Before I Was a Mom

From the archives. 

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Before I was a mom, a clean home seemed reasonable.

Before I was a mom, I thought there was only one right method for most mommy dilemmas.

Before I was a mom, I didn’t realize that closing the bathroom door is a universal cue for children to need you.

Before I was a mom, I thought I had mastered patience.

Before I was a mom, a “quick errand” really was quick.

Before I was a mom, I didn’t appreciate my own mom nearly enough.

Before I was a mom, the phrase “sleeping like a baby” made sense.

Before I was a mom, I didn’t realize that sometimes all the parenting advice will fail and only prayer will work.

Before I was a mom, I thought my parents exaggerated when they said “enjoy every moment, because before you know it your kids will be grown.” Now, I believe it.

Before I was a mom, I never thought I could read Dr. Seuss so many times without losing my sanity.

Before I was a mom, I didn’t know that getting three children to nap simultaneously deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.

Before I was a mom, I didn’t realize how much more precious chubby, sticky fingers are than a mountain of diamonds.  

Wishing a very Happy Mother’s Day to my own dear mother and mother-in-law and the many wonderful women who have embraced the high calling of motherhood.

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityProverbs 31, & Finer Things Friday

I Am a Sinner. I Am a Saint

(A post inspired by Lent and an empty Pinterest “about” box.) 

Today marks the first day of Lent. Until a few years ago, I thought Lent was a Catholic excuse to eat more fish.

What is Lent really? Lent is the period of forty days leading up to Easter, when many members of the Church remember Christ as our suffering Messiah. It is an integral part of the Church Calendar, which has been used for centuries to point Christians to Christ, in all His glory.

Like many things, the Church Calendar has been abused. Some have turned it into an excuse to sin because, well, “we’ll repent at Lent.” Just because some have distorted the meaning, doesn’t negate the beauty it can bring to the Christian walk.

As a fallen sinner, it is so easy for me to want to focus on just one part of God. To worship just His goodness or just His justice. To “worship the babe in the manger, but forsake the Christ of the cross.”

The Church Calendar exalts Christ in His many different manifestations: human Man, suffering Messiah, risen King.

Yes, it is common to “give up something for Lent.” But “giving up something” is not the point. Making sacrifices serves as a potent reminder, but the purpose of Lent is to point us to Christ, who gave up everything for us.

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What on earth does this have to do with my “About” box on Pinterest?

I just set up a Pinterest account (send me your usermame, I’d love to follow you!) and sat staring at the empty “about” box.

I am a wife, a mother, a blogger. But what really defines who I am? Two conflicting terms kept floating through my mind: sinner and saint.

I am a sinner

My first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned. I followed their footsteps, choosing forbidden fruit instead of faithfulness. Sin stains my heart. Self-love motivates even my best actions. 

Idolatry entwines my heart in its ugly grasp. I turn from my Maker to things of this earth.

Yet, the Creator of this world, whom angels and seraphim and cherubim and all of nature worships, came down and shed His blood to wash me clean. He sacrificed everything, even fellowship with God the Father, to redeem me.

I am a saint, washed in the blood of Christ

Because of His atoning blood, I am washed clean.

I am a saint.

The words sound so lofty. Saint? That brings up images of great heroes of the faith. Of men and women who changed the world.

But Christ’s blood has washed me clean. His sacrifice atoned for me. Now the Father sees me through Christ, a saint.

Whether we observe Lent or not, may we worship the suffering Messiah, who took sinners like us and renamed us saints through His precious blood.

Linked up at Women Living Well, Proverbs 31 Thursdays &  Finer Things Friday

Love Seeks Not Her Own

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner: red and pink hearts decorate the stores, roses are on sale and restaurants are booked.

The History of Valentine’s Day

Little is known about St. Valentine, whose “saint day” was transformed into the day of romantic love. There were several martyrs names Valentine in the early church.

One priest named Valentine was caught performing marriage ceremonies for Christians. Since serving Christians was a crime, but Emperor Claudius II was so fascinated with Valentine that he pardoned him. That is, until Valentine tried to convert the Emperor. That infuriated the Emperor who condemned St. Valentine to death.

Centuries later, Chaucer popularized the belief that halfway through the second month, on February 14th, the birds come out to mate. St. Valentine’s Day was transformed into a day of romantic love.

Love birds

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Romantic love is a glorious thing. God blessed Adam and Eve in the garden and gave to mankind the secretness and sacredness of marriage.

But all too often romantic love is degraded into lust and self-love taints even our love for family, friends or neighbors.

Biblical love is so different than the world’s cheap substitute! Several lovely bloggers have anticipated the arrival of Valentine’s Day with a series on Biblical Love (based on 1 Corinthians 13).

Kasey’s beautiful post, Love “does not seek her own” keeps ringing in my mind.

Love does not seek her own.

Love does what is best for others, with no though to how it will personally benefit.

A cursory look at my own heart reveals self-love and self-serving tainting even good actions:

  • Did I take my daughter to the bathroom because I didn’t want her to wake me up later OR because she is beyond thrilled when she wakes up dry?
  • Did I start dinner early so that my husband could enjoy a warm meal when he arrived home OR just to cross it off my list of things to do?
  • Did I wrote a post because I think it will help me gain readers OR because I hope it encourages and blesses those who read it?

My love fails.

But, as Kasey said, “the indescribable love of God didn’t leave me to wallow in my wretchedness.” God’s Love points us back to Himself. To true selfless Love: giving His own self freely on the cross, to save sinners like me.

With the arrival of Valentine’s Day, my prayer is that God’s love will work in my heart so that, like St. Valentine, I do not seek my own: whether that means preaching to a cruel Emperor or washing the dishes cheerfully again and again and again.

Further reading on the origins of Valentine’s Day:

The Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Valentine’s Day
Wikipedia: St Valentine’s Day (since, of course, everything on Wikipedia can be believed)

Linked up at GratituesdayDomestically Divine TuesdaysTitus 2sdaysTeach Me Tuesdays

Eternal God. Mortal Man.

Happy New Year, dear friends!

Our family is back home after a lovely Christmas holiday with a new-to-me working laptop in tow! Hurrah! [And many thanks to my generous brother!]

Another year has ended. Can you believe it? Another chapter in the quick progression of time has closed.

As I look back on 2011, God’s grace and goodness to our family are repeatedly evident: Josh finished law school, passed the bar and started a year-long judicial clerkship. A precious little blessing joined our family and I got to quit my online job and “just” be mom.

Looking forward to 2012, I know that God’s hand will continue to write each of our stories.

It could be brimming with sorrow or bursting with joy. None of us know. But standing at the brink of the year, the future is an adventure shrouded in mystery.

I do know this year holds change for our family. Joshua’s job ends in August and we don’t know what he’ll do next. Part of me is excited as we wait to see how the future unfolds.

Part of me is impatient to know. To know where we will be a year from now. What state we will live in. What job Josh will have. What home we’ll live in.

photo by Sias van Schalkwyk

The New Year’s sermon, from Psalm 90, “the prayer of Moses, the man of God,” reminded me again to put these small changes in their proper light.

Psalm 90 was most likely written near the end of Moses’ life, as he and the children of Israel wandered in the desert.

What were the children of Israel doing? Waiting to die. Except for Caleb and Joshua, all the adults had to die before their children could enter the promised land.

The psalm breathes with the fleeting nature of life. Man is “like a dream” and “like grass” that withers.

There in the desert, the mothers and fathers couldn’t build lovely homes to leave as an inheritance for their children or work hard so they “could enjoy a nice retirement.”

Yet the psalm is full of hope and life. The Lord was their “dwelling place in all generations.”

Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the cares of this world, with home and work and just plain old stuff.

As we begin 2012, may Moses’ prayer become our prayer too:

12 So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!”

Joy in Unmet Expectations

Expectations are a good thing. Without them society would be doomed.

But expectations don’t always get met: perhaps you didn’t get the joy you prayed earnestly for. Maybe long-anticipated plans were cancelled when you had to pull out the cough remedies (again.) Maybe your children take turns waking you up at night and you can’t remember what it feels like to not be tired. Maybe the trials aren’t little things. Maybe they are large and looming.

Although expectations are a good thing, we need to be careful to have our expectations grounded in Christ. To remember that His sovereignty extends to the details of our lives. Then we can choose joy in the face of unmet expectations.

Sometimes our grandest dreams get dashed and our great expectations crumble. If we truly believe God is sovereign, we can choose joy in the face of disappointment.

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Joy despite unmet expectations

I have been blessed by a “cloud of witnesses” in my life that point me to Christ. Friends and family who show me trust and joy in the midst of trials. One of them is my brother’s beautiful bride, Amber.

On our most recent trip to see extended family, we dropped by Amber’s house. She was busily getting ready to fly out of town with my brother, but they had offered their home to a family in need of a place to stay while they left.

The house was spotless, she had cookies on the table and “Welcome” and “Rules of the House” notes on the table. [Rules like “God loves children. So do we. Everything in the house is replaceable. Let your kids be kids.”]

It was obvious she had poured hours into preparing for their arrival. Just before we left, my brother got a call saying the family didn’t want to come after all.

I watched Amber. Her face didn’t betray a trace of disappointment or being upset for all her “wasted time.” So I asked, “Aren’t you disappointed?”

“I wanted them to come, yes. But, Anna, I believe God is sovereign. He knows what is best,” she answered. She wasn’t just saying it because that’s what a good Christian should say. She believed it and was just acting on it. Now of course, company canceling is not a major, life-altering trial. But sometimes it’s the little wrinkles in my plans that frustrate me the most.

God is sovereign. I believe that. But sometimes I don’t act like I believe it.

God said He has “a wonderful plan for our lives,” and it’s easy to expect that to mean a decent job, a house, a car, and food on the table at least three times a day. After all, Jeremiah says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11 ESV)

Unfortunately, this promise is made right in the middle of a prophecy of captivity. Seventy years of captivity.

God doesn’t promise His followers an easy life. He does pour out abundant blessings, but His wonderful plan for his followers often includes poverty, not a new Mercedes.

Sometimes we have grand expectations, but they get dashed. Choosing joy despite our unmet expectations isn't easy, but it is possible.

His wonderful plan for Mary was complete with a warning that “a sword would pierce [her] own heart.” (Luke 2:35) Yet she submissively welcomed His plan, knowing it would be painful. But also believing that it would give “hope and a future” to mankind.

Finding joy despite unmet expectations

None of our lives will carry the epic weight that Mary’s did, but we, like her, are still called to wait upon God and have our expectations satisfied in Him:

  • To hold our plans with open hands
  • To not expect a full night’s sleep, perfect health, a new house or for our laundry-list-of-Western-wants to be satisfied, but to expect God’s mercy to lead us on the right road.
  • To expect trials and joy, knowing that He is sovereign over all.

When our expectations are grounded in Jesus, then we can find His joy despite unmet expectations, whether they’re little details of our day or huge disappointments.

Christmas Wanderings

Christmas is almost here! Can you believe it?

photo by Laura Shreck



Here are a few Christmasy posts I’ve enjoyed from around the web.

Did Someone Say Advent? Such a great post from Amy at Finer Things if you are feeling like Christmas has just snuck up on you. “Regardless of me, in spite of me, Advent comes.  He still comes!” Amen to that!

Looking for fun Christmas stories to read with your kiddos (or to yourself)? Rebekah, has several Christmas series going. I’m reading The Best and Worst Christmas to my daughter and she loves it. Also check out her fun Christmas Baking Poem!

Heather, from Raising Mighty Arrows, shared such a sweet story of time spent with her darling son.

As the Christmas season rolls in, with all it’s busyness, this beautiful post from JessieLeigh at Parenting Miracles, is such a good reminder of what is really importan: This, Just This

Crystal from Money Saving Mom posted this inspiring, touching story about her daughter: What My 6-Year-Old is Teaching Me About Money

If you’re planning on heading out of town for the holidays, here are some tips for leaving your house ready! 




Learning to Say “No”

Christmas is around the corner. The calendar and pocketbook are being tugged at from every corner.

Cookie exchanges, Christmas performances, and holiday get-togethers vie for our time. It seems like every time I enter a store or turn on the computer, some new item that no one on my Christmas list needs, but would be so fun to get anyway, shows up. On sale of course.

The temptation to over-commit and over-spend is strong.

We must learn to say “no!”

Even to some of those incredibly delightful sounding parties or tempting books on sale for $5.50. Not so that we can play Scrooge, but so that we make room for the best, with no regrets come January.

We must make room to treasure the true Meaning of Christmas.

It's the season of love, joy, and endless demands on the schedule and pocketbook. Learn to say "No!", so that you can say "Yes!" to the best.

photo by Benjamin Earwicker

Learning to Say No

I hate saying “no” to events. Partly because I don’t want to miss out on any of the fun, partly because I don’t want to offend a friend. After numerous times of reaping the consequences of over extending myself, I’m slowly getting better.

As Crystal from Money Saving Mom points out, the purpose of learning to say “no” is so that we can say “yes” to the best.

We simply cannot do everything. (Or buy everything.) Time and money are limited resources. Saying “yes” to one thing of necessity means saying “no” to something else.


 Choose what is most important for your family, at this season of life, and let go of the rest.

Know your limits

 Some women can bounce from activity to activity without letting it affect their home, their family life, or their attitude. I cannot. Just because another woman/family is hostessing or attending fifty activities doesn’t mean it would be wise for me to.

Likewise, each of our Christmas budgets are different. We’re working intensely on paying off school loans. In the long run that’s a much better gift to our children than a large play set (that probably wouldn’t even fit in their room!)

Don’t commit immediately

It’s not an earth-shattering idea or anything, but it has been so helpful since I read about it a few months ago (I wish I could remember where!) Graciously say you need to check your schedule and/or talk to you husband before saying “Yes!”. This helps avoid an impulse decision that you’ll regret or, even worse, have to back out of later. (Don’t ask me how I know!)

Clear out the clutter

De-cluttering in December is weird. It’s also a very strong motivator to avoid impulse purchases. Many of those “50% off TODAY ONLY!” items will end up in the donation pile within a few months.

Simplify other areas of your life

The schedule is almost always more full at Christmas, so simplify other areas if you can. Unless you are forced by budget constraints or pressing health needs, lighten up a bit on yourself. As Joshua reminds me, “It’s not a sin to use paper plates!”

Most importantly, give thanks!

 We’re celebrating the greatest Gift ever given to mortals: God Himself as our Redeemer! No celebration can come close to being more lavish than that Gift. Yet don’t let the celebration cloud the Cause!

Learn to say “No!”, so you can say “Yes!” to the best

Learning to say “No” is hard, but so totally worthwhile. Every time we say “Yes!” to something, we’re saying “No!” to something else. By learning to prioritize, recognize our limits, and simplify, we can make sure we have room in our hearts and schedules to say “Yes!” to the best.

How do you stay sane during the holidays? (And have you ever had to back out of a commitment?) 

Snowflake Christmas Countdown

Advent began last Sunday. We were home sick and the day totally slipped by. It wasn’t until reading Nursery of the Nation’s post about making her own Advent Calendar that the thought even dawned on me. I had to jump on board. It’s too late to be a real advent calendar, so ours is simply a Christmas Countdown.

Instead of chocolate for each day like the ones I grew up with, this advent calendar has a daily activity to do together. [Nothing against chocolate advent calendars. They’re awesome. I *loved* them as a kid. But I’m potty training and handing out way too much chocolate as it is! ]

After three years of law school and having nearly a month off to spend with family out-of-state the whole thought of actually anticipating Christmas here, with my kids is exciting but new.

Time slips by so quickly. I want to treasure these days with little ones and having a fun activity to do together each day seemed like a great way to spend more time together.

I didn’t have felt on hand so used what I had on hand: an old box, white paper and a piece of scrapbook paper and ribbon.

The two older kids and I had so much fun cutting out snowflakes (though I think 2 is a bit way too young! Even Rose needed lots of help.]

I cut a piece from a big box we had sitting around. The edges were rough and ugly, so we covered them up with cute paper.

Then I wrote activities on the backs of the snowflakes for us to do together. They’re in no particular order. All of the small snowflakes are afternoon activities for the kids and me. The big snowflakes are activities we’ll do as a family.

The activities are really simple. Here are a few of them:

  • Make hot chocolate and tell Christmas stories
  • Draw pictures together to send to Nana
  • Make snowflakes to hang in their bedroom
  • Make and decorate Christmas cookies
  • Have a Christmas poetry night
We’d hopefully do many of them anyway. But having them written down, waiting for the kids to uncover, will ensure that that time together isn’t pushed aside for holiday craziness.
It’s simple, but I know they’ll like it!
What are your favorite Christmas things to do with little ones?

Plymouth Pilgrims: A Legacy of Gratitude

Of Plymouth Plantation, a Thanksgiving classic, is William Bradford’s firsthand account of the founding of the Plymouth colony. Reading through it, I kept waiting for the big fall feast. I expected chapter upon chapter to be devoted to the preparation and event.

Instead, I read about dozens of thanks givings.

The pilgrims made it safely acros the Atlantic. They thanked God. They made friends with the Indians and thanked God. They were given strength to care for one another during the terrible death-ridden first winter and thanked God. Their homes burned down, they shivered in the cold and they prayed. Spring came. They thanked God.

They faced difficulties beyond what I can imagine: near drowning, loss of possessions, betrayal, sickness, death of loved ones, starvation, loneliness, a strange unknown land, cold.

Yet the pilgrims thanked God constantly.

The true legacy of the pilgrims should not just be a table loaded with food and one day of giving thanks. Rather, their legacy should be a spirit of thankfulness.

Thankfulness in good times and in bad. Thankfulness for trials and blessings. Thankfulness because we worship the God who ordains all of life, even down to the minutest detail.

Happy Thanksgiving!

part of Gratituesday

Witches, Goblins & Vampires –Conquered at Calvary


I awoke from a terrible nightmare. My husband had turned into a vampire. As the nightmare faded, this glorious truth replaced it:

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I awoke from a terrifying nightmare. The most terrifying I’ve ever had. Just in time for Halloween.

I’ll spare you the details, but as it ended our son had mysteriously vanished and I, terrified, called to Josh. As he turned towards me, his eyes flashed that vampirey glow and I realized in a moment of abject horror that he was a vampire.

[Vampires eyes glow, right? I’ve never actually seen a vampire movie. Scary movies are totally *not* my thing!]

So yes, it was silly. But at three in the morning it took a while to calm down. Waking up Josh to tell him “I dreamt you were a vampire, can you please assure me you’re not,” didn’t seem very nice.


Jesus conquered death and Hell (and even vampires!)

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Then the words from a Halloween article our pastor sent blazed through my mind, “Today, we live in a society much like that feared by C. S. Lewis — a time when people have become materialists who do not really believe in God any longer but who, strangely, do still believe in demons.” In a recent British survey 68 percent of those polled said they believed in ghosts. Only 55 percent acknowledged belief in God.

Evil is real. Death is real. We see it in the world all around us.

Christians in Medieval Europe knew this. But they also knew that Jesus conquered death and hell.

Traditionally, November 1st was the day that Christians celebrated the triumphs of martyrs and saints who had gone before them. It was called All Saint’s Day or All Hallowed’s (Holy) Day. Just like at Christmas, the celebration began the night before. On the eve of All Hallowed’s Day, Halloween, they celebrated the defeat of the devil.

They celebrated his defeat by mocking him. He is a fallen celestial angel, but they mocked him by dressing up in silly costumes with pointy ears and a red tail.

Today many people view Halloween as a day to celebrate evil. As Christians we should see it as a day to rejoice in Christ’s victory over evil. Because He defeated Satan on the cross, we can live in victory, not fear. Because He defeated death in His resurrection, we no longer need to dread death. Or vampires.

Christ has risen. Fear was conquered at Calvary. Hallelujah! And Happy Halloween!