3.28.2012

one year ago today...

One year ago today, this was Mat and I...


And today, this is our view...



We are very grateful to God for His provision of the gift of our little girl. Every day, we are thankful. Every single day.

3.23.2012

motherhood is application by rachel jankovic

This post was originally posted on Desiring God's blog. This post is by Rachel Jankovic, who is a wife, homemaker, and mother. She is the author of "Loving the Little Years" and blogs at Femina. Her husband is Luke, and they have five children: Evangeline (5), Daphne (4), Chloe (2), Titus (2), and Blaire (5 months).
Rachel has in the past year, posted three blogs on the Desiring God blog that I am going to repost here. This is the third and final of the three blog reposts.
Rachel's blogs at Desiring God have inspired me, encouraged me, and challenged me to be a better wife, a better mother, and a stronger Christian. I hope you find they do the same for you.
---
If I had to pick one word to describe motherhood, I think that word would be “transforming.”
The days of a busy mother are made up of millions of transformations. Dirty children become clean, the hungry child fed, the tired child sleeping. Almost every task a mother performs in the course of a normal day could be considered a transformation. Disorder to order, dirty clothes to clean, unhappy children to peaceful, empty fridge to full. Every day we fight against disorder, filth, starvation, and lawlessness, and some days we might almost succeed. And then, while we sleep, everything unravels and we start again in the morning — transforming.
Days of these little cycles add up and suddenly you see a big transformation. A nursing infant has become a boy on a bicycle, a baby bump has grown into a toddler, and children have been changed into brothers and sisters.
Then there is the kind of transformations that we do — not because we work at it, but because we were created to do it. You eat your lunch, and your body transforms it into nourishment for a baby. Taking something too big for an infant, and still finding a way to feed them with it — with the goal of growing them up to do it themselves.
Pregnancy and nursing are only a small part of a child’s life though — and this cycle is clearly not only a physical one. It is the spiritual cycle of food that is so much more important, and so much less talked about. Christian mothering is a constant cycle of nourishment — both physical and spiritual.

We Apply What We Believe

In the same way we take the food we eat and make it into something the baby can eat (and our bodies simply do this without us willing them to), so we take what we believe about God and the gospel and faith and life, and we apply it in the places that seem too little for it.
Imagine yourself in your kitchen trying to make dinner for a group of little kids who are tired and should have eaten a half hour ago. Imagine that things are going wrong beyond that — maybe you are out of something you assumed you had, children are fussing with one another, and maybe your littlest is still at the age where they come stand on your feet and pull on your pant leg. Bonus points if you are wearing maternity pants and this little person is actually capable of pulling your pants down. You are hot, you are tired, and you are sick of it.
This is no time for a gospel presentation. There isn’t time. There isn’t anyone to lead the discussion around the felt board, because you are still scrambling to figure out dinner. This isn’t a time for a gospel presentation because it is a time for gospel application. This is a time to take the grace that God has extended to you, and feed your children with it. Apply what you believe about God’s mercy and kindness and long suffering towards us, and pour it out to them — in a form they can believe in. Unrest like this is just like a baby crying for a bottle — only what they need is spiritual milk. They need you to feed them, not with a lecture, but with application.

You Have Everything You Need

Mothering is a job that is full of difficult moments. Diapers blow out in stores when you have too much in your cart to just walk out. Sudden carsickness can leave you pulled over on the side of the road wondering just how much can be done with half a bag of wet wipes. You need to take what you believe and apply it to these difficult moments. Does the Bible teach us that God is disgusted by our frailty? That he doesn’t want to carry our burdens? That he doesn’t have the energy to deal with us?
The good news is, you don’t need to have been through some elite mother’s training camp to apply the gospel in your life. You need to believe. Trust God, give thanks. Laugh. Believe — and that will feed your children. Rest in God, and your children will learn to. Extend God’s kindness to you, to them. Forgive them the way God forgave you. You have everything you need to spiritually nourish your children, because you have Christ.
The gospel is not just something to talk about Sunday morning while you are in clean clothes and the kids are looking orderly. It is not limited to quiet times and reflective moods. It is something to apply while you are in a difficult position in the back of the car trying to buckle a child up who is playing the kazoo and needs their nose wiped.
God is not above these moments. He is teaching us, and leading us, and refining us, in them. He wants to see our faith in action. He wants to see us feeding our children with the grace that he has given to us.

Mimic the Gospel

Of course, this side of heaven we will not do perfectly. Harsh words will be spoken, patience will wear thin. Frazzled mothers will act frazzled. And when this happens, our own sinfulness does not detract from the power of the gospel, it illustrates why we need it. Do not use your own mistakes as an excuse to wallow about what a bad mother you are. Repent, seek forgiveness, get it right, and move on. Believe. Be forgiven. Extend that forgiveness, that belief, that joy, to your children.
As you go about your daily transformations, set your heart on the truth. Mimic the gospel in what you do. Bring peace, bring order, bring joy, bring laughter. Bring it because it was brought to you. Give, because it was given to you. The gospel is not too big to fit into little situations. It is too big not to.

3.20.2012

motherhood is a calling (and where your children rank) by rachel jankovic

This post was originally posted on Desiring God's blog. This post is by Rachel Jankovic, who is a wife, homemaker, and mother. She is the author of "Loving the Little Years" and blogs at Femina. Her husband is Luke, and they have five children: Evangeline (5), Daphne (4), Chloe (2), Titus (2), and Blaire (5 months).
Rachel has in the past year, posted three blogs on the Desiring God blog that I am going to repost here. This is the second of the three blogs.
Rachel's blogs at Desiring God have inspired me, encouraged me, and challenged me to be a better wife, a better mother, and a stronger Christian. I hope you find they do the same for you.
-----
A few years ago, when I just had four children and when the oldest was still three, I loaded them all up to go on a walk. After the final sippy cup had found a place and we were ready to go, my two-year-old turned to me and said, “Wow! You have your hands full!”
She could have just as well said, “Don’t you know what causes that?” or “Are they all yours?!”
Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers. All this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen.

A Rock-Bottom Job?

The truth is that years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.
Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.
If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children. How much have we listened to partial truths and half lies? Do we believe that we want children because there is some biological urge, or the phantom “baby itch”? Are we really in this because of cute little clothes and photo opportunities? Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? If so, what were we thinking?

It's Not a Hobby

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.
Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.
Our culture is simply afraid of death. Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying. Strangely, it is that fear that drives the abortion industry: fear that your dreams will die, that your future will die, that your freedom will die—and trying to escape that death by running into the arms of death.

Run to the Cross

But a Christian should have a different paradigm. We should run to to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.
Death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, ought to know what follows death. The Christian life is resurrection life, life that cannot be contained by death, the kind of life that is only possible when you have been to the cross and back.
The Bible is clear about the value of children. Jesus loved them, and we are commanded to love them, to bring them up in the nurture of the Lord. We are to imitate God and take pleasure in our children.

The Question Is How

The question here is not whether you are representing the gospel, it is how you are representing it. Have you given your life to your children resentfully? Do you tally every thing you do for them like a loan shark tallies debts? Or do you give them life the way God gave it to us—freely?
It isn’t enough to pretend. You might fool a few people. That person in line at the store might believe you when you plaster on a fake smile, but your children won’t. They know exactly where they stand with you. They know the things that you rate above them. They know everything you resent and hold against them. They know that you faked a cheerful answer to that lady, only to whisper threats or bark at them in the car.
Children know the difference between a mother who is saving face to a stranger and a mother who defends their life and their worth with her smile, her love, and her absolute loyalty.

Hands Full of Good Things

When my little girl told me, “Your hands are full!” I was so thankful that she already knew what my answer would be. It was the same one that I always gave: “Yes they are—full of good things!”
Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.
Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone.

3.17.2012

happy st. patrick's day!

stpatsday3

papa's sour cream cornbread

My grandfather makes the best cornbread in the world. We've been eating it like crazy in our house for a couple weeks now. It's an easy, easy recipe, and it makes the most moist cornbread muffins I've ever had.

You can leave out the jalapenos to make it less spicy, but we love them. There's just the right amount of bite to the muffins with the jalapenos in them.

Thanks for sharing your recipe with us, Papa! We love you!!

Sour Cream Corn Bread

1 c. self-rising corn meal
1 stick margarine or butter
8 oz. sour cream
8 1/4 can cream corn
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 T diced jalapeno peppers

Preheat oven at 350*.
Melt margarine or butter in an iron skillet for pan of cornbread. Coat the pan with the melted butter.
For muffins, melt the butter and add to ingredients then mix.
Mix all ingredients until well blended. Pour into iron skillet or muffin pan.
Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

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3.16.2012

motherhood as a mission field by rachel jankovic

This post was originally posted on Desiring God's blog. This post is by Rachel Jankovic, who is a wife, homemaker, and mother. She is the author of "Loving the Little Years" and blogs at Femina. Her husband is Luke, and they have five children: Evangeline (5), Daphne (4), Chloe (2), Titus (2), and Blaire (5 months).
Rachel has in the past year, posted three blogs on the Desiring God blog that I am going to repost here. This is the first of three blog reposts.
Rachel's blogs at Desiring God have inspired me, encouraged me, and challenged me to be a better wife, a better mother, and a stronger Christian. I hope you find they do the same for you.
-----
There is a good old saying, perhaps only said by my Grandfather, that distance adds intrigue. It is certainly true — just think back to anything that has ever been distant from you that is now near. Your driver’s license. Marriage. Children. Things that used to seem so fascinating, but as they draw near become less mystical and more, well, real.
This same principle certainly applies to mission fields too. The closer you get to home, the less intriguing the work of sacrifice seems. As someone once said, “Everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to help Mom with the dishes.” When you are a mother at home with your children, the church is not clamoring for monthly ministry updates. When you talk to other believers, there is not any kind of awe about what you are sacrificing for the gospel. People are not pressing you for needs you might have, how they can pray for you. It does not feel intriguing, or glamorous. Your work is normal, because it is as close to home as you can possibly be. You have actually gone so far as to become home.

Home: The Headwaters of Mission

If you are a Christian woman who loves the Lord, the gospel is important to you. It is easy to become discouraged, thinking that the work you are doing does not matter much. If you were really doing something for Christ you would be out there, somewhere else, doing it. Even if you have a great perspective on your role in the kingdom, it is easy to lose sight of it in the mismatched socks, in the morning sickness, in the dirty dishes. It is easy to confuse intrigue with value, and begin viewing yourself as the least valuable part of the Church.
There are a number of ways in which mothers need to study their own roles, and begin to see them, not as boring and inconsequential, but as home, the headwaters of missions.
At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood. Motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live the gospel. Jim Elliot famously said, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Motherhood provides you with an opportunity to lay down the things that you cannot keep on behalf of the people that you cannot lose. They are eternal souls, they are your children, they are your mission field.

Faith Makes the Small Offering Great

If you are like me, then you may be thinking “What did I ever give up for them? A desk job? Time at the gym? Extra spending money? My twenty- year- old figure? Some sleep?” Doesn’t seem like much when you put it next to the work of some of the great missionaries, people who gave their lives for the gospel.
Think about the feeding of the five thousand when the disciples went out and rounded up the food that was available. It wasn’t much. Some loaves. Some fish. Think of some woman pulling her fish out and handing it to one of the disciples. That had to have felt like a small offering. But the important thing about those loaves and those fishes was not how big they were when they were given, it was about whose hands they were given into. In the hands of the Lord, that offering was sufficient. It was more than sufficient. There were leftovers. Given in faith, even a small offering becomes great.
Look at your children in faith, and see how many people will be ministered to by your ministering to them. How many people will your children know in their lives? How many grandchildren are represented in the faces around your table now?

Gain What You Cannot Lose in Them

So, if mothers are strategically situated to impact missions so greatly, why do we see so little coming from it?  I think the answer to this is quite simple: sin. Discontent, pettiness, selfishness, resentment. Christians often feel like the right thing to do is to be ashamed about what we have. We hear that quote of Jim Elliot’s and think that we ought to sell our homes and move to some place where they need the gospel.
But I’d like to challenge you to look at it differently. Giving up what you cannot keep does not mean giving up your home, or your job so you can go serve somewhere else. It is giving up yourself. Lay yourself down. Sacrifice yourself here, now. Cheerfully wipe the nose for the fiftieth time today. Make dinner again for the people who don’t like the green beans. Laugh when your plans are thwarted by a vomiting child. Lay yourself down for the people here with you, the people who annoy you, the people who get in your way, the people who take up so much of your time that you can’t read anymore. Rejoice in them. Sacrifice for them. Gain that which you cannot lose in them.
It is easy to think you have a heart for orphans on the other side of the world, but if you spend your time at home resenting the imposition your children are on you, you do not. You cannot have a heart for the gospel and a fussiness about your life at the same time. You will never make any difference there if you cannot be at peace here. You cannot have a heart for missions, but not for the people around you. A true love of the gospel overflows and overpowers. It will be in everything you do, however drab, however simple, however repetitive.
God loves the little offerings. Given in faith, that plate of PB&J’s will feed thousands. Given in faith, those presents on Christmas morning will bring delight to more children than you can count. Offered with thankfulness, your work at home is only the beginning. Your laundry pile, selflessly tackled daily, will be used in the hands of God to clothe many. Do not think that your work does not matter. In God’s hands, it will be broken, and broken, and broken again, until all who have need of it have eaten and are satisfied. And even then, there will be leftovers.

3.14.2012

a week in alabama

Saturday before last, we got a phone call from Mat's sister, Lenze, telling us that Mat's maternal grandfather had passed away. We packed up our bags and headed South for the week. We left Kentucky on Sunday afternoon after church.

We were on the road about 2 hours when our car broke down (like would not start at all) somewhere in Franklin, KY. We sat on the side of the road for an hour before a tow truck came to get us. Mat's dad got us a hotel in Franklin, and we waited on him to come and get us. I am so very thankful for my sweet father-in-law. I have no idea what we'd do without him. He made it to Franklin in two hours and forty minutes. Land flight. Ama-Watts loved her first ride in a tow truck...

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We left the hotel and went to eat. I also have to brag on my sweet baby girl. She literally did not cry at all during the entire fiasco. She let out one little peep while we were waiting on the side of the interstate on the tow truck, and she quickly fell right back asleep. She woke up in the hotel room and ate and watched "Pawn Stars" with us. She played a little, then fell asleep again when we got back on the road. She watched us while we ate and had a bottle at the restaurant, and then she slept the entire way to Alabama. Our baby is a champion. 

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On Monday, we got up and had lunch with Mat's parents and Lenze at Dale's Bistro in Albertville. Fantastic food. Even more fantastic company.

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Monday night was visitation. Ama-Watts did so great. Mat and I were so proud of her (again!). It was a sweet time of fellowship and visiting for people who came to honor Paw-Paw. 

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On Tuesday, Mat preached Paw-Paw's funeral. He did such a wonderful job. He simultaneously honored his legacy, spoke of sweet memories, and reminded us all of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. We are so thankful for Paw-Paw and what he means to our family. He will be greatly missed.

We thank God for Paw-Paw and his life and legacy here on earth. We are confident that we will see him again someday, and we thank God that He chose to save him. We are praying that Granny will come to find herself and her life with a new normal, and we pray that the peace of Jesus will surround her every single day. We love you, Granny!

Aunt Cathy and Uncle Randall kept Ama-Watts while we were at the funeral. Aunt Cathy and Uncle Randall mean the world to me. This was the first time Wattsie has had a babysitter besides her Mumsy or Gran V. I knew she was in able hands! I wish so badly that I had gotten a photo, but we were in a rush when we dropped her off, and Mat and Chris picked her up (and picked Ama-Watts' cousin, Bryleigh, up, too!). They brought her back to FBC Boaz where several members had provided lunch for our family.

Tuesday night, we went to Papa and Mimi's to visit while Papa went to Lodge. Mom was there, too, and we had such a great time visiting. This little girl sure is loved over there!

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On Wednesday, we hung around the house. Mat and Lenze went to eat with Chris, so Ama-Watts and I stayed at home with Gran V and Bryleigh. Sometimes, it's just good to stay in your pajamas all day at Gran V's house.

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On Thursday, Mat went to do homework at JaMoka's Coffee Shop. Valerie was at Granny's house, so Wattsie and I just hung out together while Lenze was in class. Mat, Lenze, Ama-Watts and I all went to eat and went grocery shopping later in the afternoon. That night, we cooked steaks for Mat's older sister, Kelly's birthday at the house.

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On Friday morning, we drove to Huntsville for Wattsie's 3 month photos. I cannot say enough how much we love Erin Cobb! We can't wait to see all of the photos she made soon.

Friday night, Mat and I had dinner and Pop, Gran V and Mumsy all babysat Wattsie. She was well taken care of, for sure! Apparently, while we were gone, she had a 3 oz. bottle and then a 5 oz. bottle right after that. Considering she usually just drinks 3-4 oz. at a time, I'd say she was pretty hungry. She's a growing girl.

Saturday morning, we went to my Dad's house for breakfast. He made my favorite-- biscuits and gravy with bacon. We had fun hanging out with them for a few hours. Ama-Watts loves to go visit her GrandDanny!

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Saturday night, we went to eat at the Rock House in Guntersville. Seriously one of the best meals I have had in a long time. I had pecan and panko encrusted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. Out of this world yummy.

Sunday brought the longest day for us of the entire trip. We had church that morning, and Wattsie stayed in a church nursery for the first time ever. She did great! We ate with my mom and Mat's parents afterward. Mom and I then loaded up and headed to Ft. Payne for my cousin Meg's Around the House wedding shower. I cannot believe her wedding is just in a couple months. I love her so very much, and I can't wait to be a part of her special day. I know she'll be a beautiful bride!

Wattsie loved seeing her Aunt Morgan...

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...and her cousin Ellie Parker!

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We raced back from the shower to church that night. Mat preached at FBC Boaz, and I was about 5 minutes from being late for the service. Luckily, we made it on time. Wattsie enjoyed staying in the nursery again. After the service, we ate at the local Mexican restaurant with Mat's entire family and my mom. We love sweet time with our family. After dinner, we spent time at Mat's house just hanging out. We went through old photos using Chris' Apple TV. We laughed and laughed. I miss our family more than words can say.

On Monday morning, we headed out. Before we left, we went to visit Mat's paternal grandmother, Nanny. The Watts in Ama-Watts comes from Nanny-- it is her maiden name. She didn't get a chance to meet Ama-Watts while we were home for Christmas because Wattsie wasn't allowed "out" yet, so we had to take her by this time. Nanny knew who we were, and when we said, "This is Ama-Watts," she said, "Yes, but you call her Wattsie." She even said my name without Mat telling her who I was, so she was having a good day. She kept asking if she was a good baby and telling us that she was so pretty. Nanny would have loved Ama-Watts so much. We wish she could know her better.

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It's good to be home, but we really miss our family. I am so glad that Ama-Watts has such wonderful grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family that love her and pray for her every single day. We are blessed beyond reason! Thank you, Jesus, for the blessings of life.

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3.13.2012

3 months photos

While we were in Alabama this past week and weekend, we had Erin Cobb of Erin Cobb Photography in Huntsville, Alabama, make Ama-Watts' 3 months photos. Erin was such a joy to work with. She was so great with Ama-Watts, and we just fell in love with her immediately! My sweet friend, Jennifer, let us borrow her beautiful home for our photos. (Thank you again, so much, Jennifer! We loved meeting C and J, as well!)

Erin posted a sneak peek of the photos on her blog yesterday. We could not have been any more pleased with the finished images. They are perfectly beautiful. We cannot wait to see more soon. If you're ever in need of a children's photographer in or around the Huntsville area, we highly recommend Erin Cobb. Thank you again, Erin!!

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