Friday, May 19, 2017

How to be (or not to be) women of the Word

So, I made a new best friend...well, kind of. I mean, I totally love her, and she definitely could be my best friend; she's probably one of the coolest people I have ever met. Well, not met per se. I mean, I basically met her - I saw her from afar - and I read her book. So that's kind of like meeting her.

She definitely has no idea who I am, though. 

But you guys, this book will forever change the way that I read the Bible, and if anything could qualify you for best friend status it would be that, right?

My new, one-way bestie is Jen Wilkin. She's a self-described advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of His Word. And luckily for us she's laid out a pretty awesome way to do that in her book, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. 

Honestly, I think this book sat unread on my bookshelf for about a year; then I heard Jen (see how we're on a first-name basis?) speak at The Gospel Coalition Conference. I quickly realized I needed her to teach me all the things, remembered I was using one of her books as a dust-collector, and promptly went home and opened it. 

What I'm writing today are primarily the words of this much wiser woman. They seemed too important to keep to myself. 

Jen starts her book with a description of two impactful realizations she had during her earlier forays into God's Word. She describes these realizations as "turnaround" truths. 

Turnaround 1: The Bible is a book about God. Ok, so this doesn't seem like an earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting truth; most of us would probably say we "know" that the Bible is a book about God. But are we reading it that way? 

Let me ask you, when you open your Bible, are you primarily asking questions like, "Who does the Bible say that I am?" and "What does the Bible say I should do?" That's certainly been true of me. But instead of asking "Who am I?" and "What should I do?" I should be asking, "Who is God?" and "What has He done?" The Bible most definitely answers questions about us, but it does so through the lens of who God is and what He has done. The Bible is first a book about God. 

Turnaround 2: Let the mind transform the heart. It's easy to let our hearts totally guide our time in the Word, rather than letting our knowledge of the comprehensive truth set forth in the Bible guide our feelings and emotions. 

This section of the book holds so much sweet truth and conviction for me that I could literally spend the rest of the post here. But, suffice it to say that I am guilty of going to the Bible, looking for it to make me feel something first. When and if it doesn't, I wonder, "What's wrong with me?" or "Why am I feeling so distant from God?" Could it be that my focus is off? 

For sure the Bible tells us to love God with all of our hearts (Mark 12:30), and that includes our emotions, but as Jen states:

"For some of us, the strength of our faith is guided by how close we feel to God at any given moment - by how a sermon made us feel, by how a worship chorus made us feel, by how our quiet time made us feel. Hidden in this thinking is an honest desire to share a deep relationship with a personal God, but sustaining our emotions can be exhausting and defeating"(29).

So let's not lead with our roller coaster emotions. Instead, let's strive to connect intellectually with our faith, and let our minds be in charge of our hearts. It's not only wise, it's Biblical. Check out any of the following verses to see what the Bible has to say about the relationship between our minds, our hearts and God's Word: 1 Kings 8:48-49; 1 Chronicles 22:19; Isaiah 26:3; 1 Corinthians 14:14-15; Luke 24:44-45; Romans 12:2-3.

Ok, I can already tell this is going to be a long post (I hope you'll stick with me!), so let's do a quick recap: As students of God's Word we should first be engaging the text with questions like, "Who is God?" and "What has He done?" AND we should be letting our minds lead our hearts. Any questions?

With those foundational truths in place, let's talk a minute about Bible literacy. Jen's book is basically one giant case for Bible literacy...but what does that mean? Being Bible literate means I am moving toward an increased knowledge and understanding of the Bible through patient and thoughtful study. Now, as any honor roll student will tell you, the key to excelling in your studies is developing good study habits (and being friends with people who are smarter than you). And as any nail-biter or nose-picker will tell you, you have to break bad habits to make room for the good ones. 

Here is where I really fell in love with this book. Apparently the amount of bad study habits I have picked up over the years is breathtaking (says the high school English teacher). In chapter two, Jen lays out a list of less-than-stellar approaches to studying the Bible, and I'm pretty sure that at some point I have utilized every single one. I'm curious if you can relate.

1) The Xanax Approach: 
"Feel anxious? Philippians 4:6 says be anxious for nothing. 

Feel ugly? Pslam 139 says you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Feel tired? Matthew 11:28 says Jesus will give rest to the weary.

The Xanax approach treats the Bible as if it exists to make us feel better. Whether aided by a devotional book or just the topical index of my Bible, I pronounce my time in the Word successful if I can say, 'Wow, that was really comforting'"(39).

Yeah....I'm definitely guilty of this. So what's the main problem with this approach? First of all, it makes the Bible a book about me, which, as we discussed earlier, is not the case. It asks how the Bible can serve us, rather than how we can serve the God of the Bible. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to the Bible for comfort, and it would be ridiculous to say otherwise. But if we rely on this approach as our primary form of study, we will miss out on significant portions of the Bible that "fail to deliver an immediate dose of emotional satisfaction." (Lamentations anyone?) "A well-rounded approach to Bible study challenges us to navigate all areas of the Bible, even those that make us uncomfortable or that are difficult to understand"(40).

2) The Pinball Approach:
Have you ever opened your Bible on a whim, prayed for the Holy Spirit to speak through any verse you happened to turn to, and then "providentially" received whatever message you felt that passage was delivering? I have. 

That's basically the pinball approach and it's not exactly "best-practice" Bible study, if you know what I mean. 

The problem is, that's not the way the Bible was intended to be read. It "gives no thought to cultural, historical or textual context, authorship, or original intent of the passage in question"(40). This approach makes it nearly impossible to understand Scripture beyond our own immediate context, which is not fully understanding Scripture. 

As students of the Bible, we have to take into consideration "how any given passage fits in the bigger picture of what the Bible has to say, honoring context, authorship, style, and more"(41). That's pretty hard to do on a whim.

3) The Magic 8 Ball Approach:
I think my last couple years of college could best be categorized as a barrage of questions seeking to "find" God's will for my life. What job should I take? Where should I live? Should I marry so-and-so? Grab Bible, give it a shake, open it up, see if "signs point to yes."

The obvious problem here? The Bible is not a Magic 8 Ball. It's main purpose is not to magically answer every question I have. The Bible's main purpose is to teach me who God is, what He has done, and who I am in light of that; and it is significantly more concerned with the condition of my heart than with giving me the answers to every life-decision I need to make. "The Bible is way more concerned with the decision-maker than with the decision itself"(41).

4) The Personal Shopper Approach:
This is the approach Jen attributes to topical Bible studies. I love her description:

"I want to know about being a godly woman or how to deal with self-esteem issues, but I don't know where to find verses about that, so I let (insert famous Bible teacher here) do the legwork for me. She winsomely hand-selects relevant verses from all over the Bible and delivers them to my doorstep to be tried on for size"(42).

Yep, that's me again. 

Listen, topical studies can make great supplemental material to an already healthy and independent  Bible study routine. They can also be a convenient way to see what Scripture as a whole has to say on a given subject (plus, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Beth Moore - she just reminds me of my mom, ya'll). But, if I'm exclusively using topical studies to learn God's Word, I'm never going to develop a sense of ownership of the Scriptures. What I will develop, however, is a fragmented, rather than holistic, knowledge of the Bible.

"A well-rounded approach to Bible study addresses a topic as it arises in Scripture, rather than attaching Scripture to a topic. It asks students to labor at a process"(42). 

Doesn't she sound like an English teacher? <3 And as any good English teacher will tell you, Cliffs Notes may help you quickly understand the main plot line of a story, but in terms of comprehension, retention and application, there is no substitute for working through the book on your own. 

5) The Telephone Game Approach:
While it's no secret that I have dealt with all of these poor study habits at various times in my life, this one....oh this one, is my current struggle. 

Everybody knows how the telephone game works: someone starts with a secret, it gets passed around the circle in whispers and muffled giggles, finally emerging as a barely recognizable rendition of the original phrase. We run the risk of experiencing this same mind-muddling mix-up when we read books about the Bible more than we read the Bible itself.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing to read the writings of men and women who are much smarter and significantly more well-versed in the Scriptures - that can actually be super helpful and encouraging. But keep in mind, those men and women are probably also drawing from other men and women of the faith for wisdom. In reading a book about the Bible, I may actually be reading what someone says about what someone says about what someone says about the Bible.

Kind of how I'm writing about what Jen wrote about what she thinks about studying the Bible.

The irony is not lost on me.

But it doesn't mean I shouldn't read her book, or that you shouldn't read this blog post. It does mean that if I want to know the Bible, I definitely need to read the Bible - the original source - and see for myself what it says.

As Jen says, "We're called to love the Lord our God with all our mind, not John Piper's mind"(43). While helpful, the wise words of godly men and women are no substitute for Bible study on our own. 

And finally,

6) The Jack Spratt Approach:
"Jack Spratt could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean." I've always thought that was a really weird nursery rhyme, but it makes a great comparison for those of us who can be "picky eaters" when it come to studying the Bible. Here's how Jen describes the Jack Spratt approach:

"'I read the New Testament, but other than Psalms and Proverbs, I avoid the Old Testament; or I read books with characters, plots or topics I can easily identify with.' Women, in particular, seem drawn to this approach (anyone else a little worn out with Esther, Ruth, and Proverbs 31?), but everyone fights this temptation to a certain extent. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable. All of it. We need a balanced diet to grow in maturity -- it's time to move on to the rest of the meal. Women need both male and female examples to point us to godliness. We can't fully appreciate the sweetness of the New Testament without the savory of the Old Testament. We need historical narrative, poetry, wisdom literature, law, prophecy, and parables all showing us the character of God from different angles. And we need to see the gospel story from Genesis to Revelation. A well-rounded approach to Bible study challenges us to to learn the full counsel of God's Word. It helps us to build a collective understanding of how the Bible as a whole speaks of God"(44).

That was a crazy long quote, but I literally can't say it any better.

So, did any of those examples resonate with you? If you're like me, you've probably dabbled in each subpar method of study at various points in your life. And, if you're like me, you may have wondered if there wasn't a better way to study the Bible - for example, a way that actually helped you acquire and retain a holistic knowledge of the Scriptures, that changed the way you think about God, yourself, and the world around you.

Jen spends the rest of her book breaking down a healthy, comprehensive method of studying the Bible, and this is really the part that changed my day to day dealings with God's Word. It's the largest and most significant portion of the book, so I won't even attempt to summarize it here; but I will say, if you find yourself stuck in a Bible-reading rut, or unable to kick a bad habit, I recommend that you check out this book, find a friend and get to work studying God's Word together.

Like any good habit, this process is developed over time. John and I started with the tiny book of Titus, and we are still working our way through it a couple months later. It takes practice and patience, but I cannot think of a more worthy way to spend our time. Bible literacy is not only a way to know and foster a deeper love for God, it also protects us from false teachings and cultural hijackings of God's truth.

I know I've quoted Jen Wilkin here way more than I've presented my own original thoughts, but her's is a message worth relaying. And her book goes so much deeper and explains significantly more than what I was able to do in this post. I pray that, as women, we understand the importance of having a strong, working knowledge of the Word of God - that we hunger and thirst for it.

"Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible"(46).

Let's be women of the Word. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Because "mother is a verb too"

This is a post I wrote for a friends' Facebook group W.R.I.T.E (Women Relating in Their Experiences). It's a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and it is obviously geared toward stay-at-home moms. I think it's important to note, though, that the work of "mothering" is not solely reserved for women who have pushed babies out of their bodies. I recently read a book by Gloria Furman called Missional  Motherhood. It was super encouraging and refreshingly written to all women - married, single, children, no children. Furman asserts that, regardless of life stage, we are all mothers to someone because, as she says, "mother is a verb too." I couldn't agree more.

Being a Stay-At-Home Mom: Delight or Drudgery?

I glanced up at the clock for the tenth time in as many minutes.

2:10 pm, it told me.

I knew that meant I had about an hour of nap time left before the "big" kids got up and would need a snack. It also meant there were roughly two hours until I needed to get dinner going and around four left until John came home to rescue, I mean help, me.

My gaze wandered to the window and the peacefully falling snow outside - a sharp contrast to the screaming baby upstairs who must not have received the quiet time memo. Have you ever noticed how much louder everything seems when you are expecting your home to be quiet? Over the next 15 minutes, I listened to doors opening that were supposed to be closed, tiny feet making impressively big noises as they bounded toward the bathroom, and one curious toddler's questions about what I could possibly be doing downstairs by myself.

I walked into the kitchen, looked over the dishes left from lunch and chuckled to myself as I thought back to a conversation with a  girlfriend about how, some days, it seems like we never leave the kitchen. Skipping the dishes, I walked upstairs to move the laundry over - flu season kills us in the clean bedsheets department. And so the day went on. The kids got up, we had snacks, did math lessons; there were toys to pick up, dishes to clean, shoes and coats to put on, babies to hold, floors to dry after shoes and coats came back inside, etcetera, etcetera. If you're a stay-at-home mom this probably sounds pretty familiar to you. It's true what they say, "The days are long, but the years are short." Some days just feel longer than others.

I knew this week, as I tried to write about finding delight in being a stay-at-home mom, that I would often struggle to feel delighted (Satan's smart and that's how he rolls). Of course I was right; John had to work extra-long hours, babies were sick, everyone was cranky and I found myself struggling to feel purposeful in what I was doing. In the midst of it all, I tried to hold on to something I've realized over the past several years - that my purpose, and therefore delight, in mothering is not found in the daily tasks that I do for my family, but in what you might call my "long game."

Focusing on the constant repetition of often mundane tasks (i.e. my short game), leaves me feeling less than fulfilled. In fact, considering how often I am redoing things that little hands have undone, it can leave me feeling downright frustrated and bitter. Don't get me wrong, certainly we should work to serve our families (as we should work to do anything) as though we are serving Jesus (Colossians 3:23). After all, Jesus himself came to serve and not be served (Matthew 20:28). But we are missing out on something glorious if this is where our vision for motherhood stops, if we neglect the full scope of what we are called to as mothers. Make no mistake about it, we have indeed been tasked with a great mission.

Enter the long game.

Jesus' last words to His disciples included the command to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). While many of us may never leave this country in the name of the gospel, let's not miss the fact that God has gifted us with tiny disciples in our very own homes. We have been assigned the awesome responsibility of raising up the next generation of people who passionately love Jesus. I hope you can pause for a moment and appreciate the weighty privilege that statement holds. The knowledge of it should shape every moment of your day - even the mundane ones. When I get up and go about the business of mothering, I need to have the end goal in mind - I want my children to know and love Jesus, not on a superficial level, but in a heart-changing, life-affecting way that shades every corner of their lives. This is what it means to work on my long game; I'm working today for who they will be tomorrow.

I can start by praying for them; we know, after all, that heart change can only come from God (Ezekiel 36:26).

I can also flood my own mind with scripture - reading it, listening to it, memorizing it, meditating on it throughout the day - until I say, as David did, that God's words are "sweeter than honey to my mouth" (Psalm 119:103). I can only pour over my children that which already fills me.

And I can teach them. Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs us to teach our children all of God's words, "talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." So when we're hanging out at home, when we're on the go, when we go to bed and when we wake up - that's literally all the time. Why? Because God wants our children to remember Him, to know Him. At this point I will shamelessly hijack a line from Andy Mineo (look him up, you're welcome): your life is the first Bible that your children will ever see. What is it telling them?

Mothers, you are molders of the future. I pray the importance of what you are called to is not lost on you. From your arms will rise the leaders, the activists, the missionaries, the world-changers, the JESUS-LOVERS of tomorrow. You should take great delight in fulfilling that purpose.

But you should also know that this is not your greatest life calling. Your primary and ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 10:31, John 17:21-23). If our greatest joy is found in fulfilling our ultimate purpose, then there can be no greater joy than that found in knowing Jesus. When shifting circumstances cause your feet to falter, the future hope that is found in Him is steadfast. When every area of your life is in flux, or when you find yourself stuck in stagnant routine, He is the rock that grounds you; His is the voice that calls you out of the mire. True joy that transcends circumstance is bound up in the person of Jesus and the knowledge that this life is but a vapor, appearing for a little time and then vanishing away (James 4:14). The ultimate long game, then, is an eternal one - living our lives today in light of who we will be tomorrow.

With that, I will leave you with words far wiser than my own, "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Christ" (1 Peter 1:13). Peace and joy, sisters.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Winter Shminter (and all things Lily)

So, I'm pretty sure the DeLucas are allergic to Iowa, which is unfortunate since we moved our entire family here last fall. I don't feel I asked for much in the way of being welcomed by our new home. I wasn't planning on Iowa throwing us a party when we arrived; I didn't foresee a mob of DeLuca-loving Hawkeyes waiting to shower us with gifts as we crossed the state line - although between you and me, I wouldn't have said no to some free sweet corn and a gift card.

What we actually found waiting for us, however, was norovirus, ear infections, RSV and pink eye - and that's just the tip of the iceberg. We've literally been here for less than 8 months and we've had head colds, chest colds, pink eye, followed by the stomach flu, followed by more chest colds, another round of the flu, ear infections, caused or followed by RSV (not totally sure), and to really knock it out of the park, norovirus (you know that bug that took down an entire cruise ship?) ripped it's way through our family resulting in two hospitalizations and one birth. Just so we're clear that's a total of 15+ colds, 6 pink eyes, 16 rounds of the stomach flu, 2 ear infections and 4 cases of RSV - in 3 months. Great stuff. We <3 Iowa.

Now, I understand this is not totally Iowa's fault. The flu thing is probably my own fault - you know for breathing or spending time with other human beings this winter. Has anyone else noticed the especially resilient and militarized nature of germs this season? Maybe it's just my family. Perhaps our frail Louisiana immune systems were not ready for a big boy winter. Looking back now I see that I should have dipped my children in some kind of clorox and hand-sanitizing solution at the beginning of the season - or just put them in a bubble.  Whatever the case, we've had the aforementioned stomach flu four and a half times so far this winter - all of the same time....every time. I'll spare you the visual details. My precious, sweet baby Lily arrived during round three of our epic bout with the flu.

Here's how it went.

DAY 1 - 5 days before my due date

6pm - I start having contractions. Not very strong, about 5-7 minutes apart. I'm pretty sure it's false labor since I'm dehydrated from being sick all day - what's up norovirus?!

6:45pm - Contractions are now 3-4 minutes apart but not getting any stronger. I'm still very confident it's false labor.

7pm - John pokes his head into our room and asks how I'm doing. I've been having regular contractions for an hour, NBD. I tell him I'm fine. John is smart and calls labor and delivery. They want me to come in and get fluids "just in case." I'm annoyed.

8pm - The three babies, John and I load up in the car and drive to the hospital. We discuss what we'll do with the kids if I'm actually in labor (which I'm not). It's good to have a plan just in case, though. I call my mom and dad and let them know what's going on. They're two and a half hours away and won't be able to come until my dad gets off work at 11. I'm sure we'll be fine!

8:05pm - John apologizes for the bumps in the road. He's concerned they are making my contractions more painful. I'm concerned because I feel like death, contractions mean nothing to me right now.

9:30pm - I've been hooked up to an IV for about an hour. The contractions are still coming and apparently getting stronger. The doctor asks if I can feel them (seriously?). "Do you think they're getting stronger?" she wants to know. I say's false labor, I'm just dehydrated. I have the stomach flu, I'm not having a baby today. All three of my kids are in the waiting room with their dad, I have no overnight bag, we have no carseat, my dad is working overtime so my parents won't be here until well after midnight. No baby is coming tonight! Also, I think I need to throw up.

10pm - Doc informs me that I will be hooked up to an IV for two more hours - we may want to find something to do with the kids. Sweeeet.

10:15pm - I call John who's amazing and has been entertaining the kids in the waiting room. We decide he will take them all back home, put them to bed, and then load them back up at midnight to pick me up from the hospital. It's not worth waking people up to watch our kids for an hour and a half, since I'm not having a baby tonight.

10:16pm - My water breaks. John is now frantically calling people to take our children.

10:25pm - No one has answered their phone - John brings all the kids back to the delivery room. We are having a baby...all of us....together.....right now.

10:45pm - Lily is coming crazy fast. We're just moments away from holding her. All I can think is, "Can someone please take my children??!" I would like them not to be scarred for life.

10:50pm - A really sweet nurse's aid takes the kids to the waiting room so John can stay with me. She is my favorite person whose name I don't know. Baby-having adrenaline has made me forget about throwing up. This will later be revisited.

11:02pm - Baby Lily is born a whopping two hours after arriving at the hospital! She's our biggest baby at 9lbs. I'm glad she came five days early. :)

11:10pm - Babies one, two and three are back in the delivery room wanting to climb in bed with me and baby number four. I don't mind as much as you would expect. Aside from shielding Lily from well-intended love mauls, I actually really loved having our family together for all of this. The kids were angels by the grace of God (and the iPad).

11:30pm - John decides he will take the kids home and then come back when my parents arrive. He makes it back around 3 in the morning.


The plague of death forces Lily to spend a lot of time in the nursery, because I am weak and contagious. I'm sad because I can't just enjoy her. I'm still hooked up to an IV because I can't keep food down and I'm dragging it to the bathroom about every 15 minutes. A high fever causes me to go into involuntary convulsions. The nurses and John cover me in cold wash rags so that I won't have an asthma attack. My muscles burn from the spasms and I hear a nurse say they're worried about my heart.

Eventually my temperature goes down and I stop shaking. My husband is a saint, feeding me ice chips and keeping cold rags on me. They bring Lily to me to nurse. All I want to do is sleep. I pray a lot.


John wakes up with the plague of death. We are now officially a worthless pair. My parents decide they will keep the kids home from the hospital, Emma has been running a fever. The doctor decides I should stay an extra day since I'm still sick. I eat some jello and celebrate my small victory.

I decide I'm feeling better just in time for John's involuntary convulsions to start. By now we know the drill and have it under control within a few minutes. The sweet nurses offer to hook him up to an IV. I think they feel sorry for us.


We are going home!! John and I are both feeling better, or at least functional, although we're still making frequent trips to the bathroom. Things are looking up and I'm looking forward to just  enjoying our new daughter for a bit.

My mom calls at 8am. Emma is fine, but Rowan has been throwing up about every 15-20 minutes since 9pm. My dad brings him to the hospital. They admit him to the pediatric unit down the hall from me and hook him up to an IV. He's severely dehydrated and will end up being in the hospital for three days.

I make a fool of myself and cry about all the craziness to my nurse during her discharge speech. Like ugly cry. She is very sweet and doesn't make me feel like a crazy person.

John transfers to Rowan's room down the hall (where they also offer to hook him up to an IV haha) and my dad takes Lily and me home.

To make a long story short(er)....

The rest of the week was spent recovering, waiting for Rowan and John to get home, and praying that my parents didn't get sick (which by the sheer grace of God they didn't).

Once Rowan got to come home, John was able to hold his daughter for the second time since she was born the previous week, and I was able to finally start enjoying our new family dynamic.

Lily never did get sick thank goodness, although she's been hospitalized with RSV since then (lovingly passed to her by the older siblings). Through it all she's been such an angel. And it doesn't hurt that she's a cuddler. :)

But now....

As I write this our three oldest are attempting to sleep off the effects of the current stomach virus making its way around our house (this would be cases 14, 15 and 16). I'm so looking forward to moving on from the winter of the death plague et al. We are seeing the beginnings of Iowa in the Spring - which has been beautiful so far - and I'm anxious for the day when we are all healthy and back outside again. Until then I can confidently say that this winter, more than any other in my life, has taught me that the Lord truly does sustain, without fail. He provides all that we need for whatever task He assigns, no matter how daunting.

Oh and also, if you come to visit us in Iowa in the winter, don't forget your hand sanitizer. :)

Everybody safely home from the hospital, building the world's ugliest snow man :)

Born January 24, 2015

Friday, April 25, 2014

The one about Emma

 My sweet Emma. My saving grace in so many ways. Small confession - I never actually thought I wanted a daughter. I know, right. Sure it would be fine, but I have three brothers; what the heck would I do with a girl?

But 2 years ago there I was holding this sweet little doll of a baby and not even realizing what a total gift she was. Now, truth be told, Emma was not immediately the cutest baby I had ever seen. Sure she was cute, because she was mine, but we weren't winning any newborn beauty contests by any stretch of the imagination. Does that sound harsh? It feels a little harsh. Anyway, she had an incredibly fast delivery that left her face swollen and bruised-looking. I always say she was uncomfortable making me uncomfortable. "I'm sorry Mommy, I'll make this as quick as possible.....Oh, did that hurt? Is this an inconvenience? Well let me just get out of here as fast as I can." That's pretty much Emma in a nutshell.

Not only was her delivery over in about two pushes, but she was like the least fussy baby in the world - which was very strange for me. I remember she would just sit in her little bouncer and watch everything that was going on, or stare at the ceiling, or her hands, or nothing at all. She would just wait around until someone decided to hold her, or feed her, or put her to bed. God bless her. I didn't even know babies did that. I remember people telling me babies did that, but I knew the truth. I had one son and he did ANYTHING but sit still, ever. Never ever. I just assumed that's what I could expect from baby number two. Naturally, I was terrified slightly nervous.

But then there was Emma. My quiet, content observer. I've never been so happy to be wrong.

Nowadays Emma has quite a bit more to say. She is after all in those terrific! twos (bleh). What she says is not always my favorite, but I'll tell you what is.....the way she says it. Her voice might be the cutest thing that has ever existed. I could seriously bottle it up and drink it.

Side note - some people feel really strange about making eating references when discussing children, i.e. "He's so cute I could just eat him" or "I want to chew on those chubby little hands." BUT if you have ever just been beyond words about something (particularly a child), you know what I mean! And it's not weird! 

Anyway, Emma has this tiny little girl voice that I can't even describe. It's almost without fail the one thing people mention when they first meet her. I know she will grow out of it eventually (at least I hope so, for her sake), but right now I just want her to sing me the ABC's, or tell me her Bible verse, or read stock reports, anything. Don't tell her, but sometimes I pretend not to hear her just so she'll have to repeat herself. :) Somehow, "poopy-butt" sounds so sweet coming out of her mouth. Uggh, that reminds me. Can I just take a minute to say this is one of my least favorite annoyances of this age? Anything having to do with the words "poop" or "butt" is HILARIOUS to them. Sometimes they decide to throw out letters of the alphabet and replace them with said choice mid song. You know like, "A B C D E F...poopy-butt!" And then they crack up laughing because they think it is the funniest thing that anyone has ever done. I say it's annoying. Except when Emma does's the voice! Ugh, I'm such a bad mom!

Which actually brings me to my next point. I think the most surprising thing about Emma right now is how GOOFY she is. Ok, so I know I was like all gaga about how awesomely low key she was as a baby, but it also had it's draw backs. She was so chill, but it made her kind of serious and some might say...uninteresting? Emma, if you're reading this 10-20 years from now, know that I have ALWAYS been interested in you. I'm just saying some people (Uncle Ryan) liked to hang out with more active babies, and were maybe a little worried you wouldn't have a sense of humor. Not to throw anyone under the bus. How wrong they were my little poopy-butt.

She just says interesting and weird things that were probably always in her head, but now she's learning how to express herself. Yesterday she told me my hair smelled good and then said, "Let's eat it!" She finished the conversation off with a maniacal laugh and walked away. What? Although now that I think about it, I bet she totally gets the baby/consumption association.

Or let's talk about the way she says, "Hello world," in a dreamy voice every time I open her blinds in the morning. Straight up princess yo. It makes me laugh EVERY time.

Of course amidst all of her delightful qualities (unbiasedly observed of course) Emma also presents us with her own challenges. Like the fact that she refuses to be potty-trained. I was not expecting that. Everybody told me that potty training girls was soooo much easier than training boys. And since Rowan was potty trained at 2.5 after about the same amount of tries, I figured my easy peasy girl would knock it out at 2 on the first try. Wrong. You win some, you lose some I guess.

You know, I've been meaning to write this post for awhile. Emma's birthday, after all, was in March. I just haven't had the energy/mental capacity to sit down and do it. But by lunch this afternoon, I knew today would be the day.

We had a particularly rough day in the DeLuca home today. A couple boys who shall remain nameless were particularly rowdy, defiant, restless/fussy, clingy, helpless...respectively. I'll let you decide who was who. It all came to a head at lunch. I was trying to talk Rowan down from a world-ending tantrum about no one eating his applesauce while also trying to keep him in time out without destroying his room (the reason for time out also involved said applesauce). We were sitting on his bed when my gentle giant started screaming and trying to crawl into my lap. He doesn't like yelling. Within a matter of moments I was trying to keep Rowan from flailing his body into the wall, myself or Joseph and at the same time trying to keep our screaming baby from crawling into my lap - which was within the flail radius.

It was at this moment I realized that the entire time Emma had been sitting in the kitchen by herself, quietly eating Rowan's applesauce. Don't worry, she was allowed to eat Rowan's applesauce, he had emptied hers on the floor mid-tantrum. Anyway the point is, at that moment I was very thankful for and grateful to my sweet and quiet observer. Maybe you have to have the day that I did to appreciate that simple act of obedience, but she spoke more love to me in that moment than a hundred hugs and kisses would have. And that's when I knew today was her blog day. Because even though every day is not "Emma's the bomb" day, today was. I want to remember it; I want her to remember it; and I especially want her to know that I noticed. You are loved my sweet Emma Rose, and I hope one day you are blessed enough to have a daughter who is just like you. <3

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On Being Three (and NOT two!)

You know, March used to make me think of four-leaf clovers, corned beef and cabbage and my Irish grandma. Now when this special month rolls around I have just one thing on my mind - birthdays, birthdays and more birthdays! March is the month that saw all three of our children brought into this world, each 12 months and a week or so apart - March 6, March 15, and March 31. It is an unintentional, very sweet thing that I love about how God has created our family so far. It also means we have two birthdays down and one to go.

Rowan turned three on the sixth and (fingers crossed) may also be turning a crucial corner in his short little life - one that takes him out of the terrible twos (cheers and applause). I know it's more kosher now to call it the "terrific" twos, or so I've heard, but put yourself in a crowded Target with a slap fight distracting you from trying to remember what the heck your pin number is, followed immediately by a lightening-quick grab and dash that lands you stopping traffic in the parking lot, and then you can tell me how terrific it is.

We joke about it, but the twos have been rough. Figuring out the whole discipline thing has been crazy for everyone - yes for us, but also for our strong-willed, independent thinker of a son. Lots of head butting, both figuratively and literally. And we're still trying to nail down the whole consistency thing. Thus far everything seems very situational. Some days (and depending on the offense) time outs are the most effective, some days spankings, and other days a good talking to gets little man right back on track. This has required a lot more effort on our part and being "on top of things" more, but I think we're starting to see the pay off.

So yes, we've had our fair share of tantrums and meltdowns and Target trauma, but what has completely amazed me is watching our first baby turn into a little boy. I look at his curly-haired, mischievous little head on a daily basis and wonder at how big he is. I mean old. The kid talks like he's 3 going on 13. Sometimes it's cute. I walk out of his room after kissing him goodnight and hear "Don't forget to wash the dishes!" Cute. One time he accidentally destroyed an ant hill and leaned down to say, "Don't worry ladies. It'll be ok, girls." He then spent the rest of the day figuring out a plan to get the ants a new home, including buying and donating one. Cute.

Sometimes, though, it's not so cute. My three-year-old already does the eye-rolling version of "Fine!" when he finally concedes an argument. Like I said, 3 going on 13.Yesterday I told him he was going to time out and he yelled, "Never!" like he was channeling Braveheart. He's sassy and he's sweet. He's complicated; he has layers. And I love it.

He's already my little helper, wanting to be part of everything that John and I do. He's obsessed with "smoke stacks" because Daddy works at a refinery. In fact, if you ask him, he goes to his own "smoke stacks" every day as well. He will also inform you that there are exactly five smoke stacks at his particular place of business. This is really important.

But my favorite thing about Rowan has actually been somewhat of a surprise.

He's sweet. I mean tender-hearted, care how you feel, pets little babies sweet. The reason this is surprising is 50% the fact that he was a fussy, unhappy baby that didn't like being cuddled (aka mommy didn't know his body hated milk) and 50% the fact that he is prone to smacking friends (or anyone near him) with the closest sword-like object. All in the name of fighting bad guys of course. And he's loud....and a wrestler...a loud, wrestling, fire cracker of a kid. Essentially he's a boy. :) So to see a sweet and tender spirit developing in this little macho man is probably one of my favorite things in the whole world.

Now that we have one finally coming out of those terrific! twos, we have one waiting in the wings, raring to take his place, yay.  More on that later. But I think we're ready for this one. We've got one under our belt and, lucky for us, it's all still fresh in our memory. Bring it on twos!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ya feel me?

I am going to apologize ahead of time for the downtrodden and longish nature of this post. If you are looking for a spiritual pick me up or a really good laugh, maybe stop now. I do not have this for you. But on the off chance that somebody reading this might enjoy a little commiseration or someone else to say, "yeah I'm not ok today....but I think it's ok," I'm gonna go ahead and post my bad attitude all over the interwebs. Totally for your benefit. God help us, and you're welcome. :)

I realized today, again, that I have no idea what I'm doing. Or how to do it. I have these three amazingly crazy little people running around my house, almost literally non-stop, and more often than not all I can think about is how I should be doing this differently. Like, I should be doing more of this. Or at least less of that. I'm so scared that 20 years from now I'm going to wake up with all of these thoughts and ideas about how I could have been such a better mom. But then it will be too late.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we're doing any kind of irreparable damage to the tiny ones in our hands (please God don't let me be doing any irreparable damage to the tiny ones in my hands). But are we being the best parents we can be? Am I being the best mom I can be?

What's scary is I think I am.....and in no way, shape, or form does it feel like enough.

I should spend more time with Jesus. My house should be cleaner. Our kids should watch less tv. I should yell less. We should discipline more effectively. Maybe we're spanking too much.....or not enough. I should be more hands on. I should let them learn how to entertain themselves more. I should be more diligent and structured and intentional about my time with them. I should let them have more free time and self-guided play.

This feels like a life full of paradoxes. How do all of these things happen at once? How do we know what's worthwhile and what's not? We've never done this before. And those who have done it before will swear by 500 different "right" ways to do it. Blah, it makes my head hurt.

Shameful confession: Thinking about all of this makes me want to curl up into a ball under the covers and sleep until winter is over. Or at least until someone can give me all the answers. Also, this might be because I just want to sleep, in general. I think I have about two years to catch up on. But that is neither here nor there.

The point is, it's getting hard.

I didn't always feel like this, you know. We've had our ups and downs figuring out how to be parents, but overall I'd say we've had a pretty optimistic approach to the whole thing. I've been nervous about the unknown here and there, but we've always figured it out and moved on to the next thing.

 Like when Rowan came home from the hospital wanting to nurse for an hour and a half about every 20 minutes. Did we know that was strange? No, he was the first baby and what the heck did I know about nursing? But a week later it was under control. We discovered that pacifiers are a gift from God and babies sometimes need to wait for their dinner. Cool. Bring on the next challenge.

Or how about the time when we couldn't figure out why he wasn't sleeping through the night anymore. Every night for weeks we would wake up and rock him for what seemed like hours thinking THE WHOLE TIME, "I thought we were done doing this, why won't you just sleep? I'm not gonna be able to do this when baby #2 gets here!" And then his teeth came in and he started sleeping better and we looked back and realized we should have just been patient. Boom, challenge over. Give me something else!

But two more babies in two years later, I feel like I'm running out of steam. My body is tired, my brain is tired, and my spirit is tired. Oh, and did I mention my house is a disaster? Challenges seem more...well, challenging.

I know that what we are doing is worthwhile. I know that our children are a blessing. I know this so much that we will be ECSTATIC if and when we find out that baby #4 is on the way (I said IF and WHEN mom, calm down).

But this doesn't change the fact that it is still hard. I am still struggling on a daily basis. Struggling with my attitude, struggling to find grace - for others and myself - and struggling to be ok with struggling. So much is at stake - I don't want to screw it up!

I have no answers. So aside from 100% using this post to vent my concerns and frustrations so I can move on with my day on a more pleasant note, I just want to tell somebody, it's ok if you're not ok. It's ok that you don't have it figured out. It's ok that you are making mistakes and sometimes don't apologize for them or even tell anyone. It's ok because life is more than today.

I know that I am being made new every day. I know that God is faithful. I know that He is in control and all things work together for good for those who love Him. I know that this world is temporary and what matters most is the eternal. I know that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it. I know that as I fallibly and inconsistently follow Him, my heart's desire is for Him. And I know that He is creating me to be exactly who He designed me to be, and EXACTLY the kind of mom that He wanted my children to have.

So I will continue to ask Him for help, to ask for forgiveness, and to ask for the discernment to KNOW when I need to ask for forgiveness. But mostly I will continue to trust that the person He is creating in me is so much better than the person who I actually am. Thank God.....literally.

If you made it this far, maybe you can relate. But mostly, thanks for letting me get that out. I really needed to hear it. :)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ode to Sleep

Whoever said "Sleep is overrated" was obviously sleeping too much.

We do not have that problem.

If I could, I would change that quote to, "Sleep is that thing that I used to get a long, long time ago." or "One time I slept. And then I had babies."

Sleep feels like a long lost friend that doesn't really feel comfortable hanging out with me anymore. I wish I could entice sleep to spend a little more time at our house, but our lives have just gone in such different directions. It's obvious he doesn't fit in here anymore.

If I knew what sleep liked, I would shower him with gifts. I would bake. I would sing. I would dance on my head. I would do just about anything for sleep.

As far as I can tell, the feeling is not mutual.

I hate to say it, but I think my kids are part of the problem. They really don't seem to like sleep. Multiple times a day we talk about how wonderful sleep is. How much Mommy really REEEEAAALLLYY loves sleep.

But it doesn't seem to make much difference. I mean, I suppose I can't really blame sleep for not sticking around where he's obviously not wanted.

I just wish he would try a little harder.

What's exasperating is how untrustworthy sleep can be! I frequently go to bed with the hope and promise of deep and restful sleep. But so often I am disappointed. Yesterday started at 2 am; we didn't sit down again until 10pm. Where was sleep then? You understand my frustration.

I suppose this is the season of life we are in. A season of sleeplessness. And somehow, we are functioning without sleep. Although I do look forward to the day when he finds his way back to our home.

Until then, we will make due with naps. Naps, as you know is a close relative of sleep. While he's not nearly as deep or engaging, naps has given us a few blissful hours here and there. The children still don't seem to care for him, but Mommy has made naps non-negotiable. And although naps often has us tip-toeing around the house and fighting the urge to shoot the dog next door, we consider him a friend and a close second to sleep.

Sleep, you are loved and missed dearly. You, my friend, are anything but overrated.