Hi! My name is Jen. I am married to my handsome farmer, Andrew, of 13.5 years and we have four pretty awesome kids. Katie is 10, Hannah is 7, Eli is 5 and Natalie is 3.
Isn’t it true that we all have dreams of what mamahood will look like? I spent hours dreaming about being a mommy. I had twin baby dolls that cried when they were apart and cooed when they were together; and I somehow thought it really was that easy. I giggle to myself now.
Jennie Allen in her book “Anything” describes it like this:
We all have a scrapbook. We all have the pictures of our lives in our minds, how they “should be”, how we hope they will be- how we picture them. We collect these pictures in powerful scrapbooks that exist in our heads. We plan it all out. At some point we realize it doesn’t work that way. We can’t control the actual scrapbooks—the ones reflecting the past rather than the future. And letting go? The idea that we would actually hand it all over to God and say, “Go. Build it. Do whatever you want with all I have”…it is terrifying. But we seize more of God when he seizes us through our broken dreams.
I had a “mommy scrapbook”. It looked kind of like this…
Get married (check). Have two kids (we had a few more 😊), Work the career I earned (not right now). Have the perfect farm yard with the cleanest house (not possible). And here is the thing about this scrapbook, it was filled with pride, perfection and selfishness. Somewhere along the line I decided that if I worked hard enough, I could do it. Control it. Be independent. Katie came along and turned that all upside down.
Katie. Our first-born baby. She had the pinkest prettiest skin I had ever seen, and I was completely smitten. Until she started to cry; and didn’t stop for about a year. We had great difficulty getting her to eat in those first few weeks; and being born right before Christmas made me sad. I had family gatherings I wanted to attend, pretty outfits I wanted to shop for for her, and jeans that I wanted to fit in. Instead, I learned right there in those 2am feeds that being a mama meant sacrifice.
Katie needed me. She needed me to set that alarm every two hours at night and wake her to help her grow. She needed me to rock her and bounce her and sing to her and clean up the milk she vomited that we worked so hard to get into her. She needed me to be kind and gentle and patient. When she decided she was not going to stay in the nursery in church until she turned 3…she needed me to love her and comfort her and provide a safe place. So, we spent a lot of time in her yellow room, rocking in the yellow bumble bee rocking chair, and I began to pray. “Lord, please grow Katie into a confident little girl. Help her to feel safe Lord. Help her to trust in You”. These prayers began to change my heart too. This is where I began attending Selah Moms group. I was so thankful to spend a morning a week with other moms who understood and wanted to love Jesus in this calling. I continue to attend and lead at Selah and leave feeling refreshed and inspired.
I learned that God uses our kids to reach the more tender areas of our hearts. He is our Father and we are His kids, and this becomes more real when we care for our own. Our kids are also little “mirrors”. They reflect our own character. This really challenged me in those small years. This continues to motivate me now. A character check of the best kind!
Hannah was our only “harvest baby”, born end of July at the start of wheat harvest. I was about to learn another kind of sacrifice; single parenting two kids for a short season. I was so fortunate to have family and friends who helped us during this time! Meals are such a gift to new moms! I cherished those fresh buns and jam my mom would bring, or those hot meals that would get delivered by a friend just when we seemed to need it most! I continue to try to pay that forward now as it was key to survival during those newborn years. It reminded me that there was indeed life outside the house 😊!
My maternity leave with Hannah was about half done when I began to feel so torn. I had been working part time in a career that I loved and knew I would not come by easily if I let it go. I loved being home and though Katie had wonderful childcare, she struggled greatly when I left. Andrew and I decided to fast and pray, and we did so for four months. Being new to fasting we tried a variety of fasts (juice only fasts, media fasts, junk food fasts etc). We were desperate to sense God’s calling here. Andrew, understandably, apprehensive to be the sole provider for a growing family. It was again a growing opportunity in trusting our Heavenly Father together. After these four months, God had worked beautifully in Andrews heart, and Andrew was supportive to the idea of me staying home. I sought out help at the church too, sitting down with a personal prayer minister to pray. Friends also prayed with us. There was a growing sense that both paths would lead to the same destination, they would just look different. Together, Andrew and I decided to let my position go.
I can see now how important it is for families to pray for the calling God has for them as it is unique and wonderfully made for each family. I know from our experiences, that God longs to be in relationship with us and He will meet us in our needs.
After Hannah, we lost one baby. At our first midwife appointment there was no heart beat, which lead us on a new journey of grief and trust. Andrew and I had to learn to be gentle with each other and keep up the communication. We also needed community and sought that individually in our cell groups. This was healing for both of us. To be raw and real and to know that our friends were praying for us when we did not have the words. For five weeks I carried my little baby knowing baby had died. Medically speaking, the hope was for a natural miscarriage. Spiritually, it was a birth of trust in my Heavenly Father. A true relinquishing of the control I longed for. In this loss, I learned that God is truly trustworthy. He is good in all things. I can lean on Him for strength. He carries us and understands our pain well. The Lord felt so near in this loss. I am forever thankful for that.
Eli and Natalie are the kiddos that I did not initially “plan” for. As you can recall, my scrapbook had two kids penciled in. I began to realize that I adored being a mother and it felt natural and wonderful for me most of the time 😉!
Motherhood stretches and molds me. I continue to learn what sacrifice looks like through my daily walk with Jesus, my marriage to Andrew and our parenting to four kids. God’s word is a gift that gives hope and refuge when I am tired and weary and anticipation when I am filled with joy and gladness. Simplicity. Though it does not always feel very simple, a posture of open hands before the Lord continues to be what I pray for. A gift of surrender, to our Abba.
It resembles a dance doesn’t it? Sometimes slow, sometimes fast…but never alone!
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul”