Gifts to Nurture the Whole Child

The word “whole” seems to be quite the buzzword these days. We all know that we should stick to a “whole foods” diet, and should take care of our “whole self.” We can’t seem to forget it, it would seem. Lately as I’ve done a gift search for my kids, I’ve felt the need more than ever to find things that will nurture them in their development and growth. We all want that, I think, but just picking toys made of natural materials as opposed to plastic and flashing lights, doesn’t always cut it. Yes, those more natural products are typically more beautiful, and that in itself is to be desired, but I think we often want more than aesthetic appeal. We want the things that we gift our children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren to be fun, of course. We want these gifts to bring them joy; but we also want these toys to have longevity, and prod them on in their growth as unique human beings with a divine purpose.

Here are some ideas that might get the wheels turning for you as you wrap up your shopping. Continue reading


Three Birth Stories

Twelve days ago, we welcomed our third son. I’ve had several requests for his birth story, but as I started to write, felt that I needed to give a little background with my other births. They all build on each other, and perhaps some might enjoy or possibly even benefit from seeing the continuing education that goes into birth and the ways we change and grow as mothers. None of these are exhaustive, but are brief windows into my 3 very different experiences. If you’ve written your birth story, I’d love to read it. You can link to it in the comments.

Birthing Cosmas was hands down the most difficult and intense thing I’ve endured. Of my three sons, this was my second unmedicated birth, and very different from the first.

I tried to keep the details limited, but these are birth stories, so read at your own risk.

Continue reading

Waiting and Small Joys

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. -Romans 8: 18-27

I am 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant as I write this. Continue reading

The Self-care Series: Habits and the Book We Should All Read, by Bethany Kjergaard

When Mary asked me to write about self-care I was a little unsure until I actually read her entire note. I’m probably one of the laziest people I know when it comes to personal grooming. I love reading about elaborate beauty routines, but I come from a family of women who shower a shockingly low number of times/week. The motto of the Kjergaard women is “we clean up well.” So I wasn’t sure what I could write about in terms of grooming or beauty routines. Then I actually read what Mary had written instead of skimming through, and it was more focused on habits and discipline. When it comes to habits, I could write all day, but I’ll focus on how habits tie in with self-care and the one habit that helped me to take care of myself. Continue reading

The Self-care Series: Nurturing a Mindful Marriage, by Karli Von Herbulis

As a wife and a mom bent on being both emotionally and physically healthy, it didn’t take me long to discover that my aspirations for self-care and intentional rhythms in my life didn’t mean squat if my husband wasn’t on board. Our life has been nomadic to say the least. In 7 years of marriage we have moved 8 times (not counting semi-settled stages for a month or so here and there) living in 3 states, 2 countries, and even a stint touring the country coast to coast in a van. It’s been a steep learning curve as we’ve each figured out how the other works, what makes us feel fulfilled, what we need from one another, and how to function well, but we’ve learned a bit along the way. Now living in East Africa with a very active toddler and another baby on the way, this has become even more important to us! 

Self-care is a journey—just like marriage. It ebbs and flows and requires grace and flexibility and constant evolution. Here’s some of the foundational principles I suggest to anyone seeking to be more mindful in their marriage: Continue reading

Kindy: July in Review

I wrote already about how we were planning to start Seb’s Kindergarten/1st grade year in July, and what my plans were. In reality, yes, we started, but things have been slow going. We enjoyed visitors in July, and then again last week, so between those welcome interruptions and the fact that I’m nannying 3 days a week still, it’s been difficult to find consistency. I quickly realized that focusing on just a few subjects for a period would be more practical for our summer schedule. Below I’ll list what we did, and mark subjects we have yet to pursue fully with “n/a.”

It doesn’t sound like much of a success story at this point, but I’ve learned a lot, and I think that this slow introduction to a school-time rhythm has been well worth the effort. I’m glad we began to figure things out during the summer months so that we can be even more intentional during the school year, which is upon us! Cody starts his 3rd year at Baylor on Monday!

If you missed it, you can catch up on Kindy: The Plan before reading how our first month of school unfolded.

Continue reading

The Self-care Series: Weakness and Surrendering the Best Hours, by Ela Nelson

If I’d had a tail when Mary invited me to share my thoughts on spiritual care for mommies it would’ve been wagging. It’s a subject I’ve put a great deal of thought into over the last few years and through much trial and error I’ve found a rhythm that works well for me and bears some truly beautiful fruit. I can only speak to my own experience but if what I’ve learned as a wife and mother of seven (one in Heaven plus one in the oven) can be helpful or encouraging to other mommies I’m so happy to share.

Loving Motherhood

Let me start by saying that I love being a mom. It’s such a tremendous honor and privilege. I love being pregnant. I love participating in God’s infinite creativity through the bearing and raising of these beautiful little humans. There truly isn’t a day that goes by that my breath isn’t taken away by something one of them has said, created or done. There is no therapy like that of a toddler’s arms around my neck; no joy like seeing any of them discover something beautiful and true; no sweetness like the cheeks of a baby new waked from sleep – warm and soft and sweet like chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. Being a mother is new every morning, endlessly creative; redemptive, and full of so much laughter, love and joy.

Continue reading

Raising Good Stewards: Lessons I Learned from my Parents

Recently on a drive somewhere I told Cody that I desire for our children to grow up thinking that eating an apple while reading a decent book is a good time.

We do not know what our children will be called to, where they will go, who they will live with, or where they will serve. But I do know that I will have done my child a great disservice if he is called to love God and love his neighbor in a remote village in Russia and does not know how to find delight in the simplest of things. In fact, I will have done him this same disservice even if he becomes a multimillionaire CEO. Things do not satisfy. Continue reading

You Can Thrive as a Family in Graduate School

We have been a graduate school family for 5 years now, and are about to begin our sixth. Each year we get better at it, and we finally feel like we’re over the hump and are beginning to thrive in this weird world of graduate student adulthood. We already had our first child when we began this journey, and I fell pregnant with our second during my husband’s first semester of graduate school at Duke Divinity. Now we eagerly await the arrival of our third just as Cody begins his 6th year of graduate school, and 3rd in his doctoral program. We’ve had epic adventures, with kids by our side, and have seen our family grow and mature not in spite of graduate school, but in part because of graduate school. We are grateful for the restrictions it has placed on us, and for the ways that we’ve had to work hard at living well and intentionally where we are placed.

This is how we do it. Continue reading

The Self-care Series: “There is music wherever there is rhythm” by Abby Hummel

“There is music wherever there is rhythm, as there is life wherever there beats a pulse.” – Igor Stravinsky, from his notes accompanying The Rite of Spring

In what now feels like a former life, I had one of my dream jobs: teaching piano lessons from home.  Did I suddenly desire self-employment or hearing clunky renditions of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and “Lightly Row”? Not exactly. I’d already spent countless hours on my own piano practicing, composing, competing, and earning a college degree, long before I hung out my shingle. Any piano student remembers the repetition required for proficiency: there are five-finger patterns, then scales, then arpeggios; songs in C-major, then A-flat, then F-sharp; works from Mozart, then Beethoven, then Chopin, then Stravinsky.

For all the music I’ve played in the past, I haven’t touched a piano in a year. There aren’t a lot of good ways to “improve work-life balance” with children as small and needy as mine. My baby insists on nursing only (and often), so I’m on call every few hours, all day, every day. I could look at my limits and give up – someday the kids will get bigger and the baby will wean, or my husband will get a raise, or I’ll start teaching, or we’ll settle into our new town…  then I’ll be able to take care of myself Continue reading