Gorilla Warfare

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. I could feel its warmth through the windows and felt joyful after having cooler days the week before.

My kids were excited to play in the back yard. They wanted to dig for worms and jump on the trampoline. They were excited to bike and play on the swing set. And I was excited to watch them play and breathe for a few minutes without having busy children underfoot.

My twins were not yet 2 and they were exceptionally busy. Our house was baby-proofed to the extreme for their safety. As I was getting my 4 year old ready to go out, my twins were downstairs playing. My son then realized he needed to go to the washroom, so I made sure the front door was latched shut and took my son upstairs. When he was finished in the washroom, I quickly got him dressed in his coat and shoes and sent him out the back door to play with his older siblings.

All this would have taken less than five minutes. Then I went straight downstairs to get the twins to come outside, and they were nowhere to be found. Nowhere. I checked in every room downstairs. I ran upstairs and searched. Then I went back down, then up again. I was panicking inside. As I was running around the house calling their names, I caught a glimpse of them outside the kitchen window. They were both outside. And they were running down the street.

I tore out front in my socked feet and ran as fast as I could to grab them before they reached a busier road. I was screaming their names. Of course they thought this was a game and ran faster. And I could hear my other kids running behind me because they didn’t know what was going on.

A lady walking her dog was staring at me and my little ones with an obvious look of disgust on her face. I scooped up the twins and went back to our house feeling afraid about what she might say or do, feeling stressed, sad at what had happened, and I felt like I was a horrible horrible mother. What if my babies ran in separate directions? What if they were hit by a car? What if I hadn’t caught a glimpse of them in the window? I held them tight and I thanked God that they were OK.

Reflecting on this as time has passed, I really don’t think I could have done anything differently. I locked the door and had no idea they could move the latch and open it. We now have a high safety latch, but I had never needed it for my other children.

Which brings me to this…

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I am not a bad mother because my children got out on the street. And Michelle Gregg should not be called a bad mother just because her son fell in the gorilla enclosure. Do you know her? Were you there? Today, there is so much negativity about helicopter mothers who watch their child’s every move. But when accidents happen, people are so quick to cast blame on someone they do not even know and pass judgment on them. Maybe he ran behind her as she was buckling a child in a stroller. We don’t know. I’m sure the lady walking her dog as my babies were running down the middle of the road thought that I was a horrible mother. She probably wondered why I wasn’t watching them. She probably couldn’t fathom how two young children could get out on a street. If she asked me, I would’ve told her my door was locked, my twins were downstairs playing, and I was simply putting my son out the back door into our fenced yard. The babies unlatched the door and ran outside. Perhaps, instead of staring at me, she could have helped me.

Michelle, I do not know you. But I want you to know that, as a mom, I know we face judgment on a daily basis. I will not judge you. I am sorry this accident happened and I am so grateful your son is safe. As a fellow mom, I want to encourage you and uplift you rather than tear you down. Accidents happen. Children do wander off and, at times, we don’t have enough eyes or enough hands when needed. But we do our best, and we learn each and every day. We thank God for second chances, third chances, fourth chances… We thank Him that tomorrow is a new day. And, at the end of the day, He knows our hearts and it’s His opinion that matters. Not bullies on social media.

The day my twins got on the street, I was relieved I didn’t make the rants page in our town. I was relieved I was only given a disgusted look instead of an online debut. I was relieved my entire town wasn’t telling me how horrible a mother I was. How I should have overdosed on birth control or given my kids up at birth. Because you know what? I felt pretty darn horrible all on my own. Harambe isn’t the gorilla we should be talking about. It’s unfortunate he had to be killed, but a child’s life was in danger. This is an unpredictable, wild animal. What we should be talking about are the “gorillas” who are tearing down a woman they do not even know. The “gorillas” who seem to care only about animals and not about being kind to each other. Now wouldn’t that make for an interesting story?

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For Exhausted Mothers

It’s 6 a.m. I hear my 2 year-old fuss and not long after her twin sister cries out. I am exhausted. I tell them to stay in bed and then I shut my door in an attempt to muffle their whines. I desperately try to grab a few more precious minutes of sleep before my other kids wake up. It’s useless.

7:00 comes all to soon and I force myself up to start the day. I am irritable. I am discouraged. We have breakfast and get dressed and start our schoolwork and the day carries on, but my energy level falls with each passing moment it seems. I try a coffee. I try eating. Nothing. I am drained.

The afternoon entertains more activity and, come supper, I wonder how I will make it to the kids’ bedtime. When food is thrown, I break. When kids get coated in the dirt from head to toe, I lose my temper. And when kids are all tucked into bed, I cry.

Through tears I confess to my husband that I was a horrible mother at times today. Once I gather my thoughts, I go downstairs feeling defeated. I ask my children to forgive me and we pray together.

Matthew 11:28-30 reads, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We WILL find rest in Jesus. We need to learn from Him as the verse reads;  a man who was and is faithful, holy, merciful, forgiving, slow to anger. A man who is caring, trustworthy and loving. He was “gentle and lowly in heart.” Jesus was humble, putting others before himself. He had a servant’s heart. Do I model Christ to my children? Did I model Christ to my children today?

Mothers, we will be exhausted. And that is alright. Some days we will want to ignore responsibilities and face the situations we are in with terrible attitudes, but that is not alright. We need to model Christ to our children. We need to share the love of Christ with our children and, to do this, we need to come to Christ. Tired though we may be, we need to pour into God’s word and into prayer. God WILL give us rest. Sometimes we need help from others. Some days we need a few quiet moments to ourselves. Some days we need a nap or an early bedtime. But no day should we be short with our children and model behaviour that does not honour God.  Will these days happen? Yes. Will we make mistakes? Yes. But I am so thankful that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Day by day we are being conformed to His image and less and less we should see these sins.

Tomorrow is a new day. When it’s 6 a.m. and I hear my twins fuss, I pray I will be joyful. I pray I will greet my children with a smile and a hug and let them know they are loved. I pray I will pray for energy and strength and for an attitude that honours my Lord and Saviour. I pray I will ask for help if I need it, and that I will not lose my temper. If I do, I pray I will ask for forgiveness from God and my children. And I pray that the fruits of the Spirit will be evidenced in my life.

Here I sit at 11:00 at night after a non-stop day, with my Bible opened beside me, being strengthened by the promises of God. And for the first time today, I have energy. Praise God.

Thoughts This Mother’s Day

The second we become mothers, we are bombarded with opinions and ideas of what is right. Cry it out versus attachment parenting. Baby-led versus spoon-fed. Organic versus non-organic. Toy gifts versus experiences. Co-sleeping versus crib. Breastfeeding versus bottle. Electronics versus active play. Junk food in moderation versus none at all. Helicopter parenting versus more free-rein. Cloth diapers versus disposable. A surplus of toys versus minimal. Handmade versus store-bought. New versus used. Time spent cleaning versus time spent playing with our children, and the list goes on and on. There is so much information out there on how to be the best mothers we can possibly be, so we try our utmost because our children deserve good mothers.

As mothers, it is not acceptable to yell at our children. What about yelling at our husbands? As mothers, it is not acceptable to speak negatively about our children. What about publicly shaming our husbands? As mothers, we say our children need our undivided attention. Why, then, can we ignore our husbands? We may argue against being a helicopter parent- hovering constantly over our children. But do we attempt to be controlling over our husbands? We praise ourselves for not being harsh with our children. Do we, when our husbands return home, then call them lazy and stupid and useless? All in front of little eyes of little ones who are learning how to live; who are modelling behaviors and who are, faster than we’d care to imagine, becoming adults themselves.

A few days ago Jeff and I celebrated ten years of marriage. When Jeff proposed to me, he knelt down on the floor and had a basin to wash my feet. I was just a little embarrassed! 😉 Jeff said he was showing how he would serve me, and compared it to Jesus washing the feet of his disciples in John chapter 13. In all our ten years of marriage, my dear husband has done just that. He is the most kind and gentle man I know, and I thank God every day that I can call him my husband and my children can call him their Daddy. Jeff has sought to be a servant in our marriage, as the Scriptures say: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3: 12-15).

Toys, experiences, co-sleeping, cribs… these really don’t matter. Not in the big picture of parenting. I realize there are benefits and wisdom in some of these choices, but I also believe parents can make their own choices for their own families on the matters listed above. What really is of importance when raising a child- of eternal importance? Breastfeeding instead of formula feeding? Giving our children the best education at the best school? Eternally, these do not matter. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).  We need to stop spending so much of our time and energy on trivial things that will pass away.

So, when raising a child, what is of eternal importance? What about sharing the gospel with our children? Can we paint a picture of the gospel within our marriages? There is so much emphasis made on the choices we as parents make, and hardly any, if any at all, on our marriages. The Bible tells us to “submit to (our) own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:22:24).

Sin has crept so deeply in marriages it is destroying husbands, wives, and their sweet, precious children. Let us not lose sight of God’s design for marriage and how it is to paint a picture of Christ’s love for His bride—the church. And let us not lose sight of how important it is for us, as Christian moms, to uphold the gospel in our marriages. From this Mother’s Day on forward, let us love the Lord with all our might. Let us love our husbands sacrificially. Let us model Christ’s love to our children and let us hold true to the promises of God. And let us shift the focus from what we do, as mothers, to what Christ has done for us. These things, dear mothers, are of eternal importance.

You Don’t Need To Feel Sorry For Me–And Neither Do I

“Are they all yours?”

“What do you do in your spare time?”

“Do you run a day home?”

“You do know what causes that, right?”

“How do you afford it?”

“You sure have your hands full!”

“That’s why I got fixed.”

“And I thought I had it hard!”

“You still have a smile on your face- that’s Mom love.”

“I feel sorry for you, dear. But God bless you.”

It’s midnight. I crawl under the cool covers and fall asleep almost immediately. Not too long after, a baby cries. And her twin sister cries. I nurse the only one who will nurse and Jeff bottle feeds the other. We both try desperately to stay awake until the feeds are done and, when they are, we quickly tuck babies back in and dive into bed because we know how precious sleep is and that we might not get much. Two more times that night we are up and down, and our four other little alarms go off bright and early as they are eager to start their vacation fun.

The day prior had been a long one. A six hour drive turned into almost ten because of a long delay on the highway and necessary stops to feed children. It always takes the kids a long time to settle the first night we’re away and, this night, I was extra low on energy. We still needed groceries so we’d be set for the next day and I knew I’d likely be up multiple times in the night with the babies. I was right.

Our day started off with the business that comes with raising six young children. Change the three youngest. Nurse the one baby that still nurses, give both babies bottles, feed the older four breakfast, feed babies breakfast, clean up breakfast, get kids dressed, put babies down for naps, make sure the older four are being semi quiet so babies can nap, get myself ready…

After breakfast we decided we wanted to take the kids to the pool. After all, this was our vacation. It might look easy but getting six kids sun-blocked, packing the diaper bag, packing drinks and snacks, getting all the life vests and getting the stroller takes a lot of time. During all this babies needed another bottle. The older kids were all clustered in the entryway dancing around the tiny space when they were supposed to be getting their shoes on.  Being patient was difficult.

Once we got to the pool there was the very important task of watching all six between the two of us. It was very hot and the babies were sweating so we decided to bring them in as well. I had one baby in my arms and another in a floatie, Jeff had our 2 year-old and was watching the other three. Packing up to go was a challenge in itself but we managed to get all six safely back to the condo.

Then it was time for lunch. We prepared lunch for the older kids, fed the babies theirs, gave them finger foods. Lunch was all over the table and floor. The babies needed changed, our youngest son needed changed. The babies needed a nap, our 2 year-old fell asleep. Jeff and I gave the three older awake children some quiet time and ate our lunch quickly before we started the cleanup. We wanted to have a few minutes to sit and rest before quiet time was done and we were at it again.

In no time at all the babies and our youngest son woke up from their naps, so it was time to head to the beach. We fed the twins another bottle, re-sunblocked all six, got everyone ready, got the life vests on the kids, packed up the beach toys and tried to figure out how we’d get everyone and everything to the beach in a manageable, safe way. The older four had a lot of fun but the babies were unusually fussy and wanted to be held at the beach—not the easiest since Jeff was out on a boat with the kids and the twins were no longer the four-pounders they used to be.

Once we were done, we needed to pack everyone and everything back up and get back to the condo. There we hung all the wet stuff up and put things out of the way so we could make supper. Jeff took over that task and barbequed while I bathed all six kids. One was jumping on furniture, everyone was running around the small space we were in, the noise volume was getting louder and louder and, by this point, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Afternoons are the hardest for me—they have been for a long while now. I think it’s a combination of lack of sleep and just the sheer business of the day that wears me out.

This is my life. It’s busy. Often it’s nonstop. Everywhere we go with the kids we get comments. Everywhere. People stare. People whisper. “I feel sorry for you, dear.”

As I was drying off the last baby who was bathed, I caught myself feeling quite anxious and overwhelmed. Maybe six kids is too much. People seem to think I made a bad decision. Maybe it was a bad decision. What if something happened to Jeff? How could I possibly do this on my own? Things were easier when we had two. Or even four. How can I keep going on like this day after day? How am I going to get through this day, let alone tomorrow? It’s tough sometimes. It’s tough most of the time.

Those who know me are aware I take a multitude of pictures on a daily basis. I love it. I love taking pictures. I love looking at pictures. And in those pictures I look happy—the kids look happy. But we aren’t always happy. “I feel sorry for you, dear…” Some people do feel sorry for me. This particular day I was coming close to feeling sorry for me. Just because I have six kids and appear to have it all together doesn’t mean I do. I’m not a person to strive to be. I’m not an exceptional mother. I struggle. I get down. I get afraid.

“I feel sorry for you, dear” echoes over and over in my head. But what about the second part of this lady’s statement? “But God bless you.”

“God bless you.”

God has blessed me. Tremendously! Why am I feeling sorry for myself? I have no reason to. None!

I thank God every day for the blessing of my family. My children bring me SO much joy. They love me unconditionally, and I love them unconditionally. They make me laugh—they melt my heart. I have heard that “making the decision to have a child—it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I believe that. I have SO much love for my six precious blessings I cannot even put it into words. They are a gift from God and I thank Him every day—whether the days are good or trying, in the end I thank Him. I thank Him for each day He grants me with each one of my children. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James1:17). Every good and perfect gift is from above- from God. To Him I am truly grateful. But this isn’t the main reason I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself.

Jeff is my other half, my partner, my supporter and encourager. He tells me I can do it-that I am doing it. He reminds me that in a few minutes the chaos will subside and everything will be OK. When I’m feeling down he pushes food my way and quite often I do feel better! In this scenario, that’s what I needed and right after supper I was back to feeling like all was well! Jeff is a blessing in my life—a gift I feel so unworthy of. He lifts me up with wisdom from Scripture when I need it most. God has blessed me with His Word, His promises, His comfort and strength. He has enabled me to love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Jeff and the kids are a foretaste of heaven. His love for me is a picture of Jesus’ love for His people—the church–and the love of them all is an image of the love God creates among His people for each other and for Him.

I have family and friends who love me. I have a home to live in, my health, food on the table. But all these things can change. This can’t: God has blessed me the most with His grace! Though I didn’t deserve it, Christ died for me and drew me to Himself. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In that very moment, when I felt so anxious my heart was racing, these words came to me. “The Lord is the stronghold of my life.” He is my place of survival, my refuge. He isn’t going anywhere. Ever. “Of whom shall I be afraid?” Of what shall I be afraid? Nothing.

To those who think my children were a mistake- they weren’t. They aren’t! To those who think I have it hard—I do some days. This particular day, when I was sitting on the floor drying off the sixth bathed child, I felt like I couldn’t do it any more. I felt depleted. I felt helpless. But God spoke to me through His Word and reminded me that He is my stronghold. Even when I have nothing left, I have Him and He is more than enough. The Lord gives me strength.

To those who look at my children as an inconvenience or a burden to me—they are not. They are a joy! Do I forget that sometimes? Yes. Am I sometimes selfish and complain because I go go go? Yes. But I am quickly reminded how precious they are when they hug me, smile at me, kiss me, ask me questions thinking I know all the answers. My fridge is overflowing with pictures they made for me. “I love you, Mommy!” touches me in a special way every time I hear it. The giggles, the firsts I get to witness. I always have a buddy. I have six buddies! So, to those people who look at me and think I’m crazy—I am. I’m crazy about my six sticky fingered kiddos no matter how much work they are. I’d give my life for those kids. No matter how hard it is.

But even though they are a tremendous blessing, they are not how God has blessed me the most. He has blessed me the most with His grace—the undeserved love and salvation He has freely given to me. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

I feel sorry for you.

Don’t.

But God bless you.

He has—in more ways than one. Thank you for reminding me that I am truly blessed.

Mommyhood: Painting A Picture

Things have been pretty crazy here some days. With a husband who has to be away several evenings a week with his work, I find myself trying to keep 6 kids busy on my own, make sure they’re getting along, cook supper, baths some days, playtime with them if I can, homework, bedtime devotions, stories… And in between I’m nursing babies, bouncing babies, changing babies, changing Joey, making sure Joey doesn’t get hurt when I find him sliding down the wooden stairs on a pillow… Sigh. I find I lose my temper sometimes. I feel overwhelmed sometimes. It can get crazy.

I remember one day, a few weeks ago, I was feeling quite exasperated. I had taken the kids to an activity and got home right at supper hour. I was trying to throw something together as I hadn’t had any time that day. The babies were crying, the “older” ones- my 2, 3, 5 and 7 year old- were being extremely loud, some were picking at each other. It was chaos. At least in my little world. I was wondering how I was going to get kids fed, babies fed, kids ready for bed- all in an hour lest I lose my mind. I did what I could in that moment- I stuck bottles in the babies’ mouths so they were happily drinking and a frozen pizza cooked away. Was it ideal? Maybe not. But it worked.

Sometimes we paint Mommyhood as a perfect happy little picture. I think of Cayleigh’s pictures where the princesses in puffed sleeves are always smiling. Where there are rainbows and suns and flowers in blossom. Where everyone is holding hands and everyone is happy. But Mommyhood isn’t always like that. There are struggles. We hear about the crafts and the baking and the games Moms play with their kids. We hear of how good they sleep, how well they play together, how they can read and count. We hear of the outings and the healthy things we prepare, the fingerpaints, the tickles, the laughs. We hear of the smiles and the cuddles and the forts and the stories. But do we ever hear of the struggles? Do we ever hear of the exhaustion? The times where we feel overwhelmed? Challenged? Do we only tell people our strengths but never our weaknesses?

I always knew I wanted a “bigger” family, God willing. And I thank God every day for the wonderful blessings He has given me in my children. But it’s not easy. Pretty much the second we found out we were having twins the morning sickness hit and it’s been quite challenging since. Caden turned 7 a month before the twins were born–the oldest child now with 5 underneath him. We dealt with babies not eating, not nursing, not sleeping, a strong-willed not quite 2 year-old and 3 others who needed Mommy and Daddy, but we were exhausted beyond exhausted and didn’t know how we’d get through even one day on no sleep, let alone months. 4 1/2 months later it’s getting easier in some respects but harder in others. What can I do on those days where I feel like I can’t do it on my own? Can I pretend things are perfect and easy and all smiles and rainbows? Or can I look elsewhere?

‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me’ (2 Cor 12:9)

A lady at our church had twins several years ago and her kids are grown today. I thank God for her. I thank God for one conversation in particular I had with her. We haven’t talked much but I remember, just after the twins were born, being honest with her. Honest about how they weren’t eating well, about how it was hard to get out, hard to give my other 4 attention. Did she tell me everything was going to be ok? No. Did she tell me it was going to get a lot easier? No. What did she tell me, then? She said, “Erin, The Lord is your strength.” She told me it wasn’t having a clean home- that wouldn’t give me strength (and I’m still wrestling with that- mind you, the babies are wearing me down!), it wasn’t what I did with my kids. That wouldn’t give me strength. The Lord is my strength. And you know what? God’s power is made perfect in my weaknesses.

It’s not easy being a mom. It isn’t. And let’s stop painting the picture that it is. No one is perfect- not even our precious children. No one sleeps perfectly, eats perfectly healthy all the time, does the perfect activities, has the perfect amount of Mommy and/or Daddy time all the time. Sometimes there might be tons of TV here, not the greatest frozen meals, and sometimes I might feel so overwhelmed that I shed a tear or two. That’s when I need to cry out to God for He alone is my strength. If I yell, I need to confess my sin and ask for strength to move on and do better next time. And pray and pray He will change my heart and my mind and help me to me more patient. That is where I am at.

So, instead of painting the picture of Mommyhood as roses and rainbows like my daughter’s pictures, I’m going to be honest and say it’s a job where I need to (more than I do) confess my sins to the Lord daily, ask for forgiveness, and ask for strength. It’s tiring and it’s trying. Yet it is beautiful and fun and the best job I’ve ever had! But let’s be honest. It’s not all flowers and happy faces. It isn’t. We all have weaknesses. And who helps us in our weaknesses? Christ. Let us all point to Christ. Let us boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon us. Let us remember “every good and perfect gift is from above”- it’s not by anything we have done or can do. Everything good is from Him. Let us tell others our strength is from God, our help comes from God and that we need help.

Now wouldn’t that paint a beautiful picture? 🙂