Tuesday, August 19, 2014

And then she sighed

My baby girl started first grade last week. I gave birth to her just a few weeks ago (right?) and already she is school aged. She was in a rush to make her debut in the world, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised she has been in a rush to grow up. Everyone talks about growing pains, but no one said the only one who would feel the hurt of it would be the parents. This growing up stuff is no joke. You feel so proud and so sad all at the same time. You know how some people are jumping up and down when that school bus comes down their street??...I am not one of them. No judgement, no judgement. I'm pretty sure when the twins turn comes to go to school, I will be singing the Hallelujah chorus. (I kid...sort of...ahem.) But that firstborn girl of mine...I just want to bottle up her innocence and keep her 6 years old for forever.

We are so fortunate to be able to send Ella to a very sweet and wonderful Christ loving school that we feel like will be both a good fit for her as a student and us as the parents. She still only goes half days (8-12), which is such a sweet blessing to this hurting heart of mine. She can be such a ray of sunshine on those days when I'm missing my mama so very, very much...which is pretty much every hour of the day. The friends we have already made through the school...the outpouring of love from people who don't even know of my mom's recent passing...it's just been such a gift from the Lord.

I had a dream about my mama the other night. It was the second night in a row I have dreamed about her. Sadly, it wasn't this Hollywood version where you wake up and feel happy. They were sad dreams. Each dream she walked around in this fuchsia dress that she wore in my sisters wedding. She didn't say anything, she was just walking around and then she died. Both nights I had these weird dreams about seeing her body in a casket, but it was not the funeral she had in real life. It was just...weird. Not comforting at all. So, the past two days I've woken up just feeling really awful. Where are these sweet dreams that people have where their loved one comes back and say "you are going to be OK. Or I love you. Or anything happy"...but not reliving her funeral?

This morning I was so frustrated trying to put together a chandelier in this never ending construction zone we live in and just sobbed. And sobbed and sobbed. I dropped a crystal and it shattered into a million pieces. So there I sat on the top of a ladder with two toddlers staring at me from outside the room wondering what all the commotion was about. I look at my little boy who looks down at the box and starts handing me one crystal at a time and says "mommy, I help you. Don't cry. I help you."

And he and Audrey both did. They each took turns handing me crystals and I hung them where they needed to go. My focus changed from my mom to thinking about how these two little miracles will be 4 years old in just 11 more days. I thought about those those 3 months in the NICU, about watching 3 nurses do CPR on my little girl, about how the doctor told me she didn't know if I was going to be able to carry them long enough for them to survive. I thought about those months where we worried Audrey might have cerebral palsy and "would she ever walk"? And those years of worrying if Jacob would learn to talk well?

"Mommy, do you want a little crystal or a big crystal next?"

He talks. She walks. They are alive and well. And I have a first grader too!!...the baby who we prayed for for a really long time. My womb that God did not leave barren.

And I sighed.

That sigh that you release when your body is so built up with sorrow and pain. That sigh that says "I'm broken, but I'm going to be OK." That sigh that says "man, this life can be so very hard. But God has done miraculous things in my life. And He is good."

Sometimes in the midst of this grief, I have to look at old photos and remind myself of how much He has done for me. It will be difficult to celebrate these two miracle's birthday in a few days without her there. Normally she would call me at least 14 times to double check that she got exactly the right present. And then she would tell me some dramatic story about going to 4 different stores to find the best deal on it. My mom never quite embraced the beauty of amazon prime! And then she'd tell me "while I was there, you'll never believe what I found on the sales rack."I have a closet full of her dollar store finds!

On Thursday, it will be 3 months since we said goodbye to my mother. I often wonder what her new body looks like. She was so beautiful before, how could God have made anything more beautiful?

I read something the other day that said "Grief never ends, but it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love."

No person can ever replace the love of my mother. But, I am so thankful for these 3 little ones that God has loaned me that help me take a deep breath and sigh when the pain is too much. Never have I been more thankful for my three babies. Looking at that picture above is such a sweet reminder that He is good and He is faithful.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Grief: The torrential downpour, the grey clouds, & the patch of blue skies

Blessed are those who mourn,  for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

 The two months of living without my mother has come and gone. I keep waiting for that phone call as my mind is still in a state of disbelief, but the more that time passes the more I feel the permanency of her absence. I spent the July 4th weekend at my parents lake house and watched my kids enjoy themselves thoroughly. It was wonderful and it hurt all in the same breath. It hurt because the thing my mother enjoyed most was the lake. In recent years, she had finally convinced my dad to add on to the house so that there was space for all the grandchildren. I had not yet taken the twins out there until this past weekend and I felt both mad at myself and mad at the world that my mom never got to see all 5 grandchildren up there together at the same time. Yet, I also felt like we were honoring her by fulfilling her wish. Grief...it's such a bizarre emotion.

It's always hard to know what to say when someone asks "how are you doing?" Before I go off on a tangent, let me say that I'd rather someone at least ask than to say nothing at all to me. Don't be afraid to ask the bereaved how they are doing...don't be afraid of saying something "dumb". Asking how the bereaved are doing is a totally fine question to ask...the only thing is that that question is multifaceted; it is an ever changing emotion from one second to the next. It's not "one day at a time" for me...it's still "one hour at a time". So my response totally varies throughout the day. Overall how am I doing? I'm just going to be honest...I feel broken. I feel sad all day every day. Some days are worse than others, but every day is still hard.

I am sure grief looks different for everyone depending on the circumstances. Although my mother had been sick, her death was very unexpected and very quick. It was not tragic in the sense of an instant car crash death, but it was tragic in that it caught us off guard those last few days. We didn't know that was how it would end until 48 hours before she passed away. Every day between 2 and 3pm, I really struggle because those were the moments of her last breaths and the images are still so vivid in my mind. After seeing my grandfather this weekend (this is my mother's father), who is 94 years old and just lost his wife 2 months prior to my mom's death, I almost felt like my grief intensified a little. Hearing him say that he "begged God not to take his daughter, but to take him instead."...y'all...it just shattered the little bit of heart I had left into a million pieces. Parents shouldn't have to bury their children no matter how old that child is.

It's all still really, really raw.

As we were traveling the month of July, we at one point were driving in some really terrible weather. It was an absolute torrential downpour...the kind of rain where you cannot see at all, but you can't pull over either...you just have to very, very slowly and prayerfully move ahead. And I got to thinking that that is very much what these early stages of grief are like. I can't speak for all, but my couple of friends who have lost a parent at a young(ish) age I'm sure would agree. You can't pull over...you have to keep moving. But it is so hard and you can't see ahead, but you are trusting that God will get you through. You are scared and anxious, but you can feel every once in awhile this overwhelming peace from the Lord reminding you that His hands are on the steering wheel with you...that He is going to help you.

And eventually as you are driving, the rain slows. You can see again, but there are still these sudden bursts of rain that slow you down. These are the months after some of the shock has worn off. You know eventually you'll see blue skies again and you are keeping your eyes peeled for those patches of blue skies, but you're still driving in the rain. This is where I am folks.

I've survived the torrential downpour, but I'm still driving in grey skies that are trickling rain...and some days there are those quick bursts of heavy rain that come out of nowhere. It's those moments where you feel like you regressed in your grief, but you haven't. It's just that something special has happened that my mother didn't get to be a part of and that pain is really sharp. But the rain is still there...I still cry everyday...it still hurts way more than I can ever really even begin to explain.

I have faith that with my grief that I will eventually see the blue skies again. I know that there will always be rainy days for the rest of my life. That will never stop. But, I am on my knees daily asking for God to help me see the blue skies. I know I will. I know because I know that God is still good. I'm just not there yet. I still get up and shower and do my best to care for my little ones. I still get out of the house some...I don't enjoy it much...but, I do it. I still laugh and smile. Those times that you laugh and forget your pain for a moment...they are so precious.

But the physical ache is still there. The grey skies. The dark cloud that you just can't seem to quite get through. I feel like I am failing my kids miserably. I lost my biggest cheerleader. My mom, no matter how rotten my children might be behaving, she ALWAYS told me I was an awesome mom. She was such an encourager. She told me many times over the past few years that there was no way she could parent children so close in age the way I have and that she was so proud of the mother I had become. She NEVER criticized my parenting.

But my cheerleader is gone and I feel a little...lost. And I know my grief affects my kids and I hate that. I just pray every day that they will one day understand and that they will forgive me for my short temper.

I know that there are blue skies ahead. I sat and watched the ocean waves roll back in and out this summer and my heart did very much the same. I sat and watched Ella and Jacob play in the waves, while Audrey stood behind me singing and playing with my hair. Her song:

"And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine"

I'm sure in her mind, she was just singing a song about the ocean that she has heard many times. But for me, it was a reminder of the day I played that song for my mother while she was dying.  And I know God was using that little girl to sing truth back into my heart. That He is right here. And that my mother is right there with Him.

Grief is like the weather. It's very unpredictable and it is always changing. You are never done grieving from what I've heard from the few who have walked this road ahead of me. But I know I serve a God who is near to the brokenhearted. A friend reminded me that death was never part of God's plan. I had not really thought about that until she said that and it brought me great comfort. Death grieved our Father...that is why He sent his son...to overcome it.

And that my friend's isn't the blue skies...that's the rainbow.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds". Psalm 147:3

I pray too that you will forgive me for not being a good friend. God has a million shattered pieces to sew back together and it's going to take a long time. I miss her so very, very much. Thank you for loving me despite my messy life. 

He is still so good...even in the rain.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Motherless Mother: a season of deep grief

There has been a lot of silence on this blog, my creative outlet.  I had many posts started and saved the past few months about selling our house, building our new house (which still isn't finished), etc. but those will take a back seat for now.

Just as things seemed to finally be falling into place in my little family's life (things we have been waiting and praying over for several years), my life took a very unexpected, tragic turn.

On May 21st at 2:18pm, my life was forever altered when I (and my siblings and father) held my mother's hand as she took her final breath. On that day, just three weeks ago, I became a motherless mother.

To say that the grief my heart and soul feels is exceedingly painful is an understatement, but I could not think of another adjective to convey otherwise. The pain can almost be paralyzing at times, but every morning I know I have to choose to get out of bed, take care of my three little ones who are so very innocent and naive to it all, and continue to live my life to its absolute fullest.

I will keep the details very vague, but I know people are naturally curious and concerned. My mother had been sick for some time now, however, we thought she was getting better. She had been undergoing a process for the past almost year to actually get her ready for an organ transplant. Being a transplant recipient does not immediately put you at the top of the list. They basically get you ready so that when your score is high enough...meaning you are sick enough...that is when you get the pager and officially wait on your turn. She was only in her early 60's, so it all seemed very hopeful.

We knew in February after her last hospital stay that she was getting closer to hopefully getting the pager and getting the call. It seemed like things were progressing as she was getting sicker...the irony, right? You don't want the person to get sicker, but you know they have to in order to get the transplant. It really is such an awful and agonizing thing.

In early May, she found herself back in the hospital again, this being her worst yet. After two weeks, she was stable and able to come home. I saw her on Mother's Day and this would be the last time I saw her at home. The following weekend, my dad called to tell me that they would not be able to go to Ella's dance recital because mom had become very lethargic and confused. That was May 17th and she passed away 4 days later.

In short, all her organs suddenly began to fail and all her clotting factors were out of control. Her lungs were filling with fluid, but they could not drain the fluid because she would have bled to death if they tried. We spent the next few days all at her bedside while they filled her body with as many blood products as they could, but it was not really bringing her levels up at all. She wouldn't survive a transplant. She fought hard and we fought hard, but ultimately that was not God's plan for her. My mom was terrified to have the transplant and really never wanted it to begin with. As painful as it all is, I know that God was merciful and loving by not having her go through something she never wanted. It's very hard to write those words, but after reading her journal about her fears in regards to the transplant, I have to believe that God lovingly took her in a way that she would have wanted.

We know that God was present and showed us His mercy by allowing our whole family (my dad, my brother, my sister, and myself and my mother) to be together during her final days. She was with us children as we all took our first breaths and we were all there to hold her hands as she took her last. We listened as our father, who had been married to our mother for almost 44 years, whisper a thousand I love you's in her ear. From the day they entered the hospital until the day she went to be with Jesus, my father never stopped holding her hand. Together, as a family, we were able to pray over her and hold hands together as she left her earthly body. We were able to rub her feet, brush her hair, and kiss her cheeks as she got ready to leave us. It was painful and beautiful all in the same breath...and how those two emotions can coexist, I do not know. But The Lord, in His perfect orchestration, made that possible.

There was one moment the day before she passed away when my mom was agitated, yet no longer verbal. My sister began to quietly sing mother's favorite hymns to her. She instantly settled down. When my sister stopped, my dad asked my mother "do you want to hear more music?" and Mom said "Mmm Hmm!!!" It was so calming to her. Seeing that she was comforted by music about her Savior was really beautiful.

There is so much I'd love to share about God's presence those days before and immediately after, but I will write them when I feel like I can relive them for a moment.

As positive and eloquent as you may find my words, my life is anything but that now. The truth is that my mother died too young and in a very sensitive time of my life. My remaining grandmother having just passed away two months prior, I am now left with no grandmothers and no mother. I am a mother with no mother...a motherless mother...and my heart physically just aches for her. I have always been a very happy and pollyanna-ish girl and I am now just muddling through life. I know there is no quick way to bypass my grief; I know that the only way to find that joy again is allow myself to grieve fully and experience the intense emotion. And in the same breath, I know that I am forever changed...that life will always look different to me now.

My heart aches for heaven. I think about my mom every moment, every second of my day. It is all consuming. And although I know this is normal, there is no way one can understand unless they have walked this road. The myth you have heard about "getting through the first year" is just that: a myth. There is no magical number that will make the pain stop. The pain and ache never goes away, you just learn how to live with it from what I've been told by a few friends who are also part of "this club": the club you never wanted to join. My brother's sweet girlfriend, who lost her own mother a few years ago, said "the pain is still there, but it gets less sharp." I cling to that hope...the day that I think of mom and just smile and not feel like my heart is completely broken.

God has been merciful to allow me to live with my dad while our new house is being finished. We literally had to move out of our old house just days after my mother's death. It has been so comforting to be with him as we navigate this together. I am nervous about moving and Ella starting a new school, me having to make new friends in a new part of town, and just all the transition that is going on. Those things are good things, but nevertheless, change is always hard even when it is good. (Could you please pray for God to bring good friends for both Ella and myself when we move? We are not moving that far, but far enough that people in my day to day life will change.)

I am so thankful that this is not our home...that we are merely passing through. I am thankful for the gift of my children who comfort me without even knowing it. I am thankful for the friends and people who aren't afraid to reach out in the midst of this hard season for me; they aren't afraid of the tears and they don't diminish my pain. Thank you for loving me and for being sensitive to my heart right now and in the many months that follow. I know that God is near the brokenhearted. Our God is still so very, very good. Like my dad said the other night:

"Sarah, I could sit and feel lost as to how am I supposed to live my life without your mother for the remainder of my days. You see, I'm the man...I should have gone first. But then I think how lucky I was to have someone like your mama who loved me for almost 44 years and I just feel so blessed. I know I'm going to be very lonely, but I also know I was so lucky to have her all these years. God has been good to me."

Good indeed. He is still so very, very good.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Magical World of Disney

This past November, we took our 3 little loves to the happiest place on Earth: Walt Disney World. Before this trip, I honestly rolled my eyes at those who took yearly trips here. Being a bit of a vacation snob, I just couldn't understand why people would blow so much money on Disney.

However, all biases aside,  we had been wanting to take our little ones to this magical place during a time when they are obsessed with everything Princess, Mickey Mouse, and Peter Pan related. We had enough free hotel points to stay close by for 3 nights/2 days, so this Fall it was!

And from the moment we stepped in front of the infamous Cinderella's castle, I immediately understood the obsession with Disney...it truly was completely magical. Incredibly hard work with 3 small children? YES! Worth it? Yes...a million times yes. We only spent 2 days at the Magic Kingdom and didn't venture into other parks, which was honestly about all we could handle with just us two adults. I am so glad we were able to take the kids during this age of make believe and innocence. For them, this truly was the place the Princesses live and Tinkerbell flies in the sky.

This was out first real family vacation. We've tagged along during the summer for Andrew's conferences at the beach, yes, but this was our first vacation we had to actually pay for.

Here is just a very small look into our magical vacation:

I hope you all have a very magical 2014! And if you are wondering if Disney is worth all the hype, I highly recommend a 2 day trip like ours. you won't regret it!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thanking God that His mercies are new every morning: 30 days of a Thankful Heart

So I was all ready to write my post dedicated to my one and only little boy who I lovingly refer to as my boyfriend.

But y'all...this sweet boy has temporarily been taken over by some demonic force. He has just been all out of sorts the past couple days. Now, all my kids have their moments. But, this boy has been extra all sorts of crazy foolish behavior. I thought yesterday was bad when he refused to get up off the library floor (meanwhile the girls are already halfway out the door). I bend up to pull him up and drag him out the door and he pulls that whole "go limp" thing toddlers just love to do when you are in public, causing me to drop all 15 books in my hands causing a really nice production for the onlookers. I temporarily leave my screaming son and 15 scattered books to chase the girls down before they start walking in the parking lot. I sit the girls by the door while I deal with this ridiculous scene we have now started. Finally some old man took pity on my pathetic self and carried my 15 books for me out to the car while I carried a kicking and screaming boy out to the van.

It was not pretty. Did I mention he pooped in his underwear FOUR times yesterday? Yeah, that was fun too.

I had high hopes for today. I prayed extra hard for a semi-normal day. I prayed for God to show me what it was I was missing and how to help my son through whatever is going on with him.

But, it was pretty much Groundhog's Day over here...wash, rinse, repeat if you will. This time refusing to go with his speech therapist to her classroom. He has NEVER done that! He caused such a scene. I had to go back with him and Audrey and sit in the back in a corner for the entire hour. He was fine at therapy, but he would occassionaly turn his head around and make sure I was still there. They really frown upon that by the way...parents aren't so supposed to be in the room. Ask me if I care though.

And then the whining that I won't let him listen to "It's a Holly Jolly Christmas" more than 3 times in a row. I just can't...after the third time, I'm not feeling jolly anymore...it's time to move onto some Jingle Bells or Santa Clause is Coming to Town...I mean anything.

Today he pooped in his underwear Three times and in the toilet once. So, I guess from that perspective you could say today was a little better. Not really though...

Bless Him! ...actually, bless ME!!

Tomorrow is a new day. I have hope that we will wake up with a new perspective. I know underneath this nonsense is my sweetheart boy.

Thank you Lord that your mercies are new every morning!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thank Heaven for little girls: 30 days of a Thankful Heart

I love my children all the same. They each have their own special and unique qualities that totally captivate me. While I feel responsible for each of their upbringings, I do feel an extra responsibility towards my girls. Not to sound so anti-feminist, but I do feel it is my job as a female to lead them in their identity/social roles as females...how to act like a lady, modesty, how to run a home, etc. They are at an age (especially Ella), where they imitate all that I do. It is flattering and TERRIFYING in the same breath. They are already, at this young age, identifying with me more. Yes, Andrew's role is HUGE in the their lives as well, but it's just different than mine.

So today during my 30 days of a Thankful Heart series, I am thankful for God giving me these two precious girls to be a role model for. (Don't worry Jacob, your post will come tomorrow!!)

Andrew and I refer to them as our Jane and Elizabeth Bennett characters from Pride and Prejudice. Both equal in physical beauty, yet their spirits are so different. Ella is our Jane: She is ridiculously beautiful, kind and shy, compassionate, and more reserved. Audrey is our Elizabeth: equally as beautiful, yet much more spirited. She stands up for herself and is quick to vocalize her opinions. It has been challenging for me to know how to mother these two different personalities. Ella is more like Andrew and Audrey is more like myself. I have already had to learn to embrace the fact that Ella's shyness is not a negative thing...it is a wonderful thing, yet it is challenging to help her feel confident in herself. Her meek spirit keeps her out of trouble. She is the one who I doubt I will ever have to worry about behavior in school. I do sort of dislike the label of being "shy". She's not antisocial...just more of an observer. However, her sensitivity has challenged me. Her sensitivity makes her so compassionate towards others, but it also means we deal with a lot of tears. People hurt her feelings very easily. I hate that for her...but, I also know that this is who God created her to be. And the world could certainly use those who feel deeply and love deeply.

And then there is Audrey. Oh dear! She is so sweet, yet has a mind of her own. She is definitely the same as I was as a young girl and still am in many ways today. I don't want to tame Audrey's zest for life and her free spirit. Her free spirit has enabled her to be the most self entertained of the 3 of my children. She could play with princess figurines for hours happily on her own. She is self driven...the clash, however, is when her drive goes against what I need her to do. I know her desire to be completely independent will be a wonderful quality later in life. That girl will stand up to a bully...I see her daily stand up for any injustice her siblings have imposed upon her (ie-taking a toy she is playing with). My parents will often remind me that I was their only child that "talked back". I was a very good arguer when I felt like I was not being treated fairly. I want Audrey to be a strong woman and embrace that amazing will and drive she has in a positive way. She'll probably be President of the Student Body one day. And just like the world needs compassionate females like Ella, the world will also need people who stand firm and strong on their beliefs in the Lord. My prayer for her (and both girls really) is to stand strong for the Lord and lead others to Him with her spunky personality!

I am thankful that these two girls challenge me to be a better woman myself. Yes they challenge me as a mother in my role of leading them, but they also have taught me a lot about myself along the way. Children are amazing in how they can reveal your own sin in your life. My prayers lately have been for God to show me the Godly woman He desires for me to be...because I know I have little eyes that are watching and imitating and ears that are listening and repeating.

Thank you Lord for using those two girls to help shape me and mold me into the woman I know you desire me to be. I am in awe of how children of such a young age can be used for God's glory. We spend so much time thinking of how to teach them...and upon reflection, perhaps it's really them who lead us to the Lord and help us become more like Him. It is an honor to be the mother of these two little ladies. Thank you Lord for using these girls to lead me to be more like you! Thank Heaven for little girls!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What mother's want : 30 days of a Thankful Heart

It is a common thing, a cliché if you will, to do these "30 days of Thanksgiving" during the month of November on your Blog, your Facebook status, or whatever your social media outlet is. Always going against the grain, I'm usually slow to join in on these things, but I've changed my attitude on this one. For one, it is not a bad thing to focus daily on the many blessings our Lord has bestowed on me and my family. It's not about "bragging", but us having a heart of gratitude. If anything, my heart could use some practice on reflecting on such things. And secondly, I always genuinely enjoy reading others proclamations of gratitude, so why not share mine with the world as well.

However, rather than a simple status update, I am going to elaborate on my thankfulness. It would be so easy, for example, to say "I am thankful for my husband"...but, wouldn't it be better if I explained just how amazing he is? I believe so! So here goes...my 30 day series of a Thankful Heart...OK, make that 29 days because I missed the first day of November (see...I told you I always "go against the grain"! hehehe)

Today (and always), I am so thankful for other mommies who encourage me and continue to lift me up.

We live in a world with many strong opinions. Although that isn't always a negative thing, it can most certainly cause a divisiveness amongst people. We've always been taught about being careful when talking about religion and politics (of course, that warning has never and will never stop me from proclaiming my love for Christ and my desire to follow Him). But what about motherhood? With a quick Google search, we are inundated with an exhausted list of blogs and news writings on the opinions of how best to raise our children. Even amongst a group of followers of Jesus, there are even beliefs on child rearing that completely divide people. Even books that claim the "Godly way" can contradict each other. It's so frustrating and confusing as a mother. It is so hard not to get lost amongst the muck of books and people who advice us and forget to remind us to fall on our knees and simply pray for the Lord to help us discern how best we are to raise our child.

In 2008, as a new mom to Ella, I can recall a particularly difficult day where I threw a book across the room because its methodology was not working for my baby. I was exhausted and weary from caring for a very colicky baby. I tried the crying it out, the not-crying it out, the 5 steps to a happy baby on the block or whatever the heck it was called. I tried changing my diet in fear that something I was eating was affecting my milk and perhaps bothering her sensitive tummy...all to no avail. And although well meaning people tried so hard to give me advice, all I really wanted was a hug. I wanted someone to tell me that I was a good mom. I needed someone to comfort me and tell me that "this will pass" instead of hearing "savor this moment" or even worse "just wait until they are teenagers". I wanted so desperately to have this Babywise baby that everyone talked about...but, no one told me that colicky babies are different. They may need a different approach for a few months until the "colic" starts to fade.

One especially weary day, at the end of my rope, I truly believe God appointed a very special group of mommies into my life. A group of women who all already had several small children took me under their wing and they poured love and encouragement into my heart. 

I'll never forget that late August day in 2008. A friend I had known since college invited me to her small group...a group of women whom all went to different churches, yet were brought together because of motherhood. I only knew two of the women in that group of 7 or 8 that night. But, we sat around a round table and they said things I'll never forget.

"Sarah, you are a good mom. He gave you that little girl because He knew YOU were the best mommy for her"

"Sarah, forget those books for now. Just pray. Pray for God to show you how to mother. Everyone at this table?We all do the baby thing differently."

"Oh, your first baby? That's the HARDEST! It's so, so hard becoming a mother. Your body has never had that kind of lack of sleep. Everyone tells you to savor these days, but it's hard to savor it when you are exhausted and your boobs hurt!!" (one of my favorite quotes)

And the best advice ever...
"Sarah, rest in the peace that God will give you the sleep you need. Don't focus on how much sleep you are getting. Just know that God is taking care of you. When you are tired? Just make that your prayer...ask the Lord to provide the sleep you need for that day. Don't look at the clock...that will just make you more anxious. Just trust that God will give you the rest you need."

Those women were my lifeline during that season on new motherhood where I desperately just needed love and encouragement. That group of women? Well, they encompassed everything: they had bottle fed babies, breastfed babies, Babywise babies, co sleeping families, easy going babies, more high maintenance babies...all of it. They didn't judge me when I "only made it" to 10 months of breastfeeding. They didn't judge me when I said "Y'all...I just had to bring Ella to bed with me last night" or "Y'all Ella slept in her bouncy seat all night...it was the only way I could get her to go back to sleep." They would just laugh and promised me that eventually my little girl would indeed sleep all night. (By the way, by 6 months, that little girl was wonderful and still is AMAZING!)

In a world where there are so many opinions on raising children, it is a blessing to have moms who encourage, listen, and don't judge you when you feel like you are falling short. Moms who pray for you and always point you to Christ are my lifeline in this adventure of raising three small children. I call these women my "Titus 2" women:

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."
Titus 2:3-5

What do mother's want?  We want to feel encouraged and loved. We want someone to listen and love us when we are weary and tired, yet always pointing us back to the Lord. We want older and wiser moms to know that us younger moms are still learning and growing. We don't want to feel judged on those grey areas of life. It's so important to remember God is still working on us all. Whether it is how we choose to school our children or how we celebrate different holidays, God is doing the same work in us all, yet our journey's will all look different.  He is slowly chiseling away at all of us to make us more into His image. 

And now I am in a different season of life. I no longer have "babies" anymore. Now my stresses are how to school my children and whether it is OK for us to celebrate Halloween or pretend the whole Santa Clause thing with our little ones...OK, I'm mostly laughing at that last part. I really like Santa. Jesus is the reason for the season, but Santa is a lot of fun...just being honest! I digress...

Once again, the Lord has placed women in my life with similar life challenges. All of us have different paths and roads that the Lord is leading us on. Some public school, some home school, others private school...but, all of us are united in raising warriors for Christ. We respect and know that God has a different journey for each of our families. We don't judge...we just love and encourage each other along our own paths. 

(Editors Note: And likewise, let us not be so sensitive to those who advice us even if we don't agree. Although some moms are very dogmatic about things, most of us know that we are all just doing the best we can with the tools we've been given. It's good to remember that most people only give advice because they want to help...they aren't trying to make you feel worse. I frequently have to get my "sensitivity meter" back in check...looking at the persons heart and not their words.)

So today, and every day, I am thankful for the friends and Titus 2 women that the Lord puts in my life. The ones who love and encourage me in motherhood. The ones who know when I just need a listening ear...the ones who point me back to Christ...and the ones who make me laugh at the small stuff. I am thankful for the mothers who know and understand that we all fall short in everything in life. How desperately we need fellowship with other Believers. Thank you Lord for sending these women into my life, even if only for a season.