The Hidden Years of Being a Stay-At-Home Mom (Giveaway!)

hidden years

We were in a garden of peonies, bursting pink and rose and ivory on dozens of bushes and the air smelled like my grandmother’s perfume. I was leaning over the blossoms even as my three-year-old fingered their soft petals and my mother in law, standing there, pointed to a blossom that hadn’t opened yet. Rolled tight into a pink ball, and tiny ants crawling across its surface.

“Peonies can’t open without the ants,” my mother in law said. “See how they’re moving across the surface of the blossom? They’re opening it so that it can bloom.”

I just stared as these tiny ants, who appeared to be doing nothing, worked the miracle of unfolding one of earth’s most extravagant flowers.

And it reminded me of us, as mothers, working tirelessly each day so that one day, our children might blossom.

As mothers we live largely in the hidden years, in the years of the unfolded bloom. We spend hours doing tiny, mundane things like wiping noses and bottoms and tables and chairs and cupboards and floors, and getting on our hands and knees to look into the eyes of a child and disciplining and comforting, potty training and bathtub-scrubbing, mountains of laundry-folding and us, on the couch, crying into a mug of coffee because today of all days, the kids refuse to nap.

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And then we walk wearily down the stairs and pick those little ones up and rock them and read them the same stories, over and over, until it’s time to make supper.

And that’s when we realize we’re still in our pajamas.

Life, for a mom, is largely ordinary and unseen and we wonder if anyone cares or if any of this counts towards anything at all?

But God sees. And there is nothing that delights him more than love done in secret.

We live in a world that says it doesn’t matter if no one witnesses it—that unless it’s recorded on YouTube or tweeted or made into a status, or posted on a blog, it doesn’t count.

But we also live in a world that is disillusioned by fame and hungry for unannounced sacrifice.  

I listened to a talk, recently, by a former atheist who now speaks about the life of Christ and all of the years the Bible doesn’t talk about—the “hidden years” she calls them, leading up to his ministry.

God didn’t love Jesus just because of the way he served him in public.

He loved him because of the way he served him in private.

love done in secret

For all of the ways he served his Father in the quiet of the thirty years prior to his ministry. All of the little, ordinary choices he made as a carpenter—the ant crawling across the bloom of the flower, believing one day its work would be honored, but content until then to keep working at what it has been called to do.

As mothers we have been called to serve our husbands and children. To do those small, unseen things that don’t get a lot of praise or exclamation, that leave us some days weeping into our coffee for the longing to be noticed.

But oh, how your Father notices.

And may you hear, as Jesus did, when he emerged from the water prior to starting any kind of ministry, God’s voice declaring proudly from heaven, “This is my daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”

Even as the peony unfolds.

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It’s my birthday today friends, and to celebrate, I’m giving away a signed copy of my memoir, #AtlasGirl, as well as a beautiful piece of art (see below) by my friend Dee Kasberger (Red Letter Words) over at my blog today. Just click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter!

she knew she was worth

Also, Atlas Girl winners from last month include: Mary-Margaret Brown,  Erin Yeung, Melinda Elam and Debi Schuhow. Bless you! e.

 

My Life by Accident

My Life by Accident

I’m a writer by accident. I never had a thought in my head about writing a book or a blog or anything more than trying to write something pithy on a birthday card! Family-wise, I’m  married to Mike, my best friend and I’m mom to recording artist Francesca Battistelli and Mimi to Franny’s two children, Eli and Audrey Jane. Before becoming a Christian, I pursued a career as an actress and singer in the New York Broadway musical theatre world.

Accident might be too strong a word since there really are no accidents when you’re following God. I just never figured writing into my plans. What I did figure was this: I’d get married, have a big family and be a star on Broadway. I know, crazy right? But God has ways of getting you onto paths you never saw coming.

A little background is in order since I’m sure you don’t know where I’m going with all this.

I graduated high school in New Jersey in the early ’70’s and didn’t know what on earth I wanted to be when I grew up. I was lost, rudderless and clueless about my future. I always loved to sing and started voice lessons at 15 but just didn’t know where it fit in my life. Lacking a Christian foundation I drifted through most of my teenage years. I attended four colleges in two years but didn’t graduate from any of them. I finally realized my passion was music and theatre so I auditioned for a local musical theatre company.

I worked with them for two years getting tons of experience and then started auditioning in New York. I did lots of regional theatre and one thing led to another until I was cast in the Broadway National Tour of The King and I starring Yul Brynner. For those of you too young to know who he was, he played the king in the original movie of The King and I. He was a huge star and I was chosen to be the understudy to Mrs. Anna, the leading role.

I never imagined I’d get a chance to actually perform the lead role but God has funny ways of changing your life when you least expect it. One night I got to the theatre in Buffalo and found out the leading lady was sick with pneumonia and I was going on in 45 minutes! What a terrifying and exhilarating night! I ended up performing the lead role for two weeks until she recovered and returned to her role. However, Yul Brynner liked doing the show better with me so he bought out her two year contract and put me in the lead. Can you even imagine? I was twenty-six years old and starring with a legend in a classic musical. What??? I did the show for almost three years and over 1000 performances.

The best part of the entire experience was meeting my husband Mike.  He joined the tour about six months into the run as Associate Conductor and, as he likes to say, we fell in love across the footlights! After performing eight shows a week for nearly three years, we left the tour, moved back to New York City, got married, bought a little condo in Greenwich Village and began our new life together. Still no inkling any of this would lead to writing.

A year later, we found ourselves answering an altar call and giving our hearts to the Lord. Our daughter Francesca was born soon after and we thoroughly enjoyed our new little family. Before long God began to tug on our heart to lay down our careers and follow what He had next.

Bucking conventional wisdom we left New York and our careers behind to embark on building a new life including moving to the suburbs, starting a new business and homeschooling our little girl.

We both wanted a big family of five kids, with all the chaos, crumbs, and craziness it involves but of course, God had a different plan in mind. After a life-threatening ectopic (tubal) pregnancy we tried everything we possibly could to have more children including three failed adoption attempts. Clearly, God called us to be parents of an ‘only’ and I fought it for years. You can read more about my struggle with God and infertility here.

As Franny grew up, we noticed astounding gifts and talents and God began teaching us how to bring them out, polish them up and help her offer them to the world. He showed us her life was going to be a public one, her ministry large and far reaching and she’d need our full attention to help her achieve her dreams. So we learned all about the Christian music business and did what we could to help her launch her career.

After all this, writing now enters the picture. Mike and I were invited to speak to a homeschooling organization about the steps we’d taken to raise our daughter into an adult who’d found her purpose and was living it out. We talked it over and we came up with fifteen intentional things we’d done as parents and later that week we spoke at the meeting.

The next morning,  I’m stretched out on the floor just thanking God for allowing us to share our fifteen steps and for all the good things He’d done for our family when I heard God’s voice in my spirit clear as a bell. I like to call it a God Dare.

“Those are book chapters.”

Wait, what? Book chapters? Are you SERIOUS God? You want me to write a BOOK??? 

I gave every excuse imaginable why I couldn’t write a book. But He wouldn’t let up and He showed me this truth: If He calls you to something He’ll equip you to carry it out. So I said yes and Growing Great Kids was born.

I never saw myself writing a book. No way! But God did because year by year He was writing the chapters deep in my heart. His chapters stuck with me and when He was ready He gave me the ‘divine nudge’ I needed to write Growing Great Kids. My part? Obey and start writing. It didn’t really matter how I saw myself. He said write so, I wrote. And now, I’m about to publish my second book called The God Dare. Go figure!

So, like I said, I’m a writer and food and faith blogger by accident.

Who knows what the next chapter will bring? 

What about you? Has God taken you on a different path than you expected?

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Blessings,

Kate Battistelli

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

Why I’m Glad I Was Homeschooled

stories made it possible

The smell of ancient paper still makes me want to sob, the way spines line up like soldiers on the wooden shelves of small-town libraries. I know they would defend me if they could, those armies of words.

I grew up in second-hand clothes and mushroom-cuts and plastic glasses. I grew up homeschooled until the age of 9, with my nose in books, stories of Pippi Longstocking and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables. Books whose characters were as real to me as every-day, as the few friends I made the houses between, for we moved fast and far, my father a pastor and so, I clung to these characters and they, to me. I could count on them to be there, when nothing else was. We became a family of sorts.

And Mum, she taught me the Queen’s language. A language lost to this texting generation. She taught me when to use “which” and when to use “that”; she saluted the apostrophe and shuddered when it was put in the wrong place. She set every word reverently in its place, in a sentence, and taught me the feel of a pen between my fingers.

I learned the art of penmanship, but not only that—I learned what it means to know a language inside and out, backwards and front, and to hold it in awe.

Throughout high school Mum pulled me out of the English classes and taught me herself because she knew what I did not: that with the age of computers we’d lose the craft of a noble speech. We’d add slang and acronyms would become actual words and kids would trade the romance of a hand-written letter for the convenience of a text message.

my goal since those days

Not only did Anne and Pippi and Laura befriend me; they paved the way smooth for an awkward girl. They made it possible for me to believe on days when my heart seemed to stop working. On days when I yelled at my parents and slammed doors and slipped dark into anorexia, on those kinds of days, only the story could reach me. Only the story could save me.

It pulls you deep, this literature, deeper than any technology could. It introduces culture, countries, religion and history and it whets the soul for learning. The story creates sympathy for a world full of characters, and provides boundaries for good and evil. It sheds light on people’s unspoken suffering and creates a longing for justice, for truth.

I will never understand the intrigue of a book-less library, of the e-book, of the Kindle, for the very charm of the silence and the old stuffed chairs lies in a library’s walls of literature. In the dog-eared page, the margin-scribbled-notes, the smell of dusty intrigue, the quiet hush of pages turning.

And my goal since those days has been to write a story that draws people in so they forget where they are, so they too befriend the people they are reading about, so they too, don’t have to be lonely, anymore.

 

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Friends? I’ve written a story (a memoir) and it’s releasing next month.

It’s called Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (www.atlasgirlbook.com)—and all proceeds are going towards a non-profit which TBM contributor Joy Forney and I have founded in the slums of Uganda: The Lulu Tree ~ “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.”

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Pre-order your copy of Atlas Girl HERE and receive a FREE e-book on How to Write Inspirational Memoir!

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This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

Learning to Love Yourself Just as God Made You

via Amelia Fletcher Photography

via Amelia Fletcher Photography

I’ve struggled with mirrors my whole life. I’m a former anorexic, and mirrors have been the bane of my existence. And not because I don’t necessarily think I’m pretty, but because I never feel pretty enough. It’s never enough.

But I am learning that my true reflection is not in the glass, but in my eyes, and in how I see myself. I can change my reflection simply by the way I look at myself.

I am learning to thank my body. To treat my body, as Anne Lamott says, like a friend. I am learning to say thank you to my arms for carrying my babies, and thank you to my legs for carrying me, to my hands for making so many suppers, and to my eyes for lighting up every time my child enters a room.

We need to show grace to ourselves.

To take the time to have a bath; to eat nutritiously. When we’re grocery shopping, to stock up on healthy snacks for when we can’t sit down and eat a full meal.

To breathe deeply, and laugh at ourselves. To laugh at the kids. To laugh with our husband, at the kids. If we feel like we’re going to snap, to step outside for a minute and stare at the sky.

The more grace we show ourselves, the more grace we’ll be able to show others.

This time to ourselves will give us the strength to serve: our husband, our children, and our God.

Keep in mind though this space is not always available. And grace can find us in the midst of very hard things and very difficult days. In addition to loving ourselves we are also called to die to ourselves. Because true love is this: laying our life down for another. Philippians 2 talks about taking the nature of a servant and becoming nothing. So grace is a fine balance between taking care of ourselves and dying to ourselves.

In her book, Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic talks about this balance. “Our bodies are tools not treasures,” she says. “You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its 18 year old format. Let it be used. By the time you die you want to have a very dinged and dinted body.”

via Amelia Fletcher Photography

via Amelia Fletcher Photography

I was walking down the stairs, at midnight, the boys asleep and Trent in bed reading. I always go around the house picking up things before I head to bed, because I can’t stand to wake to a messy house.

And I was somewhere between the last stair and the floor, when I stepped right into it.

Love.

Like it had been there waiting for me for 33 years.

Just a giant pool of love, and I stopped, and I smiled. And I cried.

Because suddenly I adored the person I was.

This funky, awkward, clumsy artist girl, this introvert who loves people and desperately needs alone time, this girl who laughs loud and fumbles with jokes, who wears vintage clothing and puts off housework because she’d much rather write. I loved her. With all of her childhood baggage and all of her sensitive heart, I loved her.

I still have days when I struggle to even like myself. Days when the voice in my head tells me that no one likes me or I’m not worth it or I’m ugly, that terrible awful voice which haunted me as a child from the ages of nine to 13, but then I remember that Satan is an accuser, and a liar.

I think of those dry bones Elijah saw in the desert—how God breathed new life into them and they rose and became an army. Satan doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want us to become an army, he doesn’t want us to pull our soldier boots on. No, He wants our spirits to stay dry and brittle. He wants us to keep doubting that God could use us, so we are never in fact, useful.

But those things he’s trying to say to us? They’re not true.

Because we’re pretty special.

beautiful broken mess

via Amelia Fletcher Photography

Not because of anything we’ve done, but because of the broken beautiful mess that we are. And the Savior who makes us perfect.

And this friends, is grace.

Blessings,

Emily

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