Friday, April 30, 2010

He weaves blessing

*At the urging of several of you {dear friends}, an honest look at our week...

This week was an exercise in adjusting my expectations. Not necessarily lowering them... just adjusting them in light of the ages and stages my children are presently at.

Sunday evening through Tuesday morning brought challenging moments, behaviors, situations, and responses. So much so, that Rob and I decided that it was time to take our parenting {and discipline strategy} to another level with Robbie. But it all left me very sad, and not because I think my kids are bad or too much to handle, but because it marks a very definite end to the 'baby' phase. A phase that seems exhausting (and is, physically!) at the time, but once you are looking back on it, you realize that the exhaustion, although sometimes physical, has just been taken to a whole new level. One that leaves you wide eyed in the middle of the night, wondering what you could have done differently with the day that you lived and the way you handled your most important blessings. It's an exhaustion that bears the weight of the knowledge that you are always going to be thinking deeply about your kids, your relationship with them, their active relationship with our Father, and the way each of those things is intricately laced together by the threads of every minute you are given to spend together. Every moment you take to sit them down and teach them something new, or correct an attitude and then a behavior. Every opportunity that you are given, whether you are aware enough to recognize them or too busy to make the most of them, and the effect it has on the whole of their life.

Although I know that Rob and I will fail at being the parents Robbie and Ellie deserve (the best ones! The perfect ones!), it is our fervent prayer that we are always going deeper with Christ so that our parenting naturally reflects life with God to our children. If they catch on to how great our Father is, how much He loves them, what He has done for us all and what their place in His grand story is, then I think we will finally feel the exhaustion begin to lift.

Until then, we have a lot to do. :)

Like I said in my last post, even though the first few days of this week were hard, I trusted that the remainder of the week would bring moments and memories that we would always cherish, not just frustration. And I was right. I trusted God wasn't going to leave me in a heap, wondering if I was really going to enjoy this new phase we are entering into. And while God does reach down and simply touch our lives at times, I also know that sometimes He waits for a willing participant... and that part of the job was mine. To look for the things every day that I needed to remember to celebrate and be thankful for. To expect the best out of my kids. To seek out the blessings that are always around me. To reach out even when I don't feel like I have much to give. To wait on Him and look for Him at times and in places I hadn't before.

The 180 happened the morning after I knelt in front of both kids' closed doors as they slept, and prayed over them. I prayed that God would protect their hearts, give them a sensitivity to things of Him (including discipline coming from us). I prayed that God would help me be very mindful of my own frustration and even anger at times as I shepherd their hearts during the day on my own, and that Rob and I would be strong partners in the times we are able to parent together physically. I prayed that God would open my eyes to the new things that I need to be doing for our children as they grow and change, especially when those things look different from child to child. Ultimately I just begged (for the thousandth time) that my kids would grow up to know and love Him, and by the end of my prayer I was so tired, but I felt my burden lifted as I trusted God to lead me as I walked through each day. Isn't it a miracle when you realize, just after taking in your new view, that the burden you are carrying is 100 times heavier than it was just moments ago, and then in that same instant the entire thing is lifted?

That's what God promises to do again and again. And that is why I have the strength each day to wake up excited for what these days hold, instead of dreading potential tantrums, injuries, and constant needs of all kinds. He walks with us. He is walking with me... carrying me, changing me, moving me, empowering me, humbling me, filling me and enabling me. Every day.

I decided that one of the first things I needed to do was set aside time EVERY DAY in the morning to pray before the kids wake up, and then to plan at least one activity every day that allowed Robbie to run and exert physical energy as freely as possible. The warm weather was very accommodating and we found it easy to get to the Arboretum or park at least once a day. And I found God to be faithful in meeting me every time I came to Him or looked for Him throughout the day.


On this day, we met one of my friends from Bible study and her triplet girls who are a year older than Robbie. I was hesitant because at this age boys and girls are just SO VERY DIFFERENT, and sometimes the contrast leaves boys looking like they are 'misbehaving' when they are really just being boys. My friend encouraged me that they have had their share of behavioral challenges in the last year and that I would be in good company. I'm so thankful for friends who are willing to be honest instead of pretend like they are hero-parents, because that morning at the arboretum with them was encouraging for me. It rebuilt my courage, reminded me that I'm not the only mom wondering if her child is ever going to obey her, and showed me that every public outing is not going to leave me wondering why I even tried. What a blessing.
{Sidenote: her girls WERE in fact perfectly behaved and well-mannered, stroking Ellie gently on the head, offering Robbie their snacks... but I still believe her. Ha!}

What I see most of the time... running away from me!

But he usually comes back on his own... eventually.

And the look on his face when he does reminds me that he is just being a 2 year old boy, not always intentionally defiant.

When I snuggle this sweet thing at night before he falls asleep, he always lays a gentle hand on my shoulder, softly pats it, and whispers sweetly from behind his paci,
"Mommy... best fwiend..."

Yes, it makes me tear up! To be entrusted with his precious heart... oh my.

Growing up before my {lens} eyes


Rob was out late one evening so I spent that afternoon at my parents' house, not trusting myself to practice patience from sun up to sun down all by myself!

We had fun playing in the driveway, just running, crawling and scribbling with sidewalk chalk.

Did I mention he's always on the move?

So sweet most of the time with his baby sister. Getting down on her level for a minute, crawling towards her and waving 'Hi!' with the cheesy grin that ALWAYS makes her laugh.

Answered prayer - finding joy in their sibling relationship. At 10 months and 2 years old. I was thinking later on, years down the road... but I'll gladly take it now!

Holding hands on the concrete

Ellie's quiet spirit brings me peace during the day. I just soak it up. And her chubby, edible cheeks beg to be kissed every time I am near her, and that always sweetens me up.

Mima shows Robbie how to make it 'rain' blossom petals by shaking the branches!

Ellie is introduced to the leaves...

The wonder of a little one just slows your momentum down - this is the first time she is really looking at leaves, feeling their texture, smelling the blossoms. I stopped and snapped picture after picture of her world getting bigger with this new discovery. What a blessing to be able to be present...


What is a week without a park date with Riley?! We wouldn't know, thankfully.

How 2 children can be different in so many wonderful ways, and yet have such a strong bond of friendship is a reminder to me that we aren't all the same... and that's a good thing. It's actually very beautiful.

See the woman on the left with the bubbles? She just might have been my angel with skin on for the day. I don't know her. Robbie enjoyed playing in the bubbles she blew for who knows how long, as the 2 young boys she was taking care of played nearby. She even tried to teach Robbie how to blow through the wand, very patiently I might add, and later helped him onto a big kid swing and made sure he didn't fall as she gently pushed him in the swing next to one of the boys in her care. A sweet reminder that we're all doing our best, and that when the moment presents itself, it can be nearly heroic to step in, entertain, and love on someone else's child.

Robbie's new fascination with wood chips means he is rarely without a 'toy'.

It is really too bad that 2 seconds after I took this picture, he chucked the wood chips in his hand at Riley's belly. No babies were harmed in the making of this blog post! Blessing from this moment: Riley's quick forgiveness.


An in-your-face reminder that God is the One who orchestrates every step of this journey...
My dear friend, Cheryl, has been offered an incredible job in Washington, DC, and plans to accept and move there in less than 3 weeks. It would be impossible for me to explain why this is so awesome. So you'll have to trust me when I say it is evidence that God is not only paying attention to each of us, but He is unfolding a very carefully thought out plan in our lives. The greatest part is that in a matter of hours, she realized that she would be resigning from her current job/position, accepting a new job that starts in mere weeks, moving across the country for at least 8 months, and was told to take a long weekend to go home... which meant she could spend time with family and friends before the big transition as well as be at her own home, to rest and get it ready for the next 8 months. And the awesome part that blessed ME was that she spent her first morning home with Robbie, Ellie and me!

We drove through the Arboretum (it was cold and starting to rain) with coffee for us, munchkins for Robbie, and a milk bottle for Ellie... and just talked about life. Where we have been, where we are going, and how awesome God is throughout all of it.
You guessed it, more blessing and encouragement.

This guy loves his Auntie Cheryl!

"Blow a kiss!"

I am so sad {selfishly} that Cheryl continues to not be a physical part of our daily life with this new job development out east. Something she said recently has stuck with me; each moment is a gift and we don't know how long we have these opportunities. Cheryl and I have lived literally 3 blocks apart for the last 3 years, she has seen us through ALL of our life as a new little family, including our wedding, Robbie's birth and surgery, and Ellie's birth. I never imagined that she would be absent from these months I have spent figuring out how to be a mom of two instead of just one... I thought I would always be able to put the kids in the stroller and walk 5 minutes to her house when I needed or wanted to. I have known her since I was in junior high, and even had the chance to work with her at the same association a few years ago. We have laughed about the fact that we are the only ones who have known the other in every aspect of our lives (family, church, work, personal life). It is so rare to have that with anyone at all!

I just wish my kids had more time with her.
Although I'm praying for amazing things for her in DC, you know I am praying her back home!


And finally, because this was all just getting a little too heavy...

...what happened this morning when Mom and I tried to get Robbie to pose for a picture in the morning light by Miss Kim Lilacs. It's sort of what we get... doing this to a boy is just asking for it.

Story of my life right now: He was, however, pleased to sit by himself on the ledge, holding his own piece of the bush, for the amount of time he wanted to. Then we all moved on {and learned our lesson}.

This doesn't count as physical exertion, but it WAS just plain fun! Playing with a train set at a cute bookstore in a quaint little town nearby after brunching (is that a word?) together. Nothing like a change of pace to keep the kids guessing.


I hope this is encouraging to you... whether you find yourself in a similar place in life or not. I needed the reminder to adjust my expectations, believe the best about others including my kids, take my cares to God, be filled by His Spirit, and be aware of the blessings all around me, even on the most challenging days.

*If you have similar stories, or a response to this post, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.


kelly said...

parenting is such a big job. more challenging than i ever dreamed it could be. it's non-stop. exhausting. frustrating at times. having a two year old boy...that's a whole beast all to itself! i know. i just have to keep reminding myself that my response to him is teaching him how to respond to others. it's hard to "die to self" every day - all day. hang in there, ashley. you're doing a great job, and even at the times when you make mistakes (we all do) -- in those times, your heart is so pure. i wish we lived next door and our boys could get their rowdy 2yo energy out together. and we could just ;) hugs to you!

RyanLaurenAbby said...

Ashley, oh how I wish we lived closer to each other. We are so completely in the same phase as each other right now. We are not dealing with discipline of our boy, YET, but of our precious daughter. She has become sneaky at times and manipulative at other times. It has been a journey to say the lease to learn how to discipline with the love of our Father CONSISTENTLY. Ryan and I are on a journey to raise our children to respect and honor their Father as well as their earthly parents and it isn't easy to say the least! What I do know is that the Lord is forgiving when we aren't as patient or loving as we should be. I always pray that the Lord would guard Abby and Joshua's hearts from my impatience and mistakes. Be encouraged that you are not alone and we are on this journey together! (from afar!)

designHER Momma said...

ugh - now don't you feel so much better? Thank you for being honest - I can totally relate. Nobody ever said this Motherhood thing would be easy.

love and prayers.

Parker said...

ooh i couldn't agree more about lowering your expectations. patience is key--although I lose mine regularly. I think God gives us children to humble us. You have encouraged me to pray over my children--especially when they are doing something that is particularly grinding.

btw-if you are every out in d.c. visiting your friend come see us!

Dave, Ninny and Isla said...

Kudos to you for being so open. I think "adjusting" was a great way to explain your feelings. I teared up when I was reading the part about Robbie patting your back and saying " fwiend." What more could you ask for? Your a great mom honey. Hang in there. The Lord will give you the grace.

the howards said...

ashley! You have a way of expressing in words exactly how I feel MOST of the time in my heart but cannot express it nearly as eloquently. Hang in there...keep at it. I have felt so convicted lately of not praying over my day BEFORE it starts (which is tricky when your kids get up early), but when I do things go SO much better. I am going to attempt to do your thing. Prayer at their doors before they awake...we will see how it goes. I'll be thinking and praying for you this week. keep on!

Anonymous said...

Wow, how neat that you've kept up w/ Cheryl. I haven't seen her in so long. That's great that she has a new opportunity in DC. Wish her my best!

--Amy (Haugen) Martin