that she needs You" and "Thank you God for the gifts of these littles!" I realize my desperate need of him more than I ever have before.

Just last night, during a much needed moment alone, thanks to my sweet husband, I listened to the hymn "I need Thee every hour," and I never felt my heart resonate so much with those words as I did in that moment. Since then, I've been singing them throughout the diaper changes and car rides to the grocery store that my time has been filled with today.

Motherhood has been teaching me how much I need Jesus. Not just every hour but every second in the hour! Motherhood is one of the hardest things I have ever done. And yet is is one of the best things as well! And I think it is that way because it draws me more and more to my loving Savior.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Little Bird: A Father's love

"Kali,

Did you know that I think thoughts of you? Well, I do and very often! I prayed for you this morning. I prayed that you might "comprehend the love that God has toward you." It really is a love that is hard to understand. "No greater love hath any many than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends." Meditate on the cross... Not Jesus the one sentenced to die at the hands of men, but Jesus who, on His celestial calendar, scheduled an appointment with death, selected the means by which He would die, and orchestrated it completely so that His own would have life. He willingly laid down His life, for you! That's love in a way that is almost incomprehensible!

I love you so much, Kali. I realize in the business of life I fail to tell you, but I do love you so much. The other Wednesday, when you had the paper on your back [something our youth group did one night to encourage the teens to speak words of encouragement to one another], I could have written a novel on it about all the special things about you. There are so many.

Inwardly... compassionate, gentle, caring, respectful, faithful, sweet-spirited, helpful, considerate, diligent, smart, and fun in your own special way. I really enjoy your company and being around you. You honor me. I absolutely love when you hold my hand or lay your head on my shoulder. You are so special to me! I could go on, but I have a 7:00 appointment for work.

Outwardly... God has designed you and decorated you. Remember that outward beauty fades but the inward, which you have, is lifelong, even when you are all shrunken and wrinkled at 80!

Well, it's 6:45 and I can't keep my appointment waiting, but remember this- you are special, precious, and God has placed us together on this planet and I am so thankful and grateful!

Set your mind on the things above where Christ, Jesus, Savior, Messiah, Groom is now seated... interceding for you! Look up. Look up. Look up.

Life can get stagnant and seem so vain. "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity." But is is only a vapor. He is all that matters. Meditate, mutter things about Him today. Pray without ceasing. Think today, not about applying your quiet time, but about a relationship, a real live love relationship you have with your Creator and Savior!

In closing, remember that I am committed to you. I will always love you and, while I have breath and fight in my bones, I will be here for you.

I love you forever.... Your firstborn Daddy. "

Little Bird: On beauty


"Kali

(Proverbs 30:30) 'Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.'

Kali... fear the Lord, not the mirror, not people, not external standards... fear Him. Man looks at the outward but God looks on the heart. Or disappointment and brokenness should come when we look in  God's Word (soul mirror) and see our real flaws (our heart character)- our sin. We should respond in disgust and repentance, and seek to become more like Christ.

It is good to take care of yourself. But to say you are ugly is wrong. Beauty is vain, empty, hollow, shallow. Beauty goes away. What you are becoming on the inside will last. You have a lot of inward beauty. Work on improving that. Spend 10% of your thoughts and time on the care of your body and 90% of your thoughts and time on the inside... the part that God judges, sees, and cares about.

In summary,
- Review your thinking
- Fear God
- Beauty is empty
- Concentrate on heart beauty

I love you,

Daddy"





Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Little Bird: On belief systems and role models

"Dearest Kali, (my firstborn daughter),

First, I want to start out by telling you how very much I love you. My love for you is unconditional! That means that no matter what you do... or don't do, I will always love you. I am so proud to be your dad! You truly are a special little lady. You have so much talent the Lord has given you. I am excited to see the life He has planned for you (Eph. 2:10). He prepared before you were born the good works you will do for Him!!!

The posters coming off of your wall was the first of many decisions you will make over your lifetime for God. As I was in school yesterday, I realized that Mommy and I are the ones who bought the posters and movies, not realizing the harm that could come by them. For that I am sorry... for leading you down a road that would be displeasing to God. Your decision to take them down or not watch the movies has to be to honor God and not me... I thought of some verses that go with making this decision:

- Romans 12:1-2. You are a living sacrifice to God to be holy and acceptable. Do not be conformed to this world.

- 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. We are not to be tied together with unbelievers and looking up to unbelievers as a role model or an idol can be harmful.

- Philippians 2:1-16. We are to think like Christ thinks. That is why we always need to look to God and His Word and see if there is anything in our lives that displeases Him. You were "working out your salvation" when you took those posters down. And God was working in you for His pleasure and not our own!

I want to let you know that if you ever have any questions, I am always here for you! As far as [teen celebrities names] are concerned, there is still one problem... They don't believe in Jesus! I think as a father/daughter project, we should sit down and write a letter to them and share the Gospel with them... What do you think?

Something else that this has brought up in my life... I am convicted to take a hard look at my own choices of movies or things I do that may not honor the Lord. You see, Kali, you never stop growing no matter how old you are. You have to realize that the world (Satan's kingdom) will try to entice you into its belief system and 1 Peter 5:8 says that Satan is a lion walking about looking to devour Christians. Most often this will come by him making the world and all the lust of it look good. Always stay in the Word, because it is the only detergent that can clean your mind and keep it from becoming worldly.

I love you with all my heart and I do pray for you, my little sister In Christ! 3 John 1:4 says that there's no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth!!

Always your Daddy,
Forever your brother.

Love,
Daddy"
   





Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Little Bird: On your tenth birthday...



"My dearest Kali,

You're 10!! I have no idea where the time has gone. It seems to be just yesterday I was playing with my "Baby Kali," throwing her on the pillows on the couch, or going to a dance for Valentine's day, or her first pony ride.

You are a very beautiful, energetic, smart, funny, caring, and loving girl. It is so neat, and scary too, watching you grow into a young woman or should I say lady. I don't want you to ever leave me... but I know someday you will. I just want to enjoy our relationship and time we do have together.

A father's biggest regret is not spending more time with his children and I know why... It's all the little stuff that just happens that makes life special, and time is the only way to experience it.

I can remember how scared yet excited I was when you were on your way into this world and I will never forget all the smiles you've brightened my days with and hugs that made the cares of this world fade away!

Thank you so much for being the special person you are and thank you for loving me!

You will always be my "little girl" and I will always be your "daddy."

I will love you forever... and don't you ever forget who you are in Jesus Christ. "He will never leave you nor forsake you."

Happy Birthday,

Daddy"

Little Bird: The Inspiration

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always treasured letters. I kept every letter- from sticky notes of "Good job on your test today!" from Mommy, to letters filled with Scripture from my Daddy when I was a teenager struggling with doubts about my salvation, to pages and pages of love letters from my sweet Matt from the times distance kept us apart and then sweet notes we have shared throughout our years of marriage together. Words encourage my heart, and I especially treasure written words because I can read them over and over again- cherishing the memories each one brings. 

This past month, I spent a weekend going through that "special box" (which actually had turned into three boxes I took with me after I got married). Holding all of those letters in my hands and reading through their precious words brought me so much encouragement, joy, happiness, and tears of thankfulness for the family and friends God has given me. 

Because of this, I was inspired to begin a series of posts. I want to entitle this series "Little Bird" (see  the parable below). It is my hope that this series will encourage fathers and mothers, and even children- young and grown. 

God used these letters from my parents to mold me into who He wanted me to be. Their written words brought encouragement, confirmation of so much love, nuggets of Scriptural truth, and even sometimes loving chastisement- all of which shaped my thinking of myself, God, and the world around me. I hope that as I share these letters, parents will be encouraged on the bumpy journey of training their children in the instruction of the Lord. I hope it will bring encouragement to keep being faithful- even when your children struggle with issues like doubting salvation, wondering if the Bible really is true, struggling with body image, worrying about issues with friends, and any other number of things they may be facing. Keep loving them and praying for them, and most of all keep loving Jesus and seeking after Him, and your children will see Jesus in you, even if it may not seem like this to you. Jesus uses weak vessels! Now, after having two children of my own, I realize that nothing can make you feel more weak or unqualified than becoming a parent. We as parents feel very weak. But that is good, because that is when we are perfectly ready for Jesus to be strong through us. 

This following parable is the inspiration for the title of this series. It is a letter my Daddy wrote to me when I was 16 and was leaving for the summer to work at a Christian camp. 

Enjoy reading this letter, and the links to other letters will be posted at the bottom of this post as I add them to this series. 


"Little Bird"
(a parable written by Daddy)

"Once upon a time, there were a mommy bird and a daddy bird that used to dream all the time about having their own little baby bird. They were good birds, and as far as birds go, they would make good mommy and daddy birds.

Well, one day mommy bird laid an egg. They were so excited!! They were finally going to have their own baby bird! They were so excited and talked (chirped) about what they would name the baby bird... they made room in their nest for the baby bird... they dreamed about life as a mommy and daddy of a brand new baby bird. 

One day, when it was almost time for the baby bird to be born, mommy bird noticed a crack in the shell of the baby bird. After going to the bird doctor, they learned that baby bird went on to live in birdy heaven and they would never see baby bird grow up. 

It was a very sad time for mommy and daddy bird. With no baby bird around, life seemed to lose hope and meaning. Their bird faces were always sad, their wings hung down, it was a really hard time for them. 

Just when all hope seemed lost, mommy bird laid another egg! They were filled with emotion. Excited, nervous, scared, worried... what if our new baby bird doesn't make it either?

They decided to have hope and they were so careful of the egg. They began to get more and more excited as the hatch day drew near and at the thought of their very own baby bird they could love and take care of! 

The day came and out came from the shell the most beautiful baby bird you would ever lay your eyes on. She had her mother's bright eyes, she was so tiny, she was gorgeous! Mommy bird and daddy bird's lives took on a whole new meaning. They were needed. They experienced love, and it was awesome. 

They taught her how to stay in the nest, clean the next, care for the nest. Mommy bird had three more eggs throughout the next few years, and all of the baby birds filled the nest. They chirped together, played together- it was what mommy bird and daddy bird had always dreamed of. 

Daddy bird and mommy bird spend a lot of time preparing the oldest bird for when she would fly the nest and enter into the big scary world all on her own. 

Well, the big day came to finally practice flying. Baby bird... she was all ready to try flying on her own. She knew how to fly; she just never had a chance to do it on her own. Daddy bird was more nervous than mommy bird. He knows the dangers of the big scary world, and he was fraught with worry. But when he saw baby bird talk about her first flight, he realized she thought so much like a big bird. She assured daddy it was only temporary and that she really was ready. 

Well, today is only a few days away from baby bird's return to the nest. Mommy and Daddy bird both saw baby bird trying to fly on her own. She was right! She really could fly! She was safe, careful, all the other birds really looked up to baby bird. Mommy bird and daddy bird were so proud of their oldest baby bird as they watched her fly! 

Soon baby bird will return to the nest for a short time and take a few more solo flights to get her ready for the day when she will leave the nest to begin her own nest and will only return on visits. 

Daddy bird and mommy bird can't wait to have her back in the nest, even if it is temporary. They love baby bird so much! 

Someday there will be more to this story, but for now, that is the end..."


"Kali, my little baby bird, I have to tell you I have thought a lot about you this summer! I miss you so dearly. You have, over the past 16 1/2 years, transformed from a precious little baby bird into the most beautiful, awesome, gorgeous little bird I have ever seen. I have so much love and respect for you! You have taught me so much. I love you as my daughter, and I treasure the friends that we are becoming. I will be your earthly guide for a little while longer. I look forward with anticipation to every day of it. You are so special to me. I am so proud of you and who you are becoming in the Lord. You are a fit vessel useful for your Master. Keep following hard after Him! Know your hear's limitations and trust Him completely, even when it doesn't make any sense! Fly, Kali, fly! 

To my precious baby bird, beautiful little Kali, my blue-eyed girl, I will love you forever! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Who am I to say..

This will most likely be a short post, as I am currently rocking my three month old to sleep in my Ergo carrier and listening for the imminent sound of an energetic two year old waking from her nap as I type with my free hand. But I wanted to journal about a recent change that has taken place in my heart, so I can look back on it in the future, wherever I am, and see God's gracious leading of my  heart.

A few weekends ago, I attended mini-conference for seminary wives. Each session I listened to that day encouraged my heart in a different way, but one in particular stands out to me. The session was entitled, "What Husbands in the Ministry Wish Their Wives Knew," and the speaker, a local pastor, gave several points of things wives should keep in mind when married to a husband in the ministry. The ninth point was the one that impacted me the most though. The pastor made the point to encourage wives to "dream with their husbands," more specifically he mentioned not immediately "squelching" passions and desires he may share, no matter how crazy or "impractical" they may seem in that moment. Yes, there is a time for seeking counsel, praying, and thinking of logistics, but don't make the mistake of continually shooting him down time after time; instead, seek God's wisdom and strength to be a wife who will joyfully follow him wherever the Father should lead him.

Immediately, my mind thought of countless times I have "squelched" my Matt when he was talking about our future. Moving to India to serve and teach and start a seminary? I have never been overseas before. It's so far away. We would go there first before committing to anything, right? How long would we be there for? It is still kind of scary for me to think of moving to a completely different culture. Maybe moving to Dubai to serve in a seminary there? Again, we would want to visit first before committing to anything, right? At least English is more commonly spoken there. Who would we go with? Do we want to raise our girls over there? Is it safe? Moving to Israel to study Hebrew? Isn't that one of the most dangerous places in the world? Would there be a program in the States that you would be able to get just as much benefit from? It would be really hard to move our family overseas. I still just have no idea what it is like to live in a different culture, and its still kind of intimidating for me. Yes, I would be more comfortable staying in America. The list could go on. Now, granted, I did not bombard him with all those questions at once. But I am sure there was a sense about my responses that let him know of my fear, insecurity, and lack of enthusiasm anytime he brought up a possibility of going overseas.

Yet, after the conference last week, I began to think... I am married to an extremely gifted man (who takes much delight in reading, studying, learning, and teaching the Ancient Languages and who has so much knowledge of Scripture.) God gave Him these abilities, and what if Israel is the best place for him to continue to develop his gifts? What if Dubai or Singapore is the place God has planned to use my Matt to teach His Word and train pastors so that many can hear the Gospel and come to a personal relationship with Him? I never, ever want to be the reason Matt makes a decision for something "less" when God could use him for something "more." Ultimately, God is Sovereign, and we will make decisions according to His will, which is comforting, but I do not ever want to be a hindrance to what our good Father would call him to do. If God calls him to Africa, who am I to say I'm still unsure nor scared?

So, that night, as he kissed my forehead and told me goodnight as I was nursing our littlest girl, I told him that I wanted him to know that I would follow him wherever he felt God leading him- be it Israel or Africa or America or anywhere. My heart still may have fear at times, and I will definitely feel weak, but those can be good things- things my loving heavenly Father will use to make me trust Him more.

And since that night, my heart has felt so much more free! It is as if a gigantic burden has been lifted. I am trusting the Greatest Shepherd of all to lead us, and I know that He will.

(And thankfully, little adorable very energetic toddler slept the whole time I typed, and I was able to finish this post :)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Daddy's Office Has No Door

In our old apartment, there was a small room, off of the living room, that we made into an office. We lined it with bookshelves- all of which were stuffed to the brim with books on everything from commentaries and Hebrew and Greek texts to C.S. Lewis novels and Harry Potter. In the nooks and crannies and little openings between the books I had set pictures of Annie as a baby and pictures of our family. Also in the room were whiteboards covered in Aramaic, Hebrew, and other languages I could never decipher- clear evidences that this was Matt's studying cove. Annie knew this room as "Daddy's office," the room enclosed only by a thick red curtain, but no door.

As our Annie girl grew and began walking, this room held more and more of a draw for her. She no longer looked at the curtains as barriers, for she knew that she could easily and quickly sneak right through them into a room filled with books, pens, markers, and other treasures. And, if she made her little escapade at night when Daddy was home, she knew she would most likely find him sitting in his tall black chair, and that he would always welcome her with a smile and a warm hug (even though Annie hugs only last for a few special seconds before she is on to something else :)

As I watched this happen night after night, I began to see a beautiful picture of our unlimited access to our loving Heavenly Father. Through our union with Jesus, the "door" to Him has been torn down. We no longer have a barrier between us and Him. We can crawl to Him at any time, knowing He will always receive us with loving, gentle arms- not because of anything we have done or because of who we are, but because He has chosen to set His perfect, steadfast love on us.

Watching Annie crawl through the curtain, her face lit up with her beautiful baby smile, and seeing her climb up onto Daddy's lap encouraged me to "crawl into" my Father's lap as often as I can- praying to Him as I'm washing dishes or rocking my baby to sleep. And listening to His Words throughout my day. I can know with confidence that He will never turn me away, but will always welcome me with loving arms.


"Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)


Thoughts on "Loving the Little Years" (Part II)


Besides the encouragements and challenges for mommies Rachel Jankovic gives (see Part I), she also shares some helpful and practical parenting advice throughout her book…

  • “Set behaviors into stories”- just like the Biblical example of Nathan the prophet telling David a story to help convict him of sin, Rachel suggested setting your children’s behaviors into stories to help them see their sin in a different light. One example she gave was telling boys a story of a very brave knight and how he was set out on a mission to slay the dragon, but instead, he hit the beautiful princess. Right away the boys would be able to detect what was wrong about the story! And it would be much more effective than “Don’t hit your sister!” I thought this was brilliant and am keeping this in mind for when our girls are a bit older. 
  • “Words are like knives”- We’ve heard this before, but Rachel puts a twist on this truth. She acknowledged how littles tend to repeat e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g they hear- we are just now entering into this stage! Now, there are obvious words we do not want our children saying (and we shouldn’t be saying), but what about the more obscure words? Sometimes littles might hear words used by adults like- “Oh, I was being really dumb when I said that- I’m sorry” or “Shut up! You’re kidding!” It’s in these situations the littles might stare at you with those wide and wondering little eyes, silently asking, ‘Wait a minute, they said that word!” To explain why adults might use certain words but her children are not allowed to use them, Rachel said she and her husband explain to their children that words are like knives… there are different uses for different kinds of knives, and children are too young to discern these uses. If they played with the knives, they would most likely end up hurting themselves or injuring someone else. Adults, however, have more wisdom and know how to use certain knives for appropriate circumstances. This does not give them liberty to use the knives to hurt others; that is still wrong. But sometimes they might use knives when it is appropriate to do so. … I had never thought of explaining words in this way before. It shouldn’t mean parents don’t guard what they are saying, but I thought it could be a helpful illustration for how to view words. It can help get to the heart behind why we say what we do rather than just using a blanket “dont’ say that word” rule. Because all words, including “not so bad” words like “Stink!” or “Shut up!” can be said with an appropriate heart attitude or out of a heart that is full of anger or revenge.
  • Discipline = moving from one set of temptations to another. I thought this was SO helpful! Rachel explained that disciplining a child does not result in a perfect child, but children will continue to struggle and continue to need discipline throughout their entire childhood- they might just move from one set of temptations to another (from throwing food on the floor to not saying “no” to mommy!). And this is not a discouraging thing- this can be a sign of growth! Sometimes as a mom, I feel like I am constantly disciplining and teaching all throughout the day, and it can be super discouraging as I think I’m not seeing any progress! But Rachel encourages moms to look for progress in the little things! Your toddler isn’t hitting her sister with the whisk anymore, she’s giving her kisses instead of biting her, or she's coming the first time you called her instead of the tenth. Yes, there might be new things she is struggling with. but all of these are signs of growth! How easy it can be to see all the ways she still needs to grow and miss encouraging her for all the ways she has already grown! Growth is growth; it is not coming into perfection. No one can ever, ever, ever be perfect! And it is this truth that can help point our littles to Jesus, Who was perfect for them. This was a good reminder to value growth, don’t be discouraged by imperfect littles (how imperfect am I anyway!!!), and to keep pointing our girls to Jesus. 
  • The “Bulk Effect”- This can be defined as a number of little things that aren’t so bad in and of themselves, but together, they create a chaotic situation. Example: sequined craft hanging on the fridge + toddler who still loves to put things into her mouth + pot boiling over + baby who just had a blowout diaper. This type of “bulk effect” situation can bring the temptation to be impatient with the toddler and take the craziness of the situation out on them. Knowing our tendency toward this and being able to detect these types of ‘bulk effect” situations can be extremely helpful! It can help us be faithful and fair in our discipline and treatment of our children as individuals, not all together in a lump. We should gently and lovingly teach and discipline individuals, not situations. 
  • Fights & “Breaking fellowship”- Rachel shares in one chapter how she talks with her children about fights, especially fights over toys or whose turn it is to do what, etc. She says her goal is to help her children see that they are “breaking fellowship” with each other and to help them learn how to prioritize their relationship over things and to eventually reconcile with each other so they can be “in fellowship” again. I had never before heard this “big word” used with littles in relation to fighting before. But how neat is it to teach them this important truth at such a little age! Instead of focusing on “she had it for x amount of time, so you will get it in y amount of time” or to continually be telling them to stop fighting and to share, etc., it would be helpful to give them a picture of the root of what is happening when they fight. I was thankful for Rachel’s explanation of this, and can see it being very helpful with our girls in the near future!
  • “Childrearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational problem.” - Last but not least, this statement really challenged me and gave me a fresh perspective! I feel like I often focus on routines and schedules and how to run a house smoothly- certain days for laundry, certain times set aside for cleaning, naps at such and such a time, etc. And it can be easy to try to “organize” my littles into the perfect little routine (which RARELY gets carried out and tends to cause more frustration and discouragement on my part). So this was a good reminder that, although routines are not bad and can definitely be helpful (toddlers thrive on them, I’ve found!), I should be continually caring for (“pastoring”) my littles’ hearts. Some days organization might go out the window for some much needed quality time when an adorable little lady takes my hand asking me to do “special craft ‘gether pweeeeese!!!” It’s good to remember she needs me and her heart and our relationship is more important than following a perfect routine. This is so refreshing. 

Hopefully sharing all of this has been encouraging!

And if you are a mommy with littles- or a daddy!- or even just work with littles, I would really, really encourage you to read this book and let your heart be encouraged and challenged! 

Thoughts on "Loving the Little Years" (Part I)

Just yesterday, I finished reading the book Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. This thin, little book was stuffed to the brim with encouragements, challenges, and nuggets of truth for mothers. Rachel shares her stories in such a warm, honest, and heart-touching way that at one point I was laughing out loud, many times I was smiling, and one time I even had tears in my eyes while I was reading. I was so touched by her book at this stage of my life, as a mommy to two littles, that I wanted to do a little journaling about it to help me think a little more deeply on some of her points…


  • “The state of your heart is the state of your home.” As noted many times on this blog, and I’m sure noticed by anyone who knows me, I really love order and organization. Scrubbing the kitchen sink or getting the grime out of the nooks and crannies of our stove is kind of like a refreshing sort of therapy for me. Strange, but true. So, when I read this phrase, “The state of your heart is the state of your home,” it made me think. I tend to want to flip this phrase around- in other words, the state of the kitchen or the state of our living room floor sometimes determines the state of my heart. Yesterday, when there were about one hundred toothpicks sprawled about on our living room floor, a chunk of bread surrounded by bread crumbs on our kitchen counter, play dough “cupcakes” in muffin tins spread throughout the kitchen, a crying baby, and a clingy toddler, I had one of those “moments”- moments when I can feel my heart becoming anxious, stressed, and frantic. With a toddler and a newborn these types of chaotic moments tend to happen more often than not! And, when they do it can be easy for me to want to be stressed or anxious because things are not as “orderly” as I’d like. This little nugget of truth from Rachel, however, stuck with me as I took in that situation yesterday. Things can be seemingly crazy all around me, but, by God’s grace, as I am thinking on Him and not on the craziness, my heart can still be calm and controlled. And this is what brings glory to my Father- and much more joy to me!
  • “Building up little people, and not tearing them down.” Just the other day, I was telling someone (probably Matt) about how fussy Clara had been that day. Annie must’ve picked up on this, because she has been playing with her baby dolls and saying, “Cranky! Fussy!” “Crella (Clara) so fussy!” Having a toddler repeating everything you say can really show you glimpses into your own heart and attitude that are sometimes not so pretty! When I read this section in the book about building up the little people in my life, it made me think of how I speak about our littles- especially to my husband. When he comes home from work or school, and I’m telling him about our day, am a building our littles up or tearing them down (even if I think they can’t understand me yet- because I’ve found toddlers are quite a bit smarter than you’d think!) Jesus always speaks well of children, and I want to follow His example. Not that it is wrong to share struggles I’ve had throughout the day with Matt- because my day is filled with little people, there will always be both joys and trials related to them!- But being careful to set a guard over my mouth, especially how I speak in front of them, and seeing my words as a glimpse into my own heart. Continual complaining reveals that my heart is not content and is not thankful. And I want to have a heart that is overflowing with thankfulness for the two little gifts of life that God has blessed us with! 
  • “Thanksters” vs. “Cranksters”- Going along with the previous point, Rachel says she and her husband are often asking their children (and in turn checking their own hearts as well!) if they are being thanksters or cranksters. She defines these in such simple terms- a “Thankster” thinks on what they DO have while a “Crankster” focuses on what they DON’T have. I love how simple and clear cut this is- no room for excuses! So when I speak (out loud or even just in my own head), what am I focusing on? Yes, the toddler may be clingy and fussy, but I can thank God that I have been blessed with this little toddler in my life. Sure, the baby screamed the whole way in the car, but I can thank God she is healthy and has an obviously healthy set of lungs! Being a thankster like this will not only make life more joyful, but will speak well of my heavenly Father and will help my mind be focused on Him rather than dwelling on thoughts of discouragement or self-pity. 
  • Sacrifice- Rachel encouraged mamas to sacrifice for their littles. After becoming a mommy, I realized you could define mother by this one word- “sacrificers” - sacrificers of our bodies, our time, our sleep, the list could go on. But Rachel gave examples of more simple kinds of “sacrifices,” ones that happen over and over in the little moments throughout our days… sacrificing peace and quiet for the joy your toddler gets from that musical toy, sacrificing a clean floor for special time with a little who wants to “help” grate the carrots for the salad, sacrificing time on Pinterest for quality time together sorting colored buttons with a toddler who took your hand saying “Mommy, do it ‘gether!” … And, after truly thinking about it, these are not really sacrifices at all. They are simply choosing the more important things over the lesser things in life. 
  • “Bodies are tools, not treasures.” This is a tough one, especially in our culture where we are bombarded by images of what is considered “beautiful.” And then we are confronted by the realities of what being a mom does to our bodies. The two do not seem to align very well! Mommy-hood totally changes your body, and it can be very easy to resent this. But, Rachel reminds mamas that our bodies are not ours to treasure. They are given to us by God to be used- and what better use of them than one of the things they were designed for- carrying and giving birth to new little lives! This is beautiful to God. We just need a redefinition of beauty.

Continue to Part II  to read on some thoughts I had on some her parenting advice...