Motherhood

The Magic of My Kingdom

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By:  Betty Predmore

If you ask a lot of children where the happiest place on earth is, they are likely to say it is that great adventure park where a walking mouse holds court, along with his silly dog friend, and a duck decked out in blue. That is a place of magic and adventure, where memories are made and smiles are abundant.

If you ask that same question to my son, he will tell you the happiest place on earth is his mama’s house. There are no animals walking around as humans, there are no turbulent rides of excitement, and you can’t buy churros at a corner stand. But what you DO get is enough.

In my magic kingdom there is always excitement. One day you might be waiting on the tooth fairy, the next it might be an unannounced camping trip. There is always delicious fine dining in mama’s kitchen, thanks to dad’s culinary skills. We may not have a churro stand, but there are always treats like Sissy’s homemade cookies, Emmie’s brownies, or one of mama’s cakes.

Magic and adventure….there is plenty at mama’s house. There is the magic of unconditional love, forgiveness when necessary, compassion and tenderness, and acceptance. There is great adventure in our family “nerf wars” and pool races. There is the adventure of beginning each new day, knowing that God has something really awesome for us. There is adventure in the moments of expectation and the moments of surprise.

And just like that great theme park, my magic kingdom has plenty of smiles. There are the smiles that greet each other in the morning, ready to begin a new day. There are the smiles of welcome after a day away from home. There are the smiles and laughter that come from silly jokes, old stories, and selfie poses. There are smiles and shrieks of laughter through the tickles and hide-and-seek chases. There are smiles and embraces for those who come home to visit, and even smiles through our tears when we say goodbye.

And ALL of this….everything that happens in my magic kingdom, makes our beautiful memories. This life that God has given us, this family that He has joined together, has made some beautiful, unforgettable memories together, and I know God is just getting started! Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,”declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” His plans for the future of this family are awesome. He wants to prosper us and bring us new things….new adventures, new opportunities to love, show grace & compassion, new chances to learn from each other and from Him. His desire is that we continue to follow Him, and grow in our knowledge of Him. He wants us to smile and laugh together, and make millions more new memories. I know a lot of that will happen in my house….my very own magic kingdom.

Motherhood

A Shrug or a Hug

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By:  Betty Predmore

Well mamas, as I sit here in the aftermath of my children leaving the house for summer school this morning, I realize I have been kissed, hugged, and shrugged this morning. My youngest gave me a sweet sloppy kiss as she left, excited to do some cooking in class today, and wishing me a good day. My teenager left me with a hug and the hopes that he will finish a project he started at school yesterday. Middle son…well, he left me with a shrug, not too happy wth me that he is not allowed any video games this morning.

All in all, I am feeling like a winner. Two out of three isn’t bad, right? I chuckle as I wonder if God has the same thoughts about us. If He can get a positive response from two/thirds of his children, would He consider that a good day? I am praising Him for His goodness and mercy this morning. I know that He has such grace for us in the mornings we shrug instead of hug.

Lord, help me to greet you with a hug of joy this morning, not a shrug of unhappiness. Help me feel your love for me, even on the days you discipline me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Motherhood

The Beauty of Our Bond

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By:  Betty Predmore

I am celebrating my anniversary with my sweet hubby. We have been married 9 years today. When he took me as his bride, he also took on four broken kids who weren’t quite sure what to do with a step-dad. He has persevered through hateful words, high voices, and bad attitudes, and has pretty much won them over. Added to that are the three little ones we adopted just a little over a year into our marriage. We have a true understanding of the word CHAOS. We also have a true understanding of the word FAMILY. In our home, it is not the blood ties that bind. It is the love, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance that has melded us into this unique batch of crazy that is unmistakably ours, and unmistakably cherished by each of us.

As I read the anniversary wishes from my kids today, I am struck by the beauty of our bond, I am reminded of how God takes that which seems impossible and makes it totally possible. I am touched to the core by the love our children have for us, and by the devotion our family shares. My heart is filled with gratitude, not just for nine wonderful years of marriage, but also for the family God has assembled for us. Sometimes they are a little much. Sometimes I am sure I will not survive the day. Often, I want to pull out a hair or two. But always, I am honored to be their mama, and so very grateful for each special moment the Lord gives us.

I realize that today is not only the anniversary of the day I married my husband. It is also the anniversary of the day we became this beautiful family, brought together through God’s goodness and his trust in us as parents. So I say to my babies….Happy Anniversary!

Motherhood

My Never-Empty Nest

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By: Betty Predmore

My daughter will be graduating from high school in about a week, and will be going off to college and starting her new adult life. This is the last of my biological children to leave home. The thought occurred to me the other day, “Wow, you could be on your way to having an empty nest.” It is true. I could be looking at a life with no children in the home. My husband and I could be free to travel and go out for romantic dinners. I could focus on some goals in life and put some real effort into them. Things could be a lot quieter around my house.

There is just one thing…actually, three things….that keep this from being the next phase of my life. Those three things are the three beautiful blessings the Lord brought to our family through adoption. And with the youngest being only in first grade, it will be a long time before I have to worry about an empty nest.

So what does that mean for me? It means I still get to travel because I have a wonderful network of support. My husband and I still get to have romantic dinners because the kids think it is too funny when mommy and daddy go out on dates. I can focus on my goals because there is always room for dreams in life, and if God wants something for you, He will help you find a way to make it happen. As for the “quieter around the house” aspect…well who really needs quiet anyways? I would much prefer the sound of children’s laughter, sweet conversations about life and Jesus, and even the moments when voices are elevated.

No, my nest may never be empty, but it is always filled with love. My nest may be chaotic at times, but it is mine. It my be frustrating on occasion, but it is built with the foundation of Christ, and He is using it for His good and pleasing purpose. My nest may be much different than yours, but it is the nest that God gave me, and my God doesn’t make mistakes!

So while many my age are basking in the nests of freedom and solace, I will be basking in the sticky kisses, bear hugs, and chaotic bliss of my sweet nest, and praising God all the while.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ~ James 1:17

Motherhood

Loving the Mess Maker

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By:  Betty Predmore

My frustration is at its limit and I am nearing the end of my patience! Why, oh why, can’t this girl do what I ask her to do?

I have spent my entire weekend trying to get my youngest to clean her room. She has spent hours in there without fully accomplishing the task. Once I went in and found her playing jacks in the floor. Another time, she snuck into her brothers’ room to play. When we went to bed on Saturday night, it was getting close to clean, but by Sunday afternoon, it was a mess again. Now, as I go in to wake her up for school, clothes are everywhere and things I just washed are lying in the floor. Not a good way to start our Monday morning.

As I vent my frustrations to my husband, he gently reminds me of the problems this sweet girl carries through her life. She is a victim of a pretty serious case of attention deficit due to her birth mother’s bad habits. She comes from a background of abandonment. So while it is easy for me to look only at her flaws on this difficult Monday morning, I must have compassion and remember why she is the way she is, and all the reasons why I love her.

Isn’t that what God does for us? He looks past those issues and personality traits that make us difficult, and He concentrates on why He loves us. He forgives us of so much more than clothes on the floor or messy rooms. He has compassion for our “baggage” and is the light in our dark journey. It is because He loves me so very well that I can love this little master of messes so much. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)

So today I make a choice….hold a grudge and have an attitude against a little girl who is dealing with so much, or love her the way Jesus loves me…unconditionally, despite my flaws, with forgiveness, with compassion. Yes, I can do that! Yes, God gives me the ability to look past the mess to the masterpiece He created when He formed this precious child. What a gift He has given this family! What a precious treasure!

Help me today, Lord, to consider this gift. Help me to love as You do and to have the heart of compassion for others that You do for me. Give me a smile, Lord, when I feel like crying. Through You, I can conquer my frustrations. Through You, I can have compassion and understanding. Through You, I can love this little mess maker. Amen.

Motherhood

My Good and Perfect Gift

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By:  Betty Predmore

I was called into the principal’s office again the other morning. There was a field trip coming up, and my son’s teacher was worried that his behavior would somehow cause a problem. So here I was again, sitting there trying to keep my emotions under control, as I tried to make her understand that this little boy was not a mean boy, he was not out to cause problems, he was just a little boy who is the victim of his birth mother’s choices.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is no joke. It causes a lot of problems for the children who have to endure this physical disability that comes from exposure to alcohol in the womb. This little boy who has such a loving heart and such a generous nature sometimes struggles with how to handle his negative emotions.It takes him a little longer to process his thoughts and to consider the proper reaction to things. So sometimes his reactions are not appropriate. Sometimes his reactions are negative. Sometimes this happens at school. Does this make him a bad boy? Absolutely not!

I find myself repeatedly sitting in the principal’s office, repeatedly tried to explain that all he needs is a time out. All he needs are some extra minutes to gather his emotions and thoughts before he reacts. All he needs is some compassion and understanding. Am I asking for special treatment for my son? Absolutely! He is a special child with special needs, so I expect special treatment and consideration of those needs.

This child has taught me a lot. He has taught me about patience and understanding. He has taught me about compassion and revelation. He has taught me about love through the tough times. And he has taught me the importance of going to battle for our children and making sure their needs are met. I will continue to be his champion. I will continue to go to bat for him. I will continue to be his voice. God blessed me with this child, this unexpected gift that is so unique and wonderful. He is a treasure. He is sometimes disobedience, sometimes uncontrollable, sometimes frustrating, but he is always my child.

In this, as in everything else, God is teaching me and growing me. He is using this little boy who walked into my home as a two-year-old to remind me of the importance of compassion and understanding, and the need to appreciate the differences in people. He is reminding me that no struggle is too big when He is in the picture. He is assuring me that He is walking alongside this beautiful boy and paving his way. He is continually reminding me that I have been specially chosen to be this little guy’s mama, and he is my good and perfect gift!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow do to change. (James 1:17)

Motherhood

The Good, Bad, & Ugly of Raising a Strong Willed Child

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By:  Audrey Huck
Here we were again; another day of seemingly constant battles. Feeling desperate, I glance at the clock. 9:00 am. Only nine in the morning and already we’ve had three knock out battles. Only nine in the morning and I’ve already begun crying, dreading another day of seemingly constant tantrums and battles of wills. Only nine in the morning and my regular mantra of “Lord, help!” has escaped my lips more times than I can count.
When I first became a parent, I naively felt like I had things pretty much under control. After all, as one of nine children and having spent years of babysitting, nannying, and finally educating children I had received a wellspring of hands on experience in the duties of caring for, teaching, and disciplining children. Motherhood felt like a natural fit as I saw the fruition of my greatest dreams come true. In fact, as my husband and I prepared to leave the hospital with our newborn daughter the nurse commented that we were two of the most comfortable first time parents she had ever seen.
And even though there were struggles during that first 18 months, most especially with juggling the challenges of motherhood while working full time, that confidence largely continued. My daughter was an easy baby. She was rarely fussy, began conversing with us early on, and actually asked to be put to sleep when she was ready for nap-time or bedtime. I don’t mean to imply that she was/is perfect, but I understood how to guide and discipline her, rarely feeling I was “in over my head.”
And then 18 months and a few weeks later we were blessed with our precious son. Each child is completely unique and it became apparent early on that he would be radically different from his sister. Almost instantly our little man showed signs of his great determination. He could break out of a swaddle (no matter how tight) by the time he was three weeks old; he rolled over for the first time at 2 months, and was walking at 9 1/2 months old. He remains a bundle of passion and energy, wholeheartedly entering into every emotion he feels and occupation he undertakes. This means he can be the greatest of lovers, the most delightful bundle of giggles and fun, or (more frequently then not) an unmovable force of anger and frustration when things don’t go his way. His little body is literally overcome by his emotions, having to be expressed outwardly in some way what he feels inside. When he’s happy, he is continuously hugging and kissing you, and when he is angry or frustrated he has to strike out at someone or something—even if it’s himself.
Though not even two years old, our son lives by one philosophy: If I try hard enough, it will happen. I’ve seen this time and time again. A few weeks ago he continued to try to climb up the slide for nearly twenty minutes until he eventually succeeded. If someone closes a door on him, he will continue to run into it, like a battering ram, until it either opens or he is physically removed. When put in timeout, he throws out his arms and says, “Why?!” And much to his mother’s horror, we’ve already had to transition him into a big boy bed to prevent him from breaking his neck while climbing up and throwing himself down from the crib. He has no fear; nothing holds him back from achieving his goals.
For me as a parent, this is both awe-inspiring and terrifying all at the same time. I remind myself over and over again that his determination, strength of character, and passion will all be tools that will enable him to succeed in adulthood; that if I can teach him to channel his intensity, rather than trying to stifle it, he will soar; that these are the qualities which characterize great men and women.

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But there-in lies the rub, for it is my job to help him positively express these emotions and qualities; to help him positively channel his emotions. How can I get through to him when his anger engulfs him? How can I communicate more effectively with him, helping him understand the ‘why’ behind the consequence or decision? How can I prevent my own temper from flaring when I feel overwhelmed and grow tired of the fight? In those moments when I desperately want him to just comply, rather than question and struggle.
Perhaps the hardest thing of all about having a strong willed child is what it reveals about us, the parent. Nothing brings out your own hidden vices like a child, especially a strong willed one. There is no room for selfishness, pride, and impatience when raising children; no place to hide our secret vanities. They inevitably come out when we are tired and emotions are flying high. And our children learn far more from these outbursts and ways of dealing with stress than anything else we tell them.
And though I’ve jokingly said, “He’s either going to break or make me,” there is truth to this statement. Raising a strong willed child brings you to your knees like nothing else. In those moments when I feel at an utter loss, or worse those moments when I fail, I go to my Heavenly Father begging for his grace and wisdom. And in the process, I’m forced to battle with my own demons which prevent me from loving and disciplining my child the way he needs and deserves.

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Raising children whatever their natural disposition isn’t easy. We are all works in progress and–because of our fallen nature–we are all born with certain inclinations toward sin. Maybe it’s more obvious in your strong willed little one, but it is there in us all. And truth be told, though I have my moments of feeling defeated and overwhelmed, I wouldn’t have my headstrong boy any other way because then he wouldn’t be my boy. And though tempers can get ugly, and we have our bad days, the good far outweighs the bad. We’re helping each other get to heaven, and that’s what it’s all about.

Motherhood

The Aftermath

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By: Betty Predmore

I sit here this morning, surveying the aftermath of a weekend with house guests and birthdays. On Friday, my home was something to be proud of. It was clean and sparkly, everything was in its place, and it was ever do serene. This morning there are shoes in the floor, toys strewn across the table, a pile of used towels in the bathroom, and a table full of birthday gifts I don’t have the energy to put away.

Does this upset me? Does this frustrate me? Does this make me weary? Absolutely not! When I look around this morning, I don’t see a mess. I smile and remember the laughter that was shared in my home this weekend. I remember the smiles of my little girl as she turned 8 years old. I remember the squeals of my granddaughter, and my little boys wrestling with their big brother. I remember the delicious meals my husband made so lovingly for his family, and I remember all the hugs and kisses.

I am proud of this mess. This mess means that this mama shared a beautiful weekend with her babies. This mess means that loved flowed through this place. This mess means that “mama’s” house is home.

“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Proverbs 31:27

Motherhood

I Couldn’t Fathom

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By:  Sherry Clair
(Continued from: I Didn’t Want Him)

We shared the news with family and began moving forward; however my anger at God had not dissipated and I reminded Him often. Just over six month pregnant, I was taking a moment to mentally glare and grumble at God. I was suddenly so overwhelmed with such a fierce love, a severe longing and desire to have my baby that it brought me to my knees, sobbing. I wasn’t frightened by his movement anymore; I was terrified of never feeling it again. I wasn’t overwhelmed at the possibility of difficulties in the future but overcome with the absolute want and need to have a future with this baby. For Abi to hold her brother, for josh to meet his son, to hold him in his arms and tuck my nose into his neck and breathe in the scent that would be so uniquely Gabe. I WANTED my baby. I knelt begging for forgiveness and praying for my son. I was no longer angry, but I still wanted to understand why? The answer that I FELT was clear, Lazarus. I found a bible and began to read.

Lazarus and his two sisters; Mary and Martha were beloved friends of Jesus and he often stayed with the family when his travels brought him through Bethany. Martha often served as hostess and Mary spent time listening and learning from Jesus. Mary even acted with extravagant abandon and devotion, when she used perfume, costing a year’s worth of wages, to wash Jesus’ feet, unknowingly anointing and preparing him for his upcoming burial.

In John chapter 11 we discover that Lazarus has fallen ill, his condition is so concerning that the sisters send word, imploring Jesus to return and heal their brother. Despite the fact that Jesus loved the family very much, he remained where he was for two additional days stating in verse 4 that “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death, no, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this”.

When Jesus decided the time was right for him to return to Bethany, the disciples attempted to dissuade him, expressing their concern over the risk that he was taking traveling through the area where so many were scheming for his destruction. Jesus was unmoved and shared with them in verse 11 “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up” seeing the disciples confusion he continued “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes I am glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come let’s go see him.” When Jesus arrived in Bethany he was told that Lazarus had been in the grave for four days; by all appearances he was too late.

I stopped and reread; Jesus loved this family, but didn’t go to them, he let Lazarus die. I didn’t understand, Jesus had SAID that his sickness wouldn’t end in death. I could understand why leaving the work God had given him might not have been possible, but I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t have healed Lazarus anyway. In Matthew chapter 8 a centurion came to Jesus requesting he heal his servant, who was in bed at home. He knew that Jesus had the authority to just speak and it would be done. If Jesus did it for the centurion’s servant why didn’t He do it for Lazarus?

I kept reading; understandably Mary and Martha were devastated. Not only had they lost their brother, but I imagine that they may have felt a loss of hope. If they believed that their brother would not perish due to the awesome authority of Jesus, it must have come as an even bigger shock when he did succumb to his illness. Mary, Martha, their family and the community were grieving the loss of their loved one when Jesus arrived. Martha and Mary, each in turn, went to him saying “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died”. To them, the chance for a miracle had passed away when their brother breathed his last breath. It must have been so difficult for them to understand, why a man who had performed countless miracles and had the authority to make the lame walk, give sight to the blind and a voice to the mute, let someone he loved perish.

Jesus knew Mary and Martha’s hearts; he knew that they believed the time had passed to heal Lazarus. Mary, Martha and the entire community stood wailing and grieving over the loss of their loved one. As Jesus stood witnessing this overwhelming grief, he was deeply moved and became very troubled in his spirit. John 11:33 describes his feelings as “a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled”. I couldn’t understand why Jesus could be angry with Mary and Martha, he was the one who let Lazarus die. I am sure that he felt some frustration over the disbelief that he was witnessing in Mary and Martha, but maybe His feelings weren’t directed only towards those that were present. I believe that it was toward death itself; the pain and sorrow that had to be caused to ultimately bring glory to God.

Jesus was so troubled within his spirit over the situation that Verse 35 says that He wept. Jesus wasn’t weeping over the death of Lazarus, he KNEW that Lazarus had to die and be raised from the dead. He was weeping with and for those that he loved. Understanding the way Jesus felt standing outside Lazarus’s tomb, I was able to understand the grief that He must have felt when we received Gabe’s diagnosis; the sorrow that he had to have had over my devastation and anger when my prayer hadn’t been answered. How wrong I had been that day when I turned my eyes towards Heaven imagining a heartless and detached God, His heart had to be aching as much or more than mine at my sorrow and despair. It didn’t bring God any joy to not send the answer we were expecting.

Verse 39 finds Jesus going to the tomb and demanding that the stone be rolled away. His request met resistance from a concerned Martha, who still didn’t understand what was about to occur. She responded “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible”. Jesus must have been further troubled knowing Martha was almost unknowingly refusing a miracle because she was concerned about the smell. Jesus could only respond to Martha by saying “didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believed”. In verse 41 Jesus turned his face towards heaven and said “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Verse 43 then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out”.

Lazarus was dead; his heart had stopped pumping blood to his organs causing them to shut down and stop working all together, the blood pooled in his body becoming thick and stagnant. He was not breathing; no oxygen was being shuttled to and from the lungs. Lazarus had been taken and prepared according to Jewish customs. His body cold and firm, wrapped from head to toe in burial cloth, laid inside a cave, covered with a large rock and left to decay for four days. Jesus called out to him, called him to draw breath and life back into body, for his heart to beat again; Lazarus stood and exited the tomb.

I don’t know why Gabe has Down syndrome; I don’t know why God chose this path for my family. I don’t know why bad things happen or why sometimes God doesn’t heed our call for help or rapidly answer our prayers. But I do that know Lazarus died. Jesus didn’t heal him from his illness; he grieved with and for those he loved. I also know that Jesus made an opportunity by not healing Lazarus; He had an opportunity to bring Glory to God.

Gabe is perfect; he is smart, strong and so sweet. He is joyous, inquisitive and gentle. He was born without complication and has had none of the medical issues and conditions that are so common for individuals with Down syndrome. He is growing and meeting his milestones. God didn’t miss an opportunity, he made one. When I look at Gabe I am reminded of Lazarus, I am reminded each day that of the opportunity that God has given us; one that has strengthened our faith, taught us unconditional love, and has brought Him Glory.

…I don’t know what your thoughts are, that’s a blessing and a curse. Maybe you’re in a similar situation, maybe you’re facing a prenatal or birth diagnosis of Down syndrome, or any situation that you just can’t seem to understand. You may not be the only one thinking the things your thinking, no matter how bad they may sound in your head. You know my thoughts now, and I hope you know that you’re not alone…