How to Write Books with Babies In Your Lap (Giveaway)

via Worth James Goddard on flickr

You don’t.

You don’t write books with babies in your lap, you don’t even check your email because four boys are honking your nose and pulling at your hair and coffee spills all over the overdue bills on your desk and you wonder again, why you said Yes.

Why you said you’d take in your friend’s two children when she called saying she couldn’t do it anymore, she couldn’t be a mom anymore. And rather than see that one-year-old and three-year-old go into the foster system you said you’d take them in, in addition to your six-month-old and his two-year-old brother.

Because some things are more important than sleep. Or a hot cup of coffee. Or that novel you’ve just been contracted to write because of course, you finally got a contract right after you took the boys in. Because God cares more about the least of these and he’ll reward you for it, too.

But it doesn’t feel like a reward. Especially when one of the boys forgets to lock the gate behind him and your six month old tumbles down the stairs in his walker and you grab him, weeping, you run with him to the office and close the door and hold your baby close to you and sob to God, I can’t do this.

Rock your baby and sobbing, and then somehow, God reminds you that you can. And you rise, open the door, turn on some music for the boys in the living room and they run dancing around the coffee table.

The story only gets written because you hire a nanny–a Dutch girl from your hamlet who makes homemade pasta noodles and laughs with all of her upper body and brings crafts to do with the boys. She brings her keyboard and songs fill the insides of your walls and she makes you mugs of tea and you call her Angel.

But even as the characters begin to form on the screen in your Word document, even as the plot thickens and you try to avoid those excessive adverbs and cliche descriptions, you hear the boys laughing outside the office door.

And you miss them. Your house is full of children but they’re no longer climbing all over you, they’re climbing all over somebody else, and you wonder if they aren’t the greatest story your life is writing?

These four boys whose noses and legs never stop running, who never get enough stories at bedtime, who always want more songs and more snuggles and more glasses of milk and more of you.

boys in the corn

All you’ve ever wanted is to be a published author and now you have the chance and you can’t help thinking, this isn’t what life is about.

It’s incredible to be able to make up stories but it’s even more incredible to live them. To hear the words tumbling from your child’s mouth as he talks about his favorite blue flashlight as you lie beside him in his bunk-bed. “Some flashlights are small, and some are big, and some are tiny and some are huge,” he says as he slips his hand into yours there in the dark.

Catherine Wallace writes, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

Yes, I write books, but I don’t make a living from them. I make a living from being a mother and a wife, from nurturing life and love through the main characters of my story: the Dutch-German man I fell in love with back in Bible School, the one who converts his car to run off vegetable oil, who cans his own salsa and snowboards mountains. Who hikes up his pajama pants and dances for me in the middle of the living room, who throws his boys on the bed and eats their tummies, who downloads Parenthood for me and goes geocaching with me and kisses me like he means it.

And the two Filipino boys who now only visit us once a month because they’re back with their mama, and she thanks me every week for saving her life last year, and my biological sons–the ones I wasn’t supposed to be able to have–who make me feel famous every time I enter a room. Who squish my cheeks together in their dimpled hands and say, “I lah you Mama.”

This, friends–this is the story worth telling. The one we’re in.

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I am honored to be giving away my debut novel, A Promise in Pieces--which releases this month–today to you friends… it’s about a woman like me, named Clara, who loves passionately while struggling to believe she is loved.

From the back cover: “It’s been more than 50 years since Clara cared for injured WWII soldiers in the Women’s Army Corp. Fifty years since she promised to deliver a dying soldier’s last wish. And 50 years since that soldier’s young widow gave her the baby quilt—a grief-ridden gift that would provide hope to countless newborns in the years to come. On her way to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Clara decides it’s time to share her story. But when the trip doesn’t go as planned, Clara wonders if anyone will learn the great significance of the quilt—and the promise stitched inside it.”

If you want to win one of two copies, just leave a comment below and we’ll choose two winners within the week. Otherwise, you can download a free chapter and purchase the novel HERE.

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

Balancing Ministry and Motherhood {Or Not}

Me with some of my Dee Gees on campus

Me with some of my Dee Gees on campus

She was four when I started taking her to the Delta Gamma house with me. My little tag along. Sometimes she would watch American Idol with the girls in the TV room. Sometimes she would sneak off to one of their rooms for a sweet treat. Sometimes she would join me for a chapter meeting or meet me with the girls at Starbucks. I was an advisor for the chapter and I really loved those girls. And so did Madison.

She knew I was more than just an advisor. She knew my heart was for them. She heard me give them boy advice; saw me start a Bible study with a few of them; joined me in praying for them; went with me to cookouts and other fun events with them. One time, I even overheard her in the TV room telling one of them that the dancer on American Idol needed to do a better job of “protecting her modesty.”

That season of life was a fun one for us – ministering to college women as a team.

It’s one I think back to often when women ask me about balancing motherhood and ministry.

To be honest, I don’t think there IS a great way to balance motherhood and ministry. Because I think we’re asking the wrong question when we go at it from that angle.

It assumes a few things. First, it assumes that ministry and motherhood are mutually exclusive. It also assumes that ministry is event- or building-centered. Lastly, it chops life up into categories.

I think all three of those are false assumptions.

Ministry is not a compartment in my life. Ministry is a way of life. A way of thinking. It’s not something I do. It’s an outworking of who I am.

Here’s why: I have been loved on by the God of the Universe. Me. I don’t deserve His love. Haven’t done a thing to merit His favor. In fact, I’ve done the opposite. I’ve thrown temper tantrums and rebelled against His ways and pretty much slapped Him in the face. And what did He do in response to my scorn? He scooped me up anyway, took all my junk on Himself, paid for the mess I had created, and adopted me into His family. He did that. For me.

And, what’s more. When He adopted me, He gave me a new identity and a new purpose. He gave me a reason for living that goes beyond my selfish vision. He lifted my head up and showed me a broken, hurting world full of more people that He’d like to adopt. People He’s been loving since the day He knit their tiny forms together in their mamas’ wombs. But, they are people who’ve never heard about His love and mercy and truth. They don’t know that Abba wants to scoop them up too – right in the middle of their mess. It’s never occurred to them that He rejoices over them and longs for them.

There’s nothing to “balance” about that. Because it’s not an activity. It’s my life. Ministry is telling other people about my wonderful Abba and helping them understand Him and grow closer to Him.

That can look a lot of different ways in a lot of different situations. Sometimes, that’s serving in the nursery on Sunday morning so that sweet babies can be held by people who love them and tired mamas can go be reminded of truth. Sometimes it’s serving at a local food pantry or sponsoring a child in Costa Rica. Sometimes it’s shoveling the driveway of an elderly neighbor or starting a Bible study with other ladies from your kids’ school. Sometimes it’s being a safe place for the kids in your neighborhood to hang out. Sometimes it’s just cleaning toilets so that home is a refuge for all who enter.

But, don’t assume it has to compete with motherhood.

Your kids need to see you giving your life away beyond the doors of your home.

Yes, your children are your ministry. But, they’re not your only ministry. Being a mom is part of what God has called you to. Once He adopted you, you became His representative in a desperate world. His ambassador and discipler. My kids are two of those disciples. They are the two I spend the most time with right now but they aren’t the only two people God has called me to love and serve.

Besides, I’m convinced that it’s good for our kids to know that life doesn’t revolve around them.

In fact, they can join us in ministry. Like Madison did when I went on campus. Don’t try to balance motherhood and ministry. Fold your kids into the ministry to which God has already called you. If it’s done with joy and vision, they might just want to do it too…

an Ambassador for my Abba,

@In a Mirror Dimly

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

Trading the glitter of fame for the gold of God’s dreams

I hear my kids speak the dream aloud every now and then, and I cringe.
I cringe because I know how easy it is to think, especially in this day and age:

“I wish I was famous.”

Oh how fame glitters. In any context — small or great, Christian or secular, online or in real life — the sparkle of stardom promises fulfillment, happiness, and success.

And any of us who feel so… ordinary… think we’re missing out.

After all, deep in the heart of every human soul is the desire to matter.

Do you go there?

“Have I achieved something worthwhile? Am I enough? Do I really matter?”

I hope with all my heart that you know the answer to that question.

You matter.

Not because of what you have done or the level of fame you’ve managed to achieve, but because you were intricately designed by a Heavenly Father who breathed His image into your soul.

You matter so much that Jesus sacrificed everything for you. He gave His very life to ransom you from the grip of the enemy.

That fierce, protective, tender love you feel toward the baby in your arms, dependent on you for everything?

That’s His love for you. Yet exponentially more.

But also deep in the heart of every Christ-follower is the desire to make a difference.
And here’s a dream worthy of your full attention.

When you know who you are… whose you are, when your identity and worth are established, you are ready to dream God’s dreams.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:10

My prayer is that you would dream the right dreams — His dreams.

Let me look you in the eye and assure you of the same thing I will continue telling my kids:

 

YouMatterLotus

But let me also remind you of something we often forget as we seek to live this God-given dream:

It’s about faithfulness in the “little” things.

  • Faithfully drinking in His Word, when everything else screams for attention.
  • Faithfully doing today’s unglamorous work, when we’re bored to tears, unapplauded by the four or fourteen-year-old we’re serving.
  • Faithfully taking Spirit-prompted risks, when those around us think we’re crazy.
  • Living fully by faith, confident that the One we serve sees all and will reward all.

It’s about living every single moment for the day when all that glitters will be blown away;

when that which is true gold will remain…

When we hear our Audience of One say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Let me ask you…

*How do you keep yourself and your family from becoming enamored with the glamor of life in the spotlight?

*How do you think we can better teach and model the principles of calling and faithfulness in a world bent on achieving instant fame?

Blessings,
Jennifer Ebenhack

Do I Love My Kids More Than I Love Jesus?

via Worth James Goddard on flickr

via Worth James Goddard on flickr

A tiny casket lowered into the sullen dirt and the sky, swollen with grief.

The parents stood to the side, watching their baby girl being buried in a box and my scarf was soaked with tears. I kept stealing glances at my friend, wondering how she was still standing. Wondering how to comfort her, because there is no comfort any human can offer for the loss of a child.

I still have their daughter’s picture on my fridge and I tear up when I look at her delicate face, this baby born with a rare genetic disease to a couple that tried eight years for a child.

“If it has to be something, give me cancer or let me lose my house but please don’t take my kids,” I pray at night. “Please God, don’t make me go through that–”

Getting pregnant was hard for us too. We were told we would probably never have children because of my anorexia, and then a pastor prayed over us on national television for a son within the year–and we conceived a son within the year. And now we have two boys.

But I’ve also lost two babies, while they were in the womb, and it’s near-wrecked me. Those miscarriages bore stillborn faith and for awhile it was all I could do to just keep going.

I didn’t know, before having kids, the agony of giving birth to your heart and not being able to protect it.

via ILinca Vânău

via ILinca Vânău

The excruciating pain of sending your vulnerable little heart–with his puppy-dog backpack–into a world full of sin.

And the truth is? I don’t know if I love Jesus more than I love my children.

I don’t know if I love Jesus enough to say, “Anything Lord–whatever your plan is, whatever it is you want to use my children for, whatever your will is for this family–please do it.”

I’ve heard of parents giving God the glory when their children die and I want to be that person and yet–I also believe in grief, because what is the resurrection without death? And what is praise without sorrow? Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

Some things in life are just really, really hard. And we’re not supposed to be able to comprehend the pain of losing our children–it’s supposed to be heart-wrenching, because otherwise God sacrificing his own son wouldn’t mean much.

I recently returned from Uganda and Rwanda, where I met women who’d lost multiple children, and I met children who’d lost their mothers and fathers, and death was a reality for everyone there.

But God was a greater reality.

He rose off the face of every person I met, he rose triumphant and joyful, he rose with the promise of an eternity filled with life.

Jesus says to love him more than we love our sons and daughters.

Jesus says a lot of hard things and I’m a sinner saved by grace and it’s all I can do some days to repent. But I want to want to love him more than anything in this world. I want God to be a greater reality for me than death.

via Irena Selaković

via Irena Selaković

And I know that I don’t serve a heartless savior. When I commit my children to him in prayer while seated at the scratched wooden kitchen table, my sons watching Thomas the Train in the background, I don’t commit them to just anyone. I commit them to their Maker.

And when I pray that Jesus would be glorified both in my family’s living and dying, I know God weeps–not only out of joy for the surrender of our hearts, but out of pain–knowing how hard it is to give up a child.

“I just wish I could be there to show her around heaven,” my friend said to me following the funeral of her baby girl, her eyes blurry with tears. “It’s such a big place–I just worry she’ll get lost.”

Oh friends, these mother hearts–they’re meant to ache with the thought of loss.

But this earth, is but a glance, and then, we have forever to spend with Christ and our children. Hallelujah.

Blessings,

Emily Wierenga

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