Give Them Life ~ Again

“I brought you into this world and I can take you out!”
~a mom

Words hopefully none of us have ever uttered! But these words are very, very true.

Zach - just bornWhen my sweet babies were placed into my arms that very first time I could hardy believe I had brought life into the world. The pain of labor and delivery immediately swept away by the appearance of a tiny human being who needed me to keep her (and then him, and then once again her) alive! From my lips came soft kisses, a tender voice and late night whispers telling them of my love for them.

We use our voices and lives to speak love, life, confidence, teaching and more into our children; it seems to come fairly naturally when they’re little. But there came a time when from my lips came words and tones that weren’t always so affirming. Those tones and words had the power not to give them life, but to take them out.  When one child became two children –  some new and raw emotions seemed to come out of nowhere. (Or possibly due to a baby that cried for me and only me. Oh, and he didn’t nap.) Suddenly all my words weren’t so life giving. Words that came forth when milk was spilled could be soaked in impatience and sprinkled with frustration, denting little minds and hearts.

I knew I wanted to breathe life into them, not suck  life out of them, so I got help in changing a legacy that had formed within me; I learned how to quit banging into my kids with harsh words and a loud voice. Isn’t it a little bit scary to realize we have this power to shape and mold? I wasn’t always sure I wanted that responsibility; it’s so big, with the ability to affect generations to come!

And the truth is, these darlings of ours can be so darn challenging! But maybe the reality is that the challenge is discovering how to continue to be life giving when circumstances, responses, our children, or people in general aren’t so easy. As moms and women I believe we have a unique ability to keep our sons, daughters, our son & daughter-in-laws, and other women around us afloat when it feels sticky and hard.

As a mom I’m still growing in the life-giving area. Sometimes I’ve said things that have sucked the life right out of my adult and adult-ish kids. I don’t mean to, it’s never my intention and I strive to fix it when I’m aware – or made aware – that I’ve done or said something that took some life out of them. (In the sting of learning I’ve hurt my kid’s feelings, I’m always grateful they trust our relationship to share that truth.) My best guess is I will always be growing in this area because I keep traveling into new territory with them as they get older, have more life experiences and are more independent.

I’ve walked alongside women whose mom’s haven’t been life giving with their words and actions. I believe we have multitudes of opportunities to breathe life into each other in ways that are nurturing, even maternal. With Mother’s Day approaching, look around in your circles, is there a mom within your reach who might benefit from some words of encouragement and life? There are women around us whose moms have passed on, maybe we could send a card or even text those women on Sunday, breathing a little life into them.

Since I met my mother-in-law over 27 years ago she has been kind, gracious, respectful and loving, but I’ve heard that isn’t the experience of every daughter-in-law! If you are a mother-in-law, the power you have to bless your daughter or son-in-law is incredible. I’m not there yet, but when I am I hope to measure my words, tones, time, expectations and authenticity in ways that breathe life into them.

Here’s the bottom line, Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” and Proverbs 16:24 says “Gracious words are flowing honey, sweet to the taste and healing to the bones.” So as a mom, a friend and simply as a woman, I’m aiming for recognizing the power of my tongue, as well as striving to be gracious in my words that I might be healing to the bones and life giving to the soul; that I would give life again and again.

Coming Home

It’s happening. After two and a half years, our boy is coming home.

Yes, I am excited.
Yes, I am a little anxious.
Yes, I am confident.
Yes, I am at peace.

After his being away for so long, it does suddenly feel like it’s all happening quickly as I hurry to wash sheets (we’ve been using his room as a quest room), make sure I have a jacket that will fit him in the car (the winter weather we have is quite different from the warm weather he has been living in), and plan a menu that will bring him sweet reminders of our home.

On top of all that this week, I took my youngest, Erin, on her final college visit on Monday and yesterday she has made her decision for the fall. It’s all a little emotional here for this momma this week.

Last night Erin and I went on our first weekly dinner date, just the two of us. We needed a plan to maintain our bond and dedicated time together once Kyler returns, so weekly dinner dates it is! It’s my job to balance his needs and her needs. Before he left for the program things were chaotic and there was MUCH focus on the squeaky wheel that was coming off the wagon. She needs to know that in her last few months before she leaves for college, when her emotions are also all over the board, that I’ve got her back and she has my attention. Then there is my oldest, Courtney, who is graduating in a few short months from college. She is in a phase where nothing is exactly solid, where her whole life is about to change, so yeah…I need to be there for her too. And of course, Zach, my 20 year old, going to school 10 hours away…he sometimes also needs me.

Today I am pondering and resting in the timing of the reunion of our family. Courtney and Zach, though at separate universities in different states, are on Spring Break at the same time…and they are both coming home. Courtney is traveling with me, what a great blessing this is to us. My mother-in-law is traveling home with Zach and will also be here when we arrive back home. Kevin took the week off from work and will be with us all week as we re-establish this family unit. I believe the timing is not coincidence. I believe it is a nudge from God reminding me he’s in this. And of course he would be, he is the one who grafted this broken branch into our family.

This is the life of a momma ~ my momma life, your momma life; balancing needs of others, knowing it’s all going to be OK, even when you can’t see your counter-tops. Pausing in the midst of a swirling season of motherhood and treasuring up all these many things and pondering them in your heart.

Today I’m carving out moments to do just that, because tomorrow I begin the travel to go bring our boy home.

A Moment of Silence and Prayer

In the very early hours I am awake ~ she’s on my mind and in my prayers again…still.

One year ago today a mom in Wisconsin waited to hear that her son, a Purdue student, was alright. There was a horrific stabbing in the engineering building and like me, she waited to hear her son was OK. I received the text from my daughter that she was OK, but the Wisconsin mom waited 5 hours only to hear her son was not. He had been the target. He had been killed.

I pictured the Wisconsin mom (her name is Mary) on the floor in utter and complete despair – there are not words to describe what she must have gone through in that moment, and the next, and the next. My heart has hurt for her all year, my prayers for her have been unceasing. I wrote a letter to her that week – unable to send it, it sat tucked in a notebook for eight months, though she never left my prayers.

In October, almost nine months later, I felt I could not ignore the promptings to reach out to her, so I re-wrote that letter, sat on it for more days and finally sent it. A month later I discovered a letter in my mailbox from her ~ tears welled in my eyes as I saw the return address ~ I never expected to hear back from her.

She wrote that she understood my hesitancy to reach out but was grateful that I did. She went on to tell me that she and her family were touched by the many residents of Indiana that have reached out to her family in kindness and sympathy, that as a group we continue to reach out to them even months after the horrible tragedy they have, and are still, suffering. (Good job residents of Indiana.)

I’m writing this post this morning with a heart to gather us as moms and dads from Indiana and beyond to pray for this mom and this dad, Mary and Jim. Let’s lift them and their sons, Erich and Nate, to the Lord. They’ve had a year we cannot begin to imagine – and today is a day they do not want to remember, yet it has come regardless.

Purdue will be holding a moment of silence at noon today as the Bell Tower rings 12 times. Let’s offer our own moments of silence in our own ways today in honor of Andrew and in prayer for his family. (Click here for the January 21 Exponent -Purdue’s paper.)

(I wrote about this one year ago here.)

Why Moms Need MOPS – and YOU

MOPS JPEG_MOPStaglineAs a new mother who was 686 miles away from family, I felt alone and lonely. Two and a half years later when baby #2 came along and cried extensively and didn’t really nap (unless you count 20 minutes while in the swing, which needed to be cranked every 20 minutes), in my exhaustion and seemingly tedious days, I was sure I was coming up short and maybe even failing.

Enter MOPS, International  ~ a.k.a Mothers of Preschoolers

Two times a month from September to May, my toddler went off to her “class” where she did crafts, played and made friends, and I dropped that crying baby off into the gentle arms of a woman who dedicated two mornings a month to caring for the children of the moms who went to MOPS. (Mostly her time was tied with up with Zach, so really, thank goodness she was there along with many other caregivers!)

After dropping my kids off, I went to the MOPS meeting. For the first year I just sat, soaking in the companionship and teaching. Probably the most important truth I gained through my time in MOPS is that I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t failing. I wasn’t the only wife “too tired”, sometimes other moms yelled at their kids too, and I wasn’t by myself in my need for friends.

Through MOPS I learned how to nurture my marriage, friendships, and myself. I enjoyed a hot breakfast and a cup of coffee. I was mentored by wiser moms who had been in my stage and made it out still standing and even smiling. I leaned into the moms who seemed to have a peace that was escaping me. I also learned how to care for other women in the same season through leading teams of women in MOPS. God called me to my local church through MOPS. Through MOPS God healed some broken spots within me. He also cared for me through women who wrapped their care around me in tangible ways ~ that 20 years later I still remember vividly. MOPS grew and stretched me to be a better mom.

MOPS takes place all around the world – and each and every year it’s the same story at this time of year…we have lots of moms with many preschoolers who need a gentle man or woman to care for their children in the MOPPETS program so these moms can go to the MOPS meeting.

Though moms are so much more connected today through social media – they actually are just as lonely as they were 20 years ago. That mom who looks like she has it all together, well, she came undone for the 100th time recently and she needs to know she’s not alone and there is help in getting to a new path. With so many extended families separated by cities and states, there is a real need for mentoring, as well as reassurance.

Our theme this year is Be You Bravely – and who couldn’t use a little of that in their life?! (Click here to read more from MOPS on the theme.)

Local friends, church members or others reading this now can get in touch with me (or if you are reading this through someone sharing it on Facebook – get in touch with your friend) if you decide you want to come along and serve the moms who need to get to MOPS. We meet at Sonrise Church in Fort Wayne, IN. If you can serve twice a month, once a month or even a few times a year, we would be over the moon with joy to have you!

If you are reading this in another state, click here to learn more about MOPS, and click here to find a MOPS group near you in which to offer your service of caregiving. This need is HUGE. In. Every. Group.

Our schedules are full, our lives get busy, and sometimes we think small when we think of volunteering to “just watch children”. It’s not small ~ it changed everything for me. It changed the trajectory of my family. I will never forget the woman who so graciously and confidently took my crying baby from me so I could learn I wasn’t alone in this journey called motherhood.

If you’ve ever been in a MOPS group – feel especially invited to comment. :)

My “Normal” is Not Her “Normal” Today

I awoke this morning to a “normal” morning – no school cancellations or delays; a normal morning. (If you are a Fort Wayne mom – you KNOW what I’m talking about!) Before I pulled the covers back, my immediate first thought was that this was anything but a normal morning for a mom in Wisconsin.

Yesterday at 12:25 pm my daughter sent a text message to her dad and me telling us of the shooting on the Purdue campus, and that she was OK. We soon found out that the shooting took place in the Electrical Engineering building – a building our daughter, an engineering student, has classes within. She said she was headed to that building for a class when she heard the campus sirens; she ducked into the building next door to the Electrical Engineering building; police and ambulances were everywhere.

In the initial moments, with no other information available, I was just incredibly, selfishly grateful my girl was OK. Not knowing if there were other shooters, of if the shooter had been caught, I continued to text her to assure myself of her continued safety.

Then the news came of the arrest. Then the news of the death. Then the identities were made known and it all got a little more personal. I don’t know the victim, Andrew Boldt, but when I saw his picture and saw how active he was as an engineering student, I identified with him as a child much like my own. My heart instantly went to his mom – who likely just experienced four weeks of her son’s presence, laughter and hugs before sending him back to college for his last semester. I can only imagine how proud she was of him and excited for his future – which in a few short months was about to shift as he graduated from Purdue.

My heart agonized for her; this news would send any mom to the floor, in utter agony. The weight too much to bear, I cannot imagine how one gets up after receiving the news that her child was killed so senselessly . I just keep praying for her, for her husband, for the brothers.

There is another mom my mind keeps going to, the mother of Cody Cousins, the suspected shooter. I cannot even begin to process her grief and confusion. Her boy was also a senior at Purdue. When I look at his picture I see a typical college student – not a killer. I cannot imagine how his mother has gotten off the floor either.

As I woke up to an ordinary morning, poured my coffee and drove my daughter to school, I have carried with me these two moms – whom I can only imagine woke up (if they even slept) begging for yesterday to have been a horrific nightmare that surely will be over when they open their eyes. It’s been hard to even put words to my prayers for these moms, though I continue to lift up these women and their families – it’s the only thing that I can do.

Tomorrow I will drive to Purdue to take my daughter to lunch. I want to look into her eyes and hug her tight. Yesterday it seemed she didn’t quite know how to feel, or process this tragedy. When I see her tomorrow she will have been back in the classroom and may want to talk about how that feels. She will have heard stories of those involved – from the friends she knows who were even closer to the scene (one even ordered to the floor by police at gunpoint before being cleared and moved to safety) and I just want to offer her a place to dump all that out. May God guide all those who witnessed this terrible murder, those close to them, and the ones who don’t even know what to feel just yet.

The ripple effects are unknown and far reaching.

All I really want…

I was listening to the radio this morning and they were talking and taking calls, about what moms really want for Mother’s Day. The wants included:
* to go to the bathroom by myself
* sleep
* for my daughters to not fight for the day
* a vacation
* for my kids to acknowledge the day without being told
and several more.
I was struck by a very young sounding mom who called in saying it was her first Mother’s Day. She had seen a necklace with keys on it that spelled out Mom, and it cost $15 ~ that was what she wanted. The morning show host asked, “What’s your…ah…what’s the name of the baby’s dad?” She said “Colin” and then on air the host told Colin to “Colin, Get that necklace for her.” The young mom said, “He probably won’t.”


Mother’s Day is supposed to be a feel good day, and for many it is. But I am more and more aware that Mother’s Day can also be an awkward, sometimes hurtful kind of day. There are women who are acutely aware of their mom’s absence if she has passed away, on Mother’s Day their hearts long for her voice and touch. There are women estranged from their mom – who wish and pray it were different. There are women who have a hard time picking out cards for their mom because all the lovey, “You’re the Best” cards just really don’t apply. There are the moms whose family doesn’t even get her a card or make her feel special in any way.

Then there is the young mom who just wants a $15 necklace with the word Mom on it. I wonder if what she wants is to just feel acknowledged in her role as a Mom. There is the mom of teens who longs to have them let her know they appreciate her. I think that’s what moms really want on Mother’s Day, to know that what they are doing is noticed, and matters.

If you know of a mom who could use an “I’ve noticed you”, “What you’re doing matters”, “I’m proud of you”, “You’re doing a good job”,  comment or note, consider giving that to her this Mother’s Day. It may be all she really wants, or even needs, to elevate her spirit, spurring her on to keep doing what she’s doing.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing moms who read this blog! What you do every single day matters – you can be reminded of that here.

It Matters

To the moms giving little boys rides on your backs, and to the ones holding your little girl’s hand as she skips at your side, I see you. I see you as you bend low to patiently explain a mystery, and I see you walk slowly up the stairs while your little one navigates those oh so tall steps. I see you carrying wee ones in heavy carseats, with diaper bags slung over your shoulder, all while leaning to one side to keep hold of the tiny hand that belongs to the little walking beside you.

Today for some reason I am aware of what you may have set aside for this little one now at your side. You have given a portion of your life and dedicated it to wiping messy faces, holding sticky hands and kissing dirty knees. You have exchanged office mates for play dates, and power lunches for peanut butter and jelly with a side of Goldfish® crackers.

I want to tell you that it matters. It all matters. Every tender kiss, every look in the eye, every song sang, book read and “why” explained. You are laying down connection wires; you are building trust, showing love and teaching kindness. You are pouring yourself out to fill up this little vessel who will run on the foundation you lay. What you are doing…it matters.

The child we chose to bring into our family, the one we still trust God to graft into us – when he was a little, he didn’t receive the tenderness I see you give. His wires were not placed gently or properly, and these many years later as I see him still struggle so, well…I promise you, what you are doing…it matters.

If you ever question your value, if you ever wonder if what you do has meaning, please know that it does. From blowing belly kisses to rocking the child with a fever, from cuddling on the couch to providing snack for the class…every tender, gentle, patient, kind and loving moment matters very much.

A Note to Working Moms

To the mother who gets up and goes to work,

You are amazing. Really. This note feels personal to me, because I know so many of you. When I talk with my sister-in-law, Kalie, I am sometimes reminded of the challenges she faces as she manages to get three young kids out of the house on time everyday  ~ even if that means beginning to pull out of driveway to get that last straggler (oh, Jared!) moving….quickly!

You have to figure out how to work all day, plan dinner, prepare dinner, clean up dinner, oversee homework, get groceries, get your kids to practices and games, look them in the eye, engage them in activities, be intentional, and more! All of this in a shorter time span than those who are stay at home moms. And…for those of you with school age kids, I was reminded by a conversation with my friend Gina that when summer arrives there are all those hours that they were in school to figure out as well. Seriously, you have  a lot on your plate.

The mommy debates on stay at home versus working mom are unfortunate. I don’t think my staying at home makes me a better mom than the mom who goes to work. In fact I know several moms who have confessed that working makes them better moms. When they say better they aren’t comparing themselves to other moms, I believe they are comparing themselves to themselves. “If I stayed home all day, I would go crazy.”  Or “If I worked full time, I would lose my mind.

When Kalie had a baby she and her sister-in-law decided to open a business together; a daycare center. They acquired the land, had plans drawn, watched the building go up, created jobs in her small town, hired staff for those jobs. They did this so that they could be with their kids and have some income. They wanted to create a safe environment for other moms who worked. I was a stay at home mom, she became a working mom. I was so proud of her. No wars, no comparison.

My sister Tracey works full time, with special needs kids, she is amazing with these kids. Loving and challenging. She believes in them and sees in them what many others do not. I am so glad she made the commitment to work, there are kids whose worlds are literally a little bit better because of her decision. My sister Jamie has incredible energy and brilliance in marketing. I love that she has the outlet of her career, and I am humbled constantly by how she shares her resources.

So, dear working mom, if you are feeling stretched and challenged, if you sometimes find yourself tripping over guilt and laundry baskets, be encouraged. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of ALL you do – know you are a superstar!

Enjoy your l-o-n-g Memorial Day weekend!

(You can read A note to Stay at Home Moms here.)