Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Being a Mary and a Martha kind of mom

What the story of two sisters in the Bible taught me about motherhood

This post first ran back on Feb. 5, 2015 on my former blog. While some things have changed — like the age and some of the needs of my children — everything else remains quite the same. In fact, God brought this post to my mind earlier this week as a reminder to not be so busy in doing things for my family that I forget to just be with my family.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard sermons or Bible studies or read devotions on the Mary and Martha story in the Bible. Probably more than I can count. But as God is known to do, sometimes He knocks me over the head about something in a new way and that happened last week. 

I read a devotion about Mary and Martha — you know, the story in Luke 10:38-42 where Jesus goes to visit the two sisters and Mary sits at His feet listening to Him talk while Martha stays busy getting everything in the house ready. When Martha asks Him to reprimand her sister for not helping, Jesus lovingly turns the tables on her and gently reminds her that Mary is doing the right thing. What He wanted and what she needed was to just listen to Him.

This passage has long reminded me to not be so busy doing things that I miss out on just being with and listening to God. But for the first time last week, it spoke directly to my mother’s heart. Zing! Right where I needed to hear it. 

I am the kind of person who thrives on a to-do list. Thrives! I feel most accomplished when I can look back at my day and see how I marked off item after item. On down times, I get antsy if I don’t get things done. I like a mix of being productive and resting when it comes to my downtime. I have a to-do list for every day. And, of course, with two small children there is always lots to be done: cleaning, cooking, laundering, bathing, diapering and on and on the list goes.

I have been feeling quite proud of myself lately for all I’ve been doing. As my son has gotten older and less clingy and more happy and able to play with his big sister, I have gotten a chance to get things done again. I have also felt well enough these last few weeks to do things. 

So I was feeling proud that I’ve been organizing my house in pockets here and there and marking things off my to-do list and keeping up with laundry and making healthy food for my family and on I could go. But you may also know what the Bible also says about pride going before a fall.

Just like that God smacked me over the head and pointed out to me that I needed to make sure I wasn’t only being a Martha to my children (doing all the tasks that surround caring for them), but that I was also being a Mary to my children (stopping to listen to and play with them). Ouch! It’s not that doing my kids’ laundry or making their lunch or cleaning our house are bad or wrong in any way. Certainly those things need to be done. If I don’t do them things get crazy! 

However, God reminded me that I need to stop doing sometimes and just be with my kiddos. Of course I play with them. Of course I interact with them, but how often do I just sit down with them one-on-one and say, “Let’s do whatever you want to do for the next half hour?” Not all that often. 

More often than I’d like to admit, when I play with them I feel antsy to be able to move on to my next task or I think about all that isn’t getting done or I even just think how much I wish I could be doing something else for myself. And many times, I’m half playing and half keeping an eye on the time so that we don’t get off our precious schedule.

The games a preschooler and toddler come up with aren’t always intriguing and fun to me. How many times can I make a Ninja Turtle on a motorcycle run into Batman on a motorcycle before I start to want to pull out my hair?  But isn’t God patient with us? Aren’t I supposed to model my life after Him? He sees me wandering around making a mess of things or doing the same tedious, ridiculous things over and over. 

Fortunately He doesn’t think like I sometimes do and get impatient with my childish ways. Sometimes I think He finds delight in the little things that delight me. Because when I really just let myself and my agenda go and am present in playing with my children with my mind and body, then I am happy to make a Ninja Turtle on a motorcycle crash into Batman on a motorcycle over and over again because I see the joy it brings my son. He is delighted, so I am delighted.

Today I will make progress on my to-do list. I will get laundry done. I will make dinner. I will make sure that the big kid gets to and from preschool on time. I will be a Martha managing my household and family. But I will also work to be a Mary and make sure that I stop to just sit and play with my children. 

I have learned this in my spiritual life (though I am FAR from perfect!). I make time to stop and hang out with God in the mornings (unless my kids are sick and up all hours then I find Him in other ways throughout the day). I need that time with my Father. My kids need that time with their mother. 

I will work to find the best balance I can between Martha and Mary. Some days I may be more one than the other in the natural ebb and flow of life, but I will plod forward doing my best.

35 Gift ideas for new moms

Ideas for how to love on a new mama in your life

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The birth of a baby is so exciting, overwhelming and exhausting. Whether she’s welcoming her first baby or her fifth, a new mom needs love and support. Often folks think to bring a gift for the new baby or even a meal, but what about the mom? I can think of no other time in my life that I thought less about myself than when I had newborns. But likewise, I can also think of no other time in my life when I appreciated thoughtful gestures.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of gift ideas for new moms. Even better, they’re from Amazon so you can have them shipped straight to her if you want to give her space as she is getting acclimated to her new baby or if you live away from each other. Of course, you can also ship it to you and use it as an excuse to stop by for baby snuggles while mama rests!

Stainless steel tumbler
I LOVE these to the moon and back! I wish I had known about them when I had babies. But my son was a toddler before I discovered their joy. However, when a friend had a new baby shortly thereafter, I had to get her one. Keeping water (or even soda!) cold makes it easier to stay hydrated, which is incredibly important for new mamas, especially if they’re nursing.

I first got this Mossy Oak 30-ounce tumbler for my husband. We liked it so much that I later got one for myself as well. The lid has a swivel so that it closes, which is always a good plan. It’s not totally spill proof, but even with a straw in it, you can mostly close it which helps keep spills to a minimum. Plus it’s only $11!

If you want to spend a few dollars more, you can spring for this Pandaria stainless tumbler that comes in a variety of patterns and designs to brighten up the new mama’s day.

Another option is this Contigo Autoseal Travel Mug. Not only is it a double-insulated stainless steel tumbler that will keep beverages hot or cold, it is also spill and leak proof, which is a great idea for a mom who wants to toss it into her diaper bag or has a toddler prone to knocking over her cup. It comes in 16-, 20- and 24-ounce sizes.

Mom jewelry
I love jewelry and have since I was a toddler (according to my mom). I was incredibly excited to get jewelry celebrating becoming a mother. While you can certainly get expensive motherhood jewelry, there are some inexpensive options that I love and make for a great friend gift! I have this Mama Bear bar necklace that I got after my son was born and really love. It comes in silver or rose gold for only $11 or $12 depending on what you pick. For $14, you can opt for other mama bear jewelry. There is a round pendant as well as bracelets and bear cut-outs in the bar style.

For only $8, this mama bird necklace is another great option for mother jewelry. So cute!

If bracelets are more her style, these Infinity Collection motherhood bracelets have a charm that says “A Mother’s Love is Forever” and come in versions for both boys and girls.

Baby girl
Baby boy

Coffee mug
Whether or not your new mom friend drinks coffee, mom coffee mugs are always fun. I love them and I don’t drink coffee! They can work for coffee, tea, hot chocolate (my favorite!) or even just to hold pens or change. I love this simple coffee mug for first-time moms commemorating the year she was established as a mom.

If you’re friend isn’t a new mom, this adorable mama bear mug is a great option.

This #momlife mug is another cute mug that any mama would love.

Then, of course, what new mom couldn’t use a giggle? This mug makes an awesome and fun gift proclaiming: “I grew a tiny human and all I got was this lousy mug!”

And if you decide to gift a mug, you could pair it with your friend’s warm beverage of choice like specialty coffee, fun tea flavors or, my personal favorite, dark hot chocolate!

Photo frames
Moms adore their babies and having nice picture frames reminds them to actually print some of the thousands of photos they take with their phones and cameras. One of my favorite things I got for my children was matching baby frames. Another favorite gift I got for my baby shower was a multi-photo tabletop frame that I continue to use until this day!

This frame with a spot for each month of baby’s first year is a great option to help mom remember to actually keep track of photos each month. It’s so fun to look back and see how much your little one changes in that first year.

I also love this animal frame for only $16.99. Considering I did my daughter’s nursery in animals, I may have an affinity for animal-related baby decor!

Then there are frames with sentimental sayings that make excellent gifts. This wooden frame says “First we had each other. Then we had you. Now we have everything.” Um, that melts my heart — and my babies are 6 and 9!

I also love this leather picture frame for a boy or girl with a quote from Winnie the Pooh: “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

Easy-to-use hygiene products
New moms are short on time and energy, so sometimes just doing a basic self-care task can make you feel so much better. There’s not time or energy for a spa day, but just being able to shave your legs can perk you up. It was just after my first baby that I tried the Schick Intuition razor, and I still use it! It takes me maybe two minutes in the shower to shave and is so easy.

I also LOVE these make-up removing facial wipes from Target’s Up & Up brand. I know what you’re thinking: what new mom wears makeup? I’m a makeup lover all the time, but even I didn’t deal with makeup much (if at all) in those first couple of weeks. But, these wipes also just make cleaning your face easy. You don’t even have to be in the bathroom to swipe your face down and go. They’d make a nice addition to a gift bag of “take care of you” gifts for a new mom.

Gift cards
This one is probably kind of obvious, but gift cards work well for new moms. Think of things easy for them like a pizza place that delivers or an online photo service where they can print photos of their new little one.

Amazon gift cards are also a great idea, because the new mama can shop without leaving her house and have things she needs show up at her door. She can get anything from clothes for the baby (or herself) or even diapers and wipes. While you can send a gift card digitally, you can also send this cute card for a new baby with a gift card included.

And what mom wouldn’t love a Target gift card? I loved Target’s Up & Up brand diapers for my babies!

Comfy slippers
After my daughter was born, my feet were swollen for about two weeks. I remember squeezing into my husband’s Crocs to go to doctor’s appointments. Wearing socks wasn’t comfortable. Nothing worked well. When my son was born in January, I knew I needed a plan to keep my feet warm. I love comfy slippers because they can keep the new mama’s feet warm but she can also kick them off when she starts to get hot, because hormones do some crazy things to body temperature even after the baby has arrived!

As an added bonus over socks, slippers provide traction for walking on tile or vinyl flooring, which is important for mamas who are sleep deprived and carrying their precious little one.

These fun animal slippers from TeeHee come with a matching eye mask, which isn’t a bad idea for a mom who needs to sleep whenever she can — even if it’s the middle of the day!

These sparkly sequin-covered slippers from Alotta Knits are another fun option that come in five different colors.

If you want something a little more sedate, these Vifuur memory foam slippers come in eight different colors.

An easy and quick devotion book
New babies turn your schedule completely upside down, including a chance for quiet time with God. It’s hard to have time or energy to do anything more than just survive, so having a devotion book that you can pick up when you get a chance and read through in five minutes or less is ideal for a new mom.

One of my very favorite ones is Jen Hatmaker’s “Out of the Spin Cycle.” I used to take it along with me when I went to pick up my daughter from preschool while her baby brother was asleep in the backseat. I could easily read through the devotions. I read through this book twice, which isn’t something I often do. It just really spoke to and ministered to my exhausted mama heart.

Sarah Arthur’s “Mommy Time: 90 Devotions for New Moms” looks like another good option that draws on the author’s own experiences as a mom who has been there, done that.

The Hugs series of books are also always a good option. Just like with the other two devotion books, this “Hugs for New Moms” includes inspiration and stories from real moms and aren’t written for any particular day, so if days get missed in the busyness of life with a newborn, it won’t require playing catch-up.

For something a little more Scripture-driven, yet also concise for new mama’s who lack time and energy for concentrating, “Mom’s Daily Bread,” which releases April 16, 2019, offers an encouraging verse for each day of the year.

Quiet activities for big siblings
If this isn’t the first baby for your friend, consider also bring something along for the big sibling. Yes, this post is focusing on taking care of and supporting the mama, but helping keep her other kiddos quietly entertained while she is dealing with the new baby’s needs is supportive!

Kids love stickers. Even better, Melissa & Doug reuseable stickers can be played with over and over again and don’t require constant parental supervision of toddlers to make sure stickers don’t get stuck anywhere they shouldn’t be.

For preschoolers and early elementary siblings, this set of make-a-sticker sheets is awesome! They can create animal faces by choice and you get 60 sheets for only $11.99!

Along those same lines, these Magnetic Fun scenes would work well for big brothers or sisters who need quiet activities. They come in a nice tin, so they’d also be easy to toss in the diaper bag to have for waiting for doctor’s appointments or running errands.

One of my kids’ favorite things in the preschool days were the Melissa and Doug Water Wow sets. They’re nice because the kids are getting the experience of painting without the mess. And this pack includes not only ones to reveal color but also connect-the-dots. You can buy a pack of three or individually.

Lacing sets are another favorite of little ones. My 6-year-old really just got out one of our sets of lacing cards a few weeks ago, in fact! This Lauri Lacing & Tracing Noah’s Ark set is incredibly cute.

God’s presence in the dark

Finding God when life is scary

A few months back, I shared this on Facebook. I decided to share it on the blog as well thanks to the overwhelming response I got from it.

Last night, my 8-year-old daughter came into my room at 2 a.m. I knew something was afoot, because she is my good sleeper. She had had a bad dream and needed some comfort. Of course, I obliged. We chatted and snuggled a bit. I prayed for her silently and eventually sent her back to bed.

Within 10 minutes, she was back and needed me to be in her room with her. Previously I’ve sat on her bed and put my hand on her back to soothe her, but now she has a loft bed and that’s not possible. So instead, I pulled her desk chair to the middle of the room and took a seat. I prayed for her again and told her about it this time. We talked very briefly about how to stop thinking about her dream. Within 15 minutes, she was settled in enough to fall back asleep. My presence in her room made her relax and let her worry go.

As I sat there quietly, trying to stay awake, I thought about what a demonstration it was. What she didn’t know was that in between her visits to my room, my prayers continued for her and for her 5-year-old brother. Earlier that day, her brother got into water over his head and was unable to keep his head above water. Thanks to some quick action from my dad and husband, he was saved, but I’ve read about secondary drowning. And I was anxious. He had absolutely no sign of it. And he was totally fine for hours. This had happened before lunchtime even. But still, I worried. It’s what we moms do. However, as I prayed I gave my worry to God. I felt peace that He was in charge, so I could rest.

That’s exactly what my daughter needed. She needed to know someone was in charge, someone was right there for her so that she could rest. Oh how many times I need that! And my Heavenly Father is always there if I only think to talk to Him. Because sometimes I just worry on my own. Sometimes I don’t think to talk to Him about it. Sometimes I battle my anxiety on my own. It never goes well.

I headed back to bed (after double-checking that both kids were sound asleep — and my son was breathing) and fell fast asleep after once again giving my worry to God. The thing is with the way my daughter’s bed is raised and where I was able to sit, there was no way she could see me, but she knew I was there and just my presence was enough. I can’t see God, but I can feel Him. And His presence is always enough if I just open myself up to Him.

Whatever you have going on right now, know that God is there. He will sit up all night in your bedroom in a small desk chair because He loves you so completely and fully. He will take your worries and fears and give you His peace. He may not fix everything the way you want, but He will be there through it all and is willing to hold you close if only you cling to Him. I can think of no greater love and no greater reassurance.