thankfulness 2015

This year I’ve been particularly reflective about the blessing of family. This time last year we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our third baby, little Atticus Garrett, for whom my labor started the morning after Thanksgiving.

This past year has brought much growth in all of us. My girls became big sisters to a baby brother, and they have been challenged to love him well but also to grow in their own independence. They’ve also continued to develop in their own right, growing closer and closer to being the women they’re going to be. Matt and I have been so encouraged by the ways in which they’ve grown this year, and we’re enjoying them more and more as people.

And that Atticus boy – I’m trying to soak him in. There are his adorable curls and the way he smiles and reaches for me when I walk into a room. There’s the way he curls into my chest and reaches his hand inside my shirt when he’s wanting to nurse. There’s the way he tucks his head into me and scrunches his eyes shut when he’s ready to go to sleep. There’s his increasingly steady gait as he practices walking longer and longer distances. There are his excited squeals and gesticulations every time he sees an animal, whether cat or dog or even fish. There’s the amusing way he seeks a way to climb on anything and everything, whether stove, staircase, or couch. I want to take every part of this fun time and sear it into my memory for revisiting in the future when my little guy has moved beyond this stage.

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And of course there is my relationship with Matt, my partner in parenting and beyond. With the girls at Awana every Wednesday night, we’ve been able to get out for some regular date nights this semester, which we’ve very much enjoyed. This year we’ve been studying parenting, experiencing the writings of Madeleine L’Engle, and trying to dream big about future possibilities for art, writing, learning, building, ministry, and travel.

I feel myself, now a mom of three, being stretched and growing into more and more the mother I’d like to be. I’m more comfortable in this role of constant out-pouring of love, energy, and grace. I have the perspective of five-and-a-half years in this parenting role to know that the interrupted sleep and the need for constant supervision of my baby-almost-toddler will come to an end. I’m realizing that focusing on the difficulties of certain stages is less helpful than enjoying their positives and strategizing about parenting well in the midst of them. I’m content in not being able to do all that much ministry outside of our family (though it is a blessing to be able to do what I can with some lay counseling and children’s ministry and hosting our missional community group and a few other things), realizing that this is a season, and there will be other seasons that look different. For now, I can focus on loving my kiddos well, reading that extra book, taking those minutes to snuggle, listening to that made-up joke, rubbing that back, rocking that baby.

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And this year at Thanksgiving we are immersed in the added blessing of being with my family – my always-serving mother and game-playing father and my awesome brothers and Danny’s fiancee, Sharon. I see now what I didn’t as a child, that the friendships I had then were important, but it would be with my brothers that I would have my most enduring and meaningful relationships. I’m grateful that even as we live spread across the country from one another, we’re able to maintain relationships and support, encourage, and enjoy each other.

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And of course I am grateful to the God who is the author of it all. I find myself yearning to know and understand Him more and more. As Atticus cries for me and only me at night, I wonder what it would feel like to know that He and only He has what I need, to cry out for Him and refuse to settle for anything less. I pray for that.

being a student

Matt and I have often said that if money was no object, we’d be perpetual students. We love learning. So many of the experiences that helped shape me into who I am today took place during my undergraduate studies at Northwestern University, whether participating in discussions in Wendy Espeland’s Sociological Theory course, gaining a more comprehensive understanding of our country’s development through my Intro to US History course, essentially memorizing the textbook in preparation for Mark Witte’s Macroeconomics exams, or learning about the giants of Western Philosophy and their influence on contemporary thought in my Philosophy courses.

Recently I’ve decided to direct my studious nature toward a different arena – parenting and teaching young children.

I’ve found these recent weeks of parenting to be exhausting. It’s not so much the baby and the lack of a full night’s sleep; caring for Atticus requires much of me, but it’s usually pretty straightforward. Parenting the girls, on the other hand, is difficult beyond measure and draining in a different way. They need less help meeting their physical needs, but I devote hours each day to helping to shape their character, helping them to grow into the people they are going to be. And as much as I thought the stakes were high back when my biggest worries were about sleep training methods, they’re ever so much higher now. It’s not just, will she ever nap for longer than 30 minutes without me?, but, what kind of person will she grow up to be?

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We’ve had several hard days during these last few weeks. I’ve made multiple phone calls to Chicagoland to check in with my good friend / parenting expert there – she has raised TWO, count them, TWO children who are functioning as adults, doing cool things, and following the Lord today! She’s two for two so far! And while she’s quick to say that she doesn’t have it all figured out either, that’s two more than I’ve raised!

In our young church community, I may not be surrounded by a multitude of older women from whom I can learn, but in the spirit of these posts – from girltalk and The Gospel Coalition – I am taking advantage of what I do have.

I’m making sure I get in at least a few minutes of time in the Word daily. Moody’s Today in the Word is going through Romans this month – hard-hitting and thought-provoking even in just a few minutes each day. I know I need to make an effort to be more consistent in prayer, as well.

I’m making those long-distance phone calls to seek out parenting advice from those with older children and parenting philosophies I respect. I sincerely appreciate it when I’m told where I probably blew it, and I try out suggestions of ways in which I can be training my kiddos going forward.

And I’m devouring the parenting resources with which I’m surrounded. In addition to some great blogs, like those above, I’ve been diving into some good books. Recently I read Hands Free Mama, which offered helpful encouragement to be truly present with my kids throughout the days (as opposed to being home with them but preoccupied by my phone or my “to do” lists…though I am curious about when the author actually does accomplish those necessary “to do” list items like dishes and laundry!). I’m about to finish The Whole-Brained Child, and I was delighted to find that much of what it discusses lines up so closely with what Matt and I learned last year from Karyn Purvis and others at the Empowered to Connect conference, though I think it will be more helpful once our kids are slightly older. And I just received a box in the mail with the parenting and teaching books that are next on my reading list – No-Drama Discipline, The Three R’s, and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

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I can’t wait to get into them and learn what I can.

As a college student, one of my worries when I contemplated becoming a stay-at-home mom was whether I would find it at all intellectually challenging. I’m discovering now that it’s every bit as challenging – and in heart-wrenching ways – as any other path I could have chosen.

What about you, readers? Any favorite books or other parenting resources?