Motherhood Monday – Ashleigh T.

It’s Monday, and after a special edition of MM last week, we’re back to our regularly scheduled interviews this week! This week’s MM Mama is Ashleigh T.!

Meet Ashleigh

Ashleigh and I were in the same 5th grade class! We became fast friends then and were friends all the way through high school. When we went to different colleges, we lost touch a little bit, but through life circumstances, we have been reunited over the past year and a half or so and it has been so sweet! She has a sweet one-year-old named Turner that is absolutely precious, and it has been so much fun walking through having little boys together so far! We can’t wait to be able to hang out with the “T” family more soon! Ashleigh is kind, caring, and so funny. I have loved getting to be her friend through the years!

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

My husband and I met on September 17, 2012 at 12 pm at the University of Montevallo Farmer Hall. We had been set up by a dear mutual friend. We talked for a few hours about life, dreams, and well…babies. We discussed the desire we both had to adopt hours after we first met. Our relationship blossomed quickly, and we were married on July 19, 2014.

On August 15, 2015 I had a “gut” feeling to take a test. Without any symptoms or any reason to think it would actually turn positive, I took a test for the fun of it. Three tests later, we jumped in the car and purchased more tests for those also to turn out positive.

I had a very scary pregnancy in the beginning. My hormone levels were not increasing as they should, had a uterine tumor that was causing issues, and doctors had tried to prepare me for the worse.

Fast forward nine scary months filled with fear and doubt by doctors and too much googling, I gave birth to the most precious baby boy on April 6th, 2016. Turner Stephens Thomas, (now ONE YEAR old) came into the world via an emergency c section a few weeks early and spent his first few days in the NICU. On the day he was released to go home, I held my son wire free for the first time in what felt like an eternity. I was in awe that his tiny life had been entrusted in the hands of my husband and me.

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First moments as a family of THREE! Picture provided by Ashleigh

2. What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

Mommin’ ain’t easy. Turner’s first few weeks at home were tough. I had the mindset that “fed was best” and told myself that I would try nursing and if it didn’t work, well then; it simply wasn’t the end of the world. The day after we arrived home from the hospital, with the stress of everything that had happened and trying to heal from a major surgery, I was not producing anything to satisfy my son. We put our boy on formula and to this day I wonder if things would be different. Letting go and realizing that in the big picture not everything is my fault has been my biggest lesson.

Lesson two would be that, after seven ear infections and a pretty extensive surgery our son surpassed doctors’ expectations, and I now know that doctors don’t know everything. My faith has grown so much in the last ten months, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for my little family.

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Such a sweet face! Picture provided by Ashleigh

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Sometimes I jokingly wonder if Turner can read our minds. He often comes to snuggle or give kisses just when we need them making, our day so much brighter.

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

4. What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

My biggest challenge of motherhood is feeling sufficient. I am a recent graduate and have my first teaching job. I teach fourth grade ELA at a small town school about twenty minutes from home. I love and adore my 43 students and consider them “my kids,” but when I am home my time must be devoted to Turner. I often wonder if I am doing the right thing but God gives the perfect signs at just the right time telling me that I am. I know I must move forward and give my job my all in order to provide for my family. Being a mother will always be a top priority so finding balance is something that I will continue to work towards in the midst of this crazy thing we call life.

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Way to go, Mama!! Ashleigh graduated a couple weeks after Turner was born. Picture provided by Ashleigh

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

Hours: 24/7, 365

Pay: kisses, squeals, and unmeasurable amounts of joy

Description: Worry endlessly, give it your all, run on caffeine and limited sleep, clean lots of vomit and poop, LAUNDRY galore, kisses, tears (from both the parents and baby), hugs, & laughter

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“T” Family Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

Growing up my parents were very involved with everything I did. My grandparents were also extremely involved, and some of my fondest memories are those that were spent with my extended family. Turner sees my parents pretty much every day and sees my husband’s family at least once a week. I pray he cherishes the time with his extended family as much as I did growing up!

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“T” Family Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were going to be a mom, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

As cliche as it sounds, enjoy every single second. It goes by way too fast and stay off google! Don’t google the good, bad, and ugly because it fills you with unnecessary fear!

Take time for you and your spouse or significant other before the baby comes; in a good way, things will never be the same.

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8. Anything else you want to include?

Life is precious and you have been chosen by the Father to raise your child. Lean on Him and there is no doubt that good things will happen!

Wrap-Up

I love how Ashleigh talked about the stress and pressure of breast feeding and how she chose that “fed is best.” There is so much pressure and disagreement about how babies should be fed, and most of the time we don’t applaud moms for simply doing what is best for their family and their child. I also love how she talked about her faith growing while Turner has surpassed doctors’ expectations. Isn’t it amazing how the Lord answers prayers?

Thank you for answering my questions, Ashleigh!! Your words were encouraging and honest.

What was your favorite thing that Ashleigh said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

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Motherhood Monday – Andrea N.

Monday is here, and I’m welcoming Andrea to the blog for Motherhood Monday!

Meet Andrea

Andrea has quickly become one of my closest friends in Atlanta. We do a “family” dinner with her family (+ Allison‘s family + one other family, whose mom is my next guest!) every other Tuesday. It has been so much fun to see our kids play and our relationships grow since we started getting together. Andrea is wise and so loving to her three girls. Her youngest and Henry are less than two months apart too! We are so thankful for their family for inviting us in and being intentional with us.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

I was never one of those girls who dreamed of becoming a mom. I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to have a family one day, but it wasn’t something I thought about all the time. My husband, Jeremy, and I were married for six years before we had our first child, Analeigh. I use to tell people if she came out as a teenager I would be happy. Why, you may ask, because my husband and I were in youth ministry and I felt like I understood teenagers way better than babies! I remember holding Analeigh for the first time and being over joyed and terrified at the same time! As she grew, I learned so much about unconditional love and how much the Lord loves us. And, man, did I need that reminder! That little girl stole my heart and I have been thankful ever since that she made me a mommy! We liked the first kid so much we decided to have another one! Eva was born and we felt like our family was complete. However, God had other plans and decided to give us a little surprise six months ago and Hadley joined our family. For those of you keeping track, that’s three girls! Analeigh is five, Eva is two, and like I mentioned Hadley is six months. Life is busy and sometimes a little chaotic, but also filled with so much joy!

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A family of five! Picture provided by Andrea

2. What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

The biggest lesson I have learned is that things are not perfect. No matter how much planning, Pinterest searching, or ideas in your head things and life are not perfect! I do not have a perfectly clean house (ask Erin!), I don’t have perfectly behaving kids, and I’m not perfectly organized. And that is perfectly okay (pun intended)! Childhood is about allowing your children to explore, grow, and fail. That’s what will eventually make them great adults. Do I get upset sometimes about things not being “perfect”….sometimes I do. But I try to remind myself to find joy in the everyday and enjoy my children where they are at. The only thing perfect in this life is God’s love and that is what I want my girls to learn more than anything else!

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Sweet Analeigh and Eva. Picture provided by Andrea

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

This stage I’m in right now is becoming my favorite! Analeigh and Eva love each other and love to play with each other. They make up stories with their babies, they play family, and they dance and sing together. It’s been so fun watching them become friends! My prayer is that their bond and friendship continues through out the rest of their lives.

My husband and I always talk about how Eva has been hit in the head so much in her short life. A few weeks ago, Analeigh and Eva were playing and Analeigh slammed Eva into the corner of the wall (by accident). She had a huge bump on her forehead! Thankfully, she was okay. The next day, we were outside playing in the yard. I was throwing the wiffle ball to Analeigh and she hit it right into Eva’s forehead! The poor girl! Sometimes it’s so hard not to laugh!

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Best sister friends! Picture provided by Andrea

4. What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

I think the biggest challenge of being a mom is not losing who you are. Before I had kids I got my master’s and worked. After Analeigh was born, I just couldn’t leave her. So I became a stay at home mom and I knew it was the right decision. However, I struggled with feeling like all I did was “be a mom”. I had to get vulnerable with Jeremy and tell him that even though I loved being with my girl everyday, I felt lonely and like my purpose was gone. Obviously, I had some things to work out with God about my feelings and emotions. I had to figure out what things I needed to do outside of the house that brought me life. I had to ask for help so that I could do those things that brought me life. And I had to learn that “mom” was a part of who I was and not the only thing that I was. The Lord was sweet and brought me a great group of other stay at home moms that I was able to speak openly with who totally understood where I was at. We started a monthly play group with our kids and I got involved in a bible study filled with other moms. I learned that the Lord didn’t want me to stop being me, but learn how to balance my different roles. It can still be challenging, especially with more children, but it is worth fighting for!

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Becoming a mom with Analeigh. Picture provided by Andrea

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

To be able to handle ALL.THE.THINGS. while being sleep deprived, functioning on less brain cells, and never sitting down.

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These girls really love each other. Picture provided by Andrea

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

My parents always made sure our childhood was filled with memories. They instilled great family values in my sister and I. I want that for my girls, to value family and understand how important that is. At the same time, I want them to know that family is more than just blood and that we invest our time in others who are important to us. I also knew growing up that I could always talk to my mom about anything and I did. Well, except for middle school, my mom would tell you! I want my girls to know they can always talk to me about anything, without judgement or criticism. I want them to feel comfortable and know that they can trust me.

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Eva loves being a big sister. Picture provided by Andrea

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were going to be a mom, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

First, there will be many people that will give you advice. As a first time mom, I’m sure you will listen to all of it and be overwhelmed. Take it all in then do what you feel is best for you, your baby, and your family. You will know your baby better than anyone and it will happen quickly! Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and what you feel is best for you and your baby! Second, a practical tip, invest in a good video monitor! It will save your life!

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And Hadley makes three! Picture provided by Andrea

8. Anything else you want to include?

Motherhood is a journey and it is always evolving. There is always a “terrible” thing about every age, but there is also always something magnificent. Try to enjoy each season because it really does go by so fast! I use to hate when people would tell me that when I was a new mom, but recently I am seeing how true that statement is! I have learned so much about grace and why God has given it to us as a free gift. There is no way that I can go through each day without the grace of God and without extending that same grace to my girls. And, as my sister always told me, crying is free therapy!

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One of Eva’s first days at home. Picture provided by Andrea

Wrap-Up

Andrea’s words of wisdom about still being herself after becoming a mom really hit home for me. I love how she says, “I learned that the Lord didn’t want me to stop being me, but learn how to balance my different roles.” It can be so hard when you feel like you’ve list yourself when you gain a new role, like wife or mom, but the Lord is teaching and refining us to look more and more like Christ. I believe He does this by adapting and adding things to our lives to shape who we become.

Thank you so much, Andrea!! I look up to the mom that you are to your girls, and I am beyond thankful for the way you and Jeremy have welcomed us in.

What was your favorite thing that Andrea said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

Motherhood Monday – Leigh H.

Monday has rolled around again, and it’s time for my favorite post of the week, Motherhood Monday! This week, Leigh H. is in the hot seat to answer all my questions about motherhood.

Meet Leigh

Leigh is someone I’ve met since we moved to Georgia. She is in the MOPS (Moms of Pre-Schoolers) group that I am part of, and she and her husband are part of the young marrieds group that Sam and I are part of as well. She is one of the sweetest, most intentional people that I’ve met. She always asks questions and shows that she is genuinely interested in getting to know you. When I first joined MOPS, I was so glad that she was there because she really made me feel welcome as soon as I joined! I can’t wait for y’all to read Leigh’s answers.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Include your child(ren) and their age(s)

I would describe my motherhood journey as a blessed surprise and a demonstration of God’s ability to do immeasurably more! For the first two years of my marriage, my ability to have children did not look promising. However, God healed me. After that my husband and I spent several years just enjoying life as a family of two, and then just as we were toying with the idea of having a baby, we found out we were expecting! My daughter Olivia is now 3.

2. What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

Being a mom has taught me how to be flexible, and it’s reminded me how little I can control in life. Neither of these lessons were “fun” for me to learn, but gaining this knowledge has served me well in other areas of my life. God was gracious and kind to use a sweet little girl as His teaching method! Lastly, I’ve learned how little some things matter that seemed very important in my mind before I became a mom.

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Sweet Olivia! Picture provided by Leigh

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Olivia had a bit of a speech delay when she was a toddler. It is so precious to me to have long conversations with her now and hear her chatter all day long. I also adore seeing her excitement over the little things – a new cup, getting to do something by herself for the first time, going out to dinner. She teaches me a lot about being grateful and recognizing all of the “little” blessings that come each day.

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Love this precious family picture! Picture provided by Leigh

4. What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

The biggest challenge of being a mom is the lack of control we have (do you see a theme here?!). I want to jump in and “fix” everything, help her figure things out, make sure everyone is kind to her and force her to obey. Guess what? I can’t do any of that. My job is to guide her, pray and then trust that God can use whatever transpires for his glory. My job is simply obedience; He’s the one in charge of outcomes.

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Those curls! Picture provided by Leigh

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

A mom is a nurturer, cook, maid, driver, social coordinator, advocate, detective and mentor.

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Big smiles! Picture provided by Leigh

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects our parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

My parents love to celebrate, and they celebrate big. Holidays, birthdays and accomplishments came with cheers, decorations, gifts, parties and who knows what else! They also made traditions a significant part of each holiday. I plan to do the same as Olivia grows, because each of these things made life really fun and gave me things to look forward to each year.

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Playground time is the best time! Picture provided by Leigh

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were going to be a mom, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

My practical tip would be that she should reading about the different feeding schedules and routines out there. I think a lot of moms focus their preparation on the delivery and forget that it’s a very, very small part of parenthood. Before a mom-to-be is sleep deprived, she should research and pray about the approaches and routines that would best fit her family’s lifestyle. As far as wisdom, I would want to tell her that God will equip her with everything she needs to be a great mom. She can be at peace knowing that His supply is endless.

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Look at that sweet face! Picture provided by Leigh

Wrap-Up

I resonate with Leigh’s answer about not being able to control or “fix” everything. I thought her words about just obeying what we feel the Lord is asking of us and letting Him take care of our children. I read a blog post about our children coming third, and it reminds me of that. When we live our lives with God first, our spouse second, and our children third, it takes so much pressure off of us to have everything perfect for them or being able to control everything. I know that the Lord loves Henry and my future kiddos so much more than I ever could, so I know that He will work everything out for them more perfectly than I could ever imagine.

Leigh, thank you for your thoughtful answers to my questions and your intentionality with people around you. I loved reading your words of wisdom.

What was your favorite thing that Leigh said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

 

Motherhood Monday – Jessica V.

Welcome back to Motherhood Monday on the blog!! It has been about a month since I’ve welcomed someone to the blog to talk about their motherhood experience. I’m really excited to welcome Jessica V. to the blog today!! We actually got to visit them last week, and it was so much fun hanging out with them and seeing their son, Nathan, for only the second time. He is the sweetest baby!

Meet Jessica

Jessica and I have husband best friends. Our husbands lived together in college, so we got to become friends too! Edgar, her husband, was in our wedding, and Sam was in theirs. We actually have similar timing when it comes to our stories with our husbands too. They started dating around the same time we started dating, got engaged around the same time we got engaged, and our weddings were two weeks apart. It has been so special to live life alongside each other, even from far away. Jessica is a very sweet, thoughtful, and wise friend. She is very loyal to those around her, has an incredible heart for the Lord, and seems to juggle being a mom and wife very well. I can’t wait for y’all to read her words of wisdom.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

When I think back over my motherhood journey, I feel such a mix of emotions, from sadness and grief, to absolute joy, to fear and confusion, and also a large measure of gratitude towards God for all that He has taught me through this process. My journey started almost exactly a year ago. One Sunday in mid-March 2016, I found myself in my bathroom holding a positive pregnancy test. My husband and I were definitely in shock, but elated to be expanding our family. On Monday, I miscarried. It was very early in my pregnancy, and my doctor told me it was fairly common and probably would have no bearing on my ability to get pregnant in the future. Even so, I was heartbroken. One moment there had been a little life growing inside of me, and the next it was gone.

I also felt a lot of shame and fear of condemnation. I felt like the world would have me believe that it wasn’t a big deal; that it wasn’t even a baby that I had lost, because it was no bigger than a poppy seed. I was in counseling at the time, and my counselor was so helpful in giving me a framework for thinking about my pain. She reassured me that I was absolutely entitled to grieve my loss (and to me it was a very real loss), no matter what the world wanted me to believe. I think the Lord really used that experience to teach me about allowing myself to feel my emotions, to grieve loss and acknowledge pain rather than just pretending that “I’m fine.”

That was also a season of learning to trust in God’s character, even when I don’t understand His plan. A verse that was really comforting to me during that time was Psalm 139:16, which starts, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance.” I clung to the truth that God could see that little unformed baby just as clearly as He can see you or me. Even if no one else could mourn that tiny life in the same way as me, God could.

Another lesson in trusting God’s character came when I found out I was pregnant the second time. In the interest of being honest, I’ll say we ended up getting pregnant right after my miscarriage because we didn’t realize that a woman could be ovulating immediately after a miscarriage and before her period returned. It turns out she can! That was such an emotional roller coaster. I had just accepted that we were not going to be having a baby and had turned my mind towards what our next year of ministry with the Navigators would look like…and then I found out I was pregnant again. I had been feeling so hopeful and excited about really investing in freshmen women at Vanderbilt, only to then realize that I would not get the amount of time with them that I had expected. I was so excited about this new baby, but at the same time I was sad to be “giving up” my expectations for what the next year of my life would look like. I really had to wrestle with accepting that God’s plan for my life was good and right.

As my pregnancy went on, I did come to feel greater peace about this new season that God was leading us into. I also think that God began to really increase my joy, especially through sweet moments like seeing my little man on the ultrasound and feeling him kick. At times I still felt sad for how my life would be changing and fear for how unknown the whole parenthood thing felt, but it was really helpful for me to be honest about naming those emotions when they came. I am so thankful that I had the Lord, my dear husband, and sweet friends to walk with me through whatever I was feeling and help me to face the coming season with hope and courage.

My healthy baby boy, Nathan Judah Voltz, was born December 13, 2016 (5 days earlier than his due date). He is three months old now, and I absolutely love being his mommy. My life right now looks so different than I had expected, but I am so thankful for it and for the truth that God’s plan is so much better than my own.

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“Nathan was just a few days old when we took this picture. My husband, Edgar, is such a wonderful husband and father!” Picture provided by Jessica

2. What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is one that I feel like I learn over and over again through different seasons of my life. I think I could sum it up in two parts: 1) my life is not about me (nor has it ever been) and 2) I’m selfish and often want it to be.

Being a mom means I can no longer choose to do what I want whenever and however I want anymore, because there’s a tiny human who needs me to meet all of his needs and provide stability for his little world. It’s funny, I’ve always thought of moms as just being these inherently selfless superheroes, but I’m learning that selflessness isn’t inherent at all (in fact, I think the Bible tells us that we are instead inherently self-centered).

I think God is building selflessness into me through the daily trial of choosing another over myself. There have been plenty of moments when I am finally about to fall asleep, cozy in my warm bed, when my baby wakes up crying. In those moments, a part of me is really tempted to roll over and hope my son figures it out on his own, but because I love my son, I get up and go to him…time and time again. There was a period of time (after the initial adrenaline rush of parenthood had worn off) when this process of choosing another over myself was really hard for me. Even if I was physically caring for my son, I was constantly thinking about my “needs” and the things I felt like I was missing out on. However, as time has gone on and I’ve adjusted to my new role, it has slowly become easier to put his needs before my own.

I’m slowing becoming a more selfless person, and honestly, I really like the person that motherhood is making me become. I want to look more like Jesus. I was recently reading Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When I read those verses, I thought, “Wow, that kind of humility is what I want my life to be marked by.” I really believe that motherhood is a huge part of God’s training plan for me to grow to look more like Christ.

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“Here’s my sweet 3 MONTH OLD! Where is the time going?!” Picture provided by Jessica

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Nathan is still so little, so I’m not sure that I can think of any specific story to share. However, I love just spending time with him and seeing his little personality come out more and more. He’s just a sweet, happy, laidback, inquisitive, and thoughtful boy. I am getting so much joy right now from the times we spend together while I’m putting him down to sleep. I typically sit with him in my arms, rock him, and sing worship, Disney, or Needtobreathe songs. Often times, while he’s still fairly awake, he will “sing” along with me by making these elongated cooing sounds (I can’t think of a better way to describe them!). It just makes my heart soar. I love thinking about all of the singing our family will do together in the future, whether in times of worship or just playing around in the car. I also love that I get to sing the Gospel over my son and myself every day; it really ministers to my heart!

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“I’m generally a pretty silly person, and I love sharing that with my little guy!” Picture provided by Jessica

4. What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

I think that women today, mothers or not, feel a lot of pressure to “have it all together”. We can feel like we have to excel at everything we do, and if we’re not excellent in everything then we must be failing at everything. I think the heat just gets turned up on all that when you become a mother. We can put so much pressure on ourselves to have perfectly-behaved model babies, a successful career, a tiny waistline, a Pinterest-perfect house that is always clean, healthy home-cooked meals on the table every night, deep relationships with friends that we keep up with regularly, and an ever-grateful husband who just gushes about how good we are at loving them. I get exhausted just thinking about it, and yet I often get caught up in trying to figure out how to meet these impossible standards!

Now that I’m a mom, I feel like I’m even less able to meet these standards. Nothing can thwart the best-laid plans quite like a baby, am I right? So, I’ve been trying to challenge myself to really devote the majority of my effort towards nurturing my son and loving my husband. If I have additional capacity in a given week, it usually goes towards my ministry with college students, but I’m trying to practice discipline by putting my family as my first priority. I want to be a woman who is faithful to work where the Lord has called me, not a woman who is chasing after an unrealistic standard of perfection that I will never meet. Granted, I am so far from having this figured out. If I’m being honest, I still spend way too much time comparing myself to the perfect mommies of Instagram. Thankfully, I am often reminded by my sweet husband and good friends that I do not have to have it all together to try to meet some imaginary standard of perfection – and that is so freeing!

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“Snuggly nights in watching Netflix are some of my favorite times with my little family!” Picture provided by Jessica

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

I think it would go something like this:

“This position requires long hours; must be willing to work weekends, holidays, etc. Actually, there really is no off time included with this position. No experience required; plenty of on-the-job training. This position will quickly help one to develop skills such as problem-solving, advanced negotiation tactics, and flexibility. Daily tasks may include but are not limited to: spending large amounts of time making sure your child is eating enough, handling various bodily functions (which can often be found in places they should not be, like on your clothes), practicing the art of stealthily placing a sleeping baby into his crib, experiencing the small wonders of discovering a big world while you watch your child play, and relishing in lots of baby snuggles. This job can be extremely difficult, but more rewarding than words can describe.”

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

I know that my parenting will certainly be influenced by the way my parents raised me, but because Nathan is still so young, I’m not sure I’ve seen much of my parenting style or tendencies come out yet. I’m also realizing it is a lot easier to think about all of the things I would do differently from my parents, but that’s not to say that my parents didn’t do a lot of good things to love and support me and my sister either.

One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is just how much I value traditions. My family was never much for creating traditions that we held onto for years and years. We were generally very flexible in most things that we did. That flexibility had its benefits, but sometimes my heart really longs to have traditions that I can carry on with my own children. Now that I’m planning my own family’s future, I LOVE that I get to be in control of creating sweet moments that my children can look forward to and expect each year. Most of the traditions that I want to start revolve around Christmas, but I also love the idea of birthday traditions and summer vacation traditions. I want my children to feel a special sense of closeness and security from our family structure, and I think traditions are one way to build into that.

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

I don’t know if I have much sage advice to offer because I’m still such a newbie at this myself, but one thing that comes to mind is just to give yourself so much grace! Adjusting to parenthood is hard all by itself, and when you add on top of that the fact that you are recovering from a major procedure (no matter which way your baby is born) and trying to adjust to chronic sleeplessness, things are just going to be difficult at first! It is totally okay to eat take-out every night, have dirty dishes in the sink, laundry piled up, etc. You will eventually learn to adjust to a new routine for your family, but it doesn’t have to be a week after your baby is born…or even seven weeks for that matter! As an aside to that, when Nathan was first born I made it a practice to never turn down help when it was offered. If people wanted to bless our family by washing our dirty dishes, I totally let them. It made such a difference to have people who were willing to help us!

As far as practical goes, I would say don’t let your guard down when it comes to your baby’s bodily functions. I swear, every time I think that I don’t need to throw a burp cloth over my shoulder because surely my child won’t spit up on me, I end up with the biggest trail of spit up running down my shirt. The same goes for little boys with peeing. The moments when I think I’m safe, that surely my son won’t pee when I open his diaper, are the times that I end up using my hands to block a huge stream of pee from covering the walls of the nursery! But then again, maybe my child is just a prankster!

sleepy mommy and Nathan

“This was my reality when Nathan was first born! I was exhausted all the time and needed so much help.” Picture provided by Jessica

Wrap-Up

Jessica’s answers were all so real and so wise, but one of my favorite things that she talked about was how hard it is to always put someone else’s needs over your own. This is something that I know I really struggled with when Henry was first born, and it is still a struggle now, as I’m sure it will probably always be. We are inherently self-centered, so I know the Lord uses motherhood to teach us selflessness along with about a million other things.

Thanks for answering my questions, Jessica! Your honesty and wisdom is so appreciated, and I loved reading your motherhood journey.

What was your favorite thing that Jessica said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

Anna Maria Headshots

Anna Maria and I go waaaay back. I’m talking went to pre-school together, rode our bikes around our neighborhood, and had a backyard band back because she was my neighbor. We would play outside for hours and hours together with her little sister. She has always been the sweetest, most genuine person. She is also an incredible actress. I will never forget watching her as the stepmother in Cinderella when we were in the 6th grade. Now, she is off auditioning and acting, so I got to take her acting headshots. Catching up and taking her pictures was so much fun, and she is so photogenic!!

Anna Maria has a vlog, and Open Hands, Open Home Photography was featured on it. Check that out here. You can also visit her website here.

Anna Maria Mollica Headshot 1 WM

Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

Anna Maria Mollica Headshot 4 WM

Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

Anna Maria Mollica Headshot 6 WM

Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

Anna Maria Mollica Headshot 7 WM

Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

Anna Maria Mollica Headshot 2 WM

Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

Anna Maria Mollica Headshot 3 WM

Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

The Open Hands, Open Home Spring Special key word is NEIGHBOR.

Motherhood Monday – Kim R.

This Monday brings Kim R. to the blog for this week’s Motherhood Monday!!

Meet Kim

Kim and her husband, Dave, head up the adult discipleship ministry at our church. My freshman year of college, they came and spoke at my college ministry’s spring retreat, and they are good friends with my former college minister and his wife. When we got to our new church and connected the dots, it was such a cool way to see the Lord’s hand in our circumstances. Kim is one of the most hospitable people I have ever gotten to be around. She is very intentional with her time and with the people around her. As she will explain later, their family has a lot of rhythms in place. Getting to know Kim over the past few months has been such a treat for me! I absolutely love Kim’s story. You won’t want to miss her motherhood journey!

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

So my name is Kim, and I have three kids. I have a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a nine-year-old.  My husband and I waited five years after being married before we started to think about having kids.  Once we started trying, I was diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome.  This news was a little bit shocking to me because leading up to this point I just had no clue. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office after an ultrasound and the technician looking at me and saying, “You’re going to have a hard time having children if you can have children at all.”  I was devastated, but willing to do anything to begin creating a family.

Our first child was conceived on Clomid after a few months, and it seemed my body responded to that treatment.  I was thrilled, and nine months later we welcomed our first daughter, Emma, into the world. We had always wanted to have more than just one child, so when Emma turn two we decided to start trying for our second child thinking we would use Clomid again and things would be fine.   A few months turned into a few years of struggling with infertility. My body was no longer responding to Clomid or other low-cost infertility treatments. We had decided we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on other options, but after two years of trying we were drained and tired.  I remember being so frustrated with God because I was totally open to other ways of adding to our family but I just had this heart desire to birth another child. I remember telling God that He either needed to help me conceive one more time or to take this desire away. I would be fine with either outcome, but living in the limbo was awful.

We had contacted a local attorney to begin the process of a domestic adoption. Also during that time, our church had a bunch of women that were struggling with infertility. They had a service one Sunday where they asked anyone struggling infertility to come up and be prayed for. I was very hesitant since that week I had gotten news from our infertility doctor that they had done everything they could do and my body was just not producing any eggs, but we went up and were prayed for anyway. I left still feeling discouraged and without hope but pressing forward into looking at adoption. Two weeks later, I began waking up in the morning feeling very different as if something was off. From that moment, I just knew that I was pregnant even though I knew it was not a possibility.  I took a pregnancy test, and it came out positive. I remember calling my infertility doctor saying that I thought I was pregnant, to which they said, “Well come on in and we will check it out, but you were just here and we don’t think that’s possible but we will look.”

Sure enough, when I went in for the official test, I was pregnant. My doctor looked at me and said, “This doesn’t make sense, even from your scans there’s nowhere showing where the egg came from.”  We choose to believe that God intervened and, through a miracle, allowed me to conceive. Our second daughter was born nine months later. We named her Izzie, which is another form of the name Isaac, which means laughter. There was much laughter in our household when we realized we would have one more child.

Our journey to growing our family didn’t end with Izzie. Through all of the struggles with infertility, God certainly laid it on our hearts the passion for adoption. When Izzie was one, I took a trip to Haiti where I met a little boy named Frankie, who at the time was nine months old. I came home from that trip telling my husband that I thought we needed to start an adoption through Haiti.  Haiti was always special for me because in high school I took a trip there in a difficult season in life, and it totally changed me. I’ve always had a heart for the country, and it was so neat to see how God would open doors for our third child, Frankie, to join our family.

The adoption process through Haiti took a long time. We knew it would be at least a four-year-journey to get him home, but we were okay with that. Two years into our adoption process with Frankie, the earthquake hit. He was in Port-au-Prince at the time. The home where he was staying with missionaries and other children sustained much damage, but everyone was safe. During that time President Obama granted humanitarian parole to anyone that was in the adoption process in Haiti. Two weeks later our son was flown on a military plane into Orlando, Florida, where we flew to pick him up.  We went from thinking we had two more years of waiting for him, and within two weeks he was in our home.  From that day, we have been a family of five.

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The Rhodes family of 5! Picture provided by Kim

2.What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is, no matter what season you’re in as a parent or a mom, embrace it. Don’t wish for the next season. Be present in the season you’re currently in.  In the early years of newborns and toddlers, so many hours of my day were spent around surviving and waiting until they got a little older. I wish I could go back and tell myself, “Enjoy it more.” Be present more because the season does pass, and it passes by so quickly.

So, if you’re waiting on your first child to arrive, go out on dates, take a trip, go to a lot of movies. If you’ve got young ones in your home, know it’s okay that you can’t get out and do things that other people can do. Sometimes you have to miss things because the kids just can’t take it with their nap schedule or the stage their in.  Don’t let resentment built up and continue to imagine what could be. Find contentment in what is.

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

I probably have 1 million stories.  This question is a hard one for me.  I think today looking around my table with three kids that are now fully functioning. They can buckle their own seat belts, they can wipe their own butts. If they’re hungry, they can go to the pantry or the refrigerator and figure out what they want to eat.  I think that’s the sweetness of it all. Waking up each day finding ourselves in family together and being thankful and realizing it’s by the grace of God that we get to be who we are.  I think that’s my sweetest story.

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The Rhodes kiddos. Picture provided by Kim

4.What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

One of my biggest challenges as a mom is to still be who God created me to be while also helping each of my kids with their own personalities and passions to be who God created them to be.  I want them to look back on their time in our home as the Rhodes family and feel like we created mission and rhythms.  I want them to value things that are important, and I want them to live with a kingdom passion to know they can go out into the world and do anything that God puts on their heart for them to do.  Some days I think I do well at equipping them, other days I feel like I fail miserably. That’s one of my biggest struggles right now.

Another challenge is not feeling guilty for taking time out for myself.  Regardless of what season your kids are in, it’s really important to take care of yourself first and then your kids.  So, if you need some time during the week to be alone, then leverage your resources to make that happen. If you need to physically exercise or get a workout in, make a time and resources available to allow you to be able to do that. If you need conversation with other people during a day of your week, make time and leverage your resources to allow you to do that. And when you are in those moments where you’re investing in just yourself, enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty. You will be a better mom because of it. You deserve it.

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Their dog, Louie, snuck in this one! Picture provided by Kim

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

Under paid CEO of the Rhodes family.

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

So growing up I lived in a home where my mom wasn’t very organized. Our house was just always cluttered and you could pull open a drawer and there be crumbs. Part of my personality is that I like things clean and organized, minimal and efficient. My husband always jokes with me that if somethings not useful it gets thrown out or sent to Goodwill. He often worries one day he’ll wake up at Goodwill :-).

But it is interesting it seems that I’ve become opposite of what I grew up in. Because that’s what I desire so in my parenting today, I don’t want to live too structured to where my kids don’t feel like they have freedom. So finding that balance is a thing I often work really hard to do, to have both structure and spontaneity inside of our home, work and play.

rhodes-family

Another picture including Louie! Picture provided by Kim

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

Wisdom – Rhythm leads to predictability, predictability leads to security, security leads to significance, and significance leads to success.

So, my first big advice as you begin to have your family is to set rhythms in place for your family and children.  I loved using baby wise because it was so helpful to just set some rhythms, and even if we got away from those on certain days, I always knew where to return to.  Our children, whether they’re newborns or teens, need a sense of rhythm and predictability in their lives to orbit from. That’s been hopefully the biggest contribution I’ve given to our family in being successful.

My second encouragement would be to always, in whatever season of life you find yourself in, find someone who’s older and wiser than you and just ask them questions about parenting and what has worked for them. That has been so helpful in each stage of my parenting journey. I always try to find another woman who I respect, whose life I look at and I would like to imitate and just asked for advice. It doesn’t mean you have to follow it, but just always being open to ask others what they think is a very powerful tool that I think sometimes as women we can get insecure and stop asking. I think we miss out on a lot when we don’t seek wisdom from other people that we trust.

My last piece of advice is to know who you are as a family. We worked really hard as a family to create a family mission statement, what it means to be the Rhodes family, and we have a list of five values that as the Rhodes family are the values that we have for one another. We truly try to live into those every day.  It’s probably been the most important thing that has been the biggest foundation for our family. It’s definitely worth fighting for your family language. I often encourage many young moms to create these for their family.

Here’s what they are just in case you wanted to know:

rhodes-family-values

Picture provided by Kim.

Practically – Start going out to eat a lot. Go watch movies at a movie theater. Take a trip. Do you things outside the home that you want to do because the next few years you are going to be more restricted.

Buy butt paste.  Invest in some good nipple cream if you’re going to nurse. Ask some other new moms what their favorite product is and why.  Get ready for Baby Einstein videos, the Wiggles, and miss Patty Cake was also a fun one around our home back in the day.

Wrap-Up

I look up to Kim so much, and I loved so many of her words here. When she talks about rhythms and family values, that is something that she really does live out with her family. She and her husband, Dave, teach those things to adults and families at our church, and it has been so cool to see that be the way they live their life, as Sam and I try to do something similar with our young family. One of my favorite things she talked about is embracing where you’re at in your motherhood journey. So often I find myself looking into the future, anticipating something else, but I don’t always look around at where I am and appreciate it for what it is.

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Kim!! Your life and your words encourage and inspire me as a young mom!

What was your favorite thing that Kim said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or who would benefit from reading Kim’s words? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

 

Motherhood Monday – Ashley C.

Happy Monday, friend! It’s time for another mom to take the plunge and answer some of my motherhood questions. This week’s mom is Ashley C.

Meet Ashley

Ashley is one of my husband, Sam’s, cousins. While we don’t get to see each other all that often, it is always a treat when we do. Ashley is so sweet and extremely thoughtful. The love she has for her little one, Isaac, is so evident. As you’ll read below about Ashley’s story, we have loved seeing the Lord’s hand in their family. Sam and I have prayed for them as they have been faithful in seeing the Lord fulfill their passion and desire. I love seeing stories of the Lord’s faithfulness in those around me, and Ashley’s story is definitely one of those stories.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

Not long after Micah and I were married we started trying to have a family. Unfortunately we soon discovered that this would not come easy to us. We spent the next 7-8 years working with fertility specialists, trying on our own, and just taking breaks to enjoy our marriage. In 2014 after lots of prayer we felt that God was telling us our family would be built through adoption. I immediately told God, “just not foster care!”  I just couldn’t imagine that for us. The thought of loving a child and then possibly losing them was just too much for me to bear. BUT God had other plans. We had all of our paper work filled out and ready to submit to an adoption agency and we just felt something was off. God was putting foster care everywhere in our paths. We had a precious boy in our Awana class at church that was in foster care, some friends from church has just adopted their two children through the foster system, and another friend from church actually worked at our local DHR as a social worker for foster children. We just couldn’t get away from it. So after more prayer we went into a meeting with our friend from church at DHR and left knowing without a doubt that this is what we were supposed to do. From there we applied to be foster/adoptive parents, took the required classes, readied our home and had numerous home studies and back ground checks. Then we waited. We were approved and liscensed as foster parents in November 2014. We received the call that forever changed our lives on January 29th, 2015. It’s a BOY!! I will never forget that phone call or the first time we met our precious boy. He was 6 months old and absolutely perfect. He is now 2 1/2. We have spent the past two years having home visits, birth parent visits, and court dates. Its been a roller coaster of emotions but so worth it. He brings us so much joy and we know without a doubt he was meant to be our son. We got to officially make him ours December 14th, 2016. We are so thankful for the seasons of unknowns and waiting. It has tested our faith and made us stronger. God never once left us, and we are forever changed by our journey.

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Y’all. This one just makes me tear up. Bless the Lord! Picture provided by Ashley

2.What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

Being Isaac’s mommy is the most rewarding, amazing thing I have ever had the honor of doing, but it can be the toughest too. As a mom I have awesome days where I feel like I have this mom thing figured out and I’m rocking it. Then there are the days I cry after I put him to bed because I feel like I am messing it all up. Luckily our littles love us no matter what. I have learned to embrace the good and the bad days because even in the midst of the really tough days I can always find joy. It’s in his smile, hugs, his little voice saying “I love you mommy!”

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Little man! Picture provided by Ashley

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Every time I pick Isaac up from somewhere he has been without me (school, church, family), he always greets me with an excited, “Hi Mommy!!” and a hug around the neck. Time always pauses for just a moment when we look at each other, hug, and say “I love you.”

4.What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

It’s the mom guilt. As a working mom, I miss out on a lot, and that’s really hard. I want to be there for everything, but that just hasn’t been apart of God’s plan for our lives right now. But we are so blessed with the daycare/school he attends. He loves his teacher and his friends, and he has learned SO much. He amazes me everday with how smart he is.

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Big boy! Picture provided by Ashley

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

  • Story teller
  • Chef
  • Boo-boo kisser
  • Play mate
  • Discipliner
  • Tickle monster.
  • Best Job Ever.

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

I don’t have one big thing that stands out. It’s lots of little things weaved throughout that I notice as we are loving and teaching our little guy. Something I will say or do that hits me out of nowhere my dad or mom did that or said that as I was growing up. The one thing I HOPE to pass on/instill in Isaac that my parents did in me is how to love others. We were brought up to love everyone regardless of race, social standing, differences, ect. I am so thankful to them for this.
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I could eat him up. Picture provided by Ashley

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

Enjoy every day. Don’t be so hard on yourself. The house, laundry, dirty dishes truly will be still be there the next day. Enjoy your baby!

When you find a bottle/sippy cup under the couch or seat in the car ( and you will) just toss it. Its not worth it. I promise.

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The sweetest little family. Picture provided by Ashley

Wrap-Up

As I was reading over Ashley’s answers, her trust in the Lord’s plan is so encouraging! Like she said in the answer to her motherhood journey, her faith has been tested, but how beautiful it is to see her on the other side! Our Heavenly Father has a plan for each and every one of us, and that includes our family, and we can TRUST Him in that. Ashley’s story just reminds me of how faithful He is, and I love it!

Thank you so much, Ashley!! We have loved watching your family’s story play out so far, and your trust in the Lord makes it even more beautiful to see.

What was your favorite thing that Ashley said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or can relate to Ashley’s story? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

Motherhood Monday – Judith P.

This week’s Motherhood Monday guest is my sister-in-law, Judith!

Meet Judith

I met Judith for the first time when I was on the way to the beach with Sam and his family. We stopped at Judith’s house in Troy and got to see her students’ perform Grease (she is a high school theatre teacher). We stayed at her house for the night then headed to the beach! She rode with Sam and me to the beach, and I really got to know her sweet spirit and kind heart. Since then, we have shared a lot of memories from holidays to beach trips, weddings to late-night Dairy Queen runs. We became moms about 8 weeks apart. My nephew, Henry’s cousin, and Judith’s son, Crosby, was born about 8 weeks before Henry. We are so excited to see the two of them grow up together! Since having Crosby, I really feel like I have seen Judith truly come to life. She loves being a mom, and the love she has for Crosby is so obvious in her care for him.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

To be honest, I always thought I would wait to have kids later in life. You see, I had dreams of moving to New York City after college and pursuing a career in theatre. But, as we all know, God typically has something better up His sleeve. When I finally submitted my hopes and plans to him in 2012, He took me in a different direction. Suddenly, my desire to hack it out in New York seemed more scary than exciting. Instead, a simple life in the country with a sweet husband and babies crawling on the floor looked exponentially more appealing. Enter: Brantley Park! My husband and I got married in November of 2013 and I landed a job teaching high school theatre in a perfectly quaint, southern town! We waited two years before trying for a child—but let me tell you, those free ovulation calculator apps really work! We became pregnant almost instantly, praise the Lord. In June of 2016 our lives changed forever when we met our son, Crosby Brantley Park: 6 lbs, 8 oz, 19 inches long. Absolute perfection.

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Judith calls this one “Life Before Kids,” saying, “note my perfectly curled hair and makeup which is far less likely to occur these days.” Picture provided by Judith

2.What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

I’d have to say the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my six short months of motherhood is that I fall way down on the list of important people.  You know those “I Am Second” videos, where celebrities share their journeys of faith, admitting to be second to God? I think I’ve learned that I am third or fourth or fifth. After God, Brantley, Crosby, (and sometimes even my students), I find my spot. I’ve discovered that selflessness is synonymous to being a wife and mother. It’s not always easy, and I fail every day in small ways.  Thank God for grace and that babies love their mommies even if they choose to take an extra-long shower with the Pack N’ Play outside the bathroom door.

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Their hospital did a photoshoot after Crosby was born, and the pictures were the sweetest! Picture provided by Judith

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Crosby has recently learned how to reach out to people with both hands if he wants to be picked up. I’ll never forget the first time he reached out for me: eyes wide, and a grin on his face from ear to ear. His daddy was holding him at the time and, no offense to Daddy, but there’s just something about Mama! I had been at rehearsal for several hours after a long day of teaching. I was drained, but the moment my boy reached out for me, I felt complete. Wanted. Needed. Fully appreciated. Alive.

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Sweet, sweet family. Picture provided by Judith

4.What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

For me, the biggest challenge of being a mom is not necessarily the mom part—but the being everything else AND a mom, part. As a high school theatre director, I’m accustomed to wearing several hats. I am costume designer, set constructor, sound technician, stage manager, acting coach, choreographer, lighting girl— you name it. But for some reason, since having Crosby, I find it so hard to be everything else on top of being his mom. It’s hard to be a good wife- and a mom. A good teacher- and a mom. A good friend- and a mom. He is my priority. He comes first. If my grandmother calls, but Crosby is asleep in my arms, I don’t answer even though I’d love to chat with her. If an important email comes in from work, but Crosby needs a bath, I don’t reply immediately even though it’s expected. If my husband has plans to take me to dinner and book a babysitter, but Crosby is sick and needs his mom to hold him, I cancel all plans even though I’d love to spend more time with my husband. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s healthy to have a life outside of your child, but right now my heart’s desire is to care for this perfect gift the Lord gave me. I feel honored to have been given that responsibility. But the hats are stacking up.

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

Applicant must have the capacity to love deeply, fiercely, and without ceasing.

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A face that is easy to love! Picture provided by Judith

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

My family was communicative. I was told every day, several times a day, that I was loved and that my parents were proud of me. When we got in fights, it was expected to ask for forgiveness before the matter was settled. At the dinner table, we were encouraged to talk about our day and name one thing we learned. We read aloud at night and always said our prayers together before bed. I love that aspect about my family. I hope to bring Crosby up in a communicative household where he feels safe to share his fears and his dreams.

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I love that little nephew of mine! Picture provided by Judith

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

  • At first, they sleep a lot. Take advantage of this!!!
  • Take mental pictures! One day, Facebook and Instagram will be obsolete and you may have to rely on your own memory, heaven forbid. Stop and smell your baby’s head. Stare at them while they sleep. Be engaged. Be present. Soak in the small moments with your child. I have a hunch that they will be the most precious of all.

Wrap-Up

I love what Judith is said about being third, fourth, or fifth. She says that selflessness is synonymous with being a wife and mother. What a mouthful of truth! I love that she also admits that it is hard to do this. I, too, have felt the tension that comes from living a life completely on my own and for myself, coming second behind Jesus, and having to adjust my way of thinking when I got married and again when I had Henry.

Thanks for answering my questions, Jude! Your love for Crosby and being a mom shines, and I love that.

What was your favorite thing that Judith said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

Motherhood Monday – Allison

Andddd Monday is here again, so I’m welcoming Allison to the blog today to tell some of her story as a mom!

Meet Allison

I met Allison this year, and our boys are only about 3 months apart in age!! She and her family are very sweet, and Sam and I have really enjoyed getting to know them better. Allison is the kind of person whose love and care just oozes out of her. The way she loves her kiddos is such a picture of the way that the Father loves his children.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

For the sake of my children and foster childrens’ privacy, I’ll use code names. Spunky is 3, Sweetheart is 1, and Baby Bear is 7 months. We had one biological child, and when Spunky was about 5 months old, my husband and I decided to start the process of being foster parents. We had always talked about adopting one day from someplace far away, but were not in a place to do that at the time. Regardless of where we were financially or otherwise, there are 43 million kids in the world that need parents. We may not have been in a place to do what we had initially talked about when dating (adoption), but we had space in our hearts and home and knew that doing nothing, when we could do something, was not acceptable. We’ve had several foster children come and go, and another biological baby as well, which has made motherhood a very interesting journey. It has been a roller coaster of a ride, but I wouldn’t change it at all. Being a mom is amazing.

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There’s just something about a sleeping baby… Picture provided by Allison.

2. What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

  • You have no control of anything. You can think you have control of things, and sometimes you may have an easy child that fools you into thinking you are doing great and have it all under control, but you don’t. Things change in an instant. A well planned event, doctor’s appointment, Target run, or whatever can turn disastrous or into the best thing ever in a second for a million different reasons. Maybe it’s a sickness, or a meltdown, or an unexpected phone call, or a panic attack from a child who saw something that triggered a bad memory from a broken past, or a wonderful pleasant surprise, but unexpected things and behaviors will happen by/about/from/to your children (this sentence is not grammatically correct, but I couldn’t figure out how to word it! Ha). Always be able to go with the flow and adapt to change. That should be your motherhood motto.
  • Be present and enjoy the moments. Childhood passes so quickly. I look at my oldest now and see a little girl where my little baby once was. Enjoy those late night feedings. Rock them a little longer. Schedules are great (I LOVE them), but snuggling is more important than that Baby Wise schedule. I think fostering has also played into this point, as we don’t ever know how long a child will be with us. Learning to treasure the time you have with your children, whether they are yours forever or not, is so important. Children need to feel cherished.

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Being a foster family, we have caseworkers come periodically to the house to give updates, give little inspections to our home, and check on the child we are caring for at the time. Obviously, this is a time when you want the case manager to observe that you are a real, happy, and put together family. During one of these visits, my daughter wanted to grab a toy from her room upstairs. I told her to go ahead and grab it while I continued getting updates from our caseworker. We spoke for several minutes, and then I began to wonder why my little one was taking so long. I excused myself for a moment to check on her and she was COVERED head to toe in shampoo. She was so proud of herself for getting “cleaned up and taking a shower” (No shower was actually taken. She just covered herself in the shampoo in the shower!). Thankfully our awesome case manager also found the humor in this. It was a simple mess that was very fixable with a bath and gave some good laughs, but I was so worried at the time that I would give off a bad impression from that incident! Parenting is humbling.

4. What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

I think there are many challenges, but the biggest one for you may depend on your personality. I think a lot of introverted moms struggle with having to be “on” all the time. Introverts need a lot of alone time to recharge, and having lots of noise, people holding onto you all the time, and never having that time alone can be a struggle if you do not make an intentional effort of having that time of recharging.

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

Honestly, the job description is different depending on the child and age. Sometimes it’s just bottles, holding, and changing diapers. Other times, it’s running to doctor and therapy appointments multiple days a week, or taking kids to school. Sometimes it’s soothing meltdowns, getting up at night for bad dreams, playing in the yard, or working away from home so your kids can live a better life. Sometimes mothering is letting children making mistakes so they can learn themselves, and sometimes it’s having tough talks about the more difficult subjects in life. Sometimes mothering is joy, other times it’s grieving. It can be frustration, pride, and gratefulness. Sometimes it’s wondering if you handled something the best way, other times its feeling pride and joy when your child does the most selfless action she could think of as a preschooler for a sibling or friend at the playground.  The job involves teaching kids how to be the adults you want them to become. It’s guidance, sacrificing, and loving. Parenting is lovingly putting a child’s needs before your own.

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

I loved how my dad included me in ministry and community work that he did, no matter what age I was. He never viewed helping others and being a dad as separate entities or parts of life, but more as something families do together. He didn’t shy away from hard topics and hard situations, but taught me how to look at people’s circumstances with an objective, but compassionate lens. From the time I was a preschooler, he took me to whatever project, ministry, medical clinic, etc. he was doing and really modeled that this should be a way of life, not something you do occasionally so you can pat yourself on the back and feel good about yourself. He thought helping others and doing missional work should be integrated into your life and should flow naturally out of who you are and what you do. I hope I can incorporate this same way of thinking and living into my children. I want them to think that loving others and helping people is just a way of life, not something that people do every once in a while when there is a food drive at school or a mission trip opportunity at church. I want to show them that life is a mission trip every day and that helping and loving people should flow naturally out of your life. I am not saying I do this on a daily basis, but that is one thing I would really like to carry on to my children.

spunky

Sweet “Spunky” Picture provided by Allison

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

  • If someone found out she was expecting their first child, I would tell her to not stress out! It’s all been done before. It may be a new experience for you, but women have been doing this for thousands of years. Pregnancy can be a um….different process. It can feel weird, beautiful, or whatever other adjective you want depending on your trimester and unique set of circumstances, but there is no need to stress.
  • Just prepare for basics (crib, clothes, diapers, love) and expect nothing to go as you plan. The latter is key to being a chill mom who can adjust to whatever life throws at her, from an emergency c-section, to illness, to tantrums, to any kind of crazy. Learn to adjust your sails however the wind blows at you.

8. Anything else you want to include?

Don’t get caught up in things that don’t really matter. Moms get caught up in debates all the time over truly trivial matters. Cloth vs. disposable diapers, breastfeeding and formula, tv vs. no electronics, homeschooling vs. public school, and a million more arguments are made, blogs topics are written over why one viewpoint is obviously superior, and people on the other side get hurt/insulted/angry. Don’t be like these people. Honestly, it’s so dumb. There are bigger battles in life that are actually moral issues and getting involved in this foolishness* is not guiding our kids to be loving, understanding, and sympathizing adults (which is one of the biggest points that needs to be made in parenthood). Life is short, and kids are only kids for a little while. Focus on your loving and caring for your kids and family and not the homemade baby food vs. beech nut baby food debate.

Also, do not embarrass or ever talk badly about your children on social media. Our children are growing up in an age where there every move is documented for the whole world to see. As an adult, I can say I am so glad this was not part of my life as a child. I would hate to look back and see what I think what would have been posted about me. Make your profile private, and don’t post the junk. Some people may say that’s not living “real”. Guess, what? You can post about your own mistakes, but your children may look back at the posts you wrote about them one day, and it’s not fair to have had a mom who broadcasted your mistakes, punishments, or embarrassing moments. Don’t post anything that might embarrass them one day. Consider using the timehop app to delete or make private things that they may not want the world to know about them in 10 years. I’ve found that is a great way to look back and keep myself in check. I’ll get off my soapbox now…

*(disclaimer: I am not talking about issues that impact, really impact, a child’s wellbeing and safety. There are many, many matters that are opinions and someone’s way of doing things for themselves or personal convictions, and this is what I am speaking about in this paragraph. I am not talking about safety issues or anything seriously relating to a child’s wellbeing. If one of these issues I mentioned really does affect your child’s wellbeing, you are not who I am speaking about in the above paragraph and kudos to you for doing what you need for your child!)

Wrap-Up

One of my favorite sentences in all of Allison’s answer is her simple definition of the word ‘parenting.’ She said, “Parenting is lovingly putting a child’s needs before your own.” Doesn’t this remind you of how the Father loves His children?? He sacrificed His one and only Son to reconcile the rest of His children to Himself. If that’s not lovingly putting His children’s needs before His own, I don’t know what is. I told y’all the love she has for her kiddos looks a lot like the way the Father loves us.

Thank you so much, Allison, for contributing your thoughts for the blog!! Your wisdom really shines through, and I learned a lot from what you said.

What was your favorite thing that Allison said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or someone who can relate to Allison’s story? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

 

Motherhood Monday – Becca J.

I’m really excited to welcome Becca J. to the blog for today’s Motherhood Monday!

Meet Becca

Becca and I met while I was in college. Her husband, Blake (who officiated mine and Sam’s wedding actually), was one of the associate pastors of the college ministry I was involved in. I looked up to Becca from the time I met her on. She is wise, sweet, and gentle. By her life, you can tell that she loves the people around her well. Becca is the newest mom I asked in rounding up answers for this blog series (so far). As she says below, when she answered these questions, she had just had her Thomas 3 weeks and 2 days prior. Becca’s wisdom and trust in the Lord’s faithfulness is what stands out to me in her answers.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

I just had my first child, Thomas, exactly three weeks and two days ago. It’s still hard for me to believe I’m a mom! It all happened so quickly, and yet there were points in the journey that seemed to last forever. Blake and I decided to go off of birth control back in late January. Within the first month, we were pregnant. I remember feeling funny one week, so I picked up a pregnancy test on the way home from work. I took it as soon as I got home, and sure enough, I was pregnant. I stood there in disbelief for about five minutes, then in hysterical tears and laughter for about 30 minutes while walking my dog around our neighborhood. (I’m sure our neighbors thought I was crazy.) I tried to think of a creative way to tell Blake, but I couldn’t contain my excitement, so I just called him and told him while he was at work. The following nine months started out blissful and easy, but the last trimester was slow and exhausting. I was tired of moving so slowly and not being able to breathe. Plus, I had just taken a new teaching job, and preparing current and future lesson plans for maternity leave was quite an undertaking. I started maternity leave at 38 weeks, but day after day passed, and still no baby. I probably walked more in those two weeks than I had throughout the entire pregnancy trying to get that baby out. There were nights of Braxton Hicks contractions, but they would fade away eventually. Then Election Day rolled around, and I already had an appointment with my doctor for that morning. We went in, and (surprise!), I was already four centimeters. They sent us over to the hospital at about 10:30am, and Thomas arrived at 5:52pm. They placed him to my chest, and all my fears of being void of maternal instincts or not having a connection with my baby melted away. I cried and laughed, and cried and laughed some more, and fell in love with that little boy instantly. He was and is such a gift.

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Such a sweet moment. Picture provided by Becca

2. What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

I’ve learned about another layer of God’s love for me. It can be trying to have to be there constantly for this little human who is so needy and dependent, and to not always even know what he needs … and to do it with a patient and gentle spirit. But to remember that my Father has loved me with such inexhaustible patience and gentleness gives me the desire to do the same for Thomas. And it’s not just a past tense, God has loved me this way, type of love. God is continually ministering to my needy, dependent spirit even now, in the middle of the night when I’m incredibly tired and stressed and wondering how I’m going to keep this mothering thing up. That everlasting, continual, round-the-clock faithfulness is still extended to me, and so I can continually lovingly bear with this little one in the same way, even when he is fussy and demanding.

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Along with my answer to number 2, my answer to number 3 also involves God’s love for us. When Thomas was born and they handed him to me, I was just on cloud nine, not paying attention to much of anything besides his face. When they took him from me, I looked down, and there was poop everywhere. EVERYWHERE, people. I didn’t even realize that he had left that little surprise for me while I was holding him. Normally, I would have been grossed out, but I seriously did not care one bit. Blake and I just laughed and then cried some more. When it comes to your child, you don’t mind getting involved with their mess. Even though I’ve been told countless times that God loves me, there is always that lingering thought of His reluctance to get involved with a mess like me. While yes, our sin does sadden God, His grace abounds all the more.

thomas

That face, y’all. Picture provided by Becca

4.What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

I’m sure I’ll experience much greater challenges in the future, but so far, for me, the toughest challenge has simply been trusting that God will make a way for us as parents. He will give me the physical energy and stamina that I need. He will provide for all of our physical needs. He will help us to balance work and family. He will give me the words I need to raise this child in truth and love. Yes, we will make mistakes along the way, but there is no need to be anxious. When I submit everything to the Lord and remember His sovereignty, I can trust that He is good and will make a way.

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

If I had to write a job description for a mom, I would say that the type of person required is someone who abides in Jesus. She doesn’t have to be perfect; she doesn’t have to know babies like the back of her hand; she doesn’t have to have it all figured out. When I go to Jesus, He provides the patience, He provides the wisdom, He provides the perseverance, and He provides the grace. When you look to Him, He equips you to be a mother. He is the ultimate source of all of those nurturing, motherly traits that we moms want to portray the most. So don’t look to yourself in order to be a good mother; and don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes. You’re wasting your energy. Instead, go to Him. Don’t try to draw water from dried up lands; go straight to the source, Jesus Himself.

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Doesn’t motherhood look good on her?? Picture provided by Becca

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

Something that was a big part of my family during my childhood was a love for God’s Word. Our family devotions looked different during each phase of my childhood, but my parents always valued time spent together reading and discussing the Bible. Obviously, that’s hard to do with an almost four-week-old, but I’ve already started listening to the Bible aloud each morning, and as I’m working around the house, I’ll put on sermons and listen with Thomas as he hangs out in the Baby Bjorn. While I didn’t always fully absorb or appreciate what I was hearing at the time, I’m so thankful my parents instilled within me a respect for the Bible. The seeds that they planted have grown into beautiful fruits in time, and I hope the same happens for Thomas.

 7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

One practical tip I would give to a first time mom is to choose things you really like, even if they are a little more expensive, when you’re making your registry. Who knows? Someone may be really generous and purchase it for you, or a group of people may go in together to give you that item. I was blown away by the generosity of our family and friends! If you don’t end up getting something that you need, you can just purchase that item at whatever price works for your budget later. A piece of wisdom I would give is to be confident in your story. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, labor naturally or with the help of medicine, take all of the offered birthing classes or not, own it. Do what is wise for you and your baby. Also, keep an open mind. Labor often does not happen like mothers expect it to; whether you have to be induced, wind up getting an epidural, or labor for hours on end, each story is beautiful. Don’t expect to be completely in control; trust the Lord and take it one step at a time. Just like your baby is ultimately God’s, so are you. Trust Him.

Wrap-Up

It is so evident that Becca (and her husband, Blake) trust the Lord and continue to lean on Him and learn from Him through their parenthood journey. I also love Becca’s job description for a mom when she says, “She doesn’t have to be perfect; she doesn’t have to know babies like the back of her hand; she doesn’t have to have it all figured out.” I told y’all she is wise!! What encouraging words to read. It is such a gift to release ourselves from the standard of perfection when it comes to motherhood.

Thank you so much, Becca!! You encouraged me and challenged me in the best way. I’m infinitely grateful for the times you have spoken into my life, including this interview.

What was your favorite thing that Becca said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or someone who is expecting? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.