Are My Kids the Center of the Universe?

As I sat watching the well-known pastor on television, he stated something that made me start questioning my priorities.  My husband should come before my kids.  God first, husband second, kids third.  I immediately began running different scenarios in my head of how our family did things.

Were our kids the center of our universe?  And if so, how would this affect their behavior in the long term?  Certainly, they had more needs and required help with day to day activities, but I wondered what kind of world I was creating for them beyond that.

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The following week, I began studying scripture, looking for instruction related to this topic. One of the first passages I found was in Ephesians:

“Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” (Ephesians 5:22-23)

I have to admit these verses were a source of contention for me for many years, because I am not a person who likes submitting to authority.  My husband once joked that the reason I’d never been happy in any job I’d had in the workforce was because I wasn’t the boss.

However, as I studied this scripture and its meaning, I realized something.  The relationship between the husband and wife is a model of the church, of which Christ is the head. By living in this way, we are creating a living image and testimony of God’s love for us.

In the following text, the husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loves the church.  In other words, the previous statements are not a free pass for the male to wield his authority with force or use it to his advantage.  He is to follow the example of Jesus, who laid down his life for us.  He is to hold his wife in the highest esteem, as he would his own body.

After I spent some time in the Word and in prayer, I realized my husband and I had some work to do in this area.  Although we allowed time for dates and alone time each month, our outings had become routine and stagnant.  We needed to “shake things up a bit.”  A marriage ministry our church recently started helped tremendously in this area.

They assigned date challenges.  We were forced to think outside of our normal dinner and a movie fallback.

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Here’s what I recognized:

When we take time to for each other as husband and wife, we are not only strengthening our marriage, but are giving a gift to our kids.

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We are displaying for them what love looks like.  We are investing time in our marriage and showing them that like any other commitment, it takes dedication and work.  We return to them refreshed, with our needs as a couple met, and ready to tackle our next family adventure.

We show them that while their wants and needs are important, there is only one center of the universe.

And his name is God.

 

*Black and white photos courtesy of Derek & Diane Photography

Never Enough Time?

There is a phrase I often hear come out of the mouths of moms. “I wish there were more hours in the day.” Or, “I wish I had more time…” I’ve muttered something similar more times than I can count, and often find myself looking at the clock wondering where the day has gone. Sometimes I am delighted at the fact that it is almost eight-o-clock, because I know that the kids will soon be in bed and I’ll get a few minutes to unwind and talk to my husband before laying my exhausted head on the pillow. Other times I wonder how I’m going to get everything I need to get done before eventually passing out.

Time. It is a precious commodity. And yet so often we feel as though we waste it or wonder where it all went. As a stay-at-home mom, time is the resource I have the most difficult time managing. Or am I just being too hard on myself? Over the course of the past several years since having children, I’ve pondered this question and there are a few things I’ve learned.

Make a to-do list if it helps you, but don’t let it define you. Often I get half way through my day and feel as though I’ve accomplished nothing, when in fact I’ve gotten a lot done. I’ve made my kids’ breakfast, helped them get dressed, packed my oldest son’s lunch, started a load of laundry, and so on, but somehow I think I should have done more. Having a list, even if simply for the sake of checking things off, can give me a visual picture of everything I’ve achieved. However, if I beat myself up because I haven’t finished all the items listed at the end of the day, I need a reminder that raising kids requires grace, both for myself and my children. Spending a few extra minutes to help my child understand his homework is more important than the dirty dishes in the sink.

Making memories is more valuable than having a spotless house. I am a tad OCD when it comes to clutter. But having kids has loosened me up and made me realize that my kids need a space to have their toys strewn everywhere without me interfering with their fun. And when my son asks me to play Legos with him? That is more important than the clothes which need to be folded. These days are limited, and there will come a time when he’s not asking me to play with him anymore. Legos may not be my favorite pastime, but I can do a pretty mean Lego Batman voice and make my son giggle until my heart swells.

There are moments in your day you don’t want to rush. Time with God. Time with you kids. Time with people who matter. There was a recent quote from a blog I follow that really stuck with me. God doesn’t ever say, “Hurry up and come to me.” He doesn’t speak to me when I’m rushed or constantly looking at the clock. He speaks to me when I’m quiet. When I’m still. In the same way, my son often needs a few minutes to collect his thoughts and tell me what he needs to say. If my attitude is rushed and anxious, I will not hear it. And if I don’t listen to my son at five, he’s less likely to talk to me at ten or twelve or sixteen.

I also relish the hours I spend with my husband, extended family, and friends as well, and never want them to feel as though the time I spend with them is unimportant. If needed, I schedule it. I am intentional about clearing a space when, even if my kids are with me, I can enjoy their company without worrying about the need to do something or be somewhere else.

A busy life does not equal a fulfilled life. The older my children get, the more packed our schedule becomes. Between church and school activities and sports and extra curricular interests, the calendar is often filled before the month even begins. However, I’ve learned that we need at least a day here and there to simply do nothing. Sometimes “nothing” may mean watching movies all day with my family. Or playing at the park. But the schedule is clear for whatever we decide to do on that given day. I’ve met families who barely have time to breathe before their next dinner or outing or event. And they are not happy. They are exhausted.

As I look back on the years I’ve spent on this earth, the glimpses that stand out the most are the ones where I was loving the people I’ve been blessed to have in my life, and loving them well. Responsibilities and deadlines will never cease in this lifetime, but I don’t want to forget to make memories that pass beyond the present. God, help me to remember the things that last. To look ahead.

To embrace the eternal.

To My Valentine

To the man I married:
You are kind and compassionate. You put others needs above your own, and have an innate sense of knowing when someone needs help but is afraid or too proud to ask.
You are a hard working man of integrity.  When no one else is dependable, you are the person who rises up and completes the task without expecting anything in return.
You make me laugh when no one else can.  When I take life too seriously and feel like I’ve lost the ability to smile or be silly, you remind me why laughter is so important.
You put your family before work. I know that when I’m too sick to get out of bed or something unexpected happens, you will be there.
You’re an amazing father. You’re not afraid to be completely goofy and childlike with our kids, and they smother you the minute you walk in the door.
You believe in me even when I don’t believe in myself. You encourage me to pursue my God given dreams and use the talents and gifts He gave me. When I am negative and critical of myself, you remind me that with God I can move mountains.
You put God at the center of our marriage. You know that without the Creator of all things, including marriage, as our focus, we will always fall short. But with Him all things are possible.
My love, you are all these things and so much more. I thank God for bringing us together and look forward to all He has in store for us in the years to come. On Valentine’s Day and every day, I love you for the incredible man you are.

Coming Home

Two days ago we made the 545 mile trip down to my hometown, Irmo, SC. Me and my little family. Every time it amazes me how well our boys travel. They watch movies. Jaden plays with his Mobi-go. They make imaginary monster truck tracks on their arm rests and legs and have a rally full of sound effects. They are my seasoned little travelers and take the extremely long trip in stride. Until we hit the last hour. Then all bets are off.

Even though we’ve done a lot of moving since we got married, when I come back to SC it always feels like home. I can rummage through the refrigerator and make a feast out of the latest snacks my mom has prepared. A drive through downtown does not ignite annoyance of the fear of getting lost or stuck on a one-way street. I sit and enjoy the ambience of the Christmas tree, which is always a 9 foot beauty which dominates my parents’ vaulted ceilinged den, filled with ornaments commemorating their many trips, anniversaries, children’s milestones and events, some older than I am.

Over the past month since my mother’s stroke, which you can read about here, I’ve reflected on the love of family and how special that bond is. Differences between us and conflicts will rise, but the relationship that unites us will always be there. Sometimes it’s placed on the back burner and expected to stay alive simply because it’s there. Many of us develop the same sort of assuming behavior with our relationship with God. After all, he’ll always love us, right?

But I don’t want to live that way. As if I’ll always have one more day, one more moment to make experiences and memories which will live in my heart and mind forever.  I know that one day, in God’s perfect timing, my parents will be face to face with their Heavenly Father.  And even though I don’t spend my time dwelling on that fact or in fear of it, I am certainly aware of its reality. For that reason, let me live in this day.  Not missing an opportunity to tell my Mom and Dad that I love them. That I appreciate them and everything they do to show they care.

As I watch my boys play with their Pa Pa’s model train set and run around the house without a worry in the world, I remember what Jesus said during his earthly ministry. “Let all the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” My silly, adventuresome boys who hug and kiss people they barely know. My little Jaden who instilled excitement in my nieces and nephews over saying the prayer before dinner.

I have no doubt my spirit will dwell with them in eternity, but we are given this one life here on earth to live, breathe, and let the Spirit of God shine through us. Let’s not go another day taking it for granted.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  James 4:14

The Wonder of Christmas

As the holiday season approaches, it can be easy to get lost in the clamor of finding the right gift for everyone on your list.  I remember when I was little, it used to seem as though Christmas would never get here and now that I’m an adult with two kids I often find myself saying, “It’s Christmas again already?” The years seem to fly by at a lightning fast pace and sometimes I wish I had a pause button or could slow things down a little.  That is one of the reasons I love to take pictures.  There’s something magical about being able to freeze a moment, to capture it and be able to look at it again and again, even though that small capsule in time will never repeat itself.

Christmas is a very special time of year and ever since having children five years ago, it’s become more important than ever for me to remember the true meaning of this holiday.  I want my kids to see that it’s not about the tree or the gifts or Santa Claus or reindeer.  All of those things are lovely and bring wonder and delight to the season as well, but they should not be our focus.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, who gave up all the beauty and glory of heaven to become a baby who would grow into a perfect man and die on our behalf.

During the past five years as this time would approach I constantly questioned myself and pondered how Chris and I would keep our kids centered as parents.  Do we tell him there’s a Santa or immediately dismiss the idea?  How many gifts should we get the kids?  Should we tell the grandparents to limit the number of gifts they get?  And on and on.  I nearly exhausted myself, forgetting in the midst of it all that Christmas is also about joy.  Family.  Enjoying each other and the gift of relationships.

The truth is that the biggest way my kids will see the true meaning of Christmas is through me and Chris.  If we show them the happiness and love we have over the coming of our Savior, that joy will translate to them.  Worrying about it will do nothing but add to my wrinkle lines.

Every family is different and it’s important to remember what works for some may not work for others.  Some choose not to introduce Santa at all.  Some do extravagant gifts and some don’t.  Stockings hang from the mantle in some homes and others don’t have them.

As fast as the past five years have moved, I am sure of this.  My kids will not stay small for long.  And even though Santa is not our focus during the holiday season, seeing my kids faces light up when they see their video message from Santa or hear his bells when he enters a room truly melts my heart.  Their imaginations soar and they are allowed to enter into a enchanting place in their minds which for me was cut far too short.  

I have no intention of ending that place any sooner than necessary.

Where is Home?

The place we now call “home”



Lately I’ve thought a lot about how a person defines home.  Many would say it’s the place where they grew up, or the place they’ve lived their entire lives.  Some have moved all over the country from a very young age, whether it be because their family is military or other reasons, so there is no specific place they can say they spent their childhood.


I lived in the same area for the first twenty-eight years of my life, but almost immediately after I got married, my husband and I began moving.  A lot.  And although our moving was more out of necessity than want, it has taught me a great deal about who I am and forced me to redefine the word “home.”


South Carolina, which is where I grew up and spent most of my life, will always call my name.


What’s in South Carolina?  Well, you haven’t tasted real BBQ until you’ve visited the South.  You may think you have.  Trust me.  You haven’t. 


SC is also home to some of the juiciest, sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted and boasts beautiful beaches and rich history.  And most importantly, it is where my family is.  My mom.  My dad.  My brother and niece.  Several of my cousins.  I miss being able to jump in the car and see them at a moments notice, sharing meals together, and spending the evening just talking and watching movies.


Most of all I miss the time they are away from my children, who don’t have the opportunity to spend the night and Pa Pa and Grandma’s house unless it’s during summer vacation.


As much as I miss all these things, I know that moving cross-country twice in the past seven years, with a couple of smaller moves in-between, was part of God’s plan.  My husband and I learned to rely on each other and find strength in mutual love and understanding of one another.


One year after we made our first big move, I had my first son.  Two years after our move, I gave my life to Jesus.  Our faith has grown in leaps and bounds.  We’ve begun to trust God in the seasons of struggle and not lose hope.  


I moved past my awkward, shy, introverted self and met some amazing people who  stretched me in my walk with Christ.  I realized that relationships form and grow in God’s timing and not my own.


Through all of the transitions and the growing experiences, I discovered that home is where my family is.  Not my Mom and Dad, brothers, niece and cousins.  But my husband.  My kids.  Me.  I slapped some paint on walls, hung pictures and kids’ art work.  I filled several homes with as much love as one mother’s heart can hold.  

Home is walking through the door to a warm embrace and dogs licking my feet.  Home is hearing shouts of “Mama” after an evening away and trying not to trip over little arms and legs.  Home is my Meemaw’s shadow box hanging on the wall, a sweet memory of a loved one who is now in her eternal home.

One of the most important things moving has taught me is that the dwellings we call “home” here on earth are temporary.  My prayer is that no matter where the future takes us, my family will feel home in the very essence of their being, no matter the place… because of the security that they have in God and the love they feel when they walk through the door.


“In my Father’s house are many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you.” 
John 14:2

Blood, Water, and other Adages

Sometimes I wonder where sayings come from.  As an English major,  the origin of different words, figures of speech and the like always fascinates me.  There’s an old saying I’ve heard a lot lately, and I have to be honest.  I really dislike it.  We’ve all heard it at some point, I’m sure.  “Blood runs thicker than water.”

Okay, the commonly understood meaning is that relationships with family go deeper, are stronger than those with friends.  In all honesty, I have not always found this to be the case in my own life.  Envy is an emotion I try at great lengths to avoid, but I have to say I envy those who have close relationships with their extended family, cousins, second cousins, and third.  I used to see these family members once a year.  Now I’m lucky if I see them in a decade.  It saddens me, but geographical distance makes it hard to maintain a close-knit connection.  This is one of the reasons I am grateful for social media.  Although I do not see these relatives often, I feel as though I am part of their lives because I can send them a message, view their pictures, and be aware of what’s going on in their lives.  I know that the bond will always be there, no matter how many years pass.  So in this way, I get it.

In a literal sense, I’ve always found the “Blood is thicker…” saying odd because, well, yes, blood does technically “run” thicker than water but it makes me imagine someone who has water running through their veins, which makes absolutely no sense.  So, recently I decided to research where the phrasing originated, and what I found was surprising.


The adage as we use it now comes from an old German proverb, however the original meaning more than likely has been lost.  An older, Jewish version states:

“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” 

Now this conveys something else entirely.  My interpretation is that my relationship with God precedes my relationship with my family.  


I understand the bonds of family.  Believe me, I do.  My parents have displayed their devotion to me in more ways than I can count, and when I look at my own children, they are literally little pieces of me running around outside my body.  My oldest son recently visited my parents, who live over five hundred miles away, for a week.  I felt as though part of my heart was missing. 


There is nothing they could do that would make me not love them, and I understand God’s love more fully as a result of being a mom.


However… after moving cross country twice and living a great distance away from my immediate family for several years, I have discovered something:  Your friends become your family.  


It takes time.  Boy, does it ever.  Building trust with another person is not something which can be done overnight.  But the women I’ve studied God’s word with, who’ve shared the trials and joyous moments of mothering with me, the family who was so close to us after our first big move that my oldest son began referring to them as “Aunt” and “Uncle”….  well, these people are my family.  These bonds go deep.  They go deep because they are eternal.  These people will join me with my Heavenly Father one day. 


 I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty amazing.