5 Things I Gave Up to be a Wife and Mother

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I recently came across an article with a title that immediately captured my attention. It was one of those blog posts that, once published, goes viral immediately. Unfortunately, unlike other current web successes such as open letters to daddies who are kind and understanding to other people’s children on flights, concerned mothers of sons advising teenage girls against immodest pics on social media, and husbands spreading the word that marriage is about more than “me”, this post had a decidedly more acrid tone. It was a scathing diatribe against a woman’s decision to be a wife and mother. The title, “I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry”, pretty much sets the hateful tone for this short but sad article. Despite my immediate guttural reaction (and against my better judgement), I continued reading said article. I would liken this decision to passing by a horrible accident that you KNOW will be gruesome but having to look anyway. Believe me; this post was WORSE than a train wreck.

After my mommy senses went into overdrive, steam flooded from every orifice of my body, and I screamed aloud, “Oh no, she didn’t!” (well, maybe those last two are an exaggeration), I calmed down and really reflected on my role as a wife and a mother of four. The more I considered what the author said, the more I realized that she was right about one thing. To be a wife and/or mother, you must give up a number of things. Over the past twenty three and one half years as a wife, and twenty years as a mother, I have given up more than a few.

I have given up

1.Selfishness–  Anyone who has said “I do” understands that marriage requires an immediate forfeiture of self.

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Mark 10:7-8
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

On August 10,1990 the days of doing it my way and meeting only my needs became a bygone memory. The day I became John’s wife, I gave up pleasing myself, and learned to be pleasing to him.

 Anyone who has ventured into parenthood understands that with the arrival of each new bundle of joy comes the realization that even more of self has to be abandoned. As a mother, you have the responsibility of meeting every single need of a new, helpless babe. Let’s face it, midnight feedings, messy diapers, and projectile vomiting DO NOT fall into the category of things I do just for me. The day I became Titus, Elijah, Norah, and Levi’s mama, I gave up focusing on me, and learned to focus on them.

All this sounds traumatic, huh? You might even ask, “Why would you do this?”

Phil 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
And the apostle Paul said in Acts 2:35 ,
“remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
There is definitely a flip side to this coin. By decreasing myself, I am exponentially increasing my joy! My family is much bigger, warmer, lovelier, and happier than singular me.
When I became a wife and mother, I gave up selfishness to become selflessly overjoyed.

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2.Poverty I am almost positive I can hear all of you with families laughing out loud at this one.  After all, according to research the average cost to raise a child to the age of eighteen is between $200,000 and $250,000. Now in my case, multiply that by four. Math has never been my strong suit, but even I know that is a boat load of money! Well, forget the dollar signs, I agree with the John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Money cannot buy me love or happiness.

Psalm 127:3-5
Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” Psalm 127:3-5

My quiver is full, and therefore, I am rich! The bank account of my heart is bountifully filled with deposits of smiles, laughter, achieved milestones, pulled heartstrings, and “I love yous”.

When I became a wife and mother, I gave up poverty to become richly blessed.

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3. Loneliness-   Admittedly, I fall into the category of loner. I relish my alone time which affords me opportunities to meditate, study, write, read, and pray. However, no one wants to be ALONE. The Creator knew His creation needed companionship.

Genesis 2:18
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  

There is a certain lonely void that can only be filled by the intimate husband/wife relationship. Even yet, a house has a certain amount of loneliness that can only be vanquished by the pitter patter of little feet, or at this point in my life, the stomping of at least a couple pairs of size 12 and 13 feet. Whether my children and I are in the same room or miles apart, I never feel alone. They are always with me.

When I became a wife and mother, I gave up loneliness to become connected for life.

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4. Dissatisfaction-  I readily admit that satisfaction can be derived in a multiplicity of ways. However, I know that I could never have reached the level of satisfaction I have attained had I remained as a  single, childless woman. (clearly, my opinion) I can’t help but go to

Ecclesiastes 4:9.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

My husband makes me better. He lifts me up when I fall. And let’s not forget that threefold cord. In my mind, the three strands of that cord are Daddy, Mama, and children. There is a sweet contentment found in being a strand in that cord.

When I became a wife and a mother, I gave up dissatisfaction to become completely satisfied.

5. Emptiness-  Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, apart from our Lord. In the book of Ecclesiastes, he proclaimed that all is vanity. In other words, all is emptiness. However, when all had been said and done, this was his conclusion.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” 

Can I be obedient to God without being a wife and mother? Absolutely. Does having a mate that loves God as much as I do, and having children I want to go to heaven make this task easier? Absolutely. I am filled with the responsibility to ensure my entire family lives in a way that is pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

When I became a wife and mother, I gave up emptiness to become filled to overflowing.

Yes, I gave up many things to become a wife and mother. Those things will NEVER compare to what I have gained. I agree with Goerge Bernard Shaw who said, “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” When I became a wife and a mother, I became everything I ever wanted to be, and in the process have been blessed to experience a little bit of heaven here on earth.

Shanna

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Filled to be Emptied

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As of late, I have acquired a new passion. I have fallen in love with milk glass. If you aren’t familiar with milk glass, it is an opaque, milky colored glass that is blown or pressed into decorative objects. It has been in existence since the early seventeenth century but began its immense popularity in American homes in the early twentieth century. Because of its vintage charm and beauty, it is highly sought after by collectors both far and near. It can be incredibly expensive, depending on its origin, and like all glass objects, is extremely fragile. I frequently bring home a milk glass jar or vase after one of my “treasure hunts” at Goodwill. With each new acquisition comes the inevitable response from my husband, “another jar?”  You see, he has difficulty understanding my obsession with something so frivolous that is clearly of little value other than being ornamental. In other words, a jar that holds nothing of use is essentially worthless.

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It brings to mind the words the apostle Paul penned to the church at Corinth in

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

We are more like milk glass than we may care to think.

Gen. 2:7

“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

Our bodies are in all reality “jars of clay”. However, “Christian jars”, unlike milk glass jars, are considered valuable to others for function rather than form. We, as Christians, ­­­­­have an obligation as clay jars to do the following.

 1.Fill Ourselves- We must fill ourselves with the word of God.

2 Tim. 3:16

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”.

In the scriptures,

….His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” 2 Peter 1:3 

We are told in 2 Timothy 2:15 to,

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

If we aren’t immersing ourselves in the word of God, our jars are empty.

2. Empty Ourselves- Once we fill ourselves with the precious treasure of God’s word, we must empty ourselves of this very treasure, by sharing the gospel with others. Christ himself issued the great commission in Mark 16:15.

“And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

And in Matthew 28:19-20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Filled jars must be emptied.

3. Safeguard Ourselves-  Milk glass and clay jars are fragile and easily broken. When we go out into the world to empty ourselves, we will face all types of peril.

Eph. 6:10-18

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”

In order to endure, we must safeguard ourselves, just as we protect precious items of glass.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”

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Milk glass is beautiful to me. I enjoy seeing it displayed in my home, but in all reality, it profits me nothing and cost me much. It just sits there filled with nothing of which to be emptied and vulnerable to destruction. It is of little value. Milk glass exists to be seen. Christians exist so that the surpassing power that belongs to God and His Son may be seen. Now that is true beauty.

Shanna

Foodie Friday: Fiesta Chicken

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Yay! It is Friday again and that means here at Life in the Cleft we are all about food. Not just any food. We are sharing easy recipes that quickly become family faves. Today we are featuring a recipe that can be easily adapted to your own taste. Here is the version that works for my family.

Fiesta Chicken

2-3 12 oz. cans  chicken (drained)

2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)

2 cans  Ro-tel tomatoes (do not drain!)

1 can whole kernel corn (drained)

1 pkg. taco seasoning

Add all ingredients into a large skillet and bring to a simmer to thoroughly heat. The longer you cook, the thicker the consitency you will achieve. 

Yes, that is it. I told you…..EASY! Now comes the fun part; choosing how to serve this feast.

My family enjoys eating this as a dip with a dollop of sour cream and tortilla chips.

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It is also excellent served over rice and garnished with your choice of shredded cheese.

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I took this to our last fellowship meal at church, and let’s just say cleaning up the ‘ole crock pot was easy. Why? There was none left!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Let us know what variations you added, and how your family liked it.

Shanna

Sticks and Stones

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Words. I love words. I love to read, write, and talk. Words are powerful. Words are precious when offered out out of love, and painful when spewed out of spite. Words can build up; words can tear down. Words can mend wounds or words can create wounds that may never heal. Proverbs 12:18 says,”There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Words, once spoken, can NEVER be taken back. Just like feathers carried away by the wind they can never all be gathered back again.

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We are the only one who can choose how and when we use our words. With that in mind, let us consider ways to cultivate the use of good words and eliminate the use of bad, hurtful words.

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1. Guard Your Heart

We read in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” The source of all of our words is our heart or mind. We are to protect our hearts with all that we have. If we are filling our minds with worldly entertainment that glamorizes strife and discord, we are sowing the seeds to grow similar words in our hearts. However, if we are feeding our hearts the bread of life and living water, we are preparing the soil of our hearts to bring forth words of love, joy, empathy, and encouragement.

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2. Purpose to be Prudent

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” Proverbs 17:27 Restraint is accomplished by purpose and practice. We should pray for the abilty to be wise when it comes to the use of our  words. Restraint, like many other desirable qualities, can be improved upon when put into daily practice. The perfect place to exercise this practice is in the home. We must meditate on the appropriate way to respond to our spouse and children in all types of situations. It can mean the difference between a happy home or cold abode.

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3. Think Before you Speak

We have all heard about the “count to ten method” and there really is something to be said about this skill. “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 29:20 How many times have we said something in haste without considering the implications involved? If we will only utilize those few seconds before we speak to analyze our words before we release them, we may save ourselves and others from  many hurt feelings.

The poet John Dryden said, “Words are but pictures of our thoughts.” They are the fruit of our hearts. What kind of fruit are you cultivating? The fruit of the spirit or the works of the flesh? Praying we will not grow weary of doing good by using our words with wisdom.Just remember, we will reap in due season.

Shanna

Two (Three, Four, Five….) Are Better Than One

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We just spent the day doing what is, and has been for the past ten years, the highlight of our week. What, you might ask, would that be? After all, you are a homeschooling family. Did you wear your fancy P.J.s and have school on the good placemats at the kitchen table? NO! We spent our afternoon with our PAJCH family. “What is a PAJCH?” you say. Well, according to my children it is the best group of friends anyone could ever ask for. However, according to the legal documents, it is the Putnam and Jackson County Homeschoolers, INC. It is not just a “homeschool group”. It has become so, so much more. (note the usage of the word FAMILY)

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You may be where I was many years ago on this whole “homeschool group” debate. You may be of the mindset that homeschooling is just that, schooling AT HOME. You see, it took a very good friend to help me realize that I DID need to be a part of a homechool group.

By nature, I am anti-social, so being at home ALONE with my children played a huge role in the decission making process to leave the teaching profession and focus on family. I was just as content as could be to stay at home the first few years of our homeschooling journey. I guess if I had a theme song at that time it would have been, “I Shall Not Be Moved.” Against my better judgement, I decided to “sacrifice my comfort” because obviously, my friend really needed this socialization. Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

We need each other!

“Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Eccles. 4:9-12

This truly conveys the value of a friend. In PAJCH, we work together, play together, laugh together, and cry together. My children and I have made friends that are closer than a brother or sister. We meet once a week to recharge our batteries with people who really get “who” we are because they ARE “who” we are. The strength of that threefold cord is comforting and reassuring on many fronts.

We Help each other!

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2

Sometimes, we just need help. If we isolate ourselves, this help isn’t always readily available. I have been amazed at the diversity of gifts that are available to be drawn upon in our group. Where I am weak, someone else is strong, and vice versa. I never have to live in fear of not reaching my homeschooling goals because I have friends at arm’s reach that can meet my needs and help me overcome my shortcomings. We also see this willingness to assist and aid among the children. The older children mentor and teach the younger children, and the younger children have role models that they adore. Now, that is my idea of no child left behind!

We Love Each Other!

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

In PAJCH, you never have to wonder about how we feel about one another. It is evident very quickly, we LOVE one another. My father in law compares the relationships to his days in the one room schoolhouse. We are more than assosiates. We are family, and families love one another.

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I guess by now you have realized who was the better friend. (hint: It WASN’T me!) My friend could see what I could not see at the time. We need to be surrounded by people who love us and are always willing to help. Am I blessed, or what? Surround yourself with these kind of people. I can promise you, you WILL NOT be sorry!

Happy homeschooling!

Shanna

Foodie Friday!

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I am happy to announce that from today forward Fridays will be dedicated to fun and easy family recipes at Life in the Cleft! After all, food is the common denominator that brings joy to families everywhere. I want to start this new practice off with a great recipe that is relatively easy and extremely versatile. It is a crowd pleaser that will leave the impression that you exerted a great deal more effort than you really did.

Do It all yeast dough

5 cups bread flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 TBSP instant potato flakes

2 TBSP instant yeast

2 tsp salt

1/2 cup oil

Approx. 2 1/2 cup hot water

Mix dry ingredients well. Add wet ingredients. Allow to rise uncovered for 1 hour. Roll out dough on floured surface. Cut into rolls and allow to rise an additional 30 minutes.Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.

These are some of the most delicate rolls you have ever eaten. They melt in your mouth! But that isn’t the best news.

You are going to be your family’s hero!

Why? Because this is an amazing dough that can transform into dinner AND dessert.

Variations:

Pizza Bread

Take roll dough that has risen for 1 hour and divide. Press out dough into a rectangle approx. 1/2 inch thick. Add shredded mozarella cheese and pepperoni. Fold edges together unto calzone like pocket.Allow to rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Romove from oven, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle on parmesean cheese. Cut into pieces and serve with pizza sauce. Yum-o!!!!!!!!!

Cinnamon rolls

Take roll dough that has risen for 1 hour and divide. Press out dough into rectangle approx. 1/2 inch thick. Add dabs of butter and brown sugar and cinnamon to taste. Roll into jelly roll, cut with floss, and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 50 degrees until golden brown. Make a glaze by adding milk to powdered sugar until you acheive desired thickness. Your family will thank you!

Are you hungry yet?

Hope you find this recipe as delightful as my family does. What variations can you come up with? Be sure to post and let us know!

Happy Friday!

Shanna

The Wise Woman

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How many times have you sung about the wise man and the foolish man? If you have children or teach a bible class, undoubtedly, you could sing every, verse, chorus, AND do the hand motions with your eyes shut. As women, it might be easy to attribute the negatives of foolishness that cause the destruction of a house to our male counterparts. After all, do we sing about the wise and foolish woman? Maybe not, but perhaps we should. We can read of both of these women in Proverbs chapter fourteen and verse one.

“The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” Prov.14:1

 Are you building your house? If you aren’t building, then you must be tearing down.The question that begs to be answered is,

“How do I build my house?”

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1.  Love your husband

The scriptures make no secret of the husband/wife relationship. He is to love the wife just as Christ loves the church, and she is to be submissive in everything to her husband. (Eph. 5:22-24) When, we as husband and wife conduct ourselves in the home as God has commanded, we are building a strong foundation for our entire family. We support and honor our husbands, they are tender and affectionate toward us, and our children see marriage as God intended it to be. This is a win-win situation.

2.  Love your children

We are told in Psalm 127:3 that children are both a heritage and a reward given to us by the Lord. It is very natural and easy to have a phileo love for our children, but we must focus on an agape love for them as well.

Proverbs 13:24

 

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son,

but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

If we really love our children, we will discipline them. Is it always going to be convenient and easy? No. However, if we do not mold them on the front end, much sorrow may fill our hearts on the back end. We are to

Proverbs 22:6

“Train up a child in the way he should go;

even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

3.  Love yourself

Yes, I am fully aware as a mother of four that at times this seems downright impossible. 1 Cor. 3:16 tells us,

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple

and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”

We are made in the image of God, and when we are a member of the church, His Son lives in us. We must treat our bodies and mind as such. We cannot be transformed into a “living sacrifice” if we do not maintain a healthy physical, mental, and spiritual lifestyle.

4.  Love the Lord

We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind. (Matt. 22:37) No ifs, ands, or buts, we must put God first if we hope to build our homes. God must be the center of every aspect of our lives. It must be evident to our children and everyone around us that we are a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9) who live our lives set apart for His service.

The foolish woman tears her house down with her own hands.

When I think about this, I am blinded by a sad mental picture. It leaves me cold and makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. How many homes have been literally torn apart by a foolish woman’s bare hands? Some may have broken down “wrecking ball” style, but I can’t help but believe that many of those homes were painfully dismantled one brick at a time over a period of years. The good news is this. We do not have to give into Satan and be a foolish woman. God has equipped us with the desire, ability, and tools needed to be that wise woman.

Maybe we SHOULD start singing about the wise and foolish woman. In my mind it would go something like this.

The wise woman built her house; did not tear down.

She loved the Lord, her children and husband.

The wise woman walked the straight and narrow way

And the wise woman’s house stood firm.

The foolish woman ruined her house with her own hands.

She neglected the Lord, her husband, and children.

The foolish woman choose the easy path she found

And the foolish woman’s house fell down.

Praying for wisdom and strength for all of us to be wise women.

Shanna

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