The things we should be telling each other more often

We gathered around the dining room table, a tissue box set right in the middle. This group of women was her village, come to say goodbye as she prepared to move away, to affirm, to validate friendship, share hearts and love.

Taking turns, we reminisced of meeting, of fun times that brought rounds of laughter and joking, of moments of deep friendship forged in times of trial that brought tears.

 

13433[2983]We told her how much she was loved and valued and all the things we would miss in not being able to live life together as we had been used to. And even though goodbye was imminent, our hearts were full.

Listening as each woman shared, I thought…We need to do this more! To not get “used to having,” taking for granted the blessing of friendship and love in our lives. But to purposely take the time to tell our families and our friends the things we

value

love

are thankful for

and would miss if we didn’t have them.

 

 

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(our last official book club night of the 5 Mamas!)

 

Read about one part of my village and so many others in The Mom Village.

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If you or a mama in your life has loss this Mother’s Day…

I wrote this post last year remembering my first Mother’s Day on the other side of loss.  This year my Samuel’s day lands on Mother’s Day, and my heart is heavy for the mamas who are facing this day with fresh grief. I know from my own experiences and speaking to so many others who have gone through this, that what people say and do in these moments has such lasting impact.

When someone has a pregnancy loss, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. Many women suffer in silence because sometimes people don’t acknowledge that this mama has lost her child. Her child, whether at 6 weeks gestation or 6 months, a day after she found out she was expecting or the day after she gave birth, this is her baby.

What can we do to be a comfort to these mamas? These are just a few things I think are important to remember…

~say “I’m so sorry.” or

~”My heart breaks for you.”

That’s it. You do not need to explain it away for them, or give them a theological sermon on suffering, or a reason why. Just tell them how sorry you are.

I’ll never forget the well meaning woman who patted my arm and told me to try not to think about it. Or my dear friend, who was crying after the loss of her son, and someone said to her, “Oh, you’re still on that?”  But, of even MORE significance were all the sentiments of sympathy, validating my loss, valuing my grief, and showing me love during that time.

~Recognize that they have lost a child. Say “your baby”, or the name they had chosen. Value the life that was lost.

~Let her share…let her talk about it, feel, cry, whatever she needs. Listen. And keep doing this, because there is no time limit on grief.

loved

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~Do something. Drop off a meal, bring flowers, give her a gift to remember the baby by. If she has other children, take them for her or help her in the house. Saying, “let me know if you need anything,” doesn’t help. Find something to do and fill the need without being asked. Remember that she is suffering emotionally and physically. It is very difficult to recover from a pregnancy cut short by loss.

When I was in the hospital, two of my dear friends came into the room with my most treasured gift of that time, a beautiful memory box and a soft, brown bear. Still they sit on my dresser- the box filled with cards and memories of the love I received during that time. I can still picture the flowers and cards, the meals, the precious faces of the visitors who came and loved on me and barely said a word. The people who cared for my littles and cleaned my house and did my laundry. The cards and calls that came randomly throughout the years of those who reached out to let me know…I remember.  You don’t know how something you do could comfort so much.

And if that mama is YOU this year, remember…

Your loss is real. Let yourself grieve. Give yourself grace and rest and time. It does get easier.

You are not alone. There are so many who have gone through what you are experiencing. Don’t be afraid to share your pain with others.

You are loved and valued. Our Father longs to comfort you and strengthen your heart. Ps. 73:26 ‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the rock and firm strength of my heart and my portion forever.’

This year, as I celebrate my very full, very loud life with my boys, I still feel the loss of what could’ve been. I don’t know if that ever goes away. So, I’ll be thinking of all you mamas who know that feeling, too, and praying for comfort and peace in the midst of it.

 

Resources available for healing and help

Building Your Home

Right up there with coffee, chocolate, and new baby smell is the scent of freshly cut wood as my favorite. I just love walking into new construction or a project, seeing what isn’t yet complete, but imagining the finished work.

Proverbs 14:1 says,

Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.

My house, my home and family, is my domain, my place of influence from where all else flows. Even though I desire to be wise in the building, many times I find myself tearing it down brick by painful brick.

How do I, desiring to be that woman of wisdom, build my house?

I build when I take time to spend with the Lord in worship and prayer. I read His word and study it for living a life out of a security that rests in His unfailing love for me. This is my FOUNDATION for all else.

I build when I set boundaries and make margin in my life, taking the time I need with my husband and family. I use this margin to rest and focus on the most important things in my life. These are my WALLS that protect me from burning out and turning into a stressed out nightmare for my family. This keeps a peaceful tone in my home.

I build when I make the effort in relationships with other women, allowing myself to be real and vulnerable. These are the WINDOWS that allow others to see me and keeps me from feeling isolated and alone in my motherhood journey.

I build when I receive counsel, letting people into our lives, letting go of misconceived ideals of perfection. I build when I get rid of negative influences that harm my family. These are the DOORS to my life, doors that open my family up to good things and doors that close, protecting us when necessary.

I build when I cry out to God in prayer, praising Him, and entering into thanksgiving for all I have. This is my ROOF, my covering, my atmosphere changer. It keeps me from complaining, comparing, and despairing. It opens up my life to the power of God and an atmosphere of joy and gratefulness in my home and family.

I build when I invest my time in things that matter, when I am present with my family. I am truly listening and seeing the heart needs of my husband and children, loving them the way I want because I have built my house on the correct foundation. I build when I teach them to be present in things that really matter as well, taking the atmosphere in our home to the world outside us. This is the INSIDE of my house, the features and beautiful touches I build into our lives for my family, treasuring them and my calling as a wife and mother for all that it is.

Power in the Gathering

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Claire was a guest writer at Raising Generations Today this week:

Every mama was so different and each one had a story, one that had shaped them into who they are as a mother. The room was filled with all types and ages, from glowing mamas expecting new babies all the way through grandmas walking that road of grace-filled perspective. It was a get-to-know you night before we started our discussions of the book, Triggers. What an amazing experience to see the thread weaving through each of us, the common factors tying our hearts together. I could see almost immediately the power that was in the gathering. It was the ultimate example of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12… Read more here…

stickers that won’t stick

“The stickers only stick if they matter to you.”imag0517315235

I sat down to read Max Lucado’s book You Are Special to my two youngest boys. In the story the townspeople go around giving each other these stickers, either plain ones or stars, depending on how pretty or talented they were or what they could do. We finished the book, and they ran off to conquer the newest foe in the battle. I sat there, reminded of how recently I had seen a comment on facebook that was directed at me. Immediately following that, I could feel the pull of that rejection tainting my other interactions with thoughts of that “sticker” that was put on me. Oh, how we hurt one another with stickers that we put on each other. Labels that stick and cause us to believe lies about ourselves, our children, or our marriages. Even labels we put on ourselves when we compare ourselves to other people.

John 8:31-32 says, “If you abide in My word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

The little guy in the story sees that the stickers don’t stick on his friend, and he wants what she has. So she sends him to his maker. And the truth of HIS words set him free from the stickers put on him.

“The stickers only stick if they matter to you.

The more you trust my love,

the less you care about their stickers.”

His love, His words, His truth- it’s what sets us free from the labels given to us, free from the lies we believe. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out all fear.”

Fear of not being enough

Fear of not being able to change

Fear of not being accepted…

Because of HIS love we are enough; we are becoming more and more like Him; we are accepted exactly the way we are. And as we become more sure in His love, we find the stickers don’t stick as much. We don’t believe the lies. We are free from the labels as we trust in His love for us.

 

/thrive/

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Claire is a guest writer at Raising Generations Today. Here’s an excerpt from her post:

Have you ever heard the phrase “going from strength to strength?”  I found it in the definition of the word thrive.
I hear that word a lot in my circles. We want to thrive in our lives. We don’t want to just get through our days feeling like they are passing us by. In our lives as wives, mothers, in our jobs, in our ministries, and in our relationships, we want to thrive….read more here

 

Look Up

At the end of a crazy week, Matt and I found a few hours to get away. Heading down to the beach, we were surprised to find the parking lot not only full of cars but people sitting and standing all around. We thought maybe something was happening on the pier until we noticed the common factor. Their phones. Every single person was looking down at their phones. Every one. I was so confused until Matt said that maybe they were playing Pokémon Go or something similar (This is NOT a commentary for or against the game).

We walked through the crowd out onto the pier where the sun was glistening off the water, and the waves were hitting the beach. Hot and windy, it was my favorite time to be near the water and I was loving every minute of it. Eventually, there was a steady stream of people walking towards the end of the pier.  A mom and dad passed us, a little girl on her daddy’s shoulders. The sun was hitting her bouncing curls just right as she pointed at the seagulls and chatted away. Only they weren’t listening. They barely looked up except to make sure they were walking the right way.

And then I got mad. And judgmental. So mad that I wanted to yell at them, LOOK UP!

 Don’t you see what you’re missing?

 Look up!

That scene stuck with me, only instead of telling those people, I felt convicted MYSELF. How many times have I missed the beauty around me, either in creation or in the faces of my loved ones, because I was distracted by something less important? DSC_0039

Will you join me today? In the midst of lists, and work, and even fun things, let’s look up. Be present to see, really see, the faces and beauty around us.

Broken with Him

FB_IMG_1463492294094It’s been a long day. I know my hubby had an equally long day, so I’m sure he was ecstatic to receive my texts as he was heading home.

“I am so done with your children. I know you’re tired too, but please be prepared to do all the interacting with them.”

“When are you going to be here???”   (Yeah, I’m sure he was rushing home to encounter me in all my loveliness at this point.)

“They have nothing. Nothing. Don’t even think of letting them look at a screen forever.”   (Nothing like being a bit overdramatic in my discipline.)

“One person. That is all I am.”  ( At this point, I’m sure he’s trying to think of somewhere he needs to go.)

You see, I forget so easily and I get so mad at myself for doing it. I forget that this is my calling, actually all of our callings. We are servants, called to pour out our lives for others, and in motherhood, those others are our children. When I let myself forget that, then I become the victim in my own eyes, offended that my children are children. Somehow distraught that this thing called mothering is training for a lifetime.

I was pondering this a couple months ago during communion at our church. We take communion every Sunday and it is something that I have grown to love. This remembering what Christ did for us keeps it on the forefront of my heart during the week. His brokenness, not only in His death, but also how He lived His life, is our example. If I am truly His, then I am joining myself with Him in this, taking up my cross, dying to myself and my own needs, and living for others. Now, I am not talking about putting yourself last and burning out so that you can’t even do what you need to. I will be the first one to tell any mama to take care of herself first so that she can be there for her family. I’m talking about in our hearts and souls. Seeing all the things that we do for our families, all of the needs pulling us in different directions, as gifts of sacrifice to our Lord. We are serving Him when we serve our family. We are loving Him when we love them.

We are dying to ourselves when we:

choose kindness instead of harshness

choose patience instead of frustration

choose love instead of negativity

choose a heavenly perspective instead of only seeing the here and now

choose to follow Jesus as an example, digging deep even from brokenness, to bring life to those around us

 

I was just finishing this up as my littlest one came running down the stairs…yet again…this time throwing himself into my arms.

“One more kiss…I love you, Mama.” Oh, so worth it, right?  Hopefully I’ll remember earlier tomorrow…

 

 

You know you’re a boy mom when….

IMG_16861.Toys ( or anything for that matter) are not used in the manner intended.

Everything can be changed into some sort of device or weapon for the latest adventure. Even legos have a sinister side to them…”Let’s see how many times a week we can get mom to have a fit when she steps on us.”

No, the roof on the playhouse is not meant to be leapt off of onto anything…

I’m pretty sure the sled is not meant for you to surf down the slide…

You don’t even want to know some of the things that I have had to say through the years. I can’t even believe they’ve had to come out of my mouth.

Which leads to….

2. Your heart jumps into your throat at least once daily with some sort of prayer that this is not leading to a trip to the E.R.

“I was just playing around…”   Yeah, most common phrase uttered.

Which is why….

3. Things in your house are either broken or well-loved-on by your boys and their friends.

There is no need to buy new furniture for many more years. Settle in my friend, because you need a crane to get out of that couch.

Cushions are for forts or shields in the battle, couches are for sitting together stacked up like a tower or a wrestling pad. (See number 1)

Which makes….

4. Friendship with you is not for the fainthearted. Either your friends have multiple boys and are used to the noise decibels reaching who knows what, or they love you enough to put up with it.

5. We love candles, diffusers, potpourri, or any good smelling thing….anything that dispels the smell.

The smell. Do I need to say more? I think not.

So, you then….

6. You learn to laugh at or be the queen of no reactions to gross humor.

I try to go with the no reaction thing, but being a dramatic Italian mama can make it difficult.  Boys love to get a REACTION.

7. It is impossible to keep food stocked up. Food comes into the house at an alarming rate and disappears so fast your head spins.

I’ve had to resort to leaving signs on food that I may need to feed someone else and hide my chocolate in a different place each week.

8. Your response to complaints to having to do housework is “Your wife will love me for this and thank me someday. You’re welcome.”

9. Your heart will be stolen and then broken.

From the moment that beautiful baby boy is placed in your arms, your heart is given away.  Every act of independence along the way is celebrated and grieved, knowing that it is your job to train them and let them go.

Which leads to….

10. You will have to trust God in ways you never imagined.

You trust that these amazing, strong-hearted and impetuous boys will hang on to the truths you have given them…listening to the instruction of their parents and following HIM all the days of their lives.  (Proverbs 4)

 

 

a mixed Mother’s Day

So many mamas spend Mother’s day with a mingling of joy and sorrow, missing a child or a mom lost too soon or gone too long, empty arms or places that can’t ever be filled. We are praying for you, dear precious mamas! Praying for comfort and peace as we look to the treasures in this life, even as we miss those not with us.

 

 

I miss her, all 4’11 of her, my Italian grandma filled with a wonderful blend of sassy spunk and softness. She took care of everyone, her family being her life. She made us laugh, as we never knew what she was going to say next! She saw the good through suffering and sorrow, her trust in Jesus bringing out a strength even in her own weakness. She was a constant in my life and never once did I doubt her love for me. As the years took away her ability to “do” for her family, she took more and more to praying for us, filling journals and hours with words to heaven that have seen us through.

 

I had just come back from the doctor where they confirmed a miscarriage. I remember sitting down at her feet and putting my head on her lap. I don’t remember what she said, just the comfort of her sweet, soft hands, hands that had comforted so many during her lifetime. When we found out we were pregnant again, I sat on her little couch and we laughed and dreamed of who this little person would be to join my other two boys.

 

And then we lost her.

 

I couldn’t believe that she was gone. I grieved that she wouldn’t hold this baby or be in their life. My loss was overwhelming. And then a few months later, we stood there again as we said goodbye to that baby, our Samuel. And I knew that she would hold him, after all.

 

The first year anniversary of losing our son fell on Mother’s Day. The grieving at the gravesite overshadowed the celebration later even as I clung to my little boys. I remember walking around almost in a fog, trying to figure out how to navigate that day.

 

Life goes on and the years fly by. I have two more little boys now. As we tell them stories of their great grandma, the big boys join in with their own precious memories. Mother’s day is a day of joy for me, as my husband and sons show their love for me in extra special ways. But the joy will always mingle with some sorrow, sorrow for the losses that are forever felt.

 

Yesterday, I visited their grave with my own mom.

“I miss her everyday,” I tell her.

“She didn’t know how much of an impact she made in our lives,” she replied.

That’s probably true of most mamas.

I have Gram with me still, in my own mom, even in myself. I see her in us, I hear her in our words. Words that make us laugh until we cry. Laughter mixed with tears. Emptiness mixed with fulfillment. It’s what this life brings us. For me, today, on this one day that is supposed to honor mothers everywhere, I want to choose life. Treasuring the blessings that I do have, even as I hold that ache for what I don’t.