Eleven

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My sweet Caleb is eleven today.

I didn’t know I was having a boy. I suspected, but chose to be surprised. After a long labor, a sweet boy was handed to me and I thought, “What am I going to do with a boy?”

I continued to ask myself that question over the next few years. Girls I understood. But boys? I don’t get them at all. How can I be a mother to a boy?

Two years later, the Lord then blessed me with another boy and I have spent these eleven years learning what it means to be a mother to a boy (or three).

It means watching the warrior heart of God shine bright through rough play, sword fighting, and sports. It means lots of sweet cuddles from boys with big hearts. It means trusting that when my mothering instincts fail, God’s fathering instincts have been there all along.

I love my sweet Caleb. He was the squishiest, most kissable cheeks on the planet. I could kiss them all day.

I love his zest for life. He’s so much like me: what he loves, he loves deeply and completely (admittedly, bordering on far into the territory of obsession). His ages and stages have changed, but his passion remains.

I had so much fun going through photos, trying to choose which to show. I couldn’t narrow it down. Every single moment of his life has been filled with great joy and love.

I love you, sweet Caleb. You are such an awesome kid and I am so glad to get to be your mom. You have taught me so much and have inspired so many. Your tenacity and loyalty will take you far.

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Preparing the Soil | April 30 2015

Consider

Preparing the Soil | April 30 2015

Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. (1 Samuel 12:24)


CONSIDER: to think carefully about something, typically before making a decision;
to think about and be drawn toward a course of action


We make hundreds of decisions a day. Some big. Some small. In making these decisions we consider — sometimes at length, sometimes instantaneously — our feelings, our desires, our cravings, our laziness, our ambitions, and our values.  But what does God tell us to consider?

This morning, as I was tempted to worry again about all that needed to be accomplished, all the unanswered questions that fill my mind, all the feelings of guilt and inadequacy that plague me and weigh me down to the point of inaction, He reminded me:

“…Consider what great things He has done for you.”

Oh yes. That. What great things He has done! When I stop to consider and to reflect, the floodgates of memory open wide and I am overcome with His goodness. His grace. His patience. He has cared for me in the past. He will care for me in the future. He is caring for me now. He is caring for me in the joyful moments and He is caring for me in the pain (emotional and physical).

Our God is a God of memories. Through all of Scripture, God asks us to remember, to consider what great things He has done. The psalmists reflect and it comforts them. The Israelites set up stones of remembrance. The story of the exodus was told over and over so that those who couldn’t remember would remember. The passover was to be celebrated each year so God’s people would remember their great deliverance. We go to the communion table to remember what great things Christ has done for us.

As I go about my day today, I want to consider. Before making a decision — a decision to worry, a decision to be impatient, a decision to bow down to the god of my feelings — I want to consider God’s goodness: past, present, and future.

He has done great things for me. I choose to consider them.

 

 

Playing My Part {Audio Post}

Playing My Part_post imageIn this 32 minute audio post, I share about what God is teaching me about playing my part in His orchestra.

In the audio, I mention I post entitled Children Tie the Mother’s Feet. You can read it HERE.

 

You can listen to it here or download below.


And Then There is Today

©janetphillips_april27_2015_postimageThose who know me have heard me speak of “yellow bus days.” Those are the days I dream of a big yellow bus to take my kids far, far away. I admit to daydreams of a life where the kids are gone for seven plus hours a day. Think of all I could accomplish! I could clean and there would be no one to reverse my work. I could have a cup of coffee without having to microwave it three times before finding the bottom. I could shower on a regular basis and not have to answer math questions from behind the curtain. Oh, to dream!

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Homeschooling is hard. The educational component of it alone is enough to send prayers for the yellow bus. When your child’s academic progress and future depends mostly on you, the guilt flows freely. When you have to listen to struggling readers stumble over the same words again and again, the stress builds quickly. When you realize that no matter how many times you explain squares and cubes, the child will always say that 42=8, the feelings of defeat mount fiercely.

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Beyond the academics, homeschooling is still hard. The kids are home all day. They mess up far more quickly than you can clean up. While you read with the first grader, the toddler is pulling DVDs off the shelf. When you are doing grammar with the sixth grader, the third grader has slipped out to the trampoline, multiplication tables long abandoned. When you are snuggling and reading stories to the four year old, the fifth grader can’t find any of his work and therefore asks if he can go out to play instead.

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Yes, it’s hard. It’s really hard. And I have many yellow bus days. But then I have a day like today.

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A day when we laugh through group work because words like Hawaii and Oxygen can be said in all sorts of silly ways.

A day when wet rags are thrown and giggles abound during chores.

A day when KLove blasts in the kitchen and the kids discuss their favorite artists.

A day when the kids decide school is much more fun in the camper and they set up a home and pretend its an RV while they do their math.

A day when the big kids play with the little kids and the love just oozes from everywhere.

A day when the little ones splash and giggle in the bath and beg me to take pictures of their funny faces.

A day when we have a scavenger hunt in the afternoon and the bigs are paired with the littles and the tender moments threaten to make my mama heart burst.

A day when we can enjoy silly food during an indoor campout and the kids munch on “acorns” and “bear poop” and wash it down with “river water” and “bug juice.”

A day when I am cleaning in the kitchen and I hear wails of laughter as the kids have their first encounter with The Little Rascals.

A day when they don’t want the fun and togetherness to end and they drag their stuffed animals and sleeping bags to the camper and end their day chatting past their bedtime with their favorite people.

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Yes. There are yellow bus days. And then there is today.

What Does It Mean For Me?

“It’s when you feel closest to God, isn’t it?

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My friend put into words something I hadn’t been able to articulate. With camera in hand, macro lens ready, I look at the tiniest details available to the human eye and I marvel at God’s goodness. When I see the minute details of leaves, insects, sand and shells, I can’t help but stand in awe.

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Every day, thousands of scenes pass us by because we are too busy to notice. We miss the bees flying, the birds nesting, and the grass growing. But when we stop to see the glorious wonder of the smallest details, we begin to comprehend what a BIG God we serve.

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And so, on a regular basis, I take my camera outside and I choose to see.

I watched the fly,  grooming himself (or is it herself?) Known for carrying grime and disease, the housefly is a meticulous groomer. He makes his way in the world through receptors all over the body; being able to fly, find mates, and avoid predators depend on this ritualistic cleanliness.

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Thousands of lenses make up those big (and dare I say beautiful?) eyes. These amazing creations allow the fly to detect the slightest movement, usually evading our attempts to swat them.

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If God’s creativity is so great in something as small and insignificant as a fly, what does that mean for me?

Where Is My Delight?

TDD | April 26 2015 | post image

 

One simple question can be the answer to many more.

Where is my delight?

“Great pleasure”

“To please someone greatly”

Definitions of the word delight vary, but the meaning is the same. Something that delights us brings us happiness, pleases us, satisfies us and makes us long for more.

According to the Psalmist, our stability and fruitfulness in life and ministry depends on where our delight is.

Roots absorb water and dissolved nutrients. They also anchor a plant. If a plant is drawing from nutritious soil and has a source of water, it will yield its fruit in season. If that plant, however, has to attempt to draw strength and nourishment from poisonous or arid soil, fruit won’t be likely.

So we have to ask ourselves, on a regular basis, “Where is my delight?” Lip service won’t do much good here. We can say our delight is in God and in His word but what does the use of our time or the attitude of our heart or the tone of our voice indicate?

I want to be fruitful. I want to be anchored. I want to flourish. But that only comes with true delight being found in God’s word. We fool ourselves if we say we delight in something we rarely do.

The delights of the world (the counsel of the wicked, the path of sinners, the seat of scoffers) are easy to come by. But true delight comes from only one place.

And so, with sky still dark and little blond people still sleeping, I fill my coffee cup and situate myself in my favorite chair. I open the delightful words, just as I have almost every day for the past four years, and I let the streams of water course through my soul.

And in season, my fruit will grow.

 

One More

©janetphillips_april17_2015_web-11Having six children isn’t always easy. I am not sure it is ever easy. When people glibly say, “Oh, what’s one more?” I often want to…well…punch them in the face (kindly, of course).

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What’s one more? One more is eighteen years of caring for a person, a real person, a person with needs, feelings, desires, struggles, quirks, and dreams. One more means two to three more years of diapers. One more means another load of laundry, another set of dishes, another set of clothes to buy. One more means hours upon hours of training and guiding. It means another story at bedtime, another bath to give, another mischief maker squirting toothpaste all over themselves (oh, wait, that was the four year old).

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One more means another seat in the car, another place at the table, another bed to be slept in. It means another few years of phonics training, another year of memorizing multiplication tables, and another year of of preschool songs getting stuck in your head. One more means hearing mom an infinite number of times more a day (did you know that you could add to infinity? I didn’t until I had six kids who all feel the need to start each and every sentence with the word “mom.”)

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But over the last two years, I have learned yet again, that one more also means more hugs, more snuggles, more kisses. It means another person thinking you hung the moon. It means another little heart truly believing your kisses make the pain go away and the tears replaced by a smile show you, too, that there is magic in those kisses.

One more means watching the facets of God’s character displayed in new and amazing ways. It means having your heart bust with pride over first steps, first words, and first sentences. It means more dreams for the future, more memories to be made, and more love to be given and received.

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Most of all, though, when you look at that “one more” and your heart beats so hard as the love literally pumps through your very soul, you get one more chance to learn what the Father’s love is like for you.

Being a parent is a gift from the Lord. In allowing us to love this deeply, He offers us the opportunity to grasp in the tangible a glimpse into the deep love He has for us. The love we have for our children cannot compare with the breath and depth of God’s deep love for us. One more allows me to experience that again, to know a love beyond words, a loyalty fierce.

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This little man, my one more, is a gift beyond words.  A better understanding of God’s great love is worth the one more spilled milk, the one more round of the stomach bug, the one more birthday to plan, the one more lullaby to sing, the one more mess to clean up.

Why Did You Want to be a Mama?

Preparing the Soil | 4-24-15We sat on the couch together, snuggled in close. I was trying to keep her quiet as we sat in our weekly homegroup, the meeting continuing well past her four-year-old bedtime.

“Just a few more minutes, honey, and we’ll be done. I need you to be quiet.”

She switched positions once again, the movement giving her something to do. Then out of nowhere, she whispered, “Why did you want to be a mama?”

Most things that come out of her mouth prove to us her mind is far beyond her years, but this one I was not ready for.

What kind of answer is there?

I thought about my life as a mama. I thought of the laundry, the endless dishes, the sibling squabbles, the broken cups, the messy rooms, the constant noise. I thought about the number of times I have to say, “You’re being far too loud” and ” No, I can’t do that for you right now. You’ll have to wait.” I remembered earlier that morning, over and over again saying, “You need to do your schoolwork and then you can play.”

Was all this why I wanted to be a mama? Was this the reason on that February evening my freshman year of college I chose life for myself in order to hold onto the hope of a family?

No. Dishes and cleaning and laundry and refereeing were certainly not why I wanted to be a mama. They are part of the job, for sure. But they are the what, not the why.

Preparing the Soil | 4-24-15_4 Why did I want to be a mama? My thoughts wandered. What a question!

I guess I wanted to be a mama because I wanted someone to love. I had so much love to give and nowhere to give it. I wanted an outlet for the intensity of emotion I felt within.

More than that, though, I wanted to be a mama because I longed for a child to know they were loved, that they were delighted in.  I wanted them to be seen for who God made them and for them to know that in seeing the real them, they were cherished.

And it’s not just why DID I want to be a mama but also, why DO I want to be a mama? I don’t want the desire to be past tense, but past, present, and future.

I want to be a mama so that my kids know that even in this harsh world that will be filled with hurt, sadness, brokenness, and sin that they have someone who sees them, delights in them, cherishes them. I want them to know that facets of God’s character shine from within them and it is their joy and privilege to let that reflection shine bright.

I want to be a mama so my kids know there is always someone who is for them, who believes in them, who sees their eternal worth and significance.

I want to be a mama in order to see up close the beauty of God’s image bearers displaying to the world the glory of God.

I want to be a mama because I want to be part of God’s great work. And these kids, they are God’s great work. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).

Preparing the Soil | 4-24-15_5I want to be a mama so that I can see the incredible transformation as God molds these children and shapes them into who He created them to be. He graciously has allowed me to play a part in that transformation and I want to do it with my whole heart.

My children’s young minds can’t yet grasp the seemingly abstract notion of a God who loves them eternally and completely, a God who sees their infinite worth, a God who delights in them and cherishes them with a life-giving, sacrificial love, and so I want to be a mama in order to stand in for God with something tangible that my kids can see, hear, and touch. I want to be a mama so I can stand in the gap and I can say to them as Paul said to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

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I don’t do it perfectly. Not even close. But I can’t stop because of my lack of perfection. I have to have faith that as I stand in the physical gap for God, He will stand in the gap for me. I am broken, but He is perfect. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

God will do the work in my children’s hearts, minds, and lives, but He allows me to be a part of it. He will take this broken vessel and shine HIs light through it.

And so today, as I do the what of motherhood — the dishes, laundry, and refereeing — I want to remember the why.

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Just Like His Daddy

Nine. 

Seriously, how could he be nine?

Our sweet Levi Sebastian was born in Penang, Malaysia, and welcomed home at two days old to a dorm full of international students and two very young siblings (Alaina had just turned three and Caleb was not yet two).

It’s hard to put into words this little guy. He has been amazing from the moment he was born. He is sweet, funny, sensitive, loves to laugh, goofy, and full of sweet cuddles. He has never gone through a hard stage (in fact, a few years ago, we were at the zoo and he disobeyed me and I told Jason we should take him to the doctor because it was that far out of character for him).

I think the reason I am so smitten with him is he is just like his daddy. He is Jason in a little boy’s body. They are so similar that I can fully imagine what Jason was like as a child. The two were cut from the same cloth.

I am so thankful for his tender heart. I love the way he loves to play with his younger siblings. I love to watch him love to cook and take pictures (so I guess he got a few things from me!)  He loves to play any and all sports and he loves to joke around. He likes games of any kind and he loves puzzles (just like his dad).

To my sweet Levi Sebastian..I love you far more than words could ever express. You are such a joy in our lives and I look forward to seeing the man you will become. If you really are like your dad, I know you’ll be an amazing man and an incredible husband and father.

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Z-Man

Our sweet (and crazy) Zachary turned two on Monday. He has been such an amazing addition to our family and although he keeps us very busy, I couldn’t imagine our lives without him. He is adored by his siblings and they fight over him, his hugs, his kisses, and his crazy antics. He’s such a sweet guy, a total mix of his two brothers. I can’t wait to see who he becomes.

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